Tag Archives: music

La Mesilla is a small town just outside of Las Cruces.  When I got here on Friday morning, there was a Farmer’s/Artist’s Market going on and I was happy to see that.  My fellow New Englanders, Jainey and Miles, pointed out the person I needed to talk to.I went over and asked her what the rules were and yes, a permit is necessary.  It is very easy to obtain, one just needs to go to Town Hall and fill out a paper and have a demo of their music- or a link to it.  Since it was an unusual day, I was not going to be able to that until Monday. I thought it over and talked with my brother-in-law and decided to stay.  I was able to work at the Market in Las Cruces the next morning and that would just give me Sunday off. On Sunday, I went to get a couple of tamales and watch the Moon rise and the sunset against the mountains. On my way to the restaurant, I ran into Jainey and Miles again at the Sunday Market and Jainey gave me an ornament she made out of a buffalo gourd. It is beautiful, and so thoughtful.  I put it up in the Pearl right when I got back!

Monday morning, I went back to Town Hall and talk with the permits lady and she told me then, the Mayor has to give final approval.  The Mayor wasn’t in on Monday. I still gave her all of my info and sign the paperwork hoping, the Mayor would respond anyway.  I figured I would walk around the Plaza area some and go down a couple alleys I hadn’t been down yet.  That doesn’t take very long, it is a small area, but it is a wonderful area to walk and look at the houses.  I love the adobe style houses! There are a few for sale right next to the Plaza! There are also a couple that are boarded up and  of course that just puts my imagination to work, wondering what it was like years ago.  I ended up going back to the Pearl and accidentally took a nap- WTH – I didn’t want to take a nap! I didn’t get the phone call I was hoping for, so I had another day off. 

I went to go watch the Moon rise again. I wasn’t in the same spot, but it doesn’t seem to matter, it is sheer magic when she comes out from behind those mountains! Afterwards, I grabbed something to eat and went into the bookstore to write in my journal. Later, I got to talk with a friend for a little while. So all in all, even though I didn’t want the day off, it turned out to be a most wonderful day! 

This morning I got the okay to go ahead and get to work.  I went down to the Plaza and it is quite a different story when there is no Market going on.  I went out and played my first shift and though it was slow, got to meet a couple who are also buskers.  They hung around for a few minutes after some Christmas shopping.  There were a few people hanging around the Plaza either walking their dog, or taking photos.  I got to meet a few of them. The sound in the Plaza is pretty cool too.  I found I have to play softer than normal.  The sound just carries all the way down the entire Plaza, and I didn’t want any complaints.  It was a beautiful day this afternoon and I was just happy to be out there! 

I went back out tonight.  I wanted to see the Moon rise for the third night in a row, but she came out a little later than I thought tonight. I didn’t see her until about 30 minutes after I went to work. Of course, I had to pause and take some pictures when she got high enough above the buildings.  It cools down fast after the sun goes down. The Plaza looks wonderful all lit up at night! I still did a full shift though. During this shift, a photog named Emmitt, was out and was going to shoot the Moon.  He shot me instead.  I talked to him for bit and he said “I heard this lone saxophone, the only thing that would make it better is if it was midnight.”  I gave him my card so he could send me a couple of them.  He was a very nice man and I liked playing for him while he took some photos.  It has been a while since that has happened.  It doesn’t matter if it is slow, you never know what is going to happen or who you might meet.  

I got into Las Cruces on Thursday, the 12, and as I had just got into to town I drove by an Art Gallery having an all World of Don Quixote Exhibit.  I went right around the block and parked and went in.  I LOVE Don Quixote.  When I was a youngster, my brother took my Mom to see the play in Boston.  She bought the soundtrack and the music from Man of la Mancha filled the house for months.  Believe it or not, it never got old- at least to me.  All of us kids knew every word on the cassette. I finally saw the movie with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren and I liked that too.  It was like Don Quixote was a part of my life, as if I knew him.  It wasn’t until two years ago, I read the book.  It is an amazing book! It is not a particularly easy read, but a wonderful one it is!  I digress, anyway, when I saw the sign for that exhibit, I had to go in.  They entire collection belongs to a couple who have been collecting all things Don Quioxte for over 40 years.  They have an extensive collection of original art from all over the world.  They have sculptures, figurines, the book itself in many languages-including the ONLY edition of Don Quixote in braille! The entire exhibit is on loan from them.  How fortuitous that I should come through while it was still here. I also got to meet them and speak with them for a few minutes before they left.  I think they were entertaining friends.  They were really sweet and the man said “It makes me happy that you have read the book!”  Those paintings and drawings were all fabulous! I don’t know what my deal is, but I get overwhelmed when I look upon works like these.  It is almost like I am going to cry over the beauty of these works of art, much like I did at Crystal Bridges Museum.  They are that beautiful! I called my Mom right after I left there and told her all about it.  

Since there was nothing going on in the downtown area, I called it an early night. The next day, on the advice of Ruben, from El Paso, I went to Mesilla to see what was going on there. It turns out there was a Farmer’s Market.  Every Wednesday and Friday they have it right in the Historic Plaza of Mesilla. I met a couple from New England, Jainey and Miles, we got to talking and made fast friends.  They were very helpful with some info as to where to go and what to do, including getting a coffee.  I went to the town hall and the people who had the answers weren’t there.  I got back to the Plaza and Jainey pointed out the person I needed to talk to.  I did, it turns out a permit is necessary and only takes a few minutes to fill out some paperwork.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t do it that day, I have to wait till Monday.  I walk around a little more and found out the Christmas Tree lighting was that night, so I was happy about that.  

