Monday, July 11, 2016

Bike Lock Day

Sunday was bike lock day.

I had 33 dollars.

I was hoping to get some locking device for around 10 bucks.

My all day pass expired at 9:24 that night, giving me "all day" to go to Wal-Mart and back. All day, right?

I wound up making it by the skin of my teeth.

After dallying around the apartment, on the second day of a water-only fast, and starting to feel hungry yet lighter and more energetic, I got to the Quarter, where I almost immediately encountered David The Water Jug player. I wouldn't have encountered him had I not craved one cigarette snipe from behind the Hotel Monteleone.

The second day of a water-only fast had been marred by coffee in the morning, a pre-blogging habit of mine, and a couple puffs of tobacco off of what I could find at the bottom of my flower pot ashtray.
The main focus of this particular water-only fast will be upon quitting smoking; and I will deem it a failure if that doesn't happen -even if all the stiffness goes out of my neck and upper back.

As I passed the Walgreen's and turned the corner to go behind the hotel, David called out my name.

The look on his face said: "You were going to walk past me and ignore me, weren't you. Are you mad at me?"

I went and got one half of an American Spirit, left by an employee who must be given breaks only long enough to allow him to step outside and smoke half of one. He's been working there for a couple years now.

I came back out, ready to tell David that I had an all day bus pass that's expiration time I would move back according to how quickly I might wind up wanting to get away from him.
I was smoking the half cigarette.

The Person Who Looks Like He Could Use It

"Hey, Daniel," said David. "Do you have a cigarette?"

"No, I just got this one from behind the hotel, it's my first one of the day; I'm trying to quit again..."
I went into the Walgreen's to get a bottle of water.

While waiting at the register, I observed a tourist handing David a white Styrofoam which appeared to be loaded with food, if the way she handed it to him was any indication; with one hand holding the lid as if it might spring open behind the pressure of all the food inside. David took it from her the same way.

I could see the ladies mouth moving and was pretty sure that she was giving him a variation of the speech that I have heard from almost every tourist that has ever approached me offering food.

She was, most assuredly, assuring him that it was "good," and that she hadn't eaten off of it and that "no one touched it," and that it was newly made; etc. as if she has to sell the food to the person who looks like he could use it...

I mention "offering," because I have never been a white Styrofoam skeezer, unlike those who ask for every container that they see. They call it "white boxing," to avoid the stigma attached to calling it begging for a free meal.

I wondered if David The Water Jug Player had asked the lady if he could have her food or if she had offered it.

I noticed that he had stashed it away among his other things by the time I came out of the store drinking my water.

I mentioned that I was on another water fast. "I noticed that, he said, looking at the bottle."
"At least it'll preserve my food card money so it won't run out with 10 days left in the month like it has been doing."

"You got a food card?!?" he asked excitedly and half expectantly. He didn't know that I had just seen him stash a box of food away. To his credit, he seemed to have thought ...well, I did just get that po boy, I won't ask him....

I think in his drunkenness, he had forgotten the fact that I had quit drinking a long time ago, and was going to propose that "we" could trade some of the food money for booze money.

Then, I told him that I was on a mission to get a bike lock.
"How much are you looking to spend?" he asked.

I thought for a second that he might have one that he could sell me cheaply.

"Around 10 bucks."

His suggestions in that regard were for ideas that I had already had: Go to the dollar store and get a 1 dollar padlock; then go to the hardware store and buy 2 feet of reasonably thick chain.
I explained that I didn't need to leave the bike unguarded for long periods of time, just needed to keep it from riding away while I was inside a store for a minute or when I am busking and have it within my sight.

David suggested then that I just "buy the 1 dollar padlock, and just lock the chain -put it right through one of the holes on the chain...nobody's gonna pick up the whole bike and try to run with it; then they have to have a tool somewhere to cut the lock off."

So, from David came the cheapest possible solution, and he is good for that, but then he annoyed the hell out of me.

I told him about the last time that I had a bike and had leaned it up against the wall right across from where I play, and how I had looked up from playing to see a kid riding off on it, not caring that I could see him and knowing that I wouldn't be able to catch him if he were to get on the pedals.
At that story, David began to laugh, and laugh, and laugh. I thought he might have a coughing fit.
"My pass is going to expire; need to go," I said as a way of exiting, not caring that he could see me and knowing that he couldn't catch me.

That was the second time that he had found a story about one of my misfortunes not just funny, but hilarious -sidesplitting, bent over at the waist, knee slapping, donkey braying hilarious.

The first time had been when I had told him about stepping on the cord of my laptop which yanked it down to where it crashed on the floor, taking a half bottle of tequila with it, the morning that I was reminded of having been hit by a car the night before only after my leg gave out under me.

That had sent him into paroxysms of laughter and, like this time, the harder he laughed, the harder it was for me to figure out, why something bad happening to me would be so funny to him.

I came to the conclusion that it is rooted in racism.
Picture the little black boy who sees the little white boy riding a nice shiny bike.
"I want a bike like that, mommy."
"Mommy can't afford a bike like that; that boy is fortunate; his daddy must have a good job; but you already have a bike"
"But it's not shiny..."
Then he is somewhere and sees the kid on the shiny bike wipe out on a patch of wet leaves or something; and he just bursts into laughter; the kind that he want's the kid that just wiped out to hear thought you were so big on your shiny new bike....
David must believe that I think I am on my shiny new bike and lucky and fortunate to have my apartment and my food stamps and my nice guitar; and he hangs around with me to catch whatever morsels might fall off my table, but at the same time resents me my "privileges," and would love to see me brought down...because, deep down, I must think that I am better than he.

