Whenever I come to the Knoxville area, I always spend a few hours in Gatlinburg with my niece, Markie and nephew, Darwin. They take me over there and while I play, they walk around and, as I found out, have mad arcade skills. Markie often wins something for me and this time won a key ring. It is a $100 gambling chip key ring, I love it! It is always nice to spend some time with them! When we got to the Convention Center, there was a Craftsman Fair going on. At first I didn’t know what to do, because the area out front that I normally play at was completely taken up with a couple of booths. That area, as far as I can tell in all the times I have been there, is the only place to busk on the entire Gatlinburg strip. I thought about for a few minutes and talked it over with them and found that if I just moved down a little ways, that would be good. So i did.
I had to wear my case and bag over my shoulder while I played, as there wasn’t really any room on the ground to place them. There were busloads of people getting off right in front of the Convention Center. At first, I wasn’t sure I was even going to last 10 minutes because of the event going on. As I played for about that long, a man came over to talk to me. I thought to myself “Here it comes” I was wrong. He was a very nice man who came over to give me a heads up about the police. I explained that I have never had an issue with them and I do this from time to time. Surprised, he said “In Gatlinburg!!” Then he went on to explain the buskers that do get asked to leave and/or get fined. He shook my hand and said “Cool man, good luck today.” I said “Thank you” As we walked away he turned and told me he plays percussion. As the day progressed, he looked over a couple of times and smiled and nodded. The people walking by and in front of the Center seemed to be enjoying everything too! There was this thing some people were doing after they tipped me and I said thank you. Some of them liked to tap my arm while I was playing and say “Very nice” or Keep it up” or “Thank you”. It was kind of funny, it messed me up one time, as one man hit my arm a little harder and made my mouthpiece come right out! After about an hour and fifteen minutes, I packed it up and Darwin, Markie and I went walking down the strip.
I saw a store in Knoxville that sold masks and I wanted one. They had the same store in Gatlinburg, so we went there and I bought one. As I walked out of the store, I put the mask on. It covered half of my face. After an hour of walking around and buying a mask, we got back to the center and I proceeded to set back up where I was- with the mask on. It seemed to not make a difference either way- not that I expected it to. I think I am going to wear that through Halloween. Anyway, that second shift lasted a little more than an hour and it was starting to get chilly and it looked like it was going to rain, so I packed up and we left. It did rain- for about 3 seconds after we got back to the car. As much as I like playing in Gatlinburg, my favorite part of the day is the drive there, my break, and the drive back. It gives me a chance to spend some quality time with Darwin and Markie, since I only see them once in a great while. Of course, they are not kids anymore. They are finding their way into adulthood and still find time (and want) to hang out with their Uncle for a day. It is usually my favorite day when I come here.
Later on that night, I went back to Knoxville. For the past two nights it has been pretty slow, but still awesome to be there. It seems no matter how slow it is, I often get to meet some cool people. I met a young man named Jonah two nights ago. He hung around while he had his dinner in the Square. He said “I’ll give you a dollar if you can play “Giant Steps”” I told him “At one point, I knew the head, but no way could I play the solo” Then we got into a conversation about Coltrane and his genius. He works in the Square and sometimes he will busk for extra money from time to time. Last night, I met a man named Terry. He and his friends also hung out in the Square the entire time I was there. He came over early and gave me a tip and when I packed up and left, I lit a cigarette. He said “A smoker?” I thought he wanted one Instead, when I went over to see him, he gave me a cigar and introduced me to the rest of his group. I gave him a card and told him what I was doing. He said “You get to Pensacola, and we will have a cigar together” I said “You’re on”