Thursday, September 19, 2019

Udaipur


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Awake
Or
Imagine That
            There are few differences between then and now; the differences between the haves and the had nots of yesterday and today; the repurposing of the real and of real estate; the entirety of the mad dash clash of past, present, future and the ones who’ve moved ahead and the ones that have fallen behind. “They are the same people only further from home, on a freeway fifty lanes wide on a concrete continent spaced with bland billboards illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness” (Ferlinghetti).
            I’ve changed over the years of my lives, escaping from projects and parents, side stepping prospects, prisons and poisons, pursuing professions and being always on the cusp of the finer positive points of prosperity; relying on personal progress for a peace/piece of my mind that is being continually blown by me the hungry hunter constantly being overtaken by them, the successful gatherers. Fast women, slow horses, unreliable sources.
            Folks my age, our experiences lost in the space of time and the lessons and larks that lead us from relative comfort to an eventual downsizing retirement home abandonment with one foot in assisted living and the other avoiding the slippery slope of a six foot hole; all the while hoping that the next one to go is not another one that we love or worse, we ourselves. You didn’t know me when I was a younger man and I won’t know you as an old person; the only thing an old man really wants to get is older; to get older, all you have to do is live long enough. Blah blah blah.
            Million dollar condos and high priced essentials; disposable blade shaving with a brush and a bar of soap while my taxes line the pockets of manic mansplainers telling me how good they have made life for me and mine; property values continue to become fatter and my pockets leaner; my spirit contentiously swimming against the undertow of historic mendacity concerning the salvation of my eternal soul, as if the promise of heaven will fill the bellies of hungry children while the rich donate to rebuild cathedrals dedicated to a penniless carpenter’s son who died for their sins. The picture of the ragged man sitting on his milk crate at the intersection; his sign reading: “Anything Helps, God Bless”; a benediction for a brass farthing. “Never treat a brother like a passing stranger; always try to keep the love light burning” Leon Russell
            The rent for one month of an apartment two blocks from where I grew up would have paid our living expenses for about three years and that would have been for a family of six. Where does the time go and where does that kind of money come from?
            The great recession of 2018 is coming back to bite us in the behind as the bubble is bursting while our credit cards get maxed out trying to rob Peter to pay Paul and finding out that Peter has been financially kicked to the curb; even the low spark of high heeled boys cannot escape the percentage we’re paying while we’re living beyond all our means; the man in the suit has just bought himself a golf course with the profits he’s made on our dreams. The sound in the distance is not a dog barking but the laughter of Anubis taking our coins for our ride with Charon.
            We’re witnessing islands of plastic debris as mega companies use solar power to make fracking less expensive. They rape and we must pull up our pants and stumble on being the last generation to walk freely on this planet; the impotence of our good intentions paving the road to hell.
            I have a neighbor who walks to the bus stop once a week to go to Walmart; he rests on the stoop next door to us and happily explains how he’s looking forward to celebrating his ninety-fifth birthday. May we all be so fortunate; from our mouths to God’s ears; walking to the bus ride to Walmart amid the chaos confusion and detritus of a collapsing planet; walking to the bus for the ride to Walmart.
Where does it end, or rather, when did this begin? It began when we let toys spoil us; when we took the proud boasting of our elders struggles as a weakness we could overcome by inventing something to make life easier to be indolent, so that we could make extra time to glut ourselves with more material things; buy it, don’t bake it; don’t make it… take it.  Elect a clown and enjoy the circus. What fools we mortals be..
            Histrionically speaking we are screwed as a people and as a planet while millions watch television like sailors at a strip club hoping that the hero on the white horse is really really real. You’re gonna be part of the 60% of eligible voters that make it to the polls to elect the biggest bull manure deliverer? Or are you?
            People running for office will promise you whatever they think will get them elected and once in office find out that they have pitiful little power to follow through on their words. The government does not run this country and the people do not hold sway with their elected officials.  It’s big money that runs things and we just suck it up.
            Important decisions should be made by the people who will have to live with them, otherwise we have to admit that we’re all pawns and live with that.
