Notes from Nathan Holguin
These are parts of Nathan’s notes from 7/12. He was our stage manager on the tour and took detailed notes concerning the show and team.
The shows have been so beautiful. Cast energy has been consistent and the shows getting tighter every day. We are having music cue Issues. A rehearsal of the music cue has been requested. Saturday is a two show day, Sunday is one and done and then a couple days to relax with no shows. Everyone in stepping up and taking care of each other, it is good to see. Moral is strong and everyone is holding their parts well.
Living Dream Arts Baja Tour Journal entries 2019.
(Living Dream Arts trip to the southern border 7/6 – 7/22 2019)
Eight days and we depart, five hundred miles south to the San Diego / Mexico Border and the gates of a humanitarian crisis. I have always wanted to take my clown to the gates of hell, I hope for a standing ovation from Satan himself. There is a lot of pure concentrated evil down there. Tens of thousands of displaced people coupled with a seemingly rabid customs and border control, quite a list of ingredients. What will we cook up?
Packing – organizing – planning. We make a fine group, the eight of us, I am optimistic for our success. We intend on performing shows and distributing much needed supplies to the refugees in Ensenada and Tijuana, a week in each location.
Sancho! Saddle Rozinante! We ride again!
Preparations are almost complete. I keep thinking of the Einstein quote - No mouse alive would construct a mousetrap… -
And now we stare down another adventure, in two days time, well one and what’s left of today.
All Final preparations happen tomorrow; tonight I’ll organize schedule and properties. Saturday 7/6/2019 we journey south to San Diego reaching out to the displaced, the Quidam who strive to be known, to push beyond the boundaries of dehumanization and be seen as human beings. These are children, these are frightened and exhausted souls. The lack of dignity and venomous hatred found in their treatment is abhorrent to me. Why is there so much hatred? I even feel it in my self, the seething flair of anger and resentment of those who express support for these deplorable actions. Many applaud this treatment. I can only attempt to understand.
We need to be stealthy to get in and out safely. This will be quite an interesting expedition. Will we be able to fulfill our mission without detection? We are in stealth mode now, no outside communication. We all know the plan and will play our parts.
What does it say that we can fear potentially violent repercussions simply for bringing laughter and humanitarian supplies to those in need?
Not to mention the reality of those in the missions, orphanages and shelters. We would go to the detainment camps directly, but no one is allowed in.
So we reach out to those who have been relocated, or those waiting in the limbo that has consumed the southern border. I am repelled by these attitudes towards each other. We are all in the same hole here and fight like so many ants in a jar. We will kill each other in righteous anger and religious zeal instead of focusing on escaping the jar.
- Mice plot, devising, scheming the ultimate trap, no escape, no mercy; kill them all. -
We have landed in San Diego, settling in and reorganizing our supplies. Tomorrow we perform for a group home, or shelter, for folks who have just been released from CBP custody and are now in limbo. They can’t return to their countries of origin and they can’t stay in the U.S.A. They are displaced and without a country or home.
I have been homeless at times, found myself lost and without a place to stay, but I still had Tucson and Arizona and The United States of America. These people have less than nothing.
We will do our best to bring them some semblance of relief. We offer no more than a temporary distraction from the reality that their lives have become. A bleak and confining reality where the system intentionally works against them, vilifies them, and then takes great and perverse pleasure in carrying out sentences, internments and separations. All as penance for crimes they are victims of.
This bends my mind; the depths we as a species will go to undermine and destroy each other. What a mess… We do this intentionally.
The first morning.
The eight of us wake to greet the day and each other. It’s interesting to witness our group take shape, to see the stew begin to simmer, as we build ensemble.
Be open to trust and listen. See. Be present.
Together we will make the collective energy that will define us and this trip. Don’t overlook being an ingredient and do your part to support this experience.
Just be supportive.
Post show chill, tacos, a nap and sharing my flask. We have quite a range of skill, experience and talent on this tour. Ranging from the very greenest to seasoned veterans. It will be interesting to see us achieve equilibrium. All things seek balance.
Acceptance, support, intentions and desire mean a lot on an expedition such as this. The experience will come in time, longer than the two short weeks we are to be out here.
