I. Early Losses.
It is raining but warm for a January day in St. Louis. I am at the airport. Southwest Airlines is paging passengers ticketed for a flight leaving soon for Phoenix. My city lost its football team this week. Squirt’s renal health is under the microscope. There is turmoil in world markets. I’m going to New Orleans. The St. Louis Six are riding again.
Brett and Fairchild and B are in line for a Starbucks. The stock was as low as $56.16 in this morning’s early red action. A client has a limit order at $56.01. I’ve chastised myself before for talking about the stock market in these pages. But it’s what I know. It’s part of a routine I can’t quit because I fear having no routine. These are the things people with no routine and no occupation find themselves doing: smoking drugs, drinking whenever, watching porn, watching Netflix (stop $103.95 limit $102.15), taking crank, taking opiates, looking at Facebook, scrolling and trolling on Twitter, posting perpetually on Instagram, sleeping during the day, not sleeping at night (“It’s actually non-24”), writing bad self-centered poetry, committing unspecified crimes against themselves and eventually others. Some of these are things I did before getting myself a routine. Now I watch the market. I managed last summer and fall to ween myself off of checking the futures markets in the morning. Nasty habit. But now I look at the London FTSE 100. It’s a pretty good gauge of what’s going to happen here. It’s down today, by quite some lot. It’s gotten ugly out there. BHP Billiton, a big commodities producer (driller/miner), wrote down—or wrote off: you just write it off!—a portion of their U.S. shale oil assets. Boom boom die hard. That’s a lot of losses this week: the Rams, David Bowie, Alan Rickman. The Fed started printing furiously in 2009, printing in 2010. It seemed so obvious to me that these companies pulling hard assets—as compared to soft dollars—out of the ground were going to thrive. Gold would do well, Caterpillar would see great sales. The dollar would tank, inflation would go through the roof. The Fed printed without end through October 2014 and everything else that was supposed to happen didn’t. Gold sank and oil plunged. The dollar’s as hard as a diamond. I can’t explain it to you. No one can.
II. A Drink Called the Painkiller
Poem by Cab-driver.
Dow down 521.
At the carousel bar I
fell on the floor
it was wet and squishy
There was a lot of rain last night;
The Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane?
It’s nasty: Kool-Aid and cheap rum,
terrible hangover the next day.
Toyota, Honda, & Nissan.
III. Bourbon is Just the Name of the Hotel.
We are back in the room, 526, near the ice and the stairs. It’s the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. So far I like it better than Hotel Dauphine. The room is a tad larger. It’s a bigger hotel. The way to our room, to Vonage’s room on the second floor, wraps around and there’s only one way; feels byzantine. The radio was on when we came into the room. That’s how it was as that Inn at Playa del Rey in Los Angeles except there it was the classical station, KUSC, but it enamored me all the same and I fell in love with the station, never turned it off the whole time we were there (OK, it was only one night but then I streamed it a lot at home before baseball started up).
Here it’s WWOZ, 90.7 FM. Initially it was blues and rock and alt country. There was a supposedly rare Dylan “Highway 61” cut and then one by Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The Gilmore was a song I knew and I could picture the album cover—hay bales, silage—an album I owned but got rid of somewhere along the way and hadn’t heard anything from in over 17 years. Then it was Junior Kimbrough and other songs I didn’t know but liked. There don’t seem to be commercials.
After the rock-blues-country, once we’d unpacked and slid around a little, it was jazz and it was a thick-tongued, dark-veiled nap sleep, sleeping right through the music, no problems. Jazz I could have laid there and listened to for a day but didn’t. We went back out for drinks and fun, caught a parade as one is wont to do in the Quarter on a Friday not far from Mardi Gras. Now it’s back to bluesy rock, R&B, and B has turned her light off and Brett went for beignets. Pat said, “Seriously?” when I said I was done but tomorrow’s going to be a long, full day and today was long and full enough, me up against a column outside baggage claim calling back to work, vetting again the orders on the 12% list, the Dow off 500, the S&P 500 taking out its August lows at the knees. Pocket twos. Buying higher I was confident in my hand but it was just pocket twos and the river flew heavy against me. I’ve come south, chasing the crest.
At B’s solemn request, I’ve turned the radio off but I’m turning it back on first thing tomorrow morning. I’m not drunk. I described myself to myself as “wildly sober,” which is paradoxical but not necessarily untrue. This was one of those night when I could feel my belly growing. I have a fullness of body and mind, like a high seawall, a spillway that robots created way in the future and sent back to try and help me last a lifetime. I played the wise ump and called the game. Further, I realiZed we might actually muster a run tomorrow. Three or four miles along the glazy, bead-strewn cobblestones, my dear?
There’s more to say, there always is; and what I don’t scratch out now I will bid away forever. I can see and want to memorialize the vision of Vonage crossing the street, our street, the Rue d’Orleans, right in front of The Four’s cab as we pull into th’otel, and Brett sitting shotgun as I’m back there shell-shocked and licking my market wounds, hearing him say, “Oh, you can hit them, that’s OK.” Except Vonage was carrying one white grocery sack each, they had hit the liquor store and bought: a six of an amber, a 2-liter of Coke, and a bottle of a locally produced dark rum. The way the sun was hitting them as they crossed the street, I swear they looked like angels, halos in their hands. It was too early for The Four of us to check into our rooms so went to Second Floor Vonage, wheeling our bag along, and I had blown up the pits of all three layers I was wearing, pitting straight through into my cord jacket, which I don’t think I’ve ever done, and we sat in their sunny hotel room and started to drink and heard a little about their night (they had taken a late flight last night and arrived here about 12 hours before we did). Fairchild mixed a rum and coke, made it too strong, poured half into a cup for Pat, made another, not strong enough; poured more rum in; too strong. There are so many people brushing along you in these bars and across these streets but I could sit in one of our rooms and mix rum and coke and vending ice and horse around with The Five and have just as much fun as I could “out there.”
Though while we were out at the Irish-style pub right across from Preservation Hall we did happen to hear about an Arcade Fire-led parade—dirge, dirge, I say!—in honor of David Bowie. It starts tomorrow afternoon right there at Preservation Hall and the public plays the part of The Second Line. The first line’s the Arcade Fire and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Could be a cluster but the ingredients are so very promising.
