Saturday, December 09, 2006
On a rainy December evening at a strip mall, Wayne stands outside a Toys 'R' Us playing Christmas carols with a tenor saxophone. Wayne makes his living as a street performer and has been playing at this location during the holiday season for the past seven years. He enjoys playing his sax outside the toy store, although quite often he is harassed by the police and property owners who think he is sleazy. He says, "Like everything else, when you have something good going, something bad always steps in." Wayne has found that the store management and customers who shop there don't mind because he helps bring about the season. "When I started playing on the street, I looked for areas with a lot of foot traffic, and as it got colder, I had to find somewhere people often went, so I thought it’s Christmas time, toys, you know and put the two together." Wayne says that Louisville is a pretty bad place for street performers. He planned on moving to San Francisco, where his profession is more welcomed, but says he is stuck here because he takes care of his mother, who is ill and has no legs. "On the one hand, I am glad to be with her, but on the other hand I miss out on a lot of opportunities." Wayne has met street performers from all over including New Orleans, New York, Europe, and says that they make a lot more money and are better received than in Louisville.
Wayne did not grow up thinking that he would ever become a street performer or musician. In fact, he did not start playing music until his late twenties. When he was in high school, his dreams were set on becoming a professional football player, but things just did not work out in his favor. Back in 1998, when Wayne was unemployed and down on his luck, he was arrested for a DUI. It was summertime and he needed to make some fast cash in order to pay for alcohol classes and lawyer fees. He picked up his trombone, and started playing outside a coffee shop, hoping to make at least twenty dollars that day. He ended up making fifty and was amazed. Winn Dixie, a local grocery store at the time, became his "hot spot" until a jewelry store in the same strip mall kick him off the property. Now, years later Wayne says that he is a little disenchanted by street performing and would rather play on the inside with a band. He loves Jazz, Big Band, Broadway music and Tony Bennett -- all music that is not native or commonly played in Louisville or Kentucky. Although he is not looking forward to the day his mother passes, he does look forward to moving on elsewhere.