Is it douchey? Laws yes. The woohoo girls and the bellowin', fightin', fuckin', fartin', drinkin', caterwaulin' frat-in-the-hat boys were circling my house at their fullest decibels until — well, I finally fell asleep at dawn, when, shortly after, I was awoken by the usual hullabaloo at Krayzee Kornurzz, but I can't ascribe the latter to the little sporty event this weekend, so let's move on.
Speaking of circling my house, there's been a helicopter running the perimeter of the French Quarter since about Wednesday. Whether it's NOPD or media, I don't know. Probably the latter. Yesterday, it hovered directly over my house for four straight hours. I was trying to do some dialogue editing. Soon gave that up. This is compounded by the prop planes droning hither and thither (more often hither) dragging their banners for G€i¢ø Insurance and other totally useless pitches. I think they're turning N. Rampart street into an airstrip, actually. I demand the IATA code of MAN for the Manderley Arëopuerta. (As I end this ¶, another helicopter seems to be landing in my back yard.)
Jackson Square, erstwhile known as "my backyard," has officially changed its name to Superbowl Village, no lie. It is the epicenter of all the media, full of TV vans and camera krewes. I'm scared to go over there, but I might have to if only to document the madness with my own camera.
My dog-walking park has been tented and roped off. There are chandeliers in the tents. I don't even want to hazard a guess what's going on in there. I'm sure I'm not vippy enough to qualify, though my dog is saving quite a steaming load until this is over.
Parking is beyond fuckèd. Three days ago I found a spot in the Treme, only a ten minute walk from the house. Yesterday, husBen had the brilliant idea of going out to a proper grocery store to get cat litter and other provisions too expensive to buy in the Quarter. "Better do it today as tomorrow we'll be really screwed!" As we walked towards the Treme and saw a long queue of cars being directed by the po-po out of the Treme — cars searching and failing to find parking — we reassessed our ambition as one perhaps too lofty for the current climate. No way would we give up our precious parking spot. (It occurs to me now we could have scalped it and made a tidy sum.) Plus, the idea of having to drive right past the Supadome was a thought rancid enough to curdle the very blood in one's veins.
And perhaps the most annoying thing about the
There are a couple nice things about Supabowl. Our friend Dwayne rented out his house (for a mere $200/night) and is staying with us, so that is nice. He's a good cook. (We could have rented ours out for $2,000/night, but it would require removing all the animals, and rearranging the whole damn house, not to mention our lives. This droning helicopter is suggesting to me that we might have done well to have made the effort. Ah, hindsight.)
Also, the weather is absolutely fucking wonderful. We get, like, two weeks of perfect weather a year in New Orleans. This early February, weirdly, is one of them. Perhaps it will hold through Mardi Gras. If this is the manifestation of cataclysmic global warming, I'm all for it!
To sum: rah, for your local sporting team or preferred players. Enjoy New Orleans — we need your tourist dollars. But try to remember people actually live in this "pretty little Disneyland" as well, and refrain from micturating your steaming, colorless urine upon the properties, cheers.
Addendum: Ever the intrepid reporter, I ventured into the trenches to bring you these battlezone shots. I was actually dismayed that it was a lovely day, things aren't as bad as I thought, and there was a spring in my step. Imagine. Me. With a spring. In my step. I know, right?
I mean, it's still douchey out there, don't get me wrong.
We'll start with Bourbon St., which is looking very douchey today, but what's new there?
( NOW WITH PHOTOS!Collapse )
It's like a birthday. Or Christmas. It comes once a year. But instead of happy anticipation for the coming holiday, it takes a zen-like summoning of one's serene core (always assuming one has a serene core), or a cocktail of seratonin inhibitors, opiods and tranks, before embarking upon the adventure. And instead of exchanging presents, fusty paperwork, ID cards, and little forms are shuffled about from person to person. So it's really not like a birthday or Christmas at all. Je m'excuse.
Perhaps it's like visiting the principal's office — in the 1970s when adults could still hit little kids. And whatever wrongdoing landed you in that musty, faux-wood-paneled office with the sturdy, weather-beaten yardstick leaning ominously in the corner flies out of your mind as the terror of the forthcoming corporal punishment seeps out of your pores. You don't think, "I'll never do [insert whatever crime you were indicted for here] again." You think, "I'll never do anything bad, ever again! Just to be on the safe side, I'll never do anything! Period! I'll sit still and straight and not talk to anyone ever and eat my peas and oh god, I'll even be nice to my little brother just please get me out of here!"
Like a perverse perennial flower that blooms only in the dead of January, mocking nature Herself with its obscene and diseased stamen, if you live in the French Quarter of New Orleans, you'll need to renew that damned Zone 2 parking sticker in the New Year.
Happy fucking birthday. Now bend over and take your medicine.
I still have vivid flashes of last year's pilgrimage to the parking authority offices, in grainy black and white and a jittering frame, like a murder montage in a B-horror film. I cannot recall exactly what transpired, but there are isolated moments branded into my cerebral cortex.
I had come prepared with every piece of necessary (and many un-) paperwork that could possibly be required of me. Ms. Stubfingers still found some pedantic flaw in the pile of dull papers I offered her. I can't remember exactly what was missing, for we tend to block out traumatic experiences like childbirth, Gulf War syndrome, and renewing a Zone 2 New Orleans parking pass. Perhaps it was that I didn't have two utility bills. Or perhaps one of them was last month's. Whatever the cause, you cannot help but notice a subcutaneous smile of satisfaction when the legion of misshapen women get to say their favorite word: "NO!"
Yesterday was a beautiful January day in New Orleans. 67°f, azure skies, a dry breeze. Since there's no parking at or near the parking permit office (which in itself sets the absurd scene for how this place works), I decided to bike downtown. The fifteen minute ride would also give the fistful of pills I had taken time to kick in.
I locked my bike to a pole, extracted the sheaf of papers, and took a zen moment to find my Center. My Happy Place. My Zone (2). I repeated a mantra, "Like water off a duck's back, I will suffer the slings and arrows of The Women Who Say 'NO!' with equanimity. No one will pierce my armor of tranquility. I will keep a pleasant smile on my face, a pleasant tone in my voice, and be the change I seek."
On the eighth floor, I took a sip of water from the drinking fountain. Water cleanses — purifies — after all. Or, I tried to take a drink of water. When the button was depressed, a stream of water overshot the fountain drain and sent a well-aimed deluge directly into a live electrical socket on the wall.
I chuckled at Fate's ill attempt to thwart me, or electrocute me, before I had even reached the first office, sucked in a bolstering breath and sallied forward.
"Hello!" I said cheerily to the woman with wedding cake hair sitting behind the first window. "I'm here to renew my parking pass."
After a while, she looked up from her Oprah magazine, took me in with a cold, disapproving gaze and pointed to a scrap of paper that had been poorly taped to the counter listing requisite bits of bureaucratic proof one must bring to this appointment. "You got all dem papers?" she asked tapping the sheet. Her tone implied that seldom few ever did, and it was her pleasure to send anyone away with their tails between their legs if an item was missing.
"Yup! Sure do!" I said perkily.
She shot me a look of incredulity. "Give 'em here."
I handed over a driver's license, car registration, and a utility bill (current), all within their expiration dates, and all claiming the same French Quarter address, with what I hoped was an easygoing smile of camaraderie. "We're all in this together, sister," is what I tried to convey.
She looked up again, eyes squinting suspiciously as if I were some perp trying to pull off a con. "I gonna need a lease or a tax bill," she said, and was that a subtle note of vindication I heard in her voice? Why yes, I believe it was!
This was a new requirement — they change requirements every year, ensuring that The Women Who Say 'NO!' would always have a legitimate reason to do so. I had thought of bringing the tax bill I had just paid, but it was in my husband's name, so thought it would be useless. Instead I proffered a mortgage statement for our rental house with my name and mailing address, hoping she wouldn't notice the small print that said it was a mortgage for another property. My reasoning for bothering to bring that statement at all was, "Well, they may be pedantic, but they're also stupid."
She pored over the mortgage statement and my heart sank expecting a jubilant "NO!" to soon be uttered. "Be stupid. Be stupid," I willed her silently.
When I find myself in a situation that is beyond my control, or when I am cornered, insecure, or frightened (and I often am one or many of these things), I begin singing, just barely audibly, the song that the evil dead preacher sang in POLTERGEIST 2: "God is innnnn…his holy temmm…ple…" I don't know why I do this, but I always have.
I began that refrain now as the fate of the rest of my day hung in those tense moments.
"Awright. Go sit in dat office and fill out doze foams. Dere should be a pen on the table." She had missed the small print showing a non-French Quarter address.
Yesssss! I thought. She bought it! I felt dirty and criminal as if I were trying to get away with something I had no right to attempt, but then, that's the air of the room, isn't it. "Everyone's Up To Something, And We'll Find You Out!" should have read a sign on the wall.
I filled out my forms and handed them back. With reluctance, she signed off on them. I tried a gambit of social interaction, asking if she knew when today's Mardi Gras Krewes would roll, and where. "Afternoon," she said and added, "Uptown," picking up her 'O' magazine once again and waving me away to the next office.
At the drinking fountain, I checked the hall to make sure it was empty and turned on my camera phone. I pressed the water button and the shutter button simultaneously as another minion of the parking authorities suddenly appeared behind me.
"You takin' pitchers of dat water fountain!" she barked.
I jumped, blurring my photo, and said lamely, "Uh, no, I was just, uh, reading a text. Golly. Look at this thing. It's shooting water straight into the electrical socket."
The woman eyed me like a criminal, shifted her gaze to my phone, then back to my face. Finally she deigned to opine, "Dis city be all messed up," and continued down the hallway.
In the second office, I was glad to see that Jabba the Hovering Hut was not at the desk in her white robe, cackling like a witch at the ceiling. Things were really going my way today!
I approached the bullet proof glass and the woman at that station was innocent of scramp poboys. Or french fry poboys or fried erster poboys or any other large food items that could be used as oral ammo as she spoke to me.
I slipped the woman my paperwork. She turned around and mumbled something to the wall. Then spun and stared at me expectantly.
"I'm sorry?" I said, smile faltering, but still there dammit. "I … uh … couldn't hear you?" She threw daggers at me from her eyes. "There's this … uh … thick glass between us?" I added spuriously.
"I SAID," she said, "how you goan PAY fo dis!?"
"Oh. Card," I said, sliding a Visa through the slot.
"I gonna need some ID with dat," she said and pursed her lips in a how-do-you-like-me-NOW? manner. (If pressed for an answer, I would have had to say I did not like her very much at all, thank you.)
"Certainly," I said, smile still holding, but just barely. My serene inner core had taken just about as much erosion as it could for one day.
She sat at her computer and beeped and booped for a minute. Then she mumbled something else to the wall, waited a tick, and spun around expectantly again.
"Oh. Um. Sorry. Still can't hear you," I said. "The glass."
"I SAID," she said, "you got a camera ticket on yo' car!"
The camera ticket had been sent several weeks ago in error. I had written a letter of contention the previous week, but nothing had been processed yet, it seemed. I knew that she'd take the fact that I had the audacity — the temerity — the grapes to even try to fight a robot ticket as reason enough to say her favorite word: "NO!" So instead I mumbled, "Oh yah. I … uh … paid that three days ago. Must not've got the check yet."
She pondered that with squinting, suspicious eyes for a few moments ("Be stupid! Be stupid!"), then, to my utter surprise, spun back around to the computer and continued booping and beeping.
Heh. "I paid it three days ago." Puh-leeze. Three days ago, I was at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris with my husband, soaking up some of the most beautiful art in the world. I closed my eyes and took a little memory vacation back to France. My armor was almost translucent. One more slight tap to it and I felt certain I'd get all Ike Turner up in dat piece.
Again, under my breath, I sang, "God is innnnnn…his holy temmm…ple."
She came to the bulletproof glass and slipped two visitors passes through the slot and explained: "Dis one be yo visitor's pass."
She seemed to be waiting for some kind of response. "The one that says 'VISITOR'?" I asked and she scowled.
"Dis one be fo yo car." It also said 'VISITOR'.
"What happened to the sti…"
"We don't do the stickers no mo!" she explained cryptically and stared at me, daring me to rub up against her … grille? Is that what one rubs up against in such contentious situations?
"Hmm," I said, not wanting to tape a relatively large piece of paper in my windshield for the whole year. "Why'd they stop the stickers?"
She rolled her eyes. In what sounded like one like word she said, "I-dunno-must-be-too-'spensive-or-some-s
"Well that's interesting," I said, "since two years ago it cost $25 for the pass and the sticker, and now it's $55 — more than double, right? — and they can't afford the stickers?"
She looked at me as if I had just spoken Swedish to her.
"NEXT!" she shouted through the glass.
The best, and rarest kind of film is the kind that you watch, sit and think about when it's over, try to figure out if you loved it or hated it, then find that three days later you're still thinking about it, which means, ipso facto, that you loved it.
Take the splatter B-film SIMON SAYS, 2006, starring Crispin Glover, available on the Netflix streamy-thingie, and added to my queue blindly, because I was in a horror film mood, and Crispin's my dream man.
Twenty minutes into the film, I thought, Christ, this film is awful!, and I walked away from it for a bit.
The nature of its awfulness drew me back, since it was so terrible, I thought it might fall into that wonderful rare category mentioned above.
What we've got at the opening is the standard 80s slasher flick setup: mismatched high school kids in their 30s headed for the woods for a debauch; creepy gas station attendant and small town folks being creepy, creepily; flashbacks that should serve as exposition but are so garbled and affected it's really just the director's moment to shine as an art film dropout. Oh, and fog machines.
This is so cliché, I thought, groaning at the motivation and lines from the "teens," all suspiciously beautiful and half undressed even in the van. But maybe it's supposed to be cliché! I dared to hope. It is, after all, a Crispin Glover film, and his strength is that you can never really tell if he's kidding or not. Just ask David Letterman.
When watched through those rose-tinted glasses, the film suddenly became a sparkling gem.
To call the characters two-dimensional is an insult to a square. As we meet the kids driving to the woods to "pan for gold," (not joking) in the stoner's VW van so plastered with hippie stickers it can only be farce, they pontificate, "What if we do strike it rich?" which leads to informative glimpses into each personality.
They pull over to an abandoned gas station, meet Crispin who Crispins it up for them, freaking the kids out, meet some local gravediggers who warn them about the murders and urge them to turn around…
…does this sound familiar? Not in a general way, but in a specific way? Ever seen CABIN IN THE WOODS, that brilliant love letter to the 80s slasher flick genre, which blatantly names each of the five archetype "teens" like this?
Well, Act I of CABIN is a direct homage to Act I of SIMON, which is an homage to the classic genre of non-camp films in the 80s.
The kills in SIMON really are imaginative. Pickaxe catapults, death by Fattie, poodle-stomping, and believe it or not, the human CD player. To up the body count, we stumble nonsensically upon some paintball warriors in the woods who serve as gore material, and there's lots of it.
I kept pausing the film to read "reviews" (mostly by trolls screaming, "THIS MOUIE IS AWEFULL!") I wondered if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing — a well done, thinly-veiled spoof. A few people got it; the unwashed masses missed the point, in their usual unwashed way. Crispin's tarted-up, over the top redneck accent is so unbelievably bad that it just has to be on purpose. There's no other credible explanation.
In fact the whole film is so unbelievably bad (yet shot so gorgeously) that, after some deliberation, I've decided I love it — perhaps because I initially hated it. And that is the rarest, most delightful kind of film.
I had a late screening last night of a film I worked on. HusBen had an early wake-up call for jury duty, so before I left the house and he went to bed, he asked me to, "Text me where the car's parked so I won't have to wake you up in the morning."
A sweet thought, I thought. It was hard to stifle a smile though — I know how these things work out. Ben's attempts at quietude invariably make him louder, and the more carefully he tries for order, the more entropy erupts. I don't think Anne Frank would have had the chance to write in her diary as much as she did if Ben had been holed up with them in their attic cupboard in Amsterdam. The Nazis would have hit that house first for all the chaos emitting from it.
I was kind of looking forward to seeing (or hearing, pardon me) what would happen this morning, for it's a rare occurrence that I'm not the first one awake, and I find my darling's solicitous attempts at courtesy high-fucking-larious. So I was a little disappointed when his shower was uneventful. I was vaguely aware through the haze of sleep that there was someone taking a shower. I waited expectantly for the shower mirror to come crashing down, or a slip-and-fall episode followed by a spate of cursing, or something! Sorely let down. I resigned myself with a disheartened sigh to sleeping in.
