Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How 'Bout A Ticket Out Of Here?

It will be the last ticket you'll have to give me...
Last night, I played on Decatur Street
I thought I sounded pretty good and got about 6 bucks off of the twenty or so people who walked by who were not carrying musical instruments. You have to be really in the "void" to get a tip from another musician, or the other musician has to be someone you are friendly with who has just gotten a hundred dollar tip, themselves.
Then I went to Stanley's and got one of their Mardi Gras Bock beers. They are nothing to write home about, unless you are writing home to say that you just saved 75 cents. I think I am the only one buying them; the bottles seem to be in the same relative position each consequetive night, even though they are on "sale" at $1.25 plus tax.
Philantropy Backfires
Stepping out onto the sidewalk with my Mardi Gras Bock, I felt the presence and stares of some "travelling kids" who were parked on the sidewalk.
One of them had a banjo. I guess they were making no pretenses about where the tips for the banjo playing were going as they sat right next to the beer store.
I say that I felt their stares and figured that they saw that I was drinking what they probably assumed was one of the expensive beers; and their envy was palpable. I almost wanted to say "These are only a buck twenty five," to assuage their beer envy. I wasn't trying to rub their noses into the fact that I actually know how to play an instrument and thus, do better than those who just use them as panhandling "props."
The one with the banjo said "Hey, Bring that guitar over here!"
I supposed that they were hoping that I could maybe get someone to throw a buck (essentially, a beer) into their empty case (essentially, bottle).
I had already done the same for a guy in Jackson Square who was playing a cello. We jammed on "I Know You, Rider," by The Grateful Dead and two bucks had fallen into his case -ostensibly one for each of us- but I told him to keep them both. When he asked me to jam, he said that he needed money. I told him that he could keep whatever was thrown. I was trying to make him some money. After all, I had pulled in a whopping 10 bucks that night.
"Unless someone throws something ridiculous," he said, "Then, we'll split it."
In that spirit of charity did I sit down to play "one song" with the banjo guy.
That was all the time it took for a cop that I am now familiar with to pull up and give us each tickets for "obstruction of a public passage." My fourth, if you are keeping track of them.
In about and hour, I will meet with attorney Mary Howell, and hopefully discuss a way for me to get out of town without having warrants haunting me wherever I go "You know you have warrants in Florida, don't you?" is bad enough, hearing it every time I hand over my ID to cops.
The Church That Build The Rebuild Center
Law And Order
I was late arriving at the courthouse this morning.
Attorney Howell had already been there and pushed it ahead to March 7th, as well as adding to it the one that had been set for the 27th of March (the day before my brothers birthday).
She told me just an hour ago that, had I been there, both would have been dismissed.
However, by the 7th of March, the one that I got last night will be in the system and all three may be thrown out, allowing Howard and I (yes, he's coming along) to make our way west, with San Antonio the planned first stop.
Howard has been patiently waiting for me to settle my legal matters. He told me at the end of January that he couldn't see himself being here until March.
I have a new reader, Julie from the Rebuild Center staff, whose blog I now "follow." I will try to put the link on my front page.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Off Working

I am off working on a feature story to be hopefully ready one of these Fridays for the "Flashback Friday" feature that I am still planning upon including regularly here.....

Monday, February 27, 2012

Coming Friday, Not Wednesday

I have scheduled a ghost story which I wrote 10 years ago to be automatically published.
I hope to tweak it a bit before then.
If I had a blog back then, then this might be an entry from March, 2002.
I always consider myself to be such a better writer "now" and will probably look at it as the work of a child when I proof read it.
It is probably not a good idea to schedule its publication without proof reading it at all; I'm not sure that I was a very good writer back then...

