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Somewhere in the writing it became dark, and I had to wonder where went the children outside who lifted my spirit with their cacophony, which had greatfully come to replace the obscenity laced tirade of a golden toothed gangster who earlier in the day had threatened one weaker than he with a toy rifle to the head and the admonition, "don't you shine me motherfucker..." (and so on, the threat and noise of it a painfully eloquent thing that has no end, has no remorse, yet somehow, inexplicably, has no depth.), and it became quiet so that here I am now with nothing but the after images burnt into my... what?
I don't surf but I think of the loss of the writing habit when measured in more than a few days to be similar to missing the wave; I'm just not paddling fast enough or I have picked the wrong wave to go after or I'm not one with the water or lets face it I shouldn't be on a surfboard in the first place.
It is never a loss of subject matter or ideas that causes the pause. Sometimes it is embarrassment and extreme self-consciousness, the consciousness which is me seeing me on the surfboard.
Advice to self: I think its better to have an idea before you start because if you don't have an idea you might find yourself spouting off just to make noise which is not only pointless, but noisy.
Back To School
For most of a year I'm a real dandy of a worker; the housepainter of your dreams; a super employee. Once a year though there opens a window of opportunity for me to express that undeniably less than stellar part of me that best expresses itself bluntly thusly--fuckit. I see those portals, the one in southwestern Virginia, and that one in Utah, and I can see myself walking towards them as those that trusted me shake their heads sadly and reduce me verbally to "a flake" of a man. I wish I knew what they meant. Its so true the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
What a hand I've been dealt, I don't know what to do with all my jokers.
Now I remember why I sat down here. I wanted to tell a story. It was going to be a story submitted to mrbellarsneighborhood.com, a site accepting non-fiction stories with a NY theme, and I only have a few, although Edgar Oliver swears I picked up a rat and threw it out his window on E. 10th (or Psilocybin ) and that's not even one I remember so who can say how many stories exist. But what's to be gained really by becoming a dot on the bellar map, or the many others, no disrepect, but the telling is all that matters, and where it ends up is truly secondary.
This story contains no sex whatsoever and I'm not protecting the lady's name I simply cannot remember it. She was pretty though, and kissing her on a bench at The World on Ave D (?). was heavenly, which is an adjective or adverb meant to make this more a spiritual piece because like I said, there is no sex in it. Before that we were somewhere else which is where we began to show an interest in each other, but there was another guy playing too and although he was the loser, in the end I did have to wonder if maybe he would have been better off as the winner, and it is my impression he might have played my part better than I played my part. Plus he was a New Yorker and perhaps more familiar with local customs, and I was, I don't know, probably a Texan.
Pausing after some more real fine kissing in the cab on the way to her place somewhere in the forties, she said, "I hope you're not one of those guys who's gonna come to my apartment and hassle me for sex."
I'm a real naive guy even to this day so its no real surprise that this was my first clue that me and this young woman were not on the same page. Which at the time in the back of that cab I tried to see as a sunny side and responded simply, "I won't hassle you."
But that query in the cab did me in I think because once up the many elevator-ed stories to her less than modest apartment I only wanted to be non-threatening and polite. Which I was, sitting by myself on her plush couch as she excused herself with seductive implication to the boudoir. She came back once, it seems, just to make sure I was still there and then she quickly disappeared again and came back with a deck of tarot cards. I did what she instructed as non-threateningly as possible--picked a card, any card--and the card I picked was a doozy according to her and she quickly disappeared again. When she returned she was in a nightie. Not the image of pure seduction but she did have my polite attention. I gazed noncommittally at her waiting for a more direct clue as to how I might meet her needs. She answered my polite patience with an obscurely seductive gesture--she curtsied and then lifted her short nightgown to show to me that perfectly desirable and well groomed enigma which earlier I had been admonished not to hassle her for.
