The day after Whitney Houston died I was transferring trains downtown and came across a licensed street performer belting out Whitney tunes accompanied by an old battery powered boom box. I confess to feeling the loss of Whitney about as deeply as I can feel the loss of someone I don’t know personally, and the street performer’s musical memorial deeply moved me and many other commuters that day. I took a minute to remind myself that a previous self would have experienced the memorial as an intrusion.
For some reason, street performers used to intimidate me. I did not grow up in a city big enough to hold them, and for years they were an exotic feature of places I only visited – I conflated them with aggressive panhandlers and “seediness.” I tended to hurry past their ancient amps, never imagining that they had anything to offer, imagining that real talent is only to be found in concert halls or on soundstages. I was a fool Broom of the System, and street performance was, to my mind, a subversive pursuit.
But a couple of years into living in Chicago, I realized that what street performers really want is to make people happy while doing something they love. And, further, I realized that for people less judgmental and dour than myself, the performances are a source of joy! Why did I spend so long with preconceptions that kept me from appreciating the soundscape of my world? Perhaps more importantly, what preconceptions are currently limiting my joy?
Thanks for reading.