Monday, February 18, 2013

Aftermath

Monday, the 18th of February...
That's Where They Lock Up The Snacks!
It doesn't get much more dismal and bleak. I could easily be depressed if I put my mind to it.
The forecast is for rain the next few days, off and on.
I woke up in the clothes that I had been wearing the whole weekend, and decided that "enough is enough" and, in the words of Popeye "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more" and made my top priority a stop at Rebuild Center (above).
I looked at the way we were living and thought about how fast the "luster" wears off of the whole experience when you aren't coming across the river at the end of each night with 50 to 75 more dollars in your pocket than you woke up with.
The simple things like clean, dry laundry and a little bit of spare time to sit and read for a couple of hours, or working on something not related to music; without feeling that you are squandering opportunities (...look at that ferry boat full of tourists going across the river...now is the time to be out there playing...) are like primal needs which, when not satisfied, can catch up to you.
I wasn't in time for the Rebuild Center laundry washing service at 7:30 a.m. even though I woke up as Howard was stirring and he then informed me that it was 7 o' clock.
If you don't catch the ferry just right, it could take a half hour to cross the river; and then it is an additional 20 minute walk to Rebuild.
I did decide that I would wash some clothes as I showered and put them back on, wet, and just let them dry out as I walked around; and hopefully they would, even though the relative humidity is high, because rain is threatening.
I would check the mail room for the cables that I sent away for. They will represent the total of what I have to show after spending a month here, in the Big Easy.
I have 2 dollars and 90 cents, otherwise. That's after counting up the change that had fallen out into the sleeping bag; and doing the math...
I walked up Canal Street, past the scowling faces, to Rebuild and managed to get some clothes washed out. 
There was no mail for me; except for the "personalized" prepaid debit card from Wal-Mart which has my name on it, rather than "valued customer." There is nothing lower on the totem pole of finance than being "valued," I have found.
What 'cha Looking At, Guitar Man?!?
To Eat Or Not To Eat
I am at Rouses Market where I couldn't decide upon anything to eat; I bought some instant coffee and grabbed some almond milk to go with it (and as a food source in general) but wound up putting it back and switching it with some grape-apple-cranberry juice which will kind of force me onto a juice fast, especially if I get stuck somewhere during a rain storm and have only the half gallon of juice to drink. This is probably what I want to happen...
Only a period of fasting and prayer and meditation can make the sun shine again; in my mind, at least.
There was a clean cut guy in his late 20's in a blue button up shirt and slacks, who was sitting at one of the outside tables at Rouses Market. He was holding a "new employee orientation" type of folder and had just finished talking to one of the managers.
The manager said something about starting the guy right away on his new job.
They stood up and shook hands and the guy in the blue button up shirt strode off with his head held high.
I knew how he felt -like a lot of the problems in his life had just been solved, and the rest would surely work themselves out in time.
Sorry, Just Hired A Guy...
He was going to drive home and hug his girlfriend; lift her off the ground and spin her around the room, kissing her on the neck and saying: "I got the job!" And she would kiss him back.
It's a feeling that I wonder if I will ever have again...
Maybe they will go out to celebrate tonight, and in their joy, might throw a 5 dollar tip to a street musician along the way.... 
What Went Wrong
The whole experience of coming to New Orleans has been a disappointment, in general. The luster has worn off of the city.
I hadn't been "psyched up" enough for the big events. 
There are musicians who plan way ahead for the occasions, the ones who held onto playing spots during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, even though the tourists hadn't arrived en masse yet and who played at the spot all day in return for 35 bucks (divided 4 or 5 ways) maybe.
Then, Mardi Gras was the time to just get out there and do something (because "you never know unless you try")...a time to set up in the morning and pound those 5 hour energy shots; which won't have you running to the bathroom; and to make money as fast as you can, because after Fat Tuesday....can you say: ghost town??
It was a common theme expressed by musicians such as the grizzled old guy, who said that, at one point he "barely had 50 bucks" after playing from noon until 11 at night and he was just packing up; or something; and a guy and a lady walked across the street and each of them handed him 100 dollars.
I knew that that was part of the whole Mardi Gras mystique; I knew that it is a time to play your butt off for countless people who will just walk past you with an amused look on their face, only occasionally throwing a dollar in your case. 
I also knew that it is the musicians who can put on a happy face and play on in the "face" of all the distractions; knowing that they will be lucky to get 1% of the money spent on street performers for the festival; and maybe even telling themselves that it isn't about the money; that they are happy just to be breathing and to have a chance to share their gift with other people; they are the ones who succeed just through persistence and because of the fact that street performing is a "numbers game" just like telemarketing.
Failure On Both Counts
I just wasn't in the mood to be hung up on 100 times before making a sale, more often than not. And, yes, alcohol consumption was a "mood changer" in that direction....
I got burned out on playing after 45 minutes each session. Not that I no longer enjoy performing as much; I just NEVER enjoy being drowned out.
Even when I played outside the Superdome as 5,000 people walked past hooting and hollering and enough of them would see me (but not hear me) and throw me a tip so that I never made less than 25 bucks in the hour that it took for the dome to empty out-
Even then, I couldn't wait to get out of there and if I could have played another hour, I wouldn't have, not even for another 25 bucks.
Where The Grizzled Guy Makes It Happen (below)
I felt like it was some kind of mockery; and I wasn't proud of the pocketful of money like I have been at other times....
The grizzled old guy said that he made over 300 dollars on Super Bowl Sunday. He plays at about half my speed, but wears a Western Style outfit, complete with cowboy hat; sits on a bar stool which he supplies; has a menu of the songs he does propped on an easel by him; and he has an amplifier which he plays and sings through... 
That particular night, Howard and I were watching the game at a bar and sneaking our own chips and salsa in, so I have no way to compare what I might have made to the 300 that the grizzled old guy did, but...watching the Super Bowl may have been a mistake; and a luxury I couldn't afford (especially since The Patriots were not in it...).
To Make Things Loud And Clear

Amplifiers are the norm now. 
It is no longer just a few "big" acts on Royal Street who are pumping themselves through stereo amps.
I was one of only a handful of people without amplification, not counting horn players (who don't need it) and being marginalized to the fringes wasn't working. There is a difference between a quiet spot and a dead spot...
So, What Next?
I'm not someone who gives up easily.
If I can get on the road to somewhere (like San Antonio) where I can once again make decent money (away from the competition) I will eventually settle somewhere (like San Francisco) where I will use the services of their Rebuild type center to get an ID and then look for work picking cucumbers or doing deep sea underwater welding or something; and I will manage to get a little amplifier and a microphone and some peripheral stuff (not a Western Style outfit with a cowboy hat, but maybe clean, new, tie dyed clothing; that 60's thing) and borrow a bit of what works for other people, combined with my own innovations.
Next year, I will return for Mardi Gras by Greyhound bus, toting a little cart behind me with my entire stage contained on it; and I will play longer sessions, because I will enjoy it more, because I will be reaching more people; getting more positive feedback; making more money (which are all motivation to go all out, musically) and I won't have to hit my strings as hard, and can be more subtle and intricate melodically and not just (in the words of Alex in California) flail away.
And it is just more fun to play through an amp because the other kind of positive feedback helps you..

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