I got back to Las Cruces and went to that town hall to get a permit to play there.  I did research and I found there was busking allowed at the Farmer’s Market there, which they have on Saturday and Monday, I think.  Apparently, that is the only time busking is allowed.  It is not allowed in the city, they don’t even give permits for it.  Farmer’s Market is a private deal, and the city has nothing to do with that.  That is why it is allowed there. Now, I have the rest of the day off.  I wasn’t to happy about that, as it was a Friday night.  At least it gave me plenty of time to go to the Christmas tree lighting.  I got back there and they were light candles in bags around the entire Plaza and there were already some lit up on the roof of some of the restaurants and shops. It was just starting to get dark and already it was looking fantastic in the Plaza.   People were gathering around, the middle school choir was warming up and it was definitely feeling festive!  The ceremony started and the choir sang some tunes, the Mayor-who I met earlier that day) gave a speech and then they lit the tree. It was brief, but it was awesome, they gave out hot chocolate and cookies and the choir sang some more songs.

I went to the Basilica de San Albino gift shop after to get a warm and they were also giving out coffee/hot chocolate as it was an open house. I met Father Richard who is the Sr Priest there and we had a nice conversation and then he had to go. I met another man named Victor who was very knowledgeable of the history there, especially the Basilica. The bell ringer of the Basilica is a 4th generation bell ringer there.  Apparently, tradition is taken very seriously.  He also gave me the lowdown on some of the structures.  For those who don’t know, Mesilla is where Billy the Kid use to hang/hide out.  The gift store/cafe I went into was the actual court house where he had his trial.  There are some other historical facts there which I will put up with the photos I took.  I am also a big fan of the old west and those stories and legends, so to be there has been quite an experience! (Makes me look even more forward to seeing Tombstone!) 


Today, I figured I would go to the Market and and play until they asked me to leave.  As with a lot of Markets, I have found one has to move every half hour or so.I saw Jainey and Miles there so I set up next to them to begin.  This is the biggest Market I have ever seen- it takes up all of Main St. in downtown! There are even markers for the musicians.  As I moved around and made way through the Market, the Block Captains were saying thank you to me for being there.  I thought that was sweet.  They probably say that to everyone, but nonetheless, it is always nice to hear.  Certainly better than hearing “You got to go!” So I played 4 hours! I really enjoyed myself there today.  Only one complaint- there were food trucks and none of them had sausage and peppers ;)  

Having played for 4 hours, I thought I would go see the White Sands.  I looked at the map and though the National Monument was 50 miles out, it looked like there wood be white sands long before then, just over the mountain. I was wrong.  I had no idea what I was in for.  After climbing a mountain to 5700ish feet high, on the way back down, you kind of make a commitment to yourself that you are going the distance.  The Pearl doesn’t really like those climbs, but we made it! It is all down hill after that, until the way back.  I got out there finally, I didn’t go to the Monument, I just wanted to see the white sands.  It was breathtakingly beautiful! Mountains off in the distance with clouds right above them with the light moon made for a few nice pictures.  The desert area itself was just as beautiful, as far as the eye could see, there were dunes and mounds with some plants interspersed throughout.  After taking several pictures, I stood for a few minutes and noticed there was absolutely NO sound! There wasn’t any wind and I stood there in awe of everything around me. There was a sunset walking tour that started at 4pm but there was no way I was driving back in the dark.  When I got back to Mesilla, it was staring to get dark, but the sun was still on the mountains.  It was just like one sees on a postcard- the upper half of the mountains went from red, to magenta to a pink to a really misty blue and the moon was above, getting brighter.  There is so much a person can see and do and it doesn’t cost a thing. The remarkable beauty I have been able to see (not just on this trip either)- in nature, in the arts, and in people continue to remind me of just how  fortunate I am!

On Tuesday, I woke up and decided it was definitely going to be the day I go to Rosa’s Cantina.  It may sound silly to some, but I have always loved the tune “El Paso” by Marty Robbins and I wanted to see the place.  It is a little place a few miles away from the downtown area.  Apparently, that used to be the main road, before they put in the interstate. Back in the day, there wasn’t much on that road- as I understood it.  I walked in and it was like stepping back in time, to a degree. I was like a kid in the candy store! I went in just to ask questions and take pictures, but I was seduced by the charm of the place. I sat at the bar and Carol was the bartender.She gave mne a menu and before I even ordered, I had chips and salsa verde and a bowl of hot soup I can’t pronounce. I ordered the beef taco plate with re-fried beans and rice and it was freakin’ awesome! As I was having my soup, I saw the owner, Oscar, and I asked him some questions.  Though he is not the original owner, he knows the history of the place.  There is a wonderful framed tribute to the original owner and Mart Robbins on the wall, as well as some sign and framed albums.  Oscar told me the bar used to be up front and the men and women had to be on opposite sides of the room.  Weird, but true, back in the day they had to be separated.  They had live music then, just as they do now. After I finished my soup, I took a bunch of pictures- I am such a tourist sometimes. 

