Thursday, August 9, 2012

Out Of Money Blues

Free MP3 download: Out_Of_Money_Blues.mp3
Ain't much of a song, just me playing a blues progression and blowing on the harp, until Howard came by and interrupted me by giving me the dollar that I used to come downtown with, where I am now... 
I feel like a fisherman with a leaky boat.
Things have fallen into disrepair; the harp is missing reeds and the ones that sound, sound like you hear in the recording I made this afternoon.
The guitar is on its last legs, and its last pegs.
It is Thursday night and I don't see many people out at 10:40, but, I suppose I have food money on my card and I won't starve; and I could sit down and play something for my own amusement and maybe wake up with some money in my pocket.
I don't want to wait much longer for the ID from the homeless place. There will be homeless places in other places and I'm sure they will help me get an ID, so that I can at least work.
The Hawk That Disembowels It
I don't want to go the crazy check route, at this point, because I think it would sap some of my ambition (what ambition?) like when a family in our neighborhood fed a squirrel when we were kids and the squirrel lost its ability to forage and when the family moved away, the squirrel continued to hang around their house, looking scrawnier each day...
I don't want to be that squirrel; I want to be the hawk that swoops down and disembowels it.
Well, it's time to sit down and try to play. Things are pretty bleak.
I just need about 10 bucks to get an AC adapter for the Samsung, so I can charge it up and have a more mobile recording solution.
Then, a few bucks to take the bus back to Scotlandville, and maybe a few more to take the Megabus to Houston.
There is a guitar that plays better than mine that I can get from a local pawn shop for probably 25 bucks.
It is a Telestar brand. Made in Japan by Kawai in the 60's.
I researched it, and it defies logic by not being a piece of shit. I mean "made in Japan" used to translate to: "Is crap." 
I think the term used in the early 70's was "cheap" everything made in Japan was "cheap" and would fall apart.
I remember the first Toyota I ever saw, in 1971 or so, and hearing the comment made that you could dent the thing with your fist.
But, I played this guitar and it is actually solid, kind of heavy, even; and cheap! er, I mean inexpensive, based upon some minor damage to the body which wont effect the sound, but will support me in appearing like the homeless, traveling musician, which is my tradestock.
Well, I had better at least attempt to make at least enough for a lousy can of beer...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Better Mousetrap

