Raggin' Piano Boogie

 

 
HIS SPIRIT LIVES ON! ... BONER, THE PIANO DOG ... November 27, 1994 ... February 20, 2010

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February 28, 2006

Louisiana

I was fairly concerned about feeling fresh and energized for today after my nights sleep on the ground inside a tent. I have not done that since I was a kid and I am now fifty years old. I am relieved the truck and equipment were safe and that the canvas covering the piano and equipment was not totally soaked from morning dew. The truck started without a problem and I was concerned about that especially now that it has been sitting outside during the night in the cold. Its usually kept in a garage. Actually I think this truck is like a human body the more use it gets the better it runs. I seemed to be fine running on adrenaline, excitement and fear.

It's Mardi Gras Day, 7:30 in the morning and I am on my way to Veteran's and Clearview boulevard with Elvis costume in hand while driving to my first Mardi Gras parade performance down South in New Orleans for my largest audience ever. In the past years, I was told they have had over a million spectators for this parade. I am feeling the responsibility to give it everything I have got. I have trepidation about the last interaction I had with my parade contact concerning the accommodations. I hope they did not think I left town. I wish I had been able to take a bath and pamper myself before the job as I usually do. I am aware that I will be en-route for a record breaking, non-stop, four hours of Boogie Woogie and Ragtime Piano Slammin' on the Keyboard. I am also aware that I do not have a driver yet for this parade. I know everyone is meeting for breakfast at the local mall and I hope it is there that I will find my placement in the parade. It will need to be up in the front because I don't know how long Boner will be able to take it and it will be a six hour long parade all together. I am depending on a constantly energized crowd to keep Boner interested and to help keep me going with enough energy. I have three gallons of Gatorade and two gallons of water ready in the truck bed for Bo and myself and I know we will be using it all without the need to relieve ourselves. I thank God it is a beautifully sunny day. I'm feeling pretty eager for seven in the morning.

I arrive at the parade and make a beeline to find Bob, my contact. When I found him the first words out of his mouth were, "I apologize for the phone conversation the other day I was out of line, I tried to call you back to tell you that you could stay at my place but I could not reach you". My friggin' cell phone had lost its charge and I did not know it. I thanked him for his apology and said without pause, "I'll take you up on the offer as of tonight". He said his wife was away, I could stay for two nights until she came home. I said, "I'll take what I can get because it would mean a decent shower, bed, I could wash my clothes, charge my cell phone, make my business calls, regroup, etc... When I got to his house I was thinking how I would feel very awkward opening my house to a complete stranger especially from far away, a musician yet, and even more one that travels on a pickup truck! His house in Metairie was in the process of being repaired from the storm so he was not able to put his best foot forward as we all like to do. He might have also felt insecure in not knowing my comfort level and background environmentally compared to his. I wondered if his wife left town so she would not have to deal with me. The fact that they are an older couple is also note worthy in the mix.

I had a constant awareness the entire time down South that the disaster has had a personal impact on everyone. Everyone who lives in the affected areas has been disturbed emotionally if not also physically and they are probably only now beginning to come to terms with that fact on any level of reality. I needed to create as much slack, and give as much rope as possible when it came to my own personal needs or how anyone communicated their needs to me on any level. The Krewe of Argus not only cared enough to invite me here they were financially contribuing to the cause and very welcomming. I applaud both Bob and his Assistant Peggy as they were dealing with a tremendous task not only concerning how the hurricane had affected their lives, but also a huge parade in size, and then Raggin' Piano Boogie along with all of that.

To get back to the parade story, since I had not returned Bob's phone call he assumed I had left town and had scratched me off the lineup list. I would never had left town without giving them the courtesy of telling them that fact and I guess they didn't know how much I wanted to participate with them in the parade. Everyone started scrambling for a driver, which was not an easy task to achieve. Different point people and I were approaching random people. I was running to all the mall food court employees, having them phone possible friends sitting at home offering fifty bucks to do the job etc... I had to consider the fact that the truck was a stick shift and whoever would need strong legs. They had to be able to focus and not be deterred from chaotic moments that may arise, especially considering Boner was sitting on top of the truck. In addition, they had to be prepared that the engine or carburetor might pop at any time. They needed to think on their feet concerning sudden changes. I just kept my cool. Even though we were outside with the parade starting, I was still running around from float to float trying to pull someone off and onto the truck. I did not forget to collect Mardi Gras beads from each float as I searched. Ha! Finally Bob and I ran across a guy working on the parade, the son of last years organizer, the pay ante was doubled and that did the trick and I had the perfect driver. Thank God!

The parade was forever. It was amazing. It was long. It was fun. It was full of screaming people. It was constant high energy, non-stop. It was full of celebration. It was Mardi Gras! I did not have beads to throw out so sometimes when I stopped playing for a second I would throw out business cards. What a self-promoter I am. Really, I was just trying to do my part and my picture cards were similar to the parade picture cards that were being tossed out of other floats. I wanted people to know where I was from and that this was a special moment for Raggin' Piano Boogie and that I was participating so far from home. I wanted a personal connection with every single person. I wanted them to know that I was not Elvis Presley I was only impersonating him in costume, as he was this years parade theme. About half way through the route, my feet started to cramp, then I started to get a charlie horse in my left leg and then in my right leg and then in both legs at the same time. I had one big cramp from my feet to my groin. I could not figure out what was causing it. The way I was positioning myself, fatigue, the stamping of my feet while performing, the heat, and the Gatorade circulation was not reaching my lower parts? My fingers started to swell between the joints after about two and a half hours into the parade. I was clear concerning my decision that nothing was going to stop me. I started to perform standing up. I started to perform while stretching one leg out over the truck bed and then the other leg out of the other side. At one point, I was performing with both legs stretched out one over each side of the truck bed. I had to pace myself with energy musically and physically so I focused on the same two songs for the entire route like a mantra, like I was on a treadmill. I threw a different piece of music in every once in a while to freshen up my thought process. I would finish each Boogie, take a deep breath, and like I was enjoying my last gasp of life I would physically dive in to the piano with a fresh start about every two minutes. I repeated the process over and over. The parade was so big that at one point I was watching it while I was performing. I was going down one side of the street while the first part of the parade was coming back down the other side of the street. It was too funny. The parade was on both sides of the street. Another musician came up to me at the end and said he could not believe I played the same song over and over for three hours, he heard it at every turn along the route and that I was great. Actually, my driver timed it to be three hours and twenty-eight minutes exactly. I started to act like a kid in the back seat of a car for the last two miles yelling to the driver, "are we almost there yet"? He would answer, "one more mile, 10 more blocks, three more blocks, one more big long block, see that store sign up ahead, that's it." I was screaming out loud with joy and pain and as a response to everyone else's screaming throughout the entire route. Sometimes I would catch someone's eyes and we would just scream at each other.

