Category Archives: New Orleans

Notes from the underground: Living in Nola

When Chris was 23 years old; he left his home and the lake of his home and took a Megabus to New Orleans. It was there he learned the streets and how to revel in some of the darkest places on earth. He spent only 4 months there until life came and swept him away. This is his story from the first four months of his solo journey to explore the world.

I had a backpack and a hockey bag filled with all my possessions when I got off the Megabus in upper Marigny, New Orleans. I was headed to a housing situation I had put together through Craigslist housing weeks before. The house was in Central City and on the other side of the French Quarter; maybe a 2 mile walk. I had been exchanging emails with a girl that turned out to be my age. She and two others had been working as a traveling punk rock band and ended up running out of money in New Orleans. They let me rent the middle room of their shotgun for 400/month. Walking across the French Quarter to this house was one of the riskier parts of my life, but at the end of my first night in Nola I had made it to a safe place to sleep, I had $500 to my name, and I was so motivated to live I could hardly sleep.

My first few weeks in Nola went so fast. I needed to find a job and so I bought a bike and spent my days handing out resumes and emailing for jobs from the public library. At night I would head to different bars in the city to get to know the locals. I started working at a local bar as a bar-back and was just finding my groove when I got in trouble with the cook for “not respecting personal boundaries”. I worked another job at this karaoke spot called The Cat’s Meow right on Bourbon Street, I hated this job though. I was the lowest position in the club and mostly just handled the trash. I quit working there as soon as I got a job delivering Pizza with my bike at Magazine Pizza. It was good money, I worked nights, and it was great for someone that wanted to get to know the city. All this in only two weeks.

Two Weeks in and at this point it was a full on Quarter Rat. I knew many of the local street people. On the nights that I wasn’t working I would go and explore the night life of Nola. Sometimes I would go out with 2 of my housemates. The drummer and the singer were a lot of fun and were invaluable for learning different and new parts of town. There was a third member of the band I was living with. She was younger and not as social. One night the three of us went out to this bar Tracie’s in the Irish Channel. Just down the street from where me and the band were living. We played pool and darts and through some other bar shenanigans I ended up doing cocaine in the bathroom with a stranger. It was some of the best blow I have ever done in my life and after that I bounced all of the bar and drank so much I felt invincible. The drummer ended up getting lost and so it was just the singer and I for the walk home. She was cute and I was attracted. There is a problem with cocaine though, and that is that it wears off. When it came time to make the move I could not, she wanted me to but I could not. The next day I was headed pee in a cup for a job working a pedicab in the Quarter. I failed that test for cocaine! The pedicab manager didn’t care. He let me take the test again so long as I passed; and that’s how they handle things down in The Big Easy. People rules are greater than market standards. And this is how I love to live.

It was the third and younger member of the band that I didn’t get along too well. I don’t remember what our disagreement was about but one day she kicked me out. I was out of the house and she threw all of my things on the street and locked the door. It was afternoon when I picked up my things and walked to the nearest hostel. They had a dorm situation where for something like $20 per night I could sleep in a bed in a dormitory and keep my things in a place where no one would steal them. I was picking up as many shifts from work as they would give me and I knew that I would be able to afford to rent my own place in only a week or two. I decided not to pay rent at the hostel in order to save more for the house. One morning at 4am a hostel employee came into the dormitory and yelled loud enough to wake everyone up: “Someone is not supposed to be here!” I admitted it was me immediately, got my things and left. That day I wandered down to the quarter to try and figure something out. I ran into my juggler friend who said that I could crash in this squat house and that night he took me to an old and abandoned house in the 7th ward. 

Back during Hurricane Katrina the levees broke and it was the lower class areas of town that flooded first. I was in Nola years after Katrina but there were still many houses that had not been renovated, many of which had become inhabited by locals. Rumor had it that if you lived in a single place for 4 or more years and no one came to contest your ownership, then you became the legal owner of that property. The entrance to the squat house that I stayed in was in a sort of back alleyway and there would have been no way I could have found it on my own. It consisted of three houses and a courtyard. There were maybe 5 people staying in this area. Some of whom I recognized from town. The houses would have been underwater during Katrina and the walls would crumble when touched. There were holes in the roof but with some cardboard on the floor it wasn’t the most uncomfortable place to sleep. 

