Monday, June 26, 2017

Blog Grinding To A Halt?

Now, it is Monday again, one week since my last post.
I am having trouble condensing the entire past week into a post; figuring out what to highlight.
  • I Try Methadone
  • I Go On A Date With Lilly
  • Ears 10% Better
  • A Kratom Bar Opens Right Up The Street
...are all options...

One thing is the same; I'm down to "less than ten bucks," again, as, I believe the little bit of change that I have in my pocket, qualifies.
And, like last Monday, I'm going out to play again, rather than stay in working on something else, trying to convince myself that it's more important than money.

All of it can take a back seat to busking, with the possible exception of making a recording good enough to be burned right onto a CD, and sold the next night as a "single" (to include a "B" side, which I would have the liberty of making a bit more ragged, maybe with glitches, to distinguish it from the "A" side).

And, that recording isn't going to be made until I find my way either into the church that is next door to us, and has been pretty much defunct since hurricane Katrina, or the rectory building behind it, to use as a recording studio.
The sad thing is that, I can sing out more freely at the Lilly Pad than I can in my own apartment.

There is a claustrophobia that I feel in my apartment and, though it is self-created and I'll have to deal with it through self analysis; it exists.

It's kind of like a nameless negativity that permeates the atmosphere and manifests itself in things as simple as; if I really belt out a song with a devil may care attitude, I will be raising my volume level and attracting attention to myself; basically advertising the fact that I'm home and inviting a knock upon my door from someone looking for a cigarette, or something.

If I were to refuse them the cigarette and go back to music, then I would be saddled with a certain amount of guilt as, the better I was sounding, the more of a shame it would translate into for me to have been "blessed" with this ability (which surely garners me plenty of material rewards) and to give no cigarettes or dollar bills "back" to those not so "blessed."

And so the result is a paranoia where, just like the Monty Python's Flying Circus character who imagined that there was an 800 foot long hedgehog chasing him around (and calling his name, I believe) I imagine skeezers outside my door, as I try to sing an play unbridled by anxiety, listening to the sound coming through my door and saying things to each other like: "You know he making money out there; playing like that; he probably make a couple hundred a night...and then you see how he be over a dollar, or a cigarette...It's a plain shame, God have mercy upon his soul..."

I suppose that it's my hope to be so successful one day that I could give them each a dollar upon my arrival home each night and not sweat it; but that day hasn't come. I just bought Harold the cat a bag of dry food that he might not like as much as the stuff that costs twice as much.

But, I have used places to record music before where I didn't have any qualms about letting it rip, like a brick building where I could turn a bass guitar up all the way through a 4 X 10" speaker cabinet and my friend could "just barely hear it" from across the street.

There is always going to be the issue of whether or not this is a "cop out" on my part, and that I am going to have to develop a thick skin and bite the bullet and learn how to sing like a bird, blocking out distractions and focusing upon my art. To slay the dragon of negativity by pushing back with my music, answering hatred with love. Some people would further expound that I should be trying to use my music to uplift the fellow residents, and heal them.

Then, of course, I could go the Voodoo rout, burn a lot of sage in my place and perform a musical exorcism.

It might be easier to get myself into the abandoned building in such a way that I could cover my tracks by closing it back up without leaving any evidence of tampering, and then do my recording there; away from any audience.

The only drawback of this, I have found is that human interaction is a double edged sword, and some of the best musical performances come about as an attempt to entertain perhaps one particular and dear friend; and having the right people around can be a plus.

Using the secluded studio, one should at least envision a certain audience, so that the performance isn't too "antiseptic." I have enough contact with live audiences through busking that the sheen of them won't have rubbed off upon my retreating into an abandoned building.

My ears are maybe 10 percent better, with the hearing starting to come back in the left one, though it is still constantly ringing.
I'm a week away from my appointment with the Ear Nose and Throat specialists.
The only thing I haven't done is buy the third round of ear drops prescribed to me, which were "carbonic peroxide," and which are indicated only for the removal of ear wax. They would have been $6.99, plus tax, over the counter.

