Monday, October 31, 2011

Herding Cats

I have been making it a point to help my editor Otis distribute copies of the Quarter Rat when they come out. This usually means large armfuls of magazines being lugged up and down Bourbon Street, dropping them off on bars and cigarette machines to the delight of bartenders and service people throughout the Quarter. Doormen's eyes light up, shotgirls shriek with delight when the latest copies are slapped into their hands. I dig being able to see reactions to the latest cover, most of the time artists don't get that immediate validation. 

Otis was struck with an idea that was brilliant on paper. He would have our friend Xan on his advertising pedicar haul the boxes of copies while 5 topless girls with painted chests delivered them to the bars. Sounds easy on paper.  Being the loyal employee that I am, I left work painting apartments at the Pantalba early (Thanks Robert) to meet up with the pedicar, Otis and by this point 5 very buzzed topless chicks. How tough can this be?

I found the crowd gathered around my coworkers at Iberville and Bourbon, and soon our entourage' was slowly proceeding down Bourbon to countless cell phone photos taken by dumbstruck tourists from the Midwest as 5 topless young women darted in and out of bars with Trick or Treat bags loaded with the Quarter Rat. Bourbon Street stopped in it's tracks as the red pedicar surrounded by drink wielding hotties darted back and forth in front of us. It was my job to make sure the girls had enough copies to drop off. Otis was the wrangler. "Come on girls, let's stay together, keep moving we have a lot of ground to cover..."

Evidently everytime they went into an unsuspecting bar they caused quite a stir, that was the idea. Apparently, for each time they dropped off a handful of issues someone in the bar would offer to buy them a shot. Needless to say, by the time we reached the 400 block trying to keep our group together was a lot like hearding cats. Xan and I were in the pedicar chuckling as Otis kept asking "Where's Amy?"

Chasing Amy
Amy was the proverbial wild card of the group, either one block behind, one block ahead or in case one balcony above the rest of the group. Otis shot me a look like "Perhaps this wasn't one of my better promotional ideas." With a Frankenstein monster painted on her torso, a constant cigarette and beer she was like a child with severe A.D.D. turned loose in Disneyworld after having ten Pixie sticks.  Otis turns to me "Styles! Your in charge of keeping track of Amy. You're both from New Jersey." Suddenly this started to seem like work, "Why am I in charge of keeping the out of control dancer from Jersey out of trouble...Oh yea, I got the t-shirt."

Somehow we managed to make it down to Saint Ann with our delivery crew together and not one arrest. I turn to see some of our girls in the gay bar Oz slapping the ass of a muscular male dancer on the bar and trying to stuff a copy of our magazine into his butt crack while asking to be teabagged. 
"Are we done yet?"
"Not yet Styles, we still have to hit Lower D and Frenchman. Where's Amy?"
"Uhm, she was just here..."
"I ask you to keep an eye on a naked woman and you can't even do that?"

Suddenly I hear a fraternity hollering and making WHOOT WHOOT calls. "I found her..."

By the time we hit Lower Decatur the girls were hammered, I mean at least one face plant per block kind of hammered.  Amy had lost her tiny little skirt somewhere and was just wearing a G-string and flip flops as she would just fling a handful of Quarter Rats into unsuspecting open doors.  Otis came up from the rear, keeping the girls safe and picking up handfuls of magazines scattered on the sidewalk. "Where's Amy?"

"Right there." I proudly announced, pointing to her and another girl dry humping on top of a parked motorcycle as two brothers working in a kitchen stepped out to take cell phone pics of the live show outside. "This was only supposed to take an hour and a half, it's going on three now. I still need you to get that script and artwork in an E-mail to California tonight. I promised they would have it in the morning." Otis handed me a beer in appreciation for my help. "Otis, perhaps next time we should tether them together with bungee cords."

