Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recession in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Period Piece
I AM the Recession
Do you want to know how this recession really started? I’ll take that as a yes.
Well, it all began with me; when I was living in the French Quarter in a lovely spacious flat that I was prepared to spend the rest of my life in; the rent was good, the address convenient and the neighbors friendly. My landladies had been raised in and on the property and were in their eighties and were just a joy to be around. One of their children decided to take an active hand in the management of her elders and their property and, to make a long story longer, the feisty octogenarians wound up in nursing facilities (where they died) and their personal belongings got put into trash bags and kicked to the curb. This was right before, during and right after Katrina. This is the condensed version.
July 10th I received a phone call. “As of August 1st your rent will double and you have a choice of either paying or leaving.” Period. There turned out to be no reasoning, recourse or compromising in the situation that I and my faithful canine companion found ourselves in. We moved into a much smaller and more expensive unit downstairs from our flat, stayed unpacked until we found other accommodations (a month) and moved.
Our new digs were more expensive but we were compensated and gratified because we were able to watch our former home stay empty for six months and even after that the turnover in tenants was frequent and (to us) satisfying. However, we now had extra expenses to contend with; so, here’s what we did, in a word. Without. Period.
I ate out, drank out less often; although my tipping never lessened. I took to reading the flyers for grocery shopping and bought what was on sale. I started buying multiples and in quantity to save money. I went to cheap gas stations, inexpensive shoe stores, thrift stores, yard sales, dollar stores. When my hair got longer; I tied it up. When something I could fix (but never wanted to) broke; I rolled up my sleeves. Instead of coffee and pastries out; I made coffee at home and took any leftover to work; I brought a toaster to work; I brought my lunch with me. If I needed a table… I built it; if I wanted a shelf… I hung it. I even check out stuff that’s been left by the side of the road in case there’s something that I can use and not buy. I stopped using my credit cards; I cancelled my newspaper subscriptions, bought my underwear and socks at Walgreens, used toothpaste, soap and deodorant down to the last nub. I cut the bottoms off of detergent containers to get out the last drop. I prepare more of my food at home. And I’ve kept that up behavior until this very day and now it is my life style. Period. Part of this is being very practical; I mean, as prices go up on everything else, paychecks rarely keep pace and pretty much remain constant because employer’s costs have gone up just like ours have. If we’re lucky (like I am) we have fulfilling employment since this is not the time to change horses, if you get my drift.
And now my country is in trouble. Yep, my bad. We’re going to hell in a hand basket because I got ticked off that my rent was raised; but you know what Pilgrim? I ain’t the Lone Ranger.
I am part of an army of citizens who are shy on disposable income, are weak on consumer confidence and strong on squeezing that dollar until the eagle screams in pain. I am part of the large lower lower middle class that could be classified as the deserving, working poor. I have no disposable income. I hold no mortgages, I’m raising no children, I’m an asset to my community; however, I have no investments and nothing saved. I’m not contributing to the economy. I have steady and secure employment; but in short, my prospects are such that I will never be rich (unless I hit the lottery) and always be one check away from becoming a ward of the state. I deserve better but it don’t look like it’s gonna happen. Period. Not in this lifetime.
Oh, I’m not bitter; quite the contrary, I have everything that I need: The love of a good woman, food in my stomach, a roof over my head and critters that love to wake me up in the morning by licking my face. I write, I paint and I’m learning to play the piano. Except. Except. Except my infrastructure has been damaged, my faith in the ability of someone to watch over me has been shattered and as I struggle forward, my past seems to disintegrate behind me. I’m more apt to believe anything negative that’s told to me than something positive. To put it mildly; I’ve lost my optimism in and about life. I’m frustrated. Period.
For example: I drive the two miles to work where I have to pay for parking because it’s not free and the streets of New Orleans are so crappy because the city is so underfunded that I’m going to need new shocks, again, probably by next month and that’s hundreds of dollars; but, I need a car in case we have to evacuate. I park and realize that I’ll be getting out of work after dark and check to confirm the safeness of the street. I see that the light post is broken and I remember that the lighting department only inspects the lights in the daytime so they’ll probably not learn of that for some time. The block looks a little sketchy and I wonder why the city still wants me to put money in a meter except I know I’ll get a $20.00 ticket if I don’t. I’ll be lucky if I’m not broken into or mugged later on. The tire has a slow leak, the back windows won’t roll up all the way and have blue tape on them and with any luck at all no one will relieve themselves (in one form or another) on my vehicle before I get back to it. And that’s just for starters!
The county’s economy is in the toilet, people are out of work, businesses are closing, homes are going into foreclosure, the government is stuck in stupid and the mail train don’t stop here anymore; all because I got my rent increased. Any wonder why I have to keep my game face in a jar by the door? Period.

