Thursday, March 31, 2016

Let's Put A Turban On His Head

The Imagined Guy

I left the apartment for the Lilly Pad at around 9 PM, stepping out onto the street just in time to see a trolley pass by in front of me. The next stop was about 100 yards down the track and I could have reached it, by running laden with both a backpack containing my laptop and the guitar strapped over my neck, in about 20 seconds.

But, I didn't even try because I knew that the chance was slim that the trolley was going to stop at that particular spot, there was nobody waiting there to flag it down, and the thing very rarely lets people off there when coming from that direction. The only things up that way are the cemetaries, which are tourist attractions, and a couple of supermarkets that the hostel guests probably don't know about.

The Lopez St. stop sees pretty heavy traffic from out of the India House hostel which is about a block away from my apartment, but apparently none of its guests were trying to get to the French Quarter at 9:12 PM on this cloud covered, rain threatening Wednesday night.

This gave me the chance to walk in the direction of the Quarter, rather than wait right there for the next trolley. I do this because I like to be proactive; and basically kill the time before the next arrival by walking -it takes my mind off of just standing there and waiting.

Plus, by setting out in the direction of the Quarter, knowing that I can walk to the spot where I usually get off the trolley in 29 minutes, I have the choice, should then next trolley be 15 or more minutes late, to just keep walking and save my fare, since I would be more than half way there by that time. Then I could just flip the thing off when it passed me; in celebration of the $1.25 that I had just saved.

I was doing this, and as I walked down Canal Street and was passing the yoga place which is about 3 blocks down from the apartment, I played the mental game that I often do.

This game can be played on any night, by making adjustments based upon which day of the week that it is. It goes like this.

I imagine that, standing in front of the yoga place, with all its plants which have probably been transplanted from wherever in Asia yoga has its roots; and its statues depicting an overweight personage meditating, is a dark, myserious man. Let's put a turbam on his head for our purposes.

He looks at me, in my imagination, and say's: "Daniel, you are going out to busk at the Lilly Pad, are you not?"

And I say: "Yes."

He then say's: "I have an offer for you."

He holds out a hand, which has cash in it, and then continues: "You may take this money and return to your room, calling off your busking for the night; or you may refuse it, and then be on your way to the Lilly Pad."

The game is about "expectations," and the problem can be summed up as: How much money would the mysterious apparition have to give you in order that you would take it, rather than risking making less by going out and playing.

Tonight, as I trudged along under rain threatening clouds on a Wednesday night, after observing the possible omen of there having been no foreign teenagers from the hostel waiting for the trolley, I came up with the figure of 25 dollars.

If the guy held out 25 bucks, I would take it and then turn around and go back home.

Any less, and I would take my chances on the weather and the Lilly Pad, and just one person throwing me a 20 during the 2 and a half hours that I was on course to play, which would most likely put me over the guy's offer.

One might think that I would take just 10 dollars for doing nothing every day of the week, rather than having to actually sit and play for that long, but that would leave me haunted by rememberances of those occasional 60 dollar Wednesday nights past, and stress me out over just how much money I might be passing up.

On a Monday or Tuesday night, he might buy me off with a 20 spot, especially with the clouds and the "40% chance of precipitation" factored in.

Well, I went to Starbucks to hastily write the previous post, then after leaving there at 9 PM, and running into Brian Hudson, who was jamming on the corner of Toulouse and Royal, with "Grandpa" Elliott, and whom I chatted with for about 15 minutes; and then running into the Spanish guitarist at the corner of St. Peters and Royal Streets, who smoked me up for another 10 minutes, and then seeing none other than Lilly, across the street in front of Rouses Market whom I chatted with for an additional few minutes, I set up and played from about 10 PM until a little after midnight, netting 24 dollars, just about the exact amount that the imaginary guy had offered me not to play.

From left: Tanya Huang, Grandpa Elliott, Dorise Blackmon,
some tourist standing behind the door with his hands in his pockets
Brian has been jamming a lot with Grandpa Elliott (left) lately.
He said that it was artistically satisfying for him to do so, because Grandpa used to play with a guy who knew "every number one hit song since, like 1950,"
I also know that Brian has just taken up the harmonica, so there may be a tie-in there...

I gained in musical knowledge by playing though, by cementing into my memory the song "I'm So Tired," by the Beatles, which fits the key of the E flat harmonica that I am back to playing, and I started working out, by ear, the chords to "Ebony And Ivory," the duet between Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, during the lulls in foot traffic. The latter might be a great busking song; the first one, maybe not so much, but I think I sound good doing it, at least.

This was not the first time that I had hit my target of expectation on the bulls eye. I can remember telling other buskers, when I was on my way out in the past: "I'll be happy to make x amount of dollars tonight," when the x is a silly amount like, $33.46 just to get a chuckle out of the person and perhaps have them reply: "Not a penny less, eh?" and then accounting for my money at the end of the night to discover that I had made that amount, almost to the penny.

It's a chicken and egg type problem. Am I having a Nostrodamus moment about the amount that I am about to make, or is my prophesy a self fulfilling one, engendered by my expectations and their tendency to set the tone for me to play like a "$33.46" musician all night?

I'm reminded of the artists here, like my friend Alexander DeSalvator, who will price a typical oil painting between 3 and 10 thousand dollars.

You can see the looks on the tourists' faces start out as: "You've got to be shitting me; it looks like stick men!" before transforming through a muse into: "Wait until word makes it through our circle that we brought back a $10,000 original oil painting from New Orleans; we'll be the talk of the town!" and Alexander gets his (probably around $8,500 after a bit of haggling which made the tourists feel like they were getting a "steal").

He told me that, if you only ask for 100 dollars, people won't buy it because they will assume that you can't be much of an artist, then.

But the point relates to the "effect" of expectations.

Tomorrow will be Thursday, the weather nice, and I will have new strings on the Takamine. That guy in front of the yoga place had better be holding at least 43 bucks...

I think I am going to work on the Tanya Huang letter now. I might put it in a future post, along with any response from her.

