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One of the things I will miss when I am away from New Orleans is the fact that you can score drugs here 24 hours a day. By drugs I mean Guinness Stout. Are you wide-awake in the middle of your night? Can't find sleep's sweet oblivion, your guaranteed birthright? Don't use a needle? Question the prudence of popping too many pills? Think heroin, even snorting it, too mean a solution? Giving Herb a break?
Well, if you have a vehicle, armored or not, venture out into the New Orleans morning, noon, or night and find a 24 hour corner store. (If you don't have a car and need the fix then get to Bourbon St., if you can stand it.) If you have driven more than five blocks and haven't found a quickie mart then consult your map because you're probably not in New Orleans. The Stout may not exist on the shelf of every small store but if you ask for it, it will be there next time, no matter what the time. Here's to hoping there isn't a next time. Sleep tight sweet prince, sweet princess.
Ideas And Insults
It did not make imperfect sense when Jacque said it, that I should get a Koala Bear to tend to the bamboo instead of engaging in all these labor-intensive efforts.
I had used a sawzall to cut down a couple hundred fifteen foot stalks the other day and yesterday he and I were slicing through the large piles with a circular saw. The more manageable six-foot lengths we were then grouping into not so heavy bundles, which we contained with twine.
Before loading these many bundles into the bed of my truck and securing them with criss-crossing tie-down straps, we had loaded up and hauled to the dump on Elysian Fields, with a fair amount of frustration on my part, a huge pile of shredded banana trees that under the mandate of M had been massacred by E. Greeyne.
"E kinda effed up these banana trees," I said.
"Yeah," Jacque said.
I was frustrated. I said, "F-ing college boy."
"Yeah," Jacque said.
"I shouldna sharpened that machete for him. Made it too easy for him."
"Yeah, he made 'em like confetti," Jacque said.
About fifteen minutes apart from each other a couple of bangers who I respect made fun of Jacque, behind my back, for helping me. I like the guys but I wanted to kill them at that moment. Figures of speech sometimes aren't. The one banger came by me later, after the truck was fully loaded and I shook his hand and insulted him under the radar and that ain't right if I did indeed mean it in the way it could be construed. But fuck you man, I've had this keyboard in front of me for many years and I haven't really disrespected you in any real proportion to the amount of material I have regarding you. I know that super ego of yours has helped you through some recent hard times but you need to keep it under reign regarding me and mine.
Another man, looking like the Bigtimer, came by later, blowing hot air to M about how she shouldn't cut down all her landscaping and whether inside or outside his earshot, I don't know or care but I told him to go fuck himself and mind his own business. A fucking idea man who don't lift a finger. Sack of excrement.
Well, I awoke out of a fevered sleep, took a shower, then realized it was only one in the morning. So I wrote this. Now I don't know what to do. I can read, I guess.
Nine Life Metaphor
Kitten got it good. She shiny. She soft. She got the perfect black and white markings of cuteness. She got people. She got life.
Kitten does not appear to be in need of anything. One of those boy cats from her clan (same markings) was sniffing her up out there a minute ago and she turned around and batted boy cat upside his head, with impunity. Impunity, that mean no harm came back her way.
I saw a black cat up on the roof of Mr. Bunn's store and I wondered if it might be Shorty because she ain't around here no more. I don't think Shorty is dead because she survived too long to forget how to do it in just the few months I was gone. I did not spoil Shorty with too much food scrap because I figured that to be her death. I maybe spoil her a little though. So she could be dead. All science fiction aside and no offense to the imagined richness of your existence but it may be true that we all dead. So cheer up. If we all dead, Shorty lives.
I see the yellow bastard. And I see Johnny and Susie and I see Michael and Robert and…that lady on Romper Room never did once see me. I was always right there with my common name and she would just look right by me. Arlen and Cassius my ass.
Ain't no cats want to hang around here now with that Pentecostal lot all manicured. No place to hide from the evil that lurks. It sure is improved though. Man, property values just skyrocketing right through the roof. Right through the roof.
They be waiting to build that fence to see if I am going to sue them right back to the stone age (that'll cramp a body's style) for accidentally cutting down my little weed trees when they cut down those big shade trees. I ain't gonna sue nobody but maybe I will, I unpredictable. Crapshit. Who knew I was gonna say that? There a time period after which you can't sue a body and the day after that you will see a fence next door to me. They a wily bunch them Pentecostals. They also got the patience of Job, which ain't no big trick when you spend all your days in a church building. Affecting a religious metaphor I mean is the part that ain't a big deal.
I was doing the math a few days ago, counting up how many of my nine lives is left and I became discouraged after the count to six so I just quit counting and what a bunch of nonsense that is anyway. I mean what are the rules for determining the potentiality of your expirations? Nine lives my ass.
I have driven the six blocks back to Rocheblave to get some tools because Jacque said he could put the new rim on the portable basketball goal if he had a pair of grip pliers, also known as vise-grips. The goal, with its plastic base which acts as ballast when filled with water or sand (or on Dumaine, has an eight foot piece of 6"X8" heavy lumber laid across it) has been laying on its side up against the curb across the street with a rim bent almost closed for I don't know how long. One hundred basketballs, three entire goals, two or three extra rims, and a dozen nets, or more, have come and gone in the nine years I have been acquainted with the activities up and down 2600.