We were only about two thirds the way through our planned route by this point. Xan had left to tend to his wife who was working her tarot card table on Jackson Square. At night, Jackson Square is no place for a woman to be alone.  We proceeded up Decatur past the pirate bars and head shops, handing out mags. Amy's motor skills were suffering and I stayed  beside her like Lyndsay Lohan's chauffeur on a Saturday night.  She would get down on the ground and start playing with the dogs of street rats sitting on the sidewalk and her G-string would drop off of her ass. "Amy, pull up your string, we don't want to get busted for nudity." The whole time I am thinking about the couple of hours worth of Photoshop work I still have to do, and get to my day job in the morning. 

 Working our way up to the Square, the girls would pose for photos in exchange for tips. The one girl was holding a sign the entire night reading "TIT$ FOR TIP$" They seemed to be doing pretty well as singles and fives wear pouring out of the pockets of their cut offs. I'm not sure where Amy was keeping hers. Again I was following behind her keeping an eye on the situation like a Secret Service agent behind Obama at a Tea Party rally. Suddenly Amy stops to look into a doorway, and does the drunk walking downhill walk into a five star restaurant. 

By the time I get up to the door, I find her sitting on the lap of an elderly Italian man sipping espresso in an empty dinning room. He might have been an owner or friend of one. At the counter is a dumbstruck hostess shaking her head in disbelief that a near naked woman is giving a senior citizen a lap dance in the middle of her Zaggot rated Bistro.  "Come Amy sweetheart, the gang is waiting for us at Coop's." The woman shoots me a "Is she with you?" look. "I think this is the last year that I take my daughter Trick or Treating." I respond to distract her with humor before she calls the cops.

We caught up with the others in front of a convenience store on Decatur as a group of older men ogle the topless young girls. One asks to take their photos, which gets a reply "If you tip us..." One guy in the group pushing 70 mumbles something about 'Prostitutes.'  "What did you call us muthafucka?" The one girl slams her half empty beer to the pavement and charges at the senior citizen with a clenched fist as the other girl grabs her around the waist in time to prevent a manslaughter charge. "Go back to the fuckin Bible belt if you don't like tits, shithead!" Which I may suggest to Mayor Mitch as the new tourism campaign for NOLA.

As we point the ladies into the right direction to avoid a bloodbath, again I am asked "Styles, where's Amy?" "Uhm, there!" I point to the upcoming corner where a NOPD squad car is parked. Amy is sprawled out on the trunk lid writhing for a group of convention goers who are now videotaping her one girl show on the back of a police car. Fortunately, the cop is nowhere to be seen. "Aw man, we are so going to get busted on this idea. Styles, if the cops stop us, I want you to disappear while the girls and I distract the cops. You must get that script sent out tonight."

We found ourselves on Toulouse in front of my apartment, my patience and Seagrams had run out back on Decatur. "Otis! I'm going to run in and use my bathroom..." "Oh no you don't Styles! You're not going to run up into your apartment and hide from these women. You have to stick around to the end. Besides we have a production meeting when we finish with this." 

I stumbled out of The Dungeon chewing a mouthful of Cherry Bombs and mumbled to the Lucky Dog guy on my corner "Here take these off of my hands." He looked down at the dozen copies of the Quarter Rat in my hand and responded "You gave me some earlier." "No, not the magazines, the girls..." Back on Bourbon four hours after we started Otis thanked everyone for their help and our group quickly dissolved into the crowd. Their adventures were only beginning for the night.

On the walk back to my place to continue with business I said to Otis "I never in my wildest dreams would ever think that I would be thankful to get rid of five half naked drunk chicks." Otis chuckled, "I never would believe that I would agree with that statement."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coming soon...