I had my mouth open with a shit-eating grin throughout the entire parade as I turned my head from side to side while performing. As time progressed, I could not tell whether I was smiling or grimacing, it all became a complete blur. I do know that my spirit was completely open to expression. I incorporated all my physical, mental and emotional difficulties into the act making it ridiculously fun and dramatic with as much chaos as possible. It was a good time for all. I never worked so hard in my life. Raggin' Piano Boogie was featured on the local news that night but unfortunately and as usual, I missed it. Who knew it was me anyway I looked like Elvis Presley. My Mardi Gras participation was a success and everything I had hoped it would be.

I drove away from the ongoing parade onto a highway bed of Mardi Gras beads. They were everywhere. The parades had not stopped at the end of their routes. Floats, while returning to their bases on the road were still showering beads to cars traveling sixty miles an hour while people reached as high as possible with out stretched arms. I got back to camp, packed my bags and headed off to Bob's house to crash.

February 27, 2006

Louisiana

I had the option to go and perform for the Krewe of Argus meets the Krewe of Zulu for a morning get together and then to the "float loading" for the Argus Parade down by the river in the afternoon. I learned that each parade float buys it own beads and other goodies. They are all placed and prepped on racks above where the float riders will be standing during the parade. This setup job is cause for a party. Every step in the parade process is a party. These parties happen all year long. The parade is the climax.

I opted out of this offer as I was asked to play specifically for the Emergency Communities lunch today because there was an expectation of possible press coverage, which might have resulted in money or food contributions for them. A movie star was coming to help serve lunch. I wanted to make it a successful promo for them but also wanted to stay focused on my basic purpose, which was to meet and perform for the locals and volunteers. The star arrived. I only got a glance of her as she whisked herself from the limo along with camera people into the food tent. I must have asked who she was about four times so I could feel special that I saw a movie star but I had no connection in my brain for her except that she looked hot. I took a break from my performing to see what she looked like serving food. It looked a little ridiculous with three cameras filming her. She was a little too slick for the environment and was gone in one half hour. No press. I am fairly certain they got a few cans of food from her.

When I was finished performing, Cor entered into my life. He came up to me and introduced himself with a handshake. This tall, late twenties sort of creative intellectual wearing a leopard outfit with a stuffed lion on his shoulder or maybe it was a giraffe outfit with a stuffed monkey on his shoulder. I was pretty whacked with all the stimuli coming into my head but I know it was one of those mixtures. I asked, "what's with the outfit", and he said, 'oh I found this stuff in the free clothes tent this morning, this is my theme for the day, I think its pretty cool', or something like that. I was able to trust Cor immediately even though he looked a little strange to me. I could see his soul through his eyes. He was a beautiful man. I saw that he had a good heart with an incredibly free and open spirit.

He asked if I wanted to join him in his tree house. I said, "ummm, ok" and we went to his tent area where he had built steps up a tree made with bamboo and tied rope. The tree was about the height of a tall city street light and the steps lead up to a raft style platform made of bamboo. It was to me real high up in the sky with nothing to hold onto at the top. I couldn't believe I was attempting this feat. I thought because of my age and the way I felt physically the days of doing stuff like this were definitely over. I just trusted Cor's lead. I stayed to the inside of the steps next to the bark because the bamboo would have defiantly broke from my weight if I had stepped in the middle. I was fearful that the tree branches would break from my weight. They were no thicker than the ankle of my legs. I reached the top thinking, "one step at a time" and saying out loud over and over, "I can do this" and also thinking, "breath". I would not let myself think of anything else. When I reached the top I crawled onto the platform to position myself and then I sat up on the top of the tree. I thought, "you need more of your body supported physically before you pass out from fear", so I laid down flat. Cor joined me and we laid together looking at the sun and sky. I turned the experience into an exercise of, "letting go" of fear.

What Cor does for his communities is create spaces. Spaces to play, spaces to learn, spaces for new life experiences. I found it very interesting that Cor is a Canadian from a influential, conservative family and here he is living in a tent while helping people in volunteering his abilities and expressing his creativity. Cor is the creator of the Action Hero Network. He has made some very impressive accomplishments. Our climbing his tree house together to hang out for a while created a major life experience for me. It freed me that day for the second time with a feeling of more life renewal. I had realized abilities that I thought were gone. I have always loved nature and have been adventurous many times throughout my life. For example I have bunji jumped off a bridge in New Zealand, snorkeled in the Red Sea and ten years ago I did a free fall from a plane in New Jersey. Even though this experience was not as dramatic as those it had the same effect on my life and was just as significant to me. Wow! It was truly amazing and spontaneous.

It was interesting that I met Alberta, Jim and Core independently yet they were friends. They are even working on a project together. We all ended up eating dinner together that night. There was mention of going to a Mardi Gras parade. Core was iffy but Alberta defiantly wanted to go. I felt my way into the mix. I had no plans to observe Mardi Gras because I did not think I would have time. I also was not in New Orleans for a vacation. I would not know how to go about it, where to go or how to get there, and I didn't want to go alone. I could not take the Raggin' Piano Boogie truck with Boner and just leave it in a strange place. Alberta asked Jim if he was up to going and then turned to me to ask if I had ever been to Mari Gras. I said no but I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity if it came up. So there it was. I was not to miss a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade. I was excited even though I had been telling myself since I left home that it wasn't important to me. I got honest with myself, it was important. After dinner, I set up camp. I set up what was to be a nightly ritual of getting ready for bed. I put Bo into the truck which is to him his den and then went to meet with Alberta and Jim.

Now, I was beginning to realize I needed to calm down big time and go with the flow. There is manic, racing, exhausted, overwhelmed with stimuli and excited Danny. And then there is Alberta and Jim, a sweet older couple working in perfect sync with each other, helping each other function and move together every tiny step of the way. Jim is 81 and Alberta is 72. They can't be over five feet high. Their temperament is as calm and as even as could possibly be. They moved at about two miles an hour in complete mutual coherency. I had some adjusting to do. I had to "give it up" when it came to control on every level. I had to drop all thoughts of "how and what if". What if the process of getting there takes so long we miss the parade? How are these two munchkins going to drive in the chaos of packed city traffic at night with everyone fighting for parking places that do not exist? How can they see over the steering wheel? How are they even going to park the humongous van that they own? The parades had already started. There were three that night alone on St Charles Street. How were we going to get up to the front or see over a crowd that was thirty deep? How was I going to slow down to two miles an hour when everything for me is at three hundred and sixty miles an hour? I basically decided to shut down as much as possible and stay out of their way. I became an observer and interjected an idea into the mix only after careful consideration. It was all fascinating for me. I could not believe they were maneuvering so well in traffic. The area was a gridlock with absolutely no sense of order in traffic or pedestrian movement and no one was complaining about it or acting out with negativity. After about twenty minutes of looking for a parking space we pulled to the curb while Alberta said she was going to go into a hotel to try to find where we could park. While waiting I said to Jim, " I'll bet she had to go to the bathroom", and he said, "your right". I had to also go to the bathroom so I told Jim I'd be right back while I searched for an ally. I came back to find Jim relieving himself curbside. Ahh... the necessities of life. We drove a little more as Alberta and Jim talked their way out loud completely through the process and we found a perfectly big free parking spot just two blocks from the parade.

