|"Have you eaten?" "Sort of..."|
31 Dollar Friday
And, so it came to pass that I played a second (Friday) night sober, putting in almost 2 hours and makng about 31 bucks.
I walked through the cloud of alcohol gas on Bourbon Street, with only the thought of coming back to my apartment on my mind.
I stopped for a pack of cigarettes, because I still had the urge for them, and was picking them up off the ground. I could at least try to gradually slow down on their known toxins without having to factor in whatever butts on the ground may be laying in.
In the morning, I counted about 30 dollars from what I had pulled out of my pocket and thrown upon the table which sits near the entrance.
I went and got the whisk broom and bottle of shampoo, washed my hair, and then defrayed the cost of those items by walking into the quarter, saving street car fare, getting some exercise, and at the end of which walk, arriving at Starbucks about 2 hours before their closing time. I spent the 2 hours doing yesterdays post.
Sidebar: Did You Know?
F.Y.I.: Using Bloggers "schedule posts" feature, I am scheduling posts, written to the purpose,* to publish well into the future, even 800 years from now.
*They will all begin with: "I'm dead now, but I just want to say..." and will touch upon such things as "I'll bet you've all got the whole world pretty screwed up by now, haven't you?" and "Ill bet that 'In The Year 2525' song, has made a recent comeback, hasn't it? Well, I remember the original!"
If I were to die today, I would have a nice story coming out this coming April, by the way....
And now, back to yesterday...
Inside McDonalds across the street from Starbucks sat David the water jug player.
"Aren't we living high off the hog," I said to him upon espying the salad type meal which he was devouring.
He greeted me with a smile, which only dipped slightly at the sight of the bottle of of apple juice that I was holding.
"Working on my 3rd day without drinking," I said, as an answer to that particular facial expression. I guess, to an alcoholic, it is like losing a friend when one of your "drinking buddies" stops drinking.
I had been carrying around a book that I finished reading, and one which David had expressed an interest in, after glancing over my shoulder once, as I read it, and perusing a few paragraphs. I had seen him on at least 4 previous occasions and had forgotten that I had been toting the extra 2 pounds of it in my pack for days.
What reminded me that I had it was the sight of a book which was laying on the table next to him entitled: "100 Successful College Application Essays" (right up my alley).
I gave him "Your Country Just Isn't That Into You," by Jimmy Dore, much to his delight.
Asking him about the one he had, drew forth the information of: "I read a little bit of it, and that was enough...I got what I needed from it."
I am now in possession of it; and readers of this blog will soon reap the benefits of the knowledge that I am sure to acquire in the art of writing essays well enough to get one into college; something that I'm not sure that 7 years in college did for me.
Then, David asked what has established itself as a routine question from him: "Do you have any hemp?"*
*A euphemism for marijuana, a plant which induces a hallucinatory effect, when smoked, or baked into brownies, or similar confections, and eaten.
I thought about the question for a second.
I hadn't eaten in 2 days; was living on apple juice; and hadn't had a drop of drink throughout the same span of time.
I rationalized that pot was not going to disqualify me from being sober of alcohol, and then came up with a further rationalization that I voiced to David as: "Yeah, the Native Americans used to prescribe pot as a treatment for alcoholism..."
Good enough for me.
No sooner had I said this than one of the pot dealers (the tall skinny black kid of about 18 years of age who wears either a red or grey hoodie) walked past, mumbling: "...got that good smoke..." as he did.
I was feeling good physically; a bit light headed, but it was a good light-headedness because it came with an increased energy level which made my whole body feel lighter. And, technically it was, after 2 days of juice fasting.
I gave David the hand signal of holding one finger up, to indicate "I'll be right back; I'm going to go with this guy to some discreet place where we can conduct some clandestine dealings."
I then followed the guy to what turned out to be an unoccupied booth a few feet away, where he broke out his stash, placed it in front of him on the table, not seeming to care whomever in the restaurant might glance his way (I'm loving it) and pinched me out a few buds. I thought, too late that I should have told him that it was to be shared with my buddy, meaning David, and he might have pinched out some more.
