Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rising From The Ashes

$8 Monday
$23 Tuesday (As Dow Reaches Milestone)
Usury Practiced Upon Rose And Ed

I had gotten a call, Tuesday evening from Rose, who wanted to borrow 25 bucks and pay me back 30 on Thursday.

I had woken up with 8 dollars, left over from Monday; and was on my way to spend most of that as soon as I hung up; but told her that if (against odds) I were to make 25 "extra" dollars that night, I would be able to loan it to her when I got back. She needed it for some kind of anti-depressant medication, along with one for "back pain."

And, I had gotten a text from David the water jug player, who had gotten the guitar string that I laid across his bag as he slept at the trolley stop, not wanting to wake him and have to lie, in telling him that I had no weed, as an inquiry about such would surely be some of the first words out of his mouth, as soon as he shook off his vodka slumber. I had just had an 8 dollar Monday night, and was being kind of tight.

David has, in the past, become upset with me when I had told him that I indeed had weed, but that I was saving it for later, had already smoked and so it would be a waste, at least on my end, or that the amount I had was so small that it wouldn't be enough for two people.

He has the "immediate gratification" mentality, of which I had a lot more when I drank.
I had run into him Sunday night, bearing what turned out to be the wrong string for what his guitar needed.

He had greeted me in his more-often-than-not way, using some variant of: "Hey, Daniel! How's it going? Please tell me you have some weed!" I had some bud that I planned upon smoking as I tuned up my guitar at the Lilly Pad, so that any reverie that I consequently fell into would be a musical one that could net me some tip money, rather than leading me to become lost in a conversation with David.

The way that he seemed to pair his salutation with the weed request made me feel, as it usually does, like he has a Pavlovian response to me as a weed source. And, more often than not, if I pull my box of cigarettes out while in his company, his mouth will open to form the words: "Let me get one of those," before I have even opened the box. That seems to be a reflex of his also, lately.

I, of course, have been doing "better" in the past year or so since I quit drinking. He has seen me acquire a bike and nicer clothes, and heard me playing newer harmonicas and fresher guitar strings and playing them better than when I relied more upon drunken enthusiasm, in lieu of deep musical insight, to get me through.

So, Sunday, I showed up reluctantly, almost wishing that I hadn't promised him that I would bring him a string, put it on his guitar (which used to be mine, so I understand it's idiosyncrasies) tune it up, and then witness what I would see as unremitting gall in his persisting to try to get me to throw in a bowl of my weed, and go through my cigarettes double time while in his presence.
For his part, he thinks that, given certain advantages, i.e. a free apartment and food stamps, there is no excuse for me not being loaded down with weed, and in a position to share it with my friends.

And, the fact that I now have a bike that is saving me $2.50 every single day on trolley fares, only bolsters his position. He doesn't seem to realize that the bike represents a milestone in my "recovery" from alcoholism, not only for the fact that the money that I paid for it was money that had avoided the cash register at the beer store, plus the fact that, at the time it was offered for sale to me, I had thrown all the money in my pocket into the deal, not having balked at the thought that it wouldn't leave me any drinking money; and that would totally ruin the whole night.

To David, the better I seem to be doing, the bigger the shame in me not greeting him with "Hey, Rasta (as that is his nickname), How are you doing? Do you wanna smoke a bowl?!?"

He has complained in the past about the fact that he has to ask me, and that I don't just light it up and pass it to him upon seeing him.

So, I guess the real seat of my anger is in that I'm under the power of substances like weed and tobacco, and I guess it seems to bother me, seeing it manifested so blatantly as in hearing David's pleas for it, immediately upon seeing me; as if that was the first and most important matter for us to dispose of.

Then, I considered a night recently when I was headed towards the Lilly Pad, and I had no weed. It promised to be a slow night and the thought came to me that, if I at least had weed to smoke, I could sit there and amuse myself even if nobody walked by, and there would be an increased likelihood of some other stoner throwing me a good tip as I noodled around with stoner music (almost anything from the late 60's).

So, I had made a detour to try to find David, with the sole intention of giving him the "Hey, David, how's it going? Do you have any weed?" I felt that that was reasonable, since that would alter the record to about 10% of the time that it is me who asks him, rather than what happens upon the other 90% of our encounters. But, that time he had given me a little pin joint, of what turned out to be a very kind bud, and I had went out and had a good night busking. Of course, he had gotten it given to him by the guy to whom I had basically brought Travis, and the 90 bucks a week he spends on bud, to; but it's the thought that counts.
So, I was ready to pack a bowl, after having had to rig his guitar up in a very unorthodox manner so that the wrong string that I had brought could be brought into play. I put a very strange tuning on it, which was going to pose quite a challenge to him, and I felt kind of upset about that.

But, before I could do that, I pulled my cigarettes out, and he went into auto-skeeze mode, asking for one immediately.