Not to jinx it, but we are in the early stages of production on a Quarter Rat animation project. Long writing meetings, and countless E-mails back and forth fine tuning and polishing of scripts have brought us closer to ultimate goal, to be filthy stupid rich. I told Otis that all I wanted out of this was enough money to send my kid to college and maybe a little to get started on. Otis replied "Hell no, I want us to make so much fuckin money that our kids never have to go to college or even have to work." Now that is a goal. 
I'll be posting some of the artwork on this blog, as well as some updates and ideas. You might have guessed that the French Quarter will be the location, in many ways the focus. The unique characters and situations that could only be found here are an endless resource for humor. The daily hustle to survive without getting stepped on in the chaos that we call home.  The feeling as we crash on our couches as the sun comes up and think "That was fun." The show won't be based on the worn out dysfunctional family premise, it's based on friendships and addictions. Every character has his or hers.  Bartenders, club managers and dancers from Bourbon Street, artists, psychics and crackheads from Jackson Square make up the ensemble as viewed from the perspective of a large streetwise rat named Otis B. Easy.
Here is some of the early background art, I hope that we can do the French Quarter justice in representing the beauty and grittiness of both the city and it's residents.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Television in the French Quarter, Why?

Like an ex smoker who is quick to mouth off when someone lights up, or a self righteous recovered alcoholic bragging about how many years he has been dry, I'm going off on Television. Finally having a place of my own there is no longer the drone of a TV constantly in the background. I'll admit when given access to one I have 24 hour news going during my waking hours. Determined to break that bad habit, especially in these days of  24 hour conflicts, riots, economic crisis and impending doom I made a choice of turning down a free television offered to me for my new place.

This video was shot about 100 feet from my front door. 

I live in the most entertaining city in the nation, if not the world. Why would I want to sit in my apartment and stare at a video feed of corporate sponsored, agenda driven mindless fluff? I do watch a couple YOUTUBE videos and news features before bed, but just waiting for them to load causes me to grow impatient and retire.  Most nights I get restless and go for a stroll. On any given night I can catch blues, jazz, folk, rock musicians, magicians, jugglers or acrobatic break dancers. I understand very few people have this blessing of live entertainment literally outside their front door, I hope I never become blase' about living in the Quarter.

This is where I do my grocery shopping.

I'd be surprised if you could get cable television for under $50 a month, so I make it a point to drop a buck in the tip bucket when I really enjoy a performance. That's only $30 a month for the best live performances every night of the week. On my long three block walk home from work, I pass Grandpa Elliott every night on the corner of Toulouse and Royal. How can I complain that when I "make groceries" at Rouses market, and I have to push through a small crowd gathered on the sidewalk watching musicians. That's a minor inconvenience for living here.

The CVS Pharmacy is a nightly stop for smokes.

I know that if I lived back in the gray dreary suburbs of New Jersey I would probably have a television just to numb my mind enough to get to sleep at night. In my opinion having a television when living in the French Quarter would be like living in the Playboy Mansion and sneaking in a copy of Hustler magazine to my room. It just ain't right.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shameless self promotion

The French Quarter has a style unique unto itself, nowhere else in the world will you find businesses or people as distinct as in the View Carre. Shouldn't your advertising be as unique? Graphic Bourbon Street will handle all of your graphic design needs. Only in house production done is for web graphics, splash graphics and web banners. The rest we give you the designs to take to your printer or sign makers in the format they require to make your vision a reality. By giving you the artwork file, you can shop around for the best prices on production.

• Print Advertising • Menus • Fliers • Sign layout and design • Posters • Storyboard Art • T-Shirts • Logo Design • Internet Graphics • Chalkboard Menus • Mardi Gras throws • Cartoons 

View Samples 

Yea, people live here....

The Washing Well in the French Quarter
Once while walking down Bourbon Street behind two Sorority sisters I overheard the following statement as we passed the Washing Well Washdrtyeria Laundromat "Why is there a laundromat on Bourbon Street? I mean, like, that is sooooooo stupid!" After hearing that statement I fantasized about kicking her perfectly shaped ass with the tip of my cowboy boot. You dumb twat, people live in the Quarter, people need to wash clothes, shop for groceries, do all of the things that everyone else does in society. Sorry if a store front is being wasted on a business that isn't catering to your addictions. Perhaps tomorrow you may need it to wash the semen off of your designer jeans.

I'm sure you can find plenty of drinking establishments that will encourage your new found alcoholism. Lots of bars where you can go in, get drunk and do slutty things with total strangers that would cause your father to blow his brains out if he ever heard about them.

