On this day 30 years ago I discovered the courage within myself to reject and step away from your society ruled by cheats, thieves, scoundrels and profiteers to make an honest living (by this, I mean a living based on service and the giving of healthy, life affirming, loving things rather than profiting from injurious, predatory, and life damaging things, which most people do) – creating and playing music. At the time, I didn’t know that something truly miraculous and magical was going to begin.
I couldn’t get a restaurant job in San Francisco because I had started growing dreadlocks and all your restaurants refused to hire me ( although I had more than 10 years of experience in fine restaurant service), calling me dirty to my face. Waiters now wear dreadlocks while working in all kinds of restaurants, including posh romantic places.
The only job I could get was a dangerous scooter messenger job with a reprographics firm. I delivered architectural blueprints between architects and their clients. Speed was rewarded. Every day I seemed to be skittering away from speeding cars, weaving trucks, or hulking buses with at least one hair raising, heart racing, close call per day. I hated it!
During one of those deliveries, I had taken a short cut on foot through a BART subway station and saw a violinist named Nick (who died of AIDS many years ago) performing. He had just won a civil suit against BART in order to play. Dressed in concert attire, he was playing the first movement of “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
“I can do that,” I thought.
That night after work and for several successive nights, I dug out my violin and started memorizing the 1st movement of the Bach A minor concerto. A couple of days later, after work, I went to BART’s Powell Street station to try it out. Positive feedback abounded.
The next day after a night’s thought and consultation with my best friend, I gave 1 month’s notice at the reprographics firm, making the advent of spring my first day of supporting myself solely through busking. During that month, I memorized a repertoire of pieces that included: the Bach a minor concerto, the Bach E major concerto, Mozart’s Concerto #4, the “Meditation” from the opera Thais by Massenet, and a few isolated movements from Bach’s unaccompanied preludes and sonatas. Funny thing is that I never memorized any of the Four Season’s or any of the hackneyed “popular” classical music that one hears most violinists play in public. I guess I thought that was Nick’s domain.
On the 21st of March 1987, I began playing the Bach a minor in the corridor of San Francisco’s Civic Center train station. Most particulars of the day are lost, however I remember it to be thrilling. I wore jeans which I stopped wearing within several months, preferring skirts and creative fantasy clothing that I assembled instead. And I made . . . Nope, in keeping with a personal vow of silence about money-making, I will not tell you. I’ll leave it by saying that it was much more than what I earned by putting my life at risk for the sake of architectural blueprints.
For most of you who have not seen me play recently, here is a solo performed on Sunday, March 19th during a San Diego prayformance with my wife, Lila’Angelique: