When I look back at this time.in my life in my Seventies, in my Eighties, I want to know that I gave it all I got. That I gave myself a shot. I want to see this moment anticipating having perspective on it later. I’m so scared, because I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But for the first time in my life I’m getting palpitations and nausea from anxiety, and I’m PRAYING that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.

I was inside the SoHo Apple store for about 2 hrs, trying to catch up on some blogging last Tues (which I do because I don’t own a computer besides my phone, and it can’t really do the whole job..), and when I emerged Old Grace (the bike), which I’d locked to a tree in front of the store early afternoon, in broad day, was gone. Suffice to say the bike tour is over.

That doesn’t mean the project is over. I plan to spend the next few weeks booking shows in NYC and in the Tri State area at schools, in after school programs, theaters (if you have any ideas or leads for me, please shoot me a mesg), and possibly just traveling around the city and performing via train, and Jolie and I are gearing up to begin working the one man show.

This project of hopping on my bike with Shakespeare on my back, barreling full speed ahead towards my fears has been one of the greatest things I’ve done with my life, and I’m not ready to be done yet.

1st day back in NY. Supposed to be resting today… Instead the Speare Bearer is performing at the DUMBO Arts Fest.

I like my welcome home parties with Karaoke

#KingsOfKaraoke

“What are you after?”

Yesterday afternoon I pulled into Ann Arbor, MI, staying with a cool lady named Lynn. We went out for dinner and had a great conversation which we continued into the evening, touching on all sorts of topics, from the kind of work Lynn does, (Speech Pathology for youths, super interesting), different regions of the country we’ve traveled, her children, my tour, the subtle factions of Martin vs Seinfeld, the upcoming election… Fun lady to talk to.

One of the topics we touched on, and was really my first time really opening up about this, is that even though for the most part I never performed as frequently as I would have liked to, because I was never able to transform myself into this early to bed, early to rise, single-minded Shakespeare machine I envisioned, this project, for the most part has been way more successful than I ever dared to imagine.

When I first came up with the idea to even do one-man shakespeare, in the style I wanted to do it, a rigorous, physical, highly theatrical style, not in the confines or structure of a black box, but out in the open, on the street, I didn’t even know if it would be physically possible. I didn’t know if I would be fast enough, dexterous enough, or believable enough to make the scenes “go”, nevermind being deeply insecure about my ability to memorize lines (a fear I can now call dead and buried for the time being. If I can memorize 35min of Shakespeare straight, I can memorize anything). I thought any hopes of this hare-brained scheme working were long-shots at best, a lark my director Jolie Tong and I were just going to take a wild crack at.

Then I thought, One-Man Street Shakespeare, OK, but why just do it in New York? Why not do it all over the country? I mean I’d often lamented being shut out of getting the elusive Actors’ Equity Card I prized so highly back then because it was too difficult and political to get one in New York, and I hadn’t taken the regional route to a card most actors take, because I was eager just to get back to New York right after college. So I figured I could do that metaphorically, and perform all over the country before coming back to the city, one of the busking (street performing) meccas of the world. And how would I get around this gargantuan country of ours? I’d ride my bicycle, of course! I mean I enjoyed riding my bicycle around Savannah in college, I’ll just ride around the entire country! Even though I’d never so much as changed a flat before, ridden anywhere near even 25 miles in a day, never left the East coast, had no money, experience, or anyone to go with me. I mean this is the horse you bet on right?

Well, I, and Jolie, and my family, and my friends, dozens of other people did. And it worked, it’s working. I’ve ridden around at least half this country, most of the time alone, and done Shakespeare for every kind of American you can think of, in every kind of setting(with forgiving acoustics) imaginable. I’ve had fun, thrown myself into the drama of these scenes, committed as much as I could, and got people to enjoy good old crazy street storytelling/theater, even if only for a few minutes. And people who were often resistant at first to boot! Praise God!

I’ve performed for dozens, maybe even a few hundred. If someone googles “Speare Bearer” or even “Shakespeare bicycle” for the next few years, I’ve cornered the Google niche on that. I’ve performed for an actor I respect, Ethan Hawke, and got to meet another, Kevin Kline. I met and got to hang out with a more greatness in NBA Hall-of-Famer, Bill Walton. I‘ve had some correspondence, and received a donation from one of my performing idols, the immortal American Clown, Mr. Bill Irwin. I’ve been beyond fortunate, and had exceeding support and kindness showered on me.

The question is: Now what do I do?

Be careful what you wish for.

