Sunday, April 30, 2006

So I'm driving to a friend's house....

Living in a small city is sometimes a very interesting thing. Why, just the other day, I was reminded just how small a place this town is since the hurricane. As I said in my last entry, I had a job interview Friday afternoon... What I didn't say is that the guy that interviewed me is one of my neighbors here in the Point. Not only that, but I actually met the man at the annual "treasures from the point" event, and even remembered thinking about buying an antique Coke machine from him. (I loved it, but would have no place to put it) It still turned out to be an overall good thing, and I think we bonded a bit because of it.

Gotta love this town.

The other way that it came to my attention this week what a small town I live in was while driving to Dizzy's house the other day. Here in the big easy, when it comes to getting across the city in a hurry, you generally have two options... Take the expressway or follow the river. The expressway is a more direct route, but is usually clogged with traffic. River Road is a roundabout way, but usually has no traffic lights. Of the two, River Road is definitely the more pleasant drive, and my route of choice of late.

So I pull onto River Road, looking both ways of course, and so am quite shocked to suddenly see headlights in my rear view mirror and hear air horns bearing down on me. I look in the mirror more closely and see "EF ATNAS" between the headlights of this machine getting ever closer to my rear bumper.

After my mind flipped the words around, it flipped a few more times out of shock. "Santa Fe?" my brain said in a panic, "as in a TRAIN?"

As I say, I travel this road all the time, and had noticed the rail line down the right lane... But I guess I had always thought "abandoned streetcar project", not "active freight line". It was kinda like walking into your backyard and finding an elephant tied to your tree instead of the dog you left there.

Many things passed through my mind at that moment... Like "does he have to stop for the stop sign ahead like I do?", "what if I stop and he doesn't?", and "I wonder if my insurance covers getting hit by a train?". But, surprisingly to me, what also popped through my mind was a lecture my Dad gave me when I was about seven years old.

"Street rail lines are the backbone of commerce in many Midwest towns, Robbie." Dad said as he laid some track on his attic train layout alongside what he had planned to be main street, "In fact, there are some cities that have main freight lines going down the street alongside the cars, busses and what have you."

"But don't people get hit by the trains if they're running down the street?" I asked.

"Sometimes." Dad said, "but fortunately, big cities generally don't have trains running at street level."

"Generally?" I said, worried. (Not for getting hit by a train mind you, but because whenever I got punished as a kid, Dad would usually blame it on the mysterious "General Principle". My Pavlovian response to worry when I hear the word "General" still hits me to this day.)

"Look, if you ever see a train on the street behind you, you should..."

And of course Mom picked exactly that moment to come into the attic and tell Dad that she didn't want him drilling holes in the wall between the rooms to run trains through.

"Crap!", My brain yelled at me as the train bore down on me at the stop sign. I realized that I had no right to share the road with a train, and so pulled over and let the train have the darn thing. I sat roadside watching the train pass when I noticed the song on the radio was Black Sabbath's "Crazy Train".

I laughed for at least five minutes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The New Orleans Update....

Well, I had an interview in uptown new Orleans today, and it gave me a chance to cruise about the city a bit without having to justify to myself the expending of that magic $3 a gallon mixture that makes my car move from point to point without me having to push it.

New Orleans is rebounding a bit, but it is obvious that it is still YEARS before the city truly recovers. Notable facts:

Still no streetcars on St. Charles avenue.
Still no such thing as fast food.
It's Jazz Fest weekend, and there were hardly any tourists in the French quarter.
While most of the city now has at least some rudimentary power, it also looks disturbingly like a giant trailer park in most neighborhoods.
Hurricane season 2006 is a month away.
Someone invariably reminds me of the above fact at least once daily.

I also took the time to look up some old friends from my former job the New Orleans Steamboat Company, one of whom made the unfathomable decision to ride out hurricane Katrina in his apartment. For those of you who know him, I am speaking of the now "unsinkable" Mack Benson.

