Tuesday, May 19, 2015

8 Days, I Haven't 8

It's 3:30 PM on this Tuesday. I ran to the church up the street which has a food bank, getting there right around noon, in time to get a bag of spaghetti and two cans of vegetables, and a can of chicken breast with no soy oil in it; after having mentioned my aversion to soy, in reference to the spaghetti sauce which they now distribute, which is no longer the olive oil based variety. The nice lady substituted the chicken for the 4 cheese sauce with soy oil (which I would have just given to Howard, had I gotten saddled with). That food all just goes into my cabinet, to be stored until such a time that I start to eat again.

You find the coolest hats on the ground in NOLA!

I am still feeling bad about having Lilly run the other busker out of the neighborhood Saturday night.

I ran into Brian Hudson last night on the corner of Royal and St. Peters streets on my way to the Lilly Pad.

He was just packing up.

I told him about the incident with the other busker, and his take on the matter was that we buskers need to defend our spots and act like we own them; and we compared notes on the phenomenon whereby we are sensitive artists/assholes; here in New Orleans; out of necessity. "Playing on the street here hardens you," he said.

He told me of another episode of Dorise haven gotten in the face of Jonah the Kora player; who had gotten to Tanya and her spot early and set up and played there; and then turned the spot over to him, when he showed up just before Dorise did.

"We're here; you can't give the spot to Brian," said Dorise. But Jonah already had.

Brian stood his ground and set up and played, but, like myself on Saturday night, was unable to concentrate and get into his "zone."

On Saturday night, as I rounded the corner onto Bourbon Street I saw, sitting between my spot and Lafitt's, a guy with a guitar which was still in its case.

I set up my stuff and hadn't played a minute when I heard the sound of the guitar, which was loud enough that I thought it was a resonator. I also heard the tambourine which he had affixed to one of his feet and was tapping along with the music.

My first thought was that I wished that I had followed an intuition that I had had earlier that night about showing up early that night. I had planned upon being there at 7:30 PM. It was closer to 11PM when I arrived.

I packed up and started thinking about another spot, and that I would just arrive early the next night.

If he came later and tried to set up over me, then there would be a problem and I would ring Lilly's doorbell.

I walked over to him; guitar on my shoulder and said, kind of in the tone of an apology: "I saw you with your guitar; but I didn't know you were playing."

He introduced himself as Travis and said that he was new in town.

He was accompanied by a friend, who knew my name, and who has been here a while.

If he has been here a while and knew my name, then he probably knew that I played that spot every night.

He might have suggested it to his friend, who was new in town if they had been passing by, on their way to Frenchmen Street, and saw that there was no other busker there.

Frenchmen Street is a hotbed of busking activity. Too noisy for myself, but a hotbed of busking activity. On that street one must compete with brass bands and their ilk.

Some buskers don't mind playing for just those within earshot, say 8 feet or closer to them, and just shouting out punk rock and other loud music.

They rely upon their visual "appeal" and whatever they have going for them in that area (tattoos, dogs, hobo clothing, guitars painted exotically) and their "outgoing" personalities. If the tourists that they accost don't want to hear a song then, they might offer to stand on their head in order to entertain them, or to guzzle a beer in less than 3 seconds, type of thing...

It could be that the busker and his new friend were on their way to that scene; and spotting Lafitt's Blacksmith Shop Tavern and saw the potential to make money; and the friend who knew my name might have said something like: "There's a dude that usually plays over there, but I don't see him."

I am conjecturing.

We made small talk about where we were each from (myself, Massachusetts; him, "all over") and what kind of music we each played.

He actually played excellent busking music; loud and familiar stuff, and seemed to know a bunch of songs; able to accommodate a wide variety of requests. The tambourine on his foot was a nice touch too, and reminded me that I used to strap my shaker to one of my feet, but had fallen out of the habit.

He asked for a sip off of the bottle of water that I was holding. I cautioned him that it was water, and not vodka, which was fine with him.

"If if was vodka, I'd be asking for a sip," said the friend. "I could tell by the bottle that it wasn't."

I could tell by that statement that his friend was a skeezer.

To make a long story short, I ceded the spot to him; blaming myself for not having followed my impulse to arrive early that night; and I moved down to in front of the lawyers condo -the same lawyer that had asked me to stop playing there a couple years ago because I kept going past the 10 PM quitting time that he had also asked me to observe.

I figure that that was 2 years ago; and that it was only one night; and it was Saturday night and the street was swarming with people.

I played for a while and made a couple dollars, when Lilly appeared with one of her daughters, on the way to get the other one.

She admonished me not to play there.

Apparently, she had come to some sort of compromise with the guy in allowing me to just move down a bit away from him but continue to play in the area.

"Don't play here, Daniel. It's going to cause problems with that guy..."

"Well, I can't play up there because I'll clash with those guys that are set up by Lafitt's."

"Just go up there and play over them!"

"That's not going to be good for either one of us; the people are just going to hear two songs playing at the same time."

"I'll deal with him," said Lilly, and then went off to get her other daughter; to return in a half hour.

That was the time; in hindsight; that I might have considered just going to one of my old haunts like Decatur Street and letting the guy play there and resolving to get there earlier the next night.

I was kind of hoping that the Lafitt's people would come out and tell them that they were too close to their entrance, or that the piano player would start to play and drown them out. For some reason the piano player was not there that night.

If they then moved down to my exact spot it would be a simple matter for Lilly to just tell them to get off her property.

I went back to the guy, whose name was Travis, to give him a heads up that Lilly had told me to move back to my spot.

"Who's Lilly?" asked Travis.

I noticed that he was scooping handfuls of money out of his case.

"She's the lady that owns a lot of this property, who's been letting me play over there for the past couple years."