Sunday night, I made about 14 bucks in a bit over 2 hours.
This was after having made only 6 bucks Saturday night; upon returning from my date with Lilly, when we walked along the river to a Starbucks, and then sat on a bench facing the river and talked.

Blog Post After Sunday Night:

As Sunday evening turned into Monday morning, I began to play "Monday, Monday," by The Mamas And The Papas. I might have added about 2 more dollars to my jar, bringing its total to about 14 bucks after about 2 and a half hours of being on the spot and at least making some sound come out of the guitar and harmonica.

I am starting to develop techniques whereby I can play for long stretches of time at kind of an idle, and be able to slip into a familiar melody or something, during the few seconds that someone is walking past. This way, I still catch the people who hide behind SUVs on the other side of the street and listen, without feeling personally involved, for a while before emerging to hopefully come across the street and throw me something.

But, after having only made 6 bucks on a Saturday night that I cut short because the tourists were starting to annoy me, I almost had to go out again on Sunday night.

Sunday night produced a pack of cigarettes, a gallon of distilled water, some bananas, a Monster Energy drink and 3 dollars and change left over; for a shot of kratom in the morning, from the kratom bar that just opened up the street.
Yes, a kratom bar has opened about a mile up Canal Street, by the cemetaries.
The place is called Uxi Duxi (how to pronounce that is as egnimatic as how to pronounce "kratom," itself -they pronounce it to rhyme with "atom").

Within 6 weeks, I have gone from asking what kratom was, to having walked into a local bar and knocked back a shot of it.

I had to smile when I saw that their hours of operation were until 8 PM. What say's "good kratom here," like the staff's being willing to work a few extra hours into the evening.

The place was a big kava server as well as a kratom bar, and was painted a very probably Tiawanese shade of green on the outside, and had purplish overtones everywhere. Under a glass case were various items like a bundle of sage, which, when burned produces a profound insence-like scent, and other things like bundles of sage.

A bookshelf contained books on Wicca and on Kabalah and on "devination," and such.

How kratom became integral to all that is an intriguing question.

There was also set up a stage area where a couple of amps, a timpani drum with a torn head, an electric bass missing a string, a thing that looked like an electric zither and a full drum kit all resided.

The girl who was working behind the counter today was kind of like a doctor, able to discern which of the variety of kratom leafs, a person such as myself was suited for.

I told her that the problem had been that my mood had taken a turn for the worse the night before and I had not played for a third hour after having had two slow ones.

She settled upon a red kratom, the kind that is the most popular in the world, according to her, and what she would use as a starting point in zeroing in on which exact strain suits me the most.

Before I had gotten to the place, having taken an alternate route, using the side street which runs parallel to Canal Street, I had passed one of the many cemeteries that are in that area and are a tourist attraction.

This one was much more modern looking than the others, and had sharply struck names on the headstones, which I could read, as I coasted by on my bike. There were several names visible, as the stones didn't seem to be lined up in strict rows; I had just seen a name on a stone and it had reminded me of someone I knew when I was lightly smacked on the side of my face by a low hanging sprig of crepe myrtle flowers. The cemeteries are a tourist attraction partly because they are supposedly haunted; and that could have been the spirit of the guy trying to get my attention.

Saturday Night's Post

I'm making a "great list" of all the songs that I have ever played or might ever play, this is the task of the night.

I, once again became tired of playing the only songs that seemed to come to mind. Thinking of them in terms of what key they are in, with regard to the harp has been a hindrance.

Tonight, I went to the Lilly Pad early, and encountered Rochelle there. She is the 20 year old or so girl who plays the ukelele and sings quite loudly, I must say. I heard her from a good 125 yards away, as I approached with milk crate in hand.

She is kind of attractive, but in a butch kind of way; has kind of a young boyish face, maybe kind of like Hillary Clinton looked at 19; if Ms. Rodham had dyed her hair a pinkish blond.

Rochelle is one of those girls who dye their hair blond despite the fact that all the other tones of color on their bodies kind of clash with it.

