The Economic Adventures of a Transborder Street Musician

Heading down south for the big Pesos.

Fitter, Happier, More Productive… March 1, 2008

Filed under: Fridays — ramonalvarado @ 2:47 am
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I was nervously excited yet there wasn’t a way for me to overtly express it as obviously as I once did with frenetic pedaling when on a bicycle. Full speed-an amazing and mind boggling 18 mph- I surfed my Goped amidst the cars in central El Paso. Maybe my turns and zigzags were slightly more anxious, maybe my head was stiffer all the while, maybe I gave a few more fingers or yelled a few more obscenities to cellphone driver drones; maybe I did all of that at the same time, many times, at every a single swift  of my wobbly Goped but I wouldn’t know. I was nervous.

I arrived at the downtown area where I surfed past the streets at cruising-speed but because of the narrowness of the lanes, the smallness of my being amongst the buildings and the ant-like illusion of the crowd I just felt faster, action-style faster. I arrived, I parked and I walked through the border. It’s funny but you can really smell it as soon as you are right halfway past the Rio Grande. A mixture smell of smog and lard flows towards your face as you walk down the bridge. It smells as it sounds as it tastes, like the language: spicy, spacey, spoty but also quite diffused…lardy.  Something between a taco and a cloud.


I have this vision of an image being swallowed by a vacuum. That’s how it felt when I opened the guitar case on the sidewalk. Everything shut up as if absorbed by that hollow in the heart of my instrument. It was a beautiful day but I couldn’t play for that long. My fingers and throat need to readjust to the task.

Day 17 


Amount of money made: $5.57

Time played: maybe 1 hr.

Exchange rate: 10.6o pesos per dollar.

Being back: let me check my MasterCard…oh, yes, priceless.


71°F February 14, 2008

Filed under: Wednesday — ramonalvarado @ 1:32 am
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I wasn’t going to, I had other things to do during the day and besides I hadn’t quite properly prepared but I went for it anyway because the weather said so. I looked out the window, decided to do it and then gathered up my stuff. I went to the room in the back to tune my guitar with my Wurlitzer tuner/something else (500 lb. church organ or something like that), cut the excess string from the new strings I’d just installed yesterday, grabbed the guitar strap from my son’s guitar, put it on mine, got it in the case. I also changed clothing from a t-shirt to a shirt and a coat, I got my passport and put it in my purse (I’ll keep on calling it like that, don’t you even mention it!), grabbed my goggles, reflective vest, helmet and a sip of water just before heading out.

Right at the door I decided that it was a bit much to carry the purse with me when my guitar case had extra pockets for gear. So I went back to seat my guitar on the couch, got my camera, my chain and my passport out of the purse and into the guitar case pockets.

As I was going out I thought it was a bad idea to have my passport just dangling around with the rest of the stuff, so I stopped, got it out and into the little side pocket of my coat it went. Once outside I got my goped started, warmed it up a bit, accelerated on neutral two or three times and headed towards the front yard door. While doing so I felt a bit overdressed. Never mind wearing a fancy shirt or  a coat to busk in the streets, but rather the fact that such a coat was dark dark blue and made out of wool while it was sunny and 71°F outside. So I went back in, threw the coat on the bed, got another sip of water, rushed out, got on the goped and took off.


The ride was quite nice actually. The streets of downtown El Paso were buzzing with people and they all stared at the goped as if it was something out of this world, not like cool-out of this world, but rather ridiculous-out of this world. With a face that seemed to say something like “what’s that gonna do when it gets squashed by a Hummer!” Anyway, I arrived at the bridge, proceeded to lock my goped and helmet and as I walked towards the booth to pay my 35c to cross the bridge I remembered…the coat, the little left side inner pocket and my passport inside of it. Needless to say, I didn’t make it across the border. It was just one of those instances where you can picture the strawberry ice cream ball tumbling towards the floor from your clumsily tipped cone, all in slow motion. I just unlocked my goped, got on it and headed back home full speed.


So you thought… February 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ramonalvarado @ 8:18 pm
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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!