I thoroughly believe in this statement. I learned a lot in college about being an actor. But I learned double the information when I got out of college and started experiencing what life was really like. In college, you get the watered down version of what life is like. You don’t truly learn anything until you experience real life first hand and make mistakes.
Why did I add ‘reading’ to this quote? I didn’t learn anything about business in college (A huge portion of any career field). After college, I picked up a bunch of Marketing and Business books which opened my eyes to new ways of approaching my Art and is part of the inspiration for creating Piano Across America. You can pick up a book and teach yourself anything! Dont forget that!
He laughed and shook my hand.
…I’m fascinated with how similar my thoughts are to some of his writings. My journey reminds me of some of the things that Thoreau speaks about in the book.
I’m curious to find out what YOUR dreams are. What would you like to do with your life in the near future? It’s important to be specific…And of course, think BIG!
I’m currently working on a trailer using the 13 Terabytes of video that I shot over the course of my 5 month journey across America.
Got up later than usually: 10:20 PM. This is probably the latest I have ever gotten up on this trip. I’m usually up between the hours of 7-8 AM.
I had some breakfast and went with Alex (Josh’s roomate) to Target to get some food and a toothbrush. After our hour long trip I came back and had an interview with a girl from Mexico City via Skype. She works for a travel magazine and was going to do a story on my 5 month adventure. We spoke for an hour and she asked me questions like, “Did you have any bad or dangerous experiences?”, “What were some of the best conversations that you had”, “What was one of your favorite cities?” It was a fun time and great speaking to her.
I met up with Nikole from the night before at 2:00 PM and it started to rain. We got some coffee and went for a walk in Wicker park. We went into this little building in the park and spoke about her life in Chicago. I also told her a little bit about myself and it was a very short conversation before she had to leave for work.
At 8 I went to a Couchsurfing party and hung out with people from all over the world. It was a little crowded, but there was plenty of food: sausages, hamburgers, hotdogs, and BBQ chicken. I cruised around and talked to some people till about 10:30 PM and left to go check out a piano bar that I found out about in Wrigleyville.
In Wrigleyville there were so many people in the streets. Most of them were drunk or feeling the buzz. I walked around and went to the deuling piano bar. They werent performing so I decided to leave and check out the rest of the action in the streets. I’m not much of a bar person anymore. I think bars are boring. I hate places where I cant have a decent conversation because of the ridiculously loud music in the background. I like chill environments where I can talk and meet intellectual people. I got tired of the same old drunks in the street and drove home at 12:30 PM.
One of the Craziest Nights on this Trip
I woke up at 10 because of the late night last night. And what a fun time it was, though the heat was unbearable! I stayed indoors on the computer for a few hours and had a small breakfast at Josh’s house. I got a call from Time Out: Chicago Magazine and we set up a time to meet at Wicker Park at 3:00 PM. I drove through terrible traffic and arrived in Wicker Park at 3:30 PM, pulled out the piano and began playing. Andrew from the magazine came over with his camera and took some great photos for the story. I thanked him and off he went.
In the first 2 hours of playing it was a little slow. I met a few people and there was one really generous woman who gave me a $20 bill. I also met a guy who had some great music recommendations. He was a jazz fan and I wrote down some of the artists he told me about. I took a break and bought dinner for $11 at a place called Skewers. It wasnt the best food for the money, but it was satisfying.
I met a guy who is a DJ and producer. We spoke for a little bit about the music that is out nowadays. There arent many people doing New and Exciting things with music. People dont realize it but when Producers get involved in the artistic process, it truly muddles things up and loses a sense of soul and artistic integrity. Producers are all about sales and marketing— not about producing meaningful art. We also talked about how much of the music nowadays is recycled and reproduced. Its just a different guy singing the same lyrics. How many songs can you listen to that retort the same message?!
A really excited girl with glasses came up to me and she was telling me how she follows my blog on tumblr. I always love meeting people from tumblr because its incredible how I can connect with the people who are inspired by my story. We spoke for a little bit and she introduced me to her friends and sister. All were really great people to meet.
After eating dinner I played again and this time I had a decent crowd surrounding me. People were beginning to pour out onto the streets and many of them were really enjoying my playing. I met a guy named Joel who is an animator. He hung around and was watching me with this other guy named Julian who is a writer and photographer. And then more people showed up. There was this photographer named The Viewminder who shoots close up shots of people and he really got into my personal space when he shot my face. I took my camera out and began shooting him close up. He was really funny and he told us some stories of people trying to attack him for taking photos. He was literally walking up to girls and guys and photographing very close up as they walked by. And he does it all for fun! A girl came by and she hung around us as well, her name was Nikole.
