Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Fix Is In

6 Dollar Friday Marred By Guitar Malfunction
Bobby Has The Fix


Broken Guitar Blues

I think I will now shoot a short video right here in front of the Uxi Duxi (even though I just told Bobby: "I'll see you in about an hour" and video "projects" can run more like six of them) and then will quickly (because it's short) upload it to Youtube and then turn around and embed it back in this blog; how exciting does that sound.

So, if you are reading this and there isn't a video, then I am working on the video and it will appear here shortly...

I woke up at 1:30 PM, Saturday afternoon, and started to feel a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

My Takamine guitar had one tuning machine on it, that I had "Jerry-rigged*" months earlier, winding the string in the opposite of the intended direction so that I could tighten the string up to pitch.

It had worked, and I had gone right back to busking with it, knowing that the day was coming when the temporary fix would fail. That day was April 20th, 2018.

After seeing if Jerry had any more ideas up his sleeve, I turned my attention to my "back up guitar," which is an Oscar Schmidt brand, made by Washburn, which was given to me by Tim, my caseworker, probably about 3 years ago now.
I was able to put the six new strings on it that I was in the process of putting on the Takamine, and to tune it up.

I went out to busk with it.

I found that the intonation on it was terrrible, probably due to the extra high nut piece that someone had installed on it, perhaps so they could play slide guitar on it, a style that is not dependent upon where the frets are located and if they are properly intoned.

The extra high plastic nut piece, I would have filed down to a more normal height, but it was hollow, making this an "iffy" gambit. And, I never got around to trying to find a suitable nut piece which might make the thing a decent instrument.

I had thought about giving it to David the Waterjug player, as the thing is pretty heavily constructed, so that it is literally a heavy guitar.

This is probably because Oscar used a more inexpensive wood than the types that can be shaved down more, like the spruce or maple hardtops that fetch higher prices. This was a 129 dollar guitar back in 1978, which was around when it was made. That was the kind of money required to buy an entry-level, beginner's instrument that wouldn't be such a piece of crap as to discourage the new student from continuing to learn.

It was probably the installation of the extra high nut piece that had led someone to determine that the whole guitar was unplayable and to give it to Tim, my caseworker.

He fulfilled one of his requirements as my caseworker by giving it to me, with the peace of mind that it brought to me from knowing that I had a back-up instrument, so I could go out to busk with a "go ahead and grab my guitar from me and smash it in the road, I have another one," attitude.

Well, I played the thing.

20 seconds in, it was like: "Houston, we have a problem" as, the strings that were tuned electronically when open, became "way out" when I fretted notes.
I switched to a song that leaned heavily upon open stringed chords and was able to get a dollar thrown to me.

I could see tourists hesitating, as I must have appeared to be playing the hell out of things, and then stepping within range of the horrendous chords that the guitar was churning out, and maybe just throwing the dollar in appreciation of my "effort."

Jerry wasn't finished, though.

I then tuned the guitar to one chord (a G7) finding that the fretted notes were about 20% sharp on the meter, and had to be lowered accordingly.

I then wailed over that one chord on the harmonica until someone threw me a 5 dollar bill, at which point, I felt that I had proven to myself that I could make money with a piece of crap guitar and decided to end the experiment there.

I should have been freaking out, but had a sense of peace and calm within me, as I packed up, having made only 7 dollars on a Friday night.

There had been a bit of shrugging of shoulders from the skeezers who hang out on Lilly's block, as if they were baffled as to why I had came out and sounded like crap this particular night. "Maybe he drunk..." might have been bandied about by some of them.

Having only 6 dollars to my name and a broken guitar, I ran through my options.

If I Was A Great Busker...

A real hero would have set the guitar down and then started singing a Capella: "On the day that I was born!" then throwing in the riff on harmonica "The nurses all gathered 'round!" harmonica riff, etc. and would have made enough money to pay for a 40 dollar set of brand new tuning machines, along with having learned something about interacting with people at that level.

