Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Cookie Is In The Oven

My Last Night At The Sign Spot?

How will the pigeons get on?

A Unity Apartment Tomorrow?

Travers, my Unity caseworker, showed up at the sign spot, early this (Tuesday) morning, like 2AM; after I had played until about midnight, made about 30 dollars, and had lied down and put my headphones on; on some dry cardboard that I had snagged, to listen to the classical station.

Later that (this) morning; as per his instructions; I was at the Starbucks by 1 PM, and I was taken by a van which had "Unity" decals on its doors; to an office to sign a lot of paperwork and was asked a lot of questions.

First by Anna, the building manager.

Then, by Vallerie, the building director.

"Do you have any savings; any property; any stocks or bonds; or other assets?"

"The cash is all in a Swiss bank account, my real estate holdings are in neutral territories; outside of U.S. jurisdiction, like the villa in the Cayman Islands; and not subject to U.S. tax laws, etc and totally shielded from the awareness of the IRS pursuant to international laws protecting privacy; and it won't even show up on the radar of any of the agencies that Unity is involved with.
Trust me on this one; I had my attorneys do some pretty thorough research, 'cause, frankly, I was concerned myself... So, you can just (*wink*) check off "no" on that one, Val; It won't come back to bite you..."

"Have you ever been evicted for vandalism?"

"I did that portrait of Stalin in fingerpaint on a living room wall once, but was allowed to stay after I wiped it off...that should be in your report..."

Do I understand that, since the building was constructed in the 1920's, there may be lead paint there?

"I think the old lead paint actually tastes BETTER than whatever that bland crap is that they use now (and I know how to peel back the asbestos to get at it; without damaging anything else)...not a problem."

Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

"Umm, if this is what I'm thinking you're referring to;  it was a felony but; the charge was eventually reduced to the much lesser degree of: "simple arson."

"Do you have a car, or any pets?"

"Gosh, you haven't seen me riding around the Quarter in my Porche Boxter convertible with my little French Poodle "Licky Poo" in my lap?!? I'm surprised; I'm pretty visible!"

"Have you ever been convicted of manufacturing drugs?"

"No, I haven't even been near a place with the electricity, running water, and proper kind of stove to even think about cooking up my shit!!"

"Have you ever had conflicts with your neighbors?"

"When you crack open a 24 ounce Hurricane and just take a few sips off of it, 'cause you're saving the rest for the morning; then you wake up and there's like LESS THAN HALF A F***ING CAN THERE, THEN, YOU'RE DARNED RIGHT THERE'S GONNA BE A...
Oh...Sorry.... I was just...I was, umm...excuse me; let me calm down for a second..whew! OK, I'm better now. No, ma'am...never a conflict.."

And on and on the questions went.

I kept thinking that one or more of the questions were traps, and that after I gave the wrong answer, Vallerie was going to fold up the folder in front of her; take her reading glasses off and delicately place them upon the closed folder; and then communicate with the security guy through a subtle nod of her head; and my quest for a Unity apartment would have come to a dead end.

But, they assured me that I was already guaranteed a place; they were just deciding which place to place me in.


Vallerie said that tomorrow (Wednesday) I can meet her at the Sacred Heart Apartments and pick from one of two which are ready; and be handed a key and, I may be indoors before the ball in Times Square hits bottom, demarcating the year 2015.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Day After The Day After Christmas

Just like the birds, that have been lining their nests with additional insulation; and the squirrels that have been stashing away nuts; I am feeling an almost instinctive urge to migrate to a Unity housing unit; for the winter and beyond.

To spread my wings and fly 1.25 miles to the north and land at the Sacred Heart Apartments (shown).

The past few nights have been inordinately uncomfortable outdoors; with rainfall and temperature drops dueling it out to see which can visit the most misery upon me...

The sand stuck to my guitar case, which I have to wait for to dry before I can brush it off (or I'll just rub it in) has increasingly gone against my grain and has become magnified as an affront to my dignity.

The occasional ant that will exit my backpack and nonchalantly stroll across the Starbucks floor has become a much larger annoyance than the size of an ant.

My nose has become extra sensitized to odors, like the one acquired after someone uses the same cover of the bushes that I sleep within to do their various "business"; and then I come along in the darkness of the early morning and lay in it.  The stuff I that I spare my readers from...

As getting a Unity apartment seems to be more imminent; all of the b.s. surrounding being homeless; seems to be taking this last opportunity to lash out at me.

The Meeting

Monday, at 10 AM, at the VA Center, I am scheduled to meet with Travers, my Unity caseworker; who now has, in his arsenal, paperwork documenting my status as a veteran.

Hopefully that will be enough to get me into one of the very modest apartments in the building which might once have been a Catholic School (imagine the ghosts haunting the place).

Another Shrink Rap?

Hopefully, my veteran status will be enough to get me in; and I won't have to have another "evaluation" done by the psychiatrist at the Rebuild Center; though that would give me a chance to update my folder with the previously undisclosed information that had slipped my mind the first time I spoke with him.

You know -about the night heron that keeps screeching in my head: "...kinda like 'WAAUUK!!,' doc..."

...and the 950 foot high Leslie Thompson who chases me around the French quarter all the time; whom everyone else swears they can't see (because they're just messing with my mind!).
"There you are, my little buddy!"

Just Let Me In!

Looking at the building, which seems to be the one that they are currently filling with veterans, it seems that they should be able to let me sign some paperwork and then hand me a key; as easy as renting a summer cottage on Cape Cod, right?

Not surprising to see only 2 cars in the lot...there may be a third one (otherwise the dark colored one would have parked closer to the entrance, as the white one did, right?).

As far as the neighborhood; it is not "too" bad.
Not quite as "far out" as Leslie's place...

The Unity of Greater New Orleans is slated to open The Sacred Heart Apartments, a mixed income housing complex, in Mid-City by the end of December.
Housed in an old nursing home on 3222 Canal Street, the apartments will serve veterans with disabilities, the formerly homeless and tenants with incomes at or less than 50 percent of the area median income level, organizers told Mid-City residents at a neighborhood meeting Monday.

Never Look A Gift House In The Mouth...

However... the neighborhood will now boast a building; containing 109 units with a high concentration of formerly homeless people; a lot of whom will most undoubtedly exhibit behaviors of the sort which "traditionally" lead to homelessness.

There will be those "too poor to rent," and probably some who are only trying to give the impression that they are too poor to rent -working under the table; skeezing, etc...

Then, of course, there will be drug dealers, offering the kinds of things which a lot of homeless spend their money on in lieu of rent....and those with the mentality of: "This is the kind of rat hole they're trying to stick me in (for free)? Oh, hell no...let the vandalism begin!!" -I've never totally understood that philosophy...

Checkpoint Charlie?

The saving grace may just be the veterans; whom have at least proven at one point in their lives that they can fall into line; follow orders, accomplish things, and have their left and right feet committed to memory...

I'm hoping that with a high concentration of them; a camaraderie will exist; maybe like an informal "watchdog committee," of crusty old veterans who still bristle when they hear a stick break outside their window; and reflexively draw their pistol and hit the deck. Those guys might be good to have around....

"Cover Me While I Throw My Grenade!!"

Or, I might find my door jimmied and my Snowball microphone gone; within a week of moving in..

In a building constructed in the 1920's (they weren't made to repel atomic bombs, yet) sound may penetrate the walls such that; I won't be able to play the guitar and sing, without fetching a knock on my door from the guy in number 88.

Walking from the Sacred Heart Apartments into the French Quarter will be solely a day trip; or a late night bus ride; as; some of the worst areas of NOLA (isn't THAT saying something?) lie in between, like snakes in the grass.



Friday, December 26, 2014

The Holly Jolly Blogger

It is the day after Christmas.

