Thursday, May 23, 2013

Have You Ever Busked? Free Today/Tomorrow! Mary Rowen's Contemporary Drama, Living by Ear, Will Hit Lives of Many Women!
September, 1992
"The JFK Jr. lookalike in my morning rush-hour audience is impossible to ignore. He's got that same square cin, those same square shoulders, that dark, combed-back hair. And every time I glance in his direction, he's looking back at me with eyes the exact same shade of blue as his Brooks Brothers shirt. Not my type, but holy shit, he's cute.
"If Gina were here, she'd tell me to win. According to Gina, winking's a busker's secret weapon; she says a good wink can convert the dollar bill a yuppie was about to drop into your guitar case into a five, or even a ten. She claims it startles them and makes them feel guilty about their wealth. But I've never winked. I don't want people supporting me out of guilt. I'm a better musician than that. So I keep both eyes wide open and finish my song. It's a work in progress right now, a ballad about some whose true love has moved away, and it's getting pretty good audience response.  My best songs are autobiographical...
"Hey there." Startled, I glance over my shoulder and there he is. Up close, he looks a little less like a Kennedy, but he's still very handsome.
"Oh, Um, hi." He must be a religious recruiter. People in my profession get invited to churches all the time. He's wearing a small gold signet ring, and his fingernails are very clean.
"You're too good for street corners," he says. "You should be on the radio, o MTV, or both. You should make a record."
"Hmmm. Religious recruiters don't normally talk about stuff like that, so maybe he's a music executive. And I'm not interested in going commercial. I mean, I've considered it, but every time I hear Gina's poem called "Busk," I remember what I was born to do.
Busk because you're feral.
Squeal, Shriek, Moan.
Your currency is joy and you buy and spend freely
Earth is infected with criminals and caged animals
but you're peaceful.
You're wild.
And you are immune.
Your wings are wide. Your mouth, hungry but free."

Living by Ear
By Mary Rowen

Over the last several years, I've been amazed at the number of television shows offering "big bucks" for performers, but even more by the quality of many of these individuals! In this period of reality television, it seems corporations are supporting where bottom line results will also mean sales for them.

But in the past, those who had talent had only their own hometown areas in which to seek recognition...

And...I want to quickly point out that this novel, though related to music, is easily comparable to any woman who has placed her own career plans on hold while she supports her husband and family... That grabbed more of you, didn't it? When I was a supervisor, I often wondered how my female employees could handle their high-stressed jobs as well as providing for their families. In fact, many did not. From one point or another, things had to be left undone or the woman would be on medication to deal with the stress. Some were...

But what if your husband, and even your children, had no interest in supporting your career? Too involved in what was important to their own lives?
Chrissy had been in love with Curt--was it just because they sung together out there on the streets? Or was it his beautiful body, their intimacy?

She was shocked when he announced he was leaving, moving. She hardened her heart, because he'd not once said anything about them, about his leaving her...about...her...

So when he was leaving, she walked out the door, even while he was saying that he loved her...and couldn't go back...

But many nights, as she was alone in bed, waiting for her husband, she would remember Curt and remember how they were together...

She didn't know, really, why she had married Jon...She loved Max and Lucy and was thankful for her children, but when Jon had cheated on her, had become, perhaps an alcoholic, out of control, even though he claimed to want to run for the Senate, she had begun looking back, back to when she was living by ear, playing her songs, being free, independent and happy...

What had happened to Jon's promises?

Jon met her as a busker, with her hippie-like clothes and her multi-colored hair. He even asked her out and took her to a fancy restaurant for dinner that night, not caring that many people watched the unlikely couple. He was a rich lawyer, working hard to make partner, and was already planning for running for the Senate. While he had told her he had connections to help with her career, it never had happened. Each time Jon would logically present the issues of the kids, his upward career moves which forced him to work long hours...on and on...

Chris had lost all of her street friends or could never make connections since Jon had purchased a large home in suburbia... And there weren't even neighbors close enough to make new friends...

Now even the kids had their own lives and friends. She had tried to work with Jon to cover home issues and she would begin short periods of busking. It never happened for one reason or another...Now she was afraid she wouldn't be able to do it! And she was going to sneak out without telling anybody else!

My heart's pounding so hard under my blouse that the fabric's vibrating. Originally, I'd considered wearing my old busker bellbottoms and tie-dyed t-shirt, but I think I'd feel like I was in costume, and Halloween's still two weeks away. Besides, I don't want to call any more attention to myself than I have to. As much as a forty-six year-old busker can, I want to blend into the subway scene today. So I've settled on a pair of comfortable Seven jeans and a fitted navy blue blouse from the Gap.
"I buckle up my guitar case and think about the four songs I practiced yesterday while the kids were in school. "You've Got a Friend" by Carole King, The Beatles' "Yesterday," "Dean Flowers" by the Rolling Stones, and "Box of Rain" by the Grateful Dead, which used to be Andi's favorite. I've played all of those tunes hundreds--maybe thousands--of times; they're standards for me, like "Maggie May" is for Rod Stewart, and "Allison is for Elvis Costello. None of them should give me the slightest bit of trouble.
"So why am I so scared? Why am I shaking? I'm going out there to play guitar and sing a few cover songs. That's it. No big deal...
"Then I see her: a woman I recognize from around town..."

Having never married, it is hard for me to understand, even though I've seen other women do it, how a woman can find herself so very alone, even while married. Chris' story may be totally unlike your life, or it could be very much like yours. What it will be, though, is a reflection of what happens when a woman totally leaves her former life behind when she enters into marriage...

What amazed me was what happened when Chris began planning for a divorce...and his later...confession.


But Mary Rowen wasn't going to allow this to have a, perhaps, "real-life" ending. What she did gives us was a wonderful final ending that I wasn't too surprised at...but which provided a totally lovely experience as I closed Living by Ear... Readers, you'll know who you are... And if it's you? Get this Book and find yourself again! Even if it is only by happily spending time reading Mary Rowen's Debut...


Mary Rowen grew up in the Massachusetts Merrimack Valley and is a graduate of Providence College. She has worked as a teacher, writer, salesperson, and political canvasser. She lives in the Boston area with her husband, children, and cats. Living by Ear is her first novel.

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