Farewell, Granite State

This will most likely be my last post before I hop in the van and head across the Mississippi. Looking around my room, I’m not sure if all of my things will fit back into the two suitcases I started out with. No worries there, because the van has room to grow. Also, just how do I pack for this carny trip across the Rust Belt? Fortunately, I will only sleep in the van Saturday night before my Bread & Puppet performance.

As you can see, my mind is already on the road. I have two, maybe three, more gigs in New Hampshire before leaving the state, but I made the road trip official today. Today, I took my toys and put them on the dashboard in the van.

My friend Kevin gave me some Simpsons bobble-head-gumball toys when I visited him in Brooklyn. Lisa came with a piece of two-sided tape, so I stuck her in the van last week. Today I brought some two-sided tape back from work and the rest of the gang joined her for the schlep. Homer, Yoda, Jonathan’s Barrel-Full-Of-Monkeys monkey, the Asian-waving-good-luck-kitty, and the Animaniacs await the open highways of NY, PE, OH, and IL. Yoda and the Animaniacs road-tripped with me to CA in 1997, so they tagged along again for another trip across the US.

As most of you know, I always have toys on an altar or shelf somewhere in my living space. Before I left San Francisco in April, I wanted to find a toy to bring along for this trip. I never got around to finding one at a thrift store or sidewalk sale, so I told myself “The toy will come to me when I need it.” Kevin has always had toys in his living space, so he was nice enough to give me some from his extras drawer. Nice how things work out if you let them.

Before I start crashing in hotels on the road, I have to pack the van in a way that will let me access the games and then access the floor to sleep on. Saturday, I have the final NH gig in Portsmouth’s Prescott Park, so I need to be able to get to the Wheel of Fortune parts and the containers that I’ll need for the gig. Then I pack up and drive to Glover, VT for dinner with the Bread & Puppet crew. They have no place to sleep, so I will have to move things around in the van to sleep on the floor in there.

I’m not that worried. I can keep a pile of things by the games in Portsmouth and then make a pile by the van in Glover. The bedding that I use in Concord will go with me, so there’s the place to call my bed. I will get up Sunday morning for breakfast and then set up the games as a Ding Dong performance. The circus and pageant follow and I open the games again to catch the exiting spectators.

As soon as Ben Cohen showed me how to set up the games, I began to pack the things in a methodological fashion. That’s the way I am and most traveling performers know that you don’t want to lose time looking for something. So the Wheel of Fortune exits the van in this order: table, tripod stand, wheel, top, and decorations. All pieces live by the wheel, bungied to keep from falling around. Ben gave the top pieces a hanging space opposite the wheel.

The other pieces exit and enter a certain way as well, but the containers have no real order. If i don’t think I’ll use the generator, it stays up near the front of the van. The dolly that can pull the trailer around only fits almost behind the driver’s seat. If I need that, then I have to pull almost everything out to use it. So far, I’ve only used it twice and have gotten good work outs using my upper body to drag the High Striker around.

Had a final meeting with Steve and Melissa today. Melissa wanted me to give her a report about sign-ups, so I went back to look at the events I’ve done. In three months, I had about 20 events, ranging from 25 to thousands of people. The games generated about 180 sign-ups, allowed me to give away hundreds of pens, fans, stickers, etc., and hit over a dozen locations. I gave away about 3-5 cases of stuffed animals, performed indoors and outside, and had about four other events get rained out.

I got to work on many skills while in New Hampshire. I made several presentations at meetings, co-facilitated a bird-dog workshop, wrote up news releases and sent them to the media. I got interviewed by TV, radio, and print media, was exposed to several state-wide campaigns, and got the inside scoop on how a national campaign is run. I also got to work on my performance skills, mostly public speaking/debate, improv, and lame attempts at learning how to juggle (probably the hardest thing I’ve come up against during the last 3 months).

Other challenges include bouts of loneliness, depression at the state of mainstream USA, general malaise at not having 4 things going on at once, and the limits of my aging body. I have managed to eat well, exercise often, and continue my tai chi and sitting practices. At times, being away from friends and community, the simple act of sitting has been hard. Living with myself, completely alone, has been a challenge, but I have learned much already about who I am and where I’m at.

So, the piles have begun around my room, ready to get packed in boxes, bags, and cases. Melissa is taking care of my room check-out, and I plan on spending Thursday getting the van looked at and finalizing all the moving that has to be done. I’ve also decided to buy a cane before I leave. I think my performance would improve with an extra prop to poke around and emphasize with.

Farewell, Granite State. I enjoyed your rolling green hills, your rainbows and puffy clouds. I’ve met your trash, your kind people, your radical ministers, and all in between. In houses across your land, people keep their bears and doggies that they won at my table. My pens grace pockets, cans, and drawers in many of your dwellings. As I drive away Saturday, I will leave part of me here: on the train tracks, in the theaters, and out driving all over the place.

Maybe I’ll be back next year.