Saturday, April 23, 2016

Crissy The Crusty Skeezer

I had the forebodings which had spurred me to write yesterday's post devoted mostly to the fear of someone making a hostile takeover bid for the Lilly Pad.
I was trying to be there at the earliest possible time, after a...

$42 Thursday

Thursday night, I had arrived there at midnight, after having stayed in, waiting for the rain to stop.
I was using the time to alternate between the two activities of:

A: Picking Harold the cat up from the spot in front of the door where he sat furiously meowing to go outside, and carrying him to the other side of the room to hold him up in front of the window, showing him the scene outside and pointing out to him that "It's raining outside, Harold!"
This seemed to water down his enthusiasm for going out there.

B: poring through the Beatles Complete Scores book, looking for more songs to learn, as one can never really know too many Beatles songs.

I planned to do this for as long as the puddles outside danced under the direction of the raindrops hitting them.

At around 11 PM, I put Harold outside, then left for the Quarter with "She's Leaving Home," by the Beatles in my repertoire, and hoping that like-minded tourists would also be coming out to take advantage of the rain stoppage.

Arriving at the Lilly Pad at midnight, I played for what I thought was a pretty long set. Pulling out my phone, I learned that I had actually played for 57 minutes. That was some good weed. Time moves more slowly in my own world, I guess.

But there were 42 dollars in the jar, hardly any of which I had seen go in. Really good weed.
closing my eyes when playing the harp removes possible distractions, too.

$69 Friday

So, I sort of congratulated myself as I walked past the "Jesus shadow" clock at Royal and Orleans Streets, to see that it read 10:40 PM.

My 24 hour trolley pass expired at 2:52 AM, giving me almost 4 hours of playing time. Still, I had that foreboding...

Getting to the Lilly Pad, I noticed a figure standing on the side of the stoop opposite to where I play.
It was a female, who stood rather still and stared forward.

Then, as I was putting my stuff down, a large George Foreman-looking black man approached, before I had even unpacked and asked me if I lived "there," pointing to the gate.

He wasn't apparently satisfied with the answer that my "girlfriend" did. (I take a bit of liberty with Lilly, in that regard).

He was claiming that he was a police officer.

"Then call in and ask to speak with officer Adams; he'll tell you that I have the go ahead to play here."
"He'll tell you!"

(I might as well drop the name of the last cop to have arrested me here, back in 2013, since he is a veteran on the force and likely to be known to a long time skeezer
I further ran through the spiel about my having been given permission to play there, the mention of which specific got him to back off a bit, saying: "Oh, you're gonna play music, well, go ahead, I'm sorry..." As if he were in a position to tell me to go ahead or not.

I embarked upon my third night with the new 50 dollar harmonica in the key of C, with which I had already made 8 dollars and 42 dollars the previous 2 nights.

Then, George Foreman became The Guy Who Sits Next To You And Tries To Get People To Stop And Listen And Tip. I think Alex In California, a reader of this blog; called them "bottlers."

The last time, there were 3 of them whom I was able to get to leave after enduring 45 minutes when only 1 dollar went into my jar.

"We're the ones that made you that dollar!" one of them had ejaculated.

...yeah, instead of the average of 12 dollars that I usually make in the same amount of time, without any "help" at all....

So, I could see George's skeeze coming from a mile away.

I told him: "I don't need anyone doing that," in response to his sitting next to me and yelling "Come check this out, this is good music; this is New Orleans street music; come drop him a buck or two!", this is New Orleans street hustle; by George...

And I especially didn't need him hollering at every female who was walking by; what kind of cop does that?

All the while the crusty looking female stood to his right, almost lifelessly.

I decided to just go ahead and do what I normally do, thinking that maybe if I played well enough, George would get the idea that maybe I am a professional who has indeed been playing there for 3 years, and that maybe indeed the owner had given me permission to be there, and had OK'd it with the police force of which he claimed to be a member of.

He asked me, at one point, if I knew anybody who was looking for the drug ecstasy. I guess he wanted to bust them.

Determined to not let him cramp my style, I began to tune the guitar while smoking the one skinny joint that I had.

Half way through this joint undertaking, I heard him say: "Hey, pass the weed!" we're friends now...


"Is that weed?"

"I don't know, it's just some tobacco I rolled up; I don't know what it is..." and after letting a second tick off the clock, added: "officer."

Then, realising the pickle that he had put himself in by having claimed to be a cop, and then saying: "Pass the weed," he tried to back track, but did so poorly.

"That's right, I can't believe you're smoking a joint right in front of me!"

Was he going to try to confiscate it, promising me that I would do no jail time if I just come clean and hand it over to him?!?

He then picked up the intensity of his skeezing, to the point where he was oblivious to my texting to Lilly: "guy selling drugs at spot."

