vinceconaway: (Default)
I am an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, although the I and the P are both very much on the cusps between Introversion and Extraversion and between Perception and Judging. The middle two, however, are very much a part of my personality, so much so that they've become part of my identity.*

I am intuitive (the N in INFJ) to an extreme degree, which I find liberating as well as deeply frustrating. It's liberating because I react well in the moment, dancing an improvisation around my obstacles. I'm terrible at long-range planning, however, because I can't set into motion a set of plans that will inexorably lead to fruition. My best bet is to create a favourable environment and then seize opportunities as they arise.**

You are now equipped to destroy me at chess.

Because I am so intuitive, I have a hard time with the concept of rationality. I'm really good at rationalization, and I have a difficult time distinguishing between the two. I want some things, I wait, I see a means that does not violate my values, I act, and now I have a thing. I've become so practiced at this that I forget it's not how other people see the world, and that it has only been a part of my own worldview for fifteen years.

*I'm aware of how pseudoscientific such personality tests are, but like Astrology (Pisces, the flighty visionary) I believe they can be a useful launch point for introspection. As I mentioned with the Myers-Briggs, being told often enough that your sun sign indicates a certain personality trait can certainly accentuate it. Just as my friend says that her child is "acting" shy rather than "is" shy in order not to reinforce the trait, I'm fairly certain that Astrology has some merit because of the psychology involved in a culture where it is emphasized.

**I was once accused of Machiavelianism by a lover, when my entire strategy was to play "yes, and" improv games with the schemes that she, herself, was hatching. It's my life writ small, where I keep broad goals in mind and then evaluate whether courses of action will bring me closer or not. I'm an opportunist, lying in wait (Aaron Burr is my favourite role in Hamilton) and then charging ahead once I spot an opening. It's for this reason that I feel very close to the Roman goddess Fortuna, patron of luck and fate. I get a lot of credit for the work that I've put into my career and lifestyle, but without the occasion to use that preparation I'd be nowhere.


Jun. 1st, 2017 01:28 pm
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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.


May. 23rd, 2017 11:34 am
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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.


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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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I'm going to a New Year's Eve party and I just read the invitation; it's a wake for a brutal year, and we'll be bringing sentiments to burn and wishes for the new year. It's a fairly standard Yule ritual, and not my first rodeo. But like everything else, as I approach my fortieth birthday, it carries a lot of memories.


I had just finished my first season at the Ohio Renaissance Festival and I was informally engaged to my girlfriend of two years (no ring, but she had asked and I said, "yes"). I was on top of the world, and when it came my turn to express my thoughts on the passing year and wishes for the next I stood tall.

"It's been a year of music and love, and I hope for even more to come!"

It was a sentiment to remind me to be careful what I wished for. My relationship ended in early April, but I booked my first full summer/fall season of renaissance festival work and was very much on my toes with launching my career. This meant that I was fresh meat on the circuit, and I call that period my "summer of love".

A dear old friend still makes fun of me for breathlessly calling every week to exclaim, "there's this girl!" as I repeatedly fell head over heels at a dizzying rate. I look back on that time with fondness and I'm on good terms with several of the ladies involved, but while I'm glad to have lived it I would never want to repeat it.

What a wild ride it was, and now I'm a lot more careful with my wishes. I'll let you know what I come up with.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It's one of my greatest strengths. The world is full of brilliant artists and sharp business minds, but being competent at both is likely my greatest competitive advantage.

I just said "competitive advantage" in describing an artistic career. I rest my case.

I called it a career, which is also a strong argument in my accountancy. But I'm overselling my case. The key to my success has been knowing when to temper practicality with art, and vice versa.

For example, I just booked a completely frivolous trip to London while I'm busking Italy, since I could keep expenses under $300 including the concert tickets for the show I wanted to see (two back-to-back Frank Turner performances in his concert series "Lost Evenings"). I booked the plane seats now because I wanted to guarantee my attendance once I had my concert tickets, but I haven't yet booked my flight from Cleveland to Milan because it's a business expense I want to be deductible on my 2017 taxes instead of fiscal 2016. By flying out on Sunday morning and returning on Tuesday, I'll only lose a single day to busking, minimally impacting my work schedule.