On Rocheblave I also plan to change clothes because it is ten degrees cooler on Dumaine, which is a fact noted by many but understood by few. Charles, the man who does good work for me, is recently out of jail, and comes over from across the street. I tell him my plans about the basketball goal, changing clothes, etc., all in a rush because the sun is setting and I want to watch some street basketball and changing a rim on one of these new-fangled portable goals is not as easy as you might think. Charles is always polite but as if this needs to be said, my problems are not his so what can he do for me to earn a few bucks. "Not a goddamn thing."
"Let me cut those weeds for you."
"Nope, don't care about those weeds."
"Well, what then?"
"I gotta be able to do something."
"Let's see, you could try to sell me a parking space in my own goddamn driveway like you did that first time we met."
"I would if I thought you'd go for it."
"If I weren't so hip to the angles of your deceit?"
"That's a pretty way to put it, I guess."
Daylights burning. I'm still in a hurry. "I could offer a shot of Irish Whisky?"
"And I would gladly accept," said Charles.
I go inside, change my clothes, pour a double shot of Jameson's into a cleaned out yogurt cup and take it out to Charles sitting on the front steps. Then I go back inside and find the tools.
On Dumaine Jacque collects the tools and I sit back and watch him and the boys go at it while I sit on the steps where I used to live and drink one of those tall Heinekins. I had spent most of the day over here working. I started out jumping the fence into Esnard Villa and cutting off the creeper vine that grows on the shared fence and up the side of M's house. If you don't attend to it every once in awhile it will literally envelop an entire dwelling. I would take breaks and sit on those brick steps that once led into Buddy's apartment before that day when the cumulative bad decisions of the new owner led to her being burned out by the wife of one of her lovers. The night of the fire I had sat on different steps, at four a.m., across the street at Mama D's, drinking her whisky from a little white styrofoam coffee cup as the blaze destroyed a grand house that had stood pretty much intact and unaffected by time, termites, war, and two or three Category 5 hurricanes since its construction, in 1854.
Other than trimming back the creeper vine I was harvesting from that little side yard in Esnard Villa what for me is some of the purest raw emotion to which I have access, which comes in handy when circumstances find me in need of some. As for the gangbangers not familiar with me, eyefucking me from way across the street, I have mumbled reminders of how close is our hatred to our love. Peace, you little bitches.
Before Jacque had asked me for the tools but after I had cleaned up the vines, and the trash along the curb from corner to next door neighbor's, and severely trimmed back five years worth of overgrown bamboo in M's backyard, I was sitting on the front steps of M's house, drinking my first tall Heineken, and Shelton appears from the horizon of the corner store. He's in pretty good spirits these days and like old times he sits down and tells me of his defeats in a way that makes them sound like successes.
"Still Working at MacDonald's?" I said.
"Naw, the manager threatened to fire me so I just quit."
"What what about?" he said.
"Why did you quit, why did they threaten to fire you?"
"Oh, you know that girl I told you about, work in the kitchen with me?"
"The one you liked?"
"Oh Lord no, Mr. Jim, uh uh, no, no, no." Somehow the thought of it trickled from his brain into his nasal passages down to the back of his throat and became a bad taste in his mouth. He popped a few colorful Skittles onto his tongue to cleanse his palate of my ridiculous suggestion. "She just worked with me washing up, she was the same as me but she tried to act like she was my boss, telling what I could do, what I couldn't do."
It crossed my mind to say "she was trying to 'handle' you?" but I knew he would laugh at me, one, for trying to be too cool, and two, because the idea that a woman can handle a man has yet to fully sink into his consciousness. I know that it will one day occur to him that it's not of matter of, if, but a matter of, which one, he will not be able to resist being "handled" by.
"No, she just get on my nerves, being bossy, so I threatened to knock her out, and she tell the manager. The manager act like I'm the one done something wrong and tell me he can fire me for that but I don't need that so I just quit."
"Probably shouldn't hit a girl."
"She wasn't no little girl, Mr. Jim, she probably could knock ME out."
"Sounds like she wanted to move up out of the kitchen, show she could manage people."
"Well she didn't manage me."
Yeah well, not that you realize.
Shelton is very eager and confident to talk on camera so I shot a few grainy thirty-second videos on my little Casio. He said he would talk about anything so I got him situated sitting up on the railing with the banana trees behind him, got him framed in the way I liked it and said, "ok, tell me about your childhood." He lost his cool, blushed, grimaced, laughed, and shook his head, so I said, "sorry, just kidding, tell me about jail," at which point he gained back all his confidence and told me a few things from his experiences.
Across the street they did not absolutely need my help but out of selfish desire to watch basketball I offered it anyway and took charge of the unscrewing of a difficult nut or two while Jacque handled the actual reconstruction and cars rushing to the corner whizzed by my right ankle which I had bent behind me into the street as I poured cooking oil along the threads of a nasty bolt.
"Don't we need a bolt on this side too, Jacque?"
"Naw, the hole stripped out, it'll work with just the one side."
After the goal was up people just appeared out of nowhere and there was a game. Occasionally grown men would park their cars on the street and join in for a shot or two before going around the corner to do whatever they had come to do.
