Well today is the last day of the 2011 Midnight Sun Vaudeville Tour and what a tour it has been. Just yesterday we had our closing circle, hiked to a glacier, performed at a senior center, and threw ourselves the infamous Ben Show, or in this case, the Has Ben Show. Currently we are somewhere in between two parades, workshops, breaking camp and a big theatre show. But first, Homer!
So we left Chickaloon village in the afternoon and begin the arduous journey to Homer. A deadly accident left the main highway closed for hours, so we found a parking lot, made dinner, and threw Carmen the best 11th birthday party ever! Complete with ice cream cake, surprise stilt gifting, changing tires on the U-Haul trailer, singing of course, and a ceremonial pie in the face from Miles, our 10-year old superstar. Oh how the children brighten up our days.
Finally getting back on the highway we drove the quick 7-hour trip through the dark, rainy, windy, whiney road and arrived at 5 in the morning Friday. Luckily, our hosts, the Arts Council of Homer provided a warm dry place for our sleeping pleasures. The next day was followed by three parades, two shows, and a great time.
First we paraded down the Homer Spit, an exposed finger of land stretching miles into Kachemak bay. Wind howling, the jugglers were reduced to mere spinners, the horn players tooted with all their might and we paraded on, a flood of smiles in our wake. Then in downtown, we paraded to the park and gave a teaser show. Still full of gusto, a large number of us bussed on over to SalmonStock, a new Alaskan festival that booked us on main stage at the last minute, hooray! Not only were the show and festival super fun, but passing the hat managed to raise another 300 dollars for Chautauqua. Woohoo!
Saturday featured a parade and show at the Homer Farmers market. Then our usual two hour workshop session had literally HUNDREDS of attendees learning to juggle, hoop, spin, mask make, quilt, guerilla garden, play ukulele, do magic and more. And that evening the show, the big show!
Yet again we manage to turn a show into an experience where the boundary between audience and performer was gradually dissolved by laughter and awe, leaving one giant scene of celebration. The more we gave, the more they gave, and so on. Afterwards, several audience members I spoke to said it was the best show they ever saw. Booya!
Sleep when you’re dead! Early to rise and off to Ionia, a unique, isolated intentional community whose philosophy is based on good food, organic, vegan, fresh, macrobiotic diets. Although I still don’t know what macrobiotic is. They fed us a delicious lunch on their beautiful property. We even managed to catch a 70-degree sunny day to perform, teach and frolic with them in their large grassy field, aww. So we said goodbye to our new friends and hit the road to Seward.
Rolling hills of fireweed descended down to the bay, where far on the other side, massive snowcapped, glacier carved mountains rose thousands of feet into the stratalocirrus cloud streaked sky. I can make up words if I want to, that’s how pretty it is. Everywhere, huge jagged mountains rise up an all sides of us, big braiding rivers flow between, some silty with glacier melt, others crystal clear. Pink Fireweed speckles it all, and the weather changes faster than our emotions, sunny and glorious to cold and rainy, every day is a surprise.
So we arrived at Seward late in the night, pulled out our wet tents, and set up camp in the dark rain, which was awesome! There’s nothing like a positive attitude, (and hot soup) to make grueling situations fun and silly. And yes you heard me right, it finally got dark. The combo of our southward momentum and the quick seasonal shift leaves us with at least 4 hours of actual night now. With the first starry night in Homer, all the locals joked seriously, that summer is over.
So with tour winding to a close, the feeling is of jubilance, silliness, and accomplishment. Mixing that with impending goodbyes and the knowledge that it’s nearly over makes this the happiest sad day ever. We really did put the unity in community, and nothing reflects that better than our closing circle. Not to be confused with a meeting by the way, circles are special, meetings are logistical, now you know. So we circulated out on the grass and right on cue the sun burst through the clouds, shining upon us, glorious and warm, and one by one we spoke our final thoughts.
Sometimes provoking laughter, other times tears; everybody had something different to say. But throughout the circle some common themes were woven. Themes of triumph, over the hardships we encountered in ourselves and the larger group, of success, in spreading our unique brand of joy to places that truly appreciate it, of community, all of us coming together through thick and thin to keep the dream alive. And of course, humor, as somebody said at last years closing tour, that was reiterated this year, “It could have been worse.” Haha! But could it have been better? It doesn’t matter now, mistakes were made and we try to learn from them. But the fact is, it was what was and what it was was wonderful.
After closing circle we went to Kenai Fjords National Park and hiked to Exit Glacier, a massive, moving hulk of ice literally millions of years old, but melting fast. A warm walk, until right near the edge, when the chilly catabatic winds came flying down the mountainside, the Glacier’s own homemade weather system. Like so many other glaciers though, it could be totally gone within 50 years, maybe sooner. The lines of retreat were marked by year signs, the hike starts with a sign reading 1917, and so on, for a mile through time almost a hundred years to it’s present location, where it shrinks quicker by the year.
Then a moment of rest, NOT! Actually we quickly changed and went to yet another senior center where we rocked the worlds of many long-term care patients. My favorite moment came right after the show, when we were mingling.
A frail, little old lady held out her delicate hand, Joey held it, and she, whispered, in the faintest yet most powerful voice, “I liked that.” Then she brought his hand to her face, and began to cry. They sat there together, hand to cheek, for a long moment and I saw in her smiling, weeping face the purpose of it all. The meaning of all this mayhem sparkled off her tears like a beacon of light in a world growing darker. The whole reason we leave everything behind for a month, the ignored bills piling in our mailboxes, the paying gigs we skipped, the jobs we didn’t get, the summer we barely had, the dirty bus, cold nights, wet tents, long roads, and sleepless nights just don’t matter, they never did. All the money in the world could not buy a moment like that. There it was, her face showed us, like so many others the real reason we prevail, singing in the rain, laughing through the night, indefatigable spirits fueled by the notion that this is much than a show on wheels. This is the change, and we are living it. So yet again I offer you the words that have become our way of life: the show must go on.
Alas! Evening is upon us and there is one more show to do. Then it’s back on the bus, and off to the lower 48, where warm beds and sunny days await. So until then, toodle-oo. It’s about a 4-day journey. I will post at least one more entry after returning. One of them will be journalistic in nature, recapping all the communities we visited and organizations we teamed up with, as well as quotes and stories from people along the way, hopefully including photos. The other will come bubbling out of my rejuvenated heart, a recap of the journey, not just the where and what, but an attempt to capture little essence of the whole experience, a little snapshot of what it means, to truly be ON THE BUS.
Sincerely, Midnight Sun Vaudeville Tour Blog Monkey Extraordinaire,
Eli “Dr. Bonkers” March