After every major task in life, its important to do an evaluation so that the next time you do it, you will do it 10 times better.
We did it! The purpose of this trip was to do what I love (Play piano, Travel the world, and Meet people) while trying to make a decent living off it. This is the dream life. TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND MAKE A LIVING DOING IT!
- Total Miles: 4,400 Miles
- Total Days: 21 Days
- Total Spent on Gas: $0.00
- Total Spent on Hotel: $50.00
- Total Spent on Food: About $300.00
- Hours spent moving and packing: 20 hours
- Hours spent playing piano on the streets: 15 hours
- Total $$ from Delivery Jobs: +$1350.00
- Total $$ from Playing Piano: +$675.00
- Came home with $1700.00 in my pocket!
- Major Cities Visited: Charlotte, Miami, Key West, Tampa, Gainesville, Atlanta, Athens, NYC.
Pro’s and Cons
-When speaking to the delivery clients I always made sure to tell each of them that I work for myself. This way, they don’t feel like they can skimp on the fees. I was able to negotiate my own payment and get a great deal.
-I SPENT $0 ON GAS! ALL GAS WAS PAID FOR BY THE CLIENTS.
-I made my own hours and have flexibility for when I can make the deliveries.
-I spent very little hours actually working. Most of the work was driving anyway.
-I met some great people through Couchsurfing.org and saved more money on hotels.
-The only downside to doing the deliveries was that coming back home I did get pressured for time by one of the clients which forced me to move quicker through the Carolinas and northwards.
-I didnt get to play piano as much as usual.
- If I were to do this differently:
-I would organize dates and plan better so that each person I work with understands the dates I will arrive and deliver. Make sure to flush out all the specific information before taking on a job.
-I would play more piano in more locations as possible. I missed great opportunities in Key West, Everglades, Homestead, Miami, Tampa, Gainesville, Atlanta, and Asheville.
-Network and meet more people in general.
-Use Couchsurfing.org more.
-Always do a little bit of research before going to a major city. Its good to wing it, but when you arrive in a city that is empty, its not fun. Its important to do some planning.
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.
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.
Woke up to a Broken Hard drive! I was freaking out because I could potentially lose 10 hours of really good video from Madison and Iowa. I spent about 2 hours in the morning trying to figure out how to get my hard drive to work. After struggling, I decided that I needed to get a new one so I drove 20 minutes to the local computer store and bought a new expensive hard drive.
Afterwards, I went to get a haircut by this fairly heavy gay guy. It was really funny and he did a pretty good job. I went back home and tried to get the hard drive to work again, only to fail. I moved some of my data to the new hard drive and began some work on the computer. It was a really hot day and I figured, why bother spending it outside, when I can spend a few days relaxing. The humidity was high.
I spent most of my indoors. I went to grab some lunch at a Vietnamese-Baguette place, which was nice. I called up a friend of mine from college and we planned on meeting tomorrow.
Nothing much else happened. A chillaxin day.
Second Day in Chicago
Woke up at Josh’s house and stayed indoors until 12 PM. I knew I was going to play piano again today, being a Sunday, but I didnt know where. Josh recommended that I check out Lincoln Square and I drove by but didnt see too many people. I drove around for about an Hour! Driving in the city is so much more annoying because I’m constantly starting and stopping. The traffic lights out here are also not synchronized so you will drive and stop and drive and stop. After check out Clark street and searching around Lincoln Park, I went to Mariano Park (which I found out is also known as Viagra triangle). Whats funny is that most people dont know its called Mariano Park.
I played for about an hour and a cop who was walking by told me that it was illegal to play on State Street. I was a little upset because it took me so long to set up. As I was pushing the piano back to the truck I decided to stop in front of a restaurant named Dublin’s. I told the 40 people who were eating outside that I was going to play them a song. I played La Vie En Rose and when I finished the piece there was a storm of Applause from every single person sitting in that place. It was so wild! I told people that they didnt need to give me donations but 4 people came up to me with $5 bills and insisted that I take it. The cop came up to me again and told me I have to leave. People were vouching for me, but I left. That was one of the highlights of my trip!