There are other places in the Quarter to wash your clothes, the Three Legged Dog on Burgundy has washing machines in the back. A few bars in New Orleans offer laundromat services. Check Point Charlies on Frenchman is another "Wash & Slosh." I was looking for someplace that I could just do a load of painter's whites without getting loaded.

Trouble Squared

Jackson Square is the heart of the French Quarter, the center of tourism for the city of New Orleans. The scenic park has a rich and somewhat dark history. Public execution of slaves in the early 1800's, a popular hang out for pirates and the location of the signing of the Louisiana purchase.  Today tourists crowd the sidewalks like slow moving flocks of pigeons looking for something to pick at. The French Market, St Louis Cathedral, Decatur Street and the Pontalba apartments flank the park.

The iron fences surrounding the park itself are ornamented with artwork for sale daily by street artists. I would be generous if I said one out of four should be allowed to call themselves artists. Street performers ranging from the traditional sliver mimes to 5 piece brass bands to a human transformer entertain tourists and make a meager living one buck at a time. I even juggled in the Square when I first arrived in New Orleans just to make enough for cigarette money.

Perfectly manicured greenery and seldom a piece of litter, the Square screams to be photographed a thousand times a day. Like a picture perfect tropical lagoon filled with sharks, the Square masks the darker side of the Quarter. 

Jackson Square is the favorite gathering place for every type of hustler, con artist, thug and homeless you could find. The square has become my place of work, my front yard. I see all day long the same guys and gals scheming and hustling to score enough for the next bottle or a rock. These predators see everyone else in their world as prey, as marks to be taken advantage of.

I often step outside from the apartments that I have been painting to have a cigarette and enjoy the sights (the ladies.) If I have one person try and bum a smoke, then I have at least five a day ask "Ya got an extra smoke?" When I respond no, I get the stink eye as they slowly shuffle away. "Do I look like the figgin Marlboro man to you?" You have money for the cheap bottle of booze in your hand, choose your addictions. If you should break down and give one cigarette to a homeless guy then the rest are like a flock of seagulls swarming around you and your super sized fries.

One guy is kind of cool. A few times he offered to pay a quarter for a smoke. We  have gotten to know each other, once in a while he offers me a swig from his bottle of "Heaven Hill Whiskey."  Of course now the familiarity has led to  "Styles, ya got 50 cent?" The best was the other day out in front of the Pontalba, a slouch on one of the metal benches saw me light a cigarette as I walked out carrying a bucket of paint.

"yo man, can I get one of those smokes?"
"Nope, sorry dude."
"Awww come on don't be like that, I just saw you put a full pack in your pocket."
"Yea? And?"
"Come on, give me a couple." 
"That's just wrong, you're the one with a job."
I stopped dead in my tracks. 
"You got to be fucking kidding me..."

It was all I could do from stomping his greasy face in with the bottom of my work boot. I'm working a 70 hour work week to stand out here and hand out smokes to you bums? I didn't want to get too political with this blog, however I see it as an example of the mindset going on in this country. I guess I represent the one percent that controls all of the nicotine in New Orleans, and the other ninety nine percent who don't have any deserve what I have.

I have spoken to a few of the street artists who display their work on the Square also make comments that the homeless have become excessively aggressive with their panhandling of the tourists. I have witnessed a very drunk derelict asking for change from a family of tourists, and when he was ignored the guy proceeded to muthafuck the somewhat frightened group. It's only a matter of time before the city is forced to crack down on these bench warmers. I don't think anybody has an issue of them spending their empty days on the the Square, however when you start fucking with the tourist dollar you're asking to be hassled by NOPD on a Segway.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


October is when things start to pick up down here in the French Quarter. I'm use to New Jersey where the summer is the busy tourist season, down here the stifling heat  makes it the slow season. In the summer, Quarter Rats working the service industry struggle with meager incomes waiting for it to get cold up north so the alcoholics migrate south to mate. Halloween is big in NOLA, any excuse to put on a costume and act the fool.

