Thursday, February 5, 2015

We Bag A Wild Howard

First Two Dry Days Rainy

The second sober day; I was in the Quarter by about 8 PM, having riden the cable car, and in doing so, spending myself down to about 50 cents. I still had the practically worthless Colombian pesos (5,000 of them) with which to start the tiposaurus' jar out with.

I was on the lookout in Starbucks, for someone who was about to pay cash for their coffee, so that I could offer to use my giftcard to buy it, in exchange for "an equal or less amount of cash."

I wasn't really sure why I would need that, as I would be headed towards the Lilly spot, as soon as Starbucks closed at 9 PM, where I would really only have to make a dollar within 3 hours, before the last cable car ran, in order to be on it.

It crossed my mind that it was the alcoholic within; trying to make sure that I had a few dollars as I passed The Unique Grocery, just in case I decided that one or two beers would be alright to loosen me up, on such a chilly night when rain was threatening to fall.

There were few people out, around Canal and Royal Streets but; if they were going to be anywhere, they would eventually materialise at the oldest bar in America, established in 1772, by John Lafitt the pirate (and his brother Pierre) 90 feet from where I play.

The temperature was forecast to hit a low of 45, which is just on the cusp of the temperature below which my fingers begin to numb, and I become prone to drop the pick.

It started to lightly drizzle as soon as I stepped out of the coffee shop, the way it had done the previous night; when it had continued well into the morning. I began to wonder if it would repeat and I would be rained out a second night.

I couldn't bring myself to think that I would try to borrow cable car fare from Gloria, the cashier at Rouses Market, a second consequtive night. I would probably have to walk through the rain the 2 miles back to the apartment.

I got to the Lilly spot.

The ground was wet, and so I went in search of a dry piece of cardboard out of nearby trash cans; knowing as I did that I would look to many like just another skeezer, digging for half finished drinks which had landed upright inside the can.

Then, I decided to go looking to buy a cigarette from someone, tapping into the 50 cents, which represented my cash worth at the time.

I was circling the block, when I heard the voice of Lilly cry out my name from a little ways up the block.

She was on her phone, giving someone her current location, before terminating the call.

"I love you, Daniel!" was all she said, as I approached, and then repeated it as she hugged me, before quickly interjecting that she needed to go. "Chantilly went up a different block, and I need to find her."

Chantilly is her eldest daughter, at 20 but, with Lilly as a mother; she never walks alone; and in the French Quarter, this is probably a good thing.

After this chance encounter with Lilly; I decided to extend my search for someone to buy a cigarette from, a couple more blocks; and I wound up in front of Rouses Market, where I looked to see a young man, who was wearing a florescent green vest, of the type that the guys who sweep the streets wear; and the guys who ride the trash trucks; and the Unity "outreach" workers, who sweep the streets of the homeless.

He was smoking a cigarette.

He hadn't seemed to notice me, and I was fishing the 50 cents out of my pocket, preparing to make my sales pitch when he did notice me; his face lit up and he walked over, saying "How's it going, bro?!?"

I didn't recognize him (I have some kind of disorder about facial recognition, I really do) and I started to think that he might be the guy named Joey who had a long haired white dog with him when we met; and whom I befriended after having made the comment that the dog was soon going to be black; should it continue to roll around the sidewalks (certainly the undersides of its feet are a harbinger of this).

"How's the place working out?" he asked; advancing my theory that it was indeed Joey; as I had told him about being "inside" now when I had run into him outside of Filippes as I was watching one of the Patriots games inside with Howard.

That time, he had had to remind me of who he was, by mentioning the white dog.

The Mission That I Accepted

Then, from somewhere nearby emerged Travers, my Unity caseworker and the mystery of the florescent green vests became solved.

We all shook hands; I got a cigarette from the first guy, who turned out to be the husband of Vallerie, the building manager where I live; and then they told me that it was "so cool" that they had run into me, and that they were on a mission.

That mission centered around Howard.

"Could we go; right now in the van; across the river and get Howard? We know you probably want to get to work; but we could really use your 'juice' with him; we're not sure he will talk to us."

I assured them that, on such a night, I would likely only be passing up 6 or 8 dollars, by taking a couple hours out to do such a thing.

Not having the alcohol demon telling me that I needed to get out there and make that beer money pronto, was another key factor.

I explained that the reason that Howard hadn't even started any paperwork, as they put it; was because he was not very hopefull of anything besides a huge run-around, leading to a dead end and with not one wild goose in hand; having seen the 2 years which it had taken me to get a place.

Secondly, I said; Howard is kind of mired in a routine; and for him to one day decide not to do the exact things, at the exact times; which he had done the previous day, but rather, to pop into the Unity office to apply for housing "ain't gonna happen."

We were soon packed into the Unity van, my guitar and backpack and myself competing for space with a spare tire, a television set on the seat next to me, and a box a little bigger than a breadbox, full of canned goods.

"That box has been back there for weeks; you can have it," said Travers.

"...probably full of Howard-type food, like Spaghetti-O's," I thought.

Our plan was to go find him in his tent, and then I would do the talking, rather than these two perfect strangers in florescent green Unity vests, and I would convince him to let us take him to my apartment, where he would be put up for the night.

Then, in the (this) morning; paperwork would be done; and then he would be whisked off to the DMV, where Travers and his partner would excersize their considerable power in obtaining a Louisiana state ID for him; circumnavigating The Rebuild Center and their processes (i.e. red tape) and precluding the necessity of him having to send away for, and pay up to 90 dollars for, a copy of his birth certificate from some agency in Colorado -things which have been daunting him up to this point.

The van was parked and locked up, directly across from the stand of trees at the end of which Howards tent was purported to be.

