Copping Out in Copenhagen (København), Day 6

Today (7.31.10) I became homeless. None of my couchsurfing requests panned out, Jacob’s subletter moved in, everyone had to leave the DIS flat. I had one hope for free housing – one of the couchsurfers, Mathias, had told me to meet him at his workplace and he’d try to help me as much as he could. “Asking for help is a beautiful thing,” he said – he didn’t have space but if I met him he’d see what he could do. Mathias had spent the past ten years busking full time around Europe and I was eager to meet him.

This meant I had to return to a place in København I felt loath to set foot in again. It has the trappings and ideology of paradise but the feel of hypocrisy, of disease. It’s a squatter’s community near Christianshavn called Christiania. I have… other reasons for wanting to avoid the place, of course. As soon as I walked towards it I felt trapped, like revisiting a memory long buried. Entering I wanted nothing more than to be elsewhere. The citizens and tourists took on a mean through my prejudiced eyes. Morgan Stedet, the vegetarian restaurant I headed to, lay at the far end of Christiania from the Metro. And upon arriving I discovered Mathias had just departed. Attempts to phone him failed.

I departed, still homeless, just before three. A man busked at the entrance so I engaged him in some conversation – Mark, from Seattle, used to live here, busking for many years, visiting old friends. He gave me the pitch and offered me some consoling words… but right after my first song an elderly lady moved me on, not so kindly. No bed, no money, and now music taken… it was a frantic start.

The reverse side reads, “You are now entering the EU.”

My pack doesn’t look very heavy, but it’s hardly ergonomic. I rescued it from a Yale brown bin last year and the sternum strap is broken – which contributes to some yucky strain on my back. Walking about København with it and my eight kilogram guitar case and five kilograms of discarded Yalie food got rather taxing. My backup – the City Public Hostel was booked up, all the other hostels on hostelworld were booked up… then I remembered seeing a hostel around the corner in Vesterbro. Oh, the relief that it had room! It’s also a brilliant hostel – no internet reservations and very well kept.

I overpacked.

I dumped my things and headed straight back to Blågårdsgade. The hour I spent there calmed me down nicely. I didn’t worry so much about the money – a conscious effort. People really responded to the happy music this evening. Tips were very small but frequent. Right as I began with I’m Yours the man repairing the door behind me tipped me with a big smile. Playing there felt comfortable. I saw the same green grocers, the same man who shook my hand the other day, a set of girls who I’d seen before passed on bikes with a “Yay!” Lots of thumbs ups and smiles today.

Only one couple seemed bothered – they gave me icy glares (I’m not sure why) over their newspapers at the cafe and pointedly left without tipping me. Other than that all the cafe patrons appreciated my presence. A man in a plaid shirt stayed extra to play a game of backgammon with his girlfriend and when he tipped me he gave me a “Thanks.” One pair of thirty-something guys sitting by the window of the nearer cafe were really into my music. They particularly loved my Weepies covers and after the first I gave them my list and moved my pitch so I could be near them. They tipped small and apologized profusely but I didn’t mind.

Even the waitress got in on the requests – I went in for some water when I asked to sing Hey Ya (it needs a lot of voice) and she shyly asked how much a request was. She’d been flitting around the outdoors section a lot and stealing moments to watch. She even perused the list with the two men. I told her I’d take whatever with a smile, and sang her some Mika after Hey Ya, which a toddler danced to, drawing laughs and smiles and awws from all around. A couple replaced the two young men and as I packed up and looked around, the man flipped me a ten crown piece. I erupted in a fit of a coughing fit as I headed down the street back to the hostel but composed myself. No chance of a second pitch, for sure.

That evening I microwave-cooked (no hot-plates) some tinned chicken, onion and rice – all leavings from the Yalies (my sustenance for the rest of my time in Denmark and took a walk. Surreal. I set out chasing a gorgeous sky impossible to capture with any camera, least of all this uncontrollable one, past the Vineyard Church and into an absurdly manicured twilighted park – Frederiksberg Have (Frederiksberg is rich they have a zoo inside – I turned a corner and.. elephant!). I couldn’t have ended the better more appropriately. As the sun disappeared and I took leave of the gardens by the southern end I lingered by the castle. Soft piano and the voices of a mezzo-soprano and a tenor singing Mozart hung clear in the moving but windless air – crisp and cool, pressure low as that just before a storm.

Memories suppressed from the morning before me like a series of sticky pools I walk through, submerged, as I see the couple embracing tenderly against the nearby railing – the perfect romantic pocket bathed in the sweet fleeting hushed mauve light – and wondering what if all the way back.

Earnings: 73 DKK, 50 minutes
Song of the Day: Painting by Chagall – The Weepies

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