Happily Humbled in Lugano, Day 3

Sometimes a single kind word can uplift you despite a horrible pitch. Sometimes the reverse occurs. And sometimes it happens twice in one pitch. I wrote down many notes about my first foray on the 20th of June, but most of them read as distracted interjections against a tide of dejectedness. Unfocused and forced positivity, mostly. Only three distinct positive experiences left any sort of imprint in my mind, and the images are hazy and fading. A widely smiling couple. A dark, middle aged woman. A German family tipping and gifting sympathetic glances. Eyes can be so subtly communicative.

But really, this is the story of two men. The first said but one thing, in Italian, that I don’t know if I heard correctly as it was relayed sharply over a departing shoulder as a retort. Something about experience. While the words were unfamiliar and unclear, the tone was very clear. Meant to wound. Incisive. Patronizing. I certainly need more experience, I know that. Despite the cowardly and embittered circumstance of the delivery, the words affected the rest of my playing for most of the day afterwards. I felt unsure of myself, and notes began to escape me, wandering a bit sharp or forgetting to exist at all in the midst of a run.

The other man’s name was Łukasz. One may recall that my worst experience busking occurred in Poland, so I am inclined to disbelieve coincidence that this disruptor was Polish, as well. I have met lovely Polish people. But I also seem to run into a lot of awful ones. Gypsies, on the other hand, have been of only the latter sort in my experience, with no redeeming qualities observed so far. Łukasz didn’t threaten me. He didn’t want to bash my face into a brick wall. He didn’t even want to watch and laugh while his friend did. All he wanted to do was listen to music he liked. Unfortunately this made him a complete dick.

Łukasz first approached going downwards into town. He passed very close to me, gave a wide, off kilter smile, and commented about Ravi Shankar and sitar. I was playing Horse Racing at the time. Neither Ravi Shankar nor a sitar.. I smiled back, nonetheless. It seemed a harmlessly ignorant, but appreciative comment. He came back moments later and sat on the bench across and a little ways up the tunnel from me. At first to listen, it seems. I was playing something classical at that moment, and I suppose he didn’t approve. So he put on his headphones. I figured he was waiting for the train. I smiled at him, motioned to ask if it was ok to keep playing, and he smiled back to motion it was. Then began to drum loudly and badly on the bench. I waited for him to stop. He didn’t stop. I kept playing. He kept drumming. He began to moan loudly to whatever he was listening to. Moaning loudly with a powerful voice without words or real notes to hit, and no real semblance of rhythm. Only afterwards did I realize he was tryign to sing along to his music.

I fought. I fought gamely on while we contributed this awful cacophonous soup, booming around the tunnel to greet anyone coming up or down. I sought solace in the faces of passersby, but most averted their eyes, faces screwed up in concentration to block out the awful wailing. Felt awful. Felt I had to keep going. I had to win. Had to outlast the asshole at this game of his. Surely he had somewhere to be.

I made to pack up and take a break. Łukasz took off his headphones and came up to me. He introduced himself. He told me the music I’d been playing before was great. Like Ravi Shankar. You know Ravi Shankar? Big Smile. So good. Broken English delivered confidently. But what I played when he came back? Awful. Boring. So he needed to drown it out with good music. Ravi Shankar. You know? Sitar. Like me. Where you from? I felt uncomfortable but didn’t know how to shake him. I’d already forgiven him of his awfulness, realizing he was ignorant and uncouth, but ultimately appreciative and well meaning (if not monetarily, as he left no tip). He asked about my violin. Two hundred years old!? He touched it. I recoiled inwardly. Boasted of fluency in Italian, German, French, English, Polish. Asked how to say thank you in Chinese. Took a selfie with me. Finally, when I thought I could be disgusted no further, or be pulled further inward with a cuter more innocent exterior wall, he disengaged his grimy claws from my shoulder and bid me farewell.

Earnings: 18,30CHF + 2,00€, 1.25 hours

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