Started out in Japan at 9 am and many hours later at 8 pm I’m playing on Rolling Hall Street. I fixed my amp after all and it was just a switch to push. I wasn’t sure I wanted to play but it was good in the end.
A guy comes up and says, “Don’t you remember me?” I never like that. Everyone feels I should remember them; in reality I don’t remember anyone much. They feel offended. “How can you forget me?” Well remind me when we met. It was 4 years ago on Saturday afternoon in April. Gimee a break man. Nice to see you again, I think,
At one point its just 3 dorky looking guys sitting on the stoop. I am the only cool one of the 3. Hey I have an idea, lets play some happy music to attract some girls and then some romantic music to “get” them. The 3 boys nod eagerly. These guys are so predictable. I start to play and sure enough it works. Some cute girls come up and listen. At the end of the song though they quickly walk away. I look at the 2 guys, “Why didn’t you do something?” “Why didn’t you?” “I played” we all laughed, it was so funny. One of them is a shy guy who talks to me. He’s a computer person. Says he develops new applications for IT. Wow It sounds like a great job. He must be a genius. He says he’s sick of it and never wants to see a computer again. After a while he leaves but he comes back later.
“ I think we need a fire. Someone go a chair to burn.” They were looking for one until they saw my funny face. They were cracking up. “I don’t think this is your only job. What else do you do? I thought for a minute before answering, “I work for the CIA………oops its supposed to be a secret. (one of my standard answers) Sorry I will have to kill you.” “Why? I won’t tell anyone. “”Sorry I can’t trust you. Anyway I can wait one more song. Really sorry about that. Totally my fault.”
As I am playing some of the audience starts to clap. It’s funny how many ways there are to clap. Some clap while holding their cellphone in one hand so actually they clap against the back of their hand and actually makes no sound, but looks like clapping. Some look like retards clapping, with open hands. Some clap with their arms around their sweetie’s neck, almost choking her. Some clap aggressively and decisively. “You, you. are a great clapper. You are not embarrassed to clap. You declare your clapping to the world, as if to say, I’m clapping and I’m proud of it. From now on you are the clap leader here” “Ahhh thank you maybe.” “Come’on give yourself some applause”, and he does lead the way for himself again.
Same thing happens later when they try to snap. They just can’t seem to do it right. For one thing they are on 1 and 3 and ever hep (hip) cat snaps on 2 and 4. Also it’s rushed and they snap too high. We have a little snap clinic. Some of them are hopeless and some of them get it kind of. “Hey you, can you move over here and help him?” At one point I start to play a song and point to the best snapper and shout, “solo”. He does a good job of keeping the beat. I trade off with him, me soloing for 4 bars and him snapping on the beats 2 and 4 for 4 bars. Then I yell,” more freedom” which a pretty ridiculous thing to say because how much music can you make with snaps, but he tries bless his heart and everyone laughs a big one. We give him a standing ovation (ok…everyone is already standing but me, but it is a rousing ovation). I dub him “snap leader” We try another song but without the background music. I use their snaps as background and play the cool song “Pink Panther”. It comes off surprisingly well and I make a note to try that again someday. Maybe I should try more accapella playing. There is a certain freedom to that.
2 rather attractive women come up and are totally taken with the music. The one woman who is not as cute as her companion can’t stop smiling and that smile makes her beautiful especially since she is smiling right at me as if I am the coolest thing she has ever laid eyes on. “You guys are the best audience ever….i will pay you to sit and smile at me all night….like the sun” This gets her going even further and I’m thinking it’s a sure thing. Logistics first “Where do you live, in this neighborhood?” “no but nearby. I just came her to go to church. “”Church huh. That’s nice” (and a deal breaker but I don’t let on)” this is my sister.” Oh, whenever this comes up I always try to guess who is older and I always guess the wrong way on purpose. I guess the right one but tell them the wrong one and this creates a lot of excitement. Another conversation energizer is when 2 friends walk up and say they are both in the same field, say architects. It’s always fun to say at that point, “who is the better architect”. “My sister is a singer. “ The younger sister nods happily and I can tell she’s game so it’s pretty easy to convince her to sing a song with me. She picks out the cheesy song L.O.V.E. You know, (L is for the love you give to me…..) She’s not half bad and another facebook video is born I’m sure. The crowd grows wild. What am I trying to do? Maybe erase the line between audience and performer?
