Thursday, June 24, 2010

'Twenty-five Pound Sledge Hammer'

It's Thursday, I just finished a three-mile walk. As always, the future of this next project on the mesa is telling me that I must be in shape. I was doing pretty good with my exercise regiment until about two weeks ago, when I fell into a mild funk. How come the brain remembers the benefits of exercise immediately after one is finished but can't remember right before? Another one of those mysteries. So, as what's his name said, "Every journey begins with the first step…" I did tell my friend Chuck, however, yesterday, that I didn't know how long I could continue to swing a twenty-five pound sledge hammer on rocks. Sometimes, that's what it seems like, a never-ending work-load that is relentless. Like my friend and cousin-in-law, Doug, who builds beautiful houses from the ground up, we really do a lot the same thing. There is a set of plans, the raw ground of the site, the pouring of a foundation, and then the assembling and building of the house. The difference is in the financing and the experience. Actors only live in the houses that I build for a short time, and then you hope they continue to live in the memory of those who witness the event. When I was a kid in Boulder, my friends Robert, Randy, and I, were always creating events. We put on circuses, boat races, and carnivals, and tried to convince people to come to our shows. I remember even as a kid thinking, "Why isn't the whole town showing up for this?" We sold candy and charged a mere fifty cents for watching boats that we had spend weeks building race each other down Deer Creek. Of course, if you were an audience member, you had to follow the water of the creek, but we thought it the most exciting thing there ever was. Thank God for our mothers who would sometimes be our only audience. I knew even then that perhaps adulthood would be more of the same, putting on a show and convincing people to come and see it. The gravity of the shows have matured, but the concept stays the same.

Yesterday afternoon, I went out to Salt Gulch and did a grueling four hour recording session with Eric and Nate. I say grueling because my back was bothering me. Still, like the exercise, it was satisfying immediately afterwards. We also listened to recordings of a year ago, at the time, I couldn't stand to listen to them, but with some distance, they didn't sound bad. Again, it’s the ten-thousand hours of mastery, as you put in the time, ALL things begin to change. I've always been a fairly decent live performer, but recording is a completely different experience. The sensitive microphones never lie. They tell you exactly what you are doing wrong. I'm learning that 'phrasing' can cover a multitude of sins. You find your weaknesses and learn your way around them, or through them, what lacks in talent can be overcome with persistence. I'll never be a master vocalist, but I can be a competent one, and that will have to suffice.

We also went through our set list for our gig on Saturday night in Escalante, which I'm looking forward to. It will be interesting to see who shows up there, at one time, I was practically related to the whole town. Escalante was where my father was born and raised. Both sides of his family were ensconced in the fabric of the town. Although Escalante is much changed, I'm sure there are still relatives there who will come out and see the boy who at one time was headed to jail or the beyond. I suppose being an out of control teenager in the seventies was not to unusual, but I did have an extra amount of a penchant for getting in trouble. And I still love singing those outlaw songs. I've named the band 'Out on Bail', and joke that during the really outlaw songs like 'Folsom Prison Blues' we will change our name to 'Out on Bond', or 'Escaped'. I'll have a dobro player and a mandolin player with me on Saturday, and we sound pretty good.

Today, I plan on working some more on the drawings for the set. At four o'clock, I'm due back in Salt Gulch for another rehearsal, and then at seven, I'll head up to Hell's Backbone and Grill and play for some grocery money. Years ago, I made the decision to head in the direction of theatre rather than music. Although I think it was the right one, I sometimes lament that I didn't follow that muse. Some of my reasoning was that I didn't think it would be good for me to spend so much time in bars and joints, and I was probably right. Still, there was enough bar room antics going on in the theatre to go around. I think though, people may romanticize the life of a troubadour, and it does have its romantic moments, but it is a hard life, and so fickle. When I walk into a restaurant where I'm playing for tips, I never know how much I will make. This season has been pretty good though, I usually walk away with a pocket full of fives and tens. The hardest time seems to be driving to the gig, with a truck load of equipment that needs to be unloaded and set up. Like any job, (whether you like it or not) there is always that moment before you engage that says, "You don't want to do this…" I'm always a little in dread of the very first song. No matter how many times I've done it, there is that moment before I sing where I think, "What if nothing comes out of my mouth?" I think it’s the same for me with any stage performance, after fifty times of doing 'Bohemian Cowboy', I still didn't know whether I would remember an hour and a half worth of material.

I always enjoy my walks with Tom, who I credit with turning much of my life around with his physical therapy expertise and his willingness to listen to my troubles and offer his advice and friendship. Tom is someone who I have an easy connection to, and we cover a wide range of conversation, politics, the town of Boulder, and personal quest. I am always grateful that I have friends such as Tom and Lauren, it reminds me that there is much vitality left in the world.

Okay, time to see what I can get accomplished today, and there is much to do. I won't have to pick up a sledge hammer today, but I may have to pick up a screwdriver and start putting in screws. Because I've decided to direct the play here, even though it is my own play, I have still have to break it down and re-invent the understanding of it. This will be my fourth time directing it, but still, I'm excited about it because I know the power in the play… Another chance to work on an elusion and to recreate a myth…

1 comment:

Gerry said...

I sure with I could be there in Escalante and hear you sing and play. What joy I had listening to country western performers. I think you have come a long way juggling a number of talents. When you get that play up it will be just as exciting. I am sure that another 'Shurtz' performer will create a buzz, reminding them of your dad with a great voice who would have loved this 'gig' so much. You know you could not be doing anything that would give him more joy. Doc was inspired to send you an e-mail hearing about your band. He has got into singing country western again because he can make fun of it, too. I remember how mad Escalante singers would get when us Boulder wives would try to get them to loosen up and play around a little with the lyrics of some of these heartbreaker songs. They thought somebody who couldn't even carry a tune ought to be smacked for proposing such blasphemy. I would try to tell your dad I majored in theater for God's sakes in college and knew how to act even if I couldn't sing. But there is nothing better than having a son who can act and play the guitar and sing, too. Throw in direct and write plays along with it. Well, I could do those things. It is always great to see a son surpass your accomplishments with his talents. So you have done both the Kings and Shurtz proud.
So give them a great show!