Riders’ Block

Riders Block

If you spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror at the giant tire you barely swerved past, you’re much more likely to hit the lonely full front fender sitting in the middle of the freeway lane. Bearing that in mind, I’ll save the grief of apologizing for the lack of posts.

I’m finally back in the saddle. You can never truly appreciate something until it’s gone. You’ll never really know how much you’ve missed something until it’s returned. I went two whole months living as a Magician on a Bicycle. Experiencing the sensation of riding again after such long a break has me looking back and wondering how in the hell I let myself go so long without flying. I once heard, in reference to meditation, that even not practicing is a form of practice. The idea is that you can not know what it is like to practice for the first time in two months without spending two months not practicing.

Philosophical excuses aside, I really ought to be writing (and riding!) more.

I putted around New Orleans for a few weeks after getting the oil plug fixed. It hasn’t leaked a drop yet, and my fingers will remain crossed until further notice. Now I’m just a hundred miles out from Austin, TX. I’ll be there for SXSW, a huge music & culture festival. After how the season has been coming along in NOLA, I’m quite ready to have more crowds than I handle. Plus, I needed some time alone on the road.

Mardi Gras was sort’ve an embarassment this year. Early signs indicated the season was already off to a slow start. Mardi Gras shifts around the calendar each year, and this year it was an early one. Throw in a full-fledged invasion of Corporate America for the Super Bowl, smack-dab in the middle of New Orleans’ most sacred celebration, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Normally a two-weekend build with a climax on Fat Tuesday, the big game split the holiday right down the middle, interrupting the flow. CBS literally rented out Jackson Square, setting up three stages to broadcast sports news and talk shows. Canned applause filled the air for a week straight. Their firework show on the Thursday before Super Bowl outdid the city of New Orleans’ New Years celebration. For almost three weeks, all of the traffic in the immediate area consisted of CBS & co. staff on the job. Hotel prices skyrocketed, meaning the only people that could afford to stay for Mardi Gras were upper-echelon types.

For a region that relies on its culture as its main commodity, stuffing a bunch of mainstream media and corporate sponsorships down its throat proved to be a great way to choke the city. It was slightly disturbing to see. I heard the phrase “Hardly Grah” & “Mardi Blah” being used frequently by local performers. The Stupor Bowl filled New Orleans with a massive crowd that was not there to experience New Orleans. All of the tourists were pushed out of the city. They had CBS second-line’s marching around, groups of brass bands and flag bearers marching around for the cameras, lacking the enthusiasm of a real second-line because all of the participants were on the clock, celebrating nothing other than their wage.

Anyways, I’m just happy it’s over.

When someone asks me what I do for a living, my response is something like this.

I interrupt other people’s day. I convince a bunch of strangers to stop what they’re doing and huddle together in a circle. I talk to them for a while, pour my energy into the crowd, instruct them to amplify and return it to me, and then convince them to pay me for doing so. I am a professional spectacle, a story seller.

This month marks one year working full time as a magician. I moved to New Orleans in January of 2012, worked a construction gig for two months to provide the cash necessary to float myself past the initial learning curve. The first two months were some of the most trying times of my adult life. I chose N.O. to learn in because it is hard. The endless party that is New Orleans has enough distractions to rival Vegas (which I haven’t worked yet, Sin City might even be easier). If you can work here, you can work anywhere. First starting out, I had no idea how to orchestrate a show. When I got into town I was standing on the corner with a hat on the ground, doing (what I later learned to be) trickle magic with coins while beatboxing with a harmonica rack. The show had no beginning, no middle, no end. Just a rookie learning to fail.The fantastic community of magicians in town really took me under their wings and showed me the ropes of street theatre. I learned how to create an original show, how to build a crowd to watch it, and how to convince them to pay for it afterwards.

I first began learning to handle a pack of cards six years ago, during my freshman year of college. I had just involuntarily shed the role of small-town star athlete, and without my reputation to rely on, I found myself to be quite timid amongst the college crowd. Performing magic provided a great icebreaker and social lubricant. Soon I was practicing at every party, showing up a nobody & leaving as a (fuzzy) memory in everyone’s mind. I became more outgoing as I performed throughout college, primarily while working as a host at the Cobra Lounge(s) in Bellingham & Seattle, WA. After graduating WWU I turned to street performing to further the development of my communication skills.

I took a leap of faith to follow my dream as a professional magician. For a year now, every meal I’ve ate out, every month of rent, and every one of my bills have been magically paid. Now that I have a 8-12 minute show I know I can live off of, I am free to truly experiment. This last Saturday, I made sure to do each and every show completely different from the previous one. I learned so much in a weekend by doing this. I am determined to keep my learning curve steep, and now that I know I can make money when I need to, I have much more creative freedom.

I’ve been a motorcyclist now for 8 months. I have over 9,000 miles under my belt, but I’ve spent the last two months pedaling around on a single speed. This short hiatus has made it quite clear to me that at this point in my life, having the freedom a motorcycle offers is absolutely vital to my development. It’s a beautiful exercise in mindfulness, because when you spend this much time riding, you must be fully aware in order to give yourself the best chance of surviving. I can feel that skill seeping into my performance. Now I’m learning to slow the show down, really acknowledging the moment, taking in all the chance circumstances and changes in the environment that myself and the audience experience together. I’m learning to build a crowd, not just make one happen. The goal is to develop a connection. The business side will take care of itself.

On that note, I gotta get back on the road and get myself to SXSW. The site will be undergoing construction over the next few weeks, check back for some big changes.

Fat Hats y’all =)

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