Dream a Little Dream On a Streetcar

Last Friday evening I waited with a jittery bunch of passengers for the North-South line streetcar to arrive in the middle of downtown.

Some, like me, were part of the late bunch who had just finished work. But most were out on the town, traipsing amongst the vast array of quality restaurants and watering holes.

I was in a mood.

After work I was wiped out and wanted nothing more than to get home, wind down with a cold beer, and hang out with Mr. H and the cats.

As the streetcar approached, it looked packed. It was warm that night, and being smashed up against strangers was the last thing I wanted to do.

Then, I began to hear a familiar tune.

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper “I love you”

(Okay, I’m losing it. Am I hearing Ella Fitzgerald on the freaking streetcar?)

Birds singing in the sycamore trees
Dream a little dream of me

Yes, I was.

Streetcar Mobile Musicfest Portland

The streetcar doors opened to reveal a full-on jazz trio—two guys and a gal—clad in 1940s duds. She was the lead singer, one guy played the guitar and sang with her, while the other manned an upright bass.

We all squished into what I could only describe as a party train from another time. Fortunately, there were plenty of others around to console my fear of insanity. Historical fiction writing can blur the lines of reality and make-believe in my head sometimes.

It turns out that I happened upon another thing that makes the city of Portland that much more awesome.

Streetcar Mobile Musicfest celebrates the city by featuring local musicians on downtown streetcars at various times of the year. The live music is included with your streetcar fare, which is a whopping buck one way.

Lucky me had the privilege to see Boy & Bean. They were talented and mesmerizing.

Streetcar Mobile Musicfest Portland

To say that this was a magical experience doesn’t even do it justice. 

The music transformed the public transportation experience entirely. Usually everyone tunes out on the streetcar, listening to music, fiddling with their smartphones, or sitting with their arms crossed and staring out the window.

That night everyone tuned in.

Riders were smiling, clapping, photographing, filming, and swaying in the seats and aisles.

There was an old couple next to me dancing and singing the whole time. The woman and I looked at each other with foolishly happy tears in our eyes. From two completely generations, we grinned and moved together, connected by a few beautiful minutes on a crowded downtown streetcar.

Streetcar Mobile Musicfest Portland

It would not have been hard to spend hours there, enjoying the vibe with all of those strangers as the city lights sailed by. Of course, I almost missed my stop and jumped up just in time.

I reluctantly exited the streetcar and walked home in a different mood than when I got on, jiving inside.

50 thoughts on “Dream a Little Dream On a Streetcar

  1. Pam says:

    Love this! I experienced something like this in NYC on the subway…where everyone is afraid to make eye contact. It made the crowded trip so much more enjoyable. This was written so well, it took me right back in time. Thanks for the trip.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      That’s so neat, Pam! Can’t we have this everywhere and all the time? Guess there would be the possibility of losing the warm fuzzy effect if it were an everyday thing.

      So happy to take you back in time! : )

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    What a cool thing! It’s difficult not to feel the camaraderie that naturally develops in situations like that, even for an introvert like me. How wonderful that you were able to experience it.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Totally! Camaraderie is the perfect word to describe the experience. It’s something we humans don’t feel often enough together, even in close quarters. It was such a memorable moment.

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    Great story – one that seemed to have just broken down people’s natural barriers for a few minutes.
    ‘I knew that if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance, and maybe they’d be happy for a while.’ 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Yes, it was. I wondered for a moment if I was stepping into some sort of travel machine. Then, I shrugged and went with it. The connection with the older woman was neat, something I’m sure I would not have otherwise.

  4. maryjomalo says:

    So very lovely! I had to sing it out loud, remembering it from my childhood (the 50’s) and then reprised by the Mamas and Papas in the 60’s (also my ‘childhood’). Through your love of history and writing, you have such an uncanny ability to connect with someone of my generation. It brought tears to my eyes too! What a fun way to spend a ride with fellow travelers, no longer strangers.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Don’t you just love that song? I adore all of the versions too. Of course, Ella Fitzgerald one is probably my fave.

      So glad to have that connection. That means a lot to me, MJ.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      You would have loved it, doll! I agree that more cities should jump on board with such a fantastic idea. Even if it only happens a few times a year, mobile music like this can really spread a positive vibe.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I’m a big nature lover, but there are things about the city that always inspire me. I guess it’s not that different from nature, since we are the peppy animals braving the urban jungle.

  5. Dhebi says:

    Boy And Bean is an amazing band! I have been to shows where old and young are dancing the “old school” dances and everyones knows those depression era tunes, and they are singing the words together- – nothing but smiles EVERYWHERE! If you get a chance you should go see them! They play all over Portland, and some in WA! They are on FB and have a website!

  6. Oliver says:

    Absolutely captivating concept! Probably a good reminder that we are surrounded by “mundane miracles” wherever we go – in case the noise of our mind isn’t too distracting… 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      The noise of our mind can be VERY distracting. It was lovely to have an outside force pull us out of our heads for a while so we could share this fantastic experience together.

  7. restlessjo says:

    Brilliant! 🙂 I can remember something similar happening on the London tube many years ago. All those glum faces lit up. It should happen every day to make the commute bearable 🙂

    I just stopped by from Dianne’s article, out of curiosity, and I like what I see. Who can resist a ‘life enthusiast’? I try to be one myself. 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      That’s so neat! I agree that the commuters of the world can always use more positivity on their rides.

      So glad you snooped around a bit and thank you for the follow. I’m on my way to check out your place. Have a fab weekend! : )

  8. Zen A. says:

    That sounds so awesome! You’re so lucky to have experienced something like that. 😀 It seems ever since you’ve moved to Portland you’ve been coming across many nice things.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      It was super awesome! I felt totally lucky to have stepped onto that particular streetcar that evening after work by chance, especially when I had planned to ride my bike and would have missed it. Portland is a fantastic city. She continues to woo me.

  9. Browsing the Atlas says:

    This sounds really cool. It reminds me of Paris. Every time we got on the Metro, there were musicians with guitars or accordions. Of course, they played and then walked around collecting tips, but we were happy to tip for the joy of the ambience they’d created.

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