I had a strange sense that I knew Alberta from a past life. I'm not really into that kind of stuff but the thought kept haunting me and I kept calling her Penelope for the entire first day. Whatever.

We walked directly through the crowd and right up to the front of the line. We even had a barricade to lean on. I thought it was just too coincidental. Also, the Bacchus parade which was one parade I had heard of so I wanted to see was just starting to approach us from one block away. This all could not have been more perfect and syncronistic. I learned what all the fuss was about concerning these parades from the start. I also realized what others have said about the need to be present in order to have the true expireince. It was all about the beads. Gimme, gimme, gimme... the beads! More, more, more, gimmie the beads!!! It was so ridicoulous but one could not help but get swept up into it. It was over indulgence to the fullest, teasing, giving, screaming, testing, yelling, begging, laughing, grabbing, throwing, tossing. Alberta told me to look over the barricaid and down the street. It was an amazing visual expierience of color, light, textures, movement and sound. Float after float two stories high lined with people on every side and on both levels of the floats pulling literally millions and millions of beads in varieties of every shape, color and size from racks above their heads to shower on the crowds. It looked like a rain or snow flow of color in the night. I could go on describing different aspects of a Mardi Gras parade for hours. The parade ended after about two hours and I packed up my beads to prepare to head for the van when Jim asks what I am doing. He told me there is another parade coming in a few minutes. I was like, you have got to be kidding there is more? This parade was the Endimum parade known for its colorful fans and intragite lightings. This was another two hours. It was all so awesome.

Jim and Alberta have been going to Mardi Gras parades for their entire lives and they were still acting just like kids having a first major experience. All three of us were scrounging the street picking up strands of beads to collect even though picking them off the ground is supposed to be bad luck. "Here take this Mardi Gras cup I found and fill it with beads to give to someone," Alberta says. All the people had so many beads they were just throwing them away. I am not exaggerating when I say that we walked back to our van with so many strands of beads around our heads it was an effort to hold ourselves up. Of course the grocery bags full of beads we were carrying in each hand didn't help the effort.

We got back into the van, packed everything up and Alberta says, "its time to go get some beignets and coffee at the Morning Call". This is a local landmark that is open twenty four hour a day. I was thinking, you have got to be kidding its almost midnight, aren't you guys tired? Beignets are a type of donut that you sprinkle powdered sugar onto. Their consistency is the same as the Pennsylvania Amish funnel cake, but they are in the specific shape of a rectangular donut verses strands of dough with white sugar powder sprinkled on top. As we were having coffee I said, "guys I have got to get back to camp to get some sleep. Alberta says in a slow and even drawl, "but ... its ... Mardi ... Gras ... time"! It was just too funny. So as Alberta explained the uniqueness and traditions of how the coffee shop was run, Jim collected beads from each of us and walked around the room giving them to everyone. The place was packed. It was one thirty in the morning. Alberta says that people go into training for Mardi Gras each night staying up a little later, drinking a little more each night, etc...

We start to leave and Jim begins to back out of the parking lot as Alberta says, "lets go drive through the parade route you will be performing in tomorrow". I said, "you have got to be kidding, its two in the morning, I cannot do it that will freak me out, I'm very nervous about it. I was watching it on television the other day and had to turn it off because I started getting so scared". She said, "just close your eyes and you will get a nice feel for it", here she says, as she pulls out this bag full of vials and a spoon for me, "take fifteen drops of this and place it under your tongue, do it every fifteen minutes until your fear and anxiety subsides".

This is when I find out that Alberta is a seasoned herbalist. Her father was one of the first pharmacists in the area. I close my eyes as we travel through the parade route as I just can not deal with tomorrow yet. I'm whining, "I am going to be so exhausted tomorrow". "Exhaustion? Here take fifteen drops of this". She hands me another vial. As we drive along my whining does not stop. "I'm going to die after this parade with muscle aches and cramps". Out comes another vial, "here, this will help". I stopped whining. More importantly and surprisingly ... my fatigue, fear and pains disappeared by the time we got back to camp.

It was warm during the days and freezing at night. Luckily, I had brought along Boners red and black checkered winter coat because he was not used to sleeping out in the cold. The wind blew easily through my tent flaps. I dressed Bo and settled him for the night on a couch in the tent. I was to be on the floor on my air mattress. I would have been lost without my flashlight. I dressed myself in two pairs of socks and wore my sneaks to bed. I clothed myself with a thermal top and bottom, ski pants, sweater top, scarf around my neck and face, wore my double lined winter coat, gloves and ski cap, and then I put in my ear plugs. I covered myself with two blankets on the bottom and five on top. I pulled up my coat collar so I had only my mouth and nostrils exposed and then fell off to sleep to the distant rhyme of drums playing outside my tent. The distance was about 20 feet right next to the nightly fire circle. Of course, I would wake up in the middle of every night needing to pee. The porta potties were on the other side of the camp and there was no chance of me sneaking a pee nearby as people were sleeping all around me. I was amazed not by the fact that someone was always passing in the opposite direction on the way back to their tent in the middle of the night but by the fact that we all would put out the effort to acknowledge each other with a hello while half asleep in a rush and jarred out of any comfort zone we might have been in. What a day!

February 26, 2006

Louisiana

I wake up and call Bob to tell him what was happening about the hotel throwing me out. He tells me to go back to the hotel where I stayed for the first night. It belongs to his friend who is a senator or something like that. He gives me her name and number and tells me to call her if there is a problem. I go to the hotel. It is a new shift then the one I dealt with before. They know nothing about any arrangements for me. They have no rooms. The owner is not available. I call the owner. She knows nothing about the situation.

I went back and forth by phone between Bob, the hotel management, the senator, and the senator's husband. Finally, I get an ok that there is a room if I want to pay for it. It was $120 per night. I don't think so. It was great for free, a dump for $125 and they had originally offered me accommodations at no cost. Ok, so now they offered a room in another hotel they own on the other side of town. I was told to ask for Skip and tell him to take care of me. I drive out to an area where I begin to wonder what the word would be for living a level below the ghetto. I pull into this high rise low rent parking lot in the middle of nowhere. It is obvious there is no security, the guy Skip is off for the weekend. The place is dirty and full of villains. They are foaming at the mouths while they begin to sniff around my truck and equipment. Even with the presence of Boner, they were not hesitating to close in. They were ready to pounce. I've been around the block a few times in my life and I take more chances than most people I know. I also know when to run and the time was immediately in the moment. I ran. I phoned my contact again. He is having problems of his own. He tells me he cannot do anything for me and I can leave if I want to. I say thanks and hang up. I wanted to tell him that yes he could do something. He could follow through with his original offer and pay to put me up in a safe place or provide a couch for me to sleep on. I did not want to take the chance on making the situation worse.

