New Work

Frenchmen St.

We got home and had sex.

Dinner was good.  I mean, the food wasn’t great or anything, but the ambiance was fun—and after the crap food we had for lunch, food so over-fried it hurt our teeth and sprouted dust, we figured that tonight, just about anything would do.  My sister and her husband took Christina and I out to this over-priced hipster restaurant that was seated haphazardly in the backyard of a liquor store and on the makeshift stage in the corner a three-man jazz group rattled off tunes.  Christina and I sat beneath a looming space heater and soaked up the fumes of festivities.  Most the time Christina and my sister shared stories and experiences and opinions that their lives had created, while my brother-in-law and I stared at the three men banging away and tooting their horns onstage.  A steady drizzle started to cause a slight tenseness among us, for we were presently eating dinner outside and enjoying ourselves beneath a dry sky and now the rain would shatter our good times. But fortunately the rain never advanced beyond the slightest of drizzles.

They gave me and Christina a ride back to the vast apartment in which we are staying, with the plan to grab something inside then immediately head out to Frenchmen St., which is said to be the jazz capital of New Orleans.
We didn’t plan on staying out past 11PM though, because the online travel guide for New Orleans stated that staying out past 11PM, especially as a tourist, is not advised.  You will encounter thieves, hustlers, and conman.  Christina already almost got purse-jacked earlier today while we waited for my sister to pick us up before dinner, but luckily the crazy, long-haired junky confirmed that I was much bigger than him when he got up close and sized me up for a minute then moved on across the street where he zeroed in on a younger woman whose bright red purse hung on the back of her seat outside of some restaurant.

In the elevator back up to the apartment Christina suggested that we have sex.  Of course I was immediately on board for another of our many love-making sessions that went on this vacation.

Afterwards we decided to get up, get dressed, and head out.  Once we got our clothes back on I noticed that the estimated walk-time according to the Maps app on my phone was said to be thirty-one minutes.  I checked the time and it was already 10:30.  Remember, we had planned to be back by 11, no later///we were really pushing it now.  But then, I really wanted to go out and see the jazz bands; I really wanted to see Frenchmen St.; we had read about it online and the both of us were dying to go.  But when I told Christina what time it was she suggested we just stay in.  She was nervous about going out so late.  I said it would be fine; I wouldn’t let anything happen to her.  I promised her that we’d make it back to the apartment completely unharmed.  After a brief period of my insisting that we go, she finally submitted and we went down the elevator and out the door and ordered an Uber.  Apparently the Ubers here are much cheaper than the ones in Vermont.
The Uber driver was this nice old woman whose accent was much too distinct to distinguish fully.  But we did the best we could with the small amount of time we had—and boy did she like to talk.  She told us she mainly worked as a school bus driver for the high school.  She told us about how the kids on the bus always try to smoke weed.  She told us that she is the one responsible for telling them that smoking weed on the bus is not permitted.  She told us that she has a teenage grandson who smokes a lot of weed, too.  He brings friends over all the time and they just sit around smoking weed and partying but he doesn’t even bother to help out around the house, he won’t even mow the damn lawn, she said.  He calls her a square but at least she’s not empty-headed from all the pot he smokes.

She recommended a club on Frenchmen St. called the Spotted Cat.  She dropped us out front at around 11 and we bid her a good night and headed inside.  The place was kinda lame, though: it contained within the claustrophobically small venue a crowd of tourists standing on a bare concrete floor swaying and dancing to the quant little jazz band that seemed kind of uninteresting and cliché.  We decided after all to start walking and see what else we could find|||
We stopped at a bar called the Apple Barrel, and, realizing how ironic it was that the name was so Vermont, we decided to check it out.  We would have one last smoke before going inside.

