I figured out at a pretty young age that I was, for the most part, doomed to be uncomfortable—to always feel like a bit of a weirdo. Don't get me wrong; it's not without due cause. Remember this story? I really am kind of a weirdo.
Thankfully, even though I
a) haven't completely surrendered the mission of quiet normalcy and
b) try really really hard not to be weird,
I accept my constant discomfort with a lot more ease now than I did as an adolescent. Phew.
However, it's interesting that along with this tenuous resignation comes an interesting adaptation. It's as if feeling uncomfortable in places I should feel comfortable has created a buffer, making me more comfortable in places I should feel uncomfortable.
Be patient; I think I can explain.
Shrouded in a foggy cloud of self-acclaimed cultural and social ambiguity, I have a fascination with being places I don't "belong". I'm intrigued by social norms and their unspoken rules and desperately yearn to politely buck against them. What I mean is, once upon a time I got an application for White Castle in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, MN because the rules of society dictated that I didn't belong there. (I quickly lost interest halfway through filling out the application.)
This tendency is how I ended up half a block off the quieter, less debauched end of Bourbon street in the French Quarter of New Orleans on the sidewalk at night with my guitar, ukulele and dog .
After situating myself on my crate and strategically positioning my guitar bag with a few delicately placed dollar bills (what, you think Starbucks doesn't pad its tip jar first thing in the morning to encourage its patrons' generosity?), I began to tune up as my first audience members approached: a husband and wife in town for a conference. For directions and a song, I was rewarded $3, and it felt good. And I didn't even feel like throwing up.
You see, performing is a frightful, stomach-wrenching event for me. Taking the stage says, "Hey everybody look at me." But you don't really have a right to be on that stage. Musicians and actors are on that stage, and you're just some amateur. Sitting on the street says, "Hey everybody ignore me just a little bit unless you don't want to either way whatever you want." And you have every right to be there. Because it is the sidewalk and it belongs to all of us.
It belongs to these people:
|image from http://www.crubby.net|
It belongs to these people:
|image from http://www.brooklynvegan.com (Also man I'm glad Kady grew |
her hair out)
Even this guy:
|image from http://deartheonion.files.wordpress.com|
I came home with $7, a pack of Marlboro's (which I of course did not make use of), and my best prize of the night: a handwritten letter from my biggest fan—a lonely art student who sat next to me on the stoop for five or six songs:
|Dear Summer, you have a beautiful voice, elegant stature, and a wonderful dog. Thank you for being |
here tonight. It means the world to hear your beautiful music on a lonely night, keep on singing,
Have you ever done something really weird or scary just because?