Leslie Thompson is texting me left and right; like a man who has pissed through all of 950 dollars in the past 2 weeks, and who is now exploring every possible avenue towards getting drunk and stoned.
The More I Think Of Him; The Less I Think Of Him...

He borrowed the money for bus fare to and from the quarter, he said. -i.e. he will arrive totally broke, and with his head cast down; meek and humble; and wanting to ask someone if they will buy him beer, but not being able to bring himself to do so (maybe the person in question is openly anti-skeezer and he would fear the violation of his sensibilities).

He will then push buttons; connive; employ psychological stratagems; and basically try to bring me to the conclusion of: "This guy just ain't no fun to be around when he's sober; let me buy him a beer or three."

Textbook Thompson. Been there; done that...

The Restaurant Skeeze

He asked me, just now via text, if I would look up the address of a certain restaurant, called La Boca, on my laptop, as I sit here in Starbucks, doing this post.

He didn't elaborate further, but, let me fill in the blanks....

He is going to give me the positive news that he is soon going to be either washing dishes or flipping pizzas at that particular restaurant (that's why he needed to know the address -that would help) and will of course be able to re-compensate me for any and all beers or puffs of weed that I might buy for him today.


The only problem with that; economically, is that he will not give me back cash; so I am not saving money like putting it in a piggy bank; I am just buying more beer and weed for (ultimately) myself.

It's like; "Buy me an Edsel; using most of your money; and next week you will see a shiny new Edsel parked in your driveway; courtesy of myself." ...but I wasn't in the market for one; as snazzy as they look....

I have a good mind to wrap this up soon; and disappear from Starbucks as a means of evading him.

He will walk into Starbucks sober, at least, and not embarrass me that way -though, it often seems that tourists enjoy the spectacle of him and usually have that "This is why we come to New Orleans; get a load of that guy!" look on their faces as he blurts out his Leslie-isms.

Then, he will say and do the things; which I have seen two dozen times; again.

A Road Analogy

It is a road which leads (every time; I'm convinced now) to him standing between myself and my precious Takamine guitar and telling me that I will have to fist fight him over it.

A Football Analogy

That outcome is in the opposite end zone; and we are only on our own 4 yard line; figuratively; but with every 16 ounce beer; we make a first down; and, if I hand off a 24 ounce Hurricane Lager to Leslie, he can run it up the middle and burst through the secondary for a 25 yard gain.

20 Dollar Christmas Eve

I was able to make about 20 bucks Christmas Eve. I play a mean "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" on the guitar and harmonica, I must humbly say, and there was a steady flow of tips, as I repeated it . 

The (that) morning of Christmas eve saw me waking up under the statue of Simon Bolivar, having been driven there by the rain, which had resumed around midnight. I had about 15 dollars in my pocket, after having spent myself broke the night before (see below).

Before that, I had finished up a (Tuesday) night upon which I hadn't played, because of the same weather; and had spent myself down to 0 dollars and 0 cents; odd how the numbers work out "perfectly" sometimes.

I was trudging through the rain, on the way to the dryness of under the Natchez dock; where there were no blankets; but it wasn't very cold out.

I spotted the security guard, who was sitting in his truck on top of the dock; and not in his usual invisible spot on the boat; from where he cannot see me as I go under.

I stopped short of the boat upon seeing him. And, right in front of me there was a soggy 20 dollar bill on the ground.

I hung around, pretending to tie my boots and organize the stuff in my backpack; hoping he would go back onto the boat.

He came out of his truck and yelled to me that I couldn't hang out where I was -under the eaves of the pagoda where they sell tickets for steamboat rides.

Just as he was saying this; the rainfall went into a crescendo; as if an unseen conductor had the instructions on the sheet music in front of him; "Bring in the full orchestra and really build it up behind the security guard yelling."

I started to stand up and grab my pack when, to his credit (and it was Christmas eve eve) he came back out and said: "You can wait for the rain to let up, man; you don't have to go right now!"

Maybe he saw a little bit of divine connection in the timing of the deluge; also.

So, I went to the sign spot, where there was a puddle where I usually lay; but where my one flimsy blanket was still dry, entrenched in cardboard and up in the trees.

I opted to go under the statue.

This proved to be dry; but, as the night turned into morning; a very cold breeze began to replace the rainfall; and the one flimsy blanket became overpowered; and I could hardly get any sleep.

In fact, I was still awake at about 7 AM, when I heard a voice above me ask: "Did you wake him up?" and then respond to another voice (I assume -I couldn't hear it): "Cool."

Shortly thereafter, I decided to give up upon an attempt to go back to sleep; I rolled over to discover that two paper bags had been placed next to my head from the walkway above.

I checked the first one, to discover a sandwich and some cookies; I didn't check the second.

Money From Home

As I walked toward the Rebuild Center; where I had the once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to check my mail (I'm usually asleep during their mail hour) I was kicking myself for not having checked the second bag -sometimes "they" will stuff a 20 dollar bill in with the sandwich; especially around Christmas time.

There was also a blue moon chance that the Christmas card which my mom had mentioned sending 3 days prior; would be in my mailbox; having come from Massachusetts and beaten stuff which I might have dropped in the mailbox across the street from the place (7 day average for that odyssey).

But, I had already found that wet 20 dollar bill the previous night; had immediately bought a new spotlight, of the same make as the one which a skeezer had stolen from me on Monday night with it; and, if there had been money in the second bag; the bag would either still be there...

...or it would have been found by a worthy skeezer, on this Christmas eve morning; and one cannot rue that...

The mail room guy at the Rebuild Center took my ID at about 10 minutes before closing time (and he locks the room behind him; gets in his car and hauls ass at exactly that time -him being willing to donate one hour per day of his time to the Rebuild Center; but not one hour and one second of his time) shaking my head at myself over the fact that, even with all my careful preparations -sleeping close by; setting my alarm, etc. I had just barely made the mail call which would be the last one until January 5th.

Is it any wonder that I need the Rebuild Center and its ilk to add stability to my life?

The mail room guy emerged holding one small envelope with the instantly recognizable handwriting of my mother upon it; and saying: "Merry Christmas," handed to to me.

It was a nice card; a nice message, to include: "From reading your blog, I can discern that you are your own worst enemy," and such. And 50 dollars.

A Very Karrie Christmas

I turned to see none other than Karrie, behind me in the mail line. She was really cutting it close, time-wise.

She is still not drinking alcohol; but has a pretty severe coffee habit. She had no money at all; and mentioned flying a sign, for cigarette money (and a cigarette habit, now).

She seems to be unable to repress a smile whenever she sees me.

I was unable to get her to accept a few dollars out of the now 65 that I had (which was helping to alleviate the stress over the pending Christmas Eve and the "will they tip; or not (like last year)?" that was beleaguering me.

I was able to get her to accept an offer to buy her a cup of coffee.

"You would really buy me a cup of coffee?" she asked; (as if our 2 years together had been a mirage; and won't go down as two of the best years of my life...).

Off we went to the Shell station; where my mother bought Karrie a large cup of coffee with cream and sugar; from 1,200 miles away.

I saw her later, after she had panhandled 5 dollars from someone, and she wanted to pay me back for the coffee. I just kissed her on the head and walked off to play the Lilly spot at the ungodly hour of the early afternoon.

Time To Ditch The User

Now, it is 4:12 on the day after Christmas; and -no sight of Leslie.

He must have run into someone who is getting him drunk and so has shelved his plans to meet up with me here -gee, he sounded so desperate to do so, that's odd- really wanted to enjoy my company.

I just might go out and play on this Friday after Christmas though the streets look pretty dead. I am enjoying the luxury of (still) having money in my pocket and being able to play songs like "Skyline Pigeon," by Elton John, if I so wish.

