How to make a Rainbow

Rainbows ain’t all sunshine and smiles. I’ve been surviving on magic for 20 months now, and in that time one of the most prominent lesson I’ve learned is a deep appreciation for the ebb & flow of life, the ups and downs. So much emphasis is placed on things going right, the way we want them to, the way they’re “supposed” to. The mind can be a tyrant in its desire for continuity, and the heart tends to shy away from pain, but in the last few years I’ve realized that avoiding or numbing oneself to the rainy parts of life means missing part of the larger spectrum of human experience. Though scary, the unexpected can be the best thing to ever happen to you.

Street theater has taught me to play both the king and the fool, which has been an incredible lesson in humility. In a single hour I may feel the strength of a hundred strangers voices united as they obey my command, and in that same hour I may feel the alienating inadequacy of being unable to get a single stranger to acknowledge me. It strikes me as a raw example that what you’ve done in the past isn’t as important as what you do in the present.

I’d noticed myself becoming proud of how short a time period I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing. Excelling as I have, I began to wear stats like badges. I liked telling people that the number of months I’d been riding was less than how many thousands of miles I’d rode. I liked seeing people’s reaction (especially after a show) when they learned how little street performing experience I had.

Really though, this is an example of only looking out the window when it’s sunny. When I tell people now that for the last two years I’ve funded my travel dreams with street magic, I don’t mention seeing practically zero return for the first two months. When I tell people I crossed the country twice in my first year riding, I don’t mention running out of gas on I-5 my first week because in a panic I forgot motorcycles have reserve tanks. I’ve learned to spend a little less energy reflecting on these accomplishments, since they don’t necessarily help me move forward.

To this day, I have never failed at anything more than I have at street performing. When I very first began I was working one of the corners in Jackson Square, directly across from a row of fifteen or so tarot readers. A dozen times a day they would see me throw my rope on the ground, waiving my hands while shouting “the show is about to begin!”, most of them knowing well that the show wasn’t about to begin, because they’d already heard me say that ten times straight without gathering a crowd to perform for. I’ll never forget how that felt, to fail so publicly over and over and over.

Though I am much more successful now (and a little bit quieter), that still happens. A dozen people may stop as I lay my rope down, but their curiosity evaporates as soon as I tell them to come closer, and I’m left standing alone in the void of the spectacle I’ve just created. The failure isn’t any less public now; the difference is just that I no longer perceive it as a failure. It’s part of the process.

Since beginning this lifestyle experiment, I’ve grown comfortable with things going wrong because it’s part of the unexpected. Between busking and motorcycling, you can expect plenty of the unexpected. You get used to challenges, to the bike not starting, to people walking away during a show, to things going “wrong”. I find these mishaps are nourishing if you soak them in instead of trying to shelter yourself from them. Being cold and wet makes you appreciate being dry and warm even more. You never know when your personal storm might be interrupted by a sun break.

As far as the next SEA2NO tour, after about two grand I’m halfway done reinvesting in my setup. The bike has new luggage rack and cases, suspension, brakes, tires, tank bag, and control cables. I’m comfortable leaving with the bike the way it is, but I still need more riding gear to protect myself. I have a new helmet and jacket, which ran about $650 for the two of them. I still need some waterproof gloves and boots, a good set of touring pants, and a SPOT personal satellite tracker. With three weeks left until my intended departure date, it’ll be a tight squeeze to acquire the funding necessary to finish assembling my setup while still managing to save some cash for the trip itself. I’m pretty sure I’ll still do a very short Kickstarter campaign once I get a little more footage together, but so far I’m still amazed that I’ve managed to do just about all of this with the money put in my hat by strangers showing their appreciation.

The Illusion of an Audience Pt. II video oughta be up sometime next week, just looking to capture a little bit of performance footage this weekend & then it’ll be done. Stay tuned!