I slept in the squat for one week and have never been more money motivated in my life. I was picking up extra shifts at work, looking for a cheap place to rent, and spending almost no money. I remember going to Subway where I had worked out the way to get the most calories for your dollar with getting the sub of the day and maxing out on the veggies. I found a second job that I would work during the day generating leads door to door for a security system company. It was these days that I would hang out in the quarter with the juggler friend who showed me the squat house. He had painted a large sign that said “Sidewalk Circus” and would juggle all day in the quarter. Me and a couple other street people would hang out in this group. Frank the French Canadian could play the guitar, Bobbie could do rope dart and walked around with a staff with real animal bones on it and was generally a legit shaman all in all. I would mostly just try and talk to girls. There were more of us and the adventures we got into were so much fun. One night we were out and in the chaos of the night I found myself talking to a girl who playfully called herself “Trouble”. I insisted on learning her real name but she was stern in not telling it to me. Eventually we went our separate ways. Out of nowhere came a guy, taller than me who told me to stop hitting on his wife. I opened my arms as if to give him a hug and tried to tell him not to worry. He punched me in the face once and tried to punch me again but I ducked and grabbed him. We would have gone down wrestling but the fight was broken up only seconds after it was started. I had a black eye for a week. I had an interview at a white tablecloth restaurant that I didn’t get, and I had to stop working door to door because the owner didn’t like sending someone with a black eye to the door of people he hoped to be handling their security. It was  a major setback but I was still able to find the perfect house to rent and had planned to get out of the squat house in only a few days. 

I had set up a space to sleep with cardboard and my sleeping bag in a corner to the squat house. I put my clothes and other things in a corner but there were so many strangers in and out of that place that many different people had gone through my things and anything valuable was taken. It wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t have much to take in the first place. On the best of nights spent in the squat we played banjo and drank whiskey random French Canadians; on the worst of nights I would do my best to be as friendly and non-threatening as possible as some more dangerous people would roll through. I would spend as little time as I could in the squat. One night I was out in the Quarter at a place called CheckPoint Charlies and to this day I have not seen a more raunchy bar. There was a punk rock show going on and I jumped in the mosh pit to have some fun. It was a dirty mosh and elbows and knees were being thrown left and right. At one point a guy behind me stood in a way where his crotch intentionally brushed near my butt. I turned and grabbed him and then threw him into the mosh. This started a new mosh where everyone was throwing each other and it was fun. Then, out of nowhere the girl that I had been speaking to a few days before, Trouble launched herself at me from the crown. She grabbed me and started biting and scratching me. I tossed her off then started throwing as many other moshers in between her and I as I could. Then, out of the crowd came the guy that had punched me in the face and in front of everyone pointed out the door. I now knew that he went by the name of “Trash” and at this point I was more than ready to fight and followed him out the door. A crowd of 20 or more people formed a circle around us and started to jeer. I made the first move stepping forward and taking a swing. He dogged me, pulled my coat over my head and kneed me in the face. I was stunned but was able to grab him and push him against the wall. We scrapped for a bit longer but he had won the fight. I left and he went back into the bar. I walked back to the squat house and tried to get some sleep. 

That night was the only time I ever got sleep paralysis. I woke up late in the night unable to move. I saw what I thought was a shadow thing that had me in its grip. I tried to move or make a sound but could not. The shadow raised a gun and pointed it at me. Eventually I was able to make a small squeak and right then the shadow disappeared and I was able to move. After that night I was left with a chill however, one that would last until I got my own house and was able to put a locked door between me and Now Orleans.

How to quit a video game addition

It’s been going on 6 years that I have been trying to quit video games. I imagine all the skills that I would have learned by this point and in my mind, I feels great to quit and to start honing my craft, and yet when times get low and all I want to do is huddle up in my blanket and play what I know I am good at is when I relapse back into the thing that I swore never to partake in again. This is a research paper mostly for myself but can help anyone that wants to also follow in these research footprints in order to quit video games all together.

