Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Busker

Going up

The young man with the guitar busking in one of the underground corridors at Monument tube station really was a bit of a star, with his powerful bluesy voice. A strange pitch to choose, though, on a Saturday afternoon, with a few passers by and without the weekday throng of commuters. There were a small number of coins in his guitar case, enough maybe to buy him a pint of beer or some groceries.

The natural echo in the corridor amplified and rounded out the sound of his singing and the guitar riffs, inducing a pleasurable shiver down the spine. I wanted to give him some money, but I was in my habitual public transport mode - head down, staring straight ahead, closed off, just keep moving, don't connect with anyone whatever you do - and I didn't stop. I walked past him down the passage, then round a corner, his music accompanying my progress. I was halfway up the stairs leading to the exit when I suddenly came to a halt mid-stride. I knew I had to go back.

I retraced my steps. He had stopped playing and was retuning his guitar. There was no-one else around.

I tossed some coins into the case.

"That was terrific," I said.

He looked at me shyly, then at the ground, then back at me and said, "Thank you, thank you very much."

We smiled uncertainly at each other for a second or two, then I went on my way. I felt ridiculously elated at having broken down one of my own barriers.

I want to practise this kind of thing more often. Taking small risks, and bigger ones too.


Blogger phlegmfatale said...

I like this post - it's sweet. Nice to extend cordiality to someone who gives of themselves in the form of music with no guarantee of return.

3:26 pm  
Blogger MB said...

As a musician, I would have deeply appreciated that gift of presence and connection.

4:13 pm  
Blogger Endment said...

Thanks for sharing. I know how very important it can be to have even a few words of encouragement.

4:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call it the Voluntary Music Tax, and pay it gladly. I consider it applause.

at work.

4:32 pm  
Anonymous beth said...

Yes, I try to give street and subway musicians some change and a few words of appreciation. And I also remember how hard it was to start doing that.

6:02 pm  
Blogger starnitesky said...

Well done, I am pleased to hear you went back and I am glad you achieved this step.

My son is a musician and spent a lot of time in his student years busking (he still busks occasionally now), he was so grateful for the generosity of people.

7:29 pm  
Blogger LJ said...

Smiled. I smiled reading that. Bet you made his day, much as he made yours.

9:12 pm  
Anonymous pohanginapete said...

Wonderful, Mary. I'm constantly reminded of the significance of small things, actions. A word; a gesture. A smile.

9:20 pm  
Blogger Udge said...

$lt;sings> There’s a Long Goodbye
And it happens every day
When some passer-by
Invites your eye
To come her way

Even as she smiles a quick hello
You let her go
You let the moment fly
To late you turn your head
You know you said the Long Goodbye$lt;/sings>

A very sweet moment, and good on you for turning back.

9:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your thoughful comments. A small event but it was big for me

9:46 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

That was me above ... :-)

9:48 pm  
Blogger leslee said...

Having just got back from Mexico, I was noticing the cultural differences. Here in New England I suspect it's not much different from in England, the barriers between people. Where I was in Mexico I found people interacted more, smiled at strangers, said "Buenos dias," were reasonably cordial even with those continually hawking and begging unless they were too persistent. I tend to come back from traveling - even in the US outside of the Northeast - being friendlier to strangers for at least awhile.

11:55 pm  

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