Saturday, February 11, 2006

Gumbo

Welcome back to Part III of Fear and Further Fear in New Orleans.

Well, I wrapped my hands around those wrought-iron grille posts and I stared into the narrow gloom of Preservation Hall, searching for lost and wafting notes, but all I saw were two t-shirts for sale, so somewhere right now Buffett is going "SEE?" So I was determined to find the NOLA branch of Margaritaville, which, I recalled, was on Duvall Street. Josh the Pilot said he felt we were on the right track, "the track" being "far, far away in any direction from the two Hustler stores." I'm so proud that Cincinnati managed to export Larry Flynt and his brave and continued defense of the First Amendment with cheerful depictions of gang rape. You go, Larry!

Since most of what I knew about New Orelans culture up to that point pretty much consisted of what I'd managed to pick up from a Zatatrain's commerical, I wanted to cram in what I could. Sharing a wall with Preservation Hall was Pat O'Brian's, and that was a fun surprise, as I've been to the fourth-generation fake Pat O'Brian's in Orlando, where the main export is fakeness, so it was nice to stumble into the non-EPCOTed version.

But apparently Pat O'Brian's bubbling, welcome-home employee training is in effect at all locations, because the bouncer we asked for directions to Duvall Street screwed up his face in exactly the same manner as the "I’M FROM CINCINNATI!!" Dissing Waiter, and said he'd never heard of it and returned to his vital duty of staring at an area on the horizon just over our heads. There followed eight blocks of huffing as we returned to the car. Never heard of Duvall Street? Never heard of Duvall Street! It was right there in the French Quarter! How could he have not heard of it? The huff continued for at least four more days, when I discovered that Margaritaville is, in fact, located on Decatur Street. Still! He'd never heard of it!

There wasn't any jazz within hearing distance. The closest we came was what looked to be approximately one thirty-second of a high school band hanging out on a street corner, and they tried, but, I mean, when you think Dixieland jazz, you probably aren't thinking "glockenspiel."

We couldn't find a bathroom either. I had to go--as in, had to go--and we tried three different gas stations without succeess. One's restroom was out of order, another had one for employees only, and I had the following conversation with the clerk at the third:

ME: Is there a ladies' room I can use?
CLERK: (from beneath large LADIES' ROOM sign) No.

Then we tried a sports bar that Josh used to frequent, but there was a squad car in the parking lot, a jolly sighting only made better when you realize that the words CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION are stencilled on the side. We were not permitted into the bar, which was named--and these are the times when I wish I were actually this creative--"Hurricane's". I was totally okay with this.

This left, Josh decided, the facilities he used while helping with Katrina cleanup. "There's a friendly Port-A-Potty down the street from the RV where I stayed," he offered.

And thus, this. And of the many, many adjectives I might use to describe a Port-A-Potty, "friendly" does not necessarily top the list. I used to clean these things at Girl Scout camp, so I've seen worse, but still. I would have preferred peeing next to the chalk outline in the bar.

We planned to sleejp in the RV, but the company Josh worked for had shut down and scatted since, for some reason, standing around waiting for the city and state governments to remove their heads from their posterior reasons and stop overseeing the removal of each individual subatomic particle of debris was less than profitable. So we found the RV without electricity and water, but we did recieve, as compensation, Fidel.

Fidel was one of Josh's co-workers. He was forty and Cuban and not particularly happy to recieve a former colleague at three in the morning. He stood in a corner exhaling Camel smoke and acrimony as I held a flashlight for Josh while he gathered the belongings he'd left behind, including, with much furor, some plastic utensils. "Nobody ever paid me for these," he said, firmly shoving the plastic spoons into a bag with his sleeping bag and a few books. "They're coming with me." And you know what? After three months of seven days a week of cruching the remains of other people's lives into an angry machine, the man was entitled to his spoons.

The RV was parked were in a quiet suburban area not far from downtown. It was exactly like the neighborhood where I grew up, only palm tree-ier. There were no people and no cars and no lights. Some of the garage doors were spray-painted with official graffiti.

"What does that mean?" I asked, pointing to an "X" with a zero sprayed into the bottom quadrant.

"That the rescue workers didn't find any bodies."

I got into the Escort while Josh packed the car and stared at the house in front of me. The watermark from the flood was brown and there and about eleven feet off the ground. I wondered who had lived there water rising and how long they'd been in that house water rising and if they'd gotten their photo albums out in time water rising and where they were now water rising water rising water rising and every single inhale was devastation and by the time Josh got into the drivers seat I announced that I would tippytoe back to Florida if I had to but he needed to take me away from this place, now.