           

Dirty Words


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Another S.O.B Story
Or
Dirty Words
            This article  is about the dirty words we use every day, we’ll start with Political Correctness--those dirty words---they bring up images of badly dressed, weird, tree hugging, pinko-liberal, vegetarian Hippie wannabe freaks that take great pleasure in telling the rest of the world what we’re doing wrong and shunning all who err. They think that the world would be so much better if everyone rejected their avarice tendencies and replaced them with logic, empathy, and focused attention contemplating our f**king behavior. End of story, case closed.
            The PC Armies want you to recognize where and how your food is raised as well as what we should and shouldn’t put in our bodies; they’re for recycling, precycling, bicycling, no animal testing of your girlfriend’s favorite make up products and comfortable shoes. They don’t like us littering, spitting on the sidewalk, feeding our pets food containing pork spleen, using plastic at all or driving anything but electric cars the size of Stuart Little. They just don’t get the need for assault weapons, trailer hitches, drive-thru daiquiri shops and sending the planet to hell in a hand basket. Go figure.
            Socialism, another dirty word, unless you’re talking about Social Security, then we’re okay. Social Democrats are the worst. They do things like preach tuition-less higher education, an elevated minimum wage, free health and legal services; heck, they’ll even change the brake lights on your car (free) while cooking you up a vegan burger to be served with fresh fruit and bottled health drinks. They tell me that ‘the one percent’ has more wealth than everyone else while paying zero taxes. Gee, I don’t know who these one percent guys are. Are they those politically connected fat cats that I read about with charges of corruption, immorality, mendacity and sexual predation being leveled against them?
            The Cosmopolitan Elite are worser. Described as a powerful upper class that lives in our country but their primary economic loyalty is to the global community; in other words, a portion of our already successful punks that would rather trade, manufacture, purchase and support other countries’ goods, services and labor over the good old U.S.A.’s; so that they may make, save and profit from that totally un-American activity. They consider themselves ’citizens of the world’ and chase profits regardless of where they might come from. Running shoes from Thailand, fresh garlic from China, pasta from Turkey, potato chips from Canada, and dish towels from Egypt. Car parts, hair extensions, cheap cell phones, umbrellas and neon colored condoms. We hold them accountable not only for job loss in this country but for dummying down our consumer taste, mentality and independence by supplying cheaper, over packaged and useless convenience products.
            And worser yet are Passionate Conservatives, Indifferent Economists, Militant Environmentalists, Free-wheeling Capitalists, Old School Southern Egalitarians, Political Comedians, Media Masturbators, Stifling Educators, Liberal-Nationalists and Boundary Building Rounders. They want you to follow them; they want you to join them; they want your vote.
            Sexuality. There’s another dirty word and you’ll get your helping of cosmic debris if you try an FYI in mixed company. You’ll come away with a Hetro-LGBTQ+ PTSD-OMG why didn’t I keep my mouth shut trauma migraine. He, she, they, gender neutral or gender bender; androgynous, amoral, asexual; you’re allowed to watch it happen, but you cannot touch or talk about it. Face it, soft porn and sex that sells surrounds us (a hundred different combinations of lurid distractions) and unless we turn a blind eye to its insinuences and innuendos we become the pervs at the peep show. Enough to make a bishop blush and that’s saying something that we’re not allowed to say anything about; stop looking at my ass, breasts, face, neck, tattoos and for god’s sake keep your filthy thoughts to yourself! Do not linger on the lingerie ads and don’t judge a creature of couture by their crotch; you don’t deserve a seat at that table.
            The ‘E’ word (Environment, Ecology, Energy): Man, talk about a buzz buster. There is not one recognizable sane person that can take that subject to its complete and utter conclusion without risking crucifixion and if you explore that dirty word in mixed company, you’ll see how close or far another person’s personal boundary is set. For example: if I say that the world’s problems (ALL of them), could be eliminated if we put the planet’s health first. Conflict, hunger, greed, pestilence, fires, floods, heartbreak and psoriasis…(ALL Gone!), would you think that I was the Messiah? If I told you that all you would have to do, to save the world, is to pause before taking ANY daily action and ask yourself: “is this good (or not) for the planet and its health”, woulds’t thou abidith unto me? Hell no, you’d have me committed!
