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I’m back from my 2016 Camino de Santiago and will be filling orders.
It’s easy to get addicted to walking long distance, especially through northern Spain. The scenery is breath taking and filled with historic culture. There’s castles, cathedrals and chocolates, OH MY! Castles, cathedrals and chocolates! OH MY!!
Astorga was the first place in Europe that chocolate was made, 500 years ago, before Brussels or Switzerland got into the act. There’s even a Museum of Chocolate in Astorga, not to be missed. One of the early Spanish explorers to South America, possibly Cortes, brought the recipe and method for making chocolate back with him, along with lots of gold.
The symbol of the Camino de Santiago is the scallop shell. My seashell flutes were and continue to be a hit along the Camino de Santiago. This year I brought about 20 shell flutes with me and sold all but three by the time I finished the walk in Finisterre, the ‘End of the World’ and the place Columbus set sail from on his historic adventure to the ‘new world’.
I walked with many different people from around the world during my six weeks on the traditional Camino. I walk slowly and take in the sights. This year I walked with an interesting man associated with Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS.
He bought one of my flutes and said he knew people at the university that may be interested in studying how and why it works. Perhaps they will be able to provide some answers that Rollins College Dept of Physics was not. We will see.
For now I plan to learn to speak Spanish so I can return to Spain and enjoy walking the many Camino de Santiagos for, hopefully, many years to come.
As of March 21, 2016 I will be walking the Camino de Santiago again (for my second time) and will not be taking or filling orders. Please do not order until further notice. Thank you and Buen Camino.
In 1968 Andy Warhol stated: “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes”. I’d like to amend that statement, forty six years later, to: “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 seconds”.
That’s approximately how long I got to play my seashell flute on stage in Madison Square Garden for America’s Got Talent. Celebrity judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel unceremoniously dashed my hopes and dreams of fame and fortune with four, BIG, red-letter X’s accompanied by the roar of what sounded like revved up chainsaws.
America’s Got Talent paid for my entire weekend, which included my round trip airfare from Orlando to JFK, ground transportation, two nights accommodations at the Affinia Manhattan, which is a grand hotel across the street from Madison Square Garden, food, $50 spending money and an incredible experience. My sister, Betsy, came with me. She paid for her own airfare and ground transportation and shared the hotel room with me. All in all we had a great weekend.
We arrived at the Affinia on Friday, April 4. It was raining and cold that afternoon. Betsy wanted to go up to the top of the Empire State Building. It was windy, cold and raining up there also. Only ten times worse. I could barely see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and thought of my grandmother, Bridget, arriving by sea from Ireland in 1898 under similar circumstances. Betsy found the spot where the little boy sat waiting for his new mother, Meg Ryan, in the movie ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.
Early Saturday morning we took a taxi to Central Park. People were ice skating, flowers were blooming, bag pipers piping, runners running, dogs playing off-leash until nine, buskers busking, horses pulling decked out carriages and singers singing the most beautiful spirituals beneath the Bethesda Fountain stairway.
It was such a beautiful, clear, cool, spring day that we walked the thirty blocks back to the Affinia. We went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then watched ice skaters in Rockefeller Center. Betsy bought hot frozen pretzels and cashmere scarves from street vendors. We toured Penn Station under Madison Square Garden. Later that afternoon Betsy found the world’s largest pillow fight in Washington Square. She had a blast.
I, on the other hand, was told by AGT producer’s to be in Madison Square Garden, by one thirty Saturday afternoon, for a camera interview about my life and act. I watched people practice their acts. Some were good-great-magnificent. Others, not so. I waited…until 8:30 pm for my interview to begin.
I was supposed to perform at 5:45 pm but, due to delays, I didn’t get to go on stage until 9:15 pm or so. By that time everyone, including the judges, were tired and wanted to go home. I was second to last. I had been told by AGT producers to play ‘Summertime’. I stated my name, age and what I was going to do. Within fifteen seconds the judges ended my performance. I walked off the stage, out the door and met up with Betsy in the lobby. We split a pastrami sandwich at the Backstage Deli.