I followed her to the bedroom and gleefully accepted her suggestion that I give her a back rub. Every positive suggestion, however, had a stop sign on the other side and she was right when she said "you seem tenative," for I surely was, and the both of us knew that was unlikely to change. It was the other guy (the so-called "loser") that would have appreciated her rape fantasty, or whatever syncopated love symphony she was trying to orchestrate that night, and while I paused supinely pondering where went the simplicity of mutual passion, she fell asleep, or pretended to, and I went back to my couch and slept for the few hours into morning. By a long shot she wasn't the best piece of ass I never had but she was so very sweet in her own way and making that long walk back to the east village, or tribeca, on a winter morning that required little more of me than putting one foot in front of the other, I couldn't help but wonder if I should start attending classes, or something, you know, to get in touch with my bad self.
Bombs Bursting In Air
We've been told to drop the dime on our neighbors if they shoot off guns tonite but I really don't think that will be necessary in the 2600 block of Dumaine. It is also illegal to possess and set off fireworks in Orleans Parish and even though personal fireworks useage is a crime largely ignored in New Orleans, 11-year-old neighbor Bryan Henry is really pushing his luck as far as I'm concerned.
He's a good kid, has a good mother, and a couple or three male relatives living with him who don't seem to be too shabby as role models. His mother earns a modest living as a cafeteria worker and exercises her right to raise Bryan in a conservative manner. However, as an only child he does receive special treatments--a (razor) scooter for Christmas, and the latest game playing devices over the rest of the year. And he is supplied with a modest pile of firecrackers in early July and late December.
Bryan is a good kid, did I mention that?, but...
The other day the gangsters over at St. Philip and Dorgenois set off at once a low estimate of ten thousand firecrackers that lasted approximately ninety seconds and had many of us Dumainers poking our heads out our front doors to determine more accurately the proximity of these explosions. The sound was the most exacting clue as to where these firecrackers were being set off but the huge cloud of smoke and its choking odor got the other senses involved too. The frighteningly rapid sequential and concurrent explosions reached such alarming crescendo on two occasions that I found myself grimacing as if preparing for the individual blasts to become one large one which would easily blow us all to kingdom come.
...the thing about Bryan Henry is that for the last several days--a couple of which I have stayed home all day because its cold and I'm a woos--he, and one or two of his cousins will start setting off firecrackers at 8 a.m. and continue until late evening, like this: 1-2-3, wait five minutes, 1-2, wait one hour, 1-2-3-4, wait five minutes, 1, wait two hours, break for lunch. Then in a fit of orgiastic abandon a string of 25 are set off all at once. Then silence for two hours, and so on, so that my nerves might require more medication than I have readily available, or maybe I should have saved what I had. If I had a modest trust fund and I wanted to be sure it would last throughout the rest of my life I would give it to Bryan Henry to manage for me, but I don't, and so the thing about Bryan Henry is--he's gotta go down.
"Yeah, uh, I've been hearing around that ya'll want people to call if we hear gunshots."
"Yessir, what is your location?"
"Um, I live at, um, on 2600 block Dumaine."
"Can you see the person shooting sir."
"Uh, well, yeah, I can."
"Describe the person for me sir."
"Well, he's short, say about four and a half feet, and uh male, black, black male, with a parka and a hood on it, and uh he makes fun of me sometimes..."
"...you know this person sir?"
"Oh, uh uh, no, not really no, I don't know him."
"...I don't know him at all."
"Can you determine this person's age sir?"
"Maybe he's twelve."
"A four and a half foot 12-year-old black male with a hooded parka who sometimes makes fun of you is firing a gun in the 2600 block of Dumaine."
"Well, now that you put it like that, I don't know, really, for sure if its a gun, but it could be, couldn't it?"
"I can't really say from here, sir, but we have cars in the area, we'll pass one by."
"Ohhhkay, well, thank you and..."
Hey, don't look at me like that, I'm just being a good citizen here, and uh, anyway, those vicodins really suck. What a total waste of opiate, mixing in all that acetaminophen. The wine spritzer of dope. Desperate time, desperate measures.
