Thursday, June 30, 2016

Last Night Of The Month


  • Government Payout Time
  • Lucky Hat?
  • A Heroin Junkie Tries To Scam Me
  • A Sexual Pervert Visits Me At Lilly Pad



Last night, I wore only the hat shown. I hadn't really even tuned up when the first tip of a 5 dollar bill came. As I played more one dollar bills flowed. I am not going to assume that the hat is lucky. I have been carrying a "lucky" rock that someone gave me; in one of the pockets of my backpack for about a couple years now. I have no idea where I would be if I hadn't carried the rock. I imagine that, even it's weight of only about maybe 7 grams has, over the course of 2 years; changed my life. It stands to reason that the lucky rock, about the size of a Brazil nut, and weighing the above; would have had to have been slowed me down these past couple years; it's a physical reality. When I swung my pack up to my shoulders to put it on; the action was slowed ever so slightly by the weight of the lucky rock, and I walked ever so much more slowly when carrying it. I imagine that I am about a second and a half "behind" wherever I would be without the lucky rock.
That being said; I can boil it down to this: A hat can never be the answer and, a hat can never be the problem; ultimately. But, generally wear the hat that you think you look best in. The people might have been tipping me so that I could get a haircut.





Yes, the month of June will be over in less than 4 hours.
I suppose that means that the people who get checks from the government will have the money available to them, through their plastic cards, at one* nanosecond after midnight tonight; whew!
*If one of them has the timing to swipe his card at one half of a nanosecond after midnight, he will actually get his money that much sooner.
If the government gave away absolutely nothing; well, the people would revolt.
When I was driving a cab in Jacksonville, I had to take a passenger to a hospital which was, I recall, like 90 miles away. So, the fare was lucrative.
It came by "voucher," which meant that the guy was riding for free.
His doctor's office was footing the bill.
His doctor, after all, was getting paid well for providing the specialized treatment to the guy, as was whomever made the cane that he came out of his house holding, as were the pharmaceutical companies, and the cab driver; can't forget him.
He was an older black man and had come out of the modest ranch style house in a modest area on the outskirts of Jacksonville.
It was the kind of land that was cheap because it wasn't really, on the surface, the best land.
If you dig, you hit sand. Nothing but pine trees and palmetto really grows there without having been planted. If you dig a little further you hit water. And, if it rains for a few days you will have a puddle in your yard, maybe 8 inches at its deepest, but it was a private house on a lot.
Like I said, the guy, who was a black man of about 60 years came walking out of his house, carrying his cane and got into my cab and proceeded to tell me the tale, as I drove, of the previous evening when he had been inside some club "dancing my ass off" as he put it; when in walked his "caseworker."
He had been able to grab his cane and, I guess fake, his disability.
He was also the type of fare who would sell his voucher to the highest bidder. The cabbie is getting paid perhaps 90 dollars for transporting the guy to the hospital and another $90 voucher for the return trip is waiting for some lucky driver.
But, not so fast.
The disabled dancer knows that the cabbie is making 90 bucks for taking him to the hospital, so he will ask the driver to give him, perhaps 10, dollars in cash out of his own pocket. Now the driver is making 80 bucks for bringing the guy with the cane to the hospital.
If he is happy with that, then maybe the disabled guy will give the driver his schedule of upcoming doctor's appointments, so that driver can just happen to be the only cab within 5 miles of his house on the outskirts when the call comes in to transport the guy.
I was thinking about trying to underbid the other drivers by offering him 15 dollars in cash in exchange for the 90 dollar voucher in the future, but then got my own "skeezing" idea of contacting the insurance companies involved and asking their investigators how much they would pay a poor cab driver for a video tape of their liability coming out of the house with his cane under his arm, etc,
I did neither, I recall. I think I was already (1995) hearing the call to be a busker in New Orleans 20 years later.
I Am Almost Scammed By A Heroin Addict
I was playing at the Lilly Pad, after having gotten a burst of about 10 bucks in tips during my first 20 minutes playing, when up walked a guy who asked me if I drank.
"No," I said as I noticed that he had an unopened bottle of some kind of semi-expensive liquor, that might have been Absolut vodka.
"I haven't drank since January 4th," I told him before relating the story of how I had not quite made it a New Year's resolution to quit, but had done so 4 days into the year, after having woken up with injuries that I had sustained when getting hit by a car the night before -something that I wouldn't otherwise have recalled.
He was just a bit taller and thinner than medium build and had tatoos in Chinese on his neck, and others that looked like Chinese type dragons and things on other parts of him.
Then, I added "I just smoke weed," which was kind of a way of fishing to see if he had any of that on him that he might readily sell me.
"My girlfriend has some. She's got this stuff called 'Girlscout cookie' an' it's from Colorado, an' it's so strong that, when she opens the bag; the whole house smells like bud!" Said the guy, who was holding the unopened bottle that he was trying to "salvage," while sipping off a Hand Grenade from his other hand.
I knew that that kind of weed was usually sold in increments larger than 5 bucks, but imagined that if his girlfriend and he had just arrived from Colorado and were running on fumes, they might break off such a tiny little raisin sized piece of the potent bud out of necessity of quick cash.
"She's works right down there at (names place) just a couple blocks down Bourbon..."
Ok, there went the "just got in to town from Colorado," theory; but didn't necessarily dispel the "really in need of just 5 bucks" one.
I should have reneged at that point, though, on the grounds that; since I knew the next "couple blocks down Bourbon," pretty well, right down to who does work at the places, and not many of them could I have envisioned as his "girlfriend," since they are mostly gay establishments staffed by men. Shirtless men in bikini bottoms.
"Would she just break me off like a 5 dollar bud?" I asked, pursuing the only angle that made sense to me.
He nudged his phone a few times and then spoke into it; seemingly asking his girlfriend if she would do so.
Soon, we were walking down Bourbon Street, away from the residential and toward the crazy end. I was having all kinds of thoughts as we walked, especially after we had traversed 4 blocks; which is a distance that can't really be confused with "a couple blocks" and would probably be referred to as "just a few blocks" by someone who isn't trying to misrepresent that distance.
Then, we stopped outside one of the strip type clubs where he made another phone call, and where we stood for a while.
There seemed to be at least one skeezer for each tourist skulking around the block.
Then, he eventually wanted me to give him the 5 dollars and he was going to go in exchange it with his girlfriend for the Girl Scout Cookie bud.
At that point I reneged.
"Come on! I'm just going to slip her the money and she's going to slip me the weed, I can't bring you in there; her bosses are all standing around; It can't look like a drug deal!"
"Well, why can't you just go in there and she can slip you the weed, and then you can come out and get the money."
And so, I reneged with the argument that; if his "girlfriend" didn't trust him enough to slip him the weed without getting the money; then what did that say about their relationship, or about Chinese tattooed neck boy's trustworthiness in general? And, because it was only 5 bucks that that was in contention that spoke even worse about someone not trusting him with it.
"I'm just trying to do her a favor, she needs the money!"
"That's alright," I said and turned to walk away. I had just turned to do so when I was hit in the back of the leg by the Hand Grenade bottle that he had been drinking from.
"That last thing -the throwing his empty drink at me- just about assures me that he was going to rip me off for my 5 bucks...I wonder if that is just water in the vodka bottle that he is trying to sell...a lot of heroin comes from China; all the Chinese tattoos on his neck..."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Man Behind the Bushes

I've never tried to "share" a video from Youtube before, but for the edification of Alex in California, and the sake of clarification; above is the "Brian Hudson" whom I've referred to in past posts. He must get confused with the famous skateboarder from Akron, Ohio all the time...

I remember that I described his voice as being "in between Paul Simon and Don McClean," the first time I heard him, 3 years ago. He was OK with that assessment. He has been known to read this blog, by the way.

I guess I fall into the same trap as a lot of people who try to compare a singer that they're hearing for the first time to the ones they're familiar with.

A lot of singers reply: "That's cool, I'm really into (name of singer you've just compared them to)," which stands to reason, since they probably grew up trying to emulate them.

Myself, I hear: "You sound a little like Neil Young," often, and I have mixed feelings about that, since Neil, in my opinion, knows how to make sounding a bit out of tune work for him, especially in his guitar soloing.