At first I was pulled into the game because of what it allowed me to do. For a moment, I could command troops like a military general and fight in a war bigger than myself. The graphics and skill are what got me going but it was the escapism that kept me there. There have been times when I am out downtown and looking to meet other people. Sometimes I find it hard to talk with other people are that is when I have the urge to escape back into my room to find that familiar video game that I know I can perform without humiliation. It’s a place that I know I have the skill to play. It’s a place that allows me to forget about the problems of life and focus on the problems of the game.

What has happened over the years is that what challenges my mind is more fascinating in the game than it is in real life. If you remember what the key to flow chart looks like there is a sweet spot in a task when the task is challenging but not too challenging to be frustrating, but also easy but not too easy to be boring. Life has gotten frustrating and so the game solves this with new inventive challenges. The new challenge is to make life a flow sport like that game has been for so long. To do this will take time.

It would seem that I need to grow my life in order to make it easy to find flow activity in. After my life has grown a certain degree then I will be able to easily take it to the streets when I am feeling like a gamer. It’s in this first faze that would be the hardest. The best option that I can think of right off the bat would be to use as much willpower as possible. Willpower is only so strong though so the next step would be to uninstall the game. Past this point the only thing I can think of is to really get into my own head how disgusting video game playing really is.

I have missed out on so many opportunities because of gaming. If I had put my time into anything other than the game that I played I could have easily mastered it by now. If I would have played an instrument with this time I would have been able to travel to New Orleans with passions and then been able to make friends and even had sex with many more women that I did the last time that I went. If I would have spent all that time working or even looking for a job I would have had maybe 10 grand in the bank right now and probably be driving a car. If I would have spent that time reading I could have brought all my friend new information and been a much more interesting person than I am. If I would have spent all that time in the gym exercising I would be buff as shit right now. What has video gaming done for me. I was able to connect with a few friends through the game but nothing ever really came of it. Instead I zonk myself out in a chare somewhere and neglect the things that are really important in life.

Video games are a bunch of shit when played in excess. If you like them than good for you. If you like women or the outdoors or money or anything that good an important in this work then you will not play video games and instead work on bettering yourself because bettering yourself is what this is really about. Who wants to sit with the same skill set their entire lives? We all want to be good and then we all want to be great. Let’s make this life about becoming great, not about playing some bullshit until life catches up with us and we are forced to take action. Take action now. Become better at something.

BikeTaxi

It’s been called a biketaxi, pedicab, rickshaw; call it whatever you want I don’t care much. I have been these things all over the country for the past three years. Started out in Minnesota, road in Phoenix Arizona, New Orleans, Colorado, and am currently riding in Salt Lake. This paper is about my experience and what’s different about each location with an inside look at the advantages and disadvantages that come with the scene. Biketaxies are in just about every major city and if they are not then please let me know so that I can move to that city and get things rolling for myself.

Three years ago, downtown Minneapolis; for the first time in my life I see a biketaxi roll by. I must have needed a job at the time and so I stopped the driver to ask him how one gets to do what he does. He directed me to the pedicab office downtown and within a matter of a few days I’m a rider. I remember one of the rides from the first day. These two guys hop on my bike and tell me that they are professional bikers. I tell them that its they who should be giving me a ride. They think that’s a great idea and I switch with one of them. It was impressive how much this “professional biker” struggled with the extra weight of his friend and I in the back carriage, and he was more than willing to admit to his weakness with the realization how different the pedicab is from his carbon fiber light weight bicycle he is used to. This guy ends up taking us to some deserted back parking lot and shows us through a small door in an old mill type of building. We walk through a cement hallway with pipes hanging out of the walls and in through the door at the end of this hallway. I expect to be standing in a boiler room or something but instead I find myself in a top class cocktail bar filled with men in fashionable suits, women in fancy dresses, and bartender wearing vests (Spoon and Stable- 211 North First Street, mpls). The lights were set to low and I spend my time drinking some sort of rum coconut drink (damnit I wish I remembered what it was called!) and listening to these two guys tell me about their bike ride over the weekend. Turns out they rode with Lance Armstrong’s coach and enjoy horse racing. When all was said and done I dropped them off at their destination. The one came up to me and handed me a 20 while thanking me for the ride, then his friend came up and handed me a 100 while thanking me for the ride. They call rides that earn 100 a unicorn in MN, first day magic is what I called it.

