My plane landed in Santiago shortly before 10am and I cleared customs and immigration with no hassle. I caught a shuttle bus into the city and checked in to my hostel for the night. It's the only night of the tour where I'll be sleeping in a dorm, and it's been fun getting to know some fellow travellers. It's quite a mixed group, surprisingly close to my own age and including a professor and quite a few hikers.
The bed wasn't ready when I arrived, so I left my things and went for a few hours of walking through the city. It was surreal because I know I've been here and spent the night, but absolutely nothing about the city is familiar whatsoever. It feels like total Terra Incognita, and I've enjoyed exploring with a fresh eye. Tomorrow I head to Valparaiso, which I expect to be more familiar since I spent a delightful week there in 2014.
I spent a bit of time today reassembling my dulcimer; I slack the strings for air travel. Its builder has laughed at my abundance of caution, but it makes for much less stressful flights to know that my baby is completely unencumbered and is built to withstand 3000 pounds of tension. In a very rare occurrence, both my flights (CLE>ATL and ATL>SCL) were large enough aircraft that I was able to bring the dulcimer on board with me. Quite often the domestic leg is in a smaller plane and I need to gate check it with the strollers. If I'd known it would be overhead luggage the whole route I might not have spent the time taking the tension out of the strings, but gate checking is always at the last minute and I like to be prepared.
I feel quite well! With only a two-hour time difference I have no jet lag, just fatigue from a very fitful night in a small space. It could have been worse, of course, since I had an empty seat beside me which I shared with the woman on the other side of it so we could both spread out a little. I'm taking it as a good omen for the tour that on a pretty full flight I got such a luxury.
Of course, now that I've arrived I'm realizing my packing mistakes. I forgot sunblock, which was easily rectified at a corner pharmacy (though not before I got a little sun on my afternoon wander). More interestingly, I brought too many dark shirts. I'm used to coordinating outfits with jeans, but this time I decided to adopt a more formal look with black slacks and I probably should have taken that into account when choosing the rest of my clothes. I did run across a gentleman in a similar outfit, however, and his look screamed "musician" so I think I'll be OK.
My phone says that my "strolls" involved 11 miles of walking today, so I'm calling that a win. I certainly feel I've got a better grip on the city, and maybe it'll be a bit less foreign the next time I turn up. Tomorrow I'm off to Valparaiso, the standout city of my 2014 South America tour!
My plane leaves tomorrow for South America and I'm rather nervous. I've been to Chile before, and one reason I scheduled the trip the way I did was to have three weekends in my favourite and most successful busking city from my previous tour. Still, it is a place where I witnessed a theft of a woman's camera from off her shoulder, and has a reputation for being on the dangerous side.
A lot of my anxiety is less serious, though. I'm mainly concerned about catching buses, since the websites haven't let me purchase tickets ahead of time. I'm about to try again, at least for the two buses that are most important for my timing: nights when I haven't booked lodging because I'm planning on an overnight ride. Even so, the crossing into Peru is a bit tricky. From what I can tell, in guidebooks and online fora, the way to do it is to catch an informal taxi (colectivo) across the border to Tacna, and then grab whatever buses I can to Cuzco. Happily, I've had the foresight to give myself three days to manage any delays before I head out to Macchu Picchu, the most timing-sensitive plan of the trip.
So I head back into the void, taking the leap once more. It's a reason I savour travel as much as I do; it forces me to live in the moment and dance to the tune of circumstance. It's brutal on my psyche, but I never feel more alive.
I'm looking over my repertoire and putting together lists of music that needs work in the next few days before I go to Chile. I've been focused on the upcoming 2018 recording session, so I've been writing, arranging, learning, and retaining new material; but now I need to switch gears. In South America I anticipate that I'll mainly be playing original music, with some renaissance and baroque added for flavour, but I've only got about 20 of my songs performance ready at any given time. If I can add another dozen worthy-but-forgotten pieces into the mix then life will go a lot more smoothly for me.
I leave for Chile a week from today, and it's a bit intimidating even as I'm knocking out chores left and right. (Emails to festivals? Check! Income taxes? Check! Sales tax filings for $0 in states I haven't worked lately but that impose non-filing penalties? Check!) I'm wondering about what I may be missing, as well as the anxiety over the many things that could go wrong.