We’re a selfish, spoiled, lazy, take the easiest-way-out lot; if gas is cheap enough, all those “E” concerns head for the dustbin.    
Race and religion and specific body parts expressed in colloquialisms: this is where the rubber meets the road. As an evolved, mature biped you have to keep an eye on your somewhat unnatural tendency to take things subjectively, i.e. with prejudice or bias. In other words, if someone through their ignorance or bliss offends you, your reaction shouldn’t be: “Why, that low life, inbred, imbecile, sugar-tit sucking, skeeter-peter, red-headed step-child, gone ass, kangaroo humping, Satan worshiping, carpet weaving, rag head, frog eating, jungle hamster; may his bastard children grow into cross dressing hermaphrodites with awful fashion sense”!
This is where you should bite your tongue and say to yourself “Whoa, that’s a little harsh”, I mean, ‘with awful fashion sense’? He’s just another Uber driver, right? Give him a break, he didn’t complain about that stupid tee shirt you’re wearing, did he? Check yourself before you wreck yourself; gargle with cleanser and never, ever use those awful, awful dirty words, ya wanker.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Green Gables Country Club


Po Boy views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Sauced Kitchens
Or
When A Pistol Appears
“Welcome to Green Gables Country Club; your home away from home for the summer season. We’ve seen to every detail regarding your comfort and convenience; the swimming pool is out to your left; tennis courts to the right; our golf pro will handle all your tee times and there’s card rooms and private dining suites just up the grand staircase. The cigar bar is toward the rear past the conference rooms. Breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner will be served in the main dining room; our menu will apprise you that should you wish anything that’s not listed; our culinary staff will happily prepare anything that you wish. Please refrain from entering the kitchen, the Chef is a maniac and might kill you just for kicks and grins--- his words not mine.”
Here’s where I come in. I’m youngish, a mere thirty, I cook in this kitchen of culinary cut throats, pyrotechnical pirates and mainstream misfits; we feed these privileged, pampered, perfumed and pomaded persons. We don’t hate them, they are our charges, the people that we play like marionettes who strut and fret their hour upon our stage. We’re the inner workings, we’re what goes on; what do they know? They know nothing.
John Borg Jr. is the chef in the kitchen, his genre is controlled chaos; his crew is his accomplices. He is the gang leader; we’re his gang. We’re forced to listen to his favorite music at all times: either the Rolling Stones or Beethoven, on an old record player. We work 12-14 hours a day, eat on the run and drink from a keg of beer (PBR) in the walk-in refrigerator. The universe revolves around us. We rarely are given days off. It’s worth it. We serve at the behest of a gourmet god; Borg and our kitchen is our world, we’re defined by our work, we’d do this for nothing.
Mom (aka Wayne Dunstin) works the cold station; he is responsible for getting us to and from work in whatever condition we happen to be in. Andy, son of a well to do family and an alcoholic misfit is my wing man and I’m the sauté spider monkey. We have (female) dishwashers with loose morals and a pearl diver (pot sink) named Domino Floater who comes to work in his pajamas and a silk baseball cap, his favorite thing to do is tell the waitresses that pass by his station what great breasts they have.
 We work and drink until we’re tired and then we work and drink some more. When we get off work we go out to bars and drink some more; it’s not unusual for Borg to challenge an entire bar’s customers to a brawl, he’s that kind of guy.  My woman and child have left me and I spend a lot of time sleeping in my car with my Chesapeake Bay retriever Saffron. I don’t care; I work in the presence of genius. I am totally wet brained; running on impulse; learning.
Borg smokes pot from a corn cob pipe in the kitchen, sometimes he uses the trashcan as a urinal, he packs his nose in the office (although we don’t learn about that until later), he has a library of 10,000 cookbooks; he knows everything and he force feeds us information that we sponge like dehydrated desert rats. True story.
