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Monday, January 12, 2009

Why I'm Here, pt.4: hope for a(nother) jobless New Orleanian

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 1:37 AM

There are not a ton of jobs here in Austin (where I’m contemplating moving after eight amazing but tough years in New Orleans) but there are twice as many jobs as back home. I want to be a reporter. Not a music reporter; I don’t want to treat music like that. I want to report on unfamiliar things, scramble to become a quick expert on any given topic. So after several days of attending concerts here in Austin, drinking and laughing and pretty much in every way acting the same as I do at home, I started-in Monday, compiling a list of Austin publications, and editors’ email addresses.


On my second day I was called in to interview for the Lifestyles editor position at a paper 45 miles outside Austin: the type of rural area in which my wife and our pygmy goat Chauncey very much want to live. We visualize a small farm-ish place that will accommodate at least one more goat and a horse. This idyll must also be less than an hour’s drive from Austin’s concentration of famous music venues. My wife -- who has a great arts job in New Orleans, and loves the Bywater’s village lifestyle -- has already conceded, “I will trade the village for a horse and a baby.” Most girls would, I’d think.


Some wealthy New Orleans friends bequeathed me a nice black job-hunting suit, and my brother-in-law loaned me nice shoes. After seven years without a job interview in New Orleans, I was excited to drive 48 miles to the paper in my rattly 89 Honda. This interview alone would put 100 miles on the poor beast. No potholes though. None, anywhere. I was embarrassed of all the damage potholes had already done to my car, as it rolled into the paper’s parking lot.


My nervousness subsided a bit when inside the door the newspaper’s front office I was greeted by a box of fresh new Garage Sale signs, for sale, $1.50 apiece. Beside them sat another box into which the 50,000 townspeople could drop off their old used American flags, to be disposed of “properly”. On the wall hung many awards for the paper’s excellent reportage over the years, alongside blue ribbons and trophy photos of prize-winning horses, sheep, and pigs. “This is it!” I texted my wife back in New Orleans, just as behind me an old man stepped in and addressed the receptionist. “How are you?” she smiled. “Dandy as a rodeo clown,” he replied, “cept I got one problem.” He went on to explain that he’d cancelled the paper months back, but that they’d kept sending it to him. He said he’d even called and told them he didn’t want it anymore, but the paper still kept coming. As a result he’d continued reading the paper he hadn’t wanted, and since he’d not been charged, he felt he should come down to the paper and pay the $29 he would have been charged. “And I might as well continue my subscription,” he added. And again I thought, This is it!


First I met with the paper’s HR lady, who immediately remarked of my very full resume, “You haven’t stayed at one job for too long now have you?” I easily to explain to her that New Orleans’ continuously depressed economy has meant that, instead of one good full-time job, I’ve had to sort of collect jobs. “If you look closely you’ll see I’ve kept the same six freelance jobs for six years,” I said. “Lost two of these other jobs to the flood.” Not sure if she accepted this excuse, that New Orleans has made me seem like an unemployable charlatan.


The newsroom’s editor though -- a young white fellow who hadn’t been editor long -- told me of his family in Louisiana. “Every once in a while I try and talk my wife into moving to New Orleans,” he said, sincerely. “But she just ain’t having it. We have kids. But I’ve always wanted to live there.”


So I felt sure he understood my employment dilemma. “New Orleans will make your dreams come true, so long as none of those dreams have anything to do with money,” I repeated for the thousandth time in my life, and he laughed. Over the next hour I would even say I had him laughing. We had a good, long talk. I hope I got the job.


On the way home I stopped and met my New Orleans friend Francis at a bar on Austin’s famous 6th Street, where all the concerts at every venue have been free-of-charge all this week. Francis was once one of two women publishing the old Bywater-Marigny Current neighborhood newspaper, which folded after Katrina came through, and Francis moved to a farm like area outside of Austin where the other day we saw an honest-to-god herd of wild buffalo. Francis picked for our meeting a 6th street tavern with a longtime Bywater resident behind the bar. Both of them claim to be happy enough here in Austin. The bartender said the words though: “I do miss the village.”

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