Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Que Tal?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017....

I watched the day change from Monday to Tuesday as soon as I had gotten on the 100 bus over in Gretna, which had shown up at 11:59 PM, and which had a digital sign for all to see, announcing that the bus was indeed the 100, along with the time and date, which boasted the promptness of its arrival this time.

It was the last bus going across the bridge for another 4 hours.

It had, just like one the week before, almost gone by me without stopping. Like that one, it stopped about 50 yards down the road to let me on.

The driver recommended that I hold a lit cellphone up as kind of a beacon the next time. The next time that I am standing at midnight in the murder capital of the USA at a bus stop so dark that the driver can't even see anyone waiting there, that is.

I had left Howard's house, after watching the Patriots lose to the Miami Dolphins.

Howard is doing fine. He had just upgraded his Christmas nativity scene, to include a brightly lit star, hanging over the manger. He had finally gotten a satisfactory Joseph to go with the lily white Mary and the black Jesus. He had decided that "a couple of sheep" were satisfactory for conveying the scene.

I had arrived there a good hour before the game was to kick off, having been in town selling plasma, and then having decided not to try to scoot back to Mid City to get a shot of kratom before returning to go to Howard's.

Should I had done that, then I surely would have been running the mile between where I get off the bus and Howard's house, like I had done all the previous times that I went there to watch football.
But, leaving the plasma place at about 4:30 PM, a full 3 hours before kickoff, I was at my leisure, the 15 dollars from my plasma sale "burning a hole in my pocket," as I roamed the aisles of the Wal-Mart.

I grabbed, for Harold the cat, 3 cans of food, of the latest variety of Friskies brand to hit the market, and for myself, a  bag of ground flax seed, a can of pie filling pumpkin, a big jar of instant coffee, a Monster energy drink, and a jar of blackberry preserves, which had sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup as its sweetening ingredient.

I was trying to keep the darkness out of my mind as I shopped in that store that is staffed with 95% black employees. That is a reflection of the demographics of the particular neighborhood. I wondered if that is what allows them to not have to have the diversity of having more than just a couple of white employees.
My journey with the GIMP editor has just begun...

I was trying not to dwell upon the cashier that I had encountered there who couldn't seem to be able to do simple arithmetic, having given me my change a nickel at a time, counting up by 5's as she did, rather than having used quarters and dimes to accomplish the same thing. And to not dwell upon the chubby little black boy who had been running around the store with no shirt on; and the black people who swerved not an inch to avoid me with their carts, forcing me to go around them, etc...

The 100 At Midnight

I had almost an hour to compare prices on flax seed before the next bus was to arrive that would drop me off near Howard's house.

I got to that stop, a few minutes before that time, where sat a middle aged black man, who gave me an icy stare, rather than returning the nod of my head that I gave him.

I decided to do the "deep south" thing of cordoning off the bus stop by moving to the other side of it, effectively partitioning the thing into black and white, such as is seen so often down here. ...geez, I'm just as bad as him, now...

He hadn't even acknowledged me, and so I made that show of apparently not even wanting to sit with "the niggers" to wait.

As I lit a cigarette, I was half expecting him to break his silence to walk over and beg me for one.

Then, it occurred to me that I was being just as bad as he, by keeping up my end of the whole separatist bargain. When the bus showed up and we began to converge upon where it should stop, I met his eyes again, and this time nodded again and smiled.

He then said: "Not a minute too soon!," regarding the bus. It was a chilly 48 degrees.

"At least the mosquitoes aren't out," I rejoined. He turned out to be a pretty friendly guy.
The kind of guitar Bobby want's to give me...


On Prejudice

As I rode across the bridge, I thought about how black people often become what you might have prejudged them to be. If you evince any indications of not trusting them, for example, I have found it to be the case that a lot of them will then steal something, as if to fulfill your prophesy.

"If somebody else steals it, I'm gonna get blamed anyways, so why not take it?," I have heard, in the way of an explanation on that head.