M said, "See what you did? It was quiet around here before you showed up and helped them put on that new rim."
It will not go without saying that the rim came out of her foyer.
Love No Preposition
Do not, I repeat, do not tell Mark's girlfriend up there in the hills above Santa Cruz that I am torturing animals here in New Orleans. She never understood the necessity of my BB gun campaign against wild dogs so let's just assume that she would also totally not dig me torturing chained up animals.
I left my (Mark's) BB gun and my shotgun in Virginia because especially in regards to that shotgun loaded with hollow point slugs I was mentally exhausted from the mindset that would for any reason permit me to use it against another human being. I'm not saying I can't still see the reason why such a thing would be necessary but I just don't want to keep seeing that. I don't want to live with that freak that sets himself up in a vulnerable position and then says to the world of harm-givers--come fuck with me. This is a great place, New Orleans is, to live out that Charles Bronson fantasy but I'm thinking now that if there is a local bullet or two meant for me that I would rather be fantasizing about peace and love when it comes. In which case I only have to drop a preposition, and hope for the best.
Shortly before I left Virginia I was in an antique store outside of Sperryville with Mr. BC's wife and we split up and looked at the tons and tons of stuff we would never buy before rejoining for imminent departure and I was fingering the brown wooden handle of this really beautiful ten dollar machete and Mr. BC's wife suggested I was getting into my New Orleans mood and I said oh no, I have left that behind, and I'm not bringing it back with me when I return here in the spring. That's what I say anyway.
Sometimes he just won't shut up, and I know it's only a cat or a distant barking dog that sets him off, Killer that is. Watchdog hipped up long ago, good Watchdog. If I clank a pot in the kitchen it can set Killer off. I live here dammit, Killer. I live here. This is my home. I am a human being. Please shut up. And then I start yelling at him because he is so relentless in his barking. Twenty, thirty minutes straight he can go on. I have no doubt that some people have better success at pretending they are above evil thoughts but I gave up on that for good after that string of hallucinations I had when I was quitting my twenty-year cigarette habit a few years ago.
I'll put some downers in a piece of meat, here puppy.
No, I'll shoot him dead, dammit, why did I leave that gun behind.
I have to do something. Ignoring a problem is like the cigarette smoldering behind the cushions of your couch. So I go out the back door, which really sets him off, and then I hose the bitch down, using my thumb to make the water shoot farther. Killer shuts up. Success. Charges the fence, barking. Failure. I hose the bitch down again, wishing I could find that jet stream nozzle. Killer retreats, stops barking. Success. This process has to be repeated a few more times before I am convinced that, one: it was a good idea, or, two: I am enjoying it too much. Either way, Killer quit all his barking that night.
Last night, taking a break from the hopefulness of my new reading campaign, I am in the bathroom, dancing (like you don't do anything weird?), and Killer starts up. I go to my desk and slide the Winamp bar to 100 percent and then go back to the bathroom and dance through the entire greatest hits of Sly and the Family Stone, imagining just briefly that Killer is my date. I'm not going to get any more weird than that, today.
The Wheelie Poppin' Lifestyle
"What he do, kill someone?" was not a rhetorical question on my part nor would it be taken as such nor was it answered.
For the first nine or ten years of his life he was cute as a little bug and his occasional forays into creative usage's of cutlery were mostly ignored as the petulant acts of an upset child. Last year at 12 he cut a kid in the Dumaine house, the kid went for stitches and Bug skittered away to avoid the charges which were pressed upon him.
About ten days ago I photographed him on Dumaine popping wheelies on a bicycle. Seeing him I got my first notion that the aging process of the street was finally working on him. His eyes, which had so persistently seen the darkness now, gave some of it back. He wasn't that cute anymore. He could pop a mean motherfuckin' wheelie though, the whole length of two six hundred.
Over the years I would say he mostly hung by himself or on the fringe of a group. I don't think he was a loner by choice but rather because he did not neatly fit into the grouping into which he was born. Nor did he fulfill in any real way the needs of others. Maybe the other kids resented his persistent cuteness. Maybe he was just an annoying brat. I know when I lived on Dumaine I shooed him away many times, as he had a knack for showing up and ringing that bell just when the other kids had gone away and left me to the unique peace that can only be properly given back by a house that has recently endured the pitch of screaming children.
Sometimes his smallness was to his advantage and gained him a place stuffed in that little hatch back area of the smallest car built by Ford and I would drive them (eight was as many as we ever fit in there) around town on Sunday afternoons, or to the dollar theatres before they all went bankrupt. He was a good worker and showed eagerness and diligence while cleaning the street of it's substantial weekly buildup of garbage, which was the chore they did in exchange for my chauffeuring. Other times the adolescent boys did not want him in their company, he too young, he too small, he just a kid.
He's thirteen or fourteen now. I had you scared with all that past tense, yeah? Last week he stole a car and crashed it up pretty bad over on Ursulines, had to be cut out of the wreckage. I know the system does not work this fast so this last part is diluted information from the full strength of hearsay, but the word is that they talking about giving him juvenile life. Locking him up until he 21. That'll show him.