Sure, she has lightened her eyebrows a bit, but the color of her eyes and lips and especially the splashes of freckles on her cheeks belie her blondness and her overall appearance is of a chestnut brown haired girl who has been bleached somehow, perhaps in a giant washing machine.

She really doesn't have a great voice; just a bellowing one; as if she believes that singing good and loud is singing "good" (and loud). There is really not much of a lilt to it; and she seems to put every song in the same key; probably dictated by the chords she is limited to, on the ukelele, so that she is in the range where she can belt them out.

Annie Lennox or Rochelle
There is a definite lesbian overtone to her, reminiscent of Indigo Girls, Four Non-Blonds, Mellisa Ethridge, or Annie Lennox, the Erythmatics lead singer -my impressions only, your lesbians may vary...

I generally feel bad whenever I show up and she is there. Lilly, who considers her "a nice girl," has told her that I had first dibs on the spot, and in the past she seemed willing to leave as soon as I got there, and appreciative to have been able to play there from whatever time until I show up, usually around 10PM.

She usually has a pretty impressive pile of money in her case at that time. 
She generally makes around 100 bucks a day, before I come along and make half of that (in half the time) at night.

Typically, she begins to plunk her ukelele and sing, and, within minutes, a few young men are standing around her, oogling her, thinking whatever, and then, ultimately trying to impress her with a display of wealth in the form of at least a 5 dollar tip. She has a dog, too.

However, this evening, she didn't seem to have much in her case, and she was visibly upset.

"I wasn't expecting you to get here this early..."

"I thought we had this arrangement, where I would play during the day, and you would come at night..."

This was kind of like a testing of the waters for her; This was the time that I could have reminded her that Lilly had given me the spot whenever I wanted it, and that she has even encouraged me to come out in the early afternoons and do so; after seeing the block jammed with people at that hour because of some daytime event, perhaps.

And those are the hours that Rochelle has been free to rack up her hundred bucks.

She probably plays somewhere in the morning, and then does the Lilly Pad from mid afternoon, through the dinner hours, and probably has put in close to 8 hours of busking at the point when I show up. She usually just moves down about 100 yards and continues; which she did last night.

When I was homeless, I would often play from about 7:30 AM, until almost noon, on Decatur Street.

I can hear her from there, but she is no louder than the piano guy at the bar. It is good that she is able to do that. It is like a mine-field down the block that way.

There are residents who will instantly run off any musician that they hear, and who all seem to live in the rooms situated right behind their stoops.

Rochelle sits so that she is directly facing a business, "Nola Poboys." This eliminates the problem of any resident feeling that she is "right across from," and thus encroaching upon, them.

"I very rarely show up this early, and, to tell you the truth, after I make enough money to buy new batteries, I probably won't be here before nightfall again; I just need to catch up after not being able to hear for a couple weeks," I said.
"I'm trying to get an apartment," she said, before going off in a huff.
In A Huff

It is the end of the night, and I kind of feel bad. It was a pretty bad night, generally speaking. There were a good amount of tourists, but they all seemed to be tight with their money.

It was like they were a huge group from some country where you would never see a street musician, because nobody would tip them because that's just the way people from that country are. It has its roots in their history, I'm sure...

Sometimes it is like that, and it is hard to continue to play hard then.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Catching Up

It is Monday, and I have less than 10 bucks, so, I am going to repeat last night's actions and busk for a couple hours at the Lilly Pad.

That netted me 15 bucks, starting at about 9:30PM, and playing for about 2 hours.
Monday night promises to be about the same, but I could use the 15 bucks.

Today's Quiz
What famous album cover did I distort pretty badly to produce the work to the left?
Answer below...

I can't see getting anything accomplished at home during those same hours that is any more important than getting some money flowing.
The strings that I ordered arrived, but I think I'll throw them in the backpack and continue to play on the one's that I have on now. Any one of them is due to break tonight.

As far as harmonicas; I'm playing on an old one that is in the key of G, from back in the days when I could afford to have harps in 2 different keys.

Three weeks of reduced wages due to impaired hearing have taken their toll.

