An Itinerant Street Musician
Randon, 22, had recently been dropped off at the Reno arch on a hitchhiking ride from Winnemucca on his eventual way to California. He says he always travels with his Ukulele and harmonica, as well as his sleeping bag and dog.
He specializes in blues and street rock, and creates impromptu street bands with others. “Kids got banjos, kids carry around guitars,” he said. “And so when you meet up with your friends, everybody's got something different and it's a lot of fun.”
“Harmonica is an interesting instrument because nobody can really teach you, but I've always been a good whistler and that really helps. So it comes to you as you go, you know, but, playing with other people helps. I enjoy the way music makes other people feel. So as I'm playing music, I'm representing my community and people that walk by can appreciate that I'm not just out here asking for help. You know, they appreciate that I'm out here trying to make them smile, trying to make them feel good and representing my community as a traveler. So that's what I enjoy about playing music. And it's a lot of fun, especially when you had a couple of beers, you get together with your friends and play some music.”
Police Troubles and Finding Places to Sleep
Randon says it’s his first time in Reno, and he says it seems very intense for those living on the streets.
“My first impression is that there's a lot going on,” he said. “There's a whole lot of drugs on the street and the cop pressure is immense. It's very, very intense actually. You're not allowed to sit. You're not allowed to sit on the sidewalk as a homeless person … It's becoming more and more difficult to exist without a credit card, if that makes sense.”
He says in his short time in Reno, he really feels police to be extremely invasive here.
“Police hassling is the biggest one because you really are not allowed to legally sleep anywhere, which is a violation of your second amendment rights to travel. You know, getting hassled for whatever, sleeping on the sidewalk or sleeping somewhere I shouldn't. Or sitting somewhere I shouldn't. Or having a sign out, you know, trying to make a couple bucks playing music. Other than that, I really don't have a lot of issues with people just because I'm charismatic. But the police really are on your case all the time.”
His first night locally, he says, he slept by the river. He’s also slept by the train tracks, after trying to catch a freight train. He also ended up having a sleepover with new friends inside.
“We met some really awesome folks from the college and these really cool girls really took a liking to us and actually brought us back to their house and we stayed there and it was really nice to sleep inside. They were really, really awesome. And they trusted us, which was, that's what I'd like to tell people is like, you know, travelers are trustworthy and cool and we trusted them because they gave us a ride to their house. You know, that human interaction is what I live for. “
A Roadie Panhandler Sharing Stories with Locals
When he’s on the road as a musician, he panhandles for money, by making people notice him or playing music. He says he makes $20 to $100 a day.
“Then, I'll go try to get, if there's a farmer's market, I always go to the farmer's market first, get fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said. “I make my money from just playing music, and making people laugh, you know, just having a good time. We had a little piece of cardboard out in the street or out on the sidewalk and it just said that. So as people would walk by, we go, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, don't step on that. Don't step on that. You know, and you make them laugh and they sympathize. After LA, we're headed to Phoenix and then we're headed over probably to New Orleans and then up to Chicago… North in the summer, south in the winter.”
He says there are distinctions between the chronically homeless and travelers like him who choose the lifestyle, but that intermingling happens on many levels. “Traveling showed me that humans are all the same and then we all need love and that we all need help. So for somebody to look at me and think, well you're just a bum. I think that's kind of a compliment because I'm having fun. I don’t know if that makes sense.”
He says the long term homeless often gravitate to travelers like him coming through town. “For one, they would love us to stay because we're usually cool. And two, we have good stories, you know, and they've been here for so long. .. All the time, they always want to talk.”
I want people to know that travellers are not all bad, there's bad apples in every community, right? So you get kids out here that make a bad name for the rest of us. Most of us aren't like that. Most of us that travel are really down to earth and awesome people. And you should talk to us because we have a lot of cool stories, but like I said, bad apples in every community ruin it for everybody.
Reporting by Jordan Blevins and Prince Nesta for Our Town Reno