Status Update, Thursday, October 27, 2016

Just a quickie to update anyone interested in what is going on with me. After a couple of wild and crazy weeks (Vegas and Mexico trips), I am now settling back into a more regular routine. I have now been free of my brace for just over a week, and there are improvements in function every day!! One day last week my ballet teacher, Carri Burbank, asked if I could yet drink out of a champagne glass. At that point my answer was that I could hold the glass, and even get it close to my lips, but would not yet be able to drink out of it. Well, as of yesterday evening I was able to effortlessly tip a glass of wine and am pretty confident that my answer to Carri will be yes! Bring on the champagne!


I have now established my morning workout regimen, which consists of stretches, squats and heel raises, and some stability exercises that I lifted from my physical therapy routines. Also about 10 minutes of core work. Currently I am not doing any upper body work, but in the near future will be trying to integrate some into my routine. My shoulders need it!

I am also now getting back into utilizing the services of “Team John”, the core group of dedicated professionals who assist me in my endeavors. Last Friday I had a session with my core coach, Stephanie Winkler, who very creatively was able to put me through a grueling 1 hour mat Pilates/barre routine without doing things that might jeopardize my perhaps fragile triceps. On Monday I got back into the groove with my body mechanic, Donna Place, who has a gift for instantly zeroing in on whatever body parts need attention and the skills to fix the problems. This time it was my right upper back/shoulders, and some hip stability exercises on the Gyrotonics tower. Tuesday I had a massage session with my body tenderizer, Teresa Figueroa, and in the very near future will resume yoga sessions with my yoga muse, Ramona Magnolia Tamulinas! Life is good!

The Hildreth Avenue at the Fox, Saturday, October 22, 2016

One of my favorite haunts is the Fox Coffee House. Not only is the Fox conveniently placed within easy walking distance from home, but it also plays host to not one, but two open mic events each week. On Thursday nights there is a pure open mic from 7-9 or 9:30. On most Saturdays the mic is open from 6-7, and then at 7 there is featured act with a full 50 minute set. The open mic then resumes from 8 until closing.

The Fox Open Mic is the love child of Sean Gallagher. Sean is the father of Mary Gallagher, proprietor of the coffee house, and his event for almost two years now has provided a safe and nurturing environment for anyone seeking to find their voice and develop their talents. Performers of all ages will show up once, start coming back, and many eventually graduate to the main stage as featured performers; it is always a red-letter day when that occurs. Back in September I wrote about a breakout performance by young Deja Nichole, and since then Deja has caught a wave and is now playing at venues all around Los Angeles. While I was happy to see Deja in the crowd, she was there not as the featured performer but in support of another graduate of the Fox talent machine, Edward Lopez.


Edward, or Eddie, has been coming to the Fox for about a year, and has developed from a somewhat shy and withdrawn young man into a confident and outgoing performer. He performs as The Hildreth Avenue, and I believe that this was his third time as the featured act. I didn’t see his first time, but I did see the second, and it was a bit of a disappointment. I only knew him at that time as a kind of a darkly shrouded young man who was usually there and often called into service as a collaborator for other artists, a role that he did exceptionally well. In the last performance I saw Eddie seemed unprepared, and very conscious of that fact; he wound up doing a greatly abbreviated set, which was a shame given that the room was full of other artists who only needed a nod to come to his assistance.


Eddie has learned his lesson well, and he delivered a fully-featured fifty minute solo set of mostly original songs to an audience emanating a tangible sense of love and support. I was trying to come up with an analog for Eddie’s voice, and was almost ready to give him a “defies comparison” label, when another audience member compared him to Kat Stevens, a comparison that has considerable validity. He does a great job of supporting his singing with his guitar playing, and vice-versa. Eddie wears his heart on his sleeve, and then he transcribes it into song–you can trace the arc of his life by following his lyrics. His performance on Saturday was mesmerizing, and he has redeemed himself big time–Eddie is ready to roll!

Here is a link to a video of Eddie’s performance


Eddie wasn’t the only highlight of the night as the room was filled with outstanding talent. Some of the highlights were the performances by Jon and Ren of When the Ocean Kisses the Sand, Ishmael and his typically comical interplay with Sean, and a performance by Deja Nichole. One of the highlights from Deja’s birthday performance was a duet that she did with Eddie, and I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t have her up to sing a song with him in his set, but any disappointment quickly evaporated once I got to hear her sing again. Plus I got to meet both her mother and her grandmother, a wonderful pair of beautiful ladies!

Here is a link to a video of Deja’s performance

Last up was a very intriguing performance by an adorable young lady who showed up late with an acoustic guitar and a retinue of other young lovelies. She gave her name as Danii Smith, from Colombia, and was completely unfazed when feedback problems kept her from using a miked acoustic guitar. “Can I play the electric?”, she asked, eying Rodney‘s electric guitar. Given an affirmative, she proceeded to play a very nice jazzy set of three songs with a great voice and very proficient self-accompaniment.