Of all the friends I had before the storm, Mack was the one that worried me the most. (His apartment was across the street from the heavily looted and burned Oakwood shopping center.) He had holed up in an apartment with some neighbors and all the supplies they could scavenge to wait for the opportunity to leave. "When I saw the mall on fire," he said to me, "I took it as a sign that I needed to leave then and there." He's been doing what everyone since the storm has been: trying to carve himself a niche in the post-katrina New Orleans. He's currently working as a combination deckhand/bartender/food server/ticket sales person aboard the John James Audubon as they try to get their new "katrina tour" off the ground. After the storm, he was thrown out of his apartment complex, and was forced to relocate somewhere in Harvey. His former landlord's reasoning was that the apartment complex as a whole was uninhabitable because of all the structural damage, as well as the rotting refrigerators left from those residents that simply never returned. He was in good spirits, though... A testament I think, to his strength of character. Mack was always one to roll with the punches.

The saddest thing to me is that I also hear stories like his daily. There is little doubt in my mind that the landlords of these affordable-before-katrina complexes will raise the rents significantly when looking for their next wave of tenants. I fully intend on sending my landlord a nice fruit basket for not pulling any of that sort of thing.

There were also some signs of the light at the end of the tunnel on my drive. Among them:

The students on their way to classes at Tulane and Loyola universities.
The amount of traffic.
The lack of debris on the main thoroughfares.
The children playing in Audubon park on a pretty April afternoon.

Enough to make me forget about my own problems for a while... Until the next person I spoke to reminded me that the next storm is probably only a month away. I'm stocking up on MRE's tomorrow. Where does one buy them, anyway?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why corporate America sucks.

I hate working for a big company. I hate it even more that I can't mention them by name on my blog for fear of some pencil pushing, humorless suit with an attitide googling said company and coming across my blog. I've been telling myself that the job with the fictional "carmart" from the cartoon is only a temporary fix, that my real career lies elsewhere, and that my destiny is larger than the aches and pains I wake up with due to the physical demands of the job.

I hate whining... but get the cheese ready, cause here we go...

My biggest problem with the "Carmart" is that they lied to me when I was hired.

The Lie:"You will be eligable for the company health plan after 90 days" Wrong-o. it should have been "you're eligable for the company's ACCIDENT policy after 90 days. We don't do medical coverage until after you've been here for a year."


(fume fume fume)

So, I tell my boss that ain't cool with the Kahunah. I need to start looking for another job, particularly since the job is a lot more stressful than what I signed on for. She calls the District manager and pleads my case, passionately enough that the man comes down from the corporate office to talk to me in person.

The conversation went something like this:

Rob: "I need health insurance"

Smarmy, glad-handing asshole: "No can do. But you're not seeing the big picture."

R: "The big picture is that I'm 36 and can't go for a physical without taking out a bank loan."

SGHA: "Your supervisor says you have potential... suppose I fast-track you for management?"

R: "I don't want to be a manager. Too much stress."

SGHA: "Only for managers without your potential. You can grow with our company."

R: "This does not change the fact that I have no health coverage."

SGHA: "What if I give you a raise?"

R: "What if you give me medical coverage and we call it a day?"

SGHA: "come now... I can give you two bucks more per hour, and after a year, you'll be running your own store."

At this point, God help me... I actually considered it. BUT THEN HE SAYS:

"And all you have to do is eat better and exercise more for a year until you get the health coverage."

GRRRRRRRR. Talk about pushing exactly the wrong button.

I started my job hunt in earnest today. Screw "Carmart" and everything they stand for.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fun with Photoshop

Yes, I was bored... but I must admit, I was pleased with the results. Andy Warhol, eat your heart out.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It's a Meme thursday....

I haven't had much time to cartoon this week. The ex's mom got her into another homeless shelter program, you see... this one TWO BLOCKS FROM MY HOUSE!

