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College Redux

Do you feel old?

I discovered a little pocket of international youth in Tokyo while biking home with The Political Scientist last night.  About five minutes from our house is an international dorm for one of Tokyo’s language exchange universities, and they just happened to be having their first barbecue party of the year that night.

We stopped by for a drink and some multilingual ambience in the 60 minutes before the police biked over in formation to close us down.

It was silly and fun, talking with college sophomores.  It made me remeber what I was like 8 years ago.  It made me remeber my friends from circus school from 3 years ago, where I was the oldest by far (I was 23 in my first year, the median age of my class was 18).

I think that there is a difference between ‘feeling old’ and just ‘seeing youth.’  At least in my case, I am still dealing with the same questions at age 28 that I was at age 20, but I take them much more seriously.  I also have about 3000 more days of mistakes and good fortune and love in which to float; I have a deeper emotional pool in which to splash.

The difference between ‘extremely happy’ and ‘extremely sad’ has increased by orders of magnitude, and the size of the world has shrunk accordingly.  I have been penniless; I have been more wealthy than I deserved; and I found that my sense of personal worth or well-being did not seem to be correlated to any fluctuation therein.

28 minus 20 equals a lot more emotional and mental space in which to wander and a lot more voices from your past to guide you on your way; it seems the magnitude of your observable future is linked to that of your recall-able past.

(My new Uzbekistani friend from the party challeneged me to a handstand contest last night, and I am sorry to report that he lost.  He expects a rematch as hope springs eternal.)

Diet Week 3 Update

Halfway there.  I seem to be losing about a kilo a week; well in the safe range for weight loss.  The biggest problem is that I notice my energy is generally low, which means that sometimes I tell myself I will just take a little nap and end up sleeping through my training time.  This happened two times last week, and that combined with my post-acupuncture rehabilitation made for a very poor showing indeed in the training department.

But still, it seems like another two weeks or so and I should be back to my college weight of 58 kilos!

As a side note, I calculated that my current lifestyle has me burning about 2784 calories per day.  Compare this to the average daily calorie consumption of an equilibrist at circus school: 5500+ (!).

You can figure out your daily calorie expenditure here.

While you’re at it, you can see how many calories you are consume on a daily basis here.

Or how many calories you burn doing various activities.

Quick reference (Calories burned in 1 hour assuming 130lbs weight):

  • Moderate biking: 472
  • Stretching: 147
  • Vigorous weight training: 354
  • Jumprope: 590
  • Jogging: 413
  • Swimming: 427
  • Gymnastics: 236

I really believe that the most important factors in weight loss and control are: getting at least 2 litres of water a day plus any water you lose during your training (measured by weighing yourself before and after training and drinking the equivalent weight of water), cutting caloric so that you are about 1000 calories below your expenditure, and forcing yourself to train even though you are sure to feel too tired.  Aim for shedding a kilo a week and you will not be disappointed.

The Delicate Process of Negotiating Without Getting Fucked or Fucking Anyone

After finding out last month that I owed 7,500 dollars in Japanese taxes, I will now be broke at the end of June.  The Rocker asked me to prepare a budget for him my participation in the show in Taiwan.  I’m uncomfortable discussing money matters with friends, so I erred on the side of business.

Despite my situation, I tried to give fees based on what I would ask of any other organization interested in working with me, except for the performance fees, which kept at the “artistic rate” throughout, and for the workshop rates which I kept lower as well.  I assumed that room, transportation, and per-diem are covered as well.

New show creation and performance

I benchmarked myself to a USD $52,000 annual salary – that gives a weekly rate of USD 1,000 for the bigger jobs.  To come up with an “artistic rate,” for my show fee I chose the lower end of what my friends have told me that they earn on a for-show basis with smaller, more artistic circus companies – about USD 120 per show.

Development

I went with about 5x the US federal minimum wage, or USD 15 per hour.

Including my USD 200 expenses to date, I quoted him a fee of USD 9,300 for my work on the show itself.

Festival management

Festival management and performance

I quoted USD 300 per week for the part-time work from April to October and then added artistic show rates for the shows that I would be MCing and performing in and fees for each master class I would be teaching and each workshop for the general public.

The total there came to another USD 8,200, or, a grand total of about USD 17,500 for 5 months of work.

Judging from The Rocker’s initial estimates and the amount of work we are talking about, this lump sum seems very fair to me.  Of course, I have not counted any of the work that I have done on the side for preproduction of a Japan or US tour; that we can work out once (if?) we know that we have sold the show.

I’m also starting to prepare a budget for the invited acts based on my initial conversation with recent graduates.  My rough-draft schedule for the festival is ground-acrobat- and clown-heavy and lacking a bit on the aerial arts.  Beefing up the cabaret with aerial stuff might be a good tactic, but we need to ensure that there is enough space in the budget for, say, 5 of these artists.  If we run into trouble, we could try the approach of offering what we can to a lot of good people and just seeing who is willing to come for that price.

My friend from Montreal is also preparing his fee estimate to help me with festival organization.  I sent him my logic above and he commented that the organizing fee seems very low and that the Taiwanese producers are already playing with the number of shows they want us to do in order to lower our total fee without reducing our fee-per show.  We may need to tweak our fees a little bit in anticipation of having less shows if they play that game – I was assuming they were going to have us do something every day, but it looks like this may not be the case.

