Honored Guests

So, it’s a beautiful autumn day on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The press photographers gather outside of 520 Saint Peters Street waiting for the front-page shot. France’s President Emmanuel Macron steps out onto the second-floor wrought iron balcony festooned with the red, white and blue flags of our nations. Photos taken from behind him are views of the square and the historic Saint Louis Cathedral. The press is surrounded by street performers, musicians and artists with their paintings hanging on an iron fence topped by fleur de dis.

(Scratching record sound effect)
Nope, not this visit.
This is the first French President to visit France’s former colony in 45 years. In 1976 we were visited by leader Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and by Charles de Gaulle in 1941. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer the best view and accommodations to our special guest of such a prestige? The City of New Orleans did have such a place. It’s since been converted into “Teedy’s Boom-Boom Room.”

Just 10 years ago myself and a good friend, Robert Hotalen, were painting contractors hired by the Upper Pontalba property management to renovate that very apartment. We considered it to be quite a privilege, not just to be hired to work on a historic 1850s era structure, but also this particular apartment.

We gushed over the assignment and asked the property manager many questions. His response from what i remember:
“The mayor doesn’t actually live here, it’s primary purpose is to be a guest residence for visiting dignitaries and VIPs. The mayor may host parties here for special events or hold meet and greats.”
“Hold campaign fund-raisers and the like?”
“Oh no. He wouldn’t be permitted to use it for that since its a city owned property. It’s only for city affairs and special visitors.”

It’s not like Macron would be there for long. It would function like a base of operations during his brief visit. A secure location for him and his entourage. From the standpoint of security, it’s ideal. One main front entrance, a small courtyard only shared with the adjacent 522 Saint Peters Street location. The stairway only shared by two other apartments with full-time residents.

A short walk down Lower Decatur Street, (OK, maybe beef up the security on that route) to visit one of the few remaining statues in the city. A gift from France in 1972, the statue of Joan of Arc is still an impressive landmark. “Joany on a pony” as we locals like to affectionately refer to her. Show the people of France that we do still have it and mostly graffiti free. A majestic monument to transgenderism. Again, a magnificent photo opportunity for both the press and the city.

Maybe followed by a stroll up to the river, a city skyline as a backdrop to answer reporter’s questions and more pictures. A short walk back to the Pontalba apartment to return important phone calls and state business. Perhaps an overnight stay or probably just a quick shit and shower before he hops in a limo to the airport to jet back to Frogland.

New Orleans needs all of the positive press it can get at this point. Most images hash tagged #Neworleans lately have been those from blurry security camera stills of hooded figures pointing firearms at crowds. It’s a tourism downer to be known as the deadliest city in America. It’s about optics, something our mayor has no clue as to the meaning of.

Back when I was painting the 12-foot-high walls I imagined what the finished room would look like. Adorned with valuable fine art on loan from collections, antique furniture that wouldn’t see daily use, only for very special guests. I hate to think how it must look now. I envision bean-bag chairs and a day-glow poster of Snoop Dog hanging over the marble fireplace. The apartment probably smells like the VIP room at a strip club by now.

Maybe the city can book him a room at the Four Seasons on Bourbon Street. After all, it’s where the old French Opera House use to stand before it burned down. President Macron can stroll Bourbon Street for the international press. Toss a few Euros to the bucket kids, toss a couple more Euros to the dude who knew where he got his shoes. We’ll even comp him a Fishbowl drink.

The local press giggling at Macron’s security getting jumpy at the sounds of gunfire from Rampart Street by people who never even heard of Macron. Thanks Latoya. We really wish to be seen as a world class city, not a worldstar city. A chance to polish the image of the city in eyes of the world and you blew it like, well, you know, a cop.

Local writer faces national backlash after harassing Asian man in bar

On April 8, local freelance writer Thor Benson proudly tweeted: “I just ran into Andy Ngo at a bar in New Orleans. I politely told him he’s a ‘garbage person.’ Lol” Andy Ngo is a journalist from the Pacific Northwest who has gained notoriety from his extensive on-the-ground reporting of antifa protests and riots over the past few years. Mr. Ngo is often a target of verbal and physical abuse from far leftist ideologues.

Mr. Benson was mistaken as to the identity of the individual in a New Orleans bar that he approached and insulted. Mr. Ngo responded to the Benson tweet by stating that he was not even in the country at the time in question. Mr. Benson evidently mistook a random Asian bar customer for the journalist.

