Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Orange, Texas

While waiting for David Self Ford, who's owner's face is featured in ads all over town, to complete the repairs on Tourtoise, I made some photos of the local area.  (Click here for a Flick slide show)

I also spoke with Kelly, an unemployed mechanic who was waiting for Ford to complete warrantee service on his pick up.  "So long as I'm under warrantee, I'm not touching it."  Kelly had been making $70k per year as a diesel mechanic for a number of years, and being single, he had a very nice life.  He owns his house in Orange, a hunting cabin in Montana, and seven cars, the customizing of which was his main interest.  He boasted about "mods" he had made, which one was his favorite, speeds he had driven, and crashes.  "I've broken bones in roll overs.  Its  not unusual.  We all have.  We're just a bunch of kids down here who like to play outside and stuff happens.  We don't go to raves or nothing like that."

Kelly went to Louisiana to help after Katrina, and described seeing massive looting, and even being shot at.  He also described how Ike and Rita had destroyed Orange, and noted that there was no looting or violence whatsoever.  He accepted without comment my observation that New Orleans had suffered from chronic poverty and urban tension long before Katrina.  I confessed I was a liberal east coaster and he said "The main difference between people from different areas is the cooking."  We then both agreed that there was something particularly mean feeling about parts of South Carolina and Georgia.  Kelly said he still got enough "side jobs", meaning mechanics work for individuals, to keep his life style pretty well in tact.  "There's still a lot of construction going on here." he noted when I said I was an unemployed architect, but he was referring to the oil and chemical businesses, which are still expanding their refinery facilities.  "If Texas wanted to secede from the US, and we're the only state that could," he said, indicating the geometry with some hand motions, "the US would fall apart.  We've got all the energy business for the whole country.  We could be a rich country by ourselves."  I had no feeling that he was suggesting this, or that he was specifically angry at anything in particular, but the notion had a presence in his mind that made it seem to him that it was merely topical for casual conversation.

Here is a small Mexican restaurant where I bought breakfast burritos these last two days.  The owner, who with his wife worked behind the counter from before 7:00 a.m. opening to well after 9:00 p.m. closing, said he started the restaurant with no loan, relying instead on money he had saved over the years.  The mechanics at David Self Ford said a year or so ago, people lined up at Taqueria for breakfast, but not so much this year.

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