The summer drew to a close quickly for me, performance-wise, for the simple reason I was tired of it. Actually, anyone who reads this blog would know this: I grew tired of it long ago, for reasons I’d explained better elsewhere. I think I announced my “retirement” six times. In this case, I may not go into hiding and only crank out the odd studio album (which I haven’t done since 2012 or 2013 anyway)- or only do so like the Rolling Stones and just call in a few more performances when the money is low. The money here might be in a slightly different tax bracket than that example, but the point is I may still play. but it is not likely, I don’t like performing, and I think I had my “sign from the divine” that it’s over.
One Friday in mid-July started my “last weekend.” People were unusually loud- and also dormant. It was like trying to sing while being near a stagnant pond of bullfrogs in the height of mating season, which for the intoxicated denizens of Fargo, is pretty much year round, opportunity-allowing. I did get one nice member though- a blond woman, maybe a little older than me. She had a black, spangly dress and glitter in her eye shadow. She actually let me finish up the song I was on (“Star of the County Down) and then asked me for good songs, starting with the “59th St. Bridge Song.” I usually don’t get both impressed by a request and ashamed by not knowing it as well as I should, because that had been one of mom’s staple songs back in the day, and she tried to teach me the pattern, which I hadn’t memorized. I did as much as I could, and she asked me to play an Elvis song, another request I hadn’t heard but wanted (I went through an “Elvis phase” at fifteen) and played “Don’t Be Cruel.” She lit a cigarette, and tried to sing to “59th Street.” A young pony-tailed guy (who was probably waiting to meet the girl) sat close and listened with a dreamy look on his face. I hoped he was trying to talk to the girl.
She kept apologizing and saying she had to go to Dempsey’s, and gave me some money and was sorry she didn’t have more. I said that was okay, but she was being nice. She called herself “Susie Q” (a Creedance Clearwater Revival song) and although she earlier wanted that (which I couldn’t play) she asked for a song by Cheap Trick. I thought for a moment and got out some of “Surrender” which she was impressed by. She went on into the night, back towards Dempsey’s, and I never saw her again. The dreamy guy eventually drifted back towards the bench as well.
He sat next to a few guys on the bench. One was a man, black and toothless, who panhandled people for money or food. He was good at sweet-talking. There was nice couple listening to me, and they said no, but still gave me a tip. He got some money, and a sandwich, and a glowing neck thing from a bachelorette party. Eventually he left, but it wasn’t great for me. It takes money, and makes me look bad. Greg said I shouldn’t let guys like that hang out around the corner. He’s probably right.
Saturday was both loud and boring. There were no conversation, no interaction for most of it. Nothing. I had been playing with my glasses off lately. When they’re off, I get picked on less. I also can’t make as much eye contact, but when people are just blurs I tend to feel better about playing anyway. My eyesight is actually pretty good, but details are sparse. At any rate, not much happened. There was a guy who asked me for my “best song.” I explained to him, as I have to a lot of people, it was whatever I felt like playing at the moment. Some jerks appeared out of the proverbial beer and vomit-filled sewers towards the end, I got some loose change, and tried ending with the first song I had ever learned, “Buffalo Gals” which wasn’t too good, ironically. I stopped. It was over, and I was glad.
Went to my car, thanking some higher power (or whatever god watched over street musicians) when a well dressed black guy went around the side of my car. I thought he was getting in it, or something out of it. There had been a lot of weird stuff going on that side of downtown. Sometimes guys would just jump in and out of cars, or people would be fighting, or cops would show up. I waited. Somewhere in my groggy mind, I heard him tell his friends about the bathroom, but it didn’t click. I moved in the driver’s seat (he was on the passenger side) and he looked in the window. Suddenly it clicked to me. He was peeing on my car. I turned on the engine and drove away, leaving him to angrily zip up midstream and hopefully wet his pants. Still hoping I was mistaken, I saw the puddle as I left, and later saw it on the side of my car.
I should have yelled. I should have screamed. I was stunned- as I said, this hadn’t even occurred to me. But I was tired, and almost expected this sort of thing somewhere in the back of my head. The people of Fargo are pigs on weekends. The “Fargo Nice” ideal is an ideal, just one they selectively hold on to. I was, perhaps liked the man, somewhat relieved. I didn’t want to do this any more, and haven’t done it since.
Like I said, nothing is ever final. I might even play a few songs out there one day. However, it is over. I’ll write some epilogue, or something more someday. But for now, I want it over. What started with Herb ended that day. Two nights ago, I saw another young man in my spot. I wish him well, probably. I haven’t heard his music. But I once again went on home.
Author’s Note: I’ll be publishing my final song list shortly. For now, in order, it begins:
Final Song List:
“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”
“I’m Heading Down this Road Feeling Bad”