But first some sleep, mon frer. Maybe just a page or two of Stuart Dybek first. I’ve got an uncorrected proof of his collection of stories, Paper Lantern. He’s quite good. I knew his story “Gold Coast,” I believe from a volume of so-called micro-fiction circa 2004, lost somewhere along the way. Then I heard th’eponymous story “Paper Lantern” read on a New Yorker fiction podcast. Saw the book at a book fair. Three dollars, done like dinner. Love stories, a character or two subtly recurring throughout. Seiches. Michigan. Opera. Sex, disillusionment, despair. But goodnight for now, goodnight for just tonight.
IV. Shrimp Prayer.
B and I got out and ran, for 37 minutes, mostly along the river walk between, say, Esplanade and Canal. We tried running along Canal and other streets but it wasn’t so easy. We didn’t beat the first wave of early risers to the streets. We had gotten out of bed at 6:55; to have gotten out there more on our lonesome we would’ve had t’arisen by six. The streets here cobblestone or dodgy pavement; the sidewalks rough of stone, wet of liquid: precarious ankle travel indeed. The river walk is exemplary but its example doesn’t run far enough north; not far enough south, either: area restricted, port of NOLA. As a result we were on San Pedro Norte, watching for the slowly awakening creep of cars.
We stopped, walked, looked at Belle’s diner. It looked alright but we had options this quick into the trip. We made our way to the Clover Grill, a dump of a place on Bourbon St. We went in, I swatted some prior patron’s potatoes from the seat. It was seedy; there was cursing at the grill and no sign of a waitperson. Gut call: leave.
With The Four we had a good breakfast at Belle’s. Mine was a seafood omelet with a side of hash browns made crispy like I like them. The omelet was topped with a crawfish-dappled corn chowder. Inside were shrimp and cheese. I crushed it. The shrimp were not the fresh gulf behemoths we had first at Felix’s and then again in our Po Boys in the back of a swarmed Eirin Rose. But they were fine shrimp all the same and I was happy to have them. I even said a very short prayer of thanks for the food after the first bite because it looked so good and I was hungry.
V. Before the Parade, When We were Stupid.
We hit a liquor store on the way back from breakfast. I overheard one of the two clerks, one on either side of the entrance raised up on something like a witness stand, saying she was probably going to partake in the the Arcade Fire-led second line in the afternoon. I followed up with her about it, saying I had overheard her. I am not an extrovert and I was going out on a bit of limb, something Pat wouldn’t think twice of saying, “So I heard you saying you were going to do the Bowie second line, what’s that all about?” That’s how Pat would say it, I said it much different I’m sure, and she was inwardly cringing at me for reasons I just don’t understand and this is part of why I prefer to remain introverted. She wouldn’t elaborate. She recited to me some sort of tautology along the lines of: A second line is the line that comes after the first line. Wow. Then I ask, “Well, if Arcade Fire is the first line, can people in the second line actually hear them?” She really didn’t seem to know. Her elaboration amounted to: “Second-lining is a tradition in New Orleans, do you know about how it works?” No, I freaking don’t, that’s why I asked you! She might also have come to the swift realiZation that word was spreading, even to the scurvy tourists.
I went to Crescent City books and bought three books: Charles Baxter’s Through the Safety Net, Julian Barnes’s Metroland, and Amos Oz’s Where the Jackals Howl. I had picked up a book of poems from one Pat Schneider, a rando I had eyed that spoke to me at first blush. But I can’t buy everything that looks interesting, I don’t want to send the bag over fifty pounds on the way back so I put that and Deborah Eisenberg short story collection back. I used to have Eisenberg’s Collected Stories and I liked it but it didn’t survive some move along the way between here and those college days.
There was a wedding at the Cathedral today. Police and a brass band led the celebrants down San Pedro and then to Royal. I followed them for a bit. All of the celebrants were wearing masks. I was piqued by some of them, wondering how long they would be walking along those touchy streets. When I turned around to come back to th’otel a couple was trying to catch up to the rest of the group, alternating between a clipped trot and the kind of walk I’d do when my bladder was full and I was dying inside.
I’m in the lobby now. It’s a spacious, bright lobby and I’m on a couch. On other trips, or toward the end of other trips, I’ve passed through other comfortable-seeming lobbies perhaps for the last time and said to myself, “I wish I’d spent a little more time in the lobby, sitting and reading and writing.” Well, here I am now sitting and writing in this lobby. My feet hurt but I’ve arrived.
VI. Saturday Synopsis, Strike One.
It is early Sunday morning and B seems perhaps a bit unenamored with yours truly. Did the photo Anne sent her of chili sampled across my face do me no favors? I tried to play WWOZ just now but B even with ear plugs vetoed me hard. Ha. I had a chili cheeseburger cooked medium at Deja Vú. It was me and Anne and Pat and Fairchild. It was windy out and cooler and we took Dauphine past along the Hotel Dauphine where The Four of us stayed last time. Dauphine Books, where I got the Melville compendium and where I dumbly passed on a copy of Richard Ford’s Wildlife—not that it’s such an incredible book, hair tonic, mom’s hidden truths—but I knew and know Ford and it was an obvious buy. Anyway, the store is on holiday and closed through the 21st.
It’s past two o’clock. I haven’t had a drink in a while, just water at Deja Vú but I can hear the prophet of this hangover already. Thin and flinty and sharp, like an arrowhead dipped in bad ju-ju. But we’ve nothing on the calendar tomorrow. Nothing. I’ll stage in the lobby and fly sorties against unknown bookstores. My head is already starting to hurt, my jaw is setting. That burger…its retinue of chili and fries. I am feeling something like a crush and thinking about a few people I once had crushes on. Creche. Seiche. Sea-shells by the seashore. The David Bowie dirge was a rogue cluster. The Future Elevators show, which we went to after the Bowie craziness, south of here, which I haven’t even alluded to much less begun to describe, wasn’t all that good.
I’m Uber-ing with five of my closest. The crawfish we had near the market. Uber down, Uber up. Tipping.
My eyes hurt and are heavy. Tomorrow scares me a little at first but it is so wide. Goodnight and good water.
VII. Bowian Motion.
It is Sunday morning. I am sitting off to the side of the main lobby having a cup of tea and thinking about how to catch up on the events of yesterday. And today—although yesterday was really two days in one. The reports suggest we were just Six of 20,000 people crammed into a select few blocks of the Quarter for the Bowie second line.