Once, I was walking down a street out of the quarter a bit, and I heard someone yelling. Conditioned to think that it was probably a skeezer yelling for a cigarette, I kept walking without acknowledging whomever it was.

The person caught up to me whom I then recognized to be Brian Hudson.

"Did you hear me yell?" he asked.

"Yeah, but I thought it was Paul Simon or Don McClean yelling," I said.

50 Things

 50. It's Wednesday morning, 10 AM, and I haven't slept yet.
49. I'm out of food stamp money.
48. I need to figure out what to do about Harold my cat if I go on the road.
47. I started cleaning my apartment last night and got half way through it.
46. I am up to 1990 in the American History book, and am convinced that people are not much more screwed up now than they were 100 years ago; they are just not as repressed, so they are expressing themselves with mass murder.
It takes strength in parents, churches and schools to repress people properly.
Family, church and school have lost their punch and have been supplanted by law; one problem being that the cops are prone to be just as screwed up by all of the above, as those they are trying to subjugate (pronounced "protect and serve").
45. I should probably skip the next 44 and get some sleep.
44. I don't know if I will busk tonight; I am sort of fasting, after having eaten the last remaining items in the cabinets, still there due to lack of interest.
I had ground flax seed in oatmeal first with peanut butter, and then a second batch with ketchup. Later, I had some kidney beans and whole cumin, simmered together.
43. 50 is a much too ambitious number of things, especially as it is 10:30 AM, and if I don't get to sleep now, I will not busk tonight due to lack of it.
As it is, I don't even have the trolley fare to get into the Quarter. I have to walk about a mile to the Rouses Market and pour the 300 or so pennies that are the last of my money, into their change machine.
44. When I have sweat these past few 90 degree nights, and the sweat has rolled down my forehead and into my eyes, it has stung them. Enough so I have to stop what I'm doing and wipe them out. Could this mean that the air pollution in New Orleans is such that even the small amount that sticks to my sweaty forehead is enough to burn my eyes
43.  I feel isolated and disconnected.
42. This counts as 42 items.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

More Questions Than Answers

  • 3 Dollar Saturday
  • 4 Dollar Sunday
  • Monday Off To Soul Search
Sometimes I feel like an idiot for believing in God; that my "fear" of Him has kept me from living my life to the fullest and partaking at the banquet of life more wholeheartedly; and that my belief in Him has me sorting my experience of life in terms of magical events; omens, guardian angels, karma; the power of prayer, etc. and that anything could be any more important than what can be seen heard and felt.

I wish just one good night of sleep could set the world right.

I was playing Sunday night at the Lilly Pad.

I had made only 3 dollars after about a half hour, but it had come from a guy who was very complimentary and encouraging, profusely so.

He basically said that he had stopped because he thought my song was very original and that I was getting into some "very interesting areas," and, to him, that is what makes great music great.

He basically told me that I held the key to success and that what I was doing was better than 100 guys covering some other artists songs. I think he might have been telling me not to give up, even though I was playing on a Sunday night and making only (his) 3 dollars.

So, I got the notion to wonder if I was being tested in some way. Can I endure 3 straight nights of making just 3 dollars each night without losing my cool, becoming angry or resentful, but rather to continuing to play with a smile and love in my heart?

If I passed the test, then perhaps the Great Door would open for me since I had proven myself worthy.

And, of course, I can rest assured in the knowledge that, because nobody was paying attention, I was pushing myself harder and becoming a better musician through it; and certainly; had someone thrown me a huge tip it would have prompted me to leave earlier and I would have been on the trolley with the guy that would shoot me for no apparent reason; rather than on the next one that I would find a quarter laying on the floor of.

What, Now I Gotta Quit Smoking Pot?

So it is good, and part of God's plan; that I only made 3 dollars on a Saturday night.

Or; I'm an idiot for believing in such stuff.

Or, it's the potent pot that I smoked that made me think that way...

This magical notion was confirmed as more than one group of people stopped to listen, shot videos, complimented me and then left without leaving anything in the tip jar.

A monk once told me to come back and talk to him (about whatever pressing matter it was that I thought I needed the advice of a monk about) after I had gotten clean of all drugs; even caffeine. That was about 30 years ago; I haven't been back to the abbey.

But, I suppose, on the bright side, I can go on a fast now that I have $0.00 in my food stamp account; and only 3 of the 7 bucks that I made the whole weekend, out of which I need to buy cat food.


It is Tuesday night and it rained all day. I didn't go out Monday because it had rained into the night.
I am not sure, at this point if going out to make 4 dollars would be a mistake -wear on the strings and harmonica, wasting the time- or if it would be better than not going out and making nothing.

Maybe I should just get out there to take my mind off of the meaning of life; and for whatever might come along

Monday, June 27, 2016

Desperate Slow Season

This is kind of the way I envisioned it;

I have indeed decided to make a trip to see people up north.
I certainly could travel by bus, rather than hopping trains and putting my thumb out, if I were to play my cards right (quit smoking and start saving the $7 a day immediately) or if things were to go my way (the 100 dollar tip).
I will have to beware, in the second instance, of the tendency to see the 100 dollar tip as a sign that I should stay here because there will be more such tips; rather than see it as having caught lightning in a bottle and been afforded a golden opportunity to get out and travel. Before something really goes wrong in this desperate slow season.

I envisioned months ago that, when the time arrived that I was truly serious about travelling, the money for the bus fare would elude me.
I would harbor a creeping paranoia that the city of New Orleans and its spirit, was trying to keep me prisoner here; the way Leslie Thompson used to lock his friends in his house behind a barbed wire topped gate before he went out.
The thought of making the trip sober (180 days coming up) causes my heart to sink a bit.
I envision random things happening along the way, like myself winding up sitting out a thunderstorm under an underpass somewhere in Tennessee, or having to walk miles to the next Megabus location, without a pint of whiskey by my side.
That is the one aspect of sobriety that I haven't tested yet; travelling sober.
Without a bottle of "no matter what life throws at me, I've got this" on me.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Love Harmonica

30 Dollar Friday
Ben's Visit Doubtful

Ben, my friend in Massachusetts who fervently wanted to come vacation here, is not sounding like he is going to follow through. He is dealing with a legal issue up there, ironically, from the period before he quit drinking and; without going into too much detail, I might run into him up there before he sees me here.
That would mean that the time right after July 5th, when my food card will become charged would be a time to consider travelling. I could do like some other buskers I know and call ahead to possible points along the way, trying to alert certain people that I will be passing through.

For buskers like Brian Hudson that works out to him having gigs to play along the way; drive by day, gig at some out of the way bar and finance the trip that way. That used to happen in Mobile when a certain club would cancel their open mic night or something because a group of musicians that they know are passing through and are given the gig.

That is something that only "the 1%" of buskers enjoy...the ability to drive from here to Alaska in a van and have bookings 5 nights a week along the way, to pay for it all plus some; with a designated driver napping backstage -the pub owner more than willing to let the house band take a night off so that Pintown, USA (pop. 1,775) can hear some New Orleans music, even if it's just Brian...LOL, just kiddin' Brian.

I had new strings on the guitar last night.

After walking down to the Dollar General and getting Harold the cat one of his favorite flavors of cat food (chicken in clam sauce, not available everywhere) and an energy drink for myself, placing a few warm ones in the "Pepsi" cooler, so that I can have a cold one tonight, I realized that it was still early.

Saying "no" to skeezers in between sips, I finished it off and then caught one of the earlier, for me, trolleys.

Niko, the singer/guitarist whom I think is "bi-polar," is often on one of those earlier trolleys, as she was again.

I had 19 dollars, a few cigarettes, no weed, new strings and a can of Harold's favorite cat food, and an Arizona Energy drink, as I arrived at the Lilly Pad.

There was a guy standing around there, whom I struck up a conversation with after he had asked me what the address there was, and after I had hung my spotlight in the vines which prompted a discussion about how I had claimed an otherwise unbuskable spot from The Darkness, and was now able to make money there. He started me off with my first dollar, as I started to play, and 2 minutes into the "song," which I think was an improvisation about what was going on around us, he added another dollar.

