I saw Andre yesterday. I use to see him regularly. He would always sit on the concrete sidewalk along with the other street buskers, at the various bus stops on Granville Street. He was one of the first “Street Guys” I met. We talked at times, and he was always ready to give me his opinion on world events, the weather, the sad state of music these days, whatever. He’d talk and most of the time I just stood there listening. We would talk until a bus would stop, then he would start playing a couple of songs on his guitar, hoping people would stop to listen and drop some change in his case. When he sings, he looks as if he’s a thousand miles away, playing on stage before a sold out crowd.
I lost track of Andre. I hadn’t seen him in about a month. The city had changed the bus routes, so the normal stops downtown, had been spread out. A lot of the foot traffic, that had normally come this way, was gone. The regular group of buskers and street folk who use to depend on the foot traffic from the riders now had to look elsewhere. The flavor changed downtown. I wondered where they had gone, especially the older ones. How would they survive? Perhaps it’s misplaced empathy, but I worried about them. I’m a softie.
I needed to pick up a few things at the drug store yesterday. When I came out of the store, I was surprised to see Andre sitting on the corner playing his guitar. I noticed that he had pinned one of the pictures I had taken of him onto the top side of his case. I went up to say hi, but he didn’t see me. He had a group young girls sitting in a semi-circle around him, listening. He was singing with his eyes shut tight, his face pressed tightly against the guitar, as if he was making love to it. Every once in awhile, he would peer out of the corner of his eye to see if his audience was still there. They hadn’t moved. They were as wrapped up in him as much as he to them. Mostly, I remember his smile. The smile belonged to someone who had been given the chance to touch Nirvana for a moment. I dropped some change in the case and walked home.
I don’t know why I care about him so much. Maybe it’s because he’s 61 and still thinks he’s going to be discovered. Maybe it’s because he started following a dream when he was young and never let it go, even when it failed him. Maybe because he’s got nothing else to hold on to. Maybe because he’s like my father.
Sometimes I want to kick myself for even caring about this guy that I barely know. I’ve got plenty of other things to worry about. I’ve got a family that I love and care for. I’ve got people that I look after already, and who look after me. I’m in a good spot in my life right now. I’m flourishing.
Outside the rain has started and the forecast calls for more throughout the week. I wonder if Andre will be dry?