BLSP’s Topsy-Turvy Bus Debuts in Berkeley

This morning, during breakfast, I pulled out Section B of today’s Chronicle and saw a great feature article on Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities’ (BLSP) newest educational-vehicle creation, the Topsy-Turvy Bus. Spawned from the brain of ice-cream wizard, and my former boss, Ben Cohen (with help from others including myself), this latest eye-catcher plans on heading to Vermont soon via Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Chronicle article mentioned a launching today at Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, so I contacted BLSP ED Duane Peterson so see what was up. BLSP had planned on launching with the Hip Hop Caucus crew, but HHC canceled their show due to an ongoing janitors’ strike at UCB.  Duane didn’t know what, if anything, was happening, but I still hopped on BART and got there around 1pm to find Ben Cohen and the Topsy-Turvy Bus creators about to leave. After a brief chat with Ben, he handed me some coupons for free B&J ice cream, a few 3-year-old pull-out pens, and then boarded the bus to head off amongst gawking, photo-snapping pedestrians. I got a few photos myself.

Papa Ben Cohen affectionately leans on his newest brainchild, the Topsy-Turvy Bus

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Circle Round Around the Circle

Different attic room; same job. Wait, the job just ended. Once again, Bram let me crash in his empty upstairs master bedroom. This is where my whole Priorities adventure began, so I like the idea of ending it here on the edge of Stick season. Hard to flash back to that April day when Duane, BLSP Executive Director, pulled up at the Burlington airport and introduced me to the CarnyMobile. After buying me dinner, he dropped me off here, my home away from home away from home away from…..

Amid champagne toasts to the demise of Donald Rumsfeld, address swapping, handing over my credit card, and buying a bus ticket out of Burlington to NYC, I once again go on the dole. I also stopped in the office to wrap things up with Ian, the CFO, but he took the day off. So I had to set up my receipts and strongly urge Erin and Courtney to encourage Ian to get that check to me on time.

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Dear Finnigan,

I just wanted to write you note of thanks for all your great assistance and attention while we lived together in Des Moines. I had no idea how little I knew about dogs until I moved in with you. I also think that I found a good soul in an animal that had a killer “pouty face” when you wanted something.

I admit that I am not a dog person, but I do have some experience with canines. I did live with another dog for about six months, but I wasn’t paying much attention to her. You demanded that I pay attention. Remember that morning when Amy kenneled you and you made Chewbacca noises and howled until I let you out? I had no idea what the rules where but could’ve cared less after you woke me up so early.

That was a great time!

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createAn Exquisite Masthead Corpse

Alone in a room, with TV, while outside world crouches coyly around smoke-stacked visions

between man, and our “waffle”, stands a time to think of loss and cherish memories.

slinging mind, across shined floor, locked away from brightness of knowledge

upon a mighty river shall truth, bright and blinding, bare down upon the masses

mounds of garbage, neatly piled, hiding realities that lawnmowers and fertilizer cannot contain

leaves gone changin’, have mercy, veil wears thin. leaves soon fallin’, dear lawsy, dead be near.

all ends. away, there upon crunching trail. general grey, muted sun. and then begins again.

Relative calm during transition; once settled, popped out like a spotty light bulb

Oh, the Election…

I have many plates spinning at the moment, so, this morning when a Wheel-of-Fortune player asked me if Sensible Iowans supported the politician that was speaking behind me, I forgot that I’m in the middle of a “historic election.” I had no idea who the candidate was at the podium behind me. I don’t even know if Iowa is a Red or Blue state. Blue is Democrat, right?

Since my job ends on election day, I’m trying to plan my return to VT, my hopeful trip to NYC, and my coming flight back home. I’m also busy promoting Ben Cohen’s Take It Back College Tour next week (two days before the election), I have had little time to put the election thing together, and being on the road has distracted me from the names, polls, close races, etc. Actually, I have been keeping up a little bit on the radio, and enjoying all the stenciled yard signs. I just now started poking around San Francisco and California politics, but I have become an official jaded voter.
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Maj. Billy’s Pucker Factor

My friend Billy enlisted into the US Army about 11 years ago, and has since been promoted to Major. He’s been to Iraq twice, most recently returning earlier this year after being there over 12 months. I’ve known Billy since high school back in the 1980s, but haven’t seen him in about 10 years (I moved to San Francisco, and he started a family and moved all over the place). He’s still the same young man I knew all those years ago, except he now has an even shorter haircut, wears fatigues, and has three beautiful children.