I leaned on melodic harmonica solos that weren't so high energy as to have me sweating in the 85 degree night, and that could be stretched out and that could be picked up in intensity at the appearance of anyone who shows interest, either by approaching, or by yelling a variation of: "Yeah, I LOVE harmonica!"

I sprinkled lyrics in here and there, which tells people what song it is, and allows them, in some cases to vicariously tip the artist whose music it is as a way of "recognizing" them, and in other cases demonstrates that also sing as well as play the harmonica and guitar, for what that is worth in the tip jar; and I had slowly accumulated a pile of ones and a five by midnight, after having played for 2 and a half hours.

I was feeling pretty spent and ready to quit, but remembered that, other times, 15 minutes off to consume an Arizona Energy drink had me feeling refreshed and ready to play for another 2 hours.
Thus, I was back on the spot at 12:30 AM, ready to play another hour, which I did, and probably made 10 of the 30 bucks that I would wind up with.

It's Saturday, and sitting here typing this is detracting from tomorrow's post being about arriving good and early and playing a long time and catching my savings jars up.
Essence Festival is apparently on the horizon.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Plan F

Yesterday, I left early enough, I thought, to have made it to the French Market to get the $5 strings.
The French Market had already closed at about 6 PM when I got there. I recalled then, reading something about the market closing earlier during the summer or something.
"Bilal pulls some strings..."
I thought about talking to people who were still there who might have been managers of the place or to people who had packed up their merchandise but were still hanging around, to see if I might perhaps be able to get the mobile phone number of the guy who sells the strings; and maybe call him to see if he could sell me a pack from wherever he was. That was plan C.
Plan B had been to call Brian Hudson who sells me packs for 3 bucks, as that is about his cost because he goes through the Musicians Friend website. He wasn't in the Quarter and I wasn't going to walk 4 miles (each way) to buy strings from him, on an 85 degree night.
I had 7 bucks on me. The cheapest strings at Louisiana Music Factory are 10 bucks.
Then, I thought about walking around Frenchman Street and asking around to buy a set of strings.
Then, I had a brainstorm. Why not find Tanya and Dorise and borrow 5 bucks so that I could buy a set at the music store.
Then, I remembered that they only play Friday through Sunday (and split $10,000, according to what Tim Todd has heard from someone).
But, I went to their corner anyways, in case they had, for some reason decided to come out, or in case they had given their spot to other musicians who, thus, would know them and might even recognize me.
They weren't there, but across the street, standing in front of his gallery was Bilal.
I explained my dilemma "I took 4 days off, so I guess it's my fault but I needed the recuperation..."
And Bilal lent me the 5 bucks (first time in 4 years that I've asked him for a loan) and I got to the music store after they had already hung the "closed" sign but hadn't latched the door, bought the new strings, put them on at the Lilly Pad and then played from about 8:30 until about 12:30 for 34 dollars.
Again, I had only played about half of the time, telling stories and talking to one guy who gave me 20 bucks. He was, I think, going to give me a lot more, but a young skeezer arrived and just plopped himself down as if he was a member of our "little sewing circle," and the guy I was talking to eventually tired of the skeezer interjecting and changing the course of the conversation in uninteresting directions.
The tourist was trying to respect us equally it seemed. He definitely had been interested in the "starving" part of me as an "artist," and when the skeezer came along, he seemed to extend his sympathy to him; but as soon as the skeezer picked up the roach from what the tourist and I had smoked from right next to backpack where I had placed it, and asked if he could have it; I just wanted him to leave. I don't appreciate his generation. To me, people setting something right next to their other possessions kind of marks that thing as also belonging to them; and his "look what I found" manner of snatching it up had NOLA skeezer all over it.
"I have to get back to work," I told both of them, for at this point, I didn't care if the tourist was going to give us each 20 bucks or give us each 50 bucks; I just wanted the skeezer to leave because I couldn't look at him without feeling sick. He was probably about 17. Very skinny with very wild and curly black hair and horned rimmed glasses, kind of a weird Al Yankovic meets Carlos Santana back when he was skinny with wild black curly hair, look. But it was as if he had seriously harmed himself through using some serious drugs.
The tourist gave us each 20 bucks before he left. I packed up while the kid stood around.
"What now?" he asked, as if we were going to now hang out and find a way to spend our 20 dollars each.
"I'm good," I said and started towards home.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

4 Consecutive Nights Off

It is Thursday and I haven't busked the past 4 nights. I've probably bought myself 4 nights off in exchange for like $40, which my records indicate is what I could reasonably have expected to have made over those 4 nights, playing an average of 2 hours each.
Back To Work Busking...

Of course, I have gotten better and can blow away anything that I could have done a year ago, in my opinion. Well, almost anything. If I were to dig out any year old recording of myself and be impressed by it; it would have to have come from one of my sober periods...

I am down to about 10 bucks on this Thursday evening. Getting to the French Market to buy guitar strings is pretty crucial. If, for some reason, the guy who deals them there is not there, then I'll have to go out with the guitar missing a string and try to make some money with it. I've been playing it that way over the course of these 4 days off and have learned how to take advantage of not having that one (G) string in the way.

The savings jars have been depleted. After my 60 dollar Friday night, 6 days ago, I had the ability to catch the two jars up, which would have left me only about 5 bucks spending money, along with the satisfaction of knowing that my savings plan was on track. I had thought that I would be buying a new laptop around the 4th of July. Who knows, anything can happen; I am playing at the highest level of my life now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Drawing Closer To Reality

Tuesday night, I did not busk.
Tuesday Night's For Long Necked Girls
I read a lot, and drew a pencil sketch, drank coffee, smoked weed, listened to a bit of the Old Time Rock And Roll station.
My ear, or something, must be getting better, or I am becoming more critical, but I heard a lot of stuff that just wasn't very good in my, formed over the past few years, opinion.
Criticisms Of Certain Old Time Rock And Roll:

"Whole Lot Of Shaking Going On," Jerry Lee Lewis

This recording is pathetic.
First of all: It is a sexually repressed late 1950's guy offering an invitation to "come on over," because there is not just shaking, but "a whole lot of" it, going on. His half hearted, self conscious ejaculations at his imagined scene of people shaking all around him that he was employing in order to inject a party atmosphere into the sound; were those of a nervous geeky, and I would have to add, white, guy. His "screams" on that record were anti-wop bop alu bah wop bop bams. And, Jerry actually at one point freestyles? the line: "You can just stand there and shake," sung with that "nerdy high school kid fumbling with his first bra strap" tone that permeates the song.

Second of all: Jerry's piano solo made me suspect that he plagiarized something from "Teach Yourself Rock And Roll Piano, Book 3" and then messed it up!, producing distinct sections of rock cliche's that don't meld nor resolve, and basically are nothing to shake to. He messes it up because he is a sexually repressed white kid in the 50's unable to let a song about a house full of people dancing sound like one.

The slapback echo on his vocal is consistent throughout and makes him sound like a carnival barker.
I wonder if he is related the the nerdy contemporary artist who goes by the name of Beck.

Ironically, I think it may have been recorded at J&B Studios, which is now a laundromat where I used to wash my clothes. GRADE: D-

"Emotional Rescue," by The Rolling Stones

This song sucks. I realized in the middle of it that the Stones probably had quotas to make with their record company; they might have been obligated to release an album before a deadline and just didn't have any good new material. At all.

The "funky bassline" and Mick Jagger's annoying falsetto that seems to be his answer to what the Bee Gee's or Prince were doing at the time of this album's release; plus the "I'm not just one of the weirdest looking human beings on the planet, I'm a pretty weird drummer too," contrived syncopated drum hits by Charlie Watts that just sound like Charlie was sick of the same old tried and true rock beats and wanted to come up with something more interesting, but couldn't. But recorded it anyway because of the deadline.

And Mick freestyling and improvising on the motif of "You're gonna be mine, mine, mine, all mine, tonight." Yeah, mine, all mine. GRADE: F+

And, I would have to say that half of the songs on the "We Remember When Rock Was Young," station (94.3 FM, New Orleans) that I heard; I thought I could do better than. What I just might be hearing is the undertone of stress that artists were under, when rock was young and studio time was expensive, and music was more kinesthetic in nature, and not all were quick to "get it."

