The Economic Adventures of a Transborder Street Musician

Heading down south for the big Pesos.

Nicelandia… March 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized,Wednesday — ramonalvarado @ 6:41 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

gus’ downtown pic 

*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.

Day 18


Amount of money made: $7.37

Time Played: 1h 25m

Exchange rate: 10.67 pesos/dollar


So you thought… February 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ramonalvarado @ 8:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

New lira

So you thought I had made it big and forgotten all about the small time busking, right? Well, in case you don’t already know, I haven’t just yet and I haven’t forgotten about the busking thing either, how could I? Not long ago I told a painter friend of mine from Canada how the busking thing felt to me as if finally, after a long time, my soul was able to fit into that emotional suit it had been longing to fit into its entire life. I guess its not the busking thing in itself but rather the whole experience that has a certain element of Gipsyness and just playing out there brings my whole body to smile unexpectedly.

I know it has been a long time without a guitar but the past month has brought some good things. Two things specifically: A guitar of my own that arrived yesterday (I won’t say brands or anything like that because I frankly don’t care enough) and a Goped (a motorised standing scooter). So the busking thing just got a little easier. I have a case for the guitar and I can jump on that goped and head out full speed (20mph) towards the downtown crossing bridge. I’ll do that this coming week, so expect some more adventures being posted very very soon. Thanks for waiting!



Sniff, sniff…pum taca pum. January 8, 2008

Filed under: busking — ramonalvarado @ 1:22 am
Tags: , , , ,


I knew this day would come and even though it wasn’t a surprise it still slapped me hard. I was actually aware of slightly overstepping or nonchalantly abusing the situation by overlooking the issue all this time, but I had a purpose and purposes have this rare ability to bestow anybody’s criteria or convictions with what seems to be an ideal elasticity. Whether it is a matter of torture and bloodshed, like in a purist revolution of some sort, or some type of illegality like stealing a car to get to Frisco because you have a great novel to write, if you have a purpose, people will say: “well, at least he/she’s doing something.” The elasticity metaphor can be extended here a little bit more for it is the case that a stressed elastic body will eventually give in by either wearing its original integrity and resistance out or by breaking. In other words being elastic gets tiring. People will eventually come to terms and they’ll begin realizing that you are a rootless and oppressive dictator or just another romantically driven thief that can bullshit with style or, as it is my case, just somebody who has kept a guitar a little longer than expected. And so the call came. I overheard because the speaker in the phone was too loud and so before the message was given to me I was left staring blankly into the void in a limbo between the actual and the possible and, frankly, quite saddened. They’ll be picking it up tomorrow and I’ll be…well: guitarless to say the least. And well, to say the most: down, idle and occasionally even wildly distraught.

I’ve been thinking about the busking a great deal. I was to restart precisely tomorrow and now I have to rethink the whole deal. I guess I can stop and wait a few weeks so that I can buy myself an extremely inexpensive acoustic guitar that suits that capo I got for the holidays. Or (insert visuals of a nervous but exited smirk) I can try to busk in the meantime with another instrument and see how that works. I know I can’t move that 1974 Wurlitzer organ even an inch, so that is out of the question.  Besides, I don’t know how to play it, I use it as a tuner. But besides the organ, a drum set and a violin we also own a little Turkish drum that I purchased in Istanbul and which used to accompany me in my hitch-hiking trips through central Mexico. I also busked with it a few times in Juarez when I was younger, I can try it again. I guess it’ll take me maybe three or four days to come up with at least a few decent patterns so that I don’t drive people crazy with the same drum beat for hours. Wish me luck. Or wish me a guitar, any will do.

2nd spotsotoulisesimg_0114.jpgimg_0079.jpg

 I just know she’ll miss it.