Waiting For Hitler
As a young man yearning for adventure and bored by the routine, Alex Louis, who was not yet my father but a west Texas newspaper reporter, told his boss that he intended to quit his job and run off to Mexico so he could interview the exiled radical socialist, Leon Trotsky, and perhaps gain some inspiration that I imagine his life was lacking in Wichita Falls. Maybe his roommate at this time was Fred ( "Old Yeller") Gibson, or maybe that would come later--and so maybe or maybe not he talked it over with Fred beforehand, or this would be a thing Fred would hear about later. The caring or opportunistic boss suggested instead of throwing it all away that my father should make the trip as a paid correspondent. My father agreed to this because he was no damn fool but one secret thing I know about the man who was not yet my father is this--a part of him just wanted to disappear into Mexico, and perhaps run into Ambrose Bierce, or his ghost, who himself had disappeared in Mexico possibly looking for Pancho Villa, in 1913, the year of my father's birth.
This was 1939 or 40 and like a distant friend of mine who forty years later would be turned away by JD Salinger's housekeeper in New Hampshire, my father's request for an interview with Trotsky was met mostly by indifference and it was not long after that Trotsky was murdered when in Mexico City a hired killer named Ramon drove a pickax into the back of his head, in August of 1940. My father came back to America and waited for the next adventure which would be the Second World War.
What Will Happen?
I was contemplating last night on how I could ever go back to work what with the overwhelming dread the mere thought of it brought to me, giving me shivers of revulsion it was, the mere thought. Work.
But that's to be expected really after having spent three holy holi-days in bed gasping for breath as the marauding histamine army tried to suffocate me with its horde of snot soldiers. I drank cupfuls of a red syrupy generic over-the-counter product until the resulting schizoid mindsets had me bobbing my head knowingly, and for a while my jaw got a gig in vaudeville doing the old over stimulated coke fiend routine. The show closed after one night. Reviews were tepid.
Like Horse Badorities once said, "the rent will be high but its not so bad if you don't pay it." That's the way I feel about work when it gets to be a really serious mental liability. Just don't go. I am paid as a sub-contractor so the only benefits I derive from my job are the ones I create. I mean other than the pay, which is fine, and keeps me centered to the real world, and out of trouble, and decent. So today I didn't go, called in sick, which I was, sort of, but as much as anything it was a rebelling against those words I heard my boss speak last week during break time. He was telling the carpenters he hoped the current jobs progressed in such a way that a free week might open up (and I'm thinking attaboy, now you're talking) so he could start on painting the outside of Willie Roaf's house, which I needn't even tell you was not anywhere on my top 100 list of things to do with a free week. But that's my boss, he can't help it, bless his heart.
What I originally wanted to tell you was more of a tourist alert for all of you coming to New Orleans for New Years: all you Florida people coming for the SugarBowl and all you St. Louis people who could still buy many of the unsold tickets available for Saturday's playoff game in the Dome. The Falling Bullets Kill campaigners have disbanded after five years of honest effort and are leaving it up to the NOPD to get out the word, which I'm sure they will, although I am certainly missing the FBK billboards around town which represented I think the best graphic art done in this area over the last five years.
What I'm talking about is chunks of lead by the hundreds soaring to the heavens before pausing briefly to become benign atmospheric ornaments, and then quickly morphing into lottery slugs--everyone's a winner--searching without malice for their final resting place: a roof, a streetcorner, a human. Not every year is someone killed by these falling bullets but I just thought it was something you should think about, especially between the hours of 10pm and 1am 12/31/00--1/1/01.
The day before Christmas a local kid turned seventeen and the day after Christmas he was shot dead, wounds to his head and chest, over on Columbus, at the corner nearest that house I wanted to buy last year, in what seemed to be a pretty nice little quiet neighborhood. Number 202 for the year.
Last night I'm reading these Peter Straub short stories when Mandy, in the room to my right, receives a call from prisoner Shelton Sr. and rather fluently and non-judgementally begins explaining her concerns about Shelton Jr, 16, and how she may be on the verge of putting him out. Shelton Jr. is to my left playing pacman and wearing headphones that vibrate rap. Mandy is saying how Jr. is not eleven anymore and the decisions he's making (among other things apparently he has chosen to take off from school most of the month of December) may effect his immediate future harshly. I do not know the weaknesses of Shelton Sr. but I am aware of his intelligence, and have seen in him a measure of integrity that sits in the scale opposite that side which weighs the years of neglect towards his son. And I am intuiting that he is hearing Mandy clearly and then the prison timer goes off and he must hang up. But he is allowed to call again, and this time Mandy gives the phone to Shelton Jr.
