Monday, October 16, 2017

Only The Shadow Knows

  • The Second Card Arrives
  • Did Travis Steal The First One?
  • 35 Dollar Sunday
So, I left the Uxi Duxi Sunday night, and made it back to the apartment, where I packed up my gear and went out to the trolley, just as it was coming along the track; for a change.
It was still 11:30 when I arrived at the Lilly Pad.

There was a prone figure, wearing frumpy camouflage type clothing, on the stoop that I play next to.
He was apparently unconscious, with a bottle of booze by his head, and a sign propped up in front of him, begging for more booze money, apparently.

"This guy is asleep on the job," I thought. Did he expect to wake up after a couple hours of alcohol induced sleep, to find his cup full of money?

I considered calling Lilly to see if she would come out, wake him up and run him away. But then I thought that, this being a Sunday night when expectations of making money are adjusted down; it might be a good time to perform the experiment of: "Can a busker make money with a guy passed out drunk right next to him?"

Then it crossed my mind to try to play so well that tourists would assume that the guy had been lulled to sleep by my melodies, and that, most importantly; I wasn't "with" him in any way; their tips weren't going towards poisoning him with alcohol or heroin, and I wasn't applying my tips towards the same end.

Another man approached, as I was putting my spotlight up into the vines and training its beam upon the tiposaurus. He tried to stir the first guy, telling him that he shouldn't have downed a half pint of whiskey, because, now he was a wreak and couldn't even stand up, etc.

He turned to me and asked: "How are you doing?"

I saw this as an opportunity to try to explain that I was doing alright, even though I had gotten out there pretty late, and that I had concerns about my ability to make money with this guy (whom I guess he knew) laying prone on the stoop.

"I don't want tourists to think that I'm playing for heroin money, or for whatever they might think this guy is passed out on..." I said, trying not to be too insulting to the guy, in case he was still conscious.

"Yeah, this is kind of counterproductive," the guy said, removing and tossing the sign begging for money as he did.

Now there was just a guy sleeping on the stoop with a large leather handbag near him, his baseball cap laying on the sidewalk a few feet from him, but no sign begging for money.

I tuned up and started to play, to see if he was going to be stirred by the sound of me, and if he would then complain that I was keeping him awake, and maybe state that he had been there first, and that I could find another spot to make noise at.

He never moved a muscle, not through "Imagine," by John Lennon, nor "Wild World," by Cat Stevens.

The second song attracted a 20 dollar tip, and then there was a guy leaning on the post, listening after it ended. He said something complementary. I might have said something about song selection or the experiment involving a guy passed out at the busking spot, etc.

He said: "Anything harmonica," after throwing a 5 dollar bill in the tiposaurus' basket.
I broke into "Dancing In The Moonlight," by King Harvest (1973) as a way of illustrating a point that he had made about his enjoyment of songs to which harmonica is added to, that didn't originally have that instrument in them; and because it is one of my best songs in the key of C harmonica.

I made 35 bucks in an hour and a half, during which the guy on the stoop never stirred. I figured that the spotlight on myself might have dimmed the sight of him, by contrast, and that it might have been evident that I wasn't on the same program as he, since if you can't stand up, you probably can't play guitar and harmonica at the same time.

At about 1:30 AM, the guy did stand up and walk very crookedly away, headed west on Bourbon Street, leaving his large leather handbag and baseball cap where they lay.

I heard the voice of, probably the guy who had removed the sign, coming from in front of Lafitt's Blacksmith Shop Tavern, telling someone else that "He just walked off."

Addition of photo, mine
I soon walked off myself, after about 15 more minutes of playing when I added not another penny to the 35 bucks that I had made in just about 2 hours, on a Sunday night, after having gotten there at 11:30 PM, and played without the aid of any weed or alcohol or heroin; just a double shot of kratom which I had consumed shortly before 8 PM.

Kratom really does make me want to go out and busk; and to not stress over the results.

