Friday, February 19, 2016

Jack The Skeezer

  • 3,000 Plus Word Post
  • A Tale of Two Skeezers
  • 6 Dollar Monday
  • 10 Dollar Tuesday
  • Wednesday Night Off
  • 9 Dollar Thursday
  • 45 Days Sober, But
  • Late Starts Giving Fits

Monday night, after arriving at 10:30PM which I had been determined to arrive sooner than; I sat and played for very few people over the next couple of hours, pretty much continually, because I was enjoying it and would have been doing the same, sitting in my home with only the cat as an audience.

Jay The Really Loud Singer at Bienville and Royal had informed me that "these people" hadn't been tipping anything.

I am pretty sure that a few of them made it as far as Lafitt's Blacksmith Shop Tavern, as I noted a few groups of like-dressed individuals who seemed to be of the same mind in walking past entertainers without entertaining even a passing thought of tipping.

This Monday had proceeded as a classic example of "a bad day," partly through my own agency.

The reason that I failed to make it to the spot before 10:30 began to take form when I woke up at 7 PM, with less than 7 hours of sleep under my belt.

Each night, I have been coming home to read a newspaper over coffee, mess with a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle over more coffee; and Monday night, I wound up revisiting a recording of my "Papaya Song," after visiting the folder of the same name on my computer.

My latest idea has been to make a separate folder for each song, that way I can keep the drum beat and progressive versions of it; and if I am just randomly jamming in front of the microphone and happen to break into a certain song, I can put it in its folder.

I have a heck of a lot of deleting/housecleaning to do in my music library.
Being sober has made me hear things better, as Dorise Blackmon said it would. and everything that I recorded while drunk sounds sloppy to me now. Everything. While stuff that I have done in the past 45 days can be used again and built upon. Once I have the drums all measured out, I can keep doing the next part until it is right, and then work on the third part for a few hours or a few days. When I was drinking, I would try to complete a song "before the buzz wore off" and would wind up layering new mistakes upon previous ones. At least being sober, a good idea still seems so the next morning.

This can include the most basic drum beat for the song; the beat plus a guitar and voice, all the way up to "finished" versions of the song, the listening to being able to give me ideas about redoing all or parts of.

Last night, I fixed the bass part of the "Papaya Song."

"I'm gonna buy a papaya," is the first verse, and then "Why a papaya?" is explained in the bridge.

The latest discoveries that I have made in using more of the capacity of the Audacity sound editor has increased my production immensely.

I have learned how to record over just a small section by going to it directly, rather than having to replay the whole song, waiting for that part to come up and then sing or play (hopefully correctly, or the process must be repeated) over just that small section.

It is amazing how much time can be consumed by layering 7 individual parts over a 7 minute song; almost an hour, and that doesn't include stopping to listen back to the results, at 7 more minutes each time.

Easy to see how I could be coming home at 3 AM and not getting to sleep intil well after sunup.

When I played Monday night and, after about 45 minutes, hadn't made anything, I started to wonder if this was going to be my third night in 4 and a half years in NOLA to come up empty.

Then, I reminded myself that other such occasions had been averted after I had made the decision to just keep playing until I made something, even if it took 2 hours.

On one such night, I wound up making about 35 bucks after declining to take the 3 dollars that I had after the first hour and call it a night.

A group of about 5 had come along that time and tipped me about 25 bucks after having requested a few songs, sang along, listened to my stories, etc...

I was remembering this when, along came a guy who sat on the stoop next to me.

I had been playing "People Are Strange," by The Doors and had hit every note on it and did a nifty little guitar solo.

"Wow, that sounded great," said the guy, who went on to say: "I mean, I've heard you play a bunch of times, but that...that was good!"

His friendliness in general, from the time he sat down was kind of a smoke screen, as I wasn't scrutinizing him for signs that he might be a skeezer, but, after he mentioned hearing me play many times, it gave me pause to look at him more closely.

He had short blondish orange hair and kind of resembled Jack Nicklaus, the legendary golfer, in his facial features.

I soon discerned that he was none other than a fattened up version of The Guy Who Tips You One Time And Then Shows Up Sometime In The Near Future Trying To Bum A Couple Bucks, Arguing That He Tips You "All The Time." That guy.

The last time I had seen this guy was probably about 6 months ago.

He was drunk that time and had wanted a couple dollars out of my jar. I had only made about 8 bucks at that point and was drinking then, myself, so we both wanted the couple dollars for the same thing.

I refused him the money and said something to the effect of: If you did tip me before, then they were tips; not loans. I think I blogged about it. He had kicked the milk crate that I had been sitting on out into the street, after I'd gotten off it, and was cussing at me as I walked off.

It's no wonder that he showed up acting very meek and friendly; probably thought I recognized him.

