Boston Deaf, Day 2

I set out again after five days largely composed of further rest. I intended to try a pitch at three and then another after an hour break (10.18.10). Upon arriving at the Public Garden, however, my prospective pitch was occupied by an accordionist and violinist playing Irish jigs. They seemed to be doing well and I asked them when they might finish – they very nicely told me to return in an hour. It wasn’t worth trying a short pitch before so I headed off in search of a post office. This turned out to quite the search: I directed in turn to four different people before I found the place, and thus used up my hour.

The duo were beginning to pack up just as I caught sight of them again back in the Garden. We switched off smoothly, chatting a bit about our experiences. They wished me luck and promised me I’d like this pitch, even offering to hold it for me the next day. The spanish guitarist from the other night rolled in simultaneously but deferred with no complaints to me, only asking how long I might be. Busking in Boston might not be terribly lucrative, but I’ve come to enjoy how civilized it all is. That night was a model of how pitches should be managed – shared and rotated with smiles and encouragement, not jealously hoarded like some in Europe.

It was a very slow pitch. Not so slow as the other night, happily. As promised, I loved the pitch, regardless. It’s a gorgeous spot to play, with the little river passing below and skyscrapers in the distance not so dense to block out the sky but rather accentuate it’s deep beauty. Light faded slowly in a very beautiful, golden way. I began with I Will Follow You Into the Dark and two girls sitting on a park bench down by the river immediately took notice, smiling at each other and looking up at me just beneath the outstretched limb of a tree with looks that spoke of their feelings of luckiness. I smiled back at them (but I don’t think they noticed). Buoyed by this favorable attention, I launched into a section of my best songs – Hallelujah, etc. I hadn’t warmed up much (my voice or body) so this rash decision hung over the rest of the pitch a bit.

Sort of like Edirne, I didn’t particularly notice or care about my cash flow. I can’t even recall who tipped, or for what songs, or what times of the pitch. The whole hour and a half sort of blended into an otherworldly, experience, encapsulated apart from the before and the after. I think it was the light – soft watercolors draping the cold stone bench – and the fact that with my limited energy and the growing cold I could really only focus on my songs and nothing else. Around five the temperature dropped significantly. Instead of shivering I simply tensed up. My leg’s are still stiff and sore from that. The flow of people and appreciation felt surreal – an ebbing energy I could really feel, with dry spells when I felt I was the only one in the park (these were nice in their own way) and sudden rushes with pausing passersby and tips.

I do remember my set of happy songs did best. As always I knew they would, but something about having sung those songs hundreds of times to predictable responses always makes me want to sing others. I think this is why I’m not really a “busker” in the perfect sense of the word. I’m more keen to be surprised by reactions to more obscure songs than to fashion my art as a product catering to the passing customer. My audience boasted a surprising percentage of tourists – I think I heard more conversations in foreign languages than English. Perhaps this was also a factor of my tippers hailing from afar: when they neared to tip I caught the tails of their remarks to each other. I tried my foreign language set when I realized this, to mixed results. I reveled in the confusion from Liberta. I think a young Chinese couple heard me singing Ue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin, and tipped me for that during Ue Wo Muite Arukou. For whatever racist reason, any time an Asian tips me I count it a particular success – the occasions are so few. On this night I got another occasion to remember in this vein, when a college-age Chinese girl came up to my case after wandering the Garden nearby a while to tip me, bending at the knees and looking at me intensely as she slid a coin tip gently, her fingers releasing them close enough to the bottom that they hardly made a sound.

The local demographic boasted a surprising amount of middle-aged ladies. I received many wistful half-smiles from Gotta Have You. They gave me appreciative looks, generally, mostly surprised and put-upon/guilty, but I don’t recall receiving a single tip from one. Some donned thoughtful looks and questioned their husbands with their eyes. On passing me a third time, for-instance, one had the gall to comment to her walking partner, “Look, it’s filling up.” It was hard to suppress a laugh – at the ridiculousness of the statement (I’d hardly made anything) and the haughty way she said it. Her nose was actually rather directed quite high in the air, and the conversational tone she employed spoke of aristocracy discussing a peasant and his turnips.

Fleetwood Mac fit the mood perfectly. Towards the end of my pitch my passersby became much younger, and I took the opportunity to sing my obligatory Kina Grannis song for the new city. I’ve developed a ritual of singing her Valentine single and Falling Slowly from Once in every city I visit. Many young men passed, usually leaving a quarter before taking a photo. One young man in particular shot my photo for a good fifteen minutes – which got rather obnoxious after a while. I felt a bit invisible, ironically, being framed and not spoken to like I was a statue. But for most passersby, that’s precisely what I am. The girls from the bench passed by near the very end, telling me they’d been listening the whole time. They requested I Will Follow You Into the Dark again. And as I began, a friend of theirs who had a special liking for that song happened to approach.

Crystal turned up around six. I’d saved Your Song for the occasion, but she surprised me by requesting Fly Me to the Moon, which I’d just sung and replacing that request with Yesterday. She looked quite fetching and though freezing half to death as we walked off, I felt something like a man of the world walking off to a coffee shop with her.

Crystal and Zebra holding down the pitch

My older brother Kevin happened to have an overnight in Boston (as he’s a pilot). All three Ho brothers gathered in one place is something of a rarity. It lent to great conversation about our futures – felt like what family should feel like, I thought – the perfect capstone to a beautiful, if un-lucrative evening.

Earnings: $11.92, 1.5 hours
Song of the Day: Let it Be – The Beatles

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