Across from Preservation Hall, we stood out in front of the pub we had had drinks at on Friday, the Boondocks Saint, from whose bartender we first heard about the’vent. It was supposed to start at four and we got there at three thirty. The crowd filled in around us like a river flooding its banks and looking, looking for other places to go. Personal space ceased to be personal, became communal. There was something being passed around nearby, something that generally enhances any paranoia I might be brewing and steeping within. But. When in a crowd, go with the flow. There were a few words about Bowie. One of the fellows behind me said, “I guess we’ve all been touched by Bowie in some way then.” And I was thinking, “Not really.” I did like Labyrinth. But I’ve never owned any Bowie records. I like the song “Life on Mars,” but I didn’t even know it until the American version of the show ran for a short couple of seasons six or seven years back. I heard “Under Pressure” twice over the course of yesterday and honestly it was news to me that the song had anything to do with Bowie. [Looking it up, days later, it seems he collaborated with Queen on the final version of the song Queen and Bowie put out, but I had never heard the song associated with him until that Saturday in New Orleans.]
As the crowd filled and the smoke found its way to all the parts of me I began to feel uneasy. Pat later said he was talking himself out of a panic attack during these moments. I had the word stampede running through my head. B would later say that in the midst of that crowd she had entertained “morbid thoughts”. About us all being fish in a barrel I presume, but I did not ask her to elaborate. Gradually I was pressed up against a white sedan parked on the curb. The car wasn’t going anywhere so neither could I.
Along that stretch of San Pedro between Bourbon and Royal my rough count of 20 persons across by 200 deep up and down the block had me figuring there were 4,000 people packed into a very small quarter acre of the French Quarter. How far and wide the throng extended beyond that immediate block I could not say.
I have to list the experience among my Top 25 Nearest-to-Death Moments. Because of the magnitude and the density of the crowd. The chance of being trampled was at least 1%. If it got hairy I was going to climb atop the car I was pressed against. But what about B? It was real and memorable but just as scary as being along that thin, rocky ledge on the way to and fro Crypt Lake. On that ledge it was me against my own madness. In that crowd it could have been any one person’s drunkenness or drug-induced excitement that incited a serious event. In hindsight, the Bowie second line was a hell of a thing to experience but we had had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
Eventually Win Butler of Arcade Fire came out in a pink suit onto the Preservation Hall balcony and gave a quick sort of remembrance for Mr. Bowie. Then minutes later the Preservation Hall jazz band, epitomized by a couple of eustachian sousaphones—one with a lighting bolt on it like the one Bowie wore on his face—slowly parted their way through the crowd. It got even more interesting once the dirge was on the move because the crowd was still tightly packed but now it was beginning to move. It was like we were atoms packed in a material and that material was now being heated. Imagine the atoms starting to wake up out of their slumber and stasis and start to ping one another. Can I go this way? Can I go that way?
There were only two ways to go. Pat was suggesting we stay put. I understood that thought but I was afraid that in staying put, if the crowd were to move against us, that we might not be able to keep our footing; that the crowd, like a riptide current, might just pick up our bodies and take them out to sea. You can’t fight a riptide, you have to let it take you out as far it wants to take you. If you fight it you will lose, and if you lose you will die!
We ended up making our way out in the direction opposite the band, toward Bourbon. But there were just as many, probably more people now on the move opposite our direction. This was a crash course in the application of fluid dynamics in a crowd setting, where people are the fluid. What worked best was for single files to form, and it didn’t matter if two single files rubbed right against one another moving in opposite directions, like a two-lane road. In fact, that was the optimal arrangement. When someone from behind me in my file up-jumped me, trying to go around me, this only threw gum into the works of the file running contrary to mine, shaking people out of that file and into mine, creating a momentary burst of chaos.
Spilling out, free, onto Bourbon Street, we did an end around up toward the river where the dirge was headed and scheduled to break for ten minutes up along where the trolley line stopped by the flood wall. It was there I saw a gal I recognized as being on the staff of the Contrary Opinion Forum, but I did not speak to her. The COF is this investor conference held every year in Vermont along Lake Champlain that I’ve been to several times with my dad. Seeing her I thought of him, and how he definitely would have gone and said hello to her, how he would have gotten a kick out of seeing someone from the COF in a totally different setting. But I am not him, not exactly, and I checked down, stood pat, said nothing. She wasn’t the only person I recognized in all of that crowd either. Just as we were all making our move out of the Preservation Hall melee Pat said offhandedly, “Look, Larry David.” And it was Larry David, in an astronaut suit. I looked at him and then I looked again. Ninety-nine percent sure it was him.
I had a cigarette down by the river. A drunk fellow who had just turned 35 almost took B out as he fell backward into her. Two fellows, at least one a local on the parapet of the flood wall behind us conversed about the Bowie second line. The local fellow said, “Sure, I’ve scene crowds bigger than this, for Mardi Gras. But I’ve never seen anything this spontaneous.” The light was fading and we were all worn out, tired of the crowd. We left once the parade passed us, while it was stopped up by the river, before it started moving again. The dirge was scheduled to make its way to One-Eyed Jacks. The Western with Marlon Brando? No, some bar. We walked that direction but it was swarmed by the same sort of mass that had enveloped Preservation Hall and B and I just wanted to get back to our room to rest the rest of the wearily thankful. We did so rest and it was restful, the rest is history.
I had a beer in the room, an Andy Gator. We re-convended in the lobby. I confessed to Pat my fear that I couldn’t keep up. Ahead of us still was the show out toward the Garden District, in which Future Elevators was the second of two warm-up acts. The Quarter packed like it was, the crowds threatening to make any driver’s work a free-for-all, I wondered how the heck we were going to be able to get out of the Quarter at all. In hindsight I had by that point reached a neurotic level of worry that far outstripped the reality of the moment and maybe I sensed this in the moment because I kept my mouth shut because no one likes a Cassandra, a henny-penny: the sky was not falling, nothing was fucked.
But we felt that way as we filed out onto the street in search of dinner, striking out at Coop’s Place, a Brett favorite that we had hoped we could settle right down into for some gumbo….
VIII. Crawfish on the Market.
I am sitting now halfway up one of the staircases that curl up and around either side off of a small room adjacent to the lobby. In the old days, this is probably where the lobby led. Today it is out of the way but I am right where I want to be. There are two landings on each side of the staircase and on the second landing on one side is a loveseat, where I sit. This is the type of furniture They aren’t making anymore. Maybe the Amish are, but that’d be it. At the height of the staircase is an event space, a few tables, a helical table that could serve as a bar. There are bathrooms up there, too, and when I saw them I thought: score! But I tried the door to the Mens and it was locked. There is a bathroom on the main floor near registration. It requires a key-card and it is adequate. But with that second-floor restroom I thought I’d stumbled upon a loophole. But it wasn’t a loophole. Not a wormhole either. Wormholes are always open and where they go, nobody knows! This is the thing about writing. I sit in a somewhat quiet—railway rumble of housekeeping carts down the second-floor hallway—fairly dim corner of the hotel on a 1950’s loveseat and I start to think about wormholes. I want to get back to writing about yesterday because there is so much more to say.