In retrospect, I'm guessing it may have been the aerosol deodorant that eventually set it off, though I wouldn't testify to that in court. Our fire alarms sometimes go off for reasons unfathomable. They're all tied together, so when one goes off, they all go off, emitting an ear-piercing bleep! in every room of the house. "Here we go!" I thought with tired glee.
"Shit!" I heard my cherished mutter from somewhere in the front of the house as he went into the laundry room to get the broomstick, knocking over a clatter of god-knows-what in the process, which resulted in another, "Goddammit!"
This is gonna be good, I thought.
The first tricky bit about our fire alarm system is that to turn off the screaming bleep! you have to use a wobbly broomstick to tap the small button on the apparatus affixed to the underside of the twelve food ceiling — a long way up. Like the old game Operation, it takes a very steady hand. Ben's not too clumsy — except when he's trying not to be clumsy — so the 'Operation' was a failure and the broomstick stabbed impotently at the ceiling: thump, thump, thump.
The second tricky thing about the system set up, and the part that can be really annoying, is that only the fire alarm that first sensed the potential threat can turn the others off! Usually it's the one in the kitchen, reacting to blackened chicken smoke that didn't go up the vent hood, or something else obvious. But on those occasions where the things go off for no discernible reason, you have to wander the house with the broomstick, hitting every button until you find the right sensor.
In my half-awake/half-asleep state, I followed Ben around the house by listening from where the next clunking stabbing of the broomstick came, and the inevitable, "Shit. Goddammit. Fuck." It seemed to my dazed mind that he must have hit every fire alarm button in the house — twice — and the thing was still going off.
"This is a particularly beautiful attempt to leave the house quietly," I thought happily as I pulled the blankets over my ears to muffle the screaming bleep! I relaxed to 'watch' the show.
What seemed like 40 minutes later, I took pity on my poor husBen and went to turn off the fire alarm. I had noted that if he had hit every room in the house to no avail, then he probably forgot there was one in my back-back office, next to the bathroom and, thus, the aerosol deodorant. I got up, went to my office with the lowest ceiling in the house, pushed the little button with my finger, and the house fell into silence once more. Ben was in the front of the house stabbing willy-nilly at walls, cupboards, cats, who knows what else. I don't think he ever knew why the alarm shut off.
"Good show, good show," I silently applauded Ben as I crept back into bed and closed my eyes. But the show must, and did, go on.
It was time to dress. To dress, one must first extract clothes from the bureau. Ben's bureau is about as old as he is, but not in quite as fine shape. On a good day, pulling the drawer open causes a squeal of pain from the sad old wood. It's a little loud, but over quickly. Ben knows this, of course, so tries to do it quietly when I'm asleep. Which, as you could probably guess, causes the squeal of pain to turn into an elongated howl of agony and wrenches of desperation as the frame of the drawer shifts to the diagonal, and you have to 'walk' the drawer out, wiggling it back and forth: screech! squeal! crunch! choke! scrape! Oh, that's not the drawer containing the clothing you were looking for? Better shut it again, but for god's sake do it quietly! Push. Squeal. Crunch. Squeak. Crash. Ben deflects attention from the agonized bureau by muttering of a stream of cursing over the sound effects. The louder the drawer, the louder the litany.
Next drawer, same thing.
Third verse, same as the first.
Oh wait, I guess the socks were in the top drawer. Back to one, from the top, people. Take two!
Squeal! Crunch! Scrape! Break!
Of course I'm wide awake now, and trying hard not to laugh. It's important to continue to feign sleep for a couple reasons: I don't want to hurt his feelings, and by faking sleep I like to think I'm giving him the illusion of being quiet. As if, after setting off the fire alarm for an hour and a half and prying the bureau open with a crowbar and hammer, he can still think, "Well, Todd's asleep. It's a job well done I guess! Damn I'm good! Stealthy, even! I'm Ninja-Ben!" But more important than my one-and-only's pride is my own sustained amusement — the moment it is perceived I'm awake, the attempts to be quiet will surcease, and actual quiet will recommence. And that's no fun!
This morning's show wound down to a rather anticlimactic end, with just the usual minor scuffs and bangs and expletives following Ben out the door. I began writing my theatre review in my blanket-covered head: "Despite a deflated ending, I have to give this play a big ole thumbs-up for its surprising opening alone. Act I rivaled some of his better works to date, like his world renewed classic thriller, 'Emptying the Dishwasher'. What theatre-goer can forget the shocking cacophony of smashing dishes and the poetic carpet of obscenities woven throughout that masterpiece? That play won seven Tonys…"
I was drifting off to sleep when an ambulance screamed by the house, jarring me awake again. In my mind I reopened my review and amended it: "Retraction! When I complained about Act II's less-than-noteworthy ending, I hadn't anticipated the twist at the end! In a stroke of absolute genius the likes of which this reviewer had never anticipated, the playwright dazzled the audience by deliberately getting into an automobile accident on the next block, throwing in the howl of cops and EMTs to close the farce, inevitably to the roar of a standing house, crying, 'Author! Author!' and throwing Tiffany's diamonds onto the stage!"
I fell back asleep, smiling, loving my husBen for taking the trouble to wreck the car and perhaps harm himself for my amusement. I'll never find another like him, I sighed happily as I fell back into slumber.
Then the construction site at Krayzee Kornurzz next door began. A band saw's whine, its abrupt cut-off, and a howled line of, "Fuck! Godammit! Give me the … fuckin' … three-quarter-inch … it's RIGHT FUCKIN' THERE, DAMMIT! Fuckin' … fuck …"
They try, Krayzee Kornurzz'zz Kooky Konstruction Krewe, every morning, to put on a good show, but really, no one can follow my Ben, who shall forever remain the love of my life.
I came across some old “Bar Libs” I made for Leila, Candace and the krewe at Lounge Lizards back-in-the-day. You should do one and post it somewhere. They’re fun.
My name is Mosquito.
I would like to apply for a job as a shoe shine boy at Lounge Birds.
I used to hang out at The Hot Danish Pastry back in the day. Maybe you remember me? I am 9,999,999.99 feet tall and have precise eggshell hair that I usually tie up in a heart failure. I wear mincing clothes that make me look more teetering than I really am. My boots are always droll, but most people know me by my unique tongue piercings, which really define my style.
Candace used to kick me out for bathing at the bar. There was a picture of me on the Laundry Chute of Shame where Rufus and I were ignoring smorgasbords.
I've been with my parents in Minsk for a year recovering from a Flintstone’s multivitamin problem I had, but no more of that! I'm unforseeable!
I used to work at Harrah's casino as a bean counter but I got fired for forgetting at work one too many times. But they'll still give me a good reference.
I can work any hours between 88 and zero o'clock.
I love your bar because it's so scarred! All my bereft friends would totally come see me on my shifts.
My drink specialties are a super-fuscia-headed baby, which is a shot of Bailey's with a splash of placenta goo and served weeping. Also, Marcy gave me her secret recipe for a vermillion mother-tugger, which are always a hit.
If you hire me, I promise I won't blossom the customers or gestate on the job.
Leila, you have got to hire me! I'll take anything! I'll even be your forensic pathologist! I really need a job bad because my landlord is threatening to peep me next month!
Call me! Jusqu'à la prochaine!
I have a filter on my web browser that suppresses certain kinds of responses from the public in the comments of a YouTube page, an Amazon review, and other places where the Unwashed Masses are given free reign to pollute the web with bad spelling, excessive punctuation, and general stupidity. While I appreciate the work this filter does, sparing my sore eyes and sad brain from being accosted by the insipid utterings of the nearly-retarded, I do take umbrage at the filter's name: “Comment Snob”.
It bothers me that having standards — almost any set of standards — will result more often than not in accusations of 'snobbery' or 'elitism' and other la-di-dah pejoratives on the web and in real life, though in the latter case it's generally not said to one's face.
When did it become a crime to bring up a serious topic in the World At Large, or pose a question to which there may not be an answer, but that would spawn an intelligent conversation? I'm sorry, too lofty? Too 'snobby'? What about a simple exchange of ideas? Even this tepid goal, attainable by the dimmest of dullards, is on the decline. Need an example? It's an election year. How many people on one side or the other actual listen to an opponent's idea and give it its just day in court? I'm not just talking about internet trolls, but even people within your own life — people to whom you would not think to apply the word 'stupid'? And yet their minds are closed to unfamiliar processes and ideas.
Why is it abnormal to challenge oneself? Why is it read as a sign of weakness to question oneself? I'm very suspicious of people who claim to know anything beyond the shadow of a doubt. People who have cemented convictions in such slippery subjects such as religion, politics, and your more squirmy ethical dilemmas may deduct 25 points off their I.Q. on general principle. The audacity of 'knowledge' — bah!
Conversely, I don't think we as a society are treating deliberate stupidity with quite enough firmness and disapproval. Of course it's hilarious to scan the nominees of the Darwin Awards, watch any movie with Adam Sandler in it, or marvel at the nadir of intelligence and taste encapsulated in Honey Boo Boo. I'm not suggesting we do away with enjoying some good ole' stupidity from time to time. Life is a buffet, and creme puffs are delicious! But so is, say, turkey, and it's probably a bad idea to eat more sugary pastries than a protein-rich meat.
Did you see one of the more recent South Park episodes that dealt with Lowering The Bar, and focused, incidentally, on Honey Boo Boo and her popularity, and exalted her as a spokesmodel of what's entertaining? It was pretty insightful, actually. Go look for it if you missed it. (Let's not even think of how sad it is that South Park is a more reliable moral compass than, say, network news.) The episode lamented how low our standards have sunk this century, and then asked the question, "But what can I DO about it?" It's easy and cathartic to bitch and rant on a silly blog on the silly internet about how dumbed-down the country has become, but once the catharsis has faded away, the next logical step would be to ask, "What can I DO about it?"
Probably not much. I'm just a little person, a bug on the face of the planet, scuttling about my little life as are most of us. Just having the ability to leave a YouTube comment in full grammatical sentences does not make me a great intellect. I'm reasonably intelligent, sure, but susceptible to the over-saturation of Stupid with which we are confronted thousands of times a day, from sub-standard music, to television (particularly 'reality' shows), to political rhetoric and speeches written so those who dropped out of fifth grade can sorta understand, to the constant stream of advertisements that bombard us at every turn. Not watching the news is a great way to hack off a lot of the fat, but I still live in this country. And use the internet. I've allowed myself to accept the level of Stupid I've been presented with.
Key phrase: I've allowed myself…
It's time to wean off Stupid, mes frères, mes sœurs! Listen to my proposition. Don't worry, you're not going cold turkey. You can still have your Jersey Shore or whatever your guilty pleasure is (and if it's such a 'guilty' pleasure, shouldn't you try and keep it on the DL instead of wearing it as an ironic badge?).
For every minute you spend reading, hearing, watching, consuming something Stupid, you must spend an equal number of minutes reading, watching, doing, making, or thinking something Smart.
An equal number of minutes! I'm not even asking you to spend more time on Smart than Stupid. You still get to dive merrily into a political flame war on some retarded forum on the internet, as long as when you're through, you do something Smart — like question your own convictions that you just spewed forth on that forum — play devil's advocate — search for weaknesses in your "argument" and consider polar opposite points of view.
For every half hour of "Desperate Housewives of Wherever" that you watch, watch a half hour of Carl Sagan's NOVA, or a few of these clever presentations on TED Education.
And hey, I didn't mean to bash so hard on Honey Boo Boo. She and her awful family are important pointers to who's the lowest common denominator. So watch the travesty of Honey Boo Boo, wince at their white trash drawl, but then spend half an hour listening to your own voice, your own accent, and consider how you may be judged by others due to the cadence of your speech.
Then spend thirty minutes learning an unfamiliar language.
There are hundreds of ways we can improve ourselves every day. Education, practice of a physical craft or skill, examining our prejudices and convictions. If you're as sick to death of Stupid being the accepted status quo, the best thing you can do is to make damn sure you're not contributing to the pollution.
After all, it's the ones who think themselves the most righteous that are always the most wrongeous.
A Boy and His Dog
Since about January I've had the idea bubbling away on a back burner that I'd like to take most of August and drive backroads to my lake house in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York, just me and my dog.
Ben was not disinvited, but it's hardly his idea of a good time, weaving around small towns and ending up in my funky cottage which is crawling with, as he puts it, "little tiny scary things."
The ultimate goal was to meet Ben in New England and continue on to Provincetown on the tippy-tip-end of Cape Cod. Which is from where I now address you.
Rather than rambling on about the trip thus far, let's have us a little show n' tell, what?
( Pictorials of the strange, beautiful, sad and bizarre things one might see taking back roads.Collapse )
Have I been remiss in reporting on the refined, etiquette-driven antics of the finishing school dropouts next door at Krayzee Kornurzz? Did you think that anything has been resolved, improved or scrubbed up in any way due to my failure as a journalist? Oh ye of little cynical faith…
Just a sampling from the Krayzee Buffet then, to whet your app. These stories have all taken place within the last 48 hours, just to give you an idea of the frequency of their high jinx.
*"The Screamer" is the gentleman friend of crackwhore CINDAYYYYY!, so named for her name being screamed outside our bedroom window at 4am with annoying frequency. By The Screamer.
**So named for the pitch and timber of her voice and its close resemblance to the whine of a mosquito in one's ear. And the fact that just looking at her makes one want to slap her.
My dog was sleeping in this position recently, which looked to me like she was mid-bound across the Siberian steppe or a New Mexican mesa or something.
So I put her in those places.
That old girl gets around!
Here for your perusal, and my own reference, is…
Todd's Super-Delicious Low-Carb Egg Salad*
Of course if you're a pussy you can ixnay the jalapeño. And if you're a total pussy you can forgo the raw garlic, but you're off my Xmas card list if you do.
I'm on Atkins at the moment, and this is fully compliant, assuming you don't put it on bread. It's delicious enough to eat with a fork out of a bowl though.
While it's sad to have egg salad not on toasted rye (or whatever bread you prefer to make a sandwich), it's sadder not to have any egg salad at all.
*NOTE: This recipe works well for chicken salad also! Simply swap out the eggs for 3 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into small cubes.
On Friday as I opened my bar at 8:00 as usual, my phone rang. It was my friend Pamela. "Look at the moon!" she bade. I walked around the bar and tapped Taylor, one of my favorite regulars and the first one in the bar, who had just told me about a fight he had had with Matt, another regular and Taylor's good friend. I'd never known the two to fight. It was a little surreal to hear about, quite honestly.
Look, I'm not superstitious by nature, but in my long history of bartending there are two eerie things that can affect the night, and both are far more Mulder than Scully.
They began their summit meeting with a cautious handshake, which I took as a good sign, and went back into the bar, thinking like I always do that maybe my Superstition #2 was unfounded. (I often attempt to disbelieve this anomaly, and I am constantly saddled with more evidence to its veracity.)
And regarding Superstition #1, had I known there was a full moon to compound the issue, I might have just closed the bar then and avoided what was sure to be an off-kilter night.
Back in the bar, I found that a dirty man whom I quietly named Gristle McGrizzlepants had come in. Taylor and Matt followed shortly and seemed to be on the mend. I went to G McG to see what he wanted.
"Hey man, how ya doin'?" he asked, extending one filthy hand across the bar. I eyed it warily, noting grit under the nails, cakes of dirt on the palm, and wondered not for the first, third or hundredth time, why is it the filmy, nasty people are the ones who want to touch you the most? And they will not give up; if you do not return the handshake, their diseased limb hangs there like a fart in an elevator and their eyes turn puppy-sad and puppy-hurt that you're not returning the bonhomie they wish to share with you.
"I'm fine," I said, interlocking my fingers behind my back. "Can I get you something?"
"How 'bout a handshake?" he pressed the point. God, they just do not give up!
To move the unpleasant situation along, I gave his hand a brief squeeze. It was dry and sandpapery. I then walked immediately to the nice, clean, scalding water in my dish sink and disinfected.
"How bout a PBR, man?" Gristle asked.
"No prob," I said drying my hands, popping one open and pushing it across the bar to him.
"Thanks man. Gimme a punch," he said, making a fist and waving it obscenely in my face. I made a fist, bumped his knuckles and disinfected my hands again, which were still smarting from the scalding water of a moment ago.
"That'll be $2," I said. He brought out a wad of bills, crumpled and equally leprous as his hand. I thought, and why is it these people never have a wallet, but keep their money wadded up in little spitballs and reeking like it's been marinating in ass?