The computer guy comes back with a very attractive woman. I feel betrayed. I thought we were waiting for nice girls to show up but he had one all along. He even tells her about our waiting. What a snitch. I admit we were fooling around (and save my face). “So are you a couple?” I ask. “No,”she says, “we are just friends.” “ Why? He’s such a nice sensitive guy and he has a great job.” “But he hates his job.” “I will inspire him” I say. I start in.
He just needs an inspiration. More and more people are getting old. Why not make IT devices for them. For example you could broadcast interactive events and even the older people could interact with them. They can’t live their normal lives anymore, but with computers maybe they could gain some of that back. Or how about computers especially designed for old people. You would need individual design so you can design it for the functions that they have still, for example, if they can only talk then …voice activation or if they have fine motor skills then screen touch. Everyone likes movies and music. If they want music, they can just say music and their favorite music comes on. Or they can say music Frank Sinatra and he will come on. Figure out ways to make older peoples’ lives richer. Can you do that? Its going to be a huge market. It’s a big need. Now these old people are sitting in nursing homes and their lives are wasted. They still have a brain. They may not have memory, but they can feel, and if you do something in the moment, they can understand it It’s a waste of human consciousness. Can you do that?” The man looks at me, and smiles. “Ok, Lets be partners. “
A couple comes up. She is beautiful, but he looks kind of dorky. “Are you a couple?” Quickly she says no laughing. A bit insulted I would be but I don’t say anything. “I was going to play both of you a romantic song but now I will just play it for you.” The guy seems ok with that so I play “Over the Rainbow” and she seem s very excited to have someone play a song to her on the saxophone. I’ve learned that that doesn’t mean she likes me necessarily; just she likes the romantic situation. When I finish I ask then about themselves. She lives in Itaewon. I tell her I don’t really like the sleaziness of that place and the only reason I like to go there is because there is a mom and pop jaengukjang restaurant there that I like. Jaengukjang is a fermented soybean soup and most Koreans don’t like it because of the smell. I always say it smells like wet dog. When I say that I like jaengukjang, the woman lites up. “It’s my favorite!” she exclaims. This is too easy.” Well why don’t we try my Itaewonrestaurant sometime.” She is agreeable and just like that I have her number. Still the guy seems ok. “But the best jaengukjang in the world is my moms.” What can I say but, “well maybe someday I will get to try it.” She gives me a twinkle.
A nice couple is listening. I’m playing some fast swing and the girl is dancing up a storm while still holding the guys hand. He clearly doesn’t want to dance. It’s like she is a balloon being blown about in the wind. I start chanting, “Leave him, leave him and the crowd takes it up.” With a little coaxing, she starts dancing in front of me alone and she is clearly thrilled at her new freedom. Her boyfriend is taking a movie. I’m sure it’s on Facebook by now. When she finishes she gets a big applause from the 10 or so people gathered about . That was fun. She goes to put money in my hat. “Are you kidding. I should pay you.” but she puts in something anyway and walks away a few feet above the ground.
Another nice couple comes up. I ask, “Are you guys a couple?” It’s a dangerous question of course. It could be interpreted that I am on the make but I frame it in a different way by quickly adding when they say yes , “then I will play a romantic song for you.” They clap excitedly but I continue “….if you dance.” Koreans are actually quite shy (unless they are drunk) and there have been very very few times when a couple has actually danced on the street in front of me. This time isn’t one of those. I play the song anyway. At the end I start up the chant, “po po … po po … po po …” (kiss kiss…kiss kiss,,)and the crowd (which is an unusually co-operative crowd) immediately joins in. They are like deer caught in a spotlight and turning various shades of the rainbow, when suddenly the guy leans over and gives her a good one. The crowd goes wild. I dub them the romantic po-po couple which comes in handy because later there is a romantic no po po couple.
It turned out to be a great night. You never know….so you gotta go. 25