vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm a big believer in the power of luck. I've made many decisions over the years, creative and professional, but the biggest have often been leaps of opportunity. Last night I made another one.

I'm on a mailing list for bargain airfare, Scott's Cheap Flights, and when a winter/spring Europe sale was announced I jumped. I immediately scrapped my tentatively planned February southwestern US tour and brainstormed a southeastern Italy tour in its place. The cheapest airfare on the list was in Philadelphia, so I manically messaged a few friends inquiring about parking for the month and once I had a few viable options I booked the flight.

The whole process took almost exactly one hour, including the walk I took to clear my head.

This is me in a nutshell, making snap decisions to take advantage of opportunities. Also me, of course, will be seven months of second guessing until I'm in the seat of that plane, but I'm decisive in the moment. And this trip wasn't entirely out of the blue, it solves the conundrum I've been considering of how to return to the hottest part of Italy during the summers I have earmarked for European travel. Preparation meets opportunity and bam!

I'm not standing still I am lying in wait.

20/40

Jun. 1st, 2017 01:28 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
1997 was twenty years ago. It's a little hard to believe.

In June of that year I had what I still regard as one of the worst days of my life. It had been a joke that I and the woman I was dating were both spending a day with our respective exes, showing both that we were able to stay friends without hard feelings and that we trusted each other.

My visit went poorly. There were more hard feelings than I suspected, and I was hit really hard by the situation. Since her visit was also over, I decided to seek support from my lover, only to be told upon arriving that she had gotten back together with her ex.

That was a bad day.

It also involved a lot of driving. Ninety minutes to my first visit, ninety minutes home, and two hours to my second visit which wrapped up around midnight. Half delirious with grief and fatigue, it occurred to me that no one would ever know if a fatal car accident had been intentional.

I chose not to try. And now I've lived half my life since that decision.

In moments of stress, facing hard challenges and difficult decisions, I still think back to that night. Part of me wonders if I did actually go through with it and if everything since has been a glorious dream. Another part of me sees that moment as a turning point, the last serious consideration I ever gave to suicide (though it was many years before I firmly discarded the possibility). Either way, I'm in the bonus round of my life, and grateful for every day.
vinceconaway: (Default)
Honestly, I'm kind of boring. I wake up around 6:30, spend a while puttering around online and reading a lot of news analysis, and hop into the shower around eight. I putter some more, head out, have breakfast at a cafe, and play for a few hours. I grab groceries on my way home, eat a lunch of bread, fruit, and lunch meat and/or cheese. I take a nap, and have an afternoon walk. I play another few hours in the evening before eating the remainder of my bread, fruit, lunch meat and/or cheese for supper, and take an evening stroll before curling up with a book.

On my day off, when I'm neither playing nor traveling, replace the music with more walks and museums. I don't do much that's really interesting, but I'm deeply thankful that I get to enjoy my routine in some really, really cool places.

London

May. 23rd, 2017 11:34 am
vinceconaway: (Default)
What an amazing trip. It's been a week and I'm still marvelling.

I turned forty a few months ago, and to celebrate midlife I made the decision to double down on my traveling. So I spent the beginning of the year busking my way around Chile before heading to Peru to spend the big day in Machu Picchu.

I also scheduled a 3-month European tour for the summer, two months in familiar Italy, a few weeks in too-long-neglected Croatia, and a week breaking new ground in Bosnia. And then I learned that my favourite musician was hosting Lost Evenings, a 4-night concert series in London.

Frank Turner writes about life on the road in a way I've never heard from any other artist. From the glories of travel to the challenges of friendship and the disintegration of relationships, he covers it all, and he's an expert because his tour schedule makes me look like a homebody. And I was scheduled to be an $80 EasyJet flight (round trip!) away from one of his performing highlights.

Of course I bought it. I ruthlessly budgeted out the costs, and decided to see the final two nights (Sunday and Monday) so I would still have 3/4 of a weekend to busk before heading out. I caught a 5:30am train to Milan after a very short night of anxious sleep, grabbed a shuttle bus from the train station to the Linate airport, flew into London, grabbed a train into the city, wandered around a bit, checked into my hotel (Hotwire found me a 3-star room for just a few dollars more than a hostel bed), and took a nap.

And then had my mind blown by the best concert I've ever seen.