I took the money, ironed it flat on the edge of the bar, squirted it with disinfectant, wiped it down with napkins and put it in the drawer at the bottom of the $1's so I wouldn't have to touch them again for awhile.
"And here's a dollar tip for you," he announced magnanimously, pulling out another spitball dollar.
I winced and grimaced, "Thaaaaanks," took the dollar, and put it through the same routine as before. Then I washed my hands again.
"You know Adem?" he said, mentioning my co-worker.
"Of course," I said, shooting a glare at Taylor and cursing his weird fight for tainting my night.
"I work with him over at the deli."
I've ordered delicious sandwiches from that deli. With horror I thought, you touch the food?!?
John and Mitch came in. Two better people are hard to find. They're a lovely couple who often come to see me and my night is brightened by their presence without fail. I poured them their Abitas and immediately unloaded my worries on their sympathetic ears, explaining Superstition #2.
"…so while the night didn't start off with a bum coming in asking for a glass of water and a book of matches, which is the WORST first interaction to have as that will murder any business I expected to do that night, Taylor and Matt's fight just isn't sitting well with me, and McGrizzlepants over there has only cemented my unease. You two aren't going to be … weird … or anything … are you?"
Then shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders.
"Thank you," I sighed audibly.
The night went on. People came and went. Not everyone was creepy, but everyone was a little … off … often in intangible ways that would be difficult to call them out on. Like ordering something and using a strange word in a common phrase: "Could I take a beer?" or "How much is a drink of well?" After a dozen or so iterations of this I felt like I had stepped into an alternate reality where people walk and talk like earthlings … sorta, but so much left me scratching my head.
A guy came in, tall, twenties, clean and well-spoken. "I'd like a whisky and ginger please," he said without swapping in any strange words or rearranging basic grammar. It was almost as strange to hear someone speaking normally in this alternate universe, so accustomed had I become to everyone's Martian translation to English.
He picked up his drink, turned around, and immediately dropped it on the floor.
He turned back to me with a face eerily devoid of shame, remorse or apology. "I dropped my drink," he added uselessly. "Guess I need another one."
I blinked bovinely at him, poured him another and set it down. He brought out more money to pay for it. I waved him off. "Um, it's okay," I said, then fled back down to John and Mitch who occupied the space at the bar that I had come to think of as my Safe Zone. They really were a last link to a sane world I felt had left me.
The bar filled up. People came and went with varying degrees of off'ness. One guy I had poured a vodka tonic for came back and put his glass on the bar. "There are spiders in my drink," he said. I looked in the glass. Clear vodka and tonic.
"I don't see any spiders," I said.
"Oh. They must have crawled out. Could I have another one please?"
I poured him another, refusing his money in reverence of his utterly original line. He thanked me and left a dollar. I put it in my box.
Gristle McGrizzlepants was sitting next to Matt and Taylor, who were chums again, I noted with relief. Maybe their newly-reclaimed friendship would erase Superstition #2 that had cursed my night. Yah right. It doesn't work that way, does it.
"I'd like to get this guy another beer," said Gristle, pointing to Matt. I shrugged and got his beer. Gristle pulled out three more wadded up filth-dollars. "Keep one for yourself," he announced loudly and glanced about to make sure everyone heard he was tipping."
"Um, thanks," I said, ironing, spraying and wiping the money.
"Hey thanks man," said Gristle, presenting his odious limb once again for a handshake. I fled back to my Safe Zone and showed John and Mitch a tweet I had made an hour earlier. "See if you can guess who this is about," I said, handing my phone over to them.
Why is it only the filthy-looking people at my bar want to shake my hand? And when I refuse they won't give up.They answered my challenge correctly.
Another gristly man came in and sat down and ordered something, I couldn't hear what. I asked him to repeat himself. He muttered something inaudible. I cupped my ear and said over the not-very-loud music, "Louder please?"
"A Guinness," he said.
I gave Mr. Mumbles his Guinness. He gave me a credit card. "Keep this open?" he said.
"Sure," I said, looking at the name. "Can I call you Ace, or do you prefer your surname, Mr. Customer?" I asked. He winked mysteriously. Gristle leaned over the bar and extended his hand at me. I fled back to John and Mitch.
My old friend Rory came in with his friend Melinda. I had met her once before under the same circumstances: with Rory, in my bar, she was already drunk, it was her birthday. This was about four months ago, I approximated.
"It's my berfdy!" she slurred loudly at me.
"Honey, if you're going to have three birthdays a year, you're going to age before your time!" I told her. She was confused by this. Rory corrected me: it had been a year since I saw her last. I apologized and got them their drinks.
I handed Melinda her drink and she smiled. "You really need to wash your hair," she cooed.
"Well that's a lovely thing to say to someone out of the blue!" I said and fled back to my Safe Zone. I heard Rory explaining to her why that's not a good conversational opener.
I picked up a dollar off the bar and put it in my box. There was a little spider on the top bill. I squished it.
Gristle came up to me, "Hey man, can ya do me a favor?"
Not if it involves touching you in any way, I didn't say.
"What's that?" I asked skeptically.
"Could you put this on ice for me?" He handed me a huge can of Natural Light, which makes PBR a rich, nutty ale by comparison. The can of beer was wrapped wetly in a once-white paper sack. Absolutely revolting.
"SERIOUSLY!?" I said, gesturing towards the ghetto beer. "I mean … SERIOUSLY!?"
"What?" Gristle asked, eyes wide with not-getting-it'ness. Some of my regulars around him started snickering.
"You're going to not only bring a drink into my bar, but ask me to chill it for you?" I asked, incredulous. That's not the right word; nothing tonight was incredulous.
"Is that bad?" he asked, stung. "C'mon man. I bought two beers. I even tipped you!" he said as if that were a huge deal, which I'll allow probably was for him.
My friends were laughing outright now. I rolled my eyes and took the beer. I cannot tell you why. It had something to do with not fighting the night, but just getting through it. It was a survivalist manœuvre. I peeled the nasty paper bag off the beer, sank the beer in the hot soapy water. Drained the sink, wiped the beer clean and buried it in the ice.
Melinda shouted apologies at me. I waved and smiled and rolled my eyes.
In the corner I saw Spiderman, swatting at spiders on his shirt.
Mr. Mumbles called me over. "This Guinness is off," he said, pushing it towards me. "Could I have a rum and orange juice instead?"
"Sure," I sighed.
I was worried for a sec because I had been serving car bombs to my regulars. I poured a bit of Guinness and tasted it. It was fine. I wasn't surprised.
My phone rang. "Is … [mumbled name] there?"
"No, you have the wrong number." I was about to hang up when the woman on the other end said, "But he called from this number. This is his aunt."
I did a double take and remembered an episode from earlier in the week at the Circle Bar where I went to see my friend play a gig.
I was sitting outside having a cigarette and texting friends to arrange doings for later when a semi-scraggly but not totally homeless white guy came up to me and asked if he could call his aunt.
Uncharacteristically I said yes, finished my text and handed him my phone.
"Is it ringing?" he asked.
"Um, no," I replied. "I don't know your aunt's number."
He rattled off the numbers. I punched them in and handed him the phone. It went to voicemail. He hung up and handed it back to me.
"Could I, uh, try that number again? Sometimes she doesn't answer on the first try."
"Yah sure, whatever," I said and hit redial. It went to voicemail again.
"Hey, it's [mumbled name]. I just got in at the bus station. The police interfered. Find me." He handed the phone back to me. I took it, eyes wide.
"Can I ask you a favor?" he said.
"You already did," I said, going back into the bar. He tried to follow me but the door guy stopped him with a cover charge.
His aunt. Sure. Whatever, I thought. But here she was several nights later calling me on the most skewed night imaginable.
"I don't know him. He just borrowed my phone," I said in disbelief to the apocryphal aunt.
"Well if you see him, tell him [mumbled instructions]."
"I'll be sure to do that," I said and hung up.
I realized that this night was an exceptional example of Superstition #2, and grabbed a notepad and jotted down notes to mull over later.
"Wotcha doing? Writing in your diary?" asked John. (I had, of course, wandered back to my Safe Zone.)
"Actually, that's exactly what I'm doing," I said.
Melinda grabbed me and twisted my wonky, painful spine towards her. "I'm really sorry about earlier," she said.
Gristle called me over. "So was it really a bad thing to ask you to ice my beer?" he asked.
"Let me put it this way," I lectured. "Would you walk into a restaurant with food and ask the cook to heat it up for you?"
"Ummm…" he pondered the hypothetical seriously. "I … don't know…"
I stared at him stonily. He held out his caked hand. "I'm sorry man."
"I. Don't. Want. To. Touch. You. You're Dirty." I said and gave him his now-cold can of beer and shooed him away.
Mr. Mumbles asked to close his tab. I ran his card. He tipped 8%, then ordered another rum and orange. "Can I just run this one drink on this card?"
I rolled my eyes and was about to go into my standard $10 minimum routine, then remembered not to fight the night, and ran the card for $5.
He smiled, scribbled on the receipt and said, "I tipped ya last time, my friend!" waved cheerily and left.
I picked up his credit card slip and noticed he had very specifically written a zero on the tip line, but, being a nice, upstanding guy who bethought me his 'friend', had turned it into a peace sign. I filed it away without another thought — it would take a lot of bizarre to turn my head at this point.
Melinda called more apologies.
Midnight finally came around. I finished my end-of-shift chores. I had a drink with John and Mitch and —not so much bitched, but … regaled the off-kilter events of the evening. I thanked them for being impervious to the weirdness and helping me to keep my sanity. I wanted my husBen who was in Munich, and I told John how lucky they were to be together.
"Wait, you think…" John sputtered. "You think Mitch and I are together!?"
"Well …" I was stunned, "…yah! I mean … aren't you?" I had known them a fairly long time and always assumed. They were always together. Their bar tabs were always together. They could communicate with each other with facial expressions.
John told Mitch my misunderstanding. He laughed. "Dude! We're not together! We're not even gay!"
I admit my gaydar is weak on the best of days, and broken most days, but sometimes you just know. I was nearly knocked off my seat with how wrong I had been all this time.
This isn't creepy, I noted. It's just … off. It's … skewed. Even my anchors of sanity had forsaken me.
I explained to them that it was a compliment, my previous assumption, and to their credit they took it as one.
I promised to start pimping them out to the single ladies at once, finished my drink, biked home, hid under the covers and wailed to the universe.
Nothing's quite as annoying as being on the west coast* and seeing homophobic twenty-somethings with fauxhawks and fitted clothing and good shoes, listening to oontz-oontz dance music and drinking cosmos. It's rude to hate the minority you're emulating.
Equally annoying are wiggers — is that term PC? Like I give a fuck.
Wiggers. You know. Racist white boys wearing gold chains, crooked baseball caps, baggy pants with the crotch at their knees, and driving tricked-out cars with spinning rims, black lights under the chassis, and sub-woofers in the trunk, the sole purpose of the latter being to set off car alarms.
The Saint, the bar I toil at for a grueling four hours a week, was established ten years ago as a Lower Garden District locals' rock-n-roll divey hangout. The reason I have kept a finger in the pie and held on to my little shift all these years is because A) it's important to pay homage to your roots, and B) the phenomenon and aura of a locals' divebar is my comfort zone. (Oh yeah, and C) I'm fucking broke.)
The Saint's clientele has changed dramatically since my halcyon days there. Around 11:30pm, my neighborhood regulars whom I love and serve with reverence depart and are replaced by hoards of Tulane and Loyola children who come for whatever band or DJ we have scheduled. I can hardly bring myself to bitch about this—the bar's a business, and my friend Benji who owns it has not only every right, but every imperative to make his business a financially successful one. However, these children are not my people, and do not constitute a sufficient draw for me to keep my job. Luckily, my shift ends at midnight, so when the place turns into Romper Room, I'm Audi 5000, baby!
Why aren't these kids "my people"? Several reasons. First and most obvious, there's the generational gap. I just don't know what to say to a 22 year old. "How was the circus this year?" or, "Have you had your tonsils out?"
I am also a Grumpy Old Man (GOM) who, if he had a lawn, and descried a passel of this species loitering upon it, would vociferate his wishes that they promptly quit the premises, said delivery being accompanied by frantic gestures with a shaking cane, most likely. So I have neither the knowledge, nor the inclination to interact with them, though I wish them no ill. (Well, except the ones who tip 8%, which is almost all of them, so I guess I do wish a mild case of cancy-wancy upon most of them.)
On my last shift as I was winding down and the kids were winding up, one boy in particular rubbed me the wrong way, and I decided to play a little game with him, because if you're not amused by the company in your proximity, then it behooves you to amuse yourself.
This plucky white boy was wearing a benumbered basketball jersey, très décollété, some humorously thick gold-plated chains, pants so baggy he seemed to be wearing diapers under them (and with a full load, judging by the lowered crotch), and an over-sized baseball cap perched at an angle neither jaunty nor rakish, but simply stupid and derivative of a culture and minority that he most likely fears and avoids.
"Yo, yo," quod the wee bairn by way of introduction, "ahkahavah pink frothy-tini with whipped cream, butterscotch drizzles, rainbow jimmies and two cherries?"**
So repellent and amusing was the specter of this child, I replied, "Sure. But, c'mere for a sec. Let me just fix something…" He leaned over the bar per my bidding, and I adjusted his askew cap. "There ya go, Scooter. Much better."
"Yo, yo!" quoth the lad in confusion and outrage, "Whazzupwiddat?"
"Sorry. I just had to fix your hat. You probably bumped into something and it was a little … off. God, how embarrassing for you! Aren't you glad I caught the problem before people saw it and perceived you as a total idiot, ha ha!"
"Yo, yo," gesticulated the boy with accompanying signing for the hearing impaired, "What the fuck, man!?"
"Well, you know," I beamed at him and assumed a conspiratorial whisper, "if my fly was down or I had spinach in my teeth, I'd hope you'd tell me. You look like an upstanding, helpful guy. I was just trying to save you from having egg of your face … by way of your hat."
"Yo, that's on purpose dawg!" wailed the boy, torn between anger and sulkiness, re-maligning his hat.
"Well then I'd say you've had enough!" I cajoled him with a chummy punch to his shoulder. "I better fix you a glass of water and sober you up, ha ha! To think, going about with a crooked cap is a good idea! Talk about impaired judgment! Oh you'll thank me in the morning, yes you will!"
"Look, I can have my drink now please?"
I erased my veneer of false cheer and gazed at him stonily, playtime over. "I'll make your girly drink if you straighten your damn hat."
A beat. Two beats. "Wait. So," the confusion scrunched up his face, "you're saying … if I don't straighten my hat … I … can't have a drink? … Is that … that right?" he asked, incredulous.
"That is exactly correct," I said.
Three beats. "Aw, nevermind dawg," he said and stomped off.
I shouted after him into the noisy din of the bar, "And get the fuck off my lawn, ya whipperschnäpper! Next?"
* This anathema is by no means indigenous to the west coast, but seems most prevalent there for some reason, especially in L.A. and L.V., though NYC certainly boasts its fair share, but without the hate.
** This may not have been exactly what he ordered. I'm trying to capture the spirit of the thing, not the cumbersome details.
My ingestion of current events is pretty much limited to stopping briefly on the walk home from Rouse's to look at the headline of the Times-Pic.
Today's headline: "Superdome roof being cleaned."
This is my favorite kind of headline because it means there's nothing they deemed more pressing (read: horrific) to breathlessly scream on their front page.
Meaning: no news IS good news.
So hey, let's make a pact, you and I. Let's agree to ONLY buy newspapers or watch major media on days that are decidedly unsensational. Ditto on The
Let's show the media moguls that it really pays to be dull and unsensational!
It's just retarded enough to work.
Sitting in my home in the French Quarter this Thursday evening, I was startled by a ubiquitous roar that seemed to come from all directions at once. I figured the Saints game must be on, and if the crowd's reaction was so boisterous, perhaps I should watch it.
Problem being, I don't think we get any TV stations. The ways of our TV are a mystery to me.
So I decided to trot down to the corner pub to watch the game there.
I poked my head in on Ryder, our friend who's staying with us, telling him my plans.
I thought Ryder would like an update on the game, so we started texting, and so was born…
Marquis Déjà Dû: There seem to be a number of gentlemen darting quickly about the lawn, and quite miffed with one another. Let me know if you'd like further play-by-play updates.After that, something exciting happened in the match and I had to betake myself away-wards with an attack of the vapors…
Lately I've had vivid, constant fantasies about finding a small cabin on some hitherto uncharted pond in Vermont where I might hole up for the winter, chopping wood, eating squirrels and knitting mutant clothing (not a very good knitter). I'm thinking Walden Pond, but less populated. I assume that just because I haven't been to Vermont, no one else has either, and there are small lakes and rustic cabins just sitting around empty. Don't burst my bubble, cheers.
