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SMUT STAND REPORT: Oct. 3, 2014 (New Orleans)

WHEN: 5.5 hours (8:30pm-2am), Oct 3, 2014. WHERE: in front of Michael's Bicycle, Frenchmen Street, New Orleans.  OUTPUT: one piece of microsmut and six custom works, including a quasi-spiritual beachside scene with cowgirl and crashing waves; a softcore, just-made-it-to-the-house piece where the proper gentleman becomes a pussy-craving maniac; and one that included so many elements of kink that it's shorter to just give you its working title: Human Zoo.

Last night I experienced again the power of both positive peer pressure and word of mouth. Four of the five full-length commissions came in pairs, and of those, two were referrals from last night's end-of-shift customers. This is  a thing that happens, even in sidewalk literary pursuits.

Last night had a couple of hours of waitlisting, and then a lot of hours of waiting. A few of the pieces were definitely worth considering for the next Bang It Out volume, and I even did up a couple of non-com pieces based on my lover's prompts and emailed them off to him (and received enthusiastic praise for them this morning, yes, I might let you see). Thank you, Spotted Cat Club, for your wireless signal! Matt-the-Poet and one other poet were there; Matt wasn't very talkative, but he was working on a piece in his notebook, so I left him alone.

In short, it felt like a fine evening until the very end. I was packing up the stand, and Matt turned to me and said, "We need to talk."

That is never a good sentence.

What followed is this: he loves what I do, admires me for it, he loves working next to me, but he cannot continue to work next to me every time he's out there. "The brightest star dims the others around it," he said, or something like that. Poetry cannot compete with pornography, and on the last three nights he's been out and sitting next to me, he has made either zero dollars or as close to that as makes no difference when paying his bills. Normally he makes bank on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in particular, but this week nothing.

This is stuff that I don't deal with anyplace else, because there are no other literary buskers, anywhere else I've been. Here I have to sit with this situation all the time, when I'm doing smut next to the poets-for-hire. I mentioned it in yesterday's smut report, that I notice a decent demand for smut many nights, but I remember other nights last year when poetry was the big seller. That has not happened yet this year. I regularly draw more attention than the poets; I normally shrug and figure, well, I put in my time doing lonely stints out in Cincinnati or Houston or wherever. I put in a lot of hours there on Frenchmen Street. I am always polite to other typists. I came up with the signage. It is not my fault that smut is my peculiar talent. But my presence was having a deleterious effect on Matt's livelihood.

Gah.

I am actually confused about why this pattern is happening this year and not in years past. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say it's a result of the Bourbonization of Frenchmen Street, that is, the people who like the style of Bourbon Street, but are freaked out by the crime there, are coming in droves to Frenchmen Street and they may be less the poetry types.

Which all makes for a very interesting discussion about social trends and street-level capitalism and blah blah blah, but in the end it just comes down to the fact that I am not willing to lose Matt's friendship over this. We talked, or mostly, he talked and I listened and tried really hard to keep from crying, and then we came to the following agreement: I will set up somewhere else on the street on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are historically his moneymakers. If people ask, "where's the smut lady?", he will point them in my direction. And he would walk with me, right then, after we packed up our shit, and scope out the street for likely alternative spots for me.

Well, there are many reasons why in front of Michael's Bicycle is the historical gathering spot for the typists. No other spot is nearly as suited, with the flow of traffic and good lighting and the shelter from the elements. In the end, I settled on across the street, in front of the mural fence. That's where I first set up my stand in New Orleans, in fall of 2011. It is badly lit--I might get a battery-powered clip-on lamp--and there is no cover. If it rains, I'm fucked. But that's really the only option, unless I want to take Tuesday and Thursday nights off.

I feel resentful. I know I am doing the right thing with regard to Matt, but … look, I know it seems like I'm rolling in it, with some of these Sidewalk Smut reports, but that shit is GAS MONEY to get back to Montreal and fucking RENT when I get there, for at least another couple of months until I've been back on call for 16 hours a day for a couple of months and that income stream levels out. That shit is GROCERY MONEY, in an autumn where performances are sparsely scheduled and ticket sales have been less than inspired. My survival instincts, my anxiety around food availability, is at a constant background hum when I tour, and during and after yesterday's conversation with Matt, that anxiety spiked into moderate panic. I remind myself that I did all right in that alternate spot in 2011, but still.

I feel sadness, that I don't get to sit with Matt on those nights. His company is precious to me, and he says mine is too him, but not more precious than paying his bills. I hate that our time together has to be sacrificed to that.

And I feel shame, for needing that money so bad. I feel guilt for pursuing my work, even though it is having, has always had, a noticeable impact on the local street poets' trade. I only care about Matt, but it affects all of them. There is nothing dodgy about being a traveling busker, and there is no rota system for this, the poets generally co-exist fine amongst themselves. But right now I feel like I am an invasive species, destroying the natural ecosystem for a month, and then moving on.

My lover, the one who gave me the writing prompts last night, emphasized that the situation it is no one's fault, and says that I am doing the right and good thing by making the concessions. Maybe. But I wouldn't do them for anyone else. And I still feel really, complicatedly bad.

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