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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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?

And so many ways to earn it!

After all, 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.

And 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 even 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, a hot, gusting wind, 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.

Well, 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 out my window. “Hey!”

He looks at me, comes over to the car.  I hand him two dollars.

“Thanks for brightening my day,” I yell.

He says nothing.

The light changes, and I pull away.

I turn my head to catch one last glimpse of the man and his banjo.  He is back at the banjo, hopping from foot to foot, strumming manically.

Earning a living.

19 comments:

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Sounds like an awesome interaction. So nice to come across those who brighten our day like this - and bless you for brightening his as well!!

joeh said...

We have a few of those in NYC, they don't know the Banjo isn't real.

BECKY said...

Pearl, I'm always awed by the number of "different" people you run into...Maybe you're a People Magnet...as in Strange People Magnet! One of my local writer friends....and yes, I mean "local"...not "loco,"...is the same way! She somehow attracts every weirdo in a three mile radius. The book signings we did together were always....entertaining! And, you're a kind soul!

Leenie B said...

I love it when a musician knows how to work a crowd.

Joanne Noragon said...

I believe he's onto something. He must have a G string on his contraption. G for grins.

Delores said...

After having given a listen to some of our street performers I think I might appreciate a man who sings and plays silently.

Shelly said...

Banjos kind of make me nervous for some reason, but I think I would enjoy this one.

jenny_o said...

Sounds like quiet desperation to me. And you found a reason to fund him, even without any music. Good on ya.

Geo. said...

This was delightful, Pearl!

jenny_o said...

P. S. you fixed the sitemeter thingy, thank you Pearl :)

Elephant's Child said...

I am not certain whether your heart or your humour are bigger. But love them both.

vanilla said...

You do encounter the most colorful characters in your Minneapolis.

Sioux said...

Pearl--Do you think that a majority of the "characters" moved from other parts of the country to Minneapolis?

They moved just for you, Pearl...

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
Said it before and say it again...you're good people, Pearl-Zee. YAM xx

River said...

What great thinking on his part. Entertainment without noisy distraction. Banjo Mime.

Lin said...

Oh, we get 'em all here too. At least he's got a gig. The ones I see just limp along through the traffic looking sorry. There is one guy with a stump instead of a hand. You can tell how warm or cold it is outside by whether or not he bares the stump for everyone to see. He works his "stump" like your guy works his "banjo."

Rose L said...

One of the guys here plays a cardboard guitar, but he is advertising for a business. He really gets into it, dancing and playing air guitar. Sometimes he looks as if he is singing but he just mouths songs. He seems to have a lot of fun.

Daisy said...

Well, at least he won't break a string on that banjo! I'm glad I don't have to try and make a living that way. You're a good soul, Pearl, for donating to his cause.


Also, Launna asked me to tell you she has been visiting here, but she is unable to comment for some reason.

Linda O'Connell said...

I took a meal to a homeless panhandling couple one Easter and she said. "Well thanks, but I'd rather have forty dollars for a hotel room. You want me to sleep out here in the rain?"
She was under a drive through bank pavilion. I said, "I can call a homeless shelter for you."
She wanted me to leave. She left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Saw her in Florida, earning way back North I guess. Your banjo picker, now that's a good one.