My wife Sarah is generous, a big understatement, and as the holiday season thunders up on us she is constantly on the lookout for good causes to support. The Salvation Army bell ringers are of course a no brainer. There’s hardly ever been one that doesn’t get something.
Street begging however is another thing. It’s often a close call as to whether the person is worthy of help or just getting a few bucks the easy way. For instance we have a local panhandler named Michael who hangs out semi-permanently on the corner of Charles and Beacon Street. I saw him this morning eating breakfast with a friend at our local Starbucks also on the corner of Charles and Beacon. I assume this was just before his morning shift begging just outside their front door.
All this background information is leading up to our walk across Boston Garden just a few hours ago. The prettiest way to get to our place is to go over the bridge and on the weekends that stretch is a street musician gauntlet. From the Arlington Street entrance to the crossing at Charles we passed 4 kinds music beggars working the passersby.
The first was a bad but sincere saxophone player slowly butchering well-known show tunes.
The second was a quite talented Vietnamese gentleman playing a 2 stringed fiddle called a Dan Nhi.
This man used to play mostly oriental sounding music but lately seems to have come to believe, correctly I’m sure, that if what he played sounded more familiar to western ears his take would be better. He has changed his tune, as it were, and indeed his monetary rewards seem to have improved.
Next along our route was a guitar playing troubadour singing mournful ballads in Spanish. I’m not sure of his nationality but the songs are beautiful and the man singing them seems quite peaceful and at one with his music.
Finally as we were about to leave the park and cross over to the Common we stopped at the corner were the one man bands seem always to play. Today there was a guy who wore his band on his back. Usually there is another one who does his thing sitting down.
And so it was as we left this gauntlet of musicality Sarah had dropped three dollars into their coffers.
Three dollars you say?
But there were four people!
Yes there were and as I said in the beginning, it was a 3 dollar crossing.
We had just seen the movie “Spotlight” which, if you haven’t seen it, you should. Today’s weather isn’t great but it since it’s Saturday, there were plenty of folks in the part anyway. Just ahead of us was this group of happy tourists with their big bunch of balloons. It was one of those colorful moments when a camera is a welcome accessory.
Sam Lagrassa runs a legendary sandwich joint about a 12 minute walk from our front door. His pastrami and corned beef are by far the best in the city and if we ate their regularly our weight would skyrocket.
But every now and then, a trip to Sam’s place for a major reuben hit is the closest thing to paradise this old guy will experience on this planet.
“Drugstore Window”, one of Mr. Hopper’s most famous painting, is done at night looking from the outside it. This image is in daylight looking from the inside out. However, the sense of a significant distance between subject and the surrounding environment feel the same, at least to my way of thinking.
There’s something about a crowded, bustling city that seems to encourage people to wrap themselves in a cloak of private and somewhat defensive contemplation.
I have no idea what this guy was up to but it was clear the motorcycle cop knew him and wanted him gone from the Boston Common area.
The exact quote was “Get the hell out of here.”
We went to the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) yesterday and saw an exhibit about the small, poor but amazingly creative Black Mountain College. It was a testament to the power of teachers and students working closely together in an atmosphere of shared creative growth.
As always seeing art, creating art, not to mention understanding art means LOOKING.