So, I am driving around aimlessly and feeling frustrated, let down and uncertain as what to do. I pull off to the side of the road. I put my face in my hands and become silent for a moment. Then I begin to talk to myself loud and strong. "Danny, you are here to provide free piano music for people and to help them to feel happy, do what you came here to do. Have some fun". I repeated that three times with fervor and passion. Then with focus and strong intent I said, "God, please help me to find people to play for". Then I added the request to Saint Anthony. He's a buddy of mine, a positive fragment embodied from my upbringing. Saint Anthony helps find lost things and has never ever let me down. He did not help this time because I was asking to find something. Nothing was lost. I continue along the road. I drive down the street. There is a Mardi Gras parade happening nearby and people are walking through rubble to get to it.

Cars from out of town are looking for places to park in the trashed neighborhoods. I see a group of street looking guys hanging on a corner and I decide to go for it. "You guys want to hear some piano music"? They say, "no, that's ok". I chuckle to myself at how ridiculously audacious I can be and tell myself to keep going. I decide this is not the neighborhood to be in so I drive away and a few miles down the road I pull off to the side and try again. "Danny, you are here to provide free piano music for people and to help them to feel happy, do what you came here to do, have some fun" I repeated, "God, please help me to find people to play for." I thought, "you came here with specific goals, forget about the luxury accommodations, the bitchy hotel manager, the parade, the money, the guy who let you down." I reminded myself to go with the flow. I had already thought out the uncertainties for plans that might not come to fruition including the idea that I might not have a place to sleep. I had brought a blow up air mattress with me in case I needed to sleep on the ground outside with the truck. I thought. "don't be afraid, have fun, create fun. Enjoy the spontaneity of what life might throw to you".

As I continue to drive down the road, I cross a bridge. Without knowing it I am in the ninth ward, the worse affected area where the levy broke and the flood started. I'm driving with amazement down the road. It was not a feeling that I can really describe fully. Some words that came to mind are eerie abandonment, silence, desertion. Every single house has been destroyed. The entire area is devastated from floodwaters. Many homes have "help" spray-painted on them. When the flood happened search crews went house to house marking an X on each house as they went along and the number of dead bodies they found.

It was a human environment full of smelly filth, sadness and rubble in a natural environment of beautiful blue sky on a clear day with puffs of white clouds and a warm breeze. I had difficulty comprehending the experience. Nothing seemed to fit. Every once in a while I would see a few people digging around in a house that was flattened or had fallen to one side. I thought, "this is six months later, these people have a long, long way to go before there will be a glimpse of any normalcy. If you're not in it there is no way anyone can get the picture". All of a sudden I see a sign written on a piece of cardboard by the side of the road. "Free Food" with an arrow pointing to the left. I turn left, drive down the block and walla!

I came into a food distribution spot with volunteers working and residents who are consistently stopping by for basic necessities. I asked, "Would you all like some piano music"? It was a unanimous and spontaneous response with the word, Yes! I thought, "oh what fun". I jumped out of the truck, pulled all the packed travel equipment and clothes out of the back, put them by the sides and then threw up the speakers. Boner jumped into the truck... I need to sidetrack for a moment with this account of thoughts and events.

Bo has always jumped into the truck bed and then from the truck bed up and onto the piano on his own, without assistance. This past summer he stopped jumping onto the piano. I tried everything, even enticing him with a piece of steak and he wouldn't or couldn't do it. I had never trained him from the beginning I only directed and encouraged him. After about a month of trying I just assumed with twelve years of age he had enough of it or no longer had the strength. I have had to physically lift him up onto the piano. Not today... In the moment Bo jumped up on his own onto the piano top. I was thrilled. I originally thought those days were over. When he had stopped jumping on the piano in early summer I was really sad about it. It was as a sign to me that old age was taking hold of him.

Everything that was happening right then and there felt like I was in a dream. It was a renewal of life for me. A good time was had by all. I handed out free posters, we all took pictures and I made plans to come back in a few days at dinner time when there would be more people around.

I had made a connection via internet before I left home with an organization named Emergency Communities located at a place called the Made With Love Cafe where they serve community dinners. I asked if anyone knew of it and where it was because no one got back to me with the information before I left for the trip. While I repacked the truck they gave me directions to it and I was off. When I arrived at the cafe luckly the site manager had remembered my email and I received a warm welcome. They were happy I was there They loved Boner. They were free spirited and open to whatever I had to offer. They were friendly and full of graditude. I was offered dinner and to camp with them for as long as I liked. I was a happy camper. They asked if I had a tent and when I said I did not, they offered me the special yoga and meditation tent to use that was meant to be off limits for any other purpose than its name. They found a pump for my air mattress and helped me with it. Someone went to the holistic medicine and message tent to find blankets for me to use. I was treated special and I really appreciated that because it enabled me to give my all to them and then some. As everyone gathered around I performed.



I thought, "no one knows who I am, where I am from, why I am here. I want to meet as many people as I can and tell them what I am about." Every time the line renewed itself with people I would finish a song, jump off the piano and run up to every single person. I put my hand out to shake theirs as I would say, "hi, I'm Danny from Philadelphia Pennsylvania, I've never been to the South before and I've been making my living playing on this truck full time for the last nineteen years. I came down here to play for you". I would then hand them my business card and run to jump back onto the truck to play some more. It was a perfect situation for everyone. This was a no pressure, affable environment with consideration and total appreciation all around.

When I was done a short older woman named Alberta approached me to ask if I would perform for her community on Saturday and I quickly replied with a yes. Alberta introduced me to her husband Jim. They had been dancing around the truck earlier while I was playing. They were to become integral people for my New Orleans experience and also intimate friends in a very short time.

Emergency Communities is my kind of environment. This is an organization that is freeform and non-hierarchical in nature. Everyone is conscious of each other in positive ways. It is unconditional. Food is the vehicle, the main thing, and they cook "Good Food". This is their first project and they operate on donations. It is big and growing every day because it works.

It is made up of all kinds of people and they all interact and get along. It is kind of an alternative environment. Hippies abound. I learned a new phrase from one of them. "I'm not homeless, I'm home free". Some are a little peculiar. There is also a lot of "God bless you" going around. The place was created as a site for neighbors to come together. I found retirees who arrived in their RV, former drug addicts and middle-class professionals who jet in for just a few days or longer.

