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


alex carter said...

I looked on Google and your "Alexander Desalvator" does not exist - he's the real imaginary man.

Daniel McKenna said...

I talked about him way back in the Sue the Colombian lady days; I know I'm getting his last name wrong....I'll check back to 2012 and fix it

alex carter said...

I mean, it's a nice story and all, but if an artist in New Orleans is getting that for their paintings, they're gonna show up on Google.

Kinda like the fictional English degree ... Just be yourself; it's more "heroic" if you fess up to your lack of education and connections, yet have gotten at least somewhere.

Daniel McKenna said...

Ha, I still owe Mount Wauchusett Community College $35 for my "cap and gown fee" from when I graduated in spring of '87, and they have been holding my diploma hostage these 29 years; otherwise, I would post a picture of it.
It's kind of telling that an English Major, 29 years after graduating, can't find an extra 35 bucks (plus postage) to have the thing sent LOL -especially given that it's "not as much money now as it was then."
I'll bet that all the Biology Majors have theirs....