But, I don't even think he knows that he believes this; it's at a subliminal level.
*David can't get a Unity Apartment because of the nature of some of his past felony convictions (though he is adamant that a busker needs to be outdoors and sleep on benches to give credence to his music).
He might be able to get food stamps but has never gone through the trouble. Why do all that when you've got at least one Styrofoam full of gourmet food tucked away and are begging for another one; in between sips of vodka?
And David has fallen upon each of his last 2 guitars, smashing them both. The last one, I had given him.
His last bike had just been stolen; prompting him to have asked me what kind I had just bought for 15 dollars.
"A Next brand"
"Nope, not mine..."
I might continue to be friends with David; but I need to ask him what is up with my misfortunes being funny to him. Maybe he will sit down and contemplate it and learn something about his own nature through it.

Learned Helplessness

I found a lock for $4.96 that had a security rating of 1 on a scale of 5.

The 12 dollar locks had a thicker cable (from 8 mm. to 10 mm.) and were rated at 3.

Now, I figured, as I stood there in the bike lock section of Wal-Mart, that if my bike is left unguarded in a place where someone with bolt cutters and/or a hack saw would have time to cut or snip through an 8 mm. cable, then a few more strokes or a little harder squeeze, and they would be through the 12 dollar one just as well.

The 24 dollar ones, rated at "5," I found unnecessary for my purposes. At night the bike will be inside the enclosed parking lot at Sacred Heart and someone would have to wheel it through the lobby and past the security guard.

I bought the 5 dollar lock, a composition pad on sale for 50 cents, 3 cans of a cat food that Harold likes; and still had $26 left over and my ride home paid for on the day pass.

The 5 dollar lock, I think of as the "learned helplessness" lock.
If you tie an elephant to a tree with a heavy rope, it will try to roam but will be restrained by it.
After a couple days of that, you can tie the elephant with a length of kite twine and, seeing that it is tied up, it will not try to roam; having tried once and learned that it is an exercise in futility.
The 24 dollar bike lock is the rope in the above analogy.
The 5 dollar bike lock is the twine in the above analogy.
The elephant is the kid who wants to help himself to my bike and take off with it quickly.

The Day Passes

I caught the trolley to the apartment 3 minutes after the pass had expired (all the farting around; all the talking to a drunken water jug player) but was allowed to ride after being recognized as a regular rider.
Not any more.
I have a bike and will begin to save $2.50 per day from here on out.


alex carter said...

I think your dear friend thinks you're "slumming" it, and in a way you are, since you could always go back to your parents, go back to school for any degree or certificate you need and get a "square" job.

You could probably also find any of a number of "square" jobs there in New Orleans. Your dear friend, being a felon, can't just walk onto most jobs. He's kind of backed himself into the corner of being a busker, where you could probably pick up work as a bar-back or carpenter's or plumber's helper pretty easily and work your way up from there.

However, like white liberals tend to, he's probably still mentally living in an era where Jim Crow is still in full effect, because that's what he grew up with. White liberals think there are all these non-self-imposed limits on what black people can do, and types like your buddy think there are all these non-self-imposed limits on what black people can do.

Where in reality, by being a felon and being in his own little rut, he's really limited what he, himself, can do.

The laughter is probably akin to what we, in Hawaii, felt when some tourist would be warned not to try bodysurfing or swimming at Sandy Beach, "You're gonna step on a sea urchin, and the ocean will kick your ass" - and they go ahead and do it anyway, and they step on a sea urchin, and the ocean kicks their ass.

Hell, I grew up there and I went out there and sure enough, I stepped on a sea urchin and the ocean kicked my ass. Of course being a local, I found the whole thing hilarious.

And, guys like him may not understand, at the gut level, the idea of being sick of working for the corporate world, or the idea of same, and of actually being willing to sleep under a dock, wash once every 2 weeks, and beg people's Styrofoams, by choice. (And yeah, you've eaten your share of Styrofoam-enclosed leftovers, just not made a career of it.)

The "Beat Generation" must have mystified the hell out of blacks, since in the 1950s it was really rough to be black in the US and yet, here were these white kids trying their best to live like them. Puzzling indeed!

Daniel McKenna said...

David the water jug player might be the kind of person who roots for the raccoon; "That racoon climbed all the way up the drainpipe and then climbed over the roof and took the guy's steak; and when he came out all he saw was the thing getting away with his Porterhouse; boy was he pissed!" And I saw the whole thing from the road and I couldn't stop laughing, I never laughed so hard....
So the young kid hopping on my bike nonchalantly, and riding off, knowing that I couldn't catch him; might have been...uh...cute? David.

alex carter said...

Especially since I'd bet dollars to donuts the kid who stole your bike was black.

Daniel McKenna said...

You win the doughnut
I saw him riding off, black kid of about 18; with the French Quarter mentality that there's all kinds of stuff out there not nailed down just for the taking; if you don't lock your bike, shame on you; you messed up; He was just game tight, alert, on the ball, a real opportunistic go-getter, taking life by the horns, who had his eyes open, took the right action, and got himself a bike to sell for a dope high; that's the way you do it in the 2,000's -move over world, the new generation is here

alex carter said...

"As long as de white man keep workin' we keep takin'" lol.

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