Sunday, April 3, 2016

Permanent Stoop Sitters

I've just gotten back to the apartment at the end of a Saturday that had anything but an auspicious start.



I was up early (a little after noon) after having stayed in Friday night hearing raindrops intermittently pelting my window and choosing to use the time to record a song by getting right up on the microphone so that I could turn the sensitivity down to the point where the sound of the rain was attenuated to the point where the "noise floor" on the compressor filtered it out.

It is the song called "Seeds," written by my high school friend, Ted Broughey, and it was the second song that I did a year ago after getting the Snowball microphone, and so, in keeping with my current schedule of re-doing everything that I was doing approximately a year ago, I need to finish this song before going on the the next one.

This has helped me to know what to work on, out of everything on my disc which was started and then abandoned after the next inspiration struck.

Now, each song that is being considered for the CD which has been in the works is in its own folder, and when inspiration has struck (perhaps a joint was smoked) I have used the same drum pattern to spawn the new creation, making "sister" songs, in a way.

I had a dollar and change on me, after having taken the night off from work, but not off from spending on cigarettes and food and cat food.

I decided to walk to the library to return especially the Elton John DVD, which is overdue and costing me a dollar a day, and then to the Lilly Pad, so that I could use my only dollar for an energy drink, which I sipped while I walked, with nothing but a one Euro coin in my pocket.

On my way to the library, I considered asking Sam at the Unique Grocery for an Arizona Energy drink on credit, when I got there, something which I haven't done (ask for credit) since before I stopped drinking.

The last time was probably on a night when I had walked the 2 miles into the Quarter so that I could spend the trolley fare on a beer at the first store that I encounter, The Big Easy Market, which doesn't know me well enough to extend credit, and I was dealing with him over a second beer "to get me going."

What a difference 97 days sober makes, I thought, as I walked along.

This made me think about Leslie Thompson whom I hadn't seen in ages.

I could picture him grovelling to Sam for the same thing -the language that he would use and the way he would contort and twist his body, as if to give more gravity to his pleas- assuring the big honcho that he had a check coming from somewhere soon.

My approach, minus the contortions, was to rely upon the fact that the staff there had seen me just about every night for the past 3 years at about the same time on my way out to play and then again at about the same time on my way back; always with some money on me, a condition which I chalked up to having played better because of the beer.

I had the library hours screwed up again, and it was closed and the Elton John DVD has cost me another dollar, and I haven't even watched it.

The place is open late on the weekdays, but closes earlier on the weekends; quite the opposite of businesses; go figure; and that had slipped my mind.

Getting to Starbucks with about an hour to use their wireless, I did so, spending the whole of it deleting junk and reading mail which had piled up over the 3 weeks since I last checked it.

Leaving there, I went across Canal Street, where I did not see David the water jug player, and thus, couldn't turn the tables on him by walking up and beating him to the punch with: "Please tell me you have some weed!" About 10% of the time he does, to his credit.

I looked in the Unique Grocery and saw two lines of at least a half dozen people with more milling about the goods, and decided not to ask Sam for credit, like myself and Leslie Thompson used to do. There would be too many potential witnesses of the street variety who might see it as a sign of weakness in Sam, should he acquiesce, and might even start to pester him; maybe even playing the race card: "Why can't I get a beer and pay you back later like ol' white boy there?!?"


Speak Of The Devil

I decided to just start playing without an energy drink by my side, something which has replaced the two beers "to get me going," lately, and started heading for the Lily Pad.

Then, I looked across the street and saw none other than Leslie Thompson, the guy who had occupied that place in my thoughts earlier on.

He was smiling and dressed in the working attire of a bus boy, and waving me over.

I thought about pointing to the spot on my wrist where a watch would be and then hurrying my pace along, but decided "what the heck."

I have encountered him in the past, during my stretches of sobriety; usually when I am on the verge of drinking again; sort of like my guardian devil in that regard.

On one such occasion, which I blogged about, I had broken a dry spell of something like 12 days by getting a beer out of Uniques and, as I was looking down to pop it open as I walked down the sidewalk; I almost ran smack into Leslie, whom I hadn't seen the entire 12 days sober.