He is now laying on his bed which is the couch in the front room, and he takes off his earphones to speak to his dad. But his dad is doing most of the speaking and it is a riot act the young Shelton is being read. This I can tell by the responses which are mumbles of contrition. On one point the Jr. wants to rebel but only half-heartedly because he doesn't want to ruin this moment which has his father instructing him on how to be a man. And then the prison timer goes off again and the call is about over and for all the mumbling, and that bit of street slang spoken during his counterpoint, the Jr. doesn't want to be misunderstood for what he has to say next, and so it is in perfect, crisp, unaffected American English that Jr. says to Sr. "I love you dad."
I had so wanted to tell a classic Christmas tale. Have so wanted to do so. The sponsors love it. Budweiser. Microsoft. Ebay, Amazon, Nasdaq. Reap the bounty.
I wanted my tale to center around the only thing of which I am a veritable god of knowledge: dysfunctionality with aplomb.
It was going to be an improbable tale and bittersweet, with no happy ending but lots of drugs and sex and danger and death thrown in to keep them sitting in their seats through the commercial breaks.
Victoriassecret.com, Sex.com, Eatmeraw.com.
And then back to the story two white idealists move to a black ghetto where murder has become a nickname and music is produced so one can dance to the insanity and the two white folk think they can do the My Fair Lady on one of the worst but they wrong for that, and he let them know it by blatant normal teenage disregard, only the consequences of his disregard may be more dire (but only in the eyes of those that think so) but My Fair Lady says--I can't be what I can't be. And for that we can say My Fair Lady knows hisself.
Geographically incorrect snow falls encrusting the lashes of adoring wide eyed chirren as a marbelized Santa steps behind the curtain and removes his beard.
They are ready to cast him out into the abyss of indifference, a street paved with so many more like him, and he comes home early so to prove he is not completely against their caring. But his arrival may be too late, and his spirit too strong.
He will be what he wants to be, and in that the three become one.
Merry Christmas and Happiness and let's do it again tomorrow.
About a month ago I had the opportunity to purchase a backup/replacement vehicle for the 85 schoolbus yellow Dodge pickup with homemade plywood bedcover and Cadillac spoke hubcaps, and slipping transmission, which I have owned for little over a year. I have in that time spent a sum of money on the Dodge which exceeds the amount I would consider normal for upkeep and has nudged into that territory known as "hey, if I'm just going to throw my money away why don't I just quit my damn job, get rid of all heavy possessions and live on the street, walk around everywhere barefooted, abuse drugs, engage in illegal activities on a regular basis, tell a bunch of white lies to all the people that such behavior would offend, and etch silly nomikers like gymgahd in wet cement at the corner of 23rd and Rio Grande, Austin, TX. " The answer is obvious--decent people just don't. Plus, the highly memorable Dodge gets really crappy gas mileage--less than ten miles per gallon--and has been involved in more than one New Orleans area incident wherein the driver has acted badly and caused people who appeared at the time capable of inflicting severe bodily injury on said driver to gesture and yell just because he made maneuvers he calls his "NY moves" during peak traffic hours. The people act in ways that make him see the folly of his own occasional irrationality and therefore he proclaims it all Godsent material towards the making of him a better person.