In an effort to be fair to Mr. Benson, I’ll attempt to give him some wiggle room. In his defense, I doubt it ever happened. It was probably one of those fantasy “it never happened but I’ll say it did” tweets. The person who will post a fictional self-righteous tale about their virtue for likes and shares from their tribe.

“I was on the bus when a woman got on wearing a TRUMP shirt. I called her out for being an evil racist and bad person. I shamed her so bad she got off of the bus before her stop. All of the people of color stood up and applauded me for being so brave and righteous!”

Or the other spin on fantasy tweets “My 2 year old came up to me and his very first words he ever spoke were ‘Mommy, I’m trans!”

I’ll take “Things that never happened” for $500.

You’re Thor? I’m tho thor can hardly even walk!

I tend to think this is how this started. Thor was sitting in some pretentious hipster bar in the Marigny scrolling through his phone getting pissed Mr. Ngo has more fame and clout than he ever will. As he sipped his pickled herring flavored IPA, he fantasized about what he would say to Andy if he walked in this bar right now.

The professionally trained writer from The Daily Beast carefully and eloquently composed a brilliant and scathing comment for his more established media peer, “You’re a garbage person.” Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde would be envious of making such a burn.

Mr Benson, unaware that he had possibly just insulted a random Asian neighbor, later doubled down with a second tweet. He boasted that the Asian man he called a “Garbage person” had just left punctuated by a “LOL”

If a tobacco chewing redneck went up to the only black patron in a bar placed his hand on his shoulder and told him that he was garbage forcing him to leave the establishment in fear, we would have a name for such an awful person. Especially after the redneck goes back to his buddies bragging about how he bullied out “their kind.”

I won’t claim to be a journalist, but I thought I should investigate a story here in New Orleans before I make a comment on it. Let me connect with my local Asian acquaintances to get feedback. Plus it was an excuse to order take out.

I asked the delivery guy if he had ever heard of Andy Ngo. “SHIT! I had an asshole approach me on a delivery yelling that name at me.” I asked what did he look like as the bag of beef and broccoli was handed to me. “I dunno, just another hipster asshole with a beard. He said he was a writer or something.” I tipped him well for the interview.

Coincidence I am sure.

Coming back from Jackson Square I ran into one of my neighbors that I often say hello to. The asian guy who chain smokes as he scrolls through his phone in front of the Foot Massage Place.

He laughed hard when I asked. “A couple of weeks ago some fucker called me a racist and told me to go back to Portland. He kept calling me Andy. He wouldn’t leave me alone so I made a fake martial art stance with an “EIYEEE!” He backed off and said I couldn’t hit him since he was a journalist or some shit. He ran off down Chartres street like a little bitch.”

“Can you describe him?”
“Pasty ass hipster with a beard. Kind of creepy looking. Tough to say since you know how all hipsters look alike.”

Another coincidence certainly.

Today at my favorite sandwich shop I was almost to inquire the same to the guy at the grill. He turned around to greet me and take my order when I saw his t-shirt with large writing that said “NGO! I AM NOT ANDY”

I pointed to the shirt and asked, “Let me guess, pasty white hipster with a beard?” “Well, yea, he said he was a writer for something. What can I get you?”

Mr. Benson, allow me to lump you into a group. I place you with the white progressives who call Candice Owens a ‘Coon.’ Those who call black conservatives ‘Uncle Toms.’ I have known many hard core conservatives and not one has ever boasted about harassing a random Asian person over Pearl Harbor.

You may be too little to remember this: Back in the 1980s there was a Television minister grifting off of the evangelical crowd. Jimmy Swaggart use to preach about the sin and perversity of pornography. The evils of lust and fornication. He was busted with a skanky hooker in a Baton Rouge motel.

You are the hypocritical minister, and that tweet was your skanky hooker.

Someone is Thor.

You are just so Punk

So did you go down and get the COVID jab? Did the needle go through your “BORN TO DIE” tattoo? I bet you were wearing your favorite “SUICIDAL TENDENCIES” sleeveless T-shirt too. You look so anti-establishment with that anarchy symbol on your state-mandated face mask.

Nothing to do Nowhere to go
I wanna be vax’nated
I can’t go to the airport

And I can’t get on a plane
Worry worry worry
now here I go insane
I like to point my fingers
Fauci controls my brain

Oh no oh ho oh oh

Please don’t try to come across as a tough rock and roller who is a rebelliousness and fearless individual while simultaneously lecturing others on the importance of being vaccinated and wearing a mask. “Because our government and mainstream media says we have to. I don’t want to die!”

You’re not being very Punk, you’re being very very Karen.

