Caldera Tap House

So the Caldera Tap House was a beautiful disaster.  I got there around 8pm to play a show from 9-12 and introduced myself to the bartender.  She handed me a menu and said I could have anything that they serve, so I got a huge burger with bacon and steak fries and tried out some beers I’d never had before.  The Tap House is an extension of the Caldera Brewing Company, so they had more than twenty beers on tap and full descriptions of each of them.  I started with an amber ale to wash down the burger and then progressively moved to darker beers throughout the night.  At one point I had a beer that tasted like smoke, which was pretty amazing.. it was like drinking a campfire.  When I finished eating I got out the guitar and everything, and decided to play entirely acoustic.  The room was pretty small, and I’m used to projecting from busking on the streets, so I didn’t think it’d be an issue.  When I started there were only about fifteen people there, but I suppose I underestimated the power of alcohol and the effects that it can have on volume.  I ended up belting over the sounds of the crowd and strumming a little harder than I usually do, and after about ten songs I broke a string.  The crowd had multiplied, and one of the waitresses came over and recommended that I use the PA system to make things a little louder.  So I took an early set break, changed the string and set up the house PA, which was hiding in the corner.  Only thing is that it was missing certain elements like speaker cables and a mic stand, so I ran out to the van and used some of my stuff to put it together.  I got it working and then went back to playing with a fresh D string, and as luck would have it I broke another string within three songs.  So I apologized and went about looking for a replacement, but I didn’t have it.  I spent a couple minutes shuffling through all the strings that I have, spreading them out on the stage looking for the one that I needed.  I had broken a G string, and all I had was another D string to replace it, so I put it on the guitar anyway.  Unfortunately, just as it was almost tuned, the string snapped and I was SOL.  It just wasn’t meant to be pulled so tightly.  So I bolted to the van and grabbed the classical guitar that I got in Denver and finished the show with that.  The Dean Markley pickup wouldn’t fit into the hole on the smaller guitar, so I couldn’t amplify it except through the mic.  So instead I pulled up a stool and placed the microphone so that it was facing down towards the guitar and then crouched over to sing through it as well.  It was a little awkward, and the nylon strings were far quieter than my guitar had been in the first place, but I wasn’t about to just stop halfway through the show.  But I did have a microphone, and whatever I may have lacked in volume I tried to make up for with enthusiasm.  And people kept piling into the bar, which was awesome.  By the time the end of the night came, people were singing along with classic rock songs from the Band, The Troggs and Bob Dylan, and I ended up playing until about 12:30.  My tip jar looked like it had about ten or fifteen bucks in it, and I thought that was all I was getting paid for this show, plus the free meal and drinks.  But as it turned out one of the waitresses had collected a small cover from people as they came in the door, and she handed me 70 bucks while I was cleaning up.  I was pretty stoked, to say the least.  I went outside with the bartender for a couple minutes, and when we came back in Pink Floyd was blaring over the speakers, and I knew I had played at the right bar.  I ended up going out to a nearby bar with the bartender and the other girls who had been working all evening, and we closed it down proper.  I was already pretty toasted when we left the Tap House, so I tried to take it easy, but somehow jello shots made it to the table.  When the bar closed down, we walked back from whence we had come and after a series of bear hugs, we all went our separate ways.  I went to the Holiday Inn parking lot and passed out heavily.

When I pulled into the lot I was surprised that there were so many cars.  There were only two or three open spots in the whole parking lot, so I squeezed into one and then slept like a bear.  When I woke up in the morning, most of the cars around me had already packed up and left.  I checked the time, and it was quarter after ten, so I put tow and two together and figured that would leave plenty of unoccupied rooms in the hotel that the maids hadn’t gotten to yet.  I got dressed and packed up everything that I would need for a shower, and then walked in the front entrance like I owned the place.  I didn’t get a funny look from anybody, and sure enough I found an empty room with an unlocked door at the end of the hallway.  I hesitantly knocked on the door as I walked in, introducing myself as “housekeeping,” in case there was someone in there.  But the room was empty- it was a mess, but it was empty.  So I locked the door and took a long hot shower to start out the morning and attempt to wash away a hangover.  Afterwards I gathered my things and walked out; I was at the end of the hallway by a side entrance, so I just walked outside and back around to the van.  Mission accomplished.

Next mission: food.  I stopped at Wendy’s for some greasy fries to help combat the alcohol and ordered a “tall water” to go with it.  Then I went to go pick up some new guitar strings at a local music shop, and then stopped at a laundromat to get everything fresh and clean again.  After that I went to charge up the computer again, and once charged I went looking for another parking spot and crashed early.  I changed out my guitar strings first, but I was pretty exhausted, and sleep was the right kind of medicine.


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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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Sand Dunes and Farmers Markets

I ended up busking in the afternoons in Florence for most of the week that I was there, charging up and doing research in the evenings, and then playing guitar and watching a western almost every night.  I’m not sure if I mentioned it in the blog, but when I was in Lawrence, KS, I stopped at a Walmart and found a DVD in the five-dollar box that has 20 great westerns on it, so I had to get it.  Most of them have John Wayne or Lee Van Clef, but there’s quite a few of them where I don’t know any of the actors.  Anyway, when I’m of a mind to watch a movie I just make sure the computer is charged, put up all the blankets and towels around the windows, and then post up in the back of the van wherever it is I’m planning to crash that night.  In Florence I moved from McDonald’s to the Safeway parking lot down the street, with a couple other RVs.  There’s really not much to do in Florence; most of the population is retired and spends their time fishing and walking around old town in the afternoon, and most everything closes around 8pm.  There are a couple bars that stay open, but I was trying to save money, so I didn’t go to the bar until Friday night when I played at the Bay Street Grille.  Overall, it really wasn’t a bad week; busking is great, westerns are awesome, and on Thursday I broke a string while playing on the street, so I took the rest of the afternoon and explored the dunes.  It was kind of nice because it was a weekday and I was the only one out there; I felt like I was wandering through the desert or something.  When I got to the top of the first dune, I saw one of the two natural freshwater lakes in the park at the bottom of the hill, and off to my left I could see the ocean on the horizon.   I had half a mind to hike to the coast, but it’s always further than it looks, and it was already after four by the time I made it to the top.  So I went down to the lake instead, which was full of surprisingly warm water.  I bolted down the hill in giant leaps, taking running starts and then launching myself off the edge at the steepest parts.  That’s the only way to go down a dune if you ask me.  It’s almost like flying for a brief second, and you can cover twenty or thirty foot expanses with one jump because of the angle of the hill, without having to worry about a rough landing.  The only things I had to worry about were sand in my eyes and the wind taking my hat on the way down.  The sand there was like powder; just really fine off-white grains that didn’t even stick to my feet as I was exploring the dunes.  Or at least it didn’t stick until near the end when I waded out into the lake for a while and came back with wet feet; then it stuck like cement mix.  They had a diving platform out in the middle of the lake, and I got the feeling that this must be a pretty popular spot in the summer months.   After I the sun had gone down, I worked my way back to the van, and started to drive out of the park, but then realized that there were RV campgrounds everywhere, and I could probably find a place to take a hot shower.  Sure enough, I found a campground in Loop B that had a couple showers, so I got cleaned up before heading back into Florence.  It was beautiful; I had the showers to myself and the water pressure would have blown me over if I didn’t hold a power stance the whole time.  I went back into town feeling quite refreshed, and then decided to call it an early night since I had a show the following evening.  So I went straight to my temporary home at Safeway and passed out heavily til morning.