I asked Carol what the turnover was for the kitchen.  She said “There isn’t any, Martha has been here for 35 years”  She went on to tell me she makes everything fresh everyday.  There are no microwaves back there and if she runs out- she runs out. Apparently, that doesn’t happen very often though.  She has an assistant working with her named, Claudia.  The kitchen is very small but they goet the job done. Martha definitely has her act down to a science.  I peeked in for a couple of minutes to watch what they do.  I am amazed at what they do back there in that small space- it is poetry in motion.  Carol has been there since Oscar took ownership back in 2007.  I get the impression, the turnover for any position is nil.  I kept asking her questions as I had my lunch and she answered all of them. She even took my picture under the sign at the bar!  My lunch, including a Tecate came to $8.   There was another server there, I did not get her name but she was also friendly and asked me how I was doing and if I got enough pictures.  I can’t help but wonder if her name was Galina ;) that would have been too much!  Seeing all of that in person and then listening to the tune, it is almost like being there as a witness to everything that happened. I left there happy and satisfied for many reasons.

After lunch, I went downtown to San Antonio and Stanton and I really just love the acoustics there! I also like the JCPenny across the street that looks like it hasn’t changed since the 60s.  I was feeling a little under the weather, I noticed that while I was doing laundry earlier.  I was hoping it was just the sniffles from the cold weather.  I still played a full shift though. It wasn’t as busy as it was the previous two days but, as usual, the people here are very nice.  As I was ready to wrap it up anyway, a man told me to go down to El Paso and Paisano, there are a lot of people there he said.  It was also getting a little late.  I had been looking for that area because there are a lot of people walking in that area.  There are a lot of sidewalk sales and such going on there.  I had seen it before, but couldn’t find my way back there.  I did find a problem though, a lot of music, being played on loud speakers outside. I thought to myself, I will get here earlier tomorrow.  There was a pawn shop selling on of  Pancho Villa’s fingers (at least that is what it looked like with what it said) for the low price of $9,995. 

Today (Wednesday), I found my way to that same area.  There was still music being played on loud speakers, but I found a spot in front of a closed business.  Only to get asked to move before I finished my first tune.  Apparently, the business next door, promotes the music of a local musician and he didn’t like me being there.  He asked me nicely to move it down a block, so I did. I played about two songs my nose was running like a faucet.  It was just the cold weather sniffles, ugh! I knew that when I woke up, but thought I would give it a shot anyway.  I lasted about 30 minutes out there.  Not only that, I didn’t have those awesome acoustics.  I think I may have got spoiled at the other location.  Tonight is my last night in El Paso, I am head to Las Cruces and should be there Thursday afternoon.  I have enjoyed my time in El Paso.  The people here, as I have mentioned, are friendly- from the homeless man who wanted to give me a swig of his vodka, to keep me warm when he had nothing else to offer when he heard me playing. To the people at the Artist’s Market (Rebecca, Ruben, Bonnie and Christine) and all the others who were just amazing in a lot of ways. To a long conversation over the phone making a new friend here, to Mike at the Christmas parade, to a man playing his saxophone with me, and so many other people who made it very nice to be here- Thank you!  Also, it is actually pretty easy to find your way around pretty easily.  The scenery  of the desert and mountains are also something. I am so looking forward to seeing more of that as I head further west!  




I woke up Sunday morning to the Pearl being shook. I thought it was the wind, it has done that before. About 5 minutes after it woke me up, I got up and went to go inside for a coffee and saw my right tail light was smashed. Apparently, a car had back into me in the parking lot and took off. Obviously, I was not happy about this. There were a few people that saw it, however could not give me enough info do to anything with it. I asked to see the surveillance videos, of course only the police can look at them during an investigation. I ended up getting some red and white tape to put over it for now and I will get it replaced soon. To fill out a report, I have to send it to Austin and who knows if anything will come of it, not sure it is worth the time or effort over a tail light.

After taking almost the entire first half of the day to take care of that, I finally got out to play. I liked the spot where I was the night before, on the corner of San Antonio and Stanton, for two reasons. The first is the acoustics there, and the second is there is traffic there. It was a nice day, and I was plating well! There was a man who passed by who was texting his daughter in Philly. She was on her way to see Peter White play, as he does every year, but there was a 52 car pile up and traffic was delayed for hours, she missed the show. He asked me if I would play a couple of Christmas tune for her via speaker phone. Of course I did, and she told him to tell me “It made her day!” That made me very happy, as well as her father (his name escapes me- Bill, I think. I am sorry) He took a picture of us to send to her as well. We had a short conversation after and then he gave me nice tip and left. I was grateful, not only for the tip but also the interaction, he was a wonderful man! Later on a man at the stop light ended up turning around and coming back to talk to talk to me. He also plays the saxophone. After a couple of minutes he wanted my opinion of something he was working on, so I said yes. I had no idea he had his horn with him. He put it together and after a warm up, played his tune. For a second, it reminded me of “Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop” but it was clearly his own thing and it sound good. Over the next 20 minutes or so, we went back and forth with conversation and some playing. He played me another one he is also working on, it too sounded good. It was a little bluesier. He also played a flute for a few minutes. While he was there we got a few tips and I wanted to split them, he said “No, please. Thank you for letting play with you!” Then he proceed to go to his car and get the biggest handful of change I have ever seen anyone put in my tip box and said, “Sorry, I don’t have any bills, but if you will accept this….” I chuckled and said “Thank you!” Again, very grateful for him and the interaction.

