Little use on the streets of Tucson, Day 1

Following a very enjoyable twenty six hour train ride where I played some songs to the passengers in the observation car, I arrived in Tucson just past ten at night. My host, Morgan, kindly took me on a short walking tour of the small downtown area, and even acquiesced to staying out to watch me play a few tunes. I played a short pitch beneath the awning of a tobacco store on 4th Ave. I began with Morgan’s requests, playing a passable Fast Car before forgetting the second verse of Flake. The late hour and the fact that it was Saturday, 2.26, meant passersby stumbled more than walked and shouted more than talked. It epitomized all the reasons I dislike playing for drunks – I don’t feel safe around them, I feel used or made fun of more often, and I don’t like their propensity to incite me into doing outlandish things, like take off a shirt or replace lyrics with obscenities etc.

I sang Hey Ya to demonstrate to Morgan my surefire drunk young people song, and sure enough it was an absolute hit. People sang along as they passed, and two kind but very inebriated men stopped to listen. The younger of these delayed me a while insisting to hear Imagine which I unfortunately haven’t polished yet, trying to convince me to give my guitar to his unwilling companion. We compromised a few songs later with Under the Bridge, a song they sang along to with Morgan and then a set of four passersby. But not my favored kind of singalong, the tone was a drunken hands in the air flushed face hands in the air “WOOHOO” kind rather than appreciation of the music and lyrics. I’m not sure quite how to convey the difference, but it’s stark.

What made me the most uncomfortable was how the guys heckled passersby to give me tips. I didn’t know what to do about this. They’d accost people loudly with “He needs __ dollars to get to Mexico/Texas.” or when people would stop and listen a bit “He wants the money guys, don’t you have anything!?” So naturally I made some money, but not in a way I was at all proud of. After this song they recommended I moved down to the corner, so I did, only to be moved along in a friendly fashion by the bouncer of the club moments later. Amusingly this interrupted Liberta. Morgan and I took the break to pack up and head back, for I didn’t want to keep her out too late.

Observation Car.

Una mesa.

Ciudad Juarez.

The Great Wall of Mexico.

Earnings: $7.00, 35 minutes
Song of the Day: Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers

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