I slept in and then went back to old town to play on the streets for a little while; I had a couple songs I wanted to practice so that I’d be able to play them in the evening.  It was cloudy out and threatening rain, so people were sparse and I only made a couple dollars while playing, but it was still well worth it.  I had a late lunch and then charged up at McDonald’s one last time.  I made sure to get directions to the next place so I wouldn’t need to stop again in the morning.  Then I went to the Bay Street Grille and had a couple dark beers while waiting for my set time, and then played a two hour set for the handful of people who were there on a rainy Friday night.  It was a pretty good show though, and I ended up doing fairly well with tips and everything.  The restaurant closed down around 11:30, and I decided I should probably just crash.  I was halfway to drunk and could have kept going at the bar next door, but my plan was to play at the Saturday Farmers Market in Eugene the following morning, so sleep sounded like a better idea.  I crashed in the Safeway parking lot one final night and then woke up before seven because of the beer, so I filled the tank and went eastward.

It was about an hour and a half drive to get to Eugene, and I was there by nine in the morning.  My directions took me straight to the farmers market, which was downtown, and I got out and took a good long walk around the city before stopping back to grab the guitar and such.  Eugene is a pretty cool place and I met three or four other musicians on the streets, one of them who just went by “Grandpa.”  When I started setting up at the market, a guy with a beard came up to me and asked if I had signed up for this spot, and I told him no, I’d never been here and didn’t realize that there was a sign up sheet.  So he directed me to the information tent and watched my stuff for me while I went and signed up for a musician’s spot.  I got to the info tent and talked to the guy that was manning it; apparently there were four places that were designated for musicians to play for one-hour time slots throughout the day.  You could sign up as many times as you wanted, so I signed up for Site 3, where I had been setting up anyway, and then signed up for another time slot at Site 1, where there had been an old guy singing the blues when I first walked up.  It was as easy as that.  I went back and played for about an hour where I had left my stuff, and then when my time slot was finished I had a little over an hour to hang out before I was set to play again at a different spot.  So I dropped the guitar back at the van, moved parking spots so I wouldn’t get a ticket, and then took a walk around the market.  It had grown far busier since the early morning, and all the booths were fully set up now.  I asked some pretty girls if they had the time, and they just pointed at a giant clock on the bank across the street.  I blushed, and then realized that I had about an half an hour till I was set to play, so I started meandering my way back to the van and crossed paths with Grandpa again.  He recognized me from carrying the guitar earlier, so I had a good conversation with him about busking and life, and he said he’s been doing this for a living for the last thirty years.  He was posted up on a corner right by a parking garage, just one block away from the farmers market.  Most of the people who went to the market parked in this garage, and he had a spot right at the bottom of the stairs.  He said this had been his Saturday spot for decades now, and he got there early every weekend to stake his claim.  He smiled and waved and made comments to almost every pretty girl that walked by, and he even had a duck call that he was using to attract attention and make people laugh.  This guy had some character for sure, and when he played, he had a really strong baritone voice as well.  After twenty minutes or so, I told him I had to go grab my guitar and play at the market, and he told me I should light one up before my set, to which I laughed and then went on my way.

I got the guitar and then walked back to the market, and this time I had the spot with the most foot traffic.  I played for over an hour and tried not to repeat any songs from the first session, and I ended up filling the guitar case and selling a couple CDs.  I thought it was kind of cool actually that it was organized by the market; this keeps musicians from stepping on each others toes and gives everyone a fair chance to set up and play.  When it was all said and done, I packed up and headed back towards the van, but stopped again when I got to Grandpa.  He said he was getting ready to call it a day, and that if I wanted his corner, he’d give it to me for the rest of the day.  He said he’d rather I get it than some junkie that’s selling newspapers to pay for his habit, and being pushy about it.  So I told him I had to get a sandwich from the car first, but I could be down to play for another hour or two.  He said he’d hold the spot until I got back, and then started packing up his stuff.  I went and got my sandwich, hit the restrooms, and then posted up at the third spot in Eugene since I’d showed up only five hours earlier.  When I got back to the corner Grandpa was all packed up, so he picked up his stuff, smiled at me and said “knock em dead, kid,” and then walked off down the street.

Now the market itself and the garage nearby are two entirely different spreads for playing music.  At the market, people are gathered in close proximity, checking out fresh produce and cheese, pumpkins, corn, homemade honey, woodwork and other types of art at the stands nearby, and as a musician you help to provide the soundtrack for browsing.  In other words, the crowd is already gathered, and you just add to the atmosphere by providing music.  At the parking garage, people are passing on their way to and from the market and other places downtown, and the longest gathering of a crowd is when they’re waiting for the crosswalk to change.  As a result, when you play a song, its not uncommon for most people to only catch twenty or thirty seconds of it before walking by.  And I think that is the reason Grandpa had a duck call; he would talk to almost everyone that passed, and kind of pull them in for a minute or two; a little bit different from just providing music.  The benefit of that spot was that it was covered if it rained, and it had really good acoustics, especially for the harmonica.   I took the opportunity to play a bunch of songs that I don’t play very often so I can keep them in my repertoire, and there was a guy sitting on the stairs texting when I played some songs from the 90’s, and afterwards he got up and threw a twenty in the case before he walked away.  I didn’t stop playing until it was after five in the afternoon and the market was all closed up.  All in all, I made about seventy bucks during the day, and that was plenty to get me down to Ashland for the next show.