I hung out with a few punks back in the early 1990’s. I was drawn to the “anti-establishment” narrative of the culture, but soon saw through the facade. A group of rebels is an oxymoron. “We’re rebels, you can tell because we all dress like this and listen to this music.” Rejecting establishment norms of status and conformity by creating their own society of status and conformity. Explain to me again how you are different to the YUPPIES?

While I’m at it, let me go off on the smelly hippies too. For nearly six goddamned decades, I have been getting lectured by all of you concerning healthy living. Healthy eating and meditation boosts your immune system. Then the vegans go off on how they are healthier than mere mortals because they don’t consume animals. Meat and dairy are bad for the immune system, so you should be OK then.

You’re all about organic foods and holistic medicine, so I bet you wouldn’t take the jab in a million years. Big pharmaceuticals are the bad guys, correct? Price fixing, price gouging, dangerous side effects, addiction to products, high profits, lab animal research, CEOs earning tens of millions and pulling strings in Washington D.C. Just such evil men controlling the industry.

But wait, did someone say FREE vaccine?

Let’s scroll down your social media posts, “capitalism bad,”tax the rich,” “Fuck Trump,” a kitten meme, oh look here! “I just got my first shot from Pfizer, I feel safer already!” Virtue signaling, propaganda and an endorsement of a billion dollar corporation all in the same post. Facebook is so proud of you. By the way hippy, I’m wearing a mask and staying six feet away from you not because of COVID, but because you smell.

I’m not saying that all of you are a bunch of pussies, but the vaccine really should come in a douche version too. Just saying.

Fuck Bruce Springsteen

Let me take you back to when I was driving cab at night on the Jersey Shore back in 2008. I’d go in from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., six days a week. My evenings started in a tiny cab stand/dispatch office right off of Main Street in a town notorious for rowdy summertime drinking, and popular with tourists from Northern New Jersey and New York area.

I even had the asshole dudes from the MTV show “Jersey Shore” in my cab one summer night. It was during the first season and I never heard of them or the show. The guy with the spikey hair jumped into the front seat and barked to me “Jever hear of the show Jersey Shore? We’re on it!” I responded “Never heard of it, the fare is still $17.” If I had only known, I would’ve driven all of us head on into a New Jersey Transit commuter train. I could have been the one to have ended that show in the first season if I had any idea of what the future would be. It’s like having been Hitler’s baby sitter and looking back on how you could’ve saved humanity needless suffering if you had only drowned the little shit in the bath tub.

All artwork by Eric T. Styles

I digress. I would sit in the small office waiting for my cab to show up from the day driver ending his shift. We had this one dispatcher, I’ll call him Ron. The time would drag on for what seemed like hours as I sat there and listened to this man. Chronic bullshitter. Nonstop. Only he believed his own bullshit stories. Pathological liar and a pretty crummy human being.

Racist too. Not like today’s “racism” you know, milk is racist, time is racist, math is racist, crosswalks are racist, etc. I’m talking actual, hateful ignorant racist. Always used the “N-word” whenever Black people weren’t around. Constant use of the word, belittling and demeaning comments about Blacks and Mexicans. A true racist.

In 2008, I was mildly following the primaries for presidential nominations. I never would vote for either a Republican or Democrat, which are the same things in my view. I won’t partake in your farce of the two-party system. I follow politics the same way some guys follow sports. During elections I like to say, “When watching a knife fight, I’ll cheer for the knives.” Politics are a dirty business of manipulation and spin.

Barrack Obama was just starting to come out of virtually nowhere and was the center of attention for being the first establishment black candidate that might have enough support to win the nomination. The press was fawning over him and it would only get more and more cringe. I even kind of liked the guy and hoped he would get the nomination just to flip out assholes like Ron.

Ron: “Can you believe the Democrats are actually thinking of nominating an (N-word) with an Arab name? 9-11 was only seven years ago and they want to elect a fucking towel head to President.” (His words, not mine)

Night after night he would go off on Obama. Watermelon and fried chicken in the White House jokes, Black House jokes, spinner wheel rims on the POTUS limo jokes. I couldn’t wait for my Mercury to pull up so I could get out of his fucking Klan meeting. We drivers kept our mouths shut. He would’ve given anyone who contradicted him the crappiest car in the fleet just for chastising him. You can’t fix other people’s stupid.

