It's hard to not have the Coen brothers film "Fargo" bouncing around your head when driving through the Twin Cities but even more so when the highway signs read "Fargo 50 miles". It's the only thing I think about when North Dakota comes into conversation (which is almost never), and one of the reasons I wanted to hit the small city. A few days before getting to Fargo I asked friends if they knew of anyone I could crash with, and the only response I got was "I have never met anyone from North Dakota, but I love that movie". Agreed.
As I pulled into downtown around midnight or so, I was completely surprised at how cute Fargo was. There were beautiful old building and original store fronts that I had been re-habed, there was a long freight train passing through the downtown as I got there, and to top it off an old movie theatre with the classic vintage huge bubble letter sign in front reading “Fargo”. At the corner of Broadway & First, where I parked, was a boutique hotel called “The Donaldson”. The bar was open so I went inside to try and find myself somewhere to stay. It was going to be another hotel night, and since I didn’t have the money for staying downtown I price-lined something out on the highway (name your own price, of course). The next morning I packed up my things, met a lovely Canadian couple in the elevator who were throughly amused by the Meter Tour (after inquiring about my guitar), and heading into town to find a spot.
The only real area in Fargo to play was the main drag downtown, and unfortunately all of the parking is at a diagonal which is less then ideal because I have cars to the right and left blocking me. This meant I needed to find a spot that either had a handicapped spot to the performing side or was the last spot on the block and therefore had the sidewalk running parallel (with the performance side). It took me a while, but I found one. On a side, I have become incredible patient (zen like) when waiting for these spots…think Nashville and my 4 hours parking spot quest. I parked and went into the cafe directly in front. As is the case, I caught up on social network stuff, which feels like an exhausting full time job, and also answered some work related question (yes, I still am dealing with Construction stuff on the road…so hard to completely disconnect). A couple hours later it was time to set up and play…so I got myself together with a little pep talk and meditation and started the same old process to get set up.
The day was beautiful, just like in Minneapolis. It was a nice venture from all the rain that had been following me at the beginning of the tour…so I was taking full advantage. It felt good to play but I also couldn’t shake the paranoia I had each time a police car drove by, and there were a lot of them. Long gone were the innocent early Meter Tour days where I didn’t even bother noticing police around me because nobody seemed to care. Now I felt like I saw them everywhere, and furthermore felt like I needed to take that into consideration when setting up. There is a lot that could be written here with regards to “walking in” someone else shoes when it come to the relationship between citizen and police…but I’ll leave that for another time (no context here and it would diminish the more serious reality some live with when it comes to police harassment). I pushed myself to get over the police and really try and sink myself into the music.
One of the things I am trying to work on through this tour is to get better and better as a musician, each and every show. Sometimes it’s hard to fully understand, for myself, what this Meter Tour is all about. I try to find deeper meaning or more significant importance for the larger idea….but many times I find myself stuck and then frustrated. Becoming a better performer though is a simple goal and one that I’d like to see progress in every day. That being said sometimes the improvement is there and sometimes it’s not. But the beauty of street performing is that every few minutes is an opportunity to erase what happened and try again…because most people continue on. So there is a wonderful stage to practice, experiment, and try and lose yourself in the overall moment. I was starting to work towards that space, even with not many people stopping or tipping, until out of the corner of my eye a policeman start approaching the truck. I admit I was so frustrated when I saw him walking towards me I felt like blurting out “really man?” I held onto that emotion, finished the song, and then said “Hi” to the cop who at that point was standing in front of me. He was very polite, nothing like the guys Minneapolis, and first told me that I wasn’t allowed to have a tip jar without a permit. Totally absurd and hard to understand (didn’t feel like the $3 I had in there were a real threat to the down), not least of which due to the fact that I was most likely going to spend any tips I got on food & gas…..both locally and therefore putting the money right back into their local economy. Some of these laws have no logic attached to them. He went onto say that I he was “pretty sure” I needed a permit for having an amplifier. Again I feel like I could have pushed on him, but he was very polite and I was feeling a little defeated. There was an awkward silence and I asked him “so what is the verdict on the amp, if you don’t know?”. He said he was going to go and find out. It took him 30 minuets to “go find out” all of which I continued to play to smiling citizens. A few people actually tipped me by throwing money directly into the truck, when I told them the police had shut down my tip jar. Thirty minuets later (I honestly can’t believe he went to City Hall and researched this. I just hope nothing actually needing police attention happened in those 30 minuets) he returned with backup (I am not joking) and told me that it was official and that I needed a permit for the amp. I calmly told him that they couldn’t tell me that playing acoustic music in the back of the truck was against the law so I was going to continue (without the amp and without a tip jar) They agreed and left me alone. I was frustrated, to be honest, but I slowly let it go and played for the next two hours without anything but my guitar and voice. It ended up being nice and actually empowering, but I would be lying if I said that when packing up I wasn’t frustrated feeling like my tips and promotion suffered not being able to put the show on as I envisioned it.
As I wound down the show and stay in Fargo, a young college kid came up to me and asked me what I was doing. He was fascinated when I explained it to him and he went on to tell me how he was studying music and feeling really frustrated because he felt creatively stifled by rules and rigidity by which his teachers were guiding him. We talked a little about this and he openly said he was taking inspiration from the Meter Tour in that what counts at the end of the day is creating what is inside of you and then putting it out to the world…in whatever form that comes. It was a cool moment.
Right before getting into the truck to leave Fargo for perhaps ever (who knows) the owner of a restaurant in front of where I was parked came out, and said in a deep confident, somewhat pretentious voice “I respect the hell out of what you are doing man. Keep putting yourself out there”. And with that he passed me a $10 bill, I thanked him, and drove out of Fargo.
When I have the chance to see a movie I’m going to watch Fargo again. It’s such a good movie.