Wiggle Room

I have climbed as high as one can in New Orleans society
after ascending to the Monarchy
It is Monday morning, and
it is drizzling out, when not misting or spraying....
Last night it was "lightly raining, but coming down pretty hard," according to Howard when I arrived at the sign spot around 11 p.m.
I opted to sleep under the statue of Simon Bolivar, and I slept better than I would have, had I been somewhere where it was drizzling or misting or spraying.
The way it is now, clouds moving east.
It looks like there will be at least a 3 hour "window"
in which to busk later on...
There is a point where you have to make the decision to move out of the rain; usually after assessing that it doesn't seem to be letting up. By this time, your beddings are wet and will remain so, even after a move to a covered spot.
Howard remained at the sign spot and in the morning, reported that it had rained "off and on." One of his blankets is fairly water resistant, I think -the one which is like the kind that they use on moving vans to keep tabletops and the like from getting scratched enroute.
He handed me a soggy sports section and the weather page in a condition which underscored its forcast for last night and the next 4 days. It's Simon time, for now.
I will be happy to return to a normal homless life, somewhere with a covert campsite, where one can eat better off a grill, sleep better with only the sounds of raccoons cleaning the grill and owls as distractions, and relax better, knowing that you won't be woken up after a tap on your shoulder by a guy trying to bum a cigarette, or a cop with a flashlight asking for ID.
And; If I build it; Karrie will come!
Check, Please
And now, I plan upon going to the Rebuld Center to check on the arrival of my food card.
I doubt that it will be there so soon.
Howard has offered to lend me money for food, noticing that I haven't been eating much lately. Yesterday, I had two sleeves of sweet and nutty trail mix (the kind with M&Ms in it), but I'm not even very hungry now.
After making a practice of
being "sub par" his whole life,
Arnold turns thing around, as
a brewer.
Arnie tees off on this one; and
his tea's on!!
I had a can of  Arizona "Arnold Palmer" iced tea with lemon this morning. I figured that anyone who can knock a pitching wedge within 5 feet of the pin from 80 yards out from the 18th green at Pebble Beach consistently; probably makes one hell of a batch of iced tea.
And, I was right. Arnold's tea is 290 yards, right down the middle!
8 Dollar Night
I played at the Decatur Street spot and should be happy to have gotten almost a dollar from everyone who passed by, who was not carrying a guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, upright bass, trombone, clarinet, fiddle, washtub bass, or pushing a piano on wheels. There were about 8 people like that.
The Future Begins Wednesday
Wednesday, I go to court on the ticket which I got back in late January. If I can wiggle out of it; I will be wiggling out of New Orleans, too.
Howard and I are excited about at least making it to Austin, or San Antonio and the change of scenery which that move will bring.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Not Quite Good Friday

  • Courting Disaster
  • Food Card Being Processed
  • Sue Administering Silent Treatment
  • Single Note For Single Note Harp Playing
Serve, Desert
None other than Howard from New Orleans
reading and reading and...
I am considering asking for community service on the ticket that I got during Mardi Gras. I would have to plead guilty, of course, and my criminal record would become that much longer, but, the 30 or 60 hours of community service could be theoretically knocked out within a week, whereafter, I would be free to come back to New Orleans without the risk of being incarcerated over an unpaid fine, or a missed court date. I will serve the community before I desert it.
One always wants to keep that option open, especially with the Superbowl coming in merely a matter of 10 months.
Food Card Office
I stopped in to the food stamp office and voiced my concern that, because I applied online without giving a phone number, my "processing" could be delayed.
I talked to a nice man with an authentic New Orleans accent ("I get Brooklyn all the time..") who told me that the computer was indicating that everything is proceeding as normal and within 4 or 5 days there should arrive at the Rebuild Center a plastic card with 200 bucks worth of food on it.
I paid a lot of taxes when I was younger and worked in Massachusetts, I'm just getting some back, is what I tell myself.
I also tell myself that the money is going nowhere else but back into the economy, creating jobs for food handlers everywhere.
That's how I think about the food card in a way that doesn't conflict with my upbringing by salt of the earth folks who would never, ever, ask for "charity."
I also add that the world is different now and so is society and that we live in desperate times; but then I remember that my grandparents did go through the Great Depression and WWII and never got food stamps...
Sue Silent
Sue, the Colombian lady, in better days
Sue stood by the Walgreens and looked at me but didn't say a word, even though I spoke to her, Friday morning.
"...You Might As Well (busk)..."
I might have thought that Howard was trying to get rid of me, the way he asked me "Are you going out to play?" last (Friday) night, and then appended "You might as well, huh?" after it.
I did go out.
I stopped at the Unique Boutique where bums were like fleas in a shag carpet; parasites that had waited two weeks for the family and their pet to return from vacation.
If my Mardi Gras money lasts me a couple weeks, then that will be a couple weeks longer than lasted that of most of those losers.
There were few people out.
I got to my Decatur Street spot, and was able to make a few bucks off of people who walked past me, hearing Chinacat Sunflower, by the Grateful Dead or a blues jam in D mixolodian mode.
A couple of guys approached and one told me he had twenty bucks, if I could play a couple of obscure Neil Young songs. One of which was entitled something to do with Hank Williams, ("From Hank, to Hank Jr.," or something like that).
He was feighning to walk off without leaving the twenty, and I knew that my best chance of changing his mind was to continue to play. I searched my internal database for songs that a guy who likes "From Hank to Hank," might also enjoy.
I started picking something which seemed to remind him of yet another Neil Young song, "Sugar Mountain," for as I played, he said "How about Sugar Mountain, you must know that one!"
He was right, I must know that one because it's a "must-know" song if you have a harmonica around your neck; but; I didn't...not really.
I had heard it before and I like it, but had never sounded it out until then. I struggled to find the key and started singing it and winging the chords.
He approached and said "You're struggling, huh?"
I took this to mean struggling "in general," and that maybe I wouldn't be if I knew more Neil Young songs about Hank Williams.
He still dropped the twenty in my case, to go along with about 8 other dollars.
I then left to enjoy one, just one, excellent Sierra Nevada "Torpedo" IPA from Stanley's and stopped by to see a certain rasta farian, who was at his usual spot, in the process.
Returning to my spot, I got there just in time to see the guy who sits on a stool and plays an obnoxiously distorted electric guitar, carrying his stool and amp and guitar and approaching "my" spot. He sped his pace and put his stuff down on the spot, to mark it as his.
I hung around and talked to him, kind of happy that circumstance was to force me onto Bourbon Street earlier than I usually go there.
I asked him if he wanted to jam on one song before I left, but couldn't wait for the full half hour it took him to tune his strings, which he had just put on. There were a couple people standing around, waiting for us to start, but he kept tuning and tuning.
I went to the Bourbon Street spot to find another couple of blokes sitting not far from where I play, close enough so that I wound up going further down and making another 6 bucks or so.
34 bucks on a Friday night after the big festival had ended and people had left in droves, not bad, unless you remove the guy who threw the twenty from the equation.
I have been focusing upon single note playing on the harp, which to me sounds more precise and less like you're just putting your mouth anywhere, huffing and puffing and honking on the thing at random.