As y'all can imagine, this has me sitting in the dark, refusing to open my door. enjoy the Memes.

You Should Be a Joke Writer

You're totally hilarious, and you can find the humor in any situation.
Whether you're spouting off zingers, comebacks, or jokes about life...
You usually can keep a crowd laughing, and you have plenty of material.
You have the makings of a great comedian - or comedic writer.

Boy, I could have a heart attack, I'm so surprised at this one. For those of you interested in how my writing carrer is going, I got a letter today from an agent wanting me to send a copy of my screenplay for possible representation. It's a good sign, but I ain't getting my hopes up until they've said "yes, we will sell this for you".

Your Hawaiian Name is:

Kahuna Mambo

Which sounds like a great dance.

You Should Drive a Ford Explorer SportTrac

Tough and supercharged, you have some rather extreme driving practices.
You've been known to intimidate a few drivers. You rule the road.

As Y'all know... I've been contemplating the summer road trip situation, and have decided I have the following three options:

The Northeast Cruise... Driving to visit Mike and Melinda in D.C., My Family, the Aid Auto gang, and Becca in NYC, with liberal sightseeing in the carolinas.

The Northwest Cruise... Drivint to visit Lauren, Sparky, and Eric in the San Fransisco area, Michelle and Mark up in Portland, and exploring the American west a bit.

The Long Shot... Hop a tramp steamer out of southern California and Visit Dreamwalker in New Zealand, exploring the south pacific and seeing how the rest of the planet is getting by.

Of course... the way my life has been rolling lately it might just be a trip to the hammock in Dizzy's backyard with some iced tea and some Cheetos.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"What are you doing here?"

I think I need to start carrying around a tape recorder or something. About a million things happen to me every day that are blogworthy, but when I actually find time to sit here in front of a blank screen, it seems like I can't remember a single one. The famous Cerio photographic memory is apparently on the wane as I get older. (sigh) Even when I say to Ducky "oh, this is SO going into my blog, it seldom arrives there in one piece. Certain bits a phrases wind up in the cartoon, which is good, but I mourn at times for the stories never shared, the jokes not told, and the love not spread like so much cheez whiz (or vegemite for those on the other hemisphere) over the crackers that make up the intellectual landscape.

"What are you doing here?" is a question that has teneded to pop up a lot in my life recently, and it struck me the other day just how different situations can make this phrase funny, serious, inspiring, or just downright annoying. I often ask myself lately "What am I doing here?". Here being alternately in New Orleans, or just in my life in general. I like to think it provides direction in my hither-dither-and-yon lifestyle.

Of course, there are also times when it comes up because it's all I can think to say.

The other night, there came a tapping gently rapping upon my chamber door. As I am still sans telephone, I figured it was either Ducky or Dizzy come to call... So, I get up off my comfy couch, stroll across the living room, and open the door without looking through the peephole. Dizzy chastizes me for this all the time. I've told her I tend not to worry because there is a limited number of people that would just show up on my doorstep and knock... 95 percent of which I would be happy to see there.

So I open the door, and standing there is part of the other 5 percent... My ex-wife, Charity.

When last I had heard from her family, she had run off in yet another psychotic daze from a job that she held for a record-breaking two weeks, and wound up in a homeless shelter somewhere deep in the heart of texas. She was safe, at least 700 miles away, and I honestly figured I would never see her again. Yet in spite of this perfectly logical assumption, there she was.

"What are you doing here?" was all I could think to say.

"My mom needs to use your bathroom." She said, as if the situation was perfectly normal.

My brain stammered a bit while my mouth said "Okay...". Behind her, I see the other part of that five percent hop out of her SUV and run indide the house muttering something that sounded like "thankyouwereofftothebarwouldyouliketojoinus?".

The right half of my brain was still busy hitting the left with a baseball bat (for opening my door at all at this point) while my mouth, as elequent as ever, managed to get out "Wha?"