Crime And Safety Minus Satan
I only thought I had the music collection to end all collections. After delivering him those first few CDs I asked JL to make a list of stuff he wanted because I was pretty sure anything he would be aware of I would have. But on his list of 24 I don't have the first six, or the last eight. Some of what I am missing is from the mainstream, like Creed, Evanescense, Eve 6, Three Doors Down, and Sevendust. Also I would like to say--for a kid who didn't do well in school he sure has great penmanship.
Just because I have a lot of this music does not mean I have ever listened to it so last night I listened at moderate volume (higher volume was upsetting Killer next door in his rain-soaked doghouse) to samples from my own rather large list. I sampled songs by listening to a few seconds of their beginning, middle and end and got a pretty good idea of the meaning of "derivative." But JL seems to be drawn to some of the less than melodic strains of modern music so I burned for him discs from Atrocity, Cradle of Filth, Crazytown, System of a Down, Staind, Stompbox, Soulfly, Spastic Ink, Praxis, and a few more before I found something on my list that struck me as happier fare. Unfortunately, the title of the disc was God Bless Satan, from a group called Mephiskapheles. On my list they fall between MegaDeth and Metal Church. I am not inking on the disc the name of the album, just the artist, so I figured this would be ok. I deleted the song Satanic Debris because even though most of the song is bouncy and happy it does start out with a semblance of satanic gurgling, which was making me want to slit my wrists if I could only find a razor in this mess I call my home. Don't tell me I'm not a concerned psuedo-parent.
There is this long legged cajun girl who works next door at the auto title place and she just about as elusive as a person can be. And all business too and hard to make smile. Hair like black silk. Eyes to burn holes in your soul. The paper prints a sampling of crimes from each district, this is the 1st District, and today I read the crimes for Dec. 28 (I was in Austin) which is a late enough post date to be almost worthless as news but all the same I mention it because it was an armed robbery at three in the afternoon at Iberville and N. Rocheblave and those people at the title place are mostly the only humans that inhabit this block so I wondered about her because I think she's the one that runs deposits to the bank. She's been parking near my driveway a lot recently and if she would just ask she could park IN my driveway, use my phone, my bathroom, get me to do her laundry, deter bandits with my unique bandit-repelling ability, massage whatever the hell aches her and well, probably just about anything is what I would do for her and when the Martians give me full power that is the way I will arrange things to happen. For now though, I'm just gonna stay right here behind this desk, whereupon there should be a standup plaque that reads--safety through inaction.
I saw BigHead yesterday and he did not, in the traditional sense, look all that well. His head is still big, which may bring you some small measure of comfort--that things you have come to expect are exactly as you expected them to be. And he looked like he had recently done battle--his face had a deep bloody scar, a thing also consistent with my memory of him, and his gait, although clearly suffering from the penalty of age, was proud if somewhat less than swaggering.
He walks the sidewalks in broad daylight, as many neighborhood cats are for good reason fearful to do--predators are plentiful--and on this occasion was on my side of Rocheblave apparently heading for Miss L's yard which is a strewn mess of mid-reconstruction garbage and probably harbors a good many rodents, yum.
Everything behind the head is gaunt. His flanks if cheeks would be described as cadaverous. His fur if skin, sallow, his legs if legs…okay never mind. His black is still black but his white is considerably less than bright.
He came by again today while I sat on that little side landing and when I called out to him from a hundred feet away he stopped. I cooed and he considered. He walked toward me and I went for the camera. He stopped about twenty feet away out in the now neatly trimmed Pentecostal grass and I took a few not very good shots and one very grainy video. When he got bored with me he headed off for the gap to Iberville.
There's a kid on Dumaine who shares my initials and has recently shunned the rap music of his peers to embrace heavy metal. I sense he is going through some hard time, not tied to the brotherhood of gang and also disengaged from the schoolyard; he wasn't passing the standardized tests which allow one to proceed forward. The other day I asked him if he had an mp3 player and he said no. I considered getting him one for his birthday but I can't afford one on account of I am currently a lazy non-working bastard. I have a pretty fair amount of music in the mp3 format, a lot of it metal and rock, not to mention the complete work of Coltrane, but most of these street kids ain't too interested in jazz, despite (or because of) their proximity to the birthplace thereof. So I went out and bought a spindle of 50 CD-Rs for fifteen bucks and now I'm burning him some stuff. So far he's getting Led Zeppelin's I, II, III, IV, and Physical Graffiti, and a full sampling from Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Korn, Ozzy Osborne, Machine Head, Megadeth, Metallica, Alice in Chains, and a little Critter Buggin to cleanse the palate. Depending on his response to these, or frankly, whether he wants it or not, he also will get a full plate of Hendrix. I want him to know we are all the same--existing, nothing but existing. And that's not all bad.
Getting It Down
I can, and will, toot my horn now. After forty-four years of not getting it I did the other day finally come to an understanding about how to tie a shoe. It happened accidentally as my fingers made what my mind perceived as a mistake and then there it was--the tying of a shoe in such a way that I was in synch with contemporary American shoe tying. I do not want to underestimate the implication or value of this feat. To consider that I may have the potential to overcome past failures and, yes, even master simple tasks, makes me fairly dizzy. What I mean is, don't give up on me. I'm a comer, a late bloomer, a graying boomer, a man now cautiously synching up to the mainstream of aspiration. What? Oh, you liked me how I was? Well then, fuck it all.
