Staking out their turf at virtually every corner on South Michigan Ave. is a cadre of destitute donation specialists, tourist wranglers and undiscovered performance artists — all of whom seek financial remuneration in one form or another from anyone who passes on the pedestrian thoroughfare (the sidewalk). Even the ubiquitous Streetwise vendor has found his spot — Lake St. and Michigan Ave. — and is spewing out charm as only an upbeat entrepreneurial news vendor can. “C’mon, people. It’s OK to smile on a Tuesday! How about a Streetwise?”
Last week, on one of my regular strolls down the Cultural Mile, competition for my attention was fierce among the peddlers — everyone wanted me to “buy in” to their thing. And then, as I approached the southwest corner of Michigan and Randolph, I saw something I have never seen before in my six decades of walking up and down just about every sidewalk in downtown Chicago. There on the corner was a gentleman — I didn’t get his name — playing a vibraphone for donations and tips at 11:30 a.m. on a Thursday.
A vibraphone! Not a guitar, not a saxophone, not even one of those makeshift plastic bucket drums. He was playing a vibraphone!!!!!! And he was quite good at it.
It’s just another reason to love the Cultural Mile. Elsewhere in the city there are basic run-of-the mill street peddlers and performance artists. On the Chicago Cultural Mile, we have musicians who play vibraphones!
It’s only fitting.