It is a Monday night.
I am trying to take it off, and enjoy it, without being harangued with thoughts of what I might be missing out on; on a night when at least 100 people would walk past me as I played, even as slow as it is.
I am at Starbucks.
I just used one of the gift cards that The Lidgleys of London sent to me in one of the parcels that came from Hertfordshire, which isn't London. The balance on that one is 17 bucks and change, and I have another one which hasn't even seen a magnetic strip reader yet with an untold balance on it.
It will almost assuredly have a balance in an odd amount of U.S. currency, as they purchase them using pounds.
In fact, the amount on the Starbucks cards that they send me is where I gain a perspective on world economics, and how strong the dollar is, at least vs. the pound. If the 30 pounds, or so, that they put on a card ever netted me say, 80 bucks worth of coffee, then, I would have mixed sentiments, over having plenty of coffee, but living in a country thats economy is going into default...
To Do Lists
I have started a "To Do" list and have placed it on my desktop, right in my face as soon as I log on to the laptop.
The first article was to start a To Do list, so I crossed that off immediately.
Great Idea #1
There is a reason that I can take up to 45 minutes to move a chess piece, and why I always mull over any kind of spending decision, asking myself: "Can I accomplish the same thing for free?"
Like the other night when I was in family dollar looking at cleaning agents. I was thinking about sweeping and mopping and maybe even waxing(no way!) my hardwood floor.
So, I looked at the Family Dollar cotton mops which are cheap, and which fall apart, leaving orphaned strands of cotton in their wake as you mop.
I looked at the 9 dollar one. It was a much nicer mop, larger and with a heavier head.
The head was heavy enough, though, so that wringing it by hand would be an ordeal...
The 9 dollar mop is ideal with the 6 dollar bucket with the little plastic wringer...
But that's the cheap bucket/wringer combo, which might fall apart, leaving pieces of bucket in its wake. It would be more ideal with the deluxe 12 dollar bucket and wringer...
That would be 21 bucks...
I looked at the heads of the scrubby sponge tipped mops..."Those are just like the 1 dollar scrubby sponges that I buy for washing dishes (which I boil after they become funky, to extend the lives of) which are just elongated and are affixed to the ends of mop handles.
Cheap mop handles.
I could go out in the woods and find a stick with the right dimensions and figure out a way to attach the sponge head to it with duct tape or Gorilla glue...that would save me money on the handle...
...what's the handle for, though, actually? Oh, yeah, so you can stand up and mop, to make it easier. Easier on the back...designed for wussies and others afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their knees dirty.
So, after about a half hour of "shopping," I bought a one dollar scrubby sponge, planning upon just getting down on my hands and knees and scrubbing my floor with the thing, dipping and wringing it out into the cheap bucket that I already own that doesn't have a wringer. My mop-able floor area is only maybe 30 square feet. Handles are for people with much bigger floors...
I was ready to grab some lavender scented ammonia type all purpose cleanser, and then thought: "Wait, I've got plenty of bar soap..I could just soap up the water real good with it; it will work; with a little elbow grease..."
But then, I thought about all the other purposes that the FabulosoƟ lavender scented liquid could be put to, kitchen counters, bathtubs; and I decided to spend a buck on a bottle, I like the scent of lavender, and you only live once. I'll get by on the Fabuloso until I can find a way to maybe buy straight ammonia online and mix my own "all purpose cleanser..."
So, the point is that I only spend money after exhausting all other possibilities.
Which brings me to the Great Idea #1.
A Marriage Made In NOLA
This has to do with the booming acoustic qualities of my apartment, with its 16 foot high ceilings, and the solutions that I had been mulling over.
I looked at all kinds of "sound dampening" devices and materials, eventually finding one that could be made "yourself" using a lot of towels...a sound dampener that can be stolen from hotels.
It became evident that I needed not sound dampening; which is more for keeping extraneous sounds from bouncing back into a microphone, I guess, because the sound has to go through the towels a second time to get back to the microphone after rebounding off things.
Because of the physical nature of sound waves, and how they pass through things by setting molecules in motion, the heavier an object, the more sound it blocks.
I thought about cinder blocks.
I could build a cinder block wall around my recording area, and then even line it with towels.
There is a construction site nearby with pallets of cinder blocks sitting there. I could grab one each night on my way home and work on the wall one block at a time. But, that would be stealing; and stealing off of a "construction site," is an amplified charge.