Sunday was acoustic night, where Frank headlined with a solo show following Beans on Toast (who I'd seen open for Frank in New York in 2015) and Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit. It was incredible. I'm not a big fan of the acoustic versions Frank has recorded, but live they were breathtaking. His song introductions were intimate and vulnerable and everything I could have wanted from a favourite artist. He truly captured the flavour of an open-mic night in a venue of over 3000 people.

Monday found me again wandering London, meeting up with an old friend for drinks before the show. Skinny Lister opened for Frank, a band I fell in love with when they also opened for him in NYC in 2015 then whose Brooklyn concert I had caught the following Thursday, and who I saw headline a small show in New Orleans last fall. It was a fantastic concert and I hugged a stranger at Frank's prompting, but I don't think anything will ever compare to that "Sensible Sunday Revival" lineup the night before.

I took a long stroll around the city before flying out early Tuesday afternoon, and I was thrilled to discover my budget had been dead-on. Of course, I splurged on meals and a concert t-shirt (which I never buy but which was too good a commemoration to pass up), but the credit card statement is a problem for August. The entire experience was a case study in how to feel alive.

Change

May. 23rd, 2017 11:33 am
vinceconaway: (Default)
In 2007 my two best pitches in Genoa were on Via San Luca and Via San Vincenzo. Via San Luca stopped being a viable pitch for me two years ago, and Via San Vincenzo has deteriorated to a secondary location on my itinerary. However, Via Degli Orefici and Via San Lorenzo have stepped up to be far better pitches than I ever expected from previous experience, and Genoa has remained a good city for me to play.

On a larger scale, cities that were once mainstays of my touring life have passed restrictive regulations; Padua, Bologna, and Ravenna have all taken themselves off of my calendar. However, again it is not one-way. I had previous difficulties in Prato and Pistoia that research indicated was unwarranted, and last year I found success in both cities. Most notably Trieste, which had passed restrictive regulations five or so years ago, just eliminated their registration system. Not only am I finding new cities to replace those that have become restrictive, but some that have been restrictive are loosening!

I am a creature of habit and I find change disconcerting. One benefit to the way I travel is that, while my surroundings are in constant flux, my general routines are not. However, one reason I do so much traveling is that it does keep me on my toes, and I feel I'm a better musician, better performer, and better person for it.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I do my best never to take anything for granted.

I refer to shows where I don't have contracts, even longstanding parts of my schedule, as "prospective" or "tentative". I'm very careful to label spreadsheet columns as "projections" rather than "expectations". And I'm literally religious about giving thanks when those formal hopes come to fruition.

I have a bit of a complex about the whole thing, if I'm honest with myself, and if I'm even more honest it's because I'm both leery of commitment and distrustful of expectation. I am the most optimistic cynic you will ever meet, and a proud Pollyanna. I fear, every day, that my business model will crumble even as I make plans for two years in the future.

So when people say, "I'll see you next year!" my response, unless I'm equivocal on the idea, is a firm "you will if I have anything to say about it!" I'm a fan of "see you down the road" as a goodbye. And so far it's served me well. For which I'm thankful, but make no assumptions about what may happen tomorrow.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm delighted to be closing the show! I was originally booked for four weekends, but my dates were extended to include the final two weekends of the faire. I really love this festival, surrounded by and working with friends, and it's been a joy to be back.

It's an interesting phenomenon to be an introvert in the entertainment industry. There are social gatherings going on all around me, but I bow out of most of them. I'm looking forward to seeing a vaudevillian comedy show tonight, Esther's Follies of Austin, but I turned down the invitation to kayaking and dinner beforehand. I husband my emotional bandwidth.

My thoughts are starting to drift to the future. I head to Italy in two weeks and I'm starting to get anxiously excited about the trip. As always, my brain is filled both with things that need doing and others that could go wrong. Still, after so many tours this is a familiar place to me, and almost comfortable.

I've really been loving the social time I've had here, even though it feels like I avoid most of it, but three months of solitary travel are a chance to really dive into my own head and work on myself. I'm very fortunate that my business model includes both intense community and deep solitude, in a balance I feel works well for me, tempered as always by the interactions with my audience. Wherever you are on that spectrum, I'm deeply grateful for you all.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It's been awhile since I've posted. Life is ticking along nicely, and I'm pleased with it. The Sherwood Forest Faire has been very good to me, and I'm really enjoying the audience and the large cohort of friends I have as colleagues here. I've recently learned and memorized a 1584 instrumental piece by Galileo's father, Vincenzo Galilei, and I like it better than anything else of his I've done. There are 28 other pieces in that particular collection, and I'm really excited about tackling more of them in the future.