Now, there are two major rules you should never cross while visiting a strange city:  1. Never set your purse or backpack down more than an arm’s length away; and 2. Never take drugs from a Rastafarian-looking drunk man who speaks too fast to fully comprehend.
Truth is, we were both aware of these rules.  We knew it wasn’t smart to take that joint.  (We over-paid the Rasta-man for a joint that we would smoke with him and the joint was pencil-thin and he pretty much hogged it when it came around to him—but what the hell, we were on vacation! and what’s the point of going on vacation if you’re not gonna make silly, impulsive decisions from time to time.)  Christina was clueless as to whether he was trying to sell us weed or if what he really wanted was to just roll a joint and smoke it right there.  When he first approached us he said he was just trying to plant himself behind two white people so as not to get caught—he needed a place to hide while he lit up and got high, we both thought.  But then when I saw that he was holding on to multiple baggies I realized what it was that he actually wanted—he wanted to sell us pot—and I relayed this realization to Christina who still stood there beside me and asked if he was going to smoke it now.  Maybe she wanted to take a hit or two or three; I know that’s what I wanted, at least—I don’t drink anymore and I wanted to evade my humanity, even if just slightly, at least once while in New Orleans.  But you don’t get high off your own supply, I explained to her; that’s why he isn’t trying to smoke it.  The Rasta-man laughed and said that’s exactly it but he still wanted to smoke it anyway, although only for promotional purposes.  He owed some guy a lot of money which he planned on making back by selling pot to tourists.  He couldn’t afford to smoke any of his own, but if he stood out here smoking it, he would likely draw in the attention of some grateful tourists.  He said that he really likes getting high.  He was already pretty drunk but still he wanted to get high.  Of course it really wasn’t entirely clear to us what his actual motives were for talking to us since he spoke so fast.  But if he smokes it now, then someone might buy it out of his mouth, he said despairingly—there was definitely a sense of despair in the way he had said it, Christina and I both picked up on it.  She said: Don’t worry, we wouldn’t do that to you.  But if you did, the dreadlocked black man said, you wouldn’t hurt my feelings.  I turned to Christina and said: It’s because he wants us to buy it out of his mouth; he’s a dealer and he wants to deal us pot.  Yeah, he said.  Oh, she said.  So we smoked weed with him but the weed didn’t seem too good.  It did nothing to us; it didn’t even get us buzzed.  Christina was concerned that we just smoked oregano—neither of us got to investigate it thoroughly before he rolled it into a joint: it was much too dark and his hands moved way too fast and deliberately to really get a good look.  But thankfully within minutes of his departure we were super high.  The weed seemed to have come with a delay.

Soon after, this strange, skinny man wielding two glow sticks that he used like drum sticks on his imaginary drum set, and wearing a sleeve of multicolored beaded necklaces that hung suspended from his forearm, approached us and asked if we were having a good night—he was perhaps on speed.  He wouldn’t stop moving, drumming away at the air with his glow sticks, pumping his arms and stalking to and fro to the music coming from inside the Apple Barrel.  He wouldn’t—no, he couldn’t stop moving he was so spun.  He asked us questions about ourselves then answered those questions faster than either of us could respond.  The guy was a lot of fun, and he seemed so happy it made us feel happy, too—his happiness and enthusiasm was contagious.  After the long session of laughs and cheers, I gave him one of my samplers.  He opened it up and started turning the pages.  He glanced at each page, moving his eyes from the top to the bottom, then flipped to the next page a second later.  I said to Christina: He reads as fast as you.  She laughed.  The guy reached the end of the book and turned to me and asked: Can I keep this?  Sure, I said.  Great, he exclaimed.  I can’t really read this right now, but I wanna read it later when I’m able to.  Definitely, I replied.  But we’re gonna head in to the bar now.  My goodbyes to strangers our always very awkward and I moved to bump his fist but his open hand intercepted my movement and we grabbed hands and moved in for the chest bump then Christina and I turned and headed into the bar.

