Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Orleans, Forever Easy and Mad Haunted

            I have returned safely.
            And that says a lot when you venture into our only true fable of a city in America: New Orleans, Louisiana, and get out without any bruises.
            Sure, you can arrive at Louis Armstrong airport, hire one of those little group vans that take you and other fanny pack wearing companions with strange wind breakers on (and they always seem to have mauve or lame-duck purple colored windbreakers) right over to the French Quarter Marriot. Someone will help you with your bags and you’ll head on up to the room, your mind racing with images of Styrofoam  Hurricanes, cat-calling strip clubs, some rock and roll and jazz covers on Bourbon Street.
            You keep to the southwest corner of the Quarter, knowing the Acme Oyster house and the Penthouse Club are there. Then, after 75 Kamikaze shots, hundreds of deep fried oysters, several pairs of fake breasts pressed against your face at Temptations or Rick’s Cabaret, maybe, just maybe, someone rolls up next to you and asks “I guess where y’got yo shoes, you give me a dollar, yea?” and lost 75 dollars at Harrah’s Casino off Canal, you say to yourself:
            “What could Matthew possibly mean by saying he was lucky to return safely from New Orleans? It seems just fine.”
            To answer this question, I will say, kindly, with a slight smile drawn across my face:          
            “Don’t worry about it.” 
            There are things to worry about and it’s not just the crime.
            New Orleans needs your money. In more ways than one.
            Just like here, real New Yorkers don’t hate on tourists (because we like their money). New Orleanians don’t have much beef with baggy beige pant-wearing, constantly overweigh gawkers who wander on their three or four chosen ‘safe’ streets either.
            They like you there.
            They just want to make sure those same clueless travelers don’t find their favorite dive and come in asking for frozen drinks.
            New Orleans is bartender city. Hell, New Orleans is a bar town. I think the red blood of the city itself is Whiskey and Vodka and Rum and the rest of the sundries this hamlet lives on is a whole economy fueled by intoxicants. And it’s not only for bartenders, it’s for service of any kind; waiters, hoteliers, valets, chefs, line cooks, strippers, escort girls, bus boys and dominatrix’s.
            Walking around New Orleans at nine in the morning is revelatory, simply because of the emptiness of the streets.
            It is a town of night.
            New Orleans is the Big Easy, meaning it’s easy to get what you want. Whatever your fancy. Just be careful you know what that is.
            When my boy Michael Blain and I set our first feet into the Quarter, he turns to me, big mischievous smile and all, and says:
            “What is that fragrance? Like perfume? Do they pump perfume out of the sewers around here? What is that? I know that smell, man. It’s a woman.”
            I smell it too. It’s remarkable. When you smell that fragrance, soft as lace and equally inviting, the city is feeling you back, friends.
            And we hadn’t even had our first drink yet.
            Back to that intoxication. Since we hadn’t had our first drink yet, we simply cross Chartres and head right into the fine nautical squalor of The Chart Room. Will, a bartender with a slight resemblance to Ronald Reagan’s kid, is less of a dick then he was a year ago when I visited this same fair city (see ).
            Michael Blain and I cheers to the next five days.
            Our trip had been legendary on the way down dirty south, save for a very tortured moment earlier, stuck at some faux-Irish pub in the U.S. Airways terminal in La Guardia airport called Slip Mahoney’s. 
             Those bartenders were big muscled douche bags who wondered how they became bartenders at airports.   
             Once we took off, we began changing hearts and minds, meeting a Jamaican women who didn’t look a day over 35 (she was 65, no joke) showing me pictures of her grandkids and telling Michael Blain and I what sweet boys we were. We also met some precocious Irish girl named Martha studying for her exams at Tulane.
            Travel can be stressful for people, especially on airplanes.
            Gee, I wonder why? Just a couple of hundred people shooting above the Earth at 35,000 feet in a jet fueled missile. I’m sure our frail humanity is used to that. Flying was invented commercially in 1914 by Tony Jannus, not that long. I think no one should be judged for a little fear and stress.
            I, however, have conquered these terrible fears somehow. Martha, who happens to be 19 in age and Einstein in mind, and I drink Heineken cans, hooked up by a very tired but very cool airline stewardess. Martha and I made fun of all the stiffs, both unconcerned by the miles of space to Earth below.
            Touching down, Blain and I knew we would not move like the tourists. Visiting that city for over 13 years, I knew the streets.
            Sort of.
            The streets opened their wisdom, slowly though. I knew all we really had to pack was a knife and clean underwear.  
            Here we come to our first lesson I’d like to share with you about wandering looking for a soiled wisdom down round these Quarter streets.
            We’ll it call: The Deazy Part One (“details on the Easy”).