I never got it when I was a youngster, the proper way to tie a shoe. I settled for all these years on a method that was a reasonable facsimile, and let me at least suggest, possibly superior way, of tying the lace up shoe or boot. But superior or not I felt the mark of outcast when tying in public. On those rare occasions when I found myself under close scrutiny I would obfuscate the shoe tying with my prematurely craggy hands. "Hey man, you have the hands of a ninety-year-old man and you are what, 25?" If at the time I was 27 I would say "27," happy not to be found out as someone who could not master what most every five-year-old has mastered. The vanity deficit of craggy hands I filed for later self-consciousness, behind, oh you know, all the usual pedestrian concerns of our time.
If this new method of shoe tying--which by the way I do not now employ as I have found it inferior as regards to my needs--is at least a sign of blossoming potential, then watch out world. I may someday soon return from my morning ablutions to find that, holy mother of Christ, the bed is made. The miracle of this will be in the succumbing to the mechanics of accidental behaviour.
The nearly sixty-year-old rock icon Ray Davies of the Kinks takes a bullet to the leg chasing after his girlfriend's purse-snatcher in Faubourg Marigny day before yesterday. Most regrettable, and the city offers it's condolences but goddamn it Ray, was you so high you imagined yourself to be something you ain't? You got a cape and tights under those clothes you wearing? I mean I know the Marigny has a somewhat lulling atmosphere, all gentrified and everything, but it is precisely that which makes it attractive to local criminals. We all shaking our heads Ray, stick to rock and roll man, hope you feel better. So, once again everybody, here's the rules: give it up and don't talk back. I shouldn't have to tell you not to chase the local youngsters but I guess I better. Don't chase the youngsters, no matter how young or small or innocent or polite they may appear. Most of them that will carry a gun will surely, most surely use it. No kidding though Ray, sorry it had to be you this time. You're contributions to the world of Rock are invaluable, and your regular visits to the small club scene here are also that.
In considerably less stimulating news--I was grumpy all day yesterday. If you were in front of me on the roads you were an a-hole, an f-wad, a bugger-eating moron, a dickless wonder, and/or any number of other less than desirable things. I apologize to one and all. But stay out of my way. At least until the lessening of lunar forces upon my soul.
I'm not sure but yesterday I don't think I accomplished anything, except for that crossing the abyss of bad attitude, and even that I can't be sure of, I mean I may still be the pissy little bitch I sometimes be.
That man said he coming for the truck tomorrow. I guess I better find the key and the title, phew, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
If Normalcy Were Redefined
On Rocheblave one sad dog and I resort to idle dreaming as the other dogs bark resentfully. The canopy overhead is gray, a woman's dress is caught in the car door, and palm fronds anticipate nothing.
Over on Dumaine to fix a broken window and V yelled down the block enthusiastically, "you back." I nodded and waved, moving towards my truck to get some tools and V thought I was leaving so he yelled, "boy, get you down here." I yelled back that I was working and he said where and I said right here and he said oh. Work is supposed to be a priority but I did not want to appear rude so I walked down the broken and buckled sidewalk and held court with the abbreviated version of the Dumaine Gentleman's Club. We talked for about an hour, V and I on the stoop and Mister up on his porch.
Mister said he was interested in my school bus yellow 85 Dodge truck and I had to tell him the unfortunate truth that a man had just ten minutes previous come by Rocheblave and asked did I want to sell it. I told that man a bunch of truth too but he still wanted it even though the transmission may be amiss and the gas mileage is less than ten per gallon. When he asked me how much and I said two bills he did almost salivate. I hope he will be happy with it. I guess the Cadillac spoke hubcaps may be worth something.
We started talking about how people get drawn back to Dumaine; who was on and who was off the crack; who killed whom when, where and why; how does a man survive multiple gunshot wounds; how many people they knew who had been shot and how many times; who was in jail for that murder in the east even though it was probably the recently dead cousin who did that one; how a thirty-year-old man could have thirteen children; why Bourbon St. sucks and why we never go there; who of the dead we missed; why I don't have a girlfriend; why you couldn't park at the Superdome for the Sugar Bowl; why there are mosquitoes in January; what a nice day it was; which of the children preferred knives and which preferred guns; who was working this corner and who was working that one; what I would do with Rocheblave when I left; how one family member had only done three years for murder and this other one was looking at life. I then excused myself and went to replace that window.
There were some complications because the kid at the hardware store cut the glass just a fraction too large and the frame itself seemed to be out of square a bit and whoever had smashed the window had also broken the sash. I did a little screwing and gluing, a little shaving, some daydreaming, some hand shaking and a whaddup or two. I also did some snooping because I could clearly see all the characters at the corner in the glass reflection. But nothing terribly new going on there, watch the movie.
Shelton came by, said he was living in Gretna with his father, and working at the Belle Chase MacDonalds. He commiserated with me as one hard worker to another, said he understood why I had always been such a tired, grumpy son-of-a-bitch at the end of the workday. I told him I had been taking it kind of easy for the last year or so, but that I could still be a grumpy son-of-a-bitch, just not as tired while being it. He looked good, had his hair done in those little I don't know what you call them braids. I had my pony-tailed contained in a dozen or so of those black elastic hair ties and he told me I should hook up with Angelina Jolie, as in Tomb Raider. I guess there isn't a peace bond out on him anymore because M didn't seem too upset that he was within a thousand yards of the house.