Blues Travelor "Just jump right in, Daniel!"
 That approach does get you somewhere in the keys where you really can't hit a bad note, but it is probably the thing that once made me decide that I didn't like the sound of the harmonica, back when I was a teenager and listened to Bob Dylan on the John Wesley Harding album. I remember thinking that he sounded like us kids with our five dollar Marine Band harps, which we basically just honked on indiscriminately approximating the sound of a really bad accordianist, before quickly becoming bored with the instrument.
Equally discouraging at a later age was hearing the Blues Traveller guy and thinking that it would take 20 years to attain his level of virtuosity. I have been discovering some of his "tricks" (like glisando and rapid fire adjacent notes which are each drawn or each blown; you can rip off some fast notes that way).
The Cake Of Life
So, it is now Saturday evening.
I will go out with very low expectations, like assuming the attitude that I am grateful to be alive and anything in the tip jar will be icing on the cake of life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

To My Credit?

Could this be one of the last times that
I ever see sue? (taken just about an hour
before our ill fated trip to the shamans shrine,
and already showing her becoming invisible)
Sue has been very much invisible, lately.
She claimed that, since I am leaving and probably not taking her with me (because she is afraid of going), that we need not do anything to increase our affections for each other, because it will just lead to unnessesary hearache, especially on her part.

It's up to the krewe members on the float to quickly size up
your wardrobe and throw the right colored beads to you or,
as in my case, not throw any
Tomorrow, I go to the courthouse
for that ticket that I got last Saturday. They are processing them fast, here. Pay your fines on the way out, see you next year...
To my credit? I was not swept off the streets on that Saturday, and transported to the jail to wait for Mardi Gras to pass, and the justices to go back to work, like so many were.
Missing in action were a whole slew of mostly "obnoxious jerks who can't hold their liquor" over the weekend and into Fat Tuesday.
I will try to work out a plea, whereby I inform the court that I could do community service, but that will hold up my departure. Note to self: Make sure you explicitly say "departure," and for Christ's sake, say it loud enough for the city attourney to hear.
Strings And Cable
After going to The Rebuild Center and being informed that no package had yet arrived due to what the Sister attributed to "the local mail probably hasn't even moved since Friday," I will return there two hours from now, and try to get the strings and cable that Alex in California has sent.
I will leave it to other people to call the post office and complain about them taking a long holiday, and hope that enough of them do so, that the postal workers will really get a move on, and deliver the mail.
Eating Healthy
I went so far as to go to the food stamp office where I was given a card with a website address on it, in lieau of waiting there until "the next available representitive is free."
I came back here to the library and registered online, filling out all kinds of forms.
I couldn't give them a phone number. There is a note on the application stating that the absence of a phone number could delay the process.
Made possible by a generous donation from a
guy in California, who probably will be sick of my guts
within a month, should I go there
There were also a few lines asking if you are represented by any agent, or such. I think I will try to contact the lady that comes to Rebuild Center, who is not scheduled to come again until the 1st of March, to see if she can somehow represent me over there and peck a few keys on her computer, so that I might have food money within a few days. It's more about eating healthy than eating at all.
Goody Box Arrives
I got the box handed to me by the mailroom nun at Rebuild Center today.
To her credit, she didn't ask me for ID, though that is a policy of theirs. She has seen me a dozen times and has memorised my name and face, and common sense has prevailed and she doesn't ask me for my (expired) ID. Cool.
I now have a cable, which I have already used to load the picture of Sue at the top of the post, and some excellent strings. It makes me embarassed to think that other people, who have had the same opportunities as I, growing up in this great country, are in positions to send me strings, while my choices and decisions have lead me to be chasing a Colombian lady around one of the most dangerous cities in the world...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Wake Of Mardi Gras

