Thank you Stacy and Brent for your photo and support!
It's the second day on the train and I can't believe how sore my back is. Who'd of thought that sitting back relaxing, letting the great country-side pass you by could cause so much physical tension. It might be the stark contrast- six weeks of cross-country biking followed by long rides into and out of the Bay Area, soccer in the mission and some kick-my-ass dance classes- then suddenly sitting. Lots of sitting and sleep. Sleeping in chairs with foot-rests and paper pillows. I've put my tennis balls to work- the balls that held me together on the ride are resting behind my back, rubbing as I wiggle, the thick-ropes of muscle that protect my spine.
In San Francisco I met Julietta, a small-town superhero of revolutionary inspiration, misplaced on the National Terrorist Suspect List and in San Francisco as the owner an awesome little coffee shop by the ocean that serves great espresso, toast and coconuts. We hit it off and had a haircutting session in the dunes which Blake and I had previously been afraid to walk on near the guy doing drugs and the couple having sex. I love California. Shameless pagans running rampant through the cities!
I missed my bus to Ukiah where half of Ithaca was working on a farm, so we rode our bikes on a foggy day over the bridge of beauty and death to the sound of the giant sea-creature barking long loud sighs of excitement and anger. Through Sausalito where the Italian Gelateria had given me a waffle cone of lovin that knocked my socks off after a Sunday dance experience with Ilonka that was funner than Church(!), and on into the little windy mountain roads of tall and ancient trees. The woods are amazing, I mean, that's all there is to say...AmaZing. Biked back just in time to catch the last ferry and sat outside on the deck watching the lights of Alcatraz and San Francisco emerge slowly from the chewably thick fog. We came back to Blake's sublet, raw and exhausted from an amazing adventure to find-out that our friend who he had subletted from was on her way home with a couple(which turned out to be four) friends and they would be sharing our one-little room.
We went to the Day of the Dead parade which is a bunch of people dressed up in elaborate and colorful death-themed costumes, dancing, playing music and walking around the Mission with no separation between spectators and performers. Sam vowed to wear a skeleton costume next year, and I vowed to be a Hispanic male dancer wearing feathers and a rawhide g-string next year. We met a friend of Sam's and ate tacos from the taco window and played soccer with Davey, Ghan, Blake and me verse some Mexicans who had likely been playing since 5pm that day, if not also lifting bricks since 6am. Needless to say, we whooped them. They might have been sharking us, but who cares. It was a blast.
I sat on a bus overnight and had a three-hour layover in L.A. at 7am. Luckily I was able to meet an old friend who I hadn't seen in years and who I was desperately longing for to pass the time. She ended up driving me the last hour to see Melissa in Irvine. It was nice to see my sister, she has a new apartment, new job, new car, and new boyfriend since last I visited. We drove around a bunch, ate amazing tapas on a roof that overlooked the coast, and had cupcakes at a place that had WOODEN- not plastic or even corn plastic- utensils, visited the beach though briefly, and went out for some traditional Italian/American cuisine with her main squeeze. At one point we were talking about our brother and parents and the possibility of them moving West. At a lull in the conversation I noticed how odd it is that palm trees have come to symbolize California and they are themselves a non-native species, "Actually," I said, "that's a rather appropriate allegory for California." And Melissa added,"This is where people come to invent themselves. They come to California to make a new life for themselves." Silence followed as we watched the freeway disappear beneath us and I thought about myself and how sure I had felt about moving out here only a minute before; suddenly I was unsure. I am happy with myself. I don't want to "invent" myself. Is that why she had come here? And Davey and Ghan and Kat and Sam? Are we all really running away from the East Coast that made us who we are? Are we ashamed of our paler complexions? Do we need California to make us whole? * * * The third day on the train began at day break with a view of a cement wall. There were two plain-clothes dicks on the train waking everyone with a flashlight in the eyes to ask if this black suitcase (full of weed) belonged to anyone. Of course no one claimed it and they felt it necessary to body-search two young Latino men just to confirm my suspicions that law-enforcers are generally racist. Funny that the only person I know of on this train who might have actually been the owner is a young white man on his way home from a summer of organic 'herbal' farming. No one was arrested though I heard the word said more than once while the dicks were talking to the Latino men. They called in their names and getting nothing from headquarters and nothing from the pockets they moved on with a suitcase full of fun. Do you think that they are going to flush that shit down the toilet or maybe burn it in the bonfire at their next police barbecue? I talked to our conductor about it- we have a very cool train conductor- he's got this serious short Jerry-Curl and wears square-rimmed bifocals, tall and thin with a great smile and always using it. He said, "Somebody is really pissed right now, but their doing a good job of hiding it."
The woman working in the cafe car makes this announcement every time she opens- four times a day. "The cafe car is now open for (meal name), and we'd like to remind you that shoes must be worn in cafe car, and if you have children with you the children must also be wearing their shoes." She must have a really terrible foot fear, or maybe it's a private joke that she has taken to its limits. We talked about Obama yesterday. She was saying that she thinks he's got the right idea- that he doesn't take money from lobbyists and is really interested in bringing the power back to the people. I asked her what she thinks it will take to get Obama elected? "We need to get people out to vote. And, people need to not see him as a black man. They need to see him as man. He's an American, half his family is white and half is black." I like him too and am ready to volunteer for his campaign when I get to Ithaca. I saw in USA Today- trashy of the trash papers- some graph that showed Hillary leading in the popularity charts with Obama trailing and Edwards at a steady third place. Man, I really don't want to see our first female president be Hillary Clinton. When I was a kid and didn't know any better I was all about her. She's a lady, my mom was in her college class, what more did I need to know. But no more. I can't see her turning this country around. I can't see her putting her finances out of mind when making decisions. She may be a woman, but she's not a role model for me, she might as well not be a woman- her attitude lacks universal compassion for human life. I'm sick of politicians who endorse aggression. War is evil, the worst of all evils. What we need is a revolutionary- a young president with the GUTS to stand up for what's right. My impression of Barrack Obama is that he believes in diplomacy, the constitution, the foundation of democracy. I want to see the aggression machine dismantled and peace made a priority. There was a moment in Salt Lake City when Emilie said, "I think we're interested in different things in art. It seems like you are more interested in the politics of art and I am more interested in the poetics of art." I can't say that I didn't feel hurt by this- I did. I felt like I was being labelled and shoved into the box of fleeting, un-lasting artists, destined to make slogan-boards and buttons for events that already happened. But after trying to deny it, I must admit that I am interested in the politics of art. This doesn't mean that I am motivated by a political agenda, and it doesn't mean that my art lacks poetry, but there is a social conscience implicit in the things that I do. I think that artistically I work in a context of free-association and my outer influences are sometimes political, often environmental, personal and social. I do have a vision of a more community oriented society- and a government that invests its resources in productive and sustainable infrastructures and activities.