Letter to a Friend: Vegas trip,October 13, 2016

Hi Gail,

Just wanted to take a minute or two to check in with you in between adventures. The trip to Las Vegas was great! I drove up on Wednesday, and then all day Thursday was taken up with the setup for the Circus Couture art auction. It was quite a job to try to get all of the items displayed in the space allotted, but it did get done. Friday is when the cast do their (mostly) dress rehearsals (usually have their costumes on but no makeup), and that is a great time for a cirque fan like myself to see all the acts, sometimes more than once, so I like to hang out during the rehearsals. Typically there is a last-minute crisis or two as the opening of the doors approaches, and this was no exception, but everything got done. The show was great and you can read more about it in my blog entry. Check it out if you haven’t already. I think it is one of my better pieces.


Cheetah and Rhiann at work

Since my friend Kerry Winston Ward  (aka, fulltiltward on YouTube–check him out!) was going to be in town until Wednesday I decided to hang out until then. Most of the day Saturday was spent at Starbucks writing my blog entry on the event, and then it was off to Cheetah and Rhiann’s house for a barbecue. They are into the aerial arts and have some celebrity–they spent several months last year traveling around and getting married 58 times in 30 some countries–and moved to Las Vegas earlier this year from LA. Housing prices are quite a bit lower there; they bought a five-bedroom, 3 bath house with a swimming pool for 325K, a house that would be well over a million here.


One of Aerial Essentials Best Customers

Vegas is also the perfect location for their business, Aerial Essentials,  which caters to the Cirque community, and they can get a lot of walk-in business there; if you are in the area they will be having an open house at their shop on November 5. Met some new friends and got to hang out with some old ones. The Linz’s were in attendance (Erika, Tom, and Mary-Mike), got to hang out with Kyle and Leah, Diane Klein was in attendance, but in true Diane fashion spent the entire time in the kitchen whipping up goodies with her able assistant Doc, met the lovely Kae, an aerialist who was also dealing with an elbow injury, and some assorted others.

We spent Saturday and Sunday nights at Cheetah and Rhiann’s. On Sunday, Kerry spent some time tending to work, I did a bit of walking, hung out in a coffee shop for a while, and then we had a debate party. Kae came over, and we ordered pizzas. Made it through the debate without misfortune and then hit the hot tub.


Sosuke Brause riding the Wave

Sunday was an early-to-bed night as the Platt’s had to work in the morning and Kerry and I were planning on leaving at 4 am in order to drive to Kanab, UT. There is a walk-in drawing for permits to hike a geographical feature called the Wave in the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. Access is very restricted; at 9 each day there is a lottery to give out 10 hiking permits for the next day, and we tried the lottery. Didn’t win, but that was just as well as it would have required us to stay overnight in order to use it.


Slot Canyon on Wirepass

Instead we decided to hike into Buckskin Gulch, a slot canyon that is 11 miles long, hundreds of feet deep, and 10 feet wide. Kerry is in WAY better shape than me (he completed not one, but two, 200+ mile ultra-marathons last year), so the plan was for me to go as far as I was comfortable with and then I would head back to the trail head and he would continue to explore. We hiked down a wash (Wirepass) that fed into Buckskin Gulch until that wash also turned into a slot as well, but I didn’t get as far as I had hoped. We came to a spot where there was about a 9-10 foot vertical drop requiring some serious climbing, and in the interest of not putting myself in a situation where I could undo all of the healing in my triceps I decided to turn around at that point. The new plan was for me to hike back up, drive the car from the Wirepass trailhead to the trailhead on Buckskin Wash, and hike down until I met Kerry coming up. That all worked out fine for both of us, and probably better than our original plan.

We drove back to Henderson where we stayed the night with a friend of Kerry’s, and he hung out there all day Tuesday taking care of business while I wandered around the area, hanging out in coffee shops and getting some miles in. That night we met up again with Cheetah and Rhiann at the Penn and Teller show. Kerry knows Zeke, who is the prop manager for Penn and Teller, and Zeke got us tickets for a VIP box. Great show, Thai food afterwards, and then stayed over at Cheetah and Rhiann’s.


It’s a Triangle! For reference, Cheetah is 6’4″.

Wednesday I helped out a bit with staging for Kerry’s event that day. He contracts with companies to do team-building events, and his event that day was also a charitable event. His company, Corporate Explorer Training, bought 25 wheelchairs, and the task for the participants was to assemble the chairs while also having to compete in some challenging activities. After the chairs were assembled they were then donated to Disabled American Veterans.