On Monday, I got out after sleeping pretty late. I didn’t sleep much the night before. I went back to that same location, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, right? Almost from the second I set up, it was one of the best shifts I have had since I started my trip. There were a few short interactions I was able to have. An older gent came right up to me and told me “In the name of St. Jude, I give you this” except he said it in Spanish. I said “Gracias” He said it again in English to make sure I understood, and I said “Thank you, so much” and shook his hand. He smiled, I smiled and he went on his way. I love that he did that in the name of St. Jude! Not only is he the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, he is much more. I feel I may have received another blessing! A young woman, named Estefania, came up and asked me where I got my training. I told her about PMAC and she asked if I gave lessons. I told her if she had a saxophone, I would be delighted to give a lesson or two while I was in El Paso. Turns out she plays piano and lives in Mexico, must have been here for the day. But I thought it was cool she asked if I gave lessons. I have only ever had one student, Ryan, and has since become a a dear friend. It is something I enjoy doing, maybe I will do again if I am in a place long enough, or maybe when I get back home.

I am going to be here at least one more day. When Ruben told me this city is friendly, he wasn’t kidding. Even when I am not playing, I find the people I talk to, to be very friendly. It is also very cool that I have made a couple of friends here. I still haven’t been to Rosa’s Cantina- I guess that will definitely be tomorrow!

I arrived in El Paso on Friday, late in the afternoon. Traffic was hectic along I-10 going into the city. It was a beautiful day along the second half of the drive. I came out of that nasty cold weather into a cloudless sky and warmer temps. I was very happy to finally be in El Paso. A few days earlier I had sent an email to the Artist’s Market Director about being able to play there on Saturday. I received a response on Friday afternoon and told I would be there at 9am. At 11:00 the scheduled buskers were going to be there. I had the first 2 hours.

Again with the cold, windy awful weather. I chose the route I chose because it is in the southwest. The people at the Artist’s Market even told me, it is never like this until maybe late January. I mean everyone was bundled up. For the first hour or so, there weren’t many people there- probably because of the weather- some of the vendors came over to see me and say hi, everyone made me feel quite welcome. Shortly after I started; a vendor, Christine, came over and gave me a button. She is an artist whose boyfriend also plays the saxophone. He inspires some of art work. The button was a print of one of her works of him. It was very sweet! Another vendor gave me a coffee when I could no longer feel my fingers. In between songs I warmed up my hands as best as I could. I was wearing finger less gloves, so my fingers felt like glass. I was invited to play over by a table where it wasn’t quite so windy. It was Christine’s table, her friend Bonnie and Bonnie’s Dad, Ruben were there. I want to tell you I lasted the two hours. I couldn’t do it, after just over an hour and a half, I couldn’t feel the keys or my fingers moving. I know it sounds like I am whining, but it was 26 degrees. I wanted to hang out there for a little while though. I put my gear away, put on another layer and got my good gloves on.

I wound up hanging out at Christine and Bonnie Ruben’s table. I wanted to hear the other buskers. They were pretty good, it was a band of four, an Irish band with a Spanish name, The San Patricios- The St. Patrick’s- I liked it! While I was hanging out checking out their table, and talking to Christine about her work, she actually gave me a signed print of “That Sax Guy” That is the name of the series which he inspired in her. I wanted some coffee and Bonnie took to where it was and we skipped a little bit, like the Wizard of Oz, to try to warm up. It didn’t last long, I don’t even think I was skipping right, anyway…I try not to be negative, but my coffee was lukewarm, at best. They sell hot fresh corn and they dress it up with cheese(I don’t know what kind), spices, hot sauce and butter. Bonnie got that, apparently it was delicious. I was talking with Ruben for a bit. He is a healer and he gave me some tea to try. Before I even got my first coffee there, he said to me, “You drink too much coffee.” Told me I lack a lot of minerals the tea will help to replenish them. I looked around at the other stuff. It was a pretty cool market. They have stuff from jewelry, to paintings, handmade wooden flutes and even some other hand made goods such as jams and stuff like that. They broke down there display early because it really was very hard to stay warm. I was invited to lunch, with Christine and Bonnie. We went to an Indian place Bonnie used to work at and had the buffet, it was quite good.

After lunch, they went off to paint a mural with the Art Club for a Women’s Center. The sun had come out and it warmed up a little. I went back downtown, to San Antonio Ave and got to work. I played about 90 minutes again. Apparently, the spot I was at was the beginning of the Christmas Parade Festival of Lights. I put my gear away again and wanted to warm up some, before I went back to watch the Parade. I got myself another coffee and for the second time that day, it was lukewarm. I got back before the Parade started and met a man named Mike. He was there with his family, his son was in the parade. I hung out with him and talked during the Parade. He was a very nice man. He asked, so I told him what I doing. He was the second person that day to tell me all of the awesomeness about El Paso. The Parade was well over an hour long, it was great! There were many floats that played “Feliz Navidad” I said “That is a popular song here, I have always liked this tune!” Mike said, “You can’t have Christmas in El Paso without Jose Feliciano!” After the Parade, there were fireworks. I couldn’t stay outside for those. I went to the coffee shop to warm up again. By the time I got to the Pearl, I could hear them, but could not see them. I did some work and I called it a night.
I will say everyone I have met here is super cool and very welcoming. It makes for a nicer stay in the city I am in.