I kept playing and I noticed that I was on fire. It was some of the best playing I have ever done on this trip and people felt it too. People were clapping from their balconies and windows. There were even people in their cars watching me. At one point I was playing some Salsa Latin licks and there were some people dancing on the sidewalk. The people who were hanging around me came over and we sang Journey- Dont Stop Believing. It was alot of fun and I was losing my voice. I sang a few Beatles tunes including Hey Jude and Come Together. People were stopping by and there were a bunch of photographers who came over and took photos of me. Great people in the streets. Joel, Mike the Viewminder, Julian, and Nikole went to get Pizza and they said they would bring me back a beer. I said, if they were offering, I wont turn them down. I kept playing and waited for them to return. As the night fell to 11:00 PM, people were coming over who were a little drunk. The Humidity was high and you can feel that people were affected by it.
Billy (Ghost) came by and he hung around next to me while I was playing. He was telling me that he had thought about what I told him to stop drinking and get himself off the streets. I told him that he knows he doesnt belong on the streets and that he is a smart man. Karma has given him a nice kick in the ass and it’s because he doesnt respect his body and his life. If he continues to drink and hang about the other homeless people, he will get worse and end up like them. I waited for the gang to come back, but decided to pack up the piano because I was playing for about 7 hours without much break. Billy helped me push the piano into the streets and I pulled out the ramps to load it back in.
Suddenly, with gusto the group returns and with a huge bottle of Tequila and a 12 pack of beer. I didnt expect that from them. We were right in front of a bar that had tons of people outside. The Viewminder opened the bottle and threw the cap into the street. He starts chugging tequila straight out of the bottle and passes it around. I took a few small sips but it was some strong stuff! Within 5 minutes the bottle was finished between 6 guys. I’m not a big drinker, but I took a few small sips and I was feeling it. The cops rolled by a few times and we hid the bottles. A man came up to me and gave me $20 to play happy birthday for his girlfriend at Midnight. I said sure and played it, but it didnt come out with such fluidity. I flubbed it and then people were requesting a bunch of songs. There were also other that came up to me and asked if they could play. I was so tired and eventually gave up and packed up the piano.
The Viewminder was plastered and was hilarious to watch. He was the most drunk out of everyone and he was a bit sloppy. We were all disgusting and covered in our own sweat, but no one seemed to care. A girl that I met yesterday named Kara came over with this guy and we hung out at a bar called Nicks for a little while. I really dont like bars and think they are boring. We sat in chairs and spoke to the people sitting next to us over the loud sound of music and drunk people. I said goodnight, went outside and said by to Billy, and left early so I can get some sleep. I fell asleep at 4 AM.
Another Hot and Humid Day
Woke up at 8 AM in the Hot humidity. Today was really intense. At 11:00 AM i went to do laundry and I’ve never sweat so much in my entire life. It was like I was in the desert. But even the desert in New Mexico wasnt this hot in June. I did my laundry while dragging Brando around with me because I cant leave him in the truck. I got some Vietnamese Sandwich and went back to Josh’s house to relax again.
The temperature was 97, but with the humidity, it felt like 107 and I didnt want to be outside for that. So I stayed in for most of the day. I sent out some emails and uploaded videos. Josh’s new roommate came and set up all his things. I stayed indoors until about 7 PM when I told Billy I would meet him on Milwaukee Ave.
I drove to Wicker Park and stopped to get some Dinner. The second I rolled up to the Records shop, he was there telling me where to set up. It was kind of funny actually. He told me he just got there 5 minutes ago. I parked my car and talked to him for 10 minutes to figure out if I should play today. I was a little skeptical, but he kept insisting that it was going to get busier. I told him that I was thinking about going to Mariano Park again and we drove over there. He got me a coffee drink from Walgreens and we checked out the area. It was too busy either because it was really hot.
While Billy was helping me set up and a man with crutches came by and started yelling at him because he gave away a spot to sleep. The man was drunk but was very angry and clear that Billy told people about his sleeping spot. I watched the whole things and eventually told them to stop so I could pass through. The man then came up to me and explained his side of the story. It turns out he was recently hit by a car when he was running from the cops for trespassing. He was a mess and didnt have too many teeth.
I was skeptical about playing but decided to bring out the piano anyways at around 10 PM. I played for 2 hours. I met this girl named Kara, these 2 flamboyant guys who played my piano, and a few others who were digging my piano playing. A bunch of the girls were really into Brando (of course). All in all it was really slow, VERY hot, and I packed up at midnight and got home late at 1 AM.
Woke up at Josh’s house at 8 AM and showered. It was going to be a humid, hot, and sticky day. I did some work on the computer as usual and walked Brando.