When the bus stopped on Poydras Street, there was a middle aged white guy waiting there with a bike. There were already 2 bikes filling the rack on the front of the vehicle.
No, he couldn't bring the bike onto the bus with him.
Yes, it was the last bus going over the river for the next 4 hours.

The driver suggested that he lock the bike up to a nearby telephone pole, so that he could then get on the bus without it. "Just hope that the wheels are still on it when you come back for it," he added.

There was little chance of that, I thought, sadly. There was probably even a young black kid on the bus -one of the ones who got off at the next stop- who, seeing the situation, was going to go back and steal the wheels; or the whole thing. Knowing that its owner was somewhere between New Orleans and Gretna on a bus, and that anyone else in the area was not him, would allow him to take his time sawing away at the chain.

He would consider himself to have been "game tight,"  having been sharp enough to recognize an opportunity, and having seized upon it. A young man with a bright future.

It was too bad that there wasn't at least one more bus on the way; or I might have advised the guy to ride the bike to a stop where it would be safer to lock up, like on Canal Street where there are cops stationed nearby all night, and then to board there. He will be in the market for bike wheels tomorrow, I'm afraid.

Russian To Read This Blog...

Russia              126
United States     90
France                33
Poland                18
China                  10
Ukraine                9
Canada                 3
United Kingdom  2
India                     2
Portugal                2

On Prejudice, Continued

Then I thought about how much I like Latino people, and how I am predisposed in that way and will smile and greet them with "Que tal?," or one of the other few phrases that I know, and how they will in turn almost always be friendly back to me. This is a contrast to the "Sorry, I don't give away cigarettes," that is on the tip of my tongue when encountering any black person.

So, to a degree, ones attitude towards a particular race will determine how they reciprocate -a conclusion that might have the reader asking: "It took you this long to figure that out?"

I had already inferred that in the other direction, after having heard other white people complain about certain Latinos, to which I would reply: "I always got along with them great," which was true. But I had always smiled and asked: "Que tal?" (what gives?) when meeting them, and was never shy about remarking: "que bonita" about their girls.

So, perhaps that is something I might work on in the future; calling to mind the black people that I do enjoy the company of, and then greeting the new ones I meet with that predisposition, and seeing if I don't indeed wind up with less black people to complain about. If they still want to act like ignorant uncivilized savages, well, then that's on them...
Tuesday Night
It is 54° and feels like 54 right now.

I could go out and busk on such a night; but would be going out with the expectation of perhaps making only 6 dollars.

Or I could stay in and work on other things, and be up at a reasonable enough hour so that I can make it to the plasma place tomorrow, to get another 25 dollars.

And, working and practicing and studying is what I have been doing a lot of lately, only being handicapped by Bobby's weed, and accomplishing things at the resulting reduced rate.
"Hey there, Daniel. Ple-e-se tell me you've got some weed!!"

I would like to record some little piece of music tonight, perhaps something out of the Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method books, of which I have the first 3, and then put it up as a video, with maybe only still shots of my artwork being displayed as it plays.

I find that I can jump around from books 1 through 3, with the difficulty level of the pieces remaining pretty much fixed.

Mel introduces each key signature in turn, including the scales and chords and demonstrative pieces, but these pieces are not incrementally harder to play for myself; but would only be so if the keys were new and unfamiliar to me. A song in the key of F sharp only looks harder to play because of all the sharps and double sharps and "natural" signs populating the sheet...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Coconut Ginger Rice Cakes

46 F Feels Like 46

The temperature is right near the borderline of 43 degrees that I had established, way back in 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida, to be the point at which I start to feel a bit of stinging in the tips of the fingers that touch the strings; as the temperature descends.

38 degrees is the coldest temperature that I can remember ever playing in, and I can remember having had to switch the pick to a more solid grip between thumb and all four fingers and switch to the simple 3 chords of "Take It Easy," by The Eagles.

Also, the guitar has to be played constantly so that the bodies temperature and whatever friction is produced are enough to keep the strings a few critical degrees warmer than the 38 degree air. After pausing to, say, talk for a couple minutes, a return to the instrument reveals that the strings have become much more stinging to the fingertips.