The stock market hit a record high recently; and their IS a correlation to that and my tip jar; I know because I still pay attention to the market....

If I do run into L.T., I may just level with him and ask "What happened to YOU, I thought you were on the 3 o' clock bus; and now it's already 5 PM?!?"

And then lie to him with something like: "Man, I had a whole fifth of Jim Beam and some killer medicinal bud from California, but, I just couldn't wait any longer; I partied with some friends. Now I just want to go lie down...just lie down somewhere; I'll see you later (a taste of his own medicine)."

Johnny B. Studios

Johnny B. has told me that the neighbor; whose presence was precluding me from being able to record at his apartment, because of the vocals; has moved out.

He added that there will be times that I might have the place to myself for a few hours, here and there. We didn't mention money; but, as he took that opportunity to pull a wad of it out of his pocket to straighten it out; I did the same, pulling the 70 dollars or so which I had out (I had broken every large bill into fives and ones, which made the 70 dollars look even more impressive; especially given the fact that I had one 20 dollar bill still unbroken and wrapped around the outside of the wad; leaving open to speculation that the wad could be all 20 dollar bills) to kind of see him and raise him and perhaps call him (about using his place as a studio).

I don't know why these musicians, like Johnny B. and Jay the loud singer, have that habit of whipping out their money in front of me, as if they think that I think that I am a better musician than they; and want to "prove" to me otherwise....

Open Mic Idea

And, I am pretty gung-ho about the idea of going to these open mic nights, where I could set up my Snowball microphone in front of a monitor and capture myself playing live and have a CD pressed "in no time" -complete with (a smattering of) applause at the end of songs....cool; and even cheaper than Johhny B. Studios on Barrone Street, apartment 2C.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Time For Unity

I woke up with a touch of the bronchitis; which has had me coughing a bit lately; that coppery tasting variety of phlegm.

Sacred Heart Apartments (Unity)
It was somewhere around 8 AM, I was guessing.

My phones battery is dead. And it is stuck on "car kit," again; effectively shutting off all sound from the thing.

I think the car kit feature is implemented through the charging plug. If the charging plug is plugged in to a car adapter, then all the sound is heard through the car's speakers. If the pins inside that plug are mangled, from having the plug shoehorned and wedged into the socket, which has become loose; then the phone might think that it is plugged into a car.

I didn't know what time it was.

I wanted to put my laundry in at the VA Center; make an appointment to see "healtcare for the homeless," about my bronchitis; and perhaps even check my mail for Christmas cards at the Rebuild Center.

I decided not to gamble on carrying all my clothes up there at such an hour, which may have been later than I thought.


I got to The Rebuild Center around 11 AM, and was told by sister Emily; about another instance of  Travers, my Unity caseworker looking for me.

She sent Travers a text message.

I was on my way to the VA Center, to take a shower and change in to my last set of clean clothes; before my appointment with the doctor, when I ran into yet another Unity worker, who also sent Travers a text message.
Travers called her back; and I was soon being led by Vallerie, a case manager, to the VA office on Poydras Street.

We were both thoroughly x-rayed.

Vallerie had to take off her boots; and I had to take my laptop out of my pack and show it to them.

I have seen a lot of  x-rays of my backpack; and it is amazing how much the laptop and the coils of used guitar strings, along with the harmonicas; can look like an improvised explosive device. Add the Snowball microphone to the picture for extra scariness; and I knew that I was going to have to open it.

I emerged with paperwork which I am going to need to get the ball rolling; or rather keep the ball rolling (it's been in motion for 2+ years, now).


The doctor called in a prescription for another inhaler. The one I have has lasted 4 months and I hadn't used it for months, before the past few days.

It is possible that the quilt from under the dock is the cause of the symptoms; or that the tooth, which doesn't pain me; but which will still probably have to be pulled out of my lower jaw -just above the gland which is frequently swollen and/or feeling like quinsey- is contributing.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Blue Blues

I have tried to fix the annoying pop up ad problem; guessing that it might have to do with the free "visitor counter" software; of the type which was the cause of a previous problem.
Let my know via comment if the annoying ads are gone....

Last night, it rained throughout, and it was cold.
This just about dictated the fact that I would sleep under the dock, wrapped in my only heavy quilt, the bird feather rat shit one, under the dock.

This impelled me to cough up (no pun intended) the money for batteries for my spotlight.
Going under the dock with a flashlight makes it easier to see the rocks which one is stepping upon, and to see if there is already another homeless guy sleeping on your cardboard before you lie down, and to see what is still left there; like heavy quilts.

I had run into Blue, at the Unique Grocery, earlier in the evening, as I was ostensibly on my way to the Lilly spot to play; the rain having stopped, finally, after a 6 hour deluge.

Blue is a stripper, but was kind of on strike this particular night, in protest of a certain manager who was running the club where she works. "I'm not going to work if Keith is there." she said over her phone to someone, at one point.

When I first encountered her, in front of The Unique Grocery, she told me that she had been looking for me.

This made me wonder why she had been looking for me; perhaps, I thought, because perhaps I was one of the few true friends she has, in her life as a stripper.

Her husband had died.

Her husband was 27 and had overdosed on something. Something which he had waited to partake of until Blue had fallen asleep.
When Blue woke up and tried to steal back some of the blankets which the guy was laying upon, she had noticed something odd in the way that he didn't flinch as she yanked upon them.
She checked his eyes; and they wouldn't contract; and were glazed over.

Then, like Juliet, Blue gathered up all the poison at her disposal, and snorted the half gram of cocaine and took a number of valium; washed down with hard liquor.

She woke up hours later, next to a now cold body, and like Juliet, lamented the fact that there had not been enough poison left for her to be able to join him. Blue loves pretty hard, I guess.

Then, of course, it had been awkward for her to explain the circumstances around the death (why she had discovered the body but then had not called 911 until 10 hours later. "I was trying to join him in death, like Juliet. Don't you read Shakespeare, detective?" 

I walked toward the Lilly spot, accompanied by Blue, whom I felt was leading me, even though she didn't really know where the Lilly spot was.

She was hungry. I bought her a sandwich off of my food stamp card.

She talked a lot about her husbands death; that subject trumping the weather and other current events for the moment.

I had met the guy, and was impressed by how easy going and friendly he was; and how there was no trace of defensiveness or jealousy in him, despite the fact that Blue and I had a certain "closeness" a little rendezvous in the past and, surely, he must have intuited that there was a bond between his wife and I; one which would have her seeking me out as a shoulder to cry on, after he would die; but he just seemed happy to be with Blue.

The weather was too miserable for me to have considered playing; and, after Blue had given me the second half of the sandwich which I had gotten for her and then went off, I sat at the Lilly spot, realizing that, since I had neglected to get batteries for my spotlight, and was not going to play in front of the window behind which Lilly's ex husband sleeps; as per my promise the night before not to do so; the best thing for me to do was to get batteries for the spotlight, and then to go under the dock to sleep.

I was confident that there would be nobody outside; hanging around, who might spot me going under the dock. It was raining lightly and cold enough that my fingertips were stinging.

It is Saturday evening; it is about 5:30 PM. The rain has stopped, but it is pretty chilly.

I have put brand new strings on my guitar, tuning them to the music playing on the Starbucks sound system (all recorded at A440 pitch) and had moved the heavy quilt to the sign spot earlier this morning, so I can crash there, if it is not raining; and probably be warm for the first time in a few nights, by combining the blanket which was not quite enough at the sign spot with the heavy quilt, which was just barely enough under the dock (granted those rocks retain the cold) and maybe get a good night's sleep.

I still have plans to play at the ramps where the sign skeezers skeeze for extra income.

But my plans of going into the desert of Arizona through the coldest part of the winter are currently on hold, as I have an appointment with the dental clinic of LSU on January 15th (an appointment which I had made back in October and just remembered).

