The Word Of The Day: Barrel

I sat there around 10 last night, the 2 crisp one dollar bills that had come in the Nielson survey envelope sitting next to me on the couch.

Anyone who might doubt that a guy who has lost a lot of weight and now smokes cigarettes didn’t once kick ass on Royal Street singing opera, I rest my case with this video I found of him. Raymond is his name and he is no longer “The Opera Guy of New Orleans,” but is crooning out songs from The Great American Songbook, now, not limited to country music songs…Just seeing him sing in this era before the plandemic , makes me nostalgic for that simpler time. I was busking something like 24 hours a week back then…

I packed up my stuff, careful to make sure I had one pick in the backpack, and one in my back pocket. It was about twenty minutes before 11 when I went out through the lobby. There weren’t any milk crates under the awning of the building a block or so down the street, across from the elementary school.

I rode down to the quarter, noticing the guy that raps on the corner of Baronne and Canal, doing so. He free-styles about the people walking past and seems to be getting incrementally better at it, since he started about 3 years ago. I guess we can start saying: “since before the pandemic,” now, similar to how some residents brag about having been in New Orleans “since before Katrina.”

I got to The Unique Grocery, where I was able to use turn the 2 crisp one dollar bills from the Nielson people into a couple shots of E&J brandy (this meant me owing them the change of 18 cents, which is basically the tax) and the “Jesus shadow” clock read: 11:15 as I went past it.

One thing I forgot to pack (when am I going to start using my checklist religiously and stop forgetting one little item each outing?) was the fake 5 dollar bill that I use to start the tip bucket out with.

I hadn’t been playing more than 5 minutes when a young guy walked over with a 5 dollar bill and asked me if the empty jar in front of me was where he should place it. This is the reason a busker should start out with at least one of his own dollars in his tip jar.

“I could hear you all the way down at Lafitt‘s and you sounded good; especially the harmonica,” he said.

I thanked him and added: “At least now, people will know that I accept tips!” to which he agreed.

So, I had to leave the real 5 dollar bill in the jar, to act as the fake 5 dollar bill; and just take my chances with a hoodlum running off with the jar..

But, not for long, as soon a group stopped to listen to “Nowhere Man,” during which about 4 more single bills went into the jar, and the night kind of went that way, with the times I thought I was sounding good coinciding with a trickle of bills, some of which were 5’s, going into the jar.

I took a break after 2 hours and about 26 bucks to go to the store to get a couple shots of the next step up from the bottom of the barrel Taaka vodka; And he was able to give a tall skinny black guy who was lighting a large blunt outside the store, 2 dollars for a few tokes off his weed, which was potent, but had a home grown flavor to it. I think this is because people who grow weed at home, although they might follow strict procedures towards making the weed potent, are not always so vigilant when it comes to airborne spores and dust and motes and, well Covid virus, too I guess. So, just as hanging your clothes to dry inside a musky apartment might make them smell like mildew, weed that is growing there picks up some tell-tale flavors when grown by someone who doesn’t want to go all out and buy a tiny greenhouse to house the plants. But, I got a righteous high off his homegrown bud for 2 dollars.

That was the Nielson money, I guess; even though the shots of E&J had already been the Nielson money. It would wind up getting spent a few more times before the night was over…

On my way back to the Lilly Padwith the homegrown creeping up on me, I noticed a guy who reminded me of “The Opera Guy,” so much that I turned my bike around and went back. He was sitting across from The Quartermaster on the side street on a stoop, and turned out to be that very soul.

He kind of dropped his head when telling me that he no longer sang opera, and I could read a little guilt in between the lines. He was actually croooning out a Frank Sinatra song, so I thought, as I arrived.

I remembered him as being somewhat of an elicit and, at one point about 5 years ago when I was hanging out with him and a classical guitar playing guy named Dave, he was fervently trying to get Dave to “play your most classical piece,” And he kind of wrinkled his nose a bit when, at one point I played something which might have been “Dear Prudence,” by John Lennon, the classical composer.

So, him being a big barrel chested guy who even resembles “a famous tenor” in his facial features, it apparently took some humility in him to confess that he no longer sang opera.

I complemented his “Frank Sinatra,” to which he thanked me but returned “that was actually Cole Porter,” and then began to sing a George Jones song before being interrupted by the guy sitting with him changing the song coming out of their little boom box to something other than George Jones “Sing this instead,” was his basic gist.

