Everyone I contacted in Wellington recommended I try a pitch on Cuba Street, near the bucket fountain. I woke late likely due to lingering motion sickness effects from the ferry, just in time for a lunch pitch… where I played for twenty five minutes without a single tip. Businesspeople watched from nearby benches while they ate but all left without meeting my eyes. I think I’m too run-of-the-mill for this city. Anywho, I remained cheery.
I moved down to a gorgeous bridge facing the harbour. A wall separates this bridge right down the middle, so I stood at one end for a while to gauge which side received more traffic. I chose the lower side, closer to the water. Also for the view. Now, I should probably have set up at the end of the bridge to avoid the problem, but I didn’t particularly care about that, mostly enjoying the view, the breeze, the ambience. One thing highly amusing that I noticed was my diverting of traffic from the lower bridge to the higher portion – people would catch sight of me and do a minute shift in direction to avoid me. Oh people on grey days.
Another universal suggestion from potential hosts was to visit Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum of New Zealand. My host Joe and his flatmates even acknowledged it as really the only thing to do/see in Wellington. Which was fine by me. I spent six hours in there, free!, losing track of time and not even seeing half of the phenomenal museum – maybe the best I’ve visited yet. I emerged as they closed into the twilight hours, a good time, I thought, for another busk back at the train station. It was alright the day before, so why not?
Mondays. Mondays fail. So does the middle of New Zealand. The passing Maori (there are many many more in Wellington than in all the South Island, which is basically all white) took a great interest in my race, each asking “China?” or “Chinese?” but not really maliciously. One of these looked at me very seriously throughout, requested House of God, Forever, tipped me with two ten cent pieces with an air of doing a great good, and then folded her arms to listen to me from directly in front of me, as if judging my value right then and there. A man walked by at this point, stopped on seeing her stopped, looked even more critically and stony faced towards me with intense eye contact, then after a few long intense minutes gave a curt nod of unsmiling approval to drop in his entire handful of change (not much, but I expect he was analyzing what percentage of it to bequeath).
I once again encountered the quiet man who’d requested Somewhere Over the Rainbow and he gave me a big smile and once again no tip. White people passed and smiled at my sign, Maori’s continued to scrutinize me, a gaggle of well-dressed Chinese girls (cheung sam) hustled past in blocky heels, painted faces, and looks of mortification on seeing me. One dressed similarly passed the other way looking as she’d just finished weeping, looking at me in vague terror. I’d thought of making an “I’m not as intimidating as I look!” sign for ironic hilarity, but this made me amused to my actual ability to unconsciously intimidate.
I suppose I still felt a bit scared by the strangely high recurrence of racism in the past month – well not a high occurrence but rather a high intensity – and each time a group of young sporty white men passed, I felt irrationally a bit frightened. No problems, of course. At the very end of my pitch two young bohemian/artsy types (the man with a french accent) stopped and requested Save Tonight and Flake very enthusiastically, recommending me to try Cuba once more, which “supports people like us.” Smiling, outgoing, singing along, and my largest tip which would comprise nearly a third of my entire day’s paltry “earnings”.
Earnings: 7.00 NZD
Song of the Day: House of God, Forever – Jon Foreman