I decided, though, that that would be like someone who still finishes a marathon even though he twisted an ankle and had to limp the last 3 miles of it.

I still bought Harold the cat some food, like I normally do, and even got myself an energy drink, leaving myself only 5 dollars to lay on the coffee table at home, where I had no coffee nor cigarettes.

Then, I woke up at 1:30 PM and was able to feel peaceful and calm, once I realized that the feelings of dread were being created by a mind full of apprehension and anxiety that may have been imagining the worst.

One option would be to pedal over to Webb's Bywater Music, and try to buy a used tuning machine off him for 5 dollars. This is something that I have been able to do in the past, and it left me with a guitar having mis-matching tuners, 4 gold, one silver and one mother of pearl plastic, type of thing.

But, was Webb's still in business, how could a guy who sells pieces off of used guitars to street musicians still be?

I called Bobby's phone.

He didn't answer, but I wound up leaving a pretty detailed message on his machine.

This was option 2: Ask Bobby if I could borrow the 40 bucks to get a new set of machines, and maybe if he would ride me over to Guitar Center in his truck to do so.

Option 3 might be to call my mom to ask her if she could wire me money to fix the guitar, but then she would know that all this time, I had procrastinated and let the problem fester while I was happily playing away and making money that I could have set aside for such a contingency...

My phone rang as I was headed towards the Family Dollar to get a can of food for Harold. It was Bobby.

"Meet me at the apartment," he said.

"I can be there in a couple minutes," I said.

"Oh, I didn't realize you were so close. That's good, if I'm not there, just wait for me."

Bobby was there, just getting out of his truck in front of the building when I arrived.

I had turned the couple minutes into more like 15 (due to the tone of his voice) by running into Family Dollar for the cat food and some instant coffee, which I was just pouring in my mouth and letting dissolve, having woken up with none in the house.

"This is your lucky day," said Bobby as he put the truck in gear and we raced off.

He made only one wrong turn and cussed out only about a half dozen other drivers on our way to what turned out to be the Guitar Center.

"It's that guy up there that's causing it!" he said about a small gray car about 3 cars ahead of us that was moving slowly, causing our lane to back up.
"I should go and ram into the back of him," he added.

Bobby asked me how long it's been since I drank alcohol (27 months), congratulated me on that and then asked me if I would be happy about getting a job "some dish washing job somewhere."

"Sure. If I didn't feel like I was flushing my time down the toilet doing so, I would be filling out applications for one."

He said that we were going to go to The Guitar Center, where they had used guitars, some of them for as low as 75 dollars, and that he was going to solve the problem of the stuck tuning machine on my Takamine by buying me a whole new guitar.

The Epiphone shown in the photo (bottom) is the result.

"No strings attached," said the punster, but made me promise him that I would pursue getting some dish washing job somewhere, insisting that I would be happier then.

A job like that would be a stepping stone on my way to greater success as a busker; I would be able to have the gear necessary to play with Tanya Huang, for example.

I promised him that I would try to get a job. He worries about me being shot by paint balls and other things, the way a parent might worry about their kids, and wants to see me "do better" with my music.

It's probably true that I over-value the amount of money that I make at the Lilly Pad, thinking that the 200 dollar tips that come around every 11.5 months are an indication of prosperity (when I could make that every Friday afternoon playing for 2 and a half hours with Tanya Huang, even splitting things 70/30 like I would propose doing, should I ever be set up at her spot, sounding good and having a small group of listeners to prove it, on a given Friday morning when her van full of equipment arrives.

"I'm holding the spot for you," I would say to immediately assuage any trepidation she might have over her having access to it.

She would already have posted, though, people who are doing just that. People who would have been advanced the 20 dollars or whatever the previous evening so they would have, already, drinks in the holders of the canvas chairs they sat in, and thus no reason whatsoever to leave their posts of duty.

