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It’s Tuesday – not usually a really good day for street music. I wake up around 11:00, take the dog out (the dog, incidently, is still growing – this morning her paws had a growth spurt), make coffee, hang out with A and eat, heat the water for a bath. Bathe, dress… actually put on lipstick and mascara (yes, me). I get out late and catch the trolley to Chilpancingo. Walk to the Taqueria (all names of restaurants have been changed to protect the innocent). The outside tables are pretty full, but the take isn’t that great. I’m surprised, since I am, I think, the only one who plays this far from the central strip on Tamaulipas and Vicente Suarez. (A. laughs when I tell her about my intentions to try out San Angel and Polanco. She says I’m the only one who takes the “job” so seriously, and that my ambition is probably to walk the whole city in one day, and she may not be wrong.) I walk from there to the Argentinian steakhouse that no one else knows about. Again, the take is less good than usual. A thin, bearded man with an Argentinian accent and a sardonic expression tells me “ estoy pelado.” “Pues, yo tambien…” and I walk to Tamaulipas. At the next Argentinian joint, they tell me to come back later, another musician just played. I cheer myself up by buying a taco off the back of a truck. I wonder if that wasn’t a bad idea.
There are a few people at the tables outside a strip of three fairly new restaurants where I’ve never played before. I ask the maitre d in the middle one if I can play. He says sure. Stormy Monday. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. Two tables give me 20 pesos. A third apologizes, says he loves blues and will look for me next time. I feel better, and go to the Big Freakin Politically Correct Café. I do okay. Then to the Pretentious Italian Italian Restaurant where the maitress d’ is nice, but the waiters always treat me like a beggar. I make 5 pesos and walk away in a bad mood. It’s the dead hour now.. the time between lunch and dinner when there’s no point busking in the central zone. I decide to hit the around parques Mexico and España. I hit one of my favorite spots on Parras (where they treat me like a musician), and do better. The other places on Parras don’t have customers, so I walk toward Parque Mexico. A bunch of kids on skateboards ask me if I want to go in on some pot with them. I say not today and go on to the park.
As I approach the road that runs around the park, I see a white boxer with a leather spiked collar with a man with what is almost, but not quite a Hitler mustache and Hitler hairdo. I cross the street into the park, and man asks me if I want to buy a t-shirt. So I say “no thanks, I don’t have money right now.” And he says that he had seen me around and really like hearing me sing, and asks which singers I admire. “Um, I don’t know, a lot of singers.”
“Surely you like the White Witch, Janis”
“Well sure”
“And el maestro John Lennon?”
“Yes, but I don’t sing any of his stuff.”
“Jim Morrison and The Doors”
“Yes, but I mostly sing stuff from the 1920s and 30s”
So we went on like that for awhile, and then he starts to tell me about how he loves music and loved research and loved art and loved to travel. He asks me where I had been in Mexico, and lists the places he had been in Mexico and the U.S. Have I been to Pachuca? Yes. I ask him what he likes to research, and he says that he once researched all the religions of the world:Christianity, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam… even Judaism, and he had to learn Aramaic and Hebrew and Yiddish. So (taking him at his word), I use my up-to-age-13-Hebrew-school Hebrew to say “Oh, you speak hebrew”. He grins that “huh?” grin and I realize that he has no idea that I just addressed him in Hebrew, and so I feel a little bad, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He goes on to say that he had worked all his life because he was an orphan, raised by his maternal grandmother, and that when he was young he worked as a shoeshine boy in the bar of a hotel in Toluca. The bar’s owner told him that he could work there, but to be careful because sometimes the clientele got kind of crazy. So one day, at one of the tables, there was a group of gringos including a man dressed all in black, with a leather jacket and a black hat, and two other men, and three women including one good looking blond who wanted a shoeshine. He went to the table and while he was shining her shoes, the man in black stood up, took two steps, fell down and passed out. The other two men explained that they were musicians and, in fact, they turned out to be the Doors. The man on the floor turned out to be Jim Morrison. The others gave him their autographs, but he lost them. But when he went to New York he sat outside of the Dakota for three days waiting for John Lennon to pass by. Finally he saw a very ugly woman leaving the hotel… it was Yoko Ono! With the master himself.
Then he tells me that he feels like I am going to be one of the greats, and that if he runs across anyone who can get me a record contract, he’ll send them my way. Okay.. so… by this time I was pretty skeptical about his Doors story, what with the Hebrew and the record contracts and such.
I start to cross Parque Mexico toward “my” cafes, when the surrealism really starts. I pass a man dressed in black with a cowboy hat and a tv crew walking behind him. He carries a microphone that says “Bandamax.” One I get to the other side of the park, but can’t see my cafes. I start to feel confused. I see the white boxer again, and the guy with the not quite Hitler do again. I wonder how they managed to cross the park before I did. Then I see the man in black again with his tv crew. Again, I wonder how they managed to walk so fast. I cross the street… where are my cafes? I see a woman in a bright red sweater, framed in a gray doorway. She is scowling, observing, very severe. I look up, and see the name of the art deco building. With that I realize two things. The woman is someone that A knows and has told me about. And, I somehow got turned around and am on the side of the street I started from. I look for the woman, but she has disappeared. I feel disoriented, dreamlike. I cross the park for real this time, play at two cafes. I walk to Amsterdam and see my ex walking with another Argentinian on the other side of the street. I walk away quickly and quietly so she doesn’t see me. I play another café… probably my favorite, where the waitress calls me “amiga”, and I always do well. I do.
But it’s 6:00 PM, and it’s still the dead hour. I walk along Amsterdam exploring. I turn down Celaya. On the opposite side of the street I see an American Legion post. That’s weird. I see that there are a number of people inside, then I see that one is playing a guitar. I apporach the window, and a man who looks to be about 70 gestures for me to come in. What the hell. I do. A sign on the door says that this is the Alan Seegar AL post. I walk into a room with a map of the D-Day invasion on the wall, and a group of about 15 Mexican men and two or three women in their late 60s or 70s. They turn out to be jazz musicians and fans who get together on Tuesday afternoons to play standards. They ask me to play a few songs and I do. They clap, they say “welcome home,” they invite me to join their club, they clap me on the back. An hour or so later I leave to continue my rounds. I go back to the central zone, but there’s not that many places with customers. I sing in the Politically Correct Café again. The other blues guys, who usually just sell incense and rolling papers in front of the 7-11, are playing in the Japanese restaurant. I might as well walk back to Chilpancingo and go home. I play the Argentinean steakhouse again, and the bearded guy is still there, still “pelado.” (Which means something quite different in Mexico than in Argentina). I play the Taqueria. I do a quick count and realize that somehow I made around 450 pesos, despite the fact that it was Tuesday.
I go to the metro station, and there on the platform is the old guy who had invited me to enter the American Legion Post. We board the train. I ask him what instrument he plays, and he says that he doesn’t play, but that he used to be a manager in Vegas. He worked with Tony Bennett, and So and So and Such and Such.. and with Jim Morrison and the Doors. Actually, he knew them when the toured Mexico. Mexico was the only place where they played nightclubs because they wouldn’t let them play stadiums. I ask him if that was before or after the legal problems, and he says after. "Then they went to Paris, and from there... But in Mexico, they always stayed at a hotel in Toluca where all kinds of crazy things used to happen."

NEXT: Sloth gets a gig...


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July 2010

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