I head to Europe in three weeks! It's starting to feel real. Of course, most of the expenses are already sitting on my credit card, but that adds its own sort of relief to have firm plans in place. I'm thrilled to go back to Italy and explore some new places in addition to some favourites, see Croatia for the first time in years, and to finally fulfill my goal of busking Sarajevo.

My Italy plans include a week in Cremona, which I've only seen before as a day trip. I spent an afternoon performing there once, and I've found their city ordinances and I'm hopeful the polizia interpret them the same way I do. I'll also be busking Vicenza, which I only saw as a "weekend" vacation a few years back. This trip will involve several weeks in Umbria, my grandmother's home region; I've heard amazing things about Orvieto, in particular.

Most interestingly, I've got plans to meet up with friends in Tuscany! I scheduled my time in Pisa to coincide with a visit from friends who are giving/taking a tour. RenAdventures is organized by several close friends, and I'm really excited to hang out with them and their guests, some of whom are also friends!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I've found a favourite coffee house to hang out in! It's a pity that it's a significant drive, so I only come once or twice a week when I can combine it with other errands, but it's a pleasant morning to sit and write.

The Sherwood Forest Faire is going very well for me so far! I'm really enjoying Austin audiences, they're a musician's delight, and it's a real pleasure to be surrounded by friends again after so much time alone on the road. It's one of the great luxuries of my life that I can alternate periods of intense isolation with times of brilliant socializing. Two months alone, two months with friends, three months alone, and another few months with friends: I'm a creature of extremes and this delights me.
vinceconaway: (Default)
From Chile to Peru to Ohio to Texas, it's been an intense few weeks. Most importantly, I've gone from two months alone to being surrounded by friends and family. It's quite a difference, and one I'm enjoying very much.

I have a lot of tribe here in Texas, both working at the Sherwood Forest Faire and among Austin-area locals. There are hugs, conversations, and delightful flirtations floating around me and I've been immersed to my eyebrows. It is good to know I'm loved.

Homecoming

Mar. 7th, 2017 08:42 am
vinceconaway: (Default)
Air travel is always a little surreal, even now. It adds a dreamlike haze to the trip I've just taken, and I looked through my photos to reassure myself that it really happened. Of course, that might also be the sleep deprivation.

It's an unfamiliar feeling, traveling such a long distance almost due north. South America has a big benefit to my, as a traveler, that jet lag isn't an issue. Certainly, today will be difficult since they served us a meal around 3, my body was ready to be awake at 6:30 as always, and the time in between wasn't necessarily the most restful experience for all my impression of being in a coma. Still, I've been sleep deprived before, and found that it's a strangely gentler experience since having given up caffeine.

With my layover and connection, I should get home around 3, just in time for the perfect afternoon nap. With no time zone shift, I hold out hope for a pleasant evening and a productive tomorrow. And, of course, catching up on a few movies before they go out of the theatres: Lego Batman is up tomorrow and I'll catch Logan sometime in the next week.

I've got a few days in Ohio, and looking at my schedule I'm pleased with my planning. I'll have all Wednesday and Thursday to get my ducks in a row before heading south on Friday morning, catching an overnight in southern Tennessee or northern Alabama, and rolling into Hattiesburg, MS on Saturday afternoon. I'm headed to the Gulf Wars SCA event, but not to camp; it seemed silly to haul so much SCA gear in my car for six weeks with only four days at the event, so I'm day tripping from a local Airbnb. I'm curious to see how that goes.

From Gulf I head onward to the Sherwood Forest Faire outside Austin. I'm very excited to be back, especially with all the friends I made last year; after a few months of delightful isolation I'm ready to be a social creature again. Then I'll head back up north in order to catch a flight to Europe May 2, for a three-month tour. I deliberately decided to push myself this year, partly in celebration of my fortieth birthday and partly in defiance of it. I still love what I'm doing and this is my way of redoubling my commitment.

Interestingly, the past week has shown that I'm not very good at vacationing; I enjoyed the rhythm and flow of my tour much more when I was building my daily schedule around work. In addition to the social contact provided by interacting with my audience, I appreciate my recreation time a lot more when there's less of it to overwhelm me. That's not to say I didn't enjoy my week off, but in hindsight four days would have been a better choice. Noted for the future.