The replacement vehicle is an 86 Toyota Corolla four door, and get this people, with air-conditioning. Forty-one years into this and I've yet to own a new car, or one with air-conditioning (until now), although that's a lie because the 72 Ford Maverick four door which sits under a shed in Bushy Fork, NC, had air-conditioning, although I honestly never used it, before I took out the condensor (?) or compressor (?) to go about my first replacing of a water pump there in Eugene, Oregon. And then after that four month trial period--where I shacked up in that guy's house across the street from the basketball courts several blocks from the university, sleeping on his fouton and in the end stealing three pair of his underwear, while he tried to figure out the meaning of his life in Bangkok, and she who was putting me up would come by during her lunch hour and laugh at my personalities, and then have sex with me--I moved in with her and her girlfriend in Springfield, while somewhere nearby the six or seven-year-old Kip Kinkel was unhappily developing into a shooter. But that's where I ended up throwing the A/C compressor for the Maverick, into that overwhelmingly dense blackberry thicket behind the house on Hunsaker, in Springfield, Oregon.
I used to keep the Corolla parked over in the driveway at Rocheblave, not using it, just happy for its backup-ability, but the crack fiends thought maybe that's being a little too uppity so back to school they took me with a sock over their hand smashing through the little rear/side triangle window, unlocking, and, apparently stealing nothing. There was a dollar's worth of change laying loose in that square blue receptacle near the parking brake. And a radio in the glove box. I had visions of joyriders (for some reason interrupted this time) and my little Corolla as the trailing throwaway, which often end up on the remote back roads surrounding English Turn--that exclusive gated community where at I sometimes work--crashed into a tree and set on fire. So I decided to pop the hood and unplug a wire into the distributor and it was then that I realized the desirable thing about the Corolla on the fated night was it's battery, now gone. I wasn't that mad although later when a guy I don't trust but still do business with came looking for an odd job, a task towards a blast, I told him I didn't have anything for him to do, but if he could find the person who stole my battery and bring to me that person's head on a stick, I would give him fifty dollars. I think he and I were both a little disappointed in the severity of my latent reaction, especially since he knows he is always a suspect, a fact both he and I regret. To atone for this I punished him several more days before giving him a job that didn't need doing, and twenty dollars.
It's a sad day when you bring something (even a little toy of a car that mostly resembles the little blue car game piece from the game of Life) to the 2600 block of Dumaine for safekeeping but that's what I did with the Corolla: took the battery from the truck and put it in the Corolla, started it, and then removed the battery and put it back in the truck. I then drove the batteryless Corolla six blocks to Dumaine and parked it behind the station wagon that belongs to Jermaine, although "belongs" might be stretching the truth. It sat for a few weeks without battery before I decided to start using it, which I do now, and adjusting my insurance coverage has made it possible to cover both vehicles with that minimum by law type of coverage that I favor, for only about twenty dollars more per year than it took to insure just the truck. So I have now what you might want to consider a fleet of vehicles at my disposal, although stop me if I brag at length.
New Orleans All Pro Offensive Lineman Slim Jekins is as big as a house so it stands to reason that his house would be as big as a, ah, ah, The Grinch! No, that was not meant to go there. Somehow just slipped in because--even without TV--I am as susceptible as the next guy to all out media blitzes, and when I used to go to the movies often--before they priced themselves out of my personal economy--I would see that Grinch clip. So that explains that.
Jenkin's new house in "Swampland Estates" on Loyola, in Kenner, Louisiana is big. At 13.000 sq. ft. it is by several thousand feet bigger than the biggest house I've ever worked on as a house painter. Me and the Breux's (two of three generations represented) were out there yesterday priming the windows, the inside and edges of which are bare wood and the outside being metal clad. There are about 64 working casement (the kind that crank open) windows, some more that are just set glass with frame, and then most of the doors are glass with same metal exterior framing and bare wood interior. About 100,000 dollars worth of windows by Pella, which I declare, suck, because the wood parts should be pre-primed at the factory. It was bad enough some years ago when the Pella design allowed for relatively easy removal of the windows from their frames, but now they are designed so that it is impractical to remove them and therefore some crannys go unprimed, but not to worry Mr. Jenkin's, we're gonna take care of you and your Pella windows will work like a dream.