The streets were still flowing with the second line remnants and I was feeling tired and defeatists and resigned to eating nothing for the rest of the night if need be. It was going to be a long wait at Coop’s Place. Anne had come up with another idea, Amelie, which was also packed. I was so ready to leap out the cargo bay doors, parachuting down into the clarity of a night alone, when we came across that restaurant just south of the French Market where the street flat-irons between Decatur and N Peters, a place that normally seems crowded but which at that moment was quite uncrowded.
We sat outside, pushing together two round, blue-painted metal tables and the waitress was quite helpful but there was also something about her. Like she was new and overwhelmed by the idea of waiting on a group of six, that it was potentially going to be great hill for her to climb, that she was excited but also a little scared, kind of like: OK, this is my big moment, I can do this, take it one step at a time. She looked a little like a cross between early Madonna and Titanic Kate Winslet. I’m just happy to get settled and Pat hits her immediately with, “So, what’s good here?” She listed roughly a third of the menu. First, the sampler: gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp creole, beans and rice. Then something I can’t remember. Then the barbecue shrimp, “Which: there’s no barbecue sauce, I’m not sure why they’re called that, but they’re really good.” Then she mentioned several other things I also forget. She listed so many things it left her a little breathless. As an appetizer, there were the crawfish “which are in season now”. A guy on the plane next to B had told her that, indeed, crawfish were in season at the moment, unusually, because of the warm December. The waitress was barely done listing what was good when Pat followed up with the question that was admittedly also running through my head but which I thought best to hold for the moment, “What do you have on tap?” Not much, unfortunately. She mentioned an Abita IPA off-menu and I got that, as did Pat.
We got those crawfish, two orders out-of-the-shell, a pound each for $9.99. The market had listed them as being “mkt price” but she gave us the quote and mentioned that she thought it was a really good deal. I didn’t quite realiZe what we were ordering. They came out fire-engine red, looking like tiny little lobsters, fortressed up behind their shells and many several legs. I had never eaten crawfish out of the shell. Pat had, back in his Savannah days. He explained how you are supposed to snap the head off and suck the juice out. I tried doing that but nothing ever seemed to come out of the heads I sucked on. Then it was a matter of prying off the eight or so little legs—maybe there were ten legs, or twelve—and then cracking the shell covering the crawdad’s back, where the pay dirt lay: the tail meat.
What none of us knew was just how spicy those crawfish were going to be. I gulped my water right away but I kept at the crawfish, going through one after another like they were pistachios, my lips afire. The others said their hands were on fire but I didn’t get that. Our waitress brought extra napkins and little bowls filled with warm water and lemon juice, for us to dip our hands in. She brought bread, too, but I thought the bread tasted funny. Not funny haha, funny bad. It smacked of that banana-clove ester taste of a Belgian beer. I guess it was stale. My rice kind of tasted that way, too. That flavor made me think of fruit flies, I have no idea why. Maybe that what that fruit fly food I used to make for the Wash U genetics lab used to smell like and I don’t consciously recall it.
Anyway, it didn’t matter because the barbecue shrimp I got were very tasty. They were peel-your-own like the crawfish but the shrimp were big and pink and luscious, with just a little bit of a spicy grilling rub on them. I started out with a dozen of them and gave a couple to B, trading for small bites from the various dishes of her sampler, scouring out every last bit when she was done with each of the little bowls.
Pat finished the crawfish off at some point. The table was a mess. As we were starting the meal Pat talked about how people in Savannah would take a whole day to work through a pile of crawfish, leisurely eating one before sitting back, and talking, eating another, talking some more, sipping a beer, no rush, we got all day. My plate now bore a pile of shrimp skins, wads of greased-up napkin, the lemon water an entirely different concoction now than before.
It strikes me now to describe our waitress as having been nervous about something right away—or maybe she had just gotten some bad news—but once she got past it she gained strength from our joviality as the meal went along without incident. She thanked us for coming in and she really seemed to mean it. We cleared out, I went to the bathroom. When I came back out the waitress was standing there with The Five, chatting them up, and I thought to myself, “Man, she must have really liked us.” And maybe she did. But the real reason she was out talking to them is because Pat had left his bank card in the little bill holder when we adjourned from the table. She had bounced out after them to make sure it got back to its rightful holder.
IX. Rodgers to Janis.
We walked back to the hotel. I’m going to lightning round the rest of this Saturday night in New Orleans because if I don’t it’s going to take me all of Sunday just to write it out. We took an Über down to a venue called Gasa Gasa. Once we made our way down there it had started to rain. A system was moving in. It was eight-thirty but the show we wanted to see wasn’t actually going to begin until ten-thirty! We hurried down the street to Mojo Coffee, a place I’d seen from the car on our way down. B and I had americanos. I looked at a photo of Ben Bernanke on the front page of the New York Times business section. That was one of two Federal Reserve articles on the front page. The Bernanke article was about some decision the Fed made back in 2010, either doing more of something they had already started doing or refraining from doing more of something else. Either way, it was the right decision. The second article was about what today’s current Fed is going to do. There was a photo of Stan Fischer. Oh—it was about the Fed’s $4.5 trillion-dollar balance sheet, which is roughly the size of Japan’s entire economy (an economy that I believe is the world’s third-largest, we’re not exactly talking about Tonga here). And basically the article was asking: Is everything fucked? I can’t remember what conclusion the author reached.
We had time to kill. Luckily there were some other bars and resties in the area. From Mojo we went to Midway, a deep-dish pizza joint with a long, sleek bar backed up by flat screens with the football playoff game on them. Green Bay at Arizona, a grinder of a game, as explained to me by a guy in a Montana hoodie on the stool to my right as I took a seat. I got into another Andy Gator, the Abita hells doppelbock with 8% ABV. I started talking to this guy about sports and I was actually being pretty friendly, i.e. not aloof with strangers like I usually am. Maybe it was because he said he always liked the St. Louis Blues, though he couldn’t say why. “Have they ever even been to the Stanley Cup Finals?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said, “in their first year or two in a row in the league they were in the Finals, but the format was different then.” Yada yada. He had been waiting on a pizza. The game had gotten good but once he got that pizza he was gone.
