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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

April 1, 2011

ALL OBSTACLES IN MY WAY

I rather admire the tenacity of those who are trying their best to stay afloat. I read a long article recently on how our support systems have broken down, the family is more split than ever. People are on their own.

But, it hits one most hard in a big city where the unemployed are scrambling, kindly neighbors are not present and doorways and heat grates are at a premium.

I remember on the trains in India where musicians would get on at one station, sing their way to the next stop, get off and sing their way back via the next return train. They would sell trinkets too. On a train in Italy, a man got on during a 5 minute stop. He was selling red pens. Gel pens. I needed a red gel pen. Two for a Euro. A pretty good deal, the pens worked fine and I still have them.

The traditional way to make a buck with your music is to get your guitar, stroll the marketplace or parks. The best guy I heard was on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur. This cathedral has a fantastic view of all of Paris and so people flock there on beautiful days and nights. The steps are palatial in scope and look like that of a fairy tale. So there are lots of places to sit, enjoy the view, enjoy the view of those enjoying the view… and listen to street musicians.

It was there I heard the best singer and guitar player. He stood right in the midst of everyone who was on the steps. He sang with clarity and was a fine guitar player, but one thing was missing. Because of the crowds, no one could easily go over to his hat and drop in a coin or two. He’s got the talent part down. But he may want to rethink his revenue strategy. I suggest a lady friend to circulate amongst the crowd and carry the hat.

The most novel approach was taken by a trio of musicians who had a boom box with accompaniment on a CD. The two trumpet players and harmonica player would slowly go up the street….like the one where we were staying in Paris. The street was wall to wall buildings, each six stories and it created a canyon effect with the sound. It reverberated and probably made the trio sound much better than if they were on a stage. But, I was impressed and opening the hotel window (Europeans seem to like their hotel windows to open, rather than sealing them shut like Americans. Explain that.) I tossed out a 2 Euro coin. They nodded thanks and serenaded the rest of the street.

But, I should have seen it coming as I got on the Metro in Paris. The train swept into the station and I walked to the entrance of the train car. A woman getting on had a guitar. I stepped in behind her. The door closed and instantly I realized I was trapped, with 37 other Metro riders as a Parisian woman sang (and strummed) the Bob Marley Classic, “I Can See Clearly Now.”

She had a semi-pleasant voice and sang in English which was clearly not her primary, secondary or even third language. But, she was a trooper, getting through only “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Hmmm hmmmm hmmmmm hmmmm hmmm hmmmm. Bright, bright, sunshiney day..ay..ay.”

Then she would repeat it. And again. And again. She knew no other verses and was shaky on the one she did know. I looked at all the others in the subway car. No one batted an eye at her rendition, which meant they did not understand English either. (Though there is the very real chance that Parisian Subway riders would ignore the presence of Mick Jagger in their midst even if he sang “Satisfaction.”)

I kept praying for a power failure or that the train would speed up and whisk me from the Sacre-Coeur to Notre Dame without any stops in between. She sang while repeating one verse about 18 times, the crowd was glassy-eyed. But, what I could not figure out was why she did not pass the hat. Good or bad, that is what musicians do after singing. Then again, maybe she was truly in it for the art. Her enthusiasm would seem to indicate that. Good for her.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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