Busking is a British term. In the Midwest, in Ohio, we say “playing on the street.” Kind of awkward, but we don’t want to sound British.

In the 1990s, several Yiddishe Cup musicians played on the streets in downtown Cleveland and made nothing. Security guards shooed us away from Higbee’s department store and the Arcade entrance.

Our parking expenses were more than what we made. Then we ate out and lost even more money.

We were certainly contributing. We were putting the viva in city.

The bus exhaust stunk. The passersby ignored us — except for the bums, who ogled our money pot. Our gelt was immense.

***

I have “busked”; I played on the streets abroad. (Northern Mexico, 2008, doesn’t count; that was a freebie.) In 2006 I made 16 shekels ($4) on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. I had my axe with me in Israel, so why not play for my people?

My people wanted Dixieland. “The Saints Go Marching In” was killer. A charedi boy kept asking for it. I tried klezmer but that didn’t sell, except for “Anim Zemiros.” (Song of Glory)

The tzedakah collectors eyed my coins. Again, awkward. Give it up for the charedim.

There is a video clip of Pete Rushefsky, the renowned klezmer musician, playing on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Pete is wearing a glove, the wind is blowing, and there is a sole listener, who says to Pete: “My grandfather used to play this stuff.” Great stuff — the video. Turns out the grandpa was Louis Armstrong.

Not exactly. Grandpa was Jack Boogich of the historic Romanian klezmer family. For hardcore klez fans only, check out this link. Scroll to the bottom of the text for the Brighton Beach video.

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