I NEVER expected to come this far. I was always waiting to see how far I would go until I quit. I was always thinking Jolie and I would launch this puppy, and we’ll just wait and see how spectacular the fireworks are when it finally self-destructs, because it was just too crazy of any idea to ever really believe it could work.

And now, it has.

I plan to continue my tour all around the boroughs of NYC for a month while it’s still warm enough as the true final leg of the tour, but following that I have no idea what my life is. Can I come off of 8 months of carting pretty much an entire repertory company, and my LIFE on my back, risking life and limb day in and day out, and go back to working in someone’s kitchen, or auditioning for a bit part in someone’s show I don’t care about? How can I ever go on to take orders from any employer if I don’t know they have, or could have, risked as much as I just did? Maybe that sounds awful, I don’t know if I’m out of line for thinking this way, but you imagine coming close to death for no pay for months on end, pulling into a town after town you’ve never been to after at least 5 hrs of riding, scouting your own locations, creating your own audiences out of skeptical passers by, risking humiliation, not to mention often the intervention of law enforcement, or worse, and then think about who you’d take orders from going forward. This is what I think about.

And I don’t know what my alternatives are. This is not exactly a one-man show I could cart around to all the fruu-fruu black boxes around the country, nor do I want to. Some folks have mentioned that maybe I want to teach. If that was even an option I DON’T want to teach. Not now, before I’ve had a real career performing. We don’t live in a vaudeville era anymore, so there isn’t exactly a prescribed plan-of-action to follow from here. I’m not sure what to do. But it damned sure isn’t going to be jumping back into that cattle-call/casting-call rat-race, waving around a cute, over-priced headshot in a room full of fame-hungry teenagers, 90% might never believe in any art enough to really risk anything for it. Some might, most won’t.

Last night, after Lynn and I said goodnight to go off to bed, I didn’t sleep. Not until around 5 AM. What did I do? What I normally do. I spent all night reading, and watching interviews with artists and athletes I admire about creativity and greatness. I watched the Ghostface and Raekwon of the Wu Tang Clan talk about working with the RZA, and the RZA talk about working with Kanye, I watched old Tupac, and Michael Jackson interviews with Arsenio, and watched Arsenio talk to Patti Labelle about working with Prince, marveled at the candor and poise of Arsenio interviewing icons Madonna and Liz Taylor, as well as Patty and MJ. I watched Michael Jackson and Russell Simmons words of wisdom on greatness, and watched documentary footage of Manny Paquiao and Muhammad Ali’s training regimens.

Greatness. I’ve been obsessed with it since a child, dreaming about working as a penciller for Marvel Comics. Nothing has changed, except now I’d rather be Henry V for the NY Shakespeare Festival. But I’m still just a kid impressed with a group of people telling epic, mythic stories at the highest level, and dreaming of being in league with them. Why? I don’t know. I just chalk it up to a compulsion. From about seven years old I would lock myself in my room for hours drawing, to emerge in a frenzy, desperate to show anyone what I’d done. Not really for any sort of approval, I’ve always felt secure that I was loved by God and my family, but just because it was for some reason so vital for me to share what big emotions I was feeling with my captive audience, that I’d zealously tried to translate into some narrative with the greatest purity and highest fidelity I could muster. As an adult performer now, I’m still just that kid. I’ve stopped trying to appraise the worth of an actor, or entertainer, or artist to society, or the common good. Now I just chalk it up to belief that God is gracious enough that if He put it in me to need to create so badly, then there must be SOMEONE out there who wants, or even needs what I created as badly as I needed to create it.

The thing is… I met a girl over this tour that I really like and that… adds another layer of confusion to all of this, because she reminds me that I am human, and have a personal life, I’m not just this art-machine I’ve long imagined myself to be…

There’s a funny quandary I’ve been mulling over. Imagine growing up loving the NBA, with all your heart, loving the beauty of these champions and titans, playing their hearts out night after night, the thrilling spectacle of exuberant gamesmanship, each season a monument to the fire of the human spirit. And knowing deep down you always had the guts and commitment to play in this league. So you practice, and you study, and you rise through the ranks, and just get to the precipice of the NBA. And you realize that it’s a cold, lonely place inside, that the endeavor is every bit as glorious and noble as you imagined, but the suffering, chaos, and baseness that plague that arena are much more pulverizing than you believed. But you still know you can compete, and you still want to as bad as ever. Do you just go play overseas, with close-to but not quite as competitive players? Or with the semi-pro league where you not only can compete, and be paid, but dominate? Or do you see your dream through, and enter the perilous gauntlet you’ve known your whole life you were fated to try, against the greatest competition alive, not knowing if you’ll be human, or whole, coming out the other side?