You've just read: 1,287 words

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tuesday's Gone

$13 Tuesday
Tuesday night, I went out and made about 12 bucks in a couple hours, after having run into Tim the violinist for the first time in at least a month, who handed me 5 of the 100 dollars that he still owes me on the amp.
There is rain in the area, but I might go to Starbucks with the gift card and the pack of cigarettes that I bought (Friday the new tax goes onto cigarettes in Louisiana and the price will jump from $6.50 to God knows what).
Well, I have about 24 minutes and a steaming cup of joe, here at Starbucks to try to brainstorm.
A lot of things are on my mind, and I'm starting to suspect that the weed that I have been smoking pretty regularly lately is causing me to dissociate from everyday problems and concerns.
Yesterday, I was down to the crucial stage of make money busking or don't eat. Sort of.
I had a box of macaroni in my cupboard, which I wound up pouring a can of black beans ($1.72) into and eating after having had a 13 dollar night.
One truly appreciates 13 dollars when it represents a ride home on the trolley and a hot meal waiting at the end of it; and of course no static from Harold the cat, who will have his nose in a can of Friskies (chicken feast with gravy this time) cat food.
The correlation between these nights when I make enough money to meet my immediate needs, with some left over to put in my savings jar, unless I spend that surplus on cigarettes and/or weed keeps rearing its head.
Yes, I could take a 2 week vacation to go and see family and friends every year on what I spend on the above.
It would have been nice if quitting drinking alone, with the saving that have come with that, (93 days at the end of tonight, now) were enough to have me rolling in cash. Instead I'm rolling weed in rice paper, using coffee like a drug and, maybe the saving grace; eating some good food, thrice as much as a "stomach bomb" at Mickey Dee's every night would set me back.
So, I got on the trolley, laden with my backpack with the laptop in it, which I would only get to use for 24 minutes (I have 10 minutes left).
Note: My apartment is the only one on my floor which doesn't have a deadbolt installed in the door. Tim, my caseworker pointed that out to me. "I don't know why they didn't give you a deadbolt; everyone else got one..."
Maybe the maintenance workers are in cahoots with the burglars.
Tonight would be a prime night to return to find my door jimmied open, now that I have my laptop and guitar on my back. I can't think of what else they might steal out of the place.
I need to either write a letter to Tanya Huang through Facebook messaging or plan to meet her at her spot some morning.
It has bothered me more than it should that she seems to have developed a distaste for me at this time when she is playing solo, having lost her partner of 12 years to cancer.
Does she think that I should have come around as soon as I heard the news, offering to help in any way I could?
Does it seem like I have shown my "true colors" by not having at least offered sympathy?
Are the dirty looks that she has been giving me meant to convey: "Don't come around here like a vulture with your guitar on your back, trying to worm your way into a gig with me?"
Or, does she hardly give me any thought at all?
All this,  I need to put in a letter.
It is too tempting to return my own scorn for her apparent contempt, and walk by and cuss her out. But that wouldn't be a genuine thing.
Maybe she is just a wreak now, trying to figure out what to do with her life; and probably wonders if I would be any help at all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Money Matters

"So, how did you do out there?"

It hasn't taken long to go from feast to famine.
This morning, I transferred the 2 dollar bill that I had been saving, into the 1% jar, removing the 2 dollars in change from the jar.
This keeps the jar current, and I have made about $350 since reinstating the jar, about 2 weeks ago.
A rocket scientist can see, without a calculator that I have been living on 175 bucks a week.
I used to get paid that to work 40 hours in a Pepsi plant, standing alongside a humongous conveyor belt and uprighting the bottles which had fallen over.
Tonight is crucial. It is 8 PM, and I could be at the Lilly Pad by 9 PM, play for 3 and a half hours, and hope to make enough for food, water (I would have to clear over 60 bucks before I would pay 7 bucks for a pack of smokes) and future expenses.
I had taken a lot of time off to work on recording; and I suppose I will get paid for that if the songs wind up on a CD that I will sell alongside me.
All I can do is try to sound good and to do things to stave off depression.
1:47.55 "quarter mile run"
Like breaking my record for the run from the first crack in the sidewalk at the corner to the blue awning, "roughly" a quarter mile away.
"I had a couple of groups stop and sing along..."