Before that realization came, and I had been relating to him as if he were a tourist, we had actually talked about skeezers.

This was after a young, skinny black kid who was adorned in an effeminate looking outfit, to include knee socks, had sat on the other side of him on Lilly's stoop and had tried to skeeze him.


I heard the guy tell the skeezer that he had no money and no, no cigarettes, prompting him to walk off.

Sometimes tourists will say this to the skeezers, and kill two birds with one stone by also seeing if I, myself, lose interest in them after hearing them say that they have no money; kind of a litmus test of the "skeezidity" of both of us.

Skeezers often arrive to bother the people who are listening to me, having perhaps pegged them as being generous (i.e. easy skeezes) by dint of them having tipped me. I love it when some of the tourists turn them down, saying: "This guy's playing music and entertaining us, that's why we tipped him. We don't give money to someone who's just walking around begging."

"The worst thing about New Orleans," I remarked to the Jack Nicklaus looking guy -getting back to him- "is that 'Hi, how are you?' means: "What do you have, what can I get from you?"

Jack agreed wholeheartedly.

"They try to 'play' people -I'm sure you've heard that term..." I added.

"Yeah," said Jack.

" the people are a slot machine or a video game, and if they pull the knob or work the joystick the right way, and press the right buttons in the right order, and maybe even shake it or kick it; they'll get the thing to pay out..."

More wholehearted agreement from the guy.

I continued to play; and Jack started to sing along with me, making his own lyrics up. One particular line of his was something like: "He's out here playing his guitar trying to make some money, but nobody's giving him anything..." It was sung pretty much out of tune.

A few groups of tourists walked past with "That sounds awful" written on their faces. None of them tipped the combination of myself playing blues on the guitar and harp and him spitting out musically out of tune panhandling lines.

"These people are cheap. I wish I had some money, I would give you some; you sound good," said the guy whose character I was now reassessing.

He had no money and, thus, wouldn't be leaving me any in return for for my playing while he sang/panhandled; and I was certain that, true to skeezer form, if someone did throw "us" a tip, he was going to try to lay claim to half of it.

His assertion that he heard me play "all the time" started to reverberate the "I tip you all the time," of his previous visit.

Then, he complained about the cold. This has different meaning coming from a skeezer, than if it were coming from a tourist, who might be from a warmer climate, and was feeling the cold.

"Yeah, I was cold too, before I put on this second hoodie," I returned, pointing out the hoodie on top of a hoodie that I was wearing. Der, you've been here "a long time" -enough to have garnered some common sense about dressing appropriately for the weather; it's like this, this time each year, have you noticed?

This is another problem with  skeezers, aside from their "Hello's" being fraught with hidden machinations -the fact that it is hard not to read a skeeze into every utterance they make.

I was sensing the possibility that he was leading up to asking me if he could crash at my apartment.

How would he know that I had an apartment?

Louise the tarot card reader, whom I had found set up Sunday night, not far from the Lilly Pad.

She "just happened to be" set up 50 feet from where I play; perhaps as part of a strategy to to ingratiate herself, once again, in a bid to worm her way back into my apartment.

The time that she walked over and talked to me was odd, also.

It would be reasonable for her to correctly assume that I usually play until about 12:20 AM.

She laughed just a little too side-splittingly at every little witticism that I threw out; just as she had done after first moving into my place, to go with the flattery over my music that would progressively annoy her over the next few days.

She has seen me walk past her on Royal Street many times, carrying a bag from Rouses Market which would have taken me about 10 minutes to procure, and would be able to deduce that I play until just before 1 AM most nights.

And she is usually still there, reading tarot cards.

So why, on this particular night did she pack up a little after midnight, and then encounter me, having to walk in a direction opposite her usual one to do so, unless she had a hidden adgenda.

If she had waited until I packed up, and I had gone off in the other direction, she would have had to call out to me, which would have negated the effect of the "chance encounter."

Do I really think that Louise thinks of such things? Absoulutely.

The way she managed to leave my place and take all of her stuff with her without leaving me a cent beyond the 10 dollars that she had given me as a down payment upon Harold the cat; telling me that we would settle up the money when she took possession of him; was classic Louise. Harold is sitting on my lap now, 6 weeks later.

Word of my having a "Unity" apartment could very easily have gotten to the Jack Nicklaus skeezer through her, whom has been very outspoken with her opinion that I actually have no claim to my apartment, because the government messed up when they gave it to me, and not her. (I blogged about that pretty extensible the last couple weeks of December, 2015).

It was soon clear Monday night that Jack was oblivious to my interests and was going to sit and sing out of tune along with me, and that I was most likely not going to make a cent throughout.

