Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cover 21

Last week at the Moulin View, I was discussing New Orleans with Andie. She was telling me how this town lets you know if you belong here or not. Andie said she has known people who move here only to be driven back to where they came from. Jobs lost, cars stolen or bad vibes roll up the welcome mat. For those who belong here the city opens herself up for the embrace that keeps you for life. You still have to earn it, you still have to prove yourself for the lady's approval.

I've been here a year and things are looking better each day. There's been some challenges, some downfalls but I think New Orleans likes me.  Here is my third cover for the Quarter Rat, enjoy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Inflict Pleasure

New Orleans is an eerie place at night. It might be the old buildings rumored to be the most haunted in America. No wonder so many films are shot here. I was invited to a fetish party Friday night at the Moulin View. Perfect night for it, a freakishly large moon hovering over the river as I stepped off of the Streetcar to walk to Lower Decatur. Warm weather and liquor filled the air. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I need to get past the touristy sections of town and find out what the natives do for fun.

A rather non descript black and white sign with three skulls marked the door to the dark club. Lower Decatur is kind of lurid to begin with. This is where the locals go. A bartender on Bourbon Street finishes his shift and need to tie one on with civil creatures that arent wearing beads and silly hats goes to Decatur. An imposing but friendly doorman greeted me and pointed out the hostess after I introduced myself. She was not what I expected, I don't know what I anticipated but it wasn't Andie.

She knew I was there to write and draw about the alternative scene in NOLA. Andie greeted me as if I was at an open house for a condo sale. Extremely bright, articulate, professional speaking college age woman who enthusiastically started to tell me about the purpose of the monthly gatherings.  From the spectating novice who are curious to the experienced players were welcomed. Apart from emotionally painful relationships, I would fall into the novice spectator.

Andie put me at ease, if everyone was as cool as her it should be a fun night. It wasn't nearly as bizzare as my mind had envisioned. Gothic dressed ladies from early twenties up to their fifties. Most of the men didn't put much effort into wardrobe, a few did. The theme this month was 'Gender Bender,' Gothy girls in corsets, ropes and men's dress shirts danced on the bar for most of the night, not for tips, but apparently for the fun of it.I wasn't sure if tipping was desired or would've been taken as an insult.

Interesting people, a fun feeling made it a very hip spot to be. Unlike Bourbon Street where sexuality is a commodity, on Lower Decatur it's an art form. The wait staff was extremely cool. drink prices the best I've found in New Orleans. Too good, by two AM I was plastered.

The festivities ended at five. I wondered out into a heavy river fog creating an atmosphere in the Quarter worthy of a vampire film. Unsettling to anyone with as little motor skills as mine. I was an easy mark for anyone who wanted to roll me for an empty wallet. I managed to stumble into the Clover Grill for safety and the perfect greasy breakfast to help me continue onto the streetcar line for the ride home. As I sat at the counter the cook kept turning around and glancing at me.

"Hey, aren't you the cartoonist for the Quarter Rat?" "Huh? Uhm, yea, I think so..." "I saw your photo in the Mardi Gras issue." I don't know if I like being recognized, I always thought that would be cool. I'm not sure now, if I make an ass of myself it might come back to bite me in the ass. By six am I was wading through knee deep garbage, slipping on the sidewalk covered with spilt drinks and vomit heading towards Canal.

I had escaped the darting silhouettes in the fog, for tonight.

Friday, March 11, 2011

it’s a rough planet

Today was beautiful weather as I started to prep a house in St Bernard Parish for painting.  St. Bernard was hit hard during Katrina, in fact the house I was working on like many on the street still bore a spray painted X on the porch marking that it had been searched for bodies after the storm. The radio next to me was reporting on the devastation in Japan.

The contractor that I am working for has been getting a lot of work correcting repair work that was done in the months following the hurricane. Shoddy work done by fly-by-night contractors who flooded the city after the storm waters receded. Paint jobs that should have lasted 10 to 15 years starting to peel after 5.