The idea of this job came up a couple of years ago and the Saints weren't much of a team and Ditka not much of a coach and we were wanting to get away from this particular builder who was killing us with his work ethic but then Jenkin's postponed and we quit the builder anyway. A great man to work for, the builder, and some good fun had working around the various subcontractors, but like I said, too much work, way too ambitous. I had always encouraged the slackening of work ethic and my boss was with me on that so for the last couple of years he makes less money, I make a little more, and work is only as hard as it has to be.
But the builder come hunting us recently, playing on our pride by suggesting the painters we gave him as replacements were adequate but he wanted something a little better for the big boy's house. I suspect as much as anything he's just tired of Jose and his boys pretending they don't speak english that well when it suits them. Jose used to work with us and not only does he speak english quite adequately, he can tell jokes in english, which I've always understood equates to near mastery of a language.
And what with the Saints giving us more than a little excitement this year the idea became almost attractive to paint this Lineman's house. I report this at the same time I am flooded with new ideas, ideas that always seem a little bigger than me, but probably are what keep me alive even though I can't access them properly. I can see them so there's hope on that front and as for the people who want to put Christ back in Christmas I say go ahead and do what you think is best.
The Obligatory Sunlight
Early morning sun enters the unwashed windows of an unfinished two story dream home capturing slants of floating sawdust which speckle the face of a worker at rest. The worker sits on an empty five gallon bucket, leaning forward, elbows to knees, hands clasped together, and confesses the dream which put color to the thing which has bothered him for some time.
"I had a dream last night that I was sharing my wife with my brother. We were living in a home like this one, two stories, and apparently the arrangement allowed either my brother or I to pair up with my wife, and this evening my brother says he's going to bed and my wife gets all frisky-like and says 'Wait up, I'm coming with you,' and they gallop up the stairs, laughing and hugging each other as they go. And then I can hear the bedroom door close and them up there giggling and jumping up and down on the bed like kids. I'm sitting on the couch and the TV is playing nothing but white static and I'm thinking this is no good, this arrangement, something has to change, and as soon as I think that my brother calls over to me from the stairway--I hadn't even heard him come down--and tells me in an offhand way that I need to start the laundry. I say offhand, but it was also deliberate, the way he instructed me, head down and eyes up as if looking over reading glasses, and punctuating with a raised eyebrow and a cluck of the tongue. He then did a casual about face and sighed, as if giving me those instructions, and the subsequent task ahead of him (fucking my wife), were heavily weighted chores."
His co-worker thought this was the most sensitive, insightful, and funny thing his boss had ever said in the six years they had worked together, and so to respect that his laughter was both loud and genuine.
Haunting Of A Stranger
I met a girl this weekend and I think its serious. Just kidding, I only said that to make me laugh. To give myself pleasure.
But to be blunt, what inspired that bit of onanism was the single woman with the attractive ass who preceded me out the glass doors of Canal Place Cinema on Saturday--she held the door for me, and I like that in a woman--and then she stopped to talk to an older woman, and I like that too, and then she got into a very crowded elevator with me, and I'm thinking this is like a first date. I took my place front and center, and she squeezed in to my right just after, and so my hand would have had to invade the space that was now occupied by her chest if I wanted to punch my own number, which it actually did, and more I blush to say, but only in the same sense that the strung out boy in the movie took the cop's gun and played keep away with his equally strung out partner and like the strung out girl jammed her fork into the hand of the sleaze bag. It didn't really happen...unless of course it really did. "'Would you press nine?,' was the first thing I asked her," is what we would tell the grandchildren.
It wasn't really all that serious, but as we the many stood in the overloaded elevator with doors open, going nowhere, her certainly worried that perhaps her button pushing was somehow amiss (and I couldn't squeeze her hand as comfort because we haven't met yet), and all of us growing perhaps a little restless, and feeling perhaps this tired cosmic joke was pushing the rules of spacial elevator etiquette just a bit far, when finally two party chicks bolted because, as the one said, "this is getting too weird for me." She clearly had not come from the movie Requiem for a Dream, or otherwise lived a very interesting or challenging life because relatively speaking the elevator experience--and I really don't like crowded elevators--did not even register a blip on my "too weird" meter, but of course, to each their own, and thanks to them anyway for I suspect it was the missing weight of those two that set things right and got us moving upward to the parking garage (which I might add offers a none too shabby--almost romantic--view of the French Quarter and Mississippi River).
