Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Kind Of Panhandler

Back And Forth I Go...
Day 2 
Saturday morning, just barely (6 minutes before noon, it is...) and I sit at Starbucks in the Westin Hotel lobby.

Yesterday, I left here at about 5:30 p.m.
Before that, I had run to Walgreens for an energy drink at about 2:30 p.m.
I had about 39 cents in cash and all six strings on my guitar were shabby; my clothes are dirty and I am shaving with a rusty razor these days.
After I passed the street where the music store is (thinking about the onus of playing my crappy strings in order to make money for new ones) I saw up ahead of me; two guys sitting on the sidewalk who looked like pan-handlers. 
They each had a can of beer and there was change sitting in a small pile near them. I passed them and one asked me if I had any spare change. I told them that I had 39 cents; but that I needed to buy a new string for my guitar. "Come here, I'll buy you a string," said one of them. 
He pulled a considerable wad of money out of his pocket and handed me 2 dollars, after I told him the cost of 1 string. 
He wanted my change, though. He was collecting change in a pile in front of them; but he was giving away bills. He said something about trying to get a "card" so he could get his money. 
I didn't understand it; nor why he didn't just go into a store and break some of his bills to get change, but I had the money for one brand new "g" string, to replace the really dead one on the guitar; I understood that. 
I came back here and did yesterdays post, which took me until 5:30.
Secret Agent Man
The sun was setting and the temperature was already down to about 50 degrees as I walked up to Royal Street, where I saw Paul (from Doreens Jazz Band) playing at The Clean Guys spot across from the Monteleone
"Do you want a spot? This is going to be my last song," asked Paul. He played his last song, which was "Secret Agent Man," by Johnny Rivers. 
The song struck me as a candidate for the "50 best busking songs" list -interesting chords (there's a rarely heard "augmented" chord in it) and the vocals are loud and catchy; and who can't relate to a Secret Agent, especially in NOLA!
3 Out Of 5 Ain't Bad
He was wearing his beanie, which is his "performing hat," I believe. 
He only had played for a half hour and had made 6 dollars and change. 
He didn't believe that Maria and Matt regularly made "over a hundred dollars" at that spot.
"I never believe what most people tell me about how much they make busking...I believe what YOU say, but not most of these people," said Paul
He said the spot was most famous for the doo wop group (of 5 black men in matching purple or black almost tuxedos) who have doo woped there "for 20 years."
Pauls Beanie In Action
Evening On Canal Street
I opted to go to Canal Street near the childrens clothing store, and somebody walking by said "It's 6 o' clock now," as I was sitting down. 
On the way there, I detoured to Bourbon Street, looking for a drink before I started, and there on top of a trash receptacle was a full red drink on ice with a straw in it. I think somebody took one sip off it and discarded it because it was too strong. It tasted more like rum than whatever fruity-sweet flavor it pretended to be.
It was probably a woman whose lips touched the straw; they tend to like things sweet.
The guy that she was probably with probably wanted her drink to be strong; they tend to like women drunk...
The one new string brightened up the whole sound of the guitar, especially as I featured it by playing in its key almost exclusively; or modes of its key.
I made about 2 bucks in a half hour and then went to spend one, before drifting to Decatur Street where I set up near Sydneys and, for some reason pulled a song out of my "repertoire" which I had never really played before, but which I sounded out the chords to and burned into my memory by repeating it.
"Candle In The Wind," by Elton John, earned me a 5 dollar tip and a 1 dollar tip in about a half hour. 
The Robbery
I spent the dollar on a beer and then went to Bourbon Street and resumed playing. 
I had the 5 dollar bill in my case, but not for long. 
A young African American came along and grabbed it, making a grunting sound as he did; as if the bill weighed a lot (Huhh!); and then ran down the street with it. It made him look like a coward; did he think I was going to fight him over it? 
He probably didn't want me to get a good look at his face... So, my plan to get a couple more strings in the morning changed in an instant.
He Went That Way...
I was able to turn the anger to my advantage and I played the most aggressive, ripping guitar that I have in a long time; and within a minute, a girl put a dollar in my case. But, then I started singing "A nigga just grabbed my money and ran" over a chord progression, noticing for the first time that my spot on Bourbon is probably the "whitest" part of New Orleans. I went on for a few minutes before the first black person walked past, an older lady who turned her head and said "I'm sorry." 
That made me stop and think that I shouldn't take my anger out on anyone but the thief who ran off; and that it was probably the strong red drink doing the talking; and so I went back to "Candle In The Wind," but didn't make any more money and left after another half hour.
It was getting close to "ferry time."
The Gathering
I swung by a certain Mexican restaurant called The Country Flame and grabbed a plastic bag full of "dirty" rice which was still hot -they don't pour bleach on their leftovers and they leave it where the homeless can get at it without digging and dumping garbage all over the sidewalk- a smart group of Mexicans.
And in return, any time a tourist should ask me where there is good Mexican food in New Orleans, I will even walk them there if we're in the vicinity...try their chicken burritos, they're excellent... 
Then I went to the hotel where Stephen said there was always a full meal "as if they put it there just for me" in their trash. 
There was a Styrofoam container with a full meal of noodles and grilled chicken which weighed about 4 pounds. I went across the river and shared it with Rob, who is a guy who has recently joined Howard and I under the cedar trees. 
He is 57 years old, looks 35 and is bicycling across the nation with California being his target destination. He is a surfer and said that there is a barge which sails from there to Hawaii which one can ride for 50 dollars...busking in Hawaii; interesting idea, I'm thinking.
So, I woke up with 56 cents.
My Kind Of Pan-Handler
Before coming here to blog, I ran into the same pan-handler, who was asking everybody for change and who again pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket and gave me money for another new string, which I will get after leaving here.
He is my kind of pan-handler.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Back when I had to do that, I actually got occasionally panhandled by other panhandlers! I always laughed and gave 'em a buck or two, and said I do the same thing.

See, I didn't look all scruffy and bummy, but like a normal working guy. W.H. Davies in his Alexandar Supertramp book talks about this type of panhandler, which is called a "Downrighter". How the Downrighter works is, to look normal and respectable, and walk from person to person, said persons just thinking you're another worker asking the time or some directions, and they feel you're a peer. If you look all bummy, they see you 100 yards away and avoid you.