The bigger issue is that the Taiwanese producers are already doing a lot of the prep work that we were supposed to handle.  My lower fees and time estimates are my efforts to hold on to as much of the responsibility as possible without stepping on anyone’s toes.  Essentially, I am trying to be as useful as possible without costing them too much with the understanding that if the outdoor shows work well, we will be in a good position with the contacts we make to organize future events in Taiwan/Asia/Japan.  I would rather do a good job now for little pay and be invited back for more pay in the future than to ask for a lot of pay now and run the risk of being cut out in the future.

Whirlwind Tour Part 5 – Boston Again

Now I am on the road.  It is strange driving across the continent.  Knowing that you have at least 20 hours of driving to do, and yet still, you have to be there before a certain time.  I need to figure out when I need to be at what place in order to make it to Boston on time.  I have no places to stay, just a lot of people I know.  At worst, I know I can make friends with someone at one of the places I am going and stay at their place.

It is pretty uneventful on the road.  I want to get into New York before I fall asleep for five hours, but I only make it to within 70 miles of the Ohio-Pensylvania border before I can not continue safely.  I curl up in my car in the parking lot of a gas station and sleep from 11:30 to 4:30.  Waking up, it’s time to go!  I make it to Pennsylvania and need to sleep for another hour.  now I am really worried I won’t make it to Boston on time, so it is 80 miles an hour for the rest of the trip.

Back to MIT, at the NASA lab, now.  I wanted to have a drink with my former boss and my former co-worker (once a grad student, now a doctor himself) but my co-worker is at Boston University for the day, and instead I see their secretary.  We talk all about life and art, etc, etc, science and travel.  Again, they seem to be really positive about the way I live my life.  Does no one understand that I have no money and no security and worry every day if I am going to live the next couple of months?

They say that whether I go into science or political science, I should be able to turn the last five years away from school into an asset.

My former boss is like 70 now, and he has retired, officially, like my dad will in a day or two, but he keeps coming into the lab to research the mysteries of the universe.  I guess when you look at it that way, you really don’t have a very difficult choice to make, do you?  his daughter is studying somethinhg called “public art” at Boston University.  I tell him she should contact me to see if there is something fun we can do together professionally.

They pay for my beer and it is time for them to go home.  They have shown me around the campus, the things that have changed.  It is nice to see.  The world has changed, and students have changed, and it is the teachers who need to keep up with them, not the other way around, as I had always thought.  Interesting to see it all from that perspective.

This walk down MIT’s infinite corridor last month was bittersweet in a way.  I was touched by how it has really remained relatively unchanged from the vision in my memory.  Even the students seem timeless, in a way.  as much 1976 as 1996 as 2006.  It is like that small core of a person that remains unaltered from infancy to adulthood – that charming part of a person.

I have to run to the dance studio for my former dance company’s gala event for investors and the like.  I have been sneaking into this studio for quite some time to take showers right after arriving in town when I have no place to stay.  When I show up, the dancers are all warming up, and I say my hellos to all the people I am supposed to before grabbing some wine to power up my shmoozing muscles.  Then I just sort of target the richest and most gullible looking people around the room to go and talk about how great a dance company this is and how supporting them really reflects on how great a person they must be as well…  ah to travel around the world, vicariously through a dance company.  You must be a real saint!

I sit through my dance company’s presentation.  They are working interactively with video.  Later, when its just us around, I tell them later that I thought 40 percent of it is really good and that the rest has really good potential.

After the persentation I talk to the video artist about the people I met in Montreal who are doing the same kind of things… he is a real MIT guy, so I soon get back to flirting with rich gay guys and old rich women; the best way I can help this dance company get money.  As the audience slowly files out, I keep on enjoying my wine and the cheese, and reminice with the people whom I actually danced with back in the day…

They ask if I can do a handstand now, drunk as I am.  I tell them the same old story; I have never been so drunk as to be unable to do a handstand or a backflip.  I prove it, and we turn the whole dance studio into the site of a drunken, impromptu acrobatics rehearsal.

Things are great, we talk and laugh and share the newest gossip.  I encourage them, try to get them to like me, I tell them that I’d like to be back in September to work with them, and try to make them excited about it…  if a person does make people like him, how does he know if they would have liked him without his help?  Does it matter?

Getting money at these events is telling people what they want to hear in a way they never expected to hear it.

I show up late at my Bulgarian friend’s house with a stolen wine bottle and a bagful of lifted cheese.  Americans don’t care about cheese, so they didn’t mind me taking it away.  It is some nice stuff… French brie….  soft cheddars…  smells nice.

We drink together, her a couple glasses, me just one or so because I am already almost on the floor.  Her roommate is asleep on the couch I am supposed to sleep on, so she invites me into her room.  She is Orthodox Christian, and is obviously uncomfortable doing this, but her instinct to be a good hostess takes over.  I lie on the floor, and she lies on the floor far away from me.  I am tired, jet lagged, as always, and she is telling me about her life and her boyfriend.  How she is unhappy with both…

I feel concious and I am replying the way I want to, but at a certain moment, I lost conciousness…  I am dreaming about what she is saying, but I sleep there, on the floor, under my jacket, for the whole night.  the roommate who had taken the place on the couch stole into her room and dropped a blanket on me.  It was nice of her.

