The Night I Became a Busker

A busker on the streets of Asheville, NC. And yes, I did get a poem from him :)

A busker on the streets of Asheville, NC. And yes, I did get a poem from him :)

busker (noun busk·er \ ˈbəs-kər \): a person who entertains in a public place for donations

I used to be like you: the normal tourist, the crowd. I passed by the musicians and artists on the sidewalks with a curious glance, maybe pausing for a minute to appreciate the music or toss a dollar. But mainly I was just cruising by as quickly as possible and trying not to make eye contact. Until the fateful night when I found myself on the other side of the crowd. No longer was I the entertained...I had become the entertainer.

It all started with a rowdy night out at the bars. Girls nights are are rough; first you drink a lot of booze, then you dance, after which you have some heart to hearts in the bathroom with maybe some crying  and you finally end the night with some shots. So when I found myself bleary eyed and swaying with the rest of the throng at the end of the night, I thought it would be a normal stumble home. Maybe a pizza pit stop or one of those sidewalk taco stands. I certainly wasn't expecting the little troop of artists squatting in an abandoned stoop drawing and playing some banjo type music. (I actually cannot recall the type of music but it paints a better picture.)

I guess it's a good time to say that I'm a total sucker for public art. If there is an open canvas at a bar, I will paint on it. Children leave some chalk out on the sidewalk? Let me just doodle for a minute or two. So when drunk Amanda spotted the two people drawing and selling their goods - I just couldn't help myself. I stopped and asked to draw too. And to my surprise and glee, they let me. 

It started out kind of normal, I guess. I was sitting on the ground in a short dress and high heels babbling away to my new friends as they plucked their instruments and drawing who knows what in a large notebook. It was a weekend night and the bars just let out so the streets and sidewalks were packed with drunk people. If you have ever been to the Gaslamp District in San Diego, then you know what I'm talking about. A few stopped to listen to the music and peek at, what I can only assume due to my state, were horrible drawings. But I was in my happy creative place - there was no embarrassment at my feeble pencil scratches. I actual made a dollar (somehow)! But something in my head had flipped and a tiny thought was starting to grow there. Why shouldn't everyone be an artist?

Soon I was passing out this poor girl's drawing pads to anyone that wanted to participate and hollering about collaborative art. I had started with a crude drawing of a guitar and encouraged these strangers to add their own touch. At first they were timid, unsure of themselves, but Busker Amanda saw the potential artist in all of them. She encouraged them to add their own flair to the page. Together we would make amazing art! And they actually did it. The money started rolling in which made the 2 actual buskers quiet their concerns about sharing their goods. I was in the zone - the Ring Master of our tiny art circus.

In the end, pizza and a bed won out and I ended my busking career after only an hour and a whole seven dollars richer. In non-drunk reality, it was probably just 3 drunk people and a pencil, and honestly I can't even remember how our community drawing turned out. Still, I'll never forgot that night. My eyes had been opened, given a small glimpse into this gypsy lifestyle, the true starving artists doing what they love on the side of the road. I stop now, for my fellow street buskers, watch their shows and donate what I can. Recalling that time that I, too, was one of them. 


About the author

Amanda is a coffee addicted, frenchie obsessed, digital nomad. She travels the country in her renovated '88 Airstream with her husband Dave and dog Ozzy. If you don't feed her every 4 hours she can't be responsible for her actions. 

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