Archive for February, 2014

Rev. Varg Vargas - Can PARTY professionally.

Rev. Varg Vargas – Can PARTY professionally.

Hello The Lens!

I noticed you had a job opening posted on your Web site…

Part-time event and sales manager

I think I am uniquely qualified for this position. I don’t know if I have an actual resume listing my qualifications on hand but a quick look at my social network accounts should give you a pretty good idea of who I am and what I can do. Or just ask around the office. Someone there will know me and can vouch for me. If they don’t, let me know who didn’t.

I can tell you I did some writing a decade or so ago, some editing for a paper, some other stuff. I hung out with rich folks in La Jolla. I wrote some cover stories for the Gay and Lesbian Times in San Diego. I was the managing editor of Gator Tales, my high school newspaper. Whatever. You don’t need to know any of this stuff. Anyone can work at a paper. Look at Nola.com

The reason why I think I am uniquely qualified for the position is I noticed a huge part of the job will be PARTYING. Having just PARTIED last night and the night (and the day) before and the night before that, I can assure you I have not gotten rusty in the field of PARTYING. I am in my PARTY prime.

But I don’t just PARTY for fun. At my current job as a Jackson Square artist I PARTY a lot. A lot of the charm it takes to convince a visitor to New Orleans to buy salvaged wood folk art is conjured by PARTYING. I also mingle with local luminaries from all areas of New Orleans culture.

I can honestly say I have been PARTYING now for 25 years and I am getting pretty good at it. For instance, I have only fallen down twice in all that time. Once was on Fat Tuesday in 2011 and to my credit, I staggered and stumbled for a good 30 feet before finally touching a knee to the ground.  Also, it was on uneven ground and I was the last person in my group not to have fallen down up until that point.

A photo of Varg PARTYING in 1992. Note: Cisco!

A photo of Varg PARTYING in 1992. Note: Cisco!


The other was at a Benihana. I don’t really want to talk about that.

I also do not puke. In all my years of PARTYING I could count all the times I have vomited from doing so on one hand and those were all in the first ten years. I can hold my liquor and go drink-for-drink with anyone for the first 6 – 8 drinks. That just shows how good I am at PARTYING though. I will not achieve sloppiness nor go on 12-hour binges and ruin my life. I budget my PARTYING well.

I noticed that I will have to not only attend these PARTIES but also throw…excuse me, produce, these PARTIES. You will be relieved to know I have been “producing” PARTIES for years. Both in a professional setting as a banquet manager for hotels and clubs all over the I-10 Gulf Coast Corridor and privately for friends and family.

During this experience I was adept at pacing the event and handling the any emergencies that may come up. Like when that toddler caught fire. My quick thinking led to it only having 2nd degree burns all over its body instead of 3rd.

You may have heard stories of the annual sacred festival of Varg Gras every Oct. 27 – Nov.2 or my annual Moonshine & Heartpine Bivavle Bash every New Year’s Day. Just ask around and you will hear tales told of these great PARTIES. Many “culture bearers” attend each. If a bomb were to explode in the middle of them, New Orleans culture would be crippled for years!

There is also the weekly event know as Wiggy Wednesday. Sure, it’s more of a private thing taking place in a bubble bath in my home but I have consistently indulged in it most Wednesdays for the last ten years. Check my twitter feed each Wednesday night for evidence of just how spirited an event Wiggy Wednesday is!

A vision for possible future The Lens events.

A vision for possible future The Lens events.

Anyway, so you know I can PARTY both professionally and leisurely. I have shown my qualifications. But, if you need to schedule a showcase of my abilities, I could meet you at Mollys some night.

I can also offer my services as an officiant for any blessings, eulogies, ceremonies, toasts or sermons you may need.

I can also decorate The Lens offices with New Orleans salvaged wood folk art for $10,000 a room.

I do however have some questions for you.

1.) The listing says I will be “ reporting to the development director.” Does he or she PARTY?  I can’t work with anyone who doesn’t. I will make exceptions for someone who used to PARTY but quit because they PARTIED too much. I won’t respect them deep down but I will work with them.

2.) I will have to produce an event called “Breakfast with the Newsmakers” 10 times a year. Are there currently Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers served at this event? Because I will be adding them if not. Also, just how early is this event? It’s not on a Thursday is it? I often get a slow start after a Wiggy Wednesday.

3.) These ”3 evening forums open to the public,” when you say “evening” do you mean like happy hour, after work, “evening” or like Snake and Jakes “evening”? Because the later it gets the more solicitations from donors I could get if you know what I’m sayin’!

4.) What sorts of things were you wanting to do with the “Lens Birthday Party”? Because I have some ideas. Working on Jackson Square,  I know lots of street performers. We could get Robotron. There is a gold guy who holds a football (don’t drink after him). There is a guy who holds a picture frame and looks through it. There is “Bird Lady.” Also, all these people PARTY. It could be like an average Saturday afternoon at Jackson Square but at The Lens birfday party! I could get Tropical Isle to serve Hand Grenades. Think about it.