After playing, I went and met a couple at a restaurant to purchase an old phone from them.  I had found it on craigslist, and we’d been communicating via email for almost a week, so this was the final step.  It had been sort of a mess to get it all together, but we finally connected up on Saturday evening.  I got the phone, and went straight to a Verizon store, and unfortunately it turned out to be too old to reactivate, not because it was in bad shape, but because it was made before cell phones were wired to make emergency calls whether they are in service or not.  Basically I was told that it is now illegal for Verizon to activate the phone because of the cell phone laws that are currently in place.  So I sent another email to the woman from whom I had bought the phone, let her know what they had told me, and asked if I could maybe trade it for the other phone they were selling.  She was more than willing to make a trade, and felt bad for giving me such an outdated phone.  I bear no grudge at all, she couldn’t have known that was an issue, and I was just trying to get a phone that I can get to work.  She told me they were leaving town in the morning, but they were going to stop at Denny’s around 7:15am, so if I could get there by 7:45, she would trade out the phones and give me my money back.  I’m not really an early riser, and without a phone, I don’t have an alarm clock either, so I decided to just park at Denny’s and sleep there.  Miraculously I woke up at 6:40 and slowly tried to wake myself up.  At 7:30, I was sitting in the front seat putting on my sandals to walk inside, and they walked up to my door with the other phone.  I talked to them for a couple minutes, gave them a CD and thanked them profusely, and then lied back down in bed.  I was kinda dozing a little bit, and then I got another knock on my door.  I leaned forward, and it was that same couple again, and they had brought me breakfast!  I couldn’t believe it; after all the mess to get the phone, try the phone, trade out the phone, and twenty-six emails back and forth, they came and brought me breakfast in bed!  They wished me all the best and then headed out on their way, and with a hot breakfast in front of me, I couldn’t just go back to sleep.  So I pulled out the computer and found that I had free WiFi from Denny’s, and I watched some good old-fashioned Sunday morning cartoons.  I don’t know how old I’ll get in the big scheme of things, but I hope I never get too old to enjoy things like Bugs Bunny and Speedy Gonzalez.  Anyway, I had a fantastic Sunday morning, and then I went to try the other phone at a Verizon store, but it wouldn’t work either.  I knew it was a long shot cause it was a Cingular phone, and so it didn’t even bother me when they said it wouldn’t work with Verizon.  I stopped to charge up at a Starbucks and put the word out, and have since found a couple phones that will work for me, but I’ve gotta find a way to get one sent to me in Oregon.  I’ll figure it out this week, but either way I needed to be in Ashland for a show this Friday, so once again I followed the sun and went south.  It was a three and a half hour drive straight down the I-5, and I got there just in time to hit up an open mic.  There was some really good talent at this open mic, and they had an upright piano that got plenty of use for a Sunday night.  I stayed out far too late, hanging out with a bunch of locals, and then at the end of the night I passed out nearby at a Holiday Inn parking lot.   That was last night.  We’ll see what adventures the new week brings..

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October in Oregon

Well, Lincoln City was a cool place, but I ended up having a mixed time there, mostly just because I lost my phone..  I played on that first Sunday that I got there, and then the next day was beautiful, so I went back to the beach.  I spent all day out there in shorts and a T-shirt, playing guitar on some giant driftwood logs.  I made food on the camping stove, and then later charged up the computer McMennamin’s Pub and got some dinner.  While exploring the coastline, I saw a small sand cave about 30 feet up on a cliff facing the ocean, and I decided to try and make my way to it.  So I walked around the base of the cliff, and then thought it might be better to try and get there from above.  I took a drainage trail up the side of the cliff, and then grabbed some rope from the van.  There was an old wooden fence along the top of the cliff, so I tied off the rope to one of the fenceposts and climbed down over the edge, finding that the cave was only about twelve feet down, and it had its own cliff face that created something of a “porch,” which went out another six or eight feet.  The sand cave was about seven feet wide and six feet deep, and the of the course the ceiling got shorter as you moved to the back of the cave.  It was tall enough to sit in though, and it blocked out the wind and had one hell of a view.  In fact, I thought it was such a cool place that I decided to camp there for the next couple days.  I climbed back up the rope and made a stop at the van, and brought back supplies of all sorts: sheets, blankets, sleeping bag, cooking gear and firewood.  Then I dug a small fire pit on the “porch,” and built a teepee to light after it got dark.  It was a pretty awesome place, and I watched the sunset from the cave, and then actually pulled out the laptop and watched a movie in a sand cave a hundred feet from the ocean.  I thought I’d be a little cold at night, but it turned out to be pretty comfortable, and you can’t beat sleeping to the sounds of waves crashing.  Now if you’re gonna live in a sand cave, be prepared to get sand everywhere.  I was especially careful when I had the laptop out, but any time your head brushes the ceiling, down comes a shower of sand.  I was able to use a sheet that was given to me in Edmonds, and that kept down on the sand for the most part, but lets just say I that had a little extra seasoning in my macaroni and cheese both nights out there.  I did make a wonderful discovery though; mac and cheese calls for a bit of butter and a bit of milk, but I found that you can substitute one package of McDonald’s ranch dippin’ sauce to account for both of those things, and you have yourself an instant feast.  I have a cooler in the back of the van, but I almost never fill it with ice, and it seems that every time I get food that needs to be refrigerated, I end up throwing most of it away because it goes bad before I use it all.  Especially things like milk, jelly and butter.. I mean, whats the smallest increment of butter you can buy at the store..?  No matter though, these are problems of the past; from now on I’ll work with dippin’ sauce from McDonald’s and Little Caesars, (which has butter sauce, garlic and buffalo ranch to boot!), and then next time I stop at an I-HOP, I’ll look into getting a bunch of little packets of strawberry jam and grape jelly.  A good stock of all these things will make it much easier to cook, and it’ll help keep me eating PBJs and mac and cheese, which is far cheaper and less greasy than McDonald’s.  I know this may mean nothing to anyone else, but I’m excited.