In the morning, my friend wakes up to go to church, and I read for a while…  when she gets up, we conclude the discussion from the night before.  She doesn’t seem to mind that I fell asleep when she was talking to me.  If anything it put to rest her persistant fears (hopes?) that I was an evil player trying to take advantage of her kindness…

It was a real pleasure seeing my former acrobatics partner again.  Hearing her talk about her fatigue regarding romantic challenges against the backdrop of a lifestyle of constant travel was painful.  On the romantic end of things, I am sure that she’ll be able to work things out, and quickly, too, because I do not believe she are the kind of woman who is able to live in an unhappy situation for long.

The infinite travel side of things is a much more delicate one.

Personally, I think that once she finishes your work at MIT, she’ll have a drastically different view of everything.  For example, I can imagine that the quasi-stable situation of being a graduate student is what makes het travels so unpalateable to her now.  It is hard to see the liberating side of a wandering lifestyle until you are finally able to pull up all anchors and truly float where you mind and fortunes can take you.

Of course, I feel how deeply she is affected by living her life so geographically distant from her parents, and this is something that might never change, at least not for the immediate future.

So she continues her handstands and her research.  If a researcher’s life is destined to mirror her research, it was either a cosmic joke or a great blessing that she chose complexity itself as her personal field of expertise.

We go for coffee, and I invite her to the lunch that I called for all of my former college friends, citing the fact that I doubt anyone will actually show up…

She declines, saying she needs to work, and I show up at the restaurant; my favorite restaurant in Boston.  Chinese food.  It is very crowded, to my dismay, but I soon discover that it is crowded with old friends whom I have not seen in a million years!  We take several tables and I try to talk with everyone, but it is impossible to do!  After two hours or so, people need to go, and to my dismay there are still people I have barely even said hello to yet!  Catching up on everyones lives, who is married, who has kids…  I am Uncle Acrobat to them.  strange, and wonderful all at the same time.  I ate too little, spoke too much, and now my stomach hurts…

We leave such a wake of friends behind us in life, and it is so rare that we can manage a full loop and see them all again in an organic way; and unofficial way.  There are a million other people I would like to see, a million other things I would like to do, but I get invited to my friend’s house to play an old strategy game with a bunch of other friends.  We used to play all the time in the years after college, and it feels like old times.

What can I say?  The dynamic was special, and transported me to my early twenties.  I had a beer and sometimes just sat and smiled.  It felt nice.

I had to run to get sushi with my Bulgarian friend and her brother.  They are very smart, and the conversation was interesting.  About Bulgaria and Japan and America.  He had never had sushi before, but seemed to enjoy it ok.  I am getting tired, and have had a lot of sake; I say my farewells and head back to my friend’s house to see him and some other good friends for my last night on mainland USA.

We talk until 1am, I need to leave for Hawaii at 5 the next morning.  We talked about the gossip, about memories, funny pictures and events that I have missed.  About my friend’s death and his service, about what we are doing and want to do.  Everything just feels nice.  we aknowledge the fact that there is not nearly enough time to say and do all we want to, but that it has been great to see each other.  And it really has.  Sharing a drink with the two of them for our lost friend was a very important experience for me.  Being exactly one continent and one ocean away from the people who knew him best made it very difficult for me to share any immediacy in the mourning process and kept me from getting even the small amount of closure I needed after losing a friend I never really knew as well as I should have. One shot of whisky with my two best friends from college washed all that regret away.  They get me a lot of blankets and I sleep on a couch, happy, again.  I feel loved and missed; two things I never expected to feel.

At 8am the next morning, I am alone again, flying towards the tropical islands that are my familial home…

One week on the continent that felt like one strange day to me; a convention of ghosts from my pasts telling me all about who I was and have become.  It was strangely liberating; like giving voices to memories who have become mute and static in my mind…  to just open myself up completely to what all these people around me had to say and had never, for one reason or another, managed to tell me before.  Perhaps I had not been listening.

Next on the agenda:  Hawaii adventures!

Whirlwind Tour Part 4 – Minnesota

Oy yoi… so let’s see where we are.  The world has changed.  For the worse and for the better.

The terrible news obviously is that I am still reeling from the loss of 7500 dollars.  This is in no way a good thing.  It is because my expo pay was reduced by 20% to go to the Japanese government, but I was supposed to get a reciept for that money so that I could get a refund on my tax return.  Unfortunatly, that reciept is not forthcoming, and it looks like that money is lost forever.  on top of that, I had savings bonds that my family and I had calculated to be worth around 1000 dollars in the US, but when I cashed it, it was worth only around half that!  Put the two together, and I am 7500 dollars poorer coming back to Tokyo.  Sad things, but life is life, and this is the one I am living.  But The Rocker sent me an email that really cheered me up even though one of the grants he was after won’t be coming through, but I hope that something better will come in because of it.

Let’s leave that sadness and get up to date with these rambling gypsy-like travellings across the United States.

First of all, I love the life.  I love stopping into town to see a little cross section of what life is like there for just a couple of days and then zooming away in a weird zen-like state to the next port of call and absorbing that lifestyle for a little bit.

I wanted to meet with a friend of mine in Montreal for just an hour or so before leaving for Minnesota, but wouldn’t you know it, we started drinking and a lot of other friends showed up and we started talking about life and everything, and I didn’t leave Montreal until 9pm, about 3 hours later than I had planned to.