I walked over to see what he wanted; thinking that if he was just intent upon drinking with me, then I could use my 93 days without drinking as a shield to ward him off.

He basically has not changed at all. He is still the guy who never changes at all.

He started to say things that I had heard from him before; in the exact same words.

He was profusely grateful that I had come across the street to talk to him; as he was pretty sure that I hated him.

I told him that I didn't really hate anyone because, when we as humans do that, we are really just projecting the things which we hate in ourselves onto other people. I told him that rather than dwell upon the past, which can't be fixed, I was trying to focus on the future, which can be fixed; and I might have thrown out a couple more such platitudes.

I saw an almost imperceptible scowl alight upon his face when I mentioned that I had quit drinking

He told me that he respected my very much as a human being; mentioned that he had just started a job; asked me about my birthday, wasn't it in September? and he began a new thread of discussion every time that I started to leave.

"Well, I had better get out there and start playing."

He asked me more than once if I still played on Lilly's stoop.

Finally, I just had to cut him off in the middle of one of his stories and start to walk away; whereupon he became agitated and was looking at me with an expression which I had seen on his face before; on other occasions when I was walking away from him.

"You act like you don't want to talk to me, like you're trying to get away from me."

"No, it was good seeing you, I'm just running late, I wanted to be at Lilly's by 9:30."

Then, more of the same expression, which is somewhere between disbelief (like he wasn't buying the excuse that I was using to walk away) and introspection (as if searching his soul for any offense that he may have given as a reason that I might be walking away).

"I really have to get going, It's almost ten," I said before turning and walking away, half expecting him to start hurling insults at my back -the Jeckyl and Hyde aspect of him having thereby run its gammit in 10 minutes.

People leaving his presence seems to be an issue with him; afterall, he is the guy who used to imprison his friends in his house which was surrounded by barbed wire; ostensbly so that he would have company when he got home.

"Toxic," I thought to myself, noticing that my mood had dipped slightly after my encounter with him.

I got to the Lilly Pad to find two "dirty kids" sitting there.

One guy was playing a guitar and had a banjo neck protruding from his backpack. The other, a female sat holding some kind of sign.

I explained that I played at that spot every night and had been doing so for more than 2 years.

The guy seemed to understand, and even said: "You don't have to explain," and started to pack up his stuff.

Then, I was into my second song and they were still there. I thought that they might be enjoying the Grateful Dead that I was doing.

After about a half hour it became evident that I wasn't making any tip money outside of a dollar that a guy almost handed to one of them before seeing my tip jar.

I asked the guy his name.

"Marty."

"Um, didn't you say that you were heading out?"

Then, it was the girl who spoke up and told me that there were plenty of other places that I could play and that they had been there first.

I told them that they were in a residential block and really weren't supposed to be playing there without the permission of the property owner, which I had. I told them that Lilly had not only allowed me to play on her stoop; but she had cleared it with the police that patrolled the neighborhood. I cautioned them that if the cops did come by they wouldn't have the same protection and could get their IDs checked and their stuff searched.

The girl seemed to become more determined to stay there; and even started asking each tourist who walked past for a dollar.

The guy became philosophical, told me that I worried too much and that them being there wasn't hurting me in any way -the one dollar in my jar after a half hour of playing on a Saturday night notwithstanding.

So, I called Lilly, who answered from the restaurant where she was picking up her daughters. She said that she would tell them to leave.

I then played a while longer, maybe just to demonstrate to them how the tourists were crossing to the other side of the street so they wouldn't have to walk past what must have looked like 3 dirty kids.

"A group of people with one of them playing a guitar looks like they are just entertaining themselves; not like a guy trying to make a living," said the cashier at The Quartermaster.

I had gone there after decidng not to stay on the stoop until Lilly got home.

I figured that if I left and then a short time later, Lilly and her daughters arrived and Lilly said: "Excuse me, but I live here and could you please not sit on my step, my girls sleep right behind those windows and your talking will keep them up," (or something) then they would leave and they wouldn't connect it with me.

