Author Archives: a silent soap box

About a silent soap box

busking for change and changing everything.

bigger and better things

this is the moment i’ve been looking forward to for weeks. some of you may have noticed some changes in my page names, from “a silent soap box” to “silent soapbox”. you may have also noticed some snazzy logos associated with these pages. now i get to tell you what’s going on.

i am SO COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED WITH EXCITEMENT to announce the beginning of my new living statuary and performance art company, Silent Soapbox. that’s right, my long-lived busking hobby is going pro. in addition to busking, you can now hire me to perform at public and private events, anywhere in the US and even internationally. and i’m bringing some friends along with me!

ashley and i have been working together since 2012. being an experienced actress, a stellar living statue, and generally business-savvy, she’s the perfect person for me to team up with in this new chapter of my life. ashley and i are performers, producers, and now co-owners. we will both be involved in every aspect of the company, but she will focus more on sales/marketing and general administrative stuff, while i focus more on costume creation, makeup technique, prop construction, etc. we have a few new characters in the works for the immediate future, as well as a long-term plan for what kinds of things we’d like to do with our collection of characters.

one of the first new characters we’re working on is male. we have two wonderful fellas working with us. patrick, ashley’s husband and a longtime coworker/friend of mine, is going to be our primary local guy. christian, another amazing actor and living statue performer we’ve worked with for a few years, will be a southern satellite of the company – located in georgia, he’ll be busking and available for hire in that area.

just as i’m teaming up with other performers to build this company, i’m also teaming up with them to expand our social media presence. i will continue with the same public blog i’ve maintained off and on over the years, filled with busking stories, observations and philosophical musings, little snippets of some behind-the-scenes stuff, etc. but now, if you want more, you can find it on our patreon. for small monthly contributions, you can get access to exclusive blog posts written by me, posts written by other company members, day-in-the-life vlogs, Q&A sessions on video, a lot more behind-the-scenes stuff, some samples of our swag… and, more importantly, the support from our patrons will allow us to do more work in the studio and expand our character collection.

getting to this point was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but this is exactly where i needed to be. i can’t even fully express the gratitude i feel for my friends, colleagues, and fans, who are all joining forces to make this happen.

seriously, y’all. thank you.

take a look at our shiny new website, where the public blog will live from now on: https://www.silentsoapbox.net

support us on patreon: https://www.patreon.com/silentsoapbox

follow us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/silentsoapbox

and instagram: https://www.instagram.com/silentsoapbox

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weather: 0, lily: 2

sorry this has taken so long, friends. as expected, the wedding took over my life for a bit, but it’s done! we did the thing! now i’m dealing with other life changes [actual changes, because getting married wasn’t really a change for me, it was just the event that brought chaos to my world]. i quit my job at ten31 productions, and now i’m teaming up with other performers to start doing bigger and better things with my art. we’ll talk more about that later.

for now, let’s talk about the last waterfire. once again, i was nervous about the forecast. rightfully so this time, since it was actually raining pretty heavily as we were driving to providence. when we drove into a wall of water i said to justin “nope, i’ve got makeup on my face, so i’m going, damnit!” and i successfully resisted every temptation to turn around and go home, fortunately, by the time we arrived in the city the rain had passed and it didn’t come back. the pavement was wet when i arrived at my pitch, so justin had some challenges getting my tape down [to mark out my personal space], but that was the extent of the weather woes. i still brought my teeny umbrella, just in case, and i’m happy to say i didn’t actually need it.

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overall, it was a pretty good night. there were a few wary children who i managed to win over with some gentle persistence. an unusually high number of boys/young men turn their head and point to their cheek as i leaned down to blow them a kiss. i was visited by a fan from plymouth [hi, kim!] and my littlest big fan of this season, as well as my busker friends andrew and carl. i was also visited by more police officers than the last five years combined, which i don’t mind at all, as i miss the days when they were regular fixtures in my crowd.

i talk about this a lot, but i feel like i can’t stress it enough. in the last few seasons, i’ve really started to embrace silliness in my performances. i love stealing peoples’ hats, sunglasses, glow necklaces, scarves, whatever i can grab, and wearing them for photos. i love “leaning” on people for photos, and if they stand too far away for me to do that, i grab them and pull them in closer. the reactions are always great, even if they’re not overly positive [i do scare the shit out of some people when i reach out to grab their shirt/arm]. but, usually, the response is overwhelmingly positive. these quirks make the statue more approachable. i really want my characters to appeal to a wide range of ages, cultures, socioeconomic statuses… and this is one of the ways i can do that. playfulness is a pretty universal language. and when the stoic living statue does something unexpectedly silly, like pulling someone in to pose for a close-up selfie, it catches people off guard in the best ways.

