Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Orleans Jazz Fest 2017

  • Sunday And Monday Off
  • 8 Dollar Tuesday
  • 33 Dollar Wednesday

It is early Thursday morning.

A day that will be spent by Rose and Ed, no doubt, watching seconds tick away; as they will get their money at the chime of midnight.

Leslie Thompson told me a story once, about how he, himself, who gets money at exactly midnight on a certain day, obtained a receipt showing that his transaction had occurred at something like .01 seconds past midnight.

Thompson always kept pretty tight tabs on the time in relation to his monthly dole "In exactly 53 hours, I'll have $505..." and he would be standing at an ATM machine waiting for the second hand of his watch (figuratively speaking since everything is digital now) to pass the "12" giving him the signal to go ahead and swipe his card.

It is a vignette depicting his constant struggle to borrow against the future to pay back the past, which he acts out in front of the ATM machine.

The fact that Leslie had managed to swipe his card that month, and only squander away one 1,000th of a second picking up his money after it had become available; well; all I can say is: Leslie Thompson!

If one imagines hundreds of thousands of cards being swiped simultaneously at the stroke of midnight in any given time zone, one could envision the Internet crashing. It is most assuredly the fact that there are not that many ATM machines available and that the average one probably has and average of 4.3 people lined up in front of it, staggering the swipes a bit, lowering the per-second number of requests being handled, etc.

33 Dollar Wednesday

I woke up at about 8 PM. I was still feeling something between soreness and tiredness in mostly my muscles. I had eaten brown sugar the day before.

I made what I believe was the first sugar purchase of my life after having busked Tuesday night and only having made 8 dollars, which I spent on a pack of American Spirit cigarettes. This includes buying sugar for anyone else, I believe.

I totally gave up sucrose when I was about 20 years old, and embarking upon what would be an arduous trek in search of feeling great.

I had read a book entitled: "Sugar Blues," by William T. Dufty, and it was enough to spur me to eliminate sugar from my diet. I won't rewrite the book here, but the chapter about a study of the diets of teen aged "delinquents" showing that it was mostly comprised of sugar "mommy's nodding on heroin right now, but there's some Kool Aid and you can make yourselves some cereal..." type of thing.

So, I bought a one pound box of "light" brown sugar on sale for 99 cents at Walgreens. I would stay up all night after having made only 8 bucks, waiting for 9:30 AM to roll around and along with it the van, driven by Tim my caseworker, on a coarse for the St. Jude food bank, taking residents who qualify for a once-per-month box of food there, to pick up the food.

I was hopped up on sugar when I went to the food bank, where I was given two boxes of food which weighed a total of about 20 pounds and which, I noted at the time, I could balance upon the handlebars of my bike long enough to transport the one mile or so back to the apartment, and free myself from dependence upon Tim and the Catholic Charities Food For Families van. I'm a family of one, to answer your tacit question.

Leslie works out credit terms towards month's end
I want to make clear, and to tie this in to the rest of the post (except the part about Leslie Thompson; but, let me see if I can still tie him in) that the reason I accept this "charity," thereby becoming a de facto charity case, is at the very base level, because I qualify. In the professional opinions of those overseeing the distribution of food, I am vulnerable to starvation, given my current economical situation.

There was a time, when I was drunk and homeless, when the food from such a place was often the only thing available, in a pinch, after the alcohol had been procured.

Myself having the attribute "alcohol dependency" attached to me in a database somewhere, might have been enough to qualify me. If, due to an illness beyond my control I am going to make sure I have alcohol, even if it means going without food, then the food bank is providing important nourishment.

Since I have not drank in about 475 days, the focus, now, is upon diverting that aid into a healthy, life-sustaining, high energy level diet.

It would be funny if they sent me a letter congratulating me upon reaching some arbitrary number of days sober, and then adding that, since I had my alcohol dependency under control, I should have plenty of extra cash for food, and that I was no longer qualified for the Food for Families program. That might drive me to drink, as a matter of fact...

Yes, since I play about 10-12 hours per week, presently, I could easily afford to keep myself in Ramen noodles, with Vienna Sausage at every meal, and might even be able to put on weight with some peanut butter and jelly sandwich snacking. There are at least a half dozen varieties of Vienna Sausage on display at the Family Dollar, so each meal can be an exotic departure, with each night of the week being special. One night a week, I could splurge upon a self rising crust large frozen pizza, at under 4 dollars a pop, out of the same dollar store.

But, the real service that the food for families people are rendering me, is to allow me to eat stuff that is not bad for me. This puts me in a much more comfortable physical state which lends itself to creative output, and ultimately makes the community a better place (because I'm playing better music for 3 hours every night at the Lilly Pad).

This is not to say that there isn't always plenty of high fructose corn syrup in the boxes, which I try to trade for other items such as the unusual ones that frequently make their appearance there.

A Big Ass Bag Of Blueberries

Yesterday, it was a large Zip-lock bag full of blueberries. High in antioxidants and beneficial in other mysterious and esoteric ways, blueberries. It was a pretty large (one gallon?) Zip-lock bag, crammed full of frozen-together berries.

Big, fat blueberries, about, say, twice a big as a blueberry in size. I was thinking about the purple ice that they were frozen in, and how much weight and pressure that blueberry colored dye would bring to bear upon the seam of the bag after it had melted and the the thing had become a blueberry juice balloon.

