Monthly Archives: May 2015

#19. St. Johns Clock May 31, 2015 - 5:23 pm

The annual St. Johns Parade is a time of great excitement in this otherwise sleepy neighborhood. Several people have urged me to play somewhere in St. Johns on other days because “nothing much ever happens here.”

And I have to say, when I got to this plaza, it was warm but not terribly hot, yet the people scattered around seemed a bit listless. Some people waited for a bus, and it seemed like there was a couple of vacationing families adjusting to the reality of how far it was from their “hotel in Portland” to Powell’s and Voodoo Doughnuts. So yeah, nothing much was going on.

I found a spot on N. Philadelphia Ave. and set up. I didn’t want to be too intrusive, but most of the people within earshot were listening to something on their phones and probably wouldn’t hear me anyway. I put out the benches and started my first song.

If I had to describe the response I got, it was mainly confusion about why anyone would be doing this in St. Johns on a day when the only people around are waiting for a bus or puzzling over how distant their “hotel in Portland” is from Powell’s and Voodoo doughnuts. My benches are usually good for attracting at least a tired pedestrian or two to sit for a few minutes, but on this day, nothing doing.

A couple of people sitting against a distant wall watched a few songs, but took the occasion of my inviting them to sit on these comfy benches as their cue to leave. And it wasn’t like anyone took their place. It was mostly pretty desolate; people walked within a few hundred feet of me, but almost no one tried to get any closer.

Over the next forty-five minutes, a few different people did walk up to ask the same question: “How long have you been doing this?” Meaning, how long have I been playing as a one man band? I felt like they were either gauging how long it would take them to become adept compared to how far I’ve gotten in a couple of years; or gauging how long I’ve had this particular mania.

One person did tell me I had a nice voice. This means no matter how surprised anyone watching might have been to see someone playing music in St. Johns, I was still the most surprised of all.

I treated this as a kind of public practice session, running through some new songs and some trickier older songs. After about 45 minutes I packed up and headed to the St. Johns Beer Porch. The outing became a pleasant memory, punctuated by a delicious falafel sandwich and a cold beer.

#18. Irving City Park on 7th Ave. May 17, 2015 - 6:03 pm

Trying to branch out a bit, I took the advice I’ve heard from several people who have asked, “Why don’t you try playing in a park?” So I headed to Irving City Park, near the tennis courts, and started playing a show that would be witnessed by few but culminate in police involvement.

Although it was a pretty warm day, the park was shady and cool. I set out the ol’ benches and started playing. Those benches have had a lot of private shows performed for them.

I was expecting some friends, so I tried to pace myself. Some travelled from as far as New York City, while others walked just a few blocks, but still: wouldn’t want anyone to waste a trip if they expected to see me play.

I started playing at about 6pm, and my friends didn’t make it until about 6:45, but in the meantime I had a couple come by and take in a few songs while they polished off a large bottle of beer together. Sweet. There was also the older couple walking laps around the park; at one point they apologized for having no wallet from which to draw a tip, but I was already flattered that they didn’t change their course after the first lap.

Since one of my friends had played drums in a multi-person band I sometimes play in, it was a treat to let him see my one-man band arrangements for some songs we used to play together. I also got to show him a few new songs, and a good time was had by all.

Or rather, by some. It seems a person across the street from the park was not so keen on the sounds of El Demasiado. And while I do enjoy playing music out in public, I never ever want to play for someone who would rather not hear it. If you’re walking down the sidewalk, I think you can withstand a few seconds of my sound, but I would never play near you if you’re in a place you can’t move from. I know my music isn’t for everyone, so just give the word, and I’ve played my last song on that spot.

So if that person across the street had come over and asked me to stop, it would have been lights out, show’s over, no reason necessary. But alas, that person, whoever it was, chose instead to have the police department do his complaining for him. And so it was, just as I played my last song, a police cruiser rolled up onto the grass and a heavily armed officer walked over to tell me I needed to stop. I told him I was already done, and that was that. He got back into the cruiser and backed out into the street.

I suppose it’s possible the anonymous complainer was intimidated by the prospect of confronting so imposing a person as a street musician. But I am just standing there with my legs bound to a drum set on my back and a guitar across my chest. Even if I do turn violent and make a sudden move toward a critic, I’m pretty much just going to fall over. Still, better safe than sorry. Stand behind that thin blue line. If this isn’t what the police are for, then what on earth are they for?

I’m truly sad the anonymous complainer lacked the courage to personally express his feelings to me. I guess he only wanted his opinion expressed, but didn’t want to be responsible for having it. It’s kind of lame, but if you’re out there, anonymous complainer in the vicinity of NE Cook St. and 7th Ave., don’t worry: I won’t be back.

#17. Alberta and 21st Ave. May 2, 2015 - 6:22 pm

Yet another return. Again.

But it’s already been nearly 3 months since I was on this part of Alberta, and there’s something I was curious about: would the new benches go over as well here as they had on Russell or Alberta and 29th?

So I set up the benches in the early evening, and commenced to playing. It was kind of a late start, but there was about an hour of daylight remaining and I felt like I had just about enough energy to play that long.

The benches weren’t quite the boon I hoped for, but a few people sat down and hung out for a while. A couple of people sat and took in a song while their friends scouted the neighborhood for a…cab? Missing person? Later on a family of three sat down, and while the parents seemed reasonably interested in my song, their 8-year-old son was much more focused on a cup of ice cream.

Well, on a warmish spring day, I’d be crazy to think my act was any competition for ice cream. I always enjoy playing on this corner, but I’m not sure I’ll be back here soon. Unless it’s to get some ice cream of my own.