original campfire

Sort of like the singularity of the Big Bang, the original campfire is where the idea for series of 12 campfire talks celebrating the 100th birthday of America’s national parks, the Centennial Campfire Trilogy of books, Campfire Park, and Nature Folk Inc all came to life. Not that it happened overnight.

Old school angel
And why it took 14 years

Believe it or not …

I sang my first song in 1999.

Playing to a packed audience at The Pavilion

It would take another 15 years to record my first song. The reason? For one, smart phones didn’t become ubiquitous until sometime around 2010. Another reason might be that my songs were never planned events. Sometimes it would be a day before a farewell party and I didn’t have a song. Or I had a song that was half cooked and still being very unsure if I would be ready for show time. But I learned my lesson quickly: People preferred any song to no song at all. And I was pretty much a persona non-grata if I showed up empty handed without a song to play. The question still needs to be asked: How many songs did I sing in the great “blacked out” period between 1999 and 2014. If I had to guess — and just counting farewell songs — I would say a good two dozen, maybe more.

Many of them I wrote down. Just as many I forgot the chords. But maybe that’s the most incredible thing. One song called The Ballad of the Florida Panther I only sang once, and really even then when I sang it I was just trying to follow the chicken scratch page of lyrics I’d scribbled together in the day before Krista left. The year was 2005. How I managed to reconstruct the song (and the chords) fifteen years later is anybody’s guess other than I’m 100 percent positive I remembered the correct chords. I’m not saying I’m a great artist, but twenty years after singing my first song and barely being able to play more than a few chords I have a pretty good webpage. Next steps: Live performance. Ready or not world, Bobby Angel is ready, willing and able to tour. But not until I get done my third album, yet to be named.

To New Beginnings
The hidden success of failure

Have you ever heard that saying:

“You can’t be a hero in your own hometown?”

The first podcast

Well, I think the same sort of applies to initial success.

Success too early in a process, or life, may feel good at the time, but can also be the kiss of death in the long run. Why? Success breads complacency in the same way failure inspires you to overcome.

My point is this:

Rudi and I co-wrote three books which, when we were done, inspired us to do a podcast. Both the books and the podcast were utter “initial” failures by traditional metrics. The silver lining was that I never lost faith. And it made me realize: Less about selling a product, the trilogy of books was the ultimate deep dive into exploring “big canvas” ideas that required 450,000 words of space and six years of time to properly spread out, metabolize and incubate in our minds. If you think writing a book, let alone a trilogy, is hard – try co-writing it with a Rudi! The mystery of the creative chemistry of our unlikely partnership became a reoccurring theme in the books. Our brief foray into a poorly-produced podcast (to discuss the books) was a dismal failure, too. Please listen to them and I think you’ll agree.

The second podcast

But all clouds have a silver linings:

The process, and those failures, was how the Nature Folk Movement (NFM) was born.

Thank God for failure – really it’s the only way we improve.

Nature Folk Inc
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

The Nature Folk Movement and the need for Nature Folk Inc was born organically and accidentally around a campfire at Collier County Museum in the heart of Naples, Florida at the tail end of a gala event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the formation of Big Cypress National Preserve.

The original campfire

The festivities had all but wound down when a fellow acquaintance named Ranger Rudi (soon to become a close friend) and myself found ourselves hunkering down at the campfire eating whatever food was left. “Before the smart phone, before TV,” Rudi lamented, “– the campfire was where people let their guard down, connected with one another and talked about life.” Ranger Rudi continued on about how he was “gearing up” to give a series of campfire talks at a cluster of campgrounds in the remote swamp preserve. At the end of the conversation he mentioned that he’d be using a Power Point. “A Power Point!? At a campfire talk!?” I interrupted in shock.

And so was born the idea of Ranger Rudi and Hydro Bob teaming up. In place of Rudi’s Power Point talk, we opted to developed a Shakespearian (or shall we say Vaudevillian) campfire skit. And here’s the real cincher: I would bring along my guitar (and a bunch of self-written nature ballads). In total, Rudi and I gave about a dozen campfire talks, each one building on the next and each one also leading up to the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, or Centennial celebration, of its formation in 1916. By our final campfire talk, on the eve of that fateful anniversary date, Rudi and I had already pivoted towards a new project: A book-length version of our half-hour campfire tale. It was just a half-year into that project when the new epiphany emerged: Not just one book, we had enough material for three (i.e. a trilogy). And so the odyssey began. In total, it took us 6 years to complete all the books. It was at that finish line that another moment of clairvoyance struck: We weren’t so much interested in hawking the books as we in continuing the conversation of the many overarching themes our literary endeavor opened up.