BeBe came by with one of the children of her dead brother, Poochie, a little girl that would be Shentrell's sister, but that had never been around before, just like Shentrell, who used to always be around, is never around now.
The Chameleon And Me
When renovating this house on Rocheblave I had tried a few things to make it tight, that is impervious to the many critters that can occupy a home: the mice, the giant flying cockroaches, ants, silverfish, ladybugs, flies, etc., but they get in no matter what, not all at once and not in overwhelming numbers but all those critters do get in and live here with me. And then some--like the gecko, which does battle with the giant flying cockroach. They are welcome to all the giant flying cockroaches they can eat, non smoking sections available.
My favorite invader though is the chameleon lizard. I can see one now getting his morning sun up on the radius transom window above the front door. I don't know if it's one of the same one's that lived here before I left for the east coast in August '03 because those two were kind of small and never seemed to get bigger over time and the one over there is fat. He a biggun. I kind of envy him being able to sit up on that transom watching the world go by, even though truth be told not a lot happens here on Rocheblave. Gunfire and sirens in the near distance doesn't really count, even though I do feel inclined to mention it. Shhh, he's sleeping now. I like the sound he makes when he belly flops from a chair onto the wood floor.
I can see a downtown building from where I sit and if I stand up and look out a westerly window I can see a piece of the top of the Superdome. They have constructed another chain link security fence around the whole Dome because of "heightened national security alerts." LSU and Oklahoma are playing there tomorrow in the Sugar Bowl for the national college football championship. Even though USC…oh, who cares?
I can just glance around me and see all kinds of things that need doing if I do indeed intend to leave New Orleans in the spring.
Much of the really hard stuff will require better phone skill on my part so don't be surprised if I practice on you. If you get a call from someone saying--"hey, it's m…," click, that will be me.
I seem to be abusing my interim status to justify slobbery. It would not take me twenty minutes to straighten this place up but I am resistant to the idea of it. No, really, I can just step over that pile of stuff for now.
Nice time of year. There is so much evergreen flora in the area that you don't really notice it being winter. And although you can't ever around here say there are absolutely no mosquitoes, the mosquitoes are so dormant that you can leave your windows open without screens and that's nice. Air the place out a bit. I had screwed the windows shut in my absence and did not leave my house sitter a screw gun. She smokes so the house was a little smoky.
At the MacDonald's drive-thru yesterday morning the cashier asked me did I have a nice new years and I said it was pretty fun. Did you have a nice one I asked and she said she had, praising the Lord. I said I thought that sounded like a nice way to spend the evening and she said, yes indeed.
In the afternoon, after telling my ex, M, the house sitter, that she need not replace condiments used during her stay here because I literally never cook, I went out and bought cornbread mix and black eyed peas and cooked it up and ate it. While trying to be interested in college football on the television.
When it became clear that not all the young boys from the hood coming in and out of M's house were bad guys, the next door neighbor girls, two sisters, being raised conservatively, started coming over and developed a friendship with M. One of them writes a little and M will give her advice about that. The younger one helps M with chores, is sweet as can be, polite and straightforward, but you do not want to mess with her. The two sisters (and the younger brother) have different fathers. This past week the father of the younger sister was killed in crossfire by the proprietor of a Laundromat on Cleveland St. Her father was the only customer during an armed robbery by two teenagers. There are unanswered questions but the law allows that the two teenagers can be charged with murder while the proprietor may not face any charges at all. One of the teenagers was grazed and took himself to Charity, which received all 275 murdered locals this year, and hundreds and hundreds more wounded, and therefore has a staff pretty familiar with the characteristics of bullet damage to flesh. The kid didn't have the right answers, and as it turned out also had a little weed and coke on his person so…
I try to convince myself that discipline is freedom, which is why I try to write more these days, even when I don't want to or especially when I don't want to. However, I have not made any concrete plans about what to do with all my new found freedom. Though I must start reading more, that would be a good start. And I should pay better attention. Even if it kills me.
Austin In And Out
I must say the story of snorting coke off the ass of the daughter of a famous country and western singer did pique my interest but in the end I just grabbed my sleeping bag off the couch, by the craps table, and exited X street for the last time. Before that:
"Stay chief, be a man, help me get kicked out of here."
"No B, this place and you in it is an anomaly long past due for correction. You should feel blessed the neighborhood let you stay as long as it did. Fifteen years is a good run."
"Yeah it is, I've had a good run, but stay, it'll be fun." His tone revealed a doubt about whether it had been a good run and also if he really wanted me to stay. And he and I both knew that predicting fun is, well, excuse me, but like a crapshoot.
It was midnight and B was planning a warm up craps game before the big end of the year casino night. I'm still getting up early so I had been asleep on the couch when he knocked on the door, duffel bags full of close out merchandise at his feet. He wasn't going to look for another place in town; he was in the wee hours of each night meeting with former clients and disposing of excess baggage, and on the first day of the new year he would depart for places unknown and wait for unknown periods of time until final transactions could be made complete. Then he would leave the country to unite with his lifelong notion to grow cherries in New Zealand, which when he said it it was like he was meaning to leave the planet.