Free MP3 download: My_Friend_Sue_Tuesday_final.mp3
I Spent a good part of Tuesday, reworking My "Sue" song, as well as discovering that I could take this once extremely dark photo, which I took at night, and increase the exposure and bring Sue's image to light.
I also made progress in the recording of the acoustic guitar, (dropped an octave to simulate a bass guitar), fleshed out the lyrics some, and learned more about equalizing sound. 
The traffic noise is a necessary evil and will be until such a time that I get a good battery for the laptop and can go on location to quiet locations to record. 
A high-pass filter was useful in removing what are called "sub-sonic" frequencies that usurp a lot of energy, yet contribute nothing to the listening experience, unless you are a snake; and even if you were, you might be fooled into thinking that a stampede of horses was approaching; or an earthquake was happening...
That being said; I have decided to go downtown on Thursday night this week, instead of waiting for Friday. 
The hot dog cart guy mentioned that he worked that night, and, if he feels that he can sell hot dogs on Thursday nights, then I might certainly be able to get someone to throw me a few bucks for performing "My Friend, Sue."
Enter George
I met a guy in the convenience store last night.
He was an older black man, missing a couple of teeth, but wearing a gold chain.
He was staring into the cooler where there had once been 32 oz. cans of Milwaukee's Best Ice, which sold there for $1.50. 
They are 5.9% alcohol, and I have done all of the math in order to determine that they were the best deal going in that particular store.
It crossed my mind that the guy might also be a mathematician, and I said something like: "You're looking for those Milwaukee's Best Ice cans that were such a great deal, aren't you?"
Well, after we both left the store after closing the second best deal, the man introduced himself and asked me where I was going to go to drink my beer. He was looking for a spot to do the same, without being subject to harassment by The Law.
He seemed like a nice enough guy; an older black man; old enough to be from a generation where the races had established some kind of common ground and got along together; common ground like huddling together in a foxhole while Viet Cong tried to kill you, perhaps
The Eagle Has Landed
Well, to make a long story short:
George and I sat at the boarded up building, consuming 32 oz. Miller High life beers, and he told me that he had a lot of experience being homeless and went on to paint a verbal portrait of Houston, Texas as being" the place to end all places" for a homeless sort. 
He talked about the food, the millionaire oil tycoons who walked around handing 100 dollar bills out to the homeless in the parks; the shelters that were like condominiums and the availability of resources to get one off the street. 
He said that, upon first arriving there, a homeless sort could immediately get put up in a motel or a shelter and that there would be no need to sleep even one night on the street. There would be help in finding a job, for those that were really serious about improving their lot.
I, of course asked him if this situation hadn't led to the place being absolutely over-run by an influx of homeless people who would beg, steal or borrow just to get there so they could eat Styrofoam containers full of food of their choice; and walk into restaurants where the wealthy business people eat and merely mention that they were homeless and be able to dine on the very same food as the oil tycoons, free of charge. And to get a check for $240, as some kind of emergency assistance.
"Isn't the place crowded with homeless and the citizens and police ticked off and a massive effort underway to rid the city of them??" I asked.
"No, the homeless people understand the system," replied George. "...and unless you're being really stupid like laying down in the middle of the road, they won't bother you.."  (He also spoke highly of Seattle, Washington, -guy's going out to sea for 6 months at a time; women begging you to move in with them -but I don't have room here to go into all that). 
"This is all over the city, they do this; the homeless are spread out far and wide...there isn't one area that's crowded with them...If I wasn't with this woman that I'm with, up in Baker (near Scotlandville), I would be in Houston, myself!" added George.