I'm trying to think of a joke here. There has got to be a joke that I'm missing. Something about "We've got some mighty hungry people here, but thankfully, blueberries are on the way..." or "Business Owners Fed Up With Local Homeless And Their Purple Poop" or "What the hell a nigga' s'posed to do with a big-ass bag of blueberries?!" or...

I can really see the machinations of a thoughtful and generous person/persons behind the big bag of blueberries.

It is true that such an exotic item can be a useful supplement to the poor man's diet. They are something that the wealthy would top off their carriage full of food with, like the icing on the cake, composed of layers of healthy proteins and vegetables, and curds and wheys, baked goods, whipped cream and blueberries on top.

I don't see so much the hand of those who work towards boosting the self esteem of the homeless man, in the offering of the blueberries. That group will arrange to have the homeless invited to things like dinners served in fancy settings, such as a room in a 5 star restaurant commissioned for that purpose for an afternoon. It has to do with treating "the least of thine brothers" like royalty; flipping the script in that way, and possibly being able to have an effect on some, whose experience of being treated like royalty, might inspire them to raise their own standards.

How to locate the leasts of thine brothers? That's easy. Offer a free meal and they'll flood the place.

The blueberries being in Zip-lock bags without any branding label points to them having been locally grown, perhaps by a local Catholic who donated them.

I also got a frozen chicken.

I'm sitting here now, as the sun is coming up. I made 33 bucks in about 2 hours of playing last night, after having woken up in a daze around 9:12 PM, the time I "usually" leave to go out and play every night.

Before I had the bicycle, and would ride the trolley into the Quarter each night and then walk the 9 blocks to the Lily Pad, it was the 9:12 PM one that I would always try to catch. I could be set up and playing by around 9:30 using that trolley.

And, to this day, even if I drift off to sleep after sundown, having been up almost 24 hours, I will wake up around that time.

This time, it was about 9:03 PM.

I had a bunch of pennies and a 50 cent piece. All I really needed was food for Harold the cat. If I hurried, I could get some at the dollar store and maybe not even have to spend my Kennedy half dollar.

Then, after a cup of coffee, I started thinking.

I had no money. It would be a little more than 24 hours before Rose and Ed paid me the $140 back that I lent them.

My food stamp card was down to 13 cents (for the next 9 days) and my green American Express card was down to about 20 cents.

I had no cigarettes.

I had a big bag of blueberries, a frozen chicken a bunch of farina and whole wheat pasta and cans of green peas and green beans, and a half bag of light brown sugar, though.

I decided to just go out and play. If I made some money, I might even be able to squeeze another loan into the hands of Rose and Ed. Last month, Rose called asking to borrow 20 bucks in the evening, to be paid back double just a few hours later. I really must be one of the only residents here who can make cash money on any given 29th day of the month

Now that I have made 33 bucks and returned home with 20 of it still intact after buying a couple lottery tickets and a pack of smokes and a Monster Energy drink -3 expenses that could be eliminated.

Four Years Ago...Hats For Homeless poster boy...
Not much of note; a 20 dollar tip and a complement from a waitress from Lafitt's who had taken her smoke break by me.

Tonight will be the first night of Jazz fest (Thursday).

I'll be busking my butt off, trying to play 5 hour nights, even if I have to just sit there and rest at times. Jake, the busker who used to play on Royal and Orleans, used to just sit with his guitar leaned against the wall by him and wait for people to explicitly ask him to play before he would. I guess you are almost guaranteed a tip from someone who does so; but you will most certainly miss out on the tips that come for a variety of other reasons, such as you are playing a song that one out of the passing group of people had just quoted, "I was just telling John to take it easy, and we come around the corner and a guy's singing 'take it easy,' it was cosmic. I gave the guy a 20 spot..." type of thing.

That's about it for the blog update, I had a few topics in mind but got sidetracked to blueberries, I guess.

I need to study the GIMP "image manipulation program," so I can start to include little cartoons and other "Photoshopped" items in this blog. I should be able to do some much more professional looking ones than what I was able to do with the Paint program in the past.

It's just that the manual for GIMP that I downloaded really relied upon a lot of screen shots to demonstrate the various menus and windows, etc. These, I would have to look at on line. All I got was the text when I downloaded the web page with a lot of references to fig 3.1 and fig 3.2 etc., which allow you to see what the hell they are actually talking about.

2 or 3 hours on line after searching You tube for "how to do things using the GIMP editor" should have me ready to make a stab at it.

A busker nearby where the Lidgleys of London live
The XML, Javascript/DHMTL, Perl and CSS computer language studies are moving along at a snail's pace, as is the Spanish II studies, and the novel that I'm working on, can't forget that...

According to the maxim, if I don't see it, it doesn't exist, I am trying to keep all of my projects within my sight. All the books that I'm reading in view, and all the songs that I'm working on right in front of me on the desktop. That way I might at least spend 8 minutes on each thing every day; better than nothing...

I heard the pianist in Lafitt's playing "A Day In The Life," a Beatles song that I had been playing pretty regularly but had forgotten about until just then. It's a pity because the G major harmonica that I had before the present one would have been perfect for that song. This underscores the need for me to make a huge list of every song that I ever played and have it laminated, all 5 pages of it. There have been nights when I knocked off early after feeling that I had run out of material. The list would be the antidote to that.....