P.S. I have to find my way to Rosa’a Cantina before I leave this town!

Even when Austin is “slow” there are more people walking around town on these days than other cities that are considered busy. Although, that doesn’t mean they tip as well as they do on Friday or Saturday.  As I mentioned also, with Austin being the Live Music Capital of the World, it is hard for buskers to well here.  Anyway, the last couple days in Austin have been pretty cool otherwise.  I got to walk around for a little bit, I try not to walk too much on account of my ankle but, there is a lot to see here. I haven’t even scratched the surface! I was going to leave this morning and head to San Antonio, but one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Austin was to see the bats! I found out yesterday, when and where to be. So I am going to be there tonight to see the bats and then head to San Antonio. 

I have met some cool people in this town. On my first day, I met a man named John and he gave me his info. I called him yesterday and it turns out he has also done some traveling. I am looking forward to sharing stories with him. The security guards, Bruce and Z, who work for the building on the corner I played at. They were awesome! They were kinda looking out for me while I was out there and we had some great conversations too.  There are a several cool statues downtown, only two I took photos of. One was Willie Nelson, right outside of Austin City Limits and the other is a statue of Angelina Eberly. It was her actions with a canon, that help keep Austin the state capital instead of moving to Houston.  I met a young woman named Katrina, who was working to raise money for Philippine children, in the wake of the typhoon.  I could not give any money. Grateful for all of the help I have been receiving, I thought it would be nice to do something.  I told her I would set up and play for an hour and whatever I made in tips, I would donate.  Well, that lasted about 6 minutes.  The security guard there was not as cool. I was right on 6th street.  He told me “No, no way” I didn’t argue. As he walked by, he also told me the police might give me a citation for soliciting if they saw me doing that. Well, the police had seen me a million times, and I had no problems.  I guess there are certain areas on 6th St. one can not busk.  Needless to say, I received no tips in in that brief  time. I said “I am sorry, I tried”  She said, “It’s okay, thank you for trying.”  We shook hands and I went on my way.

There were  a lot of interactions with people while I was playing. The people here are friendly and genuinely love music. Austin seems to be a friendly city and generally pretty clean. I like the idea of all the food trailers in this town.  I would liked to have gone to more of them for that “Austin” experience.  I got to go to one and that was a lot of fun!  I am a little disappointed I lost the card of the young man I met in Fayettville, AR. It must have been when I reorganized the Pearl. I have looked everywhere for that card, Billy, if you read this, please know that I am sorry.  Rest assured, I will be passing back through here again at some point, I like this town for a lot of reasons. If I was to settle here, I would definitely need to get a full time job and look for a band to join, or perhaps start one. It would not be easy.  I talked with my friend who lives here, and have done some of my on research. Though I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, the cost of living is very high here. For now, I am going to continue my travels and see what else is out there.  Hopefully, I will get to meet more of you out there!



I got into Fayetteville on Friday in the early evening.  Right away a found a spot to play.  What took a while was finding a parking space close enough.  That seems to be a challenge at least 50% of the time.  Finally, I just parked in the lot next to the corner, it turns out the fees were the same as the street,plus it was right there.  I got started immediately and thought at first I was on the wrong side of the street.  I stuck with it though.  There was plenty of traffic and people seemed to be enjoying it.  About 15 minutes into the shift a young woman named Silna stopped and asked if I minded if she sat for a while.  I said, “of course not, stay as long as you like”  She liked the tunes I was playing she knew some of them.  I played an improve tune, again,based on her, she didn’t know it though.  When I was done, she said “I really like that one”  I told her what it was and she was surprised and smiled.  I could see there was something up, but she didn’t want to discuss it.  So I said “Perhaps the sweet sounds of the saxophone will make everything better”  So she stayed and listened for almost the rest of the shift. During that time, a young man named Alex stopped and hung out for a while. We had had some interesting conversation and he was digging what I was doing.  He was a nice man who had a reall appreciation for music.  After a while, and some requests and some demonstrations, he had to go.  It was getting a little chilly so I gave Silna my fleece, as I had a sweater on also.  She eventually had to go too.  A gave them each a cd before they left,  I enjoyed the fact they hung around for a while.  

I took a break and got some coffee about twenty minutes later as I had just played 90 minutes, and I wanted to warm up.  When I went back out, this time across the street, it had got a little colder.  It wasn’t as busy as I thought it might be.  I found out the next day, there was a homecoming game at the college that night.  I stayed out there for about an hour called it a night.

