After giving my bottle of duty-free booze (a guesting gift for Christo in Brussels) to the stupid fucking Frankfurt
‘TSA agent,” he also wanted to take away my skin cream because it was “more than 100 ml.” I pointed out the 120 ml jar was only half-full, but he would not budge until I said “it is medical.” Problem solved. (I should have told him the booze was medical, too).
I arrived in London on Friday morning. The plan: stay a couple of days and then head off to Brussels, to connect with my original plan. I didn’t really want to spend time in London. Immigrations figured out I’m an entertainer (I stupidly did not lie to the man) and I had to prove I planned to spend money rather than earn it. Two debit cards and a credit card plus a pile of old travelers checks and a couple hundred US dollars paved the way for that. I should have just said the word “medical,” since it seems to be a kind of magic word with brainless automatons.
Getting acclimated in a strange land that speaks my language: a plus, especially when two props broke in transit, and I still have to find a rope for my ropewalking act.
I popped down to Covent Garden, a mecca for buskers in the UK. First thing I see, as I walk up the street on a beautiful Friday afternoon? A crowd circled around a man who is telling jokes. EXCELLENT! I got closer and the guy’s doing Cups and Balls. With all the same jokes that were in the book I learned from. And then the next act goes on. Cups and Balls. With the same jokes that were in the book I learned from (they are great jokes). I talked about it and pretty much each performer would like to give it up, but it just works so well as a street act. Considering the “stock” material in my juggling act, I felt quite the kinship.
And a subtle, cute routine featuring cute pieces of plastic which I specifically do not brutalize is a tough sell to the common slackjaw.
I asked around and found there was a rope store (no, really!) just up the street. It turned out to be yes, a rope store, servicing boaters and theaters (who historically use pretty much the same equipment). The very helpful rope salesman said they didn’t have the rope I need (“funny, you’ve got a lot of ropes here.”) but could have it by Monday. So I figured I’d grab it on Monday and leave for Brussels on Tuesday.
In the meantime, I’d do the other couple of routines I’d packed: Cups and Balls or the Baby Teeterboard. No worries. But the table one of the babies sits at broke in transit. And I needed to find a coconut for the Cups and Balls. Run around, find hardware store, figure out how to repair this thing without power tools, and knowing whatever tools I buy are likely staying in Europe when I leave. Hell; I need a single sheet of paper for one of my bits and I’m having trouble locating one without buying 500 sheets! I already have no air space in my luggage. My clown nose has been complaining it’s suffocating. Good thing there’s no sound in a vacuum.
In any case, day one busking: I got myself in the rotation with the four other magicians. I got two time slots. Both times I gathered a nice crowd, and then went into the baby doll bits. And I watched my crowd ebb and ebb until they were gone. It was AWESOME! One thing I think that is key for this journey is I have given myself permission to fail, and I got to do it on my FIRST TRY!
Fear of failure has too often kept me back from taking artistic chances. It’s kept me falling back on the familiar, the tested, the true. I have not grown as much as I would like because of that impulse to be perfect every time, leading to the safe, the mediocre. I gathered a crowd with no words. I got laughs with no words. And I lost that crowd with the same number of words. As a show, it was a failure. As an exercise, it was a success! My favorite moment? After everyone left in droves, I looked up and there was one couple still standing there; the final two people watching, and the man is just looking at me, shaking his head. I smiled and gave him two thumbs up. My only regret: I didn’t have the presence of mind to offer my hat for his tip.
Second attempt went about like the first, but I tried doing it with words, even though once I get to non-English Europe, I really hope to ditch all text from the show. Side note: when packing carefully to do a busking tour of Europe? Make sure you’ve packed your microphone cable. Fortunately the very hospitable magic buskers at Covent Garden hooked me up. You blokes are the best!
The following day, I got kidnapped and transported down to the white cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Cathedral, where people go to be closer to God and/or be murdered.
It was fun; I don’t get to see them much since they moved 3 hours away from DC, near Ocean City MD. Of course, little two-year-old JJ was having a cranky day and wouldn’t stop squawking. I stopped short of recommending he go stay at Canterbury Castle, since his parents still seem to want him around.
London, Part III brings me to the final day and departure.