It was right then&there when we seemed to have time-warped into the 1960s.  Christina made this very clear as we were leaving and going to the next place.  To me I felt strangely surreal like I was watching the world through a crack in the wall, secretly observing the action from afar.  I couldn’t really put my finger on what I was actually feeling until Christina made the comment that it was like we travelled back in time.  In the Apple Barrel were these three white kids in their early 20s playing instruments and a black kid about the same age with sunglasses that sat at a slant on the tip of his nose so that he could see over the rims, holding the microphone and singing beautifully with an overall æsthetic like he was untouchable.  The whole scene was rather neat.  He was dressed like a 1960s jazz singer, really stylish for the 21st Century.  He shook his hips and pivoted and his eyes groped the dancing, enthusiastic crowd that was packed from wall to wall.  Christina and I stood to the side of the doorway, with my arm wrapped over her shoulder.  I moved my eyes from the captivating band to the dancing crowd and back again.  The whole scene was rather vivacious.  Most of the crowd there seemed rather lame in their button-down shirts and slacks, nowhere near as alluring as the band, but there was one couple that caught my eye.  First it was the woman in her glittery dress.  She was kinda cute but older and her eyes met mine and she smiled.  I didn’t feel right about this silent transaction, because my wife stood right there next to me while it happened.  Then I noticed the guy who stood behind her.  He looked a bit older but they were probly fairly close in age.  His face was creased and wrinkled, but in a grisly playboy kinda way, whereas her face was smooth and shiny.  They were probly in their late 40s, early 50s, smiling and happy.  The woman shook her hips and rubbed her butt in his crotch.  He held her waist and smiled.  She turned around and faced him and their gazes met and, as they rhythmically sidestepped to the left and right, their eyes remained locked in place as if there was nothing else that existed beyond this moment, no one else beyond the one in front of them, the friction and the chemistry between them quite apparent, even from our hidden vantage point by the doorway.  They were clearly in love.  Was it a first date and they were just lost in the moment? or had they been married for years and the spark of love had just never sizzled out or gone dry?  These were questions Christina had asked me after we left the bar, as apparently she was watching the same scene.  I assumed they had been married for years since their chemistry was so vivid.  On a first date no one is as drawn in as they were to each other.  Overall I really enjoyed watching the crowd and the band and everything unfold before me.  But eventually the crowd started to overwhelm Christina who is a self-proclaimed introvert and I agreed that it was about time to move on to the next establishment.  We weren’t here to stay in one place: we were here to explore and experience the many vices that New Orleans has to offer.

Christina just wanted some water; I just wanted some coffee.  We searched the storefronts for a coffee shop but we couldn’t find one on this street.  We came across a street poet just packing up his typewriter and I offered him one of my samplers and he gave me one of his own.  Then I asked him if there were any coffee shops around here that were still open.  He asked me what time it was.  I told him 11:40.  He said just in time.  There’s a coffee shop about a twenty-minute walk away.  I’m heading there right as soon as I pack up my gear, he said.  What time’s it close? I asked him.  12:00, he told me.  But it’s twenty minutes away?  Oh, you have time, he assured me.  You’ll make it just in time if you leave right now.  He gave us directions and Christina and I started to follow the indicated route.  After we passed the Apple Barrel again, Christina stated that twenty minutes was kind of far away.  And plus, if it was a twenty-minute walk, I added, there’s no way we’d make it before midnight.  And besides, Christina said, we don’t want to venture too far from the mass public at this time of night, just on a tip some random guy gave us about a coffee shop that may or may not exist.  Yeah, true, I agreed.  We decided to turn around and start heading up the street.  We passed the street poet again and he was talking to perhaps a friend of his and I nodded what’s up.  We walked past a bar with outside seating and a few sat around drinking.  From behind me I heard someone scream something.  I figured that whatever it was had nothing to do with me whatsoever, so I ignored it.  But Christina asked me: Did you hear that?  What?  The guy shouted that he liked your safety pin.  Oh, I said, baffled.  I figured I must have just been too stoned to notice.  I assumed it was the Punky-looking kid in the tight black shirt, tight jeans, and Mohawk.  Or it could have been one of the other men standing around there, too, I didn’t know.

We peeked in the many bars lining the street and they all seemed way too packed for us to pave a path through and order ourselves a drink.  If it wasn’t water for Christina, it was a cocktail.  If it wasn’t coffee for me, it was a Red Bull.  We reached what looked like the last bar on this side of the street and crossed over to the other side and continued to follow the street and peek into the many bars.  We passed a couple standing there making out like this was the most romantic place to be in the whole city.  They stood at the edge of a parking lot and the girl wore flamboyant colors while the guy wore basic gray and black and they pulled each other in close and it looked like they were sucking each other’s souls out through their mouths.  They were physically connected and perhaps even connected on an emotional level, too.  We walked past them and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of nostalgic ecstasy at the sight.  This kind of thing never happens in Vermont.  I love to showcase public affection and Christina and I rarely come apart physically, as in one is constantly touching the other: my arm around her, her head on my shoulder, holding hands while we walk, cuddling in bed, etcetera.  We were even holding hands as we passed these two passionate lovebirds as they shared the most precious activity known to man: intertwined with another being and forgetting where you are and everything that matters and all the people around you gone as you encompass one another in an embrace that’s everlasting.  Like the older couple at the Apple Barrel, these two youngsters kissing on the street corner have something that most everyone else lacks.  They got true, passionate love: something that is at times rather difficult but at other times is better than anything else available.  The highs are higher and the lows are lower but in the end it’s worth it.

