Saturday, October 22, 2011

'Lo and Behold: An Essay on Curb Appeal

Any buskologist worth his salt ‘n pepper hair will tell you that Curb Appeal equals Sex Appeal, and that, as Sophia Loren said, is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got. If indeed, this is the case, then one ought to be cognizant of showing potential consumers what we’ve got. And then of course having those potential consumers imagine what else we’ve got.

Think about this. On each of our buskingdoms, generally, the first thing people notice is audible, the strums of our instrument, be it a banjitar, a guitar, mandolin or whatever. The second thing, people notice is our physical frock, be it formal, informal, a suit, a jacket, a t-shirt. Based upon these two things, sound and attire, potential buyers passing by will make a split decision whether or not to contribute to our wares. Practice, practice, practice makes for perfect instrumentation, but one needs no practice for perfect dress.

Our apparel must be appealing to attract customers. To determine what we wear means simply to decide what image we want to project. If we want to attract children, we ought to be campy, sing children’s songs and dress in outlandish fashion, donning our clown and duck costumes. If we want to attract an older customer, we need to button-down, sing covers, dress crisply, and behave conservatively.

Of course, the best image a busker can project is the one with which the busker is most comfortable. For me, my alter ego busking persona is not too distant from my regular other self. In the non-busking segments of my life I tend to wear black long-sleeved collared gothic western shirts (purchased from Madame Yes), blue jeans, and shiny polished work boots, while my busking self is frocked with white long-sleeved collared designer shirts (purchased from Colin O'Brian Man's Shoppe), blue jeans, and shiny polished work boots.

Lately I’ve just decided to change my busking costume to accommodate the cold. (After all, there is no bad weather; there is only bad dress.) I’ve been wearing a thick grey tam, a knee length black split leather coat, lined blue jeans, and warm boots. Attempting to keep my fingers warm for frailing, I’ve cut out with scissors, the fingers and thumbs of some ordinary red cotton gloves. I can only describe this Autumn attired look as a 60’s British invader who is forever asking with outstretched strums, Please, sir, I want some more. I’ve been on a half dozen outings dressed in this garb and so far it has proved buskworthy.

I am told that my summer busking attire projects the image of a seasoned folk singer, one who is breezy but articulate, someone who enjoys freedom rather than a fancy office, someone who has decided upon a life of simplicity instead of one that is corporate and complicated. I suppose that I could be considered to those passersby as the main protagonist in the literary Bildungstroman tradition. (None of this is necessarily true, but nonetheless such projected charisma has proved prosperous for me.)

I am thinking what Sophia Loren was describing in her famous 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got is being labeled lately as Erotic Capital (see Sociologist, Catherine Hakim). Others would refer to this projected adventure as being honey money. We buskers, rather than stroll down that projected that sexy lane of seduction and solicitation, ought to assay our alter egos as projections of our Psychological Capital. To me, capital that is psychological sounds not as tawdry, and connotes not as much sleaze as that referred to as erotic.

Those marching in my Chaucerian Parade for this week:

  • And yet again … another person parks her shopping cart beside me and smokingly insists that if I really want the money, I ought to return her cart for the coin deposit.
  • A very wasted pan-handler with slurred speech insists that I give him and his pan-handling staggering partner a couple bucks for a coffee. Feeling somewhat generous, I had him a toonie. Within minutes he’s back and in my face demanding five or six dollars. Attempting to ignore him, I keep strumming my banjitar. Eventually he leaves giving me a farewell scowl and the finger.
  • And they’re back! Just when I am packing it in, the friendly father of last week’s dancing daughter, tosses four dollars into my buskpot. Last week when he did this, I decided to play until his taxi came. Today is different. My hands are really cold.
  • My competition is fifty feet across the way, right in front of the liquor store, playing sweet tunes on his guitar. Approximately thirty minutes into my busk, he closes his case, hops on his bicycle, and rides over to visit me. He throws five dollars into my banjitar case. I’m stunned. It is Dillon, a former student of mine, who became a busker because I was a busker!

'Lo and behold, fellow buskers, because we are synchronously the masters and servants of our buskingdoms, we need to be cognizant in projecting both our wordrobes ... and our wardrobes.

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