Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What that woman she been doin' to me...

About 6 years ago in New Jersey I had a friend who had come down to New Orleans on a drinking binge with her friends. Upon her return she told me what a great city it was and that I should visit it someday. I doubt she ever ventured much farther than Bourbon Street. During the weeks following Katrina, like the rest of the nation I had a dull sickness in my gut. Sick from the idea that a city in the most developed nation of the world would be reduced to what we were watching on TV. Sickness from the fact that I never would get a chance to visit the same great place I had heard about.

Last summer in NJ my buddy Waffle kept telling me of this great city inhabited by artists of all sorts. People who were friendly and likable. An atmosphere of generosity and optimism. Being from NJ, I doubted any place like that was real, let alone the one from the news footage. "New Orleans? Is that still there?"  It was as if he was speaking of the lost city of Atlantis. "Fuck it, I have to get out of Jersey or I'll start to go Travis Bickle on my passengers."  From the moment I rolled into town, I have been welcomed, inspired and filled with hope.

Everyone here has a story worthy of a novel. Some who didn't leave or returned soon after to help rebuild are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. Entire neighborhoods are still scarred and damaged, but most are thriving. One of my first jobs down here was as a laborer at a strip mall being rebuilt in St. Bernard Parish. As far as the eye could see, abandoned housing with a few large boats still just sitting in vacant lots where they had been deposited.

One of the first places I stayed was in the Broadmoor section. About head level a water line was still visible on the outside of the structure. The door still had an X spray painted on it. The X was a sign that it had been searched for bodies in the days after the storm. One could state that it's not the infrastructure that makes up a city, it's the residents. New Orleans then would be one of the strongest and most resilient cities in the world. It's strength is not in it's levees, but the hearts.

I’m gonna buy me a ticket as far as I can,
I ain't never comin' back
I’m gonna take me that south-bound,
All the way to Georgia now,
‘Till the train it run out of track
Can't you see, oh, can't you see,
What that woman, she been doin' to me

Memphis Beatnik

Look for me about 5 minutes into part 2. The detective calls me "hairnet."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

John R. Carleton

My mother was born in 1920. Audrey grew up as a tomboy in in Northeastern Pa. during the depression and was widowed by the time she was 24. My mother's first husband John R. Carleton, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. War brides have the saddest stories. Before the war ended she was given a job for the Department of the Navy so she could support herself. Audrey worked at Naval Weapons Station Earl in Colts Neck NJ. That is where she met her next two husbands.

Her second husband Henry had served as a sailor in the South Pacific during WW2. He died in the late 50's leaving her with two young boys. Widowed again. In the early 60's, she met my father Frank at Earl and married him. Frank served in Viet Nam and died after retirement in '76. When asked if she would ever marry again, Audrey would respond "I buried three, I'll just get a dog."

About seven years ago, after several small strokes and the onset of Alzheimer's Audrey was moved to a nursing home. Being the youngest and closest, I assumed the task of sorting through a life time of possessions and distributing or disposing. I came across a forgotten family hallowed relic. A silver star earned by Audrey's first husband during the Ardennes Offensive. I am not a blood decedent, nor do I know of any. I need to find a place for this award, and the acknowledgement of his sacrifice.  

Somehow when I moved down to New Orleans six months ago the medal came with me. I thought for sure I had left it safely in a box in a storage unit in New Jersey. While going through some important documents that I had brought with me the Silver Star again showed up, this time in with my birth certificate.  During my first days in New Orleans my friend pointed out the WW2 Museum and commented on how great it is. It dawned on me that this is the place that the Silver Star should come to rest.

I am offering the Silver Star to the WW2 Museum in New Orleans for their collection. 

Meet my old man

I got into this blogging thing as just a way to vent. Screams and cursing into the wind of the internet, not caring if I am heard, just needing to get something off of my chest. One blog I started about Father's Day was about my better memories of my father. I found that after I became a father, I became less critical of my own. I tried to remember his best qualities, his talents, his humor.

A few days ago I was contacted by a man that had served with my father in the Philippines. He sent me photographs that I had never seen before. They were of a fishing trip that landed a 300 lb Pacific Marlin. I remember hearing the story when I was growing up. Mom always said it was a bullshit fish story. Well, I just saw the pictures, it's all true.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Official POBOY of this blog

One thing I learned from last night's game is to remember your sponsors. The owner of this store provided my ticket to the game last night. Thanks Murray.

 A grocery for the warehouse district. Our store is a small operation but are growing everyday. We carry a full selection of bread, milk, condiments, toiletries and a wide variety of other products.
We will grow our selection as needed.