 Here is the latest artwork for the Quarter Rat Magazine, and my one year anniversary issue. This one will be in black and white as kind of a retro-old horror film look, as well as a cost saver to pump out as many issues as possible to start off the season. Looking to expand our circulation into the Uptown and Marigny areas, we hope to distribute at least 10,000 copies.

It's easier for me to do the artwork in color and then convert it into black and white for print, also it gives me the flexibility to use the artwork on the web site. Also I have been playing around a lot with iMovie to make simple little slide shows. In this one I put together the music also using Garageband on my MAC. YOUTUBE really busts balls over copyrighted music, so being able to make an original tune keeps it legal.

Who are our advertisers? Most publications in the Quarter try to cater to the advertisers who want business from the 10 million or so tourists who come down every year. Large tabloid newspapers running ads for all of the cheesy tourist traps selling overpriced Cajun dishes that miss the mark to be washed down by vile drinks in gimmicky souvenir cups.

QR ads are aimed at the locals, the ones serving the above mention swill to tourists from Bumfuque Ohio. Where does a bartender from Bourbon Street go to unwind at six in the morning after a twelve hour shift? Our advertising is for the locals who need to know they are not alone. Small cozy bars that you can find folks who have suffered through the same shit you have. Bartenders and waiters dressed in unbuttoned tuxedo shirts stained by clumsy cheap bastards. Dancers with sore feet and a purse full of singles who need a place to unwind and be treated like a person before they retire the day.

You won't find ads for corporate resturant chains named after a Tom Hank film claiming to have "authentic Cajun food." If our ads say Cajun, odds are that it's prepared by a cook who grew up in the swamps of Louisiana with an accent so thick that it's tough to understand what he's saying. Can he cook alligator? Yea, and he knows how to hunt, kill and skin one too.

No ads for franchise bars named after a worn out drinking song written years ago by an old man in an ugly Hawaiian shirt.  Where does his employees go to have fun? Well, if a tourist is really cool, and knows how to tip and behave the bartender might slip him a copy of the Quarter Rat. If not, he's just told to keep stumbling down Bourbon street.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

And to your left you can see....

My first few weeks of living in the French Quarter I bounced from a couch from Royal Street to one on Saint Ann Street to finally land at my own place on Toulouse. One thing that took some getting use to was the mule drawn carriage tours constantly cruising by during the day.  One day while unlocking my front door on St Ann, a carriage stopped in front of my building and the guide barked "This is a classic example of an American townhouse, you can tell by the design with a large open hallway to each of the apartments." About that time I had got the door open so I swung it wide and stood there gesturing grandly like a Price Is Right prize model. I then held up my half empty  Community Coffee cup and gestured like it was a box of Rice-a-Roni.

I have nothing against these guides who are trying to make an honest living by providing tourists with the rich history of this great city. I often listen to their narration as they pass by. I learn something about my new home everyday. Once while taking a walk down Decatur Street, I heard my name called by a man in a straw hat on a carriage. It was a former neighbor from when I lived on Jeff Davis in Mid City. "Hey Bob, I didn't know you did this." "Oh yea, for about ten years, I grew up around horses and I love history."

There is one woman carriage guide who dresses up like a pirate complete with boots and a riding crop that I would love to get to know. I would rather see the multitude of tourists doing something educational during their visit than making complete assholes of themselves with hideous green drinks on Bourbon Street. Although I do believe the majority of residents would delight in watching a van load of "Katrina Tours" drive into the river and drown anyone who takes it.

Even though I am Facebook friends with a few Ghost tour guides, I have to admit the walking tours piss me off to no end. After working a ten hour day in the heat painting these fine structures, all I want to do is hit Rouses for my dinner go home and shower before bed.  Instead, a block from my front door the sidewalk is obstructed by a large group of gullible tourists with mouths agape staring at a rustic old building. The Gothic dressed tour guide is dramatically telling them what they want to hear about the supernatural world on New Orleans.

