Friday, April 30, 2010

Mr. & Mrs. Roper

Ocassionally you will read in these blogs about my new landlords. Ocassionally they visit this blog. Very private people, very much the artists. I have seen that it is possible to live an artist's life. It's not easy, it takes many talents. I can't tell you much more about them. However, at times I think about one of my all time favorite movies.

Ok,it's not quite this bad.

Crude Realities

Last night I stepped out for a smoke at about two AM. I could smell the odor of crude oil in the air wafting in from the Gulf. To make things worse, the past few days have been above average tides and rough surf. Oil booms have been useless due to the 3 to 4 foot swells. People down here are angry. Angry at BP Oil for being careless and downplaying the initial scale of the crude oil leak. Residents are pissed at the Government for not watching over the oil companies like was promised when off shore drilling was passed through. Rage over the lack of plan B.

Louisiana WAS one of the strongest economies in the U.S. a few days ago. Now not only are they looking at an ecological crisis, but an economic disaster. Seafood and tourism are the staple crops of this state, now both are in certain jeopardy. Many believe this will be the worst ecological catastrophe in world history. Unlike the Exxon Valdez which had only a limited amount of crude oil on board the ship, this will be non stop for possibly months to come. Meantime there are pods of whales caught in this mess. Ironically the state bird of the pelican was just taken off of the endangered species list. Next month it may be back on it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Give me your money...

If there is one thing I learned from watching Haliburton is: Where there is tragedy and hardships, there is money to be made. Looking for employment, tonight I'm Emailing out my resume to every environmental clean up agency in the state. The oil is moving in tonight. Like an oily storm hours from landfall. I need a job, and right now I have all of the ethics of Dick Cheney. Give me a Tyvek suite and some paper towels to wipe your ducks off. At least I'm honest about my intentions. I could be like the "green People" who raise a self righteous hell to receive millions from the Feds, only to line their own pockets. At least I'm promising to do real work for the money. Environmentalists only pollute with more hot air when they get money.

What are my qualifications to clean up crude oil on the beach? Do I have a HAZMAT certification? No, but I drove taxi at night and had to clean puke out of my cab on more than one occasion. Crude oil will be a walk on the beach.

I mentioned my idea to my landlord, he laughed. "You forget, this is Louisiana." They got hung out during a natural disaster, do you thing a Yankee is going to give a rat's ass about a man made ecological disaster? He pointed out that the marshes are New Orlean's BEST natural barrier to the Gulf during storms. Severe pollution from crude oil will destroy the vegetation, then the little bit of land that protects will erode.

My idea was brilliant if this had been NJ. Enough money controls politician from wealthy beach home owners, billions would've been thrown at NJ. Trillions in bail out went to Wall St, let's see how much is spent to bail out Bourbon St.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I did another extra job today. New Orleans is a mecca of film production lately. I heard that 35 major production are going on this year alone. Not to mention the countless low budget indies. Today I got extra work on "Revenge of the Bridesmaids" I doubt I'll watch it, sounds like a chick movie. I didn't even get blown up in this one. I just got to wear an ugly shirt.

Wardrobe picked it out for me. Remember when you went school clothes shopping with your mom? The one shirt you would never ever pick off of the rack is the one she bought for you and made you wear to the first day of school. This was a 1970's striped disco shirt that Huggy Bear wouldn't be caught dead in.

I have been meeting some awesome people working as an extra. I was paired up with another extra today. This lady had nothing in the world to be humble about, yet was the most modest person I have ever met. Brilliant in every way. Makes an otherwise slow work day more pleasant.

Sometimes you meet a tool. On one job we had this guy who wouldn't shut up. He knew everything, so he thought. And he thought to tell you the f*cking obvious every five minutes. At one point I turned to "Mr-I've-done-dozens-of-movies" and I told him to "shut the F up, I can't hear the director." Just like any other job, people are people.

No, it's still better than any other job I ever had.

