Mexican dance music from almost a block away serves as soundtrack for one of this week's many fights below my window. As I type this a woman stands screaming on the sidewalk in a thick South Philly accent, "Pussy fuckin BITCH! I'll smack yous right in ya fuckin moufs wit my belt you fuckin mouf off ta me. That's right fuckin run, run.." (etc, etc) Now cue the pitter-patter of not-so-little feet taking off south toward Snyder. Ah, to be alive.
Face painting season is back in full swing. Saturday was my first day back in the tent. It's somewhat comforting that when life is so unpredictable (like hearing gunshots while eating brunch) you will always know exactly what you'll find in the tent. It never changes. The paints are always the same color, the children you paint never seem never to age, you work beside the same old people, every year confronted by the same problem: people that scrunch their noses. This is one of the biggest on-job dilemmas we face painters face, something we all gripe about, something we dread. Nose scrunchers.
In the tent tackling the nose scunchers, your life outside of face painting feels surreal. No matter what you've done in the past, you're now back in the same place you always were, in the same tie dyed shirt, feeling both out of place (I glitter 6 year olds for a living?) and at home (ahhh, beach berry red, my favorite!) at once. Things are as they always were, as they were last year, the year before, and despite your hair being longer and your hand distinctively less young looking, you start to wonder if you ever left.
Catching up with all my co-workers was odd this time around as we're all reaching our 3, 4, and 5 year anniversaries with the company and most of us were feeling the humbling and bizarre effect of the tent as time marches on for all of us yet beach berry red remains the same.
"So, what'd you do since last time I saw you?"
"I uh... went to Russia... and uh... Greece... and, hey little dude, don't scrunch your nose, ok?"
"Russia? Holy shit. Whoooooo's next? You want to be a butterfly? Oke doke!"
"What about you? Chin up little man, I can't paint your face if I can't see it!"
"Well uh, my girlfriend got cancer, her car caught on fire, I moved to NYC, was going to backpack around the world, canceled my flight... there you go sweetie, you're a butterfly!... moved back to Philly, I'm living with my Mom and uh.. now I'm back here. Face painting. Again."
"All of that happened over the winter?! NEXT IN LINE PLEASE!"
"....yeah... do you want sparkles little lady?"
The tent is like a silent spiritual guide for us, leaving us riddles to ponder while we crank out endless spider men and princesses. If nothing changes in the tent while everything changes in your life ("Don't scrunch your nose.") does anything really change if in the end you feel the same? Are your problems ("Just relax your nose, yes... relax...") really that significant when the scrunching of a child's nose trumps them all?