As in most Decembers I’ve worked in Germany, things picked up by the middle of the month. Plus this year temperatures became rather mild again in the south. Since the authorities were rather invisible here in Nürnberg (except one cop who took down my name and told me I will be fined for playing without a permit) I even dared to play with a good and visible microphone most of the time which always helps a lot to get my songs across. So all in all the Xmas stopover was worth doing so. They announced even warmer temperatures for the coming days, so I should have no problem to stick it out until I’ll be off to Bangkok and on to Myanmar/Burma after New Years.
Have a good one everybody!
Coming from Guate en route to “I don’t know where yet but as long as it’s warm I don’t care” I decided to do a bit of Xmas busking in Germany. So far I did a few days in Ulm and Würzburg and am now in Nürnberg. Winterwonderland and minus 5 Degrees today. But my Camper is cozy and warm and for outside I have warm clothes and don’t mind the cold.I do my daily 3 hour late afternoon/early evening shift. But considering that I make actually less money than in the lovely warm spring and autumn I don’t think I’ll do this again…..but then that’s what I say every year. Another 2 weeks and around New Years I’ll be out of here….
I am as free as a bird. At least within my own little world as freewheeling busker. When things fall into place, like in Würzburg for example, I don’t mind to hang out a little longer. At least until a certain routine settles in, that eventually starts to make me feel restless. It happened last night when around 2 am I decided to hit the road.
Of course I get chased like a bird as well sometimes. Either by some trucker flashing his lights at me for not driving fast enough (at least he had to look at J. Cash on the back of my truck flashing his middle finger at him) or, on a more serious note by the police because because of breaking this or that rule in their town.
I rolled into Stuttgart around 4 am this morning. A good time to get one of the few free parking spots downtown.
I have no idea if, where or how long I might play here. It all depends if I get chased away or not. ( and sometimes on the weather, too). But sooner or later there is always a cop coming along who decides that he or she needs to remind me (or directly fine me) about the illegality of using an amp or selling my CDs. Then I might spontaneously move on to one of the smaller cities near by. In this case Esslingen, Reutlingen, Tübingen or Pforzheim only to be confronted with the same problems (or not).
But as i seem to take these decisions on the spur of a moment and usually late at night, I have often no idea where I might end up the next day and where you might see me playing. Sorry if you were about to ask me that question.
It’s the ultimate form of being “self-employed” and it’s a continuous gamble. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. It never get’s boring and the challenge keeps me alert. And that’s what I like about it.
Enough talkin’…..let’s go gamblin’…..
a few hours later:
Well, I gambled and lost! I only lasted 4 songs before 2 stern looking cops showed up, gave me the booklet with a ton of rules, wrote down my name and then warned me that next time they see me playing with an amp they would confiscate all my equipment, including instruments, for 2 weeks. “And if we see you a third time your equipment will not be given back but be destroyed! It’s the only way people like you understand that amplifiers are illegal here.” Of course they didn’t care about my argument that a quiet Leonard Cohen song needs a bit of amplification. Like they didn’t care about the fact that down the road played a loud Gypsie Band with Akkordeon, Klarinette and hand drums. But they were acoustic! This city really has some nasty rules and some even nastier cops to enforce them. Last time they confiscated my complete daily earnings because of selling some CDs. This was my final try. I feel like the Johnny Cash finger salute in the back of my truck. No, the One Man Band won’t be coming around Stuttgart no more. Been there, done that! On to the next town…..
Würzburg! One of my favorite towns in Germany! The weather has been nothing but perfect ever since I arrived. That’s why I extended my stay after a successful appearance with Soluna at the Stramu Festival and stayed for another week. My regular evening presentation on the bridge has gotten a lot of very nice feedback from the town folks and tourists alike. I almost started to feel at home here….
One month I’m now in Bergen, Norway. Soluna came for the first two weeks and might come back for another week or so if she has time. But even without her I’m doing quite good. A One Man Band is a One Man Band! Like today today in my “office” at Fishmarket. A fantastic evening with an enthusiastic, international crowd of people from the beginning to the end of my 90 minute set. The sky was blue as the setting sun illuminated my street pitch. The bikers drove their Harleys respectfully around my audience. No drunks hassled me. It felt great to be so appreciated by doing what I love to do the most. It doesn’t happen every night that I’m able to create a magic evening like this. And I never know if I will pull it off or not, like only yesterday when I basically got ignored on the same spot and under the same conditions. But when it happens I realize that this is still the best drug of all. I love to be high on life!
When we decided to move to Denmark in late 1999 after we had purchased an old, romantic looking but forlorn farm house on an island in the Baltic Sea, we didn’t move there right away. We still had a lot of stuff in Guatemala and had to bring some of it back from there. Also it was getting winter which is a lot more pleasant there than in a farm house with bad heating and a long dirt road to get to.
So we waited until spring 2000 to move in. Arriving in Southern Germany where my Camping Bus was parked, we arrived just around the time of the Eurovision Song Contest. We hadn’t watched this for many years, if ever, but I had just gotten a small 12 Volt TV and since we were parked downtown Stuttgart where I had played during the day, we turned it on without a clue and there it was: The Eurovision Song Contest!
