I want to be a busker.
Those zany street performers really have it made, don’t they? No deadlines. No office politics. No budget cuts. Just put on a clean costume, show up for work and do something amazing.
Ah, but there’s the rub. What could I do that would amaze, awe and attract large amounts of pocket change from the crowds? I have no special talents. At least, none that could be considered busk-able.
I don’t juggle, charm snakes or eat fire, although there was an incident in Mexico when, after a long night at the cantina, I’m told I swallowed a shot of absinthe flambé on a dare. (Unfortunately, I can’t confirm that as fact. I was too distracted by the hot pink iguanas dancing on my eyelids at the time.)
As a child, I went through a magician phase. But card tricks were never my thing. (All thumbs.) I once tried pulling my pet rabbit out of a hat. It bit me on the hand, then pooped in my dad’s Homburg.
I did ride a mean pogo stick back in the day. But that particular busking activity doesn’t translate, visually, to a top-heavy, middle-aged woman. I don’t care how supportive the undergarments are.
As a teenager, my friends called me “the contortionist.” Naturally limber, I could do the Chinese splits and put both my feet behind my head. That was 37 years ago. Now, I’m lucky to cross my legs without getting a charley horse.
Tightrope walking might be a possibility. I did earn an “A” in balance beam my sophomore year in high school, after all. (Cue the spouse: “Good grief. Not the ‘A’ in balance beam story again.” What can I say? It was my one shining moment in gym class. I like to relive it. A lot.)
Sadly, I’ve learned excellent balance is a “use it or lose it” proposition. Today I’m not sure I could walk a straight line sober, even on the ground, on hands and knees.
When my kids were little, I moonlighted as a clown, entertaining at children’s parties on weekends. My gags were pretty good, but my balloon animals left something to be desired. (All thumbs, remember?) The kids would shout out their requests: “Butterfly!” “Poodle!” “Swan!” But, no matter how I twisted and tied, the darn balloon would always come undone.
“There,” I’d say, cheerfully, presenting the sorry specimen to a disappointed kid. “It’s a snake! A long, skinny, very relaxed snake.”
Yeah. I guess clowning is out.
(And don’t even utter the “mime” word to me. I did a unit on Marcel Marceau in college. For a whole semester. Enough said.)
Maybe I could be one of those live statues. You know, the ones who pose motionless for hours on end while tourists belly up for photo ops? Surely I could master something requiring absolutely no movement. I’ve been practicing all summer.
No, that’ll never work. I’m constantly blinking due to chronic dry eye. Not to mention all those bathroom runs I’d be making. Who wants to see Lady Liberty hightailing it to the john every 30 minutes?
Maybe I should set my sights on becoming a freak of nature, like those who lurk behind curtains at circus sideshows and state fairs. I could expose myself to dangerous levels of radiation and grow a third leg. Or, perhaps, morph into the world’s largest woman. I’d do almost anything to get carbs back.
Nah. That’s too dangerous for my health. I need to find a gimmick that’s safe, simple and suited to my unique attributes.
I’ve got it! The perfect freak show gig for yours truly:
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up and witness the wondrous, the astounding, the horrifyingly hirsute … drum roll, please ... Bearded Lady! Four years post-menopausal with whiskers like Jerry Garcia. Prepare yourselves to be amazed ... !”
(It never occurred to me that those bearded ladies on the midway were just hormonally unbalanced women who forgot to wax.)
Alas, I’m not ready to give up my facial depilatories just yet. Even if I were, what would I do? Stand there and let passers-by stroke my goatee? That’s not busking. That’s gross.
I need to give this idea more thought, because I love the idea of spending retirement as a busker. Beats the heck out of the Wal-Mart greeter job. And the pay is probably better, too.
— Cathy Hamilton is a 54-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author. She can be reached at 832-6319.