My ears are better, with the right one being clear enough so that I can hear my fingers being rubbed together about and inch from the ear -that is some kind of test of hearing, though I can't remember where I "heard" it- and my left one still being plugged up and ringing.

I can just barely busk.

People were telling me that I sounded good, last night, with one young lady stipulating "very" good.

It's quite possible that, in focusing upon the fundamental tones, which are the ones that vibrate in the head, I am achieving more accurate pitches and the harmonics (that are muffled out to me) are taking care of themselves.

I now understand what Ludwig Van Beethoven's "deafness" was probably about. Along with the legend of him placing his hand on the piano and being able to "hear" that way.

When I rest my chin on the top of the guitar, I hear it probably about 3 times louder than when I take it away, so, this tells me that my hearing isn't "back" yet.

The latest trip to the hospital (the third one in a month) had them releasing me with a prescription for a Claritin type of drug, and yet a third kind of ear drop.
This ear drop stuff is "carbonic peroxide," and is 7 bucks for a small bottle, "over the counter," and I haven't bought it yet.

My friend Lancaster said that carbonic peroxide was "the stuff" that had worked miracles on his ears, when he was younger and an avid surfer.

Of course, he was the one who had originally told me that I needed to ram a Q-tip as far as I could into the ear that was blocked "you'll know it when you hit the ear drum," an action that may have made matters worse at the time.

Answer to Quiz:

The work to the left was made by scrambling the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.
You just have to look at it closely. LOL!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Quaker

I'm in Starbucks; it is Sunday night, a couple days after the house majority whip guy was shot on the baseball field, and the same day that a U.S. led coalition shot down a plane in Syria.

Closer to home, as I sat here a bit earlier, the crazy looking skinny black guy who is sitting next to me with one of his legs in spasmodic motion asked me for the code to unlock the restroom.

I have seen nervous looking people who rhythmically tap a foot or make one of their knees hop; but this guy is almost epileptic in that one leg.

When he first entered, he came straight over to me and asked me for the code.

"I don't know," I told him. "I haven't had to use the bathroom..."

He then wanted me to pause what I was doing, and go up to the counter and ask one of the baristas for it.

If he asked, they would inform him that he needed to make a purchase.

So, he wanted me to get up, walk over to the counter, out of view of my guitar and my laptop and my backpack, for however long it took me to get the attention of the girl, just so I could give the code to someone who had not made a purchase, and for whose shitting on the floor I would be blamed for, as I would be the last person to have asked for the code.

"I'm busy right now, just go up and ask them..."

He mumbled something, but I feigned being "busy right now" by burying my nose in the laptop.

It was then that he took a seat about 6 feet down the bench from me, and began the annoying quaking of his leg. He put it up on one of the footstools and began the almost comical "try to ignore this and stay busy" twitching of it.

I can only think that he is angry and figures that he is going to distract me, and exact his revenge that way.

Either that, or he is contemplating trying to suddenly grab this laptop and run out the door with it, and he is just getting his leg warmed up.

It's odd how he approached me looking for the code, but has not asked anyone else; not even people who apparently know it, because they are coming out of the restroom.

"I really have to go to the bathroom," he had told me, as if that was going to motivate me. He said it in his best "I need to cook my patetti" voice, I imagine.

They will tell you in any Salesmanship 101 seminar worth its salt, not to attempt to create value in the product by telling the prospective customer what is in it for you, the salesman. "Man, one more sale and I make my monthly bonus; please buy the car, sir!"

I'm tired of lying skeezers, that is all.
As I sit here writing, he as since gotten into the restroom, and has been in there the past 20 minutes. He didn't "really have to go to the bathroom," he really had to go in there and do whatever it is he's doing. But, he had to lie, I guess.

Yeah, I suppose Starbucks thinks that it would be a courtesy to the people who have plunked down almost 10 bucks for a beverage, if the (only) bathroom was available.