i did have a particularly disheartening experience with a mother and daughter. this little girl was so intrigued by the living statue. all she wanted to do was watch me, and maybe give me a dollar to make the statue come to life. her mother was very dismissive and redirected the girl’s attention to a tri-color newfoundland nearby [but the mother called it a bernese, which is a big dog pet peeve of mine, no puns intended]. the whole time i was thinking… why? why can’t you let her be interested in me for a minute? you’re clearly not in a hurry to go anywhere else, yet it seems you can’t get away from me fast enough. i see this frequently, and it’s depressing every time. i don’t care if you like me, but if your kids are interested, please just let them be interested. please don’t make me watch you quash their excitement, their curiosity, and their imagination.

i often encounter the opposite problem, which is just as painful to watch. kids who are totally creeped out by this whole living statue thing, shying away from me, then being dragged closer because the parents think forcing it is a good idea. when a parent is really persistent about that, i do what i can to be less scary; i kneel down, i wave, i blow extra kisses, maybe i reach out so they can touch my hand if they seem like they’re warming up to me. sometimes the interaction ends up being okay, but the kid still isn’t exactly thrilled about me. usually, though, the kid just gets more freaked and now they’re legitimately scared.

i’d much rather see this:

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that moment, right there. a kid is curious, his/her parents step back and allow him/her to come up and check me out. no pushing or forcing one way or another. just letting kids follow their guts and explore the world on their own terms. that’s my favorite.


busking in the rain

this blog post is coming to you from sean michaels salon in pembroke MA. i brought my laptop so i could write while my hair gets bleached and dyed. [my beloved blue returns!] trying to juggle wedding stuff and normal life. i’ll have more time to dedicate to art stuff after the wedding, there’s going to be a flood of big posts, so stay tuned!

first thing’s first: i took a better video of my makeup application! someday i’ll do a full person-to-statue transformation video. i also have plans for a cute little intro video. but for now, y’all just get me painting my face.

 

my battle with the weather forecast took a different turn than it usually does. i saw rain in the forecast, right in the middle of my waterfire time. this time, for the first time, i did not let it deter me. i packed my child-size white umbrella, went over our “in case of heavy rain” escape plan, and just hoped it wouldn’t be too bad.

my real struggle this season has been my start time. if i get there too early, i’m bored for the first hour, which is a terrible feeling. for this lighting, i arrived around 6:30, which turned out to be its own nightmare. as we approach my pitch, the whole corner wall is packed with people. this happens sometimes, even earlier in the day. usually, justin politely asks them to scoot down and we get a chorus of “oh, of course! no problem! this is so cool!” but such was not the case this time. justin asked if they could scoot down a bit so i could perform on the corner, and while some people in the group started saying “sure!” the woman who was directly on the corner gave us a nasty look and said no, they all needed to sit, they weren’t moving, i could go somewhere else. i try not to speak when i’m at waterfire, because i spent too many years getting trapped in too many conversations when i really just needed to set up/break down and get on with my day. but this bitch pissed me off. i got in her face and said, quietly but firmly, “i’ve been performing in this spot for ten years. could you please move.” and i guess the talking statue is more effective than the statue’s assistant, because she shut her fucking mouth and moved to a spot further down the wall.

unfortunately, the theme of rudeness continued throughout the evening. i had people touching me left and right. i had a guy jump up behind me while his parents were posing for a photo with me, and i would have at least elbowed him in the guy if i hadn’t been concerned about accidentally hitting his parents. if you’re following me on instagram, you’ve seen one of my multiple flip-offs of the evening, as well as the woman who touched my foot in an apparent attempt to “fix” my costume [???] and didn’t seem to understand why i almost stomped on her hand before reaching down to grab her wrist. then there was the young-ish boy who initiated a staring contest by hovering over my tip jar and not going the fuck away, and he still refused to fuck off even after he lost the staring contest. i was visibly exasperated by the time a guy put his hand on my tip jar as he walked around the corner, twisting it and almost knocking it off my gear box in the process. in a pose with my arms outstretched, i instinctively glared at the guy, rolled my eyes, and turned my hands in a “really!?” gesture, which at least some of my audience definitely noticed. it’s never all bad, but some nights are much worse than others in regards to how people behave towards me.

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and then the rain came. it was shortly after sunset when the first drops hit my arms and justin stepped in to say i’d need my umbrella, which was hooked on the back of my tip jar for easy access. i grabbed it just in time to protect my makeup. i powered through and continued performing through the next hour or so of intermittent showers. surprisingly, aside from my skirt getting weighed down by the water, and the mild annoyance of trying to pose gracefully with a tiny umbrella, everything went very well. i continued getting tips and photo ops and love and hugs. actually, the rain seemed to wash away the shittiness of people that i had been dealing with up until that point. i ended up having a perfectly average tip total at the end of the night. most importantly, i did it! i didn’t let mildly shitty weather stop me from busking. that’s a huge personal victory.

the best tip i pulled out of my jar at the end of the night, though, was an instant photo. there’s a lovely young woman who occasionally visits me with her instax camera, and she always leaves a photo of me in my tip jar. i’ve received a lot of little gifts over the years, notes and trinkets and photos, but these instant photos are the ones i carry with me everywhere. literally. they live in my wallet.

