Wednesday, March 25, 2015

24 Dollar Monday

24 Dollar Monday
Is it just me; or am I starting to look like Sony Bono?

Broken String Cuts Session Short

From the Envie Cafe, where I had encountered "Stoker," I left for the Lilly spot, a little bit after 10 PM last (Monday) night.

Stoker had been sitting at one of the outdoor tables, taking apart and repairing one of his amps, with pieces of it strewn about him.


He was using one of their outlets to charge the automobile battery, which he uses to power it. He was using another for the soldering iron; and a third to charge his cell phone.

He sits upon the seat of his motorcycle -the one he uses to pull a trailer behind him, loaded with gear- and plays and sings blues, usually on Royal Street.

Eventually, one of the managers came over and told Stoker: "Like, dude, you can't do all that here..."

He had wires all over the place; it was almost comical; it looked like he was building a robot.

The 8 Day Itch
I was feeling the first real urge to drink in the 8 days that I had been sober, and I told Stoker about it. He gave me one of the textbook lines, out of the AA manual; something like: Don't tell yourself that you are never going to drink again; just that you aren't going to drink tonight...

He meant well, though.

Sideline: Stokers Incredible Story

He also told me an interesting anecdote about Dorise Blackmon, during this past Mardi Gras, having thrown his guitar, case and all, out into the street, when he had gotten to the spot where Tanya and she always play, and had set up -over the protestations of the guy that was sitting there, holding the spot for them.

He had told the guy holding the spot that he (the guy) wasn't a musician, and that he didn't see Tanya and Dorise anywhere in sight; and that he was there; and he was going to play; because "that's how it works out here..."

Dorise showed up and words were exchanged, with Stoker telling her that he was only going to play for a couple hours, or so.

No go.

Dorise threw his guitar out onto Royal Street; and a nearby state trooper (they were everywhere) who witnessed it; put her against a wall and handcuffed her; but then let her go; because the guitar wasn't damaged (according to what Stoker related but, more) likely because one of his fellow officers said: "That's friggin' Dorise Blackmon, who plays with Tanya Huang. You just can't do that to her; she's royalty, out here."

I told Stoker about how I once stopped by T&D on a windy day; and seeing their baskets almost full to the brim; said "One good gust of wind and there will be money blowing down the street.."

She had just shrugged and said: "It's happened before." like it was no big deal.

"She said that?!?" asked Stoker, incredulously.

You Can Live On Bananas

I was feeling a slight flare up of the eczema, which had been perplexing me with its presence, throughout the juice fast that I had been on for the whole of the 8 days.

I had only consumed 4 bananas the whole day; along with a lot of distilled water laced with cayenne pepper; before going to the Envie Cafe to blog and to drink a cup of their brew.

The previous day, I had only had a few apples, and a few bananas, along with some apple juice and a few cups of tea, made with spring water, at the apartment -usually a remedy for any swelling of glands and inflamation of skin, which caused the condition to receed within 2 or 3 days.

No(la) Tap Water For Me

So, I thus deduced, by process of elimination, that it is the tap water which they use to brew their coffee which was irritating me; and had been throughout the week, when my evening cups of coffee had been my only sin against the distilled-water-only phase of the fast.

And this was a mild irritation, which had the back of my neck tingling, the underlying muscles tense, making me want to "crack" my upper spine, and the skin, which had been red with a rash which had seemed to take forever to fade over the course of the juice fast, starting to feel dry and itchy with a prickly sensation, as if the rash was threatening to come back.

This was also triggering my urge to stop at Sydneys and buy some strong liquor; as I was rationalizing that it would be like medicine, which would subdue the reaction.

As I walked Decatur Street, in the direction of Sydneys, I felt a physical weakness set in, thinking that it was about time. The whole weak, I had been almost hyper, with my mind racing so much that I couldn't sleep; though I did get an awful lot of reading and writing and music done.

I was walking very slowly, feeling no sense of urgency. I didn't have to desperately produce drinking money, and I still had about 14 bucks left, after buying the harmonica, the bananas and the coffee. I didn't have to make a cent. I could get on the cable car and go back to the apartment, where I could break in the brand new harmonica in the key of C, and do other productive things, like resuming my perusal of the history of America (I'm up to the year 1635, and New Amsterdam has just been colonized).

