I think life should be like a musical. Wouldn't that be fun? Yippee-skippy! That's just what I'll do. Yes, for one glorious fall afternoon, my life will be my very own moderately budgeted Broadway extravaganza.
In the past, bursting into song in public was limited to the insane, karaoke bars, and those on Pier 39 pegging themselves as street performers (aren't buskers just beggars with guitars?). That was, until now. Yes, I decide to go around my beloved city of San Francisco and spontaneously belt out Broadway numbers at my discretion, and see if curious bystanders react in the same fashion as in West Side Story. It will be a delightful musical romp that's all the rage! The critics will be clamoring for more! "I give it four stars!" one very famous critic will say. Infiltrator -- the Musical! will follow one young man's journey in search of truth, happiness, and love for his fellow man, and if you're not careful, you just might learn a little something about yourself. I shall use popular songs to convey my emotions. It'll be just like Oliver, only different somehow (and not involving orphans or anyone named Oliver for that matter).
San Francisco is an ideal location for my self-made musical based upon my life. Why? San Francisco is a musical kind of town. Though it might be a bit of a challenge to get anyone here to react to my musical proclivities. There're very few other cities where a man can walk down the street, wearing nothing but a salmon and a top hat, riding a unicycle, and no one bats an eye. With a hell of a lot competing for people's attention, a man conducting his own musical of his life has got to kick some ass, not to mention exhibit, with perfection, flamboyant jazz hands (the classic Bob Fosse move of fingers spread and extended, shaking vibrantly).
I'm at the corner of Powell and Market at the cable car turnaround -- a tourist haven and ideal location for the opening scene of Infiltrator -- the Musical! It's also a good thing that I'm avoiding my own neighborhood. I don't want neighbors to secretly refer to me as "that singing guy."
In preparation, I do a few vocal warm-ups.
I look a bit crazier than usual. I have a black eye from an accidental head-butt, received during a weekend soccer game. But that doesn't hamper me from breaking into a George Gershwin tune right by the cable car queue of tourists.
I got rhythm
I got music
I got my girl
Who could ask for anything more?
Unfortunately my opening number is a mere whispering interpretation of the classic and beloved Gershwin number. So far, the musical version of my life is less than a success, despite the fact that I exhibited well-timed jazz hands.
I got rhythm
I got music ...
I merely look like a grown man moving his lips with some sort of neurological condition in his hands. It's enough, though, to get the attention of a pair of elderly German tourists with fanny packs. They look up from their San Francisco guidebook. Aaaah, yes, people reacting to my offhanded and irreverent behavior, obviously well-cultured fans of the form of American entertainment that is the musical.
"Excuse me," says one of the German tourists.
"Ye-e-e-e-s!" I sing.
"Do you know where North Beach is?"
Damn! They simply want directions. I must try harder! MUST TRY HARDER! In order to give them directions, I tell them in the form of a rendition from one of their country's favorite musical artists. That's right, Nena, of "99 Luftballons" fame.
Floating in the summer sky
Take the Kearny bus to Broadway,
Look for all the Italian restaurants ...
I move my hips along with the words, adding my now-trademarked jazz hands.
They give me that "what a peculiar man" look. Maybe I should have sung my second choice for German musical selection, "Deutschland Über Alles."
I make my way up Powell Street on this gorgeous, warm day. There's a healthy sea of shoppers and tourists sauntering along the sidewalk. Just the kind of day that makes one spontaneously burst into ... a song! Yes, another Gershwin classic, from the folk opera Porgy and Bess.
It's summertime, and the living is easy ...
Adding chutzpah, I hoof it, sideways, up and down a flight of stairs in front of a crowded office building, concluding with an arm-swing around a lamppost, and ending up on one knee next to a guy with a sign that says "Why Lie, I Just Want Beer."
Yes, that's one thing you'll always hear about Infiltrator: "Always the showman!" A regular, modern-day, blond-dreadlocked Mr. Bojangles.
To my frowning bemusement, this heralded song-and-dance number receives nothing more than momentary, stone-faced glances. Where's the applause? Where are the shouts of "Encore!"? Once again, I only get that "what a peculiar man" gaze. Pedestrians look over, then straight ahead. My performance, despite jazz hands to level 11, goes virtually unnoticed. Unlike in real staged musicals, I simply feel like an ass! But again, along this same city block, there's a man in a red cape and a Viking helmet, street crazies pretending to be human statues, and a mime. That's a hell of a lot of competition for a man doing an outdoor musical of his own life.
On the next street corner, there's a nutter with a blue dolphin hand-puppet, asking people for spare change. He's singing the Supremes song "Baby Love." Perhaps he, too, is in his very own musical! That's why I give him a dollar.
"Thank you," he says, waving his dolphin hand puppet.
Maybe a few words of encouragement are needed. Perhaps a song from the musical Annie could sum it up best.
The sun will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow there will be sun ...
"Oh good, a song!" he remarks while shaking his dolphin hand puppet. I go into the second verse.
I love ya, dolphin hand-puppet, tomorrow ....
The guy with the dolphin hand puppet wishes he could go back to what he was doing. He wishes I would stop singing. He gives me a look like, "I know I'm crazy, but what's this guy going on about?!" Yes, I'm getting crazy looks from the crazy guy. I carry on.
I think of the day, so gray and lonely
I pick up my dolphin hand puppet and grin and say ...
"You all listen to this young man," he informs an elderly couple. "He's got a good voice!"
I grab his arm, the arm that doesn't have the puppet, and swing him once around, and end my musical number with some relevant spirit for the city of song, on one knee, arm thrust in the air.
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow. Go Niners! Go Niners!
With that, I continue down the musical road.
Feeling in need of a jolt of energy, I pop into Starbucks. A cute girl behind the counter hands me a white mocha coffee. What a nice, sweet gesture. A gesture that can only be summed up by the words of Billy Joel and his Broadway musical Movin' Out.
Don't go changing
To try and please me
Don't change the caramel in your Frappuccinos
I'm a hit. The girl behind the counter smiles and blushes, while an old Asian woman applauds!
"Very good! Very good!" she says.
I bow, grab my coffee, and get the hell out of there.
Back on the streets, a man in a bright red shirt with a vacant look in his eye approaches me. He hands me a pamphlet.
"What's this?" I ask.
"A Scientology personality test."
Scientology's extremely dodgy. Maybe I could express my feelings toward it better in ... a song! I look directly into his eyes and start belting out the words of R.E.M.
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losin' my religion
Hooked up to an E-meter ...
He thrusts the pamphlet into my hand.
"You really need this!" he says.
My sojourn is nearly over. Reflecting bittersweetly on my afternoon, I slowly turn to an old man working at a flower stand.
I left my heart, in San Francisco ...
"Ha ha ha," he bellows.
I don't really know the rest of the words, so I improvise.
San Francisco was where my heart was left
Do-do-do, a Golden Gate Bridge,
And some nice buildings, in San Francisco ...
The flower-stand man really enjoys this musical interlude within his daily routine. He also enjoys my interpretive tap-dance moves from Cats. And through my scientific findings, yes, life would be more interesting if it were like a musical. Apparently, some people, such as coffee shop workers and crazy men with dolphin hand puppets, would enjoy a show tune a little more than others. So next time you're in public, spontaneously break into a song. Singing is not a crime!