Every time Fletcher Stafford emails me I take a drink because I honestly believe that he is the most benevolently insane musician in the entire city. When the guy who wrote "You Cannot Kill David Arquette" calls you wackalooney, you need to pay attention, understand? Stafford got in touch because he filmed a music video for a new side project, Girly Eyes, called "a thought I feared."
First off, a little background. The last time I brushed up against Stafford's weird little pocket of existence was to chronicle the video he had shot for Orents Stirner's "Collect My Sunshine." That one was a real acid drop, believe me. For seven and a half minutes Stafford walked an viewer through a handcrafted improvised cardboard hallway party that was sort of a cross between the ending of the movie Strange Days and the Hall of Tortured Souls Microsoft hid in Excel 95.
So what offering did he have this time ready to take years off my life? Well, it's all about a sign spinner named Martino.
"I saw the sign spinner, Martino is his name I believe, working, I mean wooorking the sign everyday on my way home from work and I couldn't look away," says Stafford via email. "He was/is always so sincerely engaged in what he's doing. I found it amazing and inspiring."
Inspiring enough that the video is literally nothing but four minutes of Martino going to town with the energy of a god imploring people to sell their gold. At least that's the motto on his sign. I have a feeling Martino would be equally excited and sincere about any marketing he was employed to pass along.
Strangely, the concept works. Such things can fail. I'm looking at you, Black Keys. In the case of "a thought I feared" the message comes across loud and clear. You have to be pretty far down the social ladder to be a sign spinner, and being on that level means you probably have a lot on your mind pushing you down from the top of the American Dream all heavy and diamond-like way above your head.
But just as the song talks about banished fears, you see the unabashedly enthusiasm of one man making the best out of a bad situation. Sure, he's on the side of the road for what is probably less than $50 a day, but how many of us can say we get to dance all day long? Martino can, which makes him in one aspect better than you and me. Martino gets it. Fletcher Stafford does as well.
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I was involved with a big-box store chain that went bankrupt a few years back, and when that happened the final closing-out firm that swooped in appeared and handed off signs to guys like Martino. I had the rare opportunity to talk to one of these bankruptcy priests and asked them why they chose to pay a man a wage to hold a sign when you could just stick it in the ground. I was expecting to hear about reaching out to a community with a job for someone, because I am literally that mindlessly optimistic of a person sometimes.
No, the man told me with the faint smell of sulfur rising from his breath, they hire people because it is actually cheaper to pay someone minimal wage to spin a sign than to apply for sign ordinance.
"I didn't know that, but that question has been in the back of my mind, lurking," says Stafford. Check out the video below.
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Stafford plays with Orents Stirner Friday, December 1 at Fitzgerald's.