One of the best aspects of being a busker is that you have flexibility of movement; you can work anywhere there is a steady flow of foot traffic. Depending on the limitations of your act and your willingness to adapt, it’s likely you can work anywhere in the world. This feature, combined with a motorcycle and a travel-bug, are the main ingredients in my recipe for adventure. I’ve always been a firm believer that your geography becomes part of your biology, and I chose New Orleans as my initial stomping grounds because when I think of the environment that can produce the most unique character, New Orleans is at the top of the list (in the U.S.).
The other day as I was going to get eggs at a corner store I had an experience that made me feel right back at home. I walk down the block and into the store, wearing faded slacks, glasses, and a sweatshirt half unzipped with my magic vest underneath. At a glance you can see a semi-formal appearance underneath the sweatshirt. The man behind the counter, an older man of Indian complexion, gives me the once over as he rings up the eggs.
I look at him and look back at my hand, holding three dollar bills. Without thinking, I dig into my pocket and pull out the change, less than a dollars worth. After thirty seconds of counting coins, the cashier reconsiders his initial assessment.
“Oh no, it’s not right”
As I hand him the bills, he looks at me with a “tsk tsk” expression. With a shake of the head, he says:
“You were really going to pay $5 for eggs? Come come now”
The wag of the cashiers finger made me burst into a smile. I walked out of the corner store with a big grin on my face, feeling foolish at having been played by the old man. It was a perfect reminder: This is N’awlins. You can’t afford to not have your wits about you. It’s not a place for the feint of heart, and if you’re not cautious, it will eat you alive. But, several years of it is almost guaranteed to give your character a seasoned flavor as the prolonged exposure to the incredibly zesty culture creeps into your behavior and way of thinking. This city also keeps your survival instincts sharp. Last month my fathers next door neighbor was shot and killed in his car in front of the house. New Orleans is a rose; irresistible beauty, dangerous thorns.
Gradually I am getting back into the rhythms of living as a New Orleans street entertainer. 80-90% of the people I’m entertaining are on vacation, and I’m just a part of the story they tell when they get back to wherever it is they’re from. What fascinates me is how in a single crowd I can create a completely unique tribe of travelers, someone from every different state in the U.S., with a few foreign countries thrown in, all standing together before they scatter back to their respective corners of the globe. It’s awesome to have foot traffic available once again, and it has been so rewarding to be back in an environment where I am free to do what I love.