New Orleans reading list

World that Made New Orleans– Ned Subette    This one gets into the history of the ancestral roots of the people that make up NOLA. Explains Cajun, creole, quadroons and more terms unique to NOLA.

Nine Lives– Dan Baum    9 true stories pre and post Katrina lives.

A Confederacy of Dunces– John Kennedy Toole   The most unlikely story but the author killed himself as this book was rejected by all major book companies. His mom found a copy of the book and pestered a professor at Tulane to read it for over a year! Of course its one of the best and funniest books written during the 20th century and set in New Orleans. Won a Pulitzer for literature too.

Accidental City– Lawrence N Powell      So far the most comprehensive history of the area that is NOLA. It starts out literally a millennia ago as the Mississippi dumps huge amounts of sediments at the gulf end of the river, thus creating bayous to the ocean. It explains natives role in shaping the city, the sad slavery part is covered too.

Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children– John Churchill Chase   A wonderful read about street names in NOLA and how they got named. More than 1 plantation estate has been gambled away to become a neighbourhood.

Beautiful Crescent–  Joan B Garvey & MaryLou Widmer    The book is recommended to take the tour guide test. Basic overview of NOLA.

Empire of Sin– Gary Krist    If you’ve seen The Wire Season 3 this spot in NOLA was an inspiration for Hampsterdam. For 40 years in a section of NOLA everything was legal. Prostitution drugs booze you name it Storyville had it. Everyone had to have a permit to live in this part of town, though there was no reason given for said permit. It only verified that person was allowed to live in Storyville.

Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn– former columnist of the Orleans Daily Item, Times-Democrat, Harper’s Weekly, and Scribner’s Magazine, he details New Orleans city life 1877-1887.

Bourbon Street: A History  Richard Campanella- The whole history of likely the most famous street in the US, Bourbon St. Loved and hated by locals and visitors, this book details the history of this street of sin beginning with the French, Spanish, 20’s gangsters, and post- Katrina days.

Bienville’s Dilemma  Richard Campenella- 65 articles about all aspects of New Orleans life and residents from its founding in 1718 to current geography and populations post Katrina.





Handle it: Becoming a tour guide in New Orleans

About a year ago I made one of the best decisions of my life, I took a test to become a tour guide in New Orleans. I had just ended a seasonal bar-tending job and was listless. A lot of free time on my hands so it felt it best to pursue something. This process is not good and it is not explained at all on the website. My pain your gain. Here is how this process really works.

You’ll want to go to this website 1st as there is an app you must fill out. You also have to obtain a criminal background check! Yes no felon guides need apply. There is also a book they recommend you read. It is an ok read, there are others I’d recommend more than this one but it does the job.

1st trip to city hall you will have to fill out a form, bring ID. You’ll have to see 3 people each will do something different. One gets all your info, hands you info on where to go to get background check done. Then another will take $50, they do take cards but you know they dont tell you that its no cash until you arrive.

You are then given the news that there is a test only offered 2x per month. At least this was the case in Jan 2018. Sign up for the 1st available. The book is easy read and can be perused in a week. You should also study up on column names, like doric ionic and Corinthian. Know house types like creole cottage, camel backshotgun etc. None of this info is contained in the book. I feel it may have been on a paper she gave me. Nonetheless the links to the architectural styles will be most helpful on test day.

When you are at one of the 2 background check companies they work with, ask them to send the info to city hall. They have a system, maybe fax but I dont recall having to get a physical hard copy but get one anyway make them print it out. It costs 30$ I want to say. Not cheap vs time it takes them to obtain the info anyway.

Test day will come and you are back to city hall. Take the test and wait for a call. You must go back to city hall only after receiving confirmation that you passed. A lady will review your file make sure all info is correct and background checks out. They take your pic and print out your official license ! You have made it! Only takes 3 trips to city hall to get everything done. Hooray !

Update your travel apps

I just bought a new phone so I had to redownload all my airline apps. Take a moment before you head to the airport and update your apps with your log in info. Now the flight and rewards info is in your hands literally. Its also good idea to save this info along with airline phone numbers in your email or cloud storage. These air apps even drop notifications on arrivals and departures.