Over the years he had repainted the walls and ceilings throughout with abstract interpretations from the psychedelic recesses of his drug addled mind. Much of it was very pleasant to the eye. He wanted to cut out some sections but I was betting he wouldn't get around to it. It had taken multiple prodding's just to get him to go out in the street and play catch and that was something he liked to do.
He would need special powers to get everything done that needed doing but he doesn't have any he knows about so he would likely resort to his default special ability, procrastination. The ability to postpone what needing doing was really the only power he had most of the time and he made regular use of it.
His roommate was his ex-wife's ex-husband. Each of them had their own child by her and the children when visiting were delightful. The roommate's eight-year-old daughter made sock hats for all of us using B's dingy but clean ("they're clean chief, I promise") socks piled up in a corner of his room. Both men still loved the mother of their children but in equal measure to being afraid of her. "She's got 9-1-1 on speed dial."
B had explained the domestic abuse charge the previous night up on the top level of the Whole Foods parking garage while he smoked a fat joint and I drank an on sale six dollar bottle of Chimay. B is a gentle guy with occasional anger issues but in fairness he is sometimes on the right side of the issue. Besides the domestic abuse charge which he described as a reflexive push after ex-wife punched him in the face, there was a pending charge for threatening an ex-marine. The guy had told the eight-year-old daughter to tell B this very explicit detail regarding his so-called manhood and instructed her to repeat it word for word to B. When B called up threatening to kill the ex-marine the guy taped it and pressed charges. A real pussy. I'm sure the guy does not accurately portray any part of the Marine Corps.
B was already legendary as the gentle, go-easy, cloud-watcher, who twenty years previous had beaten a punk rocker nearly to death with a golf club in the parking lot of this 100 percent Slacker-occupied 20 unit complex near the University at which we all lived. "But I was tripping on acid chief, I'm not normally like that, it's just when I saw what he had done to Janice (at the time his not yet but soon to be first wife) I just lost it." The punk rocker had become angry with Janice for sleeping with B and had punched her in the face and blackened her eye. He had then come around underestimating and threatening B. B was recently returned from an around the world yearlong walkabout to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Thailand and was thoroughly peaced-out. He was always talking about cloud formations. We imitated him, made fun, had fun. That guy never pressed charges though. And never ever came around again.
But that's all to explain how things can get out of hand. I was looking for my drawstring garbage bag of dirty clothes as B half-heartedly asked me to stay. But I was approaching socialization saturation and needed to flee. We had had a good talk the day before, had relived the "heist" in which we "rescued" and transported some property of B's that had been stolen from him. His recitation to the roommate and me reminded me that I had forgotten all about introducing him and Bodine to the idea of Goat Man. B had jokingly made a promise to Goat Man in exchange for having the van start at my remote property outside of Austin. I told B that Goat Man would hold him to that promise. The next turn of the key the van started and Bodine and B left out of there to meet again and again the strange power of Goat Man.
The new owner of the X Street property was probably not as oily as we made him out to be. On our way to the Whole Foods parking garage the previous night we had run into him in the parking lot and B had pitifully and unsuccessfully asked for an extension. I was standing back, in the street, daydreaming at night, not wanting to engage the guy we all knew was someday coming.
Ron introduced me as a former resident of X Street who could tell him some things about the property's history from 20 years ago. I told the guy quickly and politely about the sheep ("I thought it was a goat," B interrupted. "No, a sheep," I corrected) that had been kept penned up in the yard, had escaped one December to roam the downtown streets of Austin, was written up by Kelso in his column under the title Ba Ba Humbug to Development, and had been returned and eventually filmed by a local artist as my good pal and roommate rather ungraciously and inexpertly slit the sheep's throat. It wasn't ritualistic, my friend intended the sheep for a barbecue The sheep's name had been Che' but I didn't tell the guy that. "It was kind of an art piece, but that's probably not the type of history you were curious about. I believe a lot of ordinary stuff happened here too," I finished, while stepping back into the street, eager to get going to the Whole Foods for the beer I could not drink in front of the recovering alcoholic roommate. B continued to make a point for staying and the guy said B would be more than welcome after the renovation was complete but we all knew those words were disingenuous.
"Come on B," I pleaded, "let's go, this is what you get for being a renter."
"You're right chief, I was just…"
"…Dilly-dallying is the word."
That morning while everybody was sleeping I had roamed the old haunts. I had breakfast at the G&M Steakhouse where Gus says, "even the water here has cholesterol. You can eat over there (a derisive nod to the Whole Foods across the street) and live forever, or eat here, die, and go to heaven." I walked up Lamar Blvd. through Pease Park remembering every previous walk, and maybe an acid trip or two during Eyore's annual birthday party. I guess I already knew that my etched nickname and altered girlfriend's name in the cement curb at 24th and Rio Grande had long ago been replaced with an open curb for wheel-chair access. "Damn the needs of others getting in the way of your reveries," B had consoled me.
After returning from my walk B and I and the two kids had watched the battle scene from the Phantom Menace episode of Star Wars. At one point his three-year-old son had lost interest and was "reading" a picture book. B smirked and said, "Son, put that book away and watch TV." The son smiled and put the book away but I don't know if he got the joke.
