Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dividing Up Territory

  • Lilly Pad Encroached Upon
  • Card Sent To Mom

The zip code of my mom; I memorized off of a label that has been sitting on my bureau since I tore it off the envelope that the Christmas card she had sent me last year came in.

Every time I have ever mailed her anything, I've double checked that label, once having had to change her house number from 817 to 871. My memory being more trustworthy after almost a year sober, I committed her address to memory and then made a beeline for the post office.

I had about 40 minutes to make it there when I woke up.

I had about 35 minutes as I laced my boots while the coffee heated up in the microwave. I wasn't going to bring the cup with me, so draining it before I left would be the biggest time consuming activity, one that I would have to multitask other things with.

I pulled off the three shirts that I had slept in, and put on clean dry shirts, not wasting time to make sure they were the colors that I wanted to wear in order to express myself; grabbed a pen to put in the pocket of the jacket that was going to go over everything else, regardless of its color; put the card in another pocket of it, etc, and was "soon" on my way.

I had about 8 minutes to make it there at the time I finally began pedaling.

Before I left, I had thought "Oh, yeah, take a few photos of the card before you send it off. You don't have to post any on this blog until after mom has gotten the original..." which I did.

Then, I remembered that I had locked my bike in spot A, rather than B or C, and had to walk across the parking lot to get it. All these activities run time off the clock, of course.

Then, I encountered Bongo who was walking along the sidewalk about half way to the post office, whom I had to tell that I had four minutes to get to.

Biblical Proportions

I made it through the door and got in the back of the line, to write my sentiment on the card, while the line inched forward.

"How much more would it be to send this Express?" I asked the mail lady who had locked the door behind me.

"About twenty one dollars," she said.

"OK, thanks."

I had figured that it would be at least ten times as much as a stamp to get a card there by Saturday.  I guess I'm not surprised that it is forty times more; I always did wonder how the post office could get a letter to Elilakok, Alaska (zip code 00001)* and charge just 43 cents. Those sled dogs must eat at least a couple cans each of Alpo, plus you have to pay the carrier.

And how many post cards "...Still well below zero and dark all the time; miss you; wish you were here..." would she have to be carrying to defray the cost?

My attempt the previous (Wednesday before Christmas) night to make enough money to send my mom's card by express, priority, super mail fell short.

I arrived at the Lilly Pad at around 10 PM.

As soon as I did so, I heard the raucous sound of an acoustic guitar being played through an amp coming from about 10 feet from where I have been playing "for four years."

I walked over to discover a rather pleasant, kind of oddball white guy of about my age, perhaps, who, upon seeing me standing in front of him holding a milk crate with a guitar strapped to me, seemed to pick up the intensity of his playing. He might have thought that I was a local musician who had stopped to check him out because I had never seen him before.

I had never seen him before, but given the difficulty that I have in memorizing faces (the ones that I see for the first time seem to be becoming more and mores like composites of people I already know) plus the fact that I really can avow to having seen another guy "just like him" in the Quarter, I thought I might have seen him before.

He put his nose to the grindstone, not stopping to chat with me, but rather continued to flail away on the guitar, playing a rhythm that was half interesting, one of those "easy guitar" progressions that uses open strings.

"I'm giving some new equipment a test run," was all he said to me, with a smile.

He continued to conduct the test, and I continued to stand there holding a milk crate. At one point, after I realized that the simple chord progression was not going to vary, I went and placed the crate where it has sat almost every night the past four years.

I needed to get a word in to him, somewhere.

He started singing along to the now boring progression. This helped it slightly, until it was evident that his scratch, slightly out of tune guitar was making his lyrics unintelligible. Not a good match for the Lilly Pad.

I considered calling Lilly, but first decided to talk to him.

"Oh, so you're saying that this is your spot? No problem. I can understand how it takes a while to work into a spot. I'll move. I just wish I hadn't set up all this already, I wish you had gotten here 15 minutes ago..."

Yeah, I had taken an excursion to get a bud off of a weed guy. If I hadn't done that, I would have been set up and playing when he had walked by.

