Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Blues Bender

35 Dollar Thursday

Overcoming bad strings and a harmonica which is finally shot 13 months after I had gotten it; I eeked out a 35 dollar night. By the time I stopped playing, I had reached the mark of 4 days without a drop of alcohol.

24 Dollar Friday

I woke up at about nightfall, after having slept most of the day, after having gotten to sleep after sunup, after having stayed up all night, drinking coffee, soaking in the tub, working a bit on a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, and reading almost the entire newspaper (a 2 hour project) and some.

Having blown out my harmonica the previous night, though still making 35 bucks in 2 and a half hours with it; I was determined to get a new one.

When I first woke up to the alarm that was set to give me time to make it to Music Exchange and get a new Stagg harp for 25 bucks; I felt very tired and with slight flu-like symptoms.

I knew this was due to the fact that I was on my 5th day of the juice fast, which had turned into a water fast. My body was expelling toxins.

I decided that I could sleep longer and still make it to Louisianna Music Factory, where I would buy their next step up from the "New Orleans Special" harp that they sell for about 10 bucks; the last one of which I bought having come out of the box with a note that didn't sound; and myself having tossed the receipt out, figuring that, once I put my mouth all over the thing, I wouldn't be able to return it.

Leaving the apartment an hour before they closed, I got there with about 8 minutes to spare and bought a Hohner "Blues Bender" harp, which was marked $18.99, but which rang up at $15.19. I calculated this to be 20% off.

The guy at that particular store (who conspicuously ignores me whenever I go in there) conspicuously ignored me -it was one of those deals where I felt like clearing my throat loudly to divert his gaze from straight ahead, directed at apparently nothing in particular, to myself.

After getting him to open the glass case where the harmonicas are, I asked him how much the Blues Benders were. He said nothing, but rather, flipped one of the boxes over and showed me the $18.99 sticker on the bottom.

In hindsight, I think he was trying to keep mum about some 20% off sale that they may have been having, for some reason.

He may have been hoping that I didn't have that much money on me; and would have to leave empty handed and disappointed; and he might derive even more satisfaction from that than he does from conspicuously ignoring me.

When I had told him that $18.99 would be fine for the harp, and that I also needed strings, he offered no help there, either. I had to lean over the counter and squint at the packs of them on the wall in order to pick them out of the mandolin, banjo, ukelelee, and electric guitar strings, and then squint even harder to see the prices.

One has to wonder why someone like him would develope such an apparent disdain for someone like me. I think I could stand over by the harmonica case for at least a half hour before he, or the young lady that works behind the counter would come over to ask me if I needed assistance, even though I have needed assistance every time I have gone in there, because I only go in there to buy harmonicas, which they keep locked in the glass case.

I had only been buying the 10 dollar ones, though, and therein may lie the rub. They may consider me a nuisance and a waste of their time, since the bulk of their business is in vynyl records, the cheapest of which, these days, is almost 30 bucks, while their business with me has sometimes involved a single 39 cent guitar pick, with no harmonica to go with it.

Their ignoring me is not in line with them thinking that I am a shoplifter; if that were the case, wouldn't they follow me around, repeatedly asking: "Can I help you?"?

Maybe I am not seeing the forest for the trees, and it is just another instance of a merchant that has seen one too many backpack wearing, guitar toting skeezers and has developed a prejudice against them.

This hypothesis is advanced through the fact that, when they had been located on Decatur Street, across from the House Of Blues, they had been nice to me.

Now they are located katty corner to Checkpoint Charlie's, which is traveling kid/skeezer Central.

Since I was on my 5th day of juice/water fasting, I didn't have the energy to become too irritated over their attitude; neither could I muster up a polite: "Um, it seems that you all are a bit distant towards me when I come in here; have I done something to offend you?" Maybe such an unskeezerly demeanor would give them pause to take a second look at me; and they might come right out and say: "We've been having problems with guys coming in here wearing backpacks and guitars, and buying only a 39 cent pick. Some of them stink, and their dogs crap on the sidewalk out front."

"Well, but not I..."

I went to the Lilly Pad, put on the brand new strings and broke in the brand new harp, and surprised myself by how much better I sounded than the night before.

I made 10 dollars less than I had the night before, but that is probably because I had gotten a 20 dollar tip the night before -blown harp and old strings and all...

Tonight, there were a couple of 5 dollar bills in the jar. These I see as "You sound good" tips, whereas the 20's, I suspect, are more of the "You look like you are homeless, let me help you out" variety, excepting when they are in Tanya and Dorise's baskets. In that setting, they are "You sound great" tips, as they don't really look like they are homeless; their $10,000 worth of equipment giving them away on that head.

I did inch 25 bucks closer to their status, though, with tonights purchases; and after I cough up another 7 bucks on a battery for my tuner, and another 15 for a capo, and then maybe another 9 for a slide, my enterprise will have been restored to where it was, prior to the last drinking binge, which ran about 40 days and 40 nights.

Mardi Gras is starting; and going through the whole festival sober would be a real feather in my cap. I would have about 30 days sober by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around, and who knows how much cash in my jar at home.

I think I will eventually enter the Royal Street market, with a microphone and an amplifier. The money is not so much the issue; it comes slowly and steadily there -unless you are Tanya and Dorise; then it comes fast and steadily- and it isn't likely that anyone will sit down besides you there, wanting to hear your life story and then leaving a 100 dollar plus tip, as at the Lilly Pad; but it is more of an ego thing.

