Trust Your Wrong Turns

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I’ve now been on the road for seven days, getting a feel for Florida and the new environment. The first night I rode for a few hours in the dark on way to Niceville to stay with a friend. I noticed my steering felt particularly floppy, but the KLR’s tend to have some strong buffeting in the wind at high speed. In the morning when I left Niceville, I made it 50 miles or so before noticing the nut on top of the big bolt that fastened the handlebars to the frame was GONE.

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My handlebars had basically been sitting on top of my bike for God knows how long, as I hadn’t seen it loosening up the night before. I spent a good chunk of Thursday trying to find an 18mm nut to replace it. It’s a pretty uncommon sized piece of hardware, but fortunately I was able to locate one at a dealership in Panama City. Around five I got back on the road. I only covered another 100 miles before searching for a camp, which I ended up finding down a road marked with a private community sign. I noticed the road was overgrown, and as I followed it down I found two cul de sacs with absolutely no houses. I was swarmed by bugs as I set up, but once I was in the tent I settled in for the night.

I woke up around five, a little more than an hour before sunrise. I packed up camp (wearing my helmet to shield myself from the bugs). I covered a solid 100 miles before breakfast, and ended up in Clearwater Beach by three or four. It was interesting seeing a whole new pitch filled with a completely different type of tourists. The beach scene was very picturesque, but quite different from the inner-city environment I’d been adapting to. As the nightly Sunset Festival began, I watched as five different acts within a hundred feet of each other alternated doing shows for a group of tourists that basically rotated around from show to show, tossing their money in the buckets.

It’s the first change of scenery I’ve had since the SEA2NO trip, and it was a bit of a culture shock. There was an air of snobbery amongst the crowds, which made sense considering they were in a position to take a vacation to Clearwater Beach. I’m doing my best not to judge the location so quickly, but my experience the next day left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

I showed up to Clearwater on Sunday, an hour or so after I needed to be there to get the permit. I decided to do a show or two anyways, and my mistake was that I brought my bike with me onto the pitch. I did one show for a handful of vaguely interested people, made very little cash, and began to pack up so I could move the bike, as it was making me nervous. As I grabbed the handlebars to walk it back into the parking lot, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find a cop with his hands on his hips.

“S#%t, here comes a parking ticket”, I thought.

“You can’t have that here.”

“Yes sir, it is part of my show but I am moving it as we speak”

“Mind if we search the bike?”

“I do not consent to a search, no”

I felt someone behind me grab my hands, and the next thing I know I’m in handcuffs getting patted down. Two more officers had come up from behind me, and the first thing they felt was the wine bottle in my pocket that I use as a finale in my show. It was completely empty, had been rinsed out, and had a cork in it.

“What’s this?”

I nod to the stickers on the bike and explain that I am a magician, and it is part of my finale.

“This is an open container of alcohol. You’re coming with me.”

Handcuffed, I was then led to the police car, past kids I was just entertaining, to where they emptied out my pockets, took my information, and wrote me a ticket for the wine bottle. At one point I began to explain myself, saying

“Look, I am a traveling perfo–”

“You’re a bum, I get it. Shut up.”

I remained quiet, well aware I was at their mercy. They asked me what I had on the bike, a question with an answer two pages long. I refused the search because it would’ve taken them at least an hour to go through everything, and at least an hour and a half for me to tetris it all back together. While I was handcuffed, they left my bike unattended, with the cases unlocked and my tank bag sitting on top. Eventually they let me go with a $90 ticket, tuition to my street education.

I am a college educated, self-sustaining young man from a middle-class family. My character is tailored towards families. In any other context, this guy probably would’ve liked me, but my bright shirt and mohawk gave him enough incentive to disrespect me. It was known to me that, in general, cops are not too friendly to street performers. This was my introductory first-hand experience of that form of discrimination. Just like the unpredictability, this part of the job description, something I knowingly signed up for.

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In my streetshow I talk about how the magician does not make the magic, just as the conductor of an orchestra can not perform a very good solo. I point out that the performance is an act of co-creation. I’ve now spent three nights with friends, one night camping, and last night I decided to drop the $40 for a motel 6 to avoid the rain and hail storm that kept me from getting into Orlando last night. I’ve had friends of friends willingly open their homes to me, though they didn’t really know much about me. I’ve started using Couchsurfing.org, and already had a few people offer to let me stay with them. Though I’m not in a single location, I have realized I am still part of a community, which is very comforting when you’re 3,000+ miles away from home. What I’ve realized is that I am not taking this trip alone. I wouldn’t be who I am without the support and inspiration from those around me, and this trip wouldn’t be what it’s been without the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.

I am spending today in Disneyworld, courtesy of some friends of mine enrolled in the Disney College program =) A special thanks to Monique, Chad and Kara, Matt, and Carissa and Lizzy, for the kindness they’ve shown.