UT Dallas

Student, Chipotle, Denton, Denton Square, Medical School

Gloria and Gladys

After interviewing Megan, the wind that pushed the clouds out of the sun’s way continues to keep the air cool. I walk around City Hall and spot the source of the cold.  Gloria sits next to her cousin Gladys on a bench on the square. Gloria pulls a burrito and Gladys a bowl from the brown Chipotle take-out bag that separates them. The older of the two firmly plants her back against the wood with confidence as Gladys strains to avoid it.

The wind picks up and Gloria rotates her shoulders to talk to Gladys better as the latter starts on her bowl. Despite living less than 30 miles down 35, Gloria hasn’t seen her “in a while” and decided it was time to visit her apartment, hang out and talk. I walk around and interview two other women as I keep them in the corner of my eye.

After graduating from Lewisville High School, Gloria went to UT Dallas and studied neuroscience. Now she’s completing a master’s in public health and is planning on medical school. Gladys, from Garland, lives in an apartment in Denton while she studies biology in a Bachelor of Science program at TWU. Gladys hopes to join Gloria and two of their cousins in medicine.

I finish interviewing Ana and Barbara, look back over at Gloria and Gladys. Gloria whispering to Gladys who smiles as she takes another small bite from her food. It looks like they’re almost done. I better go grab then now before they walk away. I explain myself and extend the invitation for an interview, which Gloria accepts for the two with skepticism. I start the recorder. Gladys continues to eat but I notice Gloria hasn’t  started on her burrito.

“What makes you the most happy in life?” I ask after some introductory questions Gloria answered.

“God,” Gloria says. She’s firm- it’s the only logical answer.

“And family,” Gladys adds for her cousin, her back still arced over the Chipotle bowl in her lap.

An awkward pause.

“What’s the worst thing in life?” I direct toward Gladys.

“Hate. Suffering,” Gladys responds.

“To me it’s not fulfilling your purpose…”Gloria tries to add.

“Failure,” Gladys responds again.

“Yeah, I mean you’re talking short term versus long term. If you’re looking at the long term, the general purpose of life, I think that the worst thing could be to live indifferent and sort of jaded- a mediocre existence. Being mediocre would be the worst thing that could happen in your life. Not fulfilling the purpose…”

Gladys plants her palms down and picks up her chin to cut her off, “Of what you’re supposed to do. What you’re called to do.”

“[I never feel like I’m not fulfilling that] because even being pre-med and all that, and I know a lot of people say it, I know the stuff that I’ve gone through and am going through now is moving me toward that goal of caring for people. Obviously you don’t have to be a doctor to help people and care for people. There are so many ways I could reach out to others. But this is the particular way I am supposed to be walking… as a doctor. No, not only as a doctor. I plan to be a counselor also.”

“I’d agree with that too and also failure maybe. Like not living up to your full potential. I feel like everyone has that thing they’re supposed to do and a lot of people don’t live up to it and spend the rest of their lives regretting. So I guess regret would be another one of the worst things that could happen.”

“Have you ever experienced regret?”

“I’m really young, so I guess not really, not yet. I mean hopefully I never have to experience it. Every day is a new experience and that’s how I’m trying to take it and not regret anything because, in all the experiences I had, I had a choice. I don’t regret anything yet, that I’ve done.”

“Obviously, there are things that you look back and go realize it would have been wise if you had done such and such. But in the end, I know that the things that you did wrong you can look back and realize you learned something from it.”

“And you can laugh about it too.”

“And not only that but, I’m not trying to get religious on anyone but when you walk with God, all your regrets and those things in life will be sure to work out in the end. That’s my philosophy,” Gloria says as she finally savors the first bite of her burrito.

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Denton Music, Denton Square, Denton, Street Music, Acoustic Guitar, panhandling

Myles Wood

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday,” Myles Wood belts uncannily resembling Paul McCartney.

Apart from being a beautiful song, The Beatles hit has sentimental value for the street musician. Myles loves that he can do it well enough that people can actually recognize it. But what’s the most important, to Myles, is “Yesterday” is one of the songs he grew up listening to his dad play. He smiles at the thought that he didn’t realize it was a Beatles song until he was 15.

“My dad played the guitar since he was 5-years-old so I literally had guitar in my life –in utero as they say,” Myles says. “And so I was able to pick it up pretty easily, never took lessons.”

One day, in high school, Myles found a song he wanted to play he was really in to at the time. A friend was learning to play guitar and he decided to dabble to see what it was like.

“He walked in the room and was like man you really suck,” Myles said. There was something about that shook him up, so he practiced until he reached his first milestone- to outplay his friend.