Disappointment Big And Easy
The Excellent Sandwich
In the wake of Mardi Gras, I woke up with only about 20 bucks to show for "Fat Tuesday's" take in cash, but I was still full from an excellent sandwich which was given to me by a guy walking with a lady on Bourbon Street, at about midnight.
It had some kind of salami or pepperoni, but in slices thin enough to cut down on their contribution in grease to the whole thing, melted cheese, which might have been -I don't know, I don't really know my cheeses, but it was thick, yet not dry- and tomatoes and lettuce and some kind of sauce which might have had basil, all between two slightly toasted pieces of what might have been a rye or oat type bread.
The sandwich was cut not quite in half, leaving a smaller half (which made Howard cross my mind briefly), and placed next to a pasta type salad which most definitely had olive oil, and was excellent on its own.
It was a genuine sample of the food that New Orleans is famous for being famous for (there are so many places here with "famous" right in the name, that I've never even heard of half of them...).
There had been cigarette butts everywhere, of all sizes an quality, which could be broken open and rolled into a day's worth of tobacco, daily, during the festival.
There had been all kinds of drinks, like the gin and tonic which seemed to be saying to me "Someone took one sip of me and decided that they didn't like gin and tonic" which was sitting atop a trash receptacle* with its ice barely melted, on one of the side streets. I was on my way to the store to get a beer and decided to just save my 2 bucks; this happened in that way about a half dozen times over the festival. 
*Placing stuff on or around the trash receptacles is kind of a universally accepted gesture here which means: "I was just going to throw this away, but there's nothing wrong with it and someone else might appreciate it. They're gonna just dig through the receptacle, anyways..."
There had been bags of chips and other foods that can hit you in the face after being thrown from a float without hurting you, only enough for a snack, here and there, though. Last year, during Mobile, Alabama's Mardi Gras, I remember noting that someone could live off of the "groceries" that they were throwing off of those floats, ramen noodles and cup-o-soup type things come to mind; and bags of peanuts in the shell (those couldn't knock you out).
Folks Couldn't Hang
All in all, I got the impression that most people just couldn't hang with the frenetic pace of the "stay up all night Monday and right through Fat Tuesday" tradition of Mardi Gras.
I saw, in the smiles on a lot of the faces that walked past me, a look that said, "I'm all Mardi Gras-ed out, we've been spending money like wild fire, and we're afraid to even count what we have left; every noise is giving me a headache right now...but you sound good, keep it up!"
  • Food Card
  • Strings and Cable
  • Lawyer's Office
All things should be done decently, and in order.
Last night, Howard and I slept right through the sounds of people tearing down their grills and tables all around us.
The sprawl of Mardi Gras had finally encroached upon our "doorstep," when Tuesday morning at about 4 a.m., people came and set up to do what looked like, drink a lot of Hennessey and sell barbequed food to the masses.
We just put our bags in the tree and went back to sleep, and tried to fit in -as if we had just passed out from the previous nights revelry.
When I layed down at midnight, the whole island was a mess. When I woke up at around 7 a.m., Howard said "It looks like they did a pretty good job cleaning up," and, indeed the lawn had been raked clean, all around Howard and I, while we slept. A bottle of water near my head was undisturbed.
I asked Howard, "Did you get any barbeque?" to which he replied; "No."
Those people grilled and drank and listened to music and partied all day, and none of them thought to ask the ol' fella sitting in the cut reading all day, if he was at all hungry. That is a Mardi Gras "greed" kind of thing, which seems to take over at this festival. It is common for a piece of candy to land at your feet and be whisked away by some little kid, fully sanctioned by her parents, before you have time to bend down and grab it yourself, unless you "up" your tempo to match them (I tried that in Mobile last year and felt like a total loser, leaping through the air to stamp my foot down hard on a Moon Pie, causing the little girl to retract her hand out of fear)
The grillers probably just never thought much about Howard at all in their frenzies.
Food Card
I need to go to Rebuild Center to see if I can get the address and/or name of the representative of that department, who sporadically shows up there to council people. She will not be there until March 1st, and I really don't want to just eat off of the free food at the shelters until then, or God forbid, my cash!
Strings And USB Cable 
While there, I can check the mail to see if the "goody box" came from Alex in California, containing the above.
I broke a string Monday night and was not prepared to find the music stores all closed for Mardi Gras (I didn't think it was a national holiday, or anything)
This blog should be improved by my having a cable for my phone/camera, so I can bring up to date media to the whole experience.
In general, I would say that the Mardi Gras crowd was not very different from the BCS Championship game crowd, or the New Orleans Saints crowd, or any other crowd which has been crowding around here, since I got here.
To The Lawyer's Office
I found out that the courtdate of February 29th was not a "convenient" slip on the part of the cop issuing the citation. It is leap year, and I have to be there next Wednesday.
I was advised by my lawyer to plead not guilty and then to reitterate my desire to leave here, and ask them to dismiss the thing.
Last time, I was within a day or two of leaving, after the BCS Championship game, and then got a ticket, which effectively kept me here through the festival. This time, I am more hell bent upon leaving here, thank you very much. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents Day

