Oh So Slow in Oslo, Day 1

After all the hope I held out for Norway, it looks like Ill be bleeding kroner like crazy. The currency here has an appaling relation to the euro and an even more terrifying exchange with the dollar. Even beyond that everything manages to amaze me in price. Id been warned over and over when I told others Id be headed to Norway of its priciness, but I was rather looking forward to it. Thought I, “Hey, people will give me about the same, so Ill net more money once I exchange on the continent.” Everyone told me the Norwegians are especially friendly, too.

Little did I know that the friendliness comes almost exclusively in thumbs up and smiles. I got those in spades today (7.1.10). I tried to combine sightseeing and busking but the very slow cash flow depressed the hell out of me. I went about the day the right way, too – waking relatively early to scope out possible pitches, consulting a couple policemen before setting up my pitch, etc.

My first pitch was at the base of Karl Johans Gate near the train station. I set up first at the middle of the slope on the sunny side but the sun impinged my ability to make eye contact so I moved along shortly, down the hill to the very base, across from a curious tourist shop which featured a large troll in norwegian dress, stands of postcards, sunglasses and viking helmets, and manned by two middle eastern looking folks. One of these brightened instantly once I started playing. Throughout the pitch hed take any pause to watch me. Towards the end, he had some customers snap a photo of him with me behind.

Unfortunately, these were the only kind of tips I got. I had fun smiling back and bowing my head towards the passersby for a while, but after about half an hour I got rather annoyed. A gaggle of four high school girls snapped some photos from that same shop, giggling away. I finished a song and proceeded to sing them something sweet, I forget what exactly, which precipitated in a fresh giggling fit. They snapped endless photographs, some with them in front of the camera also, and one memorable (and mortifying) one when one of them used her hands to frame me in a heart. Of course, once I finished they moved lazily on, giggling and sneaking obvious glances my way.

When I finished I had a chat with the shop owners who told me to walk up the hill a ways for a better spot. I had a look about but didnt like any of the places and decided to take a rest. The park about the castle helped recharge me – and I was most amused to see some absurdly tanned Norwegian girls lying on the grass while a huddle of Asian tourists crowded each other under a few umbrellas. I wandered up to Aker Brygge next and saw a lovely plaza which reminded me strongly of Maya Lin – bricks waving up to form hillocks backed by steps and fountains.

At Aker Brygge I asked a waitress at the ubiquitous TGIF if I could play across from the restaurant and she smiled her approval. But after just one song security came around and told me I had to play elsewhere, outside of Aker Brygge proper. The best spot was dominated by a horrid, slumping gypsy accordian player and two statues so I walked on, back towards Karl Johans Gate.

I was stopped by a trio who were selling necklaces at a bottleneck on the thoroughfare from the dock to the main drag, who liked my guitar. We decided I should play next to them. I had a hard time navigating their accents, but managed alright, settling on a decidely neutral Spanish to keep myself going crazy trying to decide whether to appease the Spanish girl with the soft “c” or the Argentian with some “sh”s or the Colombian who just wanted to speak in English. That was a time that saved the day. I got hardly anything but it was nice to have someone to talk to and share in the misery of tight fisted passersby. I lent my guitar to the Argentian a few times and considered joining him the following day to watch the match against Germany.

At the very end of the pitch an Iraqi man came by and borrowed my guitar to sing “Bandolero,” quite well. He managed to get the tips I didnt :). You know, seven kroner or so. After handing me back the guitar he made some disparaging comments about its lack of “boom,” while also complimenting my voice: “It doesnt matter if you have a good voice. You have to reach the people with your guitar, too.” He then pulled out his drum to demonstrate and we played a few songs together. First he and the Argentinian, then he and I (Relax, Take it Easy). The spanish speakers packed up to move to Karl Johans gate and I walked there with them and parting with the Iraqi man before finally deciding to part with the others as well and head home for the day.

Earnings: 79 NOK, 1.5 hours
Song of the Day: Your Song – Elton John

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