But it's a job.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My respect for this city

In the past six weeks I have spoken to many New Orleans residents who were here during Katrina. Everyone has a story worthy of a TV movie. Chilling first hand accounts that most Americans couldn't imagine happening in their towns and cities. One man spoke of returning into the city early on and being involved in the clean up. Streets littered with debris and corpses of pets. A woman who took her own life rather than to leave her pet dog behind. He assisted with the logistics of removal of unimaginable amounts of refuge. Landfills just for building debris, appliances, trees and another just for autos. Waffle told about street after street being lined with refrigerators. After the power has been out for several weeks, you don't even want to open up the fridge. In true NOLA fashion, people were going down the streets and painting artwork on the curbside appliances that may still be there for months. Here is the Walmart that I now do my shopping in.

I have heard stories from both sides. Accounts of executions by police or vigilantes. Accounts of looting and pillaging for weeks afterwards. So many neighborhoods are still scarred or missing entirely. The scars are more than building materials, there is an ugly racial tension in NOLA. A hostilely and anger that I never sensed in the most diverse areas of New Jersey. NOLA is a very divided city, and was prior to the storm. Events of the aftermath just galvanized sides. Regardless of personal political views, what you see in the mirror will determine what side of the line you are placed.

Each side will have a different spin on events and tragedies from the storm. I'm sure the truth falls somewhere in the middle of the accounts

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What I did today @ work

If visiting the French Quarter, stop by Royal and Toulouse Street video
I was having a great day until I dropped one of my balls into the gutter. Wouldn't be first time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rollin on the river

Left a good job in the city,
Workin' for The Man every night and day,
And I never lost one minute of sleepin',
Worryin' 'bout the way things might have been

I got a few hours work tonight. Good money. Roadie / stage breakdown for a corporate seminar at the Zsa Zsa Room in the Marriot. Projection screen and sound system. Wore black. Found it on Craigslist, one night gig. I called Lance and Jody on the commute home. They were stoned and busted my balls. Yet, they were a proud mom and dad.

Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis,
Pumped a lot of 'tane down in New Orleans,
But I never saw the good side of the city,
'Til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen.

I am re-tooling my resume. (hu-hu-hu, he said tool) I'm gearing a different one to different job markets. The person who hired me tonight didn't care if I cartooned, they wanted to know if I could roadie. So, I came up with a 'theatrical' resume.

If you come down to the river,
Bet you gonna find some people who live.
You don't have to worry though you have no money,
People on the river are happy to give.

I again raved about how cool it is taking the ferry to work. Today on my commute I passed a paddle wheeler. You guys up north can keep the Jersey Turnpike.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

How'd the interview go?

Well I was there 15 minutes early, waited for the manager I was to interview with came out. When she did she asked "Are you so-&-so?" "Uh, no. I'm Eric." "oh. I have an interview with so-&-so" A chubby guy with a stupid grin walked forward. I explained that one of her fellow managers had set up this time with me to meet with her. "I'll have to call you back in another time...."
I'll keep trying to get a job at Larry Flynt's Barely Legal Hustler Club. It wouldn't be the first time I thought I had an appointment with a dancer and another guy was already there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Exploding Karma

Today I worked as an extra on the film "KILLING KARMA." Literally being shot down the road from me in Algiers Point. It stars some guy who wrestles, Tripple H. I was thrilled to see on the set Bruce Dern. How cool is that, he worked with John Wayne. Very gray, somewhat frail looking, but he still has that unnerving smile.

Best day of work I've had in years. When I drove off of the set I felt like I was leaving an amusement park and wanted to stay. I had several background scenes, walking past a police car with the actors talking in it, sitting at a cafe when they drove by. BUT, the best was when I got to be one of three extras sitting at tables outside of a bar. The bar across the street explodes and we got to re-act and run. There wasn't any fire ball, that will get added later with CGI. The explosion was caused by compressed air cannons shooting pressurized debris out sugar glass windows.