The weakness had the effect of taking away a lot of my confidence in being able to make any money at the Lilly spot; but I reminded myself of Jim Brown, the legendary football player, of whom it was said would get up off the ground and hobble slowly back to the huddle like an old man in need of a cane, as if he was totally spent, but then, as soon as the ball was snapped on the next play, would explode through the line, like a fireball,* faking guys out and dragging others down the field.
*(I just thought "fireball" sounded like the right word).

I had some faith in my ability to rise to the occasion, once I was set up and began to play; and, especially after the first person threw me a tip. I was telling myself that I was saving my energy; doing a "Jim Brown."

I was also thinking that the time to start eating again was approaching.
My sense of smell has been heightened, as it always is after a fast.

I could have been blindfolded, as I hobbled down Decatur Street like an old man in need of a cane, and been able to tell when I was passing the hamburger place, the crawfish place, or the Italian restaurant. The smell of alcohol hung like a cloud of vapor everywhere.

I made the right hand turn onto St. Phillips Street, towards the Lilly spot instead of going straight to Sydneys beer, wine, liquor and cigar emporium, when I got to that intersection, telling myself that, should I drink, it would take me 8 days just to get back to the point of sobriety that I had reached.

And knowing full well that the 8 day stretch wouldn't commence the very next day because; why not drink again the next day, since you already blew it...
Well, You get the idea...

I got to the Lilly spot, and saw a fair amount of tourists about.

I set up the spotlights and the tiposaurus, and a couple of plastic sharks encircling the tip jar for good measure, and began to play.

Having to break the harmonica in became a blessed convenience, as I felt that I had to gradually break myself in, also.

Having no real sense of urgency, I began to play "Imagine," by John Lennon, and to softly play along with the harp, making sure I used all 10 of the holes, both blowing and drawing -something which became an educational experience, as I had to think of where, in the song, I could fit each note in order to excersize it and break it in.

As I began to gradually increase volume and intensity, it occured to me that I was singing and playing better than ever, by dint of starting at such a relaxed pace.

I ran through some of my key of C harp songs; able to decide upon which song to do next while still playing the previous one.

I was playing "Wild World," by Cat Stevens when, I was mildly surprised to see two women sitting on Lillys stoop to my right. They had kind of sneaked up on me.

I poured my increasing energy into sounding as well as I could, and felt the sensation of floating out of my body, as if I were up in the loft of the house across the street, laying back and listening to (and enjoying) myself.

The ladies sat there through 4 songs (which I think is a personal record for me being able to hold tourists attention) and I could hear them singing along, as I went from the Cat Stevens song, into "Golden Slumbers," by The Beatles, and then into "Tears In Heaven," by Eric Clapton. They applauded after each one.

When I went into a harmonica solo on "Wild World," it put in my mind the image of a great bird, taking flight in the breath-taking splendor of slow motion. And it was like spreading the harmonicas wings, as, I felt that it was sufficiently broken in and laid into it for the first time in its life, bending its notes.

When I finished the Clapton song, I looked over and acknowledged them for the first time.

"What are you going to do next?" asked the one on the far side.

"A Space Oddity" by David Bowie was what I did next, chosen a bit hastily, without having opened myself to the muse over what song would naturally follow "Tears In Heaven."

I was trying to preserve the detached, out of body state of mind, but was drawn back a bit by wondering if I had chosen the right song -one which they knew, and liked. I had one ear open, monitoring for the sound of them singing along; and was glad to hear one of their voices.

While I had been playing, three passers-by dropped a dollar each to the tiposaurus. As I thanked them, between words to the songs, I couldn't help thinking "How skeezy is that?" -like I was dropping the hint to the ladies that I appreciated tips.

Towards the end of the Bowie song, my voice began to crack a bit. A fog was rolling in.

The ladies got up and the nearest one placed a 20 dollar bill next to the tiposaurus.

"Thank you. I think I got a frog in my throat," I said.

"I heard that," said one of them.

"Maybe a fog in my throat," I added as they walked off.

And, so I was left to ponder whether or not the cigarettes that I continue to smoke had dried my throat out, given my suseptabilty to that condition since my body had ridden itself of a lot of mucous the past week, giving the smoke nothing to stick to, except my vocal chords.

Then, at 11:36, after having played an hour and 10 minutes and made 23 dollars, a string broke on my guitar.

I realized that my sins of excess over my 26 day drinking binge were visiting upon me, as I had no backup set. Of course I had no backup set -I'm lucky that I hadn't fallen asleep with the stove on and burned the apartment down.

It's going to take a bit of catching up, but I had made string money.