My wall would wind up requiring maybe 30 cinder blocks in all, and that many cinder block's disappearing would be noticed, would be a chore to lug the 2 blocks, and I probably wouldn't want to stack them higher than 4 feet, due to the instability of a wall that is any more than 4 times higher than a cinder block is wide.
Then, the solution came to me.
On a night when my busking income had only been about 10 bucks, I arrived home feeling as though I had acquired something of value, none the less.
Instead of taking a cinder block home every night, I'm going to try to take home a milk crate. It could be the one that I just finished playing on, or whatever other one I can find along my way, that nobody will notice missing.
Then, I will line the milk crates with a very heavy plastic or equivalent, and fill them with sand!!
This will block a lot of sound. The wall with the elevator shaft on the other side , along with the brick wall facing the street will make 2 of the walls. I'll be shouting out my version of "The Immigrant Song," by Led Zeppelin at 3:30 AM, with impunity!
This would be an elegant solution that would be easily removable, and could be rearranged easily. I could even cover the crates with heavy paper and decorate them...
Starbucks is closing; Great Idea #2 will have to unfold later....
My Friend, Colin
He is very "professional" about the business, seeking out the "money" spots on Royal Street and playing through a modest amplifier that he pulls behind him on a tote, putting in the hours, and making enough to travel the country by Greyhound and stay in motels along the way.
He has a place in New York that he is able to stay at for low rent, and one here in New Orleans.
He is about 65 years old, and speaks with an accent that is "from the islands," wherever that is, and uses pretty much correct, yet sometimes idiomatic language.
He has been to about 80 cities in the U.S. and has busked in all of them.
I caught him at Starbucks where he was, after just returning from Austin, Texas (for the South and West Fest? or something) and then San Antonio(above) and then Corpus Cristi.
He was showing me the photos, and I got him to e-mail me a couple right there in Starbucks. This is proof that I am getting something out of the Blogging For Dummies book, since I actively sought out pictures to go with the story.
I can promote myself to Chapter 4 now...
Perhaps more on Colin later.
He doesn't smoke cigarettes and averages just shy of 100 dollars a night.
He uses a backing track which is kind of like music with vocals removed that has everything else, even backup singers; he just strums along and adds in the missing vocalist.
He is also very "visual" in the sense that he just looks like a street musician, and could probably stand there motionlessly and make money as a living statue.
I can always picture a figure of him in a wax museum with "the busker" on a placard in front of it.
Whatever look he is going for, it seems to work for him; and add to that the fact that he does songs like "Sweet Caroline," by Neil Diamond, and "Layla," by Eric Clapton, and the appeal is obvious. Right? Hello?
One thing that Colin told me was that he was dropping the song "Sugar, Sugar," by The Archies from his repertoire because it just, to his surprise, wasn't making him any money.
We had a discussion about this. I believe that that song fulfills a lot of the requirements of "a good busking song," and I argued that he should just give it more of a chance.
I had a couple songs like that, one's that I was considering dropping because of long stretches of not getting tips for them, but then, out of the blue would come an especially large tip for the song, maybe just because the person wants to show her appreciation for songs that others hate...
"Blackbird," by the Beatles was an example. I was ready to deep six it, when I was given 20 bucks by a guy who walked past after I had already packed up but still had the guitar out and was wondering if I still remembered how to play it. It was just that the guy had come close enough to hear the quiet finger picked thing.
"No, for some reason, I just don't ever get anywhere with that song, and I don't know why..." said Colin.
There is most probably a reason why. It is worthwhile for the busker to ponder upon, and try to figure out what doesn't work about the song, in hopes of figuring out what the converse would be.
I lot of times I will try to be playing the last thing that someone who sees me before they hear me might be expecting to hear, like the Partridge Family theme song, "Come On, Get Happy," but that can backfire; if people don't grasp the sarcasm and wind up thinking; "He needs to do music that fits his persona more, like Neil Young or Bob Dylan and stop trying to be David Cassidy!!
I'm thinking of trying out "Sugar, Sugar," by The Archies at the Lilly Pad.
Colin has a lot of interesting stories about places, and how buskers are treated there, that I might get to in the future, maybe as part of a "feature," once I organize this blog around certain themes, and might make a separate page devoted to "the other buskers of NOLA."
Chances are that Colin has busked in your town..