Empty bottles of Rebel Yell whiskey lined a ledge above the bar, said the bartender, because frisbee guys came in there and drank it all. That’s ultimate frisbee, not disc golf. I told Pat I had played ultimate frisbee in Louisiana in college! At LSU, not far from here, how about that?! Then they left, The Four, and went to some bar called Cure. B and I were thinking about leaving to go join them but there was still about two minutes left in the game and I subscribe to an unwritten sports fan creed that it is bad luck to walk away from a game you’ve been watching—assuming it’s halfway close—if there isn’t much time remaining. Still, I was thinking: the NFL can take a hike after bolting St. Louis, I’ll be damned if I’m going to anchor myself to some playoff game just because it’s been halfway decent and there isn’t much time left. Arizona was up by a touchdown and driving. I was just about through a second Andy Gator. I asked for the check, got it, paid it. We’re getting up to go when some gal at the bar, who had spent most of the last ten minutes messing around on her phone gives us the old, “What, you’re leaving, there’s only two minutes left?” Guilt trip from out of nowhere. Maybe she was a Packers fan or maybe she just didn’t want to be the only person left sitting at the bar. It couldn’t have been long after that that Cardinals QB Carson Palmer made an inexplicably poor throw that found its way into the hands of a Packers defensive back in the Packer end zone. Here come the Packers.
We stayed and Green Bay made its way down the field. On its first fourth down of the drive, somewhere toward midfield, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a craZy play to push the ball across the fifty yard line and ignite a glimmer of hope. But that hope faded as the clock did, Green Bay going nowhere with almost no time left. It was fourth-and-twenty on the Cardinal forty-yard-line and the game was just about over, this time for real. Snap, Rodgers gets rushed immediately, rolls out to his left, throws a bomb into the end zone and this guy Janis for Green Bay comes down with the ball despite two Cardinal defenders being right on either side of him. Janis didn’t so much catch the ball as he did put his falling body between the ball and the ground before eventually getting his two hands squarely on the ball as he and the Cardinals players rolled around in the end zone. It was a Hail Mary touchdown and it ranks as one of the best and most-exciting last-second plays I’ve ever seen. I’d find out later that Roy saw it; that my Dad had listened to it transpire by radio as he lay in bed (Sunday morning, checking my email, I read his account of hearing the play). But then in overtime, on what felt like the first play of the extra time, Arizona had won the coin toss and Palmer flipped a short ball to Larry Fitzgerald who tore ass zig-zagging down the field for seventy-five yards. It wasn’t a touchdown, but it might as well have been. Fitzgerald caught a short pass a play or two later and the instant classic was suddenly in the books.
X. The Bossa Nova Button.
By this point in the evening the two hours we had to kill were indeed killt. It had stopped raining. I said I was going to lightning-round the rest of this evening one chapter ago and it seems I’ve failed, happily but miserably. It was an $8 cover into Gasa Gasa for their second of two shows on a Saturday night in January in New Orleans. We were hot on a band called Future Elevators, the second act of three scheduled to play. The opening act proceeded to take much of the next hour just to sound-check. Some guy with an iPad who apparently worked for the venue kept screwing around with levels. Check check check. We would have the impression that somebody sitting there on stage was actually going to start playing some music but then they’d abruptly cut off and we’d realiZe that what they had begun to play was in reality just another sound check. Check, check, check. Check-one! Maybe it was at this point that Fairchild decided to stick the Kleenex in her ears.
I ordered the first of two Jim Beam rocks. It wasn’t very crowded in the venue, a moderate but clean space that now as I’m thinking about it felt vaguely cave-like, like the Mos Eisley space cantina from Star Wars. And the keyboardist from the first group hopped around like one of the muppet band members from the crew playing the cantina. He had moccasins on and took great relish in reaching over to hit what Pat called “the bossa nova button” on his keyboard. It isn’t my intent to be malicious, but it was a long day, a long night and we were getting a little absurdist by this point. They were just OK, this first act called “IZE.” It was mostly pre-mixed music produced by way of laptop, a dance-y electronic sound.
Pat had found this bone laying around the bar, which we later identified over chili-cheese burgers as most likely being a human tibia or fibula, probably not a humerus, but of course quite humorous as Pat dinged it against a copper cup and plate that inexplicably made up part of the scenery in this bizarre cave-like venue southwest of the French Quarter in New Orleans. At one point later Pat would dislodge from its place on the wall a strange sculpture-painting that had a little hand figurine reaching out of it and might also have been made of copper.
The first act ended and Future Elevators came on. “Modern World” sounded good. We knew only two songs of theirs and this was one. They played four or five others. The act didn’t hit me like I’d hoped. Maybe the sound was off a bit or maybe it just wasn’t their night. Everyone in the place, I think, was exhausted. It was past midnight. We did not stay for the headliner, Mariine. We took an Über back. The driver played some good music from a NOLA band, the lead singer of which—who isn’t with the band anymore—was, according to the driver, the biggest trust fund baby kind of guy singing about being poor. The driver must have known this guy, maybe went to school with him. Otherwise: how does he know? Why does he care? He listed other jobs that this singer had done in his life. The music was good, someone said they liked the guy’s voice. I think it was the driver who said that. I can’t remember the name of the band.
Back at the hotel it was windy and cool in the Quarter. Brett and B turned in. The Other Four of us were hungry and went in search of food. We ended up in Deja Vu, an all-night place on Dauphine. I got a chili cheeseburger and fries. Pounded it. Pat, who got the same thing, said it really wasn’t that good and that I was letting my “beer buds” do the talking. These are the taste-bud equivalent of beer goggles. Anne played Erasure and then Michael Jackson on the juke box. She took a photo of me looking quite happy with chili on my face, some of it not all that close to my mouth.
XI. Sunday I Wrote, Not Much About Sunday.
I set my odds at going back out after that gustatory virtuoso at Coop’s Place as being 3%. When I give Pat odds like that they’re probably a lot better than I quote. We were in the lobby Sunday night drinking and talking, doing the kind of talking Bill Williams says—with truth—we really, rarely do. I was saying my feet were killing me, plantar fasciitis plaguing my arches. Brett said he had doubts about how much B and I were really accomplishing with all of our running. We debated that contention. It was better debate than you’d find on cable news. I’m a little tipsy just now and it’s cormorant propaganda either side, I’m not gonna get in real deep.