Most airports have mobile check in you should also do using your phone. As soon as you get to the airport you should have your boarding pass on your phone or know you need to stop to get a printed ticket. Speed is the name of the game, passing security is the unknown here. I havent found a good app that shows actual wait times for security checks. If we could get that info most of the stress should go away. I know I am relieved if I think I may be late to get a notification that my flight is delayed anyway.

Travel well travel like a pro!


What its really like to work as an extra on TV and movies

Ive lived in New Orleans since Oct 2017 and one of the 1st jobs I worked was at a festival. I got to know several locals during the long work weekend. My main line of inquiry was what did they do for work after the festival. Several people said they regularly worked as a movie or TV extra on days off. No way!

Its true, I was told about this website where you fill out some info and submit pics, head and bodyshot.  Jobs would appear with descriptions of what was needed physically, basic info such as ‘need people to play high schoolers or business looking types,’ as well as  stand-ins for the main actors so they can set a scene up before they shoot it with the stars. Some calls required extras to bring their cars boats or other vehicle. Think about the many roles in movies and there are just as many roles hanging out in the back of the scene making it look real. New Orleans has a huge movie and TV industry. Everyday something is shooting somewhere in the city.

It took a bit of applying, making this page a daily activity to respond to calls I qualified for. To date I’ve been on 5 sets. The big one was NCIS New Orleans, thats the one I heard had a lot of regulars as well as a lot of the extras I met had worked on the set too. You could be a regular background actor I discovered. Most were not pros, they just looked like a lawyer or judge maybe a bartender. There is a certain look to a college basketball coach.  Admit it sometimes people look like their jobs.  I get stopped in life and talked to often because I look like I know something. For sure if I am at Target someone will ask me a question even though I am not wearing red and khaki. I also have not worked for Target in over 20 years.

  1. The on set requirement is all day or night, literally.

When you sign up for background the 2 rates Ive seen are for 8 or 12 hours. Only once have we wrapped early for a 12 hr shoot which is good. You get paid in full even if the shoot doesnt last the full 8 or 12 hours. You get time and a half if a shoot goes over, which usually happens. You get more if you have to do anything extra like say dialogue or wear a costume. That is the next thing I hope to get do.

2. You won’t make much money unless you are union.

This was pretty startling how little we made per day only about 100$. There are ways to get bumps as they call them, wearing costumes, speaking roles or specialized background roles like a basketball player or referee so those people get a few dollars more per day. I have heard of unionized extras. On the website it has a box to check if you are in SAG. Not sure how one joins an extras union or if it is a part of the actors union. I dont feel like an actor but I guess I sorta am. Maybe theyll pull me out to say a line or walk in front of the camera, have a moment.

3. Meals, snacks are included but guarded.

I must say Ive eaten rather well on set. They usually have bevs out coffee teas or juice. Pasta rice salads and chicken, oh lots of chicken for meals. On my first set I learned there are 2 different food lines one for talent and crew another for extras. My 1st encounter with the dual lines had the crew line with breakfast trays still out. These were full of eggs bacon potatoes etc so I got a plate and filled it up. A lady came over and told me to not eat that food ‘its for talent.’ I pretty much ignored her and just said ok ok Im leaving while I scooped food onto my plate. I watched them throw the trays of food away moments after I had eaten! Why do people care? I dunno but there is always a salty food and bev guard who will insist that you cannot have anything from the tables of food to go over to a coffee maker and water jug.

The crew will also be happy to show you how much better their food options are as well. They all seem to have fancy water sports drinks or carbonated bottles while we get an orange cooler full of ice and water. One set had major chain delivered coffee while we used instant via a coffee maker. These new fangled coffee makers can use both grounds or pods which could have also been purchased at the same place as the premade coffees. I also dont know how the volume discount isnt considered. If crew can only eat 5 lbs of slaw but you get a discount if you order 10 lbs, then open it up to the extras. My latest encounter was the crew had grilled option. Usually fish I understood as I waited directly next to the grill. I overheard several people ask ‘What fish today?’ which I took to mean they had fish regularly. Enough to wonder what type of fish it was they were eating.

