Sunday, February 21, 2016

Kattya Graham performed in Blue Box #5.

27 Blue Boxes are painted on sidewalks in Downtown Orlando. These boxes are for panhandlers and buskers. Busking is possible only during day light hours. Although set up for panhandlers, police often insist street performers must use the blue boxes. If a police officer receives a complaint or witnesses a street performer asking for money, that officer can "take the appropriate action related to that issue, a warning is an option, but so is arrest." said Sgt. Barb Jones of the Orlando Police Department. Performing outside the boxes can result in 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. In 2002, former Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood killed a proposal to allow street performers in downtown Orlando, saying that would be "inconsistent" with the city's ordinances that ban panhandling.

Kattya Graham volunteered to perform in Blue Box #5 on the Corner of Amelia Street and Orange Avenue. This corner is near the Court House parking garage. As I arrived on foot, I searched for the now familiar blue dotted lines that delineate a box about 5 by 15 feet. For the first time the were no blue lines. There were red lines and orange lines that surveyors put down as they plan where to dig for electric and plumbing pipes. I checked the City Hall issued Blue Box map and this it was the right spot. The blue lines must have been power spray washed away. There was a small blue plate above the street drainage. It said, "No dumping, all water drains into lakes."  The spray washed blue paint must now be in Lake Eola.  The blue plate became our Blue Box.

Kattya arrived and unpacked her guitar and set up her music stand. At first she put her collection pan right on the blue plate and then she decided it made more sense to put it out behind her for pedestrians to see. As a joke she stood on her tip toes on top of the blue plate. There weren't many pedestrians, at most three people walked by in the two hours we were on that street corner. There were however plenty of cars that had to stop at the stoplight as they waited to drive West across Orange Avenue. Kattya got to watch drivers reactions. Many drivers smiled through their closed car windows. Three women rolled down their windows to listen better while men did the opposite, by rolling up their windows. Perhaps they feared she would rush up to them and squeegee clean their windows and demand money. Only one pedestrian glanced over his shoulder at Kattya as he was waiting to cross over Orange Avenue. No one ever dropped an money in her tip pan. She has just recorded a new album of original songs and several covers at the Timucua White House. Benoit Glasier is now polishing the sound mix.

Kattya grew up in Mexico City which is the largest city in the world. She started busked in Mexico City when she was 18 years old. Crime was rampant, but she never had an incident as she performed. Here in Orlando for the past 15 years, she feels safe, but performing on a city street corner didn't, seem appropriate. She performed beautiful Mexican ballads in Spanish. After one song, she said me, "I'm glad most people don't understand the lyrics, the last song was about being a drunk." I laughed. The music was soothing and lyrical, at times being drowned out by honking horns, or the sound of the Sun Rail train roaring by a block away. Her brightly embroidered blouse was the only bright note of color on the otherwise grey street corner. Had she performed on block south, closer to the entrance to the court house, there would have been a constant stream of lawyers and jurors who would pass her on their way to find lunch. There is no blue box one block south however.

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