- 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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