My trip to Hawaii was marked by a touch of stress – I’d been assured the bus to the airport was a twenty minute affair, but it took over an hour. I made the plane with plenty of time, however. I met a busker/climber on the bus who’d been traveling for seven years. He hailed from Vancouver and described himself as a hobo with the moniker “The wandering caveman.” He was everything I don’t want to be. I could smell he was a climber the moment he got on the bus, and see he was a bum from his style of dress. He advised me to get more cool stuff to wear to get “street cred” like his dreads, his tshirt from the dumpster, his huge earplugs. He told me he painted his face with tribal designs when he played his didgeridoo and djembe. He recommended Britain to make mad bank. I suppose I learned something of use – I’m really, really not a street performer, but an artist plying the streets. I abhor gimmicks, I’m not a bum, I’m an aristocrat who likes to be clean.
I walked the four miles down from my hostel by campus to Waikiki, past a horrible scar of a golf course and a stinker of a canal in off and on rain. The hostel worker recommended I play in front of the Sheraton or within the Royal Hawaiian shopping center, but on inquiring at these locations I discovered that as I suspected I wouldn’t be able to play on private property. This is actually a rather ornery distinction. As I walked up and down Kalakaua avenue I saw many likely spots beneath awnings, but most of the shop owners denied permission to play. I finally found one spot next to the International Marketplace thanks to a nice girl in the surf shop.
Almost instantly a drunk bum eating a bag of doritoes with wide childlike eyes and swaying steps came by and tipped a dollar, biting his hand in enthusiasm and laughing silently. I played an hour or so and my only other tips were single coins: a quarter from white guys who said, “That’s good.” and dime from three Japanese boys who conferenced about the tip amount very seriously before dropping it with much ceremony into my case. Mostly the store workers and street hawkers and promoters enjoyed my pitch. One of these advised me to return at night. As I left the bum fetched a broken waffle cone from the trash and munched happily away.
So I whiled away a few hours on Waikiki beach, which isn’t a bad place to be. Surrounded by young Japanese tourists I decided to make a drawing in the sand they might appreciate.
I set up for another pitch beneath an awning with the workers having swapped and the new ones friendly to my request. Just one verse into the Mario Kart Love Song an old Hawaiian lady stood in front smiling and silent and then started hula dancing softly to the tune. I never noticed how islandy the feel of that song is. I read such joy and good feeling in her eyes, it was a good start. One song later a security guard came to tell me, “You have to be on the other side of the sidewalk to solicit.” He obnoxiously stayed right next to me while I picked up my things, acting impatient.
The pitch was once again relatively unsuccessful until a couple on their way to a flight to Vancouver stopped beneath the awning while I played Wonderwall. They requested Hotel California and bid me a very friendly farewell with a “Maybe we’ll see you next time we come back, we’d tip you more but we have to catch that flight!” Aside from that request I worked off a short list of songs I’d prepared on the beach. Naturally the overflow of Japanese tourists gave nothing besides weird looks, nor the Americans.
My income more than tripled after one young couple listened in my left peripheral, shyly, for a few songs. The army haircut sporting man came by between songs and shook his head in admiration with “It takes balls to be out here.” He dropped me a bill and I courteously didn’t look down. I did moments later and saw my first twenty dollar tip. The massage promoter smiled at me when she saw my reaction. A balloon artist nearby reveled with me when I told him about the tip when I packed up a few minutes later. The portrait artist to my right also reaped a large bounty of multiple twenties from Japanese everywhere!
Earnings: $26.35, 2 hours
Song of the Day: Mario Kart Love Song – Sam Hart