I went back to the Lilly Pad and enjoyed very much whatever I played and probably in an amount equal to the enjoyment of the few hits of homegrown, mildew reeking bud, and the 2 additional shots of the next thing up from the bottom of the barrel Taaka vodka.

On the way out, I stopped at The Unique Grocery for a can of Coor’s Light, and when I gave an extra dollar to the guy, for him to take the 18 cents that I owed from earlier out, he gave me yet another bottle of E&J instead; tax free…

There was a guy lingering around who stood near me as I was searching for the Coor’s Light who was, without looking directly at me; going through a litany of drugs that he “had,” starting with “I got that purp” which referred to “purple haze,” which was a strain that was around for a while before hydroponically grown stuff started coming out of boutiques with all kinds of names like “girl scout cookies,” and “blueberry.”

But, to simplify things, and so the dealer guy standing by the cooler doesn’t have to say things like: “I got that diesel fuel!” to a bewildered street musician, it can all just be purp now…

When I hadn’t responded, he went up the of addictive substances, “I got powder, I got hard, I got ice…” And, he had gotten all the way up to whatever they are calling heroin now,” when I interjected with: “I just gave some guy 2 bucks for a few hits off a blunt,” as a means of conveying that I was on a low budget. Some of those items he was throwing out there just in case I had like 80 bucks to spend on a wretched fix of crystal meth or something.

So, I managed to get a 10 dollar gram or so of “the purp,” and then I went to CVS to get the only kind of cat food they had on their shelves, a large bag of “Temptations,” which I get the sense are meant only as a desert for cats and not for them to live off of. That would be kind of like us trying to live off of Little Debbie products exclusively.

Speaking of people who live almost entirely on Little Debbie products, and soda, I saw the clappers doing their thing at the corner where Tanya Huang usually is. And Tanya wasn’t at any other corner, so I know she hadn’t been moved off the block by the clappers, mafioso style.

The clappers’ daughter, who was about 7 years old the first time I saw her is about 16 now, and was all dressed up in a form fitting kind of tube dress and she sings now, and not too badly. So the clappers no longer just clap their hands as their only accompaniment and sing gospel music; now they have a sound system of pretty high wattage and their daughter singing the devil’s music in a tube dress that flatters a body that is the product of being nurtured on mostly Little Debbie and soda.

I used to think of them as being rather feeble minded, probably illiterate, and kind of like children who never grew up.

I would see them coming out of Rouses Market, each of them -the mother, the father and the little girl- hugging bags that all had Debbie’s face smiling at you from various angles. this maybe after having had a contentious discussion over whether or not to appease the little girl with a candy bar with the concession being that she not eat it first and spoil her appetite for the veggie chips, or something…

A cab would pull up and they would stuff themselves, along with their plunder, in and be whisked off, to clap no more for the night. The two parents were borderline obese, but the girl remained pretty much a beanstalk throughout her formative years.

I really think they thought they were getting a variety of foods in their diet, because they would have chosen an assortment of LD items -strawberry filled Twinkies (to give them their berries) and creme filled chocolate cakes (to fulfill their “dairy requirements” ) and then a big bag of veggie flavored Doritos (because everyone knows that vegetables are good for you) and then, because the clappers weren’t vegetarians, a few sticks of beef jerky…

But I was just going out to the Lilly Pad when I saw them.

The last thing of consequence that happened was I saw a bag sitting at one of the trolley stops that contained 4 Styrofoam containers of chicken wings and fries, with ranch dressing and even ketchup in them. You could tell that they hadn’t been disturbed because, besides being still warm, when I opened them, the wings and fries were wrapped tightly in some kind of wax paper that conformed almost perfectly to the shape of the container. If anyone had eaten out of them, they wouldn’t have been able to wrap them up like that; not unless they re-heated it and let the cheese melt to the shape of the Styrofoam again.

I rode a little further up Canal, in case someone came running up, having forgotten the food at the trolley stop and expecting it to still be there, with nobody eating it. I scarfed down one of them, eating only a little of the fries but demolishing the chicken.

I stopped at Patrick‘s to see if he was still up at 2:30 in the morning and was hungry, but he wasn’t home. So I ate another one of them; the one I was going to give to PatrickI guess.

Then I thought the lady working the front security desk might want one; but she didn’t, and so I wound up eating all of them.

I also slip until almost 3 in the afternoon and didn’t even want to try to make it to the plasma place within the next 2 hours; and so it’s now Sunday evening and I probably will end up back at the Lilly Padby maybe about 9:30…
I can have a jolly time just smoking some purp and playing the same way I would be doing if sitting on my couch…

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