"We were in the neighborhood." The Ex smiled, "and said, 'hey, let's have a drink with Rob'"

Both sides of my brain stopped fighting and looked at her incredulously. Once again, my mouth only said, "Wha?"

The Right side of my brain snapped out of it for a split second here to yell at my mouth for not taking advantage of my extensive vocabulary.

"Charity... What the hell are you doing here?" I said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean here! As in NOT in TEXAS!"

"Oh... they threw me out of the homeless shelter and Mom came and got me."

Both sides of my brain fainted at this point, leaving my mouth to fend for itself. Char's Mom came back from the loo about this time.

"So are you coming?" She asked me.


"You keep saying that..." Charity noticed.

"To the bar for a drink with us. My treat." Her Mom said.

The Left side of my brain perked up again and said "Oh... we definately need a drink my friend."

The Right side said, "Go... you need to find out what the hell is going on here."

So, I went with them, (and Char's little sister who had been in the car this whole time) out for a beer.

The short story: the Ex is back in New Orleans because Texas has too many rules... and both of these women that have at one time or another promised me that they will dance upon my grave someday apparently agree that they miss my role in their extended family. Lucky me. (sigh)

"So, I'll call you when I'm settled." The Ex said, as they dropped me off.

Sorry... no telephone. Do the words "blessing in disguise" come to mind, anyone?

Monday, April 10, 2006

The domino effect...

I know, I know... Everyone's wondering why it seems that I've fallen off the face of the planet. I promise to one and all that there are excellent reasons behind this, just not ones that make for entertaining reading; As my usual support system has fallen through for reasons I won't get into here, I've also had a bit of difficulty of late dealing with some of the crap that's been going on. Instead, I think I'll tell y'all a funny story that illustrates what a friggin bonehead I can be, and exactly how it is that certain actions tend to come up and bite me where I wipe.

Money has been tight around Casa Kahunah since Katrina. After all, I went from having Two well paying, easy and fun jobs to living on the public dole, then on to one crappy paying, entirely too much manual labor job within five months or so. Also, one of the harsh realities of post-Katrina New Orleans is that it's a lot more expensive to live here on your own now. This fact, coupled with still-spotty mail service means that I've fallen a little behind on my bills, and have been looking for other ways to supplement my income.

So far, I've had little luck in selling my screenplay, but I didn't expect that to be an overnight thing anyway... But about a week or so ago, Dizzy spotted an open audition for Vikings.

The exact ad read something like "Wanted: seven large burly white men between 30-40 to play Vikings for Capital One. No experience necessary." (For my overseas readers, Capital One is a credit card company that likens the interest rates being paid to other credit card companies to being attacked by Viking hordes in a series of commercials. Silly really,as everyone knows that high interest rates really feel like being attacked by giant, mutant ants.)

I think "Well, I'm nothing if not large, Caucasian, and in my thirties..." So I go to the audition. There were only twelve or so of us there, and I was definitely one of the more vikingish ones. I found out that the gig paid fairly well too.... Certainly enough for me to get up to date on the phone bill at any rate. (the one I said would be tricky to pay a post or two ago) I left feeling like I had a better than fifty-fifty chance, even though I lacked a head shot. The nice casting lady said that they would be calling everyone on Friday to let them know if they had been picked or not.

Unfortunately, come Friday my wireless company decided that they had had enough of my excuses about paying my bill and turned off my cell phone service.

"No problem!" I think, "I still have my land line... and I gave the casting people both numbers!" I pick up the phone to call Dizzy however, and realize that Bellsouth too has decided that they had had enough of my excuses about paying my bill and turned off my phone service. Oddly enough, they left my internet hooked up(!?!).

The upshot of this is that If I did get the part, I will never know. Thusly, I still lack the funds to pay the bills. All because I played hooky last week.

Ah well.... Easy come, easy go I suppose... But it would have looked great on my already unusual resume. :)