Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The tips and the tokens you left me today/ are the price of my ride on the subway...

If you live in a city long enough, you get to know the characters, especially the regular street performers. In Boston, you had one guy who played who played prog/metal solos over a casio beat at Government Center and the always-humid and nasty Park Street. Then there was Mr. Butch, the self-described "black Tom Waits." He used to carry around a briefcase with "The Mr. Butch Show" written on one side, while the other side had the word "mystery" surrounded by question marks. He would stand in Allston and play harpsichord. Once, as I was crossing the street, he called me a pussy boy. I love Mr. Butch. Then there was a guy I saw sometimes in Government Center who absolutely murdered “Losing My Religion”. “That’s me... [sissy strum] in the cornerrrrr... That’s me... [sissy strum]... in the spot...light...losing... my religion...” I always thought about following the lead of someone I knew who gave five dollars to a performer to never play Tom Waits again.

D.C. doesn’t have that many street performers, but there’s this one guy... When I worked in Falls Church, I’d take the Metro from Farragut West to Ballston. And in the morning, at Farragut, there was this guy. Then coming home, there he was at Ballston. He had dreads, a rasta hat, and he his guitar was set on this reverb effect so every song he was playing sounded like the opening to "Purple Rain".

The entrance to Farragut on 17th and I is like a megaphone, so when he was playing, I couldn’t turn up my headphones enough to drown him out. He ruined every song he played. He even ruined whatI think were his own songs. What did Joni Mitchell do to him that he had to ruin “Big Yellow Taxi”? It was easier to drown out at Ballston, but no less annoying after a day at work, and in the middle of taming the feral beast that is the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, otherwise known as "commuting."

And tonight, as I came out of the Woodley Park Metro, there he was, ruining "The Weight". Reverbing the hell out of it. I hadn't thought about him in more than a year, yet there he was, making Garth Hudson and Rick Danko spin in their graves. So I may have this to look forward to this for the next however-many months. Maybe I'll start getting off at Dupont.


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