Any further utterances that I tried to make were met with: "You don't have to explain, I'm moving."

He seemed like perhaps a retired guy who was busking for some other reason than making a living or getting his art "out there."

I was glad that I didn't have to take the "next" step of calling Lilly.

He said he had just arrived in New Orleans (he didn't even know where Harrah's Casino was, after I had suggested that he and his amp might do well there) and was only staying until the day after Christmas.

I tried to tell him that Christmas has not been, in recent history, a really booming time of year here.
Bourbon Street faces a lot of competition from open sleigh rides, chestnut roasting, lighting of trees and the malls. Probably most notably, the malls.

I was thinking, looking at his amp, which really was too loud for Lilly's block that his time there was going to be short, whether I did anything, or not.

It was an unusually quiet night on Bourbon Street.

I started playing. He slowly packed up his stuff and listened to me for a while, complemented me on one of my songs and then left.

He may have been hanging around to see if I would be suitable to jam with; if my music was "up his alley." I had tried (musically) to disappear into my own alley and out of his sight.  

I though to myself that I had probably just run a guy off, so that I could get the 7 or 8 dollars that might be all there was to be made, for myself. He walked past me a couple times, in each direction, toting his gear.

I had just about the above amount in my jar a couple hours later when, just after midnight, he returned, set up diagonal to the bar, and began to play with his amp way up in volume.

All I could think was that he was one of those "Jekyll" types of drinkers, who had gone off, made a few dollars somewhere, gotten drunk and was now returning with a vengeance. that my head is clear with the whiskey and I think about it, I think I need to just blow the guy off the block with my equipment!

He was loud and stayed on basically one chord the whole time, E minor.

I was able to play the same thing as him, with his guitar sounding like he was sitting three feet to my left, and sing stuff like "Really, an amp? In this neighborhood, an amp?!? Really?!?" and made a few bucks that way.

Within 15 minutes of this display of apparent disregard for me, one of the cops in the little golf carts with the flashing red and blue lights on top stopped across from Lafitt's. He stood next to his cart, as the guy continued to blast away.

It occurred to me that he might just be positioning himself to pounce upon the first call of complaint that came in from a resident.

I was in the middle of texting Lilly about the situation when a police SUV showed up and parked behind the golf cart. The two officers then stood around while the guy played. The guy wasn't a great musician. I didn't see anyone cross the street from the bar to be any closer to him.

I sent off my text to Lilly: "The guy (she had seen him when she arrived home, when he had been packing up, and her and Angelique had paused and waved to me, as if to ask if there was a problem. I had just waved back, as if I was fine. He was leaving, after all) is back and he's blasting his amp across from the bar. The police are here but they are just standing there; maybe they need to have a complaint lodged by a resident before they can do anything?"

I hit "send."

Within about 10 minutes a second golf cart type cop thing arrived, out of which stepped a cop whose girth and the way he carried it said "Sergent or higher."

He walked over to the guy.

The "music" stopped.

I don't know what was exchanged, but he never resumed playing, but rather sat there and listened to myself, whom I thought was in pretty good form, albeit enhanced by some of Jerry's weed. After a while he walked past, not saying anything. I was in the middle of a song which I didn't interrupt to speak to him.

Him setting up like that and drowning me out was a pretty uncool thing to do. It doesn't surprise me that (probably before he drank) he was overboard in his deference to me and willingness to get out of the way "say no more, I'm gone, I'm gone" only to do a complete "180" like he had. I seem to recall more than one alcoholic to exhibit that type of behavior. It's almost as if they (such as Leslie Thompson) are conserving every ounce of their hostility. Their seeming to be so sweet and nice and deferential is actually just the lack of the evil that they are saving for when they will need it the most -in the middle of their drunken rage.

I left there thinking that it was probably a good thing that it had been so dead. Maybe the guy will decide not to even stick around until the day after Christmas.

Hopefully whatever the cops told him will deter him from trying the same thing tonight. It's almost time (right now) to go out there.

