Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's Hard Out Here for a Piper

This busking business is not easy. There is timing, there is turf, there is ..what is a "t" word for the law, angry cops, etc?

The impressive Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue

First in a gesture of cinematic romance I decided to surprise my friend Sue by playing outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art when she got off work there at 2pm. A piper waiting just for her. I wanted to be right at the bottom of the steps waiting for my maiden's exit. But this prime spot was taken by a jazz combo. I am new at this, but I knew enough not to jerk around your fellow buskers. I agreed on a far enough away spot not to drown out their mellow tones. This put me down there, but traffic is key and I got a good spot where people flow. Plus Sue would HEAR me, I am sure. It was in direct sun which is not good for me or my pipes, but that was that. Had a good time playing there and it was great to surprise Sue who took these photos save for the one of the two of us which we got German tourists to take.

Sue and I at happy time.

I left Sue and the Met to head towards my already favorite watering hole and cash cow, St. Patrick's Cathedral. It is the perfect storm of busking brilliance: location, location, location with LOADS of tourist cross traffic. Loads, I am telling you. This combined with beautiful, photo-friendly backdrop and shade rich scaffolding to stand under. I marveled at how my perfect spot was still there and no other buskers had taken it. What luck! I played and played and did just great. It is like being a celebrity only you have a box in front of you with dollars in it. I mean, the people swarm you with video cameras and still cameras. They cover the steps of the cathedral and they dance. It is awesome. I was having a ball. I added "When the Saints Go Marching In" with a little up and down like a sax player body movement for a touch of fun!

And just like in the movies when the cop is about to retire but MUST go out on one last assignment and then he gets killed, I was about to pack up, but decided to do one more. Just then there was one angry cop on my case telling me to stop. "Get out!" "But officer, what..." "Get out!" "But" "I don't want to hear it, this is a no peddling zone."

What?! He called me a peddler? But I am an...artist!

And, he no time for my folksy, California charm. He was not having it.

I finally calmed him down and put my pipes away and got him to explain. Seems you can play on any public sidewalk in New York except the really good ones. The whole area around St. Pat's and Rockefeller Center is a "No Peddling Zone."

"Do you SEE any other musicians?"

Wow, THAT explains how no one else was in my prime spot.

It seems he thought yesterday and today I was hired for weddings. I don't know how he thought this since I was there with a box open, but whatever. He said this is his beat and he is always there. (They REALLY say "beat" in New York. I LOVE that and wanted to pinch his angry little cheeks for being so darn cute. "You know Officer Smith, you are so adorable when you are livid" I wanted to say.)

So now I have to audition and get a PERMIT for South Street Seaport, audition and get a PERMIT for Times Square and I am banned from St. Patrick's FOREVER!

Again, the lesson I have learned in my 3 days in the business is "Play now, ask questions later."

St. Patrick's NO PLAY zone.

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