Rosalinde Moret, 49 

What I Do

I got frustrated working for somebody else for many years, and so I wanted to be self-employed and needed money right away. So I ran into Tom, an artist, who had done it himself in front of Two Wheel Travel. He's the one with the white beard, long hair, electric guitar. He told me how simple it was. I thought, Great, after all these years, I could have done this. So I started roughly around '95. I thought, Finally my talent has helped me pay the bills. And so far, it's been the best-paying job I've ever had, of odd jobs.

I think the first time was in front of Two Wheel Travel and Carytown Bookstore. And it was pretty awkward. You didn't know where to look, what to wear, that sort of thing. And you're worried about choice of songs... It gets kind of analytical. I only stayed about a half-hour. I had never really studied or looked at street musicians anywhere. And I think I made $8 that day.

[I went about] experimenting with different clothes, conforming to the mood of the moment, if there's a holiday or not, the weather, kind of like a psychological study to see how people react with the variations, as well as what kind of music — should I sing, should I not sing. I used to write down, when I'd report my earnings for the day, the conditions. Like 27 degrees, or rain, what I was wearing that night or whether I played the tin whistle instead of the guitar, and how did that affect tips.

So it was pretty educational. But then it's not always guaranteed, because I might wear a certain outfit, and tips were good that night, and then I decided to wear it the following two nights, and maybe the third night people didn't tip as well. So it's like, Oh well. And then I even threw in astrology, what sign the moon was in, and how will that affect people.

It's really a minority that does tip. On the street itself, I'd be lucky to be tipped one out of 20. But at the [Byrd] Theater, particularly when it's 15 minutes before the show, people psychologically decide to tip. In the gay segment of the bar scene, you have people who come up and embrace you. And in Shockoe Bottom I used to get roses. And I complimented on some lady's necklace, and she took it off — it was a $75 necklace — she gave me that for a tip.

Before I did this I was a silversmith at the Jefferson Hotel, and banquet server, and a series of odd jobs. When I'm not doing this, I'm trying to learn self-sufficiency — getting books on gardening, and alternative medicine, and trying to be self-sustaining.


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