Even now, as I sit here on this Monday night, and the clock has just struck 9:05 PM, I am kind of itching to go out and play; even though I had slept kind of fitfully, and had gone back to sleep after waking up at almost exactly 1:30 PM, as I tend to do without the aid of an alarm.

I had eaten a couple of (huge) pancakes the night before, made from "graham" flour, and flavored with butter and honey -so much honey that they tasted sweet and yummy, but enough to teach me that honey is just about as "bad" as sugar, when it comes to feeling dead tired and achy, upon waking up in the "morning" at 1:30 PM.

I'm not having the depressing dreams of the recent past, though -only one where I had my hands tied behind my back and Travis was pinching my nostrils shut. I couldn't speak in the dream and was trying to tell him "Please let me breath," with my eyes.

You Have Mail

I'm thinking that the letter that my mom sent on the first of October, which she told me had 25 bucks in it, and wasn't my official birthday card, but a herald of it's planned arrival a week later, having been sent out of pity as a response to her having read about my travails with Travis as a roommate, fell victim to either one of a few things...

Since the official birthday card (top) showed up in my mailbox today, stamped with "Boston, October 10th," I tend to think that the one sent on the first had also arrived, probably after around the same 6 days that it took this one to get here, and that it had not been addressed wrong.

There is a small chance that the mail lady, who seems to struggle with the alphabet (as it's been years and years since she "took it" in kindergarten) had put the thing in the wrong box.

This has happened before, with myself having gotten mail addressed to someone with the same apartment number but different building, or the same building and a similar number, such as 311.

If this had been the case, then I would have been at the mercy of whomever lived at that apartment, and subject to his/her level of honesty.

There are certain residents whom I imagine would immediately tear the thing open, hoping that there was anything of value in it.
Jackie in apartment A 108, comes to mind.

She would just see it as her having gotten something in the mail. She might notice that they had written her name kind of funny, but it wouldn't faze her; people do strange things, sometimes.

This explanation made some sense to my mother, who actually said: "Well, maybe whoever got it really needed money at the time and it was an answer to a prayer."


..but, they're ill bred dysfunctional derelicts, mom...

I think my mom would actually like Jackie, feel sorry for her, and bring her a plate of "patetti" every so often...

I told mom that "time will probably tell," and that it wouldn't really surprise me if, sometime in the near future, I hear a loud, alcohol and drug fueled argument break out in the parking lot, during which some resident might blurt out to another: "And that 25 dollars that you got in your mailbox; I ain't seen nary one dime of that; not one dime!"

The Shadow Knows...

Another, equally dark scenario might involve my "friend" Travis.

There were times that I was out of the apartment, perhaps fetching Harold the Cat, when I left my key ring in plain sight. This had, along with the key to the apartment, the key to the laundry room and the one to my mailbox.

Is Travis a certain kind of kleptomaniac who would take pride in his ability to outfox his quarry, waiting for the opportunity to commit the perfect crime, saving items as mementos of his victims, in a secret box somewhere, so that he can re-live his crimes through them...??

"Daniel was a rather pleasant, somewhat reserved guy whom I stayed with for a couple days when I was in New Orleans.
I snagged this little item from him; and he was never any the wiser -quite clever how I pulled it off, if I do say so myself.
I like to take it out of the box and run my hands over it, every now and then...I wonder whatever became of Daniel; I kind of liked the guy..." 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Personal Connection To Louis Armstrong

After I left the Uxi Duxi at about 9:15 PM, it started to rain as I walked down Canal Street towards Carollton.
What does kratom do for me? Well, for instance, there was
no spotlight above me in this photo!
By the time I got to Carollton, it was raining hard enough so that I "ducked" into the Walgreen's, where I bought a can of cat food, and tapped into what I had left of the 41 dollar Friday night, for a $7.48 pack of American Spirit cigarettes.

