Saturday, June 14, 2008

Strange Travel Suggestions

My friend Jeannie invited me to see Jeff Greenwald's one-man show Strange Travel Suggestions at the Marsh in San Francisco on Friday the 13th. Seeing as how I'm traveling to Malaysia in July on a travel tour, I thought it'd be a fun Friday the 13th thing to do.

The show was a series of improvised monologues based on Greenwald's adventures. The title comes from one of Kurt Vonnegut's books. The actual Vonnegut line is "Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."

Utilizing "The Wheel," designed by his friend Jim "Can Do" Kelly and painted by another friend of his, artist Mark Wagner, Greenwald had audience members get up on stage, talk about their travels and spin the wheel -- kinda like playing Wheel of Fortune without Vanna White.

Depending upon where the wheel landed, Greenwald would choose a story from his extensive collection of stories gathered through years of travel writing. From what I remember, his emphasis for travel was "The Fool" card from a tarot deck -- and "The Fool," being a metaphor for someone, such as himself, living life as a leap of faith.

On this night, our faith was rewarded with Greenwald sharing his own personal version of The Hitcher. His tale of hitchhiking through New Mexico with his girlfriend during the 70's was equal parts Zabriske Point, hippie-dippy road trip, and Badlands, psycho killer couple on the loose. A must for any fan of good road trip stories.

Actually, Greenwald's story reminded me of the movie Kalifornia, the story of a journalist duo who go on a tour of serial killer murder sites with two companions, unaware that one of them is a serial killer himself.

The psycho serial killer was played Brad Pitt with his girlfriend played by Juliette Lewis (who I actually met, of all places, at a Scientology center in Hollywood) and David Duchovany starring as the journalist. (I actually worked on Duchovany's new show Californication last summer as a background extra. Does anyone know what's up with him and using California in the title of his movie and new show?)

Anyway, Greenwald's story takes place when he's a 21-year-old hippie from San Francisco traveling with girlfriend Fern and bumming a ride back from Mexico. The duo meet up with two escaped serial killers with a stolen Monte Carlo and eventual find themselves becoming friends with them as they drive towards the Grand Canyon!

I won't give away the ending, but it was classic. You gotta go hear Greenwald tell the tale!

Another of Greenwald's stories revolved around his traveling around the world in order to write his book The Size of the World. Somehow, he got himself aboard a merchant ship traveling across the Atlantic along with his Benson & Hedges smoking ex-girlfriend Sally.

Suffice to say, Greenwald's recollections of watching Jean Claude Van Damme movies with the ship's crew, which for some odd reason consisted of Filipino sailors and German officers, while fighting back seasickness was hilarious.

Coincidentally, I met Greenwald's friend Chris sitting in the front row of the show. An avid paraglider from Ashland, Oregon (Shakespeare festival country), Chris invited us all to join Greenwald after the show for drinks at a local bar.

Our conversation with Greenwald was all over the place, with topics brought up ranging from last word's on gravestones to eating monkey brains, the Canadian tv show Slings and Arrows, and an Indian Guru named Papaji.

On the subject of gravestones, my friend Jeannie was lamenting about not having enough time to read, so Greenwald suggested for her tombstone: "Finally, time to read." While, Greenwald's would read: "I knew this would all lead to something."

Interestingly enough when I looked up Greenwald's interview with Papaji, I found out they discussed "Who are you?" And I don't mean the Who song.

The text is actually available online at realization.org. Greenwald asked the guru "Who are you?"

To which, Papaji replied: "I am That from where you, me she, he, and all the rest emerge. I am That."

In any case, I also looked up a friend of Greenwald's named Prince Gomolvalis and found a huge blog site filled with hilarious entries worth reading.

I also met Greenwald's friend Jim Kelly (no relation to the Buffalo Bills quarterback or the black martial artist from the Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon.)

We also found out that Chris and Jeannie would probably enjoy swapping lives. City girl Jeannie goes to the farm in Oregon and Country girl Chris comes to the big city.

The night ends with a quiz (free dinner and drinks if we guess the right name). Greenwald tells us that the grave site next to Marilyn Monroe's is being held for a famous celebrity. Who is it?

It's a bit of a stumper. My guess was Arthur Miller. But, no. Then we toss out Joe DiMaggio. No again. He's already dead. So's JFK. Finally, Greenwald gives us a clue. He's well-known for sexy images and sexual appeal. Thinking it over I go back to a name I had dismissed in my mind... Hugh Hefner? And of course, I was right. (Funny thing, I've met director Brett Ratner's uncle George, and apparently Ratner is planning a Hefner bio-picture.)

So that was my Friday the 13th.

Oh, and did I mention the "Penis Sadhu?" Well, now you'll just have to go see Greenwald's show to find out about that one.

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