“Hi, I’m Rob Vischer! I’m your entertainment for tonight.” If you place that phrase in the mouth of a 6’6″ man slinging a guitar, you can turn some heads and drop some jaws, especially in a local restaurant. I don’t hesitate. I don’t ask. I just sing and play. Every weekend for the last three weeks, I’ve used the “entertainment” line repeatedly in Applebee’s, Subway, Wendy’s, Holiday Inn, Steak & Shake, Hudson’s, Hunt Club, Coney Island, etc… The list goes on and keeps growing every week like a teenager who’s hit a growth spurt.
Tonight, I tried again. The first two restaurant managers politely declined. “Corporate policy” played a big role in the first. In the second, the manager asked me not to play because a customer complained last weekend about my volume. I’ve never heard the latter until tonight. With a disappointed sigh, I gently slid “Jacopo”, my Takamine jumbo guitar, into the backseat of “Silver,” my grey ’92 Buick Lesabre. “Too loud…” repeatedly crashed in my mind like a dissonant gong as I methodically placed the cold steel key into the ignition.
Two years ago, I would’ve called it a night after two strikeouts. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have even approached the plate to swing. Now if I strike out with people, I know there’s always another “at bat.” With that new pattern of thinking in mind, I drove down West Ave., one of the main business strips in Jackson, searching for my next opportunity to make some friends. I found it on the right side of the road when I spotted a large family seated around a table in Fazoli’s.
I took an immediate right turn, screeched into the parking lot, and quickly unloaded “Jacopo” and slung the cd satchel I always carry over my opposite shoulder. “Hi, I’m Rob Vischer! I’m your entertainment for tonight!” My introduction hung in the air along with the whiffs of baked cheese and pasta sauce, while a group of eight people made sense of it all. I followed it up with, “May I play you a song?”
“Yes!” said the mother. “That would be great!” With her answer beginning to erase the first two rejections of the night, I played “My Valentine.” The family’s brief exchange of smiles and nods to each other reassured me that they were definitely diggin’ the song. The whole family clapped when I hit the last chord and grilled me with welcome questions like “Where are you from?,” “How long have you been doing this for?” and “Where do you play?” These all paved the way for me to tell them about my door to door journey across Jackson. I handed out stickers, postcards, and business cards as they gave suggestions of where to play and who I might want to contact.
By the time they put on their coats, I had played another song (“Day in the Rain”), and they had purchased a cd, given me a five dollar tip, asked me if I’d be interested in playing a wedding, and offered me promising contacts for concerts at Eastern Michigan University and with a famous band. As the family was leaving, Brenda, the manager, gave me a genuine handshake/smile and congratulated me with , “You really sound good! Thanks for coming in!”
Closing time began to creep closer, so I played one song for the last customers in the joint. Hayley and her date loved my song “Just Like the Meteors.” The three of us chatted it up for a couple minutes and discovered that Hayley’s sister already owned my cd, which means… the door to door plan is working!
I almost left with fifteen bucks in my pocket and ton of encouraging words ringing in my head. Instead, I sensed that I needed to play for the manager and employees. Irma, Heather, Brenda, and an unintroduced fellow enthusiastically listened as I aggressively strummed the chords and belted out my only hip hop tune, “Shreds.” They loved it! Brenda told me, “You’re gonna make it! You keep doing it! You’re gonna make it!” Irma smiled from ear to ear and held out a dollar for me from behind the counter. “I want you to have this, and I’ll make you anything on our menu! I’m buying your dinner tonight!” Heather smiled shyly and clapped. “I liked it,” she said meekly.
I only realized my gnawing hunger after I began to devour my delicious free dinner of baked pasta with chicken compliments of Irma. Heather came back to reorganize the plastic ware and napkins. We talked for a while about lots of things that I won’t mention specifically in this blog. It was easy to leave Fazoli’s tonight knowing that this door to door path is leading somewhere. I was blessed in unexpected ways by the customers and staff at Fazoli’s, and I know I left seeds of blessing also.
I hit two more bars tonight: The Oh! Bar and Hunt Club. In fact, the people at those two bars received the majority of my time. My experience at Fazoli’s took a tiny fraction of my night, but it impacted me like a highlighted quote in a book or a great lyric in a song. I cherish these moments of synergy and write about them because they should be apart of everyone’s life. More people need a dream and a desire that they can invite others into. These days my invitation starts with, “Hi, I’m Rob Vischer! I’m your entertainment for tonight.” When I follow it up with, “May I play you a song?” I hope you say, “Yes!”