Staging a Phillybusker. July 9, 2008
(Photo by Gustavo Martinez)
The streets in south Phillywere steaming with that glowing lick of a lingering mist that could condensate from one second to the other into a thick sudden pour. The brick seemed more like brick and therefore Philly looked more like Phillyeven though I’ve never been in it before. It was 11 in the morning and by the time we were ready to go out the condensation broke into the predictable rain of the day. With the guitar on my back and the day in front of us there was nothing else to do but to walk about until we found a nice morning pub where we could wait for the rain to calm down.
This was the story for about three more bars until we finally ended up in Old City at a nice neighborhood park. The day was humid and the sun was almost out from behind the clouds. This park was a nice gathering place for people reading the NY Times and the most recent Dalai Lama novel/essay. Musicians gathered there tuning their instruments with one another. There was a duo of accordion and guitar in the center, an acoustic guitarist sitting on a bench to the north, another just sort of jamming to himself. It certainly wasn’t the place I would have chosen to busk. It had a nice vibe and all but it was too harmonious for me to interrupt with my loud and angry folk songs and to make any money when musicians where just jamming for free around me. Gustavo thought otherwise and later confessed his choice to be a sort of experiment: throw me in the midst of an ultra comfortable setting and see if it worked. It didn’t. I had lots of fun just feeling Philly surrounding me and knowing, being aware of my being within such a nice context, another city, another adventure, but hey…again in my adventurously stupid way I had driven to Philadelphia with just enough cash for one way tolling. So I needed cash to get back out of the city and I only got 3 bucks. I don’t know if it was the fact that my seeding money was just a few coins or if the fact that I chose to ironically put my credit card along those coins in the guitar case made it a little difficult for the random transient to believe that I really needed their support.
Whatever it was I just did a quick set and decided to walk little bit more to find something more street-like. So Gustavo thought of the perfect place: South Street on south Philly. We headed there but we stopped for a few more pints of beer so that I could be in my element, the element of blatant uninhibited self-confidence. When we arrived at South St. it looked like the perfect place, full of traffic, tourists, bars, coffee shops and noise. We walked for a while looking for a nice spot to set up my case and myself and as we were walking a guy from inside a bar, through an opened window, called me.
- Hey, is that an acoustic guitar you have there?
- Yeah, as a matter of fact it is.
- Wow, come and play us a song, I’ll pay you for a song.
- Sure, no problem, how ’bout $5 dollars… (My blatantly uninhibited self-confidence shouted before I could step in).
- Sure, I’ll give you five bucks, but for that price I wanna hear “Free Bird”.
- Sorry no “Free Bird”, I suck at covers, but I do have some southwestern fried folk from Texas…that should make up for it…
- Ok sure just sing us something.
So I put my case in the floor, opened it, grabbed my guitar and strapped it and quickly began to sing one of my new songs. The vibe was great, they were drunk enough to throw in another five bucks just for the sake of it and people around them began throwing in 1’s. Not too many but a good 3 or 4 in the space of two songs. We were about a block and a half away from the Obama South Philly headquarters and so every time an Obama girl would pass by my patrons would shout for the candidate in a futile effort to get one of them to have a beer with them. It was beautiful. Coming to think of it I guess I should have stayed longer, at least a couple of songs longer but I was so excited that I decided to go look for a busking pitch right away. We did find one but I was only able to play a couple of songs before the cops told me to stop…It was a good day to celebrate my 20th busk.
Amount of money made: $17.56
P.S. Thanks Gus!
iSoul June 7, 2008
(photo by Gustavo Martinez)
I want to be scrambled and encrypted
An HD pixel of a million being lifted.
I want to be ripped and burnt
I just want to be spelled.
I want to be porn, I want to be leered
And unlike a post-orgasmic cache hastily being cleared
I want to be saved, I want to be stored,
I want to be clicked again on moments of bore.
I want a book where I’ll have a face
And you can read about my encoded little craze.
I want to go forward without reply
A little emoticon blushing so shy.
Oh god, do I want to be linked!
I want to be the server and the host
While being downloaded always the most
Your USB as a BFF
Where I can save what of life is left.
The FAQ of the inner you
The best of all the songs playing at its cue…
And yes, of course,
I want to be opened and browsed
To tantalize a mind always aroused.
But I have to admit that I want it all right here
In the rarity of the realm of real
Where my flesh might casually meet my reasoning with a beer.
Oh yes, I want it all here
Where the dust can dry my skin
And the wind may drift my mind clear
I want it all right here.