One week we tunnel bone 200 Rock Cornish hens for a Jewish wedding, we make a Perigord sauce from the bones and Borg throws me a copy of Escoffier and commands me to read the section on clarifying stocks. The Day arrives and the kitchen stands at attention waiting for commands. Borg jumps up on a prep table and puts on an LP of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, directing the kitchen as though it’s an orchestra and that’s how we perform. After the meal we’re (the entire kitchen) marched out into the dining room to a standing ovation. I decide to become a Chef that day. Borg stands with his arms outstretched, head bent, as if on a crucifix and we see him as our messiah. That was forty-five years ago.
To this day after recalling my actions and attitudes, I can’t help but wonder why I thought that this was a normal working environment, but it was and in a lot of places still is. I’m amazed that I went through that tunnel and managed to come out the other side as sane as I am.
Sometimes we would catch an afternoon break, pile into Mom’s station wagon (He called it ‘The American Dream’) buzz to his house with beers and po-boys,  watch Star Trek and see if we could guess who was gonna get laid in that episode.
I fell in love with a little red head girl who worked in a hospital pharmacy and would sometimes bring her work home with her; she and her friends had come to town from Martha’s Vineyard just for a lark, they were friends of Carly and James and them folk.
I had a summer adventure that I still haven’t recovered from; Andy went back to his family; Mom died of cirrhosis; Borg forged ahead of us all and got clean and sober, but never sane. I woke up one September morning and discovered snow on the ground, put in my notice and drove back to New Orleans.
Much as I cherish Anthony Bourdain, I must say, when I picked up Kitchen Confidential, I only got to page fourteen. My thought was: “been there, done that”. Anyone that’s worked in the old kitchens knows that that’s the way things were--- normally; there was not a shred more sanity in the front of the house either. To paraphrase the Hatter: “Alice, we’re all mad here”.
That was then and this is now; we wouldn’t get away with that sort of stuff today, or want to, thank goodness...Would we?


A visit to La Mosca


A Visit to La Mosca
By
Phil LaMancusa
A trip to Mosca’s Restaurant in Waggaman across the Huey P. Long Bridge is like a trip, as old timers would say, to Plum Nelly; that is, ‘plum out the city and nearly out the country’. It is, in short, a destination location; not one person in a thousand ‘just happens to come across’ Mosca’s. It’s been called a great neighborhood restaurant without a neighborhood; I call it a hidden gem, and like all great gems, hidden in plain sight. It’s also a trip back in time; a trip back in time when things were simpler, easier, dependable. Mosca’s is dependable because nothing has changed since their opening almost three quarters of a century ago; nothing has changed except the Mosca who is now responsible for making sure that everything remains the same. Quality, consistency, integrity, heart.
Three generations (going on four perhaps) are there to meet, greet, cook and serve you, all welcoming you like family; indeed, the entire staff is or is considered family, so it’s like family welcoming family. All food is served ‘family style’, there are no daily specials, the menu is small and it states that everything is cooked to order and will take up to a while (and patience) to reach your table; dinner will take you two hours plus to complete. Cash only. In other words, it’s good food (not fast food), you’re with friends, relax and suspend your time constraints, talk amongst yourselves, have some wine; there’s a juke box, Frank, Dino and Louis will help pass time, sing along if you want. Welcome to Mosca’s.
            I met with Mary Jo Mosca and her daughter Lisa one Thursday afternoon before service and talked with them about what it is like to have a place so well established and so concrete in its identity while being so remote from the urban hub of what we call our New Orleans restaurant scene that not one of us here can consider ourselves a true New Orleanian unless we know, love and have eaten there. “Do what you do well, and keep on doing it” is the philosophy here. Mosca’s menu has basically not changed since 1946 when Provino Mosca with his wife Lisa Mosca opened the doors and grew a dream with blood, sweat and, I’m sure, a few tears. Traditionally, a successful business is a family affair, so wives and sisters and in-laws and children all have been a part of keeping the dream alive and well. Reservations are suggested.
            We arrive, Debbie and myself, and are let in through the kitchen door, the area is super clean, well organized and seems to hum in anticipation, like an orchestra tuning up; indeed, dinner service is mere hours away. The second thing we notice is a flat screen across from the cook’s line that is showing episodes of Golden Girls and I feel right at home. We go into a small dining room, the kind that reminds me of a family table (which indeed it is), Ms Lisa offers drinks and tells us her mother, Mary Jo Mosca will be right in, and she is.