Plus, I'm looking further into the future. Do I want to return to the US via Milan or Munich this summer? Come back right before Pennsic or into the thick of it, giving myself an extra weekend of busking at the expense of treasured down time? Do the Holborn Praeludia look like a better fit for the 2018 or the 2022 albums? (Yes, I really do think that far ahead, and the 2020 album is set firmly enough in my mind to know they wouldn't be appropriate there.)
It's a whirlwind, and I'm looking forward to the moment when my butt hits the airplane seat. I stress beforehand, but once I'm strapped in my perspective changes and my anxiety drops as I focus less on what might happen and more on what is actually happening.
I was caught by surprise with several events in 2016, so I'm looking to make fewer assumptions and have fewer expectations in the new year. Happily, I'll be spending much of 2017 abroad, where I excel at living on my toes.
One reason I enjoy traveling is because of the person it brings out in me. As a touring busker I'm well aware that anything can happen, and I embrace possibilities even as I dance among them. As someone who sees recognizing opportunities as his most essential skill, travel is my best mental exercise, and upon every return I feel recharged from having left.
And so, as I make my wishes and resolutions for the coming year, I'm keeping that mental flexibility foremost in my goals. Happy new year!
I know it's been a hard year for a lot of people, but personally it's treated me fairly well even as I mourn for various people and events. I'd like to thank everyone who made this year so good for my music and travels; it's been a very full year for me, and I can't believe so much has happened in a mere twelve months.
I began the year in southern Ontario, Canada, recording Dulce Melos. I'm incredibly proud of how it came out, and of how ambitious I was with the complexity of its music. I continued my Baroque explorations, delved even further into sixteenth century music, and discovered some fourteenth- and fifteenth-century gems in addition to the Celtic and early medieval music which has long been my foundation.
From Canada I went to Texas, although it minimized my culture shock that I was living in Austin (unofficial motto: "Keep Austin Weird"). I had a truly splendid experience at the Sherwood Forest Medieval Faire, feeling myself absolutely at home among close friends old and new. It's a delightful show with a lot of heart and skill behind it and I relished the experience of playing there. Austin audiences were incredibly welcoming and generous, and between my colleagues and our patrons I had a magical time.
From the newness of Sherwood I returned to my stomping grounds of Gulf Wars, a large SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event in southern Mississippi. I had a great time, as my Canadian friends mingled with those I have in New Orleans. We did have a bit of an incident, however, with a massive storm system that swept through. I had just begun a set in the tavern when the intense winds and driving rains began, and I moved my setup to the minstrels' gallery (it's an amazing place). I spent the next few hours at my dulcimer, doing my best to add a bit of calm to the atmosphere. They're calling that night "Gulfnado", and it's a story that will always be shared by those who were there.
I then headed to Italy as I do most years, where I made some discoveries pro and con. Cities that have been good to me in the past, Padua and Bologna, had recently passed anti-busking regulations, and even the nominally friendly city of Perugia gave me some problems. In response, I broadened my busking to cities where I had spent very little time in the past, and was very pleased at my welcome in Prato, Terni, Foligno, and Pistoia. Taranto, Genoa, and Pisa were delightful and reliable as they've been so often in the past, and I'm pleased to have added Foggia to the list of cities where I reliably return.
From Italy I resumed my renaissance festival circuit, picking up in St Louis. I always feel very at home there, with this being my fifteenth year there as a musician, but it was a bit of an oddity; the festival is in the process of moving from the spring to the fall, and these two weekends were "preview" weekends offering a limited version of the show free to the public. Even so, I had a really positive experience, and the weekends were a rousing success.
I then spent a month performing at SCA camping events. It's typical for me to include a few of these throughout my year, as with Gulf Wars, but we were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Society's founding. This meant that I went from St Louis to a ten-day camping event outside Kansas City, and on to a week outside Indianapolis, with a few days visiting my parents before a long weekend at the War of the Trillium surrounded by my family of friends in Greater Toronto.
I then continued my Canadian adventures by spending July as a street performer at Byward Market in Ottawa, the nation's capital. I love Ottawa and, as is a theme in my travels, have a number of friends there. It's my favourite busking pitch in North America, as a historic neighbourhood meets a farmers market under the umbrella of a very helpful and organized management team.
