Busking in disguise! on SE Hawthorne St.
Before my year of jobs came to an end, I wanted to do the one thing I am most passionate about–and the one thing that has given me the most frustration for many years. Sing.
I didn’t feel ready. My voice was still strained and uncooperative. I stood to make a fool of myself, or worse, to face the heart break that I am not able to sing like I used to.
After a week of singing at open mikes and busking on street corners, I didn’t make a fool of myself, I struggled through pain and strain to sing, I became more comfortable in front of people each time I performed–and I actually had fun (at times!).
This is my song list from when I played professionally in the 70’s and early 80’s! (Some of you will recognize the era–anyone for a Hootenanny?) It’s been framed and hanging on my wall for decades. I got it down, brushed it off, and made a song list of selections my voice might be able to handle. The practice began…
Early in the week, I played at an open mike at The Secret Garden. As at Cafe Artichoke, I was a bundle of nerves and had to stop picking half way through because my hand was shaking so badly. But I got through the first song by strumming the rest of it. Something I noticed that’s completely different from my previous singing: I was comfortable relating to the audience and the thing that gave me the most satisfaction was connecting with people who seemed to be enjoying my music. It really was a loving, spiritual experience–which I also felt at Artichoke.
In the middle of the week, I tested out the sidewalks of Hawthorne to find the best busking spot. The greatest challenge was that there were many other buskers who were much more brazen and LOUDER than I was. The competition on the streets is fierce, I tell you! Actually, I realized that in order to stake the best claim (in front of Ben and Jerry’s), I would have to get there earlier.
Best open mike so far! At Eugenio’s, I actually felt comfortable and there was even a glimmer of that old singing energy from that ecstatic place within. I think sitting down helped immensely!
Highly professional sign taped to my guitar case. Some guy actually unbuckled the case and threw in 89 cents! Cool!
The final day of the week, I busked full-on in front of Ben and Jerry’s. After an hour of singing alone, I was joined by fellow “older” musician, Jon Lee, who accompanied me on harmonica and mandolin. Thanks Jon! All my fears of looking like an old washed-up folksinger were for naught. I played “If I Had a Hammer” proudly and introduced hip Hawthorne to an old fashioned Hootenanny. Hey, there’s an idea: “Hootenanny on Hawthorne!” Every first Friday, Kumbaya with us!
Best moment of the day: singing “This Land Is Your Land” with the Sweeney-Fishler family.
Well, pardon all the many photos of myself–but this week was one for the ages. After years of hemming and hawing and lamenting and procrastinating—I finally took on the once-familiar job of being a singer and performer. I stared down my rusty voice, and, although most songs were just a 5-note range, I did it anyway. I had some great moments making music again–and I want more.
I challenged myself to actualize what this project is all about: it’s never too late to do what makes you feel most fully alive. I plan on continuing to sing each day and still have hopes of polishing off this voice, and, once again, making it shine.