I decided to pass briefly through New York on the way to Chicago so I might rendezvous with Richard. An additional upshot of this was that I got to see Dan once again, at the 51st and Lexington station where we took up residence before. Dan even began to refer to that stretch of passageway as “our wall.”
Right away things looked good. I felt quite strangely chipper despite seeing a certain person while in New Haven – in fact, I felt absolutely incredible. Some of my giddiness and enthusiasm and boundless energy returned. This attitude happily preserved me through yet another standardly New York working day – no tips and a surfeit of “you don’t exist” glances. The beginning of the pitch also provided me with an initial burst of energy. A set of absolutely adorable girls locked eyes and waved at me for nearly a full minute, with the cutest repeated “Bye!”s. While this delayed the next song rather significantly, I’d much rather be waving at adorables than trying to entertain ingratiates.
I embraced the slow pitch by taking the opportunity to test some of my originals in the excellent acoustics, spurred by Dan’s encouragement. I went through a gamut of emotional tones for him – from happy to sad to bitter to pensive… for the last, my song Stamsund I was at last rewarded by a generous old woman – who looked like she tipped two dollars but as Dan and I discerned later, it was just a single folded up very neatly. My voice felt great and I found myself able to really enjoy the acoustics there.
Now, as I’ve harped endlessly, one of the main reasons I’m continuing to busk owes to my mission to change the image of Asians. I hope I’m successful in some small way in that. I noted this day (11.9.10) that the youthful Asian passersby often seemed shocked. They’d leave with this look written in their eyes and faces like they’d been… enlightened? Sort of this “Oh!” which I hope to be (and therefore read as) “That’s new, I never thought of that before.” The older Asian passersby, however, tend to be my harshest critics, making it incredibly plain with their body language that they think of me as some sort of disgrace. Interesting stuff.
My train to Chicago was set to depart at 3:45 PM, so I gave myself twenty odd minutes from packing up my case and all. It should have been easily sufficient. As Dan put it, I managed to somehow break the transit system. Dan and I waited on the platform for the E train, which we noticed was rather uncharacteristically bursting with people. You know… suffice it to say that the E train in our particular section wasn’t functional. One came at precisely the last minute for me to make my train, but on arriving in Penn Station I couldn’t claim my ticket as the entire Amtrak system was down. The machines, the computers for those behind the desk – even when I called the 800 number, as the server outage or whatever it was affected the entire nation, apparently.
After a fiasco of ticket haggling and such, Dan and I returned to “our wall.” He declined my occasional impulses to take “that train! and see where it goes!” or “lets play here!” which was probably for the best. Upon returning to 51st and Lexington, we were greeted with an absolutely absurd crush of people – the aftermath of the earlier reroute. The volume and density reminded me of Hong Kong rush hour, without any of the smoothness or efficiency and the chaos of Edirne.
Naturally, I had to sing Mad World while Dan filmed. At the first chorus you can see the man who told me “I like that song!” brightly and tipping me.
The rest of the pitch consisted mostly of oldies, as for whatever reason the songs Dan picked for me ended up being from at least thirty years prior: Scarborough Fair, The Rose, Operator, Streets of London, Landslide… it felt like a good, continuous vibe for that stressed environment – a set of slow, folksy ballads to counter peoples’ impatience – pressing against each other in front of closed elevator doors, crushing each other in a funnel to the escalator downwards. Most of those who looked in my direction gave me kindly smiles.
I love having someone around to help choose songs for me to sing, as it reminds of ones I happen to pass over in my glance at my repertoire list. Towards the end of the pitch a woman came by to tip me during a gap between songs when I was explaining something or other to Dan and she kindly asked me, “Are you going to sing me something?” In writing it’s hard to convey how friendly and joshing the way she said it was – I had to oblige immediately. She declined making a request (here in America I’ve noticed no one “has time” to stop and make a request) and chose old out of my profferred old/new dichotomy. So I sang her The Boxer. To her. She sang along softly for the first two verses and chorus before walking off with that satisfied “Well, I didn’t expect that/That was different” expression.
A quick note on how it feels to take advantage of the generosity of my friends. Because I do feel rather guilty for it – asking to be treated to meals or to raid the fridge because I simply can’t make ends meet even without such costs. I went to dinner with Dan and Richard that night at a diner and the “Who’ll cover Terrence” conversation at the end made me feel somewhat ashamed of my lack of capital. Someday, perhaps, I will either feel more comfortable accepting generosity or have a stable enough lifestyle to preclude it’s necessity.
Earnings: $8.15, 2 hours
Song of the Day: The Boxer – Simon & Garfunkel