    Hi, mom. Everything is fine here in NOLA!
  • More Musings On Beer?
  • Shaman encounter
  • Sue holding on to her anger
  • Tip jar breaks 50, twice
It is Monday morning, the 20th of February,
and the library is miraculously open, on this special day, designated as a time for us all to contemplate the presidents, past and present....
...well, there's Lincoln, saw him about 5 times last night...Hamilton doesn't really count as a president, but helps your tip jar add up if he comes around a few times...Jackson was not around last night....
Thursday night was a rain soaked occasion. I played at my Decatur Street spot, after finding it devoid of a guy sitting on a stool playing a badly distorted electric guitar. That guy must think that it is a bad spot, after he had made only 6 bucks Wednesday night.
I had scraped up a buck in change out of my left rear pocket, and gotten a Hurricane High Gravity Lager, then, playing a bold gambit, spent my "last" dollar, in the form of the gold coin that I had been carrying around for about 12 days, at Stanley's on a second beer.
Starting my case out using only worthless tokens and Mardi Gras coins of equal "value," and thus fortified, I was able to parlay them into about 40 bucks. I had 20 dollars in debt at that point (Howard had lent me a total of 10 dollars, dating back to Superbowl Sunday; and a certain rasta farian had extended me 10 dollars of credit, on one of his "product lines").
Waking up Friday, Howard asked what has become the regular morning question of "How did you do last night?"
The tenor of this question takes on a different insinuation, when I'm in the state of owing him some money. I think that he is just concerned about me and is hoping that I will prosper in whatever I do.
I told him that I had "cleared" about 30 bucks, after ale and cigarettes.
Howard took that moment to mention the unfortunate circumstance of McDonald's restaurant having done away with a certain bargain menu for the Mardi Gras "season;" a menu upon which Howard had been steadily dining; at approximately 6:45 a.m. each morning.
"Yeah, now I have to pay extra if I want the fries," or something, was his lament.
I broke off 5 dollars and cut my debt with Howard in half.
Then, Friday night was a rain soaked debacle when I spent more money than I made.
Then, Saturday night, I broke the 50 dollar mark for probably the first time since coming to New Orleans.
Is the skull laughing at
the guy who just paid $1.83 for
a 12 oz. bottle of him??
I ended that night with about 70 bucks in my pocket, after having started with 30, and paying back Howard and the rasta farian and having the usual expenses, which have been slightly higher since I have been rewarding myself with only the finest ales, which cost me about 75 cents more than the bottom of the barrel, "high gravity" slothing froths, which had been my regular stalwarts.
When I go into Stanley's, I usually look at all the Laughing Skulls, IPAs and Arrogant Bastards with their $5.49 price tags, like a kid looking at a Corvette through a display window; dreaming. Then, I go to the last door and grab what I always grab, after looking at what I always look at.
"Why do you take so long to get your beer all the time?" one of the cashiers good naturedly asked me once.
I explained the above, then appended a second reason: Sometimes when I'm drooling over all the pretty bottles, full of envy for the monks holding mugs with smiles on their faces and glassy looking eyes on the labels of some, a well-to-do shopper will arrive on the scene and often a conversation is struck up between us about ales and smiling monks; a conversation into which I might slip something like "Yeah, I always look at all the great brews and am tempted; but I always wind up getting the only swill that I can afford.."
The well-to-do person might, at that point say "You don't have to drink that stuff and wake up with the runs...Grab whatever you want, it's on me!"
Am I being manipulative, and basically panhandling, using a sophisticated angle, or am I just being myself and having people reward me for being who I am?
Shaman Encounter: Correction Forthcoming?
Saturday evening, I was walking past the residence of caveman guru, who was standing on the sidewalk, and who told me that he needed to speak to me "for a minute."
I told him that a minute was about all the time that I could spare.
Five minutes later, after he had expressed anger over having seen my posts from last week, which detailed Sue, the Colombian lady's and my experience with him, I had to practically tear myself out of his grasp, after promising that I would either delete the post, or print some kind of "correction," as he called it, or "clarification," as I am inclined to think of it.
The anecdote about the Shaman, was meant to focus upon Sue, the Colombian lady and her actions during, and reactions to, our visit to the Shaman's shrine.
Sue sees the world with a wary, suspicious, and some might say paranoid eye.
Her conclusions are always skewed towards thinking that the whole world is stalking her, and she trusts nobody.
Caveman guru did nothing to undermine his integrity as a spiritual teacher and holy man.
There was a nice vibration in the music that he did. He served us an excellent meal which was exotic in its inclusion of ingredients from the rain forest.
He may have seen the tension in Sue's body and have merely been applying what believers would see as a healing touch, by rubbing her shoulders. The "mal intent" was a product of Sue's imagination, which works overtime creating mal intent out of everything. The story was meant to be a humorous look at Sue and her over reaction.
Pieces Of Homeless Trash On The Street
Sue might seem crazy sometimes, but...
That being said, the Shaman berated me over us having left without showing appreciation for the meal, nor saying goodnight. It is true, that I was following Sue's lead in leaving in a hurry without exchanging a word.
I was raised to be more courteous than that, and thanking him on the way out would have been the "manly" thing to do in many cultures; but; I also envisioned having to argue with him for an hour about why we didn't want to stay another minute, and so I left without saying goodnight.
"I showed you hospitality. I opened my shrine to you, and you were ungrateful," he said and then added that Sue and I were lowly, worthless homeless trash from the street and that we should have felt like he was doing us a great favor, by deigning to host us.
By the time I had assured him that I would re-read my post, to see if I had been unfair to anyone, and print a "correction," the "minute" that he claimed to have needed to talk to me, had ripened into ten minutes.
As I went to leave, he blocked my path and told me that he wasn't done with me, or something like that. He was belligerent and threatening in his words and body language. He grabbed at the strap of my guitar as I started to push past him, after the "minute" was up, as if he had the notion of ripping it from my grasp.
I don't really have an opinion of the man. Holy men can be overcome by anger and snap on somebody, just like anyone else, I guess is what I learned.
Sue Still Angry
Sue is still angry. She is convinced that the kid that she invited to crash at our spot had his feelings hurt, after overhearing Howard to say something to the effect of expressing his concern that having a fourth person at the spot may be the straw which breaks the camels back; the camel that has been looking the other way and allowing us to sleep there.
"Rain On Royal Street"
I don't know how Sue can like me so much when she does like me, but then hold long grudges over less important things each time.
60 Dollar Saturday
Saturday, I made about 60 bucks, by my estimations, based upon how much I started with, how much I spent and how much I wound up with. So, this is the reality of playing Mardi Gras, in New Orleans; a time that was promised to be so good that "you'll be able to take the next month off!!" as one chap put it.
25 Dollar Sunday
I woke up with about 75 bucks in my pocket this morning, a half pack of smokes, a half pint of vodka that someone gave me as a tip, and the food which I never ate last night; the food thats purchase depleted the balance on my food card; and a bunch of Mardi Gras related stuff, which I am thinking about trying to mail to family members in New England.
I figure that I made about 25 bucks.
Songs which worked well were:
"Heart of Gold" -Neil Young
"Evergreen" -Barbra Streisand (you read right)
"This One Goes Out To The One I Love" -R.E.M.
All harp worthy