"Well, she doesn't own the sidewalk. Look, I'm here to work! I'm not leaving!," he said, stuffing money in his pocket and leaving just a few bills in his case.

I could understand how he felt; perhaps as if he had discovered a gold mine, and now felt threatened.

I was surprised that the piano player had still not started to play inside the bar; nor had the management come out and told him to move away.

I had a real decision to make, as I sat on Lilly's stoop, knowing that she would be back soon with both of her daughters; and had told me that she would deal with the guy.

I even thought about going into the bar to see if any of the staff asked me how I was doing, whereupon I would reply that I was having a bad night because there was some guy playing right by my regular spot, thinking that the response might be something like: "Oh yeah, I didn't know that. No, we don't allow anyone to block our entrance. I'll go run him off."

Then, I thought to myself: Would it be the end of the world if I went and played at a different location? I'm not spending money on booze and cigarettes and weed, so, a few dollars less at the end of the night, in the worst case wouldn't be a tragedy.

But then, would the guy make a habit of showing up every night there?

The Lilly spot is great because Lafitt's is the last stop for a lot of revelers, who have walked the length of Bourbon Street and it is one of the few places where a busker can make money at 3 in the morning.

Plus, the tourists, upon leaving there, know how much money they have left over from the night before they head back to the hotel; and they can surmise that the guy busking there is the very last one (of two dozen) that they are going to see. Plus, they have reached the apex of drunkeness for the night, at that point.

All this adds up to the potential for great late night tips.

Travers would probably make a killing. With the new laws prohibiting smoking inside of bars here in New Orleans, people have to step outside.
And there he would be, jamming on loud familiar songs a few feet away from them.
It was a great business model for the guy, and I admired his busking skills and his business acumen; and I worried that it would become an addiction to him...what if he became friendly with the bartenders and they told him that he could play there every night?

What kind of pull does Lilly have with the bar people?

I thought about all this, as I sat on the stoop, not playing, but potentially waiting for Lilly to return and "deal with him."

I wondered if that was right, on my part. I put myself in the shoes of the guy...of course, I wouldn't want to be run off of a spot, especially if I was making good money.
It is a residential neighborhood and busking is technically not even allowed. I am able to by the intervention of Lilly and the grace of Barnaby and Charlie and Bruce and Linda and the guy who lives directly across from me and Alan, who lives in the same building and who trained one of the spotlights on his condo on my spot once "I figured you could use a little light"...

There is a curfew on Bourbon Street against performers playing past 8 PM, but the cops just pass by me; having been spoken to by Lilly.
I don't know what she said to them, but they just go on through, allowing me to exceed the curfew by 8 hours if I have the energy.
I thought that, if I took the night off from the spot then the new guy might just get ticketed ($100) by the cops when they came through; and that might dampen his enthusiasm for making a habit of playing there.
All of this became a mute point.

Lilly came back with her two daughters in tow. I could tell that she was in her own "zone."
Her youngest one, Angelique, remained by me and she and and Chantilly walked over to where the guy was.
I couldn't hear what was being said, despite the fact that I could tell that the voices were rising.
It crossed my mind that the guy, who is not much bigger than me, might become violent with Lilly; though there was a good sized crowd of people hanging around their immediate area.
Angelique said to me: "You need to defend your spot, instead of letting my mother do it for you."
I told her that I had spoken with the guy, and tried to warn him that he was technically not supposed to be there, etc. and that was all I could do, outside of attacking him physically.
With that thought came an increase in the volume of the voices, and then Travers stood up and yelled: "You can have your f***ing spot!" and began to pack up.

I walked over to try to mollify him somewhat; but what I got was his friend, who knew my name telling me; "You're an asshole," and then refusing to listen to anything I said, and telling me to never speak to him again as long as we both shall live.
This was echoed by a second guy, who had joined him, who was drinking off of a Four Loco® (very strong -makes people crazy; hence the "loco").
I went back to Angelique and gave her my opinion: "They're mad because they were planning to drink off the money the guy made."
Travers and his friend(s) left.
"Go ahead and play," said Lilly as she let herself through the gate behind me.

I set up and started to play; wondering how I was going to shake off the drama and make music.

The guy from the condo across from me; the one who had trained his spotlight on my spot, opened his door and stood in the doorway watching me for about a half hour. Lilly must have called him.

It was hard for me to concentrate nor get in my "zone," just as it had been for Brian (to bring this full circle).

I feared some kind of retribution, like one of Travers drunken friends or friends of friends coming by and trying to smash my guitar.

I also felt kind of low; as if I had unfairly wielded the power of Lilly against an innocent busker. I have certainly been on the "other end of the stick" in this world, where it isn't what you know, but who you know.

But, I may have saved the guy from a hundred dollar ticket, too.


I was up by 11:50 after having slept about 6 hours; after having played the Lilly Pad from about 10:15 until 12:30 and made about 11 dollars and change.

I was playing "Monday, Monday," by The Mamas And The Papas; a song which I play on Mondays, and which has not gotten me many tips at all.
I had no harmonica, as my last one had died, for all practical purposes..
I am on the 9th day of the fast and cleanse, but am still smoking just a few cigarettes per day; buying them individually off of people for quarters.
I drank a bottle of Naked® kale blazer® (Kale Flavored 8 Juice Blend) as I sat at the stop, waiting for the 1:25 AM streetcar and reading the newspaper.
It actually caused me to have perceptible dreams; the way that going to sleep on a full stomach used to do; back when I ate. It has been 9 days without having anything to bite into; and I have recovered about 75% from everything that ailed me before going on the cleanse.


Alex said...

I love how the type on your page is like you're shouting hysterically then whispering.

You should work on some appearance based schtick like the Frenchmen buskers do because god knows your music is bad enough!

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