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Sunday

I guess the blessings of Easter Sunday started in the evening when I was writing yesterday's post and someone came in the building and gave me his all day bus pass, which would be good until 5 in the morning.
I could now go into the Quarter and make absolutely nothing, and then return on the free pass.
I went into the Quarter, getting to the Lilly Spot at the reasonably early hour of 9:45 PM.
I have switched back to the E flat harmonica, as I have already blown a reed out of the newest Marine Band, the one that the Lidgleys of London had sent me.
I am embarrassed to have to report that.
I tried to follow the prescription of playing it softly over a period of time to break it in and then refraining from playing it while sipping on sugary drinks, which can gum them up.
Perhaps I just get to playing too loudly at times when the volume swells around the Lilly Pad.
I played and had some good feedback. The tips were more like cigarettes and alcoholic drinks that I had no use for, than cash.
I wound up with about 15 bucks when I knocked off just before midnight.
Then, I spent 9 of it on food in Rouses Market, and got to the Unique Store, determined not to spend any money on cigarettes.
As I was walking in, a young black kid in a bright pink shirt and white slacks held out a pack of Newport cigarettes. "Do you want this?" he asked.
"Sure." I took the cigarettes and then mumbled "Well that solves THAT problem (of what to do about tobacco).
After I left the store, I opened the box to reveal only two cigarettes, but also a blunt laying in the bottom of the box, which I determined, by smelling, to be the "mojo," or synthetic pot which some kids have become infamous for dying after smoking, recently.
I tried the mojo about 6 years ago when I was in Mobile, Alabama, and I am still alive, so I bent my steps towards David the water jug player.
He has been annoying the past few times that I had encountered him, for being so drunk that, one time after I left for a couple minutes to use the restroom and returned, he greeted me the same way he had 2 minutes prior, as if a whole day had passed since he had seen me.
And, he has resumed his habit of asking me for weed as soon as he sees me. "Hey, Daniel! Where ya' at? How ya' doin'? Please tell me you have some weed!"
And it had started to annoy me, but I had thought about it; and put myself in his shoes and figured that that was just the only way he knew how to ask for weed.
What I would respond to is hearing a person say (to nobody in particular) "Man, I wish I had some bud..."
That would give me the freedom to decide if I wanted to smoke him up or not; rather than being asked directly when the easiest way out is often to lie, and say you don't have any. Then, that makes a liar out of you.
So, I headed towards David, who was sitting in his usual spot with his water jug.
This time, he greeted me and didn't ask for weed, but rather began to fish in his little change purse thing, as if possibly looking for some bud that he had.
I still offered the blunt, telling him that someone had just handed me the pack.
He made a big deal out of the fact that someone had "blessed" me.
He makes a big deal out of the fact that someone had "blessed" me with the Takamine guitar that I now play.
I then turned around and gave him the blue guitar that I had been playing prior to the Takamine.
He thanks me profusely over having given him that guitar, almost to the point of embarrassing me; just about kissing my hand in gratitude.
And don't get him started over the apartment that I am living in under "permanent assisted housing," as, after I moved into it, David never stopped reminding me of how "blessed" I had been to get it. And, he kind of adopted the attitude that I should always have weed on me, because; what other bills do I have? "You got a free apartment; you get food stamps; and you can't keep a sack of weed on you?!?"
So, I just lit up the blunt and passed it to David, who was thrilled. "Oh, this is good; I can tell already, this is the mojo!"
He told him that I wanted to save most of it for when I got home, but to go ahead and get a couple hits.
He jested (I think) about keeping the rest of it for himself.
One never knows how serious the street people are, or if they are testing you in some way by making such requests. If I refused him, he could have taken the stance that I should be ashamed of myself for being so greedy after someone had just handed me the thing in the first place. That is one of the flaws in the skeezer mentality; they get accustomed to thinking that everyone is just handed everything and that anyone who then doesn't share is a stingy, greedy etc.
"No, I want to have some for when I get up in the morning to practice my scales and such."
David just took a couple hits and handed it back. I did the same and then put it out and put it back in the Newport box with the now one cigarette in there.
Soon, along came the young kid in the pink shirt and white pants, with a young, well dressed girl in tow.
"Where's that box I gave you?" he demanded.
"I put it in my pocket."
"Let me see it," he demanded.
It was probably due to the mellowing out nature of the mojo that I didn't bother trying to argue that he had given it to me and thus, that it was no longer his. I was trying to take a cue from David the water jug player.
He was just sitting alongside me, not saying anything at all.
I took the box and handed it to the kid, who immediately dumped the contents into his hand, showed the blunt to the girl, who smiled, replaced the cigarette, and then returned it to me, before they walked off.
David stayed silent.
There was either the idea of: The kid blessed me with a couple of cigarettes, and David and I had both gotten a couple hits off the blunt; easy come, easy go.
Or there was the idea that I could have lied: "I smoked one of the cigarettes and then gave my friend here the other one and then tossed the pack in that trash can over there," Then, I would have been able to disappear while he was trying to dig through the trash in his white pants and pink shirt, but that would have made me a liar, all over a little blunt that I never paid for.
Or the situation could have gone in any of several directions.
The fact that he had handed the thing to me might have been because it was Easter Sunday, and like the guy who had given me a few high quality cigarettes at the Lilly Pad, and the one who had handed me food, and the one who had given me the all day bus pass, he may have been full of the Easter Spirit.
And, full of the mojo, which made him forget that the blunt was in the box.
Yes, it would have been ironic if he wound up shooting me over what started out as him deciding to bless someone on Easter Sunday.
"Oh, you hit my shit!," he said, after seeing the burned end of the blunt. But, he said it as they were walking off, apparently content to still have enough left to get the two of them baked twice.
I have a second guitar, which was given to me by Tim, my caseworker, who is also the caseworker of another resident who plays guitar and who destroys them by falling down drunk on top of them.
The other resident had already gotten a replacement guitar through a generous brother who came into town on a visit, so Tim gave me the thing.
I contemplate blessing David the water jug player with it, after having a little work done on it (David has fallen down drunk upon the blue guitar, basically destroying it) but my biggest hesitancy actually comes when thinking about how profusely he will thank me for it every time he sees me in the future.
And, should something happen to the Takamine, I would have a backup, should I keep it.
I have been gradually improving with newer strings each night, newer harmonicas and better and cleaner clothes, etc. Having a spare guitar might be something that a responsible person who makes his living on the street playing a guitar might want to hold on to.
I would mention that another street musician keeps a spare $6,000 violin with her while playing, but the source of her coldness towards me recently might be related to my posting of such information on the blog. It might be perceived that it places her in unnecessary danger. "People don't need to know such things." She can always chain it to something...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Saturday Before Easter