We were about to drive a thousand kilometers north with a fully loaded van and our 10 year old daughter Soluna Samay had never even seen the place where she was about to be thrown into a completely different culture, school and language. But she knew she would have her own room and always was curious and excited to make new friends.
So as we sat there and watched the Eurovison Song Contest it was natural that we got excited when the danish selection, two old busker looking types called the “Olsen Brothers” started singing.
The song was a bit corny we thought but we cheered for them all the same, being about to take up residence in their lovely little country and especially the even more lovely little island of Bornholm.
We didn’t have a phone as we still lived in our Camper but they pulled it off even without our votes and managed to win the whole thing. And we felt a bit danish ourself even though we didn’t speak a word of the language.
But we were moving there and soon after took up residence and finally had a proper home base in Europe.
Never in my life would I have thought that we would be sitting in the same house with a bunch of danish and international friends to watch our daughter Soluna Samay represent and sing for Denmark at this crazy event only 12 years later.
And in a way she is the perfect candidate. She speaks 5 languages: German, English, Danish, Spanish and French. And at least 5 countries claim that she stands also for something of theirs. Obviously Denmark who she sings for, but also Norway, where she used to sing with me for 17 years every summer, and where especially in the city of Bergen the headlines of the local newspaper said: “One of our street singers will sing at the ESC 2012. The Swiss say she is their last hope after their own selection didn’t make it to the finals. After all she is a Swiss Citizen with a swiss passport! The German press just published a nation wide story about the fact that she is half German, with a wandering German Street Musician father and, last but not least, the Guatemalans claim her as one of theirs on the front pages of their newspapers. Because if you are as her born in Guatemala, you are first of all Guatemalan. And Guatemalans are Latinos, to which other Latinos in Europe relate too.
So there you have it! Soluna Samay! Soluna ( sun & moon in one word ) was my idea for her name after seeing a book store in Chiapas, Mexico with the same name. Her mother Annelis liked Samaya (the name of a flower in Brazil). I decided to drop the last “A” to make it sound more like a last name, so she wouldn’t have to think up a stage name if she ever needed one.
And as it happened……without planning or trying too hard, there she is. Denmark’s hope for tonight. As for me I’m happy she made it to the finals, the rest is all one big bonus where ever she will land. But if she goes all the way, hell, I’m ready for the ride…..
Soluna, just keep in mind what we used to say when we go out play in an exciting looking street:
Let’s go and kick some ass!
After a slow start in bad weather two days ago, it finally came all together yesterday. The skies cleared up and the city was filled with people from all over. I had the prime spot for myself on a “sunny afternoooon” almost the whole time as there were not many other buskers around. Needless to say I had a great day and big crowds. I’m sure Soluna’s popularity is helping, too. People can see her in the photos of my guitar case and of course on the CD covers. But then again, the Danes are so discreet about it as well and really don’t make a big deal out of the fact that she will be representing their country in front of millions of people next week. And I kinda like that…As a matter of fact the only person who came up to ask me about my daughter was an old man from Bergen, Norway, where of course everybody knows us, since we played there every summer for the last 18 years. And he had no idea that Soluna was singing for Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku next week.
But the best thing of course was that I wasn’t bothered by the police about anything. What makes this even more special is the fact that this in the only European City where, back in 1994, I was thrown in jail once without as much as a warning, for just offering my CDs, ( I hadn’t even sold one since they came already after 20 minutes )
Since the weather forecast looks doesn’t look bad for the week end, I sure as hell will try again tomorrow. See you out there….
That’s what I’m talking about. Follow your fancy and intuition and suddenly things fall into place.
Rolled into Warnemünde at 5 am after leaving Potsdam late, parked right next to the board walk of the Baltic Sea. Slept until 12 and was out busking by 2 pm. The wind had died down. A perfect blue sky and a sunny spot to play. I was the only busker around, not even a romanian Akkordeon Player in sight. I didn’t have huge crowds but a nice little and appreciative audience and the constant stream of passerby’s strolling up and down were generous, too. And nobody hassled me about anything. Yes, life is good.
Had a pretty lousy street so far. Woke up to a parking ticket and then basically got ignored on a noisy pitch in Göttingen. Got stopped twice in Leipzig because of my amp ( and threatened that they would confiscate it if they see me a third time). It was steaming hot there, around 30 C. Then the temperature dropped 20 degrees to around 10 C today with a chilly wind. Potsdam was ok but nothing special. I’ll be in Warnemünde on the water front tomorrow, Sunday and in Rostock on Monday. But since the weather forecast looks rather chilly who knows what’s gonna happen. Next week Denmark. Soluna will be in Baku, Azerbaijan by then. Her name and her music are is all over the place there now. It will be interesting to see if people make the connection, when they see me busking and see photos of me and her in my guitar case.
Finally done in Aachen. The truck passed the yearly inspection, it’s cleaned up, fully loaded, got a brand new battery, an oil change and is ready to roll……
I decided to head east before going north. Today Göttingen, where I briefly used to live in the early 80′s and still have fond memories. Then on to Leipzig, maybe Dresden, Berlin, Potsdam or Rostock before I move into Denmark.