And so I've put my accountant brain into action in an artistic goal. This is my career write small, from busking tours of amazing places to working festivals where other people go for vacation; I'm not here to make a buck, but to support my own happiness. I've been deeply lucky that it's still rolling along, and I consider the soul of an accountant to be another lucky break.

Many thanks to you all, without whom I could never have made it work!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I have my strengths and my weaknesses, in friendship as in everything else, and my greatest strength in that arena is in supporting my friends who are going through big changes. I see opportunities in difficult times and find them exciting, and with my life experiences I like to think that I'm good in easing people through abrupt trauma. Job changes and divorces are my specialties, in light of my own past.

What I am not good at is offering emotional support in coping with longstanding but unchangeable hardship. I'm not good at coping, in general, preferring to effect big changes in response, but not everyone has such freedom. Kids, finances, and strong senses of commitment, in particular, hold a lot of people in a course they hope and expect to get eventually better but will be unpleasant in the meantime.

This is not my forte. I'm great with a late-night call that says "I left him" or "he left me" but I'm terrible with cocktails over "I'm miserable but can't do anything about it". I'm not good with "I need to suffer through this job another year", but solid with "I just quit/was fired". I am sad to say that I have offered insufficient support to friends who needed it because I can't hear those stories for long before being the voice for radical change.
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It was a casual conversation that got deep very quickly, which is my favourite kind. She led with, "the way you live and travel means you'll have no regrets on your death bed". I responded, without thinking, "no, I'll just regret not taking better care of the relationships I sacrificed for travel".

I then expounded, "I'm an egoist but I'm not a narcissist: not a user, just neglectful". Harsh truths at the end of a tiring weekend.


Nov. 24th, 2016 08:21 am
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I am thankful, today as every day, for the many blessings in my life. I'm thankful for the love of those who surround and support me. I'm thankful for my parents, who nurtured my wild side while instilling a strong work ethic. And I'm thankful for the opportunities that have come my way, without which all my preparation would have been wasted.

Happy Thanksgiving!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm not good at openness, at sharing my deepest thoughts and feelings. I very much feel that it's my role in life to act as an inspiration, to encourage by example other people to reach far beyond what I'll ever manage. But there's a dark side as well.

A lot of what I share is built around the idea of "this is what it looks like to accomplish your dreams". I want my life to serve as a goad, giving permission to people who are questioning their own paths, but having reached my dreams brought problems as well; I was so used to striving that I didn't know what to do once the heights were attained.

It caused a pretty serious personal crisis, and it's only five years later on that I'm really open to showing my pain. It was 2011, and I had everything I ever wanted. My festival career was on a solid foundation, I had eight tours of Italy under my belt, and a good relationship to top it all off.

But I was miserable.

I had spent years building my life and I didn't know what to do with the edifice I'd created. I understood my basic problem so I set new goals for myself, but since they were artificial I didn't care enough to exert myself and then I had a failure on top of the previous dissatisfaction.

So I took a vacation.

Having achieved one dream, maybe it was time to find a new path. I loved traveling for work, but if I liked hobby travel better then maybe it was time to find a new career. And I knew where I had to go: Buenos Aires.

My great-grandfather had emigrated from Italy to BA, where my grandfather was born before the family moved back to Italy. When his children all went to the US, my great-grandfather retired to Argentina, where he is buried. Having spent significant time in Italy and with a visit to Ireland accomplished, Buenos Aires was the last significant family place I hadn't seen. The last entry on my bucket list.

And that was a part of it, as well. Maybe I wasn't done with my career, maybe I was done with living, and by going to Argentina I was giving myself permission to commit suicide. This wasn't ideation, I wasn't having fantasies or plotting methods, but acknowledging the possibility as a legitimate choice.

And so I went, and spent ten days wishing I'd brought a dulcimer; I enjoyed the trip, but wanted to be a busker. I realized that my career still had heights to ascend and side roads to explore. And I embraced my latest challenge: difficult music. I had spent much of the fall banging my head against an Elizabethan lute tune, Dowland's Lachrimae Pavane, and decided that such music was my new goal.

But it wasn't for several years that I took suicide off the table. As someone who sees his Purpose in setting an example to others, I realized that I would undermine everything I ever achieved, everything I ever wanted, if I pulled a trigger. Instead of acting as an Inspiration, I would become a Cautionary Tale, and anyone who might have been encouraged by my life would be, instead, warned away from bold choices.

