Half A Step From The Gutter – The Busker’s View Me, Walt Whitman And The Rest Of The Kids

by Michael Houston — I sing the body electric, 
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them, 
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, 
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul. 
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Alvarado Street, Monterey, Calif. is the place to live with live music, agricultural produce vendors, exquisite food and the galactic center for reflections on literary criticism and political economy.

Body electric, indeed! Not me. I only play acoustic. You need to go up the gutter by the Bovine and Ursus or the music shop if you want electric. And impressive electric stuff it is!

Personally, I’m essentially talent free, fellow acoustic players display shocking mastery ear twangers and mind blowers. Witness, Davy, our gypsy jazz guy or our Dixie Oomphapha standards ensemble.

Also, if you want to go round engirthing and unengurting you’re a bit late. Flora and the Bear Flag girls left town long ago with the horse cavalry.

Walt Whitman listen to our song in these days of white skies and June gloom. The armies still here, but now they charge their souls learning diverse tongues, computer stuff, meteorology, and strolling the streets with their pals and significant others along with shockingly well-behaved children.

Walt, charging everybody else’s souls falls upon us, your street buskers and one and only bards. Like bartenders and other servers we recommend you tip them and us generously should you make it back to this side of the grave.

Meanwhile back on the discorrupting front, poets, dancers, players and musicians have a time-honored place in virtually every society. Traditionally we are accused of doing more corrupting than discorrupting. Still we help populate your world.

We’re the sort that got transported out of our presidentially admired ancestor’s latrine-like homelands to repopulate these continents at the expense of the previous legitimate owners who lacked sufficient fire-power and immunities to hold out against American exceptionalism. Who, but our every more inclusive Anglo-Saxons could have figured out that Knowing Nothing made them better that actual Teutonic emigrants who caught the boat in a later decade. Princess Meghan would have driven them nuts!

Nobel Laureate Dylan has suggested that there are many here amongst us who think that life is but a joke. Chill, mariachi loco, off the soapbox and plug the public joys of the local farmers markets.

Beloveds, your Alvarado Street self-guided walking tour includes pre-vinyl gramophone gizmos. Their operators’ bodies may be low-voltage electric, but, like my congregation, they are among the acoustic sect. They use their vocal chords and fingers to make noise with pre-analogue devices. Consider that our ancestors played them contraptions as we now play mobile phones. In defense of the ancients, they stuck to sound waves in the parlor rather than the next table while you’re attempting to enjoy a libation and civil discourse. The current possessors of the pre-idiot box noise machines are out on the streets disturbing the peace of the howling market place mobs! They never get told to put their gramophones on silent mode prior to city council meetings or revival meetings! Also, I believe them to be essentially non-violent or I would not have mentioned them at all.

Wednesdays, the usual suspects and their accomplices have been known to gather in the terrace at Monterey’s Toro and Oso’s, at least until I start playing and clear the place.

I nearly choked on my porter the other night when I saw that the crowd included Princess Meghan or her body double back from Windsor just in time to catch the Alan’s celebration of bohemian consciousness, occasionally suppressed exhibitionism, and our drinking class’s version of what passes for convivial cultural literacy. Should any attendees ever pause their blather long enough to listen to the music… they would be very much out of character.

People, awaken from your lethargy! You know what? Chicken butt! You can’t spend your whole life listening to me and the kids play music on Alvarado Street and MPC. Summer is come! Follow your muse to some live music and aerobics yourself.

While wee ones or assisted livingers keeping time on toy percussion implements with me are a pure joy, you may rest assured that the chances of them remaining street percussionists for life are slight. They may well be on the road to becoming architects and engineers. Look at the way the young ones have taken to piling the drum and marimbas into three-dimensional assemblages and still manage to use as improvised drum kits.

Life is the question. Art is the answer. We’ll cover love next issue.

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