I don't want to wait another 4 months or more to deal with the teeth which may just be causing the quinsey and the swollen throat glands.

My biggest fear is that they will pull teeth out, and then tell me that, since I only have less than half of my teeth left; why not just pull them all out; and put in dentures, which will look as obviously like dentures as a jet black toupee on a guy who is otherwise obviously 90 years old looks like a toupee.

Would they help my annunciation, when I sing? -There is a reason that Elton John keeps the gap between his front teeth, rather than pay for a perfect smile, out of his millions. His tone is a product of the exact shape of his oral cavity (funny talking about a homosexual that way...) and "correcting" his teeth might just ruin his trademark sound, and affect his resonance (or even worse, lose him a boyfriend).

And, David Letterman just wouldn't be quite as funny without his, I guess he reckons...

Let me put a preemptive: "You ain't got no great voice tone to worry about losing"
Just to save some of you a few keystrokes in the comment box...

Friday, December 19, 2014

13 Dollar Thursday

The Most Important Thing
Rain on Canal Street
The most important thing that happened last (Thursday) night was probably that, after blogging at Starbucks until about 7 PM, and then going to The Unique Grocery, for the first beer of the night, I encountered, in that establishment, "Mama Cat," who is a fixture in the quarter, and whom I have had dealings with, in the past.

She said "Travers and Mark were looking for you."

Travers is my Unity caseworker. It is December 19th, and for the remainder of the month, Unity is placing only veterans in housing units. "Everybody else," will be administered to, after the 1st of the year (2015). Just saying "2015" makes me think that we are all in some futuristic movie. Aren't we all supposed to be living in a colony on Venus, by now?

Travers had been looking for me around McDonalds, Mama Cat said. She hadn't said how long ago that was, though.

I hung around McDonalds, where David the water jug player often hangs around, and there he was.

After about an hour of waiting out the rain storm, and not seeing Travers, the rain stopped, and I repaired to the Lilly spot.

It was another very slow night, where there were intervals of 2 or 3 consecutive songs, when nobody walked past.

I know enough to keep playing through these times, for a few reasons.

Some tourists seem to hide in the shadows and listen, out of sight, maybe to see if the musician is really dedicated to his craft and will play for just his own joy; or to keep open their option of tipping  him without revealing themselves, and then hurting his feelings by just walking off (if he sucks that bad). Or to avoid interacting with him, in case he might just be a skeezer, banging on an out of tune instrument missing strings.

So, I kept up a pretty steady set from about 9:45 until just short of 11, and made 13 bucks.

At one point, Lilly's ex husband, who is a pleasant, soft spoken gentleman with a Portuguese accent, came out and nicely asked me if I would move further away from his bedroom window, which was right behind me; just as Lilly warned me that he would. She had told me that I should move down to the other stoop the night before.

I explained that I had only moved down so that I could be in a better lit spot, and that I planned upon getting batteries for my spotlight, and returning to the other stoop. After he grasped this, he said: "OK, play here," then appended "Maybe 45 minutes, or an hour?" To which I nodded and told him that would be fine, as it was very slow out.

The 13 dollars that I wound up making was largely due to one 10 dollar bill from a woman, towards the end of my set.

I spent another chilly night at the sign spot; frequently waking up to readjust the one flimsy blanket which I have to wrap around myself in my 3 tee shirts and 2 sweatshirts and a hoodie, but only a pair of jeans below the waist.

I thought about getting some thermal underwear out of my own money, rather than going through the process of waiting for some homeless assisting operation to be handing out clothing, at some time and place which I would have to arrange my schedule to be at. By Christmas, I could be dead from pneumonia, if I wait upon those organizations.

But, batteries for the spotlight are more important, as they will produce the money for the long johns faster than the long johns will produce the money for the batteries.

And going to The Rebuild Center to use their phone to try to set up an appointment with Travers trumps even that. He may have been looking for me last night to tell me to meet him today; maybe even to show me a housing unit which might be available and to ask me if it was feasible for me (given its location, or other factors, perhaps. At least I don't have a pet...)

It is raining outside, and has been since it washed me out of the sign spot, at about 11 AM. I will have to just walk the 3/4 mile through it, so as to get to The Rebuild Center before they close.

As I was foraging for food outside of Rouses Market, at about 1 AM, this morning (an activity which I can resume, now that I am not tied to the running of the last bus of the night out to Leslie's house) I found a trash bag wrapped around 4 large cans of beer -3 of them Pabst Blue Ribbon, and one Budweiser.

I stashed them in the trees, as I had drank enough for that night, and I don't drink in the morning; unless I'm hanging out with Leslie, who does.

I then hatched a plot to retrieve all the stuff which I had left at Leslie's house as I made my hasty exodus.

I will take the bus out there, and show up at his door sporting the 4 jumbo cans of beer. I don't think he will be able to form the words "You're not welcome here," and look at the beer at the same time.

And, he doesn't have to know that I got them for free, out of the Rouses Market trash cans..."Leslie, I went and bought you an early Christmas gift; as a peace offering....can I come in and get the rest of my stuff?"

But, first things first.

It is ironic that; in addition to probably missing an opportunity to be placed in my own apartment because I was staying at Leslie's and "missing in action" in the eyes of Unity; I left my phone charger there; my phone subsequently went dead; then, Unity had most assuredly tried to call me last night, to tell me to meet them in front of McDonalds. They may have even handed me a 5 dollar McDonalds "gift card," as they so often do when they go out in the field to find "clients" on the streets.

It is 1:30, and I will now walk through the rain so I can use the phone at Rebuild Center to call Unity; and will not have to bank on my phone charger still being at the Thompson residence.

Leslie has a habit of discarding items; and removing all traces of the people whom he casts out.

When I moved in, he went on a rampage of throwing out stuff from housemates past; valuable stuff, like a box fan, a huge bag of rice comes to mind; and he stopped just short of throwing out the large TV that someone left behind before they ran like hell from that hell.

That should have been a red flag for me...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

30 Dollar Wednesday

Wednesday morning, after waking up with about 8 of the 9 dollars, which I had made the previous night ($14 total, after a black guy, who had a wad of cash, handed me 5 dollars when I was in the Wal-Greens, buying a bag of chips and a half gallon of prune juice at 2 AM, on my way to the sign spot; he may have seen the prune juice and felt sorry for me ...I've been constipated before, dude, and it's no fun...) I went to the Starbucks to blog.

I left the prune juice at the sign spot; effectively postponing my Dr. Christophers' 3 day fast and cleanse and mucous free diet project; for at least one more day.

I ran into David the water jug player, who had asked me if I had any weed.

"No, if I spend 5 bucks on a "nick," it will only leave me 3 dollars for beer."

Having at least enough beer money to get drunk is to me what that blanket was to Linus in the Peanuts comics -something which David understood perfectly. "Go about your business, man! To tell you the truth, I'm already high and have drank 2 half pints of vodka, already!"


As I blogged yesterdays post, I was listening to one of the albums which I had burned onto my stick at the library, then transferred to my laptop.

It is convenient for me to check out 2 (my maximum) CD's upon each visit to the library, and burn them to the stick, while I blog on the library computer; then transfer them at Starbucks.

I am starting with the "A" section of the libraries CD rack, and working my way through the alphabet. Yesterday, I burned a Brian Adams disc, and a Greg Allman one.

Record Review

The Brian Adams disc, entitled "The Tracks Of My Years," is full of cover songs, which were meaningful to Brian, back in the 70's; and which had become "engrained" in him, as he put it in the liner notes.

I was immediately impressed by 2 things: The amount of energy the guy puts into his vocals -he really is a "belter,"- and the sound quality, which stirred up insecurity in me about my potential to approach his sonic level, even with the snowball microphone. It really is a "good sounding" album, even if you hate the songs and/or hate Bryan Adams.

