|"Chickened Out," rather than insult the Great Music Spirit |
by playing a guitar missing a string...
morning started out with myself waking up under the corner of the pavillion roof, where I had moved at some point in the middle of the night, after I felt raindrops falling on my head. My guitar was missing the "g" string, which had broken the night before.
I went to Howard's tent, next to which I had been sleeping on clear nights, and asked Howard what was open on this holiday morning.
Howard has the habit of rising before the sun and going to Brother's Market to purchase a newspaper and a cup of coffee. He might be paying a visit to The House of the Rising Sun, also, but that is not something that I have plied him for information upon...
Howard said that Brother's was open (but I had figured as much as soon as I saw him reading the day's newspaper), and that Walgreen's would open "soon."
We left together, in search of a TV with the Thanksgiving football games on it. Howard wanted to go into an establishment to watch the game, but after looking at some of the menus posted outside the French Quarter sports bars, "gazing in wide-eyed wonderment" at the 7 dollar hamburgers and such, he decided to return to The Occupation, and forgo watching the Detroit Lions lose a game.
I wound up in the parking garage of The Marriot, squatting down next to my backpack and guitar, so as to present the lowest profile possible, drinking cans of Hurricane High Gravity Lager and watching the Detroit Lions lose a game.
At one point, a young security guy came by and asked me something to the effect of, "Can I help you," to which I replied: "No, this is my Thanksgiving; a can of Hurricane and a football game in a parking garage..." which brought a smile to his face and, shortly thereafter, he emerged from the hotel holding a remote, turned the volume of the TV up and asked me: "Is that better?"
"It doesn't get any better than this!" (sadly).
Soon, an older security guy emerged from the hotel holding a remote, turned the volume of the TV back down, and then rudely ran me off.
By this time, though, the sun had set enough so that the TV sets facing the front (public) sidewalk were no longer awash in glare, and I was able to watch the second game.
There was a parade of some sort, and Canal Street was soon flooded with people. I thought about playing, then thought about my missing string and the obstacle that it would present, and decided not to attempt it.
I have made money before with a damaged guitar, proving that many people are tipping the busker just for the fact that he is "out there trying to make money." I made 80 bucks with a guitar which was strung with mis-matched strings, of the wrong gauges, but that was the time in Mobile after my guitar was stolen and I was given a replacement by Scott the paramedic which was in the condition noted, and I was flat broke and had to play for string money to remedy the situation as fast as possible. It was a "beerfest" night, and yielded the aforementioned renumeration, but, I also had to endure the indignation of one young gentleman yelling "You're out of tune," and another exasperated young man imploring me to play "anything recognizable," to which I could only reply that my guitar was strung all out of whack, and that I had to tune it to an open chord and that I couldn't play anything recognizable because, as far as I know, no recording artist has ever hit the charts using a guitar with all the wrong strings in the wrong places...
I blew off playing on Canal Street that night to avoid similar humiliations.
The next morning, I was up early and at the music store with 3 bucks in my pocket. It could have been 33 bucks, had I swallowed my pride the night before and gotten out there and banged on the thing and sang "Happy Thanksgiving (you drunken bastards)" or something. I was kind of kicking myself over that, but I was also "thankful" that the music store was going to open on that Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving...
I had an hour to kill, and decided to sit at my "Decatur" spot and attempt to play something.
I took a low "A" string (I did; it's documented right here) and installed it into the slot which was missing the "g" string. I tuned it to "g," but an octave lower. This allowed me to use standard chord fingerings which yielded varying results.
I soon came up with a servicable 3 chord progression, which is the father of "a thousand songs," (provided that the performer has no qualms about playing those thousand songs all in the same key.) This, along with improvising lyrics and music, allowed me to produce about 7 bucks in the hour before the music store was to open. I thought I sounded pretty good, actually, on that altered instrument which was somewhere between a guitar and a sitar.
Walking into the music store with almost 11 bucks, I bought not one, but two new strings.
Hitting the streets again, though, I felt kind of a letdown.
I was switching from one form of playing, where I had to tend to the cerebral process of anylising everything in light of the unfamiliar string arrangement, to the process of re-hashing already worked out arrangements. I could feel a whole lobe of my brain retreating back into hibernation. The way I motivated myself was to resolve to continue to think in terms of inventing unique things while I played, and look at the guitar in new ways; and spend some of the left over money on some fine Abita "Turbo Dog" Lager. That helped.
|I'm Running Out Of Pictures; Give Me A Break!|
The part of the brain that I had to use while playing around the string which was in the "wrong" place was kind of like the part that is used to play word games, for example "Make a sentence using words which all start with the letter 'p. '"People purchase pretty, precious plates; politely paying."
Or, the letter "r:" Roaring, running rivers roll really round rocks rapidly."
Those same lobes used in the above exercise are begging to be used, but not always satisfied when I am playing "Imagine," by John Lennon for the umpteenth millionth time. Just a note on my brain.
This City Just Isn't "Me."
If it wasn't for my court date in 22 days, I would probably be poised to get out of here, by train or by thumb.
