- Tuesday Night At The Casino
- Wednesday, I Play Sober
Monday night was cold.
After singing through Christina Friis' amp and microphone and making 8 dollars, I debated upon where I would sleep.
It was only about 9 p.m., and too early to try to go under the dock, as their security people are there until midnight.
My sleeping bag and heavy blankets were under there.
The sign spot had all of the clean laundry which I had done that morning.
I decided to go to the sign spot, taking along some extra cardboard for ground insulation, where I would put on all of my clothing. Then, I would just sit there for a while to gauge whether or not I was warm enough to want to lay down and sleep. If not, I would wait a bit then go back to the dock to get in my sleeping bag.
After putting on extra jeans, shirts and sweatshirts, I was able to go to sleep.
Tuesday morning, I sat up and read the newspaper and some of Crime And Punishment, by Dostoyevsky alternately sipping apple juice and distilled water, then went to the library to do yesterdays post to this blog, alternately sipping apple juice and distilled water.
Leaving the library in the evening, I was met by even colder air.
I walked to Rouses Market, to get another half gallon of apple juice and more distilled water, and passed no buskers and very few tourists along the way.
One lady, who was walking three dogs, told me that it was forecast to be 40 degrees that night.
I Play My Starbucks Card
I decided to go to Harrahs Casino, and use my Starbucks gift card to buy spring water, thus giving me a pass to sit there all night, if I wanted.
I sat and drank apple juice and spring water until about 3 a.m. while the wind whipped the flags around on their posts outside, and the palm trees jerked around wildly. I was tempted to put 5 dollars on black at the roulette wheel, but wasn't sure if my "lucky feeling" was only a byproduct of starvation.
I could have left there and gone to the dock shortly after midnight, but I had forebodings about that.
Having not eaten in 48 hours made me feel slightly weak, physically.
Having not drank alcohol in 48 hours took away some of the bravado which I would "normally" have when faced with walking through the quarter alone after midnight, carrying my guitar and backpack and 30 dollars. My drunken self would pick up an improvised weapon after having a "bad" feeling, with the sentiment of: "I hope someone does try to jump me, I'll bash his head in!"
This was the low point of the juice fast -feeling kind of depressed when faced with the reality that I was going to go under a dock to sleep with rats; no food would be cooked and eaten with beer to wash it down, and I didn't even have cigarettes, because they start to taste nasty after 2 days without solid food.
This is also a big part of the answer to the question of "Why do homeless people all seem to be drunks?" I can remember sitting under the dock with food on the grill, sipping beer and smoking cigarettes and looking out over the river and thinking: "It doesn't get any better than this!" -romantic...
I got to sleep around 4 a.m., woke up around noon with the Natchez gone, then sat and read Dostoyevsky until the boat came and went twice more.
I finally emerged after it had left on its "evening" cruise when the light was starting to dim too much for reading.
I had 29 dollars on me, and nothing to spend it on.
I had wished that I'd picked up some earbuds for my little AM/FM radio (the rats chewed up my other ones) so that I could keep up with news and weather along with 19th Century literature.
I went and got more apple juice and then headed towards Royal Street.
I heard Christina Friis before I saw her. Well before I saw her. She had her amp turned up loud.
Monday night, there was a guy who is also a musician, who was encouraging her to turn her guitars volume up, and he was adamant enough about it to even turn the knobs for her as she performed. I agreed with him, pointing out to her that "louder sounds better" to people, and used the example of the salesman who will demonstrate loudspeakers to a potential customer, in hopes of selling the more expensive ones, by demonstrating them at a louder volume than the cheaper ones...yeah, those sound better...a lot more bass!
She must have taken it to heart, because I could hear her loud and clear; and she sounded better, too.
I have had several cosmic connections with Christina (and may put them in a "sidebar" some day). This time, as I talked to her about the juice fast upon which I was on my third day, she told me that she had just given up sugar and caffeine herself.
I Play Sober
I decided to just take my famished, light-headed and sober self to the Lilly spot and play.
I got there and set up my sharks.
Barnaby was sitting on his perch across the way.
I started off with one of my more difficult pieces, a Tom Waits song, and fumbled pretty badly with it.
My fingers didn't feel very strong, I was missing some of the more crucial chords, and I could feel some of the numbness in my hands which I had been waking up with of late and attributing to a pinched nerve around my lower neck.
I actually started feeling self doubts creeping in; I wasn't quite feeling the music...maybe I'm suffering from some degenerative muscular disease, and not a pinched nerve...
My fingers just weren't moving right; the strings felt tight and rusty, my picking hand was missing strings; tourists were walking past with some of them having the notion to reach for their wallets, but moving on after I missed a chord.
It was one of those defining moments when I could have given up ...I just can't play tonight... but rather thought: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
I switched to some easier songs, and tried harder to focus upon what I was doing.
After a couple people threw money to the sharks, I felt the charge of energy that I usually do after the first tip, and started playing better.
I was definitely thinking more clearly, especially about song choices, having songs come to mind which used to be stalwarts but which had kind of fallen out of the lineup. Instead of staying in my "comfort zone" with the same dozen songs which I have been wearing out, I was playing ones that had never been heard at the Lilly spot and the rust was slowly wearing off.
I had just finished "The Ballad of Richard Corey" and was starting find a bit of smoothness, when Barnaby yelled across the street: "I'll give you a dollar if you play "China Doll" (a Grateful Dead song which is in the same key as "Corey" which might have been what put it in his mind).
With the playing of that song came off more rust.
It's a song which I used to play when I was in my 20's, and one which has meaning for me.
After one false start after I missed a chord; I got mad at myself and told myself something to the effect of "Come the f**k on, you KNOW this song, you LOVE this song, it has MEANING to you! What the hell is WRONG with you?!?"
I was able to "get it into gear" and play a decent version of it.
Fried Pickles, Anyone?
Barnaby was walking across the street with the dollar, just as I was turning down the offer of a Styrofoam container of fried pickles from a lady.
"Did you just refuse food, what the hell is wrong with you?!?" he said in mock surprise.
"I'm on a juice fast," I said, holding up my bottle of apple juice.
"How much alcohol is in there?"
I went back to playing, and then something magical happened.
I went into my "zone" -slipped into it like a trance- and started playing fluidly and effortlessly and ENJOYING IT! (as if I was tanked up on brandy and weed) Only, I could remember all the lyrics (all nine verses of Tangled Up In Blue; who me?!?) and wound up pulling up songs which I hadn't done since my St. Augustine days -a variety which kept Barnaby and his girlfriend sitting on their perch for a good while, rather than slamming their door behind them after I start playing that song again.
Tips started to rain upon the sharks.
In about an hour and a half, 3 people threw fives and 14 people threw ones.
I used to think that I got tips when I was wasted because the people coming out of the tavern could "relate" to me, but once I got to where I was sounding good to my sober self; I sounded extra good to them. That has always been the "formula," I guess.
Tonight, I look forward to playing on day 5 of my fast.....