The next day, I found my way up to the Farmer’s Market at the town Square.  Often buskers are not allowed to be near a Farmer’s Market.  I just wanted to walk through to kill some time before I went back to Dickson St.  Well, I found out real quick busking is allowed at the Farmer’s Market.  All one has to do is check with the market manager, just to make sure there aren’t too many. So I did.  I was able to secure a corner and I went right to work.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes later, it started to rain!  It is times like this, I wish I played the trumpet ;)  (Just Kidding)  It rained for a while and the Market was over, so it was time to go to Dickson/

I got to the same corner and I played a solid 90 minutes.  During that time, I met a man named Bob and he was carrying a mandolin that he and his father made together. He is trying to learn as much from his dad as he can. It was a beautiful looking mandolin and from what little strumming he was doing while were talking, sounded equally beautiful. He was on a break from the studio with his band and he was just walking around killing time.  We talked for a little bit and while we were talking, another busker set up on the corner diagonally across the street.  He was a youngster who was playing the bagpipes.  I don’t know how to proceed without sounding critical or like a jerk- but it was the worst bagpiping I have ever heard.  I was shocked he was even out there.  Although, there was a huge part of me that respected the guts he had to be out there.  At his age I never would have done it.  Bob left and I got back to work, it was a horrible clash of instruments.  I didn’t know exactly what to do, I was feeling like a jerk blasting as loud as I could over the kid- but I hey, I was there first.  Then I rethought, and I sat out for a bit and let him do his thing.  While I was doing that a man came over telling me he really enjoyed my music while he was having lunch on the balcony.  He gave me a nice tip and I thanked him and I gave him a cd.   I played a couple more tunes and this kid just wasn’t going away.  So I sat out for a couple more minutes.  Another young man, named Danny, came over to talk to me.  He thought I was somebody else, but it didn’t matter, we clicked almost instantly.  He hung out for the rest of my shift.  I got back to playing and the kid packed it.  

The kid came across the street and walked right up to me and introduced himself.  His name was Devon.  I couldn’t believe how outgoing this kid was.  He told us it was his first time street performing and he was happy, he made a lot of money.  When I asked how old he was he said 14.  Now I was really feeling like a bit of a heel.  But I did have a lot of respect for him.  He then asked if I knew Amazing Grace.  I said I did, and he wanted to play it with me.  We started, got about 2 measures into it and it wasn’t gelling. I kept getting mixed up with all of the grace notes, anyway…..  So he said he was going to get back at it.  Danny spoke up and gave a word of advice, as far as etiquette. He told him about maintaining a proper distance between buskers.  He did it nicely too, I wanted to do it nicely but sometimes my tone comes out wrong and I don’t mean it to.  I was glad Danny was there.  Off he went to keep at it. 

When my shift was over, Danny offered to buy me a beer.  I took him up on it and we went to a place and hung out there for a little while.  He is also a musician and he is heading to Austin.  He should be there when I get there.  It will be good to see him there too.  He went off to buy some guitar strings and I went back to work.  A little while later, he showed up with his guitar and we played one tiny little jam together.  It was the first time in a long time, I played with an acoustic and I liked the way it sounded.  Another man named, Ben, came over and hung out for a while.  Danny played one of his tunes and it sounded pretty good!  For a little while there was a few of us on this corner, Danny’s guitar was getting passed around and somebody else a played a tune.  Ben hung out for a long time, he loves music and especially the saxophone.  He was around for almost the entire shift, long after Danny left.  We had some conversation in between tunes.  The Moon finally came out from behind the clouds, but even before that, Ben had commented on the “high energy” that was out that night.  Ben asked me what tune I had played and I told him, “it was an improv for the Moon.”  She was so beautiful, I had to serenade her!  I wish had a recording of that, Ben said he loved it!  After a while, he left, I played for a another 30 or so minutes and hadn’t seen a tip in a while, so I packed it up and called it a night.

Fayetteville is also a friendly city, no busking permits are necessary.  The people are nice and certainly conversational. As cool as the interactions with the people I had were, I wasn’t really getting a lot in the way of tips despite the traffic that was out.  The people who did tip, tipped nicely.  I am grateful to the town of Fayetteville for that and also the new friendships I may have made there.  I would definitely come through this town again!

I spent Friday early afternoon (day 3) in the downtown area, which is actually Bloomington. Bloomington and Normal are right next to each other, one is Uptown and one is Downtown. Both of them are very friendly and welcoming towns. They are also very appreciative of music played by buskers.  That afternoon  was my second time in the downtown area and I was in a different spot and though it was chilly and not much in the way of people walking around, the ones that did walk by were very cool.  I was able to have have a couple of conversations with people and they were just great. After the usual 90 minutes, I left.

I had to brush up on my Christmas tunes for the Holiday party for Saturday.  I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening doing exactly that.  I wanted to make sure I had enough to pepper in with what I usually play.  I thought I would take the entire night off to do that, but I figured it was Friday night and it might be a good night to get out there.  It was cold as the sun had been down for quite some time. But hey, playing is what I do and that is one of the points to this trip.  I was only able to last a little more than an hour and it was time to go. In that hour, much like the time in downtown, the people were just incredible!  There were a lot of wonderful comments AND tips- I like “and” better.  It was just the kind of day I needed, and wish every day could be like. Afterwards, I went back to studying my Christmas tunes.