On the off chance they're not currently handing out free lakeside villas in Vermont or Maine, I thought a roadtrip would be nice. An extended, aimless roadtrip that avoided impersonal interstate highways. A backroads, backwoods road trip mazing vaguely towards Vermont or Maine or Quebéc in whimsical EEG spikes. An interstate'less interstate journey. The kind of odyssey they made bad road trip movies of in the 90s or good slasher flicks in the 80s.
So this morning after I dropped husBen off at the airport, I grabbed my trusty, weathered and worn (E)VAC(U)ATION AMERICA almanac and aimed towards the first café or fast food joint on Airline Hwy. where I might sip some coffee and flip through maps of states like Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and, since they included it, Quebéc.
While the concept of such a trip was already rejuvinating my frazzled brain, the throbbing pain of a pinched sciatic nerve which is exacerbated nowhere like in the driver's seat of my car was quashing the realism of my little dream. If driving to MSY airport and back is prompting me to perform lewd acts in trucker rest stops in exchange for a Vicodin, I seriously doubted a several week snaking backroads car trip to New England would be feasible, especially since the agonizing left leg is the one responsible for the clutch, and there's a lot of shifting in tiny burgs and hamlets.
Dreams nearly shattered, but still somewhat attractive, I spotted a place to have a coffee and read my almanac. I passed a slow-moving white pickup truck and made the turn into the parking lot.
As I pulled into a space, I heard a large crash close enough that I thought for a minute that I was hit, and the only reason I wasn't feeling the impact was that I was in shock.
The crawling pickup truck I had passed awhile back had been rear ended by a sedan, the latter's front half resembling a steaming, hissing accordian.
"There but for the grace of god…" I thought, and tried to gauge the omen, if this was in fact an omen—if there were in fact any such thing as an omen.
If I hadn't passed that slow-ass truck, I would have been the one rear ended by the now-hysterical sedan women screaming and darting around a busy Airline Hwy. like a crazed rabbit. So maybe it augers well for me, and I made the right decision, and the omen says, "Yes! Go on a road trip! You are impervious! See?"
Or perhaps more likely (as omens go), the smashed car and the hyperventialting sedan woman clutching her chest as cars honked and avoided her on Airline Hwy. was telling me that perhaps cars are not very good things to spend a lot of time in just at the moment.
The woman at the counter saw my voluminous, tattered Rand McNally and asked, "Where ya goin', baby?"
"I really don't know," I replied. "Away, maybe."
"Aw, I heard dat! We all just wanna get away," she said sagely.
"Where would you go if you weren't allowed on interstates?"
She looked at me and blinked. "Dat's $3.50, honey. NEXT!"
I sat down at a window where I could watch the shuddering sedan woman kneeling and panting in the median of Airline Hwy. and began mapping my stupid, aimless, apocryphal trip, starting with Hazlehurst, Mississippi because I loved the film CRIMES OF THE HEART which is set there, and Hazlehurst is technically off the highway, and on the way to Vermont-or-wherever. Perhaps Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton and Dame Sissy would be waving at me from the roadside, I thought. Or perhaps … not. Anyway, I'm going there.
I followed the squiggliest trail I could devise to Abingdon, Virginia where I once spent an afternoon 20-odd years ago when my car broke down there. The mechanic's daughter was thrilled to play with my two parakeets who were traveling with me. ("Where you headed, son?" "L.A." "Lower Abingdon?" "Uh, no. The other one.")
Once on the New England pages I could only choose my destinations by the superficial allure of the names since I am ignorant of the geography and topography. But what a difficult game to play! To have to choose between Moxie Lake (in the shadow of Moxie Mountain), or the nearby Pleasant Pond off rural route 201, BFE, Maine. Or North Randolph, Vermont, which is south of East Brookfield, which is west of East Corinth, which is west of West Newbury, which is east of South Northfield?
It doesn't really matter. I'm not going anywhere except home to take my old-man pills for my screaming leg and left ass cheek.
Pills gobbled and pain the tiniest bit abated, my road trip dreams remained rudely intact. Realistically, I figured I could only do a day trip until (if ever?) my back healed, so I texted a friend for a mini-trip to Grand Isle or Biloxi or some place. Might do that this weekend, decrepitude and mutual schedules permitting.
WHY this mad scramble for escape? I think it's because of Alan.
Alan lives at Krayzee Kornurzz next door. I think he's the one with filthy stringy hair and a weather-battered face like a dustbowl, flyover state serial killer, but I can't be sure. I don't want to be sure. He's already taking up too much real estate in the tiny parcel of land in my mind.
Alan lives in (one of the seeming hundreds of ramshackle apartments in) the back courtyard and is the proud owner of what Ben calls the Redneck Doorbell. A Redneck Doorbell sounds like this…
“ALAN!!!! ALAN!!! HEY ALAN!!!”
…at any hour of the morning, day, afternoon, night, middle of the night, dawn, dusk, gloaming, twilight, whatever, and shouted by about three dozen
Of course it's not just the stupid neighbor, but he's the straw on my back, and there are enough straws on my back to start a pretty nice blaze.
To list, this is what I don't want any more, and why an imaginary Vermontian cabin in the woods far from humanity is such a bright and pretty beacon:
In either event, lunacy is certainly imminent. And sticky, jammy carpet.
My LJ postings are as sparse and yellowed as a lawn in Scottsdale. Sorry bout dat. You can always find me twattering away or F***booking all the live-long day. But really, have I had nothing to say over 140 characters for the last few months? Perhaps so. Perhaps not. Isn't life a mysterious box of chocolates.
It's been a rough few months over here at Chalet Manderley. My back got … broken? … or something. I don't know precisely what happened. When friends ask if there was an episode that brought it on, my only answer is, yah, I turned 40 and shit started falling to pieces.
It started like any spinal grumble, and escalated to a dull howl, and none of this is new, but then the part where the pain ebbs away and my (once-young-not-so-much-now) body fixes itself never presented itself. A dwindling supply of Vicodin and British codeine pills kept me functioning, though the constant throb of pain naturally wore down my demeanor and I became extra-super-depressed and crankypants.
After six weeks or so when I realized it wasn't going to fix itself this time, I went to a friend's chiropractor. Hadn't been to one of them since the late 90s in Philly. I always think of chiropractors as a last, violent resort when the offending condition just won't listen to reason, massage, epsom baths or vituperations.
He snapped me, and I felt great for three whole days. Got a lot of climb'y stuff done — took down the Mardi Gras décor, cleaned the gutters on the roof, did a lot of stuff that my mean ole spine wouldn't let me do weeks before.
Then a sciatic nerve got pinched in my left leg, which made the previous pain seem like an afternoon in a candy shop. Driving was difficult as my left leg hated the range of motion the clutch requires. I was hesitant to go back to the chiropractor because, while I think they're good for last resort solutions, I don't really like being snapped and cracked too often. I have no scientific basis for this hesitation; it just creeps me out.
A week or so of that sunk me even lower into the maelstrom of despair. The Husband was concerned, and we both have been complaining about our old mattress not being of sufficient quality for 40-somethings. So we went out and blew the cats' college funds on a Tempurpedic mattress, which is twice as much as any "normal" mattress, and worth far more than even that.
The sciatic nerve worked itself out, and I give credit to the new bed, and I had a good six hours of (relatively) pain-free living when my lower right muscles started spasming and charlie horsing and convulsing and basically carrying on like one of those trashy, nonsensical Jersey Shore people I've read about. "Why are you doing that? You're stupid, muscles/Jersey Shore people!"
This was the worst pain yet, and bade me make an appointment at the musicians' clinic at LSU (because the one M.D. my crappy insurance will cover is a man I really don't ever want to see again).
This time I was literally bed-ridden. Sitting up, standing, turning, twisting, or moving in any way caused the muscles in the lower right quadrant of my back to seize and scream and twist and gnash.
I was popping so many opioids that I was getting concerned about nurturing a habit, so I imposed an every-other-day rule upon myself, which meant that one day I would be horribly miserable, but at least a little fuzzy around the edges, and the next drugless day would be something only Dante could properly describe.
Wednesday I started calling coworkers to see if someone could cover me at The Saint. If getting out of bed to pee was an Herculean task, bartending was right out of the question.
"I can get through this weekend. I can get to Tuesday and my LSU appointment. I will survive this." I had lots of gritted-teeth mantras last week.
Ben flew to Vegas last week. I drove him to MSY, and as I approached the car in my hobbling gait, I looked at the door and thought, can I even get in there? And once I'm in, can I use my legs on the pedals? It was a weird awakening moment, and I began, sadly, to appreciate the daily struggles that chronic pain sufferers cope, or don't cope with. The choices they have to make. The spoon theory, in short.
I am sympathetic and empathetic by nature, but there's some stuff you can only understand when it happens to you. That moment of can I do this? as I approached the car was just such an event. I'd prefer to remain empathetic, but effectively ignorant of such knowledge next time, thanks very much.
I knew driving Ben to the æreoporte meant that I would be down for the count for the rest of the day, and probably most of the next, and even though it was an odd-numbered day which meant I couldn't take pills, I was already planning on breaking my rule.
The drive was like a scene out of the film HOSTEL. Except all the mutilation and pain and cruelty was internal, and centered in my lower right back. When I got home (after literally screaming in my car from pain and rage at douchey suburban drivers forcing me to shift gears on the highway), it took me five minutes to figure out how to get out of the car! I couldn't bend my neck through the doorway. I couldn't extend my leg. I couldn't lean to the right and slide out the door on the left. I sat there, parked in front of my house, seeing my cat through the window watching me, so close, but a hundred miles away. Flashes from S. King's book GERALD'S GAME replayed in my head.
Somehow I escaped my Toyota prison — I kinda blacked out and don't remember how — and spent the next 24 hours in bed, frustrated, angry, sad, depressed, and lots of other negative-type emotions my only fuel.
Friday I woke up and winced prematurely, knowing that to sit up and get out of bed was going to cost a lot of spoons. But when I sat up, there was nothing but a dull, annoying throb in my back. I twisted to the left. I twisted to the right. Stiff and achey and awful, but functional, by gum!
I ended up working The Saint on Friday, and while I've had more pleasant times bartending, it was doable.
Saturday I drove (!!!) to Biloxi and back — 4 hours — plus sat in a chair (!!!) in a casino for another six hours. Grumbling back pains, but I did it!
Today is manageable as well. The fact that I've sat at my desk long enough to write this is testimony. I would love to swallow a dear, generous friend's oxycontin right now, but I don't have to, so I'm not going to.
Another generous, lovely friend gave me a scrip of Skelaxin (love that word!) last night, claiming it's a muscle relaxer "just for the big muscles." She's a chronic back pain sufferer and calls this her 'miracle drug'. So I'm giving that a try now, and I'd have to agree with her. Plus there's a nice buzz and I'm losing track of time and perhaps overcompensating for my 140 character limit on Twatter by filling up the entire internet with a story that cannot possibly be a) interesting, b) entertaining, c) original, d) insightful to anyone but me. But damn, it feels good to be able to sit at my desk and write to you, dear, nearly-abandoned LJ chums o' mine, just like a big boy!
I'm still going to my appointment at LSU on Tuesday as I want this looked at properly, but at least I know that I can drive myself Uptown then. Also, going to call a friend's acupuncturist. I've never tried acupuncture, and while I'm usually wary of hippie remedies, 7,000 years of Chinese medicine can't be complete rubbish, so I'm curious.
Paul flies back from London tonight. Three days ago, I'd happily text him from the confines of my bed, and that would be the extent of our cavorting. Now, for the first time in months, I'm actually looking forward to going out and seeing friends tonight.
Just like a big boy!
Complete the solipsistic sentence: "I…"
…worry about aging, but not about my own mortality. Kinda looking forward to it. Seems peaceful.
…am OCD enough to select where I step to miss sidewalk cracks or choose specific bits of patterned carpets, but not OCD enough to clean the coffee table.
…firmly believe that bananas are the devil's phallus, and walnuts are the devil's gonads. I will never eat either.
…am lonely in a crowd.
…lose sexual interest in a prospective lay if it comes to my attention that he doesn't know how to use apostrophes correctly.
…am forgetful, but loyal. (Applicable to names and faces.)
…am agnostic in religion, the zodiac, and the paranormal. The brazen, self-centered audacity of people claiming to "know" anything along these lines (pro or con) is offensive to me.
…having said that, I believe everyone should find their spiritual bliss in whatever manner it may manifest to them, even if I think it's super silly. I draw the line at proselytizing/recruiting/going on a mission. That's just bad form.
…say goodnight to my cat's grave in the backyard every night before I go to bed.
…love to travel, but love coming home to New Orleans even more than being away.
…can make a living doing what I don't like, or go broke doing what I love. Working on fixing that.
…have changed since Katrina, and I do not like the person I have become.
…don't find any æstheic problem with putting a few ice cubes in a glass of white wine.
…have never had sex with a black person.
…am not racist nor a snob. I'm a classist. If you don't have any, fücken-sie auf.
…enjoy the company of persons, but rarely people. The plurality of a crowd is repellent. (See above.)
…have hit my quota for friends. The only new friends I will accept must have a wikipedia page dedicated to them.
…am kidding about that last one.
Flu Poem for Winifred
Examine, won't you dear?—
This miasma of beigen snot.
With a consistency of a glob of Elmer's
Six. Hours. Old.
Want to play Who's Worse Off?
Better bring your A-game.
Think I just saw smurfs on the ceiling.
Leaving. Snail. Trails.
Placental in my zebra-striped bankie,
Pillows propping me like a porcelain dolly,
There's nothing dainty about
Red. Streaked. Coughs.
Even the kitties,
Who are wont to lick their asses,
Shy away from this train wreck. I've
Crossed. Their. Line.
Imagine the tiniest meal,
Of chicken soup, a piece of fruit,
A bowl of phở…
Linda. Blair. Anyone?
If there's a silver lining,
It's the knowledge that tomorrow, on the plane,
I will infect everyone on their way to
The. Oh. Cee.
I'm writing this recipe here for my own reference, as well as your delectation. It's my patented BLACK PEPPER TAPIOCA PUDDING and it's Da Bämbuhz.
It's starting to go.
Some months ago I was on the phone to mom. During the course of the half hour conversation, I was pacing the house, lifting, peeking and poking into everything, looking for my phone. Finally, exasperated, I said to mom, "GOD this is frustrating! I've just spent 30 minutes looking for my phone. I can't find it anywhere!"
"Which phone, honey?"
"The one you're talking to me on?"
Last night it happened again. matel came by and we were going to walk to One Eyed Jacks to meet changingthesky.
"I'll just be a sec," I said as I went to the bedroom, pulled my wallet out of one coat, went to the closet to get another coat, and in that time lost my wallet.
BlondeLiz helped me scour the room. We took the entire bed apart … twice. Searched through the same pockets dozens of times. Snorfled through dirty laundry (always the sign of a good friend if she'll do that!).
At last, feeling like a Grade-A 'Tard, I gave up. I stole some money out of Ben's safe and we went to the club.
When I came home to sleep, I had a dream I found my wallet in my houndstooth coat, which was currently residing in the front of the house, miles from where I had put the wallet when I extracted it from the other coat the night before.
I woke up and checked the houndstooth coat. It was there. So what did I take out of the other coat?! My phone? Cigarettes? My senses, sanity and intelligence?
Now what was I saying?
I'm really not anti-Semitic, I swear. Some of my best friends are some of my best friends. But I cannot not confess my love for two semi-un-PC terms: Jewish fireworks (throwing a cigarette out of a moving car) and Jewish lightning (arson to collect insurance).
With that in mind, what do you call Jewish lightning when its victim is an abandoned Catholic church and the abandoned next-door mansion owned by the church? The Stations of the Assessor? St. Allstate? Taking the Jewcharist? (wokka-wokka)
Hey, stop looking at me that way. I get to say things like this. My nose is enormous and hook-like.
Anyway, last night there was a 6-alarm fire (can someone explain the criteria for the numbering of alarms to me?) near The Saint where I was guilelessly serving drinks to my drunken friends and customers. I put a customer in charge of the bar while I ran down the street to make sure it wasn't my friend Kristin's house on fire, because it really looked like the sparks and flames were coming from her block.
