Thursday, August 25, 2016



Is it too late to become a street performer at 36 years of age?

I have a soft spot for every human being I meet plucking an instrument, singing, dancing, or doing all three on some street corner or in some public square. In short, I have a soft spot for anyone trying to make a living - a supplemental one - in an impractical, creative way.

Many years ago when leaving my senior prom, there was a gentleman playing the violin outside the party venue in downtown Boise. My date was a talented guitarist. Though I viewed him as a friend, there was something romantic in the fact that he paused and dropped cash into a fellow artist's case.

When my family strolled the fashionable section of Honolulu a few summers ago, there were many street performers, painted to look like and standing as still as silver statues with whom you could pose (not forgetting to tip, of course). We have pictures of our children on the busy streets of Hawaii's capital, standing by a shiny, smiling stranger.

Some of my favorite memories of meeting street performers happened during my trip to England in April 2015. There was a casually but well-dressed man in his fifties with close-cropped hair playing one of my favorite songs, "Mr. Bojangles", in Convent Garden. That was the day my friend Holly and I chose to souvenir shop for family and ate Coronation Chicken at a little cafe nearby called Charles Dickens Coffee House. Though this middle-aged entertainer had an ordinary appearance, he played and sang extraordinarily well, and I was surprised more people weren't gathered around to listen. Holly loaned me money to contribute because I was fresh out of change. (Change meaning good money - for quite some time we didn't realize some of the coins were actually worth one to two pounds; we just threw them around like they were humble pennies!)

Later, when we went to beautiful Bath, we heard "The Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera soaring as we entered the courtyard of Bath Abbey. A young man was playing the arresting melody on his violin beneath a bright blue sky elegantly adorned in small, wispy clouds, creating a haunting contrast. I regretted that I had no easy cash to show my appreciation, but I would not importune my friend again.


Even my dusty corner of the world is adorned with street performers. I have a friend at church who sings in the company of her faithful dog around sports and entertainment arenas. She confided in me that an old friend of hers thinks she really shouldn't be singing for cash. People either like or hate my voice, she said, but she still performs in front of strangers.

And every so often I see a young black man sitting on the sidewalk outside my local grocery store, a violin case open by his feet, the violin cradled beneath his chin. He seems wholly engaged in illuminating a melody with his bow, indifferent to passersby. I've only ever had cash on me once, retrieved from my car, but I am always pleased to see this talented young man, privileged to hear his gift, and I would contribute to his dream every time if I had the wherewithal.

Lately, I have thought very illogically to myself, Why, I can sing the guitar a little....maybe I could take flamenco dancing lessons!

Wouldn't it be lovely to make your dough doing something so perfectly free-spirited and defiant?

But whether I ever joined this strange band of lively, brave people or no, I am so glad they have their open yet intimate stages all over the world.

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