Friday, February 17, 2012

Everyone Is At The Parade

It is Friday afternoon,
and the library will be closing at 4 p.m., because of Mardi Gras parades.
People pay to hear his style of music...
Yesterday, I left here around that time.
People were already migrating towards the eventual parade route.
There were musicians along Royal Street, every 100 feet or so, and all of them seemed to have around 20 bucks in their cases at that point in time, except for a guy playing a very loud clarinet, accompanied by a boom box playing music that was very polished...using the same kind of polish that Kenny G. uses to shine his horn...
That guy had about 100 bucks at that point in time.
I went along with my normal schedule, played on Decatur Street for about 2 hours and only made about 4 bucks, which can be rationalised away with "Everyone is at the parade."
At 2 Dollars each, they are slightly
above my "means," but I can always
cut back on things like basic hygeine,
and the like....
Leaving there, I went and played on Bourbon Street and made about another 15 bucks, took a break to have one of my new favorite brews, a Ruthless Rye Ale, and then returned to make about another 15 bucks.
Somebody threw me a ten, which made me think that I was sounding pretty good, at the time they walked past, at least.
I jumped between "Heart of Gold," "Chinacat Sunflower/I Know You Rider," and anything else I could think of to employ the new notes that I have learned to bend to and from on the harmonica. (I'm getting a B flat now, opening up the key of C minor in the "cross harp" position, and songs like "All Along The Watchtower" and "Things We Said Today," by The Beatles, and of course the extended jam in "Shakedown Street," by The Grateful Dead, when it jumps into C minor for a spell).
I should leave here soon and start to play earlier than usual, and stay a little later than usual.
I almost had decided not to play that last set last night, but got a second wind once I started and became about 16 bucks richer in an hour. Not bad, in this land of broken dreams and shattered hopes and general futility.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Stairway To Heaven Test

