Sunday, February 22, 2009

In Cog Neato

I got glasses! Well, pretend glasses. They're my (admittedly lame) attempt at a disguise.

I figure they're just enough to fool any distant acquaintances I might run into while playing music for nickles and dimes.

And anyway, if specs worked for Clark Kent, they'll work for me. Or they'd better. I can't afford another jump-n-run.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"The Beginning" or "The Day I Was Really Worried About Looking Like A Drug Addict"

So. Day one.

I decided to get up at 7:00 AM (which is bordering on painful for me) to hit the early commuters. I forwent makeup and presentable clothing, working under the assumption that a hint of desperation might help me in the tip jar (or "tip ukulele case," rather.) Besides, aside from the occasional drag queen, I don't think I've ever seen a subway performer wearing lipstick.

On the train ride into the city, I realized that I had forgotten my metal folding chair that was acquired specifically for busking (I guess I was feeling lazy and/or subconsciously resentful in the wee small hours of the morning), so I had to make an executive decision. I could either stick to my original plan of playing at the 14th Street station - only now I'd have to sit on the ground - or I could go to 2nd Avenue, where there are seats built into the walls. I opted for 2nd Ave. The ground just seems . . . unseemly. Sitting on the ground is for hippies and guitar players and hippie guitar players. The ground is dirty and cold and sad. The ground is not for ukuladies. So. Second Ave it was.

I got to the station a little before eight. As soon as I stepped off of the train, I started re-thinking things. WTF was I doing there? I am smart! College educated! I have a home and am not addicted to drugs! And, even more importantly, I AM NOT A MUSICIAN!! What the hell was I thinking?!

I was on the verge of hurling my things onto the train tracks and yelling, "I don't need your fucking money!" when I remembered, "Oh yeah. I do need your fucking money." So, I took a deep breath, took a seat and took out my ukulele.

As I was tuning Cloris, I started to feel self-conscious. Like, reeeallly self-conscious. I kept telling myself that no one was paying any attention to me, no one cared, no one was watching.

But then I realized someone was watching.

About 20 feet away from me, a tall, thin middle-aged guy rocking a receding mullet was not even trying to hide his interest/amusement in me and C. His manner was as follows: glance, smile, shake head, chuckle to self, repeat. I ignored him as best I could and started on the intro to "Take on Me" by a-ha. I fumbled the chords once. Twice. Three times. Good lord. Sleazeball would not chill with the ogling. I wanted to dirty-look him, but I'm a musical novice and incapable of singing, playing and saying "Go to hell" with my eyes at the same time. So I concentrated on the music. As I was wrapping up the song, Douchie walked toward me. I started mentally preparing comebacks to his come-ons, as well as planning my escape, when he stopped in front of me, dropped five bucks into my case and sauntered away. I sat there, watching him leave and thinking that maybe this wouldn't be so humiliating after all. And that's when I spotted Jason.

Or, at least I think it was Jason. Even now I'm not entirely sure. We only dated for a hot second about three years ago, but I could not bear the thought that this would be the first time we would run into each other post-rebound. The uptown F train was approaching, so I jumped up, grabbed my stuff and split.

Lame, I know. But I have to maintain some level of pride.

I headed uptown, plopped myself on the ground at 14th Street and made roughly 40 bucks in about two hours. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

But next time I'm wearing makeup. And a disguise.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We're coming for your money.

Meet Cloris. Cloris is my soprano ukulele, a Lanikai model LU-21, named after Cloris Leachman.

"But why 'Cloris?'" you might be asking your computer screen. I'll tell you why. The Lanikai and Leachman have, like, a ton in common. For starters, they're both classically awesome. Neither takes themselves too seriously. They're both reliable and practical and funny and quirky and not too fancy. And they've both been kind of forgotten since the 1970's, but are making comebacks, of sorts. So that's why.

Cloris and I met on December 25, 2008, and it was adoration at first sight. We've been practically inseparable ever since.

This is Twiggy. She is a metal kazoo produced by the Trophy Music Company. She cost exactly $2, is painted royal blue on the back, and has a hard time staying in my mouth while I play Cloris. She is named Twiggy because she's skinny, she's empty on the inside and she secretly yearns to work as a judge on America's Next Top Model.

Twigs and I met just last week at First Flight Music on First Avenue. I plucked her from a fishbowl of cheap plastic kazoos; somehow, with her shiny, brassy exterior, she seemed like the classier option. We're not exactly besties yet, and her sense of entitlement can lend itself to diva-like behavior at times, but we're both trying to put our differences aside in our pursuit of mellifluous excelllence.

So. It'll be me, Cloris and Twiggy against the world. The cranky, crowded, commuting world.

Wish us luck.

Because I need dollars.

I’d like to blame it on the economy, as that’s the easiest thing to do, but in all honesty, it’s probably adult ADD. The stock market could be bearish or bullish or othermammalish, and I’d still looking for a job. This is because I tend to choose short-term projects and temp assignments over long-term, stable employment (much to the chagrin of my parents.) I am happier and healthier if I know that whatever miserable, mind-numbing office job I happen to find myself in will eventually be over in a very specific amount of time. Stuck answering phones for a bunch of modern-day Mad Men on a Monday? No worries! New job on Thursday! Is that one evil bitch from HR giving you the stink eye? Who cares? You’re gone in three weeks anyway! That’s the beauty of temping. You don’t have to make friends. You don’t have to engage in office politics. You just have to be a body. A web-surfing, book-reading, occasional phone-answering body.

My most recent temp job just ended. It lasted from August to January, and was a down-right pleasant fundraising gig. I liked it so much, I could have stayed there indefinitely, which is, like, huge for me. On par with George Clooney suddenly declaring a biological need to commit to and settle down with one lady forever and ever. So anyway, after realizing that, hell, I kinda like working in the same place every day, I decided to man up, get an Adderall prescription and start looking for a real and proper job. You know. A job with benefits. A job with normal business hours. A job that mails me W-2s and not 1099s.

Unfortunately, while I was busy raising the big bucks for Lower East Side kiddies last fall, our sad, broken financial system finally crumbled into pixie dust and blew away, taking all but a few desirable jobs with it. So now those Mad Men bastards and that one HR whore are all unemployed and stealing my temp work. Meanwhile, I’ve been spending my days in a bathrobe, on the couch, scouring Craigslist, and watching Rock of Love Bus marathons.

I had no idea what to do. How do I make money while trying to find a (better) way to make money? I don’t have any waitressing experience, and I can only mix drinks that have the ingredients in the name. I’ve only ever broken an espresso machine. I’ve never sold things or managed people. I don’t do numbers and the only graphic design experience I have is using Photoshop to make myself look thinner. I was on the verge of - oh, who are we kidding - I was having an all out panic attack last Friday, pacing and sobbing and trying to block out sepia-toned visions of train-hopping back to Arkansas à la Natty Gann when I almost stepped on my ukulele.

The ukulele I got for Christmas this year. The ukulele on which I can play five - almost six - songs. The ukulele that, until that very moment, had been nothing but an innocent hobby. A sweet little sort-of instrument that I was going to use to blow people’s minds at parties, nothing more. Well, nothing until now.

I live in New York City. People with much less talent than myself perform in subway stations every day. If those people can make money, why can’t I?

So that’s what I’m doing until the economy perks up or something better comes along. I’m taking my act on the road (or under it, rather) and playing for the masses.

See you under ground!