Balsa wood, cork and fake glass EXPLODED about 50-60 feet in all directions as a pick up truck skidded to a stop in front. It wasn't hard to react to hundreds of pounds of compressed air spraying harmless chunks of matter at you. Afterwards one of my fellow extras, very cool guy named John said that I was lucky to have gotten picked for that scene. It'll probably be in the trailers. I replied in a giddy manner that I felt a little like Bruce Willis as I picked bits of set out of my thinning hair.

All day long all I thought about was someday watching the DVD with my daughter Laura. Yea, maybe she'll think it's cool.

Larry Flynt finally called back

Ok, one of his employees did. I have an interview on Wednesday night. Who knows, perhaps I'll meet someone who knows someone who can get my cartoons published. Athena DeCruelle America's Favorite Dominatrix. It will never be as big as Chester the Molester, but if I can get one a month published it may cover my child support payments. In fact, I'll just sign over the check and the Ex can cash it at her bank.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yet another Avenue..

Today I applied at a place that just laid off for the summer. Right place, wrong time. It was Blaine Kern studios. This float studio is considered the best in town. On this side of the river in Algiers is where most of the great Mardi Gras floats are constructed. On parade day they are driven up 'Mardi Gras Bvd' next to where I am living. Down that street and over the Mississippi into New Orleans. I am with in walking distance of the numerous large warehouse structures used for the studios.

So out of simple optimism I went in and dropped off a resume. I can't get used to the fact that down here the summer is the 'slow time.' I was told that in the fall they may be in need of artists. Presumptuous on my part, that I have never even witnessed a Mardi Gras parade and I think that I am qualified to work on a float. I mentioned my experience in art and sign construction, so I think that may win me a point in the fall.

Blaine Kern Studio

We'll see. I also tracked down the studio that the terrific, attractive British lady from the ferry mentioned. Remember her? I started poking around Prytania Ave like a gumshoe. I managed to find the place and get buzzed in by an employee who was leaving the restroom. No one was there who could help me, but I managed to get the production company's name and number to send them a resume.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Job Search

Out of the dozen or so places on Bourbon Street that I applied for this is the only place that called me back for the position of Barback. I've been playing telephone tag with the managers since. They don't come in until 8 pm or so, and when I call they're too busy to see me. I'll keep calling, looks like it could be interesting.
Anyone who has worked with me knows my proclivity for being late to work. After I applied at the strip club, I remember this scene from Taratino's KILL BILL.

What's black and white with red tassels?

What's black and white with red tassels? (Besides a great act in this club on Bourbon Street) It was me today. I went to work wearing a black and white Harlequin costume. I kept my black beret and shades. I am NOT a mime. Not a clown, more like Maynard G. Krebbs meets the Joker.

Despite rather disappointing returns on my former street performances, I went back out today. My landlords found out I was street performing and lent me this cool costume. For years these two have been performers and costume makers in the New Orleans area. Very talented and cool folks. Now they do a lot of film extra work with the many productions going on here in town. The warehouses where the Mardi Gras floats are assembled are about three blocks from where I am staying. I can't get more into the heart of this city than I am now.

One just got done working with Bruce Willis. His personal mini van almost got crushed in an action scene. He was very disappointed it didn't get blowed up. I've been applying for extra work also.

I met a lot of other street performers today. Interesting and fascinating group. I felt like I had run away and joined the circus. I wish I had ran away to this place twenty years ago. I met Santa Claus, correction: Sant E. Claus, his legal name supposedly. Very cool dude, you'd expect Santa to be hard to approach. Real beard, white hair wearing bright red shorts and a red Hawaiian shirt. Holding a drink cup with a sign: SANTA ON VACATION. Take your pic with him, he gets a buck.

I hung out with magicians, old blues musicians, living statues and "Johny Balloons" the balloon bender. These folks were now my peers and competition. Very friendly, they greeted me and gave me the run down and pointers. My morning commute started with a free ferry ride across the river, a stroll on the river front and dressed as a Harlequin. Beats sitting in traffic on the Garden State Parkway.

