Why do I do this?
I signed up for several farmers’ markets in Madison, CT, my old home town in the 2000’s, and one I enjoy for many reasons. Today I left at 10:30 for a 3:00 pm, three-hour set on a classic New England town green. The vendors are really nice, and the opportunity to play unamplified under old trees is very seductive. I also hope that some familiar faces (even ex-family) stop by to say hello. I get paid a nominal amount of money that covers gas and tolls and a little more. I often link it up with a pick and grin evening with friends nearby.
Friday summer traffic invariably screws this up. A ‘normal’ three plus hour trip took too much and I arrived at 3:06. I pulled up, unloaded my bag, chairs, CD’s, instruments and got underway by 3:15. It’s okay for a farmers’ market, but I don’t like to do this to the market and for my peace of mind, either. Almost immediately, a family came by with two young brothers in tow. The younger one glommed onto some rhythm instruments and proceeded to shake it and bounce around. I tried to encourage the older brother to join in, and it flat-out refused. Over the next 15 minutes, there was nothing could offer him to enter in, to the point of falling on the ground in front of his mom. I feel sorry for the kid.
It also made me reflect on this upper class community that I was a part of for seven years. I saw so many affluent people cruise on by, with little reflection on what I was trying to do in this community situation. I ended up with $10 in tips, $4 of which I supplied at the beginning. Folks buying their artisanal cheeses, flowers, seafood, pastries with no connection with the artisanal music going on in front of them, kids dancing and playing instruments on the green. It didn’t translate into a dollar tip but for a very few.
I moved up to CT in 2001 to support my family and my wife in her endeavors as a minister, and the culture was exactly this. And, as it turns out, it seems my wife was a product of this culture, too.
I had some good interaction with some kids, families, grandparents, and the vendors across from me and the farmer/manager appreciated my efforts. I had the opportunity to sit and play for three hours on a hot July afternoon on a beautiful town green. But, as I struggled through the traffic at the Tappan Zee on the way home, I reflected on whether I had learned anything this trip. I’m still thinking on it.