I have helped with his events in the past, but I wanted to get back to Long Beach before dark, so I headed back at about 11. I was planning on going to a variety show that is pretty crazy (see Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap), but also requires a 25 mile drive near rush hour. There were no advance tickets available, however, and it was unclear whether there were any at the door, so I decided to pass on that and go down to an open mic event at Hellada Gallery in downtown Long Beach. That turned out to be a good move as it was an absolutely magical evening of music. There was an awesome pool of performers, and they were able to spontaneously assemble themselves in various configurations and created wonderful impromptu performances. It was a very special night, and I am planning on devoting a full blog entry to it.


Mooney Starr, Christian Jaymes, and Travis at Hellada Gallery

Today was a taking care of business day, and I did top it off with another open mic event at one of my local coffee shops. Tomorrow I will be taking off very early to drive down to Cabo San Lucas with Kerry. His wife and daughter are living down there, and they only have one car there, a Prius. Kerry likes to get out on the back roads, and a Prius is not suited for that, so he bought a Rav4 which is much better for that and which his daughter can drive.

Signing off for now,


Injury Update, Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon for my six week followup. I am now free of my brace, but still on some severe activity restrictions. He said that such an injury can take 10 month to heal, and he does not want any kind of strengthening exercises at this point. He thinks that is six months away, and in the interim I am to work on range of motion and avoid any kind of pushing with that arm. I am optimistic that I will be able to shorten those time frames a bit, but still plan on playing it safe.

My range of motion is shown above, and it is just a bit more than 90 degrees at this point. Still can’t reach my face, and I look forward very much to the day that I can again feed myself with my right hand! That will be the next milestone of note.

Circus Couture 2016, Friday, October 7, 2016


Circus Couture (CC) is an annual circus/fashion show/art auction benefiting the Children’s Speciality Center of Nevada, a clinic that provides care and treatment for children suffering from pediatric cancer whether or not they have insurance. On Friday 10/7/2016 the seventh iteration of CC took the stage at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino with the goal of surpassing the million dollar mark for cumulative donations.

Circus Couture is the brainchild, or perhaps a more apt description would be “heartchild”, of Erica Linz, a self-described “actorbat” formerly based in Las Vegas and currently likely to be found just about anywhere in the world. CC grew from Erica’s early individual fund raising efforts under the banner of the St. St. Baldrick’s Foundation , to her recruitment of others to participate in St. Baldrick’s events as the Cirque do SoBald team, and finally culminating in the extravaganza now known as Circus Couture.


Erica is very high on my list of “Remarkable People I Know”. In addition to being a gifted acrobat and aerialist who was a featured performer for nine years in the Cirque du Soliel show KÀ, Erica also has the heart, the drive, and the magnetism that has drawn an ever-expanding cast of other remarkable folks into her orbit. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, Circus Couture has grown from humble beginnings into a most remarkable fund-raising machine. I too was drawn into that orbit four years ago when I met Erica at JJ’s Gym (aka, heaven for acrobats) in North Hollywood, and this year was my fourth time serving as one of the 200+ volunteers that make this show happen each year, an experience that I look forward to every year.

While the cast of performers in the circus portion of the show changes over from year to year, there is a larger core group of volunteers who come back year after year, many of whom put in countless hours between shows to pull this all together. My role in the production is to assist the lovely Ashley Sutherland-Winch (aka,An American in Macau) in the art auction setup.  When Ashley first became involved in CC she was living in Las Vegas, but last year relocated to Macau. That did not stop her from continuing to serve as a Circus Couture board member, recruiting local artists to donate art for the auction, cataloging all of the child art created by cancer patients, and returning from Macau to play a key role in the setup and execution of the art auction.You can find bios of Ashley and other board members and production staff here.


One of the very entertaining aspects of Circus Couture is the fashion show, and that portion enlists the efforts of a number of loyal local designers who are charged with creating whimsical designs based on some kind of an annual theme. One year, for example, they were required to use only cellophane, and the next year they had to work with balloons! This year the theme was Luck, both good and bad.


The real money-raiser, however, is the auction, and that portion involves several categories. First there are items or services donated by local businesses or individuals, like massage packages, resort stays, tickets to shows, wine collections, or various kinds of gift baskets. The big item in the online, silent portion was a  1963 Fender Stratocaster played by Jimi Hendrix. That item, unfortunately, did not attract any bids; I guess that the $650,000 opening bid was a bit too high for the attendees!

In terms of art, there are pieces that were created by local artists like Peter Lik, 3 Baad Sheep, Don Michael, Jr, to name just a few, and those artists have been contributing works for years. Then there are art pieces created by patients from the Children’s Center, and in that realm the champions are Barbara and Larry Domsky from Domsky Glass. The Domsky’s have been involved with CC from its inception, and each year they host an art party for the kids at their studio. The products of that party compose a large portion of the items in the silent auction.

