Street Musician Daniel: Consider The Lilly’s

  • 104 Dollar Friday
  • 30 Dollar Saturday

The ever faster lately, it seems, clock is already a half hour into Monday.

The time to decide whether to busk or not, on this Sunday night, has come and gone. I had woken up at around 5 in the evening, which means I must have drifted off to sleep around 9 in the morning after Jacob and I had busked and I got back home around 2 pm, after a ride on the Ol’ Reliable, 1:50 am street car.

I called Lilly about an hour after waking up because I had seen a “missed call’ from her which was logged right around the time we heard a light tapping on the window of Angelique’s bedroom which was about 2 am Saturday morning.

A group of a few more people had shown up, with I think one of them adding a second harmonica to our mix -my memory is foggy on that, but Lilly was once again concerned with there being a larger (than just Jacob and I) group playing in front of her house. She is wary of any other musicians trying to move in on my hustle and, even though Angelique had informed her that I was indeed part of the group, Lilly rapped a few times on the window, taking care to not put her fist through it like she did a couple weeks ago when there was a black guy banging along with us on a drum.

The phone call started with her pleasantly asking if I was going to play “tonight,” which I took to mean that there were no hard feelings and that her knocking on the glass wasn’t meant to run me away. But, then it devolved into about an hour and a half of Lilly lecturing me on politics after I had said that I thought a bunch of rich people were basically running the war in Ukraine just as a means of making lots of money selling the Ukrainians the weapons.

After I pointed out how interesting it was that every president, going back to probably Reagan, had gotten us into some kind of war, under the same circumstances of the military industrial complex raking in tons of tax payer’s money.

But then I made the mistake of saying “Except for Trump…”

And it was off to the races, with Lilly claiming that Trump started a war right here in this country, which, in her opinion was worse. Then, I had to listen to the history of Putin and how there wasn’t a war because Trump was in bed with him, and how Trump wants to be like Fidel Castro and own this country; and then, she praised Hillary Clinton and Liz Cheney and I listened in disbelief as she parroted back all the propaganda that comes over everyone’s smart phones, almost word for word. She then said that Trump supporters were all ignorant rubes and that any person with any kind of education would be able to see through all the lies…and vote for Hillary Clinton…

She kept punctuating every other phrase with “OK?” as she prated on. “Putin has stolen billions of dollars from the Russian people, OK?! and they have no idea that it even happened, OK?! and besides her agreeing with me that we shouldn’t be fighting the Russians in Ukraine but should rather just obliterate “that beautiful building” -the Kremlin– with the mother of all bombs, and take Putin out, she never seemed to recover from the “Except for Trump,” comment until an hour and half had gone by, with me occasionally saying “Yeah,” into my phone in between her “OK?!”s

Not Sure This Is OK

And this reminded me of the tarot card reader named Louisewhom I once let stay in my place, who would go off on her own tirades about her hatred for men, punctuating everything the same way, OK?!

Louise determined that it wasn’t her fault that the government had been “stupid enough to give a voucher for an apartment to ‘an alcoholic veteran,'” and that she had just as much, and probably more, of a right to the apartment ; and then informed me that she was going to cook herself a good meal, take a long hot shower and then sit and watch a movie (on my laptop) while a tub of ice cream she had finished in the freezer (notice I didn’t say in my freezer). I listened to a few hours of her non-stop diatribe against, men in general, before I called the security people up front to come and get her away from me; sending her on her way, pulling a little cart behind her, laden with all her tarot card reading paraphernalia, and yelling: “He was probably going to rape me!” and other things, all the way down Canal Street -just another mentally ill person yelling to no one in particular, was what I was hoping anyone would think of her…

But, there was Lilly on the phone, ranting about politics and saying “OK?!” everywhere there would be a period on a printed page. That really threatens to change my opinion of Lilly. I’ve never heard her “OK” like that before. It sometimes seems like there are spirits in New Orleans that can inhabit bodies like hermit crabs do; and make groups of people think and say the exact same things; and one of them crawled into Lilly when she wasn’t on guard…

2 Straight Nights Busking

But, there was the minor miracle of Jacob and I having logged 2 straight nights at the Lilly Pad (especially after having split 104 bucks the night before; which might have given the more fickle of buskers an excuse to take a night off and party it up).

We had gotten off the street car nearby Patrick‘s house, hoping that he would still be awake and would have some weed to sell us, since we had played the whole night without the aid of that particular euphoric. We did happen to have a tab of acid that I swallowed before I wallowed into the Quarter, to go with some “magic” mushrooms that Jacob ate a handful of.

We were kind of hoping that we would run into Trinity, who is a petite girl with tattoos all over her skinny body, who was playing a miniature guitar and singing with a heavy Arkansas accent when we had encountered her at about 2 am on our way back from Lilly‘s after the Friday night into Saturday morning event.

We stopped at the corner diagonal to her, where I made the assessment that she was “sexy,” noting the fishnet stockings and the red shoes to go with her heart shaped face.