Betsy was really angry with the judges and AGT. She had sat in the audience since 4:45 pm with thousands of others. She yelled herself hoarse during the audience training sessions wherein the camera(s) capture the audience applauding, cheering, booing, etc. on cue, before any actual performances begin. Images of the audience reactions can be inserted into the actual show when and where needed. The whole show is highly scripted. Little is left to chance.
The following morning we checked out of the Affinia at 9 am. Ground transportation took us to JFK. The plane ride back to Orlando took a couple of hours. In general we both had a lot of fun. Thanks AGT and thank you Betsy for coming with me to share this wonderful and odd experience. Would I do it again? Yes. But next time I’d play along with music. It would sound much better.
My thanks to Dr. Chris Deason of Winter Park, Fl for re-creating my previous website into a much more professional one than it was. He also made it possible for me to begin selling my seashell instruments on line, something I never would have been able to do by myself. My computer skills are limited to writing blogs, answering e-mails, surfing the net and occasionally buying an item on line. But that is going to change soon. I will be learning how to manage my website with Chris’s help.
Even the best website in the world needs good advertising to generate sales. Yes, I discovered and developed a new and unique family of musical wind instruments; but the world is not beating a path to my door. Very few people know about me or my seashell instruments. Mostly it’s those who have seen me at farmer’s markets and Native American Flute Festivals. Some may even stumble across this website while surfing the net.
It has been suggested that I use social media as a marketing tool for my website. To me my friends are just that: “FRIENDS”. I don’t feel they should be ‘USED’ to generate sales or encouraged to tell their friends about my business. Sorry but that’s just the way I feel. And besides, I’m not on any social media sites anyway. That may change in the future, but for different reasons.
I decided to audition for America’s Got Talent (AGT) this year, thinking that if I make it onto national television playing my seashell flute just once, that that could be great marketing for my new website. I think people will be intrigued by what I discovered. There’s always the possibility that I might make a fool of myself also. There’s no telling what will happen on America’s Got Talent. But that’s why I like the show.
So I drove twelve hours north on January 28, 2014 from Orlando, Fl to the AGT audition in Greensboro, NC. It snowed six inches that night. I arrived at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Greensboro at 7:30 am the next morning for my 8 am audition. It was 12 degrees outside. I wore snow boots, heavy pants, a sweat shirt, parka, hat and mittens. I love snow. Before I moved to Orlando seven years ago, to take care of my elderly father, I lived ‘up North’, so I still own a lot of winter clothes.
I waited for hours along with thousands of other ‘hopefuls’ to audition in front of the AGT producers. The atmosphere inside the large and well lit audition room was jovial. Each performer was given 90 seconds to impress the the judge with their talent. Most of the performers in my group of ten were singers. One guy was a comedian. I was the last to perform. I showed the judge a sample seashell flute so he could see what I was going to play ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ with.
After I finished we were all thanked for taking the time to audition and asked to wait outside in the hall. A few minutes later a young woman came out and asked me to come back into the room with her. The producer was a young man sitting behind a laptop at a banquet table. He asked me if I could play anything else. I said sure and played ‘If I Only Had A Brain’. Then he said that the executive producers wanted to see me upstairs.
There were three executive producers seated behind laptops in this room. One asked me to stand on an X taped to the floor in front of a television camera and play three tunes of my choosing. I played ‘If I Only Had A Brain’, Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ and ‘Danny Boy’. I missed some notes I think because I was a bit intimidated by the TV camera. One of the producers began shaking his head from side to side which made me feel like I really messed up.
They thanked me for taking the time to audition for them and said that they would call within a month’s time if I made it to the next round of auditions. If I didn’t there would be no call. That’s it. I collected my belongings in the room downstairs and drove back to Orlando.
On March 3rd a producer from AGT called and told me I’d been selected for the next round of auditions to be held in New York City April 5th in front of the celebrity judges. They are taking care of everything to get me there and back. I’m excited, to say the least. I don’t know what to expect. It’ll be springtime in the Big Apple however and I’ll be playing ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ inside Radio City Music Hall, I hope. This is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave. Play ball!!