So that's the status of the Vince. On a plane, introspective and, as always, with one eye on the past and the other on the future with too little appreciation for the present. Let's make the magic happen.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It's a little hard to believe that it's the last week of my thirties, and what an amazing decade it has been. I look back on the things that have happened, and the growth I've had, and it's a little hard to believe.

At first glance not much has changed. When I turned thirty I had already been full time as a musician for five years, and I was in the midst of my first foreign busking tour. I've refined things, of course, but a core of Renaissance Festivals augmented by international street performing is still my fundamental business model.

It is with a closer look that the differences are revealed. I'm a far more skilled player and performer than I was at that time, for example. My festival performances are still anchored by playing in the lanes, but also include a solid stage show that eluded me throughout my twenties. The music that I'm writing is more complex, and I've taken up a deeply challenging historical repertoire.

Similarly, the basics of my inner monologue haven't evolved very far. I'm still buffeted by alternating moods of euphoric confidence and crippling anxiety. I am, however, better able to compensate with a deeper experience of successes to temper my insecurities and failures to moderate my arrogance. More importantly, I've got a much firmer grip on when I need to bring this information to bear, recognizing when I'm in an unhealthy mental space.

My body is changing and it's an interesting quest to find the balance between treating symptoms and changing my lifestyle; I miss caffeine but I feel so powerful without it. My face is becoming more and more my own, as smile lines beneath my eyes vie with the concentration wrinkles on my brow. My hairline is thinning and receding even as it greys to match the delightful amount of white in my new beard. The belly fat I've fought for my entire life has subsided only to redistribute to the sides so rapidly there are stretch marks, which is both a big victory and a new struggle.

And finally there is my personal life, which I keep strictly offline. I won't go into details, but I've gotten a lot better at asking for what I need in a relationship. I don't want anything different than I wanted ten years ago, but I'm a lot better both at recognizing when I have it and letting go when I don't. And, while I still find myself making the fundamental mistake of promising things I cannot deliver, it's happening a little less often these days.

I'm excited for my forties, and eager to see how I further grow and evolve in that time. Aging has been a fascinating experience for me, and I look forward to seeing what further turns it will take!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm a musician and a traveler, so it shouldn't surprise me how vividly I associate certain songs with various places. I just heard a pop song and suddenly I was back in Sardinia. Another and I'll vividly, viscerally reexperience Argentina. It brings me great joy, and I duly using SoundCloud and Shazam to reassemble playlists from my various adventures.

Daily Life

Feb. 21st, 2017 04:11 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
Living on the road is very different than vacationing. This is true in general, but especially when I'm traveling abroad.

I typically eat out of grocery stores, for example, even if I'm not doing the sort of light cooking that I do in the States. Eating out every day is not only detrimental to the budget, but brutal for health. It was important to acquire, early in my travels, the skill to pick up affordable picnic basics and build a long-term diet from staples such as bread, fruit, and cheese.

And then there is my daily schedule. I tend to work for 4 hours a day on those days when I'm playing, with five hours or so between my first and second sets. This leaves me part of the morning, midday, and the early evening to myself. I take a lot of rambling walks as my main recreation, but often I'll hit a museum or other tourist attraction in the afternoon. However, because of my schedule, there's typically only room for one.

It's by routines such as these that I've built a life for myself on the road, where it doesn't matter how frequently the scenery changes because the basic elements of my day rarely do.
vinceconaway: (Default)
Well, technically the halfway point was a few days ago, but I haven't really had the motivation to write recently. The trip is a real whirlwind, and I'm a little dizzy for it. I'm having a pretty great experience, though, and I'm quite pleased with how things are going. I'm already tentatively writing itineraries for future Chile tours, and I would like to make them a recurring part of my schedule.

There have been setbacks, of course. The PVC couplings I use for joints on my portable dulcimer stand weren't up to snuff, but I figured out a way to use tape on their insides to create a subtle fix. I'm rather pleased with that bit of ingenuity even as I'm a little miffed I hadn't thought to test the new setup before flying ten thousand miles with it.

I'm stressed, of course. Bus travel here is quite comfortable but a bit haphazardly organized. I haven't missed one yet, but I'm never confident until I'm on board and I've been confirmed that I'm in the right place. My language proficiency is stepping back for every step forward, and every day that I feel confident is matched by another day when I feel continually bewildered and lost. There's a race at my temples between my greying hair and receding hairline, and I always come back from overseas tours feeling like I've aged at an accelerated pace while I'm gone. But while I'm here, living on the balls of my feet and adapting to surprises, I feel very much alive. And if past is prelude, when I come home to familiar surroundings I'll feel incredibly powerful for having been away.