Monday, August 6, 2012

She's A Friend Of Pidgeons

Free MP3 download: My_Friend_Sue.mp3 
This song is a sketch; and needs to be worked on some more, but I am determined to forge ahead and create more of the very kind of things that I have been criticized over. 
I can't help it; these are the songs that I wake up with in my head, so enjoy the first-draft demo of "My Friend Sue."
Saturday Night: More Of The Same
Saturday night, I got to my playing spot by the State National Life (or something) building at a relatively early hour.
I sat down and played for a while and was thrown a few dollars.
At one point, the saxophone player, a young black guy, who is apparently studying the saxophone at the college (Southern University, or something) walked past me.
He had his head down, walked briskly past; didn't acknowledge me in any way; he looked kind of pissed off that I was playing in the spot, which has become like the "Boardwalk" (to you Monopoly players) of Third Street.
There are so many clubs that blast their music out their front doors that the spot (which I discovered myself by walking around and checking acoustics and volume levels when I first arrived here) has become quite a bone of contention lately.
He walked on, and a minute later, I heard a few tentative saxophone notes, which sounded as though they were coming from the other corner of the same building -the corner where Gabriel was famous for playing at for years. Gabriel has some kind of night job now, which I'm sure pays at least as well as busking, or at least more consistently than busking; so he has not been seen in the past few weeks.
The saxophone notes stopped, and I could only wonder if the kid gave up on the idea of playing, or if he sought another spot; one out of earshot; which would mean about at least a quarter mile away...
I Did It Again
I played for a couple of hours and then; sensing that the saxophone player would figure that I had the spot locked up, and would forget about it and be long-gone; I took a break to run to the store; just as I had done the previous night.
I ran to the store; and back.
He Did It Again
The saxophone player was in the spot, playing away. 
In retrospect; it seems that he had learned my habits and, instead of playing on the opposite corner, which would give me the idea that he was "lurking" and would notice me leaving to run to the store; he rather refrained from playing; perhaps to make me think that he was nowhere around; and then as soon as I took my break; he grabbed the spot.
I'm pretty sure he knew what he was doing, because A:
After I went and made a paltry 23 bucks (again) at the alternative spot and then returned to the hot dog cart at about 1 a.m. (I had had enough, and there was a black man sitting next to me offering me crack, who was probably eying the 23 bucks in my case, and I was tired of playing the same blues in D on the harmonica over and over -it was the only thing that could cut through the volume of everything else around)...after I returned to the hot dog cart, the saxophone guy actually took a break himself and walked (still tooting on the horn) off across a parking lot in the direction of where someone might go to take a leak.
I could have jumped right on the spot, just like he did -it was only about 1:15 am, and there was at least another hour of moneymaking to be had; but I just didn't want to escalate the situation to where it would become a more obvious bone of contention. Plus, I wanted to make him think that I did quite alright in another spot and that I wasn't sweating the fact that he had grabbed that one.
Well, I eventually took my "walk at the end of the night to look for drinks that people took one sip out of and then decided that they had had enough to drink and so just left them sitting somewhere; and for cigarettes that people lit and took one drag and then realized that he club they were looking for was right in front of thier face and then threw on the ground", when I ran into the saxophone player.
Business Is Business
His initial reaction was to turn his back upon me and start to walk away; but I guess he noticed out of the corner of his eye that I wasn't glaring at him maliciously, but was rather friendly.
We started talking, at which point I noticed that he was pretty drunk, and he admitted that he was pretty drunk.
Drunk enough to blab that he had made "about 60 bucks" that night "in 4 hours."
I told him that I had made about 23 bucks; not wanting to escalate the lying; if that was indeed what it was...
He wound up offering me the rest of the Budweiser lime-tequila flavored drinks that were left out of the 12 pack that was in his car; and then we smoked some mojo synthetic weed; and I wound up playing the guitar. A couple of people came by and gave us tips, as we sat on the sidewalk by his car.
He turned out to be a pretty decent person; though I think he has trouble deciding between being a thug or just talking like a normal person. I was a litle intimidated by him at first, but, the more I just used plain English and didn't exagerate things or use false bravado; the more he became like the 19 year old, insecure kid that every 19 year old kid is...if that makes any sense
And, I'm going to beat him to the spot next weekend and hold onto it; and see if I can make the 60 bucks, instead of he. Business is business....

Saturday, August 4, 2012

23 Bucks And Change

I made the above amount last night, after having sat down around 9 p.m. and made 5 bucks right off the bat, and then immediately ran to the store for a beer that I drank behind the store, and another that went into my pack.
Upon returning, the saxophone player was in my spot, and I had to go down the street to the other spot, which now has a new nightclub opened next door to it, which was loud.
I suppose I will be up in front of an AA group someday saying "My beer drinking started to cost me playing spots, and that's when I knew I needed help!" LOL

Friday, August 3, 2012

Starting From Scratch

I went to sleep pretty early Thursday night.
There wasn't much to do without any money*, so I sat and practiced using downloaded drumbeats as a metronome. Those songs and exercises intended to school a 3rd year student can be sobering if taken at too fast a tempo.
*There was plenty of reading, writing, studying, and practicing to do, but nothing to drink or smoke, or grill. 
Uncle Sam Throws A Shin-dig
On the night of August 1st, there was a din coming from a huge all-night party at one of the businesses a couple blocks up the street from the boarded up building. There had also been one last month on the same night- a celebration of the checks which are "awarded" upon that day; it is -with drinking and smoking and hip-hop music and women running around, and, of course, a fight. Whenever the government hands out money, a fight usually ensues.
There were the couple of amputees in their wheelchairs that are common sights panhandling around the convenience stores, during the last few days of each month. They seemed to be the stars of the party. Their checks are probably larger than most, due to the fact that they are missing limbs, and so they get to be the big-shots, if only for one day a month. I wouldn't trade one of my limbs for any amount of money, so, give them their due.

