Friday, June 20, 2008

FLASHBACK SPECIAL SERIES: May 2003

The Koyaanisqatsi Chronicles

Chapter 4 - The Dog Days of May

As April progressed into May, a few changes occurred:

I hardly saw Jay anymore. He was presumptively busy on the weekends, the only time I had for leisure since I worked 10 hours a day and it took over 2 hours to get to work and back on the buses.

Our friendship had been damaged by the ill feelings over the ferret incident and others (like me ignoring Regan and Jay's demand that I not bring snacks up to the loft while I was living there...turns out he went up there while I was at work one day and found an empty snack-sized Frito's bag. So when I came home that evening, I saw it taped to the ladder with a hastily scribbled note from Jay scolding me, like I was a child, for disobeying their "house rules". Granted, I had snacks up there before seeing the rat that one night, so after that I understood why they didn't want snacks up there...but all that says is that they knew they had a rat infestation problem and rather than pay for an exterminator, they just modified their eating habits...again, critters ruled their household, not humans.)

The days were, just like in Florida, starting to heat up. But, being more urban, with all that concrete around, it felt hotter in New Orleans.

Sometime in the first week of May I was moved to another room in the "complex" of boarding houses the landlady ran in order to do renovations. Turns out that even though the weekly rent stayed the same, I was being "upgraded" to a larger room, and, the TV in this one had basic cable. Woo hoo.

I started to become good friends with co-worker and neighbor Alicison and we would occasionally go to the neighborhood breakfast joint on Sunday mornings, Betsy's on Canal St. This place is a local favorite for it's down-to-earth attitude and huge portions for cheap, cheap, cheap.

Alicison (yes that's how she spells it, BTW) had split with her husband who was in rehab, but they would occasionally get together every now and then. She was hoping they could get back together, but she knew he had to "work the steps" and become better adjusted in his recovery before they could even think of a reunion. Alicison was, herself a recovering prescription drug addict and a big proponent of NA (Narcotics Anonymous). I hadn't yet "come out" to her about my problems with alcohol yet. (Of course I was forthright about being gay, I don't have any compunctions about that.)

Aside from sharing breakfast, we sometimes took the bus to the Quarter and walked around there. (She, at this time, was also relegated to public transit since her car, parked across from the boarding house, was inoperable and she couldn't afford to get it fixed.)

Another pastime that I took up, which eventually became a weekend ritual was what I would eventually term "Metairie Chicken". This was a multi-bus journey all the way to neighboring town Metairie, primarily to eat lunch at this little Chinese restaurant off Veterans Blvd. The all-you-can-eat buffet featured this dish - Peking Chicken in a Savory Brown Gravy. This chicken, along with their fried rice and lo-mein reminded me of the fabulous food of Chan's in Woonsocket. I've searched and have found no other restaurants offering the same preparation style as this place. The day would usually include a visit to nearby Clearview Mall to watch a movie at the AMC theater.

It was a chore keeping in touch with Ric, since I had to use the pay phone on the street corner. And in the neighborhood I lived, this phone was likely the contact point for the local drug pusher. Oh yes, I was in the ghetto. But much of New Orleans was a run-down ghetto. And it wasn't restricted to any one racial profile. Alicison and I were just two of the many poor whites living in the ghetto among people of all races.

But Ric and I did keep in touch. He would tell me about the trips to Busch Gardens he and Gary would take, the days spent at Universal, and playing tennis at his apartment complex.

Towards the end of May I had saved up about $1200 and was seriously looking into getting a real apartment, but again, I got the gut feeling that I needed to make a bigger move...

I was getting sick of my job, with it's long hours and depraved atmosphere, ripping people off day after day.

I missed people who I considered my "real" friends, Ric and Gary. And I missed us hanging out together and I remembered all the good times we had.

I began to think I hadn't taken job hunting in the Orlando area more seriously and had given up too early.

On Memorial Day, I took the city bus up to Six Flags. I'd been here before with Jay on opening day in April, and even much earlier than that back when I vacationed here in 2001, when it was called Jazzland. This time I was alone. And to me it was another metaphor for how my life had turned...lonely and trying to make do in a sad and unattractive theme park.

As I rode the mediocre rides, I kept comparing the experience with Orlando theme parks, and, well, this place just couldn't compete. I was homesick for Florida.

So the next day, without any "goodbyes", I packed my bags, took a cab to the airport and flew back to Orlando.

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