3. Not too many big stars around.

I suppose stardom these days is relative. Some TV shows can have more fans than a film. Biggest names I saw so far on set were Tom Arnold Gabriel Bryne Scott Bakula each on a different set. I did have an adrenaline surge moment when I saw them but it passed when I realized what do I say to them? Theyve heard it all by now I am sure plus they are working too. They want to wrap just as much as everyone else. I feel it is best to not talk to or take pics with stars though some do. Its fun playing who is that person with the other extras if you cannot recall an actor’s name or what other films or tv shows theyve been in.

4. You have hours and hours with nothing to do and nothing going on

The most frustrating thing is that you are told to arrive around 3 but they wont start shooting until 7 or so. Yeah it takes over an hour in line to get checked in then employment vouchers filled out finally all paperwork is then checked by another person. Pretty much there are 3-5 people working to get hundreds of extras onto the set. Typically I have to see make up hair and wardrode before I get on set. You always wish they had several more people around to speed things up. I now bring headphones and a book as part of my bag for shoots. Ive read 100+ pages in one go on set and at no point was I needed to do anything. Just hours of uninterrupted do nothing time. I just tell myself I am being paid to read and occasionally do something.

5. You dont have to participate, really.

For the most part 95% of people follow the orders and work a scene. Others sit in the seats or walk around the set. It is completely possible to not work but get paid. Typically you can leave set to step outside for a smoke perhaps hide in the restroom. If you stay seated in the same spot too long youll get called out eventually. Hey fill in this empty seat here. Go join the others please.  Of course there are people who are over enthusiastic while shooting. Theyll dramatically emote or pose whatever they can to get on-screen. I guess they get to add that scene to their resume and IMDB page. Things work both ways so put into this whatever effort you want it will be ok.

6. Few of the crew knows what is going on. Especially when we will break or wrap.

For real not even PAs or anyone with a radio knows what is going on. Theyve shot a scene 3x and done the same thing each time only to be told to do something else or why are you doing it that way? One person will say go there another will say stay both have previously given correct instructions before. Sometime a 3rd person comes in and overrides 2 others instructions. ‘Extras listen to me!’ If you ask someone where something is youll likely be told wrong or to go find someone else. One has to adopt a go where told mode. No question just walk in the direction they point you to.

7. Every direction gets repeated repeatedly.

Yes they do yell action, cut and all that. They also yell,

“Quiet! Shhhh! Mark! Sound!

The only thing people really should know about what to do when they are not shooting is to be quiet. Usually the actors and directors rehearse a scene to ensure the dialogue works which angle looks best blocking shadows lots of things to consider.  Few things are as loud as crew yelling “Shhhhh! Quiet! Settle down!” 10x. I took notes the last time I was on set and here is what they yell

Back to 1!  this means go to where you started.

Rehearsing!  this means do not talk the actors are running through the scene with action to see how it looks and feels on camera. If they can get this down quickly everyone can leave.

Sound! Just a sound check for levels usually for quiet dialogue in a loud crowd.

Set! get ready in your 1st position.

Roll Sound! exactly what it means, they are recording the area.

Action! movement. Usually a guy or gal will tell you the direction they want you to move. Beats are important and are used. Wait 5 beats then walk that way is a direction I have heard more than once.

8. Tiny things matter.

There are so many jobs and departments on set I cannot keep up. Makeup hair wardrobe lighting props but yet more. Each one has several people doing things but most of the time they have too many people. Most are standing around thinking of things to do. As a result minor things are noticed and questions posed. Any logos or labels are removed from clothes. No real brands are displayed so they make up fake schools or brands. Ive seen many times wardrobe putting tape on a shirt or cutting off a pant logo. Mind you we are so far away from the camera it is unlikely they could read anything much less a logo or label.

Hair and makeup always are walking around daubing more foundation fake blood or powder. If I have a nice shirt you better believe someone has asked to steam it. Its amazing what some people do for a living. You may think doing nothing is fun but man try just walking around for 12-16 hours 5 days a week. Of course you will figure out little things to do to occupy your mind. On set most everyone is trying to stave away boredom. This extends to and explains the food monitors. The extras who call out other extras for minor infractions or to shut up between takes. I just walk around the set pausing if I near a camera or TV. Sometimes Ive been able to watch them rehearse a scene and work things out. Lighting is by far the largest concern or they make it out to be as they always want to throw up a shade or add a color filter over a light.