What we did agree on, by way of friendly negócion, is that doing planks could benefit me. Not hashtag planks but something else. I asked for a demonstration then and there in the lobby and at first I’m pretty sure he thought I was just fucking with him, and I was, but only a little. I really wanted to see what he was telling me I should be doing. He and I had shared a seafood platter, you see. And we had taken a french fry, put our mouths on either end, and nibbled down toward the middle….
I can’t recall just now what my point was, or even why it is I’m in the Bourbon Orleans Hotel lobby right this second—ten-fifteen on a Sunday night in Louisiana—trying to write it all out, The Five all cashed and crashed and I’m pretty sure most or all of them had some kind of nap or rest today and here I am, I’m not anything other than awake with a pen in my hand, Stuart Dybek’s Paper Lantern by my side.
I’ve been in this same basic space writing a lot of the day today. First on the drink half-table was coffee. No cups, when I saw Fairchild standing there, was that really Fairchild, back from Urgent Care, the Kleenex she wetted and daubed into her ear, removed by forceps? Yeah, it was. I know her and she is Fairchild and I can go up and talk to her and it won’t be weird unless I make it weird. You’ve got to understand that emotionally, socially, I’m working impaired. That intelligent as I might be in other realms I get dumb when it comes to people, even people I’ve known for a long time and could easily claim as “knowing well”. Some jerk was like, “Get out of the way, don’t just stand there and chat.” And I was all, “OK, have at it, d.b. supreme.” And when he got to the coffee dispenser he realiZed there weren’t any cups. I wasn’t even there to get coffee. I’d already had some. I was there to talk to Fairchild who I saw from a ways away, early in the morning, when I wasn’t expecting to see anyone. B had said Fairchild had texted her about having to go to Urgent Care. And seeing Fairchild down there by the coffee in the lobby, I was thinking: is she waiting to get picked up to go to Urgent Care or is she fresh back? She was fresh back. The cups came but our convo never picked back up. She had said they got it all out at Urgent Care. I went and sat in a chair and wrote for awhile.
I am trying to get through the red section of this notebook on this excursion. I’m on a good pace, I do b’lieve. It must be 11p and I’m in this lobby, and what am I doing. I said there was a 97% chance I was done but I went to Johnny White’s with them. Some guy at the bar was watching what I was saying. Covington, I said. Covington IPA, it was a tap handle. But the guy didn’t seem to know what I was saying.
I’m tired. I’m in the lobby and I’m ready to pass out. Stuart Dybek is on the couch next to me. He could survive down here. I don’t want to lose consciousness just yet. My room is upstairs! I like that. No foopah. We saw The Foopah Guy on St Ann just as we turned onto it, rounding Bourbon from J White’s. Nothing is fucked, but everything is fucked. I’m tired and I hurt and the gal across the lobby from me is a stranger. Her phone text tone is someone popping specious caps. I am really tired. This is it. Goodnight, good writers, good books by them.
XII. The Foopah Guy.
As we rounded the corner from St Ann onto Orleans, we saw him there a little ways down the street, between us and the hotel. The Foopah Guy. It’s hard to miss him. He runs about six-one with a face painted silver or gold, topped off in a jester’s cap. This was not our first encounter.
The first night we were in town the other two fellows and I had stood back along the wall of a building on San Pedro as one of the ladies was checking out this or that in a store. This guy with the painted face and the jesters cap comes up to me and says something along the lines of, “No doing foopah without a harpoon license.” He starts pointing his finger at me and continues, “If I catch you chasing foopah without a harpoon license, I’ll have your penis removed. Just remember. I’m watching you.”
When a guy with his face painted comes up to you on the street in New Orleans and starts talking about taking your penis, it gets your attention pretty quick. That said, I had no idea what this guy was talking about. I didn’t know, and I still don’t know—don’t want to know—what foopah is. I like not knowing. I can sort of gather what it might or could be, one or two possibilities let’s say. Brett and Pat offered to tell me but I asked them please not to.
It strikes me as uncanny that The Foopah Guy reminded me of that scene from JFK in which David Ferrie, played by Joe Pesci, is embroiled in a homosexual orgy with characters portrayed by Kevin Bacon and Tommy Lee Jones, among others. They’re in the great room of some big old mansion in, where else, New Orleans having sex and doing poppers and…their faces are painted in silver or gold or bronze. No jesters caps but The Foopah Guy would have fit into that scene perfectly.
On this second occasion seeing him, Pat perked up immediately and started talking to him on the street. I took evasive action. And in so doing I looked down at the street and saw a crinkled up dollar bill. I grabbed that dollar bill and I could see the doors of the hotel not too far in the distance. From behind me I swear I heard The Foopah Guy say something like, “Hey, give me back my dollar!” But I was far beyond his reach by then.
XIII. Lagniappe Epaulettes.
I am lackluster on this Monday morning in New Orleans. I need some exercise and some sober sleep. Before this trip ends, before I stop writing I want to describe this place more.
There are horse-drawn carriages, not a lot, just a few. They are a means of giving a tour, an historic tour of the French Quarter. A horse-drawn carriage came down St Philip, past CC’s as B was getting a café au lait. The lady with the reins told the horse to halt at the stop sign. She was explaining how the public school across the street came to be there. It was funded by the person whose name was on the building; this person had established schools all over the country, she said, each one with his name followed by a number.
Earlier today B and I had walked up Esplanade, where B was told she could find a USPS dropbox. I had wanted to mail a letter I’d written to my aunt and uncle. As we walked back into the Quarter from that dropbox at Esplanade and Royal, we watched what I assume were locals riding their bikes through the washed-down, building-shaded streets. A fellow on a skateboard pushed his way along holding what I took to be his uniform: something a hotel worker, a doorman would wear.
There are little work zones ubiquitously sprinkled throughout the Quarter. The open crevasse running along Rampart is not so little. Between here and Decatur north of the Cathedral a messy torn-up stretch of street has an open, flowing pipe protruding from it, the water running endlessly, out of the pipe, into the gutter, back down the drain. These work areas feel to me as if they are begun on a hunch, exploratory in nature, then forgotten about, abandoned. Collapsed, shattered, missing stones. We saw a missing stone bring a woman low. Sandy mulch, slattern plastic roll-out cordon. Bums, loiterers, street people. Some sleep right on the street, covering themselves from head to toe, lying on cardboard, cozied up to a wall, snoozing as we all walk by.
