San Francisco Busking Area, Day 1

Culture shock on arriving in San Francisco. An intense sense of just how uncivilized a place America is – tough talking people, gang types, the threat of violence/crime, an overpriced BART that doesn’t run often and carries few passengers in its appalingly disgusting interiors… and then a very nice, also very American “Don’t worry about it” from the bus driver who let me on when I had one dollar and not two – not even taking my one. (There’s a song about that. Sorta. Just wait!)

Add some jet lag and lingering health issues – right I didn’t write while in Asia… I got swine flu/dysentery/something unhappy in Indonesia – and I did all of nothing for my three nights stay at Elizabeth’s. This stay was marked by two things – my desire to keep speaking Cantonese led me to wander down to San Bruno Ave to speak Canto with at the BoA and to get food, as well as conduct my conversations on phone with my uncles/aunt/family friends in Canto. The other was a further culture shock courtesy of Elizabeth’s housemates. They are all intense gamers. Now, I think everyone who knows me knows I enjoy playing video games. My mother would say I play them rather too much, but in comparison to these young men my habits are quite moderate. Here’s a house where literally every moment of every waking day and night a group of six to seven guys are constantly playing games. League of Legends, Terraria, Minecraft, RPGs, etc. PS3s and Wiis and Xbox 360s everywhere. I hardly ducked out of the house myself, and every time I walked upstairs, whatever time that may be, they were at it. Even being the avid gamer I am I still expressed to Elizabeth how sickened I was by it all. She remarked that her house was very “American.” In its own way, yes. Decadence and a particular male culture and junk food.

Ok, moving on. I wasn’t doing anything of use during that time, either. Eventually I stayed a night at my friend Michael’s in Mountain View, teaching him Wonderwall and singing some covers for his housemates. Then to Palo Alto to stay with my Uncle where my present allergy problems began. I assume as I dropped in with no notice they hadn’t time to vacuum or what have you, or perhaps it was just the garden. I don’t know. A few days later my cousin returned with two cats and this generally heightened the problem. My sinuses are more clogged up than I can remember, which makes it very very difficult to perform, keeps me exhausted and uncomfortable and generally unhappy. The presence of a computer, however, kept me productive, finally starting on searching for jobs in Turkey, contesting unreasonable charges for healthcare and taxes, searching for open mics, etc.

I found one in Redwood City for that Wednesday night, and Michael very kindly offered me a ride to and from when I asked. He even insisted I get a bite to eat (I ate the cheapest thing off the menu) on his treat. Apparently the Open Mic had begun much earlier than I’d assumed (I thought it was 7.30) since when we arrived shortly before 8.00 most of the acts were through already. The establishment, Angelica’s Bistro, radiated class and a sort of southern plantation feel with pinkish walls and country style furniture. Pricey food, and a smallish crowd for the Open Mic while people played also played acoustically outside. The overall quality of performers was mediocre – a good first act of violin/guitar Led Zep covers followed by a droll and uninteresting “comedian” whose entire act hinged on an assumption that he was funny. Yes, that was his joke. And it went on for ages. His daughter and a wisecracking banjo player followed with a mutilation of Landslide and an absolute catastrophe of Hallelujah took over after he finished, and a solo a capella Irish trad singer sang two short tunes with no projective powers afterwards.

Unlike most Open Mics and the standard three songs/fifteen minute sets, this one allowed just two songs. I only really decided which to sing when I got up to the stage. Looking out from it I realized how long it’d been since I’d performed indoors – over a month and six countries ago! I got them with From Dawn to Busk which is a safe song for me and an easy story, and closed with the funny story for Hello. My audience laughed at all the right places for both songs. Michael told me the whole crowd liked me. Well they were positioned such that it was hard to see them and still direct into the microphone, so I hope he was correct.

Benjamin Brown, a blues singer with a good musical sense but a despicable “artiste” personality – with unkempt facial hair, grunts, perma-high, glazed I don’t care “cool” – followed me as the “featured artist” of the night. Unfortunately for us the host had absolutely no sense of how to control the soundboard, so Ben blew out the speakers over and over with his belts. Strangely I was the only one who had to cover my ears, others seemed nonplussed or swayed eyes closed to the music. Which brings me to that lovely rule of music – you don’t have to be good if you can hold a beat and a stage. Damn, I can’t do either. Michael wanted to head out and I naturally acquiesced as he’d so good naturedly taken me out of his way to the spot. I was rather disappointed to leave before Ben finished however, because I’d hoped the lull afterwards might net me a few CD sales. With our rushed exit between songs I didn’t have time to talk to the remaining audience and thus sold none. The violinist did ask for my blog, however, and I passed her my card on leaving.

Michael spent the ride back giving me the “get a real job” lecture, which I found very amusing coming from a guy my own age and from the perspective he gave it. He meant it as friend looking out for me, seeing how difficult it is to get up and put myself out there and try to sell CDs for a few dollars when he can have the comfort and security of high salary from a job he admittedly doesn’t like. Well, at this point I’m all about what I like over what I earn. I’m privileged enough to be able to make that choice and I’m reveling in that. I’m finally unashamed to be doing what I do and how I do.

Earnings: $0.00, 10 minutes
Song of the Day: Hello – Lionel Richie

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