I woke up for the final time around 3 PM, this Easter Sunday.
I See Tanya Huang
I saw Tanya last night, playing solo along with a backup track. She was dressed a lot more "street" than usual and almost looked more like a busker than like someone who has just returned from playing a wedding
I had set my alarm at around 7 AM in the morning for around 10:30 AM, thinking that I would get up after those 3 and a half hours of sleep and take the trolley into the Quarter, so that I would be at the Corner of St. Louis and Royal streets at the time of her arrival.
Last night, she was playing there, without Dorise Blackmon (again) and using a pre-recorded backup track.
One interesting thing about her playing along with the backup track, is the selection of songs that she is jamming over; not many Tanya And Dorise numbers; leading me to think that she was bending towards Dorise' repertoire when the two played together; heavy on R&B, but also to include songs such as Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters," and Stone Temple Pilots "Plush."
I haven't heard enough of her playing solo to know enough of her set of songs, but the times that I have hurried by, already "late" for the Lilly Pad, she has been playing more obscure stuff that are probably more "international" classics, rather than the stuff off of American radio.
Tanya has given me dirty looks the past couple of times that I have walked past and I have vacillated between searching my soul for some slight that I may have inflicted upon her; or, the next time she stares me down, just saying "F**k you, you loser," and then walking on.
Having lost Dorise is, I'm sure, a pretty life altering thing.
I couldn't help thinking about the very first time I spoke to Tanya, when I was new in New Orleans. I had actually told her: "You need a good guitarist."
I had walked past and Tanya was ripping up solo lines on the violin, while Dorise was playing a kind of simple rhythm.
I thought to myself that, if I were playing with her, I would have worked out arrangements between the guitar and violin where they are doubling the same melody in spots.
What I didn't know then was that the song was probably a request by a tourist, and Dorise was probably playing it for the first time, after bringing the chords up on her phone through a "fake book" application that she has on it. Neither one of them may have been too familiar with the song, and the performance that I saw was probably more impressive on that count than if they had been playing double melodies like the band "Boston," used to do in the late 70's.
Now I know that being able to play "anything" to a certain level is a skill in, and of, itself.
But, that being said, I had stood there, drunk, and listened, and in my vodka haze had concluded that I could have done better, and had made the comment.
To their credit, we still became friends.
Now that Dorise is sick, Tanya might have suspected that I was coming around with the notion that she now "needs" a rhythm guitarist, she may have been viewing me like someone who wanted to take Dorise' place, while her seat was still warm, as the expression goes, and that is disrespectful.
The truth is that I am probably blowing out of proportion my perception of her attitude towards me. It was "the grizzled guitarist" who once said: "You wouldn't care so much about what people thought of you, if you knew how little they thought of you."
She might just tell me that she had a headache at that time and was just giving me a "please don't try to talk to me now, I have a splitting headache" look.
But the truth of the matter is, since I just featured a story about Shawn Patterson, who was a bandmate of mine in the late 80's who has just been nominated for an Emmy Award (he was nominated for an Oscar last year because he wrote music for a movie. I guess he wrote something for television instead this time, and thus the change in the award).
He is someone who took a very practical approach towards music, by getting a college degree in it and then basically knocking on doors all around Los Angeles, where the "industry" is, and then working his way up, kind of "behind the scenes;" known only to those in the industry, but finding success which had been a more "realistic" goal than those of, say the busker in New Orleans that is hoping that a video shot of him is going to go viral.
The Patterson approach would be: "I would be at that spot on Royal Street every morning with an amp and a microphone that I had to beg for, steal or borrow, holding the spot for her, so that she would have a chance to hear me for about 10 minutes while she was setting up her equipment, and then, if she would jam on a few songs with me before I left, she might conclude that we could do maybe a whole set together, etc." I know that would be the way that Shawn Patterson would approach the "business" of street music in New Orleans.
One would think that Tanya has a whole black book of musicians begging her to give them a call, should she ever need someone to jam with; and they are probably at skill levels such that she could be jamming with world class musicians on different instruments each night.
I wanted to run into her while she was just setting up to A: ask her is I had done something to offend her (a heavy drinker like I was 3 months ago never knows) and B: ask her if she had any ideas about what direction she wants to go in, as far as being a street musician.
My guess is that her collaboration with Dorise was special to her on multiple levels, such as the appeal of them to audiences was. It was just cool seeing this black girl who is a local and steeped in the musical tradition, jamming with a Taiwanese girl who is like a note playing machine but is trying to "feel" the "soul" of the music.
The crowds around Tanya have been about half the size of the ones that the duo typically had gathered. That kind of works out in a way, since she is no longer dividing the tips in half.
My other guess is that she will tire of playing along with a machine, but she will find another female to play with; just a gut instinct.
As far as Johnny B. is concerned, I believe he has already gone the route of being there playing when she arrived in the morning, and has jammed with her and, the fact that she let him keep whatever tips they made is kind of a symbolic, implying that she didn't want to split the money, as partners would do.
And, that one time that I did play with Tanya at the now defunct Casey's In The Quarter, it was a disaster which would have to replaced by a more positive experience....the only difference being that I'm not drunk now....

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Snowball Song

SNOWBALL SONG (click, hear)
Get Right Up On It
Above is the link to my latest creation, which I poured about 8 hours into, earlier today.
I determined that I was doing things ass backwards by not placing enough priority on the vocals.
I have learned that "the pros," who do background vocals in studios, actually try to match the vocalist right down to breathing in sync; and matching the vibrato, etc.
I learned that by reading the liner notes to one of the Elvis Costello discs, "Punch The Clock," to be exact. His revelation was that, on one particular song, he wound up with some very good singers backing him up; though they were not studio pros. His comment was that these singers were less "cliche" than the ones that matched his breathing and his vibrato. That contradicts me in a sense; but it was a revelation to me that such attention was paid to the vocals on big time studio releases in the first place; and so, I spent all day redoing the vocals, trying to get all (4 in some places) singers to land on the same consonants.
Enjoy the Snowball Song, I give it a rating of 80 points.
To put that in perspective, my earliest recordings fell between 8 and 12 points; with the more interesting ones in the 20 point range.
As long as I tag the song with something like "bedroom recording," I should be forgiven for the subliminal level cat meows and sirens way in the background.
By turning the sensitivity of the Snowball way down and then singing right into it; a siren bleeding through the front windows can be removed by a noise gate...
High technology; one of the themes of The Snowball Song

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Flashback: 1987

  • This Is One Of The Longest Posts In History Of Blog
  • I Set The Smoke Alarm Off By Burning Rice
  • I Get Hustled On A Sack Of Weed
  • 22 Dollar Monday
  • 2 Dollar Tuesday After Very Late Start
  • First Song That Might Go On CD Released
  • Days Sober: 86
  • 30 Dollar Thursday, 10:40 PM - 12:30 AM
"Unlike Like A Rolling Stone" -Street Musician Daniel (click here to hear)

The above link should take one to the mp3 which is the first in a series that I plan upon posting here, all part of my project of salvaging songs that I recorded one year prior. Since it is just over a year that I have had the Snowball Microphone, I can just re-trace my footsteps and give all the songs the benefit of whatever I have learned in the year since.
The above song is pretty representative of what one might hear if they walked up to me at the Lilly Pad and requested some Dylan.
It automatically becomes eligible to be chosen to go on the CD, which I will compile after I have about a dozen songs done, by choosing the best 7 or so out of them.
I'm still kicking around the idea of doing a concept album using a mock "rockumentary" format, whereby a narrator will tell the story of this fictitious artist to include interviews of the people around him and short clips of his music, from the different periods of his "life." 