After I packed up and started towards the Quartermaster, the girl said something like: "See ya' wouldn't wanna be ya'" and I realized how effective it can be to humble oneself at times.

They were grinning like they had won the standoff and exchanging congratulatory looks and I had to act like the dog with its tail between its legs and go off with a "you win," resignation.

I could have waited for Lilly to arrive, who then would have had to explain to them that I could stay and play but that they weren't welcome, and what would that have given me, the opportunity to be the one to say "see ya' wouldn't want to be ya'?" This way was easier for Lilly.

And the dirty kids are none the wiser. They think that they made me leave, but then the owner of the house came home and made them leave. No connection between the two.

They will probably just travel on and be dirty somewhere else.

There is really something messed up about this generation of kids. To listen to them talk it is easy to gather that they are looking to roam the earth freely, on permanent vacation through the generosity of others.

Some of them say: "We're living off the waste of America!" but never stop to wonder: What if everyone decided to live like them?

"Excuse me, do you have a dollar?"

"No, I was going to ask you for one."

"How about you; do you have a dollar?"

"I was just going to ask you the same thing, too."

58 Dollar Night

After I hung around the Quartermaster and drank an Arizona Energy drink, I called Lilly again and was informed that they were packing up. There were a total of 4 of them by then; and a dog.

We agreed that it would be good if I waited until they were long gone before I reappeared.

So, it was about 12:30 AM when I sat down, after having spent the one dollar that I had made on the energy drink. I started my jar off with a 1,000 peso bill from Colombia, which I keep for that purpose, and had made 8 bucks when along came a guy who had met me a year ago and who, along with a friend, had asked me to sing a song which included the names of three of their friends back home.

The guy told me he had a 50 dollar bill and would trade it for whatever I had in my jar.

I was embarrassed over having only 8 bucks at 1 AM on a Saturday night, and so I explained about the dirty kids. He was sorry to hear about the incident "Yeah, I know what kind of kids you're talking about.." and took the 8 dollars in exchange for the 50.

I then made up a 42 dollar song which mentioned "Bo" and "Sadie" as much as possible.

I played until about 2:15 AM, making 16 more dollars, some of which coming from another guy who said that I had played a song for him last year, when he was in town.

So, there was about 45 bucks that I would never have seen, had I just decided to let the dirty kids have the spot.

"That's your spot. That's where you make your money. Don't let anyone else take it. If they won't leave, call me or text me," said Lilly.

I guess when you have an ace up your sleeve like that, you might as well use it.

Though I kind of feel like the third grader who went to the teacher and tattled on some other kids, or the kid who got his big brother to fight his battle for him; I also consider the fact that they knew darned well that I wasn't making anything at all with them sitting there, and that was probably their goal; so f*** them AND their dog.

You can't be territorial AND freely roaming the earth on permanent vacation through the generosity of others...

You've just read: 2,658 words

2 comments:

  1. Crusty kids can be *really* annoying. I run into 'em all the time in Santa Cruz, and they tend to have a real entitlement mentality.

    They can always go back to suburbia and take up Daddy's offer of a full-ride through college. You, obviously, can't just go out and get a job, I mean, physically you might be able to, but mentally, nah. It's the same reason I really can't. I could if absolute survival depended on it, but that's about it. We're both old and stubborn and have had enough of punching a time clock. In either of our cases, we'd rather live under a pier if it means making it being self-employed.

    I just realized yesterday that I'm now older than my father was the last time I saw him. Scary. Although I think I'm aging more slowly, as his hair was pretty much silver by then and I just have a little salt among the pepper.

    Hey, can you put your mailing address somewhere on this page, in case I or anyone else wants to shoot you some random stuff? You might get some neat goodies that way, if you make it easy for people to box up that extra dozen sox they're never gonna wear, or those geetar strings from the class they dropped out of etc.

    I'm about to sell off my trumpet stuff for instance, and will have a few odds and ends, like a Snark tuner comes to mind right now, and I probably have a few extra audio or USB cables and shit you can use.

    I'm just tired of blowing into that thing! I don't see it as my way to fame and fortune. But having gone out and done it, I sure have a lot more respect for buskers than I'd have if I'd never gone and and tried it.

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