There is a distinction applicable to the street people of New Orleans. There are the truly homeless: dirty, wild-eyed, sick, desperate. Then, like along Decatur, there exist a younger sort of street person, the carnie-types: recently showered, dressed in dark colors, accompanied by a token dog (usually a pit-bull mix). These street people are as cynical as a diamond is hard. They might not need your money but they don’t think you should have it either. I despise these street carnies of Decatur. They wake up and look for someone’s way to get into and then spring at any chance to take offense or lay guilt. I remember them from being in New Orleans in 2014. They seem to be the same people in the same place, crowding the sidewalk on Decatur between Café du Monde and the French Market. It is almost as if someone is actually paying them to be there—some washed-up prophet who still has the wherewithal to make the tourists of New Orleans a little less comfortable, by remote.
There is graffiti but not good graffiti. It’s a graffiti completely devoid of typography. It’s probably being done by the Decatur Haters. On the empty buildings, on electrical exchange boxes, on plywood—all of these are fair game.
“I gave her seven dollars, she hands me four beers. I was like, ‘This is not good at two in the morning.'”
A snippet from a conversation I hear in passing in the lobby. I wish I was writing more of these down. Yesterday or two days ago a guy on a cell phone passing me on the sidewalk said in a resigned tone, “Well, things finally came to a head last night.”
The lobby is busy at the moment. Groups are waiting for valets to fetch their cars. It seems like quite a process. Who knows how far away those cars get stashed. There aren’t any parking garages in the Quarter that I can recall seeing.
Manhole covers with the letters “NOPSI”. New Orleans Public Sewer Institution? The ‘I’ really baffles me. I’ll look it up later. Shutters. Lots and lots of painted wood shutters. Painters, electricians, plumbers and exterminators. Carcasse of a crawdad. Blackened banana peel. Poop bag. Broken bottles. Bottle caps. A Heineken two-thirds full—of something. Bikes chained to columns, poles, and sign posts everywhere, slouching down along the posts, approaching horizontality on the sidewalk, getting in the way. Old, basic bicycles. One-way streets. I am about to cross. Does my direction have the stop sign or is the stop on the street I’m crossing? Old, faded paint doing pedestrians no favors on the pavement at the intersections. Look out for those riding the bikes, too. They are sometimes moving faster than the cars, and can hide better—behind a horse-drawn carriage, for example. Hurry across the busy street, but it might be wet, don’t slip.
The public bathroom by the French Market, its urinals closed off, wrapped in black plastic bags, yellow caution tape strewn about like tinsel on a Christmas tree. Use the stall, condensation on the walls, condensation on the toilet tank, writing scrawled in all those places, too: most of it dirty, hateful but one marker had made an attempt to inspire.
Balconies, verandas, railings. Flags. Stoops. Trash containers. Trash cans, too, at most corners but even more of the large plastic bins set out by staff or residents to be picked up. Trash runs every night, no such thing as trash day in the Quarter.
An alley lined with stone and mortar. Brick buildings. The French language. Sunlight and cigarette butts. Emptied sugar packets. Grates. Cox Communications covers. Drain pipes, down spouts, spinning sound of a circular saw. Smoke. Small metal discs affixed to the pavers along this alley, one every ten feet. A smaller circle in the middle of these little discs, with two prong-holes punched in the middle. I have no idea what all of these little metal discs are for but they are omnipresent.
Wooden doors. French doors. Lockbar, cord sheath. Dormers, slate roofs—lots of slate roofs. Slate mulch for trees on Esplanade. Fluorescent plastic straws, a few pennies. Failed mortar. Church bell. If I had started counting from the top I would know what time it was. Gum wrappers, gum. Cracks. A red substance—wax? Wrought iron. Gas lamps, flickering flames. Cool breeze. The neck of a glass bottle. Spigots lacking handles. Woebegone cigars. Sheathes now for the downspouts. Tender aluminum? Spit, phlegm, leaves. Trumpet playing on Jackson Square. Heels on these pavers, dog snuff, bags being rolled along their luggage wheels burning and turning. Feathers, sparkles, glints, sequins. Buttons. Shadows. This building I’m leaning on improved by the Works Progress Administration, 1935-1936. Trumpeter playing and singing that Hank Williams song, “…down the bayou…,” his singing not as good as his trumpet playing and I’m a little hung over, a little emotional, having a moment here, a future memory I think, tears caught on the inner face of my sunglasses.
Flathead screws in the alley, metal fencing wrapped around a window-unit air conditioner. Three-toned fire hydrants: black at the base, then silver, then yellow to top it off. Floodlights. Metal discs on buildings, too, with little nodules abutting their faces. Stained glass, painted wire. Benches, rust, definite wax, a guy in a blue coat tipping the trumpeter a couple bucks, not even looking up as he does it, a thank you from the trumpeter, and a stiff, curt nod from the guy in the blue coat as he is walking away. Covered grass in the square, tiny weeds foot-holding in cracks. Chain for cap on fire hydrant. Cannons, potted plants, tags on the pots. Bunting. Mardi Gras colors: green, yellow, purple. American Darling Valve. Dry top. Exposed brick, the Cabildo. Balustrade. Traffic impediment. Chimneys, palm readers, magicians. Still men, sword swallowers. Art. Puddles. The Arsenal. “Jackson could have been shelled out in ten minutes.” The Flanking Battery. Brigadier General David Banister Morgan held his position. Kid with a bike and a milk crate. Throwing things, laughing. Cubs the Poet. A painter, working en plein air, with watercolor. Tile street signs inset to building corners. Taxis by the hotel. Fragment of erstwhile post, stubborn metal stuck in stone. Siren squawk. Fiddler, his bike with a milk crate basket, his coat draped over the basket, his toe tapping the slate. Street people with bedrolls, dogs, a guitar, and a tambourine. This place can be hard to believe. Water sitting in the gutter, a sticker unstuck, devised now to wind. Painting and prints for sale, hanging on a black metal fence, transient ivy. Down Royal, rising high above Canal, the Hotel Monteleone. Festoonery, ladders, shops. A band starts up. Crushed slice of lime. Grapefruit husk tossed under bushes. Hairband, sprinkler head, actual ivy. A clock, crosses. Half of a comb. Upturned bowl of Frosted Flakes un-frosted in the gutter. Sandwich-board sidewalk sign. Lingerie store, dashes of spray paint. “Get them boots shined, big daddy!” Standpipe. Jackson Square Mall jogger. Ukulele and violin duet doing, “Every Breath You Take.” A tramp on the grass in the Square doing downward dog. A long, semi-oval metal bench, perhaps once painted red. It’s a trio, not a duet, there are two fiddles and they’re nailing it. I’m getting emotional again. Maybe it’s the aspirin. Pigeon, sparrow, more yoga. Pods hanging on a redbud. Where the birds are. Plank, ankle rolls, song ends, applause, a whistle. Pigeon saying hello, orange iris black pupil. This city is a religious experience right now, I am enmeshed in hierophany, God is good. This is all just here and it is an offering and all I have to do is relay it to you. That is why I am here right now, to listen to this music and try best I can to describe this place to you—train, church bell, sniffle, sparrow chirp ensemble. Live oak, tendrils its branches, crashing now of church bells, twelve o’clock, high noon. A fly, pecking by pigeon, church bells resounding, fading—re-enter the violins, staccato strumming. Gnarling of redbud trunk. Song ends, tramps asleep, train gone, pigeon walking away. Cursing a little ways away down Chartres, spell broken.
