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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Something About an Ol' Ban-Joe

I live in a city. I work in a city.

Everybody knows that’s where the money is.

Right?

I’ve been crowd-guilted into leaving change for a person who poured me a coffee and walked it the three steps between the pot and the cash register.

I’ve been approached by a man who asked me for $45. For his prescriptions, he said. Said he’d take a check.

I’ve been followed by an extremely drunk woman who, if I wouldn’t give her cab fare – cab fare! – wanted me to at least give her the decorative pin off my jacket.

My favorite beggar so far, though, has to be the man I saw standing at the Dowling exit, just off 94.

There he is. No sign, nothing but him and the howling wind: him, what I would guess to be an inadequate jacket for the weather conditions, and a banjo.

I turn down my radio, lower my car window. Strangely, I can’t hear him; and yet, there’s this man, just two car lengths ahead of me, a’pickin’ and a’grinnin’. His face completely expressionless, he hops from one foot to the other, his left hand running up and down the neck of the instrument, his right hand strumming madly.

He looks, as my dad likes to say, like a heckuva player.

But there’s no sound.

He certainly looks like he’s making sound.

And that’s when I see it. The banjo is made out of cardboard boxes, shaped in a very good imitation of a banjo. No strings, no frets. Everything has been drawn on. I smile as he continues to hop around at the quiet intersection.

The light changes, and as I pull up I yell at him. “Hey!”

He looks at me.

“That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. That’s gotta be worth something, don’t you think?”

He comes over to the car and I hand him two dollars.

“Thanks for brightening my day,” I yell.

The light changes, and I pull away.

But he doesn’t hear me. He is back at the banjo, hopping from foot to foot, strumming manically.

51 comments:

Symdaddy said...

Hey Pearl, I have a banjo! Can't play it though. Every time I pull it out (the banjo, you naughty girl!) and start plucking (def'nit'ly got a P on the front of that one), I almost dislocate my stubby lil' fingers!

Have I earned my $2?

Leenie said...

Worth 2 dollars just for originality!

Pearl said...

Symdaddy, you are just too much fun. :-) Check's in the mail!!

Leenie, that's what I thought.

Ooooh -- and for those playing along at home, I have found two errors in this post, but Blogger's not letting me fix them. Drivin' me nuts...

Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

Banjos are awesome, real or pretend!

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Maybe he'll collect enough to buy himself a real banjo.

Jinksy said...

Heaven be praised for imagination and kindness.♥

R. Jacob said...

One time driving down a street in Chicago I saw a man warming his hands, in the freezing cold, in front of a garbage can full of burning, smoldering wood. Except there wasn't any garage can. He I think was part of a release of some mentally ill patients put out into the streets. No banjo.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Here in Music City, we have kind of a love/hate thing going with the banjo, enough so that it has engendered the banjoke.

Here's a couple I like:

What's the difference between a banjo and an onion?
No one cries when you cut up a banjo.

What is the difference between a banjo and a trampoline?
You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

What is the definition of perfect pitch?
Throwing a banjo into a toilet without hitting the seat.

How can you tell if there's a banjo player at your door?
They can't find the key, the knocking speeds up, and they don't know when to come in.

:-D

Denise said...

Wow, I thought I was the only one accosted outside the drug store for prescription money. Mine only wanted $25.00.

Wish the bums here would get imaginative.

Pearl said...

Yandie! Nice to see you! I raise my drink (imaginary) to this particular banjo (also imaginary)!

Delores, ya just never know, do ya? :-)

Jinksy, it takes all kinds. :-)

R., honestly, the state of care for our mentally ill is deplorable. I worry about those people!

Susan, that was fabulous. I hadn't heard ONE of those jokes, and new jokes always make me happy. :-)

Denise, I saw a show on BBC where they had several rich people (honestly, I hadn't heard of them) be "homeless" for a week, and one of the things the homeless do in a big city like London is actually provide services sometimes, particularly maps or directions. I thought that was pretty clever. I mean, if you want my change --and I've already dropped one American dollar in the Salvation Army bucket so far this season -- then I want satisfaction, you know? Re: the SA, they help the drug addicted. I've personally known someone who's gone through that program. And if you're someone on the street asking me for money, then I want something in exchange, cuz frankly that "warmth" from giving wears off after you see people collect "bus fare, just so I can go home" from you and five people just like you... They want my money, I want a joke. Or for them to stand on their hands or do the splits or an impersonation or something!!