There has been an overall festive mood in Scotlandville, since the first of the month. This only exacerbated my anxiety over being flat broke, but, going three days without cigarettes and beer didn't kill me; and fasting for three days (except for a plate of spaghetti) was kind of conducive to sitting and thinking and soul searching.
The Walk
I left at 9:50 from the Chevron, on my way downtown. I could have asked anyone for $1.75 for the bus fare, but I would rather walk 8 miles.
By 10:05, I was sitting under a bridge drinking a bottle of warm spring water that I had found by a construction site. There was a little creek running by, and for a minute I thought about how nice it would be to sleep under the bridge, use the acoustics to practice the guitar, and to fish out of the creek for fish to eat.
Something made me think of the time that I was with Karrie, and how much more ambitious I was then, having someone to support, if even only emotionally. It was so much the opposite of getting up at night and tip-toeing to the bathroom because someone is letting you crash at their place and you don't want to disturb them. I would get up at night, break sticks and light a fire and make popcorn when I was with Karrie, and she would just sigh and roll over and go back to sleep in the comfortable bed that I had made, by the sweat of my brow.
I realized that I have basically two modes; one of supporting, and one of being supported, and that most of my creativity came out of the former...these are things that one thinks about under a bridge.
Then, I thought about how far in life I had fallen, in order to be thinking that any bridge would be a nice bridge to live under.
I resumed walking and arrived downtown at about 11:30.
Starting With 4 Cents
I am now at the downtown library. I have 4 cents in my pocket, and I guess I am waiting for the evening to arrive, so I can busk some.
I ate at the One Stop Center, and am now groggy for the first time today. I had woken up with a lot of energy this morning. I should have just drank the apple juice, eaten the cherries and then the baked potato and left the soybean-oil laden Sloppy Joes alone...
One gets a good chance to think during an hour and a half walk.
I had half a mind to stand on the off-ramp and play my guitar and harmonica with my "Street Musician Stimulus Package" sign in my case, but, on my way there I ran into a couple of "travelling kids" who said that a third traveling kid that was with them had been arrested for standing at that spot holding a sign. I guess the police are on high alert during this first of the month government money fueled chaos on the streets.
Do You Feel Trapped?
I had my One Stop Homeless Center ID made, while I was there (still no word on the Louisiana state ID, but they said that it could conceivably take more than the two weeks that it has already taken) and they handed me a 5 page "intake form" to fill out.
It had all kinds of questions on it.
One of them was "Do you feel trapped, lonely, hopeless and sad?" and similar ones which looked to me like a crazy check on a silver platter. They provide the service of all kinds of mental health counselors, and "spiritual" and "behavioral" advisors; and I guess these people don't get their checks unless they find the crazy people and put them on the government dole.
I could sign up, and, based upon my not having earned a paycheck since I started busking in January of 2007, argue that I am just too disoriented and mentally unfocused to take care of my responsibilities, and that I should get a crazy check. Then, I could busk in a place like New Orleans (or California) and double my income. I know I would be playing a nice guitar through a nice amp in that scenario...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Island Fever