These people know that I know Tanya and that "they like him," and would figure that, if I say that I am only intending to play there until she arrives, then I am to be believed (none of this: "Can I have just one more hour?" b.s.).

And, if I can be pretentious enough to say this, I think her "people," might think it swell if she were to go back, at least here and there, to playing with a live guitarist, if not for the sonic qualities, for the fact that, like his predecessor, this one would be steering the music towards the more "September," by Earth Wind and Fire stuff and away from "The Theme Song of The Character Unknown To You From The Disney Cartoon That Is Very Good, But You Didn't See It" type of stuff.

*Jerry rigged might not even be a term that I have heard before, but if it is, would it refer to the cartoon Jerry of Tom and Jerry, did he rig things?

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Legitimate Concern

16 Dollar Thursday

I was out of money after having eaten one third of the strip of acid that Geo and Mindy Lee, as those are the names of the couple that want me to play at their wedding, had given me, and given Bobby the other two thirds.
Picture yourself on a train at a station...

I ate the acid as I sat outside the Uxi Duxi, at 8 PM on Wednesday night.

"Did you eat it?" asked Chloe as she was leaving, after having done her closing chores.

"Yeah, one third of it; it was supposedly three hits all told..."

"Be careful," she said.

Comet Headlights

I kind of knew what she meant. I can remember driving a car once, so dosed that the dashes in the middle of the road (indicating that it is legal to pass) had turned into arrows which, were veering up off the road and flying over my head, instead of going under the car. I think this was due to the way my windshield was refracting the light, something I had become sensitive to.

Also, the headlights of the cars coming toward me in the other lane had grown long tails, and were whizzing by me like comets, to my left.

Having been "experienced" before, I knew enough to keep the arrows flying over my shoulder and to avoid crashing into any comets, and I made it home fine.

Wednesday night, I was getting the same sense of time distortion that I was familiar with, from 1984, whereby, the mind, which is fixed upon some destination or some result that is desired in the future, has to fight against an increasing fascination with what is happening in the present moment, and what seems to be a slowing down of time.

Like, if you really want to just get home and sit in front of your fireplace, and you can see your house up ahead, it will seem like, with every step you take you get closer to it, yet, time is slowing down proportionately, so that it seems like by the time you get to the house you won't be able to go inside because time will have stopped and the few seconds it would take to walk inside will take an eternity.

This is how you might be observed sitting in the flower bed in front of your house, staring at a flower for an hour.

What you are doing that second becomes more fascinating than anything you can bring about by the disciplined placing of one foot in front of another, blocking out "distractions" and focusing upon yourself sitting in front of the fireplace.

"What a great place to trip," you might think -the warmth of the fire, the fact that the heat is actually sunlight that was trapped and photosynthesized by leaves then stored as energy in wood, which is now being released by the flames using some of the oxygen the leaves released (trees have always been sunlight batteries to me in this regard) along with light and crackling sounds- but then what you are doing at that particular second rises up to compete with the yet only imagined future scene.

Even if you make it home before becoming trapped in the current moment, you aren't out of the woods yet, so to speak, because you still have to light the fire, instead of sitting for hours staring at the wood and seeing whole worlds in the knots and bark of it, or perhaps hearing the tree tell you its story. This could delay the setting of it upon kindling and ignition of it -kind of rude to cut a log off in the middle of a sentence like that.

So, as soon as I noticed the first signs from the one-third of the strip, I hopped on my bike, thinking of Cinderella and my bike turning into a pumpkin at "midnight."

But, I decided to pop into Bobby's apartment to tell him that someone had given me some acid the night before and that I had taken some of it and that he was welcome to the rest of it.

I wound up picking up his acoustic guitar, which I felt I was able to breath life into. As a musician, acid takes one back to the fundamental joy of just the sound of a steel string, stretched so taut that it vibrates at, say, 359.6 cycles per second, being set into motion.