Unfortunately though, somewhere in the couple days of camping in a sand cave, I misplaced my phone.. it happened in the dark, and I realized that it was gone around ten or eleven at night, and went searching everywhere that I had been, but to no avail.  Morning came and I scored the beach several times, and had half a thought that it might just be lost in the van somewhere.  So after searching everywhere else, I turned the van inside out, but still came up with nothing.  I did find my wine opener though, which was nice cause the last bottle I drank I had to open with a screw and a set of pliers.  Anyway, I stayed in Lincoln City for a couple more days, and made my rounds on the beach every day, and then on the day that it started to rain, I checked the forecast, which said nothing but rain for the next five days.  It was time to leave.  So I chalked up the phone and went south on the 101 to get to Florence, where I’ve got a show this Friday.  As soon as I left Lincoln City, the rain cleared up and the sun came out again, and somehow I hit a stretch of highway just as beautiful as the drive I’d taken the weekend before.  Again, I made five or six stops at viewpoints along the way, and went down to the coast itself a couple times.  I found one place that really blew my mind; it was a small park no more than an acre along the coast, and it was rock coast, not a sandy beach.  So I walked down there and found the ocean bashing against the rocks ten feet below the edge of the rocks and throwing water twenty feet in the air every couple seconds.  It was awesome.  It was like one huge dark molten rock with funny shaped pillars everywhere, and I just sat down on one of these for a while and watched the ocean battle the land.  It was about a two and a half hour drive to Florence, but I stretched it out quite a bit with all these stops and eventually started seeing sand again, which told me I was near.

Florence is tiny, even smaller than Cannon Beach, but its the home of the largest coastal sand dunes in the US, so there are plenty of bars and restaurants all in a row in Old Town.  The first night I just crashed, but the next day I went out to explore a little.  Because the weather was nice and my budget was dwindling, I decided to try my hand busking on the street down there, and it actually turned out pretty well.  At first I only got funny looks and a couple of smiles, and after six or seven songs I hadn’t made a dime, so it didn’t really look like it was going to be worthwhile.  But just as I was getting ready to wind down and pack up, a lady walked by and threw a twenty in the guitar case.  I actually stumbled with the song, and said “holy crap, thank you!,” and then tried to start where I had left off.  After that, things just got better.  She had spurred me on to keep going, and by the end of an hour and half set, I had made a little over fifty bucks.  I actually had an older couple drive up in a pickup truck and park on the corner, not fifteen feet from me.  They opened their windows about halfway and listened for a good forty minutes, and then when I finished playing a song by the Band, the gentleman got out and threw a five into the case, and we had a quick conversation where he recommended me to a bar just south of Eugene called the Axe and Fiddle.  He said they have an open mic on Thursday night, so next week I’ll probably hit it up on my way to Ashland.  As it happened, I ended up meeting quite a few people from Eugene; this is the closest beach, and everyone was trying to take advantage of the unseasonably nice weather.  Anyway, it was nice to do some busking again where people were part of it.  And besides that, it definitely paid for my dinner..

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Snug Harbor Bar & Grill

Well on Wednesday I went to UPS and sent posters down the coast to help promote for upcoming shows, and then I decided to print some more posters while I was there, but it turned out to be a bit of a headache.  Nonetheless, I got things sent out and taken care of, so I should be set for another couple weeks.  I didn’t get started until late, so by the time I finished there it was already late afternoon, and I decided to head to the Alberta Street Pub a little bit early.  It was on my plans to go there for the open mic again, so because of the timing I thought maybe I’d make it in time for happy hour.  I got lost on the way again, which is a trend that followed me all throughout Portland, and by the time I finally made it to the bar I was frustrated as hell.  So I walked in to the mostly empty candle-lit bar and had a much needed drink, and just hung out with the bartender for a while.  I felt better within a little while, and then decided I should try and grab a shower before the open mic, so I hit up a friend that lives in that area, and he said to come on by and hit the rain.  So I headed that way and somehow got lost again in the mile and a half that lies between the bar and his house.  This was getting old.  Anyway, I made it there and got cleaned up, hung out for a little while on the porch, and checked out the jam space in the basement, which was awesome; pretty much soundproofed and full of keyboards and guitars and a beautiful drum set.  We talked for a while about all sorts of stuff, and then I said thanks and headed back to the pub to play some music.  Somehow I got lost.  Again.  I did find out in the subsequent days that I’m not the only person who tends to get turned around in Portland, and I met a handful of people along the coast who avoid the city for that very reason.  But whatever the case, the open mic was chalk full of some great talent again, and a whole different set of people from the week before.  The only other person I recognized was the guy with whom I had switched places on the list the week before, and this time he had been there early enough to be first on the list.  Even the host had changed out; this time it was cute girl who had apparently been running this open mic for years, but had taken a couple weeks off.  When I first got back to the bar I opened the door and almost bowled over a cute redhead with my guitar, but she just smiled and then held the door for me.  We both went in looking for the list, and she said it was her first time at an open mic, but she was friends with the hostess from another job.  Then we split off and I didn’t talk to her again until the end of the night, but I sure talked to a hell of a lot of other people.  The music was awesome though; there was a guy in a straw-like hat that played a classical guitar and he started his set with a Leonard Cohen song, which of course was badass.  Then there was a guy I had been talking to in the crowd who got up and played two lesser known songs by Bob Dylan, and then played a couple originals as well; talk about some fancy fingerwork.  He happened to be sitting next to me in the crowd, so we had a good conversation about music and life, and he pointed me towards some artists I’d never heard of before.  There was a whole handful of great musicians there, but the act that really hit me was a guy named Josh Hoke, who had just moved to Portland from the fields of Indiana not four days earlier.  He played some really neat folk music with some tasty licks and a feel sort of like Ray La Montagne; almost a whispery voice, but with soulful projection and some really good lyrics.  It was pretty badass.  There were plenty of other acts throughout the night, including another acoustic/electric duo that played some indie-rock stuff, and then the girl I had bumped into at the beginning of the night went up and performed some rap that she had written.  It was not at all what I would have expected from briefly talking to her earlier, but she was pretty good at what she did and sang along with some beats that one of her friends had helped her put together.  I talked to her for a little while after she performed, and it turned out that she’d been featured on several hip hop songs for various artists, but she rarely performed live.  Overall, it was a much slower night than it had been the week before, and the hostess got up near the end and asked if anyone on the list would be willing to perform again to keep the night going.  I was still there, and figured why not, so after a couple more acts I got back up on stage and played for the seven or eight people that were remaining around midnight, and then most of us just ended up hanging around for a while afterwards.  All in all it was a pretty good night, and when everyone started doing the leaving dance, I too did a little jig and then headed back to the van to pass out.

