Yes Virginia, There Is A Butterfly Man

By: Todd Strong

Dear Busker-HOF,

I am a new street performer. Some of my fellow buskers say there is no Butterfly Man, or that his influence on the craft wasn’t that great. One old musical saw player says, “If you see it on Facebook—or just about anywhere else on the Internet—it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Butterfly Man, and did he influence pitches all over the world as much as some people say?

Virginia Slim-Pickens


02-ButterflyVirginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been dispirited by the skepticism of a skeptical age and are limited by their lack of imagination and the size of their own hats. They do not believe in the wonder of folding money, rather they hear only the clink of a few coins. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All hats, Virginia, whether they be jugglers’, magicians’, guitarists’, or others’, start out meager. In this great universe of ours, most are mere insects that have only one stage (if that) in their cycles of life, ants, in their intellect as compared with the boundless world about them, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. The Moth Man’s stages were not just larval and pupal, amplified volume and artificial stanchion. His is the ability to gather a crowd without relying on a Samson Airliner plugged into an Amp Can or Crate, nor need of a pole whose sole purpose is to make himself more visible and prop up a flimsy ego. He challenges passers-by to stop passing by, take a few minutes from their routines, and pay for the privilege. Taking Shakespeare to heart, Bitterfly brings to life the idea that all the world’s a stage, and we are merely the audience for his playful rantings. Think not that the continuing metamorphoses of Mr. Nelson is the call to a final curtain; the Bug is merely flitting away to discover new pitches.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Butterfly Man.

He exists as certainly as people want to be entertained, and are open to finding beauty and joy in the most unlikely places. Alas! how dreary would be the streets if there were no B-fly! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no hecklers then, no 03-Butterflycomebacks, no insults, lovingly-shared to make tolerable yet another trek to shepherd out-of-town newbies to Pier 39. We should have no enjoyment, except for gossip and coming up with yet another variation on messy apple juggling. The chance encounters of home-grown, in-your-face entertainment would be diminished.

Not believe in the Fly Guy! You might as well not believe in buskers, or that strangers are willing to open their wallets as payment for simple diversions. You might get your friends to hire men to watch all the pitches in all the corners of the world on a balmy Saturday night to net the Butterfly Man. But even if you were not actually present at the birth to witness Opryland’s original Butterfly the Clown coaxing applause from an appreciative crowd, what would that prove? Truth be told, in this vast universe relatively few had a chance to see the actual Butterfly Man work his lepidopteran magic, but that is no proof that his influence is not great and widespread. The strongest inspirations in the world emerge not from cheap, stolen lines. They are born, rather, from those intangibles that neither beginners nor generic, YouTube-inspired, lowest-common-denominator hacks can barely glimpse: staying true to your character, sharing yourself, and committing to go the distance, even when the risk is great. (“Nay! Because the risk is great,” shrieks Bug.) Did you ever see young men from the pitch actually return to their supposed day jobs of selling grass to school children? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they did not intrude when they were not wanted. Have you ever waited in a line up for a ferry and been entertained by a fool who juggles as well with his tongue as with his hands? Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are to be seen, just around the corner. It has been said, “Even a mime may sometimes eke out a living.”

04-ButterflyYou tear apart a Pan flute to see how that insidious noise is created (and hope for a blessed bit of quiet), but there is a veil covering the spontaneous world of street entertainment that
not the most-jaded man, nor even the ubiquitous drone of Peruvian musicians could tear apart. Only wit, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Bug Man? Thank God his spirit lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, his influence will continue to inspire the buskers of the future and make glad the hearts of strangers.

Aloha, Robert, and Mahalo!!!

(Originally Released on Facebook on July 25, 2012)

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