I really didn’t want to post this but… May 10, 2008
(Photo taken from Lente Ciudadano in local newspaper El Diario)
Besides the strong winds in the area throughout spring that have kept me from busking in Juarez there is something else happening out there in the streets (and just yesterday at a specific street) that, well, has started to get to me somehow. I have for as long as I’ve lived in the region, specially in the northern side of the border, resisted the overreacting tendency of many El Pasoans to believe that Ciudad Juarez is a dangerous place. After all, the violence in the city does not come close to violence in other North American cities of the same size and the violence by which Juarez is now famous is almost completely targeted violence- as opposed to random widespread violence. Be it the horrible woman-murdering trend of the last decade or the drug related executions, the violence in Ciudad Juarez seems confined, maybe even self contained in a dark and hidden bubble with which the average resident of the region seldom has anything to do.
Sure, as resident of the area, we all have our anecdotes, we’ve all heard stories, we’ve all known someone who knows someone who may be inside that dark bubble, but 1.4 million people in the Juarez metropolitan area also wake up, go to work, school, parks, etc, ride back home, go to sleep and have a regular everyday life…so my reasoning has always been on the positive side when it comes to the situation across the border. But when an armed commando starts shooting the crap out of somebody with AK-47’s and shotguns in the middle of Juarez Avenue, three or four blocks up from my busking pitch…I can’t help but feel it. Specially when at least three bystanders are caught in the crossfire and killed. Two cab drivers, a cigarette vendor, three bicycle cops responding to the incident and of course at least one of the ones the commando was aiming for got their share of led.
Now I’d hate to be an alarmist but I also can’t deny that it has gotten to me. Here’s the note for you to read from El Paso Times:
A gunbattle on the Avenida Juárez tourist strip left two men dead and wounded five others, including three bicycle police officers, as part of a resurgence of violence in Juárez.The violence, possibly linked to a war between drug cartels and government forces across Mexico, continued Friday with a double homicide in the town of Palomas and an attempt on the life of a Juárez police commander and his bodyguards. In Juárez, there were five other separate homicides as of 8 p.m. Friday.
The Avenida Juárez incident occurred about 10 p.m. Thursday about two blocks from the foot of the Paso del Norte Bridge near shops, bars and nightclubs catering to tourists and partiers from the United States.
After the shooting, a man with a gunshot wound to the torso stumbled to get medical help on the U.S. side of the international bridge.
“We had a motorist advise us that there appeared to be a man who had been shot and collapsed about 10 yards inside the United States up toward the top of the bridge,” said Roger Maier, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The bridge was temporarily closed. An ambulance took the wounded man to Thomason Hospital.
Chihuahua state police identified the men killed on Avenida Juárez as German Padilla Zavala, 27, and Oscar Luis Zapien Carbajal, 47.
Juárez news media reported that the men might have been among the parking attendants and cigarette vendors working in the area and were killed during a kidnapping attempt of another person that went wrong.
Police officials said the bicycle officers were responding to a fight and the sound of gunshots when they came under fire. Pablo Lozoya, Felipe Martinez Peralta and Mercedes Medina Ortega were in stable condition Friday morning at a Juárez hospital.
Police also said a 78-year-old man, who was sitting with his family in the back seat of a car, was grazed by several shots that struck the vehicle. Investigators found more than 35 bullets casings at the scene.
The Avenida Juarez shooting was the second in a Juárez tourist section in less than a day. Early Thursday, four El Pasoans were wounded outside the Arriba Chihuahua nightclub in the ProNaF zone near the Bridge of the Americas.
“The El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau understands the recent events in neighboring Juárez are unsettling for some. However, it is important to note that historically there has been virtually no crime committed against tourists to El Paso or the city of Juárez,” bureau spokesman Pifas Silva said in a statement.
“It is, however, best if visitors to international cities follow a few specific guidelines: travel during daylight hours, travel with groups of two or more, frequent popular tourism attractions only, respect the laws of other countries and always carry proper identification at all times,” Silva said.
Friday morning, Juárez police commander Jose Roberto Ortiz Enriquez, who heads the Barbicora station, and two bodyguards survived an attack while riding in a patrol truck that was intercepted by shooters in a pickup, causing the bullet-riddled police vehicle to crash into a traffic-light pole, police officials said. The three were hospitalized in stable condition.
Friday afternoon, a father and son were killed in a hail of 67 bullets along a street in Palomas, across the border from Columbus, N.M., Chihuahua state police said.
Arnoldo Carreon Renteria, 57, and his son Damian Arnoldo Carreon, 25, were while getting into their pickup, with New Mexico plates, when they were shot.
Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos said that the men were believed to be Palomas residents and that his deputies were on alert to make sure violence did not spill over into the U.S.
Mob-style street ambushes and executions had initially declined in the region with the arrival in March of more than 2,000 Mexican army soldiers and federal police officers to Juárez and other communities in Chihuahua.
Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz on Friday asked that federal and military forces do more and change strategies to stop the bloodshed, which is linked to a war across Mexico between government forces and drug-trafficking groups.
“To us, it appears evident that organized crime has learned the routine of the army. Its regular patrol routes, the hours it patrols and has designed strategies to evade” military operations, Reyes Ferriz said in a statement.
Since the start of the year, there have been more than 250 murders in Juárez, including the slayings of about 15 law enforcement officers.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6102.
The power of curves…and lines. March 20, 2008
Just a little something, more busking adventures tomorrow.
Gone With The Wind…however unadvisable this was. March 15, 2008
From The National Weather Forecast:
STRONG WINDS HAVE DEVELOPED ACROSS THE FORECAST AREA THIS
AFTERNOON AS EXPECTED. WIND SPEEDS SO FAR HAVE REMAINED AT
ADVISORY LEVELS OF 30 TO 4O MPH BUT STILL HAVE A POTENTIAL TO
REACH WARNING LEVELS OF GREATER THAN 40 MPH SUSTAINED BY LATE
AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING. WILL KEEP EXISTING HIGH WIND WARNING
IN PLACE UNTIL IT EXPIRES AT 9 PM LOCAL TIME. BLOWING DUST IS
BECOMING THICKER BUT DUE TO THE WESTERLY ORIENTATION OF THE WINDS MAY NOT REDUCE VISIBILITIES TO MUCH LOWER THAN 2 MILES. THE DUST WILL DIMINISH AS THE WINDS DIMINISH THIS EVENING. BUSKERS STAY HOME REGARDLESS OF HOW STUBBORNLY POSITIVE YOUR INCLINATION TO PLAY MAY PICTURE THE DAY. IT WILL BE AWFUL. REPEAT: IT WILL BE AWFUL.
If I could add anything to this, besides the obvious last paragraph, it would go something like: No shit mister satellite! I just didn’t think that the weather cared much about the before noon/ after noon arbitrariness and when I got out of my house it was still bearable. Once I crossed the border there was no lazy breeze like on wednesday but rather just a full blown garbage and dust gust. I still tried it for some reason, or lack thereof, actually. It was awful. My guitar case kept shutting closed, the lucky dollar kept threatening to escape into the atmosphere and people, like the many random garbage items, just passed flying by. Even behind their rather tight squints I could read their estranged gaze saying to me: “WTF are you doing here, didn’t you read the weather report?”- No, I didn’t but I could tell you more or less what it said.
Amount of money made: $ .5 cents :(
Time played: 2 songs
Exchange rate: does it really matter?
Nicelandia… March 13, 2008
*Photograph by dear friend Gustavo Martinez
Again, across the river, as a welcoming message, laid that smoggy hue. It was just there floating as if waving hello in slow motion, heavier than the power of the gentle breeze that felt too lazy to struggle with it.
I arrived to my area from the side street and discovered that a shop in the front, one of those predatory finance companies, had a PA system full blast with loud C music and an even louder DJ repeating over and over that they could get you out of debt…with a loan. So if I actually stood where I always do, at the left side of the main entrance to the museum, I would be straight across the speakers and would have had no voice by the end of the first song. I didn’t of course and opted to head towards the corner, probably one of the busiest corners in the whole 1.4.million people town. At first it was kind of difficult to hear myself but I then managed to modulate my voice and the guitar to get something out of it. I guess what usually helps me be louder just a hundred feet from there are the walls of the buildings facing me. At the corner my voice just goes everywhere without bouncing back.
I arranged mys guitar case with the essential anchor charm: a dollar bill and three coins holding it from flying out. The day was perfect and I played for a good hour, rested a little bit and then played a half more. As I have discussed in previous post, the mere fact of being there spraying my voice against the whole revolving chaos gives me sudden chuckles, outbursts of joy comparable to those expressed in a drunken state when surrounded by very good friends. I think its the nonsense of it all. I managed to gather a crowd that stayed for a whole song, that is always a pretty cool thing. It gave energy to continue playing after I had finished my first set. People even threw coins from cars which even though might be with the best of intentions it does not strike me as something I want hapening all the time.
Amount of money made: $7.37
Time Played: 1h 25m
Exchange rate: 10.67 pesos/dollar