Desperation

Superstition #2

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.
  1. Full Moon: It brings out the werewolves, zombies and all manner of the undead. It skews people's behavior and taints a room with uneasiness. I used to dread working on a full moon. The moon Pamela told me to look at was hidden behind a building, which was just as well because if I had seen it was full, I would have known to expect a weird night.
  2. The first person you interact with upon opening your bar or starting your shift defines the mood of the night. It does not define my mood, but the mood, nuances and behavioral patterns of everyone who's to follow. I swear this is true, and its surety has never sat well with me because I'm the Scully, dammit. Superstition be damned. Hearing about Taylor and Matt's recent fight, and noting it was the first interaction of the evening for me left a creepy tingling on my scalp.
Matt came down the street while we were searching for the moon. I stepped back to allow him and Taylor their space. I was uneasy that the fight might be ongoing between these two erstwhile affable, charming and remarkable lads.

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.



Foot Foot

Wiggers

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.
Mirror Monster

No News Is Good News

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 Hysteria Weather Channel—only watch it or go to their site on pleasant, cool, breezy days.

Let's show the media moguls that it really pays to be dull and unsensational!

It's just retarded enough to work.
Stamp

“Football for Fops” …or… “Ahem, Who’s Winning the Match?”

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.

Ryder: Oh goodness. Yes, there are some good spectacles out there tonight.

MDD: One fellow deliberately knocked into another fellow, the latter taking a nasty spill and dropping some elliptical object of unknown origin of which the former fellow appears most covetous.

R: Fascinating behavior.

MDD: All of a sudden, a merchant is plying his wares most vociferously: a cunning horseless carriage that appears able to manfully extract cumbersome objects from the soil!

R: I somehow doubt his credibility. Be wary before committing to a purchase.

MDD: Sage counsel indeed.
After a particularly frenetic and abstract mêlée, the gentlemen are taking a moment of respite. One is so greedily thristy for his orange elixir that he quite stained his chemise in the taking. His wife shall have words with him, mark me.

R: Another marriage strained by garments stained…

MDD: A pretty epigram for an ugly tragedy.
For all the brutal, barbarous altercations, it seems unlikely that the one man refraining from such violence, in a black and white striped tunic, should be such a mean-spirited tattle tale.

R: Most people I see in black and white striped tunics are more easygoing. My worldview lies in ruins.

MDD: A second merchant now extolls the superiority of his carriage, and plumes himself that his product can dash through misty mountain passes with a surplus of aplomb lacking in the previous crier's wares. Shall these men, too, come to blows?

O happy day! Our lads from the Parish have garnered several more pips upon the scoring board! It augers well for a certain victory.

R: Brava! My faith in our beloved troupe has never waned. I offer my adulations!

MDD: A grievous pratfall evinces a palpable tension amongst the patrons in the tavern—a very Christian sign of empathy after their previous, unarguably heartless cry of, "Kill that mutherfucker!"

R: Slander not the battle cry of the people! In a communal altercation of such magnitude, such fervor is to be endorsed wholeheartedly!

MDD: You are, of course, quite right. Tempers run hot and cold, like the moods of a woman, and both are entirely natural states. It can alarm one, however, as much in nature will.
After that, something exciting happened in the match and I had to betake myself away-wards with an attack of the vapors…
Desperation

Rollin', Rollin', Smashy, Crashy

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 clients friends eager for his erudite and enthralling company, approximately 40–400 times a day.

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:
  • Drunk tourists puking on my doorstep and/or yelling WOOHOO! outside my bedroom window at 4am and/or parking their enormous Texan johnny-jack-em-ups in such a manner that they manage to take three very valuable French Quarter parking spots, and then pissing on the bumper on the car in front of them.
  • When the Entergy meter reader comes, I'd like him not to feel he has to report that he just witnessed my house getting cased by two thugs looking through my window.
  • A city that holds its bloated-property-tax-paying citizens in such high regard that they will hire an outside agency to install “safety” cameras all over the city and issue citations for traveling five miles over the speed limit, said citations being generated and mailed from Tempe, AZ, and remittance sent to Cincinnati, OH, and you can only assume that the City of N.O. is getting at least 6%, right?
  • Receiving bogus parking tickets for “infractions” from illiterate meter maids scurrying to make their quota, knowing full well that no one is going to take a day off to go contest the vile thing at the Isle of Misshapen City Administrators on Poydras St.
  • To avoid the scourge of corrupt city officials in the previous item, to park in the Treme and have the car vandalized and smashed and snorfled through by peasant thugs who end up taking … nothing … because there's nothing to take, but hey you get an A for effort — probably the only A you'll ever receive.
  • To listen to the police officer filling out the vandalism report lecture you on why you shouldn't park there or have anything sparkly showing inside the car that might attract "those less fortunate than you on Christmas night" (ver batim quote). The old game of Blame the Victim is alive and well in my neighborhood.
  • Not to receive phone calls from my husBen who, on the short walk to the gym, is pelted with a full bottle of water from a passing car filled with howling maniacs.
  • To never, ever hear the name “Alan” uttered again, nor meet anyone named Alan. Such a pity; I knew some good ones whom I'll have to exorcise from my rolodex, sorry.
  • The stress and strain of having to wake up and face another day where any number of horrible things are bound to happen due to horrible people's horrible behavior.
I texted a friend today, "I'm either on the verge of a crying jag, or an undykeable laughing spree. We'll see which way the toast lands on the carpet."

In either event, lunacy is certainly imminent. And sticky, jammy carpet.
Desperation

ARGH!: The Musical

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!
Dorothy Parker

I…

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.
I Will Not Defame New Orleans.

Flu Poem for Winifred

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.
Lips

Black Pepper Tapioca

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.

  • INGREDIENTS:
  • 3 c. milk (I use 2%—right consistency, but not super-fatty)
  • ½ c. pearl tapioca (not the tiny kind, but not the enormous-huge kind — see below pic.)
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. ground black pepper

  • PREPARATION:
  • In a large cup, soak tapioca in 1 c. milk overnight in the fridge.
  • In a big pasta-type pot, combine the soaked tapioca, 2 more c. milk, and the rest of the ingredients (except for the vanilla).
  • Bring to a light boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. (If it scorches, it's ruined.)
  • When the first few boil bubbles appear, turn down to low heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly (see above about scorching/ruining).
  • 10 minutes into the simmering, add the vanilla and simmer for the additional five minutes.
  • Pour into wide-mouth glasses — Marie Antoinette champagne glasses are a good choice.
  • Can be eaten warm or chilled. If chilled, cover with plastic wrap and it's good for several days in the fridge.
  • Makes 5 servings.
Ben hates tapioca, but he loves this recipe, so it's that good.



Dead Blue Dog

Alzheimlich Manœuvre

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?"

"My iPhone."

"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?