It's a little intimidating to come into the French Quarter dressed like this for the first time. I was working Royal Street today (much cooler than the touristy Bourbon) I strolled watching other acts and introducing myself. A cowboy with a guitar and a harmonica didn't look thrilled I was competing for tip money. As I walked up he started to play an eerie Hugo Montegio western song. When your the new guy in town you don't want a cowboy to start playing the theme to the "Good, Bad and the Ugly."


Yea, I'm still waiting on the photos of me dressed in costume to return from the Fotomat. Ya'll have to wait.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I think this show...

I think this show is as close as I come to with organized religion. Each episode is a Sunday school lesson.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My letter of appeal

New Jersey unemployment denied my claim stating that my move to NOLA was a personal reason for quiting my job. This is my response:

To: New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
Re: Appeal Tribunal

From: Eric T Styles
New Orleans, La. 70115

This is reference to the disqualification of unemployment benefits. The reason given by your agency is that I left my former employer to move to Louisiana for personal reasons and that did not make me eligible for unemployment benefits. I have paid into NJUI for over 26 years and never once filed a claim.

My choice to relocate to New Orleans was not for the mild climate. It was an economic decision. When I left my former employer my take home pay after child support garnishments was under one hundred dollars a week. Tips and gratuities averaged approximately fifty to sixty dollars a week. A total of one hundred fifty dollars was my average take home pay for a sixty hour work week. Mathematically it was impossible to survive on my income given the cost of living.

Due to the poor economic climate in New Jersey, finding other employment was difficult. New Jersey is the fourth most expensive state in the country to live. The least expensive housing I could find was $175 a week. Here in New Orleans I can find comparable housing for $75 a week. The economy in Louisiana is experiencing the second strongest recovery in the nation at this time. I am living here out of necessity; my move was one of economic flight.

My choice was NOT a personal life style change, but one of economic survival. If any member of NJUI can inform me of how I could survive on $150 a week income in New Jersey, I’ll return.

Eric T Styles

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Doors close, windows open

I had filled out at least 10 applications on Bourbon Street yesterday. Restaurants, bars and clubs. One called me for an interview last night for being a barback. I called today to set up the time, the woman I was to speak to wouldn't be in until 8 PM. Optimistically I boarded the ferry about 7:30 and headed across the river to the Quarter. When I reached the east bank I called the club and was told she was too busy to see me and to call back tomorrow. The ferry ride was free so nothing lost.

Dressed in my best but penniless I strolled Bourbon Street watching the carnival like night life. A saucy creature strolled up next to me and said "Hey handsome, what are you doing tonight?" I bullshitted with her as we strolled. She trying to get me to pay for a quickly. All the time I was chuckling to myself how she couldn't have picked a poorer John. She eventually spun around and walked off with some sap who eyeballed her.

I decided to roam Harrah's casino, penniless just to soak in the sights. Nice casino. Still I felt optimistic and positive despite not even getting in to the interview. I lit a hand rolled cigarette with my Zippo feeling as cool as a broke unemployed dude can feel. As I strolled over to the ferry terminal I noticed a very lovely lady with a few bags also walking to the ferry. I thought about offering to carry her bags, but I didn't want to ruin my great mood with a face full of pepper spray.

I finished my smoke and walked up to the waiting area in the ferry terminal. Music from a bar at the Riverwalk echoed up into the terminal as I sat down a ways from the lovely lady. She walked over to the open window to listen to the music. I commented it was nice to have live entertainment during our wait.

We chatted, she was originally from England and fell in love with New Orleans twenty years ago and decided to stay. She was witty, charming and very attractive. Kind of a Susan George beauty about her. I digress, this blog is about employment.

She asked what I did for a living. Great. I explained I was new in town and was job hunting. Graphic artist by trade. She told me about her job, did I mention she has her own business as a travel agent... I digress again. Next door to her place of work was several film studios that have artist on staff for sets, wardrobe etc. She thought I should try there, giving me her card and asking me to call her the next day and she would steer me toward someone to speak with concerning film work.