What I had left was...41 dollars
$1.19 coffee at Quartermaster
    .72 cat food at Quartermaster
$5.00 bud of weed from David the Water Jug Player
$3.00 all day bus pass, good until 4:32 AM, Sunday morning
$6.00 double shot of green bali kratom
= $16.28

After buying the cigarettes, I went back home to grab my stuff with only about 10 bucks left in my pocket.
It had stopped raining long enough for me to pack up my gear and go out to the trolley stop, where the rain started back up.
I had just missed the 10:20 PM, and told myself; as I waited in front of the closed down church across the street, that if it stopped raining by the time the next trolley came by, I would get on it and go out to busk.
There is just enough of an overhang above the big door, main entrance of the church (where the pastor would stand, greeting and shaking the hands of the flock) to keep me dry. It rained hard enough to cause huge puddles to form along the edges of Canal Street. These are used by black people in cars to splash white people who might be trundling along the sidewalk. Not all black people; just about 78% of them; the other 22% are pretty decent people.
Then, I noticed that the huge main entrance doors to the church had been secured with a padlock and a chain; the kind of chain that can be snipped through with a decent set of bolt cutters. "They don't even have to be the long handled kind," a guy who has had a few bikes stolen from him told me, on the subject of chains. His advice had been to get a "U-bolt" style lock, should I get another bike.
I tested the big doors by pulling on them. They yielded enough to inform me that, once the chain has been cut off, they should swing open. If I were to cut the chain, then the padlock would still be useful to whomever holds the key, and that person could just re-lock the place, after having determined that the crucifix hadn't been stolen, and the only evidence of an intruder was that one of the holy water dispensers had been used for an ashtray, and there was a guitar pick laying on the floor in front of the statue of saint Francis. He could re-lock it with a U-bolt style lock, I would recommend...
The place would negate the need for me to apply any "church" reverberation settings to the music I record there, and the kicker would be that I would be recording my CD in the church where Louis Armstrong was married; how cool is that?
Once inside, I would have to find an alternate way in and out; a trap door leading to a crawl space, or something. Of course, whomever the caretaker is, might carefully inspect the place for any such breeches, so I'll have to ponder further before spending 30 bucks on a set of bolt cutters...
Maybe it would suffice to record in the defunct rectory behind the church where Louis Armstrong was married.
Someone doctored the sign at the front door, which states that the church is closed, to read "asses are now being held at St. Anthony's (church up the street)"
I have talked to my caseworker about seeing if I can go up into the bell tower (left) for therapeutic reasons, but the property is overseen by agencies other than those who run our apartment building
Lost In The Mail?
My mom, upon reading in yesterday's post that I was concerned about her, having not heard from her on my annual birthday, called to say that she had sent a birthday card (with some money in it) which should have arrived on my big day, as well as another letter, a couple weeks earlier.
All I can think of is that the post office, in this age of terrorism, has some kind of sophisticated x-ray type machine that can spot anthrax powder and other mail-able weapons, as well as U.S. currency, and that one of the all African American postal workers stole the money, and probably threw the card in the trash.
Another possibility is that, due to the threat of hurricane Nate, that never materialized, they may have shut the entire operation down, blockaded the doors with sandbags, and then taken a whole week or more off.

The letters should either arrive here, or be sent back to her.

I suppose having a Caucasian sounding name on the return address might have led the black postal workers to believe that they had every right to the contents of the envelope.

My Mom, LaMarion

Next time, use the name LaMarion Washington in the return address spot, mom.

This is just another case where I need to be patient, not jump to any conclusions, and let due process run its course. To go with all the other cases...

Going out and making some money tonight would help.

I could ask other residents if they've had to wait 2 weeks to get a letter mailed cross country before, or ask a postal worker if this is ever the case in New Orleans. I do know that a letter from my mom beat a letter mailed from about a mile away to my mailbox, a couple years ago, by a couple days.

Move Over, Donald Fagan

I stayed up all night, recording music.

