August 20, 2009
San Francisco streets seem to be full of people standing on their heads and hands these days. It must be the recession. Most of them are young African-American men in their 20s and 30s. They do complicated endurance-testing upside down contortions on street corners downtown seemingly for hours, sometimes with props and always with a change jar in front of them. I cannot imagine a more demanding way to pay your rent.
I watched this one guy for a while yesterday. It was a chilly afternoon with blustering wind. He was dressed in black shorts and a matching wife-beater. He had a green bandanna on his head. He was doing a headstand on a small glass drink bottle, his crown resting on the bottle's mouth. His legs were absolutely straight up in the air. I stood on that street corner for about 10 minutes and in all that time he didn't appear to move a muscle.
I felt quite moved and a bit shaken by his performance. Is what he was doing a performance? Can we call this art? Or is it pure necessity?