I then packed up my stuff and walked over to the other gate, that Lilly usually comes and goes from.
As I passed them, I heard him say to the form of the crusty female: "See, that's how you do it!"
I stood at the gate in order to intercept Lilly before she had to go anywhere near them. Just them seeing me talking to here would, I hoped, lend enough credibility to my story to get them to leave without her having to get more involved.

Then, I got a text: "Just play your guitar," followed soon by another: "I'm in bed already."
I made a voice call and pleaded with her to "just stick your head out," telling her that the guy had challenged my claim that I knew the owner of the house.

"OK, I'll do that," said Lilly.

About a minute into my waiting for her to come out, I observed the big guy standing up and grabbing his drink and then vacating the stoop.

He was walking in my direction with the hitherto nonmoving crusty looking female skulking along in his wake.

Crissy The Crusty Skeezer (sung to the tune of Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer???) 

As they came closer and the light from the lamp post under which I first played about 3 years ago began to illuminate them, and after he had walked past giving me a dead-eye stare, I recognized the female behind him as none other than Crissy, as that was what Leslie Thompson had called her. For, to be sure, while she may not have run in the same circles as he, they both went in circles around the liquor store, and so it was inevitable that they bump into each other.

"That's Crissy," Leslie had said in response to my having said:
Leslie in his working days

"There's that brain-dead moron who walks around with absolutely no expression on her face whatsoever."

I added: "She's totally ignored me, except for like 3 or 4 times, and each one of those times it was the nasally, squeaky 'Do you have any change?' The tone of her voice is already set to modulate into 'Then, what good are you?' upon any negative reply."

That's Crissy.

Ignore-leans Revisited

It used to bother me a lot more, being ignored.

Back when I was calling this city ignore leans, and held up as one of the most egregious form of rudeness, the returning of my "How'r ya doin'? with nothing at all, not even an eye blink.

Since then I have learned that the phenomenon was the fruit of all the tireless labor that the skeezeers have put in, and that they, not the ignorers, fer to blame for the changing of the meaning of the word "hello" from "greetings" to "Can you help me out with a few dollars?"

The ignoring bothered me so much that I once fought back, as such:

I encountered what I have since come to know as a textbook skeezer, right down to the baseball cap with the Red Sox logo, even though he probably didn't even like baseball, much less the Boston Red Sox, and had found the cap on the ground somewhere and, wow, just as his White Sox cap was starting to get threadbare.

And the clashing hues that bedecked him, after he had passed out drunk and overslept on the morning of The Great Clothing Giveaway and all they had to offer him when he got there, in the way of replacing the shorts that his scrotum was then hanging out of, was something in a shade somewhere in between any two recognizable colors and which could be categorized as either one, as long as the color named is is prefaced with "puke" (puke-green, for example)  which didn't go very well with his only shirt.

And the "...better'n walkin' 'round barefoot, I guess..." sneakers which he found somewhere that made it look like he had duck feet.

I was pretty new in New Orleans, and I had said something to the guy, as we waited for a light to change; something about the Red Sox.

No acknowledgement came from him; he stared ahead.

Having been conditioned to expect more civility from people, I persisted with something like: "I grew up near Boston, that's why I say that..."

Still, he didn't seem to see nor hear me.

I then pulled whatever money I had from my pocket and asked: "Do you need some money?"

Well his head then turned towards me and he actually looked at me and his mouth began to move; probably so that he could give me whatever pat response that he has on tap for situations involving someone offering money out of the blue; most likely a "just don't screw it up, ol' skeezbo" strategy ...just say: "Yes sir, I really am a little down and out now"...Don't even say 'God bless you' -lots of atheists out there; I could screw it up! 
I wonder if he is going to say "You look like you could use this," like the last few guys...these must be my lucky shorts, because that started happening right after i got them...

Before he could get a word out of his mouth, I cut him off with: "Oh, you heard that, did you? I thought you were deaf" and then I stuffed my money back in my pocket and walked off.

And that was in the same era when I started to see whom is now known to me as Crissy, in my travels around the Quarter. Ignoring me as she walked by, expressionlessly.

I began to utter the words: "brain dead moron" at first to myself, and then gradually louder to the point where she probably could hear me.

I had determined that she came into the Quarter each and every night, from somewhere, bent upon getting as drunk apparently, as possible. She drug herself from one living soul to the next asking "Do you have any change?" in between making runs to the Unique Grocery Store to purchase whiskey with change, and she could often be seen digging in the trash cans that line Bourbon Street looking for unfinished drinks that had landed upright, and it was rumoured that, as a last resort, Chrissy would walk up to some poor soul and just snatch a drink out of their hands.

And, if all this has failed to paint her as intriguing, let me add that, by looking at her face, one can tell that she was at one time pretty.

I have recently had a change of heart and have stopped saying "brain dead moron" at the sight of her.

It probably began the time that I chanced upon her at the dumpster outside Popeyes Chicken.