But it is fine, I love long road trips, night time doesn’t bother me, so off I go!

But I only get about one hour out of the city, just approaching the border from Quebec to Ontario, when I collapse.  I can’t go any farther.  I get off the highway and park in this huge housing development for rich people and sleep in my car in front of a big mansion.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work because I have no coat and no blanket and it is minus 10, so I drive to the worst looking hotel I can find and stay there for 50 dollars, and leave at 5am to get back on the road.  The rest of the trip is pretty uneventful, and it looks like I will get into Minneapolis to see my sister that evening, but it gets later and later, and I get hit with this fatigue again!  it is still way too cold to stay in the car, so I have to call my sister again to say that I will die if I try to drive for another four hours, and I find a nice hotel instead.

But the good news is that my sister is sounding really happy on the phone.  The last few times I had spoken with her she had been sounding down and depressed,  but she seems really happy and happy to see me soon!  This made me feel good.

So I sleep at another hotel (I feel like money just wants to jump out of my pocket!) and get up early to arrive in Minnesota around 11am.  Ah, Minnesota.  What a strange place.  I see my mom again, and no matter what, you turn right back into a kid, I think.  I said that I needed to do a little business, and I apologized, but I just quickly called all of the organizations I was supposed to meet with before heading into town with my mom to shop for underwear and deodorant (my mom’s idea.  strange.)

The weird thing is that my mom seemed to think that while I was working on the computer and everything, my email was totally there for her to read!  But at least she got to see me working and I think understands better the kind of work I do and that despite the fact that I am not getting paid right now, it is still hard work and very stressful!

But my mom announces that she knows I am very busy, but she has taken these three days off to be with me, so she will drive me around to all of the meetings I have to go to.  I told her that it seems weird that my mom will be driving me to my business meetings and that I don’t really want to walk into all these theaters and companies with my mom, so she says she will just wait in the car.  In the cold.  Reading.  I agree to this, but I am still confused about everything… is this normal in minnesota?

The first stop is seeing my dad at his company, which I have never seen.  My mom drives me there and then waits in the car, reading, as she told me she would do.  The secretary of the company sees her and says:

“What’s your mom doing in the car?”

“Waiting for me.”

“Invite her in!”

“She’s reading.  She’s happy.”

“I’m gonna go get her.”

“No, she’s ok.  She feels eccentric today.  If you invite her in she will feel robbed of that.”

“Well ok.  But we want to watch her!  Well, not watch her, but look at her.  See her.”

“…”

Is this normal in Minnesota?

All the secretaries crowd around me.  They keep asking me about my clown life.  Weird.

Then my dad comes out and there are hugs.  My dad says he will show me around.  The company is impressive.  There are employees and everything, and they treat him like he is the vice president, which I guess he is.  I find out he is retiring in two days, which I didn’t know.  He wants to go on a two-month road trip with his girlfriend with no desitination in mind.  Just to see north America.  I am like my dad in this way.

The visit is over, and I set up a coffee date with my dad, just my dad, that evening, and then head out to see my mom.  My dad sees her in the car.

“Was she waiting there the whole time?”

“Yeah.”

“It must have been cold.”

“She has a book.”

“She should have come in.”

“…I’ll see you tonight.  Bye.”

Then it is off to the theater to see my first ever acting teacher and director.  I am looking forward to seeing her, and a theater is big, so I hope my mom will come in instead of hiding in the car.  She comes in, pees, and goes back outside.  I hope that it is a good book.

They are rehearsing Romeo and Juliet on stage.  I don’t want to interrupt rehearsal, so I wait outside and listen to my teacher direct.  I imagine that she is talking to me, and I remember what it was like as a junior high and high school student, being directed like this…  how weird everything is.  I look through photo albums while I am waiting.  There are a lot of photos of me at different stages of my life.  In a lot of them, I recognize my clothes, but I do not remember the play or the class that I am in.  What did I learn?  What was I doing?  Who am I working with?  We look like such good friends…  I am old now.  A lot of the pictures make it look like I am good at what I am doing.  I wonder if I have let myself down.  It is impossible to ask the kid in the photos what he wanted from me.

I see my teacher after she finishes up rehearsal.  We decide that meeting for brunch tomorrow will not work out.  We are sad.  We talk about art and life and everything is nice.  She is proud of me; shows me off to the kids she was directing.  It is late and my mom drives to the front of the theater.  I guess she got cold.  Or she finished her book.  I say goodbye to my director and head over to my highschool girlfriend’s house where only her parents live.

It is a big house.  Maybe four levels.  I talk with her dad.  He tells me it is not to late to be a doctor.  He can help me get into Mayo Medical School.  I tell him that would be great.  I want to go back to grad school.  He asks me what I want to do and I explain generally.  He advises me to be more specific, and I can not.  He says I will need to be.  He tells me all about science and research now; how things are going downhill, how he is lucky to get funding still.  Other people are suffering.  I know that it is because he is the best at what he does.  Will I ever be able to claim such a thing for myself?  Will any of us?

I talk to his wife about life and her kids.  I feel like I am their age and we are talking about children together.  We open up a bottle of Black Swan red wine from Australia.  It is really, really good.  I drink a lot and get a little drunk.  I tell them how glad I am to have known them.  They tell me about their daughter and her finacee.

