You don't have to pick a special day on Market Street to be yelled at by strangers. And it's not that unusual to encounter those in odd outfits trying to sell you objects and services of ostentatious uselessness. But Saturday, the “Cries of San Francisco” put on by
Southern Exposure offered a witty and sometimes touching variant on an old theme based on The Cries of London, Francis Wheatley's seminal 18th-century oil paintings depicting London's street sellers.
While the original criers sold necessities such as fruit, hardware, and furniture repair, and advertised their wares by “crying” over the marketplace din, the crowd at Mint Plaza adopted a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward what constitutes “necessity.” Peter Max Lawrence sat at the Paper Waster Press, doodling on a stack of 8″ by 10″s. Some drawings he sold. Most simply alighted from his desk and blew about the plaza. The efforts put forth by Lawrence and others were skillful and impressive, and the only drawback to the larger spectacle was an undercurrent of smart-alecky dismissal of what were identified as society's serious problems.