A Friggin good sandwich  

Saints win, 36 - 21

Back in Jersey I would have passengers in my cab ask me "You a Giants fan?" "Nope" "Ya like the Eagles?" "Both teams could die in fiery plane crashes and I couldn't care less."  I had never been to or even watched a football game in the past 47 years of life. Until last night when I went to my first Saints game. A friend of mine Brian aka "Mow" offered to treat me to a game at the Superdome. I came down to NOLA to re-invent myself, try new things and experience more of life.

Me, Mow & Murray

Thousands of black and gold fans peacefully filed into the recently re-sided stadium. It now has a goldish hue to it. I found myself leaning on the back of a pick up truck downing a few beers and watching women dressed in jersies and heels parade past. "I think I understand the whole Roman Coliseum thing now.No Christian were thrown to lions, but the Chargers were thrown to the the Saints. Mow told me "It ain't about the game, it's about the event."

I had a great time with the crowd. Enthusiastic, but I didn't see anyone acting like assholes or getting arrested. It was a privaledge to party with the who dat nation.  The Saint's Superbowl win was a great moral shot in the arm for New Orleans. The team brought pride and unity to a city constantly getting kicked around by the weather or now the petroleum corporations. Never have been a football fan, my only knowledge of the New Orleans Superdome was as a refuge center five years ago after Katrina.
Memories of the news chopper footage of the Superdome in the days of the storm ran through my mind as I drank up with my adoptive crew.  Murray, who I had never met provided my ticket through Mow. This is a friendly town. Even though Murray kept calling me a "Damn Yankee" all night.  I got to experience my first football game as well as a city constantly in search of something to celebrate. The Superdome represents the highs and the lows of living in the Big Easy.

 My only embarrassing moment  all night was trying to tip a cheerleader a dollar.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's a grit?

As cool and hip as New Orleans is, I have to remember where exactly I am. If I venture outside of the city I find myself in unfamiliar and scary surroundings. Places like Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi. Places with swamps as deep and mysterious as the accents of the locals. I know, down here I am the one with the accent.  My buddy who is also from New Jersey and I often reference this film.

Monday, August 23, 2010

men @ work

Here is a pic someone snapped in the extras holding area during the Green Lantern shoot. The burnout in the foreground is me, and the cop asleep is my buddy Bobby.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The New Orleans 48 Hour Film Project

Last night my friend and I went down to the 48 hour film project screening. I'll admit, we only stayed for the first half. We watched 14 short films. Some were very good, some of the movies we could have gone our entire lives without ever seeing and not felt as if we were gypped.

There were a few with the sound being so bad, entire dialogue is missed. A few were as sharp on the technical as on performance and writing.

My favorite was "Trust Bob." Funny, well written and performed by the Trophy Whore team. Directed by Jason Waggenspack, Trust Bob provided laughter with two bumbling thugs who kidnap a very intelligent woman, and soon she has her captors questioning the very existence of their boss Bob. I missed lines just because of the audience's laughter. Very good performances from the four actors. Deep theological questions presented with the charming visuals of a retro fetish film. I look forward to seeing it again.

The 48 Hour Film Project is an event where local film makers are given a tiny piece of dialogue and in this case a folding chair and they must complete a film using those elements over a two day period.  I had an opening to work on one of the productions, however it's a game for the young. Being awake for three days or so would probably be the ingredient to finally cause my heart to blow out like a bald tire on the Turnpike.

After the first half I stepped out for a smoke with a few familiar faces. Young film students milled about, optimistic about the world and their talents.  My friend and I decided to call it a night and head home. I remembered that I needed to pick something up at a small shop on Bourbon Street.  "Sure, we can stop for a few minutes." Walking from one end to the other in the humidity, we worked up a thirst. He had his diet Coke, I decided since I had never had a "Hurricane" that tonight was the time to do so. Being dehydrated the beverage went down fast and easy. Two  blocks down Bourbon St, I started to look for another Hurricane vendor.

Darting into the Tropical Isle for air conditioning and live music, no Hurricanes were available. So the other great Bourbon St tradition of a Handgrenade was my next beverage quickly downed. 20 minutes or so later my friend and I both came to the realization that all of the Cajun music that the band was playing sounded about the same. The guy wearing the washboard and playing it with spoons was starting to wear on my nerves.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

almost deleted this...

I was cleaning up my hard drive and almost deleted this sketch for a tattoo I did. I thought I'd run it through photoshop to see what I could do with it. The guy wanted a cobra wrapped around a panther. I drew a pretty good cobra, then he holds up a pic of a dragon. "I want it to look like a winged dragon, but a cobra snake." This is as close as I could get. He didn't care for it, "Too biker, I wanted more Asian."