The place had just closed, and so I knew that one of the topmost bags would contain the chicken which had sat on the heating rack waiting for last minute guests who never materialized, and then had been bagged up and thrown out.

One only has to use his hand as a heat sensor to locate the mother lode and, being armed with the knowledge that they use one kind of bag (black) for trash and another (opaque) for the leftover chicken, simplifies things further.

I was there to get food for Harold the cat. I had just gotten him and was having some concerns over how much it was going to cost me to feed him and was already exploring ways to feed him at no cost -call it "the cigarette butt picking up mentality."

As I walked down the short alley called Exchange Place, wearing new clothes, my backpack full of good "people" food, and my pocket with some cash in it; I couldn't help thinking about the days when I would go there to drunkenly stuff my face so that all of my cash would be available for further drinking.

I was feeling slightly embarrassed, hoping nobody would spot me and say: "Is that you, Daniel? What happened? I heard you were doing god..."

I realized then, that I had indeed changed and had shifted ever so slightly towards the mentality of those who say: "How can anyone live like that?" and away from the mentality of those who live like that.

I was ready to proclaim "It's for my cat!" to anyone who came along.

And, there was Crissy at the dumpster. She had dug through all the wrong bags (brain dead...oh, never mind) and had procured only scraps that had been bitten into.

I quickly located the good bag, guessing correctly that it would have been only half heartedly "hidden" (so the homeless wouldn't find it and wind up leaving bones all over the parking lot)

I gave Crissy some pointers on how to find the leftover bag, by feeling for its heat.

I pulled the bag up, tore it open, and pulled out for Harold the cat a whole fried chicken breast.

Chrissy lunged. "That's mine!" she shrieked (wow, something other than "Do you have any change," I thought).

She tried to grab the chicken from me. I was starting to believe the drink snatching rumor.

A struggle ensued, and I was able to wrest it from her talon like grasp.

Why I fought for it when I had seen that there was plenty more in the bag was, apart from having a bit of fun with her, for another reason , the merit of which was elucidated by the gusto with which she went about devouring the pieces that she did get.

When I walked up, she had been tentatively chewing on pieces with almost a wince on her usually expressionless face, as if she felt like she was eating trash that nobody wanted. After seeing that I had been willing to fight over the chicken from the opaque bag, she seemed to have deemed it more worthy of being eaten and the wincing aspect left her face and it returned to being expressionless.

That was when I stopped mumbling "brain dead moron" when I saw her.

I wondered if she felt like a worthless piece of trash and, if so, is it because nobody ever fought over her.

Then a few weeks after that, I saw her in front of the Unique Grocery Store. She has been barred (or 86'ed) from that establishment for some reason, and must now rely upon someone coming along who might take her money into the store to get her a half pint of Heaven Hill whiskey, rather than just take her money.

None of the worthies in front of the store with her fit the bill, apparently. Or, likely they have all been barred for their own atrocities.

Upon seeing me approaching Chrissy made a beeline to me. She seemed to be sighing with relief, as she handed me money without any signs of reservation and asked me to get her a half pint of Heaven Hill and a pack of Top Hat menthol cigars.

"This is for Christina, isn't it?" asked Sampson, one of the Ethiopian cashiers.

"Yup, how did you guess?"

"Because she every day buy same thing." 

Then he looked at me, like a man with the wisdom to construct a pyramid that's height is exactly 1/1,000,000th of the distance to the sun, and shook his head as if to communicate: "Watch out for her; she's crazy."

No, she's Crissy.

Bringing It All Back Home

And so, to bring the story back to the present, after that diversion to introduce Chrissy:

I stood at Lilly's gate, waiting for her to come out and run them away, but they got up and left of their own volition, with the George Foreman looking guy staring me down as he walked past.
I had just recognized that what had been a motionless figure in the shadows was Crissy.

11:05 PM, Friday

"Hey, Chrissy," I said.

"Do you have any change?" she asked.

"He ain't gonna give you shit!" bellowed George Foreman, still fuming over the joint, I guess.
Off they went.

I hurriedly pulled out my phone to call Lilly off before she got dressed and came out for nothing with the text: "He left."

A minute later she texted back: "I know because I knocked on the window."

"You're a genius!" was my goodnight text to Lilly.

I set up again and started what would turn out to be a 3 and a half hour "set" which would net me $69.

..To be continued
-coming up: A second bottler?!?

1 comment:

Alex said...

What you describe are not bottlers. I think even the wikipedia on busking describes what a bottler does - a bottler is an assistant to the street performer, and this is for the larger or more popular acts where you get a circle of people, hence the name "circle act". The juggler, dancer etc will go through their routine, and the crowd circled around will clap and cheer etc., but they tend to melt away without tipping, so the bottler is the performer's assistant who goes around the crowd before they get a chance to wander off, and holds out a hat etc (doesn't have to be a bottle).

What you describe is just plain skeezers.