"So Happy Together," by Herman's Hermits (or The Turtles?) was one of the best things I heard all night. GRADE: A

It was around 5 PM that I realised that, in order to busk I would have to get strings. This meant rushing to the French Market, where a guy sells them for 5 bucks.

They sell Martin "SP" strings for twice that amount and for another hour or so after the French Market closes, at The Louisiana Music Factory.

The last set of Martin strings that I got there began to snap on about the 5th night of use, and they snapped in order; 3rd then 4th, 5th and then I put a brand new 6th string on before going out that next night. I think I am a pretty hard picking player; I think the volume at the Lilly Pad is deceptively loud, having a large component of it in the subsonic range that only snakes and probably a few other animals that can put their ear to the ground and find the nearest body of water; can hear.

But it is enough so that, I find myself working on techniques aimed at wresting more sound out of the instrument.

One example might illustrate.

Before (I played for a living), when I would play a single note, I would pluck that single note.

This yields all the volume that a string picked this way can. But, in honing in on that particular string and confining the picking stroke to an arc which will pick it, but not the adjacent ones, that arc, by nature of it being small will not allow for a lot of pick speed. So, one of the techniques that I have been using is to play individual notes in a way that my fingers will be muting the adjacent strings and then -instead of bringing my pick in close so as to accurately strike the one string that I want to sound; --rearing back and slashing the pick in a much longer sweep, through all the strings.
In this way I can play one note taking my arm back a foot or so, and following through, as if playing a loud chord, but getting a single loud note instead.

Whole little melodies can be done this way. It does add a bit of percussiveness, as the pick brushes across the unwanted strings, and there are spots where harmonics will sound from the "muted" strings if one isn't careful where, along them, she is muting.

It is Wednesday and I might busk; probably will; but again must get strings within the next couple hours.....

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In The Shadow Of The Superdome

Ok, so I like walked all the way to my friends Tim and Rihanna's house last (Monday) evening.
I had decided to take Monday night off, as I had not replaced the missing string on the guitar and had decided that I would only do that when on my way to the busking spot; in effect killing two birds with one stone.
I had planned upon taking the 94 Broad Avenue bus after acquiring an all day pass, riding it to Tim and Rhianna's and then hopping a bus back to Canal Street where I could use it again to catch a trolley to the apartment.
But, when I got to Broad Avenue, I had just missed the 94, and I started walking. I knew that I was going to get on a bus and get a 24 hour pass eventually, but I just didn't want to sit still and wait for the next bus. I decided to walk the whole way to, as Google had shown it to be a mere 2.9 miles; a distance that I only saw as a 45 minute walk...
I was also a bit morbidly curious about walking through the neighborhoods that Tim and Rihanna's neighborhood is garrisoned by.

The French Quarter, ironically, given it's reputation is a ridiculously safe place. A busking friend of mine once commented to me at the corner of Royal and Orleans streets after a young lady had walked past unaccompanied the essence of which was that you wouldn't see that in Atlanta....Detroit...Charlotte....etc..

Most of the 50 murders per 100,000 (as per last year) take place in places with names like I was observing on street signs along my forray into the "Broadmore" part of New Orleans.

It was very warm and humid and I was wet with sweat, but there was just enough of an evening breeze, as the sun had gone down by the time I arrived at Washington Street.
Another 94 bus had passed me just before I had gotten there and had made the left onto Washington Street.

There was a small group of people standing in front of what could have been a church right by the corner. Amongst them was a girl of about 7 years old who was holding a book about "Amazing Dinosaurs," so I knew that I was still in a "safe" area.

I balked at taking Washington Street, based upon knowledge that I have acquired largely through cab driving and through travelling, which could be boiled down to: When in a strange city avoid streets that are named after Great people.

Martin Luther King Avenue after dark can get you killed in any city that has one, I have found.

Washington, Jefferson, Madison; all great men, but don't walk down their streets along after dark. The little girls holding dinosaur books end after a few blocks.

Happy Trail

The 94 Broadmore bus had turned left onto Washington, and by my continuing on, I was severing my ties with the bus line. I was about a mile and a half into my 3 mile walk, sweating but enjoying the experience; as if I were sweating toxins out of myself; and realizing that any potential mugger was only in the market for 20 dollars, about 5 cigarettes and a lighter, should he corner me. By continuing on Broad Ave, I wouldn't have a bus stop to rely upon every 2,500 feet should I start to feel as if I were entering a skeezy part of town.
Tim, before the giant hand mauling

At one point I pictured myself as a huge hand holding 20 dollars worth of crack and a lighter, on legs.
The next major street that I got to, and which Google had also shown to lead to Tim's neighborhood, I chose to walk down.

It was Napolean Avenue, which appears every once and a while as the location of a murder, but I was at the end that had the wide median and the jogging trail with the doggie poop stations and was nicely landscaped. Eventually the street would meander into parts dangerous and infamous, but I would get to Tim and Rhianna's before I got there. I couldn't tie any homicides that I had read about in the paper to any of the side streets that I was passing, and I was pleased to be walking past a huge hospital.
It used to be that areas around hospitals were high crime; lots of very low income housing; and lots of people under medical care living within walking or wheelchair pushing distance of the place; but that is more true of "downtown" hospitals.

I had a very pleasant visit with Tim and Rhianna in the house that they have just moved in to.
Rhianna was in the process of baking a gluten free cake, as that is a condition of her diet.
"I showed up at just the right time! I'll bet if you knew I was coming, you wouldn't have baked a cake!" I joked.
Rihanna Writing Gluten  Free Lyrics

I left with a little bit of the cake wrapped in tin foil. It was just after midnight.

I was entertaining the notion of walking Clairborne Street all the way to Canal Street, even though its course would take me to within 200 feet of the Superdome (Neighborhoods around huge sports and/or concert venues: D+ for safety).

I changed my mind pretty quickly.

First off, a black lady walking 2 small children; whom I had caught up with on the Broadmore fitness trail jogging path and asked: "Excuse me, is Clairborne Street around here?" Had pointed to the very next street 100 yards ahead of us and answered: "Clairborne Street is right there."

There was something in her tone of voice that said. "It's the next street up there about 100 yards away; now go!"

And then, I began to walk in the direction of the tall buildings of the Central Business District right by the French Quarter.

The first little store that I got to; I went inside and asked the middle eastern employees if the had ever seen the bus *pointing to the stop* "this late" *pointing to the spot on my wrist where a watch would be.*

They hadn't.

Outside, a skeezer looking black guy asked me for change.

I told him that I didn't have any change and shook my back pocket as if to demonstrate such. The keys in my front pocket rattled, which might have been what prompted the guy, who was maybe 10 pounds heavier than me, to yell "What?" rather challengingly.

He wanted me to perhaps "respect" him more by communicating to him in a respectful way whether or not I had any change. He probably didn't understand the rattling of the keys. And by then a younger crack dealer looking black guy was in the vicinity.

Probably, had I wanted to buy crack, I would have given the first guy like some change, maybe even a buck; then he would have asked me if I were looking for anything like crack and might even offer to become the middle man for me, willing to take the risk that I am a cop in exchange for his cut of whatever I want.

I suppose I was rude in treating him like a French Quarter skeezer.

I couldn't take that back, but what I could change was my route.

Using the store on the other side of the street, and down a ways, as a prop, I cut a diagonal across the median towards it; I heard the voices of the two swell as I made the cut. I imagined one of them saying something like: "He goin' to that store; ok, 'cause I 'us gonna say if he goin' down they' he better have a pistol or sumpfin"... Now I'll make it look like the first store was all out of "whatever" and I'm going to the other one; and then I will come out with an Arizona Energy go right back in the direction I came from; towards the nice jogging trail with the doggie poop area; and will find another way back to Canal street without having to traverse neighborhoods in the shadow of the Superdome.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Be Grateful That You Aren't Less Grateful

I've been battling mild depression, lately.
4 Years ago I had evacuated to Baton Rouge during the slow season
Part of it has to do with the stiff muscles that I have had in my neck and back. It seems that they are tense, even when I sleep, which bleeds energy and keeps me from going into the deepest sleep.
But, I have just been reading posts from this blog dated 4 years ago.
4 years has been enough time to allow me to wax nostalgic, when reading them.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to read that, 4 years ago on this day in June, I had rusty strings on the the guitar and was so broke that I didn't even have enough for bus fare and was considering walking the 7 miles to the rail yard to hop a train out of here. How soon we forget.