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lily goes to plymouth

i’m trying not to fall behind on my blogging, but the wedding is rapidly approaching and is consuming my non-work time. i now have two excursions to write about – plymouth and waterfire. for the sake of doing things in order, today is a little recap on my return to plymouth. next week, i’ll do a waterfire recap.

it’s been about six years since the last time i busked in plymouth. i got too busy, and it didn’t feel financially worthy of cramming into my schedule. now my life is shifting again, and i’m revisiting options like the plymouth waterfront, busking/working at festivals besides waterfire, and working at private events. [on that note: if you are interested in booking me for a public or private event, for tips or for a flat rate fee, email me at asilentsoapbox@gmail.com to work out details.]

i was feeling pretty meh about everything that sunday, but i was determined to get out and do something, especially since i found out there was a festival happening on the waterfront so i’d have better luck with foot traffic. we arrived in plymouth around 4:30, which turned out to be too late in the day for my spot on the corner of main street and north street to be worthwhile, so i moved to my old spot on the waterfront. i was annoyed to find one of the lobster statues [there are several scattered around plymouth] was right smack in the middle of my little circle.

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i came to accept my new crustacean friend, Sir-Loin, and appreciated his help in attracting passersby to my pitch. the thing about busking in plymouth on non-holidays is that it’s a total grind. the pace and the vibe is very different than waterfire, where everything is so easy and i’ve become so spoiled. even on a busy day, it can be hard to draw people in, especially since i can’t busk in the park directly along the water where most people are walking. i may need to adjust my performance style to draw more people in from a distance. i also remembered why i used to perform with a parasol – the sun can be brutal on a warm summer day, even when my pitch is mostly shaded. i ended up stepping down and going home after a couple hours because i was feeling nauseous from the heat.

on the bright side, i had some really enthusiastic admirers, and when i got home i discovered my hourly average is the same as it used to be. it was the little boost i needed to reinforce the idea that the waterfront [and downtown, if i get out there earlier] are still good opportunities for my free weekend days. i do need to get a new parasol/umbrella, and i should probably make myself a new base that’s easy to transport so i’m less limited to performing on existing surfaces.


regrets, pity parties, and moving on.

instead of writing a waterfire recap, i’m writing about the thing i was so determined to not be doing this season. the forecast looked so grim for saturday evening. warnings of thunderstorms with heavy rain, high winds, and hail. i agonized about it all day, and in the end i decided to stay home. so, of course, the weather was apparently fine in providence aside from a few scattered showers early on. i spent the entire weekend beating myself up about it. someday i’ll learn the lesson of “it’s better to regret what you have done than what you haven’t.” running for shelter in a storm is always better than not trying at all.

in an effort to not get stuck in a pity party, i did a little Q&A on facebook and instagram. since i don’t have a recap to write, here are some of those questions instead.

How did you get started?

my first two performances were at dresden dolls concerts in october 2004. i had seen living statues a few times, and those concerts were the perfect place to try it out myself. i immediately fell in love and started busking in my hometown. the following summer was my first season at waterfire.

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my first performance. photo by sheri hausey

How long does it take you to get into costume?

now that i’m not wrestling with my hair to get it under a wig, it takes about twenty minutes to get into costume for lily. fifteen of those minutes are spent on makeup. i could probably do it in half the time, but i can be a little obsessive about my makeup, so i

of course, there’s also prep work that happens before it’s time to get into costume. all the clothing components need to be washed, then my top and two skirts get de-wrinkled [i prefer steamers over irons]. if my shoes are a mess [like having gum stuck to the sole] i’ll clean them up. i check the batteries for the tip jar lights and change them if i don’t think they’ll last at least another six hours. i make sure my supply box has enough white tape to mark my space on the garden ledge for waterfire nights, extra batteries for the lights, extra business cards, a bottle of water, and my makeup. then i need to get justin set up to take photos and videos. i gather up helpful things like an external battery and a monopod for my phone, clear out storage space on my phone, and check with him to make sure his camera battery is charged. if i’m dumb and leave most of this work for the day of busking, it can take me a couple hours to get my shit together.

Have you ever used any other props…. or just your parasol?

many, many years ago, i handed out flowers. by default, the flowers and the vase used to contain them became props. the same goes for the few attempts i made at handing out candy, or little trinkets like marbles and seashells. if something is in my hands, i have to incorporate it into my poses and movements somehow.

then i decided i couldn’t deal with the greediness of people when i handed out tangible objects. so ditched the vases and baskets, and picked up a parasol instead. i stuck with that for a few years.

then i decided i preferred the physical freedom of not using props. the range of poses and movements i can do when my hands are empty is so much more enjoyable than trying to incorporate props into everything i do. now i only have a little white umbrella as an “in case of sudden showers” back up plan. i perform with props at work with ten31 productions sometimes, but i generally don’t enjoy it.

have you ever performed as other characters? if not, would you like to try?

i’ve had a few other living statue and living doll type characters, though lily has dominated my busking career for quite a few years now. before lily there was jasmine, and cloud [my silver statue], and victoria, and the lonely bride, and masquerade, and a few others who were more for concerts than regular busking. i’ve done a few non-statue characters, such as a raven at some edgar alan poe events, a ghost at some slater mill ghost tours, fairies at some concerts [many, many years ago]… currently, i have twin characters that i will probably debut via photoshoots before using them for performances, and i have a crazy project of putting together a quad stilt animal costume for something completely different. in the longer term, i’m also planning on adding more variety to my living statue arsenal by getting back into metallics as well as more complex finishes.