Saturday Night, The 19th

It's a subtle form of incarceration, accepting a ride from anyone.

I mean, they can basically tote you around at their will, at that point. 
Forcing someone of a size equal to your own to stop a car they are driving so that you can get out without crashing that same car in the process can be a challenge.

I accepted a ride from someone whom I deemed a friendly figure, whom I have seen a few times before and who had treated me generously on a sack of weed before.

I was standing in front of the Banks Meat Market with 5 dollars in cash on me; with a 2 dollar bill making up 40% of it.
The Banks Meat Market

I had debated upon whether or not I even wanted to spend the 2 dollar bill on weed. They appear rarely enough to make it easy to fancy them lucky.

2 Dollar Bills, In Practice

To me they are like that one cigarette in a pack that a lot of smokers will invert, so that its white end shows. 
I think this practice has its roots in skeezerhood. The inverted one is intended to be the last one smoked.

As such, when a skeezer approaches just as the mark is taking his pack out; as skeezers do; and if he only has a few smokes left, the inverted one will make it look like even fewer, because people are used to the number of filters visible as being the number of cigarettes left.

To extend the analogy to my 2 dollar bill; I could likewise tell a skeezer: "All I got left's my 2 dollar bill; and I ain' giving nobody my 2 dollar bill!" and the skeezer might just fold his tent at that point.

I had two 20's sitting uselessly in a jar at the apartment.

It was Saturday evening.

I was kind of kicking myself over only having left the apartment with only about 6 dollars, to get cat food, and an energy drink.

I heard several people talking about weed in front of the store.

Out walked the guy who drove the white truck that I had gotten a nice sack from a couple weeks ago.

He offered me a ride to my place, after I told him that I was only trying to get a 5 dollar bud, telling me that he was on his way to see his guy, and that he would "break me off" a 5 out of it.

He is a 20 something black guy about my dimentions.

I got in; being careful not to sit on the Styrofoam container which he pointed out on the front seat.

It contained food, which he described as being "crabs" and, after pointing it out to me, asked me to just try to guess where it had come from.
Featuring the hit: "My Cousin Sells Weed"

I took a couple of guesses, but was unable to nail Aaron Neville, the singer from The Neville Brothers, who also collaborated with Linda Ronstadt on the very same CD that I had rushed to the library with a couple days ago; as having been the provider of the crab dish.

He said that Mr. Neville was his cousin.
To make a long story short, I wound up paying a premium price for some herb and, in hindsight he had used the fact that I was in his truck as some kind of leverage.

34 More Cents To The "One Percent" Jar
I got to the Lilly Pad at about 10:45 and played for almost 3 hours, and netted 34 bucks.

Friday night had been rained out, and it had rained into early Saturday morning, when I lay down to catch some sleep; setting my alarm so that I could make it to the library in time to return the Linda Ronstadt CD, along with the Elton John DVD which is costing me 1 dollar per day, as an overdue item.

I will have to joke to the librarian who checks them in: "Gee, for 84 bucks more, I could see him live every night, yuk, yuk.." I thought to myself as I headed towards the library on Thursday evening, only to discover that it was closed.

Sports: Track And Field
I had gotten a 24 hour bus pass, planning upon returning the discs and then returning to the apartment to perhaps do my quarter mile,† feed the cat and then go out to busk on that St. Patrick's Day.

†An additional pacing off of the course yielded 461 yards as the distance that I have been running regularly.

This also jives with an attempt that I made using Google Maps© to try to measure it using a ruler, along with the "scale of miles" indicator on the screen. This seemed to give me 455 yards.

In both cases, I am running more than the 440 yards which is a standard quarter mile, which is good, because the time that I am running (1:50 being my best) would have me travelling at the rate of 7 minutes and 20 seconds per mile.

I remember when I was in high school and on the track team, running a 6:45 mile as the first one of the season, after having not run all winter, but then remember getting that time down to around 6:24 after just a week or so of training.

My best mile ever was 5:03.

Granted, I was 16 years old then, but; should I be actually running 15 to 20 yards further than a quarter mile each day; I could adjust my projected mile time down by between 20 and 30 seconds, which would have me running, on my best day now, at the rate that I did as a sophmore in high school, coming out for the first run of the spring.

I think that is not bad.

First Songs For CD Nearing Completion
I continue to work on the CD, approaching it from different angles; but definitely benefitting from the recording techniques that I have taught myself in the past year.

Unlike Like A Rolling Stone
Just about a year ago, I had done a version of "Like A Rolling Stone," by Bob Dylan.

I remember it, because I had just moved into the apartment and was using a closet, stuffed to the ceiling with blankets and comforters and lined with pillows and sheets, as a recording "chamber."

I also remember having just discovered that by using a capo to raise the pitch of the song, it was possible to sound more like Bob Dylan.

This idea came after a couple young guys had stopped in front of me at the Lilly Pad, wanting to sing that song, but then complaining that the song wasn't being yelled out, "loudly" enough, as one of them put it.

I figured out that the guy must have just meant not in a high enough key. An analogy would be that it is likewise easier to cut through the mix with the higher notes on a clarinet, but not so much the low ones, which hum more than pierce.

