Friday, December 30, 2011

Dumb shit tourists say....

Quarter Rats are stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. They have to put up with abuse and bullshit to survive. We in the Quarter must tolerate and amuse the ten million or so tourists every year. Tourists are the life giving blood to the French Quarter, and also the most intolerable part of living here.  It doesn't take long of living in the Quarter before you stop seeing them, or even noticing their presence. Like not seeing the flies when you work in a barn until you find one swimming in your cup of coffee.

The other day while walking to work along my usual route of Royal Street on a beautiful morning, one scolded me. I was looking down at my cell phone to see if my employer had called yet to ask where in the hell am I with the keys to the apartment that we were painting, when I heard a shrill annoying voice bark in exasperation "That idiot in the white ruined my shot." Hm, what a coincidence, I'm wearing white I thought.  I half turned to my left to see some chubby housewife from the midwest holding a camera in one hand and a Bloody Mary in the other giving me the stink eye while facing a building that I just walked by.  Fuck you bitch, people live here I mumbled.

Once while having a smoke break on a bench in front of the Upper Pontalba, a tourist stopped, pointed a camera directly at me and snapped a photo. They then walked away without so much as a thank you. How rude I thought. What if I hung out in the parking lot of where you worked and snapped your picture as you were getting out of your car to go inside to work. You probably would find it a little creepy and tell me to go fuck myself.

Today Jackson Square was mobbed. As I tried to carry buckets of paint and ladders from one apartment to another, I had to walk at a snail's pace behind thick packs of tourists. Groups that all of a sudden stop dead in front of you, or park in front of a window blathering about how expensive everything is. Forcing everyone else to walk an additional ten feet around them, only to be obstructed by someone's brat chasing pigeons with a balloon animal.  Daily.  You deal with it, it's part of life here.

On the corner of St Peter and Chartres I passed a loud group of four discussing lunch plans. I couldn't help but to over hear yet another irritating woman with a drink in her hand and a voice that caused dogs to bark. "WHAT do the locals eat?" she loudly questioned. I wanted to retort "Hot dogs and Ramen noodles." I know I would have been met with the look that I have witnessed tens of thousands of times in my life, people sneering at me like I AM the idiot because they failed to grasp my humor. I shuddered at her voice and continued on my way fantasizing about smacking her in the face with  a paint brush still wet with the color "Urban Putty."

 WHERE do the locals eat? would have been a more appropriate question. If the four of you hadn't seemed like total dickwads, I might have taken the time to point you towards a few places where you would have found great food at very reasonable prices by the French Quarter standard. Real Cajun food prepared by real Cajuns while sitting next to locals who might have bought you drinks if they liked you. I kept quiet, I wouldn't do that to my neighbors. You probably would have responded "Coop's Place? I neva heard of it! Where's Bubba Gumps?"  Go. That's all you deserve anyway.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home Video

Eric, would you post some random pics of your block someday? Every block is cool, and I'd love to see yours.

Ok, Brooks, here is my little corner of the world...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Alaskan Barge Trash

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to visit my blog of late night ramblings about my life here in the French Quarter. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to think it's about me, it's all about the Quarter. Those who live here, those who have visited know that there is something different about this place from the rest of the Earth. Native Americans camped here hundreds of years ago, Europeans fought over it, tourists make pilgrimages here and a few lucky people can call it home. 

"Something about NOLA completely changed my outlook on life.
Can’t say specifically, but it was profound."  

I am able to check the statistics of web traffic to this blog, and it amazes me. Regular visitors from around the world. Some I have the privilege to actually get to know via Facebook and E-mails. A really cool couple from Australia are regular readers and FB friends, a former resident of my apartment building keeps track of the old neighborhood now that he's up in Canada.  I see by the stats that this blog receives regular visits from folks in Russia, Israel, Germany and the United Kingdom. 

These writings are in no way sponsored by the tourism board, I don't sugar coat the French Quarter. I'll do my best to write about the incredible energy and beauty of this city but at the same time tell the truth about dodging gun fire on Bourbon Street, constant harassment for a spare cigarettes or change and the overwhelming stench sometimes of human excrement, urine and vomit. If you want a white washed version of the French Quarter, visit Disneyworld. If you want to walk on streets that still have traces of pirate DNA in the gutters, we are the real deal.

I just received an E mail from a Quarter Rat fan in Alaska:

You have a totally awesome blog and l look forward to reading it while I’m here at work. I was in NOLA for several days around Halloween and was fortunate to pick up a Quarter Rat at d.b.a. It’s one of the best souvenirs of my trip. I am missing NOLA badly. I want to go back.  Something about NOLA completely changed my outlook on life. Can’t say specifically, but it was profound.  

Totally understand about being away from your family during Christmas. It sucks major. I am currently working on a boat in Alaska this Christmas, and before you ask I have to say, “NO! It’s not like the fucking ‘Deadliest Catch’. There are other maritime related industries up here that have little to do with those meth-addled drama queens!”  Besides, we mainly stick to sniffing paint thinner.

Anyway, here’s a photo of a few of the tugboats in our fleet. I took this several days ago and since it kind of looks Christmas-ey and all that shit, I thought it was kind of cool. And anyways, since most people rarely associate tugboats with Christmas, why the fuck not?

Sincerely and Merry Christmas,
Alaskan Barge Trash

To sum up my response to his correspondence "There's plenty of tugboat action on the Mississippi River."  Read some Mark Twain up there in Alaska, you'll walk down here if you have to. This city only invites or keeps those people who "Get it." Thousands of tourists every week say "Oh, I want to live here." Very few ever do, or deserve to. You sound like you get it.

The "BIG EASY" got it's knickname from the "big easy bend" in the river given to it by riverboat pilots.  Over the years it's just adopted that as a philosophy.  My friend Darren from the bench in front of the Pontalba on the square says "The reason they call New Orleans the Big Easy is because it's so easy to live here. Ya got a smoke?"  Either version of how New Orleans received it's title is correct.