He took one look at my face and twenty minutes later we were in the parking lot of a truck stop in Slidell, Louisiana, spreading blankets over the front seats and shivering anyway.

I saw a cool billboard in downtown New Orleans that said "Nothing stops Mardi Gras. Nothing." at: mb@blondechampage.com

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

MB, lovely job on those last few lines...

dondiaz said...

I read your blog regularly (it's bookmarked) and I second the above post. These technical writer type students of yours are LUCKY TO HAVE YOU!!

Attitude Amy said...

I went to Louisiana a couple years ago and it was the dirtiest, crapiest country, I mean third world, I mean state in the US I had ever visited.

I was with my lying, thieving, Shrek look-a-like, manipulating, erectile disfunctionate, controlling sonofabitch husband at the time. He did most of the driving. I did a lot of sleeping, except when the smell was too much to handle (not my husband's smell, I acclimated my nose to that long ago).

The highway tax down there in Louisiana must be really low because those dilapidated, most impervious roads were laden with some serious neglect. We had to buy new shocks after that road trip.

I was asleep in the car when I instantly woke up. I noticed the car suddenly wasn't shaking or bottoming out anymore. I turned to Shrek and mumbled jokingly, while still laying back half asleep with my eyes closed, "What happened? Did we just leave Louisiana or something?" He replied sounding surprised, "Yes. We just passed the border. How did you know?"

Those folks had it bad before the hurricane.

I've been to that Margaritaville too. Bought the shot glass and the beer bottle koozie. Took some photos. I'm still holding out for the original. The mother ship. Key West.

Don't tell me if you've been there. I become jealous very easily. I'm already jealous of the fact that you have a life. Lets not make it worse.

I know you've been. Dougghhh. You've been haven't you? Why the Hell would you want to go to the one in New Orleans after going to the one in Key West? Does it have something to do with that car wreck rubber necking it mentality? The writer in you feel the need to compare and contrast? I'll try to withhold judgment.

MB said...

dondiaz, thank you so much :)

attitude amy,
At least you're not bitter towards your ex. He sounds princely.

Indeed, Josh the Pilot has said that he had trouble figuring out which roads were hurricane-damaged from all the heavy equipment and which were just... like that.

I've been to Key West, for about an hour, but Margaritaville was on the other side of the island and there was no time. Orlando still stands as the only one to which I've made the pilgrimage.

Cortney said...

If I'm simply missing a subtle bit of sarcasm, please disregard my momentary lapse, but perhaps the reason no one has heard of Duval St. in New Orleans is that it's in Key West. My boyfriend was the lead singer for 6 years of what was, at the time, considered one of the top JB bands (he played the opening of the Orlando Margaritaville, headlined at MOTM several times, and our last year in KW, performed at Margaritaville with Jimmy), so I've done my tour of duty on Duval and at all the Margaritaville haunts, and sometimes I'm too quick to correct ;)

Becky said...

Isn't Duvall Street the main drag in Key West?

MB said...

cortney and becky:

Exactly :)

susan said...

MB,
Your last sentences are pure poetry. Oh Gawd. Kill me for that sentense.
aww. C'mon people. Louisiana isn't that awful. It gave us commercial production of cane sugar. State-required free text books and free hot meals in schools.
And the poetical gubernatorial ticket of David Duke/Edwin Edwards.
Lemme know when you can claim standing in the electronic voting booth with that decision.
susan
MB, my apologies for ranting and disgracing the Enklish on your blog.
OH GAWD I am old, Old, old
And can't control my capitalizations.

Attitude Amy said...

Concerning Shrek and Margaritaville:
I’m not sure I would call myself “bitter” or anything. Although, since you mentioned it I realized I left some character qualities out. He is also a quintessential hedonistic, diabolical, superlative sociopath, subverting, amoral, wanton, Buffoon, exorbitant feigner, creating a sense of perdition, unremitting jack ass for whom the art of extremely manipulative subterfuge bows down to pay homage to he and only he and “I've been to Key West, for about an hour, but Margaritaville was on the other side of the island and there was no time” ????!!!! “ Whew, outta breath.

And I just got a second wind, “Orlando still stands as the only one to which I've made the pilgrimage”??!! Did you say “pilgrimage”?! To “Orlando”?! Is Orlando the new Mecca or something? (I’m clasping my chest…my left arm is going numb…the veins in my eyeballs are about to explode…I’m paper bagging it…I am in a perpetual state of “Doughhhhhhh!“…dear God does this blog come with a surgeon general warning…is it sponsored by Phillip Morris…where is my Fentanyl patch?)

I know you are a far better writer than I, and I do not intend to be condescending but…do you realize that the word pilgrimage means, “a journey to a sacred place or shrine, or a long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance?” I haven’t been reading your blog as long as some of your other readers but, don’t you live in Florida? Please tell me you were just being sarcastic.