Farther up the street we came across a bar with very few people in it.  The venue was vast and open and seated haphazardly around the room were various groups of people and some tables were empty.  Onstage was a four-piece jazz band and the singer wore very distinct sunglasses that reminded me of something that Elvis Costello might have worn.  Similar to the singer at the Apple Barrel, his sunglasses sat on the tip of his nose so that he could see above the rims.  His clothes were very stylish, in that of an old-school jazz or blues musician from the 1950s/1960s.  In front of the stage were a few older women dancing to the tunes.  We crossed the open venue and found a spot at the near-empty bar to stand and order a drink.  Christina ordered a cocktail and I ordered a Red Bull.  The bartender went to retrieve and/or mix our drinks.  We paid and made our way to a back corner to sit and watch.  The singer invited one of the dancing girls onstage.  I asked Christina: Is this an open-mike?  No, she said.  She was asked to come onstage and dance.  Oh, I thought she was going up there to sing.  I felt mildly disappointed that this was not an open-mike, but still curious as to why she was asked onstage.  She must have been a good dancer, I figured.  The band went on to the next song and I realized that she was only up there as a joke: she was not a good dancer, but in fact a terrible one.  She was just very drunk and perhaps horny as hell and that I think worked for her and was why she was asked onstage.  Although by no means was she hot: she was just extremely wasted and willing to make a fool out of herself for the sake of other people’s enjoyment.  It was so much fun to watch.
At one point this strange man who did not work here walked in to the bar holding up a tray in one hand shouting: Raw fish!  Anyone want some raw fish?  He walked by me and Christina and said: Do either of you wanna buy some raw fish?  I shook my head no.  He walked away.  Christina said: What’d he say?  He’s trying to sell us raw fish.  Gross, Christina said.  Who would wanna buy raw fish from some random guy at a bar?  I shrugged.  I didn’t know.  The guy walked up to more people and asked them if they wanted to buy raw fish.  Oooh, Christina said.  He’s trying to sell crawfish.  She laughed.  Oh, that makes more sense, I said, feeling mighty stupid about my mistake.  But still, I said.  That’s really weird.  I guess in the South, Christina said, people can just walk into any bar and sell whatever they wanted.  You don’t see this in Vermont.  No, you definitely don’t, I agreed.  You’d need a permit to do this.  Yeah, in Vermont, Christina said, you even need a permit to sneeze.  I laughed.  She laughed.  The man carrying the tray found a customer.  The transaction took nearly ten minutes.  It was like they were bargaining.  They were discussing prices.  They shook hands.  The man tasted the product.  They talked more.  Christina said: Is there something we don’t know?  I don’t know.  Maybe, Christina said, crawfish is slang for some kind of drug.  Yeah, like cocaine, I suggested.   This is really weird, she said.  I agreed.  We watched as the transaction went on and the man dished out the product and took the cash and headed in our direction.  He asked us again if we wanted to buy some crawfish.  Christina was interested.  She loves seafood and was especially looking forward to having crawfish at some point while here.  We asked the guy some basic questions.  He owns a company and he fished them himself.  She asked him about allergies and he was understanding and eventually we decided it was best for her to eat crawfish at an actual restaurant than in a bar from some random guy with no recognizable business.  I mean, we had already taken weed from some drunk Rasta-man on the street.  So we decided against it and waved the guy away.  He said thanks anyway then left.

Soon enough we decided it was about time we better get going: it was close to 1AM, way past the time we had originally decided to return.  We stood out in the rain and ordered an Uber.  The Uber driver’s profile said: KNOWN FOR GOOD CONVERSATIONS.  I showed that to Christina and said: This should be fun!  She nodded.  She was tired and the pot was starting to wear off and we were both ready to head home.
The Uber driver came driving a white pickup truck.  Neither of us had ever seen an Uber driver driving a pickup truck.  We hopped in the backseat and I gotta tell you, the ride back was quite entertaining.  The headline on his profile did not lie: he seemed very knowledgeable and he could talk about just about anything.  We had such a fun night.  The surrealness was beginning to wear off as soon as we got back to the apartment, and we lumbered through the door and rode the elevator up and lumbered down the hallway to the apartment and Christina punched in the passcode and pushed through while I followed suit and immediately the both of us stripped off all of our clothes and eagerly jumped in bed and cuddled there for a few minutes before we fell asleep.

The end.