Looking fOr Myself…
And Discovering It
Jason Raish illustration
The past few years have been terrifying for me with regards as to how to make a living, feed my family and, in general, survive here in New Orleans.
Maybe you’ve heard, or more likely seen on the Internet, that journalism, particularly print journalism – the kind that’s not on the Internet, but in your actual hands – is a dying art.
Because of the Internet.
Weird when you think about it: It’s the only instance I know of where the messenger killed the message. It is like living inside of an Escher print, walking up a set of stairs only to find yourself in the basement. Or, more precisely, living inside of an Escher print that you saw on the Internet, not in actual print.
Damn you, Al Gore!
But thank God for New Orleans Magazine, my last steady refuge to practice the art that I’ve spent my entire adult life refining, honing and generally working real hard at to inform, entertain and, in the rarest of cases, enlighten. Because a hard lesson I learned over the past several years has been that I actually don’t possess any marketable skills other than writing.
This is a subject I addressed at great length in the December 2015 issue of this magazine, so I won’t delve deep into it here, but my curse is that my father – an educator by craft and passion – made sure I knew how to spell carburetor, but not what it does or how to fix one.
Hell, I don’t even know what a carburetor looks like.
And so I scramble along, trying to figure out how to stay alive, survive and maybe even thrive again one day. With an admittedly limited skill set.
Now, if New Orleans Magazine published every day – or heck, even every week – then maybe I could make a full time living out of writing again in this city. (Or if they paid me, oh, say, $4,000 or $5,000 for each monthly column, then everything would be peachy.)
But they don’t, obviously. (But I should obligingly note that, by today’s standards, this is actually a fair and abiding publication, dispensing a fair wage for fair hard work.) But it’s only once a month. And I need to buy groceries four times a month. And so I’ve tossed and turned and ranted and raved and wondered: What the hell am I going to do with my life?
As we all know, that’s a question better suited for a 20-year-old, maybe even a 30-year-old in our era of stunted maturity, but at age 55, it can be a hell of scary notion. And then, one day, I realized something. There IS another thing I know how to do!
How it evaded me for so long, I have no idea. Because it’s something my friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, bartenders, neighbors, grocery store cashiers, postal carriers and anyone else within my general vicinity can identify within minutes: I can talk. A lot. And for a long time.
And that’s how I recently became an officially licensed tour guide for the City of New Orleans, Safety and Permits department No. 16LTG-03867, expiration date: 05-13-2018. (This is kind of off point, but the photo on my ID is much better than the one on my driver’s license.)
And so I have a job. A real job. Sort of. An almost full time job – for the first time since I quit waiting tables back in November 2014.
And my job now is to talk. A lot. For a long time. And get paid for it. And that’s either the most astounding or absurd notion I’ve ever known, or perhaps both.
Why didn’t somebody tell me about this years ago?
At press time, I have literally just begun this new venture, this new … calling. I have no idea if I’ll be any good at it or if I can actually make a good living at it, but I do know this: I’ll bet by next month I’ll have a lot of interesting stories to tell about this most intriguing – and ubiquitous – New Orleans occupation.
And here’s the cool thing about that: I’ll get to write it. Right here in this magazine. Writing for a living about talking for a living.
Life can truly be a wonder to behold.