Friday, June 7, 2013

Omaha 1

Busking is like riding a bike, but this bike has been in the shed for a year. And although you have ridden it around the driveway, you will find that this was not adequate preparation for the noon lunch-rush in the Old Market. The generosity of Omahans, however, will surprise you just as much as your faulty lyrical memory.

In a concert set list, the number three slot is critical—on albums, too. Unfortunately it is on your number three that you falter, transposing and even forgetting several pieces of Fear of Trains. (Fear of Trains, really?!) You didn’t pick a fixed spot to look at, you’ve never sung in this town before and hey, who is that possibly sketchy guy who has taken up residence on the corner? Either he is your number one fan or he is simply ogling.

Be kind. You’ll come to find out that he is Paul, he works around here, and he encourages you to play on a weekend as long as you are not directly in front of a business establishment. He will tell you your voice is “pretty enough” to make a killing here on a Saturday, and you will alternately focus on either of those words--pretty or enough--as you stumble through sixteen more songs before your fingers are raw and you run out of water.

Someone throws change and all of a sudden this is on. You sail through a few more songs and even catch yourself dancing during one. The spot you’d scoped out even before moving here is a gem—covered, with a backstop for your stuff, in a high-traffic area, and on a corner. Perfect, except it isn’t level, and at one point you kind of sway sideways right into a lady walking down Howard Street. Plant your feet and sing on. Play one of your originals because a mother and daughter team will like it and throw a buck.

Keep singing. The dollars seem to come out of nowhere as soon as your fingers have warmed up. And then, rather inconveniently, just as you jump into Friend of the Devil, a field trip of 30 six-year-olds will parade by with good intentions and puzzled looks. While you’re up on Capo 7, try Termites because it turns out to be highly buskable. Who knew?

You can always slow it down to rest when you feel your energy is waning. Good Feeling plays so well you are heartened to find that a second wind is coming. More money comes, too. Cover those bills with coins because it’s windy, but stop staring into your case; you’ve already made three mistakes on Venus in Transit and it’s showing in your confidence.

The lunch crowd has cycled through 60 minutes, so it might be time to repeat the old stand-bys you started with. After all, people keep passing and throwing money, so don’t stop now even though your feet are aching and your throat is sore. Pull out one more Wilder Than Her and one more Love Goes Home to Paris in the Spring. “You never give me anything” in the chorus has a way of guilting people into paying for your last song.

There’s more than enough for a record, so head down to Homer’s or Imaginarium Back in the Day. After considering a Moody Blues album, you’ll end up going with the Jethro Tull one only because it has your name on the back. When you get home, you’ll find that most of the songs skip. It’s as disappointing as your Omaha busking debut. But it’s yours now.

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