"In 18blah blah, the countess blah blah, today blah bla can be seen and blah is often heard at night..."   Oh please people, it's bad enough that you are foolish enough to believe in ghosts, but then you pay good money to stand outside of an old shotgun house inhabited only by two gay guys who work as dance instructors at the mall.  One night walking home after a long day of climbing ladders I look down a narrow sidewalk on a lonely gaslight lit street to see my path blocked by a group of ghost groupies as a guide does his well rehearsed shpeal.

Rather than to try and push my way past, I cross the street to the empty side and walk past the average building that they are all mesmerized by while the narration describes a murderous rampage. I don't know what you hope to see, but you are making my walk home a few steps longer. I overhear something about evil spirits and what have you. About the time I get in front of the building in question, I am the only person on that side in view. When I get up to the front doorway of the building I let out a shriek, dive into the doorway as if being pulled in by unseen forces and start to scream for the entity to let go of me.

I thrashed about in the dark doorway for a few seconds, then dove onto the ground as if I had been slammed there by the hand of Satan himself. Total silence and shock from across the street. In fact a few of the tourist start to step back in fear. I pick myself up, brush off and continue on my way home as if it was a regular occurrence in the Quarter.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Don't quit your day job

It wasn't until I moved to NOLA that I could call myself a full time artist. Illustrator for the Quarter Rat magazine, commercial graphics and a house painter for some of the most beautiful buildings in America.  I approach house painting with the same passion and zeal as I did for my artwork that went into galleries back in New Jersey, however this art pays the rent.

The painting company that I work for, Pride Improvements has been contracted by the Upper Pontalba in the French Quarter to help with their extensive remodeling project for the apartments over looking Jackson Square. For those of you not familiar with the city, the French Quarter is the heart of New Orleans, Jackson Square is the very center of activity of the Quarter, The Pontalba buildings surround Jackson Square.

I never lived so close to where I worked, a three block walk from my apartment on Toulouse every morning brings me to a theatrical stage that I can call my office. One side of the set has St Louis Cathedral, the other side has Mississippi River boats with Andrew Jackson on horseback center stage. The comedies and tragedies unfold daily in front of my place of work with live music being played by street performers as I Spackle and paint a glorious old building.

Every day I get to cross paths with some of the most interesting characters that the French Quarter have to offer. Mimes, musicians, magicians and a few homeless folks that I have befriended during my smoke breaks. It's a privilege to work here on this fantastic piece of history. A few times while sitting outside on the promenade steps sipping coffee and enjoying a cigarette in my drop cloth work clothes I have had tourists snap my picture, I guess I qualify now as "local character."

I'll be writing a lot about the Square and Pontalba, it's a major part of my life right now. The term "Quarter Rat" is often associated with the bartenders and food service industries in the Quarter, contractors are the unsung rats. These historic building are authentic, no aluminum siding, no vinyl windows and no short cuts to keeping them looking great. Like aging beauty queens, the buildings are high maintenance. Every morning I step around fellow contractors on my walk who are working hard to keep roofs from leaking, paint from peeling and walls from cracking.

My coolest moment

My coolest moment of living in the French Quarter, or of my life for that matter took place on Bourbon Street. I had done a hand drawn ad for several strip clubs on Bourbon who hold an annual lap dance competition during “Gatorfest Weekend.” The club whose team of dancers perform the most lap dances during the week wins a trophy, the girls win prizes and guys wake up for a week with a horn over from the night before.

I drew the flier up of a hot farm girl riding on an alligator based on a dancer from the one club named Moonshine. A beautiful, sweet and intelligent girl that restores my faith in women. She’s just a kid to me, my only fantasies of her involve playing Play Station 3. The ad made me a couple hundred bucks that I had to try and pick up. E-mails and messages back and forth with the manager to try and collect. He wasn’t dodging me, it’s just with The French Quarter being such a twenty four hour hustle, coordinating crossing paths can be difficult.