The recording that I made a year ago, causes me to wince, because I overdid the whole "belting out" of the notes thing and kind of lost the

sardonic tone that is supposed to be in the delivery of the vocals. Plus, I was new in the apartment and testing out the limits of the volume that I could reach in the late night hours before drawing a knock on the wall from a neighbor.

But, it dawned upon me that I could always just sing a new vocal track, then delete last year's, and then do the same for the guitars, etc. It really is possible to replace every track, kind of like the way the human body supposedly replicates every cell every 7 years, or so.

On this version, done last week, I had no capo, and thus did it in a lower register. The song didn't really do much for me, after it was "done," and so I kind of mulled over what it might be missing.

I decided to focus upon what the listener would be focusing upon and give emphasis to the little repeating melodies in between verses, for example. Then, I was able to make the song more of an example of what I do on the street and, hence, better fodder for the in-the-works CD, by changing the lyrics ala Weird Al Yankovic. This further subjugates the accompanying music to the role of "background" as the listener is drawn to the words being sung, instead.

The next song, which is actually the first one that I wrote as soon as I had gotten the new Snowball "Ice" microphone and had plugged it in and set it in front of myself and my guitar, is the next song that is "complete."

I lifted the trademark snare drum rolls that begin the 20th Century Fox (I think it is) theme song; when the lion roars, to begin this newest "Snowball Song."

One of the problems with that recording was that the very first take, which was "inspired" by the joy I felt over having a high quality microphone at my disposal came out so well in spots, due to the freshness (some might call it "rawness") of the version, and the fact that you can feel the excitement that I had over having a new Snowball microphone.

The other factor was that I recorded it at Leslie Thompson's house on a night when he had gone into the quarter and I was there alone, in a back room which was empty, except for myself, my guitar and laptop and the microphone.

Catching Lightning In An Empty Room
The sensitivity that I had set the microphone at; the distance that I placed it in front of me; along with the natural reverberation of that empty room, was like a stroke of luck, or like catching lightning in a bottle; and it has taken me the whole past year of tweaking and tinkering with levels and settings and microphone placements to be able to approximate those acoustics of an empty room, about 18 cubic feet large, with a shiny hard wood floor.

I have dubbed parts of the original, done at Leslie's house into this "one year later" version; chiefly the spoken interlude about 3/4 of the way through.

I am going to re-sing the vocals; and should have the finished version posted within a few days.
Seeds; The Broughey Song
The third song of the 5 that I had already in the can at this point of last year, is the song "Seeds," by a high school friend of mine, Ted Broughey, who lives in Boston and works for one of the local TV stations there, as a cameraman, I think.

He has a pretty nice studio setup at his apartment, which he said was right across the street from where the Boston Celtics play.
Ted, 2nd from right; 1982

About 4 years ago, he e-mailed me 2 songs that he had recorded "in his living room," one of which was "Seeds."

He is a drummer, who played in some of the same bands as myself, when we were starry-eyed teenagers.

Thus, I was surprised that the song had practically no drums at all in it. It is kind of a slow, keyboard based thing, where the only percussion is a tambourine clap on the off beat, and cymbal "swells," throughout.

The cymbals are played using rubber mallets the way drummers do who want them to smoothly crescendo, and they sound pretty "professional."

The arrangement reminds me of "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," by Carly Simon? where the drums only come in at the high points.

The other problem with the song is that Ted played more than one guitar, each playing single note melodies. There is a slide guitar in there. It could be described as having "a lot of notes going on in the background," on top of a solid bass; and it has been hard for me to distill it down to one basic rhythm guitar part. It's one of those deals where a sheet music publication would just indicate like a Dsus4add9 chord, along with the grid illustrating, since the transcriber was probably a keyboard player, the most common fingering for that chord, culled from a guitar "chord finder" type book.

I'm not going to give up on it, though. Its release is overdue; I should have had it finished a week ago, if I am to keep pace with last year's recording output.

I am tempted (now that I own a snare drum) to make it an almost "overboard" drum heavy arrangement, with all kinds of snare drum rolls and accents -kind of like the Carly Simon song on steroids. The irony would lie in the fact that we would be sending each other versions of the song with ourselves prominently playing the other guy's main instrument.

I have been disciplining myself to work "exclusively" upon it, pursuant to my 2015 rate of productivity.
Ted; "Seeds" Era, circa 2011

Is It A Good Song, In The First Place?

When I have doubts over whether or not this particular song is "good" enough to merit the usurping of my time over it; I am reminded of the band that I once sang in, back in 1987, called "Warp Five," at least one of whose members idolized the band "Guns And Roses."

Flashback 1987, "Warp Five"
The story goes that, in the summer of 1987, I proposed that the band introduce a version of "Knocking On Heaven's Door," by Bob Dylan; and I know that a lot of you are going to add, and Guns And Roses, but...

This was before G.N.R. released their rockin' version of the tune...

The band members concluded that the song was lame and they projected that into their performance of it ( Their opinion that the song was lame became grounded in reality, upon the stage of Bill's Ringside Bar, in Athol, Ma.

Leaning nonchalantly on his amp, the guitarist played as if as bored as a musician can be with any group of chords on the neck of a guitar; for example.

The band quickly broke up because the combination of a funk bass player, who idolized the late "Flea," from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, a jazz guitar player, a heavy metal drummer and a whatever I am, just didn't work in this particular instance.

Also, the repertoire that they had already cemented into their memories seemed to hint that they had high hopes surrounding the vocal abilities of whatever singer they eventually acquired. Not only did they do Sting songs; they did the ones that Sting himself would probably bump off his set list if his voice was feeling a bit froggy that day...

Plus, they were three brothers who had meticulously put together their material, and it was incumbent upon the singer to learn their songs, rather than the other way around, as this anecdote in progress might illustrate.

Shawn, the guitarist had studied at The Grove Institute in Los Angelos.*

Unlike the type of jazz musician who would consider it a fun challenge to take a simple song, (like maybe "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star") and at least try to create a jazz masterpiece out of it; Shawn seemed to want to ridicule the song.