We traversed puddles in the grass, climbed up and over the levee, and then entered the woods, along a path which had no doubt been beaten by Howard's following of his routine -the path leading to and from McDonalds and the library.

His tent was pointed out to me; the same one which had fooled me, by not being strewn about with empty Pepsi bottles and Cheetoz bags and books, into doubting that it was indeed his tent, the previous Saturday when I had tried to get him to come with me to watch the Superbowl and then crash at my place.

I approched, armed with my flashlight.

"Howard, are you there?" I asked the side of the tent, as I started to unzip the flap. "Ah, so THERE are all the empty Pepsi bottles and Cheetoz bags and books!" I realised.

And there he was, snuggled up in his sleeping bag, with only his face visible.

I made sure that I trained my flashlight on my own face; and not in his eyes as I shook him by the shoulder.

He woke up and said "OK," upon recognizing me; as if in his half-awake state he thought we were 3 years in the past, and sharing a tent on the grounds of Duncan Plaza, during the "Occupy NOLA" protest, where we first met; and that I had just returned from busking and was about to lay down and go to sleep.

I tried to explain succinctly what was going on, and especially that he had a warm place waiting for him that night, and transportation to it; etc.

"Can we do it tomorrow?" he asked, not seeming to want to stir; "because I'm really out of sorts right now, I just want to sleep."

Travers and his partner were waiting nearby; letting me do all the talking.

It seemed to be the reitteration of the fact that he could crash at my place, and that there would be no problem because it had been pre-arranged, and the minute or so during which he came to his senses while I said it; which got him reaching for his shoes and his backpack.

Once he had stood up, he seemed to have more clarity. "I really appreciate this," he said.

He was introduced to Travers and his partner ("Nice to finally meet you") and we were all soon up and back over the levee; through the puddles in the grass; and headed for the van.

Howard became quite awake and animated, as we talked about getting him into Sacred Heart apartments; and he was assured by the Unity guys that the run-arounds were a thing of the past and that they had all the resources needed to get him in.

As I sat there, with Howard in the seat behind me, next to the 45 pounds of canned food in the box, I couldn't help smile over the parallell between that box, and the similar one which might come along with pets that people give away.

There was Howard -there was the box full of (probably) Spaghetti-O's.

And I was taking them to a good home.

We got to the apartment building.

The Unity guys flashed their credentials, and Howard merely had to sign the guest ledger, and we entered.

After giving him a quick tour of the place, I left Howard there with the box of food "Help yourself to anything..." and I was transported to the Lilly spot, where I played for about an hour and a half, making just 10 dollars, but that being after playing for only about 20 tourists; and also being enough to cover my cable car fare back, a newspaper (the reading of which is a part of Howard's morning routine) and one energy drink.

My food card had been charged with $194 (hallelujah; no snafu this month!) by the time I had knocked off and went to Rouses Market; where I got a big bottle of olive oil, some popcorn kernels, a small bottle of sesame oil, a bottle of prune juice, a half gallon of pineapple juice and a gallon of distilled water.

I am ready to go on the fast and cleanse in the (this) morning; the temptation of the box of canned food notwithstanding.

The box contained an amazing variety of surprisingly (when a "food bank" is involved) healthy food.

There were all kinds of vegetables, yams, chili with and without meat, cans of cooked beef (ingredients: beef, salt), beef stew (or soy stew if you read the fine print) and much to my delight; asperagus and several cans of both pink and red (the expesive kind of!) salmon; and -readers might think that I am making this up; but; no, I'm not -an 8 pack of Spaghetti-O's...

Oh my, it is 6:07 AM.

Travers and co. will be knocking at my door in about 3 hours to get Howard.

They might even have him in a unit by the end of today; if not, he can stay here longer.

It seemed as though I had garnered a good luck charm; through having helped Howard out before going out to busk.

I did well, considering the sparseness of the crowd.

10 Dollars or so Wednesday

The one 5 dollar tip came at a point when I was hitting some good notes on the harmonica.

At another point, a couple passed, then turned back to drop me a couple bucks.

They were immediately accosted by a skeezer.

I had seen him once before; a middle aged black man, wearing the kind of clothes that people donate to thrift stores because they just feel goofy wearing them -like a "where's Waldo" striped shirt with mis-matched trousers that put one in the mind of a two-tiered building with The Gap on the second floor; and an Army-Navy Surplus place on the bottom level.

He had enacted a similar skeeze then:

He started to yell, almost beligerently: "Why don't you help out a TRULY homeless man! I'm a TRULY homeless man, here!!" (as if I weren't...at least the first time...)

He was encroaching upon their space; a little too loud, a little too close; playing the "intimidation" card.

The couple seemed to be worldly enough so that he wasn't their first skeezer (nor was it their first rodeo) and the gentleman said: "That's got nothing to do with it; we just appreciate talent.." and they calmly walked on; knowing that if the skeezer really posed a threat; he would have been taken off of the streets a long time ago; and not by men in florescent green vests.

The Way Of The Addict

I am so tempted to run almost a mile to the store and back for a pack of cigarettes; but, that would leave me just enough to take the cable car back into the Quarter, where I would arrive broke again, and needing to start my jar out with Colombian pesos, again.

Isn't that the Way of the Addict; arriving everywhere broke, except for 5,000 Colombian pesos?

The guitar strings, which the Lidgleys of London sent, along with the shower curtain, are a godsend. Their bright tone is already making its way onto my upcoming CD.

Soon, I start the juice fast, as well as day 3 of being "dry."

I still might run to the store for cigarettes -in the safety of the now almost daylight- even though they will start to taste nasty a few days into the fast and cleanse...
Words: 2579

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