I was in Portland this weekend, and I witnessed a "big-city" kind of skirmish that I've never seen anywhere else, not here and not on the East Coast either.

I was eating brunch outside on Sunday afternoon at the corner of 23rd and Irving NW (Portland's, yuppie, sunny stretch known as Nob Hill) when a "battle of the bands" flared up between two buskers.

When we first sat down, there was an electric guitarist plugged in, kitty-corner from our outdoor table on the northwest corner. He was a 40-something black guy playing ethereal, reverb-washed versions of lily-white rock standards by artists such as Neil Young. It was pleasant background music for a Sunday brunch after a drunken bachelor party. The guy had a nice voice.

Then, at the corner across the street from us to the south, an older Latino guy, probably in his 50s, showed up and started playing catchy ditties on his trumpet. He had a nice tone, although not much of a repertoire—and, oh man, a trumpet? On a Sunday morning? Nice tone or not, this wouldn't do. Especially as the cartoony trumpet lines and 70s guitar solos started locking horns.

Despite showing up second, the trumpet player, who would shout out "Happy Sunday!" after every number, was incorrigible. (Evidently, Sundays are his and Friday nights are the guitarist's, so the dispute was a bit complicated).

The guitarist walked himself and his amp across the street, stood next to the horn man, turned up his distortion and started soloing, Hendrix-style. No luck. They exchanged words. And eventually the guitarist, fuming, packed up his gear and left.

We did too.
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