A Sound Comparison

Johnny B.'s CD, which he played for me in his apartment, sounded as good as Bryans.

"I spent $30,000 on that CD; It'd better sound good. Plus, my brother is one of the top engineers in the business," said Johnny B., about it.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

The downside of Bryan's album is that, there are some songs which he belts out; where his voice sounds a bit cracked and, perhaps, damaged after years of performing. 

And, it is as the album progresses that the rasp intensifies, as if he recorded them all in that order, in one session. In fact, in the last few, he sounds irritatingly (to me) like Rod Stewart. I have hated Rod's voice ever since hearing "Maggie Mae," when I was in the 8th grade. It wasn't every schoolboy's dream to sing like him. He sounded (and sounds) "horse."

I never pressed Johnny B. for more information, to satisfy my mild curiosity about which famous artists his famous brother has engineered.

He once told me that he, himself, has had songs "on the radio." 

I keep asking him his last name; then keep forgetting it (probably because I brush by him at 2 AM, at the end of my night, and well into a "blackout" stage, often).

I started to show Johnny the snowball mic and extoll its virtues; and he cut me off with: "Dude, there are 15 thousand dollar mics out there; I'm not going to be impressed by any 50 dollar job, out of Radio Shack!"

So be it.
Nice Recording, Daniel!

Maybe I can aim for "1950's Chuck Berry" quality recordings to get me started. Hey, that was good enough to get The Fonz and Pinky Tuscadero Rocking at the hop...

I had stopped at the Veaux Carre Baptist church on Dauphine Street before going to Starbucks to blog; trying to get some more thermal protection out of their clothing room.

I got the two extra tee shirts, and the wool socks; and a barrage of questions from Luke, who was the one who had handed them to me.

He wanted to know if I was "saved," told me that I didn't sound too "sure" after I said: "Sure," and, I was eventually able to escape with the shirts and socks; after being prayed over.

I made a beeline for The Unique Grocery, and my first beer of the evening, feeling like an immoral heathen (the cost of free clothes from a church) every step of the way. Nothing makes you feel like a beer more than having someone trying to convince you that you don't need one for a half hour.

I drank the beer before updating the blog, and then another, as I walked down Royal Street.

The second beer had only cost me 25 cents, after I had handed the Ethiopian guy 2 dollars for a $1.25 can, whereupon he asked me: "Why did you give me 2 dollars?," handed one of them back to me, plus 75 cents, out of 4 quarters, which he (magically?) had in his hand. I normally would have pointed out the mistake to him; but being so broke....

He will remind me tonight, if he noticed; and I will unflinchingly apologize for my oversight and give him a buck.

Maybe the prayers were working...

I had 5 dollars left, and detoured to Sydneys for one more beer, before going to the Lilly spot.

The first hour or so produced no money for the tiposaurus at all, but rather, some sarcastic comments made by some types who reminded me of the kids I went to Catholic high school with. "You're awesome, man! Keep rocking!" Like a kid who is insecure and jealous.

I kept my cool, and tried to push any thoughts out of my head that I was being punished by God for drinking beer after having been prayed for.

Lilly came by and we talked for a while about where I had been; and I regaled her with The Leslie Thompson Story.

I took a break and spent myself down to almost nothing at Sydneys, and then returned, thus fortified, to play some more.

After almost another hour of being either ignored, or hearing more juvenile heckling, by people who all seemed to be of the same ilk from the same cheap country, and with the all the beer gone; my mood began to darken; and I started to slip lyrics like: "What if you worked all night and didn't get paid?," and "It's alright, I don't have to eat tonight" into my improvs.

The "Point Of Quitting" Effect

At the point when I had just about had enough, and had packed up the tiposaurus, but not the guitar yet; a kid of about 18 or so, sat down about 4 feet to my left.

I deemed him a "traveling kid,' by dint of his backpack and attire, though he seemed to have perfect teeth.

I grabbed my ax, and went into kind of a crunchy metal type rhythm and vented my anger lyrically; kind of feeling like I, at least, had the perfect audience, in him (and before he could ask me to play some Sublime or Radiohead).

It became apparent that he had no money; after he complimented my music profusely, and then added the: "I wish I had some money, 'cause I'd hook you up!" which every busker hears, every once in a while.

I played some more, venting more angst; and a guy came and placed 2 dollars on my backpack as, I had been so close to packing up and leaving, that I didn't even have the tiposaurus out, nor my case open.

"The Guy Who Wants To Play Your Guitar" Rears His Head

"Sure, if you put 10 bucks in my case..."
Then, up walked a thin young guy, who had dollar bills pinned to his black tee shirt; advertising that it was his birthday.

He asked me if he could play something on my guitar.

I hesitated and contemplated saying: "Sure, if you tip me 10 bucks, in case you break a string." That is exactly what Jay the really loud singer would have said; I've heard him say that after people merely request a song.

As I hesitated further, he appended: "...or sing along with you," whereupon I agreed, and we both sang "For No One," by The Beatles, as I played.

A lady soon materialized, who was on her phone, trying to locate her husband. She (almost absentmindedly, it seemed) threw a couple bucks to the tiposaurus, which was back out; as I had changed my mind about quitting after having gotten the first tip of the night, which was 2 hours old. The persuasion of 2 dollars...

Now You Can Play

Then, I ceded my guitar to the birthday guy; especially after he had asked a guy, who was wearing a shirt and a tie and carrying a Hurricane drink from Lafitts, and who had quipped: "Sounds good," as he walked past if he would (consequently) throw me a dollar or two. And since, by then, I had placed him with the non-skeezing population of the planet. Even the way that he had asked the gentleman if he would tip me was easy, not skeezy.

The guy threw 2 bucks.

The birthday guy played "Crazy Love," by Van Morrison on the Takamine and we harmonized, while more money went to the tiposaurs. 

Then, after a few verses, I recognized that the chords were the same as those to "The Weight," by The Band, and I broke into that; and the birthday guy knew it; and we sang and harmonized and a splendid time was had.

After he handed the guitar back to me, I played one of my originals, which he liked so much that he pulled one of the dollars off of his birthday shirt and gave it to me.

By then, there was another young lady listening, and I felt like I was playing and singing well enough to welcome her attention, and her 2 dollars. There

"Wow, You Weren't Even Playing!"

It slowed down, traffic-wise, as midnight approached, and the traveling kid and I had a metaphysical discussion about time and mass and energy and the power of love, etc. during which a guy came "from out of nowhere" and put 20 dollars next to the tiposaurus.

"Wow, your weren't even playing!" exclaimed the traveling kid.

Maybe he was tipping our conversation about the power of love...

Skeeze Not, Want Not

To his credit, the traveling kid never tried to skeeze me, and I ultimately asked him if he needed a couple of dollars (out of the 30 or so).

I saw a correlation between the disproportional amount of 2 dollar tips, rather than ones, and the fact that the kid was sitting by me -with perfect teeth; and looking like River Phoenix or Johnny Depp or one of those guys.

I'm not a good judge of beauty in other men; but the predominately gay part of the quarter where I play is...

He didn't need a couple of dollars.

That fact, and the perfect teeth lead me to believe that he was probably the kid of wealthy parents, who was sowing his oats, or going astray, depending upon ones perspective.

Now it is Thursday night, as I wrap this up; it is 6:07 PM.

It is lightly raining. And about 55 degrees. Darn.

The Recovery Is On

I bought razors, showered and shaved at the VA, and am on my way to get batteries for the spotlight; so that I can be illuminated, after 3 weeks of darkness (and ranting, raving lunacy).