5.) I have some concerns where it reads, “Other events as they present themselves.” Just what sort of events are these? I am sure we both know how lurid Louisiana politics can be and I want you to know I don’t do kinky shit. I’m not going to any David Vitter diaper party. I PARTY but if anything you guys have in mind involves more than beer, whiskey or wine then I am going to expect a platinum health care plan, a lawyer on retainer and some sort of expense account, not to mention access to any favorable judges or politicians. If I have to dress in drag, I will, but it’s $500 as soon as I slip on the pumps.

6.) It says, “Assure maintenance of sponsor records.” I really do not want to do this. Could you transfer these responsibilities to someone else?

7.) It says, “Attend weekly staff meetings.” How early are these? Are they on Thursdays? I got this thing called Wiggy Wednesday see…

8.) It says, “Prepare brief weekly status reports.” How brief can these be? Will, “We’re good” be sufficient? I have a hard time quantifying things that are abstract.

9.) According to the listing I must be able to, “Handle detailed, complex concepts.” My question to you is, can YOU?

10.) I will need to establish “strong and appropriate relationships” with donors. Is blackmail “strong and appropriate”?

11.) How important is “being a team player”? When I bring a six-pack to a friends house and only drink 4, I leave the remaining two. Does that count?

These are all the questions I have. I think I have clearly showed my qualifications for the job. When can I expect to start? Please act quickly. The Advocate has an offer on the table and I don’t want to leave them hanging. Me and “Georgie Boy” are bros. We PARTIED so hard at Kagan’s back in the day.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Rev. Varg Vargas

You will often see, in those vignettes of New Orleans that precede commercial breaks during prime time Saints football games, or the Super Bowl, or TV shows about New Orleans or perhaps even NBA All Star games, camera shots intended to capture, in a few moments, the vibrancy of the city. You’ll see a man playing a brass instrument with a tip jar. You’ll see the Cathedral and folks walking around Jackson Square. You’ll see crawfish or oysters or shrimp being eaten and Dixieland jazz playing in the background. It’s like “Hey! Here we are and this is what we do!”

What you often also see is transportation. Because often, cities are defined by their modes of public transport and these become icons of those cities. Trolleys in San Francisco, bridges in New York, in Los Angeles they have…well, forget Los Angeles.

In New Orleans, streetcars are often shown. But if you pay attention, you will notice the Algiers Ferry is shown quite often also. Usually flanked by GNO bridge with the river undulating in the background.

I don’t blame directors for framing the city up this way. It’s a great shot. Particularly so when one is actually out there on the river experiencing it. Lit up by the sun during the day or in the glow of the city at night, it’s a unique way to see the New Orleans holistically, yet from within.

With a quick shot of the ferry, a narrative can be told in one second. The premise is, “Look at New Orleans, this venerable city on America’s most vital waterway. Look at its robust culture and how it moves its citizens from one place to another across this great, historic river. Here is this vast expanse that previously would stop human migration right at its banks but here, now, daily, in the great city of New Orleans, the citizens can simply ride their bicycles onto a ship and cross the river whilst sipping cocktails from plastic cups. How glorious is humankind?!”

But of course, it is a lie. It’s just for TV. Like so much of New Orleans is becoming these days.

The reality is the ferry is a symbol not of the vibrancy of public transportation but of its abandonment.

Where we are now with it is Veolia Transportation, a private company in France who runs bus lines in the city for the Regional Transit Authority, has taken over the ferry operations. And in spite of the initial declarations of having a “goal of” a return to original hours, the current language is “would consider … based on.” So no timetable as to when and, based on how pitiful the City and State government’s dedication to the ferry has been, its easy to think probably never.

And these hours are crucial. The expectation is the ferry needs to be made viable financially in spite of the fact that the product being provided isn’t worth the price they are asking. Yet it must be paid for for it to eventually be. Huh?

For instance, a monthly pass is $65. The value for such a pass increases greatly as hours are increased and decreases as they are reduced. Am I expected to just pony up the money to city government and then hope the hours increase one day?

Also, as it relates to value, what will be the recourse when I purchase my monthly pass and the ferry breaks down, as it has many, many, many, many, many, many times? The value then goes down even more.

So if the ferry is trying to be sold as having to generate a profit to make up for the budget shortfall, ( + whatever Veolia is making) what sort of business model is it to provide a “product” that runs half as much as it ran before and often doesn’t run at all? Just how much faith in Veolia Transportation are the people of New Orleans supposed to have? I would sooner put $65 in a collection plate at the local church and hope I get to heaven before paying for the current level of service being offered.

