Tag Archives: Busking

Code of Street Performing Conduct

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Love Your Audience

There is no getting off the road, there are no breaks— you can’t undo what you’ve bet your life on. One of the hardest hand to mouth games ever invented in this world of hard knocks is busking full time. No contracts, no off site gigs, just pure hat and more hat shows. You do so many you’re at risk of drowning in a sea of nickels, dimes and quarters.

To take the edge off, to stand just that much further from the abyss some acts blend the footloose street show with the paid for hire show’s. For the sake of profit and efficiency contracts and appearances need to be packed tight. A good act is infused with an evangelical enthusiasm. The paid gig, as sweet as that payday might be, is never more than a prayer and a hope whereas a first class street pitch opens the door to pure worshipping at the altar of the almighty unseen mystery and miracle. It is not exaggeration to claim street theater in some spontaneously combustible way is as near to a religious experience as you will ever behold.

wife with front row seat

Running with the Wild and Free

A street act is either in town or on the road, behind the wheel or on stage. A day off with no show is an odd unwelcomed event, something worrisome and undesirable. Fairs and festivals are all performed by binding contract between the producer and artist, the agreements are simple fee for service agreements. Some entertainers might forward stage, light and sound requirements, but a grizzled street act, tested by parkway and boulevard, the hardcore bust your butt busker urban take no guff kind, are most times pure point and shoot types. A veteran street act is accustomed to possessing the chops to walk on steal the show. “Hand me that mike. Is it hot? Let’s roll…”

Buskers are all about squeezing the light out of the red dawn and gold dusk, there is no tomorrow, there is this opportunity right here, this show, this crowd, what are you waiting for? In the vernacular of the street, “Throw it down, and whip it out…” a racy phrase that means to set down your prop case and do what you do— perform.

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Skylight before a Starry Night

Street veterans eat the scenery. The Grand Canyon would be lucky to even be noticed. Empirically this may not stand up to factual analysis but by size of heart and willingness of spirit— this kind of zeal is customary. Buskers are all great infinite expectation unexpectedly seized by ‘I never saw it coming’ heart failure. This is the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. We are trained by sidewalks to talk our way into anything and get out of more corners and tight spots than an average Joe might know was even possible to be caught in to begin with. Buskers worth their weight in copper coins are charmingly eccentric hybridized brightly packaged one part con and two parts escape artist.

I’m sorry to say that a good many of the world’s most rational sisters and daughters couldn’t help but toss all caution to the wind and go all in on our outlandish shows and offbeat lifestyle. The gutsy best of them became our wives. And all those women who ought to have known better, the women who have seen a thing or two, the wives and mothers? Countless numbers of these firebrand beauties in the most unexpected next chapters of their lives entangled their fates with ours, some for a night other aspiring free spirited souls have had the course of their wardrobes irreversibly changed, abandoning suburb and former friends forever and go full wanderlust while vowing to never look back. Love is as unpredictable as a street show. Strap a heart to a buskers grit and you’ve got a life worth riding down the unforeseen future boulevard of unbroken dreams. Neither Hells Angels or street performers want for women. Charismatic outlaws got nothing but magnetism, unpaid parking tickets and access to real happiness.

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A Star is Born

Being a busker is handcuffed to having no more excuses for why the impossible isn’t even an excuse. Rainy days and lonely nights catch no sympathy or slack from our kind. We hold self empowered destiny hostage. Our sidewalk show pitch—the pavement stages we concoct is a no strings attached low budget self-inoculating wide open wild as the west dream vaccine. On the ride to the top of the small time a busker’s prop case is near at hand, in our veins, at the tip of our tongues. We don’t go buy costumes- we come costumed. We’ll have plenty of time to relax after this brawling life has been chewed up, satisfaction and self-contentment can come later. Easy Street has got its own sorry location. That useless boulevard is just the other side of the mortal coil.

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Fire Dreamer

My money is on a bunch of the best I’ve shared stages with who I believe are working hard out there in the afterlife, and even if there is no for sure I have to hope they’re all killing up there, even now, in the rose bowl of eternal laughs… Wayne Condo, Vince Bruce, Hokum W Jeebs, Butterfly Man, Johnny Fox,Rob Torres, Dick Finkel, Steve Hansen, Gary Schnell… that is a tough lineup to break into. There you go, now you’ve been given a taste, from the barrel.Edited Red Star

Show Biz Bargain Basement Fire Sale

showman Ohio

Banging Another Out

The wanderlust in the heart of a street performer is curiosity writ large across the world. Many buskers remain moored to a city for decades while other acts travel town to town from one place to the next. In summer I preferred roving from the northernmost Canadian cities and as autumn took hold head south and winter in the border towns along the Mexican frontier.