Perhaps that was because of its slow tempo -a rare phenomenon in our 3 hour set, of mostly tightly arranged, carefully measured out "uptempo" stuff.

In hindsight, I think that it was because such a slow song was an invitation to the patrons to embrace and dance slowly to it.

The Pattersons, as that was their last name, had a remarkable attitude towards the people of their little town of Athol, Massachusetts; almost like: Nothing good is ever going to come out of this inbred shit hole town except US, and we hate you, Athol, for making us from here.

They were constantly relaying to each other, in tones of the greatest disdain, whom they might have come across while out and about. "Oh, you know who I saw at Krispy Kreme?" one would ask, the disgust at the mere thought of the person or persons already evident on his face.

Then, upon the naming of the individuals, a groan would ensue from the siblings, who would then either ask derisive questions, such as: "Yuck, how many dozen doughnuts did SHE order?" or "Is she still dating [any name here as long as it is uttered with derision.]?" or make derisive comments, such as: "Oh, Mr. future NFL star who dropped out of college!," "Oh, was he hitting his crack pipe?" and such.

The funk bass player, Tim, said that, when on stage, he would pretend that his bass guitar was a very long spear of some kind, and that he was stabbing the audience members with it.

The third brother, and yes, the Pattersons were brothers (another brick in the wall so to speak of myself having an equal voice in the matters of the band, such as whether or not to play "Knocking On Heaven's Door") Chris Patterson, was a heavyset heavy metal sort of drummer. My most vivid memory of him was of sitting in my car in front of their house, ready to drop him off, after we had ridden around, drank beer and listened to a lot of Elvis Costello music, through the hospitality of my Sony amplifiers.

Chris had been very gung-ho about drumming to almost any one of the songs on the "Get Happy" album by Elvis, an album which, to this day, I would hold up as an example of just how good a drum kit can sound in a musical role.

Ted Broughey, my high school friend drummer, was an 18 year old fervent drum student in 1981 or so, when the album came out; studying paradiddles and polyrhythmic stuff, to include such devices as hitting the high hat when it is "usually" closed but is open, and "He's breaking all the rules," according to Ted at the time.

So, Chris was duly blown away by the drummer on the album, Pete Thomas, and since I occupied a lot of my time riding around and singing at the top of my lungs along with that album, I was very excited over the prospect of the band doing some of the songs, with Chris saying that it was his kind of drumming, as we sat there in front of the house.

Chris' Parable

Before he went in the house, he had the chance to touch on the subject of God, and he used sort of a parable, which went something like:

"You see that street light across the street and down a ways? That's the Lord. It comes on every night when it gets dark, and goes out every morning before the sun comes up. That's the Lord."

"And one of these days, I'm gonna come out here with my pellet gun, and I'm gonna put that light out; and that will be the end of the Lord on Anzio Road." They lived on Anzio Road, by the way.

What came out of that all was that Shawn, who had been away in California while I was hanging out with his brothers; came back and basically vetoed (shit canned) all of the Costello songs which Tim and Chris and I had rehearsed while he was away and which were ready to be added to the set list.

His complaint about one of them, "B Movie" he voiced as: "I don't know, I just feel like we should be kicking our legs like the Rockettes" (kicks his legs left and right while singing chorus to "B Movie").

When people ask me if I am in a band, which happens every so often when I play my guitar in the street, I don't have a pat answer, beyond telling them "no."

I might think about just memorizing: "Because when you're in a band there's always like one other member who doesn't want to do one of your favorite songs that you have sang a million times because it makes him feel (vaguely) like he should be kicking his legs from side to side, like the Rockettes, while performing it. That's basically why I'm not in a band. If it is not that, then it is something else which is 'basically the same thing.'"

To bring the point back to the Broughey song, should I have forebodings about recording the thing over doubts that is a very good song to begin with, I am reminded to think like the band Warp 5 could have thought, should they have decided to approach the "lame" song as a fixer-upper and try to inject some of their own spirit into it and transmogrify it into something, hell, almost as good as a Guns And Roses work.

Instead, they injected their attitude -a bit of group rebellion against the ostensibly "spiritual" aspect of Dylan's lyrics, a bit of wanting to stab the audience with an imaginary spear but finding the beat two slow and mellow to get any kind of real thrust at all, and a bit of not wanting the people of Athol to dance slowly because the thought that it might lead to them reproducing is repulsive.

Being the prima donna that I was then, at 25, I left the bar, got in my car and took off, back to my apartment, while they played on; through the chords of "Knocking On Heavens Door" God knows how many times (excuse the pun) and then finally wound down after perhaps figuring that their singer had "left the building."

I had just walked into the dark half of a duplex that I cohabitated with Dave, a fellow college student.

Dave was majoring in physics and biology, and had the pot plants in his aluminum foil-lined closet to prove it.

Dave was on the couch in the dark living room, along with his very sultry voiced, exotic, hippie girlfriend (whose name I can't recall, but it was something like "Earth") and they had dropped acid.

I was actually glad that Dave had dropped acid because I had earlier plucked some leaves off of one of his prized specimens in the closet, in violation of the one and only rule laid down, when I moved in, by Dave, who is so laid back that he only has one rule, which was: "Don't touch my plants."

And then I had done some bonehead thing like leaving it sitting on a tray where I had dried it under a high intensity lamp.

If he hadn't been tripping, then I would most likely would have been bagged; but, as it was; if he had looked at the tray, maybe he saw frogs sitting on a lily pad, instead of his prized bud, or maybe he had a conversation with the lamp, which covered for me by changing the subject when he asked why it was on...

I mention the quality of Earth's voice because I hadn't been there 2 minutes when the phone rang.

It was one of the band members asking for me with the sounds of the bar in the background.

They were probably wondering how long I had been gone from the place, and if I was at my apartment 20 minutes away, already, that would give them a clue.

They probably wondered just how long they had played (like idiots?) waiting for a singer who would never return. I can picture Shawn telling the other two to just keep the beat going, while he went and looked around for me, then came back with: "No, his car's gone..." Who knows, maybe they were calling to fire me.