Stories have been written about tugboat men in New Orleans.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas In The Quarter

Issue #25 was released yesterday, not so much released as it escaped. Again we at the Quarter Rat tried to keep in mind what our readers really want. Breasts. Since our Halloween distribution was much appreciated by all of our fans on Bourbon Street in October, we repeated the festivities with a Christmas theme.  Young healthy breasts adorned with paintings of holly and Christmas lights, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, candy canes and a Menorah. All painted by the talented artist Lady Erotos.

Our buddy Xhan again unselfishly volunteered his time and pedi-car to assist the magazine in distribution.  The girls were great, well organized and filled with the holiday spirit, our four angels filed into just about every door on Bourbon Street and lower Decatur with the precision of a SWAT team. Every bar, swanky hotel and five star eatery was brought to a dumbfounded standstill as four topless girls wearing Santa hats entered and dropped dozens of copies on every flat surface.  Now and then some much appreciative patrons would buy them shots.

My favorite moment was when a Fire truck came to a complete stop on Bourbon as a half a dozen grinning NOFD heroes reached out for their copies.  Later on when we discovered Frenchman Street was dead and we decided it wasn't worth the additional time to traverse it, so the girls made a point to go into the fire house on Esplanade and say hello to the much appreciative firemen. I am sure today they are still talking about the visit from the elves. The Quarter Rat salutes you guys. 

 There were only a few who didn't seem too impressed. One of the cheezy gift shops on Bourbon Street had the store owner in the doorway watching our yuletide procession stroll by. The store owner appeared to be of a middle eastern origin. He stood scowling and looking like he had a humbug up his ass. I mean this dude looked pissed. Well if this kind of thing offends your religious sensibilities then perhaps A) You shouldn't have a store front on BOURBON STREET, B) If naked women offend you, then STOP STARING AT THEIR TITS.  I half expected him to start yelling "INFIDELS!!!"  and hurl rocks. I thought perhaps he just isn't familiar with our religious customs. It might be my duty to extend an understanding hand of friendship. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men as it were. I handed him a copy of our magazine just as a blond with a Menorah painted on her breasts walked by and waved to him. I explained "We are celebrating the birth of our Messiah, Merry Christmas."  As I walked away, he hurled a paving stone at me.

The other "negative review" of the night was when I spotted three Asian kids walking by and I went to hand them a copy. I figure "They're Asian, they love cartoons." The one kid got real snotty and snapped "What do I want that fuckin thing for?" and they walked away. I guess he thought I was one of the numerous evangelical Christians that frequent  Bourbon Street handing out "Why you need Jesus" tracts.  I laughed and yelled "ANIME SUCKS!" Three blocks later the same group was milling about and spotted our hotties handing out something. The grinning boys approached one of our ladies. As she started to hand him a copy, I pulled her arm back and snarled at the boy "He doesn't get one..." Profanities were yelled at my back as I and the elf strolled down Bourbon. I half turned and yelled "Go home and watch Speed Racer!" I should work for the U.N.

My personal highlight was when I ran into a former roomate that I hadn't seen in months. Neither one of us could remember the other's name so we called each other "DUDE." We chatted about what we were doing in life. As I started to tell him about my exciting life as a house painter, he became distracted. He was looking over my my shoulder with bulging eyes and a stupid grin as he interrupted me "Dude, look at what's coming..." I glanced behind me to see our posse of beauties skipping towards us waving copies of the Rat. I causally responded "Hmm? Oh yea, they're with me." He sneered "Uh yeaaaaa, Riiiiiight. You wiiiiiish!" As they got closer, one came up and hooked her arm into mine and held up an unlit cigarette "Styles, baby, do you have a light?" "Of course I do, anything for you dollface."  I accommodated her and clicked my Zippo close turning to my buddy "Excuse me, I have to go back to work now. Have a good holiday dude...."  "Uhm, yea, uh, you too Styles."

The artwork was created by local artist Lady Erotos. She has a little business venture going of selling and painting ad space on breasts. Remember, this is the French Quarter. Her husband Domino helps her in her upstart company. What a gracious hubby. Domino joins us on these excursions just to provide an extra bit of security. Xhan, Otis, Domino and myself keep an eye on the girls at all times. Stupid shit can happen on Bourbon Street faster than a stripper can grab a buck. I turned to see Domino chuckling to himself. "What did we miss?" I asked. He told about across the street there was a man guiding a blind kid down the sidewalk through the crowd. Evidently the man who was doing the guiding got distracted by our delivery girls. The guide, not paying attention walked the blind person straight into an iron balcony post. Straight on, middle of the forehead shot. The blind guy hit the cast iron so hard, folks on the balcony looked down to see what caused the shaking.  How do you explain to a blind guy with a concussion "I was staring at boobies with candy canes painted on them...."

We finished our delivery route back on Bourbon Street with out any arrests, dramas or major incidents. Rudolph was hanging onto my arm, apparently one too many free shots and she looked cold. I could tell because Rudolph by this point had pierced ears.  For those of you who don't live in New Orleans, this has been a very violent and deadly year. A lot of murders and shootings, a number of high profile shootings on Bourbon Street in the past few months. Several dead, many injured by stray bullets.  All Quarter Rats are jumpy and nervous from the constant tension of possible gunfire at any given moment. Suddenly from behind us I hear one of our girls yell "YOU MUTHAFUCKA....."

I spun around to see what was going down in time to see a black kid about sixteen or seventeen years old running at full speed. About the time he was a few feet away from me, a handful of a dozen or so magazines flew into the back of his head exploding into the crowd. As he ran at full speed, one of our slightly inebriated girls was hot on his heels waving a fist and threatening deadly violence against him and his testicles.  Before I could grasp what was transpiring, Domino flew past chasing after the girl. As I was trying to decide if I might be needed or not in this unfolding drama four other kids who were evidently friends of the first one ran past following after Domino, who was chasing the girl who was chasing the first kid.

I could see this turning very ugly very fast. By this point of the evening I had feelings towards these girls like they were my daughters, so I joined in the chase. It defied common sense, but then again this is the Quarter and most daily activities defy common sense.  So here are the eight of us at full sprint charging down Bourbon Street weaving in and out of surprised tourists watching a topless chick with pig tails and a school girl skirt screaming like a banshee after a 16 year old, being followed by a four other teens and two hipsters. Otis comes sprinting up next to me "How many?" "At least five." "What happened?" "Fucked if I know..."

