Last Week in Oregon

So today is Friday, and its been a pretty good week overall.  Everything got stretched pretty thin this week, but somehow things seemed to work out in the end.  When I got to Ashland I had about fifteen dollars and a quarter tank of gas.  I bought two big turkey sandwiches at Safeway for four bucks, and ate one for dinner and the other for breakfast, figuring I’d just cook up some mac and cheese for the next meal.  In between sandwiches I hit an open mic, right when I got into town.  I only bought two drinks, but I was immediately down to six bucks in my pocket.  So I woke up on Monday with about six bucks, most of it in change, and figured I should look into ways to make some extra cash.  So I spent two bucks at a coffee shop called the Beanery to charge up and do a little research, and found a couple different farmers markets going on this week within 20 miles.  Craigslist was empty, and that was kind of eerie in itself, but I figured I could probably make at least a couple bucks at a market.  So I got my directions to each place I was going, and left the shop on Monday afternoon and continue my search for a phone store.

I had totally forgotten that Halloween fell on a Monday this year, and so after the weekend of seeing people in costumes all over Eugene, I guess I though the holiday was already over.  I was mistaken though, and Ashland did a good job reminding me that costume season was not over yet.  In fact, there was a parade and a festival-type thing downtown in the park where all sorts of musicians came out and helped create a jovial atmosphere.  I didn’t realize that any of this was happening until I left the coffee shop to find a Verizon store, and the directions led me right through the heart of downtown.  I turned off my radio and put down the windows and passed by a guy on an accordion, and there was a four or five piece bluegrass band playing about fifty feet past him.  I thought about parking and setting up with a guitar as well, but it was already getting dark, and subsequently it was starting to get cold.  It just didn’t seem worth it.  The parade had been at 3pm, and now that it was after six, all the kids in costumes were getting ready to hit the neighborhoods to collect as much candy as they could carry.  I was amazed at the amount of people in costumes though; it was pretty awesome.  Ashland is also a college town, the home of Southern Oregon University, and there was no shortage of students walking around, fully dressed up and “brown bagging” it.  I made a stop to check out the Caldera Tap House, where I have a show this Friday, and it was packed with people in costumes.  I saw a couple posters up on the walls, and that was nice cause I hadn’t seem them since I put them in the mail in Portland.  I probably would have hung out and had a drink, but one of the waitresses told me that they were closing early, and they were only open on a Monday because it was Halloween.  I figured I didn’t need the beer anyway and headed back to the coffee shop where I’d been hanging out for most of the afternoon to use their internet from the van.   I found another phone store that was relatively close, about fifteen miles north in Medford.  One of the farmers markets that I had looked up was in Medford on Thursday,  so I decided to stay one more night and then head north for a couple days before coming back to play a show at the Tap House.  Medford is a little bigger than Ashland, but it seems to lose that “small town charm” with too many one way streets and concrete dividers between them.  The scenery is still beautiful, but it just had a different vibe about it, like the vibe you get when you stumble into a rough neighborhood..

