Alexa Morales busking in St. Louis, MO

“I have an idea. What if I took the train all over the country, and everywhere I got off, I busked with my little piano and amp? Trains always take you to the center of a city, so it’s convenient, and you don’t need as many hotel rooms since you can sleep and eat on the train.”

“Why do you always make things so difficult?” my husband groaned. “You haven’t even made it across the bridge. Why not start in San Francisco?”

That was true: I still hadn’t had the nerve to go busking in San Francisco. Besides, my busking spot on the Oakland waterfront was so convenient to get to from home. Honestly, I’d only done it a handful of times (it cuts into my roller skating time).

A few months passed. Then one Monday night in September, my husband didn’t come home after work. We began to worry when 8 pm passed and his phone didn’t pick up. Separately, my adult son and I both drove around looking for him, retracing the route that he commutes by bicycle to his job as a truck driver. At midnight, I called missing persons. They said an officer would come to take a report, but they never did. All night long I called his phone. At 5 am, I went to his work and as soon as I walked in to the warehouse, his boss looked surprised and asked me where my husband was. Shaking, I went back to my car and called missing persons again. They suggested I call local hospitals. At 6 am I found him at the county trauma center.

He had been hit by a truck while walking his bike across the street, carrying some groceries. He was only a few blocks from home. It was late afternoon, his usual time for returning home. 

We spent a week in the hospital. I sat by his side for 12 hours every day. He had emergency surgery and his injuries were life-threateningly severe, but he’s the strongest man I know.

Once he was back home, our grown sons helped attend to him. Then the opportunity came up, last minute, to travel to St. Louis, Missouri. There I would attend a concert and meet two pianists who have changed my life (and those of many other jazz musicians): Peter Martin and Adam Maness. They are, respectively, the founder and creative director of Open Studio, the  jazz school where I’ve been studying for the last three and a half years.

I told my husband about it. “You have to go,” he said. “The boys will take care of me.” I protested, but he insisted. “Life can change in an instant. When an opportunity like this comes, do it.”

Once I decided to go, everything fell into place. Someone volunteered their place if I needed to get off the train and break up the 52-hour trip from Oakland to St. Louis. Family and friends said they’d put me up on the East Coast and the Deep South. I bought a USA Rail Pass (10 trips in 30 days) and booked a few segments (I still haven’t planned what happens West of Nashville, Memphis or New Orleans).

I’m only four days into this trip. It scares the heck out of me, but you have to face your fear sometimes.

It’s not about making money, though that’s nice (I made $54 on my first busking outing in New Mexico, including two tips via Venmo!). It’s really about freedom. Giving the gift of music to the people. And making music on my terms. No complications, no band to manage, no tickets to sell, no shitty sound systems. I have my gear (it’s inexpensive, but insured). And I LOVE THE TRAIN. 

I am living my dream! And my husband is getting better every day.

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