Friday 21 Oct 2016

Nick the Busker
M Adam Roberts

I spent a pleasant evening at the beach yesterday evening after I spoke with you on the phone. First, I ate a delicious meal at Stacy's Buffet. Then I walked the one mile bridge over to the beach. It's a beautiful, scenic walk. I helped build the bridge.

At the beach, I sat and listened to a few live bands; the best I've heard free. Then I watched the sunset, as I walked the pier. I checked out all the cool craft items for sale, which our local artists have made; Rock Candles and such. I saw my Rock Candle buddy, too.

I strolled along the new Beach Walk that just opened. It's cool. On my way off the beach, I ran in to a young 16-year old boy, a busker, who was putting on a show as a street entertainer.

Clearwater Beach has many street entertainers performing every night. They perform right in front of the Pier, before thousands of people every night. This boy, I have never seen out there before. Someone told me he was the son of a good friend of mine, Dallas, a famous street performer.

Dallas is a Fire-eater. He does all kinds of dangerous stunts, with fire. He has performed live on MTV, many times. He's in several music videos of stars such as Aerosmith, among others.

The son, Nick, decided to follow in his father's footsteps, and become a street entertainer. He taught himself to be an escape artist, as Houdini or Chris Angel. I thought I'd stop to watch his show.

Nick's a skinny kid, no muscles, yet, but spiked hair. He was polite and likable. He started by performing several, impressive tricks.

Then Nick said he was about to perform his final trick of the night; his grand finale. He went on to tell us that this was how he choose to make his living. He said, "As a 16 year old boy, there are only a few options you have when it comes to earning a dollar. You can bag groceries, work in fast food or mow grass.

"I taught myself to be a magician and escape artist. I humbly ask you, if I am successful at performing this escape, that you take a dollar or two out of your wallet and put it in my bucket. Please support me in what I have chosen to do.

"If I am not able to escape, please, just walk away and don't worry about leaving me anything."

There were about 200 people gathered in a circling Nick, for his grand finale performance.

Nick started getting into a straight jacket. Someone, from the audience, helped him. The jacket constricted his movement. He then had the sleeves of his straight jacket, which included his arms, pulled between his legs and tied behind his back in several knots. After this, he picked two, of the strong looking, men from the audience. They took a 100 foot, one-inch-thick rope and tie it around and around and around him from head to toe. They pulled it as tight as they could. Nick leaned against the rope, as they circled him, to make sure it was as tight as it could possibly be. After circling him about 75 times, with the rope, over top of his straight jacket, they tied the rope in about a dozen knots to ensure it wouldn't come loose. This kid was almost impossibly bound. It seemed impossible that anyone could escape from such binding.

Then Nick asked someone to turn on his CD player. Some intense performance music now accompanied his escape routine. Nick started convulsing his body. From a standing position, he jerked and twisted, arched and spun, around and around. It was as if he were in a mad fit. He twisted and twisted and twisted faster, faster, and faster. It was exhausting to watch! After 15 minutes, the ropes had not even budged. He was already physically spent, but he kept on. You could tell he was starting to worry. After 30 minutes he was hyperventilating, way beyond exhaustion. He could hardly even breathe. Still convulsing like a total madman. We realized that he was in trouble.

The women in the crowd started to show tears in their eyes. You could hear the whispering start. "He can't get out," I heard someone say. "He's about to collapse from exhaustion. He can't do it," others murmured.

Concern overtook the crowd. Everyone felt sorry for Nick, including me. I realized he was in trouble. Ten more minutes passed. Nobody wanted to walk away because he was in trouble. He needed help, but at the same time, nobody wanted to see him fail either. Finally, in a last try of desperation, he violently twisted himself all over the stage until he collapsed through his stage props, destroying them all. He was so exhausted. He couldn't pick himself up from the wreckage. Someone ran to help him, and he yelled, pitifully, "Stop!" Please don't help me! I can do this! Please don't leave."

We were all about to cry for the boy. His ropes had not moved an inch, in almost an hour. He was ready to have a heart attack from exhaustion.

Somehow Nick found the strength to pull himself out of the wreckage, of his stage props. He began twisting and convulsing again. After about ten more minutes, an end of his rope finally loosened. He put his foot on the end of that rope and he started twisting again. He was breathing so hard it sounded as if his lungs were going to explode! After almost an hour, all the ropes started to come loose. When the ropes finally dropped to the ground, the crowd roared! Nick shouted at the crowd, say, "Wait! Not yet!" The straight jacket was not off.

About ten minutes later, Nick finally slipped out of it, and he collapsed to the ground. The crowd went wild again. This time, he accepted their applause.

Nick pulled himself up from the ground and on to his broken stage. In total exhaustion he said, "That was the hardest show I've ever done in my life! My name is Nick, and I'm a street performer. Please support me in what I do. Please throw me a buck or two in my bucket if you can. Thank you for watching my show."

I never throw any money in the bucket of a busker because I can't afford to. For Nick, I had to give him a buck or two. Nick showed the heart of Rocky Balboa, in a championship fight. He could have easily quit and cried out, "Will somebody please come and untie me. I can't do this. I'm really in trouble here. Please get me out of this." He didn't. That kid nearly died doing it, but he did escape! It was something I will never forget: a show of sheer heart and will-power.

Nick's a young boy, with 250 people watching him, live. He inspired each of us. I walked away, tearful. What a champ!

M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.

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