Beat down all your heat. You can't stop the screams.
Oakland Ferry, 11 a.m.
Touring didn’t officially start in Oakland, but aural and visual entertainment did. I boarded the ferry with my tour manager, Roadshow, and the chicanery began. Riding unicycle on the platform, playing drums on kids’ hats, and my favorite, asking strangers to share sunscreen was all part of the act. For the 30-minute ride people were agape to see a busker going to work. A few of my favorite comments:
“Are you the onboard entertainment?” – Old lady in glitter
“Good luck with your business ventures.” – Dock worker
The City, 12 p.m.
The line to get off the ferry boat was peanut crushing. The anticipation to play, ride, and scare was making me shake. But once the pigeons started swirling and I ate a few handfuls of popcorn my eyes uncrossed and the fury took flight.
I trained at night so I could take the streets with me eyes closed, but I was not prepared for the crowds. Not only was I playing three instruments at once (kazoo, horns, and drum) atop a unicycle I had to cut through the bodies. At times the masses got so thick I had to pullover. Other times I had to honk and people parted. A few shouts from tourists:
“Only in San Francisco.” – Tourist from Arizona
“I can’t even do one of those things.” – Blond woman
“Samson Y, who’s that?” – Female fan
Musée Mécanique, 1 p.m.
Competition around the antique arcade was stiffer than a wooden leg. There was a Beach Boys cover band (electric guitar and dancing woman), a clown on a unicycle with three stacked wheels, and an old Chinese man playing amplified erhu—I stopped and played with him for a minute. Though ear-piercing at times, my kazoo and his vibrating string did harmonize at different intervals, but only for seconds.
Longing to lock eyes with Laughing Sal at Musée Mécanique, the tour kept moving and I rode to the door. I played a few circus tunes outside, the door was tagged with a tour poster, and then game over. My favorite comments:
“Do you work here?” – Kid playing arcade
“Mommy, what’s wrong with him?” – Young fan
“Honey, stop staring.” – Mom
SF Jazz, 2 p.m.
I chose to go back down the Embarcadero and ride south on Market to the SF Jazz Center. The crowd on the Embarcadero was thicker than an elephant crossing and I couldn’t pass it up. Returning was easier. People must have been ready for me, or I was playing louder and they parted.
Riding down Market street was a kick in the crotch. Sidewalks were wide and easier to play, but the homeless did not welcome the Hiss. The tourists brushed aside easily enough, but the transients refused the racket I was peddling. A few choice comments:
“F***ing clown.” – Jealous fan
“You’re an a**hole.” – Old man
“Who’s the sideshow?” – Lady in brown
Arriving at SF Jazz was a relief. They graciously accepted my gifts: a poster and CD, and asked me not to interrupt the Indian tabla master class with Zakir Hussain. I promised nothing, but went outside and peered through the window at his holiness. He was skilled. I tipped my hat and left.
Aquarius Records, 3 p.m.
Stopping to fuel up before entering the Mission District was a mistake. People welcomed me to this flavorful neighborhood with hoots, hollers, high-fives, and whistles. I wanted to eat their tacos. A stark difference from riding down Market. In route to Aquarius I stopped at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records and asked to hang up a poster and donate a CD, they wouldn’t have it. Across the street at Aquarius was totally different. They were cool vibes, open to circus music, and wanted me to stay and play a birthday party. I couldn’t, the show had to go on. But take note: Buy music from Aquarius Records. 1-2-3-4 Go! can suck it. Lovely comments from this leg of the tour:
“Can you come play at my church?” – Old homeless man
“You rock. What are you doing?” – Yelling fan
“I love you.” – Teen crossing the street
Amoeba Music, 4 p.m.
The first step in playing/riding to Amoeba was to find the wiggle—a jagged route for cyclist that eases the burden of riding straight up steeple like hills. I found it. Thanks to the help of a street corner pot brownie party. Very enlightened citizens. Emerging from the wiggle we wheeled up Ashbury and came right out on to Haight. The street was a carnival of sound. People were singing, yelling, and screaming. A tour bus slowed down and opened its doors so tourists could take pics of me in full swing. It was a whaling way to wind down the tour. Much like Aquarius Records, the people at Amoeba were accommodating and open to the new madness of circus music. They gave me tape and a stapler to do my thing. A few comments:
“Go, go, go, go, go, gooooo.” – Unknown
“It’s good to see freaks in SF.” – Mom with daughter
Circus Center, 5 p.m.
Less than seven blocks away, the Circus Center was in sight from the first turn around the corner of Golden Gate Park. Arriving hot, horned, and aching I walked up the stairs and immediately crashed a kid’s birthday party. The doors were locked, but the parents let me in, thinking I was an employee of the center. People who actually work there knew better and showed me the door without letting me hang up a poster. I’m not bitter. I looked dangerous, drunk, and like I was about to fall over.
Outside the handstands and flips began. I made it. Last favorite comments:
“Who are you?” – Circus Center worker
“You look like you belong here.” – Parent
“You’re in my driveway. I need to park.” – Lexus owner
It was grand, it was grim; it was gangly. I’d do it again.
CIRCUS SCREAMS is out now. Get it here.