The forces of the universe finally aligned and allowed Billy and me to meet up, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. My best friend Mark, maybe Billy’s oldest and best friend as well, happened to be driving to South Carolina from Colorado. So the three of us got together for the first time in more than 10 years. We all had an amazing chance to be present with one another, catch up a little, and enjoy the fact that we’re all still the same as we where all those years ago (except maybe for greying or receding hair).

mark billy russell

Mark, with a Spearhead shirt on, Billy in his fatigues, and myself  (sporting a Just Seeds slingshot print), in Billy’s back yard. Billy and his family currently live on base at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and hope to be there for a while.

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The Right Side of Things, or, Waiting for the Jesus Bomb

I keep an open mind about new ideas, so don’t mind experiencing situations where my values are questioned. This job provides these experiences daily. Today, in Waukee, IA (a Republican suburban town just outside Des Moines), I set up my Wheel of Fortune at their Fall Fair. My first players, from Des Moines, loved our message and even signed up. Throughout the afternoon, three different families walked away from the game while I was in mid-sentence. The word “Pentagon” clicked the ignorance gene in their minds. Or maybe their reality blinders lowered from their halos.

I want to talk to these folks, and see why they don’t agree. When I do speak with them, I get into arguments where we just talk in circles. Or we fall into illogic where their comments just don’t make sense:

“The whole budget [pie chart] should be the pentagon!”
“Even if they’re wasting our money?”
“Who cares. They know what’s best for our freedoms!”

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Notes on the Road

Davenport, IA

I had to visualize a matrix in my mind’s eye so that I could get through the next few weeks. Let’s see if you can keep up: I’m on a trip inside a trip and will leave Iowa for a trip inside a trip, on vacation from my primary trip. Confusing? I’ve driven 400 miles so far this week, gigging in Davenport (Tue.), and Cedar Rapids (Wednesday, Thursday). This week’s trip takes place within my major four month trip to Iowa. After a gig in Davenport on Saturday (two Friday gigs fell through, one in Des Moines, and another in Iowa City), I drive back to Des Moines, unpack from this week and repack for next week.

This Sunday, I fly (liquid-less) to San Francisco, only to unpack and pack for a week-long trip to Burningman. Then I head back to SF, unpack and then pack lightly for the return flight to Des Moines (coach class for the first time ever…. I upgraded with frequent flyer miles). So, Monday before I left for this trip East, I also had to pack for the trip to SF and Burningman.

If you need it drawn out for you, contact me and I’ll give you a nifty flow chart or something.
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poloticsEntrepreneurial Activism

During my second day on the job with Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities (BLSP), I started asking questions about the carnival games. Ben Cohen, Board Chairman, and Duane Peterson, Executive Director, listened patiently to my questions. I asked about crowd control, doing two games at once, set up needs, and maintenance needs. Most of my questions got a single answer: “We don’t know. You’re the first person to take the games out there, so you’ll tell us.”

After test performances that first week in Burlington, Duane and Ben kept telling me to act bigger, make more noise and be louder. While not working the games, I told their administrative assistant, Vicky, that I felt like I had six learning curves going on at once. I was overwhelmed at first, because I was the new guy with new games going to the newest campaign site in New Hampshire to work with the other newest employees of BLSP. Needless to say, my stay in New Hampshire with Priorities New Hampshire (PNH) ended up being one of patience, frustration, flexibility, and constant adaptation. I loved every minute, but also felt helpless at times due to not knowing how to adapt, or not doing it quick enough.
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createHappy Feet Masthead Pics

Now that I have a nice amount archived, I thought I’d post some of the pics that I featured on this blog’s header. I’ll start from the oldest to the newest so you all can relive the moment when you saw that specific photo. Sadly, I didn’t keep the catchy sayings I quoted or made up for each one. Click thumbnails for the bigger picture.
Vermont Header 01

The White Mountains of VT, shot from Bread & Puppet’s meadow

New Hampshire 01

An old cemetery in Concord, NH, shot during my first bike ride on this trip

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