 

When will we be seeing you in the Plymouth area again?

i’ve actually been thinking about busking in plymouth again. i stopped a few years ago because it reached a point of no longer feeling worthwhile financially, and i didn’t have as much time for it. but my life is taking some turns, and i may need that kind of supplement for my income again. i might test the foot traffic in my old main street spot next time i have a free sunday afternoon.

…and this is the perfect segue into announcing my plan to busk this sunday in downtown plymouth. i will probably aim for mid-day at the corner of main street and north street. the pity party is over, it’s time to get back out there.


easy days are never that easy.

while this last waterfire was blessed with beautiful weather and wonderful crowds, there’s never such a thing as a perfect busking day. but let’s start with some fun things before we get to ranting.

part of the great social media resurrection is trying to come up with content besides my usual busking videos. i decided to record my makeup process [and post the video at triple the speed, because no one is interested in watching fifteen minutes of me putting makeup on my face]. i plan to record a better video, maybe this saturday if i have my shit together enough for any extra stuff between riding and busking. but i think this one is still a fun glimpse at my person-to-statue transformation.

now that i’m not wrestling with my hair and a wig anymore, i severely overestimate the amount of time it takes me to get ready. with my delightfully simple headscarves, i can go from pajamas to full costume in less than half an hour. this has resulted in me arriving in providence a bit earlier than necessary, which isn’t the worst thing, but those first 30-45 minutes can be slow. i need to work on my timing so i’m in place no earlier than 6:30, maybe even closer to 7:00 for these summery late sunset times.

but at least justin is able to use those slow times to get lots of photos and videos [if you’re following me on instagram, you’ve seen a lot of those pre-sunset video clips]. it’s also the ideal time for my new artist fan, julia, to sketch me. i was lucky enough to cross paths with her and chat for a bit at the basin lighting last, where i was producing two of TEN31 productions’ gargoyles for the private event. she is as sweet as she is talented, and i’m excited to share her sketches with y’all. i rarely get to see peoples’ drawing/paintings of me, so this is such a treat for me.

 

as i so often do, i brought some aches and pains with me to this waterfire. i performed with a sprained ankle, and a thoroughly fucked up neck/shoulder from a muscle i pulled a week prior. to add insult to injury, i managed to step in some chewed gum while walking to my pitch, and i was dealing with my skirt sticking to my shoe the entire night. and, of course, the persistent wind was making my eyes tear up and tickling my nose, so i spent the entire evening stifling sneezes and wondering how bad my makeup looked. when you see a living statue struggling to hold a pose, i want you to think about the difficulties they might be experiencing in that moment. none of us are going to be perfect at all times, especially as outdoor buskers. but all these troubles fade away when i’m getting hugs from children, or when people are amused by my mischievous approach to posing with people for photos, or when i accidentally scare the shit out of someone when they realize i’m not actually a statue.

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now, i have two mini rants from this waterfire. one is about animals. i swear i don’t mean to keep babbling on about pets, but damn it, these things just keep happening. this one’s not about snakes [i’m happy to say i didn’t see that guy the entire time i was up], but about dogs.

i love dogs. i’ve owned dogs most of my life. dog training is a hobby i’ve enjoyed since i was in elementary school. i love seeing dogs at waterfire. lily wants to pose with all your dogs for photos. but what i don’t love is seeing reactive dogs at waterfire. before sunset, there was a family with a yellow lab who camped out to my right for a long time. this poor dog was barking and lunging at every other dog who passed by, regardless of whether or not they even paid attention to the lab. this kind of reactivity is very common in the modern dog population of america. my own dog has reactivity issues, and we’ve been actively working on correcting these issues for years. i would never even consider bringing shorty to waterfire. this is a crowded place with lots of people, lots of dogs, lots of noise, just general terrifying chaos for a nervous animal. it’s stressful for the dog, and it’s irritating as hell for anyone who has to listen to the dog bark. and let me tell you, labs have big booming barks. every time another dog walked by, i’d be jumping out of my skin from the lab barking behind me. it boggles my mind that this dog’s owners would bring him there in the first place, let alone allow him to bark and lunge with barely any attempts to redirect him or calm him down. i was relieved [and also felt bad] when the lab eventually noticed me and started totally freaking out about the moving statue, forcing the family to leave. folks, please just leave your reactive dog at home. you aren’t doing them any favors by bringing them into these kinds of situations.