A few months later I had moved out of Minnesota and was living in New Orleans and actively seeking employment with one of the pedicab companies there in the city, Redcab with Sal is who I ended up working for. Tid-bit about the NOLA pedicab scene- There are three companies that have monopolized the biketaxi industry in NOLA, so there are no independent riders. This has to do with the corrupt business practices that take place throughout the entire city. There are also many more people that have the desire to become rickshaw drivers, and thus the competition is high, and thus it’s harder to make an honest buck. All of that can be ignored with these next two words: Festival Season. If you are one of the top riders and you want to work your ass off during things like Martigras, Blues and Jazz Fest, Decadence, ect, then you for sure can make your money down in New Orleans.

Back in 2015 I got an offer from my old company in MN to come work the super bowl in Phoenix AZ, so I jumped on the fastest CL rideshare I could find (A trucker named Dave) and shipped my ass out to Phoenix. It was fun, competitive, and easily to most money I have ever made in my life. It was the day before the super bowl in Scottsdale where Drake was putting on a small hotel rooftop show where tickets where 1k a pop. I would jump from one ride to the next without a break. My customers where dressed to the hilt in suites and dresses with actually diamonds hanging from their ears. I ended up earning many unicorns and by the end of the night I counted out 1080 dollars. Not bad for 5 and ½ hours of work. After the super bowl I stayed in Phoenix for about a month and kept riding, but for a different company (Billy O). In less than a week I went from making the most money I have ever made in my life to making the least. The crowds clear out after the big game is over and I would spend entire days on the hot desert streets of Phoenix making 10 bucks for an entire shift. I stayed in the Desert, but not for the money. There is some magic coming from the artsy side of that city, but that’s for a different post.

A few states later I find myself in Colorado and once again, perusing a license so that I can ride the streets of Denver. There are a couple thing I will say about Colorado pedicabing- The rent is low. I don’t know why but the owner of the cabs in Denver don’t make you pay that much to rent them. There are also plenty of tourists to make weekend riding more than worth your time, so that as far as your average weekend earnings go, Denver might be the best place to ride. In the summer there are Broncos games too where there might be more than 200 caber riding in a day. Anyone riding is making more than 500 on those days too. It gets to the point of bumper to bumper (or wheel to bumper) traffic between riders, and the trains, and the hills, and the people, and competition, and the hotdogs… it’s something to witness.

Currently I am in Salt Lake riding for Luis. What they got going on here is that all the cabs are upgraded to the max. Personally, I have never ridden a cab with an electric motor assist, or a cab with a speaker built under the seat, or hardly even a cab with a neon light setup. Here in Salt Lake every single cab comes with all of these things stock. To be honest, it pissed me off when I saw this and I even went so far as to call the riders here no better than Uber drivers (the worst insult you can call pedicab driver). They didn’t even understand the severity of my comment of course because motor assist is all they know. The more I ride with the people of Salt Lake the more persuaded I am of the Salt Lake style of riding; and it’s not because of the motor assist. I am still working on getting my license which means I am limited in what I can ride. I take out something called “The Spider” which is a seven seater (I know, not eight) where everyone peddles while facing the middle. There are only two Spiders ever made and thus there are no regulations for them, at least not yet. The money in Salt Lake is great and so are the people. Time and again I am surprised with how easy it is to form meaningful relationships here. Last night when I road back to the garage to turn in my cab and pay my rent and I find the rest of the shop drinking beer and playing dice. I lost 53 bucks my first three rounds and vowed never to roll again.

Riding bikes like this has been my career for most of the past three years. It does not matter what kind of mood I am in when I go out for the night, by the time I come back in I am feeling great. The exercise is great, the pay is comparable to a bartender, and I get to make my own schedule. One day I would like to ride in India where they might take home 10 bucks a day, but that’s a long ways away from now and there are many more strokes of the peddle between here and there. Thanks for reading folks. Hope that we get to speak again.