The annual St. Johns Parade is a time of great excitement in this otherwise sleepy neighborhood. Several people have urged me to play somewhere in St. Johns on other days because “nothing much ever happens here.”
And I have to say, when I got to this plaza, it was warm but not terribly hot, yet the people scattered around seemed a bit listless. Some people waited for a bus, and it seemed like there was a couple of vacationing families adjusting to the reality of how far it was from their “hotel in Portland” to Powell’s and Voodoo Doughnuts. So yeah, nothing much was going on.
I found a spot on N. Philadelphia Ave. and set up. I didn’t want to be too intrusive, but most of the people within earshot were listening to something on their phones and probably wouldn’t hear me anyway. I put out the benches and started my first song.
If I had to describe the response I got, it was mainly confusion about why anyone would be doing this in St. Johns on a day when the only people around are waiting for a bus or puzzling over how distant their “hotel in Portland” is from Powell’s and Voodoo doughnuts. My benches are usually good for attracting at least a tired pedestrian or two to sit for a few minutes, but on this day, nothing doing.
A couple of people sitting against a distant wall watched a few songs, but took the occasion of my inviting them to sit on these comfy benches as their cue to leave. And it wasn’t like anyone took their place. It was mostly pretty desolate; people walked within a few hundred feet of me, but almost no one tried to get any closer.
Over the next forty-five minutes, a few different people did walk up to ask the same question: “How long have you been doing this?” Meaning, how long have I been playing as a one man band? I felt like they were either gauging how long it would take them to become adept compared to how far I’ve gotten in a couple of years; or gauging how long I’ve had this particular mania.
One person did tell me I had a nice voice. This means no matter how surprised anyone watching might have been to see someone playing music in St. Johns, I was still the most surprised of all.
I treated this as a kind of public practice session, running through some new songs and some trickier older songs. After about 45 minutes I packed up and headed to the St. Johns Beer Porch. The outing became a pleasant memory, punctuated by a delicious falafel sandwich and a cold beer.