At any moment I half expected to see one or more of the group pull a piece and start emptying a clip in our direction. Otis accelerates away from me catching up to the group of four a block away. I start to  realize that I am no longer even in this race when my chest starts to feel like it's being cut open with a chainsaw. I notice a crowd gather around me as I kneel on Bourbon clutching my heart ready to vomit. I hear someone in the crowd mention 911. I pull myself up and jog back to the other girls to make sure they are ok.  I try to listen above the noise of bad Zydeco music and my pounding heart for the sound of gun fire. I didn't hear any.

Back at the starting line Rudolph was a little pissed that I had left her, but Lady Erotos and the other two girls were near by. Catching my breath and swallowing back the bile of my near coronary, I see our troops jogging back all accounted for. The panting girl in pig tails stands in the middle of Bourbon Street pointing to the crowd in a spinning motion. "If any of you other Muthafuckas try to grab my tits, I'LL CUT YOUR DICKS OFF!"

I spent my last three bucks on Cherry Bombs at the Dungeon and walked home, and to all, a goodnight.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lived to see another one..

I posted this melancholy Christmas song last year on my other blog. It was a very low time for me. Missing my daughter, unemployed, hungry and on the verge of being homeless it was a bleak holiday season to say the least.  Well, I stuck it out for my kid's sake in spite of my desire to to cash in my chips off the bridge into the Mississippi.  Glad I did.

A year later, my rent is paid, my belly is full and artistically I am making money at what I love. I'm living in paradise. When I use that term, keep in mind homeless guys crap on my doorstep, gang members murder each other a block from my apartment and I think a rodent stole my Zippo lighter last night. Still I wouldn't want to live anyplace else on Earth. 

I still miss my only child to the point of tears. Especially this time of year. As much as I love New Orleans, I will say that New York City does Christmas just a little bit bigger. So a year later, I'll repost this video, and this year it carries a whole different tune for me. I hope you enjoy.

Issue 25

Coming soon to the top of a cigarette machine near you!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dancing Police horse

I love sharing these kind of YOUTUBE videos with my daughter back in New Jersey.  "Yea, this video was made about 5 blocks from my apartment."

Friday, December 16, 2011

A page from history

The blog posts about the Pontalba Apartments has gotten some great responses. One came from a reader in New York City who shared with me his memories of the building as a child. Here is a photo taken of the reader's parent's wedding reception held in apartment 502B in 1945.

My great aunt lived in a corner Pontalba apartment overlooking Decatur and St. Peter from the late 1920s until the late 1960s. I still have dreams about the interior stairway from the street to the second floor. When I was a kid, something about those wide, curving stairs, the shadows, the smell of the old building — were magic to me.

Since 1970 I've lived in NYC,  Lately, I've been missing NOLA, and thinking about moving home. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What da hell did I do last night?

Otis my editor called last night to meet him over at Molly's to to see the rough draft of December's issue. Some really cool stuff in this issue. A few beers, a shot or two then I went home. Found a half a pint of Seagram's Extra Dry Gin that Cornell had given me. Dry gin and "Rip-it" energy drinks as a mixer can lead to confusion and black outs. I highly recomend them. I went out for something, probably smokes or poppers, I can't remember exactly. Anyways, I woke up this morning and found this in my apartment.

It's a gold painted mannequin torso with plastic "googly-eyes" glued to the breasts. I don't actually recall how it came into my possession, however it will make a nice display for a Mardi Gras bead collection. Boobs that stare back at you. I'm not sure where I got it. Judging by my wallet, it appears that I didn't pay some exorbitant price for it. I might have found it or... If anyone reading this has recently had a gold painted mannequin torso with plastic "googly-eyes" glued to the breasts stolen, I caught the guy who ripped you off and wrestled him to the ground, beat him to a pulp and retrieved your property. He won't be doing that again, I promise. No need to thank me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Right place, right time...

One of my Mother's favorite expressions was "Always a day late and a dollar short." Perhaps I am the one to finally break that family curse by moving here to New Orleans.  I feel like a child who has traveled across the country to find his birth mother, a feeling of being where I belong. For those of you who follow my blog postings (at least 4 or 5 of you) you know for almost two years now I have been boasting, raving and romantically drooling about this city like some sort of travel agent trying to meet a quota. Well, it looks like I am not the only one to do so.

Market Watch with the Wall Street Journal has placed NOLA in the top third. Once ranking very low on their business friendly survey, now it's considered one of the best.  When I first moved down here in March of 2010, the only day labor that I could immediately find was back breaking digging in the hard clay soil of St Bernard Parish. (March 2010) I was hired to work on a strip mall that was finally being renovated after being damaged by Hurricane Katrina. As I took a smoke break in the back of the building looking at a large boat resting on it's side in a vacant lot, I pondered the irony.

Five years earlier New Orleans would have been the last place I or anyone else looking to improve one's opportunities would have dreamed of moving to.  My economic position back in New Jersey was one of erosion, every year earning less and paying more.  Fewer opportunities, more competition for what little was available. Now down here, I have to ask for time off from my day job as a house painter to tend to my part time job as a graphic artist while turning down a few freelance gigs just for the lack of time. 

I remember watching the news during and after the storm, feeling the way rest of our nation did. Hearts heavy with sadness, grief and compassion for what many may have silently considered a lost American city.  Now six years later, many major American cities may be looking down here with envy. A strong economy, lower than national average unemployment and an increasing personal income growth for it's residents. It's the people, strong and resilient, determined to not only just to bounce back but surpass any expectations of them. Perhaps that's why I find New Orleans so inspiring.

A Facebook friend posted the article from the Wall Street Journal's web site with the photo of the Pontalba Apartments accompanying the article. I immediately exclaimed "That's where I work!" And it's where I belong, thank you New Orleans.

(BTW, I didn't even see a New Jersey city mentioned on the top 100 list)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Some more pics

Here are some more photos from some work that I did at the Pontalba. I spent way too much time on this medallion on the ceiling in the living room. More than one usually does on a rental property, but I enjoyed it.