I also had Sue the Colombian lady in my life then, whom I miss now.

It is Monday, and rather than go out hoping to make more than 10 dollars for a few hours of playing, I am going to stay in.
My guitar is missing a string...
But Sue hadn't wanted to come with me...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

And Not Worry About Money For A Change

15 Dollar Saturday
Sunday Off In Algiers

I am going to see Howard and to watch game 7 of the NBA playoffs with him, after I check on my plants by the river. I am getting a 24 hour bus pass...

Last night, I made 15 bucks busking for about 2 hours...

The last half hour I played minus the third "g" string on the guitar; this was a good musical exercise, as I was actually able to rearrange songs on the fly to take advantage of, or work around, the missing string.

It is time for new strings.

The night started off inauspiciously after I had gotten to the Family Dollar at 9:55 PM to get batteries for my spotlight, and found that they had closed at least 5 minutes early.

This meant that I had to go to Sydneys Beer and Wine and Cigar store on Decatur Street and pay French Quarter prices ($4.40 for 4) for batteries, which I did.

I got to the Lilly Pad to discover a couple of tourists sitting on the stoop. "Good thing you're not (skeezers)" I told them.

The brand new batteries seemed to be dead after I put them in my spotlight and no amount of giggling or re-seating them or insuring that the polarity was correct produced any light out of the thing at all.

Someone must have taken the good batteries out of the little box and replaced them with dead ones, I thought. I managed to make it through the night with the old batteries.

This morning, I put the "brand new" Duracell batteries in the spotlight after having tested them by running a guitar string across them; which instantly produced smoke (the oil and dead skin cells from my having played the string -yuck) which told me that they had been good all along and I must have just not whacked the thing hard enough to have made a connection.

I took back all the words that I had planned for Scotty, the bearded assistant manager (or whatever he is) at Sydney's whom I knew was going to revel in telling me that "once batteries leave the store, we can refund them."

I had bought them about 10 minutes before the store was to close, and by the time I had determined them to be dead at the Lilly Pad, the store was already closed.

"Good luck trying to bring batteries back the next day (without a receipt) and convince them that they had been dead out of the package the night before but that you couldn't get back to the store befoe it closed," I said out loud to the couple who were sitting on the stoop.

"Yeah," rejoined the guy.

They tipped me a couple of the 15 bucks that I would make on a Saturday night. This was somewhat short of my record of $213.83 for playing 3 and a half hours at the Lilly Pad.

It is Gay Pride week, and gays don't generally tip; seeming to be of the opinion that they should be the recipient of tips (for being "fabulous") not the donors.

There are also a lot of gay skeezers -ones who come here absolutely broke but get into the company of like-minded men (who are fabulously rich because they hold lucrative jobs where they can look fabulous and make great money selling poodles to like minded men)  and basically free load the whole week.

I now go to visit Howard, and not worry about money for a change.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Not So For The Busker

9 Dollar Friday
Back to that haunting figure

A Dual Mission

Friday, I was up early enough to consider taking the bus on a 24 hour pass, over the bridge to where Howard and the pot plants that I planted by the river live. At least I think both are alive.

I kind of haphazardly had planted by the river the plants; realizing that to cultivate the soil like a farmer would; would have required that I simulate the plowing by hacking out the soil and "turning it over," which I had started to do, using the one dollar gardening tool that I had bought and brought for the purpose, before realizing that it was not up to the task of chopping through what turned out to be some pretty tenacious soil, there by the river.

The fact that it periodically floods there, by the Mississippi River, bodes well for their being pretty fertile soil already there, I am assuming, thinking that a lot of fine fertile soil must be dissolved in the water from its 1,300 mile trip from somewhere in Minnesota.

And I have chosen a spot far enough from the river so that the period of its deluge would be somewhere around every 15 years, as the river would have to rise to the level that it had this past winter, which is something that hadn't happened in about that long; as evidenced by the fact that a community of homeless tent dwellers and cat fishers had sprung up at the spot over time; before it became flooded with an average of 3 feet of water, with Howard's tent having been situated at what would turn out to be the low water mark. He would have only been a foot underwater, as evidenced by the stains left on trees around it.

I planted at the very edge of the flood, but, having been unable to chop up the soil and turn it over, the plants have been on their own these past 6 weeks now in regard to working their roots into a substratum that had chewed up a dollar store "gardening spade" and spat it out.

So, I am giving my pot plants a 38% chance of being alive and well, and Howard a 94% probability.
But, the afternoon wore on, and it was soon evident to me that if I were to embark upon my trip across the river, I would return late enough to cut into my busking time. It was Friday, afterall.
Checking upon the plants could be done without wasting extra time; but, visiting Howard would require at least a couple hours.

It's too bad that people that you like to see but only see infrequently seem to require a longer visit, rather than just popping in for a minute to see how the person is doing, and then running off.
This decreases the frequency of the visits, as you feel like you must set aside a couple hours in order to get caught up on the relatively large gap of time that has elapsed since your last visit, and to let the person know that you value their friendship in that you are going to take advantage of this rare meeting and extend it as long as possible; even pushing things of less importance back...I'm not going to busk tonight, I want to hang out with Howard.... This block of time is hard to come by, and soon, so much time has gone by that the task of getting caught up seems too daunting to ever visit the person again.

But, suffice it to say, I put off my river crossing for another day.

That day was to be today, but it is now 8 PM again, and though I only made 9 bucks last (Friday) night, I have come to the conclusion that I must just "show up for work" like I was taught to do, when I grew up in the 70's; some nights will be slow...

It's too bad that on a "slow" night the busker can't take it easier; if you are playing half assed you might as well be not playing at all. The girl in the Po Boy shop can more lazily make a sandwich on a slow night, because there is only one person in line and no need to rush; but the customer is not going to say: "I'm not paying a penny for this sandwich (though I will eat it) because you took your sweet time making it and were a little sloppy in the way you laid the pastrami in the bread." Not so for the busker.

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Not Drinking


  • New Old Song
  • 60 Dollar Thursday
  • 164 Days Sober


I Report, You Decide

The "164 days sober" is still up and running, I didn't drink yesterday.

I had woken up with a depressed feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"Something Told Me" (click to hear)" -one of the more listenable songs that I have from the era of being able to record...
The above is a link to a song that I recorded back when I had the means to record; it wasn't ready to go on a CD but I'm using it to motivate myself to get back the means to record; based upon its sound quality alone. It was done within minutes of having found the harmonica in my mailbox which turned out to have been sent by The Lidgleys, of London.
Last night a couple named Sean and Lucy, who were from England stopped and listened and tipped me well. Sean worked in Leeds and lived 15 miles away from it...


That (the depressed feeling mentioned above) used to happen at times when I was in jail and my fate hadn't been decided; maybe the prosecutor was pushing to give me a 5 year sentence as a "habitual" urinator in public or something; and maybe my public defender was telling me that "It could go either way; it depends upon the judge," and maybe I had been having a pleasant dream about my childhood in the days of wine and roses and woken out of it.

The feeling in the pit of the stomach (which is, for some reason, revisiting me lately) always had its onset when I awoke, even before I had opened my eyes. Opening my eyes vindicated my feeling of dread and it hit like a punch in the stomach, with some bile in the throat for good measure, when my eyes opened to reveal the 9 by 12 cell with the stainless steel toilet, and the mismatched-in-size shower shoes placed neatly at the head of my bed.

On Shower Shoes

Mismatched in size because in the massive daily shuffle of inmates they just don't have the time or patience or concern to go through the box to find a matching set to throw through the portal behind which they sit at the new arrival. Once one has been serving 5 year sentence and has made a couple of months of progress upon it, will come the realization to the staff that he isn't going anywhere soon, and then one of them might say: "Let me see if I can get you some shower shoes that are both the same size."

Placed neatly by my head to mark them as my property and to potential guard them against theft by another inmate whose mismatched pair includes one in the same size as one of mine.

Shower shoes because they A: Encourage showering and B: Discourage fighting. It's hard to keep them from flying off your feet when performing most Kung Fu moves, and I believe that Joe Frazier would have won the famous "Thrilla In Manilla" boxing match had Mohammed Ali entered the ring wearing shower shoes.

