There have always existed on the streets of our fair nation both skilled and highly unskilled performers. Though the timbre of the performance varies from city to city and evolves throughout the ages, it remains that some perform their feats with zeal and aplomb, while others can barely be bothered to touch charred stick-tip to ripped cardboard box. My personal favorites have always been the orphans, with the ragged hitch of desperation and the quiver of love lost in their reedy-thin voices. Them and dogs dressed like saints that are trained to confer blessings on coin-givers.
As with all things, the quality of buskers tends to ebb and flow. While you may look around yourself, as you stand in downtown Portland, Madison, Tucson, Tallahassee, and drink in the bounty of public spectacle, there was a time not too long ago when the most popular form of street-based money-gathering involved threatening to tackle and salivate on passersby. Granted, the populace was much fitter then, since running from place to place was the modus operandi, but it was quite dangerous to stop and smell any flowers, let alone roses.
Thinking back to the halcyon days of my youth, when I would sit rapt on the corner as my own hometown’s peg-legged old soldier would seamlessly move from haunting harmonica ballad to foot-stomping charivari, nostalgia drove my decision to start a training camp for street performers more than any fear of communicable disease.
Of course, all credit for revitalizing street performance and raising the bar seems to go to the Pickle Family Circus, and while I appreciate what they did for San Francisco, I think you will find that for the swamp cities of America, my circus (the one that I’m near certain the Pickle was modeled on) the Gherkin Circkin, still remains the Platonic ideal.