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NEW ORLEANS - I should have been tipped off that night at the R Bar. My friend Beth showed up with a group of her archaeological cronies on their big night out away from their various digs, here in Louisiana and in Florida. As we were talking, she told me that she had lived in the flat directly across the hall from the one I am staying in for the month. Then she asked if I knew the story of the guy who had stayed in my room.
She shared it with me. He had lived there back in '96 or so, when she had. His name was James. He had shot himself up with Brasso and then hanged himself right in front of the large window that faces the street in the room where I now sleep.
I was a little unsettled by this and told Shawn, who I am staying with, that this was no small matter to omit in a town like New Orleans.
Not to worry, Shawn told me, the room had since been "voodoo-ized."
"They had one of those voodoo priests or priestesses or whatever come in and bless the apartment. So it's supposed to be okay now. All the bad juju of the guy hanging himself is supposed to be gone."
If that was not enough, a week later Shawn felt perhaps enough time had passed to let me know about the place where I worked. A few years back a couple of disgruntled ex-employees had come in there one morning and taken their co-workers back to the walk-in cooler, had them all get down on their knees and then blown their brains out.
"I don't think there's a building in New Orleans," one of my co-workers psahhed these stories, "where somebody hasn't been killed or killed themselves."
Maybe it has to do with so many of the dead being interred above ground here. It gives one such a warm and fuzzy feeling about this town.
3 July, 2002 - How did this one begin? Harrison Chastang of KPOO radio in San Francisco flew into the Big Easy for the Essence festival - you know Essence, the Black magazine, right? They do this down here in Nawlins every year. So as I type this to you I'm sitting at Mayor Ray Nagin's party at Generations Hall with a bunch of clueless Buppies and Harrison, Jacque (the filmmaker from San Francisco) and Matt. Matt's here at my invite. I have a press pass to be on the scene and tell you about the wonders of New Orleans.
If I was less of a cynical bastard, I'd have something good to say about this little soiree. But you don't expect that of me, do you? The only good thing I can say without ralphing is that it's nice to see white people in service capacities for a change.
They filmed the cable television program "Louisiana Jukebox" here tonight while we gorged down the free food from various local restaurants and paid too much for our cocktails. Jessie Reyes, the host of the show, was over made-up and too cheery, as usual. They brought in a decent band from Atlanta. Ray was there with his classic smile and his bald pate. So were we members of the fourth estate. This is the Mayor's welcome party for the Essence festival, I'm told. Big Whoop.
Freestyle Nation was the band, the lead singer was Paul Morton, Jr. ,the son of a New Orleans minister who the woman flacking for them claims has the largest church in the city, This I got from their lawyer, a buxom sister who was flacking anyone who she could tell was from the press, like Yours Unruly. I handed her off to Harrison. "This brother is from KPOO.FM in San Francisco, the largest independent Black station in the country. You should be talking to him instead of me." I didn't lie. She rubs her boobs against him then. This was a good thing.
I turned to Matt and said, "Nice hand-off, yes?"
Matt knew that I was getting depressed again.
How did that start? Well, Harrison had sent me to talk to these Buppies running a site called NewOlreansBlack.com who didn't understand why they needed to send their future children to private school to get an education if they decided to live here in Orleans parish. He told them that I was probably the best political analyst they could come upon in these parts. Harrison told them about me working at City Hall in San Francisco. I guess he told them about me being a Web publisher all these years, too.
So, at his behest, I went over to talk to them and gave them my spiel. The (very attractive) wife told me she was from Alabama. The (well dressed) Buppie husband told me he was the Sales and Promotions manager for their portal-looking site and gave me his business card. The brother acted like he thought what I was saying made some sense.
Maybe that's because what I was saying was that Louisiana Governor Foster was a lazy sonuvabitch who didn't bother bringing any business into this state, that Orleans parish supported what little there is going on here by way of tourism and that we have no other industry to speak of and hadn't since the oil bust. No industry means that smart people get their tails out of this state at the first opportunity and everyone else is a service worker who contributes jack shit to the tax base. So our schools suck.