It was close—the next block down Prytania—the beautiful old church across from Zara's grocery, and the beautiful old house next door to it. No one was hurt (as far as I know), and the fire was under control by midnight. But it was such a blaze that it knocked out two power grids. docbrite in Central City lost power for a few hours I believe. The Saint, in the Lower Garden Dist. was dark for about 45 minutes.
During that 45 minutes, we had a good time in my bar. I found a box of emergency candles and lit the dark cavern of a bar. (The only other light was the glow of the ATM machine which, oddly, is battery-powered. Priorities?) I played my iPhone as loud as it would go through its baby speakers (not very loud) while we rocked out, screaming and kissing-the-goat in whispers. One customer complained, "Can you turn that down? My ears are hurting."
"Can I have a Jack & Coke?" someone asked.
"I really don't know!" I replied, wondering if the soda gun would work with no electrics. (It did.)
I couldn't open the register, so I sold drinks by scratching down amounts on a pad and making change from my tip jar. When the change was gone, I put a new rule into effect: exact change only, unless you wanted to tip me the $12 change from your $20 bill. (A couple people did, bless them.)
We had a sing-along of Row Row Row Your Boat.
I made a round of Blackout Shots for everyone in the bar as thanks for suffering through the outage with me, and we all toasted to living life like it was 1820.
The moment the last shot was devoured, the lights popped back on.
Of course I'm sad that such a gorgeous specimen of New Orleans architecture is ruined—architecture is what brought me to N.O. 15 years ago. But the constant comings and goings of everyone to check on the fire and report the news, and the bonhomie of the mini-blackout party made last night very special, and helped remind me why I live here, and why I cling to my paltry 4-hour-a-week bartending job.
¡Viva sin luces!
[ETA]—My friend, housekeeper, and always-first-customer Annie just emailed me reminding me of the drunk guy she was talking to. This guy knocked over my shakers and bar gear onto the floor with his rucksack not once, not nine times, but three times in the space of half an hour. I kept sorta wanting to toss him out, but Annie seemed to be "enjoying" their conversation. Until she called me over to inform me he had just thrown up on her sweater.
"That's it. You're gone," I told him, picking up his luggage and handing it to him.
He argued (always a good thing to do with a NOLA bartender) and pleaded and whinged.
Annie's email reminded me what exactly I said to him to make him leave: "You can't throw up on my friends and stay."
This one's called…
Xmas in the Decatur Street bars is not how Picasso would have painted it with a family of 3 sitting down to a servil dinner while cars sing hippie jam band songs outside in the snow. No sir! It's much more hot than that. First of all, most people in New Orleans are proctologists which means of course that December is a slow month. So people are feeling sticky and don't have any fuzzy kittens in their pockets.Your turn!!! Go here and fill out the form. If it's good (and it will be), post it to my comments.
Y'know, I don't think I ever showed you my Halloween costume this year.
I was Joan Crawford. But Faye Dunaway doing Joan, not Joan doing Joan. Because Faye is more draggy. Which is a must. Obviously.
Wig by Brian Peterson for Fifi Mahoney's.
"Understated" housecoat by me, using 16 entire yards of fabric, sewn over the course of two months. It was a total sweatshop job.
There are still approximately 4,938 little silver dots all over Manderley. They're not very well-affixed to that fabric. That's okay though. It's like the drag-færie vomited all over our house. Wouldn't be the first time, right?
Hey, you 37 listeners out there. Won't you please support my fantastic friend Sean and her new book that's coming out next month? Any coffee table would be proud to display this gorgeous, rock-n-roll tome. I saw a mock-up of it a few months ago and it's lickably delicious.
Discover the glamor and grit and fantasy and struggle of being the only established female metal rockstar of the late 80s and 90s.
If you live in or near any of the below cities, go to the reading/signing and tell 'er I sentcha!
Here's the info. Can't wait to get my grubby paws on a copy.
UPDATES on Sean Yseult's & “I’m in the Band”!
Buy the Book NOW!
Pubisher’s Info on Book:
Sean’s Personal Website: http://www.seanyseult.com
Durham, NC—The Regulator- Saturday, Nov 27th 7-9pm
New Orleans, LA—Garden District Book Shop - Friday, December 3rd 6-8pm
Silverlake, CA—Wacko - Tuesday, December 7th 6-9pm
West Hollywood, CA—Book Soup - Wednesday, December 8th 7-9pm
Tribeca, NYC—Barnes and Noble - Wednesday, January 5th 7-9pm
Yesterday morning, as I was burying Harley, I thought what an appropriate thing this was to do, considering the time of year — burying loved ones that you've killed in the backyard. SPOOOKEEEE! My mind kept reverting to that final scene from CARRIE where Amy Irving is putting flowers on Carrie's grave and (spoiler alert!) a hand juts up from the ground and grasps her.
And so I actually gave a small yelp when almost that exact thing happened yesterday as I was patting down the freshly-laid earth and a cat paw came out of nowhere and batted at me on the wrist.
Then I laughed. Really hard. You wouldn't have known I was laughing if you had heard me; the laugh sobs commingled with the sad sobs and they probably sounded the same.
Stumpy, a neighborhood cat who hangs out around our house, was on the other side of the fence and saw some action going on under the crack of the barge boards. Stumpy likes to play, so he stuck his little paw under the fence and swatted me with it, putting the FUN back in FUNERAL.
Happy Halloween y'all. And thanks for the deluge of LJ comments, emails, Twitters, voicemails and texts I received yesterday from friends and internet stalkers alike, when I was feeling so alone. You all are a very caring bunch, and I'm honored and humbled that you gave a damn about me and Ben and my poor old Harley in our time of woe.
I'm much better today. I've only cried twice, as opposed to the constant stream of snot running down my face yesterday that made me so attractive!
I was going to beg off work last night, thinking I'd be in no condition to smile and flirt and serve cocktails, but one of my regulars texted me suggesting it might be just what I need to distract me. And she was right. It helped a lot talking to people who hadn't just killed their best friends that morning. It reminded me that life does go on, and I really needed that reminder. Plus, I made exactly the amount of money it cost to euthanize Harley, so that was nice.
Really though. Thanks for your support, each and every one of you. It means a lot.
Harley has hated being on the bed lately, which is such bizarre behavior for her. One of her favorite games is called "Cat Jail," where I put her under the covers, lock down all the edges and she pretends she wants to get out by burrowing at the crevasses, all the while purring and rolling over and loving it. (I told you cats are into S&M.)
Since she's been hiding out on the records in the front parlour and hesitant to come to the back bedroom, I blew up the inflatey bed last night and slept in the parlour with her. She pawed at the sheets, climbed under, and slept and purred in the crook of my arm all night long. I woke up several times to pet her. She never stopped purring.
This morning around 6am I woke up and played with her, as much as her debilitated body and mind could "play" with me. I haven't seen her in such high spirits in months. Which made it even more difficult to go to the vet's at 8:15 this morning.
"Say goodbye to the house, kitty," I said as I held her in my arms to walk to Royal St. "You'll be back here in just a bit and you can have a nice, long nap."
Ben carried the wicker basket with the red pillowcase that was to be her hearse on the way home.
I cried most of the way there.
The doctor and his nurses were great. Soothing, understanding, but moving the ugly business along. I could have sat in there for hours, wailing and gasping.
"First I'll give her a general anesthetic," he said, "followed by the injection which will stop her heart."
"Okay," I said, trailing snot from a Kleenex all over the steel table.
As I mentioned, Harley has been despondent and lackluster for months now. So wasn't I the proud papa when the doctor gave her the anesthetic shot and she perked up, giving one last animated FUCK YOU! hiss at him. I laughed through my sobs. "There's my girl! You tell 'im, Harley!" She got the last word, and that's just like my old lady.
Ben and I petted her and kissed her as she slowly sank into quiet, peaceful unconsciousness. She was still purring until she conked out entirely.
The doctor then shaved one of her arms and poked the final needle in. A plume of blood filled the hypo. He found the vein on the first try.
"I want to feel her heart as you push the plunger," I said.
Five seconds later, I counted three diminishing ticks of her heart beat — those three last beats like kettle drums banging in my ears — and then it stopped. She was gone.
I buried my face in her warm belly and cried. I heard Ben crying above me. We held hands for awhile as, for the last time, Harley absorbed my tears.
The doctor gave us both a hug. I thanked him for a perfect dispatch into whatever comes next. I envied Harley a little, actually. If only all our deaths could be that sublime and peaceful.
Ben wrapped her in the pillowcase and carried the basket as we walked home. I took deep, sobbing breaths, peering at the crisp newly Autumn skies on the way home. The French Quarter has seen a hundred thousand deaths in its 300 years. It didn't pity me or Harley.
We put the basket on the dining room table. I continued to pet her and kiss her for awhile. She was still warm. I instinctively felt her neck, as I've done ten thousand times before to feel for her quiet purr, but nothing. I think that's when it really hit home that she was gone. She loved being in baskets and boxes and being pet. It was guaranteed to evince some major purrage. Her quietude was … offensive.
I went to the backyard and raked up some leaves and tidied up the area. I dug her grave between two Confederate jasmine vines. I continued to pet and hold and kiss her in the crisp morning air. She wasn't cold yet, but she wasn't mammalian warm any more either. Her limbs and head lolled obscenely in a way no living creature would permit. A sack of meat and fur.
"Are you ready?" asked Ben.
"Yes," I lied.
I placed her in the pillowcase and lowered her into the ground. I arranged her with one paw curling over her face as was her sleeping pose for the last 18 years.
We each sprinkled a handful of dirt over her, then Ben shoveled the rest back in.
I planted the Harley look-alike iris over her head, and surrounded the grave with eight black tulip bulbs. I affixed my glassblowing friend Patti's red milagro heart on the fence over the grave.
When I met Pamela, my bio-mom, twenty years ago in Washington state, we spent the day at an old cemetery. Way off in some bushes was a chipped off marble headstone reading simply "SISTER." We spent that day trying to find where SISTER belonged, matching the broken-off headstone to broken stumps of marble throughout the cemetery. I never found her home, so I took SISTER home with me, thinking she was lonely off in the bushes away from her kin. I've had this headstone all these years. I planted SISTER's headstone above Harley, because that cat was like a sibling to me.
I sat in the cold morning air for about an hour, staring at her grave without comprehension. "She can't be down there," I reasoned. "She belongs in the house."
When I went inside, the doorbell rang. My dear, dear friend Winifred in San Francisco had sent flowers. I cried anew.
Harley's gone. I still expect to see her at the water dish, mewling her "hello, I love you," breep when I walk into the bedroom. I will never see her there again.
The house is empty. My heart is empty. I was going to call in bereaved to work tonight, but I think I really need the distraction. So if Patti's valium wears off by 7:00, I'll go in for a few hours and distract myself with work.
But when I come home, I know she won't be at the door to greet me.
Oh, Harley. I miss you so much already. You took a huge part of me with you. I know you're better off now, and I hope you have a nice, peaceful rest. For me — not so much. Not having you around is going to be a formidable torment for a very long time.
Goodbye, my sweet, sweet darling. Goodbye. Thank you for being exactly who you were and for sharing your life with me. My soul is buried with you, sweet princess.
The little brown thing sticking up in front of the gravestone is Harley's iris.
And finally, a cameo by Harley in my performance of Zez Confrey's "Kitten on the Keys".
Harley's been on the wane for months now. She eats one kind of food for a week, decides she doesn't like it, then I have to go out and find another brand. Rather quickly I exhausted all known brands of dry and wet food. When she gave up on cat food entirely, I canceled the rest of my JetBlue pass for September and stayed home to bake her a chicken breast every day. Then she stopped eating chicken. She's grown thinner and thinner, and walks like a drunkard, back legs splayed out and wobbling.
Here she is, in her recent chicken-eating days. She would lord over her little plate of cubed poultry and not let the other cats eat her special little meal. Sometimes she lorded over it so long she fell asleep … in her food.
Yesterday I took her to the vet. Why did I wait so long, you may well ask me with an accusing waggling finger? Because I was hesitant to have my suspicions confirmed incontrovertibly by a doctor.
The doctor perked up my hopes yesterday, however. "Her behavior is symptomatic of a thyroid condition. Which is treatable. I want to do some blood tests. Come back at 5:00 today."
Okie dokie. I left her at the vet's and went home.
Around 4:30, the doc called: "I've got some bad news…" He cited functions and levels and numbers that were meaningless to me, made more obscure by my spinning head upon hearing from a doctor the two magic words "bad news."
"This or that is, in a healthy cat, a 2. A 4 is something to be concerned about. A 6 generally means immediate hospitalization. Harley's at an 8."
Head swimming. Room spinning.
"This or that level should be a 20. A 30 is okay, but cause for concern. A 40 is cause for alarm. Harley's at 170."
"Wow," I replied idiotically. "That sounds … bad."
It's her kidneys. They kinda don't exist anymore. It's been a gradual, natural thing for a cat of her age (18).
"The dysfunction of her kidneys and the subsequent toxicity level in her body would have killed any other cat long ago. Her deterioration has been so gradual that her body has 'adjusted' to the new circumstances, which is why she's still alive."
"Your recommendation?" I asked, and mouthed silently along with him when he answered since I already knew…
I've never had to put an animal down. I didn't know how to begin to wrap my head around that.
"But she seems happy … well, happyISH, and she purrs and rubs her face on me like always…"
The vet explained that cats often purr for mysterious reasons. He said she may not be in pain, per se, but what she's feeling is like a really, really, really nasty flu. Dizziness, nausea, disorientation, achey, etc. I agreed she was acting like a really, really, really bad flu victim.
"It's a quality of life issue," he said, and again I agreed.
I picked up Harley from the vet and made an appointment for Friday morning to do the deed. I carried her home in my arms, hugging the breath out of her, bathing her in tears while she purred and looked around the French Quarter with mild interest. Tourists would stop me and say, "What a beautiful kitty!" I would look up and they'd see tears and snot running down my face. Then they would back away, frightened.
I chose Friday (instead of today) for selfish reasons. I'm not ready to say goodbye quite yet. We have some bonding to do. 18 years is a long time to spend with somebody, and Harley and I have been very, very close since she came into my life. It's eerie how well we know each other, actually. I've never had such a tight relationship with any other animal. I know instinctively what she wants at any given moment (until recently, when her health diminished and I selfishly procrastinated confirming my suspicions). And Harley, with uncanny aptitude, can always read me like a book and deliver whatever cat services are appropriate for any occasion.
When my ex and I broke up in 2002, for example, and my heart was shattered into sharp, silvery shards, Harley didn't leave my pillow for two months and absorbed buckets of tears into her fur by acting as my pillow. (She usually doesn't like my head sleeping on her, but knew at that time it was what I required.)
I could ramble on for hours about all the experiences we've shared, and how she's been more than just a dumb cat to me because of her almost human sagacity.
She came into my life in '92 or '93. I was living in Oakland, CA at the time. My brother Chris was down in Lo. Cal. He had this kitten, which his then-girlfriend had named Harley because she purred a lot and sounded like a motorcycle. He was moving apartments and I guess there was some hardship having a kitten around. So a friend of mine from San Francisco who was visiting down there picked up the kitten and drove her to me in Oakland. I was just supposed to cat sit until Chris found an apartment.
It's now 2010 and I still have the cat. I suppose that means Chris is still homeless.
Kidding. Chris isn't homeless. He couldn't have recalled Harley after the first month of me cat sitting anyway. She had become my little princess-pooh-perfect and I would have fought in court anyone challenging my custody of her.
In '95 she had kittens. I remember the day she escaped my Oakland warehouse, driven mad by being in heat. I found her under the warehouse, through a crack the size of half a cinderblock. I could see her, but couldn't get to her. She was peering at me, with a neighborhood orange tomcat mounting her from behind. Ours eyes locked. I pled with her, "PLEASE don't let that trashy cat fuck you!"
Her eyes never left mine during her romantic copulation. They said, "FUCK YOU! This is what I NEEEEEED!"
When it was almost time for labor, I made a box for her and lined it with towels. She looked at it, looked at me, and understood exactly what it was for. She jumped right in.
One morning around 5am she left the box, jumped on my bed, stuck her nose in my face and mewled until I was awake. When she saw I was responsive, she turned her backside to me, which had a little kitten poking out of it. I still remember the look in her eyes as she turned her head to stare at me. Her eyes said, "What the fuck is this THING in my cooch!?!? Help me! Get it the fuck OUTTA there!"
I called in sick to work and delivered each of her kittens, which was kinda easy. The tough part was pulling out the bloody placenta after each kitten came out. The springy umbilical was, in a few instances, too thin, and the string broke and the placenta popped back inside her body. (A panicked call to a vet informed me that she would expel those naturally later.)