"He got off on nine, and I haven't seen him since," is what she told the freckled wisp of a boy who came and haunted from that place that could have been.
High School Basketball3/19/00
So as it turns out in the drama that is Louisiana state basketball playoffs, the St. Augustine disqualification held up. Hammond is vilified in the papers as a bunch of sore losing pussies (for alerting the authorities to a minor infraction by St. Aug, after losing to St. Aug in a semifinal game) but still it is them--not St. Aug--who get to play the quarterfinal game against Fair Park. I went to Lafayette anyway, enjoyed very much the music and dance provided by the Fair Park band as they rocked the Cajun Dome with a mix of traditional New Orleans brass, tribal percussion, hip hop, and jazz.
Fair Park had an easy time with Hammond, which set up the championship game against the Shaw Eagles, who beat Hunnington in their quarterfinal game. I ate at two different Waffle Houses a total of three times, had chocolate cream pie only once, as I did not feel--(I can't imagine what I was going to say here so I'm leaving it unedited).
Shaw beat Fair Park in the state championship game. I did not stay for that game as I thought Fair Park would run over those eagles, or hey, how 'bout "clip those eagle's wings." And I had already seen Shaw play this year as they are in the same New Orleans district as the St. Augustine Purple Knights, a team they lost to three times this year. In fact, Shaw was the third place team in that district, behind Jesuit and St. Aug.
Eddie Green just came by to see the paper. "Who won?" he asked. I shook my head, eyebrows raised. Eddie Green surmised, "Shaw won, that's sad."
John was a Vietnam veteran machine gunner from Syracuse who had after the war relocated to Squim, Washington, and was now hitchhiking I-!0 on his way to Florida to surprise his Mom and Dad on their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
In Squim, John could often be found at one of the four bars located there and on one night may have witnessed Raymond Carver suffering from brain tumors order a drink which he left untouched because in his confused tumorous state he still had the presence of mind to call Tess Gallagher to confess the deed--he had long before become a non-drinker--and she told him to get in the car and come home, to Port Angeles.
John would get as far as Mississippi before meeting a woman at a truck stop who mistook him for the deceased Richard Brautigan, and upon reading the work of his new identity which did sit prominently on the bedside table at the woman's trailer home he thought--good deal, I'll be this for awhile.
You know the both of them, the two cousins, one of which came down that street you are familiar with but he did not get his ski mask on quick enough, so the other cousin recognized him, and by doing so kept himself from being shot at, yesterday.
The Rocheblave house is gutted, naked down to its studs and rafters, but I am haggling hard with trash haulers which in this economy is a waste of time because all of us blue collars have the same sentiment, fuck it, I have plenty of work, I ain't cutting you no ($) slack. So no trash whatsoever has been hauled away from the property. I won't save any real big money with my haggling but at least I can firmly establish myself as a cheap bastard so the nickle and dimers don't kill me with their pleas for mercy. I know what its like to be imagined rich and privileged. Which in a sense I am, but look at my printout recently received from the Social Security Administration, with my twenty year work history spelled out, and the "rich" part would be a hard sell.
And after some of that haggling I enter the Dumaine property to see some guy in the corner over by the Esnard Villa side pissing against the fence so I confront him, don't know him, he stops what he's doing, can't be pissing, he didn't shake anything, or put anything back in his pants. I catch the cup of his hand, see the weed laying loosely across the paper. Shelton, and Stink, and Kevin's brother are playing dominoes.
"What are you doing?" And then I see the weed. "No fucking indeed. No, no, no, you can't do that here. What the fuck are you doing?" Lame duck or no, I have a mandated policy on this property which allows almost anyone to hang freely on this porch as long as they don't break laws. I have said recently to a porch gathering of key players that I would back them up against a shakedown as long as they don't hustle from, or smoke weed on, this property. I do not hide the fact from anyone, child or otherwise, that I myself smoke the occasional weed, but my point to everyone is that you will rarely, if ever, see me smoking it. Carelessness in my past has led to some nearly very fucked up consequences. I could almost be a Rebublican I am so conservative these days. But not a compassionate one.
