Water. Fingers. Wind. Altitude.
Noise. (You are a part of it now.)
Song list. Parking meter.
When you find your spot, the key is to act like you know exactly what you’re doing, especially if there are people around or if you are in front of a prestigious bookstore that might kick you away for loitering. Look tough, act tough while you are setting up. It is best to have something at knee or hip height to put your water bottle on.
Tune only if you are stalling. You arrive and there is no pretense, no one to introduce you. It is just you and the first chord of Wilder Than Her.
Know your songs. Know them really, really well because there will be many distractions. People. People talking. People talking on cell phones. The very people you are playing to. Firefighters right up in your face asking if that Colin Meloy song is by Joan Baez.
Some songs work better than others. Do not play a musical interlude ever. Sing the chorus again. Do not sing a story song unless it’s a well-known favorite. Songs with preachy imperative chorus taglines work best as someone is walking by. And do not underestimate the rare person walking by without earbuds. That person can hear you, so sing out.
Save some for the end, though. Don’t spend it all on Born on a Train because there are nine songs left and you are in the Mile-High City now and the elevation is getting to you.
The people who pause or stop on the adjacent bench or smile sometimes mean more than the people who give money.
Some do give money. You are sorry you did not interrupt the line about the hurricane to say thank you. You are sorry, and thrilled, that it’s lunchtime and the foot traffic is almost a constant flow. You are sorry that after 50 minutes your fingers will give out, that is if you don’t run out of water first, that is if your feet in their unsupportive-but-must-wear cowboy boots do not give out first.
You are in the shade. That’s good, because across the street people walk in the unrelenting sun in shorts and flip-flops—their gazes either a permanent squint, or devilishly cool behind sunglasses.
A troupe of school kids files by. They think you are a freak of nature, but in a good way, and their leader/teacher/docent person wishes they were paying attention to the Colorado history lesson at this corner.
But one of those kids is still watching as you pack up your guitar. And you feel like the coolest person on earth.