We were the painting crew that started painting the medallion the wall color, property management liked it and decided all of the rooms should have that. Now they insist the other crews do it too. So of course I have to one up them with this. By the end of the day my neck was killing me and my vision blurry from drops of oil paint. I felt like Michelangelo. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A change of pace

 I have been writing about working at the Pontalba on Jackson Square for a while now. I'll admit that I needed a change. This week I am working as a house painter out in the Marigny on a house on North Rampart. A little bit more of a walk in the morning, about 20 minutes instead of 3 minutes to the Square. I love the walk and change of scenery. Some really beautiful homes on North Rampart and in the Marigny. What has made it really fun is that I am working with my buddy Cornell. I first met Cornell over on Jefferson Davis Parkway when I lived there a few months ago. A fellow house painter who lived upstairs from me, it was impossible not to like him.

A native of New Orleans, he is what you would expect from the best of the Crescent City, positive, hard working and fun. We struck it off immediately sitting on a stoop over looking JD parkway, talking about house painting and making each other laugh. After I introduced him to my employer Robert who might need extra help painting, I asked Robert "Did you like Cornell?" "How could you not?" he replied with a grin. Cornell is one of the few people I envy, he can approach almost anyone and win them over with a simple comment.

Cornell got me some work with another painting crew when I needed it earlier this year, so I was happy to bring him in on our crew when we needed reliable help with experience. One trouble Robert keeps running into down here is he will hire someone to do a job, and they never show up.  We brought in one laborer who showed up to work, asked me where the bathroom was and never returned. I think he used the job as an excuse to have someone drop him off in the Quarter to go score some rock.  Cornell thanked me for the work coming his way, I told him "I only got you the first days work, any after that you got on your own." Robert wouldn't have had him back if the man didn't do a good job.

When we left the job site, we faced a long walk down Rampart back to the Quarter. Cornell was catching a bus back to Mid City. We decided that a pint bottle of Gin might take the chill out of the walk, It did. A fun walk, great conversation and we had the bottle killed by the time we hit Armstrong Park. I vaguely remember my walk down Toulouse, and I am blaming all Facebook postings that night on Hackers. Working with Cornell is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Down in the Marigny...

My coworker Cornell and I knocked out three rooms today of a cottage in the Marigny, and during our smoke breaks on the front stoop we watched the shooting of TREME across the street on Elysian Fields. I thought about my friend Janet in Allentown Pa. who is a fan of the show. She would probably think it was awesome to watch the filming of the HBO show. After a while down here having worked in the industry and seeing film crews busy everyday, a production across the street is just like seeing a Lucky Dog cart. You don't even notice them anymore.

Robert is going after acting roles like a  Pitbull after bacon. I stopped doing the "acting" thing just because it's not my goal in life. I think for all involved, it's best I remain behind the camera. However Robert sent me a casting notice for a 50 something, balding "creepy cashier." He thinks I'm a shoe in. I might audition.

Don't call me a republican...

I've just awoken from a Gin coma to find this message from a good friend back in Jersey:

Good morning . Need your help. Do you by any chance have a copy of H.S.T. 's Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ? I've been researching quotes of his for hours & can't find his description of Hubert H. Humphrey . It's an awesome piece of writing that i believe also accurately describes Newt Gingrich.
Now I'm aware you're an avid republican , something I will never comprehend , but to each his own. Actually you're one of the poorest republicans i have ever known. Not many poor republicans around. Most of my republican friends have boo koo bucks & I understand their point of view. Don't like it , but I understand it. A poor republican i will never understand. What ever you're smoking , I want some. .. 

 Yes I have a tattered and stained copy somewhere in a storage garage back in Jersey. Sorry I can't help you with more than this...
"There is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack Hubert Humphrey is until you've followed him around for a while." HST

To address your confusion over my neo-con views going hand in hand with my destitute poverty, let me clarify. If I were to turn to the Democrats to assist me in my financial morass, I would be condemning my self to a life of slavery. Caught up in an addiction to the government teet, forever seeking more and more hand outs and assistance. I would have given up on believing in myself, sucked into the mindset of that I was an absolute failure and incapable of ever succeeding on my own. I would become a hater of humanity, thinking that others got a bigger slice of the American dream than I. No, I will be a success on my own with out any bail outs, grants, funding or crumbs from the table of manipulative politician who play me for my vote by convincing me that I am some sort of victim of capitalism.

Greed is good. Without it we all would still be living as serfs in some sort of dark age commune. Greed has given us great technologies, modern medicine, mindless distractions and a military industrial complex that tells the world "Keep your hands off of our shit." I may never be wealthy, but at least I know that I have a chance to be. That is the only thing that keeps me going day after day. If all I had to look forward to everyday was the next Government check or food stamp card in my mailbox, I would have no reason to keep going.

It may never happen, that phone call from someone with my big break. I have talent and dreams, now I just need to find some greedy capitalist who sees an opportunity to make bigger bucks off of my abilities.  The far left hate freedom with a passion. They want to tell us all what to eat, what to wear,  how much we can earn, who we must love and to hate those who disagree with them.

Republicans aren't much better. So I never refer to myself as one. I do believe in the philosophy of less Government, less taxes and fewer laws. Let each individual state put issues up for a vote to it's own citizens. Legalize marijuana? If enough residents vote yes, than that state gets the revenue and baggage that goes along with it. Gay marriage? Same thing, that state gets the revenue and talents of the highest income earners. Those who don't like it can move to another state that doesn't recognize the marriage or legal pot smoking. Freedom to choose, freedom to change.

"Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads?" 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ya ain't goin to believe dis...

Ya ain't goin to believe dis... but the other night me, Otis and Richard were standing out front bullshitting.  Richard from the internet cafe was explaining to us how he could put Wi Fi on the moon or something when this dude in a red shirt goes running down Toulouse at full speed. Looked like he had a towel in his pocket so he was service industry. I mean he was booking. Otis yells "YA A-IGHT?!"  Yea is heard as he disappears to the left on Royal.  We immediately looked towards Bourbon to see who or whom or what may be chasing the guy.  If it's dudes with weapons, I'll be going inside now "Good night."