Saturday (day 4) I woke up early to refresh my memory of these tunes.  When I headed back uptown, my GPS would not work. I got lost and wound up going in circles, and then found myself out by the interstate junctions! A problem I would have later in the night too, ugh! I apparently have absolutely no sense of direction.  I need to work on that, it took me 25 minutes to go only 10 minutes away from where I was.  I got there, good thing I left early, 10 minutes early. I found Joe, the man who wanted me there and he told me where to be. Joe is the City Manager who I met the first day there. He walked by again the second day and that is how I stayed in Normal for 4 days.  Joe is a wonderful man who organizes the events for the town of Normal and apparently, they have quite a few.  On this day, there was a horse and carriage ride around the town and I played right where people got on and off the carriage.  There was also a kettle corn tent right next to me. For the entire day, the smell of that kettle corn wafted in my direction, I couldn’t wait to get some when I was done, sure enough, I did!  Though I did not have my tip box out, there were a few people that still wanted to tip me. I played there for 3 hours and it was a fun time.  Although, I was concerned, as I was setting up, apparently, I had cracked my reed. If there is one think I don’t like, it is breaking a new reed on the job. Also, it was a size 3 reed. I was using a 2.5, needless to say, my lip was shot by the end of the job.Thankfully, it was a beautiful day- the warmest one since I got there 60 degrees.  It was a perfect day to be out there! Thank you, Joe for the opportunity!  When I was done, I walked around the town for a bit and found myself in The Coffeehouse and Deli, where Mary and Mia work.  I had been in there a few times since I got there.  This was the first time I actually had conversation with them. Like the rest of my experience in this town, they are wonderful, and the coffee is excellent!

I thought it might be a good idea to leave at that point, but the truth is, I didn’t want to. I went back downtown, later in the evening, but didn’t see much going on. I gassed up the van went back to Uptown.  Again, I got lost!  I figured I would play for another shift and then go.  I went to the corner I went to every night.  It had slowed down a little bit from the afternoon and it had got a little chilly. I can’t say enough about the people in this town. In addition the nice comments and people that had walked by, about 40 minutes into this shift, a young woman named Sarah came over to talk to me.  She had walked by earlier and tipped me and had a seat on a bench nearby.  We spoke for a few minutes and then she said “I try to do at least one nice thing a day, can I buy you dinner at The Rock?”  Grateful, I said “That would be awesome, thank you!”  The Rock is a great little restaurant with a little bit of everything and reasonably priced. Sarah treated me to a philly cheese steak with fries.  Which means I was able to save the other half of the sub I had for lunch until the next day!  We had a wonderful conversation.  She is a writer and she (like me) enjoys meeting new people and getting to know their story. She is from Jordan and wants to change her studies and possibly get into risk management. She also plays classical piano and every Friday, buys the homeless man a cup of coffee and has a conversation with him.  She had lots of questions as to how I came to do what I am doing. Afterwards, she ask if I could play a Frank Sinatra tune for her, so I did.  I also played an improv for her based on her. Then she left. I was grateful for the opportunity for conversation and the philly, thank you Sara! I gave a cd and as she left, I played another Frank Sinatra tune.  I stayed out for another 40 minutes, it was getting late and it was getting chilly, I wasn’t dressed for it this time so I packed it up. 

When I got to the van, I still didn’t really want to leave.  I really like this town.  I rolled in discouraged and a stranger, I left feeling very much renewed and a friend of this town. I can’t say thank you enough to the town and people of Normal Illinois, I hope to be back this way again, maybe after it warms up! 

Whenever I come to the Knoxville area, I always spend a few hours in Gatlinburg with my niece, Markie and nephew, Darwin. They take me over there and while I play, they walk around and, as I found out, have mad arcade skills.  Markie often wins something for me and this time won a key ring.  It is a $100 gambling chip key ring, I love it! It is always nice to spend some time with them! When we got to the Convention Center, there was a Craftsman Fair going on.  At first I didn’t know what to do, because the area out front that I normally play at was completely taken up with a couple of booths.   That area, as far as I can tell in all the times I have been there, is the only place to busk on the entire Gatlinburg strip.   I thought about for a few minutes and talked it over with them and found that if I just moved down a little ways, that would be good.  So i did.

I had to wear my case and bag over my shoulder while I played, as there wasn’t really any room on the ground to place them.  There were busloads of people getting off right in front of the Convention Center.  At first, I wasn’t sure I was even going to last 10 minutes because of the event going on.  As I played for about that long, a man came over to talk to me.  I thought to myself “Here it comes”  I was wrong.  He was a very nice man who came over to give me a heads up about the police.  I explained that I have never had an issue with them and I do this from time to time.  Surprised, he said “In Gatlinburg!!”  Then he went on to explain the buskers that do get asked to leave and/or get fined.  He shook my hand and said “Cool man, good luck today.” I said “Thank you”  As we walked away he turned and told me he plays percussion.  As the day progressed, he looked over a couple of times and smiled and nodded.  The people walking by and in front of the Center seemed to be enjoying everything too!  There was this thing some people were doing after they tipped me and I said thank you. Some of them liked to tap my arm while I was playing and say “Very nice” or Keep it up” or “Thank you”.  It was kind of funny, it messed me up one time, as one man hit my arm a little harder and made my mouthpiece come right out!  After about an hour and fifteen minutes, I packed it up and Darwin, Markie and I went walking down the strip.