I can't have that. I won't have that. And so I'm on this ride until something else brings it to an end.

On Names

Nov. 14th, 2016 03:19 pm
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Identity is a tricky beast. One of the most fun topics I studied in grad school was the development of group identities, and it's still one of my favourite concepts to read up on. And, of course, there's no purer expression of the conundrum of identity than a name.

I go by a few names, these days. For many years I was exclusively "Vince", militantly even. As a child, I was offended by my grandfather's insistence in calling me "Vincenzo". As an adult I came to embrace "Vincenzo", using it as my SCA monicker as well as during my travels in Italy. In the SCA I wanted a "persona" (character) name that I would remember was me when shouted across a field, and in Italian "Vince" is actually a word ("he wins"). So Vincenzo was the obvious solution in both cases.

Except that Vincenzo was more problematic than it felt. After a few tours in Italy I stopped using it: I had an answer when I'd be asked (pale ginger that I am), "but what is your *real* name", but it took too long to explain my family history. Also, I started traveling in South America, where Vincenzo was a less elegant solution to the "he wins" word problem and where I had no emotional connection to "Vicente". And so I began, for the first time in my life, to embrace "Vincent".

I'm getting to know "Vincent" and growing to like him. It's no different a process than any other name I've adopted, and Mr Van Gogh has done a beautiful job in paving the way. It's easier to make a reservation, in any language, for example, and he feels a little more grown up. I'm still fond of "Vince", which is very much my default, but it's an interesting expansion as I embrace further possibilities entering my forties.

But "Vinnie" is right out.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I make a deliberate effort to keep my online presence apolitical, and that isn't going to change. I feel very strongly that my Purpose, my Calling, is to serve as an inspiration and an example to others, and I never want partisanship to exclude half the population from that influence. Offline is very much a different matter, and I'm happy to chat about sex, religion, and politics over coffee or cocktails. But my online presence is very carefully curated with my ultimate goals in mind.

Much love to you all,
vinceconaway: (Default)
It started with a simple question among friends: do you consider yourself a SCAdian?

For those who don't know, the term refers to a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, or SCA, and my answer was equivocal: "yes, but with an asterisk".

Identity is a very tricky beast for me, especially since I've woven my own from many disparate strands. There are very few identifiers that I ascribe myself unconditionally, while claiming each as a part of my whole self. Rennie? Asterisk. Busker? Asterisk. North American? Asterisk (growing up among certain Old World Italian rituals left me with a sense of otherness).



The one label to which I could wholeheartedly ascribe, through the course of the conversation, was artist. Part of that is the vagueness of the term itself, but more probably lies in my longstanding efforts to embrace the term. "Artist" is so culturally loaded that I spent years adapting and shaping my conception of the label until I could embrace it as my own.

Apparently those exertions worked, and I can't decide whether I need to expand my efforts to other characterizations or to accept that I'm neither fish nor fowl in the other dimensions.

I'm leaning toward acceptance.
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I was making dinner plans recently and fascinated by watching my date make her decisions. I'm often torn by second guessing after the fact, and seeing her weigh and optimize her options was an illuminating contrast.

When I make a choice I'll typically have a set of parameters. With dinner, for example, I'll typically have a budget and perhaps a genre preference. Having set those parameters I will then take the easiest option available. I won't look for 3.5 vs 4.2 stars on Yelp, or try and find the $10 vs $12 meal if my budget is $15. I'll look for close and easy (no left turns onto busy streets, for example).

The benefit to this is that I think very quickly on my feet: having stripped the problem to its bare bones I use laziness to break ties. It also means that I save effort for the things that absolutely require it. The downside is that I don't optimize, so I'm often left wondering if I could have had a better or cheaper meal if I'd kept looking, even if the answer is no.
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"You've traveled enough to lose your Ohio accent"

I never really believed my cousin (there's an Ohio accent?) until I talked to my friend Chiara, who left her native Genoa to live in France and California then came home to distrust because she no longer sounded like a local. There are several affectations I've embraced (I'm sorry, Canadian spelling just looks better), and others that have snuck in on their own.

I'm rather proud of and pleased with the process. I don't dress like an Italian, but I dress like an American who spends a lot of time in Italy (which apparently looks German). I don't mold myself to my surroundings, but instead become something new from absorbing their influences.
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