By the summer of 2020 the larger vision had finally coalesced: Nature Folk Inc was born. Nature Folk Inc is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization located in Naples, Florida focused on environmental education and outreach, but with a twist. Our goal is to reconnect people to nature by rekindling the traditional values and activities that the internet and smart phone culture have diminished or devalued … and finding a way to get them back.

Bob and Rudi’s first campfire gig

Nature Folk Inc is an umbrella organization that integrates an ecosystem of websites and creative content aimed at raising environmental awareness and outreach for the Collier County, the Big Cypress Swamp, the Everglades, the Great State of Florida and pretty much the entire Earth. Our mission? To be positive and proactive and not stop what we’re doing until until the Nature Folk Movement (NFM) touches every corner of the Earth. What exactly is the NFM? It’s a growing societal responsibility and urge to become connected to and restore the natural world around us.

Our growing ecosystem started with a rather well-known and highly regarded water-cycle awareness website called Go Hydrology (https://gohydrology.org) that sprung to life in 2008. From the start, its goal has always been to give people an online avenue for feeling “at home” in the water cycle. As the availability of online information has exponentially expanded over the years, we also feel there is a growing gap. Technology has created a divide between humanity and nature. But why?

That’s where Nature Folk Inc’s unique approach steps in to fill the void. Our secret? We aim to connect with your heart as much as we do your mind. And we’re not afraid to go out on limb. And yes, a little dash of humor also helps out. It’s primary websites include GoHydrology.org, BobbyAngel.org and CampfirePark.org.

Despite a small crowd, it was a success

We’re not saying we have all the answers here at Nature Folk Inc. But we do feel like we’re on a promising track. Our aim is to be a voice in the wilderness that gives the water, the trees and the animals a proper seat at the table where the decisions are being made. And we’re not alone. If you’re reading this, you’re part of the club and we value your feedback and ideas.

Accidental Trilogy???

The origin of this book is as improbable as it is absurd.

In December 2014 Rudi was trying to get back in the groove of civilian life after returning from a nine month tour overseas in Kuwait while Bob was on the mend from a procedure to get his heart to beat right.

But for one night everything was right, perfect in fact. Big Cypress National Preserve was celebrating its fortieth birthday at the Collier County Museum. As the festivities wound down, Bob found himself entering the ember glow and crackle of the campfire to take a brief respite when a lumbering Rudi stepped forth from the shadows.

“Can you help a fellow American down on his luck?” Rudi asked with a slightly brooding look on his face. The flicker, aroma and sound of the campfire also made him simultaneously relax as he approached.

South Florida’s winter tourist season was just about to begin. Three weeks and it would be in full swing. The kickoff for Rudi was January 9th. That’s when he was scheduled to give an evening talk around a campfire at a remote campground ― halfway the distance between Miami and Naples ― in the epicenter of the swamp preserve.

“I love the idea behind the campfire program,” Rudi lamented as he settled in around the orb of light and reached for a slider sandwich that Bob offered from his paper plate. “The problem is, nowadays, the actual campfire … munch munch … is almost an afterthought. It’s the giant outdoor screen that gets all the audience’s attention. I just sit in back … munch munch … and let the Power Point do all the work … munch munch.”

“A POWER POINT at a campfire? Apocryphal!” Bob stammered in disbelief. He flicked a pebble toward the pulsing embers. “—That doesn’t seem right.”

Rudi conceded as much as he gestured toward the campfire with a second slider sandwich he’d grabbed from the plate.

“The campfire should be ‘center stage.’ It’s how Yellowstone … munch munch … the entire National Park system … and human civilization for that matter … got its start.”

Rudi looked at the lone remaining slider. “—Are you gonna eat that?” he asked looking up.

“No, take it. It’s all yours.”

“Thanks man,” Rudi said in a brightening tone. “These sandwiches … munch munch … are really delicious. What are they?’’

“Pulled pork.”

“Oh yeah … munch munch … so, like I was sayin’ about the campfire …”

. . .

Fast forward a week later to the edge of town where Bob greeted Rudi with a proposition he couldn’t turn down. “What do you say you forget about the Power Point?” Bob suggested. “We’ll partner up to do a campfire talk ‘on the campfire,’ just you, me … and my guitar.”

“So … are you going to send me an email?”

“NO! I’m not gonna send any EMAIL … for crying out loud!” Bob gasped. “― A presentation like this, you gotta work on in-person. It’s a theatrical production.”

“You mean like Vaudeville?”

“NO! Not Vaudeville. I’m talking Off-Broadway. You gotta carefully choreograph everything in real space. It’s more than just a script.”

Rudi nodded his head as the concept slowly soaked in. A moment or two later he broke out of his reverie with an affirmative yes.

In fact, he called it a “capital idea.”

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