Luke Winslow King’s old guitar. Sweater, legs crossed, thick head of hair. Bass, big wooden bass, a head of hair on the bassist, too: Kid n Play or Kramer, eyes like our friend Bobby. Wooden floors, church pew, fleur de lis brand stamped on the end. One drink minimum, “dueling bitch faces”. Like we’re not getting drinks in here. But it’s tough out there, lots of places to get a beer, plenty of music. Domino Sugar Refinery. Dimly lit, ceiling fan wobble, Pat and Anne dancing. Old luggage CD display. $40 tip, CD for Dad, the new one. Harmonica. Clean sound, blues. Anne is drunk, happy, dressed in black. Is the bassist drinking a Stiegl? Pat says, “This puts us on pace for 48.” This is the second set, we’re on Frenchmen St. There are full trash cans out there. The schizophrenic shirtless bum—isn’t he cold?—was at Esplanade and Frenchmen, with a shirt on. Was it all an act? No. He was shirtless and he is and remains crazy. He was basking under an umbrella when I went back to the Square to see if the violinists were back and they were. I went up and dropped $2 in their pink collapsible tip jar, not realizing that The Five were all standing there on the steps. Pat asked the crazy guy to give the violinists some room. The guy did pick up his milk crate and move away a bit. I said at first, earlier, that the violinists were a duo, then I said it was a trio. It was indeed a trio but it is really two violinists and their baby! The baby sits in a bjorn on the male violinist’s back. Brett had said, “That’s not a real baby. It’s part of the guy’s backpack.” Fairchild was insisting it was a real baby. I don’t think they had the baby with them when I hear them at noon but I don’t really know.
Luke is playing his second guitar, the one with the twang. It’s metal of some sort, crushing, rhodium perhaps. Velvet curtains. Pat is the dance floor. Mirror ball, Pat’s blackberry Teiche: “A dirty, nasty, funk of a beer. It’s like a dirty sock. Fuuuuck.” Luke is from Cadillac, MI. He has a fishing sensei. Sensei tells him, “Luke, stop putting it up in the shit.” Bad cast into the mangroves is what I picture. Prytania porter. Framboise at 2.5% ABV? I bought two beers, cost $14. I gave her a twenty, she gave me $13 back. She was at the end of “two long days here” and I started to say something about the incorrect change. But I only started. It was like getting dealt pocket aces. I got up from the table and walked away.
XV. The Last of the Last Night.
I am rent, I am being rendered, torn asunder, Millstadt rendering, reek of departure off in the distance, seeping into present day. We are in bed, WWOZ lowered but still on. Older songs, “In the Still of the Night,” for instance. My dad would know who sang it and when. The dee-jay is running down all of the songs he’s just played and he says that “In the Still of the Night” is the most-requested oldie of all time. That’s funny because it doesn’t strike me as being overplayed. There was that TV show, I never watched any of it. [Well, the show was “In the Heat of the Night”, completely irrelevant….]
It’s being in bed that’s tearing me asunder. Giving up on the night, accepting the mortality of the trip. It is ending and it makes me sad to think about it. Why not hang on? Vonage is hanging on. Still down on Frenchmen. Plenty going on there. There was a second act after Luke Winslow King. I bet they went to it. After seeing Luke we had dinner a couple doors down. I was already feeling worn down before the show. Wiggy. Standing there on Frenchmen, outside the outdoor art market with the weird alien penis painting, I had a thought about bailing, doing a walkabout. It was paranoia. It’s the alcohol and the caffeine and all of the sensations this place with impart upon a person.
Check-out is noon. All I want to do tomorrow is wake up feeling fresh, which at this moment looks very possible. And then I want to get out with my pen and paper and do some more describing of areas. I am happy with what I wrote earlier on Jackson Square and over by the Cathedral. I crashed hard afterward, though. I was drained. I can’t eat drink and eat and hardly sleep and then have a revelation about God and existence and then expect to be bright and chipper and amiable and interlocutory. Or maybe that’s exactly how I should have seemed after having such a positive existential episode—as opposed to the dread and dreck I usually mine my salt in.
XVI. One More Time Around the Block.
I’ve got photos from this trip but they’re not digital. I took them with my pen and they take a long time to develop. Sluice carved in pavers, running from building downspout to ground-level drain a couple of feet away. Through Pere Antoine Alley, back to the Jackson Square Mall. One musician is out there, a trombonist doing a very quiet, very slow “Amazing Grace.” Glenn Frey died, Mike Shannon is closing his downtown restaurant, and he won’t do any road games. Now it’s the saddest, dreariest rendition of “America, The Beautiful” anyone has ever heard.
It’s sunny on this Tuesday morning and not too cool. The Square is locked up but the fountain is still running. I went over and took the trombonist’s photo. He singing now, “Only Fools Rush In.” I tipped him a buck. There was nothing else in his tip back but a folded-up piece of sheet music.
It’s 8:15. Someone is opening up the gates and the front doors of the Cathedral. Chime. Outside Tableau on San Pedro a man is hosing down the sidewalk, right where those kids with the milk crate were throwing things at each other yesterday. The water must be hot, there is steam. And it must be soapy, there are suds. A woman comes out of Spitfire Coffee chuckling, goes and gets into a car on Royal and drives away. I go down St. Ann to Chartres, corner of the square. There are diners in The Stanley, but they have a mediocre air about them. Down to Dumaine, back up to Royal.
Royal is awash now in suds, rivulets making their ways to the curb. I’ve been wondering how or why the streets are always so wet, it can’t just be the condensation. It had to’ve been a truck or a big ole street machine made that scene, cleaning these streets, but I missed it. Maybe next time.
—St. Louis/New Orleans,