I’m in a weird spot in my life. I’m 27. I’ve been living on a bicycle for the last eight months performing Shakespeare on my own. I don’t actually have a home, or apartment, or room, or bed. I don’t have any money, or own anything. All I have is God, my wits, and my commitment… the substance of at least one of those things I think I have proven over this tour, if not all. And what do I want?

Eventually, I dream of being Artistic Director of my own vaudeville theater in Brooklyn, like a cross between Joe Papp, and what Kevin Spacey is doing at the Old Vic, where you are making artistic decisions about the direction of the theater, get to perform in two or three shows a year, and you get to work with people you admire to bring great projects to life, projects that first thrill and entertain your community, and thereby edify it. That would be great down the road.

Right now?

There’s a program called Uncensored that I believe is sponsored by Moviefone, where stars promoting their latest feature films sit in a room and answer questions submitted by viewers online, and ask each other their own questions. Last night I watched in my Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and Robert Downey Jr. interviewing one another for Tropic Thunder. And I remember thinking these men are all at the height of their powers, doing what they were meant to do, at the highest level, loving on each other, appreciating the hell out their situations, and having the time of their lives. I want that. I want that so so bad.

You know, I was thinking, Ralf, God must really be with you.
The Speare Bearer: Time with the Rajchel’s, Libertyville, IL,  08/10-08/13

I may or may not have been explicit about this before, but this entire project is inspired by, and mostly dedicated to my friend Tommy Rajchel who passed away last year. He was my best friend in New York, we went to the same.college, hung with a lot of the.same people, and were.the same age, but we only really got close after we both moved to NY. He suffered a tragic fall last year amd died. One of the main reasons I had the guts to even attempt this tour is because I kept thinking about the advice Tommy would have given me if I could ask him what to do about this crazy Shakespeare on a bike idea.

"Go for it, man. Gotta push it to the limit.When you leavin’?"

Over the last year and a half I’ve been blessed to get close with his folks.  Grace amd Richard, they are the two faces near mine at the bottom of the picture. Above are two friends of theirs. They are terrific people, the only kind of people who could have raised a son like Tommy. I promised to visit them in Libertyville, a suburb north of Chicago where they live, and where Tommy was raised, and I did indeed get to spend a weekend with them. It was great because I got to see 1st hand how Tommy became Tommy, and where all his crazy stories come from. 

It was a beautiful time. Sometimes it was intense, and emotional, we talked about Tommy a lot, and cried sometimes, but we also did a lot of things, like attending an Oldies dance with their grieving group, and laughed a lot more than I thought we would. Tommy’s folks are such sweet generous people, with a great sense of humor. I wouldn’t say they are unhappy at this point, but they are definitely sad, but they are continuing to live life and fight to keep Tommy’s memory alive.

We miss you Tommy.

Thomas Rajchel-(1984-2011)  R.I.P.

Hello all. `Speare Bearer here. As some of you might know, I took a hiatus from my ONE-MAN STREET SHAKESPEARE ON A BIKE tour around the US, and flew back home to Florida where my folks are about a week and a half ago to get some much needed rest, as I was suffering some pretty debilitating, persistent, and indomitable exhaustion the last two months, as well as to attend my 10 yr high school reunion. Well, that’s all done, and I feel strong again. I am hoping to fly back out to Chicago, and finish my last leg of the tour to New York from there. The problem is, I am completely out of money.

I’ve been on this tour for nearly six months now, and I think overall it’s been an even greater success than I ever imagined it could be. I’d like the chance to finish it strong, as well as make it home to New York before it gets too cold. I want to end this tour doing better shows, more frequently than any other point in the trip. So, for this last, final push I am imploring you all who believe in this project, it’s merit, and just all the work my director Jolie and I have done since last July (She’s just had a baby this past month BTW!!!!) please hit donate and give anything you can, as soon as you can, so I can book a flight to Chicago and finish this mission.

I know many of you have been supporting my throughout my journey, and know truly, from the bottom of my heart, that this trip is probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I thank God for this opportunity, and I am so deeply appreciative of all of your help, and support, monetary or otherwise over the past year. But I still have a little ways to go, and I’d just like to opportunity to finish this thing the way it should be finished.

That’s it. There’s no long speech. I just need a plane ticket to Chicago, to get back on my bike before August, and the sooner you donate the better, because it will take a few days to process and transfer your donations to my bank account. If you do have the inclination to donate something, anything, please, please, please follow it. Please help if you can, and spread the word. And feel free to go back, check out my blog archives and review for yourself the crazy details of my little Shakespearean adventure thus far. God bless you.

Click here to donate.