The dude, the one I've never seen before looks flustered, and defiant, as he crosses the line off property.
"Eric!?" I yell, pleading the question mark.
"My bad, Mr. Jim, I told him not to," he says, gathering himself up to leave.
Shelton, ready for my wrath, says, " I couldn't do anything."
I did not respond to that, but I know what he means.
Last Friday Eddie Green hit a three pointer at the buzzer to beat Hammond, the number two ranked team in the state, by one point, and by doing so helped advance his team, the St. Augustine Purple Knights, to the final four in state playoff basketball action, in Lafayette. Hammond is trying to have St. Aug disqualified because one of it's bench warmers might be an ineligible player. The issue goes before some sort of tribunal tomorrow (today for most of you), and if St. Aug is not disqualified, Slim going to Lafayette for Thursday nights' game.
The new Taco Bell at Broad and Tulane is coming along nicely and even with the total destruction of the old Bell, and I mean total--they removed the building, broke out the foundation, drove pilings, and poured a new foundation--I suspect it will be open for business before I am completely finished on Rocheblave. But there's plenty of area projects that can make that lame claim. How embarrassing for those who claim to be more ambitious than me. Okay, no sour grapes, for true I am abundantly happy with the rapid progress of all local finer eateries and slop houses for they the latter are sad but true my sustenance. Elated.
In the interim I've had to travel from Mid-City to Central City to get my quickly made bland tacos, at the Claiborne and Toledano Taco Bell. A society wife on a job a while back took a liking to me and wanted to date me for one meal, perhaps Mexican food in Faubourg Marigny she suggested, but I begged off for various reasons, not least of which was because of her quite serious recommendation of said restaurant, "it's better than Taco Bell." I would hope so was my response. What, I look like a cheap date? ok don't answer that.
Once on my way to the Central City Bell, I made a wrong turn right into the Magnolia(?) projects and I felt vulnerable, that is to say life threatened, for as long as it took me to get back to a major thorough-fare.
And last week, coming back on Broad, burritos at my side, I was forced by police barricade to stop at the light at Washington and wait for a jazz funeral procession to pass. There was a mule drawn turn of the century hearse, some mourners, many video cameras, a group of black women all dressed in bright blue dresses and each wearing distinct head gear and equally distinct 50's retro sunglasses and apparently all members of one of the many local second line social clubs, and the Rebirth Brass Band, and then there was us--the passersby--and those two galloots on the curb both wearing the latest baggy gangsta pants, which are shiny this season, and two stray dogs, and some pigeons, and finally a funeral director who got things, and everyone of us, rolling, towards our destinies.
It was one of those moments that make up the reason I couldn't think of this summer when in NY someone upstairs on Rivington asked me why I ended up staying here in New Orleans and I just had to babble some out of politeness but when it became obvious I wouldn't come up with the right words this person supplied them for me which might piss off someone more well spoken, but not me, I like it when people fill in my blanks, especially if they get it exactly right. "It seduced you," she said.
Demolition is dirty work but satisfying like a good scream, hammer crashing against plaster, plaster cascading down bringing up clouds of dust, dust which existed only as potential moments before.
There's another guy here today. He says, "Slim, you heard about your boy?"
"Jerome, drive the green truck, come by CK sometime."
"Got fucked up bad, Slim."
"You heard about the guy shot those three people over in Kenner?"
"Guy shot two women and a dude, dude was Jerome. Shot in the head, the neck and chest, fucked him up bad, CK told me this, he paralyzed but moving two of his fingers, so..."
"Wow, that's fucked up." Slim and Jerome did not really like each other but were always polite to one another, and would nod or wave in passing.
Slim paid his co-worker for the partial day and drove him to the street on which they both lived. It was none of Slim's business what the man did with his money before going to the church meeting and he tried not to worry about it, in fact turned his head away from that common transaction which was now occuring right in front of him and several other adults, and children.