I am planning upon going to Howard Westra's house Monday night to watch the Patriots game.
It occurred to me that donating plasma at the place that is about 5 miles from Howard's is something that can be done on a 38 degree day. A warm ride on the trolley and then on the warm bus, and just 2 miles of walking to the place, an activity that can warm the blood and prepare it to be siphoned out and then returned minus its platelets, is a good cold day activity.

There are likely to be an average of maybe 14 days per year here in New Orleans where the temperature would be below 43 degrees at busking time. A few of them would run consecutively in between perhaps stretches of unseasonable, 85 degrees in the middle of January, type of stuff.
So, I could sell my plasma a couple times and get 40 bucks to keep me in cat food and a shot of kratom every day.

The Bike

The bike, which Howard and his housemate Berta have said that they were going to get me for Christmas, could indeed be given to me Monday night, should they already have bought it, given my unpredictability in showing up for regular occasions such as Christmas Day. They might think that, if I don't make it there for the holiday, due to any of a list of things that might befall me, then they might not get the thing to me until I show up the first week of February, perhaps, to watch the Superbowl.

The bike will have an immediate impact upon me, financially.

The 3 dollars almost every single day that has been leaking through the dike out of the reservoir of my busking money, and into the coffers of the Regional Transit Authority, will become plugged. That's 21 bucks per week that I will be getting paid to ride a bike, getting shot in the face with paint balls, and exercise in the bargain.

I have pumped about 500 dollars into the trolley since my bike got stolen months ago now. I probably wouldn't wait until the Superbowl to make a trip over there to get the bike, now that I think of it. I could put it on the front of the 114 bus, pump the last $1.25 of my life into its machine, and ride over the bridge with it; getting off at Canal Street and then taking an 8 minute ride back to the apartment on it. I imagine that they will give me a good lock to go with it, because they have been in New Orleans for more than 10 minutes, enough to know to do so.

I don't think money is an issue with Howard. It's hard, without prying, to determine just how rich he is, but he has just taken a cruise to Alaska, and is now talking about another one, to see the foliage of Vermont next fall, or something.

The one time that I showed up at his house, broke because I had miscalculated the amount of plasma donations that I was up to in that particular 7 day period and couldn't donate, embarrassed, to have asked him for the 80 cents that I was short of for a bus ride back home; he had said "Oh, sure," gone into another room and then returned to place a fresh 20 dollar bill in my hand. It might have been a symptom of the "this is the smallest I've got" syndrome that the wealthy often suffer from.

It now "feels like 45" outside, according to Weather Underground dot com.

It's a bit after 7 PM.

I need to get cat food on the way back to the apartment and, I suppose I should get some food for myself.

Last night, I made rice cakes, seasoned with ginger, and ate them slathered in butter.

I had mixed wheat and rice flour with an egg and some coconut oil, added more coconut pulp, and a bit of pure cane sugar, leaving the bulk of the sweetening for the all fruit spread that I could douse the tops of the cakes with, to my taste, later; a dash of salt, and then ginger.

The ginger put me in the mind of a coconut milk and ginger soup that I used to make, which had "oriental" vegetables and also rice noodles in it.
I'm learning a lot, by trial and error, about the different flours, and things like why "wheat bran" muffins will be probably only one quarter wheat bran and the rest just regular flour.
The rice flour is similar, in that it burn at a lower temperature, so that a black bottomed cake, but with a gooey and not even done center, is a distinctly possible outcome. Some things are better off in the oven, so they can bake uniformly.
Letting a rice flour pancake sit on the griddle at a medium low temperature
Sugar burns at its own temperature, independent of other ingredients, I find
And, as far as "leavening" and getting things to "rise," stay tuned; rising is over my head at this stage of my baking hobby.

There was a golden opportunity for me to have juice fasted over the 3 days that I was shut in; and I was aware of this.