Weather dictates the terms of our doing business. Rain, wind, sun and shade influence our day’s receipts. The 7000’— over one mile high elevation— in Flagstaff, Arizona slows a fleet paced act to another rate of play. A thirty minute set on a stage in the sun with no shade in triple digits? That’s working for a living.

Troy small

Where Drifting on the Long Dusty Road Ends

A one way trip from San Francisco to La Grande, Oregon (one state north of California) measures seven hundred miles. Most of this distance is traveled across long empty stretches of two lane highway. The towns of Alturas, Lakeport and Burns are drying up. Ranch and farm operations that you’ll see are scattered across the landscape if and where water can be found. Eastern Oregon is mile upon mile of Federal land. By the time you arrive in La Grande, Oregon it occurs to this gypsy showman that had I gone east instead of north I would have been one quarter of the way to New York City by now. That is butt on a seat, eyes out the windshield, foot on the pedal non-stop daydreaming while driving. Myself, I had been ordered to head for the small time.

Castle Valley

Castle Valley, Utah My Place…

Much of the experience of drifting the desolate long distance stretches of the American West is dependent upon whether you are comfortable in your own skin. Do you carry a good set of hand tools? Can you swap out a bad water pump for a new one? Have you got the talent to wrangle a blown transmission out from under your truck and slam in a replacement in time to get to the next show? If you know how to keep misery at bay you’ll have a properly inflated spare tire, jack and lug nut wrench all close at hand, ready to go, no questions asked. You change your own oil and filter. You adjust brakes and keep an eye and ear out for mechanical issues before they pull you over on the shoulder of the highway and put your crazy-heart and at-risk-soul in a fix you’ll never repair your way out of. Windshield wipers are in good order, all the lights work and you know how to speak deferentially to the officer of the law as is required. A busker knows how to chain up his rig like right now in the event there is snow. Crossing a high snowbound pass is an opportunity to relish. You might want to keep you day job if bone rattling sleet and snow isn’t your thing.

blowout

Excuse for Pity Party Fueled Cold Beer

You’re not just driving to a destination. You are heading to a specific date and time where you will appear as promised. You are the performer and you have agreed to go into business with an event producer. The presenter could be a fair, festival, library or school. There will be a person to meet you. They may or may not have any prior experience, most don’t and the few that do are seldom experienced in booking variety acts in general and variety acts with a street performing background never. Fulfilling the contracts basic promise to perform in a particular place, at a specific time, for an agreed upon interval on a clock is the entire job. Some acts won’t appear without a retainer. A producer’s signature on a contract worked as far as I was concerned. With services rendered and the agreement fulfilled the fee is then paid. Any act worth a salt lick knows what customer satisfaction feels like once that check is handed to you. Walking out to your waiting rig, the show gear loaded up, gas tank pegged full, you fire up your engine, you take off in a cloud of dust rolling eight hours and four hundred miles, there’s no time to waste, you’ll need to be there first thing, opening tomorrow. In four days time you’ll have a hard time remembering where you had been, but never forgetting what you’ve done…. That kind of life out of a show trunk and suitcase, that’s real road doggin’…

Edited Red Star

April Fool’s Day

A Cup of Black Mud
April Fool’s Day and you ended up here? You can buy a book, book a show, click around and find information about my work as a performer and writer. But, wait there’s more…

In Tucson this weekend hiking on Mount Lemon. Big Bug Trail didn’t disappoint. After horizontal respite plunged into quest for eating or drinking something regional, something from the Dessert Harvesters, something indigenous. How about a prickly pear-jalapeno margarita!!!! Sure. With salt or no salt? I asked that my rim come salted so that I might extract the maximum of things I normally would not do. I avoid salt like the plague and tequila like the pretty little thing that fakes twisting her ankle so that the gentleman may come to her aid.

Rock-Trail-Tree-Bush is Medicinal

Today I’ll head further south of Tucson to the Mexican borderlands near Patagonia, Arizona and hike along Soniota Creek with my binoculars to peek and be peeked back at by the avian special effects show. Sonoita Creeks too-tall cottonwoods make the entire project sketchy at best, but every so often I get lucky when a bird makes a mistake and we scare the devil out of one another before each bolting off in opposite directions. Needless frustrations are quelled by taking the hiking more serious than the actual seeing and identifying of the life we share this fragile world with.