I feel that any musician who never comes here will go to his grave wondering if he ever could have "made it" here (doesn't every aspiring actor move out to Hollywood; and every aspiring country musician to Nashville?). If a musician "makes it" in New York City, then he will probably feel like he can make it anywhere, as the Sinatra song suggests; but I think that as many have been "chewed up and spit out" by this place with the ironic nickname of "The Big Easy," as have by The Big Apple.

And, this drama plays out on Royal Street where success (Tanya and Dorise, Doreen's Jazz Band, Dave and Roselyn, Christina Friis, Brian Hudson and any half assed "Old Timey" band with washtub bass et. al) walks hand in hand with failure (the guys that can be heard to say "...19 bucks, not bad for a Wednesday ...I think I will go back to the abandoned building squat now).

Even though I have survived in New Orleans for more than 4 years, solely on music, I was blessed that night that I sat down across the street from the condo of Barnaby Chancellor, who happens to be a Deadhead; and then further blessed the night I was accompanied there by my then girlfriend Sue (the Colombian Lady) who was drawn into a conversation with Lilly (who is Portuguese) who then began to support me, perhaps as an indirect way to support Sue; and then backhandedly blessed when one of Lilly's daughters looked out her bedroom window to see travelling kids putting needles in their arms at the spot where I now play; prompting a small committee of residents there to echo Lilly's sentiment that it would be preferable to see me there every night, rather than whatever the cat might have drug there. I was a known quantity, especially on the decibel scale.

Lilly even rearranged it so that the heaviest sleeper in her family took the room behind me...

But, I still want to throw my hat into the ring (or at least put my iron in the fire) to see how I stack up against those heavyweights (excuse the pun, Doreen) on Royal Street. out of the same curiosity.

I have an idea, based upon what Johnny B. has been able to do, playing a very similar set list with a very similar skill set. He breaks 100 bucks almost every night (but has to play from 5 to 8 hours to do so).

I think I can outdo him if I play the same set list, but add some original material tailored to the typical audience there, plus improvise things based upon current affairs, or, of course; find a little Chinese girl to play violin alongside me....

I played from about 10 PM until just after midnight, making about 20 bucks, then took a break and a walk to Checkpoint Charlie's where "nervous Duane," a very respected local musician and his friends showed me a lot of respect for my 5 days of sobriety, and passed me a bowl of some killer weed.

This inspired me to go back to the Lilly Pad, where I played from 1:15 until 2:30 AM, adding only 5 more dollars to my total for the night, despite having a small group come along and listen to and sing along with 2 Neil Young songs that they requested. The piano player inside Lafitts say's: "Requests are a minimum of 5 dollars," when people request songs; but I'm not sure that is my style...

I walked past Louise the tarot card reader who, for the second night in a row, "happened to" have her back turned and "didn't see me" go by.

Johnny B. is playing inside a club and invited me to duet with him, saying that it would pay us 50 bucks each per 3 hour shift and that, based upon our previous collaborations, we wouldn't need to rehearse much. I can follow along with most of his "3 chord" songs either because I already do them myself, or because they are 3 chord songs...

The advantage would be that, when it is 40 degrees and raining outside, the 50 bucks (plus tips) would still be there inside the warm club. The disadvantage would be that it would be "The Johnny B. Show," all over again, and he would be doing things like snapping his fingers at me and saying: "Give me a solo, Daniel!" so there would be no room for doubt that he was the big star (who once played with John Mayer) and I was just a sideman.

"You've gotta start somewhere," one might say; and he would probably let me feature some of my originals; but not many, as I can't see him being able to follow along with them, because they are not 3 chord songs, nor could I see him letting me steal the show, or even borrow it for a while...

The proposal came after I ran into him at the Family Dollar down the street, where I was buying 2 gallons of water on the 3rd day of my fast and cleanse.

Recap Of Johnny B. Story
We hadn't spoken since the night that Barnaby's girlfriend, Charlie ran him off of the Lilly Pad, where we were playing for the second night, after having split 160 bucks the night before after about 3 hours of playing.

Emboldened by that success, he had become determined to have an equally productive next night, only he thought that the formula for that involved him inching the volume of his amp up from where it had been (when we made the 160 bucks).

Johnny had become angry and toted his stuff off in a huff; stopping just short of cussing Charlie out.

Charlie said that she thought that he should have at least respected the fact that it is a residential block and that they just don't want amplifiers. "Plus, I couldn't even hear you," she added to me. "He's trying to take over your spot," was her opinion.

"My friends hate your guts," I told him when he called me later, prompting him to disconnect the call, and that was the last I heard of Johnny B. until a few days ago at the Family Dollar. I had seen him a half dozen times in the Quarter, but he had ignored me. I guess now he has a use for me, and we are on speaking terms once more...

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I Am Not Supposing Certain Medications Would Illuminate Are Darkest Of Days, No Love Dose That And That Being Said It Is Probably The Only Thing That Really Keeps Us Going. So Glad To See You Committed And Purposed To The Spark Of Infinite Goodness Daniel. (Sorry My Writing Sucks) Comparatively To Your Insightful Contemplative Slap Stick Humor, But Really Never The Less You Made Me Laugh Over And Over Again. Thank You! May Your Heart Be Filled With Song! And May The Brighter Muse Of The Quill ~Prophecy Thine Prose The More. Perhaps Something Like That "White Rose" Born Out Of Darkness, Fragrance And Beauty Incomparable Born Of That Light Who's Spirit Is Spirit Awakening! Even All "Now" Through A Sound And A Word! Take Care Friend: ~I Love Your Guts!