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With our society on the brink of collapse and the US government on the verge of shutting down, I found myself near the epicenter of action, busking outside the Chinatown station in Washington DC.

It was a cool Thursday afternoon, cherry blossoms were in bloom, and it was much too beautiful a spring day for politics. Still, Republocrats bickered senselessly over how best to appropriate tax dollars, where to make budget cuts, even to the point of shutting down the government altogether, should push come to shove. And though the US is steeped in three wars, based in over 150 countries worldwide, with nearly half the federal budget committed to military expense, there was hardly a word about cutting such expenditure. So while the politicians did what they do best – nothing – I concerned myself with singing songs of peace and justice.

I also hoped to earn a bit of income, keeping my eyes on the prize – complete financial freedom and peace. I had busked here once before, earning fifteen bucks in about twenty minutes. I hoped the spot wouldn’t let me down.

“Have you seen my banjo friends?”

I actually had seen a scruffy young man with a banjo case with whom I’d exchanged glances mischievously, as though we were both in on some kind of conspiracy – the glances that members of the Fight Club shot at Tyler Durden.

“Yea, I saw someone with a banjo. He went that-a-way.”

This man was unshaven with short dirty-blond hair and bright green eyes underneath a spring cap. He thanked me for the tip and disappeared as quickly as he had come, his gait falling somewhere between a stroll and a skip.

I only made three dollars for the hour.

Two days later I found myself at the same spot, busking, eyes on the prize. The government had averted utter collapse when the cowardly Democrats folded, as per usual. War and violence were to continue, as were my songs of peace and justice.

The young man approached again, eyebrows suspended in an expression that only made him that much more vulnerable. Again he asked if I’d seen his banjo friends, but this time I had not. He set down a greenish military canvas bag that must have weighed fifty pounds, undoubtedly containing his entire life.

“I have some food here if you want it!”

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I could go for a meal, I thought to myself. My eyebrows met his. He began to pull out quart after quart of Chinese food. Then skepticism set in as I realized it was unlikely these containers would bear any vegetarian fare. I handed back boxes of chicken and pork lo mein, probably to his surprise. He had received the food from a homeless mission and wasn’t hungry, as he had eaten a big breakfast. I’m certain that generosity was his primary objective in offering his food, but he also clearly hoped to unload the weight from his pack.

I explained that I’m from NYC, was just in town for a few days, hoping to earn the bus fare home. He’s a musician himself, apparently, which is presumably why he always seeks banjoists.

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He proceeded to let me in on all the services provided for the homeless in DC. He must have thought I was homeless. I listened intently, happily. He gave me a support number, in case I was ever in an emergency. I pretended to save it but didn’t. I hardly need more numbers cluttering my phone contacts. He told me which shelters to check out, which to avoid; where to get food, medicine, all kinds of help; even how to get these delivered to me! It was a joy to learn that the homeless are well taken care of in DC.

“Can I get your number too?” I asked, “I can get in touch when next I’m in town.”

I entered his number, asking his name.

“Dean.”

I thanked him for the info and indicated that I’d better get back to playing.

I did much better that day.

By: Gio Andollo

 


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