Surviving artifacts from various hitch-hiking journeys around USA/ Canada, circa 1989-1994. Annotations as recollected. Note: many more of these signs existed but are lost to the world as ephemeral creations.
What follows are my notes for a talk called “On the Road to Creativity” for Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver. The format includes 20 slides for 20 seconds each, auto-changed. As such, the pace is brisk and a bit of a high-wire act. No audio/video exists but there is a “roundup” of photos, tweets, and other artifacts including the hand-crafted “paper-point” collage slides. See “Consider Perusing” below.
1 – On the road
I’ve spent much of my life wandering around the globe working odd jobs including mushroom farmer in Japan, grape picking in Germany, beach club host in Guam and even following the Grateful Dead – all these experiences provided lots of time for thinking mostly about the meaning of art and importance of documentation – here’s what i cam up with
2 Art makes the future
while the history we learn is laden with the stories of kings, conquerers, popes and rulers, the only reason we know anything about how people lived, loved and thought is because artists took the time to chronicle the the stories through paint, words, carvings, and song. From the earliest cave painters to bloggers, there is vast evidence for the importance of storytelling.
3 Art Craft Schwag
No doubt today like olden times, there is a tremendous amount of disposable pop culture created to satiate common interest but the best stuff created by diligent artisans rises above the layer of schlock into the territory of craft and then transcends into a rarified area of art which will last centuries rather than 15 minutes. But who decides what is art? And don’t give me that “i know what i like” answer.
4 Craft + Intent
Instead I’ve made a formula to sort out these largely subjective criteria – first off, take Craft – skill honed from thousands of hours of consideration, then add Intent – which, while subjective, can be gauged by heart of the creator, and then multiplied by the artist’s Integrity as seen by an audience. The audience who truly breathes life into a story, no matter the medium. This formula doesn’t work for you? Cool, make another, but be sure to share. Art does not live in a vacuum, art yearns to be shared.
5 Audience / Awesome
But this can be tricky for artists who must balance their internal desire and, dareisay mission, to create authentic art with the often debilitating practical need to make a living. I’ve found that my projects which garner the biggest audience, are not necessarily the ones which i maximize my artistic potential – find where you audience and awesomeness intersect and try to find a way to hang out there.
6 Upgrade your Heroes
First upgrade your heroes – history is scattered with underknown world-changers, and the present is too. Dig beyond pop culture, politicians and sports personalities to find remarkable predecessors to your work – for me, my heroes range from writer of “Confessions” and “The Social Contract”, Jean Jacques Rousseau, to current day punk rock photographer bev davies. Who are your historical dopplegangers?
7 Personal Archaeology
Next, embark on personal archaeology – dig into your closet to find forgotten dreams from those black white photos you took in yellowstone to graduate thesis to 4th grade book reports to your journals from hitchhiking down the coast. Take the risk to share these artifacts with your small slice of the world and let them breathe life into your work.
8 Embrace Translucency
Transparency isn’t interesting – instead share the parts of you which are compelling and you are capable of backing up – accept risks but protect the parts of you which are too delicate to expose. Create interest through scarcity and self-editing and be prepared to deal with any reaction which comes along.
9 Express with vigour
You are an expert on something, don’t rely on others to create the historical record – everyone has access to remarkable publishing and promotion tools so step it up and dig deep to tell your unfiltered opinions and don’t let cynics bring you down – if you can’t surprise and impress yourself, no way you can evoke emotion from an audience.
I think of “Express with Vigour” as the “Hunter S Thompson rule” – while his reputation has been somewhat maligned through hollywood movies, the fake Doctor was the finest social commentator since Samuel Clemens and offered significant discourse about Jimmy Carter, Hell Angels, 9/11 – and did it with a significant buzz – but always had a job because he expressed himself wisely and vigorously.
11 Cross Training
Now sometimes the pressure to create awesomeness can be debilitating – staring at a white sheet of paper and all that – rather than stressing, experiment with other mediums and get interdisciplinary with cross training skillz and your stories will manifest through the other tools – i contend V. Van Gogh c/would’ve made it as a writer if the painting hadn’t worked out.
12 Don’t Get Precious
With all this goodness you are creating, it’s easy to get protective of your thoughts and work. Rather than waiting for someone to make you an offer you can’t refuse, share your work openly and willingly – learn about creative commons, find collaborators, encourage remixing and your work will create a culture of its own. It’s not always fair but it is usually fun.
13 Ignore Gatekeepers
The established business models for artists are relatively modern and designed to create value for the shareholders of corporations. The goal of landing a major label record deal or a big publishing advance are no longer needed or valued – be your own imprint, chart your own course, the gatekeepers may look intimidating but they are made of stone so walk on by.
14 Cross Pollinate
When your work is released to the world to an audience – no matter the size – you’ll see a culture begin to grow around it – In the hills of Japan, I learned that once inoculated, Shiitake mushrooms propagate their culture from one log to the next – as the older logs rot away and stop producing, new logs down the line are fruiting fungus. Ditto with your audience.
