I went to play in town this evening despite the freezing weather and the beginnings of a chest cold. Necessity is the mother of invention and so I was about to invent a poverty driven, real life scene of artistic and financial desperation. There is a covered arcade down by the tram stop called Bel Air where I have played many times. Mainly to practice and create in public, hoping as always that I will impress someone enough to want to be involved in my "madcap" schemes of musical composition, performance and recording, and of course to make a little much needed money. And a little money is all I ever make because "busking" doesn't really work nowadays in Zombieville.
I arrived at my usual spot just a few metres from the entry where the trams stop and the people circulate freely, to find a woman, a middle aged woman, apparently eyeing the erotic underwear in the window of the shop where I usually ply my trade. She had her back to me, facing slightly the direction in which she was obviously walking when the window display caught her eye. I watched her as I parked the bicycle that Priska had lent me to replace my own, stolen two months previously from it's parking place in front of the apartment building where I live. She was standing close to "my" spot. Too close for me to begin and so I took my time arranging my affairs ready to play. She didn't see me arrive and she was still blissfully unaware of my presence as I took my guitar from it's bag and she began tapping a message into the mobile phone that she was holding in her kid gloved right hand. Her regard switched to and fro between the display of her phone and the display in the window as the little symbols that "miraculously" confer meaning when aligned in a certain order, appeared one at a time on the telephone's screen. The rattling of my black tambourine didn't disturb her as I placed it on the ground ready for it's foot tapped role in the music I was about to make. Her finger tapping continued, the rhythm broken only when words failed her and she again raised her regard in the hope perhaps of receiving divine inspiration from the racy, laced underwear in the window.
I light a cigarette and watch her as I wait for her to finish her message. The inspiration arrives and the tapping resumes. I resign myself to the fact that I will disturb her when the guitar starts to sing and so I hang the strap on my shoulder, cough lightly to prepare my smoke damaged lungs for action and caress the metal strings of my guitar with my favourite yellow pick. The tapping continues. My guitar is slightly out of tune and so I pick out the note of each open string while adjusting the tension of the machine head screws until the tuning is perfect. She taps. I decide to begin with a harmonica piece and so I hang the apparatus that holds the harmonica in place, around my neck and blow a note to see if it is in harmony with the guitar.
Inspiration, or the lack of it, again cuts the momentum of her growing message and she goes back to the window display for more. The minutes pass and I am now ready to play but just as I go to speak to her, to warn her of the impending cacophony, so as not to startle her when I begin to play, she stops, opens her leather handbag, drops the messaging device into it and walks slowly away. When she is safely out of harms reach I play the first chord of the first song and she turns and looks back surprised, her gait quickening slightly as she does so. I am immediately into my rhythm and now the harmonica adds it's personality to the growing musical ensemble. She looks back again still surprised and again three more times, increasingly perplexed, as the distance between us grows. The mystery is archived in her distracted mind and then forgotten as I watch her slowly disappear from view and the tambourine begins to beat out it's foot tapped rhythm.
My favorite Gnossiennes by Erik Satie.
Interpretation by John McGhee