Thursday, January 13, 2005

He's Not At Dundas

In a dazzling serendipity, my next scheduled spot happened to be Dundas Station.

And as I studied the schedule more closely, I realized that Billy James' license number (#01) followed mine (#63, the year I was born) on the TTC's intricate grid system. This means that if he were following the schedule, he'd appear immediately after me everywhere I played.

But of course, nobody really follows the schedule.

When I arrived at Dundas this morning after dropping the kids off at school, it was clear that another musician had already been and gone, because a broken guitar string lay on the tile floor.

The busking spot was in the same location I remembered from twenty years ago, but many things surrounding it had changed. Now there was a brand-new entrance to the Eaton Centre directly off the walkway as well as an additional new hallway leading somewhere else--outside no doubt. Also, the stairs leading up to the subway platforms in both directions were covered with advertisements for WestJet Airlines.

The walls were apparently brown, not green as I remembered. And I wondered if, perhaps, the feng shui of the station had been negatively affected by the new entranceways. Could they be sucking vital life-energy away from the performer and the people passing by? It certainly seemed likely. For reasons that seemed otherwise unexplainable, virtually everyone appeared to be in a bad mood and un-generous frame of mind. (Despite my good intentions, I soon started to feel that way myself.)

I spent two hours in the Dundas corridor, two days in a row. I made considerably less than $10 an hour, even though many people walked by. I found myself feeling quite insecure about my songs, voice and guitar-playing ability during this time and at one point wondered if I'd make more money if I sang better-known cover tunes. In honour of the WestJet ad, I sang "Leaving On a Jet Plane". Nothing. I also sang Bruce Cockburn's "One Day I Walk" ("Oh I have been a beggar and shall be one again..".) Nothing.

The first day was especially difficult because it was very cold. I'd made a commitment to stay there between 9:30 and 11:30 in case friends wanted to come and see me, so I stuck it out...and by the end I was freezing. It was illuminating (in all ways) to leave the dingy brown corridor via one of the new entrances and step into the toasty warm and brightly-lit Eaton Centre, where I consoled myself by buying a new bright red coat which was on sale at H & M. Maybe it's the sheer contrast between the two environments that makes people less receptive to a busker at Dundas? Or maybe there's just less need for music and distraction in general?

The next day, my friend Ken stopped by for a visit.

"Yeah, when I saw you were going to be at Dundas, I didn't think it was such a good idea," he told me.

I felt better immediately with him sitting close by on the bench. Then another friend came along to take new pictures for my website. I felt bolstered by the fact that I was now part of a group.

It's possible Dundas works well for some musicians and not for others (me, that is). When I arrived on the second morning, an excellent guitar player named Brian seemed to be doing well there. And before I left, another young singer arrived, thrilled to take the spot. By coincidence, both of the musicians I ran into were, like me, TTC first-timers. Maybe I imagined it, but I thought they too displayed a certain hopeful green newness.

In any case, there was no sign of Billy.

1 comment:

Anita Daher said...

Hello from Winnipeg, Lynn! CBC Radio Winnipeg played you this morning, and my husband, Jim Daher, wondered if you are the same Lynn Harrison he went to school with (River East Collegiate). After a quick search I found your web site (and blog) and he assures me you are. What an adventure your busking must be! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

P.S. I've added you to my own list of writer/singer-songwriter links.

All the best
Anita (and Jim) Daher