I've seen Wiel And Anna a couple times lately
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Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Evening Blog Catch-Up Post

  • 70 dollar Friday
  • 15 dollar Saturday.
  • Skeezer attacks me.

photo by: Tim, my caseworker
I'm trying to watch a little bit of sports this Sunday afternoon, on the TV that has been sitting there, collecting dust, with a picture of Donald Trump over its screen for at least 2 months, now.

I sure am glad that Howard Westra gave me the thing free after he had upgraded to a 36 inch one, himself.*

*A recent article, in the Sunday New York Timesŧ has shed some light on the subject of him having come into a windfall since the election of Donald Trump. The article was about how the stock of privately run prisons has generally doubled in value since his election. Howard told me once that he worked as a prison chaplain for something like 10 years. He must have had a stock purchase option that he took advantage of...

I have taken the rabbit ears out of service as a pop filter holder and plugged them back into the TV.

Both the Celtics and Bruins are in the playoffs. The one basketball game that I watch all season could be the final one of the season for the Celtics, and the same is true for the Bruins, who face elimination. Nothing like boiling the whole season down to its essence.

I once wondered why people don't just tune in to the last 2 minutes of NBA basketball games, as that is when at least half of them are decided. But, I guess people who really like basketball want to see every play. Plus, the last 2 minutes that decide the game are a test of the stamina of the 2 teams. Sure, they have played "even Steven" for 58 minutes, but which team has worn themselves out more, in the process? Hence, the last 2 minutes

I Fistfight A Skeezer

Last night, I was pretty late in getting to the Lilly Pad, and after about an hour had made perhaps 7 bucks when an out of shape, disheveled guy who seemed to be stumbling a bit, stopped and leaned against a pole in front of me for a couple of songs and then sat down on the stoop.

I played one more song, which he seemed to enjoy.

He wasn't putting anything in my jar, and was discouraging others from doing so by his presence, but I wasn't able to articulate this to him in any way that had him graciously moving off.

He instead, stood up, after I feigned to be moving to another spot, "Well, I guess, I'll move, if you want that stoop so bad.." and grabbed my guitar, trying to yank it away from me.

I reflexively, and probably fueled by adrenaline, was able to wrench it from him, whereupon he continued to advance upon me. I gave him the "What's your deal, dude, you got something against me?" as I backed closer to Lafitt's, hoping to spot the Italian mobster looking doorman, who might relish such a scenario.

But, as I got closer to the bar, the skeezer turned back towards where my tip jar and my backpack were still sitting.

Backup Guitar
Before he could get to it some other traveling kid type punks, had grabbed the 7 dollars or so out of it, having seen nobody within 25 feet of it, and probably misinterpreting the tiposaurus sign in such a setup to mean, help yourself to the money.

The skeezer gave them a thumbs up, while I went about putting my guitar in its case, to safeguard it.

This being done, I approached the guy, who struck me in the face, not even hard enough to knock my glasses off, but just to dislodge them a bit. I put them in my pocket, while saying: "Is that your hay-maker. Is that your knockout punch?!? Really?!?"

I then had a flashback to the Leslie Thompson (fight of December 19th, 2013) situation, and, being just enough outraged by the combination of having 7 bucks taken, being hit by him not very hard, and the fact that he was encroaching upon a spot that I have made my own, I swung at his head, hitting his face with a relatively solid feeling thud, kind of like when you hit a baseball and it springs off the bat rather than ratting your bones with a vibration.

There was an instantaneous flash of surprise and a bit of fear on his face as if he hadn't gaged just how drunk he was and perhaps was seeing more stars than he cared to for just that second.

This seemed to awaken him to a heightened state, and he began to fight more vigorously, but I was able to shunt his blows just by quickly jabbing at his arms and redirecting his punches. He was pretty slow and drunk, basically, and I envisioned how a speedy combination of punches could breech his defenses, and I thought another one just a bit harder than the first might knock him out long enough for him to fall back and hit his head on the concrete, which might put an exclamation point on my gesture, and would hopefully have him skedaddling away, thinking that I hit like a concrete sidewalk.

But, just then a state police van rolled up, and I was able to explain quickly to the officer behind the wheel that the guy had tried to grab my guitar and had then punched me.

The skeezer said: "Whatever he said; I didn't do it..." and then stood behind this argument; didn't produce identification because it is known through skeezerdom that one doesn't have to do so, etc.

Paintball Hit Harder Than Skeezer

The officers basically told him that, though they didn't have the grounds to arrest him, they were thereby telling him to leave the area, and should he not comply, then he would be arrested. For failure to obey an officer, or something.

I Could Busk With My Backup Guitar

I managed to make another 9 bucks to go with the 7 that the opportunistic gutter punks got, and I kind of look forward to going out tonight. I might start to bring my second guitar out busking. It is not that much of a drop off from the Takamine, and some might even like its tone better...

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Harold's Business

45 Dollar Saturday
20 Dollar Sunday
Special 20 Continues To Impress

Saturday night, I arrived even later at the Lilly Pad, 11 PM, than the previous 2 nights.

A good half hour could have been shaved off that arrival time, had I not tried to "pop into the computer room 'real quick' and post to the blog off my data stick" to find that the Sacred Heart computers had all been scuttled by someone who must have moved from one to the next, leaving them hung up and frozen in his wake.

Sometimes, I find a window open on the abandoned computer which has a misleading directive on it, like "are you sure you don't want our product?" and, without apparently having even tried to decipher the message, whomever it was repeatedly clicked upon "no," as a knee-jerk response to anything that obstructs, and became frustrated after a couple dozen such re-directs, and went to the next machine.