Santa Clause and effect in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Santa Claus and Effect
Citron, Caouane, Sauerkraut and Beer
Goldonna (Goldie) Baudelaire Henderson Litchfield Boudreaux entered into eternal rest in the middle of December; she stepped out of time and into eternity and was the cause of this year’s Christmas chaos; although she never would have guessed it. Goldie was 94 years old, had lived a long and eventful life and didn’t give a rat’s ass what time of year it was. She had decided that being dead was preferable to spending another miserable day in that nursing home; and if god had a problem with that then he could just give her back her youth and her strength and let her walk away from the sheer boredom of old age. God didn’t respond, even after Goldie had given him plenty of chances; so she just decided that it was time to stop breathing; and she did. She was unaware that God had been in the loo.
The phone call had come at breakfast time, as her son. Saul, and his grown twin children (and their two children) were sitting down to French toast, scrambled eggs and Smithfield ham served up by their Hispanic maid Semolina at their home in the Broadmoor section of New Orleans. It was a big house, at least until the twins had almost simultaneously each divorced their loser spouses and brought their own children to roost with ‘Daddy’ and his third wife Madison the Mad Woman. Goldie’s grandkids (the twins) each insisted on talking to Paw Paw Boudreaux on the phone about the unfortunate event, tying up the line, delaying breakfast and causing Semolina to get the two children, Emma and Aiden, off late to their preschool which was located in Algiers, across the river. The Christmas pageant was coming up soon and rehearsals were in full swing; Emma was playing Joseph and Aiden Mary.
In turn, Goldie’s daughter in law, that delicate flower, missed her hair appointment by a delay at getting her expensively imported car serviced after it had refused to start due to a malfunctioning ‘dumafragit’ or ‘frigatroid’ or some such silly thing that the mechanics out on the I-10 service road had diagnosed and tried to explain to her. This caused her to have to take her husband’s car, after he picked her up from that awful smelly garage. Then, she dropped him off at his job where the boss once again chastised him for being late and asked him for the hundredth time when he was going to fire the salesman who was showing the lowest number of sales in the department. He promptly and with an amount of unnecessary gusto sacked the bum.
The underperforming salesman, Sal, was in his fifties with three small children and a manic depressive overworked unemployed non-motherly wife who was named Gruoch after Lady Macbeth by her agoraphobic, but literate parents.
Sal chose to break the news of his dismissal until dinnertime, half drunk. The kids were fighting as usual and Gruoch, to garner some degree of silence and peace, had reached across the table and whacked Sal Junior on the head with the wooden spoon that she was serving mashed potatoes with; Junior took this opportunity to kick his younger sister under the table, and when little five year old Wendy screamed, it gave Junior an opportunity to pinch the baby in the highchair whom was feisty enough to throw her dinner bowl at him, missing of course. The bowl crashed to the floor where the dog promptly volunteered to help clean up. Sal got up and stormed out of the house, Junior (the brat and bully) threw his chair to the floor, announced that he hated everyone and stalked off to his room to make random and obscene phone calls on a cell phone that he had taken (by force) from one of his school chums. His mother sat on the kitchen floor and sobbed.
Meanwhile, Semolina was late getting dinner because it had been raining and the old car that she drove had faulty windshield wipers; the twins were watching Wheel of Fortune both wishing that they were Vanna White and Goldie’s son was drunk and dialing his mistress, locked in the guest bathroom.
Sal drove down to his favorite French Quarter watering hole, speeding and narrowly avoiding being part of a collision with a beer truck, a young driver on an iphone and a texting bicyclist who was riding against traffic on Saint Charles Avenue.
The driver of the beer truck, Sammy, who’s girlfriend had just dumped him for her personal trainer, double parked on the streetcar tracks and cursing the holidays confronted the pair of miscreants responsible; one of which was just back from two tours in Afghanistan and the other was hopped up on crystal methamphetamines. Horns started honking the traffic backed up; the streetcar drivers started yelling and tourists hid behind each other; mounted police arrived and then, as they say, all hell broke loose.
The driver of the streetcar that was being blocked slipped on some freshly manufactured police horse manure, yelled something negative to the officer who immediately called for backup as an Iranian taxi driver with a bursting bladder and a cab full of Commanders Palace ten cent martini drinkers took to the street yelling for everyone to shut the @#&*!#$$ up and move along. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. The meter maids fled en masse to Hattiesburg and formed a religious order; a black Santa who was tired of being profiled hooked up with a Lucky Dog salesman who was down on his luck and the public servant who was glad to give people a hard time left his post and went home and turned on the soaps to take his mind off his weight, complexion and love life. The melee spread across town and around the world like a rash.
Meantime, God came out of the rest room and took a look at the closed circuit television screens that kept an eye on the planet before reseating himself at the card table with his archangels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Lucifer; who turned to him and inquired: “So, this homo sapiens thing that you’ve been playing with… how’s that workin’ out for ya?”
God leaned back in his chair, lit up a Lucky Strike and pondered the term ‘screwing up a wet dream’. He then put on his poker face and turned his steel blue eyes on Lucifer and said “Happy Holidays to you too; now shut up and deal.”