The music I have been recording lately is on an entirely new plateau, due to my having been strict in following certain principles, such as knowing everything that I'm going to play before playing it; or not playing anything at all on a particular instrument at a particular time. There is no more "let me try these notes here and see how it sounds," going on. Unless I'm hearing something in my head and playing that, I'm just sitting there with the guitar in my hands, listening to the rest of the music.

I think I'm succeeding in laying down a bunch of guitar tracks that can later be sung over, as soon as I get in a studio environment and can brainstorm vocal ideas. Right now, all the songs have half whispered at 4 AM vocal tracks that just function as guides, so the rest of the instruments can know whereabouts in the song they are...

Yup, just rolling along...

The GIMP studies are rolling along. I'm going to familiarize myself with as many of the bells and whistles of the program, by messing around with them, and then just sit back and wait for inspiration to strike and an idea come about what I can do with the things...can I make myself two dimensional, like Gumby and start a cartoon series featuring it? Maybe Chapter 12 of the "Learn The GIMP In 30 Days" book will tell...

So, on this 46 degree night that feels like 46, I suppose I have an opportunity to get something done artistically...

Friday, December 8, 2017

Housebound With Harold

I opened the door to let Harold the cat out, Thursday night. It was probably about 45 degrees and raining lightly.

He paused at the sight and feel of it; looked at me and meowed, as if begging me for a warm evening with no precipitation.
Luckily, I have taught Harold enough of the English language, so that "It's raining outside, Harold" rung a bell with him. This is a phrase that I repeat to him at such times as when after I have looked out my window to notice that it has started to pour down rain, and have gone to the back door, where a quick rattle of my keys had produced him, darting from under one of the cars in the parking lot, making a beeline for the doorway that I was holding open.

I will usually add the phrase "You don't like it," which he is familiar with pursuant to food matters.
Sometimes he will meow, apparently wanting something that I might be eating that I am pretty certain he won't like. I will still put a bit of it on his plate, with the words: "You don't like it, Harold," something he is learning the meaning of, through morsels of eggplant, or some food seasoned with a lot of onions and/or garlic.

"It's raining outside, Harold, you don't like it..."

After he meowed, asking me for better weather, I said: "That's all there is, Harold..." -another culinary phrase- and, after he stood there a few seconds, watching the rain and feeling the cold, long enough for him to have forgotten whether he was coming in or going out, he came back inside, where I eventually had to tell him: "That's all there is," because I had done the same thing as him; going outside, ostensibly on my way to the store, where I would get wet cat food, and then changing my mind after standing in the cold and watching the rain for a moment. I would need gloves, I thought.
Housebound for the third day now, I have put a lot of time into studying the GIMP photo editor, recording music, messing around with the "swing" settings on the rhythm track generator, and wondering how people who are prolific in their outputs of work, manage to be so.

They must either work smarter than I, or, more likely, don't smoke pot before putting their noses to the grindstone.
Who has time to watch Youtube "how to draw" video? Why, I guess I do...
Someone with 3 whole days to be shut in in his own private studio should produce more than I have, I feel. My place is becoming a gallery for my art, and a lot of the tracks that I'm recording will eventually find their way onto my CD.

The Disappearance Of Magical Thinking

The one thing that I am adamant about is that there is no more room for magical thinking, when it comes to my music. My goal is to make everything I do repeatable.

Gone are the days of trying to "capture the moment," "catch lightning in a bottle" and play something on the guitar that I "could never play again the same way." No more "winging it." No more leaving the tape recorder running because I might play something cool, and then would wish that I had been recording. Only when I can play through a piece 20 times without making a mistake will I hit the record button. That way, I'm not crossing my fingers and trying to make it to the end of a piece without screwing up, as if luck were somehow involved.

