Wednesday, December 24, 2014


by Ray Jason

AVENTURA was lunging over the crests of fourteen-foot waves and then plunging down their backs with rollicking gusto.   My enthusiasm was considerably more tempered.  In other words, I was semi-terrified.  The passage from Grand Cayman to Key West had already been a test of my solo sailing skills, and I had hoped that on the last night before arrival, the conditions would be pleasant.  But instead they were punishing. 
The wind was over 30 knots and because it was in the opposite direction of the powerful Gulf Stream, the waves were not just large but they were also steep and confused.  This was a perfect dark frightening night for anyone who wanted to experience the power and fury of Mother Ocean.
I had been trying to reach the Coast Guard by radio to check and see if all of the lighthouses along the reefs were functioning properly, but I was getting no response.  Then suddenly another sailboat hailed me and asked for my position.  We were about 5 miles apart and he too was headed for Key West.  We shared some fear-laced humor about the abysmal sea conditions and then I asked him where he was coming from.  There was a profound pause … and then he said he was returning from the “South Tortugas.”  At first this befuddled me because I had never heard of these islands, and then it suddenly hit me and I congratulated him on his clandestine visit to “The Forbidden Isle - CUBA.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Ray 1987

by Ray Jason

 Tucked away in the backwaters of these essays, there are a few brief references to a prior chapter in my life when I was a … JUGGLER.  And as might be expected, due to my fondness for the Unconventional Path, I did not juggle in ordinary venues like circuses or Las Vegas revues.  No, I was a street performer – and proud of it.  Indeed, I am STILL proud of it - because I was the very first of the San Francisco street jugglers.    
            This was back in the early 1970s, when street performing was beginning its modern American renaissance.  Those were glorious years when the sidewalks were alive with mimes and tap dancers and magicians and roller-skating accordionists.  Because we were pioneers, we were all joyously making it up as we went along.  As a continuation of the Sixties’ mentality of “let’s really embrace life,” our ragtag band of buskers was predominantly motivated by co-operation rather than competition.  We preferred being folk heroes to being stars.  As an unrepentant romantic, this was an exquisite community for me.  I could live frugally but comfortably, while making my favorite city a slightly better and happier place.  And my modest efforts were respected and cherished by my neighbors.  The Mayor of San Francisco even declared a day in my honor.
            That wistful-golden era lasted about two decades and then it began to tarnish.  Being a beloved San Francisco street entertainer was no longer enough for the newer performers.  They wanted to use the streets as a stepping stone to comedy clubs and sitcoms and The Big Time.  Witnessing this decline was too heartbreaking for me, and so I sailed away from it all - and began my sea gypsy life.