This was kind of the "problem" that the group Pink Floyd was having with one of its founding members, Cyd Barrett, who was often so dosed that he would tune up for 45 minutes, deeply fascinated by the process, or wander off the stage in the middle of a song in pursuit of a helium balloon that someone might have released, following it until it is far away from where the Pink Floyd concert is proceeding, minus one guitar player and singer.

So, I had enough wherewithal, after playing Bobby's guitar well enough that he handed me a bud of weed "for the impromptu lesson," to will myself to my apartment, having avoided falling into the trap of sitting on the back steps, petting Harold the cat all night, because he was hungry, and became my master, meowing me along, like Lassie leading someone to where someone else is at the bottom of a well with a broken leg, until we were inside, and I made him a plate.

I had bought him food on my back from the Uxi Duxi which put me at risk of spending hours looking at all the pretty candy bars, or opening the cooler door to stick my hand inside and then pulling it out, fascinated by the effect of the temperature change on my nerves, type of things.
9 Players, One Tip Jar, And A Dog To Feed, Yikes!

I set up the Snowball microphone and fired up the laptop, through an act of will, so that my subsequent noodling around on the guitar (the musical equivalent of sticking my hand in a freezer then pulling it out) would, at least, be captured.

It was after 11 PM on a Wednesday night, and I knew that if money was my only motivation for wanting to get to the Lilly Pad, dodging comets all the way, then I would be setting myself up for disappointment, and so I stayed in.

Last (Thursday) night, I was faced with having to go out to busk with only a dollar and change to my "name."

Not having money for kratom, I mostly ruled out doing a shot.

I decided to go the the Starbucks, bringing my laptop, guitar and other gear with me.

Getting there around 6 PM left open the possibility that, should I be able to buy someone their coffee off my gift card, in exchange for an equal or lesser amount of cash, I would still have time to pedal up to the Uxi Duxi for a shot before they closed, which would put me right back on my regular schedule. I could drop the laptop back at the apartment, so as to have one less thing to worry about, should someone run off with my backpack.

At one point I decided that I would feel too much like a kratom addict, racing 3 miles on my bike to get a shot of it, and then having to turn around and go right back to the Quarter to busk. One never wants to lean on the crutch of any drug in order to produce results, if that were the case, I probably would have gotten on crystal meth a long time ago and would be pulling wads of money out of my pocket at the end of 12 hour long busking sessions...that's a temptation, though.

My laptop wouldn't connect to the wi-fi at Starbucks, most likely because they changed their log in page to include a form asking for e-mail address, name and zip code.

This is ostensibly so they can send you coupons and offers, but is possibly a step towards them solving their problem of "people hanging out and not buying anything."

The New Orleans contingency of these is comprised of groups of young, African Americans, who sit in the place, poking at phones that they have, panhandling customers, and ready to snatch anything that those same people that just gave them a dollar might turn their backs upon, etc.

Colin Mitchell was counting his busking money there once, and had it snatched off the table and run out the door by an older black man, who had walked by the place, seen what Colin was doing, then come in and stood by the restroom door as if waiting to use it, but probably positioning himself so as to gain a running start.

He was out of Colin's sight then, but was watching his reflection in the window -Colin now reflects- waiting until he did something -bend over to find the electrical outlet under the table to plug in his own laptop- which gave him the precious couple seconds that he needed.

That's what you get for arranging your money on a table in front of you, as if playing solitaire with it, in The French Quarter.

I couldn't help thinking that it had been part of Colin's way of telling the world: "Look at me, how well I'm doing...I'm 67 years old and there is no slowing down in sight for me; I play for 5 or 6 hours a night, and you can see how much people appreciate me!"

Johnny B.,
"...Two hundred and one, two hundred and...
Hey, Come back here!!"

another busker (the clean guy) would frequently expose a fat wad of bills, in places like on the streetcar, after having having had a 300 dollar, or so, day, lest any of the other riders think he was using that mode of transportation because he was as poor as some of them, who didn't even own a bike.

