Tuesday, August 31, 2010

performing runs in the family - birth name spoiler alert

Many of you may not know that my great-great grandfather was a famous vaudeville ventriloquist. He toured the country for years under the stage name "Johnny Raymond" and later with his wife (my great-grandmother) as Raymond and Ann.

I apparently look a bit like Ann, which is weird -- seeing a physical resemblance in someone who lived a hundred years before you.

Anyway, recently, I was Googling members of my family as is my periodical wont, and I came across Ventriloquist Central, a major collection of classic ventriloquist dummies and other memorabilia. The blog post that Google found was on my great-grandfather. The collector, Dan, was very excited that he had obtained Johnny Raymond's very first ventriloquist dummy, and also ten of his diaries that he kept on the road. (I wasn't Googling my great-granddad, but he has the same name as my dad and my brother.)

It didn't say on the website where Ventriloquist Central was located, but sometimes I get these... feelings. Call them premonitions if you want, but however you want to describe them, sometimes I just know stuff. Something told me that this place was very close to me, and that I would be able to get there easily. This feeling was supported when I watched the intro video and noticed that the man speaking had a wicked Boston accent. I emailed him.

It turned out the owner of the collection, Dan, did in fact live fifteen minutes away from me. He was super friendly over email and seemed really excited to have me come over and see my great-grandfather's stuff. We made a date and I came by last Wednesday morning.

Have you ever walked into a room filled with nearly 200 antique professional dummies? This picture doesn't really do justice to the experience:

Dan and his wife Helen were extremely warm and friendly. We got along right away. Dan had laid my great-grandfather's stuff out on the pool table in preparation for my visit.

Great-grandpa's first dummy. He has a hollow head and a leather lower lip and smells like old books.

It was incredible to see his handwriting, and the meticulous (some might say obsessive-compulsive) documentation of everyone of his shows. An old picture fell out of one of the diaries when I opened it.

Hey! I know Central Square! I've performed in Central Square. Like, a lot. Funny. I wonder if he ever performed at the Cantab. I know it's been there forever.

An airplane ride must have been pretty exciting in 1930.

Here's me, Dan, and great-grandpa's stuff. I'm so glad all of his things are with someone who really appreciates them. Dan and Helen are wonderful, and Dan is really committed to preserving the legacy of the performance art of ventriloquism.

It was a great visit, and I hope to come back again soon. Thanks Dan!

Monday, August 23, 2010

passing time

Caleb and I were playing around with some 4X5 Polaroids the other day. The film itself is not produced anymore, and the stuff he had was a score - a partial payment for some barter work he did a while back. The film was expired, and it all came out with this creepy ethereal ghost-line through the middle.

Before digital cameras, Polaroids used to represent immediate documentation. The instant freezing of a fleeting moment in time. The fact that the film is not produced anymore and the eerie effect of the expired film got me to thinking about documentation and ephemera. Everything is so hyper-recorded right now, it's become the norm. Of course a country founded on Protestant Christianity is obsessed with the idea of eternity (specifically the eternal body and personality) but I can't help thinking the prevalence of documentation lulls us into a false sense of permanence, and that can lead to complacency, fear, and/or dullness.

In fact, more and more, I'm finding my friends and I consciously choose NOT to take pictures of really special events or moments, as if allowing the moment to exist in time and pass without being ravaged by Facebook and Tumblr was some sort of holy ritual. Even five years ago, it was the special moments that you were sure to snap pictures of.

The world of art and the artist is changing completely. When I began this blog, I had no idea most of the things I have done in the past three years were even possible. It's the Wild West in the working artist world right now, and we're all out there trying to navigate this wilderness while being true(ish) to our forms of expression.

My friend Jenee got back from tour a couple of weeks ago with nowhere to live. I offered her my bed and she seemed so shocked, but it was just the natural, right thing to do. So many people helped me while I was on the road, and all of us artists need to look out for one another.

It's never going to go back to the way it used to be. It's extremely hard, but it is possible now to make a living as an artist on your own. The difference is we artists need to support each other instead of cutting each other down. The old competitive, back-stabbing attitude just doesn't work anymore. There's enough room for everyone now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

what lazy summer?

Show last night at the Whitehaus in Jamaica Plain. Good turnout for a Monday. Got to share a bill with Dan Blakeslee, who is out of control good, a lovely person, and a breakdancer.

My favorite music shows thus far have been super-crunchy, seated acoustic with no amps and a bunch of cross-legged smiling folks all around me.

Books of Hope youth workshop today at the Mystic Learning Center. We rewrote the lyrics to "Bad Romance." Then we got peaches and ice cream. Some of the BOH kids from last year performed outside to the whole community, and they NAILED it.

The boy's birthday is Thursday. Fried chicken in the park and a walk by the river awaits him. Among lots of other things.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

gulf cleanup charity calendar

You know your life is on the right track when a normal Sunday activity involves covering yourself in faux crude oil for a pin-up charity calendar to benefit Gulf cleanup efforts.

More information here. Preorder yours today!

Monday, August 9, 2010

back home in the Ville

I'm taking my time a little more than usual settling in after my trip. Making a few changes in my life - more yoga. More concessions to my hippy side. I bought a bike and have been riding almost every day. It's good for my leg and good exercise better for the world. Also, when I go zooming down the bikepath on a Sunday and smell wet grass, I'm jolted back to all the best parts of being fourteen.

I had a Shamanic healer draw the black spiderweb of my fear and loneliness that lived in my hip with a crystal. After that, all weekend, I was completing other people's sentences. There's a lot we don't understand.