This year something different was tried, and a number of the items in the silent auction were works that were created by local artists collaborating with children. There was one collaboration that was especially poignant, and that was the collaboration between the Domsky’s and the family of young Avery Driscoll. Avery was a 13 year old cancer patient who was at all the Circus Couture’s that I had attended, and at events before I got involved. Avery was the face of Circus Couture and was beloved by all, but she unfortunately lost her battle back in June.


Erica and Avery from an earlier Circus Couture


The collaboration was a mixed media metal and stained glass tree. The Domsky’s created the metal trunk of the tree, and Driscoll family members created the leaves out of glass.  It was titled “Family Tree” and it was the last item auctioned off. The opening bid was $5000, and as auctioneer Christian Kolberg fished for a $7500 bid the audience was electrified by a bid from magician Criss Angel for $100,000! Mr. Angel then went on to tell how he had developed a very close relationship with Avery and her family. He then went on to 1) gift the sculpture to the Driscoll’s, 2) donate an ADDITIONAL $100,000 to Circus Couture, and 3) make an additional donation of $100,000 to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund cancer research in honor of his two-year old son who is battling leukemia. I believe the word is mensch, and the total proceeds from the auction were over $154,000. Circus Couture has now raised over 1.25 million dollars!

Below is a video created for Circus Couture celebrating the too short life of Avery Driscoll…


Definitive Soapbox, Friday, September 30, 2016


On the last Friday of every month the Fox Coffee House hosts The Definitive Soapbox, an open mic/poetry slam. This Friday was the seventh anniversary show for the soapbox, and it was an epic evening. I would estimate that there were well over 100 people packed into the Fox, and the joint was buzzing with excitement well before the start of the show at 7 pm. Host Antonio PAZ1 Appling gave a little introduction and explained the format for the evening. There was full slate of performers signed up, and so each was limited to just one piece. The open mic segment would run from 7-9, and then from 9-9:30 there would be two featured acts, one a musical group and the second a performance by an established poet. That is the standard format for the event, and on this night the musical act was the duo The Black Noise (@blcknoise), and the poet was San Diego poet Rudy Francisco.

Most of the performances for the evening were spoken word, and there were a few musical acts as well. Most notable in the latter category was a young man from San Diego (and I apologize for not taking notes so I could adequately credit the participants) who did a beautiful acapella rendering of an original composition, and 11 year old Bethany. Bethany has been coming to TDS since its inception with her dad Jeff, and this was her first time on the mic; she did a song that she had written herself and accompanied herself on the ukulele. She was not the youngest participant, though, as host Antonio read a poem that had been composed by six year old Rowan, another up-and-comer in the soapbox world.


The Black Noise

There were some incredibly powerful spoken word pieces, most dealing with very serious topics, including battles against depression, dealing with one’s own suicidal impulses or the suicides of friends and relatives, or grappling with gender identity. The mission statement of the TDS says that “We started our open mic SEVEN years ago with a goal of creating community and engaging hope around poetry in Long Beach”, and I they have done a wonderful job of doing that. There was an overwhelming feeling of love and mutual support in the room that provided a safe and embracing environment for all comers.

The strongest and most emotionally gripping pieces were those touching on matters relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement, and those voices were raised by both black and white individuals. I have friends and family members who seem somehow offended or threatened by the Black Lives Matter movement, as if it diminishes them in some way or as if the African-American community is making much ado about nothing. I would like very much for those folks to have the opportunity to visit events like this and see first-hand the testimony of those who are living under the shadow of the ugly racism that has always permeated our society and seems to be raising its ugly head even higher now. Let them hear black women mourning the loss of their black brothers and expressing the fear that they feel every time their sons venture out into the world. Let them hear the crippling anxiety felt by young black men when that police car slows as it approaches them and the relief they feel if that car passes them by without stopping.


Rudy Francisco

At promptly 9 pm the show moved into the featured artist segment, and first up was the duo The Black Noise, consisting of Victor Ujagudhele on guitar and vocals and Donovan Brown on vocals. They played an outstanding set, combining the spare instrumentation provided by Victor’s virtuoso guitar work with the rhythmic vocals of both member. They too are in a period of recovery as back in August all of their equipment was stolen. They have a GoFundMe page that is currently active and accepting donations so they can afford to replace their gear, and anyone who is inclined to help out can donate at The Black Noise Recovery page.


Last, but certainly not least, was San Diego based poet Rudy Francisco. On his web page I see that “As an artist, Rudy Francisco combines activism and poetry to enlighten the minds of those who witness his performance. Rudy eloquently absorbs the experiences of those around him, synthesizes them and converts their stories into poetry. Furthermore, Rudy has made conscious efforts to cultivate young poets and expose the youth to the genre of Spoken Word Poetry…” Rudy performed several pieces, and my favorite was his last, his “Honest” poem, which once again provided a portrait of what it is like to be a young black man in an often hostile environment.