The only thing I am missing is patchouli oil (Lilly likes it).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

9 Dollar Tuesday Night

Tuesday night, I made it to the Lilly spot, after having spent all my money, except for one quarter.
I had only had a couple of beers and sat down to play, and struggled.

It was pretty dead, but I attracted the attention of a few of the 25 or so people who walked past.
They stopped to listen, but, as I struggled; I wasn't even really entertaining myself; and so, wasn't surprised that nobody threw me more than a dollar or two.

Barnaby was sitting on his stoop, drinking gin, and offered me a beer which was better than the one which I was drinking; and then suggested that I learn to play "Careful With That Axe, Eugene," by Pink Floyd.

I am listening to it now; and can pretty much say that, unless it has lyrics (which it hasn't had yet; 3 minutes into it) then nobody is going to recognize "Careful With That Ax, Eugene," except hard cores. And, to arrange slide guitar and bass and keyboard synthesizer, and the whispered lyrics (which have now started)....yikes.

He also advised me NOT to attempt to sing "Closer To The Heart," or any other Rush songs. I guess Geddy Lee's voice is sacrosanct to him. I wouldn't have to try to mimic the guy; there are lower keys...

A couple from Halifax, Canada stopped and talked for a while, requesting Steve Earl (whom I have only heard of, but never heard) and I was able to get a dollar out of them by playing an original; and then another dollar in change, after joking around with them and warning them about the "shoe shine guys" on Bourbon Street, who will bet you 20 dollars that they can tell you "where you got your shoes" ("you got one on your left foot and one on your right," or "You got 'em on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, now pay up).

I knocked off with about 9 dollars for 2 hours of playing, minus one Canadian quarter, which is non-spendable here (...wonder where THAT came from...)

I then spent a cold night at the sign spot, sleeping miserably and watching the time, so as to go out and forage for more blankets, or thermal underwear from the VA Center.

I got there around 10 PM, and was informed that "We're not doing clothes, today."

Of course they weren't doing clothes today; and seeming to derive pleasure from telling me so.

There is one black lady there, in particular, who seems to love enforcing trivial rules. "You can't put your bag there, you're blocking the hall!" "You can't put it there, either, you're blocking that entrance." "You can't take off your sweatshirt there; go in the restroom to do it."

Yesterday, she had seemed to enjoy telling me that the hygiene kits (razors, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) were all gone. "You have to come early for them; they all gone by nine.."

They must judge me as a draft dodging hippie, rather than the veteran that I am.

Tonight will be equally cold, and I have only two additional tee shirts, and a pair of heavy wool socks to add to my ensemble. And, it wasn't really my top half which was chilly last night.

I might just play until way into the morning (there are always those who stagger out of Lafitt's Tavern at their 4 AM closing time) and then get most of my sleep in after sunup, as the temperature rises.

Pretty depressed is the mood here; at 8:12 PM on a chilly night, barren of tourists.

I am thinking of playing the off ramps where sign "flying" skeezers perpetually stand; jumping on the spot when they run for their free feeding at the Rebuild Center; and holding my ground until I have hopefully made the 35 to 60 dollars per hour that I used to make in similar spots in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and Ocala, Florida.

Getting out to Tucson, where I have friends, to pass the coldest months, then returning here for Mardi Gras in late February would be the tentative plan....

9 Dollar nights can get a man thinking such thoughts....

Nice Try

I was determined to start a juice fast yesterday, and to abstain from alcohol.

I made it through most of the day, drinking expensive bottles of things like an apple cider vinegar drink and an organic white tea and ginger one; purchased at the big Rouses Market on Baronne Street off my food stamp card in the early afternoon; while I blogged using their wi-fi.
Then, I walked the mile to the Starbucks on Canal Street, where I had planned upon going inside and working some more on this laptop.
Having varied my morning "routine," by waking up at the residence of Jim (my friend who has Parkinson's Disease) and then walking to the Unity office; the big Rouses Market, and then into town; I found that it was easy to be unshaken in my resolve to stay sober.
Once I reached the familiar haunt of Canal Street, I started dying for a beer; and I felt a huge vacuum sucking me, along with the $2.65 in my pocket, across the street and to The Unique Grocery.

I had one more struggle with my inner self, and I walked across the street to in front of The Old Saint bar and restaurant, to think.

I saw that one of my number one excuses for imbibing, Monday Night Football, was an hour and a half away from kick off.

I decided to get a beer.

Turning back towards The Unique Grocery, I came face to face with none other than Leslie (who may just have materialized out of the ether, the instant that I opted to get a beer).

He was carrying his mandolin method book.

I told him that I had sneaked off the prior night because he was starting to become angry...
"...over stupid things," he finished my sentence.

He apologized again (the 3rd time, if you're keeping track) for being "out of line."

Then, he asked me if I was in a position to help him out with bus fare. This would indicate that he had not enough money (out of the 400 dollars which he had gotten 5 days before) to get one more beer, and then take the bus home.

"I have, like, 2 single dollars, and I don't even know how much change. I didn't play at all yesterday; just drank and watched football..."

Then, an amazing thing happened: Mr. Hard-to-get-rid-of replied: "Well, I guess you're headed to the spot to play," and then walked off.

I then went to get my first malt liquor of the night, over my own protests.

Dire Straits For Johnny B.

I walked down Royal Street, and past Johnny B., who was playing across from the Hotel Monteleone with a thin black guy on saxophone, whom he has been jamming with, lately (and reporting a spike in revenue; even after splitting 50-50 with the guy).

He called to me, and I returned.

He asked me if I was still outdoors; and after I replied in the affirmative, told me that he was in dire financial straits; having had a "terrible week" and having had bills come in unexpectedly. He said that we might be able to work something out.
I hadn't been pretentious enough to think that he had been offering me a chance to freeload, at least not for more than one night; but now he was laying his cards on the table.

Too embarrassed (or proud) to say: "Dude, I have $1.32 in my pocket," ...and it's Monday night; and as I look up and down Royal Street, I am not seeing just as many tourists as I'm sure you're not seeing... So, I told him that I had watched football and spent money the prior day.

Johnny B. has told me that he considers me talented, and told me that I "always sound good," (after I had mentioned that, with the stuffed up left ear, I couldn't hear myself very well and wondered how I sounded) and he probably equates this to my having an income level approaching his.

Again, the short answer is: Johnny B. has a Roland Street Cube amp, and a Shure microphone, and plays a $3,000 Taylor guitar (I looked it up on Guitar Center.com).

He is loud enough to stand up to the saxophone guy who plays acoustically (but, they are in an enclave which reflects the sound) and, turning the "effects" knobs to add reverb and echo also adds money to his tip jar; giving him about a 4 to 1 advantage over myself, money-wise.

I have never exaggerated the amounts of money which I have reported making; the times that he had been curious. Maybe the 136 dollar night which I had almost a month ago now, stuck in his memory.

I tried to hint at a ballpark figure of what I might reasonably be willing to chip in on his rent in the future by adding: "I would have to have at least a 50 dollar night, before I would consider breaking some off to stay inside....that would leave me enough for my daily expenses..."
He nodded, without hesitation, and said: "I understand" in a tone which at least indicated that he would charge less than 50 dollars per night. -minus "my daily expenses" he might be thinking around 20 dollars per night.

Economics 101

My rule of thumb; established when I used to rent.....um....circa 1998, is that 20% of my income was comfortable; 25% do-able, and rising above 30% began to put a strain upon my finances.

So, if I DID have a 50 dollar night; I would be comfortable giving him 10 bucks to crash on his floor; $12.50 would be do-able; and I would probably rather wake up at the sign spot with the whole 50 dollars on me than sacrifice 15 of it....

"Well, if you do get blessed tonight, I'll be here 'til 11," he said, as I walked off.