The GIMP Editor 

The image to the left, I did by applying special effects to, and manipulating, the next photo, of the Mel Bay Guitar Method book covers....(below)
 OK, One More...
This one, was, of course, a re-working of the photo of "Uncle" Louie which appeared in the newspaper along with the story of him being arrested for a murder that he apparently committed 43 years ago.
The New Orleans police are a bit slow in getting around to things like sifting through old fingerprints...
And, yeah, the hat is kind of a "hangman" symbol...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Harold And I's Ears

My ears are still stuffed up and ringing.

Third Visit To Hospital For Ears

I am going on a juice fast and have stopped taking Kratom.
I am also going to eat one more time, before the fast, the meal which was my go-to meal for years, during which I was so healthy that it was a pleasure just to lay back and enjoy being in my own body.

That would be sea bass fried/smoked over a red oak fire in olive oil with garlic and basil, and steamed broccoli and, for like 12 straight years, a bottle of red wine. Actually, 7/8ths of a bottle -I drank down to about the bottom of the label, re-corked it, and that was it for the night. The last couple gulps, below the label, would be used for comparison against whatever different kind of cheap red wine I got the next night, in my never ending search for the best value in red wines.

I would have put the fish on tin foil that was curled up at the edges, and then doused it in olive oil and apple cider vinegar, to marinate it while I was building the fire, which be subsequently allowed to flame up and then die down to a bed of embers, whereupon small pieces of wood would be added so when they caught on fire it would only flare up about 6 inches. This was the perfect cooking/smoking fire, and the fish would get to marinate for almost a half hour while waiting for it to come about.

I would put a grill cover over it so that it would cook just as much from the hot air and smoke that it was trapped in as from the heat from the embers below.

Healthiest diet that I've discovered
Something like this...

I used my ear to adjust the cooking temperature. I would try to let it go for about 20 minutes with the sputtering of the olive oil sounding like a babbling brook. If it sounded more like a white water river, I would pull some wood off the fire below it. I cooked at night, most of the time and so, learned to cook by sound.

I'm going to skip the red wine. If I had enough cash to get a bottle of non alcoholic stuff (about $12) I would, just to more accurately reconstruct the meal that I ate almost every night for 12 years when I was very healthy and went out each day to do landscaping work in the Florida summer sun.  And I might have to skip the red oak fire, but am not giving up on that idea just yet. I might walk around the neighborhood in the Latino section and find someone who is already grilling, whom I could ask if I can put my fish (pescado) on their grill (parilla) for about 20 minutes (minutos).

I believe that if I get a small grill of my own, I can use it in the lot adjacent to the Sacred Heart parking lot, where grilling is proscribed. The lot is where the closed down Sacred Heart church sits, and is kind of roped off.

I think that the buildings where we live, which used to be the Sacred Heart school (my building) and a convent (Lancaster, my weed guy's building) were the ones that were bought in order to be used to house homeless veterans and their ilk. The church and another building (a rectory) were not part of the deal, although the former might have made a nice recreation center for us -take out the pews; put in a basketball court; hang a backboard over the crucified Jesus- and I'm not sure if it is incumbent upon the security detail which work here as "courtesy" officers to enforce any trespassing issues surrounding the empty, boarded up church and rectory.

I'm going to try to get into the rectory building, in order to use it for recording music. There, I would be able to warm up like Pavarotti without being besotted with a "fuck you, in advance" mindset towards anyone who might bang on a floor or wall with a broomstick.

It isn't as tightly secured on the side that faces us, as it is on the side that faces Lopez Street. This stands to reason, as our parking lot is fenced in, acting as a front-line defense.

There is one door on the former rectory which is covered in plywood, probably three quarters of an inch thick. I plan to cut through the wood down one side of it, close to the edge, and then to screw in a few hinges, so that the plywood could be closed back up like a door, leaving the appearance that it is still boarded up tightly and hasn't been breached, so that nobody would suspect anyone of using the place as a recording studio.

I would be bringing my own "juice" in the form of my laptop battery, and maybe an led flashlight to use at night, away from any windows, of course.

I'll make it so I can close and lock the plywood behind me, so as to not be unpleasantly surprised by skeezers coming in behind me.

Now, I have stiffness in my neck; and have gone through a period of about 12 hours, where I felt quite lousy.