For good measure, I played a couple more songs, minus the string, trying to be creative with it and made one more dollar off someone who seemed to be enjoying the 5 stringed instrument.
Then, there was nothing to do but to adopt the attitude of "a bit at a time," resolving to reappear the next (to)day with new strings, and a new harmonica, and 9 days sober.

Washboard Skeezing 101

The blessing of being sober was highlighted when, as I was packing up, a drunken skeezer was yelling at a tourist. It was the black guy, who plays a washboard and walks up and down the street working the tourists by playing the washboard for them, whether they like it or not.

He comes by and plays over me, but never for more than a minute or two before moving along; so we get along alright. He also doesn't skeeze me for anything.

"Your a predjudiced motherf***er!" he was yelling at the tourist.

"I know your kind. You're a redneck, ignorant, predjudiced motherf***er!" he continued, following behind the guy, haranguing him.

They passed by and came upon a group of 4 middle aged white men, who had been standing about 50 feet down from me.

As I packed up, I was able to hear the washboard guy saying to one of them: "No, he don't want to fight me. It's you who wants him to fight me. I'm just calling him out because he's a prejudiced redneck motherf***er. In New Orleans, we shoot from the hip!"

I couldn't resist putting in my own 2 cents with: "I think that's the wrong expression!" which drew a snicker or two from the tourists.

There's the little bugger...

The prejudiced tourist walked on, and then I saw one of the 4 with his arm around the washboard player, trying to calm him down.

"Why don't you relax, and play us something?" I heard him say.

I then heard the washboard for a bit, then heard one of the 4 tourists telling one of the others to "Give the guy a dollar," then adding a good natured: "No, you're paying, 'cause I bought the drinks!"
Then there was some mumbling from the washboard player, who had taken his cap off and was holding it out to them.

Then, one of the tourist said: "Well, now you're begging!"

"I'm not begging; I'm CHARGING," said the washboard player. "I get 20 dollars a song out here!"

I had mixed feelings, admiring the guy's tenacity, but with part of me thinking: "Stop skeezing, they gave you a dollar...Is that why you need to get tanked up on whiskey every night; so you can get your aggressive panhandling game on?"

They handed him another bill, and walked away.

As I was putting the last of my stuff in my pack, he came by, muttering in a disgusted tone, something in which I only made out the words: "...two dollars..."

I left for the apartment thinking to myself: "I make 20 dollars a song, out here," and had to smile.

The Circle Of Life

In the morning, I remembered being told that there was a food bank at the church right up the street from us, every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 AM.

I remebered this at 9:19 AM when I checked the time on my new cellphone.

I then checked my gig bag for the charger for that same phone, only to discover that it had fallen out of the hole in my gig bag which was created by the rats under the dock one night when I drunkenly forgot about a bag of Ritz crackers which were in it.

I had put it in the bag, erroneously thinking that it wouldn't fall through the hole. That would be one more expense which I would have to take care of, before other expenses as, the cellphone also became the alarm clock that I wanted so badly, and would pay for other things, by getting me to work on time.

My Favorite Meal

At 10:30 AM, I was at the church a block away and was pleasantly surprised to be handed a bag containing a box of pasta, in my preference of "whole wheat," along with a jar of sauce, made with olive oil and not soy (which I can't have) and a can of corn and a can of green beans.

I assessed that it was 10 dollars worth of food, as the pasta sauce was the expensive kind, hence the olive oil as an ingredient.

And, it was handed to me by none other than the girl who drives my favorite mule (the white one with the brown tail).

"Do you play guitar in the Quarter?" she asked.


"I've seen you before. I'm one of the tour guides," she said.

"I know, you come by my spot all the time," I said, and stopped short of adding "I really like your ass; it's my favorite one of all..." We were in a church, after all.

An Encounter Of The Howard Kind

I dropped the food off at the apartment; then decided to postpone my quitting of smoking for one more day, and headed for the store, with 37 dollars on me.

I ran into Howard in the hallway, and we talked a bit about apartment life in general, and sports.
He seems to be doing alright, except for the fact that he thought that the University of Kentucky mens basketball team had been defeated and knocked out of the NCAA tournament "Can you believe that? They were picked to win the whole thing, and they lost to Hampton!"

I had to set him straight by telling him that it was the Kentucky womens team which had lost and been knocked out of their tournament.

This was a bit disconcerting to me, because Howard had always been very sharp, when it came to sports. He could tell you which college a particular pro football player came out of, for example.
I was hoping that it was just a case of him having glanced at the sports page hastily and missed the little details, like the fact that the Kentucky "mens basketball team" was led in scoring by a player named "Amy" and another one named "Lakeisha" added 19 points.