on a completely different note, i want to talk a bit about other buskers. in the hours before sunset, it’s not unusual to see lots of musicians along the canal. and that’s awesome. i enjoy these buskers, especially when they set up in the area of my pitch so i can listen to them play before the waterfire music starts. what i don’t understand is when musicians try to busk in the vicinity of the canal after sunset. do you guys not realize how much your music is competing with the canal’s speaker system? at this lighting, there was a small band directly across from me on canal street, arriving way after sunset. they were playing music i might have enjoyed if my ears weren’t being assaulted by the battle of sound. justin said they weren’t even playing consistently, they’d play a song, stop for quite a while, play another song, take another long break… why? if you want to busk, go find a pitch suitable for your performance. if you just want to show off a song or two, do so where people might actually be able to enjoy it. otherwise, what’s the point?


of better weather and audience thievery

i swear i’ll get better about writing these blog posts in a reasonable time frame. wedding planning is kind of taking over my life for the next two months [yay DIY], and it’s not my fault netflix released the new season of OITNB on a waterfire weekend!

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one thing i struggle with a lot as a street performer is weather. specifically, weather forecasts. i’m used to watching forecasts and planning ahead for my everyday life, since i spend most days riding horses outdoors, but i obsess over waterfire days. i spent the better part of a week worrying that i would get rained out of this waterfire, as there was a high chance of rain in the forecast. but i am thoroughly relieved to say the weather was absolutely beautiful on saturday. i’m trying to not worry about the fact that the forecast for this weekend is also threatening thunderstorms…

i’m also happy to say the crowds were overwhelmingly kind, and the most generous i’ve experienced thus far. i was visited by my dear photographer friend jon beckley and his lovely lady, my endlessly enthusiastically supportive aunt, my favorite crow carl johnson, and some long-time fans. a sweet young artist sat and sketched me for quite some time [if you’re reading this, i’d love to see some of your sketches]. i stole lots of sunglasses and hats for photos, and i “called out” a few people for taking selfies with me in the distant background instead of coming up to me [seriously y’all, lily wants to be in all your statue selfies, don’t be shy]. i had a cavalier king charles spaniel be my temporary statue partner. i received some of the sweetest hugs from the cutest kids. if you follow me on instagram and youtube, you’ve already seen some of my favorite moments.

they can’t all be winners, though. as a living statue street performer, i have to read people and make a lot of very quick decisions on how to handle a wide variety of interactions. sometimes, i opt to react very openly. sometimes, i choose to ignore. one guy shoved a hand full of kettle corn at my face, not once, but twice. a preteen/tween boy tried stealing the spotlight by dabbing next to me [why does everyone think it’s cool to look like you’re sneezing into your elbow? wtf is this trend and when will it stop?] and later tried to fake-tip me. with these gentlemen, i opted to do nothing, to avoid feeding their egos by dignifying their douchebaggery with a response. a young woman thrust her finger into my outstretched hand. i grabbed it instinctively, pulled her hand down, and held on until someone else gave me a tip. if you want to be physically involved in my performance for a quick laugh, i’ll hold you captive until you’re drowning in awkwardness.

then there’s the snake guy. he and his poor dehydrated burm visited me again. this will have been the last time i welcome his presence.

he walked by me twice before sunset. both times, he didn’t stop or acknowledge me at all. he’s not interested in acknowledging me unless i have a large crowd gathered around me. he had no problem stopping and handing over his snake to me after sunset when there were dozens of people watching, which confirmed my suspicions that he’s really just using me [and his snake] to get attention. i’ve dealt with this shit from lots of other people over the years, most notably the street preachers who used to stand across the street and loudly use me as an example of sin [because i’m whoring out my body, apparently]. now that i know that’s what this guy is doing, i’m done. i made sure he took one of my business cards, so i hope he’s reading this. here’s your fifteen minutes of fame. please take better care of your animals, and stay away from me.

as a bonus, here’s a photo of jasper, one of the ball pythons i rescued. he helped me sort through my videos from this waterfire.

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the great social media resurrection

sometimes life just gets in the way of the things one wants to do. my blog may have gone silent for a few years, but it has not been forgotten. i’m resurrecting all of my poor neglected social media pages, and i also added instagram to the list. make sure you’re following me wherever you are, links are in the “greetings & introductions” sticky post!

i’m going to ease my way back into blogging with a good ol’ fashioned waterfire recap. in the coming months, you can expect to see other types of posts, including a revival of my living statuary tips, focused rants, philosophical type musings related to my performance experiences, behind-the-art blurbs beyond performance recaps, and maybe some more “the person behind the statue” type stuff.