During my past couple encounters with him, I had tried the polite: "Listen, I need to make some money and it never works out when someone is sitting with me; I guess I just do better when it looks like I'm a lonely troubadour in a big uncaring world, or something...but thanks for listening for a while..." This had led to him cussing, kicking things and going off angry -the "You want me to leave, then f*** you!" mentality, I will call it.

"I need to piss like a racehorse," I said; putting Plan B for this particular situation into action. Disappear for a while and hope that they just move on, or even move on yourself, to a place closer to The Quartermaster -if you really need to make money.

After I came out of Lafitt's, Jack was still on the stoop, but was talking to a figure who was dressed in a full body costume of feathers and other trappings of the Cajun Indian, and whom I could tell was black only by a small area of skin, visible above his elbows.

"Oh, I've got a little efficiency with a kitchenette and a shower and everything...TV, cable...sure, you're welcome to come and crash," the feathered guy was saying.

I was happy for Jack (even though that made it academic that skeezing a place to sleep had been his aim all along) and happy for myself because; off they both went.

As they turned to walk off, Jack threw his empty half pint liquor bottle rather violently against Lilly's gate, right where I was about to return to sitting. It ricocheted off into the street. I'm not sure what that might have been intended to communicate.

Maybe Jack always leaves in a huff -just his style.

My thought was that the gesture meant: "Thanks for nothing!"

The implication was; I found a place to crash and so, I don't need you! You were probably going to say no, anyways.

Damn right, I was.

I pride myself upon being honest, in the sense that I harken to a higher authority on the matter, and not so much other individuals, and that to be made into a liar through the guile of someone else is to have a moral standard compromised.

Sure, there are many whom have learned that, in many cases, it is just "easier" to lie.

"No, sorry, I only have plastic on me, no cash at all," is something that they would say.

While I might say: "I have about 18 bucks on me, but, after I buy cigarettes and take the trolley home and maybe get a sack of weed, I'll be lucky if I have enough left to ride back tomorrow!"

Apart from my conviction that, ultimately, "the truth can't hurt you," I also think I say things like that to test the character of people.

Someone who still persists in asking for the 2 dollars even after I have just told them that it would necessitate me walking 2 miles the next day with all my gear on my back, is someone whom I would walk away from feeling none of the guilt that they might be trying to heap upon me. "If it was you that needed it, and I had it, I would give it to you" is kind of hard to swallow in that instance, also...

All the skeezer would hear, in my above statement would be: "Blah blah blah 18 bucks blah blah, blah, blah blah blah blah blah"

And would become like the shark that smells blood in the water: "Check it out, this is a 20 dollar watch. You can go look at them in the store, it's a 20 dollar watch, and all I want is...etc."

"Great, I'll be able to time myself tomorrow to see just how long it takes me to walk all the way from my apartment to my playing spot carrying all my stuff on my back!"

"You got a apartment?!? Check it out. I'm on the street now, I'll be honest with you. But, I'm getting 200 bucks Friday. Guaranteed. Guaranteed! And, check this can even come to the bank with me..."

"Oh I forgot to tell you; the 18 bucks is on a plastic card..."

But, I think in this case, I was ready to tell Jack the fib that, "Oh, I would let you crash, but I already have someone staying with me for the rest of the week." I would even add that the guy was giving me 100 bucks to do so; just to kind of remind him that he had no money (but he wished that he did).

It is now Friday morning, and I haven't slept yet.

I want to break the string of 3 consequetive nights of showing up at the Lilly Pad at, or after 10:30 PM. It is 5:30 AM, and after making just 9 bucks last night, playing for 2 hours, there is not much else for me to do except go look for some tobacco in the ashtray at the bar up the street, drink some more coffee and then read a bit, and drift off into a peaceful sleep without the burden of a full stomach to contend with.
Sleeping on a full stomach has been giving me disturbing dreams.
In this one, I was on a beach and was able to program the size of the incoming waves using a laptop that just happened to be mounted in a hill of rocks off shore. I programmed a huge tidal wave, and then prepared for the adventure of watching it come in. But I woke up before it did. Feeling depressed, too.
The dream was sort of like the memory of when I had gone to the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, to watch one of the hurricanes come in, back in 2004 -that time, I didn't stay very long because, as cool as it was to watch a genuine hurricane roll in off the ocean, as the wind picked up, the rain began hitting me at 120 mph and felt like being attacked by an army armed with pellet guns; a huge army. I hadn't counted upon that, as I drove out there, practically the only car on the roads, as I recall...
I suppose that was better than if I were in some place that afforded me the opportunity to check out a genuine live volcano up close...
The dream was also connected to my having mixed sound on my laptop before going to sleep and, at one point, having mistakingly set an echo for 6 seconds, rather than the .6 of a second that I intended. Having vocals echo 6 seconds after the fact hadn't produced a very musical result.

It is now  5:54 AM.

