Friday, July 22, 2011

Twice in a Lifetime

“New Orleans is a town where death enjoys respect and familiarity.”
-Andrei Codrescu

He wasn’t wearing a helmet.

I didn’t know Ray Deter, but he is responsible for two of the most transcendent New Orleans moments of my life. The first, in his bar DBA on Frenchmen, wandering around looking for some good music. I found it, without a cover, without a calendar, stumbling on Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band, playing so loud and so hard, the music was like its own element. Like you could reach out and touch it or cut it with a knife. I stood up on the bench along the side of the wall, danced, sang, screamed, sweated, drank, got heckled by Kermit, and laughed my goddamn ass off. When it was all over, it was the middle of the night. We were spent. We were hungry and thirsty. It was like we had to replenish our essential life force. Kermit must have felt the same way, because I bumped smack into him at the bar we retired to. He wasn’t in any mood to chitchat with my drunk ass, and I can’t say I blame him. If I was exhausted, I can only imagne how he felt. I left the man alone to his beer and his plate. I’ll never forget that night—I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since, and I’ve finally given in to the realization that moments like that are once, maybe twice in a lifetime.

Fast-forward two and a half years. I had a notion to move to New Orleans, based at least in small part on that night. I thought that I could live anywhere that made me feel like I did that evening, fixed as it was in my sense memory. I now stay in a little apartment three blocks from DBA. On a quiet night, you can hear the strains of live music coming from Frenchmen’s Street. It’s one of the things I’ll miss about this place in the way you miss your lover when separated by time and distance. But even so, since arriving, I’ve been feeling forlorn. Missing my people back home, and coming to the reality that New Orleans is a wonderful place to visit, but can be a complicated place to live in. I’ve been having a hard time stumbling across those New Orleans moments that make you “miss New Orleans” as the song says, and well, I haven’t been having all that much fun. 

But then, polishing off a bottle of wine (wine is my constant, reliable companion) on a sultry hot patio, the mosquitos nipping at my ankles as they constantly do, I heard the soul-lifting notes of a brass band traveling through the distance, only this time it wasn’t coming from Frenchmen’s, and instead from the middle of my neighborhood, just a block or so away. Glancing down the block, I saw that a massive Second Line was snaking through the streets.

Halting in front of Mimi’s bar, the crowd made a circle around the band and the second line dancers, whose job it is to keep the energy high. Some members of the crowd pumped signs in the air with a photo of a handsome man emblazoned upon them.

A couple of weeks ago, Ray Deter, owner of the DBA bar, was killed when a car hit him as he rode his bicycle through Manhattan where he owned another DBA (he had a handful of these bars across the country, famous for their excellent beer selection and excellent live music). Ray was in his middle forties, handsome, and living the kind of life that many of us dream of.

As the Second Line started up again, making its way towards Ray’s bar, his two teenage sons led the way, each plaing a tamborine; sweating, and dancing, quite literally, to beat the band. As I joined in the dancing (it’s impossible not to-- this is some of the happiest, most infectious music in the world, and if you don’t dance to this, you have a hole in your soul) I couldn’t help but imagine Ray, looking down at this scene, and feeling satisfied with his life. I thought that any life that culminates in a party like this one was a life obviously well lived. This was a funeral like none other I’ve ever been to, and I never want to go to another that isn’t like it again.

Eventually, the crowd stopped in front of Ray’s bar, blocking off the entire street, and the dancing and music continued. The band finished on When the Saints Go Marching In, as is tradition. Behind me, two tourist types, small town USA types, looked on, baffled:

“It looks like some type of a demonstration.”

I decided to enlighten them, like some know-it-all, even though this was my first time.

“It’s a funeral. This is how they do a funeral in New Orleans.”

“Oh? Where’s the funeral home?”

I pointed behind them, to the bar, where a giant RIP inside of a pink heart had been painted on the window.

Maybe it was the wine, but as I turned back towards the street to watch the final strains of Saints, I was overcome, and thought I would weep. But this emotion passed almost as soon as it came, and then the song was over. The Second Line dancers, drenched in sweat, stopped for a drink of water, and the crowd began to disperse. And in that moment, I thought to myself, “Maybe I can live here.”

I decided not to go inside the bar. There would surely be an amazing party to follow, but this had been a perfect moment, and sort of like that first night in DBA, I was strangely devoid of energy, depleted. I wanted to go home, eat and go to bed.