When I woke up in the morning, I decided that it was high time to do a couple loads of laundry, so I stopped to get some breakfast and looked up a local laundromat.  I found a place  nearby that got some great reviews and had free WiFi, so I headed that direction to get things in order.  I cleaned out the van a little bit and then went inside to plug in the computer and charge up, and while I was there I looked up the weather forecast in both Portland and Cannon Beach, where I had another show coming up in a couple days.  The weather for Portland was rainy; Cannon Beach: three days of solid sunlight.  So I decided right then and there that I was tired of getting lost in Portland, and that as soon as my laundry was finished that I would head back to the coast where it was sunny.  I had already played in Cannon Beach the weekend before, but I had a great time that night and the bar asked me to come back, so of course I obliged and Saturday was the best night for me to come and provide some entertainment.  Besides, I had recently been talking to a friend about driving along the coast, and he said that his favorite section of highway was between Cannon Beach and Lincoln City.  So when I got a call and an offer to play on Saturday, I was stoked to have an excuse to make that drive, especially since the weather was supposed to be nice.  So the bottom line is that I finished my laundry and headed westward, and sure enough, I got lost one last time trying to find the highway, which had me yelling at the roads as if they could hear me.  As soon as I was on SR-26, I let out a huge sigh of relief and tried to leave all my frustrations behind in Portland.  I mean don’t get me wrong; I had a lot of fun during my time in Portland, but I was really sick of getting lost several times a day.

So when I left on Thursday afternoon, I made it to a rest stop just before dark.  I recalled from my last visit that it was illegal to sleep in your vehicle in Cannon Beach, so I purposely looked up the rest stop closest to my destination to camp out for the night.  That worked out beautifully, and then when I woke up in the morning I got out the camping stove and set up shop at a nearby picnic table.  I really didn’t get up until almost noon, so I just skipped straight to lunch and made some Campbell’s Chunky Soup and sliced up a potato to throw on the skillet.  I met a whole bunch of puppy dogs while I was there cooking lunch; people would stop and let their dogs out on the way to the coast, and they all came over to say hello and see what I was cooking.  After lunch I grabbed some dish soap and washed the dishes in the bathroom sink before packing everything away.  Usually I just use boiling water and then wipe it clean, but I had a sink at my disposal, so I figured I might as well make use of it.  Then I continued on my way, about another forty minutes to the coast, and this time I went a little north to Seaside because I’d already explored most of Cannon Beach.  Seaside is a little bigger; they have a McDonald’s and a Safeway along the highway, and they have at least as many small shops as you work your way to the beach.  It was Friday, and the weather forecast proved correct, but once I had explored the area I was pretty exhausted from the whole week, so I decided to charge the computer at McDonald’s and then pass out early in their parking lot.

On Saturday morning I woke up and drove the last seven miles south to Cannon Beach, and this time I went straight to the beach itself.  It was beautiful out, and I spent most of the day out on the sand and wading in the water.  For some reason that I can’t explain, the ocean seems to move in slow motion in that area.  The water wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it would be, and I got to notice something that I’d never noticed before; I saw backwards waves.  Basically, the tide was coming in, and it would have swell that goes thirty or forty feet up on the shore, and then it would drift back to the sea.  And when the water going back to the sea had more power than the waves coming towards the shore, then it would literally overtake the crest of a small wave, and the wave would crash in the opposite direction, even though it was still moving towards the shore.  It was fascinating, and I stood ankle deep in water and watched this phenomenon for what seemed like hours.  After a while I walked back to the van and got out a sand bottle that I had purchased from an antique shop two weeks earlier.  The plan was to write a note of some kind, cork the bottle and throw it out into the sea.  The only problem was I couldn’t figure out what to put in the bottle.  Part of me wanted to leave a contact number, an email or an address so that when/if this bottle was ever found, I might hear from whomever had found it along the shore, and maybe get an idea where it had traveled.  At the same time, I had to have something meaningful in the note, and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around what to say.  In the end, I wrote a poem while sitting on the shore, and signed it A. Krekeler, rolled it up like a tube of toothpaste and corked the bottle.  Tightly.  I figured this bottle might mean something to someone down the road, and it really doesn’t matter if I ever hear about it; to me it means something just to throw it out to the sea in the hopes that it reaches someone somewhere someday.  So once I had it ready to send off, I walked down the beach past Haystack Rock, rolled up my pants legs and waded out into the water.  I went out until the water was at my knees and I had to jump to keep the waves from soaking me, and then I launched the bottle as far as I could throw it, off into the ocean.  It was immediately lost to sight, and when I turned around to come back to the shore I realized that the current had taken me south quite a ways, and I was right next to another monolith, much smaller than Haystack Rock itself, but nonetheless the tide had created a deep recess around the rock, and no sooner than I had turned around I was suddenly chest deep in water.  I stumbled out of the hole and worked my way back to the shore, far wetter than I had intended on being, but strangely comfortable in the fact that I had sent out the bottle far enough that it wouldn’t just return the shore.  I figured that if the current had taken me as far as it did, then I felt fairly certain that this bottle will travel southwards for quite a ways before it comes back to a coast.  In any case, it’s out of my hands.

By the time I made it back to the van, it was time to change clothes and go back to the Lush Wine Bar.  I was set to play at 7pm, and it was already 5:30.  So I changed into some warm, dry clothes, and headed to the bar to have a glass of red wine to help warm me up.  It was a really good day, and after two glasses of wine and a huge cheese plate, I pulled out my guitar to get to work.  It turned out to be a pretty good show, and more and more people came in as the night progressed.  I made quite a chunk of change in tips, and made friends with some locals that were there to enjoy the evening, and then afterwards I went out to have a drink with the waitress at the wine bar.  She was a surfer who grew up along the Oregon coast and spent a couple years living in Portland, but ultimately decided she wanted to live by the ocean.  We had a couple drinks at a bar down the road, and then she had me follow her to the highway, where she went north and I headed south.  I made it to the pull off along the ocean where I had slept a couple weeks earlier in no time flat, and then realized that it was only midnight, I was hungry, and that the bar where we had just been served all sorts of food.  So I turned around, went back to the bar and walked in, and there were only two guys sitting at the bar.  The bartender gave me a funny look since I had just left 15 minutes earlier, but I ordered a burger with fries and had a quick conversation with the guys who were sitting there.  It was kind of awesome, cause one of the guys was contemplating buying shots for everybody, and so he asked what liquor each of us would drink.  I told him I’m a whiskey drinker, the other guy said he was all about tequila, and the guy who had asked said he wasn’t sure, but he was thinking gin.  So we talked for about 20 minutes while the bartender went back and forth cooking food and serving drinks, and we never learned each others names, we just referred to each other by our liquor of choice: “Hey Whiskey, where are you from man?”  When the burger came out, it was in a “to go” box, so I said goodbye to Tequila and Gin, and rolled back to my parking spot along the coast.

