Foster the Peep Hole

The St. Petersburg market really turned around my opinion of Florida. When I arrived at the market, situated in the center of a park downtown, I noticed right away the presence of more familiar features on the people attending — tattoos, colorful clothing, even a dreadlock or two. I set up outside the tents and started my first show, slowly building a crowd. I noticed the market coordinator, and I was happy I’d emailed him a few days in advance. The crowds were fantastic, very relatable and down to earth. I only did a few shows, but it was very enjoyable and fairly profitable.

In the first market crowd was a young man wearing a colorful knitted beanie and sunglasses. He laughed at all the jokes, and we talked for a long while after the show. I was on a knee through a majority of our conversations, fiddling with stuff in my bag and maintaining eye level. He told me he was into fixing vehicles, and had spent about two years traveling around the country, some of it on four wheels, some of it on two. As soon as he said “motorcycle”, I knew. “Yeah, I put about 20,000 miles on that two-stroke before some old man that didn’t see me put me in this chair”. He held his hand just below his knee, lifted his right pant leg to reveal the boot and said “it’s mostly metal from here down”. He told me the only reason he didn’t go for a prosthetic was that he hoped he’d be able to ride again, and if he did he wanted to be able to feel when he was braking. Doctors told him he’d never walk, but he stood up out of his wheelchair to show me that he believed it would only be a temporary mode of transportation. We shared stories for a half hour or so before I got back to doing shows.

I was impressed, inspired, and humbled by meeting him. At 23, he was a year younger than I, but had more experience on the road. His one word of advice was that I make sure I have good footwear, something I really took to heart. The nice riding boots run around $300, but compared to the price of a foot, I think that’s pretty reasonable.

I returned to Clearwater last night, but the threat of rain delayed most of the work day, and I ended up doing only one show for less than $10. I packed up to leave, right as a monstrous rainstorm hit. I was stranded at a gas stop for almost two hours, and had to move my bike because the water level had submerged the bottom of my rim and tire. Fortunately, the friends I had previously stayed with in nearby St. Petersburg saw a photo I posted on Facebook and offered to put me up again for the night. As soon as there was a break in the rain I headed their way, grateful for the shelter.

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As I begin heading north out of Florida, I’ve realized that it really has been the people that’ve made this part of the country enjoyable. Clearwater ended up not being all I’d hoped it to be work-wise, but meeting the buskers there made it worth it. The friends I made in St. Petersburg were the first I’d made on the trip, & they were the reminder that though my bike only seats one, I am not taking this trip alone. My first experience with performing magic outdoors was at the farmers market in Bellingham, WA, a very grassroots/community oriented area. While working the market in St. Petersburg I felt very comfortable, the sense of community was tangible amongst the small crowds.

When I got around to choosing my major in college, all I knew was that I wanted to work with people. The more I see of this world, the more confident I am in that decision, though in my current career field, going to clown-college might’ve been more useful!

I’m now headed up to Jacksonville, and I ought be in Georgia by the morning. From here on out I’m on a slower schedule, free to take my time and explore the outdoors. Stay tuned, more adventure is on the way.

Peace, love, & happiness,

-Niko