Green Line Busking

trees in fall, u chicago
College campuses are best in fall, dead leaves smell like learning.

I took my first Green Line trip this Monday to get down to Columbia Univeristy to participate in a study. When Madeline Albright was there signing books, I got there by bus. The subway is a less depressing way to get there. Columbia is in the middle of a slightly depressed area. As I walked down the street, I felt white as skim.

On the way home, a man got on the train. “I ain’t here to rob nobody, no need to hide your purses or nothin’. I’m a musician. That’s what I do, I make music.” Noooo! Loud and painful ‘music’ from a crazy person! He continued: “You can clap along or stamp. I take donations. If you don’t have it, that’s alright. You can shake my hand at the end if you don’t have it. I take nickles, dimes, pennies, dollars, whatever you got.”

I had enough of that at the Jackson Blue Line stop down town. I have considered riding my bike 16 miles round trip to avoid these dudes when I was volunteering at the library downtown. There’re buskers there that do the most excrutiating covers of Hotel California, entertain themselves by ‘singing’ songs that I think are supposed to be soul (and they bring their own beatbox machine and sort of moan and howl and I can tell they mean it), horrible horrible guitar playing and singing, uncoordinated drumming, just the most embarrassing, ridiculous crap. And it is always loud enough to penetrate my headphones on full blast.

However, this non-purse-robbing music maker actually made music. I saw the huge coat out of the corner of my eye, and therefore didn’t pay him any mind, but he wasn’t crazy. He sang in a loud, rich, clear voice that filled the car and flowed around us. People stopped talking. Maybe because he was so loud, but it was really nice. I wished I had had money because it was beautiful. But I didn’t look up, I kept writing in my notebook. Making eye contact on the subway or even on the street is to be avoided at all costs. You can really open up a can of social interaction with that. People assume you want to talk to them. No thank you. I like the anonymity of city life just fine.

That’s another reason why I like Logan Square- I can walk down the street in peace. No one has asked me for money in my own neighborhood. Wicker Park and the Loop are infested with panhandlers and people wielding clipboards for Greenpeace. I want to get my own clipboard and use it as social shield or as a weapon.

The guy said he’d maybe see us the next time we were on the Green Line, so if we didn’t have money now, it was okay. Green Line: where decent buskers go. Now you know.


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