Sister mentioned that a friend of hers coming from Charlotte (N.C.) tomorrow had told her how people who worked with the Hornets (basketball team) organization were opting to stay in Charlotte, without jobs, rather then move to New Orleans. I said they were smart as Charlotte actually has an infrastructure, something The Big Easy don't.
By the time I walked away I was pissed off. Then I was depressed. Again.
That's how it started. I get depressed when I face that I'm a smart guy who can't get his act together, apparently. I get depressed because people keep telling me that I'm "insightful". I get depressed because I can't make a dime being so damned insightful and "wise". So I give free advice. There's a good reason advice is free, I always quip.
By the time I rejoined Matt and started writing this, I was depressed as Hell.
Then at the height of this little soiree, a New Orleans brass band worked its way through the crowd and even cynical Rod got happy for a change. You can't help but shake your butt when that happens. The New Orleans Way.
It reminds those of us who live here of the Second Lines, that brass band celebrations we have when someone dies. When someone dies it's a good day in New Orleans.
So I'm depressed again. At some point during the evening my mind wanders back to all the beatings I took as a child. I'm fifty years old and I still can't shake thinking about how many times my father, who is dead, beat me. It's over thirty years later and I still can't shake hearing about how worthless I am and my life will never amount to anything. I can't stop wondering why my mother, who insists to this day that she does love me, never protected me better.
I ran away from home trying to understand why my parents hated me so much.
I'm still running.
My good friends, Dragana, Barbara, Rudell, tell me I should forget the past. They say that I'm a good man and I have something to offer. I guess that's why I don't have a girlfriend; I have so much to offer that no woman can see it anymore.
I was actually sweet on this girl here in New Orleans for a couple of weeks. She reminded me a lot of my ex-wife. Same high-set ass. She is from the Virgin Islands. Knowing about island life is a good thing. Problem is, I had to admit, she's too young for me and I'm not sure anymore if I could stand living through another "relationship." (AS IF any woman in her right mind would have one with me to start with, his cynical mind says.) Those R things are tough to deal with. I have enough problems dealing with me alone. What luck would I have dealing with a new "us"?
I believe this line of thought is what we'd call A Downward Spiral.
THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE4 July, 2002 - Shawn told me that no one should go anywhere today. (In my own case, at least, he proved correct. I had a wholely rotten day.) Red, White and Boom. I guess there's some rumor that this would be a good day for a terrorist attack. The ethos of Fear is now part of American popular culture. I'm waiting for Tom Hart to send me another story (that I won't publish) about the threat of terrorism in America. I keep asking what we should call His Fraudulency's regime-Enron-Worldcom-Merrill Lynch-Arthur Anderson-Martha Stewart's insider trading? That's when people remind me it's not terrorism when people in power in your own country do it to you. That's when they joke that no one listens to me because I'm a goddamned socialist.
I went out, though Lord knows I could not afford doing so, because of Harrison and Jacques being in town. I'd promised at the Essence party to show them around to the free barbecues going on in this town today. I was a friend and "host" of sorts, even if I would have been better served taking care of my own interests -- like finding a new job or a crib.
But hey! It's a holiday and Essence weekend. I took them to one of the three free barbecues I knew of and introduced them to a few local friends. Jacques was getting tired from all the events he'd attended since morning, like the mayor's press conference, and one of our horrendous Hurricanes that he picked up on Bourbon Street. He was tired of lugging around his camera equipment. So (dumbly) I volunteered to carry the stuff to the condo they're staying in, let them shower and freshen up, and then we'd move on.
I told them I'd wait for them at a bar about a block from the condo where I knew a few folks.
I waited for a couple of hours. No call, no show. I headed back "home." When I got in and telephoned Harrison, they were at the Super Dome at another party. Thanks for telling me, guys. I guess that one block was too far out of their way to consider... The phones probably stopped working during the fireworks show on the river. That's how I figure it.
