I have a dream. I’m going to move to New Orleans and open up a DC-themed bar. I’m going to call it “In Session” and set it up somewhere posh where we can pick up tourists and commuters. For all the expats, it’ll be a true home away from home.
The first thing I’ll do is raze any historic buildings that are in my way and then build a faux-French Quarter style building that is, somehow, cold, brutalist, and unwelcoming.
Continue reading ‘In Session’
I took this day off months in advance when I knew Nacho was coming down for a long weekend, tacking on an extra day off for recovery that, as it turns out, was hardly necessary. We are not becoming old men, just men more easily affected by the weather. So it’s more than appropriate that during Nacho’s stay a new front seemed to come through every hour on the hour. Winter in New Orleans is like that.
Continue reading ‘It Might as Well Be Spring’
As you read this, my plane will be bumping from BWI to New Orleans, a town I’ve tried to visit at least once a year since 2001.
Continue reading ‘Journeys’
Treme is about to become your new favorite show. You may not know this yet, but it’s true. HBO has already ordered a second season before the first one has even wrapped. The television-watching intelligentsia have been waiting for David Simon’s return to a regular series—not quite as rabidly as Salinger fans were waiting for him to die, but in a much more urgent, sugar-rush way. This is still TV, after all. Writing must still be an axe to the frozen soul. Television can get by being a pair of safety scissors to the fleshy palm. Not to say that Treme isn’t moving, that it doesn’t up the ante of the ensemble drama. Not to say that Treme won’t be the pop culture representation of New Orleans that finds accuracy and meaning where dozens of other offerings have failed. Not to insult you, gentle reader, or your savvy. I’m just pointing out that Treme is going to be everyone else’s favorite show in two months, so it might as well be yours, too. HBO will advertise it that way subtly. The bloggers will try to outdo each other to announce new leit motifs and strata of meaning. Your friends will start calling each other “brah” and listening to Rebirth Brass Band albums for awhile. So to help you get out ahead of this juggernaut of Meaningful Television, I’ve compiled a glossary of terms that you will need to know.
Continue reading ‘Treme: A Glossary’
We shared a table with a Canadian couple the other night, Saturday, waiting for the parade to start. He was already four scotches in and still seemed mighty sober. She was adjusting her scarf, watching out for him, watching out for herself, the plum limit inside her glass falling down slowly. A slightly older couple from Toronto, one of those Train A and Train B type unions leaving lives set far apart only to meet and scream one alongside the other due to speed and time and distance and the merits of divorce. I guess you could say the same for us, only we were looking for an empty seat in a bar full of people waiting for the parade to start. Continue reading ‘Le Bon Temps’
Dad started banging the pots in the mornings. He’d grab a clean one in his big left hand, find a pair of tongs or a stainless steel spoon for his right then hold each tool above his head and beat on. It was the count-off rhythm of a hundred songs: one, two, one-two-three-four! After that intro he’d improvise, turning the half-beat clangs loose through the house, swinging his knees and elbows, marching down the hallway. The banging stopped for a moment every morning when he joined both pan and spoon in one hand, opened our front door, and kicked out the swinging screen. He’d stand there on the porch in his socks, bottom lip tucked up under his teeth, squint into the September sun and start at it again, letting anyone who was around that he was home, that our house was occupied.
Continue reading ‘Open Hearted Dogs, Part 1′
I sat in my living room with my feet up, the dog by my side whimpering. Harvey was in the shower, slapping lather up and down his arms and gargling. The water shut off and he stomped in the tub to cast off the excess. He was true to his word, in and out in five minutes—a soldier’s shower. He came out wrapped in a dingy, grease stained towel that probably also pulled double-duty as his apron. Harvey was somehow tan across his body despite always being clad in that bomber jacket. His stomach was concave under the overhang of his broad ribcage, and his chest muscles sagged like flat pads slowly sliding towards the ground. Underneath his sparse gray chest hair over his heart was an old once-black-now-green tattoo, burned small in cursive—Nancy. He crossed the room to retrieve his rucksack then turned and exited the room. I watched his vertebrae wobble underneath his freckles and scars. The dog wanted to launch up and keep tabs on the stranger, but I held him fast by his collar.
Continue reading ‘Brave Captain Harvey-It’s All About the Money, Part 2′
Friday. The day I have off of work and to myself, the day countless New Orleanians leave for lunch and don’t come back. It’s oyster day, fish day, shrimp day. It’s the day Happy Hour starts at 10 a.m. and the streets are clogged with impatient citizens hell-bent on appreciation of life’s routine escapes. I had various destinations in mind while walking down Magazine Street, a small cluster of errands to do in no particular order. I was about to spend my last twenty dollars on small necessities a week before payday, so my pace was slow. It was round about four, and across the street at the check cashing joint the tanned, sweaty line was just beginning to form. A block down I passed the doorway of Brothers Three Lounge, a dark rectangle carved into bright gold brick. Country music echoed from deep inside overtop the small chinks of change being counted. Before I’d gotten out of earshot I heard a familiar yell, a yell still strong for all its exercise either giving orders or shouting out stories. Brave Captain Harvey’s yell.
Continue reading ‘Brave Captain Harvey-It’s All About the Money Part 1′
I sat in the first chair inside Cristo’s simple barbershop with my head pitched forward, staring at a pinup poster from World War II. The girl was labeled ‘Ensign Edie,’ a smiling redhead wearing an adapted sailor’s outfit and cap, a sweet little composition of curves and right angles. She had an arm swung around a bold flagpole topped with a swirling forty-eight star U.S. flag and one leg raised and pointed. She held her hand in a salute right above her over-pronounced eyelashes. Cristo collected these sorts of things and displayed them around his shop, the victim of a latent nostalgia for the icons of other generations. Cristo works slowly on your head, but he has license to be: he’s one-armed. He drew the comb down the back of my neck, held between his pinky and ring finger, then flipped his hand and snipped with the scissors. The front door opened and hit the bell. Cristo had me facing the back wall, so I couldn’t see who had just entered, but I knew as soon as I heard a rough, rooty voice ask, “Ya got time for me today, Cristo?” that it was Brave Captain Harvey.
Continue reading ‘Brave Captain Harvey and the Barbers of Berlin’
We know what we smell like, okay? Hours and hours under the sun or smothered by night heat have us sweating coffee, sweating Red Bull. The clench of old cigarette smoke. Fast food and soda breath. We are covered in pet hair or the sticky evidence of children’s fingerprints. We ceased to smell like travelers awhile ago. Now we’re full-fledged refugees. We can’t wait to get into the shower and come out scented, can’t wait to just sit with the towel wrapped around us, limbs spread wide to air out and cool. But before that we have to spread the scent through hugs and handshakes, the reintroduction of family members to our hosts. Or, for the lodgers, we have to shuffle to the counter, smile, hand over our credit cards, and act calm before they’ll give us the keys. In the shelters in the northern part of the state and across the border in Arkansas, in the community centers, high school gyms, and mega-churches converted into camps, the line we’ve been in since before we boarded the buses evolves and shifts. Lines for supplies, lines for food, lines for the constantly running, no-time-for-shame showers. There will be lines in our dreams. We’ve all got to wait just a little while longer, of course, before anyone will let us relax. Continue reading ‘The Gustav Evactuation, Part 3: The Wait’