A Handsome Bergen for a Busker, Day 2

I woke a touch later than I intended, but Ranveig and I set out on a hike up Stoltzekleiven – a hike rather reminiscent of the one up the Squamish Chief, but not quite so long or convuluted, better paved and with less foliage. More like a marriage of that hike and East Rock. Strange, yes. It’s a rise of three hundred meters and change with the tall rock steps of East Rocks and the switchbacks of the base of the Chief. Not particularly arduous, mostly great fun. For whatever reason, I had an insane amount of energy that afternoon, and I dashed ahead most of the time in wait for Ranveig, who like a good hiker was taking the path steadily. I had the same problem in Yosemite where I would dash ahead, take photos, dash ahead, all the way up the 4 mile hike while an old man steadily made the exact same progress I did. I ran the last few meters for good measure. At the summit, I decided I wanted to go… that way! So we did. The clouds began looking ominous so we about faced towards Fløyen, quite the tourist magnet (though with inferior views to where we’d just been, I’d say) where we ate some ice cream before a happy jaunt back down.

Top of Stoltzekleiven.

Let’s go.. That Way!

I returned to the tunnel today (7.9.10), to great success. I really need to find places like this wherever I go – they’re so much better for me than just the street. On this minor revelation I emailed Michal (the guy I sang Im Yours with) suggesting that he find some subway station in Oslo, where he will remain for the summer. He emailed back with quite a few song suggestions, one of which will put Maria in raptures: It’s My Life, Bon Jovi. If only all my interactions with other buskers were so positive!

Again I set out to sing almost exclusively the songs I havent touched in a while, taking advantage of the excellent acoustics to sing some of the quieter ones, like Such Great Heights. Since I have a repertoire of around a hundred and twenty songs (and hopefully Ill have time at some point to grow that small number) I can go a few days without repeating anything. Another thing I was sure to do was to start with a worship song – this time Sufjan Steven’s To Be Alone With You, which just felt perfect for the space. Apparently the passersby agreed and I started off the pitch with two tips in one song.

The tunnel isn’t the busiest of places but just like Iso Roobertinkatu in Helsinki, a higher percentage tip. There were too many good interactions to truly relate them all. I stood in the middle of the tunnel, a brick affair with large, beautiful graffite all along the sides, and didnt mind closing my eyes every now and again to really get into the music. Of course skateboarders and mocking youngsters occasionally made rather a row, but these were isolated instances, and quite brief. Almost everyone else who passed slowed down, smiled, gave thumbs up, cast me shy approving glances, tipped, blushed, contemplated me thoughtfully. Only the old businessmen and the haughtily attractive girls with iPods lodged in their ears stormed by.

My super chilled out version of Crazy (which many of you agree with) really set the tone for the whole pitch – I hardly played any oldies and stuck to what I think is my forte – ballads and melancholy or haunting tunes. There was some Priscilla Ahn, some Joshua Radin, some Radiohead… Well that last was probably not so good of an idea, as it forced me to take a rather longer rest than normal. There There takes a lot out of me, as its loud, energetic, mournful and very, very high pitched. But so fun. Even at my last song of the pitch a nice girl sang along to the Lai la Lais of The Boxer, trying to place it, and tipped me even though I was packing up.

One young man crossed through the tunnel maybe five or six times during my two pitches, sheepishly smiling at me through messy blond hair each time, except the last when he smiled broadly, head up, and waved. I spent the interim in the Norli bookstore in the mall upstairs, where the same girl was manning the front desk and told me she didn’t mind me sitting and reading (and not paying) and that it was actually rather nice.

When I returned it was a much slower pitch as the already light traffic of passersby had slowed to a trickle. Rain had begun to fall outside – the light spitting piss I like to call dishonest rain – and that lent a soft light and general hush to the tunnel. While the earlier pitch had been characterized by younger folk, this one was marked by young parents and their preschoolers. Have I mentioned I love preschoolers? Even if they have boring ass parents, I can make faces at them or sing to them or just tilt my head at them and take some strength from their reactions. One adorable girl ran ahead of her parents with a tip and dropped it in my case before hopping up and down in front of me waiting for them to catch her up. A little boy about as high as my knee took five minutes of coaxing, with a sublimely confused look on his chubby face to drop the coins he’d been handed (one at a time) into the case.

Three (maybe high school?) girls actually stopped and listened for a few songs against the opposite wall and another group of three passed by, lingered, went to a shop for change and tipped me. I’d decided this time to cut down on my eye contact a bit, as I thought maybe I could be intimidating with it. Whether this was the cause or not, quite a few (one old woman, a twenty something girl who came running back) stopped and rooted in their purses for a while while I focused my attention elsewhere. Something about rain, too, makes the sound very different – not quite hushed, but something like the texture of an old record.

I ambled about the inside debating a bus, but eventually decided to walk the 3.5 km back to Ranveig’s to save myself the exorbitant 25 NOK bus fare. No one was home yet, so I cooked my standard spaghetti, broccoli, salami, egg and salmon dinner and popped in a random film from Ranveig’s collection. By the middle I had a new favorite film. Sitting alone in someone else’s living room in a city in Norway up near the mountains watching Enchanted… I couldn’t stop squealing and clapping my hands and reacting rather loudly to everything. Excellent film.

Note: Photos in Bergen are from Ranveig :).

Earnings: 286.5 NOK + €2.50, 2.4 hours
Song of the Day: To Be Alone With You – Sufjan Stevens

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