Before I did though, a woman said, “You know, it’s funny. All of these people getting on their bikes now, and riding home without helmets. It’s kind of like when my friend died in a drunk driving accident. After the memorial, everyone got in their cars, drunk, and drove home.”

And that reminded me of something I heard a guy say once, at the wedding of his brother, who was remarrying after he had been widowed. “Life is for the living.” For all time and everywhere, the living will take life for granted, and live it, sometimes foolishly. And perhaps nowhere more than here in New Orleans.

It’s kind of impossible for me to not draw comparisons between myself and Ray Deter, even though I never knew him. I’m an avid cyclist, and I love New Orleans music and culture and living life in the nighttime. Like Deter, I hope to have my own place one day, and one day, a group of friends who remember me as the kind of girl who brought the party. As Deter’s friends remembered him at his memorials (he had another jazz funeral, in New York,) they said they kept expeting him to walk through the door, because there would never be a party that good without Ray in the house.

But unlike Ray, I’m still living. And right now, I’m about to get on my bike, without my helmet. I’m going to go out and do the kinds of things that will one day get me the kind of funeral that Ray had. 

Life is for the living.

My New Orleans

No matter who you are, it can be difficult to espcape the cliché stronghold of a city as iconic and evocative as New Orleans. As flamenco is to Spain and chocolate is to Belgium and clam chowder is to New England and hash and hookers are to Amsterdam, so Po’ Boys and Muffalettas and jazz and beignets are to New Orleans. But like anywhere and anything, there is more to a story than just the sum of its parts.

When you vacation, you try hard to absorb all that you have always heard about, within the confines of three or so days. You see them in droves, perambulating sweatily through the Quarter, searching, usually in vain, for that New Orleans. . . .  Something.

For the hanging pots of gumbo, for the Mufalettas piled high, for the brass bands and the voodoo priestesses. And its all there, but most of the time in some sort of Disneyfied, antiseptic shadowbox designed to separate unsuspecting fools from their dollars.

New Orleans is no place for testy itineraries, packing it all in, or airconditioned rental cars. Also, there are two New Orleans. . . One for tourists, and one for locals. I’m tenuously straddling those two cities. . . .

[Actual exchange on the streetcar:

Lumpy, reddened tourist in fruit-patterned Capri pants: “How many minutes before we get there?!  

Answer: “Lady, minutes don’t exist in New Orleans time.”]

No, this city is better left to unfurl before you. It’s what happens in the intercities, when you’re not looking, and in the least-expectedness. Minutes don’t exist in New Orleans do, but it is a city defined by moments.

When you’ve been to Central Grocery for their world famous Mufaletta and they’re closed for the third day in a row, despite their posted hours; when you see that the bubbling pot of sidewalk Jambalaya is nothing more than seasoned water designed to lure you into a tourist trap, when you’ve been hustled for the fourth time today, when your Antoine’s Oysters Rockefeller proves inedible, when your ankles are blistered from walking in cheap shoes, and you think your head might explode from heat and your spirit is defeated, just sit down and wait. Wait a little bit longer now. Take this walking tour.

Wander away from the French Quarter. You needn’t go too far. Stumble upon Feelings, with its crumbling building that looks as organic to the landscape as the rocks and the trees. Go inside for a cocktail in the courtyard. A courtyard so luminescent with natural light, that the copious movie shoots that occur there do not even bother to light it. Watch the lizards traverse the hot concrete, listen to trickling waterfalls and chat up the charming old queens who own the place. Admire their extensive Elvis and Monroe collection. The weight of the world will be lifted from you.

You’ll be hungry now, so meander over to Schiros. Admire the blocks and blocks of old Creole cottages dating to the 19th century, locally known as gingerbread houses, painted all the colors of fairytales. Lavendar, pink, other pink, coral, hot pink, iris blue, toenail polish, candy. Watch your step—the tree roots are taking over, and the pavement giving way to nature’s demand. Also watch out for the copious toads and hopping frogs the size of your baby fingernail. Their otherworldly croaking will act as a soundtrack when the sun sets.

Schiro’s, like all good places in New Orleans is in an ancient edifice on an unexpected bend in the road. Inside, it’s all craggy and cracked and lived-in in all the best ways. The been-there-forever patina is an irresistible, unrecreatable blend of charm and goofy that invites you to sit right down on one of the ripped leather cushions of a barstool.