My ears are in a constantly ringing and half hearing state. They just feel warm and fuzzy and puffed up with fluid, like I just came out of a loud rock concert and am back in my quiet room. It's kind of comfortable, ironically, since I might be losing my hearing.

I am starting to have a strong suspicion that Kratom might compromise the body's defenses against certain things. Or that it might, more directly, cause a fluid build up behind the eardrums of some "patients."

The question would be: "Do the benefits of Kratom outweigh the drawbacks?"

Obviously, hearing loss in a musician might be considered a no-brainer for discontinuing its use.

The fact that I can sit down and type away at however many words per minute for 11 hours straight, pumping out a 14,000 word story with hardly a revision on the stuff, pausing only to refill my coffee cup, doesn't necessarily recommend it; at least not until a re-reading of the story from the distance of a few days later reveals it to be a pretty good one.

Tonight, I will have gone 3 days without any kratom.

I still sit here typing away, and shooing away like flies, any distracting thoughts or impulses to stop writing and do something else.

If I were working on a song, it would be the same discipline. It might not be evident from listening to the last song I posted, with the video of my drawings; but that represented about 9 hours of "solid" work. And when the sun came up, and the computer room opened, and it was time for me to upload the thing and put it on this blog, I was still chomping at the bit to re-do several parts of it, tweaking each measure; that could have gone on until sundown.

So, I wonder if I am still under the influence of the stuff.

I felt so dead tired the past couple days, after having busked Friday and Saturday nights with maybe 3 hours of sleep in between; but having taken a couple grams each night before leaving out on my bike.

I reminded myself of a guy I once knew who would lay on his bed moaning and groaning, and not eating, for 2 or 3 days every so often, withdrawing from heroin. He was the type of guy who could get pretty strung out on the stuff and then put himself through the ringer of withdrawal, take a shower, put on clean clothes and then go back into society for a few weeks or even months, until the next time; if there is such a type of guy.

I'm sure the "pros" like my friend Lancaster would tell you: "You can do that for a while, but it'll get you in the end; and you'll wind up stealing heavy equipment off construction sites in broad daylight and trying to sell it on the street."

Such is life.

I was hooked on the peanut flavored marshmallow candy called "Circus Peanuts," when I was about 10 years old. I found them so delicious that I begged my mom to get me some when she went grocery shopping. She didn't disappoint, and in fact, delivered big time, as the market only had the candy by the big "party size" bag.

And, so there I was, with a whole bag of my favorite candy at the time.

I ate about 3 quarters of the bag; became sick of the things; never finished the bag; and haven't eaten another Circus Peanut since.

Maybe that is how this Kratom story will end.

I wound up feeling pretty good by about noon, after I had gone to the Family Dollar and had gotten a Monster Energy drink, which I consumed, shortly before starting to feel better.

I'm wondering if there is any kind of withdrawal from it. It stands to reason that one is always robbing Peter to pay Paul when dealing with any kind of thing that one puts in the body.

With persistent alcohol consumption there develops a situation where the person wakes up as an inversion of who he was before passing out drunk the night before.

He might have been caught up in the euphoric state of drunkenness and "resolved" to be up bright and early and to go see about a job, or something; and then woke up feeling like his brain had coagulated like Jello into a slow thinking, slow moving, barely jiggling mass; his extroverted personality had gone into a deep sleep, and his body ached, because his threshold of pain had come down commensurate with his blood/alcohol level and now he was feeling pain and recalling things like: "Oh, yeah; I punched that wall, didn't I; when the bouncer wouldn't let me in the club 'cause he said I was too 'intoxicated.'"

And so, he blows off the job search and goes back to sleep, only to awaken in the early afternoon, ridden by guilt over having gotten drunk again, and messed up another opportunity

And then finds that after a couple drinks he feels better.

The difference with Kratom is waking up and seeing a pile of money in front of you because you played like a machine for 5 or 6 straight hours, rather than seeing no money but bruises on your body that you can't account for.

And there is the wondering why your ears have been stuffed up and ringing throughout the entire month since you first started messing with Kratom...

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