Joe Pereira said...

Very nice of you Pearl to reward the man for making you smile.

Thanks for dropping a comment over at my blog. It allowed me to check yours which I now follow. Nice writing :)

vanyelmoon said...

Wow! I wish our beggars were that entertaining. Ours just curse at you if you don't give them money. One even threatened to follow me home and kill me. Oh wait, maybe that was a mugging? Oh well, I just ignored him and he never did follow me home.

haphazardlife said...

My weirdest panhandler asked me for some change, and when I said I had none, he said - and I quote - "OK, well I'll take a $20 then"...

jenny_o said...

Susan in the Boonies - loved those jokes. We use the onion one where I live but with the bagpipes instead of a banjo. May I borrow the rest now?!!

Great post, Pearl. That fellow must have been too miserable by far if he wasn't able to smile or thank you.

And dang it, I can't find the second typo - and it's driving ME nuts!

IndigoWrath said...

Yep, talk yer fun where you find it! There's a fella who sits in a box in Cambridge, with only his head visible. He wears a baby's bonnet and has pacifier in his mouth. There's a false baby body hanging under his chin which he can control to some extent with his hands. It's creepy. He gets nothing.

The Jules said...

Got a similar accordion made out of a shoe box. Can only pretend to play it once though . . .

Pearl said...

Joe! What do you know?! (I suppose you get that a lot.) Nice to see you!!

vanyelmoon, oh, I've been cursed. A man with blood-red dragon eyes screamed at me "I don't care about you! I don't care about you!" which of course probably meant that he was in love with me or something. You just can't tell with some people. :-)

haphazardlife, :-) He had nothing to lose. Why not?!

jenny_o, I'm not sure about that guy. It's been a long time since I've seen him, now, and I do hope he's indoors...

Indigo, see? I would have to give that guy a dollar. Our homeless don't offer much in the way of entertainment, creepy or not. :-)

Jules, You just made me think of the woman that shows up, in German traditional folk dress, with one of those wind-up organs and a monkey... THere's a sign on the organ that says "no mounting the organ", and there have to be at least three dirty jokes in there.

I'm sorry -- what was I talking about?

Ach du lieber said...

Brilliant marketing move on his part.

Kudos to him and to you for your good deed.

Roshni said...

Talk about innovation! Good one!!

Simply Suthern said...

I have a guitar I cannot play. Maybe I could play that banjo. Or at least light it up for heat.

Denise said...

"Can I have a dollar for the bus?" Is the standard greeting in Tucson. It gets especially annoying when it's well dressed high school kids.

Or the guy at the bus stop who screamed obscenities at me because he had to walk a couple miles, like it was my fault.

I agree, I want a little entertainment for my buck. Very least, tell me a good hard luck story.

Pearl said...

Ach du lieber, creativity should be rewarded!

Roshni, I think about him every now and then, the guy with the cardboard banjo. :-)

Simply, wouldn't get you much warmth in MN, but strummin' the old banjo might eventually get you enough to rent a room!

Denise, that reminds me: I had a kid, probably 10 or so, ask me for money at a gas station not long ago. I channeled my grandma right then and there: "Oh, for shame!" I said. "Go ask your mother!"

Eva Gallant said...

I love that you stopped and spoke to him and made a donation! You have such a huge heart.

Pearl said...

Eva, well, don't forget all the people I ignore. :-) They wouldn't think I have a big heart!

Kara said...

You gotta award the guy for creativity, right?

AllenTesch said...

Ah, gotta love The Cities.

mrwriteon said...

You have a wonderful soul, Paarl and that's why I love you from afar.

mrwriteon said...

PS: Somehow I gave you a South African wine name. I have no idea why.

Daisy said...

