This post will be a tad different. At Kirk’s party last weekend I met a man after my own heart – who wrote a children’s novel and is in New York to get it published. Naturally, we connected immediately… I think it’s meeting people like that (Pontus, Gosia, Larry, Mathias, Pawel) which is the reason I love travelling about so much. At any rate, I invited him to write a post for me about my pitch on 11.2.10 as a guest writer, to see what the pitch was like through another’s eyes, someone not so jaded from doing it day in and out. The following is that post. Cheers, Dan.
- Whenever I find myself confronted by a person of unbridled ambition, I make a point of trying to understand what drives their spirit engine, what mantras they must repeat under their breath to keep their crimson-eyed doubts at bay. I wish I could say that it’s out of a greater desire to understand the person on some level (and sometimes, it is), but it’s usually because I hope that whatever method they use is something that can be learned, that can be mimicked. That they know the secret places where the ley lines converge, and finding your strength is as simple as knowing where to stand. Terrence Hou is one such person.
We met in the subway station at 51st and Lexington, and immediately set out to find the most effective spot for acoustics, aesthetics, and volume of passers-by. I never would have guessed that so much calculation goes into staking a claim; I gestured at many a wall, proclaiming “This place looks nice. I, um, like the wall thing.” Terrence would point out that the subway passengers walking through that stretch were in a rush, and that meant a lesser chance of tips. Eventually, we settled on a corridor that didn’t have the most people, but the acoustics were excellent, and it certainly had an attractive mosaic wall thing to stand in front of. And I am nothing if not a connoisseur of wall things.
As Terrence began, I was at first reluctant to make eye contact with spectators, so I idly leafed through Terrence’s playlist. I suggested that he borrow my jacket and jeans, since both were much more threadbare than his own. But for Terrence, such a contrivance is tantamount to sin. Acts, angles, gimmicks, pity-invokers, and other assorted image enhancers are hollow trickery, for turning a profit is a secondary objective to sharing his music with the world. “If they want to give me money, they’ll give it,” he reasons. I’m impressed.
Singing along on some songs (the ones I pseudo-knew) finally gave me an excuse to gaze upon our split-second onlookers, since singing while reading from a sheet made me feel, in a word, lame. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating anthropological study, gauging people’s reactions. Most people walked on by, making determined efforts to ignore our presence. Some faced us momentarily and nodded in silent approval. One elderly Asian woman smiled sweetly at Terrence as she walked by. I’m no interpreter of smiles (there’s a tough job), but it looked to me as if Terrence reminded her of someone, perhaps a son or a husband that had walked a path like his. Or maybe she just thought Terrence was kinda cute. The possibilities are dizzying.
After a less-than-stellar income for a while, we decided to change venues. We moved deeper into the station itself, in a corner that faced towards where escalators began. The mob mentality there was relentless, everyone’s eyes facing forward, like a school of fish. But here I go, calling people “fish”, when I know I would have acted exactly the same. Crowded places make pack animals of us all, I guess. We were buffeted by the subway’s cold, metal breath for all of two or three songs before we discovered not only was the money there dismal, but we liked the other wall thing better.
I video-taped his last few songs, and watching through the camera made me realize what the hardest part of this whole process was: keeping up the smile. There are lots of singers, lots of guitarists, and lots of people who can do both, but how many people can radiate a corona of warmth for so long when nary a dime falls into their guitar case? I struggle with keeping my happy mask fastened long enough to last a phone call, and street performers aren’t allowed to drop it for a second. I mean, okay, there might be some mimes who get away with a sad act. But that’s a pretty discrete population right there.
Relax, Take it Easy – Mika
Hey Ya – Outkast
I’ve concluded that Terrence doesn’t use any mantras, and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t know where the ley lines crawl. He knows exactly what he wants out of life, he has the means to get it, and he lets nothing else stand in his way. Can that attitude be learned?
Honestly, I don’t know. If I’m not sure that I can be trained, I’ll just have to settle for being inspired.
Earnings: $6.55, 1.6 hours
Song of the Day: I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You – Colin Hay