9.  A lot of extras are strange. Some are clearly on the spectrum.

Maybe this confirms things for some but oh yeah extras are a strange bunch. Some are retired and doing this for fun. Others are college students and are doing this while reading or drawing. There is always 1 amazing drawer on set it seems and throughout the day they sketch draw and shade nearly complete comics.

And then there are the special ones. These often wander off or make loud comments to themselves. The last set I was one a guy just walked up to a group of us talking about old action figures I think it was. To no one he announces his dad builds Star Wars legos and they are cool. Oh ok sure hey that is cool.  Also out of context and the group he is trying to talk to is discussing other things. I overhear this sort of awkward exchange at least once per set. I think that is to be expected when these types of jobs, jobs with the only requirement is a pulse and to get to set by a certain time.

10. Overall it is a fun positive day especially if you enjoy movies

Ive always enjoyed going to the movies marking several big life events around certain movie releases. Its pretty great for me to see how they shoot basic stuff like double camera set ups lighting concerns and audio. Also the amount of people needed to make it all happen is staggering as well. Hundreds of people from costumers makeup security catering even medical are all working on what could only be a few minutes of time on a movie or show. Thousands of dollars per day for an eternal moment or the scene could be cut and not used.

Every set was pleasant and happy too. Lots of thank yous and please. Even from the directors though you know they have to be direct so they have a weight to their tone. The last set I was on the director was telling bad jokes on the mic. Hey they were moving stuff around so why not cut loose a bit? Its not for everyone but if you enjoy movies then check into working as an extra. Most major cities have some sort of casting company. I get out to set and work all day while it rains or is 108° so its a better deal than just hanging out inside all day.

How to get around: Denton to Austin TX

I’ve done enough traveling to know a few more things about how to get from 1 place to another. I also realized that some of these journeys may happen again so now I have a place to go where all the research is done. Every trip depends on how much time you have so go slow or fast, enjoy the ride!

One of the 1st pages I use is this one which breaks down the travel riding options such as air bus train even ferry if available. This page located a couple of amazing boat rides on some trips and its always fun to add a new travel method. A search reveals that its bus or train only. Sure flights are an option but not one for under 100$. Now is where you have to ask yourself how in a hurry are you? The 1 truth I learned on a long trip is that it is cheaper if you fit yourself around their schedule.

A big thing is to consider arrival or departure times. Buses run 24 hrs a day and if you want to save even more, you can catch a night bus and wake up at your destination. Always be sure to check the itineraries before you book because there is 1 bus company that likes to make passengers change buses at 2 am. You do not want to do this if you can find a more direct option.

So the train is first option to ATX, only 2 per day and it takes 2x as long as car or bus plus it costs more. Another random thing you learn about buses is that they have assigned stops at certain gas stations or other non marked stops. Just type in whatever city you are really in and they just may have a stop at a station. This is the case with Denton there is a stop at a station just off the highway. This stop connects you to the big Dallas hub where you can go pretty much anywhere in the US. This way is a bit more vs public transportation but it will be faster. Bonus is should this bus be late you can go right to their counter to get remedy.

Greyhound and Megabus are your options. Greyhound has a pick up station in Denton or you can Dart to Greyhound’s hub in downtown Dallas. This is the option I recommend. When you get to the station you need to look for one of the buses to Mexico, as that is the final stop and the name of the bus. Just underneath the final stop are the cities it stops at in-between. Take the express non-stop bus, several times per day and takes 3 hours. You get a electrical plug at every seat, mine worked. So nap read watch a movies or do what you want and you are soon dropped in Austin.

3 hours is not bad even in a car. I had no stops on my trip. I caught some shut eye. I haven’t taken Austins buses yet but I am sure I  will. Keep on reading for more info when that ride happens.