I have reached 46 days without a drop of alcohol. I haven't smoked weed in a few days, either. None of that helps me play my best music, ultmately.

The One Year Plan

I have recordings from a year ago, and have gotten the idea of improving them, using whatever skills I have acquired since then. 

Today, I remade "Like A Rolling Stone," by Bob Dylan, after listening to a version that I did February 21st, 2015, which my first impulse was to erase; being shocked at how awful I sounded to myself in my current state.

However, I decided to keep only the rhythm guitars and redo the lead vocal, the harmonica, add a bass and add the snare drum that I found on the sidewalk about 3 weeks ago. The finished product should be posted in the sidebar to the right, soon, if not already.

Then, I will find the next piece that I produced, maybe a week or so after that one; and refurbish it in the same way. By the end of 2016, I should have all of the 2015 material made over. I think that's a cool idea. 

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alex carter said...

I no longer listen to any of your sound clips; your music is just too awful.

You are doing things better than I am, though. You don't depend on the Internet (which will be gone in 10 years mark my words) and you have a place to stay that actually has running water any everything - running water is a luxury in San Jose, California.

You're not sleeping outside getting robbed all the time, which is the destiny of the non-rich in San Jose, and actually the destiny of most of those who are "rich" now but wait until they reach age 40+ and are unemployable.

The thing is, I suspect the street noise is high enough in NOLA that most people can't hear you sing and thus discover how awful you are; they *see* you playing and Oh, this guy looks earnest, let's tip him.

It's too bad NOLA rents seem to be as high as they are out here, $1000 for a single bedroom.

Daniel McKenna said...

The grass sometimes looks greener on the other side of the fence and I mainly think about sleeping under the wharf as an environment that had me out on the street with my guitar on my back around 14 hours every day, and I still had no rent and hot water only at the VA or Rebuild Center; but a friend had a suggestion that was so simple that I had overlooked it; "Why don't you go sleep under the wharf for one night, just for fun?"
...and be woken at 8:30 AM when the sun has reached just the right angle from which to cast brass colored reflections of the sun off of the river and onto my face; the ripples and swirls in the water causing the light to dance like a fire behind my eyelids, and when I open my eyes, be dazzled by it and be able to stare into it and soak in timeless knowledge from the sun, translated by the Ol' Man river.
And then to roll over to face the huge girders whereupon a play is being acted out by the vibrating figures of light; commensurate with how smooth or turbulent the river is and how humid or clear the air is which can change the hue of the actors from shiny brass to steel rust; and to be able to see things the way you can in clouds, in the dancing reflections of light and to read my fortune as it is acted out; and always so reassuring and promising a fortune that the river and the sun put on those mornings.
Then to drift off into a very restful sleep, as the sun rises and the light show drifts off the screen...
And to then awaken at 10:30 when the calliope on top of the steamboat begins to play. Tunes that you recognize but so out of tune, that it takes a few seconds to; and often with "meaning," such as the tune "Windy," by The Association on -you guessed it- a day when the guy up there playing the thing has had to doff his cap for fear of losing it; and his tie is flapping like a hummingbird's wings.
I guess the intonation of the calliope, which, it had been explained to me by someone, is used to "let off steam," by sending it through its pipes, is subject to the fluctuations in the pressure of steam in general; and the effect can be likened to the whistling of the teapot which has been taken off of the burner, where its was screaming; and then placed somewhere to cool down. As it does, its whistle's inability to hold a pitch is similar to the quavering, wavering sound of the calliope, which to me makes the big steamboat sound like it is drunk. Again, setting the bar low on one's expectations and lowering stress.
Then hearing The Dukes of Dixie jazz band play for about a half hour before the boat taking off on its first cruise, was always a treat.
Sounding so good that, the first time I heard them, I was sure that it was a jazz recording being pumped through the sound system. I would listen for tell-tale signs that it was a live band and not a recording; and I wouldn't hear any; even when one instrument took a solo, it would jump up in the mix to be perfectly heard, and then fall back into a perfect mix with the other horns (mostly).
It was a musical education for me; and then I would slip out from under the wharf using the diversion of the boat pulling away and the people on the shore watching it and waving to people on the boat who were waving back, and the "M.C." on the boat saying: "We are now underway..." and I would basically be out for the next 14 hours; with nothing better to do than a lot of busking. When I was sober and lived under the wharf, money piled up into the hundreds pretty fast.
But, my cardboard surely has washed away in the recent rising of the river. I was nostalgic for the place and wanted to check it out a few weeks ago and the river was so high that it would have required swimming under water for a few feet to get under the girders and the water would be almost level with my "bed." under there.
In fact, I was compelled by a feeling of nostalgia when I was at the sports bar watching the football playoffs which was very close to the pier where the Natchez docks.

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