I asked some friends if they had ideas for new places to play, and one person suggested that I set up in the vicinity of the First Thursday art event in downtown Portland. These can be fun, so I loaded up the car and drove into the neighborhood.
One obstacle I anticipated was that there was virtually no free on-street parking available. I drove around and around, and as the appointed time arrived, I decided I’d have to pay to park in a garage if I wanted to get in any playing before dark. So I coughed up a ghastly $7 for a garage spot, and started carting my stuff the 5 or 6 blocks back to the appointed corner.
It would be too predictably ironic to mention the car departing a parking space right next to the spot I was going to play just as I walked by it, so I’ll skip it.
One obstacle I didn’t anticipate was the entire neighborhood was awash in thumping bass sounds from the EDM party in the TEDx pavilion on the other side of the park. But once I started playing, my own drums (right behind my ears, after all) drowned out all distracting noise.
I played for a few minutes to no one but a friend who lives nearby and who happily took a bench seat. I would say few pedestrians expressed even the slightest interest in what I was doing. I rarely felt like such a nuisance as I did then.
But then my feelings of “nuisanceness” redoubled as a guy walked a full circle around me before telling me to “get this corny ass shit out of here.” Having grown up on the east coast, I’m not unfamiliar with this kind of blunt, if not exactly constructive, criticism. Then again, I have every right to play in this public space, so I asked for some clarification. “You’re playing this corny ass shit and interfering with people’s enjoyment of God’s beautiful creation,” as he pointed toward the EDM party.
Okay, clear now: thumping digital music constructed on computers is a beautiful creation of God’s. My heartfelt original compositions played in real time? “From another dimension.” Apparently I managed to sneak into this dimension while God was rolling at a dance party.
Seriously, if I was exactly at this man’s destination, I’d have stopped. But I asked if he was heading somewhere, and he said yes, so I encouraged him to continue on his way. Which he did, though not until after also harassing my friend. I’ll take him at his word that he’s “brilliant” but in this case, maybe we can agree to disagree?
I continued playing a while. I don’t usually concern myself with money collected on the street, but tonight I kept my eye on that collection bucket. Some shows yield more money than others, often inexplicably, so it’s a cruel yardstick by which to judge yourself. But if I’m going to play a tense show wondering if some kook is going to come back to take his hostility to the next level, I damn well hope to make back that $7 for parking.
But as the park darkened at sundown, I decided to pack it in regardless. I counted the money in the bucket: $8! A slim victory, but I’ll take it!