Saturday, October 26, 2013

creating a/broad, October 26, 2013

The Secrets of a Sidewalk Typist
by Cameryn Moore

When I’m in New Orleans, the Sidewalk Smut—you know, that weird little sidewalk gig where I pound out off-the-cuff custom pornography on a typewriter for strangers—takes up much more space in my consciousness than at any other time of the year. I can actually make money to live on, if I put in the hours, so I do, making up for mediocre box office in the previous four stops of my tour. New Orleans is also the only place where I’ve met other sidewalk typists (they’re all poets). It makes me realize how much I crave collegial interactions with people who share my same pursuits. It’s easy with Fringe performers, we’re fucking everywhere, but sidewalk typists are a very rare breed and not really out there.

So earlier this week I felt moved to contact the Buskers’ Hall of Fame, a website and podcast collection dedicated to interviews and oral history from buskers. I’ve known about them for a while, but was reluctant to reach out, afraid of being rebuffed. I have never been quite sure that Sidewalk Smut fits under that rubric, any more than palm-reading or caricature artists. But here in New Orleans it is really clear that I share the same urban space with them, and frequently street musicians pass by and there is always a smile or at least a friendly nod. We are all doing things out here on the street for money, and anyway, here I start feeling a little lonely, even with my poet neighbours, because I know that for the rest of the year, I will be alone and I don’t want to be. I want a fucking guild, some space, virtual or real, where we can chat over some equivalent of a water cooler and bitch about the assholes and discuss crowd psychology and admire each other’s patter and signage. All that stuff.

I really am in a different world when I go do Sidewalk Smut

So, anyway, I hit the BHoF editor up with a request for contacts, anything along the lines of what I’m doing, and also asked whether he would be interested in any writing about literary busking. He wrote back enthusiastically: “I’m totally interested in stories from the world!” It took a moment for that usage to fit in, “the world”. At first, I thought, “Wait, all stories are from the world.” But then it hit, I really am in a different world when I go do Sidewalk Smut. It’s not just different work, a different hat I put on. This is a whole different world.

More academic or pragmatic types might call this simply a different milieu or sphere of operations. It’s not actually like I lift a manhole cover or step between trees and suddenly I’m there in a mystic underworld with David Bowie and his significant codpiece—although that would be amazing—but there is no denying that it’s very different, here in “the world” the BHoF editor is talking about.

Oh, and I move through many worlds. The more I go about and expand my offerings—or, as more often happens, my offerings expand accidentally, in response to circumstance—the more of these creatively discrete worlds I find myself in. Buskers. Sex workers. Sex educators. Sex writers. Erotica writers. Writers, period. Playwrights. Fringe artists. Solo artists. Touring artists. Kinksters. Spoken-word artists. Sex therapists. Each one has a vocabulary, a culture, communication outlets, both official and unofficial, marketplaces… all of this only dimly perceptible to people not in this world.

I also am trying to figure what is mine to talk about, mine to learn, mine to teach.

Trying to find my space in these different worlds is very like the touring I do: I stay some places longer than other, put down roots and build history and connections in them to varying degrees, but nowhere am I actually a tourist, you know, “My goodness, look at this, isn’t it quaint? Can I take your picture?” And the same time I have to acknowledge that I don’t live there. I am not solely any one of these. I can’t afford to be. I have to diversify my brand, put my creative eggs in a bunch of different baskets. 

But it’s only partly, secondarily, an economic reality. First and foremost, it’s psychological. These worlds, these identities, are both outer and inner. Some of them I have lived in and with for a long time. Other ones are relatively recent realizations that I’ve had, about myself or the kind of work that I want to do. Sometimes these discoveries make sense out of everything else in my life leading up to it; other times it’s a little like what I imagine it would be to suddenly realize that you had a secret ethnic heritage that no one told you about. It doesn’t really change anything, but it also does.

Let me be clear: I don’t consider this a problem. If it is, it’s the sort of problem that no one wants to hear about, a challenge of abundance, what to choose. I also am trying to figure what is mine to talk about, mine to learn, mine to teach. How much time do I need to spend in those worlds before I own it, at least my experience of it? No one is out there setting those guidelines, it’s not like there is a certification body for this shit. It’s just stuff I get to wrestle with. Identity politics. Moving between worlds, and even inhabiting more than one world at once. 

Yeah, I guess I’m a busker, sometimes. What a strange new world.

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