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I left Las Cruces after the Farmer’s/Artist’s Market on Saturday, because I  wanted to be in Tucson by 6 or so, so I had to get going.  I made my rounds and said “Bye” and “Merry Christmas” to all of the people I met and made me feel so welcome.  I have more pictures to upload, but until I can figure out how to get them on my computer, it could be a little while.  I just got a free upgrade and I am having a little trouble. I have some pictures of the people I met as well as some more shots around La  Mesilla.  I will put captions under all of them when I do!  

I got into Tucson a little later than I wanted to and of course, immediately got lost.  By the time I found a place to park it was almost 7pm.  I got right out and walked all down 4th Ave. Everything I have read said 4th Ave and the Farmer’s Markets were the places to be. So I walked all up and down 4th Ave and there was so much going on on that Saturday night.  There was music coming out of speakers on almost every corner and honestly, I didn’t even see any other buskers out there.  There must have been a reason. As I was walking, I saw Father Winter(i think) and a bunch of other people in costume.  They were on their way to a Solstice Celebration complete with a fire show.  I found that out later.  With all of this going on, I knew I couldn’t compete with it so I decided to put my gear away and watch the fire show.  I enjoyed the show, it was about 30 minutes long and there were all kinds of things they did. They were dancing with fire rings, blowing fire, poi, fire hula hoops and staffs and even a little acrobatics. It really was a fun show to watch!  By the time the show was over, it was getting late and as I looked around it was the kind of crowd I just didn’t want to deal with.  (I was actually missing La Mesilla Plaza at this point) 

Sunday, I went down and I wanted to get right to work.  About 30 minutes into my shift, a homeless man stopped and said he liked what I was playing, he really enjoys the saxophone;  He stood across from me for the next 30 minutes.  As much as I enjoy talking to people, including homeless people, I didn’t want him hanging around because it is bad for business.  Maybe that sounds like a mean thing to say, but it is true.  I love it when they walk by and nod in appreciation, I even like to have a short conversation, hell, sometimes they throw a coin or two in my tip box. Even though he was a nice man, I don’t need him or other homeless hanging around during a busy time. Sometimes that is the risk when one is busking in any given city or town.  I can either stay out there and waste my time or just leave, I left.  I decided to use that time to write some and get back to reading a book I started up again in Cruces. I also got in touch with a friend of mine in Tucson and a friend in Phoenix. 

While I was writing, a woman at the coffee shop asked my opinion on which mug looked better.  I gave my opinion and she thanked me. She grabbed a couple more and went to pay for them.  About 7 minutes later, she came back and said “I just wanted to say thank you for your help, Merry Christmas!” and handed me a gift bag with one of those coffee mugs in it!  That really surprised me, so I got up and gave her a hug and said “Thank you, Merry Christmas!” Then she left. I was just so surprised. I mean all I said was “That one” and pointed. It was very sweet.

I was talking to my friend in Phoenix later that night.  I am thinking I am going to stay in Tucson or Phoenix for a couple of months and regroup. I need to wait to a little while until the weather warms up before I head further.I also need to get a job and save some more money before I go further also. My friend in Phoenix, was giving me some kind of idea as to what rentals are there and I am looking in the Tuscon area.  I am not making any decision until after the Holidays are over. I have much to do in the way of research.

Today, I got out in full force on 4th Ave.  I did my first shift in the early afternoon. It was about average. I found I was in a pretty decent place. However, for my second shift, I had to be in a different place, because they would be open.  I found myself in front of a Dia de los Muertos type of store.  They were closed for the day, so I set up there. It wasn’t as good as my first shift, but it was okay.  During this shift, my friend in Tucson gave me a call.  We will be meeting up tomorrow and that will be very cool!  I went out for my third shift, just after sundown. I stayed out there for about 30 minutes, it was super slow out there this evening, weird. I talk with a man named Brody on the way back to the Pearl and asked him about it. He said “It was slow for a Monday, probably on account of the Holiday.” “If anyone gives you any trouble, come get me”  I said “All right!”  It is nice to know that is there- just in case. I got to the Pearl and went to get some food. I am no stranger to Holiday busking, in Savannah, it was a crap shoot year to year. I am sure it is the same everywhere. I will be out there tomorrow, after I meet up with my friend and I will play my heart out! For Christmas, I will probably go to the movies and enjoy the rest of the day reading and writing. I will also be reflecting on how fortunate I am. I will be doing a post here at some point on things we take for granted. There are things I used to do pretty frequently, that now are like a real treat. For example, eating a meal in a restaurant.  Man, it really is the little things!

For now, to you- my readers, my friends- old and new- and of course and especially, my family, 

Merry Christmas to all of you, please know how grateful I am to all of you and how much I love all of you! 

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.  

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!  

 

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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!

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!

 

 

It wasn’t easy to leave Dallas.  Scott and Traci and there kids made it very difficult to leave after practically making me a member of their family.  Though the weather wasn’t very good at all, until almost the end,  they were wonderful.  I really can’t say enough about them and I may have to just do a blog post about them and my week there.  We’ll see!