We went over to her and put 3 bucks in her tip receptacle, which was kind of a weird, flat, tambourine shaped circle of cloth, adorned like a wreath with twisted pieces of palm leaves. It didn’t look like it would hold much money.

A closer look at her revealed that some of her “tattoos” had perhaps been drawn onto her using a magic marker.

But, she was nowhere in sight as we walked Royal Street back this time. That was a slight relief to me because I had consumed the jello shots that some guy had tipped us, not realizing that Jacob had set one of them aside to give to her.

We had even set up the recording studio at my place, intending to bring her back with us to begin working on her first album. I had to caution Jacob about becoming too optimistic about the prospect of collaborating with such a skinny girl with magic marker tattoos all over her body; Sometimes you can read a girl like a book and make an educated guess as to how she might have gotten so skinny. Although I might be reading too much into it, because her skill on the miniature guitar was quite impressive, and bespoke of a lot of practicing, without much time left over for doing crystal meth and not eating for days…

So, The Streak Ends At Two Days

There is generally a drop off in traffic at the Lilly Pad after about 10 pm on Sunday nights.

In fact I should do an error correction upon the statement that I wrote a few posts back about how much money I would potentially make, were I able to buckle down and discipline myself to put in 40 hours a week.

I said that I would make around 600 dollars a week; but I wasn’t considering the fact that, in order to put in 40 hours per week, some of those hours would have to be during the slower periods of time, such as when many of the tourists are inside some place eating dinner, as per the customs of doing so at specific hours, such as 7:30 pm

Not every hour can be like the ones between 11 pm and 2 am on a crowded Friday night into Saturday morning, and there just aren’t 40 of those in any given week.

Tanya Huang is probably a good role model for choosing when to bus; As she starts at 11 am, Thursday morning and puts in at least 12 hours, with a short break to eat at, of course, the time when a lot of tourists are inside somewhere, doing the same. If she still has a crowd gathered when 11 pm rolls around, she will often keep going for another couple hours, adding another couple hundred bucks to her basket, but making for a 14 hour day of pretty much non stop bowing of her violin.

I think the amount she plays on Sundays are to make up 40 hours for the week, so if she does her three days of twelve hours each, she only “has to” play 4 hours on Sunday, and might do that in the evening from around 8 until midnight.

The hardest part of following that formula for me has been the part about continuing to play, if after your planned amount of time is up, there are still a lot of tourists surrounding you.

I tend to think that, after I run out of gas, the quality of whatever I go on to play will diminish, and thus, negate some of the advantage of having a bunch of people within earshot. And I also perhaps “suffer from” what might be the fallacy of seeing a higher purpose in what I do, as far as letting the incomprehensible workings of the universe involve me in connections to other people in ways that still might not be understood about art in general. This would be best illustrated by examples, such as when I was playing “Tears In Heaven,” and looked at my right to see a certain young lady sitting on the stoop next to me with tears running down her cheeks, who then told me that her mother’s funeral had been earlier that day and that song had been part of the ceremony.

Or the time I was doing “Scarlet Begonias,” by the Grateful Dead on a sidewalk in St. Augustine and as soon as I sang the line: “Wind in the willows playing tea for two…” Another young lady stopped right in front of me and hiked up the leg of her shorts to reveal a tattoo of a willow tree, with two birds alighting in its branches, with the words: “Wind in the willows playing tea for two,” done in fancy calligraphy that kind of wrapped around the drawing in a flowing manner that suggested them being blown by the wind.

This is something that Tanya seems to not acknowledge in any way as being part of her busking experience. “I’m just trying to sound good,” was her response to me asking her some question along those lines. I think it was something like asking her if she was intentionally playing a lot of “triplet”s in her melody because there was a lady with 3 identical babies in a triple stroller who had stopped to listen.

“I’m just trying to sound good,” she told me with a slight frown, as if she “frowned upon” the practice of attaching meaning to the music, beyond it just sounding beautiful. It could be that her Buddhist religion, along with the countless hours of practicing since she was 4 years old, has trained her to shut off a certain part of her brain, so that it won’t be allowed to make any mischief, such as having her play triplet figures on the violin to entertain some triplets. It could also be a right-left brain kind of thing, where she has to marshal a lot of her brain power into reproducing melodies (out of her encyclopedic store of them) and that that doesn’t leave much room for thinking about such things as triplets.

It was actually her foil, Dorise Blackmon, who was adept at choosing songs (out of their encyclopedic store of them) to go along with something that a tourist might be displaying. No matter which state a tourists shirt was advertising, they would have 50 songs at the ready and Dorise would lead them into one’s like “Private Idaho,” by the B-52’s or of course, “Country Roads” (“West Virginia; mountain mama, take me home) at the sight of a tourist approaching, wearing the tee shirt.

She exhibited a broad musical knowledge to point that, if a tourist was representing even some city on their shirt; They were likely to have, in their repertoire, a song by an artist who was born there. Tori Amos for Baltimoreor a Sam Cooke song, if anyone came along wearing a Coahoma Community College shirt (located in Clarksdale Mississippi) (where Sam was from)…

OK, 4 hours spent blogging will have to do…

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