We go back to talking. Less than a minute later, two horse mounted cops come galloping in the same direction. Two mounted cops with hooves making sparks on the pavement is not anything I would want on my ass.  I turned to Otis and boast "Come on, where else in the world do you see that in your front yard."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A peek inside

I recently brought some friends up to tour the unit at the Pontalba Apartments that Robert and I have been working on for a number of weeks now. When the guests entered the first word was "WOW." One visitor said she couldn't believe that such large luxurious apartments were available in the French Quarter. Two large bedrooms with original marble fireplaces, open up to a third floor balcony overlooking the very center of Jackson Square. The statue is directly in front of this center unit. Out of the half dozen or so remodelings that we have done, this one by far has the nicest view of the Square and St Louis Cathedral.

Not to come across as some sort of real estate broker, but this place is beautiful. Wood floors, twelve foot high ceilings with plaster medallions crowning the center.  Ten foot high doors open up into each room, as well as each closet.  The windows to the balcony have folding pocket shutters that still function despite the many layers of paint over the years. The ten foot high window can be closed off if you are shy about getting dressed in front of General Jackson. Everything about the apartment is grand.

Out of all of the units we had worked on, this particular one has needed the most attention. A portion of the plaster ceiling in the living room was in the process of collapse, as well as a lot of surface plaster work needed on the walls. Apparently the previous tenets had lived there for many years and were "hoarders." Having some personal experience with hoarders, I can tell you that by their very nature they are secretive and isolated. Most compulsive disorders can somewhat be hidden from the world. Not so with hoarding. Consequently, when routine repairs or maintenance was needed to the unit, property management was never notified in order to keep the clutter a secret.

I can't imagine being a pack rat while living in a third floor apartment. The tenets had installed multiple shelving units through out the apartment. The first couple days of prep work involved just removing the shelves and repairing the walls from the brackets holding them up. 

If you were a property owner in suburbia who tried to maintain a presentable home, having a hoarder next door with a yard filled with debris would be at best a nuisance. You might think that hoarding in an apartment setting it wouldn't affect the neighbors, but it can.  I have spent the better part of six months in this building and the only signs of rodent or insect infestation has been in this unit. The pest problem has been taken care of. One of the hazards of compulsive hoarding is that it provides a perfect enviroment for pests. Ample hiding spots and often ample food supplies.

The property management people discouraged me from posting "before photos" of this unit, I guess they didn't want the photos to be taken out of context and give the wrong impression of the building over all. Everyone involved with the Pontalba takes a great deal of pride in the preservation of the building, it's not just real estate, it's history.

I'll be posting more photos of the apartment as each room becomes completed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I guess I'm just gettin old....

Today was pay day, two weeks worth. I went right over to pay pay my rent and set aside some for the rest of my immediate bills. Tonight I looked at the rest of my cash with eager anticipation of my big plans for the night, grocery shopping.  I have been planning my trip to Rouses for a week. My front door is fifty feet from Bourbon Street, years ago that would have been the direction to go on pay day. In 2011 it has no appeal to me except for the occasional walk for amusement.

I read  posts from Facebook friends 30 years younger than me of their plans for every night of the week. "Going here, meeting so and so, drinking this or that." God bless you, be careful, and get it out of your system now. I'm sure if they saw my life, I would seem like a boring old fart. I am and proud of it. People my age behaving like twenty somethings are sad and pathetic. I have been living in the French Quarter for a little more than four months, might have gotten drunk  less than a half a dozen times. Can't do it any more. You'll see, I hope.

I chuckled at myself getting ready to go make groceries. Showered, groomed and actually put thought into what to wear. You would have thought that I had a date with Trixi Minx or something. Every purchase was thought out for maximum nutrition for my dollar, no splurges, no treats. This time last year I was so broke that I came down with the scurvy. I know, who gets the scurvy in the 21st century anymore? I had been getting food stamps but 3/4 of my Louisiana Purchase Card each month went towards paying my rent. Fifty dollars a month left for hot dogs and potatoes.

After a diet like that for three months I noticed all I wanted to do was stay in bed, and when I tried to get up every joint in my body ached, my teeth wiggled and I saw a zombie with blotches in the mirror. So tonight going grocery shopping was like a night on the town. No snacks or frozen pizzas, straight to the produce section. Yea, on pay day I lust for cauliflower.  Someone recently said that I should reapply for food stamps, I responded "If I have the money for coffee and cigarettes every day then I can afford to buy my own food. Governor Jindal doesn't owe me a damn thing." In fact, I feel I owe the state and look forward to paying it back someday.

I toyed with the idea of crossing the street to join my friend Otis for a beer at Molly's. I have a full belly, a full day of work behind me, and another full day ahead of me tomorrow so I'll just go to bed. You young kids, go to Bourbon Street and have fun. Spend so much of your money now that someday you'll look back on it and cringe.  If in thirty years you're still doing it, stop and reconsider. You might be surprised at the joy of a simple night out grocery shopping.

God bless you, be careful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Who Dat!

I had never been a football fan until I moved to New Orleans. Never. I couldn't understand the obsession or the fanaticism. Back in New Jersey, not everyone liked the same teams. At the cab company we had a few Giants fans, an Eagles fan, some guy who loved the Jets and another who liked a mid west team for some strange reason. I used to listen to them perplexed as they would become abusive and belligerent towards each other over sports teams.  "Your team SUCKS!"  "No, your team sucks more! " " They both suck, mine is the best!"  I would silently think to myself, "Are you for real? Why do you base your self esteem on the success or failure of total strangers who couldn't give a shit about how well you do your job?"

I had a passenger ask me once "You a Giants fan?"
"What teams do you like?"
"NONE?? What do you mean?"
"I don't follow football, never did, never will." 
"What are you? A FAGOT?"

