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A Car-less Fiddler?

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, May 23, 2014

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About two months ago, my old car died.  The timing belt went, and while the cylinder heads are non-interference so it's repairable, the car has other issues and is high mileage.  Probably not a good investment for repair.

Our county however has pretty good bus service, and we live right on one of the main lines.  So I've been trying to get along without a car.  It's been a major challenge however.  Shopping and gigging are WAY more challenging!

Gigs especially.   All of my gigging destinations have bus service.... they have stops right in front of them.  It's the TIMING of the buses, and getting the right bus that's been a major challenge.  I'm dyscalculic.... I don't remember numbers very well, and I find bus schedules confusing.  Confusing enough that rather than trying to make connections, I'd just take ONE bus, and walk the rest of the way!  Problem... while it gives me needed exercise, I'd arrive at a gig sweaty and exhausted!  Also confusing is when one bus changes to another route designation.  It's been hard to remember which ones do, and which ones don't change.

One gig in particular was a problem.... it's way on the edge of town in the middle of a senior community.  Last month I got there way too early because I walked part of the way.  THIS month, I managed to get the right buses, and it was PERFECT!  I think the key for me is being willing to take one bus earlier that I think I need to take for the first bus- that way I'm assured I won't miss the connection, but I do have to be willing to wait a bit.

Waiting!  That's been a major challenge.  When you have a car, you don't realize it, but you don't have to wait much.  You might think waiting for a stop light is a long wait, but that's NOTHING!!!  I've really had to develop some patience.... the first month, I walked sometimes when I didn't have to just because I didn't have the patience to WAIT!!!  I HAVE developed some patience... however, one additional plus is that the bus system has a number for checking when the next bus is coming- you text a code number on the bus stop to a text number, and you get back a response in seconds that tells you when the next bus will arrive.  I find it much easier to wait if I know HOW LONG I have to wait!

Logistics has been a challenge.  With a car, you can bring extra stuff, "just in case"- "Never gig without a backup!"

Now, I'm a multi-instrumentalist.... I've been gigging with up to three instruments, and occasionally an extra fiddle.

Forget THAT!  Yesterday, I bit the bullet, and decided to NOT take the banjo.  Three instruments on a bus is really too much, even if they are all small ones!  The banjo I have is a small travel banjo in a gig bag, and it's really not that heavy in and of itself, but I would only do a small set with it in the middle of the performance.  The biggest part of the performance is the fiddle, and then I do Tin Pan Alley songs with baritone ukulele to close.

For one gig a week, I do hymns and spirituals, and I will continue to take the banjo for that- I haven't been taking the fiddle for that anyway. I do the spirituals on the banjo and the hymns with the baritone ukulele.

Shopping is a really big challenge on a bus.  The two stores I shop at most are a pretty good distance away.  Getting there isn't a problem, the problem is that there is a limit to what I can bring home on the bus!  Now, I've never been one of those people that gets a shopping cart full of food, for one thing, I've never had kids!  When I go shopping, I basically have always just used the kid seat... have for years. Most of what I buy fits easily into one, maybe two cardboard boxes that I attach to a Magnacart with bungee cords.  However... we have a cat.... and having a cat means CAT LITTER!  And cat litter comes in big, heavy bags!

The first month, I took a platform cart with me on the bus, and just walked the cat litter home on the cart.  But that was April, and it wasn't that warm.

This month, my wife had to go to the doctor's office, and so we decided to rent a car for the day.  She's in a lot of pain due to fibromyalgia, so a jerky bus ride was out of the question!  Since I had the car for 24 hours, I took advantage of it- did my recycling that had been piling up, and stocked up on cat litter!!!  Oh yeah.... I even bought a new-to-me computer monitor!  19 inches instead of 17- it's great!  I had been having neck problems, and figured out it was probably my aging eyes and the too-small monitor causing me to lean forward too much.

Traveling with instruments on a bus  is INTERESTING.  Now that I have only two to carry, I carry them on a Magnacart, and it's much easier to handle.  But it's unusual to see musical instruments on a bus, so people ask questions, and you get into conversations, especially since the baritone ukulele case is hard to identify- looks like a small guitar case!  And the conversations are usually fun.  Yesterday, to my great surprise, a young guy got on the last bus I took with a VIOLIN!!!!  Of course, I HAD to ask him if he was a violinist or a fiddler- he's a violinist.  So we talked shop a little.