Instead of thinking: "Wow, I wish I was as good, and as good looking, as Johnny B. so I could make that kind of money," which might be what he wanted me to think, I would always think: "Now he has to get off a block past Galvez Street and walk to his apartment through a bad neighborhood, unarmed, and pulling his amp behind him on rollers with his "$3,000" Martin guitar on his back, to get home, and a bunch of low-lifes now know he has a lot of money on him. What an idiot!"

I count my money locked in the bathroom at Starbucks, or standing in front of the liquor case at The Unique Grocery, like I'm probably going to use it all for a bottle of booze, and so, will be broke when I leave.

I asked Colin if he was going to pay cash for his coffee.

He was only going to get a free glass of water, he said (and then spent about 5 minutes telling me about how he no longer drinks coffee before busking) but then gave me a couple bucks (after I spent about 5 minutes telling him about having stayed in and tripped on acid instead of busking the night before). That was very nice of him.

It was too late, then, for me to make it to the Uxi Duxi, so I proceeded to the Lilly Pad. I scanned the area for David The Water Jug Player, but mostly so I could avoid him. I had only a tiny bit of bud to smoke while tuning up.

The busking was slow, but steady.

I have a feeling that the 16 bucks that I made in a couple hours would have at least doubled, had I forced myself to stay out another couple hours.

But, this problem of feeling like I have nothing left to give after the tune up joint wears off is a legitimate concern.

It was only 11:09 PM when I felt that I needed to take a break. This is before Lilly and her daughters usually arrive home, and before the night shift (who make fresh coffee) has come on at The Quartermaster.

The traffic at the spot seemed to be increasing.
But, it was a bit chilly -too cold to play in just the black tee shirt, and the only other shirt I had was the one I wore in Starbucks, so I would look "studious" and I didn't feel like I was going to get tipped while wearing it. This was just part of the insecurity that can set in from smoking pot.

Yeah, a legitimate concern, that.

E-mail Snaffu

I haven't been able to send The Lidgleys of London a thank-you note via e-mail because my frozen hard drive had my user name and password on it and I have forgotten both. I opened that account in 1996, and it is hard for me to remember what zip code I was in at the time, what fake name I might have used, and if I was lying about my age back then.

So this is the thank you note. Alyne mentioned that she had been sad to read on this blog that I had been hoping that there would be coffee in the box, which there wasn't, in physical form, but those hopes had been fulfilled by the Starbucks gift card. I might not have communicated that correctly. Who would I be to complain about anything that wasn't in the miraculously appearing box from London, anyway?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

One Of The Cool Things

about tripping on acid is, that if you have, say, a tape recorder running, you will capture yourself in moments that seem sublime at that particular time, but that will still sound interesting once the acid wears off.
I woke up like a lover full of regret, wondering if I would respect the music that I had done in the small hours of the morning, before falling off into sleep, well after the sun had come up, and even after the sounds of vehicle doors slamming outside told me that it was around 8 AM.
I really hadn't banked on tomorrow ever coming, as I had stayed in from busking, knowing that I had only 52 cents.
I had gotten Harold some good food, though, before going broke.
The music that I recorded is good enough to be used in a project. There were long stretches where I played rhythm guitar without singing, leaving room to sing over them in the park, or maybe at the spot down the river walk that Colin Mitchell uses for practicing and warming up.
It is better to record vocals in the dryness of the open air with almost zero reverberation and echo, and then to add those later. It is the opposite of singing in a shower, or maybe even a car; where you might be inspired by the reverberation, which actually gives the singer a backing track of sorts.
Sounding good out in the middle of a field is the true test of a vocalist; even the "Sound of Music" singers were in the Alps and had that "alpine" reverberation and echo mixed in with their sound.
If Colin likes that particular spot for "the acoustics," then that would pose a problem for me if I wanted to apply my own processing to it. Or accept that all the vocals are going to sound like they are at that spot.
I sort of have to go out and play tonight, to balance off the working on projects with the generating of income.