They come from everywhere. One guy came up to me and said. "I've seen you in the Collingwood Christmas Parade (NJ) every year. I sit on the front step of my store to watch you." A woman came up to me from Elkin's Park (an upscale Jewish area of Philadelphia) to say hello and tell me that she has enjoyed Raggin' Piano Boogie many times over the years. It truly is a small world or maybe like spirits just travel together.

Everyone encourages you to come back for more food and company. They let you know that they care. Any rules or restrictions are treated as suggestions and dealt with as such. They do not project problems they deal with them as they arise. I attended one of the staff's daily morning meetings because I was curious as to what made the place function so well. These meetings are open to anyone. They number about twelve and give their daily reports to keep the lines of communication open so that everyone stays informed concerning all the aspects of the camp. They keep the meetings fast and moving because they have so much work to tend to. In my experience with volunteers that is impressive. This place is all volunteer. It is the brainchild from members of the rainbow family. There are about twenty to thirty people who run the place and they do it from the sensibilities of logic and compassion. There is constant rotatation.

The Made With Love Cafe is an emergency kitchen that feeds people at no cost serving three hot meals a day for those who are there to begin the rebuilding process. Many come just to take a lunch break after a long morning of gutting their home. It was reassuring to know I was going to get a delicious cooked meal and have it served with a smile. It helped me do my job better. Everyone pitches in participating with cooking and eating. If you get bored of a certain bean and rice chicken dish you just work in the kitchen at the next meal and make whatever you want for everyone. Nayone can do this even neighbors or temporary workers. Residents sleep in dorm style tents or their own tents on the property.

Much of the clientele comes by word of mouth. I thought here we are relying on a bunch of hippies feeding people in a disaster zone, making sure that no one feels isolated in the worlds most rich and powerful nation. I got a dose of goodwill about humanity here. These are my kind of people. It inspired hope in my heart to see hardcore conservative ultra religious Southerners walking through a parking lot of hippie vans and cars bearing sarcastic anti- corporate, pro-environment bumper stickers to sit and eat and tell their stories to a bunch of lefty vagabonds. Boner was free to roam the entire site. No one was fearful of him. He was even welcomed in the dinning area while people were eating. I felt completely safe with him disappearing while I was occupied in conversation. He would be gone for twenty minutes at a time exploring the grounds and making friends with the other dogs.

February 25, 2006

Louisiana

I woke up feeling sick and stuffy with a headache from the lack of room ventilation. I am allergic to Bo and use an air ionizer at home. I should also have drank more water last night when I was performing. It is very difficult to clear my head, I can't think. I'm trying to make a schedule and I'm trying to move on... I'm trying to accomplish what I'm here for and I'm not quite sure how to go about it and I can't even think I'm having such a hard time thinking... I spend the day recovering from last night's performance, regrouping, getting ready for the big Mardi Gras parade and planning that schedule for the coming week. I feel I need to get the responsibility of the parade out of the way before I can really get down to business with my original motives for the trip. The parade group was to make a financial contribution to my agenda and they were helping me out with accommodations.

I was beating myself up for pigging out at the ball last night so I tried to forget about that by eating a really disgustingly greasy breakfast at Dot's dinner. I was set up for meals at this small local diner by the parade people. I would only eat here once. I was spoiled from my Drago experience of culinary dinning. Once I finished my self-flagellation with the food I found myself a grocery store and brought fruit as an option to pre-empt anymore of this type of behavior. I don't know where the time went as it is already six thirty at night. I take Bo and myself for a long needed walk along the Lake Pontchartrain path where I meet and start a conversation with a guy who lost his house and is staying with his wife in an apartment nearby. It is difficult to block out the sadness of what has happened here.

I'm back in my room feeling safe, secure and focused when I hear three quick taps on my door and then I experience someone trying to bust their way into my room. I hear a woman whisper, "he's got the latch on". Good thing I had the latch on because I had no clothes on and was not in the mood to showcase my "goods". I open the door to find the Hotel manager with her assistant both standing hands on hips with a chagrined look as their surprised break in failed. She arrogantly states, "I want you to leave now, this is a closed hotel". I said, "you've got to be kidding its seven o'clock at night and there are plenty of people staying here, I'm not going anywhere. Why do you want me to leave and why did you just attempt to crash into my room unannounced?" She said, "the agreement was only until the Mardi Gras Ball was over. You should have left today and maid service said you have dog food on the bed". I looked at her like she was an idiot because she was an idiot. I was angry. There had been no maid service as this was a closed hotel. I thought for some reason she really did not like my Boner. I am fairly certain she got reprimanded for allowing him in the hotel. With only my underwear on I requested she come into the room to see that it was in perfect order and showed her that the dog food was packed away neatly. I wondered what was going on. Like it was any of her business how I kept my room anyway, not. I said that I had nothing to do with the arrangements that had been made. I told her that I understood my stay was procured until Mardi Gras. I said she was out of line that she needed to talk with whomever she made the arrangements. Boy was I pissed and concerned. I was so happy and content just moments before. Now I was scared. I tried to brush it off. I sat and wrote about it. I called a friend to dump it on them. I prayed. Nothing worked.

I turned on the TV to try and get my mind off of what just happened. I started to watch the local parade coverage. There were lots and lots of parades everyday with pre extravaganzas and loads of hype for each one. I started to get real nervous and turned it all off. I lit some candles to help myself relax.

February 24, 2006

Louisiana

I prep myself for my first Mardi Gras Ball named the Argus Galaxy Ball. I am to perform and hope to make an impact at the entrance beforehand as the partygoers arrive. I need to be ready by 6:00 PM It is a black tie affair with the option to wear the Mardi Gras theme costume. Everyone loved Bo with his black bow tie. I wanted to "fit in" and show I was a good sport so I opted to wear this year's theme costume. This year's theme is "Argus Honors Elvis". I donned my Black Elvis wig with sideburns, thick gold Elvis sunglasses, a sequined white satin Elvis shirt with my tight black jeans. I was the only one to do it. I had expected seven hundred people in wig, glasses and white satin jackets. That would have been a hoot!

Thank god, nobody knew who I was. Do not think less of me in saying this,I was into it. I understood that Mardi Gras was meant to be a little ridiculous so I was willing and able to do what was needed to fit into the scene. Elvis was never one of my favorite icons but I must admit, after his being shoved down my throat year after year my psyche has made room for him. This is not something I am necessarily proud of.

