Saturday, August 22, 2015

Certain Skeezers

39 Dollar Friday
Friday, I woke up early in the morning, after 3 days of detoxifying when I didn't go out to play.

I was staying away from the Quarter until such a time that I felt that I could resist the temptation to turn my first tip money into alcohol.

I walked there, not even having the money for the trolley.

The strings on my guitar were rusty and I knew that they could break at any second; and so I set my expectations low; I was content to just make a dollar and 25 cents in order to ride the trolley home.

I walked Royal Street and was greeted by the sight of a very thin crowd; and heard the complaints of a few musicians about how dead it was.

I got to the Lilly Pad and set up and was pleased to find that I was in a good mood.
I looked at my phone before starting to play. It was 7:59 PM.

I planned upon measuring the exact time that I played, in order to figure out how much I made per hour; and starting at exactly 8 PM simplified the process.

Within minutes I had my trolley fare, breathed a sigh of relief, and then actually began to enjoy myself.

I played with the attitude of trying to entertain whomever was walking past, rather than trying to get them to throw a tip.

It seemed to work.

At one point, a couple of young ladies stopped and offered me a hard cider.

After I explained that I was working on my 4th day sober; they congratulated me; one of them saying that she would tip me but she didn't have any cash.

We talked a bit about juice fasting, which she was familiar with, and praised as being "good for you."

They asked me if I was going to be back tomorrow (tonight) and after I told them I would, she said:

"We're going to be back tomorrow. Be sober, and we'll give you something."

Another group of 3 came and sat on Lilly's stoop and listened.

After I played a wailing harmonica solo over "Maryjane's Last Dance," by Tom Petty, one of them handed me ten bucks, and another stuffed what looked like 4 or 5 ones into my jar.
Instantly, a traveling kid type materialized in front of me. He was wearing sandals and had the scruffy look of someone who didn't have a job; unless his job entailed him working out of sight of the public, like in a coal mine.

"You play harmonica?"

The harmonica was around my neck.

The timing of his having stopped right as I was being tipped about 15 bucks had me on high alert for a skeeze.

He told me that he played guitar, but that he had broken a string on his, which wasn't on his person.

He wanted to play my guitar, "and you play harmonica."

I told him that my strings were on the verge of snapping.

He understood that, and didn't persist, but went on to explain that he had only planned upon being in town for a couple days, but that his ride had abandoned him, and he was waiting to hop a train out to Montgomery, Alabama.

He was flat broke (hint, hint).

He had really only been hoping to make some beer money before his string broke (hint, hint).

"It looks like you're doing pretty good," he said, looking at my tip jar (hint, hint).
He asked me if I had an extra D string.

That was actually the only one that I didn't have a backup for, and I told him so.
I told him that I had played many times with various strings broken, and had even composed music for guitar minus one or more strings (hint, hint).

He had never thought of trying that, he said.

I couldn't get over the timing of his having shown up just as I was being handed money; and couldn't shake the feeling that everything he was saying to me was a veiled skeeze, and so I told him that I needed to get back to work (hint, hint) and, to his credit, he walked off after pleasantly wishing me a good night.

Then, I actually started to feel bad, as if I could have given him a dollar and not missed it. I had balked at that because he had said that he wanted to buy beer. Being on my 4th day sober; I might have had some residual crankiness and took it out on him in that regard. If I can't drink; nobody can!
He wasn't asking me for anything except to jam along with me, in which case he would have earned half of any tips that we made; and he was just informing me about the dire situation that he was in; offering me the chance to show compassion, but not skeezing me outright.
I kept playing after he walked off; but I felt like a bit of my joy had evaporated, replaced by guilt. I mean, I had been doing "pretty good."

I played on, in that state of mind but didn't make any more money the next 15 minutes or so, before I broke a string.

The D string; the only one I hadn't a replacement for, and the one that he had broken on his guitar.

Over the course of the past few weeks when I had been drinking, I had plenty of money which could have gone towards putting a backup set of strings in my pack; but my sins had revisited me.

I think it was karma; I should have given him a buck or two.

After he started to walk off without resenting me for not having taken his hints, and had wished me luck, I should have called him back over and said: "Here's a couple bucks; good luck catching your train."

It was 10:42 PM when the string snapped. I had $39.50 in my jar.
That was $14.63 per hour, just about my average.

I resolved to get to sleep early, get up early and get a new set of strings; and I have done so.

I saw Leslie Thompson sitting at a trolley stop near my apartment. The things you see on your 5th day sober....

I will watch a little football with Howard, and then use my all day trolley pass to be at the Lilly Pad in time for the anticipated visit from the two young ladies that will give me something if I am sober.

It was hell staying sober for my trip to the music store; I hate shopping sober; and I had my strongest temptation of the 4 days as I walked past a certain store that has very good inexpensive wine, with 36 dollars in my pocket.

The two young ladies were the crutch I needed.

Even though, I could have drank, and then chewed on a mint and then skeezed them...
I wouldn't do that, though; and I think I am going to relax my rules and maybe give to certain skeezers in certain situations, like the one detailed above....

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