But wait. What is this place? It’s a restaurant, yes, but it’s also a wine shop and a Laundromat (“washeteria” in New Orleans parlance) and a convenience store (which they jokingly refer to as an “inconvenience store” with odd selections like ancient bottles of Anicin and lemon flavored Hubig’s Pies). It’s also a guesthouse, so if you never want to leave, as I often don’t, you can book an inexpensive room just upstairs. To my mind, Schiros is the best value eatery in New Orleans. It’s both an Indian Restaruant and a Creole one too (is your head spinning yet? Don’t worry; somehow it all comes together and works). The owners are Bangladeshi, and their curries and vindaloos are top notch. But if you’ve come to New Orleans hell-bent on local cuisine, they do that well too. Groaning platters of fried catfish, beans and rice with sausage, and po-boys can be yours for such little money, you’ll never want to spend your dough in the quarter again. From four to six daily, there’s a rotating food special—something homey and hearty and prepared with care-- a Carribean style stewed chicken and rice, a good spaghetti and meatballs, a chicken parmesan, for around seven bucks. The best part? Choose your bottle of wine from the store, bring it to the bar, and they’ll cork it, ice it down, and serve it to you, for nothing more than the price listed on the bottle. All of this, and you’ve barely spent a twenty-spot. Don’t forget to tip your faithful, friendly barman.

Now that your belly is full, you’ll want to work off some calories. Louisiana humidity is enough to weigh you down. Wander on over to the Country Club, a dollhouse version of the real thing, all whitewashed porch with pillars and torches burning friendly so you can find the place. Enter and you’ll find a decidedly gay vibe, though all respectful parties are welcome. Grab a cocktail, pay the $8 night pool fee, and head on back. (Or, you can stop and nosh on their respectable menu, play a game of billiards, or just enjoy the oontz oontz tunes on the sound system and visually undress the yumyum bartenders).

Out back, you’ll find a scene straigt out of some fantasy you had once. Or a hundred times. The torchlit pool is populated with people of every size and shape and color and sex and persuasion. Some nude, some topless, some fully clothed, but everyone having aquatic fun in this clothing optional oaisis in the middle of the city. Don’t worry, there’s a bar back here too, so you’ll never need to go far to stay refreshed on the inside as well as the outside. Some nights, movies are projected on the huge outdoor screen overlooking the pool. Call it a swim-in movie.

Once your fingertips are pruned, if you can bear it, drag yourself out of the pool and get dressed. (Sadly, you can’t troll the streets naked, but on the upshot, you can stroll and drink, so don’t forget to ask for a go-cup). What’s left now, but a good bit of dancing? Make your way to Mimi’s, and go past the divey, smokey bar area, and find the staircase leading upstairs. There you’ll find good, authentic live jazz trios or quartets, or sometimes even better, a DJ dance party. Here you’re bound to find a good old fashioned New Orleans freakshow lasting well into the night. It gets so hot with people inhaling all the airconditioning, you’ll swear it’s a thousand degrees with a million percent humidity.

Boys will jitterbug with one another, and girls will grind. Couples, and even strangers, might sink down into a corner sofa and kiss. Like I meantioned, its hot. But, I bet you won’t even care. You can do this until the sun comes up, if you’ve got that kind of constitution.

Tomorrow, you’ll need coffee. I’ll tell you tomorrow about Flora’s. But for now, let the good times roll, all over your body.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Joke

A man dies. His soul is complete equilibrium. God and the devil can't decide where he belongs, so they choose to let the man decide himself.

The man, being no dummy, decides that he wants to visit both, for a week.

So, he goes to heaven. It's nice, but kind of boring. People in nice clothes playing Pinochle, classical music, comfortable beds, but you have to turn in early. Denver omelettes, that sort of thing.

Then, he goes to hell. Now, this is really something. People drinking Sazeracs from morning til night, champagne flowing off the tits of virgins, dance clubs open twenty four hours per day, skinny dipping, sex, sex, sex, bacon, gambling, poolgirls eating cheese from between your toes, you name it.

So, when it's decision time, the guy decides: Hell. Obviously.

So, he goes. And suddenly, it's nothing but fire and brimstone, rats, roaches, automobile sized potholes, racism, hot hot heat, stomachaches, no one wants to be your friend, and, well, you know, hell.

So the guy decides to have a chat with the devil.

He's all like, "What the fuck? When I came here to visit, it was an amazing party. Now, it's like, hell."

And the devil says: "Well yeah. That's when you were a tourist."