I’ll remain nearby Patagonia at the Oak Bar Ranch. One of my kind, the busking-circus veteran kind is running the ranch. He’s boss to one wife who won’t be bossed, and a fair enough number of barnyard animals that don’t take no guff. This is as nature intended for a self made hard working show business type. You put your back into some tens of thousands of performances only to be ignored, disobeyed, and to your bitter disappointment utterly beloved for the human being you have turned out to be. Our standing up in front of all of you and scratching out a better than fair wage for doing so for what turns out to be most if not all our life scars our hearts up until the bile is near all gone and nothing remains but our having good things to say about the nature and generosity of the human spirit. That holds until it doesn’t and then we relapse like the rest of you into worrying about the entire project and humanity’s ultimate fate.

Birdwatching is today’s medicine.

March 29, ’18 Showboating Circle Show

Joshua Two

Like-Kind Desert-Dwelling Art Brained Dune Drifter

Gathering a crowd on a sidewalk for a street show requires guts. Buskers look for flow. If there is enough foot traffic it’s worth a shot. Transcending this issue is an intangible. I won’t try to name the mystery. We either hold a key to the pedestrians curiosity or not.

In 1967 Jeff Sheridan stepped into NYC’s Washington Square and met the moment. The silent slight of hand magician’s public setting gave the act a sense of mystique.

The impromptu, serendipitous street show’s were given room to run, but as the formula took root the initial exuberance of the performing form began to dissipate.

In this moment in our evolving global culture gathering an audience for a sidewalk show has shifted from places where it is expected to be found— think inner urban areas, performing arts festivals— to less easily predictable settings— rest areas, campgrounds and farmers markets.

Golden Gate Park

Gather them where you find them

It isn’t just movies being hit hard by the cultural shift. Music has been disrupted. Journalism has been hard hit. The book business, especially fiction. I find much to admire in the work of Ann Patchett, Isabel Allende and Jonathan Friesen But, in this moment none are moving the mass markets imagination, none strike a blow at the sales counter as did James Michener.

Our appetites have been supersaturated. Street show or best selling author, once venerable film directors or rock and roll stars— for all of us the work we do and our ability to connect is murky. Our formulas feel spent and harnessing our content to whatever form has the sensibility of being forced. There is the risk of predictability.

Joshua Non-Art

Put Art Everywhere

The birth of Dixieland, the impressionists or Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I wonder now how it struck and moved the audiences in the present moment then? How far did they go? How long were they moved? When the new work was exhausted did they cling to the past or let go? —and trusting something new would catch them then leap? —

As ever buy a book, book a show, poke around here at my site. Hope you’ll come back and spend more time with me.

Edited Red Star

 

March 15, 2018 Mesquite Trees

The Edible Sonoran Desert for Buskers

“The wanderlust in the heart of a street performer is curiosity writ by beat up truck and a one dollar tip.” Polished prose is under construction. And that of course is one of the tasks being attended to at this website. You’ll notice my farcical comedy Hot Spring Honeymoon is here and on offer. One reader wrote, ” I could pick up the book at anytime and feel like I was in a desert town or on the mountain…”

Mesquite
Mesquite driveway into the Oak Bar Ranch

Hibiscus tea drinking has become all the rage in our household. Two quart jar filled with cold water, two teabags and one squeezed lemon before bedtime. Remove teabags in morning and sip your day away on the Godzilla of antioxidants. The African hibiscus flower will cure virtually everything other than stupid and stubborn for which there remains no cure.

Many offseason’s have been thermally ensconced upon the Sonoran Desert. I’m an admirer of the mesquite tree. The bean pods are are edible when ground into flour. I’ve ordered mine and will add to my eclectic breakfast cake batter. Just coming back to read about the results of this edible experiment has got to keep you awake nights tossing and turning wondering what in the name of busking does a mesquite flavored breakfast cake have to do with good health and happiness? Let’s find out together.

Mesquite Five
The Famous Lost Marbles

We’ll turn finally to reading more Norman Mailer while breaking a sweat on my treadmill. After one hour of that fun I’ll turn my attention to handstands and then finish off with a walk along the LA River.

Sea level rise versus see level rise. One has to do with climate change and the other has to do with looking over shoulders, fences or through periscopes. See level rise… come on people work with me…these are the jokes… or come back tomorrow for more and find out what else the Novel Juggler is up to.

Edited Red Star

 

How to Not Write Anything Brilliantly

Write What You Know
Write What You Know

We go to busking great Tim Motley enjoying his summer in Melbourne for this: “I try to sit down with my morning coffee around noon.”