Ok, have fun.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Fun and cool video. Shot down in the French Quarter, performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring Clint Maedgen on vocals. I haven't been going down to the Quarter to juggle in the past couple of months due to the somewhat oppressive heat. After seeing this video, I plan to go down again soon to street perform. It's a privilege to be part of the F.Q. scene.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lance E. Nichols

Film productions have moved from California to Louisiana because of tax breaks and incentives from this state.  There is talk that half of the next Batman movie will be filmed down here next year. It's not just the financial perks that draw film makers, but the talent. The last director I worked with was very complementary to our group of 300 plus background extras. He claimed that we were some of the best he has ever worked with. Seeing us at work for a dozen or so sweltering days, I think he may be right.

Back in June while my friend Russell and I were walking onto the set of Brawler, Russell grabbed my sleeve and pulled me towards a man in a vehicle. "Here is a guy you have to meet."  I was greeted with a firm friendly handshake. "Eric, this is Lance Nichols, Lance, this is Eric, he just moved down here from New Jersey." I didn't recognize Lance or know of his resume. He impressed me immediately as a man of quality and character. Confidant yet modest with everyone he met.

Later I learned from Russell that Lance is one of the most respected and busiest actors in New Orleans. Impressive IMDB page shows that he knows not just his craft, but his industry. Over the months I have heard his name come up repeatedly on different productions. Without exception when his name is mentioned someone will comment "What a great guy." From the Gulf Coast to the West Coast Lance is well respected and liked.

On two different productions I have crossed paths with Lance. Professional, talented and well liked by everyone seems to be his reputation. My friend Bobby worked as his stand in during the last shoot and had the privilege to spend time with Mr. Nichols. "He's the most down to earth and unpretentious man I have ever met" is Bobby's assessment of Lance. During the shoot, Lance being a principle could have eaten lunch with anybody involved with the production. Instead he was seen several times dinning with the sweaty masses of background actors.

I think if I had to put a face with the best that New Orleans has to offer the film industry, it would be Lance Nichols.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

I'm through with standing in line
To clubs we'll never get in
It's like the bottom of the ninth
And I'm never gonna win
This life hasn't turned out
Quite the way I want it to be...

Last night was the wrap parties for the film I was working on. The background extras had theirs at Club ampersand. More of a higher class joint that I have been in since arriving in NOLA. People I had spent the past two weeks with running and sweating with were there. This time we were stepping on each other's feet on the dance floor.

Film people work hard. Most folks have no idea the long grueling hours that production people put in. Production assistants, hair and wardrobe, grips, actors and stunt people put in anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day for months at a time. So when it's done, these artists need to cut loose.

At first I didn't want to go, I had spent almost two weeks with these sweaty muthers in holding. The last idea of fun for me was to be crammed into a club with them. My friend Russell told me how uncommon it is for a background wrap party, and this being one of the largest film productions in New Orleans this year I shouldn't miss it. I'm glad I didn't.

It wasn't the type of club you would usually find me in, but I had fun. Youngsters dancing with glow sticks and illuminated hula hoops, generous friends from the set who were quick to share whatever they had. Drop dead hotties on the dance floor. Good times, my friend Bobby pointed out that there were no fights or skirmishes despite the diverse crowd.

I of course approached all of this with the eye of a journalist to document it for this blog. My night wasn't going to be complete until I made it into the VIP room. We could catch a glimpse of it from the dance floor. A second floor window looked down upon the crowd as the VIP's danced with drinks held high. We got to get up there I told my friend.

And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary and today's who's who
They'll get you anything with that evil smile
Everybody's got a drug dealer on speed dial, well
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

He walked up to the bouncer guarding the steps like he belonged there and got ushered right in. I was stopped the the Ving Raymes of security. I eventually was allowed in after a handful of people staggered out. The VIP room was kind of boring. I saw a few things of interest, but after you have partied with strippers nothing really surprises you.

I wasn't going to let this opportunity go with out being a drunken asshole of some kind. As I was leaving the VIP area the DJ started to play the Beatle's Twist and Shout. So in a very Ferris Bueller moment I found myself dancing in front of the window looking over the dance floor. A spastic bump in grind with some trashed girl half my age. My friend Adrian looked up from the dance floor to see me removing my ugly shirt to reveal an uglier torso as the night was just kicking into high gear.

The song ended, I miss-buttoned my shirt up and staggered down the steps past Marcellus Wallace who had let me up stairs. I told my buddies that I was ready to go home to blog about my night at my first wrap party. I'm sure the "Inner circle" folks have much more interesting stories than I, but for a 47 year old cab driver from NJ, it was fun.

