Juggler's World: Vol. 43, No. 1

Wandering and Wondering

A Busker Looks Back on 20 Years

by Danny Avrutick

During my period of impressionable fixation I heard these words (or something similar) repeated in a Frank Zappa song - "You're probably wondering why I'm here, well so am I, so am I." They took root within me, or perhaps just fused with a burning conviction already there. It summed up my statement to the world.

So during most of the last 20 years, since first leaving home in 1969, thousands of people pass me daily on the streets of the various countries where I've lived.

Here in Europe I've spent most of my years playing flute and juggling on the streets. Most people pass by without noticing. Some notice and then quickly pass by. Some think, "Poor man, no home, no family, no job, no money... A wasteful shame, lousy music... Not another beggar... Probably hasn't had a bath..."

Some think or say, "Thank you, it's nice to hear good music for a change. You've made my day. I wish I could do that..."

In one case a woman came up to me with a large donation and told me she had been bedridden for months and when she heard my music she got up and walked for the first time.

I once saw a flute player standing on top of a sewer grating on a windy Monday morning in northern France. It was a bad spot, and Monday morning is the worst time, since most stores are closed and only delivery trucks are running around. But, by God, he was doing it and people were giving him money and feeling good about it!

Feelings, doors and windows open or shut. Water, eggs, glances and insults tumble down as well as flowers, praise, appreciation and - money.

Well, whatever else it may be, street playing is hard work (if you don't believe me, try it!). It's also mere play. Like all value and beauty, the worth of the activity is in the eye of the beholder. I only be what I am - created to stand around and do this sort of thing, playing flute and juggling. Blame God, blame social conditioning.. Or praise the courage to be what you are in spite of social conventions and harsh, imperfect environments.

These ideas have been simmering in my mind over the years. I humbly offer them to those who may also wonder "why I'm here." Of course, while busily rushing by me keeping up with the pressures of modern-day responsibilities, you may not have the time or desire to wonder.

But true wealth is to have the time and desire and be constantly immersed in wonderment. To wake up in the morning master of your life and time. Our only true possession is our consciousness and attention in this present moment. The stresses and distractions of modern life deafen us to the wondering and increasingly imprison us in cages of gold and wall-to-wall carpeting.

What greater beggar is there than one who harnesses himself in a tie and a smile to spend the best years of his life doing something he doesn't enjoy? Pinned down by fees, expectations and the need of security and respectability?

When he's cooking, a street performer stands as an island of inspiration and transcendence in the turmoil of the aggressive struggle. The street player is not "enlightened," but is simply possessed by the "Creative Force" in that place and time. This creates the possibility to wake and shake the random passerby out of his or her workaday trance. An artist whose background and material are the spontaneous and unpredictable circumstances of public streets and spaces is a testimony to what life can be with practice, preparation and the courage to take on the risk and challenges of day-to-day marginality.

Danny Avrutick is an American-born performer who has been entertaining people on the streets of several continents for more than 20 years. He is currently in France.

"I stand on the street and play,
People pass, people give.

Some give with admiration, some give with distaste.
Some give with appreciation, some give with resentment.
Some give with joy, some give with sorrow
Some give with envy, others with pity
Some give with satisfaction, some give with frustration.

They are giving what they are. And so am I.
They are being what they are
And so am I (So am I)!

(poem by the author)

Wandering and Wondering / Index, Vol. 43, No. 1 /
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