This has been a recurring theme in my life, now that I think of it.
Like, when I used to golf. I had a swing that required a bit of luck in order to hit the ball well. I would coil my back swing so far that I would lose sight of the ball, momentarily.
"Keep your eye on the ball," being the tried and true method for being able to repeatedly strike it; I would forego this, in order to gain the advantage that the extra coiling would give me. I weighed 135 pounds, and wanted to overcome this handicap. When I did connect with the ball, I would hit it further than any other 135 pound guy, who is stodgily sticking to the mechanics of "the proper" golf swing; but I wasn't consistent; I was hoping to get lucky, the same way the kid who closes his eyes and swings as hard as he can at the plate when playing baseball. "One of these days I'm going to connect, and that ball is going to wind up in the parking lot behind left field," that kid might think...

This had found its way into the music that I used to play.
I would put myself into situations where I would be trying to play something great that I had never played before. I'd clear my mind before going up on stage, purposely leaving everything up to spontaneity, inspiration, faith, magic and adrenaline, and, unfortunately, luck. Sure, I would feel great after having gone up and invented a song on the fly, amazed by the effect that adrenaline can have on a person who has put himself in a situation where he is actually feeling the fear of "Holy crap, I'm totally relying upon spontaneous improviswoation to get me through this; why the hell didn't I rehearse something; what if I can't think of anything once I get up there? I hate this feeling..." The only option, at that point, is to just get up there and do the best you can.."
I was fooling myself into thinking that I was channeling the spirit of Jerry Garcia or relying upon "the muse" to guide me, and basically hoping for something magical to happen.
It's OK to foster this element; but there is certainly plenty of room for all that; in addition to having a piece that you ran through 28 times the night before, until the last few were pretty much mistake free, rather than going up there planning upon pulling something out of your ass that is going to be a delightful surprise for both yourself and the audience.
The Great Music Spirit helps those that help themselves...
So, now I'm practicing 20 to 30 minutes here and there of just playing the same measure repeatedly, even though I might fancy that I have gotten it learned during the 7th minute of repeating it. It isn't right until I can daydream while my fingers move automatically over the fingerboard. 

To the right is my second attempt to draw this girl. It's better than the first one, in which she came out looking like a battered child from Appalachia, or somewhere where they lock kids in closets for weeks at a time...

Set Me In Motion!


So, my "fear" is that I am going to look back at this period of my life, and be remiss over how much I could have, should have, would have gotten done. I've got to get into the abandoned rectory so I can brainstorm on

A lot of things start out slowly, before you get the hang of them, and then become more productive exponentially as you go along.
Certainly, discovering all of the techniques facilitated by the GIMP editor is an endeavor that could easily require one or two semesters at a community college to learn.

The Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method books; one year of study for each of them is not an unreasonable amount of time, I would say, to master them.

So, I practiced with a metronome last night, keeping an eye on the clock to ascertain that I was indeed playing the same few notes over and over for at least 15 or 20 minutes at a time. I can understand why people have concluded that "3 and a half hours of practice every single day" will bring about progress on a musical instrument.

0 Dollar Week So Far

It is Friday evening. I will most likely not go out and busk, because it is about 45 degrees and raining lightly, off and on.

The 70 bucks that I made last weekend is keeping well inside the apartment.

There was a time when I would get myself out of that warm sleeping bag under the wharf and busk in such conditions, my only concern being that, for every degree that the temperature drops below 50 degrees, the likelihood of not being able to hang on to the guitar pick increases.

A guy once gave me money to "get inside some place warm" on such a night when it was probably about 38 degrees out, and I was playing the simplest 3 chord songs that I know, because those were the easiest ones to play with hypothermia. I went and bought some liquor and then got inside someplace warm, namely, my sleeping bag under the wharf...


Bobby has been calling me, as I sit here at the Uxi Duxi.
He leans towards discouraging me to do kratom. "You don't need that shit," said the guy who is on 100 milligrams of methadone per day.
He is in the process of buying a truck.
He is still going to give me an electric guitar and an amp for Christmas.
Now, it might be a Roland Micro Cube, rather than a Blackstar brand that he gets me.
He sees the potential for me to make money with such a setup.
If I could just start off by meeting Tanya on the corner of Royal and St. Louis and jamming with her for maybe an hour here and there to start off with, then yes, there is the potential to make money with such a setup...