5.27.17 waterfire. the changing, the heartwarming, the annoying, and the infuriating. check out my youtube channel for three videos from this evening.

every year, waterfire seems to sneak up on me. the season inevitably begins when i’m also busy with the horses, and still broke from the winter’s financial lull. this year i was more prepared than usual. i had relatively fresh cakes of paradise and starblend. i had two fresh pairs of gloves [the costume component that inevitably gets destroyed within a season or two]. i had my new head scarves [more on that in a bit]. i had new business cards and card containers for my tip jar. what i failed to check was the string of lights on my tip jar. they were dead. oops. i slapped on my backup set, which are that harsh blue-white instead of the pleasant warm-white. not ideal, but at least i had lights. those things have done so much to prevent people from crashing into my tip jar, as well as helping people figure out where their tips should be placed [because the giant vase with a dollar bill taped to the front isn’t obvious enough].

a few months ago, i decided i wanted to move away from my white wigs and try head scarves instead. while i have enjoyed my wigs over the years, i find myself less and less willing to deal with the pitfalls. my real hair has grown quite a bit longer, and getting it all flat under a wig is time-consuming and exhausting. wigs are hot and itchy in the summer heat. makeup inevitably gets all over the fibers covering the back of my neck, and it slowly turns the wig into a ratty matted mess. while i love the look of the bangs, they’re often either poking me in the eye or blocking huge portions of my peripheral vision. it’s also less statuesque to have individual hairs flying around in the breeze. so, i bought some comfortable head scarves, matching the aesthetic of the rest of my costume [a while back i switched from pants to maxi skirts, which flows better with the draping of the top]. i was nervous about making such a big change in lily’s appearance. i was nervous about how i would look without all that hair framing my face. i didn’t feel fully confident in my decision until i returned home and looked through some of the photos and videos justin had taken. i LOVE the new look. i finally feel like lily is finished, like this is how she was supposed to look all along. the comments have gone from “she looks like an anime character” to “she looks like venus de milo” and i’m okay with that.

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my next challenge was the weather. the forecast looked cold, as has been the theme all spring. even with my thick fleece layer, which makes me feel like a marshmallow, i wasn’t sure how long i’d be able to perform. i went in thinking i’d maybe be able to push through three hours before quitting. what i forgot about the fifty to sixty degree weather is that the fires actually help warm things up, even as far away from the canal as i am. i was struggling in the hour before sunset, but i ended up feeling much more cozy and staying out until about 11:00. not bad!

overall, the crowd was fabulous. i only had to shove two people off my ledge. of the few people who tried to grab my hands, none were successful. i held a baby for a photo [and the baby didn’t cry!], i received many hugs from some very sweet children, and i received flowers from four kind souls of varying ages. flowers are among my favorite non-monetary tips when i busk. i even appreciated one little girl’s repeated trips to stuff leaves into my business card holder.

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my favorite, though, was the man who gave me my first two tips of the evening, and came back later for another round. he was very nice, both to me and to my crowd. he was also very loud, because he was very intoxicated. he slurred and stumbled his way through explanations to his fellow spectators “give her a dollar and she moves!” repeating himself several times, to make sure everyone understood the instructions, and following up with a demonstration. i couldn’t help but silently chuckle. thank you, dude, for being a kind drunk.

there’s one big personal rant for this waterfire. i have somewhat mixed, though mostly negative, feelings about one interaction. well after sunset, this guy comes up with a large snake. i love snakes. i have five of my own, with many more in my future. this is one of my pet-related hobbies that i’m pretty passionate about; i spend a lot of time helping other snake owners when they’re having husbandry problems, i write care sheets, and i’ve been chipping away at a project building a reptile pet information website with some friends. so when this guy brings his 9′ burmese python up to me, i have two simultaneous gut reactions: YAY! and WHY!? it was very cold that night, in the mid-50s, which is bad news for a tropical snake. the guy let me hold the snake, and once she was wrapped around me i realized she was in the middle of the shedding process, which meant she couldn’t see very well and being handled was uncomfortable for her, and her skin was very flaky because she was dehydrated. after returning her to her owner, he hung out right in front of me. showing off the snake, encouraging people to hold her for photos, and generally taking over my audience and blocking the path to my tip jar. i waved justin over to have him 1] ask the guy if he had a business card or anything, because i wanted to talk to him later, and 2] to move along. he didn’t give any contact information, so this rant here will have to do. so, snake dude, if you’re reading this… you are the kind of person from whom i have rescued snakes. you need to stop treating your snakes like accessories and start taking better care of them. you may think you’re doing the hobby a favor by trying to show people how not scary snakes are. but you’e doing everyone – especially your snakes – a huge disservice by risking their health, causing them immense amounts of stress, and spreading misinformation. there’s a time and place for show and tell, and a chilly waterfire night in the middle of the snake’s shedding process is certainly not the time or place.


the show must go on

my poor little blog, i apologize for neglecting you. the summer was such a whirlwind of riding and gigs and busking that i fell behind on my writing, and now i just stare blankly at the little blurbs i managed to jot down before details of individual busking adventures began to fade. i’ll have to attempt filling in the blanks soon, before the halloween rush begins. but, for now, i need to skip all of that and talk about the labor day weekend waterfire.

i left my apartment feeling wonderful. i wore my new wig, which is now absolutely fabulous and functional thanks to tom st. germain at suite tart. my makeup was flawless. the weather was perfect.