I made 40 bucks in about 3 hours total of playing. It was an overall slow tipping night, though the dollar bills came at a pretty much consistent rate. A couple that I met at the Quartermaster actually accounted for half of the night's take after I played a couple songs for them outside the place. I also have 3,000 "colones" in cash. From Costa Rica; each bill with an image of a presidente, along with his signature.

The sun is coming up on this Sunday, 16 April. My parent's anniversary was 2 days ago.

I'm listening to Anton Bruckner's choral works.

I put 35 bucks on the green plastic card, and have lent 45 bucks to Rose and Ed, which will come back to roost in a mere 14 days as 90 bucks, and have around 45 bucks in cash.

We seem to be within the season where I can go out and expect to consistently earn around my average of 18 bucks an hour, regardless of the night of the week.

I saw Tanya and Dorise for the first time in a couple months on the corner of St. Louis and Royal Streets, with the former giving me a smile, which is a departure from the quick turning of the head away from me that been the norm the few times that I had encountered her playing by herself, along with a backing track.
3 days ago...

They were in the middle of playing Pachabel's Canon, and had a guest violinist joining them, a young, tall, brown skinned guy who was dressed up in a way that might indicate that he plays the violin "classically."

I didn't stop because I was running late, but I returned a wave to them and made a note to myself to send off an e-mail to Tanya, I guess apologizing for the way I had started to ride past without acknowledging her, which commenced after I rode away after having said something to her and gotten no response except her having hit the play button on her backing track and started playing.

I had to smile upon hearing Pachelbel's Canon, which is the equivalent of "Freebird!!" to any busker with a violin; i.e. a song that is a good song, nice melody, maybe starts off slowly (check) and then builds to a climactic refrain (check, check) but is not a nice enough song to warrant playing (in its 10 minute entirety) for every person who comes along and feels like shouting out a request, and is only skimming one off the top of his memory at the moment. Oh, and about everybody knows them (check).

To start to play "Freebird" only to have the requestee drift on, in an attitude of: "I was just kidding, yelling 'Freebird,' you know, cause everyone always yells 'Freebird,' just trying to be funny; I don't really know why they yell that, nor do I really want to hear 'Freebird' but, I guess you're stuck for the next 10 minutes or so with it now, 'cause here comes a group of rednecks with their thumbs up.." is something that a busker has to be leery of.

Tanya doesn't always seem to get my humor, and perhaps becomes offended after taking something literally.

For instance, one time I rode up to find her in the process of peeling some skin around the callous on one of her fingers. "That's from not playing enough," I joked; in reference to the fact that no other street musicians come close to the 15 hour sets that she has been known to endure, with the black and blue marks that have shown where the violin touches her chin and shoulder being legendary, etc. That is not just 15 hours of "playing" for her, it is 15 hours of playing while under the watchful lenses of smart phones, which calls for an effort worthy of appearing on someone's Facebook page in their "Our New Orleans Trip" section. And, it's going to be captioned with "These girls were AMAZING!" and so...

But, that time, she seemed to have taken what I said literally and, without saying another word to me, launched into the next song, as if to say: "Maybe I should be playing right now instead of talking to you." I can understand how she might think that a guy who plays an average of 2.25 hours a night has a lot of nerve to imply that she isn't playing enough (causing her callouses to peel off).

I have become a better musician in the past year since I last jammed with them in any way, and I have to admit that it would be a feather in my cap to hear Tanya and Dorise note the improvement.

But, the improvement in my playing is indicative of a more global improvement which stems from my mindset; and a creative state of mind is just a subsection of the hologram of a life that is in order, in general. For example, perhaps about 8 months ago now, I had a boon in my fortunes after I noticed that my attitude had shifted and settled into one of a guy who is playing for his own enjoyment, fore-mostly. It wasn't until about that long ago that I realized one night, at a point where I hadn't made much at all, that I was still in a good mood, having had fun playing whatever I just had, and totally understanding and forgiving tourists who didn't tip for whatever reason.

I had probably about 75 bucks in a jar at home, cat food, toilet paper etc., but was also stocked up with things like a fresh battery in my guitar tuner and plenty to go in the spotlight, an extra set of strings and basically stuff that can pile up behind one who reaches the economic level of being able to buy in bulk. When Harold the cat has 11 cans of his favorite food piled up by his dish, then it's easy for me to smile if a couple walks by just shaking their heads at a rendition of "The Carcass Song," for example. 

"The Carcass Song" is my fisherman's equvalent of that lure which is about 6 inches long, shiney on at least one side, maybe 2 pounds, and fitted with a large utility hook, designed with nondiscriminate eaters in mind. The tourist who wants to hear an original song by a totally unknown to them as yet musician -and the weirder it is the better- would be the, say, marlin, in the extended fishing metaphor. 

475 Days Sober

And, of course, the shift in attitude was part of the extended period of sobriety, which saw its different plateaus and milestones reached along the way, and was one of them.

It had been kind of a surprise, because about a year off alcohol, I was sure that all of the physiological fallout from quitting drinking had run its course, and I had stabilized to the point where I would have "good" days and "bad" days, with most of them clocking in at right around that average day; but I hadn't accounted for the psychological aspect.

That would be the gradual letting go of that part of the mind that had linked every action to the satisfaction of the addiction. It took almost that whole year to have it sink in that, as long as I have food and a place to stay, then I can come out and have nothing less than a very good practice session, or have it begin to pour down raining as soon as I reach the Lilly Pad, with few worries on my mind.