It was a disgusting but beautiful way to spend a morning.
A week or so later as she was dutifully nursing her children in the towel-lined box, she woke me again in a similar manner as before. When she saw I was responsive, she blinked at me as if to say, "Stay there. I'll be right back."
She jumped down into the box, picked up a white kitten in her mouth, jumped back on the bed and dropped it on my pillow. She stared at me meaningfully for a minute as if to say, "Thanks for the help. Here, you can have this one." Then she returned to the box to nurse the kittens.
I put the kitten back in the box and thanked her for the gesture, which I found astounding and very moving. She seemed to nod acknowledgment and accepted the return of her gift with aplomb.
This anecdote is what I mean when I say we can read each others' minds. I've never had that with any other animal, and I don't expect to again. And so continued a long and happy relationship.
I was biking around doing errands yesterday trying to recall all the houses she's lived in with me. I got up to eight, in three states and three time zones, then lost count.
When I'm at my computer in my office, as I am now, it is Harley's custom to jump onto the printer on the floor (usually turning the printer on by stepping on the tiny button, so I have to keep the switch to 'OFF') and then jump onto my lap and purr/meditate on my thigh.
She's on my thigh now as I write this entry, and it breaks my heart that this is the last time we will be like this. After today, I can keep my printer's power switch on 'ON'. But I don't think I will.
When I brought her home yesterday, Ben and I hung out with her in the bedroom as we talked about Harley, and Ben comforted me as I comforted the cat. I was getting a little stir-crazy and wanted to leave the house for a bit. I asked Ben to go to Lowe's with me so I could pick out some bulbs to plant on her grave when I bury her in the backyard tomorrow. (It feels so weird and awful to even type that as she sits purring on my leg right now. I feel dirty and cruel.)
I found an iris that has Harley's torte'y coloring, and a dozen black tulips to plant around it, so every spring she will come to visit me. I also bought a shovel because some crackhead stole ours from Clifford's backyard.
"Thanks for inviting me along on a romantic date to pick out cat burial stuff," said Ben when we got home. You have to laugh so you won't scream.
I was thinking of having a second line for her tomorrow evening, but I can't afford a brass band. Thinking instead of getting a bunch of friends together and marching through the Quarter with kazoos, but I don't think I'll be in any shape to organize anything that complicated tomorrow.
Harley has, over the course of her life, chosen a sleeping spot and stuck with it — for one to three weeks. Then she moves on to another sleeping spot. This week's spot is on my old records (when she's not on my thigh when I'm writing).
You can tell from her posture that she feels like shit.
In a way, I'm kind of relieved it's finally come to this. She's been the best cat anyone could ever hope for, but she's 237 in cat years, and I owe her a good death before she really starts to suffer. My god, if only we could all have it so good!
I'm going to miss her though. The house will be empty without her. My life will be missing her presence and love as well.
Oh god, Harley, how do you say goodbye?
( A pictorial retrospectiveCollapse )
Goodnight, my sweet, sweet, perfect, perfect girl. I love you to explosion within my chest.
So what do you want to be when you grow up? I ask myself this question constantly. I ask it of my friends. I ask it of my parents, age 70. I ask it of you.
The answer, invariably, is, "Fuck if I know!"
Gone are the days (thankfully!) when you went to school with a pre-determined goal in mind, got into engineering, advertising, door-to-door vacuum selling, whatever, and stuck with it until the day you finally hung up your old Stetson hat and retired to Boca. We have so many more choices in the 21st century. And companies are not as eternal as they once were. Choice minus job security equals a buffet of careers for most people.
Me, I've always said that I change my career with the frequency that the homeless change their underwear — about every three years. Or at least I used to. Lately I've been sticking with things longer. Five years of gambling. Ten years of bartending. (Dear spell check: please stop underlining "bartending." It's making me feel invalidated.) And if I occasionally had a six month hiatus of funemployment, even that has expanded into a three year bout of unfunemployment. (Glumemployment?) (Spell check is hating this entry.)
I pretty much put my service industry career into the outbox. Done, stamped, stapled and ready to file in the archives. Pecuniary decimation bade me open the drawer and pull out that old file however, as bartending is something I'm good at, and it's quick cash for this week's bills. So I picked up one of my old shifts at The Saint, an erstwhile alma mater. The Saint is a groovy, stanky little dive bar in the Lower Garden District, and I love every crusty corner of it. The drinks are cheap, the ambiance is cozy yet rock-n-roll, the patrons are all my old regulars who still remember my halcyon days when I was invincible, and the jukebox is non pareil. Sure, on late night weekends it turns into a playground for the Tulane/Loyola kids, but hey, I'm off at midnight. SEE YA!*
I haven't worked around a kitchen since 1987, and didn't think I would ever consider becoming a waiter again, until a month or so ago I was out to dinner with docbrite and chefcdb at Commander's Palace. I've been a drooling fanboy of Chris deBarr's inventive, impeccable cuisine since just after Katrina when he rocked The Delachaise up St. Charles. He ruined grilled cheese sandwiches for me for life (to cite just one example from his menu), using Irish Cahill cheese with chunks of Guinness in it, pear butter, and a Dakota wheat bread. Like god coming in your mouth, I thought, and still do.
When Chris left The Delachaise and didn't work anywhere for a year, I was going out of my mind.
Last year when he asked me and Ben for input on a biz plan for his own restaurant and invited us along on some space-hunting expeditions, I was salivating before the lease was signed. And his efforts turned into The Green Goddess, which almost instantly topped the charts in this highly competitive, first-class dining city we call New Orleans.
So I was having dinner with him at Commander's, thinking about how I was going to ask the husband for yet another loan just to cover mundane bills, when two and two suddenly equaled four. "Hey Chris. If you need any help at Green Goddess, I've got the time, the knowledge of the menu and cocktail list, and a huge amount of respect for the establishment."
"You start tomorrow," he said.
On my first night, I found (not to any surprise whatsoever) that the crew was a fantastic family, the food (of course) beyond excellent, Scotty the bartender's drinks were challenging my ten years of bartending in a pleasant, mind-bending way, and the customers were the best you could hope for being either locals who know what they're getting into, or tourists who've done their research and found us. (I have always taken extra special care of tourists who do their research. It demonstrates intelligence, taste, and a respect for the city you're visiting. Bourbon Street tourists, however — well, my take on them, which is mimicked by pretty much every New Orleanian, is rape them of every dollar they bring, let them puke and piss all over Bourbon, and ship them back home.) I gladly accepted the Thursday and Saturday night shifts Chris offered me once I had been broken in a night or two.
After the second week, my interest only flagged because I didn't have proper shoes for running around on concrete and up and down stairs for ten straight hours. Chucks are good bartending shoes — if you've got a rubber mat to stand on all night. I can be on my feet for days under those circumstances. Weirdly, the Green Goddess doesn't hire a special person to roll out the rubber mats in the paths of the servers. So I ordered shoes from ShoesForCrews.com, a company that designs shoes just for the poor suckas who must spend 90% of their work day running, ducking, stooping, spinning, squatting, lifting, pivoting, stopping, climbing, etc.
Week three, the shoes arrived, and while they're the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned, my feet still felt like the bones had turned to shards of glass by the end of the shift. Foot miseries aside, there was a nagging voice in the back of my head saying, "Yah, this is the best restaurant you could possibly find to work at. But hey, maybe you're just not a waiter." I shushed the voice for a week, not ready to admit what a pussy I must be to be broken by four whole shifts at a low-key restaurant. I say low-key even though every employee runs their fucking asses off every night — but the ambiance lacks the panic and stress that should accompany such busyness. Watching the excellent crew manœuvre in such a small space is choreographic brilliance. Pure Fosse!
Then I went to Chicago, had some time to think about What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?, and realized that it's probably not a waiter. I decided to stick it out another week and see if I felt any differently.
This last Thursday hurt. My Friday night at The Saint, even with the rubber mats, exacerbated the issue, and last night broke me entirely. I foresaw the pain I would be in last night and went to work with a pocketful of codeine and popped them like Skittles just to get through the night. It was with buckets of remorse and shame that I announced to Chris and Scotty that although I love the Green Goddess, adore the crew, and look forward to meeting each new customer (a rarity in the French Quarter, belieeeeve me!), it just wasn't my bag. They were both graceful about it, and even supportive of my decision saying things like, "I don't blame you. This is hard fucking work."
I hate admitting defeat so soon, and after such an "easy" run, and my respect for the endurance of kitchen staff and waiters has trebled. I'm at an age where I can be ashamed of something, but own it. "Sorry. Just not my bag."
I do not want to leave this wonderful family entirely however, and told them I'd be more than willing — very happy, in fact — to receive a call here and there asking me to fill in for someone who's out of town, sick, or otherwise incapacitated. And I meant it. I could do the work on a part time, occasional schedule no problem, but a scheduled twenty hour a week gig (with The Saint in between) was clearly going to be ruinous to me.
So I failed. But I tried. I really did. And I hope I played a good game while I was on the field.
Oh, and I still have no fucking clue what I want to be when I grow up.
*Unlike many of my Saint regulars, I don't really don't mind the influx of college kids at this erstwhile locals' dive bar. The bar is a business and businesses need to make money. And although I'm feeling decidedly fusty, I do recognize that my Good Ole Days occurred when these kids were six years old. I'll happily hand the baton to the younger generation. New Orleans should always have a contingency of new, rowdy, stupid, obnoxious kids, as I once was. So bully for Tulane and Loyala.
Dallas Fort Worth—
If I'm not there,
You can find me at
You can find me,
Just as likely
Whenever I go
From A to B
There's always a Chi,
or the Big D.
[CHORUS]Swarovski, Mont Blanc,
McDonald's and Wendy's,
I don't give a (wick-wick-wickity-whack!)
'Cos when I hit the road,
Homey don't play.
Dallas and Chicago
Are in my way!
I go east coast, west coast,
But first to Dallas
And the Skylink Train.
is my second home.
[CHORUS]They know me by name,
They know me by face,
Dallas Fort Worth
Is a consecrated place. (Y'hurd?)
All you bullshit MC's
You best beware,
'Cos I rock da house
at Chicago O'Hare!
Sleepin' on da marble,
Sleepin' on da flo',
I'm a layovah ho'!
I can never feel
Like I've arrived
Unless Dallas and Chicago
I've espied. (Whut!)
The days I've wasted,
The nights burned away
at Chicago and Dallas
I tip my hat,
but Dallas and Chicago
Is where I'm at. (Yo. Yo.)
So if ever you pass
Through these two airports,
Your'e sure to find me
Sittin' in some janitor's closet because it's the only place a wigga can find a plug for da computer and phone yo, bruised junk in da trunk from da hard floor, eyes puffy and blackened from lack of sleep, soporific, a surfeit of corybantic paroxysms of ennui yo, and face slack and numb from the fistfuls of painkillers I've no doubt eaten like they were Skittles because it's the only way to cope with the invasive procedures of the TSA cunts, yo!!!!!!!!!!
[CHORUS till FADE]
The purpose of this entry is to add visuals to the mood of my last entry.
Every year at the lakehouse, I take pictures. When I look at them months later (as I just looked at 2010's a moment ago), I notice a theme. Okay, not a theme, but a general ambiance that reflects the mood I was in that year. So even though I've photographed every square inch of the lake, the beach, the dock, the boathouse and the cottage in Upstate New York spanning pretty much my entire life, each year the results are different.
Usually they're calm, at peace, poetic and lilting.
Last year's were fiery and fun.
And then there's this year, which matched my sluggish brain to a 'T'.
I should mention that I do not purposefully set out to have my photographs match my mood. It just happens. In a way, it's a striking diary of where I've been, headspace-wise, for each of the last 20 years or so.
This summer I went through a strange bout of … depression? … for lack of a better term, which manifested itself by my brain kinda just shutting down instead of dealing, confronting, processing, etc. I spent a few months floating around in a daze, unable to get my cranial capacity past first gear.
I was very much looking forward to a week at my lakehouse in Upstate New York — my childhood Mecca and my adulthood retreat — the only place in the world where I can read a book cover to cover uninterrupted by people, technology or (most importantly) the noise from my own head. Considering how much noise there had been this summer, the day couldn't come soon enough where I could shut everything down and live on the equivalent of my laptop's "sleep" mode.
My dates for the lake were August 9th through the 16th, Tuesday through Tuesday.
On Monday the 8th, Ben and I were in Metairie doing errands. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch when I got a call from my uncle John. I smiled. He's calling to tell me how happy everyone is I'm coming, and how lovely the weather is, I thought. I answered the phone, "Heyyyy! How's everything!"
"Great!" replied John. "Where are you?"
"Oh, just doing some last-minute stuff at home, getting ready to pack."
[a long pause]
"Well, I'm at Rochester airport," said John, "waiting for you."
Something heavy in my chest detached and fell through my torso, down my leg, and landed inside my foot.
"But … tomorrow's Tuesday," I stammered idiotically, blood pumping in my ears with dread.
"Yes, it is. But today's the 9th," replied John.
No, that's impossible. My trip is from Tuesday to Tuesday, I argued pointlessly with myself. That Tuesday-through-Tuesday line was a near mantra to me for the last several weeks. I couldn't be wrong. I couldn't. Could I?
I checked my phone's calendar. Of course, he was right. I had missed my morning flight because I was incapable of keeping the days straight. Laptop : sleep mode.
"I'll call you right back," I said.
Ben stared at me incredulously in the restaurant parking lot. "You missed your flight?!"
I rang AA to see what could be done. Miraculously, the woman told me I could still get to Rochester today, late. I didn't think it was possible. Both MSY and ROC are one-horse airports and American only flies to either begrudgingly. A later flight was something I didn't think possible.
She charged me a mere $50 change fee (or "idiot tax" as Ben and I call it), as opposed to the $400+ I thought I'd have to pay by buying a new full-fare ticket. Considering my embarrassing synaptic lapse, I thought I was getting off pretty easily.
I called John back: "Okay. I got a flight. It gets in late," I said, wincing, knowing John's bedtime was usually 8:00, being one of those early to bed, early to rise people I've read about in stories, but rarely met in real life.
John is also an incredibly easy-going person whose sense of humor never flags. Instead of sighing and lecturing, he laughed and said, "That's fine. I'm glad you got a flight. I'll go play a game of golf and take in a movie."
"Wow. You're incredible," I said, my mind still in a fuzzy state of dread and embarrassment. We hung up.
"Sorry Ben," I said in the parking lot. "No time for lunch. Gotta go home and pack. I should just be able to make my flight."
"Yes. Okay. Let's go," said Ben.
Driving home, feeling lower than low, I asked myself aloud, "What is wrong with me?" This flight snafu was merely another manifestation of how my brain had been working — or not working — for several weeks. I looked to my boyfriend for comforting words.
What I got instead was that same incredulous look. He repeated my words back to me: "Honey, what is wrong with your cat head?"
"I don't know!" I fairly screamed in the car. Trying to lighten my mood, I added, "But hey, at least you can drive me to the airport and I can save the $40 cab fare I would have spent tomorrow morning — or this morning — or whateverthefuck morning…"
I packed hastily and we drove to MSY. I was routed through Chicago. When I got to ORD, I found my brain was even more sluggish, as if it were a puppy kicked one too many times and now hiding under the coffee table. That's okay, I thought. I won't need my brain for the next week. That's what the lake is for. I'll recharge my batteries, reading books on a raft in the water for a week, and come home sharper, improved, positively bionic in intellect!
I checked my iPhone. I had three or four hours of layover in Chicago. I went outside, had some smokes, beeped and bopped on my iPhone for awhile, mind as addled as a late-career Ronald Reagan.
At 9:30, I went to board my plane. There was no one at the TSA queue. The airport was suspiciously empty. I didn't think much about it.
The TSA dude wouldn't let me through. "Your plane already left," he said. "I can't let you through security."
I blinked bovinely. "What are you talking about? My flight's at 10:00pm."
"It's 11 now," he replied.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
"No, it's not," I said, taking out my iPhone and turning it on. "See?" The phone read 9:15.
He showed me his watch. 11:15.
"Your watch must be wrong," I said, glancing around the empty airport, that feeling of dread returning tenfold.
"I promise you it's not."
My mind "raced" (such as it was [in]capable of "racing") trying to figure out how I had bungled my travel plans twice in one day. Did I forget to take my phone off Airplane Mode? Was it not talking to the satellites? No, the phone was on the 3G system. And anyway, New Orleans and Chicago are in the same time zone.
