Tag Archives: busking


190511 salamandir, by jon leach
190511 salamandir, by jon leach
when you hang around the pike place market enough, particularly if you don’t look exactly like pretty much everybody else, you will eventually end up having your photo taken by one of the multitude of street photographers who descend in droves on the market thinking that they will get “that shot” which will propell them into the realm of famous photographers like ansel adams or robert mapplethorpe. in this case, it was a chap called jon leach, who has been doing street photography for about 5 years — no clue what he did before that — and he took a photo of me that i like, because when you look at the whole, reduced photo, i look serious, almost frowning, but if you look at the photo up close, i’m actually smiling.
190511 salamandir, up close
190511 salamandir, up close

busking this week has been a mass of contradictions: yesterday, we played two sets, after having been displaced at 11:00 from the place where i had added us to the list at 8:00 because an amplified band (which is “banned from busking at the market”) was setting up to play in a “flower festival” which the market managers had neglected to tell us buskers about until we actually got there — and they posted a new notice regarding the closure in exactly the same place where the “get your new buskers’ permit” notice had been, so the people (including me) who signed up on the list didn’t notice it until it was too late… so we went up the alley, behind the iron stairs, and busked for an hour, took an hour break (because “the official rules” say you have to), and played most of a second set before we got fed up — in the middle of a song — and said fuck it.

the reason we got fed up is because there were probably 20 people, from people taking pictures with their cell phones all the way up to people who had professional camera equipment, taking our photos, which includes a sign in a very prominent, central location, which says, in large letters “TIP FOR PHOTOS”, but NOT TIPPING FOR PHOTOS! 😠🤬

seriously! some of these people came in pairs, one of them standing next to, or behind us, and the other person, with the camera, lining up the shot so that we were both in the frame, with the sign that says “TIP FOR PHOTOS” in the frame as well, and when they were done mugging for the camera, they just turned around and walked off as though we were plastic manequins… and not starving musicians who have a combined total of more than a century of experience playing music.

my understanding is that the problem is partially because of the cruise ship companies which offer fares that “include all gratuities”, and partially because of the common myth that buskers are paid by the market. both are WRONG!! and it make life particularly awful for folks that have to make their living busking when people act like buskers are free.

on the other end of the scale are days like today, when we played 3 sets and made almost $50 a piece, which works out to around $16 an hour… which is not outstanding, but it’s enough that it makes you want to come back out and try it again tomorrow.

and then there’s the pike place market foundation. back in the ’80s, when the market was being renovated for the first time, i bought an inscribed tile, which was originally placed outside of the athenian tavern…

i had a picture of it, at one time, but i can’t locate it currently. 😒

anyway, they had to replace the floor in front of the athenian, in the ’90s, because it was unstable, and they tore out the section of floor that had my tile in it, and replaced it with somebody else’s tile.

when i bought that tile, i was in the tech school, and the price of the tile was in lieu of half a week’s groceries, but when i asked the market foundation about it when i discovered it was missing, in 2016, their response was to say that if it was not there, then it was not going to be replaced, and my money meant nothing. they offered me a “market charm” to be installed in the new section of the market (which they hadn’t even built yet) as a replacement, to which i agreed.

but it was, apparently, never installed. yesterday, i asked the lady custodian of the market charm database to check, and she couldn’t find it. so i filled out another market charm request, and she said it should be installed this fall, and i can check at their database at PikeUp dot org. while i was at the market foundation booth, i also bought a “pig pin” which came with this interesting printed card:

Pig Pin card
Pig Pin card

i noticed a design detail on the card, which caused this conversation between me and the lady at the booth:
ME: this card has swastikas on it! cool!
Lady At The Booth: those aren’t swastikas.
ME: they’re swastikas, they’re just not what you expected to see when i said “swastika”… they’re not nazi swastikas, they’re ORIGINAL swastikas, from before the nazis got hold of it: they’re “little good luck charms”, which is what the word “swastika” means, in sanskrit.
Lady At The Booth: yeah, but they’re not swastikas, there’s another name for it.
ME: the german word for a swastika is “hakenkreuz”. the reason english-speaking people use the word “swastika” is because nobody could figure out how to say “hakenkreuz”.
Lady At The Booth: but there’s another name for them.
ME: the word “swastika” is a sanskrit word that means “little good luck charm”. it’s the perfect symbol to put on the pike place market “good luck token”, and most people probably wouldn’t even realise that it’s a swastika, because it’s not a nazi swastika. the swastika is one of the world’s oldest symbols, and it was around, as a symbol of good luck for, literally, thousands of years before the nazis got hold of it! it’s about time we started taking it back, and making it into a symbol of good luck again!
Lady At The Booth: really? cool! 😊

allegedly, they’re going to snail-mail me when the charm is installed, but they said they were going to install it in 2016, and they didn’t, so it remains to be seen what they’re really going to do.

pike place market

181120 salamandir & howlin' hobbit
181120 salamandir & howlin’ hobbit

this picture was taken by a guy people know as “kurt vonnegut” — because he looks a lot like kurt vonnegut, apparently. i don’t know, because i barely remember the guy who took the picture, i was concentrating on the music so intently. i think his real name is davey, but i’m not sure.

