Saturday, June 21, 2008

FLASHBACK SPECIAL SERIES: Summer 2004

The Koyaanisqatsi Chronicles

Chapter 9 - Life Out Of Balance

Looking out the bus window, it all seemed oh so familiar. The only difference was that this time I chose a seat on the right-hand side of the bus.

I decided that the events of the past year and a half needed a thematic name.

My mind wondered back to the 80's and the quirky music of instrumental composer Philip Glass. He had one piece, "Koyaanisqatsi", that was particularly jerky, cyclical and had a bizarre "other-worldly" feel to it's composition. In the Hopi language, the word 'koyaanisqatsi' means 'life of moral corruption and turmoil, life out of balance'. Now that summed it all up, didn't it?

I declared to myself, on this warm August day that I was in Koyaanisqatsi, as the Greyhound bus made it's way towards the setting sun...towards New Orleans, once again.

After Ric and I attended Gary's funeral in April, I had fallen into a particularly strong nihilistic depression. Since I was again unemployed, I had plenty of time to brood and, still having money from the iCare job's last paycheck, a good amount of cash to drink up.

I tried half-heartedly to find work, but I found every excuse to avoid that as well. It got to the point where it seemed I just didn't care anymore. Ric wasn't much of a support. He was going through his period of mourning for Gary and I was nominally supposed to be there for him. But I couldn't even be there for myself.

As the weeks went by, they came to pick up the rented furniture and I failed to make rent on the apartment. The phone/dsl was disconnected, then, the electricity. I had no where to go so I was determined to squat it out as long as I could. I slept on the floor, ate peanut butter sandwiches and drank the occasional beer with Ric if he was buying. As the eviction notices were tacked to my door, I ignored them.

I made it to August before I could take the oppressive heat without air conditioning no more. Plus, the eviction notice letters had now been replaced by a Writ of Possession...24 hours until the sheriff's deputies would come to my door to physically remove me.

I called Alicison from Ric's cell phone. The little rental house in the back of Albert's property just recently became vacant. I asked if she could see if Albert would rent it to me. I wanted to come back to New Orleans. Albert was not around to ask, but she'd check with him as soon as he got in. I didn't wait for confirmation, I had Ric take me to the pawn shop to hock my computer monitor for $25, added that to the $80 I had left from a dead-end vacation room job I held for a couple of weeks in May, and, yet again, headed off to New Orleans.

The familiar routine of the bus arrival at Union Station in New Orleans played itself out again. Again, I dragged my luggage from the bus to the terminal. But this time, I actually got a little sleep on the bus ride so I wasn't nearly so tired. Also, Alicison was waiting for me. I had called her from one of the stops to let her know I was coming.

As we drove to the house, she said that she told Albert about my need for a place, and, Albert did need a new tenant, but he hadn't planned on renting the house until he was finished with renovations for it. This could mean months. She knew I needed something right now, so she said I should go and talk to Albert, see what I could work out.

The house had been rented by a fellow NA'er who, unfortunately, had fallen off the wagon big time. He ended up drugging and drinking himself out of work and unable to pay anything for rent. He had been 3 months behind and because he had been a friend, Albert let him slide. But when Albert saw what he'd done to the place, he painfully had to kick him out to the streets.

The place was trashed. Albert was in the process of trying to clean it up when we got there. Empty beer cans, dead roaches, cigarette butts galore. Plates of crusted up food, broken glass, smashed furniture, dirt and just general filth. Oh, it'd be a chore to get this place in order. I told him that if he rented it to me, I could clean it up. Albert was apprehensive to take a risk again so soon after being burned, but I was a friend of Alicison's. Plus, I had already called PMA, the company I worked at before I went back to Orlando last fall and they said I could have my job back.

Albert agreed to rent it to me on the condition I pay him weekly, starting in two weeks, when I'd get my first check from PMA. I was ecstatic. Again, by the skin of my teeth I had escaped true homelessness. But as I looked at the ruins around me, I wondered how much of a salvation this actually was.

It took me the next 2 days of shoveling, sweeping, scraping, scrubbing and mopping but I finally got it looking decent. I went to PMA Monday morning and after the previous months of virtually no income, $8/hr. seemed like a stupendous salary.

And so as late summer eased it's way into fall, I got reacquainted with the Big Easy. It felt like a pair of comfortable old shoes. I got used to my daily routine of catching the Elysian Fields bus to Canal Street every morning, passing through Gentilly and then through the edge of the Ninth Ward down to the French Quarter. Then I'd walk briskly down Canal to the St. Charles streetcar.

Work was simple appointment setting for a health insurance provider, no selling. The office was neat and professional. No scamminess here, it was all on the up and up. I was making friends with my co-worker Dixie and was trying to flirt with this guy Chris, but I think he was too closeted to pick up on it.

On pay day I'd occasionally treat myself out to a night out in the Quarter, patronizing the gay bars Oz and Bourbon Pub. Usually though, after work, I'd take the bus ride back to Gentilly, stop in at Ferrara's, the little grocery store on the corner of Elysian Fields and Robert E. Lee, buy a couple of beers and walk home to watch TV.

Yeah, I'd cut down somewhat on my drinking. I had to. Rent took up about 80% of my income, so I had only about $40/week for spending money. But I didn't neglect my "Metairie Chicken" runs on Saturday afternoons. Couldn't live with out them. And, truth be told, I usually tried to save enough cash to buy a 12-pack for Saturday nights. Life was simple, but it felt good.

Once again, it felt like things were looking up for me.

But meanwhile, back in Florida, Ric would be embarking upon his own personal "koyaanisqatsi" when tragedy struck his life again. He got arrested for his 3rd DUI.

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