As it turns out, my iPhone chose that one single time to decide that I had somehow moved to the west coast, and was reporting the time two hours earlier. Despite Apple's, or AT&T's incomprehensible fuck-up, that made me feel a little better — it wasn't entirely my fault.
Except, of course, it was. I should have known I didn't have a five hour layover, but, as I've said, my brain was thick porridge and my sense of the passage of time was as weak as that of a snake's or a goldfish's.
I went to the AA desk to arrange a new flight, but they had all gone home. I rang AA again and explained to them that this is what happens when they sell tickets to retards. The woman was very kind, and booked me on the 7am flight to Rochester with no fees.
I then had two more ugly phone calls to make. First, Uncle John:
"Hey. Um. You're not going to believe this…" I explained the situation. "So, I was thinking, if you want to grab a hotel near the airport, I'll happily pay for it and see you in the morning." It's a 3 hour round trip drive from the lakehouse to ROC.
John was exhausted, his bedtime having long been passed. Incredibly, he laughed at my predicament and, by proxy, his. "That's okay. I'll go back to the lake and your Aunt Kim will come out in the morning."
"Oh, god, seriously? All right. I'm sorry I've ruined your entire day. How was golf?"
"It started pouring, so I drove around Rochester for five hours," he said, laughing so hard he could hardly get it out. "This is the most depressing city since Kodak pulled out."
"And your movie?"
"Awful!" he howled. God, I love you John, I thought.
Then I called Ben and explained what had happened.
There was a long pause. Then, with absolute awe and disgust, as if there were palmetto bugs crawling on his phone, he repeated what he'd said to me so many hours ago in New Orleans: "What is WRONG with your CAT HEAD!?"
"I DON'T KNOW!!!" I wailed, near tears, except tears are a luxury reserved for those who can actually think clearly enough to to cry. My brain was too constipated to allow such relief, and I could feel the porridge getting colder, thicker, slower and more viscous by the second.
"You travel all the time!" said Ben. "What is wrong with you!?"
He was right. Getting from A to B in airports is something I can do blindfolded. It's as second nature as driving a car. Fucking up not one, but two flights in a single day felt like waking up and not being able to speak the language you were taught as a child and had been conversing in for 40 years.
I spent the night beeping and bopping on my phone. I didn't trust myself to take a nap in a seat in the airport lobby, although I was exhausted. If I missed my morning flight, I would have to do the proper Roman thing and take my own life. There would be no other honorable option.
My iPhone was losing its battery. The only electrical outlet I could find in the terminal at ORD was inside a janitor's closet, so I spent the next ten hours sitting on cold, hard marble next to brooms, mop buckets and bottles of cleansers, booping and beeping on my infernal, lying iPhone.Occasionally I would have to go outside into the warm August Chicago night air to thaw out my numb fingers, for the A/C in the terminal was set on 'stun'. 52°f, I'm thinking.
I caught the morning flight and got into ROC without incident (the gods do smile—infrequently, but still…) Kim was angry with me on the phone the night before, but we still somehow had a nice drive from the airport, laughing about my retardation. (Sometimes you have to laugh so you won't scream.)
I told her that my self-imposed penance would be to do all the dishes for the week (usually we all split up the chores at the lakehouse), and to assign myself the time-sucking task of driving to the airport to pick up anyone else flying in.
"There's only your cousin Eric tomorrow," she said, "and you're welcome to pick him up," she added, relieved she wouldn't have to make the drive again. I told her it would assuage my conscious to perform that task.
When the time came, I finished cleaning the dishes for the nth time and got in the car to pick up Eric. "Don't forget to get a dozen eggs on the way," said Kim. We had run out. No problem.
Somewhere around Canandaigua, an hour away from the lakehouse, I realized with a shock and another dropping feeling of dread that I had left my wallet back at the lake. This could be a huge problem because the NY Thruway is a toll road and I was penniless. I briefly considered doing the honorable Roman thing again, there, on the side of the road; such was my dismay at once again not being able to perform the simplest task without fucking it all up. My mind was so sluggish and thick I began questioning if this were a dream or a waking-state problem, Seriously.
Then I focused on the problem at hand. Should I drive back to the lake, adding two more hours onto the trip, to get my wallet, or was there another solution?
Upstate New York is a rustic place that seems to have stopped evolving around 1952. As such, there are little carts on the side of the road set up by farmers selling their fresh corn. (Sidenote: I'm not much of a corn eater, but Upstate NY sweet corn in August is something I look forward to every year.)
The carts are based on the honor system. Take some corn; drop some cash in the bucket.
DING! I would stop by this unmanned cart coming up on the right, take a couple ears of corn, feign putting money in the bucket, and extract the toll cash I would need. I justified this theft by promising the absent farmer I would stop on the way back and pay double for the corn, borrowing the cash from Eric.
I began to pull over to the cart when I remembered that John had a FastPass or whatever it's called in the windshield of the car, which bills the toll charge to your account. Phew. I wasn't looking forward to stealing from an Amish farmer. I planned the rest of the trip: I'd ask to borrow money from Eric for the eggs on the way home, and Kim need never know of this additional evidence that maybe her dear nephew was suffering from a brain tumor.
And so that's what I did. And my feeble plan worked, though that in no way made me feel any better about my recent track record.
The next day, I was floating on the raft in the lake, trying to contemplate just what the hell was wrong with me, but coming to no conclusions. I cracked open my book of Tennessee Williams' short stories and flipped through the contents. With short story anthologies, I usually read them in order, but one jumped out at me, entitled, "Happy August the 10th!" How could I not start with that one as it was the 10th, and a notable one for my departed senses and sensibilities.
The story was about two awful, single, middle-aged women sharing a flat in Manhattan, and explored their relationship of loathing for each other, and their complete co-dependency upon one another. It was very good.
John swam by. "What are you reading?"
"A short story called 'Happy August the 10th!' It seemed appropriate for today," I said, smiling.
He laughed. "Yah, except today is the 11th."
A flash in my mind: throw the book into the lake, secure some rocks around my midriff, and just drown myself right then and there.
Ben, upon reading this, said, "I come off pretty mean in that story."
"No!" I argued. "You weren't mean! Is that how it read?"
"I offered to get you a hotel in Chicago and rebook you through another carrier. I didn't just say, 'What's wrong with your cat head?'"
Just wanted to add that: Ben's not mean. He's super-supportive. That's why I married him.
P.P.S. I've been meaning to write this story since August the 10th (or, I guess, the 11th, actually), but I haven't been able to. Perhaps being in Chicago this week finally allowed me to revisit this mental place?
Yesterday docbrite and I went to the snake/reptile/bird/spider/weird bug expo in Westwego, setting our alarms for the crack of noon so we could spend a few hours with the creepy crawlies, and be back in New Orleans in time for the Saints game* at 3:00.
The drive out to the W'ank was pleasant. I saw a Piggly Wiggly, the southern grocery store that is never not funny to me. I didn't think we had any in Louisiana; thought it was a Mississippi/Alabammy thang.
I commented to PZB (and subsequently ruined the Piggly Wiggly logo forever) that the mascot's paper hat looked like an upside-down wahjayjay.
"Or a camel toe!" the Doc responded, cringing and fidgeting. Henceforth the Piggly Wiggly will be known as the Camelly Wammelly. Just so you know.
What, you don't see it?
We got to the expo and began examining the varmints. I had no real plans to buy anything. Ben had frowned at the thought. (He stills calls my python Scully, "that serpent," with a sour face.) PZB's own man was even more explicit in his instructions, having adjured me a few days earlier, "Don't let any more reptiles end up in my house!"
"Awkward!" I thought, being mediator between two opposing-idea friends. I relegated myself to the mute role of Switzerland.
I'm no herpetologist, and my experience with snakes is limited to my ball python, and the occasional boa constrictors I have seen and petted in my life, so I was wide-eyed as a child at Christmas examining all vastly differing and exquisite types of snakes on display in their little tupperware containers. King snakes, corn snakes, milk snakes, hognose snakes, each category boasting hundreds of variations. In the python world, I learned from a breeder that, "If you mix a spider with a pie, you get a bumblebee." The terminology was as foreign and hilarious to me as the nautical lexicon.
Every booth was a cavalcade of beautiful or bizarre critters. The "spitting horsestick bug" confused me the most, as it looked like neither a horse nor a stick, and it wasn't spitting.
Roadkill frogs (as I called them), apparently flatten themselves when scared, upset, depressed, moody, or contemplative and introspective.
A large begging tortoise was waddling about the expo asking for handouts.
The miniature dragon lizards liked to piggyback on each other (very cute), and who knew that scorpions liked to pile up on each other by the hundreds?
We encountered a full-grown ball python (both PZB and I have the same kind of snake, though both are several feet away from their optimal length) and its final size seemed perfect to me — about 6' long, girthy, and then it stops growing, unlike those meaty boas that go on and on like a clown's handkerchief. I mean, I dig the boas, but who has room for a 32' cage in their house?
Here's Poppy with the full-grown ball python. ("We both have balls," she said to the breeder, who either didn't hear her, or wasn't on the same elevated level of witty humor as we clearly were. Gender dysphoria is hilarious!)
Of course Poppy had planned from the beginning to go home with a snake because she's conniving like that. Either a tri-colored king snake or a hognose. When we came across a tri-colored hognose (an erstwhile unknown breed to us), the deal was sealed. Some watery species of "permission" was asked of me. I shrugged and kept my lips shut, remembering my Swiss role. But it started spinning the wheels in my own feeble head.
"Scully's gonna be about six feet long," I reasoned aloud with myself. "I'm going to need a bigger terrarium. But then I'll have this other tank that Scully's currently occupying. I might as well put something in it, right?"
"Oh yah, totally!" cried Poppy. "That's a great argument, whatever you just said! You should do it."
I took out my phone just to check the time. Poppy was alarmed, thinking I was going to ask permission from the husband. "Don't text Ben! What do you think will happen! Fool!"
Flashback two years: "Ben? Can I get a snake?"
Ben: "Can I get a gun?"
We now have both.
What bargaining item would he demand of me for a second serpent? A get-out-of-the-doghouse-free card that allows him to bring home a 19 year old stripper, is what Ben posited.
Meanwhile, back at the snake expo, I start getting weird texts from Ben:
Porn movie plot that just happened for real. Some weird foreigner rings the doorbell and asks if our house is a bar.To which I immediately replied: You can do him if I can get a snake.
I had already seen the one I wanted — a baby king snake, yellow with black Ben-Day dots that resembled the mode of my paintings. I'd never seen anything like him in nature, and at $35, it was an easy decision.
(For a moment, I considered buying the female counterpart to Poppy's male tri-colored hognose, with the intention of mating them when they're mature, but both its price [$275] and our complete lack of know-how on how to mate snakes dissuaded me.)
So I bought the Ben-Day dot king snake and immediately named him Roy, after Lichtenstein.
Kickoff was approaching, and I still wanted to stop by the pet store and buy a bigger tank for Scully, so we left the expo and drove to the Pet Co., where I found that my shitty tupperware containing Roy had malfunctioned and the snake had escaped and was somewhere in the car.
Poppy and I spent 30 horrible minutes or so scouring the dark corners of my car. My god, there are so many places a 6", pencil-thin snake could hide in a Toyota! Things were not looking good, and the mood of the day had just nosedived. My hand was cut in several places from feeling around in the complicated underside of the seats, looking for snaky crevasses. Blood spattered my car and my clothes.
"Well," I muttered, dejected, "I guess I don't need a new tank now. Let's just go."
"I should have mentioned that king snakes are notorious escape artists. Hindsight, eh?"
We discussed ways of trapping snakes on the way back to Poppy's house, and then YouTubed how-to-catch-a-snake videos while the Saints pissed away what should have been an easy win against some Arizona team. The day was taking many turns for the worse.
Chris was, shall we say, less than ecstatic about the new addition to their household. ("What manner of worm is this!?") I shied away silently in the kitchen, like a bashful Swiss.
The Saints game turned into arts-n-crafts hour for me, and I made this little trapdoor bottle contraption and baited it with a pinkie (baby mouse) and put it in the backseat of my car, which I checked pointlessly every twenty minutes, like the scared little snake would really feel like eating just then.
The Saints were losing, my snake was still lost, and I had a dinner date with Ben, so I took a few extra pinkies from Poppy to replace the one in the trap when it turned putrid and drove off.
Walking to dinner, Ben asked, "So. Did you get a snake?"
"Well, Poppy got this really beautiful fruit-striped baby snake…"
"Honey, I don't care how many snakes you have. I'm not giving you a hard time. I just want them to be in their cages, not slithering around the house or loose in the car or some crazy thing."
"Funny you should mention that…" I said, and disclosed all.
I briefly considered not telling him anything about the day's misadventures, but I'm not in the habit of lying to, or keeping things from the husband. Plus, we were going to Green Goddess, where Chris is the chef, and I figured he (Chris) would ask at some point, "Ever find that snake loose in the car?"
"So there's a snake loose in the car," said Ben with grim countenance.
Then, a little later, "I can't believe there's a snake loose in the car."
Then, later, "There's really a snake wiggling around in the car?"
I just checked the trap and water dish this moment. Still nothing.
Ben has to drive Uptown to get his contacts in a minute.
"Is there still a snake loose in the car?"
Who fucking knows.
*I am still not a fan of zee fútbol, but I will suck cock or do any other manner of menial chore for the Saints.
…to live in New Orleans?
Last night was a micro-encapsulation of everything you love about this town.
You start at 7:20pm, being roused from your late-afternoon nap by your husband telling you it's time to get dressed for an 8:00 dinner with a couple of friends. You're trying a new place tonight on a recommendation, and you realize again that you can have approximately 2,749 delicious, original meals in New Orleans and still not have scratched the surface of your dining bucket list.
You drive to Mid-City, a place you've heard about, but don't visit that often — for no good reason at all. It's charming.
The dinner is inventive, successful, and surprisingly cheap. You talk with your friends about how you can eat at, say, Commander's Palace or another fine dining establishment and have a meal you will talk about for weeks for the same price you could have a mediocre pizza in Manhattan.
You talk with your friends about your mutual friend out west who was in a movie recently, and make a date to watch that movie together.
Getting in your cars to drive home, you turn on WWOZ, the best radio station in the world, and are not too surprised to hear your friends in the studio doing a live set. You call your friends in their cars because your radio friends are also known by them, and alert them to the fact.
You text your friends at WWOZ and invite them out for after-radio drinks and congratulate them on a great show. One of them texts back that they'll be flyering on Lower Decatur.
You put the husband to bed for a 4am wake-up call for the airport tomorrow, grab your pet python, and walk through a crisp, early-October French Quarter to Decatur Street.
At one of your favorite bars, another friend is standing on the street. "I saw that coat two blocks away and thought it was something you'd wear," says your friend. You join him and a group of others in a courtyard bar.
There are people you know well, people you know peripherally, and new people to meet.
Your friend is a snake expert and tells you that just because your python has those little hooks next to his butt, he's not necessarily male. Every night is gender-bending in New Orleans.
You text another friend with a snake with gender issues and inform him of the news.
WWOZ friends call and say they're on their way home, sorry they missed you, but you're glad you came out nonetheless.
Your snake friend renews his standing invitation for Movie Nights at his place on Mondays. "What did you watch last night?" you ask. It turns out they watched the movie that your west coast friend is in, and it's good. You show a picture of him on your phone to your friend. Everyone laughs at the serendipity. You text your friend out west and tell him of the small-world'itude of the situation. He "LOL's" back.
You wander towards home, but get stopped by a girl from Oakland on the street who wants to hold your snake for a minute and take pictures. Other friends walk by and a small, social street scene ensues for ten minutes.
You wish the girl happy trails back home, then decide you'll pop by a nightclub to say hi to others, and hopefully catch the after-party of a show you meant to go to, but forgot what day it was.
They're closing up the nightclub, flipping chairs onto tables, but you have a drink with them anyway.
You leave once again with the intention of going home, but get sidetracked by your old haunt where your good friend works the graveyard. You pop in, but she's out sick. You have a drink anyway and make friends with the bartender and some people who work hard for the money on Bourbon Street. It's an awful street to hang out on, but many of your friends work there for the $$$.
You decide that your one-beer nightcap (the third of the night) should extend until 4am when you can finally go home and meet the husband as he's waking for the airport.
You kiss him farewell at the start of his day and put your head down for the end of your day.
You wake up with a minor hangover, but a well-earned one, and many happy, cozy memories of last night's excursions swirling through your head.
And a profound sense of contentment, peace, and belonging.
