Kind of went full-Portland on this one: acoustical one man band show, to which I travelled by bicycle, towing my gear in a trailer. Still oddly nice weather in Portland, so I wanted to play in a park. Thinking back, there was a park I played in that was a little difficult owing to grey skies and cold, plus the impediment of playing on soft, almost muddy grass. (It’s really hard to time the bass drum when the distance from heel to pedal varies while you play.)
Well, if you haven’t noticed by now, performing music in public is often about a kind of redemption; it’s like returning to a fishing hole after coming up empty the weekend before. So I knew just the park to play in: Sumner-Albina City Park. Again.
I arrived earlier than the 3pm start time I announced, so I walked around and checked the ground, figured out a good spot to play from (up against the wall!) and started to set up. Because the bar adjacent to the park has an outdoor patio, I let the people sitting there know I was going to play. I told them I hoped they’d enjoy the show, but if not, just give a thumbs-down and I’ll quit. A man identifying himself as the owner of the bar—let’s call it the Crimson Canine—said, as the owner he wasn’t worried because he would stop me if I became a nuisance in any event. Really wasn’t expecting such a cheerless, humorless response, but…okay. (For the record, this is a public city park. Tiny, but public, i.e., merely adjacent to the bar, not owned by the bar.)
I’m happy to report the nuisance issue never arose again. I wouldn’t say the patio people were uniformly thrilled to have me there—for the first half hour, you might have thought they were legally prohibited from applauding—but I didn’t see any thumbs down, either. Sometimes you have to re-define “victory” as “not losing by as much as you expected.”
I started out playing to basically no one, but eventually some people stopped, and some friends showed up, and by the end it felt like a pretty good show. The sun was bright, and I didn’t want any spectators (it happens!) to be squinting while trying to see me, so I stood against the wall facing the sun. This might have been less considerate than I thought, though, because people standing around on a warm-ish but not exactly “warm” day may wish they were in the sun. Sorry, guys!
Towards the end of the show, a woman approached me, saying she was the “Creative Laureate” of Portland. And insisted there really is such a thing. (There really is!) She’s working on a project called “Talk to Strangers” and documents an encounter with a stranger each day of the year. Today I was that lucky stranger, and you can follow Julie’s adventures on the Talk to Strangers site.
After all that, I remembered I was trying to raise money for my friend Priya to use toward a handicap-accessible van, so I made the long walk over to the patio to see if anyone wanted to contribute, either directly to me, or by visiting Priya’s website. I would describe the overall reaction of the people seated on the patio as…thumbs down!
And so, as promised, I left.