by Ray Jason
Tucked away in the backwaters of these essays, there are a few brief references to a prior chapter in my life when I was a … JUGGLER. And as might be expected, due to my fondness for the Unconventional Path, I did not juggle in ordinary venues like circuses or Las Vegas revues. No, I was a street performer – and proud of it. Indeed, I am STILL proud of it - because I was the very first of the San Francisco street jugglers.
This was back in the early 1970s, when street performing was beginning its modern American renaissance. Those were glorious years when the sidewalks were alive with mimes and tap dancers and magicians and roller-skating accordionists. Because we were pioneers, we were all joyously making it up as we went along. As a continuation of the Sixties’ mentality of “let’s really embrace life,” our ragtag band of buskers was predominantly motivated by co-operation rather than competition. We preferred being folk heroes to being stars. As an unrepentant romantic, this was an exquisite community for me. I could live frugally but comfortably, while making my favorite city a slightly better and happier place. And my modest efforts were respected and cherished by my neighbors. The Mayor of San Francisco even declared a day in my honor.
That wistful-golden era lasted about two decades and then it began to tarnish. Being a beloved San Francisco street entertainer was no longer enough for the newer performers. They wanted to use the streets as a stepping stone to comedy clubs and sitcoms and The Big Time. Witnessing this decline was too heartbreaking for me, and so I sailed away from it all - and began my sea gypsy life.