The manager arranges for me to come by and see the manger on duty one night to pick up cash. The doorman stops me for the five dollar cover charge. I explain who I am and why I am there, tones change. Now I am being treated like a peer, not prey. A quick radio call followed by a “One moment.” A very tall, muscular man in a dark suit and perfect pony tail who looks like some sort of German terrorist from an action movie steps into the lobby to escort this artist into the back. He cuts a path through the surprisingly thick crowd for a weekday as I follow. I make it a point not even to glance at the naked women just feet away as I pass. I am way too cool for that, I am here on business, higher up on the food chain than the drooling buffoons who believe the girl dancing might actually want them.

The manger’s office at a strip club is the least glamourous room in the club. The men’s room has more class. A quick phone call to the manger to confirm the cash drawer pay out and we return to the bar area. I scratched out a receipt as the manger on duty waits for the bartender to open the cash drawer and comps me a beer. I look around the slick club as money is being swept up like beads on Fat Tuesday. A year ago I rolled into this town on two hundred bucks loaned to me to get out of town by my ex wife’s new husband the preacher. Today I am on Larry Flynt's payroll.

I am finishing up my beer by the time the bartender has a chance to open the drawer. I get handed the cash as I drop my bottle in the trash behind the bar. I am walking out of the strip club with more money than I walked in with. As I stuff the bills casually in my pocket, a couple customers give me the “Who in the hell is that guy?” look. This is my coolest moment right now. I feel like I have just completed a Grand Theft Auto mission. Nothing could make this exact time in my life any better. I start to leave.

My name is yelled by a woman’s voice above the music. I turn in time to see Moonshine leaping off of the stage to give me a hug. Ok, the coolest moment of my life just got cooler by a factor of ten.  I felt like a hero in a Frank Miller story, this was my Nancy. The hottest dancer in the club gives me a big topples hug. My stare never leaves her child like eyes as we chat. She thanks me for my feedback on her own work as a cartoonist. I didn’t bullshit her when I said she shows real promise as a cartoonist. We say a quick good bye as she hops back up on the stage and I head for the door.

If I had to choose a moment for me to drop dead with a heart attack, that would have been it. What a scene to end with. At the exit I pause and look back at the twenty two year old and wonder to myself if I could legally adopt her someday. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One year anniversary

One year ago I was looking through Craigslist for work as an artist. I never bothered with gigs that were looking for "internship or non paying work." Damn it, I know what I am worth, and it ain't free. However being new to New Orleans and looking to be seen in a town with more artists than parking spots I decided to be selective as to who I give it away to. One ad caught my eye, local publication seeks cover drawn. Ok, a local rag might help get me seen.

A few E-mails and a phone call conveyed that some local rag wanted a Halloween cover. Ok, I don't have anything else going on.  I spent several days working on a detailed cover based on the theme he wanted, "Zombie Tourists." A roommate chided me for spending so many hours on a project that didn't pay. Of course the roommate had nothing better to do with his unemployed ass than to stand over my shoulder and critique. Just get the fuck away from me I thought. I don't see you doing anything but jacking off to Smallville episodes.

I attached the following JPG to an Email and waited for a response. A phone call came almost immediately. "Let's meet for lunch" my new editor exclaimed. I met with the editor Otis B. Easy at Coops for lunch. Hell, a free lunch and a beer would be payment enough for the artwork at this point in my career. Otis explained to me the cult following that his publication had among the service industry people in the French Quarter. How every issue was eagerly anticipated and scooped up as soon as he could distribute them. Ok, enough with the hype I thought, first cover is free, the next will cost.

I started to see this guy wasn't bullshiting. We walked down Decatur and a few other streets talking about the Quarter Rat. As we passed open doors and windows of bars and restaurants, those working inside would yell out his name and ask when was the next issue coming out.  He gave me a few back issues to read through, and I saw the potential for a real creative outlet.

Back in Jersey I had a few folks criticize my choices of topics for my artwork. "No one will ever pay you to draw cartoons of fake tittied strippers" one gallery owner exclaimed.  Perhaps I am not working in the right place I thought. Otis asked again to meet for lunch after the issue was published. Another free lunch? Hell yea.

