Magician on a Bicycle

Mardi Gras has begun. This last weekend was the first of the parades, the first time the streets were so packed with people that building a crowd takes nothing more than setting your stuff down. The streets have gotten faster, there’s more traffic, more competition, and more money.

I changed the oil on the bike a few weeks ago, removing the rubber plug temporary-fix to my stripped oil drain, which held for over 2,000 miles. I replaced the plug with a new one, only to find a huge puddle of oil under the bike the next morning. Fortunately it held up while I rode around town, test riding it for the first time since opening up the engine & doing the valve adjustment myself.

Front room turned garage

Front room turned garage

The bike is now in a shop having a piece welded into the drain, which hopefully doesn’t split the case.. Until then, I’ve had some good chuckles to myself as I ride a bicycle around the French Quarter while wearing a “Magician on a Motorcycle” sign on my backpack.

Before Carnival started, it had been a pretty rough time out there. December is notoriously slow, but this year there have been Saturdays with a desolation that outdid the sweltering days of summer. Between the lack of traffic & some strings of bad weather, it’s been slim pickings for us street performers. Really there were only a few weeks of it, between Christmas and New Years was pretty active, but it had been slowly sloping after that until just recently. Though the slump was uncomfortable from a financial point of view, the fact that there was nothing to lose out there led to some interesting new discoveries.

There were a few days where the daily pattern consisted of something like this. I’d get out there early and hold down a pitch until it seemed like there was enough traffic to begin. Then I’d have trouble getting shows started because it was just too early in the day. I’d get frustrated to the point of not giving a f$%k, & then I’d go about the rest of the day radiating that carefree attitude. As soon as I hit rock bottom and stopped caring about anything other than having fun, the day would turn right around – people would stop, the shows would get better, & the hats bigger.

I tried my hand at a fleur de lis the other day, here’s what the cuts looked like last week.

The magic show I have now is the first of many forms of performance I’d like to dabble with. The goal is to be a master street performer — to have the skills and abilities to survive/thrive in any town in the world, making a living by selling an idea and bringing strangers together in a spontaneous energy exchange. Since there was little risk in experimenting during the drought, I’ve come up with some fun new ideas. I’ve been starting the show with my helmet on, setting up my rope & props while using a bird whistle to mimic speech. The idea was spawned by me simply not wanting to deal with these people. I’d already had enough of trying to get them to interact, squandering my energy on uninterested individuals. As soon as I launched into my own world though, people were pulled in like magnets.

Within a week or two I will be experimenting with miming. I’ve been using the bird whistle as a substitute for communication even when walking around in between my shows. With the right body language, you can get just about anything across. Today, my voice is still pretty raw from the weekend, so I am going to try and pull out the amp, mic, harmonica and beatbox. I’ve been intimidated by the music scene here for a long time, but now I don’t really have anything to lose. I can’t do my current show without talking, and I don’t have face paint to do a decent mime, and since it’s a Tuesday it’s not like I’m missing out on a whole lot of money. I’ve wanted to get my street music act together for a while, and I think it’s great that circumstances have convened to force me into it.

“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
-Max Ehrmann