I came in after my one day a week off and walked past Ron’s pick up truck in the parking lot. Yes, a raised Chevy 4-wheel-drive pickup truck. Talk about stereotypes, we had them in Jersey too. I noticed on his back bumper an “OBAMA BIDEN 08” bumper sticker. I laughed my ass off. Someone had trolled him good by slapping that on his pride and joy. He will flip the fuck out when he finally sees it on his truck I thought.

I could hear his bellowing blow hard voice 20 feet from the door of the office. He had a “dry drunk” personality. Sober for a decade or more but still that loud, obnoxious opinionated drunk character. “Christ, he’s talking politics again.” As I stepped into the office while he was spouting off.

“FUCK John McCain! That mother fucker will just get us in more damn wars like Bush did. He’ll ban abortion, you know it. No, I listened to Obama’s speech and that man is a fucking genius. Best thing for America right now. Fuck Republicans.”

I stepped back out and checked to make sure that I had the right building, went back in. Yep, it was dysfunction junction all right. I sat down to start my paper work and to try and understand the slip in the space time continuum that I was experiencing.

Only 48 hours earlier he was using terms like “tap-dancing monkey” now he is campaigning for Obama. What the actual fuck was my mantra as I jumped into my rig and headed to the 7-Eleven on Ocean Avenue for my first 20-ounce coffee of the night. I got back in my cab and turned-on the radio for news from an New York City AM radio station.

“On Sunday New Jersey’s favorite son Bruce Springsteen announced his endorsement for Presidential hopeful Barrack Obama.” The dark roast coffee ejaculated from my nose onto the steering wheel mid sip.

THAT’S WHY!

Reason number one why I hate Springsteen: So many fucking people in New Jersey think the sun rises out of Springsteen’s ass crack every morning. They all claim to have met him. Guys from the ages of 40 to 90 claimed to have gone to school with him, or lived next door to him.

He was from our area, Belmar, New Jersey. The music store where he bought his iconic guitar was in the center of our town. Shit, I even lived in an apartment on Eleventh Avenue and E Street. I used to pick up or drop off at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park every weekend. I got really sick of even hearing his name and listening to bullshitters like Ron talk about how Bruce was their best buddy.

That was why Ron had flipped a full 180 degrees on Obama. His hero, his man love, his idol Springsteen had endorsed him. A few nights later during a rant, I guess he caught my smirking to his praising of Obama. “Yea I know I was talking shit about Obama in the beginning, but I’ll vote for a (N word) before I vote for McCain.” Now that would be a hell of a campaign bumper sticker I thought to myself.

This also why I hate pop culture getting involved with politics and I think it’s much more prevalent in 2021 with social media. Mindless sheep who put no thought into issues, consequences or policies just regurgitate whatever their pop icons push. The same talking points and narratives, just like their favorite Hollywood actors or pop singers.

If you control the news and entertainment media, you can control the nation. Why I bring this up, today on my day off I had a long on-going debate on Twitter with a YouTuber film critic over Springsteen and his pompous air of “working class hero.” Man of the people in a multi-million dollar mansion, his daughter competing in the equestrian competition in the Tokyo Olympics. No White privilege to see here.

Rumor has it Bruce worked at a gas station in Freehold one summer when he was a teen. That’s the extent of his blue collar experience. His father was a union bus driver in Monmouth County, and supported and financed his musical career at an early age. I actually ended up driving that same bus route in the 1990s, by the way.

Another reason to despise him: Bruce will sing about mills closing down, bad economies, oil refineries not hiring veterans, etc. Yet he fully endorsed Joe Biden for president even after Biden made it clear he would not allow new oil pipe lines and help to expedite the end of the oil industry in America.

Bruce will sing songs about pointless wars and disenfranchised vets. Yet he endorsed Obama twice even though Obama had more wars than George W. Bush and killed more Muslims than George did. Twenty years later, we’re still there and Biden extends it even more after Donald Trump tried to bring it to a close.

Who the fuck are you trying to fool, Bruce? You are an establishment elitist. There is fucking nothing “Rock and Roll” or “Working class hero” about you. You are an arrogant corporate shill. Bourgeoisie hypocrite.

(BTW, you should have called a cab to pick you up, it would have saved you the D.U.I. charge.)

If you’re listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you’re a bigger moron than they are.
Alice Cooper

That one time when I pissed off the mafia in New Jersey

Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, April 1991
The offices of The Leader Newspaper was located in a large office on the second floor above a volunteer fire department. Some fire departments have banquet halls and the like to help pay for expenses. Banquets and weddings aren’t a full time source of a reliable income, an office is.

