Buskless in Seattle, Day 2

The title of this post is already wrong, but I wanted to keep it in line with the first one (and the bad pun). It’s funny I’ve put off writing it so long, as I generally like to write happy posts immediately. Chicago’s been incredibly busy, however, and as I’ve needed to wake and sleep at the same time as Brent, I don’t have those late night hours I usually do to write posts. Things are cooling down just a touch now, so I can finally write a tad. Oh, before I forget, the day before the day which this day treats, I had a wonderful cafe meeting with my former counselor. My mind’s still whirling with happy possibilities for my rather uncertain future.

I woke at four to walk the two and a half miles to the train station in Vancouver to catch my five thirty transit down to Seattle. From there I was to make a connection to a train to Sacramento and then a another connection to Chicago. When I arrived I noted a line forming for travel to Seattle – people with customs cards and all, and with no staff to indicate otherwise I naturally joined that line, with everyone else. It turned out (to my chagrin and to others’ minor annoyance) that this was the line for the six forty five train. Who starts queueing for a train an hour and a half early? Apparently I was meant to take the bus which arrived and left without announcing itself. Scheduling fail. I jumped on the train anyways, knowing I could stay with Sheikh in Seattle should I be stuck there. Calls to Kevin and Amtrak yielded no alternates to staying a night in Seattle before picking up my journey as planned a day late.

Now something truly momentous happened as I detrained. The ribbon Kristjiana tied onto my guitar handle nearly two years ago broke. I put it into my jeans pocket. I’m not sure where it is now. I arranged via text to meet Sheikh downtown after work for the busride up to his place in Ballard, which left me with about three hours to kill. I spent them inside one of my favourite buildings in the world – the Seattle Public Library by Rem Koolhaas. The volunteer stopped me when I entered to check with security whether I could bring in my guitar. Apparently I wasn’t allowed to and there were no coat check options. Freakin’ overachieving volunteer types. Luckily the security guard told me after the volunteer returned to his desk that I could have the guitar with me inside the library so long as I was going to use the music room on the eighth floor upstairs. So I signed up for a four o’clock spot I wasn’t planning to make anyways. I did end up using the room when someone didn’t show for their two o’clock slot and happily murdered Chopin’s C# minor nocturne for an hour.

Sheikh enthusiastically roped me into a crossfit style workout session before dinner. Prior to this I hadn’t done any exercise aside from walking for… a year? Pride intervened. I failed spectacularly on pullups and our closing pushups (resorting to knee pushups for the last set…). I did surprise myself with the relative ease of the goblin squat sets. I guess I’m becoming a t-rex. Maybe it runs in the family. Watch out, Brent, you’re next.

After dinner I decided I really wanted to go for a busk. I walked with Sheikh near the spot where we’d seen a busker a week before and I spent a few minutes scoping out the various store entrance alcoves for acoustics/visibility/visual pleasantness. I chose the front of a barbecue store. Sheikh started me off with two songs I felt quite rusty on. The precise reason I love having requests – it keeps my songs fresh! He said my Don’t Speak started off meh before progressing to a lot more fun. I’d asked him for a couple dollars of seed change (I’d left mine at home), which he frustratingly refused to take back at the end of the night. During the beginning of his second request, Exit Music (For a Film) a group of hipsters slowed and one skinny jean-ed male doubled back for a quiet dollar tip.

Sheikh left to continue his post-dinner walk while I sang the songs newest and oldest to repertoire. So a lot of Beatles. A trio of homeless hippies gathered around me shortly after, smelling strongly of marijuana, cigarettes and alchohol. The tallest of them, wearing a brown carpet as a poncho that matched his druid elder in the forest look, blabbered incessantly about energy and connection and LSD and what being high really was and tree hugging. The other two alternately closed their eyes to listen to me or stared at the tall one to quiet down a bit. Between songs they impelled me to come to “The Gathering.” Just as Hobo Joe had in Gainesville six months prior. I politely declined. They stayed for quite a few songs, effectively chasing away any passersby but also jumpstarting my confidence and comfort level. I sang songs “you think I’d like” – Streets of London, Nature Boy, Liberta which left them nodding along, shaking my hand, crying, and yes, tipping. Multiple times.

Right after they courteously left (recognizing that they were limiting my income), I received a smiley tip a renewed set of new/old additions. By the time Sheikh returned with Court I’d amassed a small collection of bills, and felt content. I sang them a couple more requests, for which Court tipped me, and was ready to head off when a couple stopped in to “buy a song”. I love how mass psychology works. Since Sheikh/Court already stood before me being couply, this other couple felt subtly safe to do the same. The bright, friendly guy requested There She Goes for his girlfriend who’d leave the next morning. As I sang the incredibly repetitive tune (which I need to re-arrange), both pairs danced in that wonderful sixties style between a jive and a waltz in little circles in front of me. Oh! how beautiful.

The man tipped me a ten and requested an apparently appropriate Norwegian Wood for leaving music. Sheikh and Court went to finish their walk and would fetch me on their return. But I didn’t leave then. You see, that’s precisely when the pitch picked up. Between songs a young man with a soft, kind manner very thoughtfully requested Leaving on a Jet Plane for his own departure. I suppose everyone was set to quit Seattle that coming day. As I sang it directly to him, voice warmed up and allergy less, an audience gathered. By the time I finished there were eight people watching. A young couple with a pretty girl tipping just before I concluded. A cute hippie girl who dashed in to leave me a bunch of wildflowers and a feather. An older couple. An old man. A former busker. I sold the first young man my CD on his inquiry on which tracks were on it. Happily his request starts the record off :).

The older couple already tipped me but I asked them to make a request anyhow. They danced a little to The Boxer before leaving. The old man, Jud, and former busker watched throughout, the latter closing his eyes, bowing his head and turning up his palms in a gesture of receiving God – I took as the absolute best compliment. Both averred that I’d blow every other busker in Seattle out of the water were I to play during the Saturday Market. Jud cried a few times, especially when I sang Operator – as he said he’d known Jim Croce. The busker apologized many times for having nothing, but his constant “God Bless You”s and inoffensive supportive manner were enough for me.

Best of all they liked my originals best. Both stood in stunned weeping silence after I sang an impassioned Stamsund. I knew it went well with my confidence and comfort very very high. I sang a few more before Jud tipped me a twenty bill for my fifteen singles in change. This left me with two twenties, some silver coins, a bunch of wildflowers and a feather in my case. I think this strange ensemble deterred the subsequent would be tippers. I only received one more, from a guy promised to return after hearing my From Dawn to Busk. I’m glad he returned when he did, delayed as it was. I had to stick out out several songs during which I really really really needed to relieve myself. An occupational hazard of a busker with a lima-bean sized bladder and a voice that needs rather a lot of lubrication.

Earnings: $43.43, 2 hours
Song of the Day: There She Goes – The Las

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