Let's examine that statement. You spend your Sundays with your male friends squeezed onto the same couch or elbow to elbow at a bar, watching sweaty, muscular, athletic MEN roll around in the mud piled on top of each other while wearing skin tight pants. When they do well, you and your buddies high five and even hug. When your team of MEN are done, they pat each other on the asses and take a shower together. The only thing that is even remotely heterosexual about football are the cheerleaders who they seldom show. If your team of MEN do well, you feel good about yourselves and your self esteem goes through the roof. Like you as the fan actually acomplished something yourself, but you didn't. You wasted several hours of your free time cheering on millionares. If your team fails, you are in a bad mood for days, acting like a pissy little bitch whose man didn't please her. Football is very gay.

Most of northern New Jersey love the Giants. The Giants are a NJ team. The stadium is in Jersey, the players live in Jersey, the fans are in Jersey, the revenue comes from and goes to New Jersey. The team calls themselves THE NEW YORK GIANTS. Isn't that kind of a slap in the face? I mean, if I had a hot young trophy wife she better be using my name. If you are spending my money, you better be calling yourself MRS STYLES bitch. However, New Jersey has such low self esteem that they allow their team to take the name of another state that already has two teams of it's own, the Jets and some team out of Buffalo NY. In all fairness to the Giants, would you want to be associated with New Jersey? Of course not.

It wasn't until I arrived in New Orleans that I started to understand the football thing. Perhaps because Saints fans aren't complete assholes like Giant fans were back in Jersey. NOLA has such a loyalty to the Saints, it is part of the community. Not just some franchise making a buck off of fans, the Saints are inspiration to a city that feels isolated and alienated from the rest of the country. In times when the residents of the city seem to be shooting each other at an alarming rate, there is almost a truce on game day. If some local points a gun at you and you can manage to yell "WHO DAT!" before he pulls the trigger, you may get to live.  Music, food, parades and the Saints is all that keep New Orleans imploding like some middle eastern capital.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Location, location, location

 We are in the early production of our animated series "Quarter Rats." I'm working on some of the background art and have been scouting locations and buildings for our characters. I hope to capture the beauty and grittiness of the French Quarter so much that those who have never been here will feel like they have, and for those of us familiar with it I want to be able to point and say "Hey, that's the corner of so and so!"

The main character BiNGE will live in a run down apartment building on the 1100 block of Bourbon, his friends Lance and Jody will have a neat Creole cottage on Gov Nichols.  Bars and clubs will look vaguely similar to those we pass everyday on Bourbon Street.

I never met a dame yet that didn't know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and there's some of them that give themselves credit for more than they've got. 
Stanley Kowalski

The leading lady of romantic interest is Athena DeCruelle.  A former aspiring high fashion model turned B movie actress, turned exotic dancer, turned professional dominatrix is a lady of style and class. I have written several scenes between her and BiNGE as a wink to Tennessee Williams. Of course I had to include a winding street front staircase for and future Stella and Stanley like exchanges. Surprisingly, there are not a lot of staircases on the exterior facades in the French Quarter.

The location that I chose for Athena 's apartment is actually just a few doors down from where Mr. Williams was living when he wrote "Streetcar named Desire,"  at 632 St Peters.

BiNGE and Athena have a very dysfunctional relationship. Athena is the abusive and manipulative partner.  When the man is abusive, it's a drama. When the woman is the abuser,  it's a comedy.

Being a lady of elegance, her place had to be just right. I combed the Quarter scouting locations and stumbled upon hers on my way to work. Across from that famous little alley connecting Pirate's Alley to St Peters it seemed perfect. Just a stone's throw from Jackson Square it should provide some great visuals.  Called the David Victor house built in 1838, it houses the Le Petit Salon Ladies Literary Group.  I don't think they will object if I place a coked up dominatrix in there as a resident.

Take a look at yourself here in a worn-out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for 50 cents from some rag-picker. And with a crazy crown on. Now what kind of a queen do you think you are? Do you know that I've been on to you from the start, and not once did you pull the wool over this boy's eyes! You come in here and you sprinkle the place with powder and you spray perfume and you stick a paper lantern over the light bulb - and, lo and behold, the place has turned to Egypt and you are the Queen of the Nile, sitting on your throne, swilling down my liquor.
Stanley to Blanche, Scene 10

Scene: Night time, exterior of Athena's apartment.
A very drunk BiNGE staggers up the deserted street
and stands under her balcony by a gas street light.
In a very Stanley Kowalski fashion starts to yell her name.

Athenaaaaaa, Athenaaaaa!

Interior of Athena's posh apartment:
She is on a computer and hears the annoying
drunken BiNGE calling her name outside.
She scowls and tries to ignore him. 

Binge (off screen)


Look! I want my gurl down here! Athena!

Athena, perturbed gets up and goes off screen.
An startled cat is heard meowing.

Back on street, Binge looking up.

Athenaaaaaa, Athenaaaaa!

Athena appears on balcony holding a
box of cat litter, she dumps it on Binge mid yell.
Athen... (Cough)

 He doesn't know it yet, but Nic Cage will be making a cameo appearance in the show....

Smoked Turkey

I got out of the Quarter for Thanksgiving, to the Marigny. No airports, no traffic jams, just a 15 minute walk to Frenchman Street. I was  fortunate enough to get an invite from my friend Chris to join him at one of the coolest guest houses in the Fauboug  Marigny on Frenchman Street. His landlady Noni is a sweatheart who is a lovable  hostess that made me feel like family. The atmosphere was sophisticated but casual with polite and smart guests. Musicians, teachers, artists and professionals all enjoying great food and great conversation.

Compared to the deeply depressing holiday season I had last year, I was going to be content with staying home and splurging on a turkey po boy followed by a Hubig Apple Pie. I had to fight my hermit like nature to accept the invite and I was glad I did.  Noni's son made a pork roast that was unlike anything I ever had. Pork roast stuffed with Boudin sausage, wrapped with bacon and cooked in a smoker.  Chris played his classical guitar as we passed the smoked turkey. 

We dined outside in an immaculate courtyard, actually the entire house was a piece of art in itself. Beautifully decorated with a real sense of peace and tranquility about it. Noni runs this guest house and is a fantastic hostess. Many of her guests are production people in town shooting film or television productions. The location and atmosphere of the place make it a perfect place to escape the hectic workplace of a  film shoot. I won't mention specific names of productions, but you would recongnize titles.