The ball was big and showy with tons of king, queen and court presenting. A lot of good looking young people along with your typical adults. Money was not an issue for this fun event and these were people who were connected. The royal court pays bucco bucks to participate and the waiting list is filled until the year 2020. The guests included local and national political power players from past Mayors to Senators, and retired Special Service force members. I was told about eighteen military personal were shipped in from Afghanistan for some rest and recuperation and the Command General was participating in this years parade. Not the greatest event for those "on the wagon". Part of the plan was for someone to drive me on the truck indoors, into the ballroom as Raggin' Piano Boogie escorted an Elvis impersonator on the back of the truck to his stage position. I was to be slamming away with wild Boogie Woogie Piano music as this happened. This type of insanity was right up my alley. I made sure I setup people to take pictures and video as this was going to be great! I waited for an 8:30 PM showtime. They all partied. I waited. They all drank. I waited. They all got louder. I waited. Chaos. I waited until I saw Elvis shaking his groin on the stage with nobody watching him and then I took my truck and went back to my hotel room. It was a bit of a let down but overall as new experience, this was a big one. I started to come down with a little of the post ball blues so I decided to take Bo for a walk as it was supposed to rain the next day and I wanted to get his exercise in.

February 23, 2006

Louisiana

I went to pickup my Mardi Gras costume and then traveled to play outside a local restaurant as was requested. I was a little taken back by the request as it was never discussed in the plans but decided not to question it and go with the flow. Everyone is so busy and self-absorbed with what they need to do and I am doing my best to stay out of their way. I'm also fighting the urge to want everybody to do everything for me and help me along. Being on my own has never been easy for me.

When I arrived it was eleven in the morning and I was in an empty parking lot, no people to be found and in a very nondescript neighborhood. This was not an environment where I would expect to find a top-notch restaurant. I was there to present myself and create some fun for the Mardi Gras club members, the Mardi Gras king and his entourage arriving from California.

I'm glad I did it because it was worth the welcome I received. They treated me like royalty. I ended up "playing for my supper" and let me tell you it was worth it! I would finish one course and with in minutes the plate would disappear and was replaced by the next. I guess they just gave me someone else's plate when I was ready for it. I was treated to my first New Orleans meal starting out with an unbelievable appetizer of grilled oysters in butter and cheese sauce, something they are famous for. This was followed by a delicious bowl of seafood gumbo and an then an incredible entree of stuffed lobster. I have had very few meals in my life that "hit the spot". This was one of them. Drago's restaurant in Metairie was obviously "the place to go". Within fifteen minutes of my performance start people were flowing into the place. It was packed with a waiting line and there were no parking spots to be found.

February 22, 2006

Louisiana

I phoned Bob, my contact to meet and find where I am to stay this night and to ask if he has setup any places for me to perform. I use my handy little roadmate to find Peggy's house. Peg, his executive secretary, housed the temporary office for the Mardi Gras Krewe. This was the Krewe of Argus who invited me to perform in their parade this year which was to be held throughout Jefferson parish. The groups' office in town was drowned out by the storm. Bob gave me the lowdown concerning the plans and presented me with my first official strand of Mardi Gras beads. He also shared some fresh grapefruit from his neighbor's tree which was very yum.

I was told a room for my stay at the Hilton had been bartered for Mardi Gras Ball tickets. I would have the room until Mardi Gras ended in a closed luxury hotel next to where the Mardi Gras Ball was being held by Lake Pontchartain. I was to also perform for the ball. Everything was falling into place as I just keep finding whatever I need. I found a post office nearby, place to stay, place to eat, things to do, interesting people... I packed up and headed the truck towards my new room. I had hoped to strike a deal with the hotel manager to use the room as a base of operations for the full week seeing that she was housing a few other guests, hotel workers and some FEMA employees. I struck up some conversation with a few of the workers. They were from Uruguay, Peru, and Honduras. I was thinking that these guys were really nice, clean, intelligent and obviously hard-workers but were are the locals who were affected by the storm and do this kind of work? I unpacked and setup office. I lugged all of my office equipment and some food I had brought for the trip up from the truck in two big empty clothes bins on wheels. After getting settled, I began to organize myself and prep for the week's events. I stored the truck under the convention center overhang next door. There seemed to be amble security and my precious Raggin' Piano Boogie truck was protected from the morning dew and most of the rain if there was to be any. It was fun staying in this large empty hotel with all the construction going on all around me. The security people were as friendly as the workers. The hotel manager was not. In fact, she was nasty with a chip on her shoulder and she made it clear from the start the Boner was not welcome in her hotel. I made sure to stay clear of her and started to try and think of ways to make nicey nice. I knew it was not going to be easy to work out any deals with her.

February 21, 2006

Louisiana

I came outside from the hotel this morning to find that it had rained all night. I had not looked under the tarp before I went to bed because I dod not want to deal with it. I knew the tarp had not been waterproof for the last year before I left home. I had sprayed an old can of scotch guard on it as a neighbor had suggested so now I was going to find out if it had worked. I was clear with myself in saying, "it doesn't matter what, it is what it is". It was totally dry.

I'd like to give some history here of how it came to be that I was invited to perform in the Argus Mardi Gras Parade. In August, I was told while performing on the Ocean City New Jersey boardwalk that someone out in Las Vegas was doing a piano on a truck with a dog on top of the piano "shtick". I was of course concerned. It took thousands of dollars and four years of time to register the Raggin' Piano Boogie concept and name for copywrite protection. I had also decided in June of last year that I wanted to take this entertainment property to the top level before Bo retires and I croak. Having turned fifty, I have been feeling a sense of urgency.

When Hurricane Katrina hit and as I witnessed people's suffering throughout September, I was moved to respond as never before. The need to respond stayed in my heart through October and as Christmas was coming I thought, 'if I'm going to give in anyway, I"ll do it after Christmas when the giving dies down. There will be more need from the holiday's let down financially as well as psychologically. I want to respond personally but how? Maybe I'll go down there and visit with people, put some money into the economy, give piano grams to lift spirits, find piano players that need a piano to play on. It was just a heartfelt idea at the time.

In November, as well as having the disaster on my mind, I was thinking still thinking about the Las Vegas piano guy with a dog on a truck. I had about two hundred VHS demo tapes that I had made in the nineties that had been sitting in my closet since, because I was fearful that they were never good enough to use. I now thought, what "what the hell, send them out, what do you have to lose, you already lost the money and time in making them especially if they are going to stay in the closet. Hardly anyone is looking at VHS tapes anymore and in five more years they will be totally obsolete so just dump them". I decided to spend several hundred dollars more to send them out to everywhere and anywhere in Las Vegas just to let people know I exist. I had sent about one hundred and sixty and was running out of places to send them so I decided to spread the rest evenly over Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. I sent them to colleges and business organizations.

In December, along with the help of Wes, my friend and neighbor I finally got my website going. It took an agonizing ten years to finally publish one no matter whether it was good enough or not. At the same time I decided to create this Tour of Synchronistic Wonder with plans to travel to the hurricane affected areas leaving on February 1st. I wanted to include people in the idea and desperately needed to raise some funds to continue so I created the opportunity to contribute financially on the website.