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Almost every morning I wake to the sound of a mosquito buzzing around my ear. In my slumber stupor, I usually nail myself in the head trying to kill the motherfucker. Being from Minnesota, which is supposed to be the motherland of mosquitos, I can tell you with certainty that we aint got nothing on the deep, tropical south. Where I come from, we were told since we were pretty much embryonic that the mosquitos that make noise are the females, which don’t bite. I’m pretty sure that’s just a convenient old wives tale to get kids plagued by buzzing bugs to shut up and go back to sleep. But I take a small amount of comfort in that tale when I go to swat at this darting bug, and then don’t see him (her) for long minutes. When I finally get her, she meets her demise with a smear of lipstick red blood. 


I live in a modest little efficiency apartment, just a room really, adjacent to a fairly typical New Orleans courtyard (although mine is missing some iconic sculpture of a lady that converts to a waterfall). No matter—we don’t need more aquatic breeding ground. The courtyard, with its palm fronds and climbing vines and tropical mist is its own ecosystem of toads, and frogs the size of your baby fingernail (I’ve even seen them about the size of an ant) and lizards and even the occasional bluejay and squirrel (which make me feel more at home).

When I came down here, I wasn’t exactly prepared for battling (or acquiescing) to nature to the extent that you must in a tropical environment. Since its easier to live in this climate, everyone wants to be here, not just sexy humans like myself. Virtually every day, I do some kind of battle with some kind of cockroach. 

Down here, you have a sort of rainbow of fruit flavors of roaches.

Palmetto bugs, by conventional wisdom the most terrifying because they are roughly the size of  Chihuahuas, mostly stay outside. They are slow and lazy and dumb, and you mostly get used to them because they are always underfoot, but like I said, almost always outside. Occasionally one wanders in, and if you can stomach it, I guess you could stomp it. I’m too disgusted by the notion of the aftermath, so I just hope they’ll find their way out the same way they made it in.

Next, you have my least favorite, what I think of as the standard roach. They’re big (not as big as the Palmetto, but big enough) black, ugly, and they move really fucking fast-- their least charming quality. I’m not sure how they see (I don’t want to know) but they hide from you when you approach. I can’t stand the idea of scooping them up alive, no matter how giant the wad of tissue, so I’ve developed a strategy of whacking them with a shoe first. Sometimes it works, and sometimes they get away. Sometimes they just fall behind the TV, and again, you try and pretend they’ve vanished into thin air.

Finally, you have perhaps the most diabolical sort, what people around here call German roaches. I’ll spare the obvious metaphorical references, and just say that these are at once seemingly the most innocuous, but I’m told the most troublesome sort. They’re just roughly the size of a large ant, nothing more, and they move slow, so at first blush they’re not nearly as terrifying as the others. And yet, when you look close, they have the same body structure and horrific tentacles as your standard roach. I’m told that these travel in “packs”. By packs, I’m guessing the hundreds of thousand. I try not to think about it as I find these on the floor of my shower on a daily basis. I cover the drain with a wet rag just in case that’s where they originate from. No one really knows. I’m guessing no one wants to know.

Besides the roaches, I’ve seen rats chasing one another through the French Quarter as playfully as cats another greasy (yet clearly terrified) rat traversing the side of a building in broad daylight looking for a place to hide (he was probably crazed on some poison,) a spider lodged in a straw (thank Jezbus the straw was transparent,) and too many sneaky feral cats to count. At night, bees swarm my outdoor lightbulb. I'm not exactly accustomed to seeing bees at night, and I wonder what they want with the light.

Being down here is just a reminder that we share our world with all kinds of critters, and try as we might to fight nature, nature always wins.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On That Note

A long day perambulating around the city. Tropical rainstorm had me and a couple dozen others suffocating on the streetcar, but at least we were dry.

Wading through the French Quarter up to my ankles, I stopped off for an overpriced glass of wine after buying an overpriced umbrella.

Finally, after the daylight, as well as the rain have finally faded, I lean into the doorway of my favorite little jazz club, my umbrella at my chin. Before I can even get comfortable, a man pokes his head around the doorframe and makes eye contact with me: "You do look like a very young Lena Horne. . . " He says this in a British accent. I tip my head back and laugh, thanking him.

The singer tonight is very good. They're not, always, but she is. She's singing "Cheek to Cheek" in an Ella Fitzgerald style. Everyone is enjoying her.

Just then, a couple comes around the corner, heading happily into the club.

He: "So I said, well, I'll just go to New Orleans, and see what happens!"

She: [sarcastically] "Oh, what a terrible idea!"

On that note, I swing my umbrella around my wrist, and head on home.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friendly Ghosts

Virtually every day in New Orleans, I've been wearing a hat that belonged to my grandmother. I only had space to bring one hat, and that was the one that I wore (and am wearing) on my head. It's handmade from palmfronds, and it was just one of a big collection that she had hanging along the wall at our cabin. She'd occasionally take one down and plop it on her head before yanking me on down the dirt road for a drunken stroll. She was that kind of a gal. Before I got here, I got to saying that I was going to bring this hat, because I thought it deserved to live in New Orleans since my grandma didn't.

This hat has become something of a friend of mine down here-- it's such a conversation piece-- I must field 15 compliments about it a day. I've had people offer to buy it, and ask me to give it to them, but mostly they just tell me how nice it is. I've heard multiple stories about how there's a guy who comes down here on occasion from Hawaii and makes these hats. Through this story it has become probable to me that my grandma got this hat in Hawaii when she and my grandpa traveled there in the '70's. That was a pretty big trip for her-- my grandma was a 1950's housewife and so her fate was to spend her entire youth raising children and tending to housekeeping and cooking. She was also a restless soul like me, and was never quite happy with "good enough."  She was a voracious reader, she relished the great pleasures in life like wine and rare red meat, and she always dreamed of taking a grand train trip before she died.

Last night, I dreamed that I was speaking face to face to my grandmother. I asked her about the pedigree of this hat, and if in fact she got it in Hawaii. And then this morning, just as I was standing in the mirror placing this hat on my head, Scott Joplin's ragtime piano came on the radio. Scott Joplin was my grandma's most favorite music. It brought her so much joy-- she'd stand in the dining room, spinning records, with her drink in her hand and her head tilted back in tinkling laughter, teaching me how to clap out rhythms. This is my most enduring memory of my grandmother.

I think my grandma would be proud of me today-- for taking this chance and having this adventure. I think that if she had had the opportunity, she would have done something like this. She had a great big pair of balls, and if she had been able to, she would have made the most of it.

I've been here a month, and I'm done feeling bad. From here on out, I'm going to make the most of this. If for no other reason than for my grandma.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

As Long As I'm Here

As I prepare to take my first epic bike ride of this trip, to really get deep into the neighborhood and explore things on two wheels, the sky opens up and unleashes a torrential tropical rainstorm—the kind that appears as though there isn’t any space at all between the drops, just great continuous bucketfuls of water that seem like they’ll come down forever. Thunder booms that make you cringe in reflex even though you’re somewhat safely indoors, lightning bolts that look close enought to take out the tree in your yard. When these storms roll in, other things tend to go haywire as well, even moreso than usual, which is a lot around here-- even on a normal day.

The cell phones cut in and out of service and it’s virtually impossible to have a conversation, even via text. The radio, with which I live parked permanently on WWOZ (“The best radio station in the world”—and it is) cuts in and out and sometimes you hear nothing but static for long minutes. When it cuts back on, it’s Tom Waits or something equally dreamy and haunting—the DJ’s tend to play along with the weather, both lyrically and emotionally. Right now it’s a folk band singing live: “This was your life/ cry if you want to/ its over, it’s tragic but this was your life/ these were your dreams/ but then you failed to receive anything you believed in/ living in sin and you just couldn’t win. . .” How’s that for a stormy day?

And now, in this fucking rain, the cromagnon caretaker (as opposed to the curmudgeon landlord) is outside on my balcony watering the plants. The internet cuts in and out making it impossible to get any work done, the neighbors have their weiner dog nervously pacing the porch, the mailman just stopped off clearly confused (drunk?) as to whether he’s already been here today or not, and sometimes, I have a hard time understanding this place.

My other neighbors, who were altogether wecoming over the weekend, have taken a turn for the insular. My friends who had welcomed me to stop by anytime into cities away from New Orleans are getting on with their own lives.  Friends in this city are on a road trip. For the moment, for the coming days and maybe weeks and months, utterly and truly all by myself.

I slide onto my damp bike seat in the middle of the afternoon, after the rains have finally stopped, and the roads are like a terrerium floor. The vapor comes up and envelops you like a package of warm mist. My mooshy tires bounce along the potholed streets of the Marigny, and every place I stop for air is closed. It becomes clear to me I’m living in a ghost town this summer—anyone who has the wherewithal to leave here in July and August has done just that, and its only those of us without a clue still making circles around the melting streets.