I tell them that I hope to see Fiji (her father’s birthplace) if I work in Asia for a while.  I want to see where he came from and learned how to be a doctor for less money than anyone could ever live on, then or today.  He would operate on you for free, and refuse a chicken in payment.  Maybe a couple of eggs at the end of the month.  Now he is the world’s best neurologist.  Fiji can make a man like that.  I want to see it.

Now I am really tired and drunk.  I go to a barbeque with my mom and we eat fast.  It is only 9:30pm but they are closing.  We eat in like 20 minutes.  Not a very relaxing meal, not what I have come to expect from converstaions over meals, but my mom is very happy.  I am supposed to meet my dad across the street in 40 minutes, so I go into the restaurant.  It is a perkins.  Like Denny’s in Japan, but all Western food.

I fall asleep on the bench waiting to be seated.  The waiters must think I am a weird drunk who wandered in off the street.  They ask if they can help me, but really like I need help.  I say I want a more comfortable place to sit.  And water.  I am waiting for my dad.  They bring me to a booth and bring me water and I sit, drink, and fall asleep.  When I wake up from time to time, I sometimes see a Cambodian waitress with no age who speaks Minnesotan English perfectly.  She has a poise that I admire, and I think that she is pretty.

One of those times I wake up I see my dad.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  I am not drunk any more, that is for sure, but I am tired, tired, tired.  We talk for a long time, about money, my sister, about work…  about my project.  He wants me to know he is proud of me…  I say that proud is not what I am looking for, I want him to be proudER, and I am not sure I can manage that.  My dad is drinking coffee and I am drinking water.  It is late, late, late.

In the end, I drive back to my mom’s house.  I can’t remeber anything about what happens.  I am supposed to meet her the next day for lunch at 12:00 at a greek restaurant where I will meet her new friend who turns out to be a really nice guy.

Before that, though, I wake up and run to all the small town theaters to try and pitch my project to them.  It is weird.  Like they have never thought of bringing an international show to this little town.  They probably haven’t.  I know it and knew it, but it was interesting to try to talk about the possibilities, to help them see the potential.

I feel like my friends in the Refugee Camp and I are all kicking our asses in Japan and feeling beat up because of it, but is important to know that any day we wanted to, we could go back home and be superstars.  Unfortunately, that could all too easily be the beginning of the end.  why keep trying when we can be so satisfied with where we are?

I print up some more little folders and then head across the street to my former high school to see if I can meet any teachers.  Only one of the three I wanted to see was free, and I met with her.  She was my german teacher.  She is from Bavaria.  Now she teaches math, and it is weird speaking to her in English.  I feel like I will lose points for it.  Her daughter is in Taiwan now, doing marketing or some such thing.  I should meet up with her when I am there.  I give her my email address to pass on and we talk about what I am doing, I ask her how she is, how she thinks about the kids in the school today.  How is school treating her.  Is she happy?  All through everything there are students in the class who are doing extra work.  They have lots of questions.  One gets yelled at for not doing her work early enough.  This is Minnesota education.  I never let myself be a part of it, and I see why.  We say our goodbyes, it was nice seeing each other again, and I walk back to my car.

I wonder if she actually remembered who I was.

Dinner with my mom’s friend.  We talk about America and the way America is seen by other countries, how I feel being back here and all that.  Dinner is nice.  Gyro sandwiches and calamari.  I thank him for being a good friend to my mother in what could be a very hard time for her, and later, she tells me that he found that I talk a lot and am passionate.  My breath smells now, and I need to drive to Minneapolis for business meetings.  My mom says her friend wants to adopt my sister and me.  I chew gum, and barely get there on time.

Actaully, I have 10 minutes and need to get coins for the parking meter, so I go into a coffee shop and have a coffee.  I talk with the girl behind the counter…  I ask her what she does.  this must not be her full-time job…  no, it is part time.  So what does she really do then?  What is her art?  She says she has no art, no passion.  But she has a friend who is an actor.  She is friendly and pretty, and nice to talk to.  After 8 minutes I leave to go to my meeting, putting coins in the meter as I go.

Business meeting… what can I say?  It is great.  Everything that doesn’t happen at a Japanese business meeting happens at this one.  He is excited by the project.  wants to know how he can help!  What are the details!  Can he come to Taiwan to see it?  Tell us how much money you need…  let’s make it happen.  I smile as I leave and put his card in my pocket.

I have some time and want to call some more theaters, so I go back to the coffee shop.  I feel like I am important when I make the phone calls.  not because I am, but just because I am a small enough to feel important by starting a phone call like:

“Hello, this is Travelling Acrobat in residence at the national theater of Taiwan calling about the potential for developing our project for a flagship tour in the Minneapolis/St Paul market.”

I am a fake, and I will pay for it someday.

Today I just pay for my juice.

I have 45 minutes to meet my ex for a drink.  She works right across the bridge and around the corner.  We meet and I have a Guiness.  I order nachos, but she eats them all.  We laugh a lot about a lot of things.  She will be married in a week or two, I guess.  She asks if I want to meet her fiancee that night.  I say no.  I said that it was strange talking to our teacher and her parents about her.  She knew it.  We have a history, I say.  That is what he says, she says.  It is time for me to go.