            You can tell right away that Mary Jo and Lisa are cut from the same cloth, dark hair and eyes, easy smiles, expressive hands and tuned to their surroundings; a little while later Lisa’s husband Thomas walks through and Lisa’s son John (age 3) on a red trike rides by with a wave and a grin (definitely front of the house material). Having been in business since 1946 you might surmise that there’s been a bit of writing about Mosca’s (pronounced Moh-ska’s) food and history, and there has been, almost to exhaustion; however, I’m here to talk about the family, what it’s like to run this icon and get a glimpse into the personalities it takes to keep doing what they’re doing, not just day after day, but year after year, decade after decade. Mary Jo says: “I have good days--- but sometimes---I wonder what I’m doing here and why I’m still doing what I’m doing; then a customer will tell me what a great meal and a great time they had or how they ate here, ten, twenty years ago and everything was exactly the same… and I’m all smiles again”. Devotion and exhaustion, work as its own reward.
            A quick trip around the dining area shows it to be simplistic to the point of innocence; wood floors, white table clothes, a small bar and photos, paintings and prints feel like your aunt’s house getting ready for a big gathering; I can picture Thanksgiving dinner and/or family reunion. It’s relaxing; you can feel that people will come here to eat and enjoy each other’s company. The writer Calvin Trillan “tried to get the Nobel Peace prize for the late Lisa ‘Mama’ Mosca (Ms Lisa’s grandmother) for the perfection of her baked oysters” They mistakenly gave the prize to Henry Kissinger that year.
            Staff tenures are counted in decades; no one raises their voice in the kitchen. Everyone is smiling and efficient; no one makes the sauce but Mary Jo: “I like it done my way, so I’m the only one that does it” When one person cannot make it in to work, the others cover for them: “sometimes I’m cooking and washing dishes at the same time, you do what you have to do”.
            The kitchen is small and tight and the chef is actually the one in the kitchen doing the cooking not even taking a break to go accept their James Beard award in 1999 because they would have had to close the restaurant. Mary Jo Mosca has been in the kitchen for decades, taking over from her sister in law Mary Mosca Marconi (aided by her husband Vincent) who took over from Lisa ‘Mama’ Mosca, who took over from Provino Mosca who opened the place with his wife, son John and daughter Mary (older brother Nick went on to run the Elmwood Plantation). Now Lisa Mosca, named after her grandmother, Provino’s wife, runs the front of the house, following in her father’s footsteps. See how that works? It took me a while, but I think I got it straight.
            What do they do on their time off? They eat out: “it’s nice to have someone cook for you.”  Lisa usually is the scout and Mary Jo has a list of her favorites: Saba (“he’s a great chef and such a nice man”), Galatoire’s (“of course”), Crescent City Steak House (“we always ask for Nancy!”), Bayona, Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s. Clancy’s. Gabrielle.
            How do you gauge success? Success is not bought; success is earned. Success is not a flash in the pan; success has a face that shows up for work regardless of an aching back or tired feet. Hereabouts, success has a name; names that we grow up with: Hansen, Brennan, Haydel, Matassa, Chase, Mandina, Mosca, Brocato; from Antoine’s to Zuppardo, your name’s on the door: you own it.  Large or small, the philosophy is the same: wake up, get up, suit up, show up and never give up (even when you’re FED up!). Amen.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Electoral awakening


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Woke
Or
The 40% Solution
            We’re all being media fed from both of Mother America’s breasts two completely different fantastical realities; one reality showing the world that seems positively plausible and one that is kicking us in the crotch. Fantasy fed and reality reamed. The revolution will be televised and we won’t really believe it--- until we turn off the set, look out of our windows and see that it’s already happened and we’ve lost. What it is, what it was and what it shall be.
TV, on the one hand, tells us that we have a Madame Secretary, a Veep, and a gun slinging ass kicking woman government agent (Homeland) who are gonna save us all from threats to our liberties; real and imagined, foreign and domestic. Look out bad guys; we’re comin’ to get you, wearing high heel shoes and a low neck sweater.
