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.


Alex said...

How do you know the guard wasn't talking to leslie about you?

Think about it... In the overall scheme is things, Leslie is much more functional. He works a job, has a house, and bathes and has a haircut once in a while.

Daniel McKenna said...

And, Leslie's version of the story may have painted me as the villain; but, now that I think about it; it would have been too rude for him to have been referring to either one of us present;
He was probably talking about Steve, who started a fight Thanksgiving morning; which Leslie got involved in when he (Leslie) broke a 1.5 liter bottle of red wine over the guys head, as he was trying to get up off the ground, where Steven had knocked him) and continue fighting.
The fight started over the bottle of wine; after the ill-fated guy had pulled it from Leslie's grasp.
I probably didn't blog that story; because I was house-bound with the flu on Thanksgiving morning....

Daniel McKenna said...

And, that story has become lore at the Unique store; as Leslie was initially arrested at that store (then released with "You wasted a good bottle of wine, Leslie" and "This is why we don't like it when you come to the Quarter," from the cops; who are on a first name basis with Mr. Thompson.

Alex said...

Ha ha well maybe you and Mr Thompson had better kiss and make up because you can't afford the rent the other guy wants... $20 a night for a room is San Jose level rent!