After I had realized this on the occasion mentioned above -that the "I'm not drunk enough, goddammit-you!" part of my brain had relinquished it energy and inclination to direct anger at the tourists, I went on to make something like 50 dollars more, to go with the 3 or 4 bucks, the sight of which having brought the realization to mind.

So, becoming a better musician, at least in my "school" involves a globally oriented "practice" regime. For example, laying in a hot tub and listening to Anton Bruckner's choral works is like practicing, it just requires the companion routine of playing the instrument, in order to reap the benefit. So is jogging, eating healthily, and basically life can be filtered through the binary check of: "Does this make me a better musician, or not?" which is at the top of the music directory tree.

I basically made a giant leap towards became a more laid back, care-free person, but only at that point of about a year of sobriety, and after having come within a razor's edge of drinking again during the prior stage, when I felt that I had seen what sobriety had to offer; it wasn't going to get any better; and it's not better enough to be worth going without fine whiskey for a lifetime, for.

I will throw this in, as it is related. Music is a great tool for gaging the sincerity of people in your life. A musician can purposefully play badly, perhaps detuning the instrument for further effect, or will have occasions when the bad playing is unavoidable, such as after having made the poor decision to start a certain song at too impossible a tempo, or from messing around in a key that isn't familiar, etc. Then, should someone come along and say: "You're really talented!," then, bam!, you have uncovered a duplicity, and can be on guard.

So, perhaps next Sunday night (which has always been kind of a "guest performer" night for Tanya and Dorise) I'll pop in and jam with them, and hopefully they will note how improved I have become, and that will be that.

It might have nice to hear the same from Brian Hudson and Christina Friis, who were sitting on the steps of the Supreme Court building Friday night/ Saturday morning, after having been out for 17 hours (but only having played 6 of them; I guess they were sharing a spot). They were effecting being very exhausted, but seemed somewhat content, as if they had perhaps exceeded their expectations, money-wise. They certainly weren't complaining about any of the things that plague street musicians, brass bands setting up 50 feet away, et. al.

I didn't ask them how much money they had made.

I imagine they can recall the times when they were embarrassed to tell me that they had made, say, $300 on a generally slow night when I might have made $23. My reporting of having made $45 that night wouldn't have radically changed that equation.

But there is the the general overtone of pity for me that lingers from when I would emerge from under the wharf late each afternoon and would walk Royal Street, where I would encounter them.

They said they had been back in New Orleans a month, but that this was the first time they had seen me, which was true.

The bike trail gives me a back way to the Lilly Pad, which circumnavigates Royal Street. They have gone from seeing me just about every night that they come out, to once a month, now it seems.

As I sat there, talking to them, I started to wonder what, in my repertoire, I might play if I were trying to entertain them. I was drawing a blank.

I also noted that my newfound carefree state of mind was being buffeted somehow.

From the questions they asked me, I could tell that neither has read this blog in a while. "Do you still have the apartment?" being one.

But, unless they have some kind of aggregate reader applications whereby an indication of a new blog post by me would at least show up as a blip on a ticker-tape, that is understandable.

Still, it seemed almost like they value my friendship to a large extent for the fact that I came along every night, and would listen attentively for a bit and converse, and, I would tell stories about the homeless busker's life; then they might even be able to come to this blog and read about my encounter with themselves the next day.

There was almost kind of an awkwardness, beginning with the fact that I sensed their tiredness, and felt that the appropriate thing would be of course, to stop and talk to my friends that I hadn't seen in a half year in Brian's case and a year in Christina's, but not to stay too long.

I'm sure that, on their end, they might have been thinking, "Oh, there's Daniel, what a terrible time to see an old friend whom decorum dictates that we greet, when we're so tired, having been out 17 hours. Maybe he won't stay too long.."

They seem to have such a "commercial" approach to music, that it is something that they turn on while they are "on stage," and then turn right back off, when they are done. I've never seen Brian just noodling around on the guitar, amusing himself with it, or trying to learn something new. After he is done with his show, it goes back in its case. He just does all that at home, I guess.

I had known each of them for about a year when I was invited to a barbecue at Brian's then residence near Frenchmen Street. At the party were several musicians, singers, and such. Not one song was sung or played by anyone.

Brian's guitar and mandolin and fiddle were just room decoration at that party. I remember thinking that was odd, and writing it off to the idea that they are so professionally minded, that they wouldn't want to just grab an instrument and play something half serious. There were people at the party who knew people who booked musicians for various things and they wouldn't want to besmirch their "brand" by delivering of themselves anything that hadn't been rehearsed, and with the equipment having been set up and throughly sound checked beforehand, with tackling dummies used to simulate the acoustics of a room full of party-goers, etc.

That might have been my "job," I'm thinking in hindsight. The homeless guy who sleeps under the wharf taking his guitar out of its rat poop stained case and playing his best song, with all expectations having been laid low at the sight of the duct tape holding the two halves of said guitar together...but probably not, because (see below).

There would have been no sing-along because, when your latest demo is in the pocketbook of someone who knows someone who hires backup singers for Lionel Richie, why risk ruining it by trying to sing live at a party? Bobby Brown really embarrassed Whitney Houston once, at a party, doing that.

People expect life to mirror art, so that when Bobby Brown begins to sing, they expect a hush to come over the room and for him to sing using a voice that is compressed with the upper mids boosted, and with a 200 millisecond echo that repeats and fades, and for it to sound like he is in a room 4 times bigger than where the party was. And, certainly for someone to grab a ukulele that's sitting there (that sounds equalized and in a cathedral) and accompany him.