The shower shoes also, for some reason, always became a reminder to me that mankind has evolved to walk upright on two legs. That was always a tenuous hope to cling to in jail.

And, since todays post might as well at this point become entitled "Shower Shoes," I will add, for mere catharsis, that one time in jail, I had the song "Haitian Divorce," by Steely Dan "stuck in my head," on constant rotation, and when the line in the song "...no tears and no hearts breaking; no remarks" came around, I was impelled to stare at my mismatched shower shoes at that moment, as they stood there at attention at the head of my bunk, and their image filled the role of a video for that part of that song, especially the "no remarks" part.

I think that I was sensing a silliness in a society that in some quarters will take offense at perhaps a remark made by someone, contrasted with the ways of a more coarser set who needs to at least urinate in public in order to draw the ire of others.

I remember smiling to myself and deciding that when another inmate asked me the inevitable "What are you in here for?" question, I was going to facetiously reply: "I made the wrong remark." What could he do to me; in shower shoes, anyways.

On Depression

But, I am not waking up in a cell that is very real and that I really can't leave. I'm waking up in my apartment that I am fortunate to have and in which there are no shower shoes.
So, the feeling probably has its roots in the fact that I feel that my fate is out of my hands, out of my control.
This comes with the buskers territory. I can't go out and pick 5 bushels of blackberries and then take them to the market to exchange for the going market rate. I can only go out and pick the guitar and perhaps make 0 dollars, while spending $2.50 for the trolley ride to and from the badlands.

So, I went out yesterday afternoon with all 8 of my dollars and was going to get a half pint of tequila. I was thinking of travelling up the east coast, drinking and busking along the way; being "happy" and thinking also: "Why do I have to go on my blog and tell everyone that I am sober; that's not something worth staying sober over?"

But, I got to the store at the bottom of the street just as, from out of which, issued forth a corpulent lady whom I have never seen doing anything other than skeezing and whom has never said anything to me which wasn't a direct or veiled skeeze.

She was in the company of an older, crusty looking white man who was walking with the help of an aluminum, rubber gripped, tennis ball supported walker. I think the company that sells those, markets that model as: "The Skeeze-Along."

The corpulent lady was mumbling something to the guy out of which I heard the word "drinking," and not much else.

Then I heard the clink of a glass bottle coming from the black plastic bag which was hanging from one of the grips of the guy's walker. I think the glass clinked because he was removing the bag in order to hand it to the lady so that he wouldn't have to perform the circus feat of walking along with the weight of the bag unbalancing his rig.

I imagined their conversation to have been something like:

Lady: "Are you sure you got it? You're sure? Here, let me carry the bag, you got enough to worry about with that walker. I just don't want it to fall, that would suck!"

Guy: "Ok, here's the bag. You got it? You sure?"

Lady: "Here, let me wrap it around my wrist. You told them to double bag it, right? Always ask them to double bag it if it's a half gallon bottle. I don't trust these bags."
Clink!

The sound triggered something in me; perhaps the clinking of glasses in the proposal of a toast in a social drinking setting; or perhaps the sight of the skeezers made a bell go off in my head and there never was an actual sound from their bag.

I envisioned the corpulent lady saying: "You're just as bad as us!" to me in the near future, should I have gone in the store and bought tequila.

On Zebra Food

I went into the Quarter, started playing at 10:45 exactly and made 60 dollars in 4 and a half hours in which I probably only played half of the time.

At least 3 groups of people came along, hung out and talked and tipped.

I came away feeling like I sit there at the Lilly Pad with a pile of zebra food in front of me, sometimes going totally ignored. But then on nights like last night, up walk people who are holding reins with zebras on the other ends. My original music is the zebra food in the analogy. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Let's Drink Ourselves To Death

Every Banana

Last evening, I had 7 dollar bills on the coffee table in front of my bed...should I move my bed...is the arrangement of the furniture contributing to my depression?..maybe more open space...Do I even want to go out and play on a Wednesday night?

I had 5 cigarettes and one little bud of weed, and was considering staying in.

But while I stay in, I continue to "consume."

Every banana that I smear with peanut butter and eat probably costs me 40 cents. With coconut milk and jam, it probably sets me back a dollar. Add a 10 cent cup of coffee and a 35 cent cigarette afterwards, while Harold munches down 50 cents worth of cat food as my radio drains pennies off its batteries; and it is easy to surmise that it may just be the "night off" that has been sinking me financially, lately. That, and having 9 dollar nights.

Another 9 Dollar Night

So bad it has been for busking that, I left the apartment feeling like I was gambling that I would make at least enough to cover the expense of the outing. My goal was to wake up the next (this) morning with at least the same 7 dollars, 5 more cigarettes, and a little bud of weed.

I got to the Lilly Pad at exactly 9:30 PM.

I knocked off an hour and 20 minutes later, after playing in 90 degree humid air that reminded me of the "C.O.P.D." attack that I had had a couple years ago. I was light headed and dizzy the whole time and just plain out of breath at other times. I did learn how to divert some air into my lungs through my nose during the notes when I am drawing air into the harp rather than blowing it out.

I had a brand new harmonica and brand new strings and really felt like I was wasting them. I gave the one tourist with the 20 or 50 or 100 dollar bill an hour and 20 minutes to show up, who never did.

I am basically right back to where I started last night, money-wise, but I did learn a few things.

I think I will go out and play "just because." I did get a 45 dollar tip from one couple last Wednesday...

I Think I'll Drink

I want to get a pint of tequila when I get to Broad Avenue a little later. 163 days sober is enough. I'll chalk up the experiment as a failure, in general.

I know that alcoholics often relapse at times when they realize that, despite their sobriety, their circumstances have taken a turn for the worse. It isn't a far stretch to wonder if it is actually because of his sobriety.

The tequila would take up just about all the money that I have and I will have to walk into the Quarter, something I haven't had to do in months. But I feel like I deserve that. Then, if I see Leslie Thompson I will tell him: "You win. Let's drink ourselves to death."

I'm not going to wait around for life to deal me my demise. I'm going to take control. Life is worthless now, in 2016.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Captivating Title Goes Here

$0 Monday
$9 Tuesday


It is Wednesday afternoon and I am starting to become annoyed at the "routine" that I seem to be gravitating towards.
I've been whiling away the hours by practicing drawing


It has been 162 days since I drank.
The only (other) constant in my life is that I busk generally at the same time almost every night.
Thus, the rest of my life has been gravitating towards coming into alignment with this.
The variable in the equation is the amount of money, if any, that I make.

I have been waking up in the early afternoons and, thinking that I had a golden opportunity thus, to be at the Lilly Pad early, have been dallying around, drawing pictures, listening to the talk radio shows, and then seeing the darkening skies outside as being the cue to get moving.

5 PM
Around 5 PM is the time that I would take my quarter mile jog/run; when I take it.  I've been taking it less frequently lately; walking it instead behind an excuse like "I left my stopwatch behind, and if I can't time it; I don't want to run it. What if I feel really energetic and run like the wind and am sure that I had just broken my record of 1 minute and 47 (and 9 tenths) seconds, but had no way to know. It would drive me crazy. The way around that would be to jog it, but purposely start off at a snail's pace so as to quash any speculation that I am about to set a record.
These subjects are from out of my head.
This jog puts me in the Broad Avenue neighborhood, where I would do any of the following, dependent upon my situation -pop into Whole Foods to buy fresh ground peanut butter, bananas and/or a more expensive energy drink. Pop into Dollar General for cat food, batteries, or a less expensive energy drink.
Then, I would have to decide if I wanted to spend 7 dollars on a pack of American Spirit cigarettes in the Rite Aid. I still have a hard time bringing myself to spend half of my cash on hand on cigarettes. They can be picked off the ground in the Quarter and then re-rolled, effectively saving the guy (who does so) about 50 dollars per week. I could even be choosy and only pick up American Spirit butts, non mentholated variety.
The way the busking has slowed down recently, a pack of smokes is a sacrifice. And then 8 skeezers per day on average will have the nerve to want to leave me with just 12 of them for myself.
Goose Egg Monday
Monday night there might have been 2 times when, playing the brand new harmonica and sounding good, I thought, I figured that there would be something in the tip jar when I looked down from the stars overhead to glance at it. There never was, after about an hour and a half of playing, and there never even appeared the guy who puts a dollar or two in your jar no matter what you are playing or whether or not you even are playing.
 you are always playing music that nobody asked for in a spot that you weren't invited to.
Each one was, at an earlier stage of production,
much prettier. But then I overworked and ruined them.
It has been instructional, though.
It was, I think the 4th time in 4 and a half years of busking in New Orleans when I didn't make a cent. Once, about 2 years ago now, I had left the Lilly Pad after not having made anything and then run into a guy and his wife who asked me to play them something after seeing the guitar on my back and wound up turning a zero into a 20 dollar night for me.
My reaction to the slowness is definitely going to be to hit the road and busk elsewhere.
I will rely upon my ability to go into a new town and find a good busking spot, based upon the surrounding businesses, the time of day, and the acoustics; rather than take the path of the feckless busker who will walk around until he sees or hears someone busking and will then deem it to be an "appropriate" spot; there really being no such thing in busking, as you are always playing music that nobody asked for in a spot that you weren't invited to.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Super Heroine*