My only concern, which I told David about was that I didn't want to smoke in that locale, and then have to navigate to my playing spot 12 blocks away, with my mind wandering like a wild goose in the wind, and me stopping to have deep philosophic exchanges upon topics which hadn't even seemed important to me before I smoked, with everyone whom I met along the way. "It will take me an hour just to get to my spot."
The solution was that he was able to produce $2.50, and we were able to split the herb down the middle, with myself just pocketing my half and lighting out for the Lilly spot.
I got to the same juncture, where the choice is to turn towards my spot, or turn towards Sydneys Wine and Beer and Liquor and Cigar store, and found that it was a tad easier than on the previous night to make the left instead of the right, and I soon had the tiposaurs set up under the spotlight, and, only then did I fire up a joint, before beginning to play.
I was actually having fun, after starting out. If someone were to ask why I was busking, I would have told them just that; that I think it's fun to play the guitar and harmonica and sing.
The weed made it hard to focus; and made me more prone to only do a couple verses of a song before switching to another; myself deeming, because of what they call "distorted perception of time," that I had been playing the song for a long while at that point, and that I should switch things up.
The mindset made it harder for me to judge whether or not I was staying in tune, and the guitar having needing-to-be-replaced strings, tuned a whole step down, didn't help.
I was able to play the harmonica with the guitar in counterpoint to it -basically just high as a kite and wailing away- and one dollar bills began to trickle into the tiposaurus' jar, seeming to ebb and flow along with the bursts of energy which I was putting into the music. At one point, when I was "totally going for it," almost every tourist within a certain radius appeared to stuff bills into the jar.
The downside was that, after singing (pretty well, I thought) for a few songs, my throat became parched and I felt that my voice was on the verge of cracking.
I wasn't happy with the high notes that I tried to hit on "Comfortably Numb," (Pink Floyd) and found that I had just about run out of gas after having succeeded in sounding like Bob Dylan on "Like A Rolling Stone," complete with an all-out harmonica break, during which the dollar bills flowed.
I knocked off earlier than I would have, had I not had "cotton mouth," having added one 5 dollar bill, 16 ones, and 98 cents in change, to my coffers.
As I headed towards the street car stop, I was thinking that, along with alcohol and cigarettes, I will probably have to eliminate that (pot) too, in order to further my busking career. Or learn how to mix it into granola bars.
I would have saved $2.50, also, without it.
My first 2 days of playing sober had netted me about 54 dollars, for about 4 hours and 15 minutes of playing ($12.70/hr.). Considering that, on one of those nights the temperature was in the low to mid 40s, and factoring in that I now have very few "bills" to pay, I am happy with that.
Pot only makes one think that they are sounding great; the same way that it can make the music on the radio sound better. If that illusion is enough to make someone busk, when they otherwise might not have; then I guess it has some value. But, a Snowball microphone cannot be deluded into thinking that you are sounding great.
I feel that, in appreciation of the fact that I have come into a free apartment for life, with utilities paid, I have incurred a sort of cosmic debt, whereby the least I can do is remain sober long enough to record a fine CD, and ultimately funnel the money flow, which traditionally has spiked during such periods, away from my mouth, and into getting an amp and a microphone, a stand for the mic, and a little cart to pull it along in.
Those buskers who make enough to be able to rent a place all have such setups; and how cool would it be for me to be making enough to pay rent, yet not having to pay it? That would be kind of like retiring at the age of 52.
I might even be able to travel; always purchasing a round trip ticket to insure that, come hell or high water, I can make it back to the shelter of the Sacred Heart Apartments.
This (Sunday) morning, I worked on music; keeping an eye on the clock, so as not to miss my rendezvous with Howard, to watch the Patriots/Colts playoff game at a bar where I would sit and drink apple juice.
I had told Howard last week that he was welcome to come and check my place out. He reneged then, but said that today, he would take me up on the offer.
I thought that, after he actually saw the place, he would be motivated to take a few steps to get himself in. There is a McDonalds AND a Burger King 3 blocks away for christs sake!
I am dividing up my CD project into steps.
1. Take a day to make charts for all the songs with the bars and measures and the chords mapped out, so that I can record an independent part and know where I am in the song, by following the chart, without having to keep the vocal in my head to guide me (or worse; sing along under my breath) and having to try to "guess" when the different sections come in, or where the solos are going to go, for example.
