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Thursday, June 20, 2013
I do, and, believe me, you wouldn’t want one of these covens occupying space behind your French Quarter gate. They are bossy little know-it-alls who believe they are all that.
Here’s the deal that’s sticking in my gullet tonight. I’m in the process of mounting a play that our playwright hopes to take to a festival in New York in the middle of July. For complicated reasons (well, to my mind, they’re complicated), we are rehearsing in the courtyard of my building. The neighbors who live here have told me they do not mind this convergence of actors in their midst. Some of them have even mentioned they get a kick out of hearing people verbally sparring and being mean to each other then cracking up and laughing when they go up on a line or trip over their blocking. The play is short, and rehearsals run from 8 or 8:30 PM until around 10-ish.
Each evening about a half-hour before we are scheduled to begin, I go out and place a brick in the gate and sit in the courtyard watching and waiting for the actors to arrive. At no time am I not watching the gate to make sure some stranger does not creep inside to commit some mischief. When the last actor arrives, he removes the brick and the gate is then shut and locked.
Well, tonight after rehearsal, I discovered a note taped to the gate. It read, “There are bicycles in this gateway. You should keep the gate locked.”
As Mr. Bickle would say, “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”
Now, yes, there are bicycles parked in the gateway. The landlord has notified all the tenants that their bikes should not be parked there but should be brought to each tenant’s apartment. Jerry Seinfeld kept his bicycle in his apartment. Ren, the kid who used to live here in the garret apartment up on the fourth floor, used to carry his bicycle up and down the stairs. But everybody else ignored the landlord’s letter and has continued to park their bicycles in the alleyway, including the witches who were the last people to move into this complex about six months ago.
And they don’t even live here! They run a shop in the ground floor unit that fronts Decatur Street and steadfastly maintain no interaction with those of us who have lived here since long before they began to dream of selling magic wands, crystal balls, and pseudo-voodoo junk in yet another French Quarter tourist trap.
And one of their bikes is a trike! A big one. Which the owner parks at a diagonal, and over which I have tripped on two occasions.
I believe the next time I trip, I might actually fall down and hurt myself.
Then I will have to contact my lawyer who will be duty-bound to write a severe letter of reprimand to the witches in my building and demand they park their vehicles on the sidewalk from now on after paying me mucho damages for my scrapes, abrasions, and bruises.
Did I mention my lawyer also owns the building...?
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
- Borrow screwdriver and pliers from tenants.
- Take old medicine cabinet down.
- Chat with tenants. Ask for standalone lamp since there is now no light in bathroom with which to see.
- Knock out tiles and replace with block of wood to hang new light fixture.
- Talk to tenants.
- Hang medicine cabinet.
- Notice that new light fixture is placed too low to allow tenants to open medicine-cabinet doors.
- Decide to come back another day to knock out more tile and replace with bigger block of wood so as to raise light fixture.
- Joke with tenants about silly glitch.
- Promise to come back on some other indeterminate future date to clean old tiles that have been collecting dirt and bathroom grit for 40 years.
- Assume correctly tenants will take care of this themselves.
- Borrow tenants’ wet vac to suck up mess on floor.
- Oops. Wonder if tenants will notice that cabinet is upside down.
- Get out of apartment. Fast.
- And assume tenants' vision is too blurry to notice crack in left side of cabinet running from top (bottom) to bottom (top).
- Leave message on landlord's voice mail regarding above.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Since I am currently boycotting my old neighborhood hole in the wall, I decided to step into Aunt Tiki’s Bar a few doors up from home.
Many years ago, Aunt Tiki’s used to be the infamous Jewel’s Tavern, a fabulous joint of ill-repute and (what turned out to be) real dangers. The owners had bought the bar from—guess!—a lady named Jewel who had maintained the place as a seaman’s dive back in the days when the riverfront was host to merchant marines from all over the world, and Decatur Street was not a place you ventured to unless you were mighty drunk and feeling bullet-proof.
Things have changed some since then, and when I took a seat near the door and looked out over the small group of youngsters exploring the underside of life, as new to them now as it once was to me, I recalled past smoky nights in this same rickety place. The bar remains a lot like it was, long and narrow, leading to a second room that used to hold a pool table where sometimes little Nog and others would grab some sleep when the party went on too long, then the DJ booth beyond, where Dougie Bryson stitched together pieces of club-dance music so well that he drew listeners from Miami, New York, Chicago, L A, and San Francisco. Behind the booth was the men’s room with its claw-footed bathtub serving double duty as a urinal. It was here I once encountered Allen Ginsberg and Al Parker (but not together). It was in this room I first confronted the dwarf Wally Sherwood, standing on the toilet seat.
The mural is gone, the long fresco along the right-side wall depicting the SS Jewel docking near some tropical island, or maybe just pausing at a bend in the river farther south and nearer the Gulf. We all of us, the survivors, took pieces of that painting home when Jewel’s closed and locked its doors for the first time.
Sitting there this night, I remembered the barrels that used to lined that same wall. They served as tables to rest your drinks and also as dance pylons where people like the middle-aged Asian man would dance for hours during the Sunday night beer busts, shirtless in cutoff jeans, sniffing poppers and passing them around.
It seemed to me someone was sitting beside me. Tommy. Tommy who always smiled. Perhaps the first person in New Orleans to die of AIDS, one of the first, certainly the first I would know personally. He asked what I could remember.
“Moments,” I said. “Snapshots. It’s summer now. In a few weeks, they would have hauled in the bags of sand for the annual beach party. I remember Popkin bringing his hog, dusted in glitter, it’s face glowing with powder, eyeliner, rouge, and lipstick.”
“I didn’t care for him.”
“Neither me. He didn’t deserve a pet.”
“Yes! Too young to drink, but Louisiana law back then allowed him to tend bar!”
“Remember how he used to strut for patrons over fifty?”
“I do. I can see him now.”
“You can see them all. They’re here. We’re here. Look. In the back. There’s...”
“Bellsouth Man. I saw him once without his hardhat. He was bald. He needed the hat. There’s Dougie, too, still spinning his vinyls, so serious and pale. In the corner, that’s David Jolly, swaying to the music, his eyes closed, his ginger hair glowing golden in the swirling lights. Oh, there’s the Witch, making her way to another mark, trying to drum up some bucks for more beer. And I can hear John Baker declaiming about the music (‘Sublime and glorious, my dear, simply glorious!’) and that old fat queen’s Hawaiian shirt (‘She’s wearing Oahu!’). I haven’t thought of all of you in such a long time...so long.”
“That’s only right. You still have things to do. It doesn’t matter. We think of you.”
“Of course. You and the others still on this side, Maw and Don Marie, Kenny, Lenny, Kelton, your Scarecrow Mark. We think of you often. Fondly. With love.”
“I’m not so sure I deserve your love.”
“You do. Just as all of us deserve yours.”
“I miss you, Tommy, you and them.”
“No need. We’re here.”
We sat together a little longer. Quiet. Knowing. Two old friends sharing each other’s presence, feeling comfortable, watching the past holding hands with the present and dancing through the darkness.
“It’s getting late,” he said. “You should go home now. Time for sleep.”
“You’re right. Good night. I love you, Tommy.”
He grinned at me as I walked out into the night towards home.