Busking in San Francisco

After a beautiful sunny day of busking in San Francisco, I took the Oakland ferry from Pier 41, stopping back at Embarcadero, then under the Bay Bridge, and past the "skywalker" cranes that inspired the name of the Star Wars hero. That brought me full circle on a day, Tuesday, November 30, 2004, which started when my daughter-in-law delivered me from Berkeley me to Larkspur in Marin County. From there, I rode the 8:20 AM ferry with commuters, across the bay. The fantastic San Francisco skyline was in plain view from sunny corner shelf on the ferry where I sat, playing my harp. I was happy and free. Soon to quit my day job, kids grown, I can do as I please. From here on, it is all about me.

First off the boat I was, already performing on the landing as the other passengers disembarked. One of them dropped in my cup a friendly poem he had written about my music during the passage. Inside the ferry terminal I found a comfortable bench. I was picking up a few tips and plenty of smiles from passers-by. Among them was an interesting character that I want to tell you about.

Arthur Escoto is a fruit and vegetable sculptor, and a great talent! He introduced himself to me as a "fellow artist," but I would never have guessed his medium. With just pride he showed me photos of his fabulously transformed fruit and vegetables. Imagine watermelons, carrots, radishes, transformed into flowers, animals, and complex geometric abstractions. He was here, at the Farmers' Market, scouting business with the vendors.

See more pictures here, or search for his name.

When I learned his country of origin, I played my Filipino tune, Dahil Sa Iyo. This gave him the idea of displaying me to his fruit vendor friends. I was happy to comply. For an Italian vendor, I played "Three Coins in a Fountain" and "Marina." For a Mexican vendor, I played "De Colores" and "El Caiman." She gave me a bag of oranges and a grapefruit. At the foot of California Street I climbed on a cable car, ready for the next trip, empty but for two operators. They immediately requested that I play "Pajaro Campana." I offered as a substitute "Moliendo Cafe" and "Alma Llanera." I handed the Bolivian a small maraca, and he provided rhythm accompaniment. (I carry these little shaker eggs wherever I go, they are very useful with children.) Soon my rhythm section, with his Salvadoran partner, were obliged to turn their attention to driving the cable car and collecting fares, but they did not ask me to pay. I entertained riders on the way up to Hyde street. Another cable car took me down to Fisherman's Wharf, but this time it was crowded and I had to pay.

At Hyde Street Pier, as I ate my lunch, I thought of Fred Gosbee and Julia Lane, musicians from Maine. They have incorporated maritime interests into their music. Perhaps they have visited the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. A variety of very interesting old ships are on display, including sidewheelers, an old ferry, and sailboats large and small. A group of children, visiting the sailing ship Balclutha, stopped to touch my harp strings as they departed. They also tried the block and tackle arrangement set up to demonstrate "mechanical advantage." The day was nicely warm, but I shivered to think what it must have been like for those old mariners, working the sails in all seasons and climates!

Nearby, I discovered the recently renovated and Del Monte Square. A sign caught my eye with its offer of "non-stop live music." The music caught my ear, coming from a small stage before a row of empty benches. The singer was a very sweet and friendly young woman who announced, when she saw my harp, "here comes the rest of the band." With no audience in close attendance, she took the opportunity to be informal. She graciously invited me to join in the music, which I did, just improvising on her basic chords. Her name is Krickie. Just Krickie.

Back at Pier 41, waiting for the ferry to leave, I watched a cool street act. This guy was all painted silver, standing like a statue, on a milk crate, with a cup in his hand. At his feet, a bucket, and a boom box playing hip-hop music. When I put money in his cup, the statue came to life and danced, finally emptying the cup into the bucket! Though the crowd was small at the time, he was steadily making money. Great act!!

Onto the ferry, under the bridge, past the skywalkers, to Oakland, then Berkeley, I went, then back home to West Virginia the next day. It was a great Thanksgiving trip, with many highlights, among which was my day of busking in San Francisco. Although I was slacking as a street performer, I still broke even, spending on ferry and other expenses just about what I brought in from tips.