He complained that it is hard for him to get around on his bike anymore, and he is thinking of getting a motorized one. He is 68 years old. But he lives off of McDonalds food, supplemented with Cheetoz and Pepsi...

I went and spent 6 bucks on a pack of American Spirit cigarettes, and then thought about walking to the Goodwill Store to see if a certain home stereo was still there for $16.99 (how they determine their prices is a mystery to me).

It is a Philips brand and has nice sounding speakers. There are some rust colored stains on the speaker grills, which are grey, as if water from a rusty pipe dripped on them; and that is probably why it hasn't been sold. A lot of people judge things by appearance. How many nice, shiny cars have you seen which blow smoke when they run?

I need to get new guitar strings, which will set me back 6 bucks, or the cost of a pack of cigarettes (is the universe trying to tell me something?).

I decided that, replacing the phone charger should come first, and, as I did so, I glanced across the street to see a Boost Mobile cellphone related store.

I went in and told the Latina looking girl behind the counter that I had lost my charger. "Do I need to go to a store that sells this kind of phone?"

"No, we sell chargers that will fit that, but they're 20 dollars..." she said.

"Oh," I replied, rather dejectedly and asked her if she thought that I could find one somewhere cheaper, thinking that she might have been an hourly employee there with no interest in the business.
I guess she is a commissioned employee, because she returned: "Why, how much do you have?"
I had visions of walking into The Unique Grocery store and finding one hanging on a hook somewhere at $6.99.

"Well, I was hoping I could get one for, like, 10 bucks."

She pulled a charger off one of her own hooks and said: "It would be $10.90."

That song by Wilson Phillips was playing in there, called: "Hold On," I think, and, as I handed over my hard earned 10 dollars, it occurred to me that I had just gotten 10 dollars worth of free food from the church, and now I was paying 10 dollars back, in a sense.

I handed her the money; she made sure the charger fit my phone; and then I thanked her and had an impulse to tell her: "God bless you," on my way out; but I never say that to people, and when other people say it, it just makes them sound like "church people" to me; who probably say it so much, it has become automatic.

I felt silly; it was such a trivial thing; but Jesus' words came to me: "If you are ashamed of me; I will be ashamed of you in front of my father." 

Still, I was hesitating, when Wilson Phillips sang the line: "...Won't you tell me now"
"God bless you," I said; then added: "Y su familia!"

Well, that's all for now, folks...

I headed towards the door, lamenting that I wouldn't be able to get the (Philips) home stereo and still be able to buy guitar strings; but then thought that I probably wouldn't have time to listen to it that day, anyways, and that I could be patient and wait one more day.

I thought this as I was walking out and just as Belinda Carlisle was singing: "Just hold on for one more day."


alex carter said...

You should commit fully and change your name to Sony Panasonic.

Daniel McKenna said...

No, I'm changing my name to Willie "cornbread with rhubarb jam" Hawkins Jr. and working on just slide guitar.

Alex said...

Fine then I might use Sony Panasonic myself, its got a nice ring to it! Although a name I really like is lex Brodie, the actual name of a famous tire dealer back home. That name just makes you think of hot rods and screeching tires.

Alex said...

OK the real reason I'm here is to suggest slide, because you break a string, so what, just tune to a nice chord and slide away, plus it would get you around the problem of how fast harps die. The public loves slide.

Daniel McKenna said...

I tried playing slide and harmonica together last night; that was a challenge; Duane Alman was trying to play harmonica riffs when he played slide; I read somewhere...

Alex said...

There's a whole catalog of little riffs and turns and ornaments that are used in blues no matter what instrument. Duane allmen just grew up hearing that stuff so it was natural for him.

Haha you probably grew up singing nasal songs about eating potatoey clam chowdah or something.

Daniel McKenna said...

I grew up listening to Beatles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Focus (google them, they existed) The Spinners, J. Geils Band, David
Bowie, Led Zepplin, Paul Simon, Jimmy Cliff, Cher, Edgar Winter Group...but that was age 10; at age 8-9, it was Elton John (the top forty from '72 and '73 has left an indelible imprint upon me; I should make a sign that say's "Music from 1973 only" and make that my shtick
I won the albums in a radio station contest (I say that to explain Cher)
One of my favorite songs, off Edgar Winter is "When It Comes," and that sound I fell in love with was produced with a slide, btw

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