I packed up the piano and began driving around. I went to a few small parks that were on the map but couldnt find a good spot with a decent amount of pedestrians. I drove around for 2 hours and finally I decided to head back to Josh’s. I wasted a Quarter tank today alone, which is a lot of gas.
I made some dinner at Josh’s while I was uploading some video to my computer. At one point Brando was running and his feet got tangled up in the wires. He ran fast and my hard drive fell off the table making this clicking noise. I became very worried… I went to sleep on my air mattress.
Its been raining non-stop here in Long Island, New York. Kind of a drab way to come home, but I’ve been spending my time playing piano, writing, and collecting all the information from my trip.
I’m working today… I got a job through one of my friends from high school and what I do is drive his Insurance broker dad into New York City, drop him off at a meeting, and hang out in the car with my laptop, writing or reading. Its really an ideal job because I get to kill 2 birds at once. I get paid to drive and do my errands.
Woke up in a parking lot in Milwaukee at 7 AM and based off of my experiences yesterday I figured I would just head to Chicago which was only 90 miles away. Before I left i got some gas for $90.00.
I took me about an hour and a half and I went over to Evanston, a town which was recommended to me by someone in Madison. I found out about the farmers market and decided to check it out. It was a bit small compared to the previous farmers markets that I’ve been to. There were already a few musicians there: one guitarist and another woman who had a bunch of little instruments. She was teaching some kids how to make music with spoons and a bunch of other percussive instruments she had. I walked around and got a bite to eat, but decided against playing my piano.
I headed over to downtown Chicago and spent a while looking for parking. I found parking on a small sidestreet and walked around Michigan Ave. I went to Millenium Park and saw the big mirrored bean. I saw that great fountain where all the kids were playing. I saw a group of bucket drummers near one of the bridges. I also saw the new Marilyn Monroe statue where she is holding her dress down. There were alot of people and it sort of reminded me of Times Square with all the tourists, limited parking, and the tall buildings. I kept walking North and I happened to run into a clarinet player I saw 3 months ago in New Orleans! He told me to get a permit so I can play on Michigan Ave, but I personally dont like playing in crowded areas like that. As I continued to explore I noticed that the North side of the river had more parking and it was less crowded. I went back to the truck and moved towards Mariano park, otherwise known as the Viagra Triangle.
I pulled out the piano and went to the middle of the triangle to play. I played for 30 minutes and met some very generous people when a bald guy from the Cafe came up to me and told me that I cant play here. I told him that people were enjoying the music and he told me I’m not allowed. I started packing up and once I was ready to go a cop shows up and tells me they got a complaint from the Cafe. I told him I was leaving and he was cool about it. I moved over to the Cedar Hotel and played for the people having drinks there. I met the owner of the place and he gave me a hat. I also met some college students who were hanging out. A Polish man gave me a $20 and bought me some mini hot dogs. I spoke to him about the life in Chicago and he said he loves it here. I kept rolling along and ended up playing in the middle of the street on the median where the cars were passing by. WHAT A RUSH! People were on a roof yelling at me.
A group of recent graduates were taking Sake Bombs and they called me over. i played a song for them and they offered me a shot. I told them I’m not much of a drinker, but they insisted and I took one anyway. They were really friendly and generous. I also met a girl who was following my blog on tumblr! After hanging out with them I went back to the truck and packed up. Everywhere I went, people were stopping me and talking. They were all so curious about my travels and my story. I packed up after 4 hours on the streets and night fell upon us.
I called up my friend Josh and he told me to come to a bar in Andersonville called Lady Gregory. I went there and met with a friend who was like family from college. We spoke about the growing theater scene and how there is so much support for little theater in Chicago. He brought up going to see the NeoFuturusts and I’ve heard of them. I’ve always wanted to see their work. After dinner we went on line and got into the theater by 11:30. The show was great and really reaches out to today’s TV audiences. The plays are short scenes: some are funny, some are sad, some are political. But the way they all tie together it makes it much more poignant and moving. There are no characters, everyone plays themselves and the stories are all true. I was very much inspired by the work the NeoFuturists do.