He smokes cigars, because they are cheap, still have nicotine in them, and their proportions are such that one cigar equals about 5 cigarettes in volume of tobacco. They just aren't as good as cigarettes and aren't even intended to be a replacement for them. But David works within his budget, using whatever he has left over after his nightly vodka purchase. And, he claims that he prefers cigars over cigarettes (unless the cigarettes are free?) just as he prefers vodka over beer. So, this made me feel like he was being an opportunist, at my expense.

I gave him the cigarette, without saying a word, and was soon on my way, having chosen not to smoke him up. All it would have taken was for him to ask for one more thing, and I probably would have given him a piece of my mind. I had just had an 8 dollar night, after all.

All of this, I was stewing over Tuesday night, as I rode down Canal Street, with the right string on me, as well as a pretty good sack of weed, and an almost full pack of cigarettes.

I could hear other voices in my head, like my mother: "Just tell him you don't have any, and that's that! If he gets upset than he's not really your friend..."

And I thought about other people who had relationships with people that they had to kind of perpetually con. People who change out of their work uniforms before going home so that they won't be skeezed along the way because they are obviously working (unlike the skeezer, who doesn't have that advantage) comes to mind.

Then I thought that I was just going to break away from the guy.

When he had skeezed the cigarette the night before, he had hastily added: "Um, if you're not broke..." and I couldn't help thinking that I heard a slight tone of mockery, as in the way someone asking some millionaire for small change might, more facetiously in that case, add "If you can afford it..."

If hanging out with David was going to put me through these mental gymnastics and I have to be on guard and wondering if he is using me, then the "friendship" wasn't worth it, I was concluding.

Consistently, when he and I are hanging out and there are other random black people around, he seems to raise his voice, as if to let the other black guys in on a little inside humor. "Yeah, that's how you gotta play the white guy, you flatter him, thank him profusely and loudly for everything...make him feel like he's one of the few white people cool enough that you enjoy his company...he's doing a good job over there; now watch how quickly he gets the white boy to pass him a bowl and then give him a cigarette..."

So, I was going to ride up. He was probably going to "Please tell me you got some weed!" me. I was going to lie. Then I would put the string on the guitar and tune it up correctly, and then try to get the hell out of there, losing maybe one cigarette, total.

Then, I got to the intersection of Royal and Canal streets and saw a group of 3 young traveling kid types, one of whom was carrying a guitar that looked a lot like David's.

The closer I got to them, the more it did. It had stickers on its soundboard just like his ...did David have a sun and moon sticker on his?... And, it was nicked and scraped in such a way that as I changed my course to ride behind them, I was sure that some little traveling kid skeezer had snatched it up, perhaps when David had fallen asleep.

I was sizing up the kid, smaller than me, and preparing to encounter him with: "What are you doing with David's (I wished I had remembered his last name for some reason, as if that may have made the person he stole from sound more important) guitar?"

I was surprised to find that adrenaline was rushing through my veins and I was ready to become hostile...over David's beat up guitar.

I had just opened my mouth to say something to the kid when I noticed that it wasn't missing the string that I had in my pocket to replace, and then started to notice other differences.

I averted a potentially embarrassing situation by one second.

Sitting there on my bike, preparing to cross over and get back on my course, I was again surprised to feel that my blood was like ice in my veins, and that I had been ready to fight.

My phone rang as I was crossing Canal. I saw David standing in his regular spot, holding his phone to his ear.

"Is your phone ringing?" as I pulled up.

"Yeah, I knew it was you, I could see you dialing..."

David said that the string had already been replaced, by some kid who came by who had a guitar just like his "same color and everything..."

He then passed me a lit joint, which I hit a couple times while tuning his guitar "...he didn't know how to tune, though..."

So, David the water jug player redeemed himself. Again.

I then went and played and got a 20 dollar bill and a couple singles as tips in about an hour and a half.
I got back home and left Rose a message that she could come and borrow the 20 dollars (today) and can pay me back 25 dollars tomorrow.

And, here it is Wednesday night. It would be nice to make some good cash and then have the 25 bucks thrown on top of it in the morning. I've got 34 bucks on my plastic card and a dollar and change in my pocket.

They have been reliable in the past as far as paying me back, being apparently in the habit of tackling their debts off the top of whatever money they get each month for being depressed and having aching backs.

The only thing that makes me wary a bit is that Rose told me that the pain in her back was from her having cleaned an apartment (thoroughly: "You know how much of a perfectionist I am.") for which work she said she will be paid Thursday; that is, if whomever apartment it was is as reliable as Rose and Ed have been.

1 comment:

alex carter said...

I love your drawing of Rose and Ed. She's got that black eye and an expression like "Fugg, duh ol' man hit me AGAIN" and Ed's got this look like, "Sure, I hit her, bitches needs to be hit".

The problem with only having skeezers for friends is, you end up with only skeezers for friends.

There's nothing keeping you from taking a bath and getting a haircut, and befriending some regular working people. The kind of people who might initiate you into their craft of painting houses, of whatever it is they do.

Ha - you could make a good career out of roughing up crust punks for their goodies (money, guitar, weed iPhones) and I doubt anyone would care. No one likes crust punks, not even other crust punks.