Ensenada. Crossing over the border was uneventful and easy thankfully.
Fingers crossed that crossing back will be as smooth. The cast is melding, time and the introduction of our arrival have begun the process. A slow simmer, now patience as the water comes to a boil.
Today I quietly set up our stage and laid out some juggling props, then spent a short time juggling and it was not long until the group joined in and we had our first skills session.
Snatch broke out a nine foot unicycle, she and Slim both rode it and juggled.
I passed with Snatch for about 45 minutes and worked on a complicated pattern with the others called “the feast”. It has begun.
We have a great cast. There’s me, Nathan, a clown and seasoned touring veteran, I am partnering with Slim, another clown, old friend and colleague who called me and asked if I wanted to join him on a short summer tour. His wife Kristen, she is also a clown and producing, a cornerstone of this expedition. Aileen is a seasoned performer and second producer, a veteran of social circus in South America and beyond. Noah is our third producer; she is sweet but very green. She is running logistics and so far doing quite a fine job of it. Snatch is a major asset. She brings major experience to our game, another seasoned vet. Bridget is sweet, she has the heart for this. James is our music man, a budding clown and performer cutting his teeth. I am enjoying watching him figure it all out.
The expedition is going great, with a few expected glitches and bumps in the road. It's been two shows a day since Sunday and they have been magical. We have been blessed as we bless the groups we're performing for. The kids are so grateful and excited and inspiring even as they are heart breaking. I was teaching a kid magic tricks today and making him laugh with silly sight gags and I noticed he had horrible, deep and vicious scars all over his legs. They may have been from deep cuts but I think they were burns. At this location we were warned not to ask the kids about anything personal because they had all been abused and could be easily triggered. The cold reality these kids face and live overshadows our efforts but as we shine light into dark places we are finding love and appreciation.
This experience is reminding me of forgotten strengths and revealing new weaknesses. The cross pollination is effecting surprising areas within me. I have had two incidents where I was moved to tears, the first was in the check in, I expressed gratitude for this experience how I am returning to this work after a trauma and being here is rehydrating my dried and salty heart. The second was today when Aileen was moved by an elderly woman’s gratitude and I shared about a boy who had been horribly abused and had deep scars on his legs.
Today I scratched an item off my bucket list! When my Slim and me where doing our "Magica" act I got a Nun to be our volunteer and when I pulled a ping pong ball out of her ear she screamed in surprise and shock! Then I was able to make her scream a couple more times and EVERYONE was shocked when I took off the Nun's shoe and made the ball come out of it! Oh what a day!
Yesterday was hard, the night before we had to leave our hosts home as her fifteen-year-old son has a friend who is moving to Juarez. They danced, ate tacos, and did shots of vodka until past midnight and kept a quieter party going until two am. I am thrilled we have an alternative but it is an added stress for the eight of us, as well as our gracious host. In the morning the patio was littered with gummy bears and cigarette butts. Having to move because of the party capped an emotionally challenging day. We had a melt down in the cast, but moved through it by the next day.
That was my day to melt down… I blew a fuse after the second show and had to do some damage control. Kristen ~ Everyone deserves to be forgiven and get a second chance, none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. I am grateful for her insight (even though she was referring to Noah, I’ll take it anyway), the forgiveness and the opportunity to grow will not be missed nor taken for granted.
The locals have taken to calling Slim and me “Flaco y Gordo” (Skinny and fat) and he’s Flaco… I’m losing weight I swear!
When you really truly reach into a stranger’s heart there in only the language of love and compassion. I will savor all I can and I’ll give everything I can.
Healing is such a bittersweet experience. Emotions freed from long repressed places can be explosive. Some are like a rotten tooth when once drilled into, piercing the decay of the cavity and accessing the dead root and nerves, that stench of rot and decay released into the air, putrid and sickening. This is the only way to heal, exposing the black core and removing the rot. Cutting it all away until all that remains is clean white tooth, the root chambers scrubbed, rinsed, disinfected. Only then can you fill and cap the tooth. Avoid this and the rot will fester and eventually kill you.
