I’d been mostly unable to try night pitches as Joe’s buzzer didn’t work and thus I needed to return early enough to assure someone was coming out of his ramshackle flat building. I spent another full day inside Te Papa after some time in the main library (which charges for internet! So I didn’t use any), where an excellent Friends of the Library booksale was occurring. Amazingly I found two books I wanted – the last two in the Earthsea cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin, for a grand total of two Kiwi dollars. Deal!
Naturally I ended staying in Te Papa until closing without quite finishing it. It’s that good. Really. I returned to an awkward offering of food from my hosts – they offered in a way that made me feel a bit uncomfortable (like I was imposing) but as if I couldn’t refuse. Strange. A note on food – I like to cook much more than go out or even take my hosts’ food, but with some of the young people I’ve been staying with of late, their messy kitchens often deter me from using them at all. At Joe’s I spent many enjoyable minutes, probably over an hour, cleaning piles and piles of dishes from his flatmates, who don’t seem quite so keen on doing them. At Peter’s I couldn’t even imagine starting. At any rate I ate a very small portion and then headed for a pitch on Courtenay Place, recommended me by everyone as the place to be at night.
By happenstance I caught some theatregoers headed to an Andrew Lloyd Weber extravaganza type thing at St. James Theatre, so after some gauging of the best spot I plunked myself down right at the end of the major zebra crossing while still under the Theatre’s awning. Courtenay Place feels like a small Times Square to give you an image of the lights and the business and the clientele. Better smells at least. At any rate I played a bunch of oldies back to back to open my pitch, which garnered me an encouraging early tip from a suit, which ended up entirely non-indicative what with the trickle of theatre goers dropping to none after twenty or so minutes. A hobo-type tipped me after that and the Maori women sitting beside me idly acted very disaffectedly. With busses frequenting the spot, frowns from passersby as often as smiles and a generally busy, bad vibe I took off not long after. One un-tipped experience stands out – a passing student walking briskly past with a girl friend epitomized “turn on a dime” about a metre and a half beyond me, zeroed in on my list, took a look – efficient efficient enthusiastic triumphant to request Under the Bridge. Neither he nor his friend had a coin between them (as they discussed openly while admonishing each other and rooting through purse and wallets) and were late to their appointment but stayed to close their eyes and bob their heads along, a small moment of peace precisely what I want to create – a moment from my From Dawn to Busk lyrics come to perfect fruition.
Cuba St. was supposed to be buskable by night, but the slow traffic and small pedestrian area was already dominated by a beatboxer using the natural amplification of an awning very well. He was excellent and had hardly any tips – bad news for me. I tipped him anyways, then wandered Manners and Dixon street looking for a likely spot – quieter streets leading up to Courtenay Place but less well lit and serviced by a higher percentage of transients. My spot outside an Internet Cafe was won with an “I don’t care, as long as you’re not using our electricity.” from the Asian owners within.
I think I’m a racism barometer. Or, at least, I’m tired enough and like choosing out of the way places enough to increase my chances of encountering racists. Not long after I began, a pair of thirty something men who’d grown sideways at puberty rather than upwards snickered some slurs and half-laughed a “Shut up.” to me. Not a minute later and another pair of men (all these white), younger and fitter, passed me. The taller one shouted “Shut up!” with such venom I felt cut to the core – the ultimate denial of my person, really. I honestly don’t think I try to see racism, or use it as an excuse, but this instance again felt like it. I probably imagined the smaller one’s backup “Go Home.” but the sentiment was there.
As in Poland, there comes a time when I simply can’t take it. I get pent up to rash reaction – civil, but rash as the power is all in my aggressors’ hands what with my size and lack of knowledge of the turf. Somehow racists always come in pairs, too. Perhaps a guy twice my size needs another man looking on to feel safe enough to abuse me. At any rate, I tried to continue with a smile but felt so shaken I stopped mid song. They’d slowed their pace, talking in a macho way to each other, and I called after them
“Are you racist?”
“Whoa man, what the fuck, that’s a question out of nowhere.”
“Well just a moment ago I encountered a similar reaction and I’m surprised to see such a concentration of racism here. Then why did you say that?”
“No man, you just suck.” Then the other guy.
“Yea man, go home, you fucking suck…” Back to the first.
“I said that because you suck…” Some other slew of negative… unaffirming words followed that I don’t quite remember.
They didn’t seem the advancing and fighting type, just the asshole type, but they’d turned around completely and other passersby had taken notice. What with my experiences in other places I knew I couldn’t rely on these other passersby what with bystander effect in full effect. Luckily, though, I had an ally on the street once again – a compact, muscular man clad in a weight-lifting belt and a thin tshirt who retorted: “No man, you suck.” with a smile towards me and a leer towards them having stopped close to them between us in the spill of light from the shop. They hurried quickly on.
I picked up again with the oldies but I just didn’t feel right. That’s when a Maori man with a chin tattoo, soft words and a generous heart strolled by and tipped me more than five dollars in coins, requested a “love song, that’s what you guys always do, right?” as I directed him to the theatre down the way. Certainly it must be God who softens the harshness of blows with these truly kind people. How else can they come in pairs so quickly together?
I left not long after, after deciding the girls who’d been watching across the way for the better part of half an hour weren’t going to tip. A druggie bum with a distracted face and spastic motions drolled in an over-relaxed way to me (after stumbling to a halt in front of me with his trolley) “Can you spare any change?” I’d done so poorly and felt so cynical I figured What the hell? Why not. No it doesn’t make sense. I offered him a ten cent piece. And his response? “I don’t want ten cents I want two dollars!” Uh, no. Beggar trying to choose. I suppose the unsavoury people hanging out to my left didn’t like him as they started screaming at him when he hailed them walking in their midst. The air was that of the cusp of a fight. It fizzled and they let him pass on, but I figured that was my cue to head home.
Earnings: 10.00 NZD, 1.5 hours
Song of the Day: Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers