Tuesday, February 04, 2014

New Orleans

(for J. Smith)

I.  Prologue.

These thoughts I have.  I'm just gonna write them down.  Why is she...?

"What are you doing?"

She moves away, sighs.  I'm scrawling.

"Are you... What are your code names for J[] and T[]?"

"Pretty sure J is Brett."

"T is...Fairchild?"

"I think I referred to both in Jamaica '09, so they would be whatever they were in there."

The humidifier gargles.  This is the most I've written in this putative dream journal since I don't know when.  I'm up there.  B asks me if I'm writing in the dark.

"Yeah, trying."


She touches a part of me....

The humidifier sounds like a bawling cat.  Will I be able to read this in the morning?  This is like the old days.   How many poems did I write this way, on my side, my eyes closed? If I can't sleep, then I'm just going to do this: I'm going to write it all down—and then I'll have something to show for my sleepless self.  I'll have written down all of the gibberish, all of my atomless space.  That's a nifty catch-22: If I can't sleep then I'll write down all of the great ideas I have; If I can't write down all of the great ideas I have, it'll be because I'm asleep.  That's really the opposite of a catch-22.  That's a win-win.  Just win, baby!

I make a racket turning the page.  I think all of this is going to be chicken scratch.  Which reminds me of the two chickens scratching in the dark—err, the dirt—next to the glistening toy dumptruck that I took a shit in and thought enough of to show my mom because that's how fucked up I was when I was younger, and still am.  I was making an early claim to the permanence of my youth, I think.

II.  Getting There.

Boots, IT, and the French Quarter.  I can't write well.  My thoughts are ruined by stocks.  This plane goes to New Orleans and then to Tampa.  I grabbed the right sort of seat for a tall fellow.  The exit row is in front of me—the over-wing exit row.  But there's no actual seat in front of me.  It's just dead air.  B and I were B2 and B3 in the lineup (this is a Southwest flight).  The guy who held B4 admonished me not to take the last exit row seat, but I did, ha!

I take a minute to consider the diagram on the "exit" door/window.  I'm ready.  B is reading on her Kindle.  I can hear the B4 guy a few rows back.  He's got a Ben Stein sort of droll.  I am jealous of his garrulousness.  He strikes me as being sociable but not annoying.  As I was snagging this seat he said, "I knew I shouldn't have let you go ahead of us!"  B offered to buy him a cocktail but he declined (later this night we would see him on Bourbon Street with one of those funny long plastic-container drinks).

We're moving.  I'm satisfied to say goodbye to this city for a little while.  I've been to New Orleans once, for one quick night.  In college I played ultimate frisbee on the school's club team.  There was a tournament in Baton Rouge.  Afterward, we drove into New Orleans for a night.  I don't remember who I was with!  Someone had a friend going to Tulane.  We parked a long ways away from the French Quarter and walked all the way in.  Mardi Gras was on.  It was a sea of people—drunks.  I was put off. I didn't drink much then, maybe not at all.  I was a buddha then.  I don't think I had any vices, except that occasionally I fell in love too easily.

But not on that trip.  We stayed in some dump of an apartment near Tulane.  I remember two things.  One of the apartment's tenants was this blind-drunk idiot who asked us, "Got any tree?"  I didn't even know what he meant.  The other thing I remember was: on the VCR in this place there was a red label—like the kind you print out manually from those old-time punch-label makers—and it said, "Tits are just fat sacks."  I guess I remember that because I see it as some absurd attempt to calm one's lustful fear of breasts.  So if I'm feeling lustful in that way sometimes I'll tell myself, "Tits are just fat sacks."  What a dump that place was.  The next morning we went back to Baton Rouge.  I got in my Jeep—the same Jeep I have now!—and I took that son-of-a-bitch all the way down I-10, along our country's Gulf Coast, and eventually to Baltimore Orioles spring training in Fort Lauderdale.  What a sojourn that was—what an amazing time in this my ordinary, incredible life.

I want to floss Right Now but if I someone else doing that on a plane I'd condemn them.  So I abstain.  This flight shouldn't feel like much after that four-hour aerodynamic odyssey to and from Seattle.

Whoa, a little turbulence, no big deal.  I had some Imo's pizza for breakfast.  So did B.  She also ate the salad I took to work yesterday but never had/took the time to eat.  So my mouth-feel is grimy.  I took a little pony shot of Beefeater right before they picked us up.  Then I glugged one of my three little Beefeater bottles at gate E22 as we waited to board our plane.  I also joined Brett in a cigarette in the parking garage after he parked.  The line for security was long.  It only took about a half of an hour to get through though—believe me that was not as bad as it looked.  I have a sense my breath is bad.

It took us a few tries to locate the secret, drop-down entrance to the Lambert Terminal 2 parking garage.  "We need to eat, we need to sleep, and we need: music."  But our efforts weren't as wasted as the gal who was in the driver's seat of the pulled-over '90's-model black Pontiac Grand Am on the airport causeway.  The first time we passed her (driving in the direction opposite her, we were stopped at a light, gawking over at her) I didn't think much.  But hear head was pressed against the steering wheel.  She could have just been having an, "Oh fuck, I can't believe I'm pulled over at the airport".  Fairchild proffered the possibility that this gal was afraid of flying and had popped a couple of zannies before getting behind the wheel, got pulled over for whatever random violation, and then had fallen asleep because that was the effect the zannies were supposed to have, except they took effect "early" because she wasn't yet able to board the plane because she had been pulled over.  So, we missed the turnoff for the intermediate-term parking after seeing the passed-out-driver-gal for the first time and then we had to do a total ridiculous loop around half of Lambert Airport to get slotted right for another attempt.

The gal was in the same position the second time around, about six minutes later.  She looked stone-cold passed out to me me—a header straight into the steering wheel.  She had to have been drunk.  Got pulled over, drunk, then passed straight out as a matter of time.  But what was she doing at the airport?  She had another gal, passenger, with her in the shotgun seat.  What must have been going through that gal's mind.  Stone cold passed out in your car at the airport—that can't be good.  Fairchild grew more confident about her Xanax hypothesis.  Brett didn't say anything.  He was looking for the damn parking garage.

Beefeater #2 is down.  I cracked myself up writing about the dead body behind the steering wheel of the 1994 Grand Am.  B is reading "The Gunslinger."  She's 32% of the way through.  It's funny but I'm pretty sure that was the book I was reading when I took this that trip down to Spring Training 2000 by way of the Big Easy.

I'm doing the math now. That was Spring 2000.  I still have the Orioles Spring Training 2000 shirt I bought, grey and orange, holy now.  I was not 21 yet.  I wouldn't turn 21 until that fall.  I wouldn't have had beer, smoke, cigarettes, nothing.  I don't think I even drank coffee then.  What a set of constructs and crutches I'm built up on now.  I am thinking about the hotel room I had in Ft. Lauderdale.  It was big.  There was a huge, whirlpool bath, right out in the main part of the room.  I know I got in it.  I guess I had to fill it first.  I can remember sitting in it, watching ESPN.  Just me, sober, sitting in this huge tub in this huge room in Ft. Lauderdale in the Spring of 2000—14 years ago. Unreal.

I used the word "causeway" earlier.  We're approaching.  Over Lake Ponchartrain.  And in that Crocodile Dundee style of delivery—no: that wasn't a causeway: that's a causeway.  I am looking out the window at a very long, spindly, narrow dream of a bridge that seems like it's willing to go on forever.  Just saw a palm tree.  We are landed!

III.  Friday Night—Getting Acquainted.

 It is past five pm now.  We are back from our initial foray into the streets of the French Quarter, New Orleans.  It is part San Juan, part Cancún, part Austin—what Laclede's Landing wishes it could be.  B said that last part.  The line at Acme Oyster existed so we went to Felix's, across the street.  Sat right down.  I think our server even told us, "Don't be afraid."  We ordered drinks.  The food arrived without much delay.  Fairchild and I both ordered the crawfish étoufee.  Crawfish—some fried, some boiled—in a spicy broth with rice and scallions in the middle.  It made me think of panang: as if etoufee is the creole cousin of panang.  It was good, plenty good.  B and Brett split the fried seafood platter: catfish, shrimp, and oysters.  Best catfish I've ever had, damn good shrimp, and fried oysters tasting how I'd expect them to taste: not runny, not ballast-watery.  Then we had a dozen charbroiled oysters.  They were hot off the char-grill.  And good.  Medium firmness.  Not good as the one at Acme, both Brett and Fairchild said so—but good nonetheless.  The seafood platter also had fries and hush puppies: an almost sweet batter, chewy on the inside with diced jalapeños in the meal.  Good for breakfast, dinner, or dessert.  We each had a drink.  There were not all that strong, something I suspected right away (I ordered a Long Island).  Brett had a honeybee.  The ladies had Maries.  All in all a success.

Then we stopped in for a drink at The Absinthe House.  I was smoking a cig as we were en route.  Some bars you can't smoke in but that one you could.  I was a little nervous there initially, I'm not sure why.  I was watching the Top 50 sports "jeers" on one of the wide screens at Felix's and laughing, all happy-go-lucky.  Took a nice pit-stop there, thought I was all ready to go.  Maybe it was the cig itself.  Also, I thought at first glance that the place was small and crowded and I started to feel like I was in the way.  When a neurotic person says, "I'm neurotic, " it just makes him sound even more neurotic, and marginal, doesn't it?  But this is my therapy, and it is what it is.  Brett bought that round—I told him what I wanted as opposed to just ordering it myself, making him the middleman, which is a cop-out.  It wasn't until we got back into the place a bit that I realized the back half was pretty much empty, spacious enough, with a fire, and plenty of seats on the other two edges of the square-shaped bar.  Plus, two sides of the place itself are open to the air and it's like you're half-outside while you're drinking, like tailgating or something.

My sazerac was spot-on and maybe the best cocktail I had the whole trip.  I watched her make it.  The absinthe appears in the drink by way of it being used as a rinse of the glass.  She poured it in and I was like, "Alright, about a half-finger of absinthe!"  She swirled it all around—and then poured it out.  And my shoulders slumped a little, I'm sure.  But what had she mixed with the rye in the mixing glass?  I'm trying to think of the other ingredient: sweet vermouth?  I'm looking it up.  Yeah, OK: muddle sugar cube with bitters in a mixing glass, add rye, stir; meanwhile rinse cocktail glass with absinthe and then discard any "extra" absinthe; pour in the rye/sugar/bitters mix, add a lemon peel as a garnish.  She nailed it.  I'm sure it throws off the taste if you leave all of the absinthe in, but it seems such a waste.  It's a city of decadence—but does that mean you should leave it in or leave it out?

There are layers of people here: social strata.  There are the teeming tourists, the people who live and work here (including the buskers), and then there is the fringe/punk/bum element.  It's similar to the mix in Seattle but the fringe element here doesn't strike me as being quite so "hard-up" as their counterparts in Seattle (or St. Louis for that matter).  These people here seem more to me like grifters—almost as if they are living this particular way of life...by choice.  Trotting as such trite requests as asking for the pineapple sitting on the rim of your fruity rum drink as you walk by their lazy selves on a pleasant afternoon.  I had a gal ask me for a dollar right as I got to the riverfront: "Can you spare a dollar so I can get something to eat?"  She was chubby and had dyed hair.  I wasn't buying it.  I few minutes earlier I am pretty sure one of her friends thought real hard about sticking her hand in my jacket pocket.  I felt her pass...right...behind...me.  We were an easy mark down there on the river with our Café du Monde cups, me with my iPhone out to take a photo of something random that I knew my dad would appreciate.  I would never give money to someone in that instance when so many of her better halves are out offering something in return for your currency: street acts: music, dance, statue-etry, magic, painting, fortune telling.  In this city, someone coming up right up and asking for money—it's a cheap act, and tawdry.  A non-starter.

We some really nice paintings in a gallery.  Machalapolous or something along those lines.  B went in.  Expensive were they.  Thousands of dollars, but good.  Memorable.

Café du Monde is like a factory, or more like a utility plant, churning out their secret blend of chicory coffee and beignets by the hundreds per hour at some times, I'll bet.  That coffee is special.  It's dark, deep, and spicy.  It rivals an americano.  It's like a coffee oil slick in a cup, with some grime from a coffee cog and a chicory cog scraped off and steeped for a few minutes before mostly being scraped out.  The beignets are doused with powdered sugar.  Brett says, "Hopefully they don't recycle that powdered sugar."  Because once a person takes a bite out of that chewy goodness he most likely takes the exposed part of the beignet and dabs it back on the powdery sugar left on the plate.  At least that's what I did.  Three beignets to an order so B and I each had one and a half (though when B and I went at six o'clock on the final morning the little lady that handled our lonely order whispered that she had put four beignets in the bag!)  I was the only one to get a large coffee—we got our coffees in to-go cups.  Mine black.  Hot.  For all of us the bill was $17.50  I gave the guy twenty.  We sat in the outside section, a Euro-style café-under-an-awning setting. Little round table and tiny chairs. It was busy, busy.  The waitstaff seemed predominantly Thai or Filipino.  No, it doesn't matter—I'm just describing things as I saw them.  I had to pee and the coffee wasn't going to help.  Brett and Fairchild saved me with their "inside dope" knowledge of a public restroom about a block north of Café du Monde.  I hit it.  Then we made our way over to the river.

This was all after we had mosied up to and then through Jackson Square, which is right across the street from Café du Monde.  It was at Jackson Square that I saw a lot of buskers offering their array of talents for hire.  We stopped to catch the second half of a magician's act.  It was a guy with a tree haircut—that is to say: he had the outline of a tree buzzed into one side of his head.  It actually looked a lot like the big live oak that is in Jackson Square.  He was from Seattle, he said.  He had a kid from the crowd—Joey—sign a card and then later he (the magician) pulled the card out of his mouth.  Then he pulled a bottle of Barefoot white wine out of his hat.  He might or might not have a website or Facebook page revolving around the "Magician on a Motorcycle" theme.  He said he was doing an experiment to see if a person really could make a living as a street performer.  He struck me as sincere, magnanimous, and affable.  I gave him $5.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Vieux Carré liquor and wine shop.  The had lots of wine in there.  I'm pretty sure the gal in tights and boots talking to the old, French-looking, grizzled proprietor/clerk was a hooker.  As I strolled up to the register to pay for me Beam liter she was trying to convince this guy that tonight was worthy of opening a bottle of Cristal.  "Yeah, we should drink some Cristal," he was saying in agreement.  My Beam was $19.61, shockingly close to the price I paid in Seattle.

When the sun was out, and it was on my back or on my face, it felt warm.  But the wind off the river was cold.  We saw a big container ship charging up the river.  I assume it was coming up the river but I'm a little disoriented.  Then we saw a pushboat pushing some big rusty clap-trap junker that I joked to B was a floating meth lab.  It really did look like a tiny oil refinery on top of a boat.  It was strange.  I guess the Mississippi at this point is part of the intracoastal waterway.  That whole concept still blows my mind—that it's possible to move goods by water from, say, New Orleans to, say, Washington D.C. through a series of rivers, canals, and locks.  How big of a ship can make that journey?  Anything bigger than a barge?

I digress.  B is napping.  I don't want to.  I can't nap or else I'd be done-for.  I don't know how much any of us has left.  Brett seems to have had to deal with several work matters, including phone calls, throughout the day.  Fairchild was up early and I think had a big week.  I know I did.  I'm whooped.  I could go to sleep right now, sleep for ten hours, wake up at four, drink coffee in the room, go spelunking early, and look for those textures I love to photograph.  Which I found plenty of in Old San Juan.  It's hard for me to get my bearings amidst the hustle and bustle—cars, tourists, workmen, deliveries, etc.  We are on the fourth floor of the Hotel Dauphine.  It is fifty something degrees outside, now dark, at about 18:00 in New Orleans, LA, USA on the last day of January in the year 2014.  That is all.

IV.  Friday Night—Joining the Parade.

We had a drink at the hotel bar, May Baily's.  Abita Amber on draft for me.  It was cold and right.  Lisa kept bar.  She put popcorn in front of us.  At first I was thinking, "I don't want any of that."  Two minutes later I popped a piece in my mouth, then another, then another.  I realized I had scattered an obscene amount of stray pieces about the base of my chair when we left.  It really was embarrassing and I was thinking, "Someone else must have been sitting here doing the same thing I was right before I sat down."  It's a dank bar.  They've got some sort of ventilation problem facing them.  Lisa burned nag champa.  candles burned away.  We would be back there later when Lisa put them out for the night.

For diner we walked halves of two blocks—Dauphine, Conti—to the Erin Rose bar.  Going in you go through thick plastic drapes at the threshold, like you're going through a carwash—or into a walk-in freezer.  It's not a big bar.  We walked all the way to the back, where the proprietors have installed a po-boy stand.  It's a square-shaped room.  They serve po-boys.  What more is there to say?  I read about it in a New York Times article that I used as my primary source for picking possible destinations.  You order through a little window, as if you were standing outside, talking to someone who was inside.  There was no one else in the little room when we got back there.  There's one high-top in the middle of the room and then there is countertop running along all four sides of the room's interior.  The whole space is perhaps 12' by 12'.  By the time we left, the place was packed!  B went back into the bar area to get beers—some guy asked her if she was looking for the ladies'.  "No," she says, "I'm about to buy a beer.  Thanks."  She got me some Voodoo brew; got herself a Sweetwater 420.  Mmm, hmm.  It took a bit for the po-boys (other people who ordered after us got theirs in quicker fashion—we must have caught them off guard; Lisa said it was an industry hangout).  I got shrimp.  The bread was so soft; the slaw sporting just a bit of ginger; the scrimps so seasoned, crunchy, divine.  The word gestalt comes to mind—the whole was worth more than the sum of the parts.  In other words, sometimes you just get lucky.  God's eyes were on us, and our eyes were on those po-boys.  In other words, "Boy, you ain't po no mo."

Well, maybe I'm laying it on a bit thick right now (although Brett does maintain that his shrimp sandwich was the best po-boy he's ever had).  But guess what: This is my pen, my paper, and I'm in a good mood.

We scarfed.  And then...and then...and then we walked the fifty or so feet down Conti to Bourbon St.  We didn't plan to...we didn't mean to...it just kind...of...happened.  We walked down a ways, toward Canal.  It was crowded, sure.  None of us ever came prepared with a drink.  I wasn't even thinking we'd stay out that late.  As we walked I noted a couple of "walk up" drink places—like lemonade stands tucked back into the rows of fully fledged bars.  Shots $2, huge ass beers $3, a beer and a shot...you guessed it: $5.  But we walked on by, just kept walking, wending our way through the oblivious standers, the revelers, the walkers coming the opposite way.  And then...and then...what was that commotion making its way toward us from Canal?  A float!  And another behind it, and another behind it.  Music, beads, strange faux-Egyption headgear.  Folks, we had ourselves a parade!  It was a party.  It was on!

Well, OK.  We stood rapt up against the wall of a building for about half an hour simply taking account of the situation.  The situation was this: Journey was blaring on the lead float's sound system; old men were waving their hands in the air; a person could not help but crack a wry and wistful grin.  Is there any better way to feel than wry and wistful?  We needed drinks, though.  The people were piling up, pulled into the parade like lusty moths thinking they'd found the moon in a streetlamp.  I would have felt in the way, even pinned against that wall, if people weren't doing the same thing against all of the other edifices up and down Bourbon.  Pinned to a facade and gawking.

It was not a fast-moving parade.  The floats were being pulled by Massey-Ferguson tractors.  Men in floats were chuckin' beads.  From the balconies above us (which we could not see), beads occasionally whistled down.  There were calls for the show of breasts, but I never saw any.  Bourbon Street is obviously—thankfully—closed to traffic while all of this is going on but the cross streets are still open, sort of.  Iberville, Conti, Toulouse, St. Louis.  They are open to the extent that the stream of people diminishes to a wobbly, unpredictable trickle every few minutes I suppose.  It's hard to "dart" with a car.  I don't know who tries to drive down there.  I could not help but be astonished when I would see any car down there that was not a taxi.  I would rather be lobotomized—or it's more like the act of shambling your car through that drunken, amoeba-like throng would itself be an act of self-lobotomy.

We made our way back to one of the walk-up bars.  I don't think it had a name.  We each did a shot.  They took Patron, I did Jack.  Brett and I also got beers.  I drank mine post-haste, as they say.  The line was moving again, we were all starting to feel it pretty good, I think.  We were on the sidewalk, not quite in the street, right by the lead float.  There seemed to be a sudden influx of random gents getting into the body of the float by way of a basic back door that wasn't locked at all.  It had one of those very basic sideways L-shaped hook/clasps that you'd find on an outhouse in some small, southwestern Illinois farm town.  And I'll be damned if Brett didn't find the courage to hop up into the thing!  It was like, "Hey, there goes Brett.  He's on the float!  He's gonna throw us some beads I hope."  It wasn't like no one saw him get on.  He acted natural enough to fit in.  We just stood back and shook our heads.  But it didn't take too long before someone on the float looked at him and knew he wasn't supposed to be there and said just one word, "Out."  Brett disembarked.  And a hand reached through the door and set the sideways-L hook into its clasp.  "Yeah, that'll keep 'em out," I thought.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.  I'm sure one of us has a picture.

And it was then that I realized that if I wanted to go out into it, into the parade—for real, as a participant, not just a rubber-necker—I was going to have to go to the bathroom first.  I figured our hotel wasn't that far away.  We were at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse.  I was gonna make a run for it.  Fairchild says my full name in her sighing, sing-song way.  B tells me the cross-streets, exhorts me to remember.  I hightailed it back, thinking "Latrec, Latrec!"  It really wasn't that far.  A few blocks tops.  The other thing I knew I needed to do was fill one of my disposable flasks.  Why I hadn't done so already...the ancient mysteries present themselves at a time like that.

When I got back to Bourbon and Toulouse they told me I had just missed, "Half of our flight, out there dancing."  It was that sort of hoosier-hip hop-line dance song that played at my cousin's wedding that B and I wished we had the handle on, because it seems like something that would be fun if you were out in the midst of it, knowing what you were doing.  "To the left, to the left...now one step back, now one step back...to the right, to the right...now let things slide...."  It goes something like that.

The parade had picked up its skirts and it was moving again, across Toulouse.  "Bust a Move" was the song from the main float and I shimmied on down Bourbon in tow, busting some of my moves.  But, eventually, at the next cross street, the parade was halted again.  (The great thing about Mardi Gras, I'm now realizing, has to be that the parade never gets halted, that none of the cross streets are open, that the whole damn quarter is shut down and it's an on-foot paradise....)  Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" came on.  I thought of the Boston Red Sox and admonished myself for not knowing all of the words.  We were a stone's throw from a male strip club, i.e. not one of the ubiquitous "gentleman's" clubs.  No, these were dudes that were going to be stripping.  One of their touts was out in the "Sweet Caroline" crowd, smiling broadly, pumping a sign that said, "HOT MALE STRIPPERS."  A couple of the hot male strippers were up on the corresponding balcony, variously propping a leg over the railing.  There wore black boots and black boy shorts.  It was not a good look, I was thinking.  Not that any of the females out advertising for their respective clubs in ratty hose sang of class.  Well—anyway.  The lead float had been halted for some time.  The diesel fumes were getting to me a bit.  I was taking pulls from my flask—the outdoor air had chilled it in my corduroy jacket pocket to the extent that the flask had a slight sheen of condensation on it, as if I had just taken it from a fridge—like it was a quart of blood that someone had donated.  I had drank about half of it, or not quite half because I hadn't filled it all of the way.  (I use a small funnel to fill them when I'm at home, a gift from B.)  All of my compatriots needed to hit the can.  We went back, not necessarily for the night, but it became itself.  Brett and I had a beer at May Baily's, and then we had another.  The Abita Amber.  Lisa was tending to the several other patrons.  A couple came in and used four drink tickets.  Two of the drinks were a Malibu, pineapple juice, and lime combination.  I rambled on about work, my mental state.  Brett hears me on these sorts of things.  At just about this time, in some sort of unmentioned agreement, everyone in the bar got up and left at the same time, and Lisa blew out the candles.  That was it, the night was over.

V.  Saturday Late Morning, The Briefest Snippet.

It's slick out on these old stones.  Under the asphalt, some streets are old cobblestone, a memory.  I am leaning against a wall, scratching, as my friends shop, as people walk by me.  Someone says, "It's all about the jimmy juice."

[a half of an hour passes]

I'm leaning against an appurtenance, jotting.  Brett went across the street.  The ladies popped into a jewelry store.  They're back....

VI.  Saturday.

It's late afternoon, calling on early evening.  If there is a quiet time in New Orleans, this is probably it.  Still, sounds filter into our room  through the old, painted-shut window.  A sign on the window says, "This window will not open."  The sounds include a guy opening the lid of one, and then a second, manhole.  For what reason I cannot fathom.  He has a flashlight but I don't see him using it.  If he is conducting some sort of inspection it is cursory.  Motorcycles.  Because there is stop-and-go traffic on Dauphine on a Saturday, these machines must rumble, idle, throttle, rumble, idle—going nowhere, wondering when they will get to go somewhere.  It makes no sense to me.  I hear only a few voices.  About an hour ago I thought I heard negative tones, possibly drunken.  Curses.

I am trying not to nap.  I fear awakening—groggy, pasty, stiff—a sort of rebirth, like that movie with Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts, where they're med school students.  Not Scanners...not Clockers...someone will know.  I haven't had a drink yet today (4:42p).  But I have poured some Beam and it's over on the nightstand in a plastic cup.  Admittedly, I am not yet fully re-hydrated.  But we never did get another cup of coffee.  We had muffalettas for lunch: big, bready, mult-meat sandwiches accented by an olive/pepperoncini tapenade...the olives ooze with oil and it gets on your hands so when you set the sandwich down there's sesame seeds sticking to your hands, and an herb or two—you lick that stuff off of there: delicious.  The bread makes the sandwich: it's a sort of focaccia I guess.  But not as heavy.  B and I split one big, round sandwich.  They shopped a bit after that.  Brett bought a hat at the French Market.  I've seen him wear it only briefly.  It has a little bit of a sparkle to it.  We walked back toward Cafe du Monde but the place was swarming: big lines for to-go; a line for the seating area.  I could use one of those chicory secret blends right now.  I'd swim in one.  The city feels crowded on a day like today.  It feels international, European: like Amsterdam or Munich.

We went to one of the trolley stops to take a closer look at how it was we could get down to The Garden District.  Not from the line that runs up and down the riverfront, parallel to Decatur Street.  That line doesn't strike me as going much of anywhere.  It would see just as easy to walk its scope.  But that's just me.  (B awakes, says, "Hi...".)  We had to get to the "green" line, the nearest stop for which appeared to be at Canal and Bourbon, south of Canal.  So we walked down there via Decatur Street.  That stretch felt touristy: Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, a shop with a young person's t-shirt: I put ketchup on my ketchup.  Canal St is where I started to feel the international vibe.  It is very wide: there is dedicated track for multiple streetcar lines running down its middle.  It reminded me of the street in Munich near the train station (hauptbonhof); of the street in Amsterdam near Grand Centraal.  It had the shops selling cameras, with all of the sorts of camera bodies and lenses and boxes of camera bodies and boxes of lenses stacked and on display in the window cases that greet a customer on either side of the door.

There was a queue formed to get on the streetcar. We saw one car just pulling away.  So not everyone who was in line had gotten on the departing vessel.  It had looked full but not packed.  We went and stood in the queue.  I was wavering.  I had my map open and saw another stop "upstream," farther up Bourbon.  We walked that way.  Bourbon turns into Carondelet at some point—that threw me for a minute.  It was then that a streetcar passed right by us before we had made it to the next stop, which was at Gravier Street.  So I had "made a call" and that call was wrong.  Boy, this was starting to feel a lot like work.

The sun was warm and my wintered midwestern skin was not used to it.  A little sunscreen would have been a good idea, at least for my face.  The bourbon was making my cheeks red enough as it was.  Quietly, we discussed the possibility of taking a cab, but no one was really about to call one.  I guess it'd be a good idea, whenever you get to a foreign city, to go ahead and look up a cab company once you check into your hotel and add their number to your phone's hot list.  Eventually a street car came by, and of course there was another one trailing right behind it.  The car we got in was crowded.  In for a dime in for a dollar, I jumped up into that puppy.  The driver asked if she could help me for something and I said, "Yeah.  I'm trying to get to The Garden District."  She said, "OK, I can help you with that.  It's $1.25.  Put the dollar in the slot...."  The process requires exact change, and we were prepared (compliments to B and her purse of bottomless quarters).  I bowled through the tourists congregated toward the front of the car like I was a Super Bowl running back.  It was more open toward the back, including one whole seat that was not occupied.  Like a gentleman, I waited for the ladies to take it.  Then when we got to the Bourbon and Canal stop the driver yelled out, "OK—everybody off!"  And it was like, "Huh?"  A guy sitting right across from us yelled back, with fervor, "But I just got on!"  And the driver was like, "OK, yeah.  Except for the people that just got on."  Despite the line queued up to get on at Canal and Bourbon, this lady was not letting anybody else on.  I guess because the car right behind us was for "new people".

The car, empty, was pleasant.  The windows were mostly open—it was sunny and breezy.  We did the bend along Canal from Bourbon to Royal, and then down Royal: slowly...very....very...slow...ly.  As a fellow said who got on a few stops down Royal Street: "The New Orleans streetcar has all the hallmarks of an ill-fated take on modern transportation: on-board payment, lack of its own dedicated lane, frequent stops."  I couldn't have said it better myself.  He must have been some kind of civil engineer.  Or a highly paid consultant to some locale!  We passed a series of construction sites that made me just want to crawl into a hole and go to sleep.  Just before Robert E. Lee Circle, a bum boarded.  I had the quick thought: "He's got a buck twenty-five to spend on a street car ride?  Hey, it's a free country, right?"

As we made the turn around the circle, two things struck me at once.  First, the boarded-up remains of a gas station struck me as being a match for those pictured in a photo that occasionally graces my desktop.  Let me explain.  My desktop photo rotates among hundreds of photos that I have stashed in a particular photo on my computer.  I saved quite a few to this folder during the Hurricane Katrina coverage.  In my mind's eye, the photo included a gas station, mostly painted white, with the city behind it as a backdrop, and with a young looter wading through waist-deep water in front of it cradling a twelve pack of soda in one of his arms as he dragged a garbage bag full of whatever behind him with his other hand.  This was a hierophany.  And then it all went to shit.  Literally.

I smelled something.  It couldn't be—.  It reminded me of this nasty danky-cranky goop my dad bought one time that you were supposed to use to doctor up your catfish bait.  I went through a couple of minutes' worth of denial.  It really couldn't be, I thought.  It's got to be something else.  Then finally I said to B, "Is that that guy that smells?"  She must have been waiting for me to say something because it didn't take her a split second to say that it was.  It was awful, it was terrible.  I was saying a prayer of thanks that I had a window seat, and I had my nose hanging out the window for real.  B was literally sinking her nose into my upper left arm.  Another gal on the streetcar was covering her nose and her mouth; then she changed seats.  Brett and Fairchild were downwind, on the wrong side of wicked crosswind; they changed seats.  And, now that I'm back home, and typing it all up, I have gone and looked at the photo I was thinking about.  I was wrong.  The business in the photo wasn't a gas station at all, but something called "Food Circle Store."  And the little kid wasn't even in that photo, he was in a different photo, in which he was the lone subject.  But I was right about him cradling a twelve pack of soda (Diet Pepsi) and trailing a trash back behind him atop the flood waters.  And, for what it's worth, there are tall corporate buildings in the background of the Food Circle, so I wasn't totally off the mark.

I didn't have a clear notion of where exactly it was we were going.  "The Garden District."  I was looking for a bunch of gardens to appear suddenly, one on top of the next.  Of course I was sitting there thinking about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which isn't even set in New Orleans.  But that's what came to mind.  By this time, we were out of downtown, and the streetcar had purchased its own line of track, running down the middle of a fine, wide street.  B and I were looking at the map the hotel folks had given us at check-in.  On it The Garden District was marked quite clearly in purple.  We got off at Sixth Street.  The only landmark I could see as being in The Garden District was Lafayette Cemetery, so that's where we went.  It was pretty neat: all of the sarcophaguses...sarcophagusagus!...sarcophagi?  Yeah, spell-check is confirming that sarcophagi is a word.  Old stone, mortar, and brick.  Many were in disrepair but others were in fine shape.  At first I went around thinking: "I guess not one gets buried here anymore."  But then I saw an inscription listing a date of death as 2011.  I guess it all depends on what family owns a particular lot or structure and how much effort and resource that collection of corporeal souls wishes to devote to the passers-on. 

I heard a jovial repartee coming from a spot I could not see and wondered if there were some sort of wine and cheese social being held at a particular plot.  Alas, it was only a crew from the Save our Cemeteries not-for-profit working on one of the decrepitated sarcophagi.  This group's signs were posted here and there throughout Lafayette like campaign yard signs.  It struck me as an occupation I wouldn't mind taking up, depending on the pay.  Without trying I found a sarcophagus for a group of Randalls: Hattie, Milton, Joseph Beauvais.  Neat!  I took some photos and sent them to my sister, our family's resident genealogist.  We didn't stay at Lafayette that long.  I looked for textures but then again cemeteries aren't exactly bastions of various shades of color, applied from one generation to the next, are they?

Brett asked the valet at Commander's Palace to call us a cab.  The valet did just that and before long we were in a cab heading home through the increasingly crowded downtown streets of New Orleans, LA. At one point, a major snarl threatened and we talked about having the driver just drop us then and there.  I thought that was what he wanted—he seemed to be the one to suggest it.  We were basically at Canal and Bourbon, where all of this began, and not far from the hotel.  It was a wedding procession that was getting traffic in a tizzy, the cops were leading the way, shutting down a street or two.  So I said, "Yeah, just drop us."  But somehow our cabbie interpreted this to mean, "Yeah, just drop us at our hotel still."  That set off an incredibly tense moment of uncommunicated confusion.  "Just tell me, " he said.  A car was honking at us from behind.  I thought I had made myself clear so I wasn't sure what else to say.  Communication breakdown.  He took us around it.  The ride ended up being $20 and it was worth every penny.  It was much quicker than the streetcar and there was no stench.

After that I went to the nondescript bookstore right across from our hotel.  It has a small sign pronouncing its hours, but the sign does not suggest its business as pertaining to a bookstore.  If it were not for the $1 bin of book the shopkeeper sets out during business hours, I would not have known what was inside.  I went in.  I asked the guy is he had any Melville.  "Yeah," he says.  "I've actually got a pretty good skein of it, right over, here."  He was shorter, skinny, a grey sort of fellow.  Pretty much exactly the sort of person you would think you'd find running a secret, tiny, dusty, old, out-of-the-way, floor-to-ceiling-with-books, not-so-well-lit kind of bookstore.  He had dark, thick-rimmed glasses.  When I asked about Dos Passos, he asked me to put a stray Dos Passos volume in its place, on one of the top shelves.  "Since you're so tall."  I asked about J.G. Farrell and he responded by saying that, yes, he had one of the Studs Lonigan trilogy volumes.  But wait, those are by James T. Farrell.  And I was asking about the works of James G. Farrell.  A middle initial can make all of the difference.  J.G. Farrell wrote The Singapore Grip, which itself was part of a trilogy, along with The Siege of Krishnapur, which won a Booker Prize, which I was kind of hoping to pick up, and which no one seems to have freaking heard about.  And I said, "Yeah, the version I have is put out by the New York Review of Books."  And he says, "Oh yeah, those elegant little paperbacks."  And I was thinking, "Well, the one I had might have been elegant, but it wasn't little."  I just decided to drop it.  I got a Melville compendium that contains some of his short works along with various letters, poems, and other errata.  And I got a Chris Offutt book of short stories including a story called "Barred Owl" that sealed the book's fate as a purchase, by me.

Now I am knee-deep in today's story, and it's not even the best story I have got to tell.  I'm bleary-eyed.  During the time I was writing all of this B made our in-room coffee.  That is, tomorrow morning's in-room coffee.  It's not a light gesture.  We talked about dinner.  She made a reservation for brunch.  I've drank about half of the bourbon I poured an hour ago.  Music blares—BLARES!—from a car crawling down Dauphine.  "Seriously?!  How can someone hear that without their ears blowing up?" she says.  It was as if there had been a guy out there washing windows and as he was about to do our window—the top half, with the bottom half open—he cranked his soundsystem to full.  I'm nervous about getting food without a wait and more-than-should-be-expected pain in the ass.  It's vacation but this city suddenly feels full.

VII.  Waffle House.

Shattered, scattered, and plattered.  Brett's dad died.  We were standing at Conti Street.  Plans were afoot.  It was raining, but only from above.  The burger I had sits in me like a stone.  Brett had just gotten the hiccups.  He could not shake them.  He had a message on his phone.  He listened, gravely.  I figured it was work.  "What's going on?"  I ask, leaning in.  "My dad died," he says, matter-of-fact.  Are there three more definitive words?  We were going about our night—Frenchman Street, Bourbon Street, a club?—none of that tonight, thank you.  He said he wanted to find a quiet spot, to make a phone call, or just to sit, to be nothing.  He was half-lit, fully-full.  We'd had a cigarette.  "Was he sick?" I ask.  "He had a bad heart," he says.   "We weren't close, obviously.  I didn't meet him until five years ago—seven years ago."  "When was the last time you saw him?"  "Two weeks ago."  I don't know.  I don't know much.  I don't know anything.  John Snow.  Brett quoting King: "The world had moved on."  (Gunslinger).  Or what I read just hours ago, Offutt quoting O'Connor:

Where you came from is gone
where you thought you were going to was never there
and where you are in no good unless you can get away from it.

Dark, cold as frozen steel, but never more appropriate.  What do I do, and what a selfish question.  A scaffolding, you wish something was being built, is fallen to the earth.  I will put myself at his disposal.  I will be neither seen nor heard, I will be a brother in arms.  Where are you Pat when I need you most?  You are better at this than me and how can Brett lean on me if I can't lean on you?

I am back at the hotel writing this.  I told B, it was a flashback to Bobby telling me and Pat on a disc golf course that his brother was, indeed, dead.  What is there to do but offer one's self up?  And again selfish thoughts: the wolves, the reavers and reapers, they are at my door!  They come ever closer, picking away at my once-impenetrable margins!  Soon enough they will get their man—The Man—they always do.

And he were just trying to get our drink on—if it weren't for that god-damned dresser-drawer full of clothes!!!


By text he asked if we were back at the hotel.  I said yes; said we were here for him; up for whatever was necessary, including giving him time to himself.  So I've flossed, sipped some water, and poured a bit too much Beam into my trusty plastic cup (our maid did not throw it away, rock on!)  There is no answer, there is only the next second.  I have never seen Brett grieve.  I have avoided grief in my life if at all possible.  I cannot imagine not knowing my father for thirty-some years.  And then somehow establishing relations, having dialogue, conversation, feelings.  And then, and only then.  This is how little I know: how little I know Brett, hot little I know about the lives of others.  There is something rattling in our room—rattling—rattling—it feigns a halt, but then it picks right up again.  Brett is not even his first name, it is his last name.  Is it his father's name?  I do not know—I truly do not know.

B is passed out on two hurricanes.  I am sitting here writing, looking at my bourbon, listening to this rattling and wondering where he is: literally, mentally.  I am considering myself on call but I'm looking at that bed, those pillows, and I'm thinking about wiping it all away for awhile.

Brett remarked on the wetness of the streets here, "It seems like they're always wet."  It seems to me a condensation of sorts, like dew.  Especially present on manhole covers, utility meter covers—anything metal on the ground.  Not quite like dew—more than droplets.  Where is the moisture: in the ground or in the air?  New Orleans, the city of wet streets.  Eh.

Me lying down, "I'm not sure what to do."
B turning over, "I think we should just sleep."
Just sleep, baby!

I was just about out.  Now I'm headed out.  See ya!


Hotel Monteleone river fog—got
ten dollars in my pocket.
"How's he doing?"
"He's alright."
Just went to the strip club again
for the first time in ever.
But the girls there, they don't look real.
Those ridiculous shoes they wear.  If
they wore just regular heels, they'd
be a lot hotter.  "Hey, bard,
"no bawd."  OK.
"No gutter talk."  Fine.

I am back on my side,
writing in the dark with
just a few things visible outside the
window.  Visible, risible, divisible derigible.
I thought it was a weather balloon.
He speaks in semaphores, he
wears a gramophone,
he, he, he sweats
a microphone.

Like I said, Hotel Monteleone.
Loud car, conjunctivitis in
my mind's eye.  My face is bloated,
my cheeks, red
with bourbon and an unfamiliar
sun.  But my eyes,
mine eyes still shine through.

"Do you want to get under the covers?"
Grunt.  Last half-hour's cigarette
courses through me.  Never got drunk.

Alcohol as a fuel,  but not as a propellant.
Mists, mists, rise and warp the bridge.
This city can't hold back
the mists that are always
welling up from beneath.  They don't bury
their dead below ground—but then who
is sending up that mist?

Got ten dollars in my pocket.

Hustler Club.  $10 to get in.
And a $1 tip at the register.
Budweiser $8, w/ tip $9.  Is there
a ballgame being played here?  Second-hand
smoke makes me want to immolate.
I'm the Hindenburg: one spark
away from monstrosity: Oh,
the humanity, a
manatee, a saltwater lagoon
in Saskatoon, the call of a loon,
and where is the moon?  It's June.

Too soon.

I didn't take a single pull
from my flask today.  A
victory?  Not in New Orleans.
Enough wars fought here already.
You got a battle to win?  Win
it somewhere else.  Or else.

A selfie.  ALF.  Audrie Hepburn,
Melville's Redburn, sideburns, and jowls.
Album covers, a place to tie
a ship down.

We need to eat, we need to sleep, and we need
music.  Or as Phil would say,
"It's all a wash, we
drink, we eat, we walk, but
we rarely really talk."  Goodnight buddy.

VIII.  Feeling Seymour Hoffmann.

I'd do the jaunt to Feelings Cafe differently.  I tried; it didn't work out.  So I'm sitting on a bench at Jackson Square while B browses windows.  It is still foggy, but not as foggy as it was.  The rain has held off but today's early willingness to rain will become reality before long.  Did I say it was Sunday?  We ate brunch at Muriel's, our most decadent venture yet.  I had a Ramos gin fizz—that's "ray-mos" not "rah-mos".  It's a bit windy.  The cathedral is on Jackson Square; from a ways away we could see its spire.  Today seems stuck between gears.

Imagined scene: I'm in a bar later, screw the Super Bowl, I raise a glass to Phillip Seymour Hoffmann.  Someone says, "Fuck him.  He sucks.  What good movie was he ever in?"

I say, "He was great in The Master, I liked that movie."

The guy says, "That movie sucked."

I say, "I think the problem, actually, was that the person watching the movie sucked. You, I mean."

Then we proceed to get in a fight—nearly.  I go out of the bar, shaking, and light a cigarette.  Or try, except I can't hold the flame to it.  Someone else does it for me.  The cigarette then makes me gag because I've had too much to drink

It's hard for me to fathom him overdosing on heroin.  I don't know heroin.  As Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley, he scared me in a Nathaniel Lane sort of way—he was so intensely not me.  I barely remember him from The Big Lebowski.  I don't remember much of Magnolia at all.  I fast-forwarded through most of Boogie Nights.  But I really did like The Master.  Hell, he was an addict in that movie, playing the cult leader Lancaster Dodd.  A fraud, an act, someone who was getting by by saying whatever it was he had to say.  And now he's gone.  So long PSH, so long.

Roy sent me the text.  I'm floored; moved.  A little emotional.  It's frightening.  I think a bright person, an inquisitive person is usually doomed the first time he ever gets high.  Because nothing else will match that experience.  I had a professor in college say that after he had his first cup of coffee in the morning, the rest of the day was all down hill.  I know exactly what he meant.  For a person to survive in this world of uppers and downers, it seems to me that he has to find his ultimate high in the mere passage of time.  Stacking up days has to be the illicit act, one after another.  Because there isn't any other way to get consistent satisfaction.  The problem, of course, is that the passage of time doesn't deliver any stimulus "in the moment."  It doesn't "feel" like anything.  It's an action, but it plays out slowly, as one long, weary (wistful?) piece of labor.  It's an exercise where you only do one rep.  "Hey, look at me—I'm alive, I'm upright, I'm still fucking here!"  It's like a play and you're an actor in it.  You get up and do a show, you go to sleep, you get up the next day and do another show, the only difference being that the audience slowly turns over as time passes.  He was 46.  I can't accept it.  It hurts too much to think about because I'm still not convinced that there's anything else to do with one's soul once the curtain on (this) life goes down and the applause fades once more.


It's Monday and we're at the airport.  I was just reading a Washington Post article on PSH.  It referenced a book by a writer, last name Laing, who looked at the lives—the alcoholic lives—of Hemingway and Fitzgerald (and also Eugene O'Neill, whose name I know but whose work I don't—I believe he was a playwright, and I don't really like plays, so—).  This Laing book was The Song of an Echo, or something like that—heck, why don't I just look it up?  Why be lazy?  OK, it's Olivia Laing's, The Trip to Echo Spring, in which she writes, "Writers, even the most socially gifted and established, must be outsiders of some sort, if only because their job is that of scrutiniser and witness."  But then the writer of this article in the Post, Ann Hornaday, is talking about the debate of: artist-as-empath and therefore sometimes needing numbness versus maybe these people are just diseased and looking for an excuse to enable that disease.  She writes, "That people blessed with such prodigious gifts can also be so tortured, we assume, has something to do with the price of genius.  There must be a mystical karmic balance in which the sensitivity it takes to be a professional empath—someone willing to take the psychic, emotional and even physical risks necessary to shape-shift into another individual, over and over again—leads them to seek numbness, whether to quiet the voices in their heads, heal their primal wounds or help the sensory and creative juices to flow with more Rabelaisain ferocity.  They're simply too sensitive, too deep feeling, for this cold, hard world."

And I think Hornaday has her tongue feeling along the inside of her cheek there because then she says, "But rhetoric of artistic demons obscures what is, in reality, simply a crippling disease—of which Hoffmann is the latest famous casualty...."  So she's calling "bullshit" on the artistic demons as justification for drug abuse concept.  And she's right.  It is bullshit.  Some of these artistic types like a drink or a smoke and then they have some success.  Or at least they feel to themselves that they are accomplishing something.  And the drink, the smoke, the needle becomes a natural part of their life, like a plant that thrives in that person's personal landscape.  A habit, a companion.  And it's the fear of losing the reality of his production—artistic product: paintings, books, films, whatever—that locks a person into whatever vice he has tended to along the way.  I mean, how many people have ever died of writer's block?  Ir how many actors and writers die from demon-disease years after they've stopped working?  In most of these tragic cases, I'd venture, these artists are still working—that is both the problem and the tragedy.

I've been drinking on a regular basis for years now.  Lately I've been writing more—certainly in terms of number of words put down on a page, but perhaps not in terms of "refined" product.  It's been years since I've written this much, probably going back to 06/07/08.  And it feels good.  I've got a corpus.  It might not be art—and I think I'm capable of something better—but this travelogue exists; it's on this page; it's online and it will remain there long after I'm gone.  I fear that if I changed in a fundamental way—went cold sober—that I would not have written what I wrote, e.g., on this trip.  But maybe that's poppycock, or at least not the entire story because what I really want to do with my life, what I'd really look at and see as an accomplishment, is writing the next great American novel.  I've wanted that, off and on, for 17 years.  And I'm not any closer to it now than I was then.  Unless perhaps I am closer to it, and I just don't know it, because I spend too many hours of too many days under water.

It's silly to pose this conundrum as some great mystery.  I mean, I could do the experiment.  I can control—or can I?—the crucial variable: drinking or not drinking.  I'm coming off of a trip where I drank.  Next I could do a trip where I didn't drink and see what resulted.  I used to be strong in that way, curious enough about the rest of life to leave the rocket fuels alone.  Now I think I need them.


The cloud cover we were above broke, dissipated, and not does not exist.  What I am looking at looks like the Arctic.  Except for whatever river this is I can see—I assume it is The River, in the same way that Moby Dick is The Whale.  The land I see is flat and snow-covered.  It looks cold.  It has snowed over this land—west Tennessee?  Arkansas?—and it hasn't gotten back above freezing since the snowfall.  Winter had this land firmly in its grip four days ago and nothing has changed.  What is developed looks like farmland because of its appearance as rectangle upon rectangle.  What is not developed is not nearly as white.  Trees or elevation's undulations have somehow resisted or hidden the snow.

The river is not white.  If it were: I could not see it; it would not be a river.  I tributary I can see is coiled and uncoiled this way and that in a natural way, like silly string.  In just the few minutes since I started describing the landscape, the land has become more hilly.  We're banking.  I see a canal—a man-made waterway.  We're really performing quite a turn.  I can't see anything out there in the way of a city, not even a town.  It's like a cheap rendition of The Badlands.  I'm in B's Badlands.  She's irked at me with reason.  I disappoint myself too often.  It makes me wonder if all of this that I'm writing isn't one big lie.  I can't quite tell the truth.  This is the best I can do.  The snow has disappeared.  It's time for me to go.  Goodbye now.

IX.  P.S. St. Louis: Notes and Errata.

A moment and then another moment.  Me and Fairchild walking back to the hotel from the Absinthe House on Sunday.  Me explaining why I could not, would not go the bathroom there.  Us riding up the elevator together.  Then me asking her about Brett and his dad as we walked down Conti toward Kerry Pub, to meet him and B.  About how Brett didn't know who his father was, how his mother wouldn't tell him.  You realize things about someone that you don't know, that you'd never know if you didn't start prying, just a bit.  It was his aunt, who he begged to tell him the truth, who told him the truth, because a person, a son, has a right to know.  I can imagine what happened next.  Someone answered a phone, someone opened a door.  It's one of those things I could never appreciate.  Kerry Pub was just about empty and that's the dichotomy: a place is packed or it's empty.  Can't have it both ways.


Where we were was the Dauphine Orleans Hotel, 415 Rue Dauphine, New Orleans, LA 70112.


Note 1.

"Do you want to do anything after this?"

"I'll walk down to the river and see what there is to see, if anything—with the fog."

It's foggy, misty.  The street cleaners are at their perpetual, daily task.  As Brett said, "It seems to be 365 down here."  After he knocked, I asked for a minute, took five.  Belted my bourbon, stole myself.  We walked north on Bourbon, the back south.  Ended up at a strippy.  It sucked.  I'm not going to go into why I thought that—but I did spend an unfortunate, woozy stretch sunk in that hole of existence, and I'm telling you: it sucked.  Ten-dollar cover, eight dollar Budweisers, one stage with a pole that kept getting wiped down.  It seemed to be the qualifying round for an event that was going to be on display in Sochi.  That's all.  Afterward we had a smoke buy the pool.  The chairs were cushy.  It was quiet.  That I enjoyed.


Notes 2 & 3.

The MSC Adriatic, flying the flag of Monrovia.  A blinding sun, I forgot my sunglasses—I dismissed the possibility I would need them.  We left before the sun had risen.  Joggers.  Dewy slickness.  Coffee lacking chicory.  Spinning at the bend is the ship, redirecting itself, yawing, enormous, bearing stacks of seven or eight containers above board.  A coal barge is moving downriver, in the opposite direction.  The morning mist is a foggy blanket, laced with seagulls.  There's a surf of sorts.  Waves.  The sound of the ocean.  I'm eating a croissant.  A runner says, "Almost there."  There's live jazz on all departing cruises.  B's eating the biscotti "biscuits" from the hotel.  The coal barge is so low you can hardly even see it in the fog.  A walker goes by in flip-flops.  I don't see them but I hear them as I write.  A few vagrants get boisterous in their morning convo.  As I make to pocket the scrap of hotel stationary on which I write (it's almost full), I feel the cool plastic of last night's flask, not yet disposed.  Bourbon Street, aplenty with party last night.  This morning it was trashed, dotted with vomit, the other side of the gold dubloon.

I've got that hollowed-out feeling, like someone has taken a spork and scraped out my insides.  Headache pills, hotel-room coffee, last night's clothes.

But I had to get back out in it: textures.  The streets getting a bath.  Broken strings of beads.  Perfect running weather.  A sidewalk sprayer outfitted into an ATV is having at it along Decatur and some of the spray hits us, the taste of lemony soap finds a nook in my mouth.  Not pleasant.  Not good with coffee.  I hear the sound of the back gate of a delivery van, lowered, shut.  Like a garage door being lowered by hand.  The revelers are mostly asleep but the city's infrastructure is up and at 'em, setting the stage for another day.  Service industry workers wheel garbage cans to or from the curb—I think the trucks come by every morning to haul our tailings away.  Jazz flows from the speakers outside the Omni Hotel.  As someone walks by their sounds make a scuffling sound on the dewy paving stones.  A car's shocks as it eases over a bump: they compress and decompress.  Then I hear the clanging of a dolly.


Note 4.

"Oh, you want to go to the bathroom now?!"

"Yeah, because there isn't a dresser-drawer full of clothes!!!"

We were standing on Conti after dinner at the Copper Monkey.  The rain was falling, but only from above.  Brett says, "That's got to be the weirdest conversation...."

The End.

New Orleans and St. Louis, 2014.

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