Stopping off for a drink before I completely disintegrate, hot tears start cutting down my stupidly powdered cheeks. I feel foolish and try serriptitiously to wipe them away before they drop into my wine glass, but the couple next to me has caught wind and are staring. Finishing my drink, I get back on my bike, and ride the almost vacant streets back on “home.”

All my life, I’ve been connected. To family, to an amazing circle of friends-- without whom I’d certainly not be standing vertical day after day. And I’ve always had myself a relationship with a man—sometimes overlapping. As I take the sweltering ride back to my temporary home, I switch off my cell phone and later, inside, my computer. I’m tired. The heat, the anxiety, the roaches, the unfamiliarity, the exhaustion of overthinking, the fighting with the technology and the urge to stay, I don’t know, tethered, has got the better of me. I give in. For today, maybe for longer than today, I’m not connected.

I just read an article about a fiction writer who became a poet because she went to enroll in her fiction class and it was full. So she said to herself, “As long as I’m here. . .” She’s now the first poet laureate of St. Paul.

When I came to New Orleans, I thought everything would fall into place nicely. I thought that love and laughter and happiness would come easy as the wind. That hasn’t happened. But as long as I’m here, I guess I’ll learn to connect to myself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Real Place

Yesterday, someone commented that Minneapolis is a “real city,” as in, a real city, as opposed to New Orleans, which is not. That might be true. But while Minneapolis is a city with amenities like bicycle racks and recycling programs, I would say that New Orleans is a real place, in ways that cities like Minneapolis are not. My neighbor and new friend, who is known to decorate his stoop with giant mannequins and and holiday motifs, complete with a guestbook for passersby to leave their thoughts (right now it’s Abe Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth duking it out with boxing gloves,) says that this is a place where you can live a “real life.”

I had just been contemplating that while I don’t know what I want to do with my life exactly, I know what I don’t want to do: I don’t want to live in a box, work in a box, and spend my days driving back and forth between them in yet another box. I’ve managed pretty well to avoid that fate so far, and I think New Orleans is a step on a larger journey toward getting further still away from that model of living.

My neighbor spends his afternoons on the sidewalk, painting beautiful, colorful canvases with happy, cartoonish people enjoying their lives. By night, he's grilling meat from the comfort of his big white rocking chair, and inviting the likes of me to join him. Later, he might spin some vintage vinyl on his record player while sipping mojitos from a bell jar, or attend a party in costume, or sink into a couch with a stranger and kiss her. I think he’s living a real life; an authentic life. New Orleans is his place in the world-- he says he never wants to leave, not even on vacation. I sort of envy him.

But I did just pass three magical days and nights. There was night skinny dipping and shucking oysters on the sidewalk, there was dancing to old soul in a sweltering, unairconditioned hidden nightclub and there was the kinds of things that ensue after that kind of dancing is done. There was standing on a balcony in the French Quarter and being serenaded about my polka dot dress, and there was buying a mint green bike off a guy on a street corner. There were other things, whether real or imagined-- the lines tend to blur. It’s has been said many times and it’s the truth: this is a city where moments abound. There are so many moments in this city, where you turn a corner thinking you are going for a simple cup of coffee and suddenly instead you are on an adventure. You end up on the other side of town many hours later, not with coffee in your hand but with a cocktail, following a tuba player down the street.

Later, I have to go and buy a broom. I’ll go not to a Target or a Home Depot, but instead to a crumbling, creaky old hardware store, redolent of the universal scent of good hardware stores everywhere—sawdust and metal and perspiration. I’ll poke around the ancient heaps of saws and nails and keys and packages of seeds and shovels and bicycle locks and doorknobs and rakes and eventually I might find a broom and buy it off of the old characters behind the counter who look like they’ve been sitting back there, unmoved, for the past two hundred years, as organic to the landscape as the tree roots that break the sidewalks around here.  

I’ll put that broom in my bike basket and head back home, or, you never know, I might just hop on it and fly, fly away.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Night Sweats

I never feel completely at ease in New Orleans. I haven’t left the bathroom light on since I was eight years old, but I do, here. I don’t know if it’s the criminals, the roaches, the landlady or the ghosts who set me on edge, but they do. I long for the warm skin, the reassuring musculature of a man to roll into at night, but instead I only find a cheap foam pillow. I clutch it, and hold my pee until morning. The bathroom light is only reassurance, not guarantee.