Highlight

Jan. 30th, 2017 08:12 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
I always appreciate when a child tips me from their own pocket, no matter how small the change. But today took the cake when a little girl tipped me from her own candy stash
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm torn between disbelief that it's only been two weeks and that it's already been two weeks. I'm covering ground like I've never done before, changing cities every 3-4 days. It was a good choice based on my previous South American experience, where I was several times tripped up by local anti-busking regulations but then stuck for a week because the economics of a long bus ride and losing a room deposit were greater than potential busking profits. Still, it's starting to get tiring.

I think I may take the weekend off. I've had a remarkably successful time so far, and I've sold more than half my CDs less than a third into the tour. Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco, and Valdivia were all very good to me, and today I rolled into Villarica.

That trip is itself a bit of a tale, with a bus breaking down part way and an hourlong wait before another bus came along with standing room only. I'm rather pleased at how that came out, honestly, because it shows a lot of personal growth on my part. Earlier in my travel experiences I might have meekly accepted the word of my driver and waited for further instruction, but I was a little more insistent this time and it worked in my favour. As a bonus, after twenty minutes the guy seated beside me got off the bus, opening up the seat and leading to a delightful conversation with Marlena, a Chilean-American who was traveling to meet distant relatives.

So into Villarica I rolled, and it was an interesting experience. The city is lovely, though much smaller and more touristic than anyplace I've yet been. Most interestingly, from a professional point of view, the buskers I've grown accustomed to are entirely absent. After several cities where amplified bands are not uncommon street corner ornamentation, it seems a little odd not to have encountered a single one. This makes me a little hesitant to try my hand and, while in years past I've brazened my way into things with a philosophy of "ask forgiveness, not permission" I don't really want to push my luck. An interesting counterpoint to my experience on the bus.

And I do rather want a break. I'm ahead of my projections, and while I embrace an attitude of "make hay when the sun is shining", I'm about to spend ten of the next fourteen days in now-familiar territory that has been good to me. It may be time to catch my breath for a bit.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It´s interesting and revealing to notice things that I screw up in languages that aren't my mother tongue. A lot of things that give me trouble in Spanish come from my muddy thinking in English. Times of day throw me, for example, but when I say ¨good evening¨ before noon it has a different connotation: in English I look distracted or ditzy, in Spanish I just seem ignorant.

Another such example is when to say ¨please¨ and ¨thank you¨. ¨Would you like some coffee?" "Yes, thank you" is often how I would respond, and it's wrong in Spanish. Arguable, it's wrong in English too, and this is where things get revealing. I hear "please and thank you" a lot as a shorthand, and it's always been somewhat irksome for me since it cuts short what could be vital social lubrication through polite manners. Still, it illustrates a larger point that we, as a culture, have lost touch with some very basic manners.

Thankfully, I'm getting an ever-clearer picture on how to change this in my own habits as I embarrass myself on other stages.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm having an interning time, operating in my third language. I'm doing pretty OK, and it's starting to feel more natural as I continue, but there are still holdups. For one thing, Italian is a huge help until it isn't. There are a few simple rules to remember and I can often convincingly fake a word using its Italian equivalent. When that doesn't work, though, it really doesn't work, and what I find most frustrating is when a noun changes gender. It's not hard for me to remember that "orecchio" becomes "orejo", except that it's actually "oreja". Drives me up the wall.

The differences are interesting in other ways, as well. Spanish has a multitude of ways to call something attractive, where Italian gets a lot of mileage out of "bella". With "bonita, linda, hermosa", Spanish has a lot of ground covered. And their word for musical tuning gives me great pleasure, "afinar", "to make fine" (as in fine art). Italians are differently poetic, saying "acordare", "to make agree".

To sum up, I'm really enjoying pushing my limits when it comes to language. I'm learning a lot in a short time, and it's really intense. ¡Salud!
vinceconaway: (Default)
It has been a truly wonderful day, performing in Concepcion for the first time. The city is built for busking, and is filled with buskers, but despite their numbers and their amplification I found ample spaces to perform. I had a lot of fun and did quite well for myself, but at the end of the day one memory stands out.

A little girl, maybe six years old, had been handed money by her parents to toss into my hat. I thanked her and made my typical half bow, and she responded with an absolutely florid bow in return. I've been grinning about it ever since.

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