I have made great strides in the recording and mixing of an acoustic guitar. One must attenuate the bass notes, in order to give it that "bright" sound featured on professional recordings. I think acoustic guitars are designed to maximize the bass end, as this makes them sound "better" to most ears. A cheap guitar just sounds "thin." But, when it comes to mixing it with other instruments, the tinniness can cut through the mix.

Care must also be taken to subdue the "attack" of the thing, because the pick hitting the strings produces its own, not necessarily musical, sound.

One good practice is to put on a recording of, say, Steely Dan, and then switch back and forth between that, and your own recording (making sure they are the same volume, because the louder one will always sound better, a trick that salesman might use to try to sell more expensive speakers to someone). This can allow you to make basic, wide-sweeping, adjustments, as your stuff will sound blatantly muddier or tinnier by comparison.

But, I am satisfied with the recorded quality that I have been able to produce. I have an arrangement of effects that I run through, with them all preset to give me what will be "my" sound. Some of them, I took a whole evening of experimentation to arrive at.
Like; do you put an echo first, and then reverberation, or the other way around?
In the latter case, the echo will repeat the note, but also repeat the reverberation that trails the note, so then you have echoes of reverberation, rather than reverberation of echoes...there's a subtle difference...

The stuff that you hear on the radio has been super compressed, so I haven't been shy about using the "compressor" effect that comes with audacity. It basically aims, to whatever degree you set as a reference, to make every sound on the recording the same level. This means that you can, for example, set the vocals at a point where one syllable sung a bit softer than the rest of the line, won't be drowned out by a note that the bass player happened to thump a bit harder at that instant.

One of the things that vexes me, though, is that when I listen to an Elvis Costello recording (and he is a master arranger) I can't pick out the words he is singing, unless I already know them in advance.

This is apparently done so that everything on the recording can be heard, from the ride cymbal to the violin, without his voice drowning them out. It would be like listening to a Mozart symphony where one oboe is carrying the melody, but is the same volume as the rest of the woodwinds.

On a lot of my songs, the lyrics are the most important part, and so I will need to go to school on recordings like "The Streak," by Ray Stevens, or "Hot Rod Lincoln," by Commander Cody as; what would those two songs be worth if you couldn't make out the words?

One of my favorite Elvis Costello songs, "Church Underground," has a line in it that I couldn't make out from the official release version, no matter how many times I listened to it, or how much I slowed it down.

I thought it said "I'll be damned or burger to the ground," but, after digging up as many versions of it as I could find, I heard one where it was clear that he sings: "...or purgatory bound," which makes sense, because the title is "Church Underground," and Elvis is a master of weaving many references and metaphors and double entendres for the titles of his songs into the lyrics.
"...It's enough to put a church underground."
Hey, it's 9:25 PM, on this Sunday night.

Old, Soft, Lazy And Set In My Ways

I didn't go play outside the Superdome as the Saints played today; as I had told myself I would do, while deciding to go back inside and record music, as it had still been raining when the trolley came the night before, as I stood there, contemplating breaking into a church.

Being up all night recording, and only falling asleep after the sun came up, made the idea of walking almost a mile to the stadium to set up and play (on just 4 hours of sleep) unappealing.

I guess I'm getting a bit soft in my old age of 55.

It's also that, playing outside the Superdome, had always been about running to the big Rouses Market to spend some of the money that I made off the people coming in, on a quality quart of beer or two, maybe a double bock, which I would then sip while listening to the game on the radio, getting a good buzz to propel me through the 25 minutes or so of madness, as the people evacuated after the game.
...Speaking of breaking into places...
I guess the good that has come of the latest situation is that, I am reminded that my mother checks this blog, and I might use this as an opportunity to slant it more towards something that she may enjoy reading, rather than making it a personal letter to a pen pal named Alex In California, which it had been in danger of becoming.

"Music Only A Mother Could Love" might be the latest "working title" for my CD, too.