I woke up early on Sunday because I still had alcohol in my system, and decided that I should try and take a shower at that same RV Resort that I had stopped at two weeks prior.  It was only a half mile away, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, even though I knew it would be packed because of the good weather.  It was 7:30 in the morning though, so nobody was awake at the RV camp, and I had full access to the showers.  It was a good way to start a Sunday, and then I drove down the most beautiful stretch of highway that I had ever driven.  I was on the 101 South and kept going through small beach towns, so the speed limit changed an awful lot, but I didn’t mind in the least.  It was beautiful and sunny, and I must have stopped off at six different viewpoints along the way to Lincoln City.  I got there at 11am, and I didn’t have to play a show until 8:30, so I decided to hit up the beach for a couple hours.  I can never get enough of the beach.  I made a couple calls, and then thought I should charge up the computer before the evening, so I stopped at a coffee shop and put together CDs to have to sell at the bar later.  I had already printed out all the album covers, but I hadn’t taken the time to fold them all and put them in cases and burn the actual CDs, so I did that while the computer was charging.  I moved on at about quarter til six, and made a stop at the Snug Harbor Bar & Grill to see what kind of place I’d be working with later.  I walked in with the guitar, and the owner was sitting at the edge of the bar, and immediately introduced me to the bartender, saying, “this is Anson, he’s our entertainment for the evening!”  I was a little taken aback, but it was kinda nice.  I hadn’t even talked to her yet.  I went over and had conversation with her, and we ended up talking about music and guitars and fishing and waves and how she came about buying this bar.  It was great, and the bar had more character than Tom Sawyer.  It was made almost entirely of giant timbers from the Oregon forests, and had been in operation as a bar or speakeasy since the 1920’s.  I walked outside and up to the balcony and met and talked to a guy who studies and documents ancient Indian art in caves and other places; he grew up in the 60’s and 70’s so our musical taste overlapped all over the place.  He turned me on to Savoy Brown and some other good stuff to check out, and although he had to leave before my set to have go dinner with his wife, I gave him a CD to take with him.  The bar fed me though, so I had fettucini alfredo with chicken and garlic bread, and then played a three hour set at the Snug Harbor.  It also became more and more packed as the night went on, and it was just a hell of a lot of fun to play that show.  I had a great receptive crowd and an awesome house PA system, and I kept playing with the reverb on my voice.  Afterwards I split a pizza with a group of people who were there hanging out and listening and kept inviting me out for cigarettes and such, and then we went back to one of their houses to close out the night.  So we had something of a small after party in a beach loft, and then around 2AM everybody headed out and I retreated to van to pass out heavily.  It was a damn good weekend on the Oregon coast.

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Portland: Day Six

So on Saturday night I ended up hitting up a friend I’d met this week, and then stopped by to have a couple beers and borrow his shower.  It was entirely worth it, and we just hung around shootin’ the shit for a couple hours, and jammed for a little while, and then I went back to the van to crash.  He lived in a really dark quiet neighborhood, so I just crashed there like a box of rocks.  He told me he’d just leave the door unlocked so if I needed to come in and use the bathroom, to just go for it.  So when the morning came I went inside to wash my face and all, and I asked him if he knew where Occupy Portland was happening.  I really don’t get the whole protest; I mean I understand to some extent why people are angry, but I don’t see what they hope to accomplish by gathering with signs and such.  I did a bunch of research on it all, because I’m really just curious.  I can’t seem to figure this all out, what do the 99% want..?  Anyway, I figured since Portland has the biggest gathering in the US, and I just happen to be here as this is all going on, that maybe going down to the protest would help me to learn something.  So when I asked my buddy if he knew where it was, he jumped online and soon found out that Sunday was John Lennon’s birthday, and that there was going to be a march that culminated with all the protestors singing “Imagine.”  He was immediately stoked, and decided we should bolt down there to make it in time for this event.  I really wasn’t opposed to see what this was all about, so we jumped in the van and drove towards downtown.  I didn’t really know what to expect, but we got there just as the march was starting, and ended up sprinting across the broadway bridge in the aftermath, helping a guy to push a wagon that had music blaring through some huge speakers.  We caught up with the rest of the procession, and then worked our way into the crowd, and for the first little while I was mostly just reading all the signs that people were holding.  People were starting chants like “We are the 99 percent,” and call and answer chants like “Show me what democracy looks like!,” “This is what democracy looks like!”  Some of the people were really into it, chanting and using bullhorns to keep the crowd riled up, but overall it was a pretty mellow protest.  It was like a parade that took us to where people were camped out, but for some reason the whole procession stopped every 15 or 20 minutes, and then just waited; like we were waiting for a train to pass at the railroad tracks.  And the lack of momentum just sort of let things fizzle, and people started to look to one another as if trying to figure out what they were supposed to be doing.  Every now and again you could hear conversations happening about how the banks got bailed out, and how some major companies were using animals for product testing and then hiding these practices.  I couldn’t see the relation.  There seemed to be no organization; just a big group of people that were there for different reasons, with pockets of half hearted chants here and there, but most of the chants died off within a couple minutes.  I mean, on one hand it is impressive to have all of these people motivated enough to come out and march with their fellow Americans, but I still couldn’t see the common thread, other than the fact that we all live in America.  Beyond that, I couldn’t figure out what the goal was; or what anyone hoped to accomplish by gathering together in a “unified” march.  It was interesting, to say the least, but it didn’t help me to understand the movement any better.

So after all that, I took some time to check out Waterfront Park and then slowly worked my way back to the van.  I had bowed out of the march to see why we were stopping every fifteen minutes, and I really didn’t have the urge to get back into it afterwards.  I went and picked up my buddy and then dropped him off at his place again, and then I headed to a McDonald’s to charge up.  I was still pretty beat from the last several days, the protest hadn’t revived me with any energy, so I decided to just post up and watch a movie and crash early.  It was a good decision.