15 Get more drummers
One dude drumming alone can make some noise but is not a party – recruit more drummers to amplify your story in their own way and spread your message across continents and oceans while building relationships and playing well with others. More fun, more effective plus you need others to have your back from time to time. Your momma told you are 1 in a million – that means there are at least 30 people just like you in Canada alone – go find em.
16 Formula for creativity
The old Edison maxim suggest success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration – this isn’t my formula – my formula for creative expression is 80% meditation, 10% execution and 10% inebriation – what i mean by that is the real work comes in the white space of life where you contemplate your story – the inebriation part is about pushing yourself to where you get a little scared.
17 Collect notes along the way
Travelling light means not accumulating much – for me gathering ephemeral objects along the way can be a short cut to remembering where you were mentally, emotionally, artistically decades later – a train ticket or dried flower can leap you back to a place in time which can benchmark how much you’ve remained the same while constantly evolving and spark new creative pursuits.
18 make it for yourself
Everyone else is just eavesdropping – this ain’t your job – its for love not money so make it exactly how you want it. Push out the nagging naysayers in your noggin and create something with integrity and for the love of all things decent, don’t cheese out for the quick win. Be sell out proof and make things you’ll want to read when you are old and grey.
19 Reap Rewards
Making stories for the future isn’t a way to gain the material trapping of perceived success. You may never see your reward beyond the admiration of a small tribe of others – but that’s enough. Success will be a surprise you likely don’t expect. Don’t wait for your ship to come in, instead realize it might get lonely out waiting for your bus to roll in so get comfy and settle in.
20 Hang loose
I’m dave, i’m all over the internet – i have a killer job so you can’t hire me but you can buy me a beer – thank you and hang loose vancouver
Once upon a time, I wrangled a community of renegades, weirdos and soul-seekers from various Utah suburbs and old pals from Vancouver area to ramble up to, and rendezvous at the Grateful Dead shows in Eugene, Oregon. I recall calling the BC boys from a payphone on University of Utah campus declaring they must be there though they were hesitant. The Utah crew was handpicked but i have no recollection how. There were many ladies i knew from the community college and friends of friends or something. Either way, it was a fine combo of folks.
The Utah contingent for the most part rolled up in my beloved 1974 VW “turtle top” micro bus and Heather’s Subaru, while the BC boys rolled down in Brad Rees’ Datsun with an emergency radiator repair by Chris Gorin’s dad (done with a garden hose and zip ties if i recall correctly.
The ride up, mostly straight through from Provo to Eugene was a rollicking affair to begin with – between the soon-to-be legendary Cary Brown’s drunken revelry and bottle throwing target practice from the side door and various combos of cuddling, we ambled up and camped in the Eagles (or Lions) park across the street from Autzen stadium and launched ourselves into the pandemonium of the Dead lot which featured grassroots vendors selling everything from ganja goo balls to liquid LSD to grilled cheese sandwiches and veggie stir fry.
Walking back to out little camp late in the night, and spinning high from a mixed bag of goodness (for my part anyhow), Denise Robison and I heard a racket coming from the general area. As we ambled over, i recall saying “wow glad that’s not our camp” but as it turns out, Cary, who was a psychedelic (among other) veteran far beyond the level of any of us had decide to take a warrior’s ration which spun him to a unprecedented level of strange consciousness which led to him many strange acts from which he could not be persuaded to stop. Tough and rangy like an angry moose, he trashed my bus, then proceeded to battle a winch on the front the neighbour’s 4X4 with head, he was Jesus, Satan, a ninja and shouting oaths of all manner.
Despite the long suffering, kindly and experienced “talker downers” who with best intentions tried to help, the man was a menace to himself and a danger to others and would not be subdued. My instinct was to get the fck outta there and avoid the bad trip. However, an ambulance drove up and shit got real. My details are a bit hazy but i recall they strapped him down to a board (probably after some sort of injection) and began to haul him to the hospital – Dear thoughtful Denise (who remains a tender and talented caregiver with near magical powers) either insisted on hopping in the ambulance or managed to walk there (again im hazy on this front).
Our comrade was in an ER/intensive care unit (likely still bellowing his epithets) when Marty Kendall arrived complete with missionary identification and declared he was Cary’s clergy and would “take it from here” – Indeed Marty knew Cary well and managed to secret him away from the hospital (avoid a bill i believe) and the next day Cary had returned to the camp, and sat like a Buddha – silent and sweating.
The rest of the tribe went in to hear our future in the sounds of Jerry’s soaring guitar, Phil’s bombs, the 2 drum attack, Bob’s staccato rhythm riffs and Brent (who died shortly thereafter) hollering soul singing and keyboard poundings.
Other bits i recall are some of the gang going to sandy coastal Florence for a part of a day trip, Cary not paying gas money because “he was here to be the mechanic” and me limping my battered bus up to BC after the shows to work at a bike shop while the Utahns heading southwards.