Anyway, I got to Austin on Friday, around 6:30 and I started playing around 7:00.  A friend of mine,  asked a friend of hers about the scene there and he she relayed what he said.  It was most helpful and finding a good spot, it kind of took the guess work out of it, which makes for an easier time.  I went to the corner of Congress and 6th St.  All up and down the main part of 6th St. are bars and different venues playing live music.  A lot of them with no cover charge, it is hard to compete with that as a busker. I went up a little further and set up.  I played for almost 2 hours. There was guy working security there, his name is Bruce.  Turns out he is from East Kingston, NH. Not far from my hometown. We had some cool conversations while he was making his rounds. I felt a little safer, knowing he was around.   When I was done, I met up with my friend Nikki who used to live in Savannah. She took me to place called Friend’s where there was a great band playing.  It is, so far, the only place I have been to see a band.  She bought me a Lone Star and we caught up a little bit, before she saw a friend of hers who is leaving on Monday.  It was fun hanging out listening to them and the band! Nikki asked if I wanted to go see this other band, but honestly, I was wiped out.  We made plans for lunch on Saturday.

Based on the info I got, I went to San Antonio St. on Saturday morning. The Farmer’s Market  was near there.  I played there for two hours.  I feel I may have got there a little late, but it was still a decent shift. I got to meet and talk to some cool people.  When I was done, I went to Torchy’s Tacos.  Apparently, in Austin, the thing to do is get food at trailers/food trucks- especially tacos.  I wanted the full experience, so I went to the “Trailer Park Diner” to meet up with Nikki for a late lunch.  Through some sort of miscommunication or perhaps I went to the wrong place, I ended up having a brushfire taco by myself.  It was pretty good too, I must say!  I would suggest anyone going to Austin, give it a try.  There are also other trucks in the Park that have lots of different things. When I finished, I tried to see if I could get together with my friends Emily and Jim, also from Savannah.  They were in the area for the holiday weekend. Apparently, not in the direct area.  They were a little too far for us to meet up. It’s all good, I will see them when I get back to Savannah.

I went back out, and played for another 2 hour shift.  This time, on 7th and Congress.  There was a dude who likes to play a drum just for the sake of playing.  He is not busking, just beating on an African drum.  He was there the night before too. During that shift, there were a couple people who came from the restaurant across the street, who were dining on the balcony who liked what I was doing. I had a lot of fun on that shift. I had to feed the meter, so I took a break.

I did a third 2 hour shift. I went back to 6th, the drummer was gone.  I got all set up and played 4 notes, literally, 4 notes and there was an incident.  The police were pretty busy that night. Apparently, the corner of Congress and 6th St. is a place where a lot goes down. There were a couple of incidents earlier, when I was 7th.  Oddly enough, I never felt unsafe, because of the police. Even when this incident occurred.  I played 4 notes and a man was crossing the street. He starts yelling something at he top of his lungs while looking down 6th St. He has crossed the street and now on my side, about 6-8 feet away from me.  I had my hand in my pocket, in case he got to close.  He was hostile, and volatile, I wasn’t taking any chances. Let’s be clear- I did not have a gun, but I have a little something to protect myself.  As he gets closer, here comes the police. Almost right up on the corner. He got out and told the man to stop. Also to get his hands out of his pockets, I took mine out too!  There was another cruiser that pulled up and then two bike officers.  THey don’t mess around in Austin.  I saw the Paddy wagon out earlier twice, on my second shift.  While they were cuffing this man,  I started to play something soft and then stopped, it felt weird, So I waited until they were done and gone. I mean this all happened 6-8 feet in front of me.  Damn phone didn’t have enough juice to work the camera! Fortunately, that was the last incident of the night while I was there.  I got to see Bruce as he was making his rounds again that night. I enjoyed talking to thim.

I don’t remember the last time I had a 6 hour playing day, but it felt good.  In some ways, I am glad I was not able to meet up with my friends earlier in the day as it gave me the time to go out and play. Though it would have been nice to see them! Although, it is so competitive in Austin, I had a decent day out there.  But really, it was very cool to be out there for 6 hours. I mean I can’t do that everyday- yet- or I will have no lip! But I am definitely shooting for that! ,

 

I got out of Oklahoma City and head to Norman, it was the next town south of there.  It was on the 19th I pulled in there around 5ish. I took around through the downtown area and didn’t see much of anything going on. I figured I would go out later, after I did some work. When I was just about done, I got talking with one of the people behind the counter. He told me there isn’t much going on, on a Tuesday night. I was there for a while and noticed that was true.  Tuesday nights are very slow there.  I called it a night early.