I'm thinking it may be my calling to work in the film industry down here. I have a couple of extra jobs lined up, and the artwork aspect may be my niche. I carried her bag onto the ferry and we had a wonderful talk. Very sweet and likable lady. Petite, blond, a great sense of humor, did I mention she was English? I digress.

As we talked I mentioned how I had come into the city for an interview and had been blown off until tomorrow. She thought that was rude and wished me better luck. Fortunately she didn't ask me where I had the interview. The last thing I would've wanted to say would have been "I applied for a job as a barback at Larry Flynt's Barely Legal Strip Club." I'm sure she would've moved to the other side of the ferry if I had mentioned that.

I'll call both back tomorrow and see what fate has in store for me.

Job hunting

It's been scary times. No job, no money and no one left to borrow from. I have been doing the Craigslist thing up to four times a day. Yesterday I went down to the French Quarter to pound the pavement. From my new place in Algiers I took a ferry across the great Mississippi to the Quarter. Sure beats a commute on the Garden State Parkway, and it's free for pedestrians. I have to get use to the idea that down here the summer is the off season and winter is the busy season. Back in Jersey things are just starting to pick up, here places are cutting back.

I started with a lead I got that Krystal Burgers were always hiring. It's a White Castle type of joint right on Bourbon Street. I filled out the application, handed it to the manager as she said "We aren't looking for any one right now, try back in a month or so" Why didn't you say that before I wasted my time filling it out you slider slinger?

So I went into every open business on Bourbon St. Restaurants, bars, clubs. Even though I have almost no food / beverage experience I'll do anything at this point to survive. I stopped counting at ten applications filled out, and at least twenty inquiries. I got one call back last night, I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Damn you New Jersey, Damn you.

For the past twenty eight years I have worked in New Jersey. I have been paying my taxes, and paying into unemployment insurance. A number of times I have been out of work, but I never collected a dime. I struggled and lived off of my personal savings until I found a new job. NOT ONCE HAVE I EVER COLLECTED UNEMPLOYMENT. I applied for it when I moved here to New Orleans and was denied. The reason: I voluntarily quit my job for personal reasons.

F*** you NJ, it was economic flight. I felt like Tom Joad loading up my possessions into a Ford Escort and fleeing the economic dust bowl of New Jersey. "I heard there's work down in New Orleans..." For the past year and a half I never brought home more than $500 during my best week of driving cab in the summer. Since last November, I had been seeing $90 in my paycheck after child support had been taken out. I pay $110 a week in child support for ONE child. I was working 12 hour shifts, usually 6 nights a week. My cut from the book was about $200, with seldom more than $70 in tips a week. Someone in NJ explain to me how I could live on $160 a week.

I was looking for other work, pick up the classifieds, point to one. So on average, I might walk away with $160 a week in my pocket. My rent was $175 a week to share a house with two other guys. Down here in New Orleans, I'm sharing a house with others for $75 a week. I left for personal reasons? No, I left for economic survival. If I am going to be poor, let it be in a state where I can get more for the few meager dollars I can make.

ATTENTION THOSE OF YOU WHO WORK FOR THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY Not everyone has a state sponsored job, not everyone belongs to some bureaucratic union or is a brother-in-law to someone at the capital.

For the past couple of years with the national economy on the decline the Garden State seemed to get hit hardest. Bedroom communities filled with yuppies who worked in Manhattan offer only service industries as an economy base for the rest of the population. Landscaping, food and beverage, dog grooming and driving cab are the only employment opportunities for the rest of us.

When the feces hit the fan in our economy, such service industries were the first to get splattered. Dad would mow the lawn himself, Ginger would get hosed off in the bathtub instead of groomed, and there would be fewer nights of going out to eat and drink. Even in the summer, we in the service industries suffered a major downturn. In the winter, forget about it.

I was driving Taxi at night in Belmar NJ. The Jersey shore is one of those tourism locations where you have to make you money during the season and live lean during the rest of the year. For the past two years or so, there has been a steady decline in summer rentals and tourism in general. Who can afford $10,000 a month for a summer rental if they are worried about being able to cover their mortgage.