Keeping Easy Promises
And then there were those years where I moved between this room and Austin. I never spent a full summer here after leaving that first time for college. I spent the first summer in school, hoping to graduate in three years, but I burnt out on all that and ended up dropping out two successive semesters. And after that I was mostly just here for short visits. Back in the late seventies you could fly here to Dallas on Southwest Airlines, roundtrip, for $48. That was only $12 more than the bus and I never really favored travel by bus anyway.
I also hitch hiked here and back quite a few times and eventually my parents got used to it, maybe even riding along vicariously for the thrill of it. I think they understood that there was no point in not being supportive. They did make it clear that financial support was only coming if I was in school and I thought that seemed fair. Besides, I was living pretty comfortably in Austin, living with other slacker friends, or in a truck I had, in a cave at the end of Rio Grande, in condos in mid-construction, in a large doghouse on Blanco with Blueberry the Weimaraner and her nine pups, or in a friend's vacant two-story Victorian that his father provided and in which he would not live because he hated his father. The house had a very nice pool table but I never really invited anyone over to play. And then suddenly I was adopted by a swell young lady who was attending the University and things evened out for awhile. For several years my parents thought I was going to be ok because I had someone looking after me. My mom especially doesn't like for me to be single; she looks at my bachelor uncles in their old age and feels sad for them. I think a person can find sadness wherever they look for it. Possibly the reverse of that is true too.
But I was standing on the side of the highway where the road from Killeen merges into I-35 in Temple and this GQ looking dude in a shiny new dark blue BMW screeches to a halt in front of me. He asked me where I was going and I told him I was going to Austin and as if sensing that sixty miles would not be enough time for small talk AND large talk, he delved right in. It was like he didn't mean WHERE was I going in the geograhic sense but, you know, in the larger sense. I gave him a little bullshit from the mind of a 20-year-old and he told me about being a 30-year-old lawyer on the fast track to unhappiness. Unless you just like to be difficult the guy could only be described as handsome, and while sitting in his cool leather passenger seat I could smell the residual, exotic perfume left behind by his (she could only be) beautiful wife.
He had wanted to be an artist, had studied in Paris, and then had given up childish ideas to become a successful lawyer. And it seemed to be killing him. He all but begged me to stay disaffected even though he and I knew it was not exactly a course and I told him for sure I would, because I really could not, cannot, see any alternative. I wonder if that guy ever thinks about me because I think about him a lot. I wonder if he ever figured out the best trick of all, how to be an artist and a successful member of the mainstream.
Takes More Than A Note
My mom asked me to cash a check for her yesterday but sensing the possible difficulity of such a thing I told her I would rather not. She said she liked to have some cash on hand and I said, here, have some of mine. No, no, no, she did not want MY cash.
The check was made out to Tom Thumb grocery so I went over there. They have a bank inside and I went up to the counter with the check, my ID, and the little handwritten note explaining that I was the son of Clifford Louis. The teller gracefully explained how it would be better if the check were just made out to me, and also better success could be expected if I went to the bank the check was written on. But, of course. While I was there in the grocery I picked up nine bananas and some milk as I had been instructed to do, so the mission was not a total failure.
My mom was fit to be tied and said she would give them a piece of her mind the next time she made it over there. I begged her not to, explaining how I might like to start dating this year and did not want to rule out tellers in far away places. With a fair amount of difficulty and questionable patience on my part I explained about making a new check out to me and how I would go over to the bank itself, which is in the same parking lot with the Tom Thumb. Do you know where it is?, my mom asked me, and I said I thought I did. She gave me somewhat detailed instructions anyway.
The teller in the drive-thru gave me a happy electronic welcome and I was happy right back at her and stuck my check and ID in the little clear cannister. When I pushed the send button the cannister shot so rapidly up the clear tube that I flinched a little. I assured myself that anybody watching could have taken the flinch for a nervous tick or some sort of neural disorder and that I could still be considered a cool dude on some plane, somewhere, somehow.
The teller said, James?
Do you have an account with us?
You'll need to go inside to cash this.
Ok, I said, unclinching my teeth.
Ever since that Mobil station in Rappahannock changed over to a Shell station, who's mid-grade gasoline causes my engine to ping, I've been avoiding Shell gas altogether and pumping anyone elses high octane, no pings, higher zoomability. I zoomed around the corner, parking less than true parallel to the lines.
Can I help you, the teller asked.
I put the check and my ID on the counter.
Can I get two forms of ID, she asked me.
I flicked her one of my Platinum Cards.
Do you have an account with us?
Would you like to open one?
No thank you.
Could I get a thumb print?
I'm sorry, what?
A thumb print, she said, pointing to the little thumb-sized print pad.
You're kidding?, I said.
She said she wasn't and like a criminal drawn to the booking process I printed my left thumb.
I'm sorry, she smiled, I need your right thumb.
Okeedokey, now we're getting somewhere. I pressed my right thumb onto the clear ink pad and then left my invisible mark on the front of the check.
The teller gave me two crummy-looking twenties and a wrinkled ten.
When I got back over here my mom was still thinking about past failures, I said, let it go, she said, but did you give them that note explaining who you were?