Far more important than the chaotic story we all went home with was the bonds we forged between the gangs from both sides of the border which continued through many other Grateful Dead and other festival shows, budding romances and languid river and roadtrips.
Some of the folks remain my fondest friends while others i still follow from a distance.
My comrades who were on the trip can no doubt fill in my hazy gaps and fact checks and add their perspectives – as addled as they may be these years later.
Included are snaps for evidence. Can you pick out the characters?
PS Kathryn, sorry for my big melon blocking your face.
Trevor Erikson Beautiful hippies
Mikala Folb This is a great story! Thanks
Boyd Christensen epic tale!
Tim Tulloch Awesome story DaveO, I fully enjoyed reading it! Great pics too. Thanks for sharing.
Shallom Johnson What a great story
Brenda Van Strepen Love!
Audio from the show: https://archive.org/details/gd90-06-24.sbd.unknown.12092.sbeok.shnf
Chris Gee I found myself wandering the dead lot in wonder. Never before had so many whispered in my ears doses. Mushrooms. It was a symphony of color that night. Searching for my 20 dollar ticket. I woke up in the middle of some gravel lot somewhere between the lions lot and the stadium. Some one had given me a blanket and pillow. I was foggy rather groggy but happy as ever. As I was folding my blanket a fellow was wandering serving breakfast cereal and milk. I enjoyed this gratefully. Yum. A tear came to my eye as I also realized a ticket in my shirt pocket and my 20 bucks gone I was in. Hell yeah here we go. Epic much more tour to follow.
Dave Olson Love your recollections Chris, hope others chime in with their flashbacks. So many more tours, so many more shows – each one a greater adventure than the last. But this is what started our journey and opened our eyes to the circus and the magic. Chris, the stories of your school buses and VW buses and station wagons and crews of folks and your curious ways of keeping gas in the tank are all a huge inspiration man – I’ve been thinking a lot about the cleansing ceremony and your journey with Aya and look forward to learning more.
Chris Gee Yes. The love of the music on highest of levels. Fractals of infinite language one can hear As they flip and turn if your ears and mind are wide open … The bus came by……..when back in van let’s connect when it’s best. Much to share ad well as more research has been done here to assist with what we gave begun. Happy LSD day. !!! One great show was a one named just that. LSD daze …leguna seca daze California. With phish and govt mule?? That’s where I believe I saw bob snot grass ?? Spelling ?? blowing glass the first time and where I could not see the ship in one of those pics where you have not focus but look through. I was pissed. Everyone saw the ship. But did they see the flying dragons over the stage that night ? Hmmm group trip ? Awww who knows!?!
Cory DeMille Best microbus ever!
Bryan Rees I miss that shirt and those jeans make my crotch look huge. This must have been taken at the end of the weekend as Buddy on the left was in the hospital for most of the beginning then slept in the van for 30 hours straight.
Just back from New Orleans, Uncle Weed shares anecdotes from a stop on hi-jinks-laden drive-away car delivery journey from Miami to Dallas and recounts recent culinary forays including turtle soup, Po’boy sandies and crawfish ettouffee, along with social observations about the French Quarter and Frenchmen’s street including the joy of brass bands and convenience of “go” cups. Recorded on a backyard in Squamish, BC on the late Jerry Garcia’s birthday.
Hop in the back and Ramble on to New Orleans ~ Choogle On! #102 ~ (.mp3, 47:27, 43MB)
Street music ambient noise from the French Quarter
Continuing on with Kerouac’s San Francisco Blues, DaveO strolls down The Mission reading Jack’s choruses written on the same street in 1954 while observing butter trucks, museums and tolling bells, then listening to Clayton the Seabus busker sing about going home.
Pedestriate carefully for: San Francisco Mission Stroll with Jack – Postcard #37 (128k mp3, 11:32, 13MB)
In San Francisco on an early morning stroll sporting a French-curled tie, Dave performs contemporary reconnaissance of an intersection described by Jack Kerouac in San Francisco Blues and discusses Kerouac’s motivations and system for creating these Blues poems.
Geographically speaking, the additional observations include bridge commuters, urine puddles, hot dog and motorcycle tire shops, beer-signed parking lots, a VA condo, a flock of tie wearing folk, and apartments with 24 hour concierge service.
Observe the corner for: Kerouac Choruses at Third and Harrison – Postcard #36 (.mp3, 9:21, 13MB)
A personal stirring moment, recorded for Grandpa, Robert Louis Stevenson (RIP) on the windy banks of the Columbia River featuring Walt Whitman’s “To You” – read whilst sitting under a weeping sage tree with toiling barges, endless trains and snowy Mt. Hood in the distance.
Watch the river roil for: Whitman on the Windy Columbia – Postcard #28 (4:27, 5MB, .mp3)
Continue reading Whitman on the Windy Columbia – Postcard #28