So, I can understand professionals like Brian and Christina not being on the steps of the Supreme Court building trying to remember and sing campfire songs from their youths.

I've found that one of the benefits of my late state of mind is that, at the times that I have no idea on what to play, even as I am tuning up, something comes to me, as if by inspiration, as soon as I start picking out a few notes.
"Let's break into a spontaneous duet!"

I took my guitar out of its case, baffled by the sudden damper that I felt was upon me. It was for no other reason than to explore why I had clammed up so, after having been at the Lilly Pad, with a free-flow of ideas, an hour earlier. It felt stifling.

"Daniel, could you please not play right now," said Brian. And that was my answer.

"I couldn't think of anything to play, anyways," I said, before I put the thing back in its case.

And that was true; even having taken the thing out and plucked a couple notes hadn't inspired anything. I guess I was picking up on their vibes, or at least his.

It could be seen as being shut out by someone who is playing an instrument.

It Was The Summer of '79...

When I was 17, I worked in a nightclub.

Scampi's Restaurant and Lounge, in Leominster, Mass.

This was cool in the sense that I was one year shy of being able to legally drink, so it made me one cool 17 year old, to be in there and all. It was mob affiliated (purportedly) and the fact that they had an under-aged bar-back, while cops (purportedly in their back pockets) occasionally sat at the bar and tossed them back, who was breaking the law, right along with his wise-guy cronies; hell yeah!
I had it going on back then, I must say... And I rode a moped?!? C'mon...

Scampi's had a "house band" that played Thursday through Sunday nights every week.

OK, "Survivors, LTD." they were.

They were very professional, and cranked out very well crafted renditions of all the popular songs on the radio, with the implication of their moniker being that, as this was the late 70's, they had survived the 60's.

Since their repertoire was not particularly full of guitar influenced songs, as they were then trying to survive the Disco Era, their guitarist only cut loose with a solo every so often.

I was an enthusiastic student of the guitar then, and I complemented the guy on one of the solos that he had played (on a Glen Campbell song, of all things). He was a guy of probably about Brian Hudson's age at the time.

"What kind of stuff do you play at home?" I asked him.

He gulped down the last of his drink, and then, before heading back to the stage for another set, said: "That guitar is nothing but a tool of the trade. When I get home, I hang the thing on the wall, and there it stays. I don't touch it, I don't practice; I don't even think about it until it's time to come here and play; It's like a chainsaw in a work shed ..."  

That kind of stuck with me, as a 17 year old. I thought of that guy when Brian asked me not to play.

I'm pretty sure he wasn't trying to disparage me; but it does make me wonder what kind of mental torture he envisioned would come from anything that I might have put forth.

Christina Friis also listens with a professional ear. She has sung in studios, backed by "studio" musicians (i.e. musicians who are paid more to not make mistakes or draw attention to themselves -Duane Allman's solo on "Hey Jude," by Wilson Pickett notwithstanding- than they are to "collaborate" with the singer) and so I didn't really feel like I had, at the ready, any kind of unique harmonization of a jazz standard that would have caught her ear and had her inviting me to "accompany" her to the studio, but thought that I might be able to amuse her with a tidbit of something that I might be working on.

I'm sure Brian would have said something like: "I think you're a very creative musician who deserves to be listened to more attentively than I had the ability to do at that particular time, in the exhausted state that I was in. I think it would have been worse if you started playing and I fell asleep, wouldn't it have been?"

The thought crossed my mind that he was afraid that I was going to play so horribly, that it was going to take more of an effort that he felt he had in him, in his exhausted mental state, to endure it; or to exert the extra energy to go so far as to be patronizing....I like the bridge chords....

I will say that Brian is one of the people that I've never actually played well in the presence of.

One time, he and a friend walked up upon me at the Lilly Pad. They had been drinking, and Brian asked me to play something. The problem was that, I had been drinking just as much, and only got about 2 verses into one of my originals, before deciding that I really didn't know it. It was a song that I had written when I was about 16 years old, and hadn't really played since then. Why I chose that song is a mystery to me. Maybe I was just testing him to see if he would say: "That really sounds like crap; you need to find another profession; I'm just telling you that as a friend..." whereupon, I would say; "Yeah, I was just messing with you. I'll play a real song now..."

Monday Night, April 17th, 7:50 PM

This is the time of evening when the decision is made to go out and play or not.

In general it is always good to go out and play. It is only asking 3 or 4 hours out of the day; the rest is free time, and how easily I can rearrange my schedule around those 3 or 4 hours.

Last (Sunday) night, I chose "yes, do go out and play;" got to the Lilly Pad at exactly 10:28 PM, and made 16 dollars in just about 2 hours.

But, I'm also a blogger and am working on a CD and studying Spanish, English Literature, Mel Bay guitar and harmonica methods, XML and Perl programming, and cartooning with the "GIMP" free editor.

The editor is esteemed as perhaps the crowning achievement of all things open sourced, and has been used at the highest professional levels by organizations that escape me right now, like some major Hollywood Studios, or something, so I think the fact that I can't even draw a stick figure with it right now, lies in my lack of education about the GIMP.

I think that staying in tonight to learn the GIMP editor might be cost effective, in lieu of going out looking for another 16 dollars...

