Thursday, February 28, 2013

There's Nothing Free In This World

The Quiet End Of Royal Street
When is Wednesday a good day?
I spent the entire afternoon loading Fedora Linux onto this laptop, and then went into the Quarter, with a dollar and change on me.
I bought one beer, scrounged up some tobacco, and then walked to Bourbon Street, where I played across from Barnabys condo for about 45 minutes, before leaving to go use a restroom, none the richer.
My strings were in a terrible state; one of them broke and I repaired it (for the second time) and it sounded dull and lifeless.
I then walked around finding half full cans of still cold beer in a lot of places; enough to get a glow; and then, realizing that I have about 20 bucks per day left on my food card until the 5th of next month; and that I'd had my quota of alcohol and had enough tobacco for the night; I counted them as blessings; and decided to just play until 11 p.m. or so, and catch the ferry back across the river.
Walking to rouses, I saw Maria and Matt preparing to busk in an area way down Royal Street; the "quiet" end of the street.
Matt And Maria
Matt and Maria, I first met when they were in the company of Stephen (the shaman). They were sitting in Starbucks with their bags and musical instruments strewn about them; running to the barristers for (free) hot water, with which they were making oatmeal with amaranth and drinking coffee.
They kind of seemed like disciples of Stephen, and it kind of felt like hanging out with hippies or Rainbow Children.
Stephen began to play his miniature guitar, at one point; and I joined in with my guitar and Maria lamented that she couldn't sing, because she was too loud, and it might be trying of the patience of the Starbucks employees to add her voice to our mix. She seemed impressed with how I was playing, and said "That's nice!" at one point.
Matt asked me if I knew any "jazz guitar," claiming that he wanted to learn how to play that.
Grateful Dead music fits the definition of jazz in every way except for the "traditional" aspect of it i.e. altered 5ths on every other chord, and instruments like horns; and I alluded to that fact. Matt, however probably wants to be able to play "Misty" in chord-melody single string style...
The Time We Played Bourbon
I took them to my spot on Bourbon Street one night and the three of us jammed, earning a 20 dollar bill almost immediately.
Maria was pretty good at jumping in vocally on the Grateful Dead songs that I played; Matt no so much with jumping in on guitar. Maria, however was nowhere near as "loud" as she had described herself.
We were soon run off by the guy in the condo behind us (it was 1:30 a.m.) and wound up splitting 27 dollars three ways, with myself taking 10 and them sharing the rest.
As we walked down Royal Street looking for another spot, Matt seemed upset and asked me: "How much do you usually make in a night?"
I told him that there was no such thing as a "typical" night and that I found that I averaged about 10 bucks per hour over time. I might make 50 bucks in 3 hours, but then suffer through another two hours for "nothing."
"We're used to no less than a hundred per night," Matt said.
"Well, anywhere from 35 to 115," qualified Maria.
"On Royal Street?"

I was a bit surprised, as I know that they favour the spot across from the Hotel Monteleon, where The Clean Guy played, and where world-class clarinettists do very well.
Then, I considered the earning power of the 18 year old girl that Maria is and it seemed plausible.
Even though we had made 27 bucks in about an hour before being run off, Matt seemed to have a chip on his shoulder.
I Saw Her Again, Last Night
Last night, Matt never looked up at me as I walked down the other side of the street; though he had to have seen me; because if there is one thing that buskers are, it is vigilant -always monitoring the numbers and types of people who are passing by; not quite as intensely as pan-handlers do (...who's coming; what do they have; what can I get; how am I going to "play" them; should I be pathetic, charming or intimidating...) but enough so that I am sure I didn't go unnoticed.
I think he is a jealous type, when it comes to his girlfriend, Maria.
He probably knows in his heart that she and her "loud" singing is "the side that his bread is buttered on" and that the amount of money (35-115 dollars) would only increase for her if she had a better guitarist (who also sang).
I was almost past them and Matt still hadn't looked at me. On his face was a sour expression. ....Don't worry, I'm not going to stop and talk and take your time and I'm not going to ask to jam along..., I thought to myself.
I waved and yelled "Hey!" at which point it would have been blatantly rude of them to continue ignoring me.
Matt waved back; probably satisfied that I was passing through.
Maria returned the salutation. There was a warmth in the tone of her voice.
I went and got some food at Rouses Market and then walked along the length of Bourbon Street, just out of general principle.
Deadhead Deputy From Ohio
Near an outside jazz patio, where are propped metal likenesses of Al "jumbo" Hirt and Fats Domino, and a third guy whose name escapes me; a guy turned to me and asked me what kind of "box" I had.
"A Jasmine."
"What kind of music do you play?"
"Sixties psychedelia; Grateful Dead, Beatles, Doors..."
"Grateful Dead?!? No way, come on," he said, motioning towards one of Bourbon Streets excuses for a quieter spot.
His friend came along. "This guy says he plays Grateful Dead; I'm going to call him out on it; find out if he's bullshitting!" he said to him.
I undid the guitar and played my best amongst the chaos; to his satisfaction.
He plays a bit himself "...not as good as him..." and I handed him the guitar. He did bits and pieces of some country songs.
A cop came along and said: "You can't play a guitar here after 8 o' clock. He should know that," he added, flicking his head my way. "Put it up!"
The guy was dressed casually, no "I Love NOLA" tee shirt; no 12 dollar drink, so the cop may have had misgivings; but they were short lived.
The guy handed me back the guitar and then shook the officers hand, introducing himself as deputy something from some county in of you...
He gave me 3 dollars and wished me luck.
I went and spent one on a beer and then went to the ferry; with 2 dollars and 29 cents on me.
Captain Rob
There was a guy at the terminal who looked a bit like Iggy Pop (the 55 year old version of the pop icon). He was wearing a long black leather jacket and asked me about my guitar.
I was soon playing it for him on the ferry; glad to be able to hear myself in its relative quiet, and making excuses for the strings. He seemed impressed.
Once on the other side, he invited me to crash at his place "8 blocks from here," after discerning that I was homeless.
As we walked, he told me that he was a boat captain (hence the nick name) and that he made 600 dollars per day doing that; but that the federal government had ruined him with its "regulations on everything."
He said that he had been homeless for a year and a half (I've been where you're at...), but now lived rent free in a house; provided by an organization called "Unity" which provides houses for those who have been homeless for at least a year and a half.
I started to envision myself living in my own free house from which I would issue, carrying all my equipment; which I could keep safely there; go across the river and make good money before returning; becoming a member of the community, basically.
I told him about my night and the 3 dollars which I had made; and how; returning with 2 dollars and 29 cents was "better than nothing."
"You made 2 dollars?" he asked, in a tone of voice which was hard to interpret. I thought he might reach into his pocket and hand me some money (he *does* make 600 dollars a day when he works...) but he didn't.
"Dave, was it?"
Captain Rob has been shot in the head -I didn't ask about details- and still suffers from short-term memory loss. "You'll have to excuse me, mate, if I keep asking you your name." He is from Novia Scotia, mate.
We got to his house. I was introduced to his room mate who recognized me from the library.
We chatted about books, and then I was shown the bed where I could sleep.
Then Captain Rob said: "I need to borrow that 2 dollars, can you handle that?"
I told him that it was my only two dollars and that I needed it to buy at least one new string the next day...or a couple beers before playing with the dead one.
"You mean, it isn't worth 2 dollars to you to sleep inside?!?"
"No, not really," I said, "Waking up flat broke is something that I promised myself I would avoid at all costs (excuse the pun)." 
I shouldered my pack and guitar and left, against his mild protests.
"There's nothing free in this world" -my dad

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