From a photo by Sherman Jacobsen, who aspires
to be a professional photographer
  • Leaving Shermans
  • Famine
Free MP3 download: Island_Fever_Mel_Bay.mp3
Back To The First Grade
This song is from page 5 of "Mastering The Guitar, Grade 1B." It's all of about 27 seconds long...
I actually haven't "mastered" the one on page 3 yet; without having a note buzzing or missing one entirely.
I've always wanted to finish those Mel Bay books.
Using the drum tracks as a metronome is helping me to start out slowly on them and work the speed up.
There are touring musicians out there, who can't read a note of music...
Playing Head Games
I left Shermans Monday night after another "argument" during which it dawned upon me that the guy just doesn't have "all his marbles."
I feel sorry for him in a sense, but no more than I feel "sorry" for that Holmes guy who shot up the theater in Colorado. If that guy had walked around campus with that same look on his face that he sported at his arraignment, then it would have drawn attention and he would have been looked at as a crazy guy; therefore I think he is a phoney crazy guy, because he waits until he is in front of a judge to put that wide-eyed "crazy" look on his face....
Sherman, on the other hand, got pissed off at me because I was sitting in his kitchen with my headphones on and watching YouTube videos of "The Actors Studio," which is a show that I recently discovered.
I became fascinated by an interview with Robin Williams. (It was called an "interview" but 75% of it was Williams jumping up out of his chair and doing improvisation; the interviewer was lucky to get in about 7 questions in an hour!)
About half way through it, I paused it and went into the other room, where Sherman was playing a game on his computer, flying through space. I said "I'm sorry if I'm not very good company, I'm absorbed in this interview that I found on Actors Studio.
He said that it was alright, and that he was trying to be a good host.
Then, at one point, as I watched and listened through my headphones, Sherman came in the kitchen with his guitar (and my "Mastering The Guitar" book) and sat in the chair next to me and played for about a half hour.
I couldn't hear what he was playing because I was focusing upon Robin William's antics.
Finally there was a break, when I had to switch to the next segment of the interview (because it was in parts).
Grabbing My Attention Away From Sherman
Sherman slammed the book closed and said "You know; you're pissing me off. You're sitting there watching 30 year old interviews of Robin Williams; when I'm putting on a pretty good concert here!"
"I had the headphones on, I couldn't even hear you," I said.
Then, he went on to tell me that he can't deal with someone who "makes himself comfortable" in his apartment, and that it was the thing that drove him out of Austin, Texas, "people playing head games!."
My first day there, he had said "make yourself comfortable," by the way.
Then, he said something like: "...and Robin Williams isn't exactly one of my favorite people!," which made me feel like I was in Asia and having my YouTube censored.
(Robin is most likely part of Hollywoods conspiracy to blacklist Sherman, along with Warner Bros. and Garth Brooks and Rob Reiner).
Sherman In Baton Rouge
Then, Sherman said that he was going out to the casino for a cup of coffee, and that I he didn't want anyone in his apartment while he was gone. I could either accompany him or wait outside for his return.
(Sherman?) In New Orleans
I went along with him, feeling kidnapped, and sat there in silence and drank my coffee.
"I don't think this is working out," said Sherman. "I'll drop you off back in Scotlandville."
And that is what he did; and that is where I am now...
I have gotten more accomplished in my first day back here than I had the whole past week.
Even when I had gotten to use his studio equipment, I was distracted by the nature of his "attention." He reminds me of this guy in New Orleans that used to follow me around and do this (see photo). Sherman looks like the guy and, honest to God, puts his hands behind his head and stares at me like that. Try recording a song under that gaze!!
Well, I got to Scotlandville, where it took Howard a full day to notice the bruises and scrapes on my body, wherupon, I told him the story of my encounter with the young black guy in the ghetto.
He gave me 5 dollars.
The next morning, he left a couple of McDonalds sausage muffin things next to the newspaper which he always leaves near my head as I sleep at 7 a.m.
The guy who takes our aluminum cans came by with a cigarette one morning, and a couple of meat pies this morning.
I drank a quart of prune juice last night, which I had been saving in order to use to go on a juice fast. It feels good to be empty of food and I haven't lost any energy.
I still have a sleeve of spaghetti and may cook and eat it tonight.
I should be able to make it downtown tomorrow night, with half-rusted strings and not having eaten in a day, but I've gotten a lot accomplished these past couple of days, and I will lighten my backpack considerably before the 8 mile walk into town.
I am in the 4th chapter of the Perl Programming book, and have been practicing music -not necessarily trying to record it; except for sparse sketches, like using Audacity as a scratch-pad.