I went back to the downtown area in the late morning and walked around before I got started.  Norman, OK is James Garner’s hometown.  There is a small plaza dedicated to him there with a bronze statue as well as James Garner Ave.  I found it pretty cool to be walking the same streets Rockford himself walked as a youngster!  It is kind of fun to imagine where he may have hung out, though I am sure the place has changed considerably, but a lot of those buildings have been there since he was younger.  I wonder what they were like…

I got started and I played for about an hour and nothing happened.  So I decided to pack it up.  When I went back out later in the evening, I almost immediately was approached by a woman who told me I could play in front of her place- Joy’s Palace.  It is her private club and opens for parties, weddings or some other type of event.  Within seconds of her talking to me, a guy rode up on his bicycle and started playing guitar.  I was quite confused by this, but grateful I had permission to play in front of her business across the street. I went across the street and he stayed there.  He played one tune a few times, it was good but come on! He left after a while.  I was also grateful to Joy as she gave me $10 to get a burger and fries at The Garage when I was done.  It was a good burger, (but Bentonville still wins for biggest and greasiest) and it was a good portion of fries. It was also for a decent price, with what Joy gave me, I was also able to leave a tip.  

Joy also told me I could play there the next afternoon, so I did.  People driving by, would wave and and smile as they saw me.  The people walking by did the same thing for the most part.  The people of Norman certainly are people who appreciate music.  There was a stylist, who put his card in my tip box and wrote on the back, Nice music- come get a haircut on me!  When I was done, Joy came out of her “Palace” – I didn’t even know she was in there.  She brought me inside and gave me the grand tour. It is a wonderful place,  she is talking about putting a burlesque show in there with a live orchestra.  She always has bookings for various things and keeps a 20′s theme going on, with the menu and the cocktails. Basically, my kind of place!  She gave me an open invitation, to come back there anytime I want.  I might just take her up on that!

When I was done there, I went to see Brant, the man who gave me his card.  Unfortunately, I got there about 20 minutes before he had to leave for an appointment.  We had a brief conversation about music and Norman and our work.  He told me I could come back the next day. I told him I was leaving town. I had to get ahead of the freezing rain and awful weather. I wasn’t taking any chances  in driving with black ice and  I didn’t want to wake up in an ice capsule!  He told me the offer is good even the next time I go through there.  I thanked him and he thanked me for the music I played earlier.  He also gave me a Dr. Pepper for the road! I gave him and Joy each a cd before I left.  I do hope to pass through that way again.  I enjoyed the company of the people I spoke to.

From my experience, it appears busking is just fine in Norman.  No permits necessary.  

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! 

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I met a man named Robert while I was out on trick or treat night.  He works for Conn-Selmer as head of maintenance.  He invited me over to take a tour of the place, how could I resist that! When I left Angola on Monday (the 4th) I thought I would go up to Battle Creek Michigan, head over to Kalamazoo at night, and stop somewhere along the way to Elkhart.  I figured I would get there on Tuesday morning. All I ended up doing was going in a huge circle.  I should have just gone straight to Elkhart. 

When I got to Battle Creek, after finding what I think to be the only place I could play there, the restaurant was playing music over the loud speaker.  Not wanting to waste any more time, I got over to Kalamazoo.  I must have been in the wrong part of town, I don’t know- but I didn’t feel to safe there.  I mean no disrespect to the people who there, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I figured on getting down to Elkhart before they closed.  I got there just short of too late.  When I got there, I dialed Robrt’s extension at the door and he came to let me in.  He told me he was just about to punch out and go home.  He asked me if I had Gilda and of course I did.  There was a man still there who has worked there for over 40 years! Robert wanted me to show him Gilda, so I did.  He looked at her with such reverie and confirmed for me that all of that engraving was done by hand.  Unfortunately, they no longer make the saxophones there, they are made in Paris now and shipped over.  

For the next 90 or so minutes, Robert took me around the factory and showed me how the clarinets, flutes, bassoons, and xylophones are made.  He maintains the machines that make all of the instruments.  He kept telling me, “I don’t know much about instruments, my kids play sports!” Now, maybe I didn’t get the”Grand Tour” but I got the BEST tour! Robert was funny and very knowledgeable about everything that goes on in that factory.  We were in the South Factory, they make the brass instruments in the North Factory.  As I mentioned, I got there late and it was all locked up. All the stuff he showed me in the was amazing.  They still use machines that they used over 40 years ago! Certain things have been updated for consistency and production, but I can tell you, from what I saw, they are no longer “stamping” things out.  A lot of the keys  are now cast into a mold. There was so much information he gave me, I can’t remember all of it.  Most of the pictures I took were on my phone and didn’t really come out, they are pretty blurry.  

Robert was telling me about the wooden clarinets.  They make the Selmer, obviously, and a line of Julian Bliss clarinets from a wood called grenadalia.  It is a wood from Africa that takes 100 years to mature.  It is also so dense it doesn’t float.  I didn’t get to see one completely finished but I did get to see the evolution of the bell of a clarinet, it takes about 4-6 months to do because after each step, it has to sit for a certain amount of time.  I also was able to some of the bodies of several clarinets.  It is really amazing to see these before any work is done on them.  Robert explained each step they take to make these- and he says he doesn’t know about instruments!
Evolution of a bell to a clarinet 

I was/am so grateful to Robert for staying for all of that extra time to show me around. He could have just shown me that first room and I would have been happy. As I said he took me around for 90 or so minutes and not only explained what “they” do, he also talked about what he does. I learned a bit about machinery and water cutting! So, Robert- Thank you so much for having Gilda and me there! I wish you and your family a most wonderful Holiday Season!
Conn-Selmer

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