Baseball Stadium trip Game 5- Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs

 It was an afternoon game so we didn’t really have to get there at noon, but we did. We had to walk around, had to take it in for as long as we could. This stadium had had so many great players on its field. They likely walked were we did at some point. We were a part of the history now, we had placed foot to concrete. We took a couple rounds the park walks to take it all in. The smells of grilled onions and brats, the hawkers selling peanuts, the random pre-game announcements. I broke away and called my dad as I was walking around. It was pretty emotional; we had tossed around a ball for years, now I was in one of the places it had all started! It’s a favorite moment to think back on, there were lots of pauses, we both likely teared up a bit. I composed myself enough to get a brat, eat it in the right field bleachers with a beer. That’s all I needed.

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We were front row bleachers that day and as we found out, you really want to be about three people in on the front rows. They have a security guys stand at certain markings so if you are first seat, first row, you have zero view. We found out just in time to get people to move over a bit but the security guy was indeed a dick about it. He wasn’t there to discuss this, you need to move over, my position is here. We felt he could lean on the other rail instead of directly in front of us is all. A call out to the bleachers we found a bit of room, shove down, a bit more, ok! We caught a glimpse of Sammy Sosa who was on a hitting streak but was on the DL today. Toenail thing, a foul off the foot. It was yet another good day for baseball in Chicago.

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When leaving we got a Right Field Bleachers shirts and discovered we had been parked  in. We literally had to wait for someone to leave and even then, it was expert back and forth with some good fellows directing us outside. Surrounded by cars on all sides.

You guys are in the Cubs lot, they stay the whole game and then some! Yup most people may leave their cars overnight, too, yeah. Ha-ha’ he cackled.

We had to thank him profusely as he spent 5 min helping us get out. Back up an inch at a time, a few inches forward, then back… But on the other hand, he wasn’t doing much, that beer in his hand wasn’t going to drink itself, you know. He’s the man for that job.

We arrived in Oklahoma City about 7-8 am the next morning. We pulled into a truck stop for gas and encountered some ladies of the night, they were working the scene. They said hello first and asked where we were coming from, sort of gas filling up small talk that happens in smaller towns. Then one of them came out with it and asked if we are partying, if we want to party with them. Nah, pass on that. I don’t think they were too either way, pretty or ugly. It cannot say I’ve encountered prostitutes who propositioned me in a gas station before or since.

A short time later I was back in Denton’s warm embrace.


Baseball Stadium trip Homestretch- no game Canada to Chicago

Again we were stopped and searched at the US border; again we left our ticket stubs out so they’d see a pattern to our trip. I knew they felt we had grass, why else do you drive up from Texas? Oh to see the Blue Jays? Yeah we are going to need a moment to search your car. They too enjoyed our road signs. We were telling the truth, and it sucks to not be trusted at the border by your own country. I’d heard about a border crossing into Canada that just has a phone, you call someone and tell them you are coming in or leaving? There could be a lot more trust between us is all.

We had one more day to kill before our Cubs game. We made it back to Chicago and stayed on the outskirts of town, a few exits from Wrigley. Our plan was to check out the area around the stadium. We found a dive bar and headed in. It was a long wooden bar, jukebox on the left, a small stage followed. Stationed ever present to one side of the stage was the DJ and dictionary thick song list.

I generally sing Johnny Cash songs since its pretty much just talking low, not really singing. I picked wrong, wrote down the wrong number but for sure they played a song I wasn’t prepared for, Convoy! Ha I barely know that tune, for sure didn’t know there was a movie about it, CB radios. I stumbled through it, aided by pints Old Style for $1.


We eventually made it to Wrigley Field later that night. The area we were in was park and walk. We walked out on the street, staring at the glowing neon red sign: Welcome to Wrigley Field! We took pics and then located another bar to post up in for a bit. We wound up encountering an unencumbered camera. This was an early model digital camera, probably a hundred bucks or so. We talked to everyone in the bar, even the bartenders, no one knew whose camera it was. We tried to look at the pics but the camera had run out of batteries. The bartender said it was ours, they didn’t want to hold on to it.

In our hunt to find the owner, we get to talking to a business guy who was interested in  the camera. He said he’d just buy it if we did not want it. I think we found and sold a camera in Chicago and used that money to buy a pitcher of beer. That’s what happened.