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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, August 30, 2006 - 07:52 pm:   

Didn't do anything out of the ordinary to mark yesterday's one year anniversary of the day the levees busted wide open. I didn't attend any of the jazz funerals, the State commemorations, the religious observances, the bell ringings. But the spirit of the anniversary sought me out, nonetheless.

I inadvertently made a customer cry at the Saturn dealership. She came in with her husband to look at our compact sport utilities; a friend of hers had just bought a Kia Sportage, and she confused the name "Sportage" with "Saturn," so she ended up at my desk. I found out the reason she was looking at a new vehicle was that her 2004 Mercury Mountaineer, her luxury family vehicle, had been stolen two weeks earlier. She'd returned to her old, pre-Katrina neighborhood in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans to visit an old friend who'd rebuilt her home, and when she went to leave, her truck was gone. We test-drove a Vue, which she liked very much. I asked her when she thought she'd be making a decision on buying a replacement vehicle. She told me she was still hoping the police would find her Mountaineer, but she was shopping "just in case." She asked me my opinion regarding whether she'd ever get her truck back. I told her that, to the best of my knowledge, if the vehicle had been stolen two weeks ago, by now it had probably been reduced to parts which were being sold in Mexico; that's what car thieves, the professional kind, at least, do. I didn't say it in a harsh way -- I used the most sympathetic tone I could muster, and her husband nodded his head in agreement -- but she asked me to stop, as I was making her get all tearful.

I apologized profusely, of course. I wished her the best of luck with recovering her truck. After she left, I realized that she hadn't been crying about the truck itself, but what the truck had represented. In all likelihood, that Mercury had been the last major purchase she and her family had made and had time to enjoy before Katrina struck. They'd lost their New Orleans home and been forced to move out to Kenner. Then, nearly a year later, after months of dealing with loss and frustration, she went back to her old neighborhood to reclaim a little of her past. And the last material piece of her pre-Katrina life got stolen while she was there.

My worst time this past week didn't come during the Katrinaversary, but during the prior Friday. I'd suffered through two looooong weeks without selling a single car and seemed destined to stare naked futility in the face every workday until my boss finally fired me. To make my mood even worse, I got into a huge, stupid argument with my old boss at the Office of Public Health, where I still work ten to twelve hours a week, over a pre-Katrina file that he couldn't locate because I don't have an organized filing system. And the reason I don't have an organized filing system??? The State, in its infinite wisdom, crammed me into a tiny corner of a conference room which I share with three other employees and where I sit surrounded by printers, old office equipment, and about fifty cartons of copying paper. My files are spread out between the old State Office Building, which flooded and is now condemned, my little corner in the L&A Road warehouse, and a portion of my home garage. I've been complaining about a lack of space for my work files since January, and both my boss and his boss have essentially thrown up their hands and said there's nothing they can do. But when the sh*t hits the fan and someone above them needs something from me and I can't get it to them when they want it because I don't have proper access to my files, it's suddenly my fault. He tried to order me to come into the office on Sunday, my only day I get to spend with my family, and I basically told him to go to hell.

That night, I really, really felt a need to go to Shabbat services. One of my biggest joys had been taking Dara and the boys to Saturday morning services with me and enjoying the kiddish lunch with our friends in the congregation, but my new job has made this impossible. So I try to squeeze in Friday night attendance, which is tough, because services go from 6:15 PM to about 7:15 PM, and I don't officially get off from the dealership until six. Last Friday I snuck out a little early, but I got stuck in horrible traffic and didn't reach the synagogue until nearly an hour later. All the trip did was hammer home more deeply the terrible frustration involved in trying to make a go of things here in New Orleans. All I kept thinking on the slow drive to Metairie was, "This isn't worth it. It just isn't worth it. I'm killing myself to try to make a living here, putting in sixty hours a week, and I'm accomplishing nothing. Worse, I hardly see my kids anymore, and my religious observance is falling off to nothing."

