I took a rest day wandering about Tucson to try and rehabilitate the vocal chords a touch. My spirits needed a break, too. As with climbing, my rest gleaned an palpable reward – refreshed and happy to simply to living the way I do, I hardly paid attention to tips. I needed that attitude. I chanced upon a gorgeous pedestrian underpass beneath Speedway with ample noontime traffic and set up on one end. This pass leads connects two outer parts of the University of Arizona Campus, frequented largely by students and staff, less professors at that hour. Most of these passed both ways while I sang softly with the advantage of the natural amplification, mindful of Bram’s tips.
Many couples strolled by and often the girl would lean into her boyfriend on catching sight of me, whatever that meant. People smiled often, kind all, and one old lady even chirrupped a “Thank you!” I received two tips for the hour I played, though most of the students demonstrated either by patting pockets or telling me apologetically or opening empty wallets that they wished they could tip but were unable. Morgan later mentioned the fact that college kids, along with being in-the-mind poor, almost never carry cash. True – what do they need it for?
I headed next to the library to finish A Wizard of Earthsea. I budgeted my time perfectly to return to campus from downtown at 4.30, when I was to meet math professor friend Tiep, who’d take me to his house for dinner. I tanned visibly in my spot on 4th avenue, beneath a beautifully painted colonnade in front of the Goodwill store. I knew that no matter my income I’d enjoy playing there.
I think I’ve oft mentioned the inverse correlation between likelihood to tip and apparent wealth. That evidenced itself most strongly during this pitch. Throughout my days busking I’ve learned to count on tips from homeless people, expect them from blue collar workers and middle aged ladies, know I can get one if I work hard enough from the parents of a young child, have a decent chance from high schoolers and younger… and not even a chance from Asians or businessmen. Goodwill, as you may expect, sees patrons from the lower end of the economic spectrum. Almost fifty percent of the passersby tipped me. In busking terms, that’s insane. Mostly coins of the smaller variety, they kept me very happy in my sunny spot.
I passed a panhandler at the end of the colonnade as I moved to set up who wished me good luck when I explained my purpose there. An older homeless lady sat to listen to the entirety of Trapeze Swinger with a tip and “Beautiful voice!” A nice black man smiled broadly with a comment about Fleetwood Mac. A boyfriend toting a guitar stops with his girlfriend and says, “That’s actually pretty good, but I only have like two dimes.” which he gives me. Those that didn’t tip apologized or shrugged or thumbs upped – they see me as a human there, just like Blaagaardsgade in Copenhagen. I could see the effect of my smile far outweighed whatever my voice created so I sang easy. They smiled back, and just before the end a kind working class man tipped generously.
One slightly scruffy man leaned back on the wall beside me and asked dejectedly, “Do I look gay to you?” For a girl he’d tried to hit on had responded as such. I told him “I don’t know if you’re gay, but I expect since you tried to hit on a girl you might not be.” Which was enough affirmation for him. He cracked a big toothy grin and requested Nature Boy from my list, simply because he liked the title. I sang it directly to him, locking eyes most of the song, watching them soften from curious to a wonderfully moved rapture with everything in between. He thanked me after, but I thanked him oh so sincerely in return. I told him I’ll always think of him when I sing Nature Boy from now on, and I think it’s true. He gave me a unique moment there, we shared in it, truly, I not the only performer for that intense beauty.
Earnings: $14.50, 2.2 hours
Song of the Day: Nature Boy – Nat King Cole