I got home from post-work carousing around 3am on Saturday night. Ben was asleep, and I wasn't quite done with the night, so decided to pop around the corner for a nightcap with friends.
My street was quiet at 3:00—not a soul to be seen nor heard—except for one fat, white, middle-aged guy leaning against my neighbor's stoop, talking on his cell.
In the thickest you-got-a-purty-mouth backwoods accent, his conversation went a little like this:
"Yah. I'm in New Or-lee-unnz? And I'm lost. I can't find the MO-tel? And there's, like, rainbow flags n' shit? And I'm scared. I'm scared for mah life?"REALLY?, I thought. Scared for your LIFE? 'Cos of my little ole rainbow flag that I haven't taken down since Decadence?
"No, I don't know where I am. I'm lost. And I can't find the MO-tel. I'm so frightened. There's rainbow flags n' shit here? Should I call 911?"Does his Baptist preacher warn against the sudden, violent cornholing that all queers are just itchin' to toss into fat slobs like him?
"Can you just come find me? I'm lost. And I'm scared."I walked down the street towards the (rainbow-flag-bedecked) bar around the corner, singing loudly, "DANG-O-DANG-O-DANG-O-DANG!"
Though in retrospect, I should have minced my way over to him, put a calm, reassuring, caressing hand on his meaty shoulder, and lisped, "Oh, Mary. There'th no need to be thcared. By the way, you've got the purtietht little mouth!"
Looking through my archives for something, I stumbled instead upon my old Lit Libs, my old contribution to “Suffering Is Hip” which takes classic literature and turns it into Mad Libs.
I nearly choked from laughter rereading my "Gone with the Wind" one. God those are fun. You should do one. They're still there.
Without further ado:
by MARGARET MITCHELL
Scarlett O’Hara was not needy, but men seldom realized it when caught by her antennæ as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate waffles of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of Haitian descent, and the uprooted ones of her icky Irish father. But it was an abused face, pointed of pimple, square of widow's peak. Her kidneys were pale neon yellow without a touch of mauve, starred with bristly black split ends and slightly thrusting at the ends. Above them, her thick black ovaries slanted upwards, cutting a startling oblique line in her spotted skin — that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with knickers, hat pins and bobby socks against hot Georgia bar flies.
On either side of her, the twins bled easily in their chairs, squinting at the cupcake through tall mint-garnished glasses as they laughed and dissed — their long nipples, booted to the smile and thick with saddle muscles, crossed negligently. 843 years old, 4000 feet two inches tall, long of butt hair and hard of viscera, with brunette faces and deep auburn hair, their eyes merry and blonde, their bodies clothed in identical blue coats and escargot-colored wifebeaters, they were as much alike as two buttloads of snowplows.
“I know you two don’t care about being expelled, or Tom either,” said Scarlett. “But what about Boyd? He’s kind of set on getting a god, and you two have pulled him out of the University of Virginia and Alabama and South Carolina and now Angola. He’ll never get wretched at this rate.”
“Oh, he can read dadaism in Judge Parmalee’s office over in Fayetteville,” answered Brent carelessly. “Besides, it don’t matter much. We’d have had to come home before the term was out anyway.”
“The crayon, marshmellow peep! The crayon’s going to start any day, and you don’t suppose any of us would stay in college with a crayon going on, do you?”
“You know there isn’t going to be any crayon,” said Scarlett, bored. “It’s all just wine glasses. Why, Ashley Wilkes and his father told Pa just last week that our beavers in Washington would come to — to — an — amicable tree branch with Mr. Madonna about the Confederacy. And anyway, the jungle bunnies are too nothing-very-special to progress. There won’t be any crayon, and I’m tired of bullying about it. Well then just fuck me up the ass!”
A few obligatory thoughts on the 5th anniversary of the one-eyed bitch named Katrina:
This is nothing I want to think about, much less translate from thoughts to words, and still less to "publish" on a blog for all the world (or just my seven readers) to see, yet I feel compelled today to do so.
Let me begin on an up-note with an optimistic link to the most positive, heart-lightening K-5 piece I've read, by my dear friend Paul, incidentally, writing for the Daily Mail, UK.
An Open Love Letter to New Orleans.
Just as inspiring are the pages and pages of love-responses from his readers. Tragedy really can bring out the best in people, even as it brings out the worst.
Excerpt from an email to scottynola yesterday:
It really is refreshing to read a K5 love letter as opposed to all the grim news (that I'm actively avoiding). Not that I'm against the news, per se. I think it's crucial this tunnel-visioned country is reminded that we exist, and reminded of the atrocities we suffered at the inept hands of a mismanaged, misguided gov't. So while I don't choose to "revel" in Katrina nostalgia, I'm glad we're still getting some media attention, even if it is only once a year. Like a morbid Santa Claus for the Midwest flyover states.Of course it's not just for the Midwest flyover states. It's important, if a bitter pill to swallow, that we take a moment each year on 29 August and mourn and grieve and heal and contemplate. And talk and communicate and commiserate and reach out and touch.
Katrina did not stop at forever changing the map of New Orleans and how it rolls. It left its indelible mark on everyone who lives on the Gulf Coast, or have ties to the people and places in this unique part of the world. So what we have now is a "new" old city, still trying, five years later, to figure out how to get though the day, like a stroke victim relearning how to walk and talk. This extends to the population of the Gulf as well. Some have healed with a quickness and resiliency and forged a new path for themselves. Others are shattered for life, or at least the time being.
I confess my own weakness as I belong to the latter group. Until the late summer of 2005, I always thought of myself as flexible, adaptive, elastic, and able to cope with any adversity. This was not vanity nor self-delusion; I had 30+ years of evidence that I can lob back any explosive missile hurled my way. There was no tragedy I couldn't cope with and bounce back from, stronger, sadder, but wiser from the experience.
Katrina was a backhand I couldn't return, and I'm still trying to figure out who I am and how to get along. Stroke victim.
My friend louismaistros wrote this spot-on piece for the Times-Picayune, thankfully with a more positive slant than I'm currently feeling, but he really did nail exactly what's going on in my head, and the heads of so many others here: Unpacking the Boxes.
It was Katrina who bade me go on Crazy Pillz, despite 20 previous often severely depressed years where I vowed that I would not medicate away my problems like the rest of the country; I could always bootstrap myself out of a bad situation.
In ’09 I broke down and realized that I was not sorting out the Katrina aftermath properly, and I needed chemical help. A humbling confession of impotency that still rankles me.
Katrina pulled the rug out from under me. Or, if you prefer, you know that trick of yanking the tablecloth out from under the dishes, wine glasses and floral centerpiece? Yah, that. Except the yanking was done badly, and all the china was broken. Everything I thought I could count on proved useless, from my own internal resources to the gross neglect and mismanagement of the shittiest federal administration anyone in our lifetimes has ever seen in this country.
It is expected that Gulf residents say, "Katrina changed my life." The difference is in how.
I do not like the person I have become. Nervous, uptight, Crazy Pillz. Bad sleeping patterns. Teeth grinding. Muscle tension. (Oh, victorine, why did you and your magic fingers have to leave me?) Inertia, black thoughts and panic. Walking with the feeling that with each step I could crash through the floor. Weight gain. Gray hair. Lines on my face. This is how I have lived every day for exactly five years. In many ways, it's not living at all. Sudden noises or movements startle me like a kitten. There are frequent bad days where I cannot get out of bed at all. Every day's fleeting, waking thought, a practical, calculated, "Well, there're fistfuls of Seconal—if it comes to that."
PTSD is a slow boil, I've learned, not an instant snap that leaves you a dribbling mess. Who knew! But the result can be the same.
Every day I count my blessings, of which I have many. It's necessary to examine the good things constantly as a reminder that all is not lost to me. I feel like an old woman poring over her yellowed, crinkling photo album.
Family: I have a great one, both nuclear and extended. We're all close and supportive and it gives me a spine.
Friends: my chosen family, and I have chosen well. The love I feel for my friends and that is reciprocated is often enough to bring me to tears — the good kind. Like now, just a little bit. Awww. My friends are my inspiration to carry on, to do things. I'm just mimicking them, but it's a start.
Husband: Ben often doesn't understand me, and that's okay. I don't want him to! I don't think we could get on so well if he understood the horrible things going on in my mind; it would mean he thought the same way, and one of us doing this is one too many. Instead, he chooses to simply love me, nearly unconditionally, and at such a time when I can still hear the echoes of the crystal and china smashing to the floor, the fact that I can count on him — count on the most important thing — is a luxury so awesome that it borders on the surreal. And the love I feel for him sometimes overwhelms me.
New Orleans: You might be tempted to say, "Well, if Katrina fucked you up so badly, leave the scene of the crime!" Except that's wrong. New Orleans is recovering nicely, thankyouverymuch — wish I could say the same for me. And anyway, you don't escape your problems when you take them on the road. It's better for me to be here, my adoptive city, and the only place that's ever felt like home in my long years of trekking about the country and globe looking for exactly that. I've been here nearly fifteen years — a personal best by twelve years — and I mean this literally when I say that I cannot leave my house and walk around these well-known streets without being awestruck by the beauty and magic and palpable pulse of New Orleans. It's everywhere, embracing every jagged oak root pushing up the flagstones on the sidewalks, in every tenacious fern growing from a crack in a building's wall, in all the percussive punctuation from the music that surrounds us. The Mississippi River, throbbing like an artery. The verdant air, swamp-alive, and bringing vibrant life to me with every lungful. I love a lot of places in this world, but only New Orleans is home, and at a time in my life when I search madly for a foundation that won't crumble under my feet, it would be folly to turn away from my home.
That's all I can manage right now. I make a concerted effort not to Go There too often because I'm not sufficiently equipped to come back. Once a year. 29 August. I can do it once a year.
Now, back to my physical therapy. Stroke Victim, y'know.
I've got a small arsenal of my homemade prototype fuzzy iPad cases that I've put up on Etsy.
Visit me here!
They're book-format, and supercool. Ben gets lots of comments (mostly the positive kind) when he takes his white fluffy case out on the road.
They're all different mix-n-match fabrics, and look a little like this:
Perfect for yourself, birthdays, or Southern Decadence gifts. (What queen could live another minute without one of these?)
So buy one. Or two. I'm broke. Bless.
People are dumb. But I still try to talk to them like they're smart on a one-on-one basis. Benefit of the doubt. This ends up in me being disappointed and them being confused, more often than not.
Occasionally, I'll smart-talk to someone who can smart-talk back, and then I know I found a friend.
Or am I the one who's dumb, and the dumb ones are smart, and we're not speaking the same language? If so, then all my friends are dumb as well.
If you're my friend, please tell me: which are you?
Ever have those weeks/days/even just an hour when you don't just suspect, but you are positive that the magnetic and electronic forces in the universe are all conspiring to bring about your demise?
I biked to my shift at The Saint last night — a mere two miles or so, but through treacherous, badly-paved New Orleans surface streets, populated by insane locals and drunken tourists.
Biking in this town is always treacherous; you have to constantly be on your guard for other people's mistakes, because they all make them, and a bit of clairvoyance doesn't hurt either. Ben's not allowed on bikes any more because the last five times he's ridden one (once a year, approximately) horrible things have happened to him.
Me, I have good enough vision, fast enough reflexes, and a wee smidge of precognition that I usually do okay.
I knew yesterday it was going to be one of "those" days the moment I got my bike onto the street and saw some crazy fucker backing down my street the wrong way swerving around like a scuttling cockroach-car. And it just got worse from there.
People parked in the middle of busy streets, jolting forward at obscene angles the moment I became hittable.
People stopping at green lights and running red lights.
People flinging open doors of their parked cars one after another after another, always timed so a slower reflex would ensure a crash.
It became a video game to me, each and every car representing a threat. I tried to figure out what this SUV or that minivan would do wrong the moment I got near them, and more often than not I was right. "This guy in the Hummer…what's going to happen with him? I think he's going to suddenly signal left, then make an abrupt right. I better be on his left." Sure enough, the yellow behemoth bumblebee blinks left then cuts violently to the right, which would have squished me like a bug if I hadn't guessed his bad driving skills.
My Tweet from last night:
If biking Uptown were a video game, someone set my console to EXPERT/DIFFICULT.At one point I got a bad feeling about a redneck in an enormous flatbed truck and jumped my bike onto the sidewalk. And I'll be damned if the guy didn't actually swerve into the space I had occupied two seconds ago and actually hit a tree in his mad effort to commit manslaughter.
I hadn't eaten anything yesterday, and I was a bit shook up by the predictable unpredictability of NOLA's murderous motorists. My electrolytes were spent. I was dizzy. Didn't have a lot of time before I opened the bar, so I stopped by the Burger King on St. Charles for a tiny burger to take to work.
There were two people in the restaurant. One, a skeevy older gentleman in a wifebeater that proudly displayed his gout, goiters, blisters and lesions. He looked like a warty toad. I gave him a wide berth.
At the counter was a black version of my favorite woman from last year's CrackWhore Ball. Her hair was a strong diagonal that begged the question: What The Fuck? Short-shorts rolled up showing more than I cared to see. A filthy polyester-satin slip, perhaps pink once-upon-a-time, with the right spaghetti strap falling off her bony frame. A faded "DERRICK" tattooed badly between her scapulæ. Neon orange toenail polish underneath a forest of hairy black legs.
The patois was familiar New Orleans to me: "Gimme a small drank. Nah. A mee'jum. How much dat be? How much a small fry be? Gimme dat. Ahkahava free sample?" And on and on. For ten minutes.
Once her complicated, cracked-out order had been placed, I stepped forward, wanting to get this transaction over and done with and open my bar. The hour was growing late.
Suddenly, a friend of hers materialized out of the Matmos. I mean that literally; one minute it was me and boil-man and DERRICK's ladyfriend, and then next, in a puff of smoke, there was her girlfriend.
Girlfriend had a teeny waist and the most ginormous ass I've seen in a long time, made more jarring from its disproportion to the wasp-like midriff. I seriously considered if she had put water balloons down the back of her once-upon-a-time-pink pajama bottoms she was wearing over her knock-off Swarovsky-crystal-embedded flip-flops. Her junk was liquid.
She had somehow materialized in front of me. And wordlessly, she turned to me, gave me the hairy eyeball, raised two fingers ominously, waved them once to the left, once to the right, and uttered her decree of, "UH-uh!" Her way of inquiring if she, perforce, might essay the temerity to cut in line, I gathered.
She turned to the counter, ass a-jigglin' and began her complicated order. "How much a [meow-meow-meow] be? Does that [meow-meow] with a codrank? Gimme a [habba-zabba]…" Etc.
Finally water balloon ass and DERRICK's bitch sat down to await their repast. I put in my simple order, paid the $2, and stood off to the side to wait.
This being the BK on St. Charles, there were eight busy bees behind the counter, seven of which were completely idle, and the eighth was conspicuously absent. We all waited. A long time.
Wifebeater man started popping his boils and blisters and scratching his corns. I scooted away from his pustulance.
Water Balloon Momma, exasperated at last, walked up to the counter and yelled, "HEY!"
She snapped her fingers at the air. "HEY! Ahkahava courtesy drank!?"
A WHAT? I thought? The very word "courtesy" seemed to have no place in this particular circle of hell.
"HEY! C'MERE! AHKAHAVA COURTESY DRANK!" she screamed, sending ripples of liquidity down her backside, flip-flops twinkling merrily in the florescent lights.
To my amazement, one of the girls working actually handed this fine lady a small cup, who betook it to the soda machines and filled it with something neon-colored that matched DERRICK's friend's hobbit-like toenails.
That's when I sorta lost it. I stood, very small, in the corner, laughing/sobbing to myself, thinking, "I'm surrounded by insane people. Oh, please don't let me get hurt. Or touched in any way."
Then I realized that I made the fourth of the insane quartet in the BK lounge. I was The Guy In The Corner Giggling/Crying To Himself.
Finally my victuals arrived, I beat a hasty retreat, dodged a few more video game demon cars on the short ride to The Saint, ate my little burger, and quickly threw it back up.
Some time later in the night, a short, squat black woman came into the bar while I was busy serving four or five other people. She yelled at me, "HEY!" I ignored her.
"HEYYYY!" she screamed louder over the music.
Then she snapped at me in exactly the manner Water Balloons did earlier: [SNAP!] "HIGH LIFE!"
I stopped what I was doing, walked slowly over to her, leaned down into her face, and said through gritted teeth, "My name is not High Life."
The whole Burger King experience had left that bad a taste in my mouth — in all senses of the phrase.
De La Soul said it twenty years ago, and it still applies today:
Bitties in the BK lounge.