I returned to the States, and to the SCA, for my annual trek to Pennsic, north of Pittsburg. My fifteenth year there, I'm starting to play for the children of people who started listening to me as children, themselves. I taught a class on neat medieval sites to visit in Italy, and I was honoured to co-teach a lesson on street performing with my old friejnd and dear colleague Jack Strauss, who calls himself Dr Henry Best in the Society. We have sharply different styles, and it was a lot of fun to see where our perspectives differed and lined up. I'm especially proud to be a part of this class because it has a history of encouraging artists to become professionals, with several alumni who have gone on to make some brilliant art.
I'm running out of creative ways to say "and then I went someplace else".
So off to the New York Renaissance Faire rode I! It's a truly beautiful show set in a former botanical garden, where I'm surrounded by (you guessed it) good friends, delightedly playing for New Yorkers who live in the live entertainment capital of the world and know how to be a phenomenal audience.
Sadly, the New York Faire overlaps with the new autumn dates of the St Louis Renaissance Festival, but I was able to return for the last two weekends of its season. As I mentioned, the preview weekends had gone off very well, and the full show was an even bigger deal.
After two weekends off, which I spent being a social butterfly in southern Ontario again, I headed south to Louisiana. This was my fourteenth year at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival, after a very difficult year for them. The site flooded in March, under 8 feet of water, and after they had cleaned it up did so again in September. I was deeply impressed at how many people pitched in their labour to make things work, and how well management pulled off the event after two such disasters. Thankfully the weather had gotten the water out of its system, because we only had one wet festival day the entire season for a remarkably good run.
In short, it's been a very good festival season for me. Outside of my live performances, however, I also got a lot more into Internet video this year. I launched a Patreon campaign and I'm very pleased both at its generous reception and with how much fun I'm having. I've been intending to take more video, and this has been a brilliant motivation to keep coming up with new variations. Many thanks to all of my patrons! And many thanks to everyone who has offered me encouragement, feedback, applause, and their business. Without you there could never be me, and I'm deeply thankful.
I'm going to a New Year's Eve party and I just read the invitation; it's a wake for a brutal year, and we'll be bringing sentiments to burn and wishes for the new year. It's a fairly standard Yule ritual, and not my first rodeo. But like everything else, as I approach my fortieth birthday, it carries a lot of memories.
I had just finished my first season at the Ohio Renaissance Festival and I was informally engaged to my girlfriend of two years (no ring, but she had asked and I said, "yes"). I was on top of the world, and when it came my turn to express my thoughts on the passing year and wishes for the next I stood tall.
"It's been a year of music and love, and I hope for even more to come!"
It was a sentiment to remind me to be careful what I wished for. My relationship ended in early April, but I booked my first full summer/fall season of renaissance festival work and was very much on my toes with launching my career. This meant that I was fresh meat on the circuit, and I call that period my "summer of love".
A dear old friend still makes fun of me for breathlessly calling every week to exclaim, "there's this girl!" as I repeatedly fell head over heels at a dizzying rate. I look back on that time with fondness and I'm on good terms with several of the ladies involved, but while I'm glad to have lived it I would never want to repeat it.
What a wild ride it was, and now I'm a lot more careful with my wishes. I'll let you know what I come up with.
I hadn't realized that backdated entries would go into everyone's feed as they have. I'm so sorry! From here on, I'll schedule daily updates ten years to the day after I made them, so they'll trickle in at a more reasonable rate. Again, my apologies!
It's one of my greatest strengths. The world is full of brilliant artists and sharp business minds, but being competent at both is likely my greatest competitive advantage.
I just said "competitive advantage" in describing an artistic career. I rest my case.
I called it a career, which is also a strong argument in my accountancy. But I'm overselling my case. The key to my success has been knowing when to temper practicality with art, and vice versa.
For example, I just booked a completely frivolous trip to London while I'm busking Italy, since I could keep expenses under $300 including the concert tickets for the show I wanted to see (two back-to-back Frank Turner performances in his concert series "Lost Evenings"). I booked the plane seats now because I wanted to guarantee my attendance once I had my concert tickets, but I haven't yet booked my flight from Cleveland to Milan because it's a business expense I want to be deductible on my 2017 taxes instead of fiscal 2016. By flying out on Sunday morning and returning on Tuesday, I'll only lose a single day to busking, minimally impacting my work schedule.
And so I've put my accountant brain into action in an artistic goal. This is my career write small, from busking tours of amazing places to working festivals where other people go for vacation; I'm not here to make a buck, but to support my own happiness. I've been deeply lucky that it's still rolling along, and I consider the soul of an accountant to be another lucky break.
Many thanks to you all, without whom I could never have made it work!