Next meeting is at a Minnesota circus school.  They make a lot of money but rarely leave the state, much less the country.  The owner thinks he could benefit from my project.  He is particularly proud that Cirque du Soleil wants to use his huge school as a training ground for their Cirque du Monde program.  “We are going to be where Cirque trains its coaches,” he beams proudly.  I’m concerned by the number of kids that seem to be taught by volunteer parents and how many are falling.  It is true that if they partner with us we are eligible for a lot more money in educational grants.  It is a sad, sad lie I live, sometimes.

So I head back into Rochester from the cities after the circus school…  it is 70 miles, about 90 minutes of a drive, and this fatigue started hitting me in the head again!  I am supposed to meet a high school friend of mine in the same restaurant where I met my dad the night before.  I get there a half an hour early and curl up in my car to sleep.  This is starting to feel more like a little apartment than a car, but at least I have a blanket in there with me now.

My friend is a high school teacher now, in creative writing.  She has the sweetest face, like a 14 year old’s, and a really dark attitude.  I think I told her that she exhibits an optimistic nihilism or something like that.

She has finished her first novel and is starting work on her second.  I am nervous to read her first one because when she started writing it five years ago she told me that there was a character based on me.  I am scared to find out what that character might be like.  She loves the romantic side of my life.  Somehow, the instability and insecurity of our nomadic lifestyles really appeals to her.

It is stange to have these people who live in houses and who hold steady jobs jealous of my crappy existance!  They love hearing about life in Tokyo with my Lithuanian roommates, about our bathtub with a gas water heater built in…

I guess I’m telling them about a world they have never known…. a parallel world right outside of the borders of their country, and they are transfixed; transported…  not sure they would ever venture out there to see it all for themselves.

What a strange thing to want the things we can have, but not want to go after them ourselves.

I finish late, and barely make it home without falling asleep on the road.  I was supposed to meet my dad and one of his badminton students at a restaurant, but time got away from me and by the end, I was barely concious.

Another night slides by…

And I am awake and heading up to the cities (Minneapolis and St Paul) once again, but this time to see my sister and meet her new girlfriend.

My mom is driving once again, and when we arrive, she says that my sister, her girlfriend, and myself should find a nice cafe and just park my mom at some diner somewhere to read her books and make phone calls for church.

We do that, and the three of us find a nice vegetarian and vegan cafe.  I want something called ‘mock tuna.’  It tastes like tuna but has no meat in it whatsoever.  I really like it.  Then I know from the swelling in my mouth that there must be nuts in it…  a delicious brush with death.  That is how I describe it to the waitress, who applauds my positive attitude towards dying.

My sister works in a bank and takes a lot of time off to fly around the country playing music for corporate events.  Her girlfriend is a 19-year-old college student in gay and lesbian issues and something else like sociology.  She is always smiling and laughing.  And gets excited a lot.  When she is excited, she sort of vibrates and shakes and smiles.

We talk about all the silly normal things like how they met, what she wants to do for a job… I drink vegan coffee with soy milk instead of cream.  Now it is time to take her to class.

We check in with my mom, who is making loud calls to her churchmates in a very leftist cafe.  I wonder if people are annoyed.  I drag my sister into the bathroom to look at us in the mirror.  we look very similar.  Moreso every year, I think.

We leave my mom again and print up some more materials for the meeting that my mom says she scheduled with me for the Guthrie Theater.  I have been using her cell phone, and the guy I wanted to meet called while she had it on her.  She pretended to be my secretary, I guess.  My mom is being my chauffeur and my secretary.

Beforehand, I go to another cafe, this time, just with my sister.  we look at women together.  It is interesting that I find ordinary Minnesota women exotic looking now after being away for six years.  My sister finds them boring.  We talk about us, about each other, about our relationship.  About our parents and their friends.  She tells me that she has always been envious of me; that I can do everything and never fail.  That I will take a chance, that I am never afraid to look foolish.  That people believe me when I say things, that I am so sure of myself.  I tell her that I am not sure that everything she is saying about me is true.  I explain that the trick is to be the best at something and the worst at something at every step of your life.  That is what increases your comfort level.  I tell her that she should assert herself more, that she has real creative potential, but that she is locked inside.  She sort of agrees.

She drives me to my meeting and then goes to pick up my mom.  This meeting is in one of the world’s newest theater buildings, and quite possibly one of the largest.  It is not open yet, won’t be until June, but I get the full tour from a guy named James Morrison.  This is a beautiful theater.  I want to play here.  I want to live here.  At least, get really drunk here.

Perfectly designed for the director, performer, technician, and audience member alike.  It is a pleasure to see such a temple to the performing arts.

James loves this project; wants to make it a priority for himself this fall.  Wants to see it travel across the USA.  We meet for an hour, and by the end I am smiling.

My mom and sister pick me up; they have bought me a bubble tea.  My mom tells me that the woman behind her in line lived in Japan.  When my mom said that her son lives in Japan, the lady’s first guess was that I was teaching English.  My mom is so proud to say “No.  He is a show producer!”  Oh the shame of a successful lie.  When the woman finds out that I do circus and that I had been to the Minnesota circus school the day before, she tells my mom that her kids studied at that school, but that she didn’t like it.  My mom told her that I had visited and that I wasn’t sure myself.