It usually happens first thing,” Dan Looker explains, “when the previous evening’s alcohol and the morning coffee meet in a front.”

That’s some kind of weather pattern.

The well washed one- veteran British comic- Andre Vincent, “It is thought of in the bath and then never stopped working on.”

Ellen Gavin screenwriter and former theatrical producer at the Brava in San Francisco confides, “I try to write from 9 until 3…” and then cheerfully admits, “I’m supposed to be at my desk now.”

Most writers do their best writing when they are supposed to be writing. It is only when we are actually writing that it is so difficult.

One way or another, sooner or later, they do get it down on paper.

Jay Alexander explains, “I send a recording of my show and have a professional transcribe it.” He’s got the idea.

“I’m open to writing,” Lee Ross explains, “I did get up and do an ‘open mic’ the other week and killed.”

This is how the really gifted writers write.

As Karl Saliter explains, “I continually find myself 10,000 miles from the keyboard.” This is pure virtuosity.

Still technique is important. Rob Williams, “I recommend upscale pencils… look for the Palomino Blackwing Series.”

They are impossible to find.

Andre Vincent, “Notebook is friend, memory is enemy.”

James O’Shea, “I’m not trying to plan anything or know what the story is about.”

Here it is sage advice from many of the hardest working writer-entertainers in show business.

Take it from the working professionals. Blaming writers block is overrated. Hard work is for suckers.

They say that we all have a novel in us. Writing it down, printing it out and putting it on a shelf. That is so last century.

I hope this clears thing’s up for those of you who might still be thinking about writing something.

Out with the Old
Out with the Old

Want to find my comic novel

Hot Spring Honeymoon…

Click on the Picture Above

The Showman’s Shortlist of Worries and Affirmations

Backstage in the Small Time
                                               Backstage in the Small Time

Hats go up and down much as the stock markets do. I had lunch yesterday with Dan Holzman. He had nothing but good things to say about his last outing. The money stunk but audiences were good.

Wheeler Cole back from a lengthy tour of the Big Island of Hawaii has been throwing shows at Pier 39. Ten years away and on the other side of his misspent youth he dawdles for the moment.

His was a good question? “When do you do something besides what you have done?” Just because you can, just because you could, just because you know how to do that does that mean you keep doing it?

Andrew Potter off to Fresno for the fringe mounts another series of performances in his latest digital vehicle. The Road to High Street has been what he uses as an excuse to be with audiences now. He shares now by looking back when.

Karl Saliter just back from Nepal and trekking is presently in Playa del Carmen trudging his show on the boards at the resorts. This is my tribe. Karl is comic juggler, sculpture and fiction writer. He likes soul and sits around a lot. Teaches yoga and eats vegetables. Vegetables if they did worry should with Karl’s lust for greens.

Alan Sands has in the works a steampunk costumed hypnosis act. This is an extreme makeover for a guy who doesn’t own a house. Who needs a house? He spends way too much time flying to gigs. He sits in Foster City when here at home imagining what those sucked into a trance might want to see for a host.

Mike Stroud a friend since his youth, mine was already spent, makes his oyster in the South Bay. He bought early in his career and it has paid off big time. With roots deep in San Jose he gigs as he can and where he can. He sleeps in his own bed more than any person I know devoted to sleeping in their own bed and at the same time claiming a career in show business.

Me, I’m here aboard my sailboat with my wife. She is my beloved. Like me she’s inclined to sleeping upon beds that move. She’s soon like me out of town on assignment. Everything is fast here but for the freeways. They are the slowest.

In rehearsals, writing jokes, memorizing jokes, juggling, gigging now and then, counting down until I go to Playa del Carmen and grind it out 6 nights per… I am up in Napa Valley as I can, when time allows, hiking and scouting vineyards, roadways and restaurants for the next novel.

One of my bachelor friends, a magician, short by way of height, but quick by hand, is rotten that all the cute short girls have been picked over. This is what it means to be trapped in the small time. He is left to look silly with a taller one or none at all. He is worried. They don’t make enough short women and he isn’t getting any younger. He is the loneliest man in show business.

Thank your lucky stars you wanted to be a plumber or shoe salesman. Nothing is easy about this racket called show biz. I’m sorry the phone has just rung and I am due for a martini with a friend who has a new script he wants me to punch up before he submits to his agent.

Letter to the Editor  And this time in praise of  Yes.............
Letter to the Editor
And this time in praise of
Yes………….

 And Last of All Hot Spring Honeymoon

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