I enjoyed listening to musicians discuss music, and I had a civil intelligent discussion with a jazz drummer about politics and the Occupy Wall Street movement. We did both agree the Coca Cola brothers should be bitch slapped.  I know I have made some new friends.

Anyone visiting from out of town, look into staying here. Not to come across like some maudlin promotional piece, but Noni and company would make a stay at a great city even better. Frenchman Street is where the locals of NOLA congregate to enjoy the best of New Orleans music, culture and people. Entirely differant feel from my part of town by Bourbon Street. Frenchman has a mellow energy that one would expect from the "hipster" side of town.

This what you can find on Frenchman Street most any weekend night. A few blocks down from Noni & Company. Far enough away that it won't keep you awake, but close enough to grab your drinks and walk down to listen on a warm night. (Don't forget to tip your musicians)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank you very much

This is such an important holiday. Even if you remove all of the religious and political cogitations, we need it for a healthy psyche. It's way too easy to get caught up in what we think we need, what we believe we want and what we fear that we'll never get. It's a time to stop and look around at what we do have with the realization that it easily could be gone tomorrow. Even more important, to be thankful for the "whos" that we have.

Yesterday morning at work I stood out on the balcony of the Pontalba looking over  Jackson Square thinking what a blessed mutherfer I am. My day started out as usual, giving my buddy Darren (a homeless guy) his first smoke of the day. He mentioned how he was still damp from the hard rainstorm the night before. My friend asked me what my holiday plans were, and if I didn't have any that I should join him over at the Hard Rock Cafe for Thanksgiving dinner. The HRC closes shop every year to serve Thanksgiving Day meals to the homeless. Darren encouraged me to join him and the others I have befriended in the Square over the past few months.

I declined because I have a job and a warm home, I wanted to leave a seat open for those who need it more than I. Darren told how they put on a great spread, who says corporate America is heartless? Back in the beginning of October, Darren was sitting on his usual bench when a man walked up and started to hand him toiletries of soap, toothpaste and the like. Darren thanked him profusely as the good Samaritan walked away. I came over to offer a smoke. Darren commented that although he appreciated the act of kindness, he just didn't have room for all of the travel size containers in his only backpack.

"I appreciate all he gave me, but I just don't have the room, here, take some of these toothpastes." "No, I couldn't." "He gave me five tubes of toothpaste and I only have three damn teeth. Take some." I was just moving into my new place and money was tight between the first month's rent and deposit so I did take some tubes of Crest and soap. It came in handy and saved me a few bucks.  I walked away a little choked up.  Darren is an example of the "whos" that I am thankful to know.

Twenty months ago I cruised into New Orleans with just $25 bucks left of the $200 loaned to me by my ex wife's new husband to move down here. I knew no one but my friend from the cab company Doug AKA Waffle. He and his wife Diane let me sleep on their floor until something else came along. Waffle was the one who talked me into coming down to a city that I had never even been to before. As he put it "To be with like minded individuals." I'm thankful.

This time a year ago was a dark, depressing and loathsome time for me. It has not all been a big easy for me since I moved down here. However, I am thankful for those difficult times as well. They have made me stronger, more mature and grateful for what I have achieved. New Years Day I abruptly found myself without a place to live. My friend Robert took me in to his already crowded apartment, fed and employed me. Ten months later I moved into my own place on Toulouse. I'm thankful.

I could give a long list of people that I am thankful for and examples of them being there for me, Kevin, John, Aaron and Colleen. One thing the long time residents of New Orleans have taught me that the "things" in our lives don't mean a thing. Tomorrow they all could be washed away, friends are always there after the storm waters recede. Friends don't remind you of what they have done for you or keep track of what they have given you.

When I rolled into NOLA twenty months ago, I only knew two people here. Now as I walk through the Quarter I am greeted and welcomed by dozens. Business owners, Lucky Dog guys, bouncers, club managers, dancers, artists, magicians, musicians and the homeless. On this day we look to our higher powers with acknowledgment and grace. Today, I look towards a lady. She's graceful, talented, enchanting and yet can quickly turn violent and dangerous. She's ancient and weather worn, has seen a lot of rough times but still is beautiful and sexy as hell. Thank you New Orleans, for taking me in and being my friend.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hey Kiddo

Laura, I probably think about you a hundred times a day. Miss you very much and can't wait to have you down to New Orleans to show you this great city and to see how much you've grown. I brought my camera in today to take some photos at work and to show you what I do down here. I have been working 6 to 7 days a week painting the Pontalba apartments on Jackson Square. It's a lot of work but it keeps me out of trouble, believe me it's easy to get in trouble when you live in the French Quarter. You don't have to look for trouble, it finds you. Besides I need to work a lot with Christmas coming up. ; )

These buildings were constructed by Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba in the 1840's. She was a strong independant woman for her time and had her hand in the designing of these apartments for $300,000 on land she inherited from her father. Originally the land was occupied by military barracks and a prison. 

In the photo of me (not very flattering) over my right shoulder you can get a glimpse of the Cabildo where they signed the Louisiana purchase in 1803.

Here are some photos that I took from the third floor balcony where I take my cigarette breaks. Below in the Square are artists selling artwork and street performers doing their acts as hundreds of tourists mill about.

You can see the Mississippi River from the balcony. It's cool to watch huge cargo ships cruise up and down the river. These things are massive, they are as big as skyscrapers lying on their sides.

Here is one of the rooms that I finished today. It's a smaller dining room with marble floors and mantle. I painted the walls and installed the chandelier.  I'll show you some more photos of rooms as they become completed.  I'm always thinking about you, hope to see you soon.

Love Dad

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My lip is bleeding....

I didn't want to get too political with this blog, to be honest I am trying to work on some business deals with lefties and don't want to blow it. However if these morons have their way, there won't be any economy left for me to get rich off of. I have been biting my lip on the Wall street protesters for so long that I have a hole in it.  Believe it or not, when I was in my early twenties I probably would have gone along with this idiots. Of course when I was in my twenties I was a lazy worker, politically ignorant and a foolish ideologue. So I think I can safely speak to these cracked pots.