I needed at lunch to find coffee and cigarettes. I walked block after block finding the same patterns, a recently renovated shotgun house, a couple of vacant lots with just concrete slabs, another recently renovated shotgun and an occasional vacant house covered with vines. One gutted home had PLEASE BULLDOZE spray painted on the front.  I had to walk a lot father than I anticipated, most of the strip malls that we passed on the way in, turned out to still be abandoned.

Like the rest of the world who watched the tragedy unfold on the news channels, we could not imagine what it was like for the residents. I’ve heard many recountings from those who were here. I often wonder how I will respond when and if I am forced to. Will I stay or evacuate and will I suffer the post traumatic stress of seeing my adopted city ravaged by nature.

Often we hear astronomers speak of how Earth is nestled in just the perfect location in our solar system. Any closer to the sun and we’d burn, any farther from the sun we’d freeze.  How incredibly perfectly located we are in the big picture with enough oxygen and water.  Listening to the radio reports of how many thousands may have died do to the earthquake and the following tsunami while wire brushing a Katrina X I thought about this planet. It’s not nearly as friendly as the travel brochures make it sound.

99 percent of the time it is pretty decent, but now and then the atmosphere decides to it’s time to fuck with us by slamming humanity with unlivable conditions. At times the most stable thing in our lives, the very plant itself becomes violent and our seas desire to show that they are in the majority and land is the minority.

It can be a rough planet to live on at times.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bourbon Street Parade

A year ago I rolled into this town in a 95 Ford Escort with less than $75 in my pocket, no job lined up and only Waffle’s floor to crash on. At least I was out of New Jersey. I never felt at home in Jersey, regardless of what town I lived in. The first morning that I woke up in New Orleans and strolled down Magazine Street in search of coffee and smokes it felt right. I can’t explain it other than it felt like I was home. There has been a lot of rough times in the past year, but never once did I ever consider returning to Jersey. A few times I did consider cashing in my chips off of the Crescent City Bridge.

New Orleans talked me out of it. The reputation of this city through out the world is one of indulgence and debauchery, a decadent drunken harlot catering to carnal pleasure. Babylon on the Mississippi. Like the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold she welcomes the creative, the outcast and those who feel at home nowhere else. That has been her turbulent history. The flags of Spain, England, France, America and the Confederacy have flown over her, yet she is still individual and defiant.

Cajun refugees from Canada made their way down the river to find a new home here. Slaves from Africa were forced to make New Orleans their new home and Pirates had their mail forwarded here. Vietnamese refugees have come here as boat people only to become some of the finest fisherman in the world. Where else could Pirates become heroes and descendants of slaves become celebrities. A city whose not known for making steel or autos, not seen as a center of financial power or commerce. Instead is associated world wide for music, food, writing, art and individualism. Perhaps this is why I immediately felt at home here.

Today, a year later I am working as a house painter and optimistic. I took a break from painting French doors in a former slave’s quarter on Esplanade turned into a condo. I walked up Bourbon Street to a strip club to collect money for artwork I did. There is a change in my life, walking out of a strip club with more money than I walked in with. On the way to the club I stopped and jotted down a phone number to an affordable apartment on Bourbon for rent.

Kicking back down Bourbon Street I glanced into a window of Skully’s record shop. Posted in the window was a poster for “Bourbon Street and Beyond, illustrated by Eric T Styles” On the counter sat several copies of the book I worked on for the past few months. With a stupid grin on my face walking back to Esplanade I spoke to myself “A year ago I rolled into this town in a 95 Ford Escort with less than $75 in my pocket, no job lined up and only Waffle’s floor to crash on…”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reputation is everything

On a dark note...

A friend who I worked with doing background just posted from the ER. Apparently she got mugged and roughed up pretty bad.  The thugs took all of the money she had earned working the past 24 hours. As she laid on the ground dazed and bleeding, herds of revelers just stepped over her. Another girl from Tulane was shot tonight.

