Temenos Journal II

October 25, 2014

Stranded in Reno

Filed under: Branding,Reno,Writing & Creativity — by Genie Webster @ 9:33 am
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Stranded in Reno

Sign from Genie’s show in front of Harold’s Club in downtown Reno circa 1995

Only one person that I know witnessed the short period of time in the mid-90s when I sang on the street in Reno, Nevada to make a few bucks so that my roommate and I could buy groceries. Now mind you, I was not a kid… I was a 40ish grown woman. We needed immediate cash and that’s what I knew how to do. Susan (my roommate and only witness) was my side kick, percussionist, and promoter.

Being the good citizen that I am, I sought out a policeman on the downtown Reno beat and checked to see if singing for tips on the street would be okay. He pointed me to a spot in front of Harold’s Casino, which had recently closed, but which still had a lot of foot traffic. “You won’t be blocking anyone’s business over there,” he said.

I treated this as any gig… put on my make-up and show costume and went out to give the passersby an entertaining show and hope they would throw tips into my open guitar case at my feet. Most of my songs are finger-picked ballads and at the time I only knew two or three up-beat songs that I could strum. Since there was no amplification, I had to sing songs that were lively, that I could belt out. Well, due to poor planning, I wound up singing the same couple of songs over and over again. It was a windy night, too, and somehow that made this outdoor unplugged gig very exhausting.

Reno attracts a lot of conventioneers and bachelor parties so there were groups of drunk horn-dogs who would gawk and heckle us as they walked by. One obnoxious guy touched my arm and said, “Hey honey, are you working tonight?” Aggravated, I pulled away and hollered at him, “Of course I’m working! What does it look like??” Being brand new to Reno, I didn’t know yet that this was lingo for hiring a hooker.

After three exhausting hours, I counted the change in my guitar case and it was about $30… enough to feed us for a couple of days. But I was utterly exhausted. “This has been the hardest thirty bucks I’ve ever earned,” I said to Susan, who was also exhausted herself from banging a tambourine for three hours in the wind.

The friendly policeman who had given me advice earlier must have seen us sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against the wall exhausted. He walked up and said, “You’d probably do better if you weren’t dressed nicer than the tourists… You need to look more downtrodden, like him (and he pointed to an apparent bum sitting on a milk crate playing terrible harmonica across the street).

My roommate and I looked at each other and nodded.

We went home and that’s when I created the “Stranded in Reno” sign above. The next night I dressed in ragged jeans and a flannel shirt and I propped the sign up in my guitar case. At first Susan objected because she thought the sign was misleading because it wasn’t true… “false advertising,” she said. She felt better about it when I explained that “Stranded in Reno” was the name of our band.

The cop was right! People not only dropped in more money, but they offered us a place to stay, and we got invitations to get something to eat. One person even stopped by to offer the use of her phone to call long distance to anywhere we wanted (that was in the day before cell phones). About 30 minutes into our show, the harmonica-playing bum came across the street and set up his milk-crate about ten feet down the street from us. “Hey, quit trying to ride on our coattails,” Susan admonished him.

We made $30 again the second night, but it only took us a little over an hour. Which proves three things: 1.) you can’t always judge a book by its cover; 2.) the way you package your product determines your perceived value; and 3.) there will always be opportunistic imitators lurking in the wings.

genieCDcover

The Susan in the above story (my best friend/biggest fan/partner in adventure Susan Cerny) inspired the song “Walk the Dream.” She died in 1997, but she was alive every day of her life. Sometimes I still feel her encouragement…..

 

 

 

 

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July 28, 2011

On Bullshit Busting and Allergic Reactions

nobull

Besides being allergic to cats and shellfish, I am allergic to bullshit. Cats give me hives and cause my eyes to turn red and burn and itch. Bullshit causes me to go insane. So, naturally, I avoid cats and I avoid bullshit, whenever possible.

Bullshit can be defined as “anything which impedes clarity.”

Perhaps someday I will be strong and solid enough so that bullshit will just roll off me like water off a duck’s back. But I hope I don’t become too desensitized. Even though I’ve been in recovery from codependency for many years, I’m still vulnerable to its seductive lure. I guess you could say that I am a recovering bullshitter myself.

My friends call me a bullshit-buster. That’s because I will expose bullshit when I encounter it (and my bullshit sensor is keen). I will invite it to either transform or leave. Or I will leave.

I’ve found that when you are dealing with other bullshit addicts (i.e., codependents) – especially if they are still in denial – to expose their bullshit is to invite intense defensiveness.  It will undoubtedly cause tension and sometimes an emotional reaction. This intimidates a lot of people and so they allow themselves to be manipulated into going along with the bullshit. Or they go away without at least trying to smooth the tension.