Who knows, I might actually get used to this.  The extra exercise is good for me.... well, I'm not walking as much as I DID at the beginning, I still walk more than I did... the transit center isn't THAT far from where we live, and sometimes rather than try to get my gear or groceries re-situated on a crowded bus, I'll just walk home... oh yeah..... on FRIDAYS the gig requires a P.A.  At least I THINK it does.  And a P.A is a bit more challenging on a bus.  I've only done it once.  I've been WALKING the gear on a small platform truck both ways.  And it's trimmed down from what I took before- only one mic, no mixer, no P.A stand, lightweight mic stand.  The speaker itself isn't THAT big, but that plus 2 instruments gets me up to 3 items- really too much.... and that's not including the stand, cables, and mic!!!  I SUPPOSE I could trim down to ONE instrument.... but what if I break a string?  Not too common on fiddle or banjo, but fairly common on my baritone uke!

Another problem has been, that even though I was tired after a performance, I made myself do grocery shopping on the way home to save time and gas.   That's out of the question now.  Too much stuff to take home.  And once I get home from a gig, it's nearly impossible to make myself do another bus trip for shopping, and sometimes I just run out of time... bus travel just consumes more time than a car... at least without careful scheduling, which is NOT something I'm good at.  So what had been days at home become shopping days.  So nearly every day I've been getting good and tired, and often conking out for the night at 9:30 or 10:00.  THAT has been cutting severely into my practice time.... I never have the energy to go downstairs to the men's restroom in the lobby to practice anymore... and those days off were my main time for practicing during the day.   My fiddling has been showing signs of the neglect.... tone is still pretty good, but I've been making more left hand mistakes. Ugh.  Sometimes a bit more dodgy intonation at the beginning.  Drumming is also being impacted.... when I was driving everywhere, it was a needed form of exercise... now it's not so needed, and my legs are stiffer... I don't notice it until I try to drum.... the left foot is having a harder time, it tires on the high hat pedal really quickly!  And cutting banjo out of most gigs is going to make IT go rusty!!! What to do, what to do???

5 comments on “A Car-less Fiddler?”

fiddlerd Says:
Friday, May 23, 2014 @11:50:29 AM

I wish i could get by without a car. I live in a rural area and you have to have one to get anything done. I hope it works out for you and it saves you some money. I would like to be able to ride a bicycle to the store and do other errands. No such luck with the increased traffic and the big trucks flying by at 70 mph. I can still dream. No ins. no gas I could save some money. If I had to go out of town I could rent a car. Good luck and keep us updated.

Cyndy Says:
Friday, May 23, 2014 @12:38:15 PM

I've been riding the bus/subway for 2+ years (but I have access to a car nights and weekends so it's a lot easier than what you describe).

You'd be surprised how much practicing you can get in while waiting for a bus if no one else is around and it's not raining--or snowing. : ) Sometimes I find myself wishing the bus would be late.

And you're right about the conversations. I notice it's mostly, "Is that a guitar?" (no) and "I've always wanted to play an instrument (it's never too late). One day, I boarded the bus carrying a messenger bag and the driver asked, "Where's the violin?!"

I tried riding my bike with the fiddle case on my back once. Not good! I'm short and it kept pushing the helmet down over my eyes.

Do you have Zipcar or the like out where you are? I've thought that would be a good alternative but I haven't looked into it.

EricBluegrassFiddle Says:
Friday, May 23, 2014 @12:51:33 PM

I never rode a bus in my life until I moved to Argentina ( well besides a school bus..hehehe ) and now I ride one every day. However, fiddle, banjo on the bus here? NO WAY; I value my property to much to put them at peril of being robbed.....instruments are frequently robbed from pedestrians on sidewalks and in Buses.....I prefer to take the taxi straight to a gig here if I have to leave home with my instruments!

Rene Says:
Friday, May 23, 2014 @3:58:59 PM


fiddlepogo Says:
Tuesday, May 27, 2014 @7:30:57 PM

One nice thing about my senior gigs is that they are all during the day. That contributes some to the security. Crime does seem to be getting worse here, but daytime seems pretty good still.
Then again, none of my instruments is really worth that much cash value.
It probably helps a little that I'm 6'2" and 220 pounds! And I try to keep a good grip on them.
There is also a required 30 day hold at pawn shops and music stores... that probably hinders some thefts.
We also have video cams on buses.

I've never heard of Zipcar, so we probably don't.

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