A few days ago, I was having a lovely lunch overlooking the harbor in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and I had to admit, I’d been totally charmed by this city’s narrow winding streets with American flags hanging over green, crisp gardens in front of wood-sided homes. Not to let me down, the local paper, The Salem News, had a couple of “reader-friendly” articles on its front page. And over lunch, after reading one of its headline articles (a woman won the lottery, and gets $50,000 a year for life but is still going to keep her job after she pays off her bills), I saw this title:
It was the almost that got my attention.
It appears that at a pedestrian mall in Essex, Massachusetts, a saxophone player is irking those around him with his repertoire, which consists of his own rendition of two standards, which he plays over and over – “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
I think we’ve all been here. No one has escaped the heartlessly bad, street musician.
This bad, and loud, saxophone player also struck a cacophonous chord at City Hall, who could actually hear the instrument (of torture) a few blocks away, and they proposed to rewrite their rules on street performers to include – no saxophones allowed.
Of course this proposed rule dangerously impinges on this musician’s right to freedom of speech and expression, something we hold dear in this country. We have the right to speak our minds, that is unless it presents a clear, and present danger, such as – yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, or inciting people to riot. Which, maybe this saxophone player was tempting the public to do – draw blood. I mean, bad music can be really painful.
I know there have been a few times that I’ve wished some sub-par street performers would just go away. In some cases I thought it might be a good idea to form a picket line, with signs that said, “Don’t give this man any money!” figuring if they didn’t make any, they’d move on. How else can you stop them..? It’s hard. You could plant a garden where they usually stand. Or, bring your own performers, like, little girls in yellow tutus that spin around to a cuter version of “Twinkle, Twinkle.” You could cordon off the player’s usual area with yellow tape and say it’s a crime scene that can’t be entered (yeah, buster, that’s right, and you’re the crime).
I always wonder – Is there no one in this man’s (and others like him) life that will tell him how bad he is? I know as a performer myself that I would be horrified to find out that City Hall was passing a law to prevent me from doing so. I’d want someone to tell me. And hey, what about those outtakes on “American Idol?” Are you with me in wondering how some of these people actually think they have a shot at the title? Is there is no intervention from friends and family? But maybe his/or her family is in the dark, too.
We all have had bad ideas at one time or another, and usually someone kindly stops us from our folly. I remember when we first moved into our LA ranch, my husband was enamored with our many citrus and fig trees, and enthused how we could stand on the street corner and sell bags of them, and make money. His cast members on the TV mini-series “North and South” loved this! So, they – Kirstie Alley, Jim Reed, Terri Garber, Genie Francis, and Jonathan Frakes, bought him a crazy raccoon-looking coat and replaced the buttons with dried figs, and presented it to Patrick, telling him that he needed to wear it while he was selling oranges out on the street! – He got a great laugh out of it, and stopped talking so much about fruit.
But obviously, not all people can get the message. Either they have no one around to hold up a stop sign, or are simply unable to listen and understand what’s being said (you know, crazy).
In Essex, Massachusetts, the new ban on saxophones came before a meeting, where upon hearing the new rule, an elected official jumped to his feet to protest that under the proposed Draconian ban, good players would also be banned – players with the talents of Charlie “The Bird” Parker, or John Coltrane would be silenced.
Freedom of speech’s a good thing. And deserves to be guarded very, very carefully.
And so. The proposed sax ban did not go through, although the criteria for street performer permits was revised. In the meantime, the musician still blows all day, everyday. And for now, everyone within a 2 and a half block radius of the Essex, Massachusetts mall is just going to have to endure a little bad sax.