            Newsroom, West Wing, Boston Legal, Luther, Sherlock, Person of Interest, Law and Order SVU, The Equalizer, House of Cards and even Dexter. We watch like perverts at a peep show. Mess with us and we’ll bring in the big guns and beat you at your own game, we’ll sneak in with might as our right and let you have it with a shiv between your ribs and a boot to your bread basket; lights out, nobody home. Right will talk and wrong will run. These shows go back as far as you can remember: Miami Vice, Dragnet.
            We have this overwhelming need to see wrongs righted, to watch the downfall of those that would trample our lives, liberties and the pursuits of our happiness’s; turn on the tube, we’ve got a hero ready to fight for us and a happy ending. Turn off the television and what do we have? Bupkis.
            On the tube the police have forensics, they take finger prints, have line-ups, wiretaps, grill suspects, catch bad guys and are relentless in their integrity, dignity and evenhanded fairness, some even fall in love; but, woe to bad cops, even they’ll get theirs before we fade to black. What do we have in reality land? Don’t get me started.
            We’re tied to our sets by the cable umbilical cord. We like to watch shows where people can sing, dance and survive better than we ever could; we like to watch pitiful people in pitiful conditions try to overcome things like weight, intelligence, dexterity and movement/control of one ball with energy and intensity capable of powering a third world country’s power grid.
            Well, you admit, ‘I know life ain’t like that’; ‘it’s just an escape’; ‘I’m just passing time’; ‘it’s a much needed diversion’. It’s all too true, but, what about the rest of our lives? In the rest of our lives we are incredulous that immeasurably worse things are happening around and to us in real time. And we’re confused as to how to work this; we got no badges, we have no power and we don’t look good in high heel shoes and a low neck sweater; we’re caught up in the movie, in the real life moment and we haven’t been given the script.
            The world is on the brink of nuclear disaster, the economy has tanked, the courts are taking away our hard earned rights, they’re confiscating rosary beads from immigrants and putting kids in cages; what the !@^#*&%%!? What do you want from me? The world is starving, the planet is warming, we’re killing off species and children are being sold into slavery; the way we treat animals and each other borders on satanic, and I’ve got no idea what I’m gonna fix for dinner. Cars, critters, careers, kids and flesh eating amoeba; by my estimations fully 40% of the population (maybe more) are more concerned and focused on simply surviving than are those pushing to save the chimps, whales, reproductive rights or our environment.
            As you may have noticed, changing the world is a job for the young and the old; no one in the middle has time away from the ever spinning treadmill of life to rally, march, communicate or even pay attention to the chaos that is dooming our planet and our lives. I see folks with kids and I haven’t the remotest idea how they have time for anything else in their lives, let alone finding the solution to the greed motivated political geothermal level sugar rush tsunami hara-kiri that our so called leaders are pushing us into headlong and head first.
            The young and the old have time on their hands; however, it appears that the more the young want to change things, the more the old want America to carry on business as usual. New thoughts and solutions are coming up from the bottom while resistance to change keeps pushing back from the top and I’m here in the middle trying to get my rent in on time and still put food on the table, make dentist appointments, get the car tuned (in case of evacuation), do laundry and get heartworm meds for Fido. Even nightly news has to be set before me in knee jerk sound bites. And to what end?
            Voter turnout is pitiful at best. Things are never going to change until the middle 40% can afford to live comfortably and with time free enough to ponder (and do something) about the condition our condition is in, time enough to make their voices heard loud enough and show up at the polls in numbers enough to effect a better world for us and our children.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A visit to the DMV


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Effanineffable
Or
Asexual Screw
A visit to the DMV, is mostly described as a thoroughly humiliating experience and a topic of epic conversations over adult beverages; very few of us have ever had overtly pleasant times there.   “I got my number, went out for a run, had some lunch, and when I went back; they still hadn’t called my turn”.
You’ll hear stories like this from every other person that has gone to the Louisiana motor vehicle processing centers. They used to be called the DMV, but now they go by OMV, different name, same dysfunction if not worse; the more aware we are of the advances in the outside world the more archaic the OMV appears, functionality speaking.