Having decided to center it around the theme of composing for 12 (I think it will be) unique individuals, rather than feel like the whole disc will be scrutinized by any one person, there will most likely be a song "dedicated" to Alex In California.

Maybe I can get Tanya Huang to play the fiddle on "Hot Rod Lincoln," in that regard...

"Blue Bayou," by Roy Orbison/Linda Ronstadt will be to mom, with love.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Can You Make A Living Doing That?"

  • 41 Dollar Friday
  • Sugar Blues
  • Worried 'Cause Mom Hasn't Written

I was certainly ticked off, as I stood waiting for a trolley.

I had just missed one, as I stepped onto the platform a little after 10 PM, thinking that I could be at the Lilly Pad by 10:45 PM.

Instead, I wasn't on board one until almost 11 PM, and didn't pluck my first note until about 11:35 PM.

When I knocked off the final time and went to the Quartermaster, their clock read 2:24 AM.
So, I gather that I played about 2 and a half hours and made 41 bucks, with nothing larger than the three five dollar bills that were in my stash at the end of the night, meaning that around 20 people threw me tips, which bodes well for the current season that we are in.

Out of 20 people throwing tips, I stood a 50-50 chance of any one of them throwing a 20 or higher.
So, it could easily have been a 60 dollar night, which was kind of the goal I had in the back of my mind.

I had been determined to play for 4 hours, come what may. My fingers were tired after 165 minutes, and I would have had to rest them for 10 minutes before continuing. I will definitely need to consider a nylon string guitar, like Dorise Blackman played, if I ever want to partner with Tanya Huang...

This is kind of a "reality check," in the sense that; busking for 4 hours on a Friday night, when there are a good amount of tourists in town, is a pretty good yardstick for measuring how things are "going," and answering the recurrent question of: "Do you make good money doing that?" or, more pointedly: "Can you make a living doing that?"

Just how lucrative busking is at a particular spot needs to be gauged using at least a 3 hour time sample. You can't just sit down and play for 20 minutes; and make a determination. Some of my best nights started out with myself making nothing the first 20 minutes, and then ended with 50+ dollars after, say, 2 and a half hours.

It kind of feels like it either takes the tourists that long to determine that I can actually play, and am not just skeezing, using a guitar as a prop; or it takes them that long to determine that I am there for the long haul, putting in the hours (which is respectable to some) not just there intent upon running the first tip I get directly to the beer store; giving it the appearance of being a more serious "profession."

It might take about a half hour for some of them to see me there a second time, on their way to and from the Quartermaster, or Lafitt's Blacksmith Shop Tavern. A lot of times it is as if they are consumed by their quest for whatever they want from the Quartermaster, hoping they can find it, that it will be open, and that they make a sandwich that they will like, etc.

And, they will likely be carrying loose change after having broken a 50 dollar bill in purchasing a couple sandwiches, a bag of chips and a soda.

It might even shade their perception of my music towards being of a quality commensurate with the best sandwiches (Quartermaster or Verti-Mart), po-boys (Nola Po-Boys) hamburgers (The Clover Grill) in the French Quarter, along with the best powdered cocaine (the skinny black kid with the red sneakers) weed (the older black guy who sits on Lilly's other stoop) and other things on the block.
"This is just world-class everything," they might think while deciding that a 20 dollar bill is  appropriate for the Bob Dylan guy under the spotlight.

I used to look at things more "cosmically," and think that I was being put to a test of some sort, by the Great Music Spirit, by having to play a whole 20 minutes without getting a single dollar, to see if I can put aside my material aspirations and continue to play "for the right reasons."

Along with imagining that there is, perhaps, a young lady in a third floor room, laying back on her bed with her window open, and my music drifting in, and myself just happening to be playing a song that has some meaning to her, perhaps one that she had just been humming to herself on her way home, or something...