Monday I got back to booking research, which was kind of refreshing really.  I had plans to go to the post office and send off a bunch of posters to various bars so that they could post them a couple weeks before I get there to perform, but then I realized that it was Columbus Day, so just concentrated on the booking.  In the evening I went to a place called the Goodfoot to meet a friend and play an open mic.  It was rainy and dark, and I had a hell of a time finding my way there, but eventually I got there and went straight to the bar to get a drink.  This was kind of an interesting set up for an open mic because up to six acts could pre-register to be on the list by sending an email in advance, and each of those bands got a 20 minute slot.  The remaining slots on the list were ten minutes long and were first come first serve at the bar, but rather than have a specific order, the host would pull your number randomly out of a jar, so no one quite knew when they were going to play.  I had heard about this place from Trevor, who is a friend that lives here in Portland whom I had met vicariously through a friend I met in Chicago.  Basically I was in Chicago hanging out with a group of friends, and  when I was asked where I was headed on this trip, I mentioned Portland, and I was told to give Trevor a call when I got there.  So we’d been in contact through email for months because I was trying to set up a show with his band in Portland, but it didn’t quite pan out.  He is also the guy that gave me a tip to contact PINTS Urban Taproom, which turned into two shows for me.  Anyway, his band was pre-registered to play at the Goodfoot, so I dropped by to meet him in person and have a couple drinks, and possibly play some music.  It worked out pretty well; I got to meet Trevor and the rest of the band, and I was the last person to sign up on the list, but because it was drawn at random I played sometime in the middle.  It was a pretty good night among some good people, and at the end of the night I headed to the nearest McDonald’s to grab some late night grub.  I eat far too much McDonald’s.

When I woke up it was raining, so I went back to sleep.  I found that in almost every city I’ve been to on this trip they say that “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”  Well in Portland, it’s especially true.. So when I woke up the next time it was bright and sunny, and I decided to go and get some breakfast.  I went to a little place called the Mojo Coffeehouse, where I posted up next to a giant window and witnessed the weather changing every couple minutes.. It went from sun to drizzle to pouring down rain, to mist, sprinkle, and then sun and rain at the same time.  I was told by a local that you know you’ve been in Portland for a while when you know the difference between a mist, a sprinkle and a drizzle, and I think he was spot on.  Anyway, I hung out and did research for a couple hours, and then a beautiful girl walked in and gave the owner a big hug.  They had a conversation about working and the coffee shop and I came to realize that the girl was an exotic dancer and that the owner was a DJ at night.  I was the only other person in the shop, so she kept turning around and including me in the conversation as well.  After she left I ended up talking to the owner about life as a DJ and how he had gotten into it, and then the conversation turned to business and how he had bought the coffee shop and turned a profit, and now that he had his training wheels, he was ready to sell it and buy and manage a bar.  We ended up talking for a good hour or so, and then it became closing time, so I headed out to go get a late lunch.

My plan for the evening was to go to a place called the Buffalo Gap Saloon and Eatery.  I had discovered this place while doing research on Portland, and had tried to book a show there.  Unfortunately I didn’t have enough of a draw to make it worth it for the bar, but I was told that they have an open mic on Tuesdays and that the crowd favorite gets $50.  So I put that on my calendar before I ever made it to the Pacific Northwest, and went to see what the Buffalo Gap was all about.  Basically, they had you fill out a slip to get on the list, and it was chosen at random to create the order.  Each person played two songs, and then everyone in the bar got a slip to vote for their three favorite acts, and once the marks were tallied up, the top three performers got to play one more song each for a ‘finals round,’ and everyone got to vote one more time to choose a winner.  I played third on the list out of eleven musicians, and I got to see some really good talent from the area.  We had four people make it to the finals round, but I think it was mostly the harmonica that set me apart.  Whatever the case, I left the bar with a fifty dollar check, which will make the rest of this week much more pleasant.  The whole idea of a competitive open mic is something of a new concept for me, and honestly, I think it takes away from the openness a little bit.  I mentioned that to one of the other musicians though, and he just looked at me and said “You’re not from Portland, are you..?”

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PINTS Urban Taproom

So its Saturday now.  Its been a couple days of good music and good people, and next week is filling up fast too.  On Wednesday night I went the Alberta Street Public House for an open mic, and ended seeing some really great musicians.  The bar has been around for ages, and its an old building that they sort of split between a dive bar and an all acoustic music venue.  In one room is the bar itself, lit mostly by candles, but with some can lights to make things easier for the bartender.  There were booths along one side of the room cause the place also functions as a restaurant, but I got the feeling that most of their money comes from beer sales.  Then if you go through a doorway right by the entrance, you find yourself in a room that reminded me of a quaint little church.  There were literally nine or ten church pews in a row, lined with fancy cushions and all facing the stage at the front of the room.  There was a house PA system all set up with speakers hanging from the ceiling and a sound board in the back of the room.  They had stage lights and everything, and the sound guy played with them a whole bunch during the first act, which was a three-peice band.  I got there just as the list started and was able to choose my spot on a blank sheet with numbers; I chose number three.  Then I went to the one pew that was along the side wall with tables in front of it, sat down right near the stage and pulled out a notebook.  It was still pretty empty when I sat down, but by the time the music started there were at least 20 or 30 people there, with hardly an open spot in the pews.  It was a pretty intimate setting; everybody was focused on the music up front.  A guy came and sat down at the table next to me with a plate of nachos, and they smelled awesome from two feet away, but I was lost in my notebook.  To my surprise he ate about half of them and then turned to me and asked if I wanted the rest.  He said he orders them every week, but he can never finish them, so he often gives the rest to whomever is nearby.  Of course I couldn’t turn down some nachos, and the guy turned out to be cool as hell.  I asked him if he was playing and he told me he didn’t think he could stick around because he had to pick up his kids from play practice, and he usually tries to get first or second on the list; but tonight he was number five.  So I offered to trade with him, if that would make or break whether he got to play.  He was stoked, and went to talk to the host and see adjust the list.  I couldn’t hear them talking, but when he pointed at me and they both looked over, I just gave the host an affirmative nod and a thumbs up.  I was happy; how can you not be happy with nachos?