The first week I got the website going I received an Email to participate in the Argus Mardi Gras parade. I thought it was my first website hit" and I was "pumped". When I spoke to the contact by phone I asked him if that was the fact and he said, "no we received one of your video tapes". I was like, no way but whatever. I then asked him when Mardi Gras was and he said February twenty eighth. I said, "wow that would be great as I am planning to be in your area, leaving Philadelphia on the twenty first". When I had made my original plans I had no idea I made them at Mardi Gras time. I had never before been to New Orleans or Mardi Gras but as you can imagine people have been telling me about it for years and years saying how I would be perfect for it and that I should go. They do not have any idea how much work the planning and execution of a trip like this takes especially when it has business responsibilities and I am doing it all alone with no help. I told the contact more details and he said that he would see what kind of funds he could raise and look into a place for me to stay to help me out.

This"bite", a paid booking and home base to work from made it easy to set my tour idea into a reality. I made the decision that I was going to do the tour no matter what. In fact, the final agreement to perform never materialized until two days before I left for the trip. I left on a Monday the 21st and a finalized verbal contract with no deposit on the Friday the 18th. All along, I thought the parade would be an extra-added bonus for this trip that it would certainly help financially but I'm not going to create any expectations because there was no contract or deposit and the guy had not returned my phone calls or emails. I was in a "let go and let god" mode the entire time. Don't project, don't push, don't pressure and keep the focus. I am not going there for business to make money I am going there to give of myself and what I have to offer.

I am still wondering where I am going to stay when I arrive. I'm about five hours outside of New Orleans. I called Bob who as my contact offered to setup lodging for me during the first week and he now gave me another contact named Billy to deal with. Billy made it clear that any responsibility concerning the situation was dumped on him and he had no patience to deal with it. Along with the disastrous conditions, it is Mardi Gras and there are only a few hotels with very few rooms available. I call Bob to tell him Billy is not happy with the need to deal with me and Bob says just ignore his ways, sometimes he can have a chip on his shoulder. I go back and forth until Billy to the point where he says to me, "why do you keep calling me" and then finally tells me I will find a room at a hotel in the center of New Orleans. He gave me directions but could not give me the name of the hotel, any address or phone number. He had no phone book in his home to help me? After I find out it is on Two Lane Street, which was really Tulane Street, I call information and used several addresses until I find what used to be called the Quality Inn Mid Town. It is in the process of being rebuilt.

As I drive into the city, it is dark and I take note of what looks like an incredible amount of new buildings, houses and condominiums. It is not until I arrive and understand the situation from conversation that I realized the buildings I was viewing were destroyed homes and townhouses that had to be abandoned and neighborhoods that no longer had electricity or basic infrastructure. It feels tropical especially with the breeze and sounds of the wind.

I pull the Raggin' Piano Boogie truck into the hotel overhang to find a very unusual feel. Police are everywhere along with hotel employees, guests, Nicaraguan workers and a variety of what are surely street people standing around and hanging out. It was very interesting indeed. It takes about ten minutes and a few questions to realize that this hotel lobby was also operating as the local police precinct. It was also a sort of New Orleans Shindler's list, the home for a fortunate few who had lived in the now uninhabitable ghetto. I am one of a few lucky hotel guests. Some rooms are filled with bunk beds that hold up to twenty-five Nicaraguan workers who are helping to rebuild. They party nightly in a makeshift room that also operates as a bar, kitchen and restaurant. The FEMA residents have few belongings and I can see that all the rooms are kept neat. Everyone's doors are left open because there is no air conditioning or windows. The humidity is at about three hundred percent. I wonder how so many people have access to cell phones, they have no other belongings but everyone is talking on a cell phone. To who I wonder? Where did that money come from to pay for them? I thought, if ice cream was the flourishing business in past war times, you can now ad the cell phone business to the list in today's world. Everyone is as polite as can be and if they are not they were reminded of it by the hotel staff. As I am drifting off to sleep I am thinking that this hotel was under water six months ago and the bed bugs survived. They are attacking me before I fall asleep. I am thankful that I put Bo on flea and tick repellant before I left home. I am being treated with privileged respect and I have no concern about leaving the truck overnight. It is given the choice parking spot by the front door. The atmosphere is one of secured cooperation, tolerance and appreciation. This hotel is in the ghetto.

February 20, 2006

Louisiana

I am amazed I was able to get everything going this morning. I have been pursuing my wildest dream and part of that job is to create a fresh DVD everyday. I was able to accomplish the task today while traveling today. I feel more secure about being able to continue that commitment throughout this trip. I have the truck hooked up. I have a multi outlet car adapter for ongoing electrical use to run and recharge my Magellan roadmate, cell phone, 20gb Ipod full of music, video camera, television monitor, DVD burner and portable computer. They are all stored on the front floor of the truck. As a person with dyslexia, this was not a small challenge to figure out. I was successful today so I feel encouraged. I will be able to achieve the task daily. Everyday I will need to continue recording video onto the camera, transfer it to the DVD player, burn a DVD, store the video on the computer, prepare the DVD along with a pre-made cover letter and photo sheet in an envelope and mail it to its destination. I just need to remember so that I don't kill the car battery to... turn off all power before I turn off the truck, or is it the other way around, turn off the truck before I turn off all the power.

The Inn I stayed in had a great breakfast and I stocked up this morning with waffles, fruit, yogurt, oranges and peaches. Somewhere in my head I was hoping to do a straight drive to the end but I was not even close. I pretty much said I wanted new life experiences and I'm getting them. I traveled about nine hours and part of it was through a driving rain storm in an incredible spaghetti bowl of roads. That was in Georgia or maybe it was Birmingham Alabama I'm not sure as I was in lala land with my head. I could not see the bumper of the car in front of me let alone the turn offs. I saw none of the city. It was at this time my new Magellan roadmate paid for itself five times over. It said, Right turn in .5 miles, stay to the right... right turn... beep beep... hard right then stay to the left... stay to the left... stay on the present road for 37 miles. It gave directions better than any person has ever done. Along with that I was thinking, "thank you God for this back brace I am sitting on". I paid through the ass for it. It was two-hundred and forty dollars but I needed to buy it. Without it my truck seat was like a toilet bowl that was too big to sit on. It was worth every penny.

As I was driving this old and fragile truck through the pouring rain with only a black tarp covering everything I began to think about the tarp touching everything under it. I started to panic. I said to myself, "just let it go, the equipment could be ruined and the clothes soaked but I'm not going to let it get to me, I don't want negative thinking about, or to have any worries with this trip even if the trip is over as of this very moment." I reminded myself, "you do the right things and the right things will happen... all the time... that has been your experience". It was about getting out of the way of my "stinkin' thinking". I stopped at a gas station to get some food and could not resist taking a peak under the tarp. From what I saw it did not look bad. I left well enough alone and looked no further. I got back to my focus being that, "I left home to play the piano for people and to bring cheer".