I think the people who stay here are addicted to some element of the city, and it is an addiction which is holding them back and imprisoning them here.
It could be as simple as the fact that, on any given night, one can walk down Bourbon Street and be handed money and drinks and cigarettes and pot and food, for starters. It ain't no kind of life, but it's a bit better than not being given anything, to some folks. Then there is the fact that a grown man can walk down the street wearing women's lingerie and, rather than being attacked by toothless guys who jump out of a pickup truck and yell "faggot" while administering a beating; they are handed money and drinks and cigarettes and pot and food, by people, in exchange of posing for a picture with said folks.
This city just isn't "me."
That Friday night, I sat and played on my Bourbon Street spot, and thought that I made about 10 bucks, before discovering that one of the bills in my case was a 20 dollar bill. I hadn't seen who threw it, but learned the next day when I went into The Unique Store, where one of the cashiers, whom I see pretty frequently in there, asked "Hey, did you get this?" while holding up a twenty dollar bill.
I had to appologise for not having thanked him (or noticed him) at the time, citing my intense devotion to and concentration upon my craft (and perhaps Abita Turbo Dog Lager) as the reason.
That was very nice of him, considering that most of his customers who are homeless are pains in his ass, panhandling out front, stealing from inside, vomiting outside and coming inside and smelling up the place. I am happy to be seen as being at least "one rung" above a pile of crap!
First Friday Artwalk
This Friday will be the first Friday of December and, hence, the First Friday Artwalk will take place, both in Mobile, and in Fairhope, Alabama (where the rich people live and are glad that they don't live in Mobile).
I plan upon taking the train there and prospering, while the musicians of New Orleans wallow in mediocrity, fooling themselves into thinking that the redeeming qualities of the place are redemptive enough to warrant their continued existence there.
They are like gamblers who are blinded to reality by the occasional big score that befalls them, and slight the fact that it doesn't nearly compensate them for the other 364 days of the year, when they backslide...
Then, on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we were sitting in Duncan Park when the now familiar red van pulled up, and like Pavlov's dogs, the cry went up of "Food, Run!" whereupon the floodgates were opened and the residents of the park, there protesting against "greed," surged forward in their attempts to be near the front of the line.
There was a line of at least a hundred, which began to inch forward, as "the church people," after blessing us, telling us that they loved each and every one of us, regardless of where we "are in life" (alluding to our homelssness and which I kind of took as a judgement in and of itself), and leading us in a prayer to ask Jesus into our hearts, began to serve ham, turkey, macaroni and cheese, a green pepper and meat concoction, and desert.
It took them a while to establish a rhythm. I counted almost 40 seconds before the first person in line had gotten his plate and walked off. Doing some quick math, I determined that it would take them nearly an hour to serve everyone.
Things eventually sped up a little, and within 20 agonising minutes (agonising because I had left my backpack in Howard's tent, and wasn't putting it past any one of the peacful demonstrators to steal it) I was near the food tables and had a "front row seat" for the spectacle of a black man, who walked from the back of the line and cut to the front of it.
A white man yelled "If you can do it, I can do it!"
The church people remained mute.
The white man, to demonstrate his premise, walked to the front of the line and confronted the black man. He was drunk, or at least more drunk than the black man, it seemed.
Soon the white man's drunkeness became more evident as he took a swing at the black man, but only grazed the man's jaw.
The black man then punched the white man, who fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the sidewalk and then slowly "coming to" from a couple of seconds of unconsciousness, just as the black man, standing over him, rammed his fist into the middle of the man's face, with an audible thump, which was closely followed by a second thump as the back of the man's head hit the sidewalk once more.
He lay there, unconscious for a few seconds, then started to emit a gurgling sound, as the blood, which was coming from his nose, and it appeared his eyes and mouth, began to run down his throat.
Nobody called the police nor an ambulance. The church people continued to serve food; the man who had cut the line and then hit a man who was already barely conscious was the next recipient of their blessing of food, which had been prayed over.
A slovenly looking white girl, who speaks with the dialect of the blacks in New Orleans, and who is frequently seen in the company of black men, approached the man who had cut the line. She had a big smile on her face. "Hell, yeah, knocked him out!," she said, and then performed a sort of knocking together of the fists with the man who had cut the line, before she did a little dance which consisted of walking around in a tight circle, mimicing an ape, with the same smile on her face.
By then, the white man had staggered to his feet, bleeding profusely. He was still near the food tables. He began to sway.
Oh, no! "Don't let him get blood in the food!"
The man was grabbed and pushed away from the food tables, where he was placed once again upon the ground. There were drops of his blood spattered on the table. One of the church ladies inspected the pot of spaghetti, concluding that there was only tomato sauce, but no blood on the spaghetti. Thank God!
I got my plate of food, though I discovered that I had lost my appetite.
The police never came, an ambulance never came.
The man's brain could have hemmoraged; he could have died.
Had that been the outcome, there would have been over a hundred people, including "church people" who hadn't seen anything.
There would have been one street musician, though, who would have proudly taken the stand in a courtroom, raised his right hand, swore to tell the truth and then delivered of himself the above account, word for word.
Then, left town; never to return.