The first group was pretty good actually; a drummer and two guitarists trading off solos.  I didn’t catch their name, or the name of the duo that played afterwards, but they were incredible.  It was a guy on acoustic guitar who sang, and another guy on a bright red Les Paul who played some awesome jazz chords and solos.  On the second song he even pulled out an Ebow, which was really cool.  An Ebow is basically a little handheld device that you use with your picking hand, and it creates a small electromagnetic field that vibrates the guitar strings without actually touching them, so it gives a very smooth sound to each note.  Its almost like the effect you get from playing an instrument with a bow, the sound starts very soft and grows as the vibrations get bigger.. Anyway, this guy had one, and he knew how to use it, and it very much complimented what the other guy was playing on the acoustic guitar.  What really got me though were the lyrics.. the guy that was singing had a voice like Kenny Rogers in “What Condition My Condition Was In,” and so you couldn’t help but listen to what he had to say.  I didn’t catch his name, and he left right after their set, but I think that was my favorite act of the night.  Then came the guy who gave me nachos, and he was pretty good, but then he was followed by a girl that just totally blew me away.  Not only was she a gorgeous blonde in a sun dress, but she had an amazing voice and some really witty lyrics.  After she played her two songs, the crowd called for an encore, so she sang a third song that was about the end of a relationship, and used the F word more times that I can count, sounding prettier than I had ever heard it sound before.  It was deep.  And of course, that was the act I had to follow.

I wanted to talk to her for a minute cause I thought she was badass, but she and the guy she had come with bounced out immediately after she played; I mean I didn’t even have my guitar out of the case yet.  I was actually nervous to follow that act; I had butterflies and everything.  But I put on my harmonica strap and hit the stage, and after the first song I was comfortable again.  When I finished playing I collected a handful of high fives, and then another duo took the stage, and they were awesome..  It was a guitarist and a cello player, and it was super soft fingerpicking; perfect for the intimate setting of the dimly lit bar.  I talked to the guitarist afterwards and found out that he was in a band in Provo, Utah called Book on Tape Worm, and they had a show here in Portland the following night.  I really dug their stuff, and if I wasn’t playing a show myself, I’d have probably made it to see them.  The rest of the night was hit or miss, but damn it was off to a good start.  I had a pretty good time, met some good people, and near the end of the night I retired to the van to crash.

The next day was Thursday, and it was the first day since I’d been in Portland that the forecast actually called for sunlight.  I had been given a couple tips about places to busk downtown, so I figured I would try my hand and get in a couple hours of practice before playing a show at PINTS Urban Taproom.  So I packed up everything I would need and took the bus downtown, but it turned out to be cloudy and dreary, and everyone seemed to just stay indoors at coffee shops.  I found a good spread and set up to play, but I made less than a dollar in the hour and a half that I played, so I decided to save my voice stop into a coffee shop as well.  A couple hours later I meandered my way to the bar where I was supposed to play, and then the drinking began.  I hung out with one of the owners and he introduced me to a whole bunch of different beers they had on tap.  They had ten taps with specialty beers, and I started at the top of the list and worked my way down.  I made it about halfway before the end of the night, but I had another show at the same place the following night, so I figured I would finish off the list then.  I had only booked this show on Tuesday; a friend sent me an email and said that PINTS was looking for live music and suggested that I shoot them a call, so I called and left a message and ended up getting booked for Thursday and Friday night.  The first show went really well, and I was glad I had saved my voice.  I hung out and helped the owner shut down the bar, and then jumped on a bus to head back to the van.  I made it back around 2am, but I couldn’t sleep for the life of me.  I just laid there until almost five, and at one point I even pulled out the computer and started responding to craigslist postings.  I finally crashed after the garbage trucks had come and gone, and then I woke up around nine to a phone call from a guy who I had responded to about some temporary work.  So I got up and met him at a McDonald’s, and my temporary job was to go door to door and hang flyers on the doorknobs.  The flyers were basically for professional blinds like they have on the windows at some Starbucks, and we hit fancy neighborhoods along golf courses, with some really cool landscaping.  In fact, I spent most of my day just checking out the different plants and water gardens from house to house; almost everything grows in Oregon.  I saw all different sorts of pine trees, japanese trees, grasses, ground cover, rock gardens, and even a couple palm trees.  The coolest thing I saw was a oriental looking garden that appeared to have a waterfall, except the whole thing was made of small white stones that gave the illusion of water.  The bottom “pond” even had ripples raked into it; it was pretty cool.  So the job was a lot of walking, but I just put on some headphones and listened to music while I hung these flyers, and then cut off around fourish so I could head back downtown to play at PINTS again.  They don’t usually serve food, but on Fridays they have a barbecue and they grill up burgers and brats and such, and I was told if I was there early enough I could catch a free dinner.  So I made it down there and had a burger and then picked up where I had left off on the beer list.

The guy that played before me played saxophone, and it was like ambience music.  He did all originals; some sort of mix between jazz and swing, and he definitely had some chops.  I talked to him during his set break, and he hung around for my first couple songs.  But while he was playing I ended up hanging out with a guy who had been at the show the night before, and he was a traveling artist, going city to city with a box of glass paintings that he had created.  It was kind of awesome; he was from Chicago, and had left town in June to hit New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, and a couple other places that I’m sure I’m forgetting.  He took the bus, the train, an airplane when he could afford it, and worked a couple side jobs when he needed the extra cash, but for the most part his paintings had supported this whole trip.  He said he goes to a city and walks bar to bar with a couple paintings and sets up art shows where he can get them, usually with music involved from locals- and as it happened he had one of these such art shows at PINTS where I was the featured music.  So he had been there the night before, listening and drawing and talking to people, but I hadn’t talked to him, and had no idea that he was a traveling artist until I talked to him before I played on Friday night.  We traded stories from the road, and then he hung around and listened until I took a set break; just a generally cool guy from Chicago.

I got back up on stage after another beer and a couple walked in together and sat down at the bar.  At this point the night was dwindling down, and there were only about six or seven people there.  It became a pretty interactive show after that, and we all just talked about music, I’d play a song, and we’d talk about the artist, and then I’d play another song.  It was awesome.  Afterwards I went drinking with a couple who are in the medical industry, and we hit up a bar and played some shuffleboard.  I didn’t crash until after three again, and this time I was up at 7:30 to go post another several hundred flyers, so at this point I’m exhausted.  I walked around putting up flyers until about four in the afternoon, got a late lunch and then came here to a Starbucks to charge up.  That should be the last side job I need for a while though; I’ve got a bunch of shows lined up, and most of them are paying gigs, so the craft should support itself.  When it gets dark out, I’m gonna head back to the van and pass out heavily until whenever I wake up tomorrow- its been a hell of a week.  I’ve got plenty of plans for this coming week, but I’ll write about them after they happen.. Til next time..

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