  • $20 Sunday
  • Harmonica Given To Me


*Attention: Junkies who cannot spell: you will probably not find what you are looking for in this post...


Just as I was packing up at about 12:10 AM, a guy and a lady showed up.
I had the feeling that I should have remembered him and that I had probably spoken to him at length at one time and then just forgotten his face.

"I" now study drawing techniques
I have a lot of trouble with faces; a problem which definitely became exacerbated in proportion to the increased consumption of alcohol during the years 2009 through 2012.

There have been frequent instances where I have encountered people whom I didn't recognize until they made reference to something that we might have discussed after we had met and hung out.

We might have hung out for a couple of hours. That wouldn't have helped my recollection.

It is embarrassing, especially when I sense that the people feel slighted in the sense that we had bonded well enough and enjoyed each others company enough to think that I might instantly recognize the face again; but it doesn't often happen and I can be thrown by a mere change of clothing; or seeing someone out of their uniform and not recognizing them.

The man asked me if I was just setting up. There was a tinge of promise in his voice with overtones of: "It might be worth your while to break out the stuff and play for a bit longer."

I told him that I was "tearing down," and then started to comment upon the Sunday night that it had been.

He handed me a new harmonica in the key of C.

I thanked him and started to explain about the condition of the old battleax that I had been playing but then realised that he must have somehow known that I needed or would appreciate a new harmonica; and, at that point I should have explained about my facial recognition issue and asked him to remind me of when and where or if we had met.

He could have been a blog reader; or someone whom I had met recently enough that I was already complaining vocally about the harmonica going out of tune.

I played into the harmonica and the intonation reminded me of when I tune my guitar with the electronic tuner after it has drifted annoyingly out of tune. It sounded sweet.

The guy asked me if I was going to play longer. The lady he was with mildly protested as I started to unzip my guitar case. She could have been saying: "No, honey; he's at the end of his night; he's tired; don't make him take the guitar back out and play just for us..."

Or she could have been saying: "Come on, let's get to the bar; I'm just not in the mood to hear a 10 minute song..."

But, in my mind, I felt ashamed of not having recognized the guy and, as they walked off towards the bar, the guy turned and said: "Have a good night, Daniel."

I then really should have called after him, imploring to be reminded of how I knew him.
They might have been the couple that I played for in front of the bar about a month ago who were from Fort Worth, Texas. I would have recognized the conversation and it might have even brought the face back to me. There is an actual term for facial non cognizance; I think ending in "opia."
I now have the tools to create my super heroine
I need to Google "abnormally diminished capacities for memorizing faces," and see what I cull.

I even have trouble sometimes determining if two separate photos of a person are indeed the same person.

My friend Hubert Borg, who is an artist amongst other things, can say with certainty whether they are or not. As if, from viewing a face from one angle, it is possible to imagine exactly what they would look like if they turned their head sideways....

After the couple left, I played longer, being very gentle on the harmonica and making a few more of what would be 20 dollars; on a Sunday night; after having had a 12 dollar Saturday...Oh, well, it is the slow season.

When the time comes for me to busk my way up the east coast, I am not going to fret over how much money I am embarking upon my journey with.

I pretty much know that, as a fresh face in town who has the appearance of travelling and who sounds good musically that 100 dollar nights are very possible. Mobile, Montgomery, Atlanta, Charleston, Charlottesville, Baltimore, Boston....

It would be tempting to hop a freight train for the first "leg" of the journey out of here.
It is probably no accident that they make it so friggin' easy to hop a freight train and, this is the important part: get your skeezing ass the hell out of here and away from the tourists.
...and her attack bird

Yup, the freighter will be idling, light on, pulled forward out of the yard enough so that you don't even need to step on that particular federal property in order to get into one of the conveniently opened and empty boxcars about 12 or so back from the power unit; probably so the conductor can visually make sure they've hopped off alright before he jams it into gear...


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Numbers Don't Lie

Yeah, the numbers don't lie; it was a 12 dollar Saturday night, out busking; sitting 100 feet from America's oldest bar; a must see tourist attraction.
There is a class of tourist who is identifiable by the fact that they don't tip.
Last night; after playing for a while and not getting any tips, I was on the verge of changing my approach; perhaps to interact more with the swarms of people going by. There were a lot of people who were members of wedding parties. I think there were at least 3 weddings in the Quarter.
They don't always tip on the whole; they are often in New Orleans for the first time in their lives and are taking their cues from others; and I guess a tip for luck to the musician who played the plaintive Lennon song while the bride and groom posed in front of the oldest bar in America (as a symbol of the unshakeable union just validated) is not written in tradition as a thing to do after weddings.
I was able to keep playing with joy; especially after someone smoked me up and wound up getting 12 people to each throw me a dollar.
Wow; and no dishwashing jobs available....

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Not Quite Broken Harp Keeps Me Not Quite Broke

$22 Friday

I went out and played last night, getting to the Lilly Pad at the nice and early time of about 9 PM.
I had thought about leaving the harmonica home, after having struggled with it and emitted some embarrassingly brash tones from it Thursday night.

But, I brought it with me and wound up learning a lot about playing on the very lowest holes.

The notes can be bend radically on these holes, and it was Dave (of Dave and Roselyn) who had once told me that "you can get some really bluesy stuff on those lowest holes" and it was his words that came to me as I attempted to play melodies on the low notes; which are still in pretty good shape on the 'ol Marine Band "1893." The notes respond the same as the middle holes, but with the added ability to bend from "way down" to the note that you want which gives it a kind of; ....bluesy (I guess would be the word) sound.

I was able to escape with about 22 dollars to go with the 10 that I had left over from the day before; giving me enough money to get a new "folkmaster" harmonica.

I also lucked out as, a young lady came along as I was playing Purple Rain, by Prince and listened to the harmonica and guitar part, seemingly half recognizing the song. I did the "professional busker" thing in cutting the solo short in order to sing out the lyric "I never meant to cause you any problems..." at which point the young lady said: "Oh, Purple Rain!" and then sat down and listened and sang along for a while and tipped me about 6 of the 22 dollars that I would wind up making in about 3 hours.
"You should have stayed on the low holes!!!"

My luck with her continued when, after she had disappeared for a while, she rematerialized and requested one of the very few songs that were feasible on the harmonica which, to use another nautical term, is listing to left; its second mast snapped off. She asked: "Do you know 'Heart of Gold,' by Neil Young?" That was one of the songs that I had done earlier, as Neil's simple harmonica work was easy to stay faithful to, given one less hole to work with.

I would love to have a new harp tonight, but I wouldn't really be able to use it because it wouldn't be broken in. I would hate to wreck the thing by playing it too hard.

I used to just chuck the little paper insert that came with the harmonicas. "Be sure to play your new harmonica very softly for the first couple weeks...Be sure to let your new harmonica warm up to body temperature before you play it. Be sure to whack out all of the moisture when you are finished playing your new harmonica so that it won't cause the wood to swell overnight..."

"Yeah, whatever..." I would think as tossed it.