I walked towards the Lilly spot, stopping at Rouses Market, to get a second beer, knowing that it would mean that I would be starting out with no seed money

But, I had come up with a solution to that problem by tearing into dollar sized strips the cover to a pamphlet which I had found which was pretty close to the right shade of green, and had designs and patterns on it which were close enough, in the dim light of the Lilly spot.

I still haven't gotten batteries for my spotlight, as I am trying to get them while they're still on sale at Wal-Greens. (32 batteries for 10 bucks plus tax).

There were hardly any tourists out. The excuse was that they were all inside places, watching the game. The Saints were playing.

I took a couple breaks to peek in on the action, finding almost full and cold due to the weather, beers each time. The second one a...

The Curse of the Thompson Residence

My business really has fallen into disarray through the course of the 3 weeks spent at Leslie's house. And the recordings which I made are small consolation.

Reaches Even Deeper

Plus, the Unity worker at The Rebuild Center this morning, asked me where I had been, and reiterated that they were placing "just veterans until the first of the year" and that I had been "missing in action."


Now, on this Tuesday night, I go out with one 25 cent piece in my pocket; the tiposaurus jar

Monday, December 15, 2014

Not Working Is Not Working

Watching Others Play
Yesterday (Sunday), I woke up at the sign spot (left), after having spent a second night there.
I had bought a bag of unsalted peanuts; which I fed to the pigeons that haven't seen me in almost 3 weeks, while I sipped cold instant coffee.
After the football games kicked off, I headed for Bourbon Street, to see which games were visible from sidewalks. I stopped for a can of malt liquor on the way.

At halftime, and on my second can; I went to Rouses Market where Doreen's Jazz Band were playing out front; showcasing Doreen's vocabulary of Christmas jazz riffs; and guitarist Paul's amazing consistency accompanying her.
At times it was just his guitar, her clarinet and a drummer.
Paul's job is to sink into the background, yet still be the "backbone" of the music. You are only going to notice him if he makes a mistake; and thus; he goes basically unnoticed.
Paul's Advice
His suggestion to me has been to "keep doing what you're doing; Elvis Costello songs and you're "Weird Al Yankovich type originals," and to get a used Telecaster and a decent amp and mic.

The latter is the standing advice to all who want to busk on Royal Street with an acoustic guitar.

Paul and I talked football for a while during their break, then I went off down Royal Street, to get my 3rd beer of the day; passing Tanya and Dorise along the way; and stopping to chat with Jay, the really loud singer.
Jay was just wrapping up one of the (8?) songs which he plays, "Turn The Page," by Bob Seger.
I have heard him sing it about 25 times as I have passed by.
He sounds like Johnny Cash on steroids (or crystal meth) singing in the same low register, and he always omits a certain G chord, which is kind of a "false cadence," musically speaking, and one of the "hooks" in that song, which is so simple that it can use all the hooks it can get.
It's the chord which falls right before the titular words "turn the page," as a matter of fact.

I am repeating from a previous post here, but, when I pointed out to him that there was one more chord at that point in the song, he pulled a wad of cash out of his back pocket and, fanning it in front of me said: "I don't need no extra chords, bro!"
So be it.
A guy who had been standing nearby walked over and put a 20 dollar bill in Jay's case, saying "Thanks for the song; that was awesome!" He never mentioned the missing chord.
"Business as usual," said Jay, as he scooped up the bill and pocketed it; leaving about 7 singles in the case. ...easy song, easy money...

He keeps arguing to me that an amp and a mic are the way to go on Royal Street.
I walked away, envisioning a time in the future when I might be playing that very spot with a mic and an amp and being thrown 20 dollar tips, and he might think: "I never should have given him the idea...darn it!"

On my 4th beer, and with the Sunday Night Football game about to start, I encountered Tanya and Dorise again; and we chatted. I hadn't seen them for almost 3 weeks.

I am always amazed to see them still playing after I might have been doing other things for 3 or 4 or 5 hours. Sometimes, after I play the Lilly spot for 5 hours or so (a long set for me) they are still at it when I walk past them; headed "home" for the night. They might have reached their 12 hour mark, at that point.
Is it easier to go that long when you are making enough money to take 4 days off and live in luxury? Probably.
Is it easier to go that long when you are playing a nylon string Bluebird guitar which requires hardly any pressure to get the notes to sound?
Is it easier to go that long when you are totally sober, don't smoke anything, and are eating vegan food out of a health food store (and maybe some chicken or salmon in Tanya's case)?
Even more probable.
Is it true that China is a nation of a billion people who all work 16 hours, 7 days a week?

We talked about music; and I was able to sing a few melodies in Tanya's ear, to refresh her memory of certain songs like "Reminiscing," by The Little River Band, and "Taking It To The Streets," by The Doobie Brothers.
That was fun, but as I recounted my woes revolving around my living arrangement, and told them that I was back on the street ("and will probably be seeing you more often") I started to suspect that Dorise, who owns property, and is known to rent to musicians at reasonable rates, was holding her tongue on that matter.
Not Working Not Working
And the deciding factor was probably the fact that, for all appearances, I just didn't work enough.
I walked past them 3 times that night, a little more drunk each time.
Granted that Sunday is the one day of the week which I try to take off to watch football and had been doing just that all day; but I get the feeling that Dorise helps those who help themselves, and she was just finishing a stretch of 3 days when they had squeezed 40+ hours of busking into; and wasn't in the mood to be sympathetic to a guy who was walking around with a guitar on his back, but not playing it, and lamenting to all he encountered that he was homeless and broke.
Fair enough.
One of the carrots in front of my nose is the thought of her someday congratulating me upon an extended "dry" period, and noting that I looked better; spoke more coherently, had myself a little amp/mic rig, and was making ("75 dollars is good, for 3 hours") good money.
To The Present
I encountered Jim last night, as I was watching the end of the Sunday Night Football game, too drunk to entertain notions of playing in the almost empty streets.
He invited me to crash at his place; which I did.
Jim has Parkinson's Disease and his right arm shakes a lot.
He used to be a musician, and had 3 acoustic guitars at his place.
His place was not far from the Unity office; and so I went there this morning and left a message for my caseworker; telling him where he could find me and adding that I was a veteran; something which I hadn't thought important enough to mention previously.
I then walked here to the big Rouses Market where I am laying the groundwork for another juice fast and cleanse and period of abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.
The time is right; the writing is on the wall.
Leslie Encounter
I encountered Leslie last night in front of The Unique Grocery.
He was all apologies (again) and told me that he had bus fare for me, if I wanted to return to the house of horrors.
Twice bitten, three times shy, was all I could think of.
He was almost to the phase of intoxication when his Jekyl turns into his Hyde, and I could see it just under the surface. He became angry after I simply asked him if he had traded his bongos in on the mandolin.
"I would NEVER trade my bongos in; what are you talking about!?!" he yelled, a bit too loud and a bit too aggressively, and I started to think of a way to give him the shake.
He offered to buy me a beer; which I wisely refused; as that would imply some kind of contract between us to spend time together. It looked like he had very little money left of the 400 dollars which he had gotten; 4 days prior.
Then, the security guard, who is a large, heavyset black man who has been working there the entire 3 years that I have been in New Orleans, came outside and, standing nearby, kicked a bottle cap off of the curb. He then kicked another little piece of debris off the curb.
I believe that he was trying to tell me something.
He then began to lecture Leslie, as I stood next to him, about how sometimes a man just needs to kick someone to the curb, if that person is trouble, and to live life his own way and avoid the person who is trouble.
Leslie was so wasted that he just nodded his head in agreement.
Then, the security guard made reference to the mandolin method book which Leslie was carrying, drawing his attention to it.

