No Work, New York, Day 1

I’m beginning to acknowledge that a large part of my lower tips in recent months owes to a lack of enthusiasm on my part. This is, however, quite a catch-22. I get energy from having good pitches, interactions which make me want to return. But I need energy to perform well enough to get a response. I started this afternoon (10.22.10) at the 59th and Lexington station on the platform for the uptown six train. The ambience wasn’t as bad as I expected for busking underground, but for whatever reason I felt incredibly nervous and out of place. I guess in America I don’t have the convenience of looking foreign to hide behind. I’m distinctly uninteresting – something I mostly appreciate, but that doesn’t exactly help my cashflow.

Which was, once again, quite paltry. I set up to the left of a pair of firefighters soliciting job applications, who didn’t pay particular heed to me during my pitch, either. All in all it was an unremarkable pitch and I found myself drawing into myself with the lack of attention: I didn’t realize till Kirk pointed it out later just how inaudible I am with the passing trains and turnstiles and shuffling people, but even beyond that I didn’t seem to merit many glances – and some that I did were not at all welcome. There was this strange phenomenon where some of the men emerging from the trains would walk straight at me with a menacing glare before turning away. Strange, mostly. A few sneers, a few fake tips followed by laughter…

The one nice experience (a tip-less one) occurred when a lady started singing along to Your Song, getting really into it and thereby getting me back into it. We sang to each other happily until she boarded her train at the end of the second verse. I chose mostly songs I could get into for the pitch – songs like Sound of Silence and Liberta whose lyrics I could find appropriate. The latter got me a wonderful cocktail of looks. People on the platform opposite seemed to enjoy my music more unabashedly (without the guilt factor) and I did get many smiles from over there.

I started my second pitch at a time and place that Kirk could observe, at 86th and Lexington. Even when I was setting up a young man tipped me, with a meaningful (though the meaning was quite lost on me), intense look right into my eyes. It looked to be a good pitch at the beginning, as I worked off the happy songs right away and got a few quick tips in the first four/five minutes. Just before Kirk arrived, however, it slowed down dramatically – and I’m not sure why.

One old man took out his camera and video-ed me from the platform across the way. I chose my first full song after Kirk arrived as Hallelujah – my failsafe. Even Let it Be had no luck. Unfortunately, this would prove to be the first pitch where it failed. Kirk requested Wonderwall, but somehow I managed to forget the first (Em7) chord and apologized. A cute girl waiting for the subway on the yellow stud line, who’d been watching “covertly” for some time was very amused by this, and smiled broadly at Kirk’s replacement request: There She Goes, which I promptly sang for her.

With no tips for a while, Kirk tipped me with a single bill that amounted to more than the total day’s earnings, and we wandered off to Brooklyn for a Coriander-heavy homemade Chicken Masala. It’s hard to convey just how out of sorts I felt there – an apartment of young entrepreneur-type businessmen eager to “go out.” Kirk’s friend and I had a conversation about New York – a place he feels is perfect to “live life to the fullest.” For whatever reasons, the fullness available here isn’t at all appealing to me.

The 86th pitch

Earnings: $19.59, 1.5 hours
Song of the Day: Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

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