            DON’T GET SHOT

            I’m not going to tell you that New Orleans is safe. Now, it is mauve-purple windbreaker safe.      
            That’s a lie. Sometimes even they walk down the wrong street.
            New Yorkers should know. But damn that Williamsburg, making me soft. Blain and I found ourselves searching for Mimi’s, which is not hard to find, unless you have total broken compass/hammered syndrome, and then you find yourself on Rampart Street.
            Please let me say: If you ever find yourself on Rampart Street, leave ASAP. This actually works in other towns as well, remarkably. And if you find yourself on Barracks Street, get your white ass outta there. If you find yourself at Barracks and Rampart, well, this Coors Light is for you, fallen comrade.
            I wish I was kidding. Blain and I invented a term called the ‘hang-nail’. The ‘hang-nail’ is code for when you pick up a hanger, a guy who obviously breaks from the normal flow of any street to trail you a couple blocks to see if you’re a mark (and if you don’t know what a mark is, I can’t help you).
            One of us would say: “Hang-nail. We got a hanger, Sarge.” And that’s how we knew to veer left and around a different corner. We shook off several, and even though we are down motherfuckers, we still had that ‘we don’t live here’ vibe, and so they thought we were the ones.          
            Nah. We from Brooklyn. We ain’t the one, son.
            The night we arrive five people were killed by gunshot. I knew when I was sitting at R Bar that night we should take it easy. We did. We went to sleep.
            Those others went to sleep too, but they didn’t get to wake up.

            HAUNTED AS FUCK           
            Ghosts work both ways. The evil spirits sometimes like to dress up as angels, and sometime the good angels dig the works of sinners and make card games damn lucky.
            We all know music is part Eros, part Dionysus, and Cupids in there somewhere on bass. Music, some of it, you could be burned alive for playing, that heretic stuff. And if there ever was a town that born more rebel American music into world: blues, jazz, bounce, metal; than New Orleans is it.     
            We all know the stereotypes about the South. Anne Rice, some of that True Blood shit, Voodoo, Gris-Gris, ju-ju, Marie Laveau and all that mysterious business has driven an industry of tours and thrill seekers wanting to know the haunted history of New Orleans. And like I said, we like that.
            New Orleans needs you, in more ways than one.
            Information from several story-tellers, bartenders, random bar stools sitters, professional hustlers, and good friends tell me that there are approximately 23 major spirits in New Orleans. There’s a very tall man in a top hat one should avoid at Déjà Vu. Some strange characters simply referred to as ‘the brothers’ one should avoid if you’re not into having your body drained of all blood, and a kid ghost named Maurice who lives on the 14th floor of the Monteleon, where some guests purposely ask to leave the floor for a new room and other guests specifically ask for a room on the 14th floor. I did not get any more information on the other 19 spirits.
            Don’t believe in any of this? Not a problem.
            As someone once said: “You may not believe in ghosts, but trust me, they sure believe in you.”     


            All riddles start with a trade. Back to that old crazy bitch The Sphynx: always telling stories that may or may not be true. And there are no better yard-spinners than an old-fashioned New Orleans bartender. You have to. There are so many things going on outside of the bar, once a lonely soul saddles up for a beer at The Alibi (quick big up's to Mother/Daughter bartender team Kimberly/Tiffany), that stranger is in need of a tale to get their imagination going and the bartender better be sharp as a razor, or plain just good at their job.
            But all riddles start with a trade. And the trade is money for booze. It’s a marathon, not a sprint down here in the ‘504’, a bartender told me once, and he was right. Balance is shifty by the Mississippi. Like walking on a red ball in the circus, you got to know your weight and balance on up. Find the right bartender, you’ll be sideways loving the world, making out with your true love or thrown into garbage out on Bourbon and Toulouse Street (actually happened to me 21 years old here, New Year’s Eve 2000 A.D.).
            Like anywhere, in bars from San Francisco to Bangkok, the bartenders set the tone for the evening. 
            Big up’s to the famed bartenders Michael Blain and I had the pleasure of drinking from; Erika (a ‘k’ I presume?) over at Sneaky Pete’s who tells the most morbid stories about the Quarter, all before 11a.m., and has a kid with the same as my cat (Lysander). Jim over at the finest dive bar uptown, Miss Mae’s, the joint I learned to play pool in 2006 from the reformed gangster Hector, and the girls at the most comfortable bar, Quarter-wise: Molly’s on the Market- Tara, Kelly, and Fraiser. You made the stay a thousand times more interesting than if we didn’t meet y’all.            
            Travel is good and travel is necessary.
            There were so many disturbances in the Force this year for me it was like Empire Strikes Back up in here.
            Be we back. And waiting for the next trip.
            Working hard so The Bartender Knows can learn more about the world.
            And it’s a big one out there.
            Stay tuned in future blogs for The Deazy Part Two. Right about now, I’m going to sleep for 76 hours.  
             PS: If someone gives you the: "I bet I know where y'got them shoes, right now, you give me a dollar!" routine and you say where you bought them, it's the wrong answer. They will always say: "You got them on your feet motherfucker! Give me a dollar!". Then you laugh and realize how funny it is and open your wallet to give him a dollar. 
             Then he robs you for the rest. 

              PSS: If anyone knows the true meaning and use of a mysterious liquid called Florida Water please write back. Also shout out to CityLightsGirl for her heartbreaking comment last week. I’m with you girl. All I can say is the words of Pat Benetar: “We are young, heartache to heartache we stand”.
            It is “Manhattan”, Marie, fellow commenter, and it is Woody’s finest (one of them, right?). “Tracy’s face”, oh, it breaks my heart.
            Ari Rivera, sometimes the pile of leaves is all we have! Harlo, see you at the bar girl. And Buz, thanks for the link.
            Seriously though.
            FLORIDA WATER. What the fuck? Till next week. Yes, next week, I promise.




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