Thursday, July 22, 2004

Confessions of a One-Time Sidewalk Artist

It was the summer of 1994, in between Grade 11 and Grade 12.  And I had tickets to go see Pink Floyd.

Some friends and I were staying at an apartment in Toronto for the concert, an apartment that was owned, believe it or not, by the current Mayor of Ottawa.  It was an experimental trip for me in many ways.  Over the course of the four or five days I was in town, I dyed my hair for the first time (fire-engine red, the brightest stuff we could find at the Shoppers Drug Mart, which turned out to be an effeminate-sounding product called "Zazu" that isn't even made anymore because consumers thought it was too bright), I went to my first licensed club in Ontario (a goth club called "Death in the Underground" or something equally cheese-sinister), and I tried sidewalk art as a means to pay for my dinner.

I didn't really think too much of it at the time.  If the present me was talking to my past me at the time, I'd probably ask myself what I was doing it for.  I mean, I actually know people or have heard close accounts of people who were brought up in the suburban wonderland with a silver spoon in their mouths and their way fully-paid through university -- yet they were on the street panning for change because they thought it was fun.  I'm not a big fan of those people (I usually refer to them with swear words and a heaping helping of scorn).  Sure, I didn't really fit that profile, money was tight for me and my family at that time, but regardless, I had a nice safe place to live and I didn't need to be doing it.  So, mea culpa.

But there was something about it that I really enjoyed when I was doing it.  Maybe it was that show-off side of my personality, which was always deeper when it came to my art.  I spent the whole morning drawing on the pavement in front of the Bay on Bloor at Yonge, and it was nice having people stop by and comment on what we were doing and appreciating it in their own way.  Two of my friends were writing poetry in chalk, another was singing, and all in all, it was a fun way to kill some time before the concert.

But I guess what validated the small collection of loose change that people donated (or stole, depending on who you talk to) was that in a way, we were doing something for it, it was kind of a twisted service.  We made the sidewalk pretty, and they sent us some loonies to show their appreciation. And hey, we got a nice meal out of it when we were running low on funds.

Oh yeah, and Pink Floyd?  Still, a decade later, one of the most memorable concerts I have ever been to.  I was so lucky to have been there.  I expect that some of the people who were there have a completely different, chemically-altered memory of the show, however.

So consider this an introduction to a link to some of the most amazing sidewalk art I have ever seen.  There's no doubt in my mind that this guy deserves to eat for free every time he puts chalk to pavement.


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