Woke up in the truck in Madison, Wisconsin and went over to the Macha Tea House. I asked Anthony to recommend me a tea that would open up my sinuses. He made a little concoction of camomile and ginger: It was really nice and gave me a little buzz that woke me up. I drank my tea upstairs in the house and meditated for a few minutes. I thanked him for his generosity and he gave me 3 wholesome organic cupcakes (gluten free carrot, red bean, and green tea). I really enjoyed talking to him about tea, blogging, and traveling.
I went to the Barber but figured I would get a haircut in Milwaukee. I didnt want to wait. I decided to leave. I really fell in love with Madison in the summer. I love the locals, the open and welcoming demeanor, the fact that there are students hanging about, and the political fight that is within the heart of some of the people.
I went over to the supermarket to get some ice for my cooler and grabbed a couple of samples while I was getting some food for lunch.
OFF to Milwaukee! I drove about an hour and 20 minutes to Milwaukee. Some parts reminded me of New York City. Some of the buildings reminded me of buildings that I saw in SOHO. I walked around the Public Market and checked out a few restaurants. One thing that I noticed was that there weren’t many people around. There were some people in the restaurants, but there werent many pedestrians. I also noticed that there was a bar or pub on just about every corner near the public market. I spoke to some people on the streets and asked them what there is to do at night and most of them told me about the bars and pubs. Not one of them told me about some kind of entertainment or something fun to do. But that is what nightlife in just about every city in America has brought. Some cities have terraces, boardwalks, and places to hang out with friends, but the majority of nightlife in America is surrounded by Alcohol. I think its very sad because there are so many creative things you can do in a night.
I found out about a Mexican Fair this weekend and drove by. There was no possible way of playing my piano there. I decided to park in a secluded parking spot and took a nap. I talked on the phone and slept for about 2 hours. I woke up refreshed, but still covered in sweat because of the humidity.
Night surrounded us and I walked the streets in search of something fun to do. I passed by all the chic women in their luxurious outfits and all the guys spending big money who were sitting at these fancy restaurants with colored lights. I looked like a real loner in my dirty khaki shorts, white shirt, a messy beard, and uneven haircut. But I didnt care.
I went inside the Metro hotel and found out about a great rooftop they have set up. I took the elevator up and I was the only one there. They had a hot tub, a shower, a terrace, and some chairs. I was thinking about jumping in the hot tub, but decided against it. It was really dark and I continued my journey through the lonely streets of Milwaukee. I came upon the Pfister Hotel and walked inside. I heard a piano from far away and went to go see the man who was playing. He was playing some really amazing jazz piano. His playing was skillful, playful, and he had such a beautiful range of ideas. I spoke to him about the piano and asked him for some advice, but he didnt seem like he wanted to inspire or help anyone. He seemed like he was upset or just a little bit full of himself. He told me that he does everything by ear and that it just comes to him. I dont like people who think they are entitled to be rude because they are on TV or in the movies, or they can play some of the most amazing music. No matter what another person has achieved, they never have the right to belittle you or treat with disrespect!
I left the hotel and found a parking spot near the highway where I slept in the humid night air.
Woke up in the morning to a cloudy day. Decided to take another day off. Moving a piano around the country is very physically demanding. It’s like going to the gym but much more fun. Plus, my fingers need a rest when I’m constantly playing for multiple hours at a time.
I bought a metro pass at noon and took the red line down to Alee’s house, a friend of mine from college. We decided to get smoothies and take a walk by the beach. Its funny because people from Chicago call it the beach. I didnt think it was much of a beach: at least not like the ones where I’m from. But it’s all they have. The water does look really nice in some parts, almost tropical colors. We talked and walked around for 3 hours about our partnership in college, this guy that she likes, and my incredible traveling experiences.
After walking on the beach we got some Korean rice bowls and I left at around 3:45 PM. She told me about a concert that she was going to tonight and I told her I would come. I went back to my house and worked on some writing and emails. At 7:30 PM I drove back down to Alee and met with her at this bar. They wanted a $10 cover and I decided not to pay it because I was short on money. After meeting some of her friends and talking for 20 minutes I went back to the truck and practiced some piano. It started to rain. I texted Alee and told her that I would go home.