I blew up at my mom.  I am very mad.  She is sorry.  I tell her not to tell people anything about what I say.  OK, fine, she can say what I do, but don’t mention the names of any organizations or what they told me.

Silence.

I say I’m sorry.

Maybe I was a little too dramatic.

But she needs to be careful!  She says she will be.

I know she won’t.

But it’s OK.  She’s my mom.

We get my sister some new glasses and then we go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house.  She is a teacher too.  My uncle is recovering from recent surgery.

I run by all the things I talked about with my friend heather about teaching the new generation of American students; kids who have lived their whole lives in the era of the internet.  It is truly a different world, and the kids are far more difficult to teach, I guess.  At least by the old methods, so they are trying to find new methods to teach that resemble the pace and colorfulness of television and the internet.

My aunt seems to have a very global view of the United States as seen be the rest of the world.

Now, it is off to a Mongolian barbecue where the whole family eats.  It is uneventful, but I sit next to my sister and look at her proudly throughout the whole night.  I wish I could help her with her dream to get away from this city and state.  We pose for pictures at the end of the meal.  At the end, my family tries to recreate a photo that we had taken 16 years ago.  We do a pretty good job, I think.

Before driving back home to go to bed for my last time in Minnesota for a while, I hang out with my sister at her apartment.  We see her band, I look at pictures of her, talk to her and her girlfriend and play with her cats.  I take pictures of them, and say I am glad to have made a new friend.  This makes her vibrate and shake with happiness.  I download some music onto my ipod from my sister’s computer, have my picture taken with her, and head back to my mom’s house one last time.

The next morning, my mom let’s me log in to her computer to write to my friends in Boston to tell them that I am coming.  The Political Scientist logs on from Tokyo, and I get to chat with her.  It is nice.  I have been missing that girl so much, but I feel like I will see her so soon, everything seems unreal. I am fatigued and jet lagged and depressed and excited, all at once!

Finally, I am off.  It makes me sad to see the colored paper signs that my mom has hung up on her garage door that spell out “Welcome home, Travelling Acrobat!”  I have only been home two and a half days.  I don’t deserve to make people that happy just by showing up.  I pull out of the driveway and start the long trek to Boston.

 

Whirlwind Tour Part 3 (continued) – Montreal and Bad News

Montreal, which was just supposed to be a fun trip for me, ended up being related to this project as well.  My friend from SAT and I talked about how to generate interest about teaming up to write a grant to bring the multimedia circus show from Taiwan to Japan…

The problem is that we can not get the National Theater of Japan and the National Theater of Taiwan together; it is diplomatically impossible as Japan has a treaty with China to have no connections with Taiwan at all, so to get the show to Tokyo through governmental grants (the best way, I think), we need to have a Canadian face on it, which SAT can definately provide…

Their answer was a positive one, and we talked strategy about bringing the project to the Canadian embassy there when I get back… that will be the next step in Japan.

SAT asked me a lot of questions about what The Rocker could want from them for the festival, but I did not really feel comfortable answering them as we had never talked about that and I am not really sure what my role is, if any, in the festival planning.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to look like I was unprepared, so I basically told them that we are waiting for information from the National Theater and will give them specifics (budget, etc) as they arrive and that as we had worked with the video artists before, that they would have a pretty good idea what kinds of things that we would be looking for, so if SAT and the artists wanted to work out a small proposal, that would probably help us out.

For now, they seem shy to get in contact with the National Theater for whatever reason, so I’m offering to act as a liaison to free The Rocker’s hands from that aspect of pre-production, and will keep the SAT happy by reducing “fuzziness” and the amount of guesswork and effort on their part.  Once the ball gets rolling, I am sure that we can step out of the process, but until then, I am anxious to keep forward momentum on their involvement — I know that The Rocker wants me to focus more on the acrobatic and programming side of the festival, but my interest in the SAT angle is more from the point of view of a future in Japan since if the SAT is involved we are much more attractive from the point of view of potential partners in Japan.  Additionally, given the fact that the SAT has been successful in winning a lot of Quebec arts grants and that they are really interested in making a first appearance in Japan, I anticipate that if they are involved, they will support us a lot in our efforts to tour over there, from both an artistic and financial standpoint.

I also talked with two friends over a beer, which was supposed to be informal, but they also knew about the festival since I’d already contacted one of them about participating as an emcee with me.

We talked about ideas for what we might be able to do for a duo, and we came up with some good ones.  we are both excited about that idea, and would be able to be quick, quality, and largely as self-sufficient as needed.

My other friend showed me her clowning DVD which is pretty good. I’ve worked with her in the past and she is particularily good at animations, and good on stage as well.

I had very bad news in Montreal that I owe money to the Japanese government in taxes, something that I was not at all expecting.  This means that my financial situation suddenly went to critical, and that I am in a little bit of trouble.  After I pay the government, I will have exactly enough money to get me to the end of June, but at that point, I will be broke.  I was budgeting to be OK until the end of 2006 even if there was a huge problem with the show and everything, or if my fee was going to be smaller than I am imagining, but now everything has changed.

