Things Recieved While Busking:
Flowers that a little girl picked from a business' flower display. We played a song together - I formed the chords, and she strummed - that is, slapping the guitar strings in a vaguely rhythmic matter - singing Taylor Swift as loud as those tiny lungs could.
Healing crystals - one for romance, and one for stage presence.
A portrait done with a sharpie.
Smiles from old people who sway and sing along to "Delta Dawn", and ironic smiles from hipsters when you play Bon Iver.
[Come on, skinny love, just last the year. Pour a little salt, we were never here.]
Smiles from little kids as they pull crazy breakdance moves on the sidewalk, or as they hang out car windows waving frantically at red lights, or as they trail behind parents, bobbing like balloons
Directions to a Sikh temple
Requests for Wonderwall. So many requests for wonderwall. Don't be that guy who requests Wonderwall.
A piece of a cookie
When I told a coworker I was moving here, she asked, "How are you going to support yourself?"
I said "Well, I've got some rent saved up, and I'll busk for grocery money until I get a """real job""". "
And she replied, "Busking? Isn't that basically the same thing as prostitution? ...I mean, you're standing on the streets, working for tips."
First of all, you say that like sex work is a bad thing.
And second of all, no. I'm not making money with my body, glorious vessel that it is. I'm making money with my soul.
Sometimes, people will give you a tooney, and ask if they can take a looney, because apparently your soul is only worth $1 to them.
A leather jacket
A palm reading
A pack of gum
Invitations to open mics. Invitations to shows in seedy bars. Invitations for adoption. Invitations for coffee, for beer, and to drive to Seattle.
When you are busking, you are an open invitation. There is no fortress of counter and cash register to hide behind. Your smile is not a dress code and your greeting is not company policy.
Your eyes are open signs. Every instance of eye contact is a transaction. Busking has a currency of connections - something people seem to be just as desperate for as money
I grew up on idioms like "Don't talk to strangers"...."Don't take candy from strangers"..."Don't get in strange vehicles with strangers"...I feel like maybe "Don't take drugs from strangers" and "Don't get drunk with strangers" probably would have been in that list, had my parents not thought they were painfully obvious. But I think...I think...I think that maybe we need to redefine stranger. 'Cuz I don't know about you, but these people I meet with and talk to on the streets, I would sooner call friends.
And the strangers? Those are the coworkers who can't remember my name, and the teachers who never gave a fuck. Strangers are the neighbors I still haven't met yet because I'm terrified to meet people when I have to go and knock on their door and make a formal introduction, because formal introductions terrify me, because formalities just seem like another sort of social construct I don't yet know how to escape from. Strangers are customers who won't acknowledge cashiers, they are the people who cut you off at intersections, they are the people who hit on you at bus stops without bothering to get to know you. Strangers are people who don't bother to get to know you. Strangers are people who won't bother to get to know you.
Next time you're walking down the street and come across a busker, try to pause. I think connection has a vulnerability that's just as hard to recieve as it is to give, but I think that everyone just wants to feel the warmth of other people. Feel a simple sort of substance, a small exchange of empathy. And when I or anyone else is out there with their guitar, that's what we're offering. Our music is a vehicle to maybe make you feel something, smile a little, and maybe give a little in return, even if it's just a thank-you, no, especially if it's a thank-you, a nod, a nickel, a dollar.