Instead they got a velvety and leathery voice telling them things like: "Yes, Daniel is here. He was so not here; I mean not like not here at all because now that he is so totally here, it makes me realize how not here he was....I mean, have you ever like, like looked at a star and realised that your retinas were absorbing energy from something that might not be there now; it's like we are the memory of things...but, yes, the molecules and energies that make up Daniel are manifest; I'm interacting with him on the physical plane right now..."

And by the time I was passed the phone, I think I had become like a god in their eyes and they didn't fire me. You shouldn't fire a musician who has someone like Earth going on in his apartment.

The harpoonist/bass player, Tim and I became instant friends. He was the tallest of the brothers, the middle one in age, with Shawn being the youngest; and the one with the best sense of humor, He once said that he envisioned jumping off of the stage at Scampi's Restaurant/Lounge into the crowded pit, along with the upright bass that he envisioned that he would be playing.

Scampi's band riser was up there at about shoulder level to the dancers, by the way.
Tim Patterson, 25 years later...

Tim and I rode around smoking weed, listening to music, a lot of which we both thought it would be cool to do, and which we both figured would be vetoed by Shawn, and laughing our asses off, over such notions.

Shawn was the youngest of the brothers, but he was the one who had gone to Grove Institute, and for that, and maybe the fact that he was the alpha male of the bunch; he seemed to have the final say among them.

I wanted to do a song with lyrics like: "Oh, my God, it's sod!!" sung over a burst of chords, and then while rest of the band fills in, squares of sod could be tossed into the audience, then maybe a next verse of: "Oh, my God, it's cod!!" you know, and then flinging whole, raw cod fish out there. Off the riser at Scampi's. Into the pit.

So, Tim and I were of kindred spirit there; and I think that diving into the audience along with an upright bass is a step up from gouging them; and so we were therapeutic for each other there.

One interesting aspect of my life at this time involved the fact that I was gigging with Warp 5 in clubs and bars on weekend nights, but, on Wednesday nights, and on Sunday mornings, I was bedecked in a robe and singing alongside the rest of the Bethany Baptist Choir.

This was probably cause for equal consternation between both groups, with the later trying to lovingly steer me towards more scriptural based music and out of bars; and the former prone to launch into a soliloquy upon the Lord of Anzio Road.

I had written a song about a girl whom I had met who had a certain dog that was very singular in appearance. It was definitely of a curious mix and might have looked like one particular breed if it weren't for the snout that comes off of another breed, etc.

I was driving along one afternoon, nearby the back yard of my friends which is where I had met her, when my friends were having a yard sale of sorts. And, tied up in front of a certain house was the unmistakable visage of Tara's (as that was the girl's name) dog.

I had invited Tim over to my place where I was working on a song of that very name, "Tara's Dog" to see if he might add some background vocals. We smoked some weed and messed around with the song, and then we went off to a lecture hall which was packed with concerned parents and their kids and where was to be given a lecture by some church affiliated group concerning satanic evil in modern music.

The event had gotten a lot of publicity, was well attended, and the "satanic" angle of it was enough to peak Tim's curiosity enough so that he had come along with me. There were representatives from Bethany Baptist Church there, of course.

Well, amongst the highlights of the event was the lector telling us that avoiding satanic music didn't always require rocket science.

No, the group AC/DC, the lector said, comes right out and states that they are on the highway to hell. No pussyfooting around, there.

She had kind of a "wake up; this stuff is right in front of your face!" attitude. If Jesus said that you will never perish but will have eternal life, then why are the dead grateful to be dead? etc.

And, she didn't disappoint when it came to giving us some bona fide backwardly recorded things, along with their subliminal messages. Of course we heard Jimmy Page singing an ode to satan, heard by playing a certain section of "Stairway To Heaven" (Highway To Hell is a no brainer, kids, but just because a song has "heaven" in the title doesn't mean that it's safe either) backwards.

Tim and I had left, rolling our eyes and saying things like: "Give me a break; Lionel Ritchie, a Satanist?!?" and were riding along in my Pinto, when he burst out laughing.

"What?" I asked.

"Spell 'Tara's Dog' backwards."

That's just how life was, back in '87.

Would 'Ave, Could 'Ave
Looks to be Shawn Patterson circa. "Warp 5" era
A year or so after the band had broken up, I ran into Shawn somewhere, who told me: "I guess we could have done something with that song..." referring to the fact that every rock station had Axel Rose screaching: "Knock knock knockin' on heaven's door" over its airwaves.

"Yeah, and we could have kicked our legs like the Rockettes while performing it," I was thinking, but didn't say.

So that is what I wrestle with while working on the Broughey song.

I can't cop out and say: "It's kind of a lame song...not much I can do with it."

*Shawn Patterson now holds a job with Warner Brothers, supplying music to go along with the likes of a show called "Robot Chicken," I recall, no small thanks to that tattered document from the Grove Institute, stating that he is qualified in that regard; and was even nominated for a Grammy Award, in 2015, in the best music for animated movies, or something, category; for writing a song which was part of the Leggo(sp?) Movie; though they spelled his name wrong at some place setting at one of the Grammy related functions (It's not Sean).
Excuse me, it was OSCAR nominated, not Grammy

2 Bucks

Last (Tuesday) night, I got a terribly late start. I had woken up, I thought, at 8:30 PM, and, after a cup of coffee, decided to go out and busk. Then I noticed that the time I had woken up at, I had read off of my old cellphone which never adjusted itself for Daylight Savings Time, and that I was actually leaving at 10:30 PM rather than 9:30, which would have been late enough on a Tuesday.

I took an excursion to get some weed, and didn't arrive at the Lilly Pad until about 1:30 AM.

I made a couple bucks rather quickly, and then decided not to play for a very sparse crowd at that hour. If the residents have to tolerate hearing me at such a late hour, then it should at least be on a weekend night when they might not have to get up early the next day.

I didn't play again until Thursday, the 24th, and made 30 bucks in 110 minutes...

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