But I’m not easily intimidated. I stand up to it and call it what it is. Because I know that bullshit is only that… bullshit. Pshaw!

Bullshit takes many forms.

1. DRAMA

A few years back, a couple of girlfriends and I were planning a garage sale. Peggy, Maryann, and I decided on a date and a time for the event and then we went back to our busy daily lives. When Peggy called me to see if we could move the date back a couple of weeks, I agreed. I just assumed that Peggy would also call Maryann and check with her, too.

When I spoke with Maryann the following week, I discovered that she had not yet found out about the date change. “Oh… Didn’t Peggy call you about the date change?” No, she hadn’t. It was an unfortunate – though innocent – oversight, I thought.

Maryann did not think this was so innocent. She reacted in anger, insisting that she had been intentionally left out of the loop. I apologized for the oversight, but that did not satisfy Maryann. I asked Maryanne what I could do to help make amends for this mistake. She said, “I want you to admit that you didn’t call me because you have little regard for me as a person.” I thought to myself, “That’s bullshit.” And I answered, “No, Maryann, that’s not why I didn’t call you. I mistakenly assumed that Peggy was going to call you.” This only aggravated Maryann, who replied, “This conversation is going no place!” and she hung up the phone.

Maryann was determined to create a drama that would support her self-image as a victim. When I refused to participate in her drama, she left the friendship. (There was no garage sale.)

2. IMAGE CONTROL

A person will modify or cover up the facts in order to engineer a desired image – either for themselves or for someone they are protecting (for whatever reason).

To quote Anne Wilson Schaaf from her book When Society Becomes an Addict"":

Codependents refuse to see people or things as they really are. In doing so, we are fundamentally disrespectful of them. It is only when people are seen as they really are that they can accept and honor and take responsibility for themselves. It is only when they own who they are that they have the option to become something else.

3. OVERLY GULLIBLE

Codependents tend to trust people who are untrustworthy. This only contributes to perpetuating more bullshit in the world.

Bailing someone out is often a kind, compassionate thing to do. To bail out the same adult person over and over again is not helping them, it is hindering them… and it’s participating in the person’s bullshit that they are not capable of taking care of themselves.  It is hindering them from learning to take responsibility and become self-sustaining.

When I first met Connie, she confided that she struggles with a compulsion to rescue people. She liked to feel needed, especially by her children. She continued to send her grown son – an intelligent, capable, resourceful adult – money whenever he asked for it. “I believe in him,” she would say. But she really didn’t. Because if she truly believed in him, she would have allowed him to learn to live within his means. By continuing to bail him out, she was helping to perpetuate his bullshit – his lie about himself that he was not capable of taking care of himself. She robbed him of an opportunity to grow.

Another way to describe people who are overly gullible is to say they believe what they want to believe. “The polls are wrong,”  for example.

5. IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION

And then there is the bullshit of expecting instant gratification or quick-fix enlightenment. I know this one well. How many of us have gone from workshop to workshop, read book after book, tried one method after another… only to be disappointed that instant transformation or instant salvation did not magically occur?

So many seekers think that enlightenment is like instant mashed potatoes… no peeling, no boiling, no mashing… just add hot water and you’re done. Many are even reluctant to add the hot water! There are no shortcuts to an authentic and lasting bullshit detox. It’s an ongoing process and requires practice, like any life skill.

Step One = Stop bullshitting yourself. Take an honest moral inventory and start cleaning up your act. Simple… but not easy.

Group Bullshit

It seems so ironic that a person like me — who is allergic to bullshit – wound up in Reno, Nevada for 17 years… home of instant weddings, quickie divorces, neighborhood pawn shops, billboards promising the biggest  gambling pay-outs and the prettiest girls. This city depends on bullshit to sustain its very existence! The bullshit habit had become so ingrained in that city’s culture that lying (bullshitting) is not only tolerated… it’s expected and accepted… in its government, in its media, and its business climate.

I’ve heard that there are more nicotine addicts per capita in Reno than in any other city in the U.S. There are also multitudes of alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, and compulsive gamblers. For every addict there are the accompanying multitudes of codependents. It is a culture of denial, avoidance, and getting numb.

Naturally, such a culture makes an imprint on its inhabitants. The psychic atmosphere is so muddy there that you cannot help but get your feet dirty.

What if we made it less acceptable in our communities and tribes to tolerate bullshit? If we can’t do that in our homes and families and neighborhoods, then we can’t change the world. We have to start with cleaning up our own little circles. We can do that in our homes and our workplaces and communities by sticking with a very simple guideline:

  1. Do what you say you’re going to do.
  2. Be courteous and respectful.
  3. Take responsibility for your own equanimity. If you feel you can’t be kind and emotionally stable while being truthful, then walk away until you figure it out
  4. Don’t exaggerate. Be truthful and reasonable.

It’s a start.

 

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