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hohner Special 20 Pays For Itself In 2 Hours

  • 40 Dollar Thursday
  • 50 Dollar Friday

Raining Right Now, Saturday Evening: 8:08 PM.

"I ain't got nothing for bums..." is "blaring" out of my 25 watt home stereo system that plugs into my laptop..the one with the foam rubber cones around the woofer scored with cat claw marks and divots.

The modest improvement in bass response that I would notice after sinking about 30 bucks into a new speaker would not be enough boom for the buck over the duct tape job that I've been listening through since Harold the cat tore up the woofer with his then kitten paws, about a year and a half ago.

The song I listened to before that was written about the lady who lives a couple of doors down from me.

Her name is Jackie, I believe, and she has been described by other residents as "the one that doesn't look half bad," to distinguish her from the ones that look at least half, and in most cases more than, half, bad.

I guess I lucked out when that beauty moved in to the apartment a couple doors down.

A guy named Harry used to live there, but he was arrested after being found in posession of a lot of heroin, and the management, I guess, decided not to hold the apartment for Harry for 5 to 20 years (or a fine of up to 50 thousand dollars) and, in moved Jackie about a half year ago now.

One of the first things that Jackie did was to smash the glass out of one of the windows that face Canal Street, like mine do.

The windows at Sacred Heart Apartments have all been painted and/or glued shut; most likely to force entry through the front lobby and past the "courtesy officer," rather than through first floor windows.

I have often thought that it would be nice to open my own windows, especially on temperate spring nights, but had never put two and two together between the painted shut windows in front of me and the heavy objects that could be swung or thrown through them, that I had handy. Jackie had apperently felt momentarily trapped and had had an episode of acting out upon her fears.

One of the other first things that she had done, upon moving in, was to knock on my door, asking me for a pan, so that she she could cook her "patetti."

"I'm hungry; I need to cook my patetti," she had stood there, at my door and begged me with, using all of the body language that one might expect to see in someone who was hungry and couldn't cook their patetti. It was full blown skeezing of the type that you see in the French Quarter which is foisted upon tourists who both, never would have thought that there could be people literally starving on the streets of America, and in turn, never would have thought that these could just be skeezers, faking hunger and using it as a ploy to bilk more money than a person busting his ass for minimum wage could ever dream of; out of the gullable; like the equivalent of the minimum wage guy's whole weeks paycheck, after just a few hours of skeezing.

So, there stood Jackie, bent over and holding her stomach with the starving-est expression on her face, embued with a certain childishness too, through it all. "I can't cook my patetti, I'm hungry!"

I noticed that Jackie was making subtle adjustments in her approach, as she tried to guage her effectiveness.

Using the word "patetti" had not helped her cause, as the only other time I had heard that exact word had been in Jacksonville, Florida, around 2007. It was uttered by this particular older black woman, who would arrive at a certain Italian restaurant where my friend Larry worked.

She would arrive around the first of the month, and just about demand her patetti, which had to be prepared in just such a way. "I want my patetti!" she was known to utter, if, upon her arrival it hadn't been prepared in just such a way, yet.

I had seen the woman at the labor pool on a few occasions. She would sign in, and then basically sit there and allow herself to be passed over by refusing each job which came up, based upon the physical demands of that job. "I can't stand up for 8 hours," "I can't push one of those brooms all day; I tried, and it hurt my back so much that I was out of work for the next week and had to even go and get pain pills from the doctor...." etc.

The woman sat and told me, one morning, of her belief that she was "entitled to a house." She was in the process of jumping through certain beurocratic hoops, which showing up at the labor pool early in the morning and signing in, to show the world that she is willing and able to workl, but that there just isn't any work that she is capable of doing (and so, no fault lies with her) was part of.

"I'm entitled to a house!" she had firmly stated, with arms folded defiantly, teeth clenched, and staring straigt ahead, that morning. That was around 2007, as I recall, and it was actually the first time that I had heard the word "entitled," used in that context.

I wondered how this old black lady, who had reached the age of about 60 years old, apparently without ever having heard the word "spaghetti" pronounced correctly, was entitled to a house.

It crossed my mind to ask her something like: "And just what makes you feel that you are 'entitled' to a house?" but felt that I wouldn't have been able to ask without betraying my incredulity over the fact that she had somehow been indoctrinated into that belief "system."

Plus, I didn't have a tape recorder handy. I would have wanted to record her response and then e-mail it to Rush Limbaugh, or maybe Neil Borch (sp?).

"...Now, this next audio clip is the response of a 60 year old African American woman in Jacksonville, Florida to the question of why she felt that she is entitled to a house...the sound quality isn't the best because you can hear people in the background yelling things like: 'I ain't grabbing no boots and no shovel, you ain't got nothin' else?.."

The same lady had a copious bag of Halloween candy, so this must have been around that time. I asked her for a piece of it.

"I usually don't give anything to a white man. You have your money and your candy already, in the color of your skin. You don't need to aks (sic) for nothin'" she had said.

So, that is the memory that was conjured up by Jackie with the utterance of the word "patetti," and she apparently saw some intelligence come over my face and had changed tack somewhat, but to no effect. I told her that my pans were in use, at the time. This was true, as one of them was in the refrigerator with the last night's leftovers in it, and the other one was boiling away on the stove.

About a half hour later, I had a change of heart.

I moved the leftovers to a Tupperware thing, washed the pan out, and then went and knocked on #108.