I called Lilly this afternoon. She hadn't texted me back.

"Tell me about it..." was how she answered the phone.

I told her about it. Someone else had told me that I could call the French Quarter "flash" patrols -the ones in the golf carts- anonymously, on a mobile phone; and could even snap a photo and include some text with it ("this guy right here is way too loud and disturbing me...").

"Someone told me that I could just call the...." I began to say to Lilly.

"No, call me..." she interjected.

Lilly sees police as a last resort.

*Yeah, the zip codes with the low numbers are in New England, with places in Maine having like 00500 as theirs. I can imagine that the U.S. Postal Service divvied out the numbers before Alaska and Hawaii were even sparkles in politician's myopic eyes. Thinking that California was the end of the line "nothin' but ocean after this..." they probably gave them the penultimate zip codes in the 99501 type of range.

Then, they were like, "now what are we gonna do?" in 1948 when Alaska became a state.
I think that they took the very low zip codes 00001-00120 from places in Maine and applied them to Alaska, sort of like spackling compound, after they realized that they had a problem. Condensing a whole bunch of Moose and caribou that are in different zip codes into one zone was probably the decision that they went with...


alex carter said...

My Christmas present to you: If you mail your Xmas card to your mom about 2 weeks early, it'll only cost you about 50c! $1 if it's a fat one! There, that's a good $19 I put in your pocket next year.

Thinking about that guy from his perspective is hilarious. He gets off the train/plane/automobile to New Orleans, has got his geetar and a new amp and strings and all that good shit, and is going to busk, and here are the cops "favoring" this one skeezer .... "Man, that skeezer must be paying the cops" he must think.

Daniel McKenna said...

Ho Ho Ho...I didn't go with the 21 dollar delivery option, all I did was think "I don't make as much busking as I might think I do; my eyes lighting up at the sight of a 20 going into my jar...the tourist might as well say 'here, buy yourself a stamp' when she drops it..."

I pretty much explained, or started to, about how the nearby residents had made me the official busker on their block; this is because of my volume, the vibe of my music, the fact that I am passive as far as any skeezing goes, and the fact that I am like a security guard, ready to tell them things like "a guy of about 50 or so, holding a little dog rang your bell about 20 minutes ago and then got in a black BMW and drove off..."
Plus, having had conversations with them during which it was revealed to them that this guy who crawls out from under the wharf with a guitar every night actually went to college and can hold a conversation, etc...
Most of the above has hopefully come to light through this blog; which could be entitled "how to win friends influence people and lock down a spot on Bourbon Street...
Most of the long-timers have people who "champion" them. I would bet that if you went up to 70 something year old Elizabeth and kicked over her tarot card reading table, she would have someone to point you out to...
This guy, coming into town with preconceptions about Bourbon street might have packed up out of self preservation, had maybe heard something like "those people are very territorial, they'll shoot you over a corner" and just went away...
He could have wandered onto Decatur Street which is more of a "whoever gets there first" type of environment and talked to someone who, in between passing him a bottle, told him "I would just go there, turn my amp up all the way and say 'fuck you!'"
Sure he would, that's why he is on Decatur...
It was kind of impressive how Lilly didn't even have to get out of bed and the guy was removed by cops that you usually never see on that block because the residents handle things without involving them -so the ones that do behave; and make their living say, selling high quality coke at a reasonable price; can cater to the whims of the rich tourists; a splendid time can be had by all; and the cops can concentrate on Decatur Street..

alex carter said...

Yep I can see how you're an asset, especially if you're looking out for those who sell high-quality coke at reasonable prices. "Hey, an unmarked cop car came by and a guy trying not to look like a cop rang your doorbell 15 minutes ago" etc.

Although the chance is really remote now that I'll visit to sample the crime and squalor of New Orleans, I'll keep in mind that Decatur st. is the free-for-all one and Frenchmen is where buskers are established, and dealers sell high quality coke at reasonable prices, and probably the whores are downright genteel, at least for New Orleans.