            “I waited for two hours and then they wanted information that was NOT listed on their website as necessary and literally I had to camp out and argue with them (quietly but firmly) for forty-five minutes before they finally gave in and let me have my license changed from Seattle to here”. And other stories like that; everyone I’ve spoken to has a horror story for when they try to do motor vehicle business in New Orleans, such as getting an updated version of your license when you change address or registering your Nissan Hocus Pocus or Honda Cilantro. Advice: bring a book and lunch or people watch the circus unfolding around you, asking yourself if it was worth the wait and the two busses it takes to get to this remote facility.
            Here’s some points: there is no clock on the wall to tell you how long you’ve been waiting, the time of ‘your turn’ ticket is stamped and a number for you to wait to hear announced for your up at the window portion of your visit; the numbers are called in no particular order. I sat next to a one arm taxi driver that waited five hours while numbers up and down from his were called for service before his turn was announced. Next, the chairs in front of whatever window you get to are lower than the one of the person serving you, I think so that you feel smaller than they, a typical alpha humiliation tactic used often in job interviews.
            There is a triage station where they weed out the totally unprepared, answer basic questions and issue a slip of paper that assigns you a letter and a number. E437, F585, G624 etc. High point of our last visit is when the number I 810 (pronounced by the loudspeaker as “Now serving Eye Eight One Zero, at counter number seventeen) was called; the entire room waited with baited breath as the number went up one time and then two for when it was announced that window number seventeen would be servicing number “I ate one too”, a collective smile went around the room. That’s how boring it is there. Oh, there are over twenty service windows there and at any one time I only saw upwards to eight employees (wo)manning them; the waiting area seats hundreds and each time I went it was full to capacity.
            First condition on getting booted off premises is to show up without your Social Security Card (the real hard copy is a must); why? Who the *&^%$#@! Knows? Next they want any proof of employment to be on ‘official’ letterhead stationary; renting agreements have to be on ‘official’ rental forms (available at office supply stores) and hand written anything is pushed aside as irrelevant.
            The office hours are from 8:00 to 4:00 weekdays (excluding holidays) and it’s common to see parents arriving after 3:00 with school kids to witness the mortification of their elders. At  3:50 a uniformed security guard about as big as a refrigerator announces that the doors will be locked in ten minutes and those still inside will be served; go out that door after four and there’s no re-entrance etc. etc. That’s when the efficiency of rejecting customers goes into high gear and you’re made to feel like they’re now shooting fish in a barrel and guess who’s in the barrel next?
            I was with a friend who has just moved here from Oregon and was changing his valid driver’s license from there to here; the first time he waited four hours before he was rejected on a technicality and we went back the second time with everything needed and got there at the opening bell. There were a hundred people waiting for the opening and it took nearly an hour to process through triage. He was then given a ticket with the number 26 on it. It took him six and a half hours to get seen and approved.
            I have made two observations. First: the system I witnessed screams of letting people who really don’t like their jobs micromanage their clients to near psychic suicide. Answers like “we don’t have to do nothing here!” when shown what should pass for appropriate paperwork; and when the question is rephrased to “it says that these can be considered” answer “that’s more like it; we can consider, but we don’t have to do nothing!” Semantics is crucial. Second: folks are so pissed at the way they are treated, that subconsciously they vow never to heed any traffic laws ever.
            So when that speeding driver cuts you off; when they make a left turn from the right hand lane; when they turn without a turn signal (or don’t); when you see someone speed through a yellow light; ignore pedestrians in a crosswalk or drive like the bike lane is their lane; when they lay on their horn because they think that you’re not going fast enough for them even though you’re going the speed limit: picture the abuse that they’ve endured just to be on the road and wish them a repeat visit.
