Saturday, February 11, 2006


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:

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Since I enjoy forming everlasting opinions on cities in a 45-minute span, I will tell you this about New Orleans: The fences are all blown over, it's forever night, nobody knows where Duvall Street is, and pizza costs four dollars a slice.

Josh The Pilot and I pulled in at about two in the morning, and as we drove across the I-10 bridge I started noticing leveled trees and knocked-sideways street signs. I began to feel creeped. It looked much like Orlando in the aftermath of Charley, had Orlando ever shown any semblance of personality or, you know, a soul.

In good news, an enormous sign on the Superdome announced "REOPENING SOON!" The sign was half-missing. So, to all of you who've asked how the reconstruction is going... thumbs up!

(Given what transpired at the Superdome... is anyone... really going to want to go there for a good time? It is akin to attempting to party at a mausoleum, or the Johnstown Flood National Memorial. These days, when I think "Superdome", I don't necessarily consider myself READY FOR SOME FOOT-BALL!! How will Hank Jr. sing about this next season? "The flooding is over, Manning's gonna blow 'em away!")

You have likely heard that New Orleans is sinking, which is to be expected of anything built by the French. The downtown area actually did not look that bad. You knew that something had happened, something awful--there were flood water marks on some of the statues and such-- but it wasn't obvious; merely a lingering stun-wisp of awful. Kind of like channel-sufring past Son of the Mask just as the credits are rolling.

I wanted to see three things in the French Quarter:
1) Preservation Hall
2) Margaritaville
3) Some semblance of a jazz band

I had to settle for one out of three, which according to my E-Z Grader is a 33% and therefore a whopping F-. YOU FLUNK, FRENCH QUARTER, and I hope you have a good excuse.

Largely I hunched around in my windbreaker going, "I'm lower than sea level!" It was the absolute highlight. So I've been on the top of Pikes Peak AND eight feet below sea level, for a distance differential of 14,118 feet.

(There has been more math in this post than in the whole entire blog. Enjoy it while it lasts.)

I was surprised to find that you can buy beads on Borboun Street, which seems like cheating. Having seen how elaborate and expensive they are, I can now understand the whole shirt-flinging thing at Mardi Gras. I know I would totally cheapen myself for eight cent's worth of plastic parrots retailed at $14.99.

We wandered to Preservation Hall, which I wanted to see since Buffett used to play there and has since written a song about how it's now tacky and toursity and awful, and I wanted to see how bad it really was, because if if anybody knows anything about avoiding the evils of corporatization, it's Jimmy Buffett, from high atop his throne of bumper stickers and coconut boxer shorts some five blocks away.

Pilates, it's time for Pilates! Hold, please.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


So I’m standing next to a Port-A-Potty at three in the morning in a desolate, silt-slung neighborhood in New Orleans, shivering and clutching a roll of toilet paper and wondering at what point, specifically, I’d lost control here.

Perhaps it was the moment Josh the Pilot—he who also once channel-surfed to a dirt bike race and said, "Awesome!"–asked me on a date to Bourbon Street, which was a sweet way of saying, “Do you mind driving for nine hours across the Florida panhandle, which God forgot to add on the third day of creation so he pulled an all-nighter and just kind of slapped it together at two in the morning on Day Six?” and I said, because I am stupid, that it sounded like a lot of fun.

Apparently if you really love somebody, you need to stuff yourself into a Ford Escort with him for 34 consecutive hours and see who emerges with the most limbs still attached. You know a trip with a significant other is going to be a long trip, a potentially homicidal trip, when an argument precedes the interstate on-ramp. This particular argument, which lasted from Daytona Beach to Jacksonville and required the intervention of an armed UN task force, dealt with a life-altering issue that has ended marriages and destroyed entire kingdoms: Whether or not we should stop at McDonald’s to pick up dinner.

Like all good arguments, this somehow fungused into a tense-fest referendum on the entirety of our relationship, and what this all really meant, and if I was of the opinion that Josh’s wheat bread and peanut butter in the back seat weren’t good enough for me. It included such sentences as “I’m terrified that if we get married, I’ll have to totally give up my independence and wander the Earth without McDonald's, forever" and “I’m going to have a peanut butter and honey sandwich just to spite you."

After that, what you missed for 800 miles was even more of this:

more when I wake up at:

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