So many flashing memories as these few days pass. I am collecting quite a treasure trove of experiences. I hope I don’t get lice… They have been crawling all over the kids in just about every location we visited. It would be worth it if I have to wash my hair and pull it through one of those tiny combs. All those beaming smiles on the bright eyed and excited little faces, many had AIDS in their blood, deep and brutal scares both emotionally and physically. One location had only girls because the Government (The Mexican government prompted by the United States) came in and decided the center had too many children for the amount of staff and decided the solution was to simply remove the boys and deposit them, well, wherever. Some random intersection in Ensenada… The United States cut the funding they were giving Mexico to assist with the migrant situation so many shelters had to cut back on their staff, many are working for free.
Considering the reality these kids face, lice is by far the least of their concerns. The brief time we spend with them makes an enormous difference, I only wish we could do more, even as we do all we can.
A day of rest and quiet. We have earned a break. Broke the slack rope this morning. Noticed one of the eyebolt assemblies was bending and attempted to tighten it up, the eye nut broke right off as the post of the bolt sheared in two. At the show where the kids where bouncing me up and down we must have cracked the post. Figure my two hundred pounds, plus Slims one hundred and sixty pounds, plus the forces from all the kids pulling and the shock loads… we could have generated well over a thousand pounds easy, oops… After some field dressing the rig is now connected with lashing and the stout half-inch triple braid, we are all good.
I love this part, pushing until it breaks and fixing it in the field. Ah the patina, hard earned, pure experience in the dirt and the dust and all those dirty smiling faces and the scruffy mangy dogs sleeping in the sun who don’t catch our jokes. But those little faces do, as they laugh and cheer and applaud our gentle intrusion into their days.
Next week we go deeper, North to Tijuana, to the shelters along the US border, all at or close to capacity with those little faces calling us “amigo!, me amigo!”
No family, no parents, no home.
Their eyes still shine bright with hope and wonder and all the childish discoveries they encounter growing up. My Gringo eyes see poverty, lice, the dirt-coated dogs and tattered worn patina that devours everything here, surrounding and encompassing all. But for them, those smiling faces, it’s only Friday. Just another day like any other day, except today the clowns came to play and for a moment we forgot as all our troubles faded away.
I am really glad I did this, I am here to serve the tour the kids the others. I am overwhelmed, overjoyed, exhausted and elated. The shows have been magically heartbreaking. A brief repast offered to kids and families provides joy and laughter for an hour or two. I think of all those other hours, days, weeks these children, mothers, fathers spend together in dusty and run down shelters and missions, their reality hits back hard. We are making a small, short difference, but the needs are so much greater than we can provide with our little clown show. We are appreciated, loved, embraced and needed. Yet their needs dwarf our efforts. Five more days and ten more shows and I'll driving my truck on familiar US highways north to San Francisco, but my heart will stay here. I wish we could do so much more and am honestly horrified at how evil humans can treat each other. Too much hate, so much misplaced blame, these are innocent victims vilified and I struggle to understand.
We moved North yesterday and are staying at a Christian mission in Rosarito, out in the countryside, about 45 minutes outside of Tijuana. It's very peaceful, very dusty and has a lot of rules. Yesterday we did a show at a shelter in Tijuana and a workshop at the Tijuana Christian Mission. This city is overflowing with asylum seekers, predators looking to take advantage and a LOT of hustlers. There have been many kidnappings of migrants and much much worse here. The wall is an absurd rust colored monument stretching across the landscape, a visual and constant reminder of the oppression that is felt hanging in the air like an invisible fog. Our contact here, a sweet lady who is driving us around, told us when she was a kid, the border was a chicken wire "fence", if you could even call it that, they used to just walk back and forth like nothing. Not any more...
Four days and eight more shows and this will all be a memory.
The last day and end of this little tour. Over twenty shows in fourteen days, workshops and adventures. Punchy rides again. I missed that fool and it’s good to have him back. Savoring a moment of stillness and quiet, a blessing on this trip. I want more social circus, more clowning in this context. This was a goal and a bucket list item and I thank Slim and Kristen and Noah for this…
I loved all their beaming faces. Loved all the little moments, even the stresses. I moved through some major emotional places on this trip and I am changed for the better.