He conveyed the overwhelming positive response to the Halloween cover from the fans of the QR. You could see his mind racing and crunching numbers of potential profits. "Did you ever think about illustrating a book?" he asked.  "Well, I guess I could squeeze it in" I stammered.  It wasn't long before I completed over 30 drawings for the book "Bourbon Street and Beyond" and a half dozen more covers.

Not to place too much importance on my position as QR illustrator, but it has changed my life. I went from being the new unknown and unseen artist in the French Quarter to being recognized by strangers for my work. I suddenly was connected to the French Quarter, part of it with insights and connections that would have taken years to established if I had tried to do it on my own. It changed how I view myself as an artist and my place in New Orleans.  The Quarter Rat is important to everyone in the Quarter,  it's tough to explain how.

As far as Otis goes, I'm still not sure what to make of him.

Well, I'm here

I have trouble remembering life before New Orleans. Everything from my past life in New Jersey seems almost like it happened to someone else, someone who led a boring, unfulfilled existence. Looks like I am becoming a resident, worker and member of the French Quarter. As I walk to work down the same streets in the morning, I pass and get a nod from those hosing off the previous night from the sidewalk. The Batista at my favorite CC coffee shops no longer wait for me to order, they just hand me my large dark roast. 

This blog is a "sequel" to my last one, From The Jersey Shore To the Big Easy. The Jersey shore is history, The Quarter is where my future lies among the awe struck tourists and empty handgrenade cups.


Tonight my editor Otis B. Easy came through like a true hero. OTIS! MY MAN! He borrowed, met up with me at Molly’s with the last $30 bucks I needed to get the keys to my new place across the street on Toulouse. Up until now, I have been “staying at a friend’s place.” It sucked not having my own space. I am an artist, my space becomes my art, I need it to really create. Although, the challenges of not having a traditional studio space has made me a better artist. I have drawn many of the Quarter Rat cartoons while sitting on a bench in Jackson Square, not for inspiration, but because of necessity. Now with private space, I should really kick ass.

  Otis met up with me at Molly’s coming up with the needed amount to get the keys from Richard at the Internet Cafe. Met a new bartender who just started at Molly’s. She’s cute as hell and a sweetheart. I hurriedly returned to show him the keys and said “Want to see the new Quarter Rat office?” My first twenty minutes in my new abode was an editorial meeting about October’s issue. The meeting was interrupted my me miserably trying to beat a roach to death with a step stool. His beating death took longer than the discussion of content.  Otis laughed as Christopher Lloyd tried to kill the John McLain of cockroaches. “Do you always scream like a girl?” he asked.

After I fumbled trying to figure out what keys went where, we walked down my driveway formally known as Bourbon Street towards Canal. Wow, this is my new home. I have been living down here on and off for months. Now I receive nods from bouncers and doormen like they are my neighbors, because they are. What are all of these damn tourists doing here in my front yard?

My brother was so proud of his back deck in suburban New Jersey. Plastic Tiki Bar and hot tub. He was quick to brag how much he spent on it all. Then he complained about he never gets to enjoy it because of all of the yard work and maintenance to the new additions. A monthly mortgage that is more than my W-2 for last year. Well, my back deck has a hundred or so bars, any given night at least 12 different types of live bands, dozens of naked hot women, 24 hour Karaoke and a mechanical bull. Seven hundred a month, utilities included.

Walking back from the drug store on Canal with a new pack of smokes I stopped to watch a black guy with dreadlocks singing “I got friends in low places.”  Smirking about what a great welcome home song it was, I remembered that I now reside only a few blocks from fellow Quarter Rats Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie, I’ll have to invite them over for a few bong hits.

'Cause I got friends in low places,
Where the Whiskey drowns,
And the Beer chases my blues away,
But I'll be okay,
Now I'm not big on social graces,
Think I'll slip on down to the oasis,
Oh I got friends,
In low places.

(That reminds me, Nic you can crash on my couch if you can’t find your way home.)