People before profits

* Oops, forgot to post this before I left yesterday.

This has been an amazing weekend driving pedicab. The weather was great even if it was extremely windy at times. The Basilica Block Party was going on Friday and Saturday and Kenny Chesney was playing Target Field on Friday night so there were tons of people downtown. It was one of those weekends where you didn’t have to look for riders; they were lining up begging for rides. I gave a lot of fun rides and made pretty decent money. There are so many stories I could tell but I can’t fit it all in here. Still, let me see if I can sum up what I took away from this weekend in a few words.

This job has done wonders for me in so many ways. I’m in the best shape of my life. Every week I get stronger; hill that used to push me to the limit now barely cause me to break a sweat. It’s also improving my social skills and my ability to connect with people from all walks of life. These are both skills that I’m going to need as I move forward with my dreams.

Where I’m still struggling is with the issue of money. I’m making enough doing this that I’m worried about losing my Social Security and more important my health insurance. My motivation for doing this job is not the money but it is so tied to the job that at times it can be hard to separate the two.

After the Basilica Block Party let out there was a line of people wanting rides. All the pedicabs was called down to the concert but we couldn’t get cabs there fast enough to meet the demand. Figuring I would only be able to get one ride out of there because I was coming from the complete opposite end of downtown I decided to not take a ride for less than $20.

Before I could even pull up I had two couples wanting a ride. The first couple asked how much to Brit’s Pub and I told them $20. They thought that was too much which perhaps it was but tried to explain the economics of the situation. Taking a pedicab is a luxury, not a necessity. It’s something that you do for fun even though you could walk. They decided to walk.

I told the next couple the same thing and they also balked at the price. I’m sure that within five minutes I would have found someone that would have paid that or more but I was already feeling bad for not taking rides so I told this couple they could pay me whatever they wanted.

We were only going about five blocks but with all the traffic leaving the concert location it took some fancy driving and creative thinking to maneuver around and through all the cars. I was still hoping to be able to drop them off quickly and get back for another ride.

At one point the guy in my cab said to his wife, “he’s all about business”. I think he meant it as a compliment but it told me that my mind was not where I wanted it to be. I wanted my mind to be on giving my current passengers the best ride I could, not on my potential next ride. I quickly refocused and put my attention on my passengers. In the end he still tipped me $20 and when I got back to the Basilica everyone had cleared out and there were no more rides. Things turned out exactly as I thought they would but it didn’t happen by focusing on money. It happened by caring for people.

El Dorado

After 11 hours cramped in a sedan I was feeling like the car should be called Apollo 13 and not  the T.A.R.D.I.S. although with any luck we will make it to our final destination. So far, so good. We pulled into our first stop in El Dorado, KS last night around 10:30 pm. Achy and soar I tumbled out of the capsule where I had been riding shot-gun.

My ass, having sustained injury a couple nights before, expressed great relief to be out of the car, not just from the pain from 11 hours of sitting on a bruised tailbone but also relief from the gas that had been building up inside my colon; held back to avoid poisoning my traveling companions. There is something about road trips, cramped up in a car, eating shitty gas station food that brews up the most toxic concoction. Through much of Iowa you can sneak one out here and there without anyone really noticing against the backdrop of pig farms but I must have been held back gallons because I have been farting all morning.

My legs felt like I had walked the 621 miles to reach our current destination; that kind of pain you feel the next day after a strenuous workout. Still, I was grateful to have arrived, grateful to be out of the car and eagerly awaiting the incredible hospitality always bestowed upon us at the horse ranch of Pete and Liz. Once inside and the car unloaded, Liz prepared the dining room table with soup, cheese, veggies, bread an a variety of beers to choose from. It would have been nice to have socialized more. It would been nice to have written down my thoughts before going to bed but my ability to form sentences had left me. I couldn’t manage to get words from brain to my mouth, let alone my fingers.

It had been a long day. Unable to get any packing done the day before, I arose yesterday at 5:30 am to prepare for the trip. This is usually the way it goes and after many tours over the years it almost seems like second nature.   The only difference this time was that we weren’t taking the van so I needed to be much more concerned to pack as lightly as possible. No matter what, I always feel like I must have forgotten something. So far I haven’t discovered anything nor can I imagine fitting one more thing in my bag. Having left the blustery cold of Minnesota and needing to shed layers of clothes I’m already feeling over-packed.

You would think that traveling across country with a rock band would be one non-stop party; sitting in the back of a tour bus, doing shots of tequila and lines of coke of the bellies of strippers. This has never been my experience. We spend most of our time discussing our failures and strategizing how to keep going in hopes of making it to the next level. This time we couldn’t even do that. This time the discussions took on an even more somber tone. This time there was no talk of the future. This time we were wondering whether the band will even be able to continue.

For the past several months, Venus has been embroiled in an audit from the IRS. This is not your typical audit where they go through all of your books with a fine tooth come looking for deductions that aren’t allowed and income that wasn’t reported. In this case, there would be nothing of that sort to be found.  Venus has been meticulous in running her business and has followed all the rules. In this case the IRS is trying to claim that it’s not a legitimate business because it is not profitable. But Venus’ business is her life, the life of an artist. In essence they are saying that the life of an artist is not legitimate. Unless, I guess, it is profitable but then my question is, if it is profitable, is it still art? I see art as a challenge to conventional wisdom and social expectation. Once art becomes accepted and mainstream it loses it’s ability to expand cultural horizons, it loses it’s ability to transform. The irony is that to be a successful artist is to see your art turned into a commodity.  It reminds me of this quote:

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”  – Leonardo da Vinci

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