Feast and Famine

I’ve worked a handful of jobs, some of them more difficult than others. Golf course maintenance, carpentry, lounge host and manager. I can say without question that in the last week I’ve worked longer and harder than I ever have in any other position. Street theater is a lot like fishing: when it’s good, you oughta have your line in the water as much as humanly possible, because it’s not always gonna be good.

I flew back to Seattle on the 23rd to visit home for the holidays, performing all morning before my afternoon flight to take advantage of the holiday rush onset. It’s generally slow in New Orleans from November through December up until a few days before Christmas. The city then goes crazy for a week before quieting down dramatically after the New Years. Like a fisherman adapting to the weather and water conditions, I’ve been using a slower approach to maximize income through the months of slow foot traffic. Heading straight to the airport from the french quarter, I flew with just the backpack I bring to work. As I went through the security checkpoint I was pulled aside by the TSA for a bag check.

“Sir, you can’t bring a bottle of wine on the plane”

Heh, oops. I explained to her that I was a magician coming straight from work, and she asked me to show her something. Within a minute I’d stalled the security checkpoint as the overly excited agent called over her coworkers to watch my ring tricks. Realizing the problematic spectacle I was creating, I thanked her and hurried off to my gate, grinning a magicians’ grin all the way.

After a relaxing holiday, I took a red-eye flight back to New Orleans, landing at 9:00am. I took a shuttle straight to the French Quarter with the intent to capitalize on the days before the New Year. When I got off the shuttle I found the quarter crawling with traffic comparable to Mardi Gras. I was running on fumes throughout the day, but I was able to do several shows nonetheless. I quickly realized that I was still in Famine-mode, stretching portions of the show longer than they needed to be now that spectators were in abundance. After tidying up the show to play faster and for larger crowds, I was ready to rock it.

The next day I broke my single-day earning record by a long stretch, raking in fat hats since I was the only magician out that day and had the main pitch all to myself. Since returning I’ve worked from 9am until dark, and in those four days I’ve made more than I did in the rest of December. I also moved into a new home the day I landed, so when I’m not working I was moving and arranging my new space. I know that the traffic is going to drop off considerably for the rest of January, so I’m pushing myself to my limits and beyond to make the most of it while I can.

Over the summer, I didn’t work anywhere near as much as I should have. Right now I’m busting my ass so that I can be stress-free the rest of January, which is a micro-example of what I ought to have done over the summer so that my fall and winter would be easier. Street performing professionally calls for a healthy rainy-day fund and wise financial management. The morale here is that when the gettin’s good, go get it ’til you can’t no more. I’m so tired I’m almost in an altered state, but the upside is that I’m learning to do great shows in this headspace. My busking muscles are sore, but they’re getting bigger =)

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