"Name It And Claim It"

Along with that (which satisfies the need to be playing "for someone," even while being ignored by everyone in sight) I also often imagine that someone has just thrown a tip in my otherwise empty basket. That is a prime example of the "name it and claim it" type of mindset that some organized religions extol.

Some "think and grow rich" type of books also promote this mechanism, telling people to think about their car, for example, as already being the Porsche 944 that they are dreaming about owning; "when you are washing it, repeat 'I'm shining up my Porsche now'" as you do it.

Soon, reality will align itself to your model of the universe, and you will attract the 944 and conjure it into your garage. I suppose if you don't have a garage, you could repeat: "There, I just put my Porsche in my garage," after you've parked the Kia on your packed dirt driveway.

There is some overlap between the two, because most of the people who attend those kind of churches seem to be "praying" for expensive cars and the like.

"I gave my heart to Jesus, and one week later, I got 50 thousand dollars in the mail! That's my testimony..."

So, that too, helps me to play with the right attitude -picturing someone throwing a tip before it actually happens.

This is only an issue during the first half hour or so, when the first dollar thrown is going to mean being able to buy a can of cat food and then walk the 2 and a half miles home; the second dollar, being able to ride the trolley (and get Harold his food more quickly) and the third dollar, maybe a cheap cigar that I can break open and roll into cigarettes to get through the night, etc.

There is a certain dollar value at which I stop worrying about money. This is right around 12 or 13 dollars, after I scoop about 10 out and safeguard it in my back pocket, leaving 3 or 4 in there that I don't have to stress over some punk grabbing and running off with.

So, I was pretty angry over not having made it to the Lilly Pad until about 11:35 PM; especially after having knocked off my blogging around 9:30 PM, and having "made a beeline" to the spot.
Right now, it is 9:22 PM, on this Saturday night.

In order to not repeat the same mistake as last night, I will be shooting for the trolley that comes around 10:15, so that I can play for 3 hours and knock off a little before 2 AM.

I have a small bud of potent weed that I know better than to smoke any time before my arrival and tuning up at the Lilly Pad.

My strings are old. I think that any one of the dollar tips last night could have become a twenty dollar bill had I had that little bit of extra glimmer from a new set of strings.

I'm still recovering from "the month of Travis," and won't be up to speed with new strings and a new harmonica until at least next weekend.

I broke the "d" string last night, but continued to play on Canal Street, after having encountered David the Water Jug Player, who sold me the 5 dollar bud, the second half of which I have ready to go for tonight; and the first half of which, I rolled and smoked with him.

This led to me taking the guitar out and inventing "music for guitar minus d string," alongside David until just about 4 in the morning.
Pretty soon, they'll be starting to talk about you-know-what, only a few months away, now
I ate too much sugar when I got home and learned a lesson about it, after having woken at my normal time of about 1:30 PM, and then having gone back to sleep because of feeling dead tired.

I had just enough time to drink a cup of coffee, throw this laptop in my bag, and make it to the Uxi Duxi 20 minutes before they closed at 8 PM. I am sipping a double shot of "green bali," and have been at this post for, I guess, almost 2 hours now.

The 41 dollar night will be followed by whatever tonight brings; and there is a Saints game at the Superdome tomorrow (Sunday) and I hope to grab my little spot under the little stairwell outside one of the entrances to the place.

The Superdome was built to the same dimensions as the Pantheon in Greece, David the Water Jug Player told me last night; giving a good example of the kind of things you talk about after you take a few tokes of potent weed.

Humankind has evolved since the days when thousands of people would watch a man being killed and devoured by lions for entertainment, I thought, as I sat there talking to David the Water Jug Player; glad that Travis wasn't there to present a lecture on Ancient Greece at the time.
"Now they suspend an NFL player and put him in jail if he stages fights between bulldogs," I mused, thinking that this denoted some kind of progress, in the way of civilization.

"I guess the Pantheon must have seated about the same 70,000 as the dome, David..."