            Being on the road can be hell; getting the proper credentials to get on the road is heller.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tour Guide


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
The Tour Guide
Or
Herding Cats
            I’m into my third year as a tour guide, I lead New Orleans tours. I can’t sing, I aint pretty and my legs are thin; but folks laugh at my jokes and listen to my information, I know my stuff and have a great sense of humor. I have a license, carry a sign, wear an orange shirt; I work for a company named Destination Kitchen/MustDoNola, owned and operated by Julie Barreda-Cavigne, a chef and seasoning alchemist who is top drawer. We're rated number one by TripAdvisor. Monthly I text Wanda my available working dates and at month’s end after emailing hours worked to Rachel, money magically appears in my mail box. Winner winner chicken dinner.  
There are half a dozen of us guides and we do everything including food, history, cocktail, walking, Garden district and custom tours from two to two hundred people. Tours can be tailored or we have a pre-structured jaunts about town that cannot be beat. Tours range from two hours and up. The culinary tour is three hours and a walk of about two miles around the French Quarter with stops for eating, hydrating and rest facility stops for folks that need to facilitate their bodily functions, this is my forte (the tour not the bodily functions).
It’s kind of like doing a stand up performance that includes wit, history, education, facts and idiosyncrasies. This being New Orleans 300th year in existence, guides have been quite active on the street. People are interested in learning more about our city and my tour-guiding has turned into active employment.
Each trip out I am given a number of people to lead, and I never know who my people are until I see them; they are of all ages from across the spectrum of the world’s societies--folks like you and me. I arrive fifteen minutes before the departure time and collect my flock. We meet at various places around the Quarter and I start by introducing myself as I size up my audience. I get all kinds; kids that give more attention to their electronic devices than to some old guy in an orange shirt; couples engaged in PDA (public displays of affection) ditto; students, older folks, women in tight clothing and men with powerful hangovers. There are also the eleven types of dietary restricted folks that we’re happy to accommodate: and just when you think that you’ve heard every aversion, someone will surprise you with yet ‘sensitivity’ (Mercury?).
I warn them of treacherous walking conditions, explaining the alluvial soil that we’ll be traversing, ready to trip the unaware stroller. Watching someone trip and fall in the street is one of the scariest things that any tour guide can experience, losing people is another. Usually people are interesting and interested; the shy, the gregarious; BFFs, fast walkers, slow eaters, weak bladders or those most interested in another cocktail. We accommodate them all. I have a set schedule of places I need to be and when I need to be there, but by in large—hard as I might try--it rarely works out with precision. Occasionally there will be an overly impatient person, a couple who would rather talk to each other than listen to me, and/or the husband that can care less because it was his wife that made the reservation and he’s just along for the ride. There is also that person that wants to make sure that they get their monies worth, the one who wants to eat right away because they didn’t stop for breakfast; also guys who need to sneak a smoke or those lingering for selfies or photo ops. These are my children and I love each and every one of them. “Are we there yet?”
            Our purveyors, the food and drink outlets where we stop are gems of perfection and patience, we are blessed with being able to show off the best of our local foods and locations and my tourists always leave the tour knowing more about the city than can be gleaned from just a map.
I start by telling my group my name (and getting theirs) where I come from (and where they are visiting from) and explain my credentials and a word about our company and about Julie. I tell them that we will be on a three hour tour, but I have thirty hours of information and how I’ll be talking about food, culture, food, history, food, architecture, food, legends and facts (and food). And off we go.
You can be sure that no one on the excursion knows where we’re going; I take them up streets, down alleys, around in circles and back tracking. I could be kidnapping the whole bunch and they’d never blink an eye; once they start following you, they’ll go anywhere; I suspect that if we stopped for an espresso, I could walk them to Abita Springs, especially if there was beer on the other end.
On any given tour I walk about five miles to, from, and on. I could go on forever. After I’ve exhausted our time together, I still have only let them glimpse the tip of the iceberg that is New Orleans. Probably what will make me a great tour guide (instead of just a very good one) is my love of this place that I have chosen to make and call my home. The addiction that I have for all things New Orleans, all of the stuff that makes living here so much more preferable to other places, as well as all the things that I love not to love about her. The funniest thing that I love about New Orleans is how we all know what’s misfunctional about it, and with each election we pin our hopes on being able to change things; New Orleans laughs back at us, what fools we mortals be. Onward; “Let me tell you about our food and culcha! C’mon, ya gonna love it!”