Anyway, I found what I was looking for and stuck around for a couple days before playing at the farmers market.  It was worth it.  I cleaned out the van while it was sunny, and then played guitar when it was cold, and I even cleaned the windshield, inside and out.  I spent about a two dollars each day at places that have electricity/WiFi, and by the time Thursday morning came I had one single paper dollar and sixty-one cents in change.  I had cleaned out the van completely, so there was no change hiding in the cracks.  I parked at the Holiday Inn right next to the market, and when I woke up it was raining, but I just laid in bed and listened to it come and go in bouts, and then it just cleared up entirely.  I moved to the front seat and counted my shekels before grabbing the guitar and I realized that I had to get to work, but even just making two dollars would have doubled my money.  So I put on my game face and grabbed my stuff and took a walk around the market.  I should probably mention that I hadn’t been sleeping well all week, and while I was cleaning out the van I found some more Niquil.  I try and keep the little green pills in stock just in case I feel the slightest tinge of a cold; I’ll take two of those, drink some apple juice and pass out at 8pm just to get rid of a cold before it hits me.  I hate being sick, so most of the time that works to nip it in the ass.  In this case, I felt a tinge of a sore throat, and I knew I had a show in two days, so on Wednesday night I took a couple green pills and I slept like a rock.  When I woke up on Thursday I was pretty groggy, and the rain wasn’t helping my motivation, so even once I got up, I must have looked a drag walking around the market.  I only saw one other musician, and he had a lap dulcimer, but he didn’t play it at all.  I was looking at an empty spot where there was no vendor, and a lady from across the way came over and said “are you gonna play for us..?”   She asked if I had checked with management and then she walked me to the info tent to ask about playing, and they seemed surprised to hear the question.  They said to go right ahead and play, so I went back to that spot and opened up the case, pulled out the harps, and dropped my last dollar bill in to bait the case.  Then I started with a slow song, partly because I was still waking up and partly because it was a pretty quiet farmers market.  It was really odd though, cause I felt like I was like trudging through sludge; my voice was groggy and sounded foreign to me, but somehow the harmonica was right on point.  I guess it didn’t have to warm up.  Anyway, I just kept going, and my voice woke up within thirty or forty minutes.  After that things got easier, and I ended up playing for about two hours.  My one dollar turned into twenty-five, and most of the vendors around me threw food in my case.  I ended up with a hot tamale for breakfast, a huge head of broccoli, two cucumbers, a tomato, red pepper and a loaf of garlic cheddar bread.  It was a good way to start a Thursday.  After that I went down the street to get a drink of water and charge up the computer at Burger King.  I went in and spent one dollar on an order of chicken nuggets and a water, but when the tray was ready it had about fifteen nuggets on on.  The girl smiled at me and said “these ones were up under lights for about five minutes, so I thought I’d just throw em on your order.”  I was stoked, I’d just eaten a hot tamale, but more chicken nuggets are always welcome.

This particular Burger King had WiFi, so I hung out and sent a couple emails that I’d been neglecting, and then started on this blog entry.  When the computer was almost charged, an older couple came in and sat down at the booth across from me.  We started talking about music and cruise ships, and they said they had toured with the Grateful Dead for years, and Victoria is very good friends with Steve Kimock, who is a brilliant guitarist.  They said that he had played at the Caldera Tap House on the previous Saturday, and I almost blushed cause sure enough, I’m the entertainment there tonight.  We’re in completely different realms, but its kind of cool to know that such a good musician had the same stage last weekend.  Anyway, I talked to Albert and Victoria for about thirty or forty minutes at Burger King, and then when they finished their meal, they invited me to come back to their house and they’d send me off with a bunch of live recordings.  I looked at my computer and it was at 99 percent charged, so I thought what the hell, why not.  With names like Albert and Victoria, they couldn’t be dangerous.  So I followed them about a mile back to their house, and ended up with a bunch of live recordings of Steve Kimock, the Everyone Orchestra, and some bands I’ve never heard of before.  We just hung out and talked about music for an hour while Albert burned a bunch of CDs for me, and then when it got dark I headed out to find the natural hot springs that I had heard about from so many locals.  I found the hot springs, but it started to rain just as I got there, so I decide to just crash in the parking lot there and walk in come morning.  It worked out pretty well; they allow camping in the adjacent field, so its not uncommon to have a handful of cars parked in the parking lot overnight.  So when I woke up the sun was out, and I was already parked at a natural hot springs resort with a spa and a pool .  I walked into the office and gave the pretty girl eight bucks to use the facilities, and then took a shower before going into the mineral water hot tub.  It was pretty nice, and I ended up hanging out in the hot tub for more than an hour.  Then I tried the spa for a couple minutes, but there was some creepy guy in a speedo in there, so I left and took another shower on the way out.  I put on some clean dry clothes and headed the rest of the way into Ashland, which was really only about a mile.  I kept seeing signs for a Shakespeare Festival, so I thought I’d go and check out the grounds.  At first I thought it was like a renaissance festival, and they held it once a year for a couple months, but it turned out that it  lasts from March to October, and then during the winter, there are a couple buildings with theaters, and they literally put on Shakespearian plays year round.  I don’t really have the money to go and watch a play, so I kept going to the classier joint down the street: Wendy’s.  A chicken sandwich and a value fries later, I’m almost finished with this blog entry.  I’ve got a show in about three hours, but there’s an art walk this evening from 5-8, and it takes place in the park right outside the Tap House, so I’ll probably go check that out for a while.  And when it gets dark, I’ll go inside and play some music..

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