ATTENTION FELLOW NEW JERSIANS, Louisiana has the second strongest recovery in the country. Look it up if you don't believe me. The people down here are pleasant and friendly. The taxes are lower, no toll roads, screw the Hardon State. They have been milking you dry for generations, and who are living fat dumb and happy? Lawyers, politicians and mobsters. If you're not one of those, then good luck on continuing to live in the Garden State.

Give me my unemployment money or I will be a thorn in your side for decades to come.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rough Town

A few days ago seven people were shot down in the French Quarter at the end of "French Quarter Fest." I had just finish a day of juggling on Royal Street, and was standing on Canal Street waiting for a bus home. Two NOLAPD cars tore down the street with sirens blasting, seconds later three more came ripping around the corner. Soon five more sped by me doing 60 MPH.

I heard the next day that seven people had been shot at Canal and Royal. Since I've been here, I've heard news accounts of groups of people getting shot. Back in Jersey it was one, maybe two people getting shot. Down here, the perp doesn't stop until he empties the clip. FIVE FAMILY MEMBERS, TWO CATS AND ONE DOG were shot yesterday during a dispute over the TV remote.....

Ironically the Southern Republicans were also in town doing what ever it is Republicans do when they get together.

Pappa was a rollin stone...

Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
I moved again. To keep you updated, I stayed with Waffle and Diane when I first got to New Orleans, went to live in a crack house, where I was woken up my US Marshals at 5 am. I then moved back to Waffle's where I wore my welcome thin, now I have found a third place here in NOLA. Algiers actually, it's across the river on the West Bank.
Literally at the foot of the bridge. I have to drive around the bridge footings to my street. It's quiet enough with the traffic a couple of hundred feet or so overhead. Decent diverse neighborhood, dead end street with an above ground cemetery one house away. In New Orleans the cemeteries are famous, due to the high water tables all are buried in mausoleums. I've seen tours of these being given. I always think of the acid trip scene from EASY RIDER when I look at them. Maybe this summer if I get the chance.

I found on Craigslist this house. I still got the room after they had read this blog. I won't go into many details, in order to continue living here. I am certain that there is no crack or crystal meth being manufactured or consumed on the premises . Which is a plus. Affordable, safe with an artist commune feel. The word spacious doesn't accurately describe my quarters, unless we are comparing it to submarine duty. In which case I live like an officer. I can hear boat horns on the Mississippi about three hundred yards from here. Mark Twain meets Dennis Hopper.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Waffle & I worked today

Waffle & I got work today. We found some work on Craigslist helping a construction Company move their offices. Here is some video of our early morning commute.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Only in New Orleans

Waffle and I drove down to the closest CVS pharmacy. Along the way we passed a dive bar called "King Pin." Outside was a small group dressed as Zombies with drinks in hand. Of course on the way back Waffle had me drive by and he stuck his head out and asked "What's going on?" a Zombie replied "Nuthin, why?" Turns out it was the annual "Good Friday Zombie Jesus Jamboree Pub Crawl."

Upon closer inspection most of the zombies had crowns of thorns and mangled hands. I guess NOLA is just outside of the Bible belt. I'm on the fence on this one. Would any group dare to do the same for an Islamic martyr? Probably not. I find redemption in the fact that this is America where we are free to offend religions. Christians are used to be mocked and ridiculed. It's been their cross to bare for the past two thousand years. If the reward for them what they claim, then they get the last laugh.

After we got home Waffle donned his zombie make up and we went out for a beer at Le Bon Temps Roule (let the good times roll) We met up with the Good Friday Precession for a late night service. Nice enough alchies, but I felt uncompfortable from a spiritual standpoint. Like I stated, if you guys had any balls, take a poke at Mohamhad.

On the way home I wondered if one of the participants in the Jesus Zombie Pub Crawl gets hit by a car tonight and dies. Imagine if he comes face to face with the real deal while dressed in costume. "Uhm, yea, I dressed as...uhm, you...when I staggered in front of the Ford Bronco.."

Awkward moment to start off eternity.