Up walked Guitar Jimmy, a skeezer, around this time; who was most assuredly interested in begging Leslie for something; anything; further dividing the guy's attention and providing the "friend" which Leslie seems to sorely need 24/7.
Leslie doesn't have enough attention to be able to divide it, I have found.
This gave me a chance to walk off unnoticed and soon forgotten.
I walked around the block, returning to find no Leslie in sight.
I shook the hand of the security guard. "You gave me a chance to get away from the lunatic," I said.

Now, I need to try to get my phone charger and the little bit of clothing which I left at his house in my hasty retreat.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It Will Be One Year To The Day

I Leave Leslie's
One Year Ago, Tomorrow
Last night, after Leslie had become a jerk for the second night in a row, I left his house with as much of my stuff on my back as I felt worth carrying.
He followed me outside, cussing me out and calling me every name that he could think of, as I walked off.
It was an exact re-enactment of the scene which took place 364 days ago, on December 14th, 2013. That night we had fought in the street.
There ensued a period of 8 months, during which I didn't speak to him, and avoided him.
It took him until September to worm his way back into my confidence; invite me to crash at his place (while my possessions at both the sign spot and the dock were pillaged by other homeless sorts, who had noted my absence, and helped themselves to them; effectively slamming a door behind me; or burning a bridge, if you will; by making it harder for me to return to outdoor living).
Thursday, after Leslie had gotten his paycheck of about 400 dollars; he went to The Guitar Center and purchased a mandolin.
"Purple Heart" 49% Complete (click here)
He doesn't really (tune, nor) play the mandolin; I discovered.
He just has had an obsession of sorts with the diminutive instrument.
I think he may have traded his bongos in towards the mandolin; because their absence was conspicuous at the house.

Purple Heart
...will eventually contain the verses about the fact that "Fred" in the song has a purple heart which he keeps in his backpack.
It is an ambitious project; but I am keeping it fresh in my mind...

Thursday night, when Leslie arrived with the mandolin; he showed it to me, then handed it to me.
I plucked a few notes on it; then handed it back, telling him that I really didn't know how to tune it.
I then went to the back room where I put my headphones on and cranked up some of my music which I was mixing.
I gradually became aware of a certain vibration in the room; and lifting the cups off my ears revealed Leslie to be in the middle of an angry, drunken rant; just like the one that he delivered himself of just one day short of a year ago.
Apparently the mandolin came from the store out of tune; and he was blaming me for having thrown it out when I plucked it a few times then tuned a pair of strings to be in unison with each other -that is about the extent of my knowledge of mandolins.
I hadn't helped matters by telling him that I didn't know how to tune mandolins. "You don't know how to tune it; don't touch it!! Do you see me messing with your tuning pegs on your guitar?!?"
He had ranted for probably 15 minutes on the matter, which I thankfully hadn't heard, because of the headphones.
I am sure that everything he was saying was calculated to anger me; and probably would have resulted in me attacking him physically, had I sat there and listened to the whole thing.
He has a talent for getting under the skin of someone; which involves attacking them verbally, focusing upon areas which are a "soft spot" for the person that he is berating.
He kept coming back to the words "ignorant" and "retard," and implying that I shouldn't touch his mandolin because I have absolutely no knowledge on the matter, know nothing about tuning instruments, etc.
How a person can do irreparable damage to a mandolin by tweaking the tuning on one string is something that he didn't elaborate upon. It just seemed like he had been offended somehow; perhaps because I had only given it a cursory look and then handed it back to him; and then went to work on my own music. He had been talking about getting "the mandolin" for weeks, now; commencing when he started working.
When I woke up in the morning, he was gone.
Around noon, he arrived back, with Steven and Rob in tow, and a gallon of wine and a 6-pack of malt liquor.
He seemed mildly surprised to find me still there; although my bags were packed and by the door.
He apologized, saying that he had been "out of line" and "a jerk," and told me that I could touch the mandolin whenever I wanted to.
But, after a day when he and Steven and Rob all rendered themselves incapacitated with alcohol (Rob had to go outside once, due to sickness) with his crappy radio cranked up on a weakly tuned (of course the antenna had snapped off) Classic Rock station; so that my recording music was not an option; he woke up in the evening and took up the exact same rant "Don't you ever touch my mandolin!," "Who do you think you are?!?" and then started to threaten my guitar.
Of course he started to threaten my guitar, using all of his talent for getting into peoples psyches; using the things that they value most as inroads.
He said that he was going to mess up my guitar "whether you like it or not" and made a motion towards it.
I was glad that Steven and Rob were in the house; and now wide awake, due to Leslie's hysterics.
Steven was under the misguided impression that Leslie had "a heart of gold," and "the purest of intentions," and had told me just that, recently.
I was able to grab my stuff and walk past the deranged lunatic, and out of the house, passing through the living room, and uttering the interrogative: "See?" to a befuddled looking Steven on the way out.
They were there when he had apologized, then told me that I could touch the mandolin whenever I wanted to; and now he was back on the rant...
I Didn't Play
I took the bus into the Quarter, with 13 dollars in my pocket; and a determination to sleep at the sign spot.
A knock at the door to the Veaux Carre Baptist Church on Dauphine Street produced a blanket, which I stuffed into my pack and which became proof against the temperatures in the low 50's which I eventually encountered.
My share of the gallon of wine had put me out of sorts and I was not in the mood to busk.
Tonight will be the second night of my absence from his place.
He will have enough of the 400 dollars (minus whatever a fine mandolin costs, along with enough alcohol to appreciate it) left in order to keep "friends" around, whom he might meet and invite to his house. That is just his heart of gold, and his purest of intentions in action, I guess.
Then, like in the Glen Campbell song: "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," -by the time I get to the sign spot, he'll be rising; and he'll cry just to think I would really leave him.
The Johnny B. Alternative
I ran into Johnny B., who has repeatedly invited me to crash at his place; but Johnny was "booked up for the weekend," probably hosting someone who was paying him a little bit of rent to stay there; so they expect some space and some privacy; and not to have someone else there, on such short notice.
"Talk to me Monday," said Johnny.
No Suzy Q.
Listening through the recordings that I made at the house; as I just did, here at Starbucks; I wasn't satisfied. 7 and a half minutes of me (click here) at Leslie's House
Recording has to be done in a methodical way.
The first half hour can be spent just tuning the guitar; settling upon a tempo, and laying down a "click track," as a guide for all the ensuing parts; and writing out charts with the bars and measures and repeat signs and chord changes spelled out.
Very rarely does a spontaneous, drunk and high, jam session produce a "coherent" result -"Suzy Q." by Creedence Clearwater Revival notwithstanding. ...We were all at a bar getting drunk and snorting lines and we wound up hopping in the car; driving to the studio and cutting that song in one take....
The Tipitina Alternative
There is a place where a musicians co-op of sorts resides with the name of Tipitinas.
Supposedly (for a monthly fee of $15) one can avail himself to sound-proof rooms, microphones and laptops running "Garage Band," or "Cakewalk" recording software, and even the engineering/producing expertise of "Al;" whomever he is.
And, I would bet there aren't people poking their heads into the studios shouting "What makes you think you have the right to mess with my mandolin, you ignorant retard!?!"

The Present
Now, I go out into the chilly night with 5 dollars in my pocket and will play at the Lilly spot without the aid of my spotlight, but with the fortuitously placed Christmas decorations on the house across the street as a gift of light from Alan and his housemate.
All the time spent dealing with Leslie has caused me to neglect the pursuit of my own Unity housing unit. That is something which never seemed to cross his mind, along with stocking his house with electricity, food, toilet paper, towels, a vacuum cleaner, or anything else that doesn't go in a glass or in a glass pipe...
Somehow Leslie's agenda of "get drunk and pass out as quickly as possible each day" turned out to be incompatible with my goal of getting as much work as possible done on recording a CD and staying sober as far into the day as is prudent, to aid that purpose.