I saw a store in Knoxville that sold masks  and I wanted one.  They had the same store in Gatlinburg, so we went there and I bought one.  As I walked out of the store, I put the mask on.  It covered half of my face.  After an hour of walking around and buying a mask, we got back to the center and I proceeded to set back up where I was- with the mask on. It seemed to not make a difference either way- not that I expected it to.  I think I am going to wear that through Halloween.  Anyway, that second shift lasted a little more than an hour and it was starting to get chilly and it looked like it was going to rain, so I packed up and we left.  It did rain- for about 3 seconds after we got back to the car.  As much as I like playing in Gatlinburg, my favorite part of the day is the drive there, my break, and the drive back.  It gives me a chance to spend some quality time with Darwin  and Markie, since I only see them once in a great while.  Of course, they are not kids anymore.  They are finding their way into adulthood and still find time (and want) to hang out with their Uncle for a day.  It is usually my favorite day when I come here.

Later on that night, I went back to Knoxville.  For the past two nights it has been pretty slow, but still awesome to be there.  It seems no matter how slow it is, I often get to meet some cool people.  I met a young man named Jonah two nights ago.  He hung around while he had his dinner in the Square.  He said “I’ll give you a dollar if you can play “Giant Steps”” I told him “At one point, I knew the head, but no way could I play the solo”  Then we got into a conversation about Coltrane and his genius.  He works in the Square and sometimes he will busk for extra money from time to time.  Last night, I met a man named Terry. He and his friends also hung out in the Square the entire time I was there.  He came over early and gave me a tip and when I packed up and left, I lit a cigarette.  He said “A smoker?” I thought he wanted one Instead, when I went over to see him, he gave me a cigar and introduced me to the rest of his group.  I gave him a card and told him what I was doing.   He said “You get to Pensacola, and we will have a cigar together” I said “You’re on”

I have been in the Knoxville area for the past week, staying with my brother and his family, and it has been great!  Last Friday, I went to Morristown to the Java Garden Cafe.  When I was there 2 years ago, I was asked if I wanted to play there, instead, I played outside a music store.  I went there and told April,  the manager who I was and she remembered me.  Ten minutes later, I was in their garden outside playing for the lunch crowd.  Unfortunately, it was a little chilly and hardly anybody came outside to eat lunch.  April’s husband, Brandon, had a coffee and listened for a while and he liked what I was doing.  We had a chance to talk for a bit as he was the one out there for a while.  I also talked to one of the cooks there (sorry, I can’t remember his name).  I asked about a fellow who was there 2 years ago, and he told me he was in a terrible accident.  His name is RT, and I remember he was very good to me last time I was there.  This accident happened about a month ago, and he broke his back and a couple of ribs.  The other two in the car were also hurt pretty badly.  Fortunately, they all survived and on the road to recovery.  I was very happy to hear that! I asked him if he would give RT my best.

I went back to Knoxville after that and played in Market Square and on Gay St.  I found, as I did last time I was here, that it can be quite busy here with all the other performers.  Also, it was “Movies in the Square” night, and they were showing “Iron Man”.  I called it an early night since I would be there for the entire day on Saturday. On my ride home, I was looking at the Moon and she was beautiful! She inspired a new Haiku-

O, beautiful Moon/ The gloriousness of you/ Shall inspire men to….

Saturday, after making pancakes for breakfast, I went back to Market Square.  It is Farmer’s Market there every Saturday morning, but it was also game day.  Though there were a lot of people, comparatively, it was slower than usual.  I started off with a 2 hour set and had a great time.  Some of the farmer’s came over and we had some great conversations.  When I was done, I walked around for a little while and found my friend Harley Chapeau doing his magic show.  It is always good to see him.  Tennessee won the game and a couple of places emptied out, so I went in to one and took a break while I watched some college football.  I went back out and played for another hour and saw it was slowing down a bit so I took off for a little while.  Harley was going back to his car, so I walked with him and we caught up a bit and I was happy to hear he is doing really well.  Another busker, Bill, who I had just met this week was down that way too.  It was a pretty cool 10 minutes or so and then we split.  I went back to the van and hung out there for a little while, while my phone charged.

Later on, I went back out for 2 more hours.  Just after I got started, a man named Kevin came over to speak to me.  He was a nice man and I saw he was in on a church gathering of some sort.  I played “Amazing Grace” for him and he loved it.  He then gave me a blessing and I thought was very sweet.  He was telling me about the man across the way and asked if I would play that with him.  The man’s name is Dave and he is a guitar player and singer, he reminded me of my friend Jefferson R from Savannah.  I told him I don’t normally do that, but I did it anyway.  Dave was just all to happy to play the tune with me and so we did.  Kevin tipped us both.  After we did that I went back to my spot.  It was a pretty cool experience and I was happy to have met them.  I see Dave there when I am here on the weekends, that was the first time I met him.

Later on that night, Julio, who works in the restaurant I play in front of, asked me if I wanted a coffee.  It was getting really chilly now that the sun was down, so  I told him, “That would be great, thank you!”  Julio is a man who plays the harmonica. Two years ago when I was here, he came out and wanted to play a tune with me.  We  played “Blues in the Night” and had a fun time with that.  I was grateful for the coffee when he got back!  After playing for the 2 hours, I decided it was time to go.  I had played a total of 5 hours for the day, my lips were chapped, it was getting colder and the Sox game 6 was on in a little while.  On my way home, Saturday, I saw the Moon again.  She looked more beautiful than the night before.  I thought of changing the last line of my Haiku to-

“Shall inspire greatness”

From the time I woke up, to the time I went to bed, Saturday was just one of those really awesome days.  The kind you wonder why it can’t always be like that.


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