Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A brother with talent

1:08 p.m. -- Along the Powell Street Cable Car line, at Geary, the heart of Union Square

FOR THE PAST YEAR OR SO there has been a street guy working the area around Union Square. Actually, I’m not sure "street guy" is the best way to describe him. He’s too well-dressed and too clean to be “homeless”; too motivated and fit to be a “panhandler”; and nothing about him says “down and out.” "Entertainer" is probably more accurate.

He positions himself at street-corners busy with pedestrians, and performs a kind of handstand/headstand that is new to me. Before he tips his legs skyward, he places onto the sidewalk in front of him a contraption that looks like a large shock absorber -- it may be some sort of industrial spring, about one foot tall. Instead of planting the top of his head directly onto the concrete, this fellow positions it atop this spring. Much of the stress of his headstand is thus absorbed by the spring instead of by his neck, and he can stand there upside down and motionless for several minutes. Any passing tourist, any passing motorist, any passing cab driver, cannot help but be captivated.

Today I am stopped at the signal at Geary and Powell, window down, and there he is just off to my left. There are no conventions in town this week, and I imagine that he's not having a day to write home about. Through my open window I hear him say, in a voice that is even, but also disgusted: “I might as well be standing right side up shakin’ a paper cup! Doesn’t anyone have a buck for a brother with some talent?”

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