Juggling the problems of survivalBobbie Allan is good at...


April 24, 1994|By Scott Timberg

Juggling the problems of survival

Bobbie Allan is good at what he does, and he knows it. He's not above boasting. "I'm the only guy in the world who juggles five balls on a unicycle."

Often seen on corners and median strips around the Inner Harbor, Mr. Allan is partial to the island at Conway and Light streets. He doesn't have the license required to juggle inside Harborplace, but he's working on it.

Until then, this gig works for him. "It's like practice time for me -- I get better doing it, plus I get a couple dollars to eat."

Mr. Allan learned to juggle from watching professionals as a kid. His unicycle dates from the days when he often performed at parties around town. Mr. Allan, 29, says he's been juggling for almost 20 years, but he only took his skill to the streets when he had to. Homeless since he lost his fast-food job three years ago, he juggles for quarters and bills so he can buy time with which to look for a job.

Men at the shelters he attended told him to beg or carry a sign, but that's not his style. "Before I put a sign on my chest, or beg you for money, I'll entertain you first." On a typical day he garners $12 or $13.

"I'd go back to fast food in a heartbeat," he says. He collects business cards, tips on janitor jobs, office phone numbers, anything.

"I guess this is odd, seeing a clown on the corner juggling. That's the only edge I have over the other guys -- I make people smile."

He loves the crowd response, but juggling for five hours in the wind and heading back to the Greyhound Station every day takes its toll.

"I like seeing people smile, but I'd rather see somebody smile as part of a professional program."

The board game has small cards with questions that players take turns asking and answering. But this is no trivial pursuit.

If your mate has an affair, should he/she have an HIV test before you resume sexual relations? You peek into your 16-year-old's diary and discover an affair with a teacher; what do you do?

"There have always been sexual dilemmas, but today, because of things like AIDS, we have to deal with them openly, or we're going to do ourselves in," says Carrol S. Perrino, who with a fellow Morgan State psychology professor created "Sexual Etiquette: A Game of Manners."

Dr. Perrino, 52, and Robert J. Smith, 44, spent years writing and editing the hundreds of questions for the game and finding designers, box-makers and printers to turn their idea into reality. The game, which costs $24.95, is sold at area college bookstores as well as the Sassy Sentiments card store and MacGillivary's Pharmacy.

Players consider questions on issues ranging from the bedroom to the workplace -- then other players discuss how well the respondent answered the question and award a score from 0 to 3.

As psychologists, the game creators say, they are always asked for advice on interpersonal dilemmas. That, and their differing backgrounds -- he's single and lives in Baltimore; she's married with two children in Silver Spring -- provided them with plenty of fodder for the game.

"There are no pat answers, right or wrong," Dr. Smith says. "But this can be an icebreaker to get people talking about the changing issues in today's society."

Jean Marbella

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