At around 1:30 PM, I decided to look around the city for a good spot to play my piano. I went over to Lincoln Square, Berwyn and Clark, and finally I went to Wicker Park for the first time. I drove past the park and down Milwaukee Avenue. There were Record shops, cool clothing stores, thrift shops, and I was really liking the streets for playing piano. I found a parking spot and decided to wait until it got busier. I played the piano in the truck for an hour. A Polish man came over to me and he played some cool Jazz improvisation for 2 minutes. I also met a bunch of college students and told them what I was doing. They all thought my idea was great. I met a kid who just moved to Chicago last week and he’s going to Columbia college for Music composition. We exchanged numbers so we can play together.
At 3:30 PM I met a guy this shirtless man with black hat and black glasses named Billy, but he also went by the name of Ghost. He plays guitar on the corner and sings. He just got out of the hospital for alcohol poisoning and he also got robbed by these “Crusties”, otherwise known as “Gutter Punks”, the traveling peoples who have dogs. He had some incredible stories of how he once had a million dollars, but he got so loose with his money that he spent it all! I brought out the piano and Billy said I made a mistake because its the worst time to play. I told him it didnt matter, but I decided to wait anyways.
A man with a Rickshaw biked by and he stopped to take a photo and talk. I asked him if he thought it would be possibly to rig a rickshaw so that I could bike with a 400 pound piano. He thought about it and gave me a bunch of contacts of people to talk to. The people he gave me were all Engineers and Bicycle maintenance people. I thanked him and off he went. As I was standing there with the piano one of my friends from college biked by and she stopped to say hello. Alee is one of my good friends and we hung out the day before at the beach. She took a photo and continued on her way home.
I decided to set up the piano on the corner and Ghost came by to hang out with me. I played for an hour and had some nice people come up to me including one girl who was a concert pianist, but a little out of touch. She now studies Oriental medicine and would love to travel across America teaching people about the benefits of natural medicine. She gave me a $20 bill. There was also a woman from New Zealand who came by and was once a pianist, but now plays cello. She also gave me a $20 bill. I was very grateful and thanked both because of their generosity.
It was really hot and humid and I was sweating all over. I had that sweaty, sticky feeling you get in the humidity. Night fell upon us and Billy kept telling me to go to the 6 corners where the 3 streets intersect. I packed up the piano and he helped me roll over there. It wasnt a great spot. The car traffic would wait at the light and make alot of noise. An old man came up to me and asked me how long I would be there. He said that he lives upstairs and can hear the piano. He also told me that he is a musician, but he doesnt want to hear the piano while he is upstairs. I told that I would move for his sake and that I was surprise he was a musician. He got very defensive and yelled at me before leaving.
I stayed there for 15 minutes before decided to go back to another spot near the Record store. I rolled the piano back to the spot, passing an amplified guitar player with a white hat. I played there for another 2 hours, and even sat there until more people came by. The humidity was really intense and after meeting a few other great people, I decided to pack up. As I was packing up I met these 3 guys that work for a moving company. The guy who owns the company was surprised that I move the piano by myself. They were really kind and gave me $11. Billy helped me pack up the piano and he left. Throughout the time he was with me, we kept talking about his alcoholism and I was telling him that he should get out of his nasty situation and rebuild his life. Its impossible to convince an addict to stop. But he was sincere and considered my thoughts. I told him that he could be exactly where he was when he was 26 if he got himself off the streets. He is a very smart man, but has made bad decisions.
I decided to walk the streets to get a bite to eat and met these 2 girls who were sitting at a table having a drink outside. They were really nice and funny. At one point I found out they were Mexican and spoke a bit of my broken Spanish with them. I talked to them about Dominican Republic, which is one of favorite places.
I kept walking NW on Milwaukee and ran into Billy again who was with these homeless drunks. I overheard him talking about Vicodin and Valium with one of the guys as I stopped by. I got a Taco and met one guy named Joey Ruiz who was with him. He was once a pro boxer and showed me his first fight on youtube. He was 19 years old and knocked out the other guy with one shot within 30 seconds.
I left them and went to get another Taco at Big Star because that one was so small. Billy came with me and we ate with these 2 tattooed girls. I was really tired and beat and decided to leave at 12:30 AM. My body was aching a little bit and I was ready to pass out on that air mattress at Josh’s house.
That’s because I am.
If only you could see the smile on my face at the moment. You’d be smiling too!
Back in October of 2009, I wrote in my journal about the speech that Steve Jobs gave to the Stanford University class of 2005 and how much it inspired me. In November, I created the idea of Piano Across America where I combined everything I love about life: Travel, Music, and People.
I’ve said this quote multiple times to many people in different words. It is part of my philosophy that I truly believe in. Dont waste life living someone else’s dream. Create your own opportunities!