the drive to providence was a battle, as it so often is, when the sun proved to be too bright for my night owl eyes. being stark white from head to toe tends to make the glare of sunshine unbearable. my left eye began to water. but that’s happened dozens of times before. normally by the time i get to providence it settles down and with a quick makeup fix i’m good to go. this time, i had no such luck. i give up on my parking lot makeup fix and head to my pitch, hoping that the shade of the tree behind me will be enough to calm down my tear ducts. but no. still watering. i spend forty minutes trying to keep makeup out of my eye, waiting and waiting and waiting for it to stop gushing. eventually i decide i have to give up on it. busk or go home. i have to busk.

finally, at 5:40, i took to my pitch and tried so hard to forget about my eye and the fact that the makeup around it was washing away. i stepped down twice within the first hour to do quick fixes. it still wouldn’t let up. after that, though, it was too consistently busy to justify stepping down to deal with the makeup issues that nobody seemed to be noticing anyway, so i accepted my fate of imperfection and soldiered on.

shortly after 7:00, a teenage boy snuck up behind me, grabbed my shoulders, and shook me as he shouted in my ear. by the time i turned to face him, he was already out of reach. i watched him as he walked briskly around the garden and returned to the sidewalk, heading toward steeple street. i hesitated. none of my beloved bodyguards were there to chase him down for me. i grabbed my tip jar and gear box and went after him. but, of course, he is now on his skateboard, and there’s no way i’m ever going to catch up with him. feeling defeated, i return to my pitch. i notice a cop walking toward me. exasperated, i say “please tell me you saw that.” he did, as did at least one other cop. he goes after the kid, and moments later i have a slew of people coming over to express their sympathies and inform me that the kid has been arrested. soon enough, the cop returns, and points out that his handcuffs are currently on the wrists of my harasser. we step over to one of the vendor tents where there’s a table so i can fill out a report. at one point he said he and the other officer who witnessed the incident thought maybe it was a friend of mine just trying to be funny, which they realized was not the case when he ran off and i attempted to follow. i told him that no friend of a living statue would do something like that. planting seeds for the future.

upon returning to my pitch, i called wyatt and told him what happened, said i was having a shit night all around, and i might ditch waterfire and go home early. but after taking some time to calm down, tending to my makeup-destroying eye, and chatting with some of the folks who stopped to express their sympathies, i realized i needed to stick it out. i returned to my performance and was immediately showered with love from pretty much the best audience i’ve ever had in nearly eight years of busking.

well, it wasn’t entirely rainbows and happiness after that shithead got arrested. there were two other noteworthy assholes. i first encountered the guy when he walked by and decided it’d be funny to lean in and yell BOO as he passed me. already being so rattled by the earlier incident, i jumped down, grabbed his arm, and told him to not do that shit again. i thought i got my point across, but no. he returned much later in the evening, this time with his girlfriend who greeted me with a full force ass slap. i hit the back of her head, and for a split second thought she was drunk and unbalanced enough for that hit to send her face into the concrete ledge. i was not so lucky. she starts going on and on about how much she loves me and how awesome i am and she keeps reaching out to put her hands on me and all i want to do is kick her in the teeth. i try to carry on, but i’m watching the pair out of the corner of my eye because i absolutely don’t trust them at all. sure enough, she was determined to let me know exactly how intoxicatedly grabby she was, and she keeps trying to put her hands on me. i lost my cool. i grabbed her fingers, firmly bending them backward [which she didn’t even notice], and i bent down to inform her that if she didn’t knock this shit off i’d have her arrested. a nearby cop saw that i was distressed, and he came over to talk to her. i don’t know what came of it, as i only heard “excuse me, miss” before the three of them wandered out of earshot. i hate that i got so flustered. i hate that they made me break.

not too long after, a woman loudly stated that i deserve respect as she dropped a tip in my jar. thank you. i do deserve respect. i just wish people were as likely to actually confront the people who disrespect me as they are to say something about it. i wonder how far a person would need to cross the line before a stranger would step in to defend me.

it’s not all bad, though. four people gave me carnations. i received hugs from as many children, and one from a teenage girl who asked if she could have a hug and as i extended my arms i heard her friend say something about all she had to do was ask. i guess she’d been fussing about how to approach me for a while. there were a few dog encounters, but more importantly, there was the girl with the african grey parrot. i love birds, and i particularly admire the personality and intelligence of african greys. i knelt down and put my hand out to pet her, and before i knew it, the girl gave the command – “up!” oh my jesus i get to hold a parrot while i’m performing this is awesome. she was a little unsteady on my hand, what with my two pairs of gloves made with slick materials, and the girl said she’d probably be more comfortable on my shoulder. i brought my hand up, and sure enough, my little feathered friend stepped onto my shoulder. i was in heaven. i wish i had a picture.

i was also visited by corvus, who had been absent from waterfire for the last couple of seasons. he dresses all in black a venetian style bird mask. he wanders from garden to garden, reciting poetry and giving feathers to curious strangers. mostly he just creeps people out. i think he is absolutely delightful. he’s been visiting me for almost as long as i’ve been busking at waterfire. i know he’s approaching when i start hearing “LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU” from my concerned crowd. fear not, for the masked man is a friend. he’ll hop down from the garden behind me and come ’round to greet me, and a mix of relief and confusion inevitably washes over my crowd as corvus and i bow to eachother. he would usually drop a colored feather in my tip jar before vanishing into the darkness of the garden across the street. i still have most of those feathers – the ones that didn’t get destroyed before i pulled them out of the jar at the end of the night – and i keep them on display in my living room. i was thrilled to see my old friend again, and such a reunion could not have come at a more perfect time. i needed that.