“Like I’m better than he is! Fuck that, I’m going to show him,” Myles said. “From there, I just couldn’t put the guitar down afterwards even after he moved on and just quit all music altogether I was like I’m going to stick around with this and try to find some other music friends.”

Myles notices a man standing there, only moving to let people pass, appreciating the music. “I’m going to play something I haven’t played in a while,” Myles says. “On bright beautiful days like this it’s just appropriate.”

He adjusts the strap on his shoulder and looks up, squinting into the sun as he tries to remember the chords. He smiles and starts to strum the intro to a song immediately recognized by his audience. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1” by The Flaming Lips is a fun uplifting song about overcoming hardship.

The man can see it makes him happy to play it and starts nodding his head to the beat, making Myles smile more.

Myles regularly plays mostly Beatles tunes- preferably when he can sing like Sir Paul.

“I got a small repertoire of the Beatles I can use pretty often,” he says, “then James Taylor, easy listening kind of stuff then any kind of rock and roll kind of stuff I can play on the acoustic guitar, I can try and make that work.”

Myles comes out to the square three times a week mostly for the love of the music, but if he can make any money on the side, it’s a plus for him. It’s the one town where he can actually play and not be harassed. He hasn’t had any panhandling problems, and a number of times, police come to chitchat or hear him play.

“They’ll never throw in money,” he said, “but at the same time they don’t harass me saying I’m panhandling or anything like that.”

Myles tries to be respectful to the people shopping on the Square. If you want to look at something in the window behind him, he’ll move out of the way for you.

“I think that was one of the things the cops have seen,” Myles says, “is that I don’t cause trouble I’m really just out here to have fun for the most part so they’re cool with it. I see a lot of musicians out here and if they get stopped, they get pissed off and are like I’m trying to make some money here.”

Myles thinks the point of playing street music is to get to know the people maybe even get some inspiration for songs. Many times, people who do not pay are the ones that appreciate it the most.

“The just thoroughly enjoy the music,” Myles said. “That’s what they’re there for and they don’t feel like they need to do charitable work for the day tossing some change in.”

Myles recounts the coolest thing that has happened in his time on the Square.

“I had a couple gentlemen come up to me because they noticed my guitar and they liked the sound of it and they asked me what I could play,” he said. “So I started playing the Beatles for them and these two gentlemen jumped in and started singing harmony with me.”

The next thing he knew they had their own crowd of random strangers, when a group of 3 to 4-year-old girls started jumping around, twirling and dancing, laughing and having a great time. It was a culmination of everything he loves about music in one moment.

“It made my entire day- my entire fucking year at that,” he says.

To Myles, there are two very different worlds and he’s still not sure he wants to go into the profession world. In his career as a musician, Myles has never actually played any real venues or paid shows. He was too shy about it and didn’t think he had enough to put himself out there.

“So that’s why I started playing on the street,” Myles says. “Someone had started suggesting it to me over and over.”

“When I went out there so it was really just bad timing to start college,” Myles says. He ended up dropping out and “kind of doing the drifter thing” for a while figuring out what he wanted to do.

“One thing I’ve gone back and forth on,” he says, “is making a living with music sounds really cool but at the same time I don’t think it would have the same kind of effect as this sort of free performance stuff I do on the street.”

There was one guy who came by and we decided to do some freestyle collaboration and that’s the best part about it, just some random collaboration with people.

“I’m not as much of a lyricist as I don’t feel like the things I write sound good in any way, shape or form,” Myles said as his new friend Poe comes up to talk to him. “It feels contrived when I try to write words and lyrics and stuff but at the same time nobody wants to just listen to an acoustic guitar.”

Every now and then, Myles will try and bring out a few songs. Right now, he has partial lyrics for one song that he wrote and he’ll play on the square– but he usually ends up repeating the same verse and chorus until he decides to end the song. It’s enough, and for the most part, people can’t tell.

Occasionally he’ll just play some instrumental piece he’s working on.

“Some people like it,” Myles said. “But for the most part, they want singing or something else on top of that so that’s what leads me to cover songs instead of write most of the time.”

Myles and Poe start to chat for a while about a possible collaboration in the future, with a natural lyricist and a natural musician as Poe will have music behind all his stuff, whether it’s the guitar, piano or violin, or just two other instruments all mashed up together.

“I just never really get too deep into it because even though I’m not showing it to anybody it’s not good enough for me,” he says as Poe strikes up a tune and Poe walks away. “It’s the perfectionist aspect of an artist I guess.”