That way, I will not have to sing and play at the same time on any track; and can avoid conflicts when I mix down, like: Do I pull the midrange down to make the guitar more sparkly, which will make the voice sound hollow? Do I use "vocal reverb," when its a vocal AND guitar together, or "guitar reverb" etc?
That will also make it easier to leave room for (see #8 below).
2. Lay down a metronomic "click track," after determining the right tempos for each song (meticulously; as a tad too slow and the song drags; too fast and it "undrags") and measuring it out so that I will know that I got it right if the clicks stop when I stop on the last beat of the song.
3. Spend a week or so doing just guitar, in many takes if necessary; until the parts mesh...leaving them "dry" -no echo or reverberation or equalization, until I hear what they sound like juxtaposed against future voices that I add.
4. Spend a week or so doing just vocals and harmonies; a week of jogging in the mornings and drinking a lot of lemon honey tea; and warming up by singing along with my favorite records.
5,6,7,8. Repeat for percussion, bass, adding sound effects, bringing in (surprise) guest performers that I can hoodwink into coming to my apartment.
9. Spend a week or so working on the cover concept and art and writing the liner notes, giving some background about the songs, rather than just listing their titles, and visiting a place like Kinkos or somewhere that can turn it all into CD case-sized folding inserts, which I can stuff in the finished product.
Howard Turned Away
Sunday, I woke up and got some computer and music work done, and then pocketed my 40 dollars and headed for Filipis Taqueria, where Howard met me, and we watched the Patriots/Colts game on one of their TVs.
I was still on the apple juice diet, a juice not available at that bar/restaurant, and so, since I was sitting there and not ordering anything through the entire game, I felt compelled to tip the waitress a couple dollars as she came by to wipe our table off.
Howard ordered a basket of chips with salsa on the side and a soda (as he always does) and then periodically refilled the basket out of a can of Pringles cheddar cheese chips from out of his backpack (as he always does).
The previous week, he was spiking his soda with Tequilla, a pint of which he had in his backpack. I guess he doesn't always do that, because he wasn't drinking. He had become queasy the week before and had had to step outside for air.
Felippis has got to be the most tolerant place in the Quarter, to allow outside drinks and outside chips to be consumed right under their noses.
Maybe Howard thought it was my turn to supply the tequilla, but was understanding of, and a bit surprised over ("Is it really you?") my then 3rd day of sobriety.
He had his bedroll with him, as I had offered the week before to show him my place, hoping that it would spur him to talk to Vallerie about getting himself in there. The thought of sleeping where he does, in a tent in the woods by the river, really has become quite unappealing to me; and after only a couple weeks indoors. As "used to it," and "comfortable" as I had been when I was outdoors; that sure did wear off quickly.
And, so, I felt very bad when, after the game ended and we had boarded the street car and ridden out there, Howard was not allowed to enter the building for lack of a state ID card.
He has lost his, and is in the process of replacing it (you know, sending 40 dollars off to someone who will peck a few keys on a computer, then take the resulting copy of his birth certificate; put it in a 1 dollar stamped envelope, lick the envelope and then hand it to a mailman).
The slap in the face was that he DID have his Veterans Administration ID, but that was ironically not good enough to allow him to be admitted into the "housing for veterans" building. Not even with me there to vouch for him.
So, I turned to go into my warm apartment, after making sure that Howard had some kind of alternative arrangement.
He thought that he could still catch the last bus to Algiers, where he had locked his bike up, and where his tent was waiting for him. The contrast between our situations was stark.
"Maybe this will impress upon him a sense of urgency in trying to get into Sacred Heart Apartments; having been right on the threshold of staying in a 70 degree place, cooking his choice of food, eating popcorn which I was going to pop, and then sleeping on a real bed; then being able to hang around the next day (which is a holiday with the library being closed) reading; and then having the rug pulled out from under him like that..." I thought, trying to see the silver lining in the situation.
Howard was convinced that the security guards, two black women, barred him because he is white; and because they could...
"If the guards had been a couple of white guys; I would have been let in; I'm sure of it!" said Howard, before going off to catch the street car.