A) Show me any example in history where communism or socialism has ever really worked. Anywhere? Ever? Capitalism has given you all of the material possessions that you can't now live with out. Any of you protesters willing to give up your iphones, computers, Facebook, cars, or god forbid X box 360's?  No, in fact you want those people who dreamed up, invented, toiled, sacrificed, manufactured, marketed and produced those and thousands of other technologies to now turn over the profits back to you so you can sit in your parent's basement collecting Government money while playing with the above mentioned toys?  If you want the products of socialism, buy a YUGO.

B) Oh, the big bad oppressive system is evil. You smelly, lazy hippies use to sing about "Freedom and personal expression and how bad the establishment is." Your solution? More government, more laws, more taxes. Yea, you want bigger government and more laws as long as they coincide with your way of thinking.  I don't want laws telling me that I have to buy those stupid curly light bulbs or that I can't run with scissors if I so choose. For the little crap like that, let the individual states decide without Federal intervention what is best for it's citizens. If one state wants to legalize something, let it. That state can keep the revenue and the expense of it for itself. Never has more laws, more government and more taxes ever led to more freedom.  (see China)

C) I made a comment to a facebook friend about the protesters evidently didn't have jobs. She was quick to defend them stating that 98% of them probably had jobs. That seems a little unrealistic considering the national average for unemployment is actually around 20%. Also take into account that would mean that millions of employers would have no problem with their employees taking weeks or months off from work to sit in a park and protest the very system that the pay check issuing boss is toiling away to make work. "Sure, come back to work after you increase my taxes and destroy my livelihood." 

D) Celebrities who are endorsing these fools, shut the f*ck up. I don't see you letting these deadbeats camp on your Malibu yard, so don't tell us that we have to put up with them in our downtowns. Want economic justice? The next film you make just have the producers hand over 90% of your paycheck to the IRS so the 99 % can sit in a park at a drum circle. Michel Moore, stop giving your income to McDonalds, KFC and other "Evil Corporations." Ya fat f*ck!

E) You want jobs? What kind? Working for the Department of Pasta Research and Development? You want cushy, overpaid, union bureaucrat jobs where you shuffle in, do next to nothing, collect a check and have holidays off. Paid for by the tax dollars of those who actually produce, labor and think for a living. 

F) It's not fair... Anytime I hear that exclamation I turn a deaf ear. It's not fair that 1% controls 40% of the wealth in this country. Why not? They worked hard for it. Their parents worked hard to send their kids to good schools where they studied hard at things like business and engineering, not art and social studies. I'm an artist and I wouldn't even waste my time on an art degree.  I bet very few of the 1% had student loans paying for the education, and if they did I'm confidant they paid back the loans. Probably a few of them worked their way through college to pay for an education. So yea, they deserve it. Is it fair that a person who pushed themselves and worked hard all of their lives should have to pay more taxes to support you lazy bastards who want to sit at home all day and masturbate?

G) I could jump on board with you. I am at the bottom of the economic ladder myself. I have been homeless and hungry. Did I blame corporations, banks or George W Bush? No. It was my own fault, my situation lies entirely on my back and my choices. No one else is to blame for my life, good or bad. I am working hard to change it. I am focused on giving my child every advantage I can. I do not expect our government to take care of her or me.  

I'll be damned if I am going to quietly sit by and let you dirty, lazy, ignorant fools try to wreck the best economic system the world has ever seen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cause that's what friends do....

The past couple of days I have been working by myself over at the Pontalba building. My friend and employer Robert has been busy. Some of the guys at the building ask in the morning "Where's Robert? Out sick?" "No, he had a film shoot again today, he's playing a secret service agent in the new G.I. Joe film, or something..." Robert is an aspiring actor and takes on every part he can get for the experiance. Starting out doing background work over a year and a half ago, he has already accomplished more than most wanna be actors could in five years.

Robert threw himself into it 100% when he made up his mind that it was his goal. Acting classes from several renowned local acting coaches, speech courses, and every free moment dedicated to his passion. Even though his "day job" is doing very well with so much work that he has to hire on another painter, he's focused on a bigger goal. 

At the beginning of the year I was working on the illustrations for the Quarter Rat book "Bourbon Street and Beyond." (copies of which are still available at your finer strip joints on Bourbon Street.) About half way through the project I suddenly found myself with out a place to live or work on the book.

Robert, without hesitation took me into his already crowded apartment and said "Finish that book." He put a roof over my head, fed me, encouraged me and gave me employment when his business started to get traction. That's what friends do. He never once reminded me of what he did for me, or ever said I owed him, he ain't like that. At the time all he wanted to see was me succeed at my art.

So eleven months later, he's turning down painting work because we are so busy. Every now and then he has to take a day or two off from painting for auditions, fittings or to spend time on the set for a shoot, it's cool with me. He was there for me and my pursuit. I'm more than happy to work a few extra hours a day, and sling a few extra gallons of paint to help him along the way to his goal.

Cause that's what friends do....

Ok, it use to be cute, now it's annoying

Durring my first year in New Orleans the only real work I could find was doing background work in films. It was kind of exciting at first, then it just became a boring part time job. Sure they fed us well and on occassion I got to stand next to an exploding building or get chased by monsters, but it got old fast.

I can currently make more money painting apartments, and I don't have to listen to whiny cry babies in the Extra Holding tent piss and moan about how hard of a job it is. "It's too hot, we've been here for hours, the director doesn't know what he's doing." Shut the hell up, you're getting paid $80 a day to walk back and forth across a street.  "Oh, at lunch they ran out of the Bar B Que chicken..." Yea, they were out of it on your THIRD TRIP BACK TO THE TABLE. I knew a woman who use to load up her purse from the craft table, no class.

I stopped applying for the work to devote myself to a steady income. Lately I have been annoyed by the amount of filming here in the Quarter. Sure, it's great for the local economy and we can take pride in our creative community, but damn it, you are blocking my path. I went to meet a friend on Frenchman Street, blocked by a Treme shoot, on my way to work this morning I had to step over cables and around trucks on Royal Street. I went for coffee on Decatur this afternoon, sidewalk blocked by lighting equipment and gawking tourists.

Yea, yea yea, they're filming a movie, big shit, get out of my way.