LATER: The Band called themselves "Creatures of Habit". That should have been my first clue. The lead guirarist and singer, Boo LaCrosse, is a barender at Checkpoint's. He agreed to give me an interview which we'll publish here the next time I can pull off an update. The first time we met he told me that he could tell by my taste in music that I was his "brother from another mother." Mike Darby who plays rhythm, is a local drunk and sometimes-renovation worker I've met many times before. It was real rock 'n' roll. People were/are dancing and I was suddenly feeling like Hunter Thompson in New Orleans. I was dancing with this lawyer touring the country I'd insulted two nights earlier in Smitty's while this hot babe I'd exchanged casual words with earlier was dancing with me from the side of the dancefloor. I'm slow like that sometimes; I don't realize if or when a chick is flirting with me. This one had been. So after dancing with the lawyer I danced with her. She was a great dancer, always a big turn-on for young Rod.
The interesting thing, from my VERY jaundiced perspective, is how this sucked me more down into how the city works. Or should I say the village? The best part of it is how they use all the HOT women to make us stick. You have to love that.
Part of doing this gonzo thing is doing Stream of Consciousness. That's where I am now.
I was telling Matt last night, after we left the mayor's party at Generations Hall, still depressed was I, about some of my frustrations. A big one being how some people seem to think I'm a good writer, but how I personally keep getting stuck in this Editor niche. (Yeah, yeah! I know you've heard this whine before. Let me finish my train of thought!) One writer who I truly respect sends me private e-mails noting when I manage to pull off a star turn now again, either here in the Glass House or my One Good Story per year. (Inside Joke.)
But here's the rub: My last One Good Story was the piece I wrote on Milan Pantic last year. This year, my life being what it has, I haven't even written one good piece of journalism worth any of our consideration.
This year, the only thing I've done worth considering is the course for the Novi Sad School of Journalism.
And I still have the temerity to call myself a writer? A journalist?
The evidence would suggest that I have reduced myself to being a mere flack for the people, many of whose words you'll find in this edition of GENERATOR 21, who can still do the work. I'm particularly please, for example, to see KEVIN CAREY back with us this week to afflict the comfortable with his skewing their economic hypocracy. It's a good read that I recommend.
Go read the other writers. You've wasted enough time with me today.
THINGS I WANT THIS WEEK1. To do develop a new outlook on the possibilities afforded.
2. Employment that I can value and that values me.
3. A new passion to pursue.
Thanks for coming back this week.
"Work like you don't need the money,
"Love like you've never been hurt,
"Dance like no one is watching..."
Rod was a columnist for the Andover News Network, where he wrote over two hundred articles on web design and development issues. He was also principal writer and Editor for IT Manager's Journal, where he reviewed technology issues weekly, producing 383 editorials. He became the Managing Editor for Electronic Mail/Newsletter Publications at Andover.net at the end of February, 2000, and left in September of the same year. He was a contributing writer for ACCESS magazine, which appeared both on- and offline for 10 million readers in 100 newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Post, Boston Herald, Austin American-Statesman, Denver Post and Orlando Sentinel, among others. Rod was the US reporter for Silicon.com, a division of Network Multimedia Television in London, UK, reaching 3.5 million European readers, until May, 2001.
This year he worked as Assistant to the General Manager of a Big Easy company that does restaurants and nightclubs. (Think: The Boy.) Oh yeah, Rod's had Day Jobs working construction. Mostly renovations of old New Orleans structures, houses and a bar. Sometimes he designs Web sites for other people so that he can get his creative juices flowing the way he can't at a staid publication like this one. And he's been the instructor in Editing for Internet Publications at the Novi Sad School of Journalism in Yugoslavia. Right now he's in the unenviable position of looking for both a job AND a place to live. He is not a happy camper. In his spare time, he chases women.
Rod lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, right now. He wants out so bad he can taste it. He wants to live somewhere civilized when he grows up. Wish him Luck.
He continues to be committed to integrity,
chastity and a dose of humility.
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