I'm listening to a cd with banjo music as I read this!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Just imagine if he had a real job in marketing.....
In NYC, I was cursed for not paying off a guy in the subway. Maybe it worked. That would explain a lot.
When a guy asked my daughter for the food in her "doggy bag" outside a restaurant in Seattle, she gave it to him, figuring he must be hungry. Either that, or there was a big black market for half-eaten cheesecake.

vanilla said...

For Susan in the Boonies: How does the band tell when they have the stage levelled? When the drool comes out both corners of the banjo player's mouth.

For Pearl: You have a kind heart, and I'm not making any jokes about this one.

Susan Kane said...

I agree. He deserved something for creativity.

Pearl said...

Kara, he got exactly $2 for creativity. :-)

Allen, and you're down in Mankato, aren't you? My son went there for three years...

mrwriteon, aww. You see right through me. :-) And I kind of like "Paarl", although I think it looks like I might talk too much...

Daisy, I think there will the opportunity for banjo music again tomorrow -- another instalment coming of the hillbillies that moved in down the street a couple years ago! :-)

alwaysinthebackrow, I would give up my leftovers... That reminds me: when I was a teenager and ever so much more tenderhearted, I watched a woman watch me eat at a fast food restaurant. I ended up leaving quite a bit of my food and gave her a nod as I left. She ran in, ate it. Hmm. Now that I think about it, I'll bet that the manager didn't care for that too much...

vanilla, thank you, my friend. I have a soft spot for some people. I guess the down-and-out are among them.

Susan, I have to wonder about where he is now...

Pearl said...

Michelle, I wouldn't delete you if you weren't a foul-mouthed nuisance. Play nice or take your scabby little ball and go home.

nixabn said...

You obviously didn't see me in the background working the light show did you???

The Elephant's Child said...

Love it. And I would have given him money for brightening my day too.

Pearl said...

nixabn, :-) very nice.

Elephant's Child, :-) that's how I felt about it!

Michelle, have you considered driving a Morgan?

Nezzy said...

'Just goes to show ya...a good chuckle is priceless!!! Good for you!

Your many encounters with beggars kinda scares me! Of course, I'm a country 'small' town gal.

God bless and enjoy this beautiful day. Stay safe out there sweetie!!! :o)

mystic29 said...

We dont have beggars out in the bush, it might be that they wouldn't get enough money to survive out here...but the skeptic in me suggests they might get offered work instead of handouts and I suspect they really don't want to work.
Kymbo from Set the Tempo

Pearl said...

Nezzy, it's kind of spread out actually, and most of these people are just, you know, people. :-) Something bad happened to one, another one feels entitled to your hard-earned cash, another one -- it could happen! -- actually DOES not bus fare home. Who knows? The bulk of people truly are someone's cousin, son, aunt. You just never know.

Pearl said...

Kymbo, all of that is probably true. :-) I wrote a long time ago -- I should look it up -- about the guy that wanted 7 bucks from me to stay in a shelter. I was busy in my garden, and offered him money to help me turn over dirt. So there I was, on my hands and knees, pulling weeks, and there he was, looking a little drug-sick, if you ask me, with a shovel... Sometimes, I freak my SELF out. Anyway, in the end, he did a little work and turned pink and made the money for the shelter. I told him to come back in the Spring, but he never came back...

alwaysinthebackrow said...

See, some of the comments are just more proof of your good heart, Pearl. Some folks beg for money, others for.....who knows what is needed?

Gigi said...

Awww Pearl! That was a nice thing to do. This guy was actually making an effort to entertain. He deserved it.

Belle said...

It was nice of you to reward him for his efforts. I think most homeless people have mental problems. I don't think it is laziness, mostly a broken heart and a screwed-up mind.

Bodacious Boomer said...

You just gotta love someone that creative. Good for you for not only noticing him but rewarding his creativity.

River said...

Playing and dancing to the music in his head.
I'm glad you gave him $2.

Sush said...

Just plain ole weird, Banjo Man...
Hugs~

Linda O'Connell said...

Air banjo, how inventive. I'd have tossed him a buck or two also.

Pat said...

A heart tweaking tale - beautifully told.

the walking man said...

That ones hard to top.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one pissy about tipping the baristas.