After the bit of the service I was in time to attend, I talked some with a kind, sympathetic older woman congregant who'd often complimented me on my kids. I started pouring out my frustrations, but I had to stop, because like the customer I'd see the following Tuesday, my eyes were tearing up and my voice was cracking. I felt certain that by the end of this year, my family and I would have to be making plans to leave New Orleans.

And then, the very next day, I sold my first car to a wonderful customer who told me stories about how Red Foxx had bummed cigarettes off her on an airliner twenty years ago. She reminded me all over again what I adore about the people who call New Orleans home. And I got hopeful again, told myself, "There! I sold my first one! The monkey's off my back now. Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can make enough money selling Saturns. Maybe my family and I won't have to move away."

And that's the way it's been this whole past year. One day dispairing, the next day plumped up with optimism. Surveys say more than half the population's on pyschotropic medications. I'll bet the most common complaint is bi-polar syndrome.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, September 25, 2006 - 04:30 am:   

Andy, how you doing, man?

Hope everything's going bettter for you.

I'm off to Nicaragua this week. Maybe I'll try and call after you get back....
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 - 07:11 pm:   

Hey, Lucius! Always great to hear from you. Have a wonderful, safe trip down to Nicaragua.

Life is pretty much in flux right now. I've been improving with my sales skills (have four cars out so far for September), but the big question is, can I improve fast enough to keep my monthly income from plunging off a cliff once my guaranteed draw is up in mid-November? More and more, as much as I'd like to make a go of this, I'm realizing it is likely unwise to gamble my family's savings on this big IF. I have a deadline of the end of this month to go back to my old job full-time (I've been doing it part-time for the past two months). It's looking more and more like I'm going to do that, even though I hate the thought of going back there. But the difference in health insurance costs is immense, particularly with Dara's delivery coming up this December, and the money at the State, while certainly not enough to keep me from bleeding red ink, is at least guaranteed. Most likely, I'll stick with the State job for six months while looking for a Federal job (Fed jobs pay much, much better). However, finding a Fed job most likely means leaving New Orleans. So there you go. Life in flux.

At least we're holding up well as a family. Dara and I are both pretty exhausted, but we've managed to stay in good spirits, and our boys are doing great.

Heck, at least the Saints WHOMPED the Falcons last night!!!

My agent tells me, after her stopover at WorldCon, that hardly any publishing houses are buying anything from anybody right now. I've got one finished novel and a solid proposal for an unfinished book out there now. How have things on that end been for you???
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 - 08:00 pm:   

That's right -- they killed the Saints.

Sorry to hear things aren't going so well, but glad to hear that dara and you are well.

Publishing goes well. I have that big vanpire novel with Berkely and and am currently about to embark on doing somethin with Dark Horse, so I'm keeping busy.

Keep the faith, man. Talk when I get back.
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Lori Smith
Posted on Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - 09:00 am:   

"Dara's delivery?" Is she expecting again? If so, congratulations!!!

I'm sorry to hear the car sales aren't going as well as you'd hoped. (I've only found one person to give your card to, so maybe it's just a slow time for car sales overall.)

If you do end up looking for a federal job, the Job and Career Information section of my webliography lists three different sites where you can search for federal job openings:
http://www.selu.edu/library/directory/govdoc/docswebliography.pdf

Happy hunting (if you decide to hunt).
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - 07:50 pm:   

Dear Lori,

Sorry it's taken me this long to write you a return note. Yes, indeed, Dara and I are expecting once again. Our third little boy, due on Christmas Eve. However, if Judah follows Levi's and Asher's trajectories, he'll arrive much closer to Thanksgiving.

I've given up the ghost on Saturn sales, at least for the time being. As I'll explain in greater detail in a post on another thread, I was getting a lot better there towards the end, but the comparative cost of health insurance and out-of-pocket expenses connected with the baby's delivery pretty much forced me to go back to the State. This is a temporary retrograde move, however, as I'm now simply back in the same financial fix I was in three months ago -- bleeding out, but more slowly than I would've had I stuck it out at Saturn.

So, now it's on to The Next Thing, whatever The Next Thing proves to be.

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