Tuesday, February 19, 2019


I do not typically post personal insights here, though this one has a conclusion that every living human shares.

A tribute read at the memorial of: Cathy Herrera Kelly
My oldest sister who died suddenly without warning
May 8, 1961- Jan 28, 2019

As you have all experienced, Cathy was an incredibly lovable person... to everybody... and I say that even as her brother.
I have great memories of us growing up in the streets of SF during the crazy times of the late 60s and 70s, when the culture of San Francisco truly transformed to become the most liberated, accepting and inclusive city in the world. We were, and are all still part of that culture.

In Cathy’s adult life, she lived genuinely as a global gypsy.
No one in the family ever really knew where she was
Or by what means she managed to get there.
Typically, She was either in Cairo or Buenos Aires... or somewhere in between
But always with SF as a home base...

Her liberated feminist side became obsessed with the personality of Eva Peron and she did in fact set out and create a documentary about her many years ago.
...She is likely still editing it in the afterlife.
Cathy charmed her way into meeting living family members, dignitaries, and government workers who were all legitimately part of the Eva Peron story... Cathy’s theme song has since become "Don't cry for me Argentina". Today there will be a small community in Argentina crying for Cathy.

And no doubt there are a lot of handsome Arabic men in Cairo weeping her loss as well.
I always joked around with her saying she probably had a guy in every port.
She would always laugh and shake her head, but never denied it.

Cathy was notoriously late for everything... so on the day of her death, when she was over an hour late to meet for lunch with her daughter Nicole... it was not unusual.

However, this time... seems like she was in fact early for her own death. Fully clothed, love in her heart for her newly born first and only grandchild and ready to meet Nicole…seems that she simply laid down, and in a moment - just died of natural causes. It was her time.
As far as death goes for the dying, it's a beautiful way to depart the world.

Cathy died in my favorite place in SF, on the vertical slope of Telegraph Hill right off the Filbert St steps.
Climbing that stairway alone is enough to nearly kill somebody.
And as luck will have it, my partner lives at the base of that magical hill and I am blessed to stay in that beautiful place facing the cliff, smelling the hanging gardens, and every day feeling the history of the first SF settlers who anchored their ships right there at the base of the enchanted hill. I shared much time with Cathy on her stints in the city lugging things and guiding people who have nearly lost their breath on the way up that cliff stairway.

One of my favorite memories on the hill with Cathy is from some time ago on a quiet Christmas Day in the city.
Several family members and I climbed the stairs with a giant pumpkin in tow.
We got to the top and perched ourselves at the highest sheer part of the cliff. Armed with sharpies, we all wrote on that pumpkin what grievances we wanted to purge for that year... we threw it off the cliff and watched it smash into a million pieces,
And in that moment, there was laughter, and satisfaction, and some of our grief actually did disappear when that pumpkin ricocheted, rolled and smashed into the ground far below...

And that brings me to grief: whatever grief you all feel, not just for Cathy, but also in your own lives whether it is Being estranged from loved ones, estranged from friends, or any other kind of riffs…
Professional, cultural, or family-wise ...THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY RECONCILABLE.

I know this to be a truth ... because I piss off a lot of people!
And I genuinely reconcile with people consistently.
Let’s face it:
In any riff, both sides are always accountable
Let’s take responsibility for our part in it.
And I know that each and every one of you will most likely be harboring some type of animosity.
But it's ultimately useless, it's cowardly, and it wastes so much time and energy, and …love.
It’s so easy to stand behind our pride and our egos...

But it takes great bravery to JUST GET OVER OURSELVES and our pointless squabbles.
Rise above them.
With acceptance, mutual respect and collaboration…Everybody has the power to love more, to give more, to create more and to care more in the tiniest or largest ways possible within your abilities. .
It is always within our own strength and power to mend and move forward.
Because, as this gathering today proves, we never
know when our time is up.

Feb 2019

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Whirling Worlds of Gregangelo Herrera and Velocity Arts and Entertainment 

Gregangelo Herrera

Life is filled with grand characters who whirl by us and sometimes with us. Last month, I had the great pleasure of working with and befriending Gregangelo Herrera, an empire of creativity- a man, a circus, a museum and a sweet advocate for internal liberation through collaboration.

Sweet Can Circus /The Levins’ production of My Friend Hafiz in SF
 Greg was hired as the whirling dervish king for our co-production of My Friend Hafiz, which my wife Julia and I were a part of in San Francisco with The Levins’ World Folk Ensemble, Sweet Can Circus and Broadway director, Mindy Cooper. Greg runs Velocity Arts and Entertainment and, although he commands a three-ring circus of his own, joined our production with the stipulation that he be given a sturdy pair of roller skates.