As time passed I started to wonder, what am I going to do, what am I doing, where am I going to sleep, how much am I going to pay for the hotel rooms. I didn't want to pay anything. All the money was being spent on credit. I felt overwhelmed and vulnerable as I drove weaving and swaying as monster vehicles came at me from all directions. I tried to rid my mind of continuing negative thoughts, "what if it rains all night on the truck, will it be safe in the hotel parking lot, why hasn't anyone returned my phone calls. They know I am coming".

So... I started to think about Religion and God. Yep, thats what I did. I'll blame Stevi Wonder. At the end of his Superbowl performance this year he made a statement that resonated big time with me. I don't think many people heard it. I did. He said, "Don't forget, its not about the Religion its about the Relationship". I have thought about that statement on and off ever since. In the moment, I no longer wanted a relationship with being nervous and insecure so I decided to turn it off and have a relationship with the God of my Religion.

That God, that relationship, was to be with anything but the negative thoughts I was having... God could have been Jesus, Mohammed, the Truck, anything but it was absolutely necessary that the relationship be what I wanted. I like the idea of God. God does it for me. I dumped the crappie thoughts out of my head. I said, "God take these crappie thoughts from me, they are yours, you can have them. I gave them to him (not the truck) and I didn't look back to see what he did with them I just kept moving forward.

I thought, God is not about who or what for me he is about the relationship with whomever or whatever. What is my relationship to disaster? What is my relationship with nervous and insecure feelings? Do I want a Godly relationship that includes insecurity, nervousness, panic, uncertainty, worry, vulnerability, overwhelming chaos and fear? The answer is no. God expresses himself through the individual relationships I have with my thoughts, actions and behaviors and God is good stuff not bad stuff.

As this process of thought unfolds, low and behold a billboard on the highway advertising the same hotel I stayed in the night before comes into view. The hotel is located at the base of the billboard, 7000 more visa points to use. It was in Atlanta and I had seen one North but I didn't want to stop driving. I never expected to see another visa point hotel South of Atlanta. I sweet talked the receptionist into letting Bo stay in my room as she had already seen him in the car. It was a not a dog lover's hotel. I gave her a poster and thanked her with a feeling like I was being watched over. I was being cared for and directed with ease.

I began to think about an incredibly significant change that happened for my life at the start of this venture. I have always wanted for others to be part of my life. I have wanted to join them in theirs and I want everyone to join me in mine, as many people as possible. I considered this trip an opportunity for just that. Up to this point five people had joined me in contributing to the project. A month into the planning I had succeeded in guilting twenty-five dollars from one relative who I had to remind spends money at every neighborhood houseware demonstration she is invited to. I guilted another five bucks from a close friend under the guise of making sure paypal worked on the website. Thirty bucks, no other contributions were offered, with Christmas even. Someone said I needed to project dead baby pictures on the website to get people to respond. I thought that was pathetic. I stuck with my, "no expectations or projections and stay with your purpose and focus which is true and personal at its core". I made the decision that debt was not going to stop this venture and that I would stay responsible with it. I collected two hundred and thirty dollars total before I was to leave, which was not enough to pay for my car seat back brace.

A week before I was to leave a friend surprised me a fifty-dollar check. That felt really good and then a few days before I was to leave a past business associate and a friend of a friend donated seventy-five each. The two who had originally contributed, continued to do so in-kind. These contributions changed my life forever.

I have always had great difficulty when dealing with any conditions in respect to my emotional well being. I am a person who has always suffered greatly from feeling alone and I have always felt the need to do everything alone because of that feeling. It has been a catch twenty-two type of prison for me all my life. This has been a life long pathology of mine. It has been torturous and I have often shut my life down because of it. I have never been able to function with or through it. I have not been able to accept any change of my lonely experience whether it has been true or not. No one has ever been able to change that feeling for me. Well guess what. Done, its over, gone, it vamoosed. I have never felt the absence of it in my life and now that I have experienced that absence, I know what is real. You can be sure as heaven or hell that I ain't gonna let it back into my life ever again. There is no turning back. I'm just gonna keep looking for the grace to keep it out forever and from my life experience I'm positive the grace to do just that will be ever present. I will never need to deal with it again. I am as sure as I am sure that I am alive.

The contribution of five people did that. I'm not quite sure how but I know their contributing to this disaster project facilitated a positive change in my psyche on many, many levels. I allowed it because I was ready but I want to thank them for being there to support me when I was. Pretty big life gift, eh? The five people who contributed to this trip gave me that gift. I would like to thank you very much. You were the facilitators for me to feel complete in being part of giving to life. Hallelujah!

February 19, 2006

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ok we did it, Bo and I left the house. We are officially on this adventure, experiment, need to share and care. I was officially carrying out my need to live life to the fullest. So far the Raggin Piano Boogie truck, a 1987 Toyota with an oil leaking engine and worn carburetor is doing fine. I made the resolve to not drive over fifty-five miles an hour with the truck because of its fragility and the fact that it could literally fall apart from age and the weight load it was carrying. This truck has bounce and it bounces easily from one side of the road to the other depending on the current of nature's wind or the wind current created from humongous tractor trailers whizzing by from every angle at 85 miles an hour. I had to stop looking in my mirrors as I drove because it was not fun it was horrifying to watch vehicle after vehicle climbing up my rear without their realizing that yes, there is a tiny truck on the road traveling under the speed limit. Or even worse, trucks and cars often rode my rear in frustration because I disrupted their pace of their travel. I had to shut everyone and everything out. I had to not look in any mirrors or to the sides of the truck. I had to pretend I was the only one on the road. Probably like old people drivers do. A few trucks showed their anger by trying to run me off the road I just turned it into a game of dare. I kept reminding myself the road signs said the minimum speed was forty-five and the maximum speed was sixty-five. I was doing fifty-five so the maniacs just needed to deal with their own chaos.

It would have been easier starting out in the morning rather than at two in the afternoon which was just in time for rush hour traffic through Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington but I did not want to feel rushed after I woke up. It's always something. I thought I would be saving time from searching on maps with my new Magellan road-mate and now I am spending time trying to figure out how to use it the road-mate to map the destinations. I used to spend time trying to find a hotel room and now I am spending time trying to figure out how to use the cell phone to do that.

I used visa reward points that had been saved for five years to book my first overnight. It didn't matter that the hotel was forty miles off the route. It was free. I snuck Bo into the room from a side door. He knew the rules although he was a little confused at first. We had not been away together in years. He thought my whispering to him with urgency was, "there's a cat in the yard, go chase it". I had to remind him that tonight's interpretation was, "no barking and stay quiet no matter what". He figured it out real quick.