I now adhere to all of those instructions, even to one advising to "always return your new harmonica to its case after playing" after a hole had become plugged by a little green bud once that had been floating around in the same backpack pocket.

Weed Free Days

Here it is 24 hours later and I am kind of in the same boat, just 20 dollars ahead of that boat. I will go out tonight and repeat, especially the not smoking weed all day but rather waiting until I am at the Lilly Pad, set up and tuned up and ready to go.

Friday, June 10, 2016

More On Art


  • Moron Art
  • Miserable Thursday Night Busking Prompts Change


The Howard Portrait

The biggest thorn in my side was having only one pencil and one crappy sharpener which wouldn't give it a sharp point; to work with -the eraser on its other end became crucial.

I basically could do what I do now when I was in third grade (I could also play a guitar at a level that I never improved upon until I was in my late teens) but I never developed it further.
There was a suggestion from perhaps the nun that taught 3rd grade; that I perhaps be sent to some kind of art school, but that was quashed by my dad who foresaw me using the college fund that he had already started for a degree in chemistry (the idea in 1970) or computer science (by 1980)

I understand and appreciate my dad's looking out for me that way; especially now that I am studying American History, and can see how by having acquiesced to his plan I could be on easy street now.
A "valuable" education could have ensured the preservation of  my middle class status and given me an advantage over those kids whose dads couldn't, or wouldn't afford 4 years of education at Worcester Polytechnic College..."anybody can draw or strum a guitar; do you really want to have to compete against them all?"
This was my chance to leapfrog all of the future skeezers of the world who, behind a panorama of excuses would never become degreed. I understand that now. My dad just drew the short straw in having that rare son who was destined to wind up singing "The Carcass Song" on Bourbon Street -kind of hard to see that coming in a youth of 7 years; and the aptitude tests aren't much help there, either....
America was all about "giving your kids all the advantages that you can."
Wasn't college enrollment even one of the disqualifiers for the draft (the "conscription" if you're college educated) that helped send 57,000 to their deaths in places with names that they couldn't pronounce? (I haven't gotten that far in the American History tomb; I'm up to 1947 now [and I hope none of you readers think that I am spreading communistic ideas in this blog, by the way...]).
Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I just couldn't see the whole picture when I was young and become dead serious about life.

Why I'm Not A Portrait Artist

I could never force a person to sit for hours while I erase and redo and perform nose jobs on them; and then there are changing light situations; and -probably what the real pros practice- how to make the subject look "better' by basically becoming, also, a makeup artist -false graphite eyelashes? Sure...

I have done exactly one real oil painting. It was after I got an insurance settlement after a motorcycle accident and could buy all of the necessary materials to include an easel.

By the time I had finished it, I had learned 80% of what they probably teach in oil painting class, by trial and error. I did have a lot of people stop to look at the work in progress and most were very complimentary; though it was a small town with not much else going on.

The subject was a 1870's era Victorian house that was octagonal in shape -probably got photographed a lot- and I remember the little girl who lived there, the 8 year old daughter of my music teacher, coming out once and interrogating my on: "Why are you drawing our house?!?"

[*10 Seconds with Google Maps and voila! There is the house (left). I painted it from an aspect to the far left, where the crosswalk; which wasn't there then; leads to].

That house reminds me...

Coming soon: More of  the story of that house, which was a huge part of my life when I was 25. It looks like it is on the market and has been, at the time of this photo, long enough for the sidewalk cracks to have become overgrown with grass; and the bushes in the back yard are definitely not being held to the standards of the family that once lived there. I think they have moved into the brick mansion that was owned by the father in law of my music teacher, Diane Cushing. 

I have had the idea of setting up an art display beside me as I busk -an array of famous musicians copied from famous photos of them? -just drawings of Jerry Garcia, so I might profit from the collateral: "Do you play any dead songs...I see you like to draw Jerry?" But, I think only the originals would have any value; and I really don't have any "style," unless it would be: "photorealism."

But, if people want to give me a photo, I would be happy to basically reproduce it, at my leisure; complete with the mistakes that we all love because it makes us human LOL
Hangs by the clock

Yes, the final touch on the drawing to the left was to have her holding a magnifying glass to her right eye; to explain why it is larger than her other eye.

Thursday, I left the apartment before sundown; hoping to make it to the music store in time to buy strings. Had I not made it there in time, I would have come back home. That would have been a blessing.
I got to the Lilly Pad and put the new strings on and began to play; happy that I could still use the harmonica if I kept the melody within the range of the holes that worked; and ultimately disappointed that I couldn't play as freely and had to abort some melodies, which was embarrassing.
At one point, I didn't feel like playing at all. I couldn't think of a song that's message I wanted to put out there; "Imagine," by John Lennon even seemed a shallow meaningless parlay. I had gotten "medium" strings, which were making it harder to play and hurting my fingers on certain chords.
The weed I had smoked 5 hours earlier was just putting me to sleep.
I was ready to leave. I checked the time: 10:08 PM. You've got to be kidding me; this is the time that I often start and already I feel like leaving....
I took a short break and then forced myself to go back at it. Most of the 9 dollars that I would wind up making came from that second set.

I decided that I cannot smoke weed during the day and expect to have any useable energy by 10 PM at night.

I've also decided that, given the state of financial emergency that I am in; that I had better learn how to sit there and play anything, whether I am "feeling it" or not; just to put the time in and collect tips from people with the "I always give the musicians a couple dollars" attitude.

It is almost 7 PM on this Friday, it just rained for about 20 minutes, and then stopped. It will be getting dark outside soon; and I prepared to go out there and go through the motions at the bare minimum; and maybe have someone come along and request an original and tip me enough for a new harmonica at the most...
Insult to injury:

I ran into Jay The Really Loud Singer, who had apparently been drinking as evidenced by the almost empty Hand Grenade sitting next to him.

He had given up on making any money off of the same cheap tourists that I must have encountered and was singing out, making fun of them; strumming a blues progression and singing things like: "Oh, I'm a dork from Michigan and my wife wears ugly shoes...etc" when a guy with a Michigan sweatshirt on walked past with a wife wearing unusual shoes.

He continued on; apparently not caring if he made a tip or not and, quite frankly, getting away with stuff because he is large and mean looking, that other buskers might have had their guitar kicked in for.

I appreciated seeing someone else freestyling like I do myself and I wound up breaking my guitar out and jamming with him.

I was singing funny lyrics and he was singing whatever popped into his drunken head, and people were actually pausing to listen.

A guy gave Jay a 100 dollar bill.

I hadn't heard what the guy said to him while he was handing it to him; it could have been: "Can you break this and give your partner 50?"

Jay showed it to me, as he seems compelled to show off such things and said: "Look at what that guy just gave me!" and then quickly explained that the guy had remembered him from last year, or something. From his tone of voice it was clear that he was anticipating me trying to claim some of it. I could have ran after the tourist and said: "Excuse me, was that tip just for Jay, because he said it was; or for the both of us?"

Even if the guy had then said, "No, I told him to break it and give you half..." he might have argued that he would have gotten the money anyways.

All I know was that, he was sitting there insulting people. One guy walked up and asked him if he played any "Metallica," and then walked off with a "sorry to bother you" expression after Jay had just stared back at him without saying anything.

Then we jammed together and it turned from insulting to kind of comic; prompting Jay to say that we could make a lot of money together; and then the 102 dollars instantly materialized on a night that had been so slow as to have Jay pissed off and insulting people.

I would have given that thought a passing consideration if he had at least offered me one dollar to go with the 9 that I had made the whole night. That would have given me an even 10 dollars and, he still would have had about $135.

It would have been easy for him to have pocketed the 100 and not shown it to me.

I would have done that; rather than feel like the 10 year old kid: "Look what I got! And you can't have any!!! Ha ha!!"

It's funny now to recall that after I had first met Jay about 3 years ago, I had deemed him to be selfish and didn't really hang around him much. After having walked past him 900 times since, there had been a gradual eroding away of that opinion.

It is not such a big deal to me; especially given the fact that Jay pays rent somewhere; and has child support issues and has frequent encounters with crystal meth -the times that he will play all night until the sun comes up and then all that day until the sun goes down and then all night until the sun comes up..which puts into a different perspective his typical boasts of "...that all you made? I made 300 yesterday and 220 the day before!!"