I headed back into Sydney CBD and got a bit distracted in the art museum – my first foray into one in many months. I really like Sydney’s – incredibly accessible and friendly, that sort of Australian decency and assumed orderliness without the loud “DO NOT TOUCH” signs or other garish announcements. Small, tasteful placards, well curated exhibits – made me think of Michelle. After wandering about a while I decided to try the school let-out pitch at three down in the Devonshire Tunnel. There I met a very talented fingerstyle guitarist from Japan. He ceded the pitch to me after about twenty minutes of excellent playing and I tipped him a dollar and we exchanged cards. One song he performed was a beautiful rendition of Ue Wo Muite Arukou, so I began my set with mine, which he sang along to. Unfortunately, just as I finished the song an amplified erhu player started playing just down the way. He’d arrived long after me but seemed to go by the “might makes right” mantra. His expression was one of a tired old man stubborn and doesn’t care about you – like the gypsies in Europe – clearly uninterested in his music and more playing for endurance and pity tips. On the other end an accordionist played.
So I returned to the Railway Square tunnel. I fared about as well as the last time. If it’s broke, don’t bother trying to fix it. I got my usual person-who-sees-me-setting-up-and-likes-the-first-song tip, and then after about twenty minutes a magazine hawker set up across from me. He shared in my lack of luck with a sympathetic expression and shrugs in my direction. When it became clear that nothing was really happening for either of us, despite it being Thursday payday, we chatted a touch between songs. From his arrival through the end of my day I received two more tips – one from a guy who tossed in the change incognito as if embarrased (yay bystander efffect!) and another from a nice woman who gave me a five dollar note, looking searchingly in my eyes for guile, for Mrs. Robinson, avowing “I like that song.”
When I finished the hawker recommended I take a short rest and return for the rush hour crowd. In his estimation the students I played for couldn’t be expected to tip, but the business people might. I popped into the bookstore adjourning the tunnel for thirty or so minutes, but my return pitch failed even more so I wrapped it up quickly. At one point a man with a large DSLR with macro lens spent about 2 minutes photographing me from all angles and distances, never looking me in the eye once (so I knew he wouldn’t tip) and indeed he walked off without a word. Go figure. Afterwards I spoke with the hawker who noted he also had a surprisingly wretched day – some days it’s just not happening and there’s no way to know why. Though I’ve a guess that it was the same gray spitting weather that kept me from playing outside. He told me of a girl who banked in the same tunnel – much worse than me in his estimation, but playing with a PA and singing what people want to hear – slightly older pop ballads fitting her gender role – about horrible boyfriends and such. Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, etc. Ya gotta play what they wanna hear – but I don’t have a handle on Australian tastes just yet.
Earnings: 9.00 AUD, 1.6 hours
Song of the Day: Ue Wo Muite Arukou – Simon & Garfunkel