Before meeting him, I was bemused when one of Greg’s personal assistants answered my email instead of Greg when I reached out to coordinate a band rehearsal. I also spoke to another assistant when I tried to reach him on the phone. I had seen a clip of Greg’s whirling dervish routine with Cirque du Soleil and heard about his Gregangelo Museum. I was beginning to think that he really was a king and might arrive in a golden carriage or on a throne. Instead, the first day of rehearsals, he arrived on his roller skates and was as friendly and down-to-Earth as you would want any of your dearest friends to be. He was warm and had a treasure store of kindness and good will that he doled out with smiles and a laugh that leveled the playing field and invited instant camaraderie.

Here is a link showing Gregangelo performing with Cirque Du Soleil:


The entrance of the Gregangelo Museum in SF

Greg graciously volunteered his museum for our band rehearsal. I had been told (with raised eyebrows) about his psychedelic museum. When we parked in a suburban Sunset district neighborhood, Julia asked which house it was and I pointed to the one with the elaborately painted dome inside the platform landing. At first glance, the house almost blended in but, as we walked up and were greeted by mysterious music, a giant Buddha and Egyptian iconography, it was clear we were entering a well-manicured Alice in Wonderland labyrinth that would have made Salvador Dali smile.

The Levins World Folk Ensemble at the Gregangelo Museum

We were welcomed by one of Greg’s tour guides and ushered into a space that I am still taking in. Every room had its own theme. While we waited for Greg to join us, we were fascinated by the young artists who looked like they were a part of one of David Bowie’s glitter glam rock tours. The house was a rave with no need for external stimulants.
Trying to find the bathroom was an adventure in and of itself, down a hallway that looked like you were crawling through a keyhole. Every inch of the bathroom was bejeweled from top to bottom.

A restroom in the Gregangelo Museum

When Greg arrived, he explained that for forty years, he has had live-in artists contributing to the space. There are 36 rooms, every one of them a gem of contemplation. The house was immaculately clean and while he has actually moved out, he commands a team of artists and performers who help him give tours and are part of his Velocity Circus.

The tours of the museum and the performances Velocity creates are designed to create an immersive experience to, “Connect people on the most basic level,” as Greg said. He has his guests turn off their cell phones and wind their way through a mind-bending maze of intricacies with the intention of breaking down the barriers we put up which hypnotize us into going through life on automatic pilot. The museum is an attempt to remind people how wealthy they are inside.

 Greg told us that when he decided to become an artist, he threw himself into his career with no back up plan and found, after he became successful, that collaboration was a well-spring of strength and prosperity which made his career into meaningful service. He has fostered artists and performers who were convinced they couldn’t succeed because their parents told them they couldn’t. His advice has been, “Be successful and they will learn. Teach them what can happen.”

Velocity Arts and Entertainment

The prankster’s gleam in Greg’s eyes challenges indoctrination by unsupportive parents, religion and power structures that propagate fear. Velocity has currently come into corporate settings where the person in charge presents them with a huge check and tells them the performance that they have been working on for a month has been cancelled because they are afraid of what might happen. Greg’s Velocity team have created environmental and thematic atmospheres for such companies as Lucasfilm, Warner Brothers, and Microsoft. His multicultural ensemble create fantastical characters and settings, using aerial acts and optical illusions to directly interact with their audiences. They seek to touch the heart of what captivates the child inside the adult in these corporate settings.

 Greg has observed the societal panic that has created a taboo of touching one another in the work space. Obviously, a desire to end sexual harassment in the work space is beautiful but a blanket mandate against any physical human contact, driven by litigation anxiety, is tragic.

 Greg said he and his performers see that people in the spaces they go into, as well as many of the people who tour his museum, are starved for affection in a way that they are not even aware of. When they get handed a check for not performing, his company often takes to the streets to share what they have prepared with an unsuspecting public.

“We aim to uplift the vibrations of the most blighted areas in our city and help elevate the spirit of the city. We know there is a physical reaction to anyone encountering a performance, one that palpably alters the mood. We see it in people’s eyes. Even in those who go out of their way to ignore it, their senses are ignited. Performances are what we have to contribute and share.”- Gregangelo Herrera

Gregangelo Herrera and friend

It is always a magnificent treat to be given license to engage with the wonder that is constantly in motion within and around us. Gregangelo, through his museum and Velocity offers us the chance to expand our capacity to touch and be touched in a genuine way, not only through extravagant outrageous atmospheres and performances, but with extra loving-kindness.

Velocity Promotional Reel:

Originally published at www.streamoflightblog.com on January 31, 2019.

License to Engage in Wonder