𝐻𝑒𝓁𝓁𝑜 𝒜𝓃𝑔𝑒𝓁'𝓈 𝐹𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓃𝒹𝓈!

This is Bradley, Angel’s cousin from Missouri, she asked me to write to you this week, as she’s busy prepping for two tours. I’m so excited to let y’all have a little peak into my crazy life !!

I’m writing to you from my bedroom unit on the Disney Line Cruise Ship #409 (nicknamed the “S.S. Goofy”), which is where I spend just about 10 months out of every year! It’s a magical place to call home. Sometimes me and the Goofy Gals (our self-named coworker friend group!) just sit out on the deck at night drinking tepid Pina coladas, looking at the stars, and marveling that THIS is our life! We certainly can’t leave, and we certainly wouldn’t want to!

Working as a cruise line performer is like living in an eternal summer, where the sunsets and sunrise happen simultaneously, nothing ever ends or begins, but rather all things blend together in a free-form self-sufficient colony of pure Joy and Glamour. Angel and I talk on the phone every day; she always asks me to hold the phone out to the water so she can hear the waves. Lately she’s been going on and on about some newfangled idea in her head that the end of summer in New York City makes it feel like everything is dying, that ambition is twice as hard to feed, that youthful bliss and spur-of-the-moment excitement feel banished to a realm that can never be touched again…

I never feel that here! Here, I have evenness, a stable stream of goodness and purity trickling down from the beautiful minds of the Walt Disney executives into the hearts and minds of every boy and girl, no matter your age! I perform nightly as part of an acapella troupe called “The Seven Sea-Notes”, where we perform a mixture of show tunes, Disney classics, and elaborate hockets using officially licensed Disney phonemes. My favorite to perform is an originally composed piece called “Goofy Hockets for Seven Silly Rockets”, where we combine sounds of Goofy’s iconic “HYUH” exclamation and SpaceX rocket launch sounds! I can guarantee you’ve never heard something as electrifying and inspiring as the sound of Goofy over the sounds of American industry in action!

Angel likes to talk to me about this thing called “Big Mind” and “lifetime constancy” in art and life. She says that a career in music is kind of like a “durational performance art” or a “showcase of endurance”. I smile when we talk about things like this because I couldn’t agree more. When I feel trapped here on Disney Line Cruise Ship #409, I like to unlock my hotel room safe and pull out my 10 year performance contract to the Walt Disney Company, and just cozy into the feeling that I have eight more years of guaranteed performances and crowds. Maybe Angel has a point; maybe the performances we do here every night will only make sense from the perspective of 5 or more years from now.

Me and the Goofy Gals just adore this singer called Jeffrey Lewis. We like to cover his tracks in our secret after-hours performance group called “Swabbing Gristle” for the late night crowd in the gallows of the ship. Recently, Jeffrey gave an onstage eulogy to honor the late David Berman. Lewis and Berman collaborated on some visual art together and communicated solely over email. Lewis was naturally a huge fan of Berman’s and tried to maintain a “professionally friendly” relationship with him, setting a boundary to never come off as too much of a fanboy. But in his final email to Berman before he passed, he broke this self-imposed rule, praising the poet-musician’s endurance and durational commitment to form:

"I'm celebrating the finished art by loading up my five disc CD player with Silver Jews albums, and I had a listening marathon last night. I listened to the remaining albums this morning. I'm sure you don't need to hear it from me, but you are an absolute staggering master of artistic power. It's a body of work of such strength and power. The songs, every line, the music, the singing, the entire aesthetic concept and execution, and existence of what you have brought into the world is like an air drop of ten tons of sheer soul-nourishment. Delicious and nutritious home-cooked, a fantastic menu. Wonderful food for an impoverished and starving war-torn zone behind enemy lines. You had to fly some unimaginably rigorous and brave and intense missions to bring us what you've brought us, and you are the only one who could do it. Even when your commanders told you not to; even when it seemed like an impossible mission, or a worthless mission- you did it over and over. The souls who get their hands on these meals will be nourished heartily by them, and we thank you for your service. Life, our brains, our souls, our hearts- society; it's a war zone. And we've had the shit kicked out of us, and you're Rambo. Well, even if Reagan put Rambo on a stamp, it wouldn't have healed his warrior heart of the horrors he's endured, but maybe he can stand up straight and accept a salute. That's part of his job, too."
If life is a war zone, life on the Disney cruise liner is an idyllic escape into an infinite realm of art performance. I wonder if Jeffrey Lewis likes cruises. Here, nourishment is never a question; it's provided ad infinitum in the form of constant entertainment, all-inclusive food and drinks, a rotating cast of characters in vacationing mode.
Angel told me that Julia Cumming once explained the artist's life as being part of a volunteer army. I wonder how that fits in with Lewis's portrayal of Berman as the Rambo of nourishing Art in wartime. Perhaps if one views the world in peace-time, it is more like a volunteer army: we can quit, and life goes on, our art isn't missed, someone will fill our place. But on the S.S. Goofy, we're the only entertainment available! The people need their Disney Rambo!

Another artist we like to cover in Swabbing Gristle is John Cage. This guy was full of bops! Cage's foray into reproducing Erik Satie's "Vexations", for which Satie originally wrote a foreword that suggested the piece should be played 840 times in a row. Cage took this foreword to heart 50 years later, having a rotating cast of pianists and performers play the half-sheet of music over and over in an extremely long durational performance at the Pocket Theatre in New York City. At first the repetition was awkward, disjointed, draining. But then, "by the third round or so, the personalities and playing techniques of the pianists had been almost completely subsumed by the music. The music simply took over.”

We've repeated our rendition of "Goofy Hockets for Seven Silly Rockets" plenty of times. At first there was some hiccups, but now performing the piece is like breathing. Repetition breeds evenness. Evenness breeds familiarity, acceptance. John Cage said of Vexations, "the music first becomes so familiar that it seems extremely offensive and objectionable. But after that the mind slowly becomes incapable of taking further offense, and a very strange, euphoric acceptance and enjoyment begin to set in . . ." To all the YouTube cruise reviewers lambasting the Seven Sea-Notes, just wait until you've seen our show 840 times!
The artist gives and gives, emptying herself out night after night to a rotating cast of audiences. What do you do with that emptiness that creeps up the more you do the things you love? Rilke wrote, "How snugly the others live in their heated poems and stay, content, in the narrow similes. Taking part. Only you move like the moon. And underneath brightens and darkens the nocturnal landscape, the holy, the terrified landscape, which you feel in departures. No one gave it away more sublimely, gave it back more fully to the universe, without any need to hold on."

Rilke's above ode to the poet Friedrich Hölderlin and Jeffrey Lewis's ode to David Berman share an essential respect for the lifelong commitment of the artist to consistently translating the inner world to the outer world, communicating that which most cannot put into words, ever-so slowly mining away at the depths of the heart and emptying it out into the world. What Berman and Hölderlin shared, perhaps, was a cosmic acceptance of the emptiness that follows after a lifetime of soul-bearing.

Well, I just heard the third foghorn of the day (which is a Paulstretch of the Goofy scream) which means it's time to hit the green room and prep for the Seven Sea-Notes' third performance of this trip. We're performing an acapella piece composed by an original Disney Company composer from the initial war-time era of the company, called "Like It or Not, I'm Dropping A Huge Bomb of Joy on Your Heart." I play a U.S. Military guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that abandons his post to see a Broadway play and falls in love with theater. I'll be sure to let Angel know how it goes so you can all stay in the loop!

This is Bradley, signing off *salutes*

🎂 🎀 ❝𝐼𝒻 𝓎❁𝓊 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝒹𝓇𝑒𝒶𝓂 𝒾𝓉, 𝓎💞𝓊 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝒹💮 𝒾𝓉.❞ 🎀