Goodies From Gilroy
First, a special thanks to Alex in California, for the anticipated arrival of a package containing 3 sets of the good kind of guitar strings (which I will try to put an advertisement for soon, on this blog, :), as well as a USB cable, which will allow me to connect to the Sprint LG and post photos more relevant to the blog, being culled from the action of the stories in real time, depicting actual people and places involved.
Rain Hampers Evening
Second of all, Last night was a rain hampered occasion, when I spent more money than I made.
I am down to a gold dollar coin and some change, after one promising night, followed by 3 mediocre ones then one rained hampered debacle.
I really saw a ton of other buskers out there.
There was a guy sitting at my Decatur Street spot playing an electric guitar through a small amp. He had a stool, also, and seemed to be following the business model in which a stool functions as an important prop, like a stage. along with the amplifier, the better to hear you, Little Red Riding Hood.
His problem, and a big part of why he only made 6 dollars on the spot where I had made 20 the night before was, in my opinion, three-fold.
Despite the stool and the amp, and his addition of a third component; that of playing happy, uptempo, catchy and easily recognizable, his guitar was out of tune; the tone was dirty distortion -no; filthy distortion- and he didn't play particularly well.
I think the 6 dollars was "I always give the street musicians a little something every time I come here" money. 
I found a blog,
written by another "busker," apparently.
I have to take umbrage with what he said about "singing your own songs" in one of his posts.
The Green words are his:
Well you know I don’t encourage singing your own songs.

The obvious reasons are:

1. People tend to pay more easily when they hear a song they know.
He's is right there, but...
They indeed might be tipping the artist who wrote the song, or they might be using the song, which they know note for note, as a criteria for rewarding the busker based upon her meeting a certain level of proficiency on her instrument, let's call it applying "The Stairway To Heaven Test."
I've had many experiences like the young man in St. Augustine, Florida, who stopped and said "Oh, I've gotta tip David Bowie!," and then dropped a dollar in my case, which introduces one of my qualifications in agreeing with his point, i.e., People tend to give small tips "more easily" when they hear a song that they know.
2. A million great songs have already been written, so there’s no use to add mediocre ones.
This is based upon the premise, obviously, that your songs suck. If you believe this, then, of course don't do your own songs; and make sure you don't suck doing a million great songs, either, try to master one and repeat it, over and over.

3. Your own songs are probably too autobiographic, which means they make people sad. Sad people don’t pay.
Then why was "Tears In Heaven," by Eric Clapton, my top-grossing song over a span of time when I was putting a lot of my energy into learning it, when no less than three young ladies, on different occasions, sat down next to me with tears welling in their eyes, listened, and then gave me tips of up to 50 dollars?!? 
That's not one of my own songs, but, if my "autobiographical" songs are going make people sad like that then; bring it on!

4. You are a busker, not a singer-songwriter that can’t get a gig.
No Comment

5. Your own songs sound like the songs of artists you like. So why don’t you just play their music?
That also works in reverse, maybe this little story will illustrate my point:
I once was a teenager in an identity crisis.
My existence was fraught with insecurities and misgivings but, in Elvis Costello I saw  a role model; something attainable; and a way to rise above obscurity. He wore glasses, for crying out loud; just like me.
Hence, I wanted to sound just like him.
I sang along with his CD's repeatedly; in the car, where no one else could hear me, perhaps; learning to imitate him. Eventually, like the kids in third grade, who mastered the mimicry of Donald Duck, I succeeded.
Fast forward to 2012....
I'm playing one of my own songs, written back during that period when, the biggest fan of Elvis Costello in the world comes along. Can you see where this is going???
He has just eaten an excellent meal and drank a lot of fine wine with some other Fortune 500 CEOs, and is on his way back to the Hotel with the only misgiving that the music at the bar could have been better. The band really hacked up a Clash song, and only knew one Elvis Costello tune.
I guess that's what I get going to that kind of bar, he thinks, Turns out I didn't need to bring so much money to such a cheap place...still got hundreds left over... 
He hears me "singing my own song."
It reminds him of Elvis Costello.
"Do you know any Elvis Costello?" he asks
Two hours later, after I have played more than two dozen Elvis Costello songs for the guy and chatted with him while stuffing more than two hundred bucks in my pocket, I am done for the night, and on my way to the Marriot, where a room has been reserved for me, using his i-phone.
Nothing To Do But Keep On
It is now incumbent upon me to go out and play as long as I have to play to recover some sort of semblance of prosperity. It may involve sitting on Bourbon Street from, as soon as I get there after leaving this library, until whenever...
There is rain in the forecast.
Howard and I have found dry places to sleep, under the handicapped ramp, by the statue of Simon Bolivar. That solves a logistics problem, given the likelihood of rain in the coming nights.
I don't even think Sue, the Colombian lady, knows about this spot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday The 15th

I am being sustained by the dream of going west...
Last night, I
made about 20 bucks in about two and a half hours.
I was playing  "Didn't We Almost Have It All," the Whitney Houston song, on the guitar and harmonica, as well as improvising over the chords to "For Fruits Basket," by the Japanese female singer, whose name I will have to fill in later.
20 bucks in two and a half hours. I will be back out there, shortly.
Sue is still acting like she is upset.