Joe Desimone Bridge
Joe Desimone Bridge

this is the joe desimone bridge at 7:30 in the morning, before anybody gets there. at noon there are, literally, thousands of people passing through this space… and only a tiny fraction of them seem to notice the buskers… 😕

the "original" starbucks at 7:30 in the morning
the “original” starbucks at 7:30 in the morning

this is what they call the “original” starbucks. it’s not really the original, because the real original is about two blocks away, on western avenue, below and to the south of the joe desimone bridge… but it’s not there any longer, having moved up to pike place in the early ’80s (i think). but they still have the “original” signage and store livery… and, at 7:30 in the morning they have a crowd of 20 or so people inside: the rest of the pike place market, more or less, looks like the previous picture of the joe desimone bridge, but at 7:30 in the morning, the “original” starbucks (which isn’t even the original one) has a crowd. at noon there is a line that stretches down pike place, of people waiting to get into the “original” starbucks…

and they don’t even have that good coffee… 😒

tourists are WEIRD. 😕

niaga gniksub

i’ve been sort of worried about busking with my tuba at the pike place market, because — in the distant past — they have had “problems” with people who were not actual musicians playing trumpets and other loud brass instruments, indiscriminately, with very little skill, and taking no regard for their neighbours. this unfortunate occurrence caused the people in charge (the “Pike Place Development Association” otherwise known as the “PDA”) to completely ban all “brass instruments and horns”…

what they mean, of course, is all brass instruments “with a cup mouthpiece”, because brass instruments with a reed mouthpiece (i.e. saxophones) have been allowed all along… which is REALLY STUPID, because you can make a lot louder, and more unpleasant sounds with a reed than you can with a cup mouthpiece…

which, of course, leads us to the real reason brass instruments are banned, which is because, in the distant past (i.e. before any of the current PDA staff were born), one or two individual people were being SO obnoxious (with their brass, cup-mouthpieced instruments) that the PDA had to do something, but it had to be something that didn’t look like they were targeting one or two individuals, so that they wouldn’t get sued by those individuals when they found out.

it’s kind of like that story about the scientists who were studying group behaviour in monkeys, where they put a monkey in a room with a ladder, and at the top of the ladder was a banana… it turns out that the story is an urban legend, but the concept comes across: now, the 2nd (or 3rd, or 54th, who knows) generation of PDA staff is convinced that any brass cup-mouthpiece instrument, played by anyone is going to be the equivalant of a marshall stack cranked up to eleven, and totally blow everyone away for half a mile in any direction.

and, it’s my impression that, ever since then, there have been “whingers” among the vendors at the market, particularly on the “Joe Desimone Bridge” section, who — encouraged by the attitude of the 54th (or whatever) generation PDA staff who have never, actually, experienced a loud “brass” instrument — complain to the PDA if someone has an instrument that looks like it’s going to be too loud… which has resulted in the PDA deciding that you simply can’t busk at the bridge spot on saturday — which is the best day for busking — even with instruments which are not banned… 😒

i’ve been busking at the market a few times since i got my permit, but i haven’t busked at the bridge spot, because i’m worried that, despite the fact that the PDA assured me that they are “experimenting” with allowing tubas (no trombones, baritones, or trumpets, though), and they did, actually, sell me a permit despite the fact that i told them i didn’t play anything else that is allowed, one of the whingers on the bridge will take offense at my tuba and i’ll go back to being on the “banned instruments” list again.

that all changed today.

i busked with hobbit for an hour at the bridge this morning. we made $9.50 each (which is not very good), and then we went up to the clock spot and joined jack and dave for another hour, which netted us $35 a piece, which is a lot better.

then, because it was REALLY cold, i decided that i was going to go home. as i was going back to my car, i had to cross the joe desimone bridge, and TWO vendors asked me if i was done playing music. when i said i was, they asked me when i was going to come back…

they want me back! 😎

they don’t like any buskers (particularly the bad ones, which, according to them, are most of them), but they want me back!

and i wasn’t even playing the melody!!

maybe i shouldn’t worry about the whingers on the joe desimone bridge so much any more… 😉


tomorrow is the sousa bash, in the evening. i may go busking in the morning, but i haven’t decided yet… in a way, i really want to get out there and make myself more known to people who might call me for sets later on, but another part of me says that it rained most of the day today, and it’s probably going to rain tomorrow, which can be aleviated by rain-gear, but it also means that there will be fewer suckers paying audience members out there… and tomorrow is the return to standard time, which means that 9:00 am comes at 8:00 tomorrow… or is the other way around… i can never remember, and it always takes me a week or so to adjust, every time. 😕

only a white man could come up with the idea of cutting two inches off of one end of a blanket, sewing it onto the other end, and selling it as a bigger blanket.
     — some Native American wise guy

🍄 one mushroom today: 14 total. running low. need more…

this “microdosing” is starting to really bug me, in a way. i REALLY want to take 100 mushrooms or more, but i don’t have 100 mushrooms to begin with, and even if i did, i don’t have the time or the setting to be able to take that many without freaking out… i was talking with norma at trolloween about mushrooms, and she was saying that she really doesn’t like feeling “altered”… and i realised that i do, REALLY like feeling “altered”. microdosing does what it’s supposed to do, which has made my life a lot more tolerable recently, but it also reminds me, EVERY! SINGLE! TIME! i do it, that i’m not really doing what i would like to be doing. a trip to the mushroom fields outside of mount vernon may be in order. i literally know where they grow ’em… 😉