< (I am still 5 years older than their combined ages.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thumbs Up

I watched this film the other night. Very entertaining. I would love to watch it someday with my daughter. Rent it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Favorite Cartoonists

In no particular order, here are the artists who inspire and influence my artwork.

Gilbert Shelton of the fabulous furry freak brothers. The best written of "underground comics."  

Don Martin of MAD Magazine fame. If a cartoonist struggles with drawing hands and feet, they should study his work. MAD's artist were the best cartoonists of the 20th century.

Chuck Jones - Warner Brothers cartoons. Backgrounds, color and characters don't get better than this.

R Crumb I think most who hail his work do so with out really understanding it.Kind of an Andy Warhol self hype that has made him very wealthy.

Sam GrossGahan Wilson - Playboy magazine's staple cartoonists. Yes I flipped through the magazine to the cartoons first. My first ever rejection letter was signed by my hero Sam Gross when I submitted some gag cartoons to National Lampoon.

Berke Breathed, Bloom County. The first and only comic strip in a mainstream newspaper I ever found worth reading. I'll admit that BiNGE's look is influenced by Steve Dallas.

Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. Some of Python's most memorable bits are the animated cartoons from the show.  Terry went on to direct many acclaimed films and demonstrate cartoonists are under rated. His films just have a completely unique look and spin on them.  I wish he had built an amusement park instead of that horrible Walt Disney.

Ralph Steadman  An illustrator of biblical talent. I was first exposed to his work for Hunter S. Thompson. Deeply disturbed work unmatched by others.

Matt Groening What can one say? I first was exposed to his work "Life in Hell" that ran in the Village Voice back in the 80's. Matt is the Bill Gates of cartooning. Creativity is matched by an incredible business and marketing sense. Hundreds of years from now his work could be used for an accurate account of life in 20th / 21st century America.  Every social and political issue is addressed along with humanity's quirks.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't always fear losing a job you don't like anyhow

 At this time last year, I was driving a cab at night on the Jersey Shore. Yea, like the TV show. I even have had those guys in my taxi. I drove three or four of the gombas from D-Jaise on Ocean Ave in Belmar NJ to the Headliner in Neptune. The one with the hair and ink gets in the front seat and the first words out of his mouth "J'ever ear uv a shoe culled da jerzey shor?"  I reply "Nope. I hope I never do."
Lousy tippers. 

Dealing with that crowd in mass, being beat out of fares. At two am having to clean puke up off of the backseat before I can use the car again to make money. Every silhouette that sat behind me could be holding a razor knife to my throat at any minute. Cops with hard-ons for cabbies because his ex banged one once.

NJ is the forth most expensive state to live in. Mostly due to corruption between the politicians, unions and the mob. Bureaucrats and contractors sucking the Jersey Girl's tits dry. The economy got so bad, people just weren't blowing money at the bars as much. The money dried up for us in the winter and every week I fell further behind. F Jersey, I'm moving to New Orleans, if I got to be poor, let it be someplace cheaper.

My complaint this morning at work was that the stunt people get bacon with breakfast and we don't.  Walking by all sorts of cool gizmos and craters. It's like getting caught in the middle of MYTHBUSTERS. F*ckin cool. Cars are rigged to blow up, much like Taxi cabs that do when in need maintenance.

The only thing I miss about New Jersey is my kid. I can't wait to bring her down here for a visit, let her know that life is better outside of the Garden State.

Monday, August 2, 2010

the people

Working background with 300 or so others with lots of down time I have met some really cool people. Some are native to New Orleans, some are permanent transplants like myself. In the Big Easy, it's easy to strike up conversations with strangers. It has taken months for me to drop my Jersey night cab driver attitude. Some folks say hello and are nice with no ulterior motives or ill intentions. I have met some really great people doing this work.

First off the women down here are friendly and approachable. Unlike Jersey women who run credit check on a guy before they speak to them, NOLA women talk to men like we are equally human. Also, women down here seem to be thinner on average than Jersey women. I guess in spite of rich food, sweating profusely nine months out of the year tends to keep water retention down. Lovely tan creatures with Fleur De Lis tattooed about their svelte... I digress.

Oh sure I have met some jerks down here, some things are universal. Somehow thick southern accents make them more amusing than irritating. When asked where I originate from I reply "The Jersey Shore." "Oh, like the TV show?" "Yea, kind of." Snookie and the Sopranos seem to be NJ's  albatross. I try to explain that Jersey is not all like that, but can't really find any examples to disprove the stereotype. It would be like saying that every idiot stumbling down Bourbon Street during carnival represents Louisiana.  Actually, those folks are probably from the NJ - NYC area down here on drinking binges.