Cool Rain Not Very Cool

Last night, my "money" song was
"Didn't We Almost Have It All," by the recently late
Whitney Houston, shown at my spot.
It is in an excellent key for the G harmonica!
It is Tuesday.
Last night, it rained.
It was raining so hard that the rain was going both up and down. For about a half an hour.
Sue wasn't with me.
We had had another falling out over us allowing a kid that she randomly met to crash at our spot.
It is a spot where two people can almost be invisible in the shadows.
The third person, Howard, is graced with an appearance which would make almost anybody feel like crap by calling the law on him and reporting him as a trespasser. The guy doesn't smoke; doesn't drink, but merely sits and reads books most of the day.
The fourth person, who Sue hastily introduced to me as Jeff, from San Francisco, initially layed down right under the bright glow from the street lights, almost daring someone to notice him.
I got him to move into the shadows behind the sign, but Sue interpreted that as me relegating him to a less comfortable (for him) spot. "I'm the one who invited him here; you don't own this spot, who are you to tell him to sleep back there in the inhospitable bramble?"
The guy wound up being totally cool with the arrangement. He had arrived here "dead tired" and was just happy to have found any spot to rest. It isn't easy to do so in the French Quarter. Welcome to Downtown New Orleans...
Sue was upset the next (Monday) morning, and I haven't seen her since.
She missed out on a good soaking from head to toe, by not joining me -her loss, I guess.
One Year Ago Today
I was in Mobile, Alabama, working on a college paper for a Bangledeshi guy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Coldest Night Of The Year In New Orleans

Lower the temperature about 30 degrees and make it
night, and this might be the parade that we saw...

Friday Into Saturday
By the time
1 a.m. had arrived and I had amassed Friday night's 55 dollars in tips, the wind had started to pick up from the west. It was blowing cold.
Forecasts were for the temperatures to drop Saturday into Sunday, as a cold front was to blow in.
Saturday Into Sunday
First priority: Just staying warm, as Howard
continues to read in his sleeping bag (third from left).
Saturday morning, the dreaded cold front was blowing in.
I came to this library and blogged, deciding that there would be no busking that night, only trying to stay warm and hopefully getting some sleep (despite having a Colombian woman in the same sleeping bag as I).
The library closed early (2 p.m.) because of the Mardi Gras parades scheduled to run into the evening.
I went to the "sign" spot, to find Howard braving the elements and reading a book.
Adding the last of the clothing hanging in the trees to my wardrobe, I left to go into the quarter, thinking that I probably wouldn't busk, but curious to see how many tourists were about.
I ran into none other than Sue, the Colombian lady at the first intersection.
She was laden with her customary 3 bags, and also holding a white Styrofoam, which she gave to me after I told her that I indeed was hungry. "I'm full, I was going to give it to someone else," she said. I don't know how full she may have been, but I know how suspicious she is of food of mysterious origins.
Not prone to look a gift horse in the mouth, I chowed down on what turned out to be rice and beans -"gumbo" to the natives.
Sue then produced two Monster energy drinks, which she gave me. "They were giving them away off of one of the floats," she said.
"I wish I had brought my hot sauce," I said, which produced a couple packets of Tabasco Sauce from one of her bags.
I invited her to walk with me, towards The Unique Boutique, to check out the sights and, would she like a beer. That was the least I thought I could do in return for all that she had given me.
I was able to find two cans of NOLA Blonde ale in the 99 cent bin, which I grabbed and which Sue deemed "delicious," as I had done upon first trying it.
A parade was "about" to start, if an hour and a half away qualifies for "about." There were people gathering along the barricades, giving the impression that the wait would be shorter than what it turned out to be.
In the meantime, I ran to the store for another beer for each of us. Then, twenty minutes later, a third.
"I'll get this round," said Sue, handing me two dollars.
I found a fancy pair of Mardi Gras sunglasses, which were molded into a gold crown, sitting in the bin with the 99 cent beer.
I grabbed them and returned to where Sue was *still* waiting for the parade to start.
We were having a good time by then. When I had returned wearing the sunglasses and crown it took her a few seconds to recognize me, whereupon she burst into laughter. We took pictures of each other wearing the thing on my newly resurrected Sprint LG phone. (I will post them here, as soon as I get a new USB cable, which turned out to be the phones only problem).

"Every time I have a good night, something happens to screw it up" -Sue the Colombian lady
Find Out What Happened Next!!!
 And, as it would turn out; we weren't out of the cold yet....