In any case we will be in Chicago by 4pm today which is EXCITING! cause we have six hours to walk around before our train connection to Syracus. Four days on a train is a long time on a train. Maybe a little too long for some of us. That being said, I still prefer it to the bus, plane or car. We have made a little community here on our four-day journey. We met a rap artist, G-Child who likes to party more than anything else practically. We had some drinks, sang, talked. Last night our farmer friend opened a bottle of champagne for a bunch of us to share. G-Child got off in Denver with the invitation to collaborate some time. It would be interesting- he's working on a song right now about guns that have clips. He asked Blake if he ever "packs heat?" I want to sing a chorus on his gun song, it'll be the peace-activist teaming up with the gangsta, I'll sing "I could never kill a bird/ And I can hardly swat a fly/ But I can somehow kill mosquitos/ And I don't even really have to try/ So I guess I get it/ How a man can kill another man/ He just sees him as a pest/ and lays his soul to rest/ in the hot Arabian sand." He'll follow with a list of all the guns with clips and their special people-killing capabilities. It'll be called "Can Peace Carry a Piece?"
My body is a little tense from all the sitting- different from sitting on a bike. As we passed through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and then the Rockies I was panged with the feeling of loss at not having tackled those fantastic vistas. It felt wrong to make it through each mountain range in a matter of hours, and without breaking a sweat. I am reminded that we only made it two-thirds across before the evening cold and the dryness of the dessert sucked us into their vortex of energy loss and mental distraction. We became anxious to make, not just experience, and yet we felt compelled to keep moving to beat the winter. Out there on the road with no locomotive bubble to protect us from the reality of time, weather, the seasons, it felt as though winter was biting our heals- there was also the problem that I couldn't eat anything for a week- but now, two weeks after we said goodbye to our fantastic bicycle voyage, I feel remorse for it and long to finish. I had a dream a few nights ago that we woke up outside of Salt Lake City and I had my appetite back and we decided to go on and it felt great! Of course it is easy after two weeks rest to look back and think you could have kept going. I have to remind myself that we were ready, or rather, we were done. We recorded an album and saw the great Spiral Jetti which felt like an ending. Our last day riding confirmed it- we had a ten mile down hill into town and we were pedaling the entire time. Kansas came back with a vengeance. She wasn't going to let us off that easy. We were going to have to fight a headwind that was stronger than gravity on a 5% grade ten miles long. It should have taken us thirty minutes, but we pedaled a good two hours down this hill, like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill all day just to arrive at the bottom the next morning. We never mentioned it on the blog, but Emilie had an injury this entire trip that nearly put an end to it way back in Hazard, KY. With that in mind I can rest my feelings of dissatisfaction. We went a hell of a lot farther than Hazard, KY. We met tons of people and learned more than we can rightly collect in a single work of art, piece of writing or story. People along the way would say- "This is an experience you'll never forget" and it sounded a little cliche at the time, but they're right. We are changed. Our bodies and brains have absorbed and transformed the passing of land and time and humanity in a way that will never leave us. I am grateful to all who supported us on our journey and look forward to the next evolution in this process. Keep an eye out for those postcards.
If you would like to join our postcard list email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading: Postcard. Make sure to include your address.
This project has been made possible by generous contributions from, The Cornell Council for the Arts, Linda and Jeff Shearman, Mary Fessenden, Tara Cooper, BJ Ewing, Lucile Stark, Elaine from the Pharmacy/cafe, Terry Smith, the man at the Gas Station in New Albany, Dave and Jim, Bill and Beth, the girls at Huck's, Diana and Michael, Buzz Spector, Niel, Tim Hayes, Eric Kincade, Blake, Maggie Stark, Connie and Paul, Randy and David, Chris Mathias, Steve (the owner of) Escalante, Stacy Weber, and many others like you...
On September 11th, 2007 the Barn Stormin’ Brother’s began a journey on bicycles that would carry them from Roanoke, Virginia to San Francisco, California performing their work-in-progress, The Two-Headed Nightingale in Laundromats along the way. The Brothers will travel from east to west retracing the steps of the colonial conquest, in an attempt to understand the deep-rooted dream in which land is seized, secured, and exploited in the name of the free. The piece uses song, dance and theatrical vignettes to test the limits of the self. Where does one human being end and another begin? Why do we live in a country that values private property? The performance is constructed as a string of brotherhood equations that evaluate this country’s obsession with ownership and material wealth. We will perform in Laundromats because it is a unique type of public space. We will offer an alternative entertainment, an oasis, which fights prejudice and oppression with a slew of back-bending dance moves, saw-tooth rambling and dizzying percussion. De-robe and De-pants, as we build a wild west out of soap and socks at your local Laundromat.