And pardon me if I am distrustful. But after the fiasco that was the Crescent City Connection bridge tolls vote last year, I have a reason to be. The miseducation of many New Orleanians was that voting yes to the tolls would have funded and ensured the ferries operation long term. But that wasn’t the case in the first election as the ferries had been decoupled from the bridge tolls before the election. Word didn’t get out about that nearly as quickly as the notion that preserving the tolls would save the ferry and the extension actually passed (with the help of a little East Bank snobbery I think).

But the election was so close and so seemingly reeking of some sort of bambozzlefication not related to the original boondogglery of the miseducation of the voters, that a revote had to be cast and the tolls were eventually shot down for good.

I’ll also add that the habit of linking the ferries to the tolls was still not broken even in that second election as people were still saying we needed bridge tolls to run the ferries even in spite of the fact that no one had ever written anything guaranteeing such. It was all just more “hope for” and “goal is” and “dependent on.”

You can read any article on the ferries including this one from TODAY (Feb. 17, 2014) and look at the comments to see that the myth that the tolls would have funded the ferries persists still.

But hey, it’s not like there wasn’t bamboozlery of some sort happening even when the ferries were attached to the bridge.

So not only is the product we are receiving for our $65 not up to par, the “manufacturer” of the product so to speak can’t really be trusted.

So let’s just leave the whole ferry operating with a business model thing aside for right now. Because it almost seems designed to fail.

The new stance by any civic-minded person motivated by this ferry fiasco should be: The ferry needs to be a free, public service that needs to be restored to its original hours with the “goal of” 24 hour service like streetcars.

Each day, people of New Orleans have to endure the hassle and the appropriation of our streets for movie companies because they help the local economy and the money goes…somewhere.

Year after year we endure the closing of streets and the traffic nightmares brought on by events like the Sugar Bowl and the Super Bowl and the NBA All Star Game and political conventions and music festivals that disrupt our lives constantly and the money goes…somewhere.

We endure the increasing encroachment of a tourist-based economy driving out businesses and replacing them with T-shirt shops and huge double decker buses driving through our neighborhoods and see our true culture replaced with a “version” of our culture and the money goes … somewhere.

We are force fed projects like “Reinventing the Crescent” which promises it will “reconnect us to the river” and is hailed as an “essential public investment.” Yet, no where in the plan was it thought that perhaps being on a ship that crosses the river may be a unique way to truly reconnect to the river from both banks. And $300 million in public money (that could have funded the ferry for decades) for that project goes … somewhere (or maybe into the hands of Bywater / Marigny developers).

We have to listen to testimonies in the trials of our former Mayor (and many more before him) who funneled money into the pockets of themselves and cronies millions of dollars of public money that goes … well we know where it went.

No one should accept doing “more with less” in New Orleans right now. We have heard story after story of how vibrant our recovery has been and entrepreneur this and cultural economy that. Yet, something as vital as a historical method public transportation is being reduced?

Businesses in Algiers have suffered. Real estate in Algiers has suffered. Workers in Algiers have suffered.

The Algiers Ferry needs to be free and it needs to run all the time. Find a way. Ferries all over the world are paid for by governments. It is a public service.

That’s what Algiers needs for its low wage workers to get to and from their jobs in the CBD /French Quarter. That’s what the employers of these people need to see their employees make it to work each day regardless if they are working days, nights or graveyards. That’s what tourists need to have a pedestrian thoroughfare across the river and back and experience New Orleans as a whole. That’s what people in Algiers who want to leave their cars at home and bike or walk across the river need to experience East Bank food, music, parks, museums, nightlife, administration. It’s what New Orleans needs to continue to provide for its entire populace.

Ordinary people are becoming activists over this.

OleBuckarooJustCover

“When Ray signed the six-month lease on his one-bedroom apartment in Bunker Springs, the management company pitched the place to him as being “in a convenient location” and “budget-smart” and the neighborhood as a “hidden treasure.” They failed to mention it was in the midst of an underground sex district.
They did take pets though.”

I first got the idea for The Ole Buckaroo while chatting with fellow artists
on Jackson Square. It was a slow Sunday morning and everyone was a bit
bored. I remember asking Lidia, “Have you ever heard of an Ole
Buckaroo?” and then began describing the scene in the story in a
stream-of-conciousness way. I kept it in my head and turned it over in my
mind at stop lights or in line at the bank and thought I could get a short
story out of it. It is indeed smutty. And certainly rated NC-17 even by my
liberal scale. But regardless of the low brow the subject matter, I am
pleased with it because it represents the 40 year old writer I am. No longer
a self important bad, sad, poet, I instead wrote something that had a
natural narrative, characters and plot. I think it is the best piece of literature
I have eever written. So who cares if it is vulgar, rude, crude, dirty, filthy,
salacious, coarse, obscene, lewd, and pornographic?
I hope you enjoy it. -Varg

Buy the Print Edition here (ships in 2- 10 days).

For the Kindle edition: click here.

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