One draw back: the large air-raid style “emergency whistle” that was used to summon the volunteers from around town was directly outside of the editor’s office window. Sometimes, three or four times each day, the entire office screeched to a halt, phones were put on hold and staff plugged their ears. After the siren wound down and three profanities uttered by my editor Al Applegate, we would just continue with our conversation.

Al was a great guy. He was retired high school teacher and everyone knew him. He even taught my two older brothers. He gave me great freedom to express my views. I would repay him by with siding on topics important to him. I took sides in a local school board issue that I had no real interest in. The cartoon was turned into a t-shirt by faction and they all showed up to an important meeting wearing bright orange t-shirts that read “SCHOOLBOARD DICK.”

I would do a weekly hand drawn editorial cartoon for the newspaper on their op-ed page. Payment was $30 per cartoon, I remember, which was a week’s worth of gas in 1991. Each week I would do either local, state, national or international commentaries. We tried to keep it local but there are only so many cartoons that you can draw of local zoning regulations. We met on Monday, I submitted my work on Tuesday and the paper came out on Thursday.

One Monday after the siren silenced, Al and I talked about upcoming cartoons. Here’s how the exchange went:

“So what do you want to cover this week?”
“I have an idea about the trial and Storino testifying…”
“Absolutely not. Next idea?”
“Aw come on Al. It’s the biggest story in the news. TV and papers from New York to Philly are leading with it. Storino being called to testify drops it right in our own backyard. Aren’t we writing about it?”
“Nope. It’s been covered to death. People are tired of hearing about it.”
“Yea right. Let me do a cartoon about it, at least we can say we covered it somehow. It’s a cartoon who ever takes them seriously? I won’t even mention his name.”
“I guess you’re right, we should at least make a mention of it. Don’t use his name or likeness, OK?”

A little background from Wikipedia:
In 1984, the Jersey leadership murdered James “Jimmy Sinatra” Craporatta, a contractor and Lucchese associate. When Craporatta refused to share the proceeds of a video gaming operation he controlled, the Jersey mobsters beat him to death with metal head golf clubs.

The Lucchese family wanted to take over SMS Inc., a company that made video poker machines. SMS Inc. was owned by Craporatta’s nephews, Vincent and Pasquale “Pat” Storino, reputed associates of the Bruno/Scarfo crime family.

This turned into one of the longest organized crime trials in U.S. history. Everyone whose name ended in a vowel got called in to testify at some point. It was on the local New York City news every night. One person that was brought in to testify was Pat Storino, a leader in our local business community. He and his family owned four out of five businesses on our local boardwalk and had a role in the entire Jersey Shore network of like-minded individuals.

I think the most he was ever nailed on was having slot machines in an apartment above one of his arcades on the boardwalk. I thought I would do a parody of the mob films that were hot at the time. Who could get pissed over a cartoon?

The following Monday I went in to meet with Al and he asked me to close the door and sit down. He never said that before.

“We lost three quarters of our ads this week,” Al said. “Everyone that’s even remotely associated to Pat Storino pulled their ads.”

A local paper depends on local advertisers and the bars and restaurants depend on the paper to pull in locals during the slow season.

Al had just gotten off of the phone with the newspaper’s owner, Mark Goodson. Yea, the TV game show producer owned our paper. I had the same boss as the Price is Right models. Goodson was none too happy, but was going to wait it out to see if they came back.

I asked if I still had the gig, Al’s response was: “We’ll see.” I submitted a safe cartoon for the next week about parking meter rates going up that summer and hoped for the best.

The next Monday my editor was in better spirits. Most of the advertisers had returned and he had a visitor. During the previous week a guy came in sharply dressed in a suit and asked to speak with him personally. I got the impression it had been a nerve-racking week for everyone at the tiny newspaper and this guy made everyone jump.

The visitor lived in the next town over and was the chief prosecutor of organized crime in New Jersey. A busy man for sure. He had seen the cartoon and laughed so hard he wanted to know if he could have the original art to frame and hang on his office wall in Trenton.

Al was more than happy to hand it over and may have thought that it offered some protection from both Storino and Goodson, which it evidently did. Me and Al continued to work there for a few more years.

Advertisers are the Achilles heel of media. Control the advertisers, you control the media. In the late 1980s, conservative Christian groups would boycott the sponsors of TV sitcoms that showed too much cleavage. Today, Marxists do it to anyone who dares to contradict their narratives. State-funded outlets like PBS and NPR? Same thing, the state controls the purse strings, they control the message.

This was my first red pill moment when I got to peer behind the curtain of free press.

A special thanks to Janet Sittler for sharing my old work that I don’t even have anymore.