Cheered in Chicago, Day 4

I was supposed to take my leave of Chicago today (11.15.10). All my bags were packed, I was ready to and I was standing there outside the door (to the station) to go to Denver. If you got that you got it. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite anticipate the transfer time from the red to pink lines (an entirely unnecessary transfer, it turns out). So once again I missed my train. Not a huge deal – the nice Amtrak lady rescheduled me for the following day with no penalty.

Zebra’s tall

I took the previous day off, something about cold and allergies or travel or whatever didn’t quite agree with my voice. Ben’s place (the model homey pad photographed in the previous post) boasted a bathroom scale which revealed my weight as still somewhat non ideal. I appear to be oscillating about a pound above or below the 120 mark. With my health in mind I decided to try a single pitch the evening of my failed transit, with the goal of earning back the money I’d spend for that extra day: $5.75 for a transit day pass.

It took an hour and a half to make that. In retrospect I assume the Mondayness of the day factored hugely. My passersby wore that exhausted “I need to get the hell home” look and most didn’t spare me even the smallest glance. I noticed an increased average footspeed too. The two platforms were dominated once again – the blue by the painful erhu/accordion duo and the red by a horrid “quartet” consisting of a man idly thumping the cajon on which he sat, a singer with a decent voice but no rhythm, a would-be rapper who thought lyrics could be grunts and a “dancer” staring at his floor and shuffling his feet back and forth (from both pointing inwards to both out. Repeat).

Even passing musicians gave me little love. A heavily tattooed hippie woman scolded me with a “Get that permit!” My tips came in one quarter at a time – sometimes that larger coin had a couple smaller buddies with him, but even that was rare. I suppose that means I was tipped often, at least. All in all the pitch demonstrated rebuffed all norms. My first tip came from an Asian man in his forties. Young men complimented my voice without stopping while the women seemed more skittish.

Before I left Ben’s apartment to man the pitch I wrote out a set list of songs I’d not played in a very long while – the last twenty odd songs on my list I hadn’t busked with in at least a month. Going methodically through them helped me keep at it, but towards the middle I needed a sure-fire song to boost me. I sang Hello, and the reception was so excellent I played the second half twice to stretch out the feel even longer. I think I acquired half my tips (quarters, remember) during that one six or seven minute stretch. Even the CTA janitor employee who’d wandered past innumerable times chose that time to acknowledge me with the slightest hint of an almost smile, looking up and leaning on his broom for a moment a few feet away.

A trio of girls passed three or four times, stretched out through the pitch – perhaps they were utilizing the passageway as a warmer alternative to the street above? They never tipped, but on their last pass they finally acknowledged me and spoke kind words. A little later, a thirty something black man started singing away as he approached and departed (something I forgot to mention in the previous post – the singing many younger black men do to either mock me or defeat me or just generally mess with me) in a friendly manner, trying to get me to play along with some chords. Exhausted as I felt, however, I merely smiled, waited for him to get out of earshot and then ended my pitch.

Earnings: $6.50, 1.5 hours
Song of the Day: Hello – Lionel Richie

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