I know I am taking this whole Jimmy Buffett thing too seriously, which is part of the psychotic charm that is me, and that Margaritaville is more a state of mind than a real place (and an actual place or places created by Jimmy Buffett in order to secure his financial future). Not that it’s already evident or anything, but it kinda drives me insane (and I think you knew that it would Miss MB so cavalier in your “Orlando” I didn’t actually have the time to make it to the other side of the ISLAND! (Inhale…exhale…repeat. Inhale…exhale…repeat) that you somehow motivated yourself to make a “pilgrimage” to “Orlando” (and by the way I’ve been to that one and I KNOW it’s located in Universal Studio’s theme park, so don’t even try to deny it or conveniently leave that tidbit out next time missy) but you couldn’t find “time” to make it across a fairly small island to the true mother ship of Parottheads everywhere, the real (or as close as we mere mortals will get) Margaritaville.

Wow. Ahhh…I think I’m ok now. My heart actually hurts. Maybe it’s acid reflux. I don’t know. Oh man…I just had another terrifying thought. I shouldn’t say it but I can’t help myself. You’ve been to one of his concerts haven’t you? Just say it. I can take it. Throw me on the grenade man, I’ve already taken a bullet for the team. Maybe you didn’t go to the concert. Perhaps the concert venue was too far a jaunt for you to make it there or perhaps there was just “no time”.

Disclaimer/ Surgeon General Warning: the above comment was in no (maybe not no but pretty much no) way created to impart feelings of guilt or negativity (ok, the negativity part is completely true, no negativity intended). I totally enjoy your blog and just have this thing where I rant and rave like a medieval lunatic over seemingly unimportant details, like Jimmy Buffett (did you catch the “seemingly” part?).

And P.S., I may not be around the next couple weeks because I’m flying to Israel to see family and I am making a pilgrimage to the burial site of Christ…oh, not the one in Jerusalem near St. Helen Street, the one at the local elementary school. My nephew Joshua is having his Easter Pageant so I’m just gonna go see the tomb his buddy Joseph made out of card board for the third grade stage presentation. Christ’s real tomb is all the way across town and I just won’t have the “time”. You know, now that I think about…I think I am a little bitter towards my ex-husband. Hmmph. Nooooo. Totally justified. I do tend to be sarcastic when I’m emotional, but never about him.

Ok, I am sure you had a very good reason for not going to the real Margaritaville while you were in Key West. Knowing my luck it probably involves the death of a loved one, your house burning down or some other such tragic event. But if it has something to do with a carnal desire to make it to Disney World then, well….Dougghhhh! And I will try to stop writing such long comments.

MB said...

Yes. Sarcastic.

And Josh the Pilot flew me and his parents there last year. We didn't have a car and we basically got out of the plane, looked at a map, and flew back to Daytona. I wasn't in charge of the itinerary. Although I would have liked to have been.

Yes, two concerts to my name. Three, really-- I worked backstage for one.

Attitude Amy said...

Pseudo-quasi in-laws. Not as bad as a funeral or a house fire...but almost.

I've been to Daytona and that area. The beach...the lack of parking...the lighthouses. Be a lot better if there was a six pack of something cold and alcoholic at the top of those lighthouses (and relatives, pseudo or not, don't count). Please inform the local Department of Tourism. I’m certain a free beer or two would motivate more folks to take the breath taking walk to the top of many a lighthouse, creating more funds for additional parking near the beach. Thanks.

Jenib said...

Adjective Amy, I am going to have to call you and keep you from stalking poor MB's blog tonight. LOL.

I went through New Orleans, LA once...on my way to live in Texas. Years later, we decided to go north through Arkansas on our trip back to NC. 'Nuff said.

Becky said...

Didn't mean to be redundant... it's weird but for some reason I wasn't able to view the comments that now appear above mine (re: Duval/Duvall St in Key West) until hours after I posted my comment.

Anyway... just wanted to say I wasn't trying to rub it in! :)

Owen the Reader said...

Yea, it's more than a little spooky to look at the waterline, particularly up in Midtown where that trailer probably was. Our family place was just up north of there and on the other side of Orleans Canal. Oh, and that waterline? That darker line is from the long period where the level stayed for a while. The high water level was about 2 feet above that. There's been New Orleans ghost stories for as long as there's been New Orleans. If it wasn't really haunted before, it is now...

"The captain and flight crew would like to remind you to live every day as if it were your your last ... because one day, it will be. Welcome to New Orleans." -- Southwest flight attendant on final approach into NOX, 20 Nov 2005

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