I really believe in this project, and I want to be there helping in whatever ways I can, but at this point, I am really relying on an artistic team-level fee.  After this news, I contacted The Rocker in person to start talk about our financial expectations, because if I am way off-base on the sort of fee I might be earning on this project, I am in danger of having to drop out and return home.  Before this bad news, I was willing to take a risk for the sake of the project, but that luxury has been very quickly taken from my hands, and I am panicking a little bit.  It is probably for nothing, I know, and I have always and continue to trust in The Rocker’s judgement, but losing the magnitude of money that I have lost is incredibly unsettling.  I’d also like to talk with him about what I can do to help with the organization of the festival.  If he does want my help, what is most important to me is that I make his job as easy as possible for him without stepping on his toes.

Preparing now for meetings with the producing director of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the artistic director of a youth circus and school, the Hennepin Theater District, the grantwriting and programmation people at the Ordway Theater, and their counterparts at the Guthrie Theater.  I will also be talking to a big theater in a smaller, wealthy town.  The idea is to get these big-name theaters and organizations to co-write and co-sponsor a grant to bring the show to the US for a one-shot deal or a little tour…  essentially we’re acting as our own agent.

I am also looking to find agents in New York that have worked with circuses in the past.

So things are going well except for the big hit I took yesterday in the financial department.  It has been a real shock to me, and frankly, I am a little scared.  for now, it is business as usual, though, so I put it in the back of my mind.

Letter Home From Japan

I am still in Tokyo.  It has been more than a year since setting foot back on this volcanic archipelago of my childhood.  In many ways, the Japan that I remeber has crumbled into the sea.  That Japan stays forever in my memory, but what remains – presently – before me, is a land of opportunity.  It is like my ‘wild west’ has shot far past California and the Polynesian islands to come full circle and rest here in the ever-renewing, ever-crumbling Land of the Rising Sun.

Here, I can be what I want to be.  I can be White or Asian, American or European.  I can be an Artist or a Businessman or a Scientist.  I can be young or old, exotic or commonplace…  whatever I say is what I am.

I am trying to produce this show.  Starting in June, I go to Taiwan to make a new circus show.  I am working with a director friend of mine as new project coordinator and assistant director.  I am trying to produce the Japanese leg of the tour.  We are also directing the first major modern circus festival in Asia.  We get to work with former classmates, cirque du soleil artists, and some of the biggest names in circus today.  I will finally be a “producer” with a company starting to making a name for itself.  I am brokering deals larger than any I ever imagined while living in a one-room apartment with two Lithuanian roommates and no shower.

I’m reading voraciously.  At least two books a week.  Science journals.  Social criticism.  Philosophy.  Novels.  I read in French, in English, in Japanese, anything to stay mentally active.

Most people aren’t as interesting as these opportunities are so I don’t lose to much time to social things.  The friends I do have are as close to me as they are different from each other.  Journalists, politicians, teachers, public relations experts.  They keep me moving in different circles from each other so the water around me cstays clean and swiftly-flowing.

I have my vices…  I like to drink, I drink a lot every couple of weeks, and I like flirting with women.  I’m liking it a lot more than I was liking having a girlfriend.  Every month, I find I need to spend money on a nice dinner and show to feel like (despite my less than luxurious living conditions) can still appreciate finer things from time to time.

I get job offers frequently for nice, stable jobs that I will not like.  Interviewing for such jobs helps me practice negotiation and learn for myself that business is all about convincing people that they need you, and then proving it.  It is about finding out what you are worth, knowing what you are worth, getting more, and then living up to it.

I am enjoying myself, but whenever I give myself a break, I get depressed.  A fifteen-minute break from the computer writing business emails or running from meeting to meeting makes me feel like I am building everything on a lie; that everything is escaping me.  I wake up in the middle of the night to edit publicity videos, to write web pages, to contact investors.  I am never alone from my thoughts.

This is why I love meeting people.  They provide the best way to escape my own head.  I simply enter theirs, care about what they care about, and learn about a world that is as alien as any extraterrestrial planet:  my world as seen by someone else.

I am forcing myself to take a break.  I will go to Hawaii and Minnesota at the end of March, and will only allow myself 3 business stops a week of no more than 4 hours each.  I will think of nothing, and write all the time.  I will climb mountains and hike rainforests and drive in lazy loops and piercing treks across the plains.  I will excersise outside and breathe clean air and smoke a cigar on the beach.

All this will come to an end.  If I accomplish what I truly hope to accomplish in the next two years, it is time for another change.  It is time for university; it is degree time.

I am sure that someday in my life I will grow up and settle down.  I am sure that someday I will find a way to keep my mind on one path, but for now, at age 28, there are so many mountains to climb and so many paths to take.

Science, art, business, politics, writing… who know what it all means and where it all leads.

At least I have moments, every couple of weeks or so; in the neon underbrush of Shibuya or the quiet, European streets lining the inside of the Yamanote loop… in Japanese lessons with the woman who has taught my father, sister, and me for almost 22 years…  biking through the rain, or drinking a fragrant, inky wine with a beautiful woman over a savory meal and spicy political discourse a quarter mile above the quiet chaos below…  when I can step outside of myself, my life, into the realm where I exist close to the people I love – my family – a place far removed from the four dimensions of everyday life.

Where your presence warms my spirit and moves my soul and makes me understand that wherever I go, whatever I do, I am not alone in the world.

I hope to make you all proud someday,

Your loving son and brother,

The Travelling Acrobat