The door opened to reveal Jackie and to allow a puff of acrid smoke out into the hallway that smelled like burning paper.

Behind her, littering tables and counters and chairs was, food. All kinds of food -peanutbutter and jelly jars, loaves of bread, cans, candy bars, bags of chips, macaroni and cheese, and something on the stove in a cardboard container, like a pastry perhaps, that she was trying to heat up, without setting the box on fire, without much success.

All I saw was food, as I stood there, with half a mind to retract the offer of my fry pan right then and there.

She reached for the pan, flashing me a perfunctory thank you from the bottom of my heart which was probably something practiced, for a second, and then another kind of "It's about time you came to your senses and brought me the pan, can't you see that I want some patetti to go with all this (and my first few attempts to cook it in a cardboard box produced sparks from the stove)!

I never saw my pan again. She had framed it as herself wanting to borrow the thing, just to cook her patetti.

The next time I saw her, she was coming out of her place. She asked me for a cigarette, before I thought of asking for my pan back.

The time after that, she was passing by as I was going to the laundry room. She asked me for a cigarette; again.

This was repeated a couple times when I saw her in the lobby, or in front of the building.

Last night, my friend Bobby in building B, told me that he had bought food stamps off of Jackie. "Never again," he said.

He had given her 50 dollars in cash for the 100 dollars of food left on her card.

He went with her to the store. She gave him the card and the pin number. He went in and bought like a pack of gum off it; producing a reciept indicating that there was indeed about 100 dollars* left on it. Then he handed over 50 good dollars in cash and pocketed the card, which Jackie wasn't going to need until the first of next month, intending to spend the hundred bucks frugally.

Then, over the next few days when Bobby was trying to pick up the food at his convenience and leisure, she returned, "starving," and begging him for "bread," and "tuna fish," etc.

Having a good heart, Bobby bought her some food "out of my own money," until about her third return to his place, "starving," and broke and having sold all of her food at 50 cents on the dollar. How could he not take patetti, I mean pity on such a pathetic figure?

"Everything she told me was a lie. Never again!," said Bobby.

"Then I finally just took her aside and said: 'Look, this is stupid,' and then she started with 'I'm sorry, Mr. Bobby, I'm just so hungry, Mr. Bobby, you're so kind, Mr. Bobby...' and I said: You don't have to call me mister, just don't try to rip me off, that's all..."

"Yes, mister, I mean Bobby. I'm sorry Bobby, I was just so hungry, I didn't know what to do..."

"Never again," reiterated Mr. Bobby.

So, it was fitting that I was listening back to a recording I made of a song that I had kind of spontaneously written with lines like: "It's so nice when there's no skinny black lady at the door asking for a pan to cook her patetti in.." when I went out in the hallway to let Harold the cat out, who bristled at the sight of Jackie emerging from #108, having a notion to run back into the apartment, it seemed.

"Do you have a cigarette?" asked Jackie after she spotted me.

I actually gave her one, this time. First time ever. I'll have to monitor the situation to see if any change in her demeanor towards me results from that. Will she now begin to knock on my door at all hours of the day or night, with a "you gave me one last time, what's the problem now?" attitude?"

I don't know, but I am well set up to look through the muck of all that to a brighter near future.

The Hohner "Special 20" "Progressive" harmonica arrived yesterday afternoon, along with the strings and picks.

I put brand new strings on the guitar and took the brand new harmonica out to the Lilly Pad, arriving at about 10:15.

There was a young guy with a guitar and a young lady with a banjo sitting on Lilly's stoop.

"I'll leave; I talked to Lilly and told her that I'd leave if you showed up," the girl said, leading me to believe that she is the girl that Lilly had mentioned, describing her as being "very nice."

"I told her she could play here, as long as you weren't here, but if you showed up, she had to leave," said Lilly.

"Have you made anything while you were here?" I asked, trying to convey that this could be a decent arrangement, them showing up in the late afternoon and playing until sundown (since they didn't bring any kind of light and were seemingly ready to pack up anyways, perhaps having learned that being vague inky sillouettes sitting there was causing tourists to cross over to the other side of the street well before getting even close enough to them to even hear "Wagon Wheel" being played) and holding the spot, in a way, until I got there.

I might even give them the advice that a spotlight (for the hours after sundown and before I get there) will attract at least double the number of people to stop and check them out; it just needs to be bright enough so that people can see that they aren't holding guns, but rather, banjos.

Of course, I don't want to get into a situation where I arrive at say, 11 PM, and they are still there, having discovered that a spotlight attracts people in droves and being in the process of making 30 bucks an hour, and asking: "Can we just play until midnight, and then you can have the spot?"

Maybe I should keep them in the dark about that, and just let them be daytime Lilly Pad buskers, and let them think: "I don't know why he wants to play here so much, after dark nobody even walks on this side of the street..."

The Hohner Special 20 is everything that I might have expected in a professional instrument which is played by the guy in the band "Blues Traveler." It paid for itself, the strings and the picks after a 3 hour, 50 dollar outing.

The most noticeable distinction between it and 12 dollar harmonicas is the attention to the "detail" of the top three holes, 8, 9 and 10. These are all very playable on the Special 20, and not thrown in as an afterthought like on some harps that just wind up being honked on using the same few "blues" notes on the middle and low holes, like so many "amateur" players do. -the "try to play so loud they don't notice that it's a little off" school of harmonica enthusiasts.

Well, let me run this through my Perl formatting program, to spruce it up and give a word count total at the bottom

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