murphy’s law – the waterfire edition

the last waterfire was definitely my most stressful ever. it started with the weather. more threats of thunderstorms, to which i said, “FUCK YOU NATURE, I’M BUSKING TONIGHT.”

i arrived in providence just after 5:00, aiming to begin at 5:30. that didn’t happen. despite taking my usual precautionary claritin, my eyes caught enough glare from the sun and enough wind to start watering as i was doing my final preparations in the parking lot. i gave up on trying to fix my makeup and figured if i left my eye alone it’d be fine by the time i arrived at my pitch. but the wind was picking up, my eye was gushing, makeup streaming down my face refusing to be fixed. ducked behind the building across the street to try finding some relief from the wind, waiting it out. tents and trash bins were beginning to get tossed around. mike, one of the waterfire staff folks, is bouncing between chatting with us and chasing down the stuff being tossed around in the wind. shit was looking pretty grim.

it wasn’t until 7:00 or so that i returned to my pitch. my eye was still watering some, but it had settled down enough, and it was late enough, that i didn’t care much anymore about whether or not my makeup was pristine. i just needed to get out there and perform. i was hoping it would be one of those awesome waterfire nights filled with cool people. alas, ’twas not one of those nights. by the time i settled into statue mode, i was in a pretty foul mood. i had a decent start, but the downward spiral of jackassery was in full swing in by the time the fires were being lit.

the most noteworthy douchebag of the evening, i’m sad to say, was a little boy who couldn’t have been more than four years old. i went three rounds with this kid over the course of my four hour performance. round one, he ran up to grab at my legs. instinctively, i shot down to grab both of his arms and held on tight. he’s laughing and cackling, “HA! YOU’RE NOT A STATUE! YOU’RE A GIRL!” i let go, hoping that momentum would take over and the force of him trying to pull away from me would send him flying backwards to fall on his ass as soon as i released him. unfortunately, someone was standing behind him, blocking his path to blood spatter. he did not hit the pavement. he continued taunting me for a while. i chose to ignore him and return my focus to the rest of the crowd. he disappeared, but not for long. he was back about an hour later, shrieking a steady stream of “I’M ON TO YOU” exclamations sprinkled with laughter, lunging toward me threatening to grab me again. his fat fuck of a father had plopped his ass down on the wall just off to my right. i glared at him, pointed at the boy, and gestured to get him the fuck out of my face. no response. i turned toward him more, folded my arms, and stared into his eyes with the burning hatred of a thousand suns. he got the message eventually and pulled the boy away. he returned soon after, with his fat fuck of a father nowhere to be seen. i was reaching my breaking point. never in my life have i so badly wanted to kick a child full force square in the face. if he’d been fourteen, or forty, this all would have ended after the first grab. i would have been able to properly defend myself and ensure no return visits. but how am i supposed to defend myself against a child? i can’t use physical force. that sort of thing is frowned upon. what would i tell a cop? “this tiny creature is harrassing me and i’d like you to arrest him.” yea, right. all i can realistically do is pray that this boy dies in a fire before he has the opportunity to become a true menace to society.

on top of the trials and tribulations of dealing with the epitomy of brattiness, i had costuming issues, which is something i shouldn’t still be dealing with after eight years of busking. i wore the wig i’d just bought, which turned out to be a mistake. it’s too long, too straight and thick, the fibers too soft and prone to tangling in the slightest breeze. i’ve ordered another wig, much more like the old one, feathered and messy in style, but longer over the back of the neck where caked makeup tends to tangle the fibers and makes the shorter styles stick out in a funky unpretty flip. but the one i wore that night, ugh. in addition to being a hot mess from all the wind, it gave me a blinders effect – my peripheral vision was so limited. i’m grateful that no one snuck up on my side. lessons learned.

overall, though, i have to say that my performance time was decent enough. i had lots of hand-holding moments with sweet doe-eyed children. i startled some folks coming up to pose for photos with me. i’ll never tire of the jumps and shrieks. i got to hold a toy pomeranian who was fully grown and approximately the same size as my chinchilla. the cute was overwhelming. andrew anselmo came to visit me late in the evening with a dollar bill origami pinwheel and a sign he held up to my crowd that said “best statue ever”. aw, shucks. wyatt and his daughter came with me, and there were unexpected visits from my brother and some friends. thank baby jesus for the friendly faces in my crowd. i might not have survived the evening without them.

we won’t talk about the world’s most obnoxious drunks who absolutely would not leave me alone post-performance while wyatt’s daughter and i were chatting, waiting for him to bring us some indian food. i think i’ve ranted enough for one post.