Monday, July 25, 2005

Living the Life - and Paying the Price, Part One

Should there be anyone of you who might have been wondering where I've been, I am happy to tell you that it was not Orleans Parish Prison. Although that would have been a restful respite from the life I’ve been enduring.

On Monday, June 27th, I left my lair and traveled to Baton Rouge on business: three days of workshops and educational seminars – each in a different Baton Rouge venue. Thank God for Rand McNally and Mapquest as well as other coworkers who managed to get lost in groups so that we could convoy our way to wherever we were supposed to be next.

Like Oakland, CA, was to Gertrude Stein, so is Baton Rouge to me: “There is no there there.” Nothing but little politicos on the make. Or make that “take”. This is Louisiana.

I really tried to have a good time while there. I stayed away from everyone else in a little-used hotel.

Before I left, I spoke to an acquaintance (he’s a lawyer – he can never be more than an acquaintance) who had recently traded the “there there” for the "here" of New Orleans, what there was to do in the way of nightlife in old Red Stick.

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

“No. Is there somewhere to go?”

“Let me think…No, you can’t go there…Uh, you wouldn’t want to go there.”

Finally, he settled on a place he believed I could be comfortable in. He described it as being similar to the Latrine, which, as you must know by now, is the most comfortable, most companionable, and friendliest sleaze joint in the Quarter, in the city; hell, south of Deadwood. Aging hookers and siliconed drag queens, greasy hustlers in greasy jeans, visiting movie stars (or, at least, people who say they work for visiting movie stars), literary giants and pulp-fiction dwarves, and uptown socialistes frequently end up here with the neighborhood crowd where they all play nice with each other – and talk.

The Latrine actually has the reputation of being a conversational bar, and that reputation is growing internationally.

You wouldn’t want to do anything else with the people who hang out here.

My attorney acquaintance, Angelo Angola, described a place in Baton Rouge that kinda, sorta corresponded to my comfort zone. It goes by the same name as the first name of the little runt who's running around the White House nowadays.

So, following a day spent trying to unravel the verbiage and nonsequitors of my betters as they strove to teach my coworkers and myself a new and better way of doing business with business, I was ready to strive for a little horizontal business of my own.

I found the place with no difficulty.

Entering it, I sensed its similarity to the Latrine. It had a wooden bar.

There were groups of people sitting in clumps around this Latrine facsimile, all talking to the others in their individual groups.

Beyond the expanse of this Latrine-like bar stood a bartender – for want of a better word.

He was short and balding, with a little King Tut belly and a super-model way of moving that started with a sharp swivel of his head, followed by a full-body pivot in the same direction. I waited patiently for him to serve me.

I waited patiently for him to serve me.

I waited patiently for him to serve me.

I raised my hand.

I waved my hand in broad circles.

Then - swivel, pivot - and he was taking little steps in my direction. He stopped.

“A light beer?” I asked.

“Miller or Bud?”

“Miller, thanks.”

He produced the beer, took my money, brought me change, and walked away. Those three words would be the only words he would say to me during the 90 minutes I decided to remain in that place.

I left him a ten-dollar tip. I wanted him to remember the guy he had ignored.

The next day more of my betters taught me still more various ways to do business with business – at least, I think so. I seem to remember being tired and bored and zoning out occasionally. Frequently.

I don't remember anything about the third day except we were allowed to leave at noon.

In Baton Rouge, truly, there is no there there anywhere there.

I hustled my tired old ass out to I-10 and made my way back to the comforts of my decadent Creole city on the Mississippi.

Where I would observe the racial politics of the Essence Festival of 2005.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Shed a Tear for Judith Miller

I think that may be more than she ever did for all the people who have died in, or because of, Iraq - that war she helped foment.

I wonder if she ever gives consideration to the idea that the people who are leaving her out hanging by her high-priced manicured nails are on the same political side as the people who fed her the propaganda she peddled in the New York Times. Hell, they're probably the same.
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