I'm sure tomorrow the news will be filled with gruesome stories of shootings, robberies and rapes. The lesser crimes will be so numerous that they probably won't even make police reports. One of the reason I don't mind staying in from the festivities that so many travel here to partake in. This city can turn vicious at the drop of a jester hat. Halloween night an Iraq war veteran was walking down Bourbon with his wife when a group of guys made a comment to her. The Marine of course defended his wife's honor. He was stabbed to death.

Thanksgiving day a popular bartender in the French Quarter had just finished a long grueling shift. While leaving the Quarter he had an altercation with a group of teens and was shot to death. As much as I praise the city I will not deny the ugly, vicious dark side of NOLA. For hundreds of years cutthroats, thieves and scum have roamed these streets in search of victims.

My friend who was cruelly attacked tonight was sober but tired after working for so many hours. She was lucky to have escape with her precious life. Many victims tonight can blame only themselves for not knowing the area and being an easy drunk mark. Tourists and money are like chum in these shark filled streets. 

I don't work on Mardi Gras

I knew a guy who made that statement anytime he applied for a job. Needless to say he never really worked. The painting company I am working for is swamped with work, in fact a few extra people have been hired on. So today we started off to work and gave up on the one job site on Esplenade in the Quarter. Thick sluggish traffic being detoured around parade routes and streets cluttered with  float traffic and dim witted drunks stepping in front of cars without even glancing up. The only way I could describe the entire City of New Orleans to New Jersians would be imagine Seaside Heights on a Fourth Of July weekend.

Beneath the overpasses on Claiborne large crowds flowed towards countless Bar B Qs as the music took on an eerie sound echoeing under the traffic of I-10. Every route that we tried to navigate was lined with brightly costumed groups of liquored up revelers who obviously don't work on Mardi Gras either. We were trying in vein to get caught up on jobs. Deciding that working in the French Quarter was out of the question today, we slowly headed to a painting and siding job uptown. While working, a surprised home owner stuck her head out and proclaimed "Oh, your:e working TODAY? It's Mardi Gras..." "Yea, well, we're Yankees, so here we are."

There are many people who are working today in New Orleans, bartenders, servers, cab drivers, cops and emergancy workers.  I know what they are going through having driven cab on the Jersey Shore for five years. Tomorrow they will wake up exhuasted, aching and with a hatred for humanity.

We were going to run an errand to the Post Office, but they don't work on Mardi Gras either. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

My first Mardi Gras Parade

Tonight I return from my first Mardi Gas parade. After hearing about it for the past 12 months and seeing how this city and it's population are dependent on this season, I had to go. Like a drunk working til Friday every year, New Orleans can finally cum on itself.  Three parades on right after the other tonight.

Bobby and I were joking today about the ladders. There are some die hard parade fans who make it a family event. One tradition is a small open sided box mounted on ladders. Parents bring them along to the parade, and set them up along the parade route. They place very young children into the boxes above the heads of the rest of the crowd so their two year old can catch the best throws.

Bobby commented "Let's see, you're going to place your toddler in a box, nailed to the top of an eight foot ladder, on an uneven sidewalk surrounded by drunks..." I added "THEN you encourage drunks on floats to throw a handfuls of plastic beads at your kid's face. Might as well just put the kid over a dunk tank with a toaster in his lap." Perhaps it's just us being from Jersey, we think this way.

To be honest, I've been dragging heals about going to a parade, it's just me. I hate crowds and dislike drunks, add a lot of walking and spending money to that combination to see why I put it off. Today I had a business meeting in the Quarter and a parade got in the way. So for the sake of this blog and being able to say I went to a parade, I went. I don't drink, however while on Bourbon Street I got downwind of "the wrong crowd."  Second hand smoke, I swear. Really. I was down wind of them from Toulouse to Canal. Caught a buzz. Anyways, that made me want to see a parade. I walked along the St Charles line looking more at the crowd than the parade. It was like watching the religious holiday of a shoe fetish cult.

How did I like my first parade? It was ok.