Sunday, August 29, 2010

If It's August ...

... It must be time to relive it all again.

Trouble is, I don't want to relive it any more. I have my memories. I live with them every day, and, to tell the truth, I wish I didn't have them. I wish like anything that they weren't just beneath the surface, always ready to burst through, shattering my calm.

Five years ago yesterday, I was in my car, making a run for it. Like everyone else, I had three-days' worth of clothes lying on the floor of my back seat. I was enjoying this little spontaneous vacation from work and responsibility. Maybe I'd even wait another day or two before coming back home, give the traffic a little time to ease off before getting back on the highway.

It didn't turn out that way. Instead of running away from something, I discovered - only later - that I was actually plummeting from the rooftop of my carefully constructed house of well-being and surety into a dark and cloudy future of uncertainty, fear, and nihilism. I'd trotted out to meet my Goliath, hurled my stone, but, unlike David's, it had gone awry and missed its target. I would stand rooted to that spot, facing the giant for the rest of my life.

So it's August yet again, and the 29th again, and it's been raining for the last two days and nights, and I am crippled with atrophy. I need to move on. But how?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back-Floating Down the Stream of Consciousness

I managed to crawl my way out of bed Monday morning in spite of a throbbing ache in my lower back. I apologize for continuing to impose my indisposabilities on you, but the fact is every day another part of my once-dependable body starts going to hell, and lately it's been my back. I don't know what caused this new pain, whether it has to do with those pills Bobby has me taking to stop my eating or with that guy who punched me hello in the rib cage Friday night at the Golden Lantern while demanding I tell him my name.

Who knows? It just hurt.

I made my way carefully downstairs and into the kitchen where I put on a pot of coffee. Then I stepped out into our front courtyard, which I love to do very early in the morning before the sun has come up. The weather startled me. It was like a Spring morning, cool and breezy. I couldn't wait until the coffee was ready and I could slip out into the back patio and do some morning reading. See, I like to collect interesting stories from my Google Reader throughout the day. When I've amassed enough, I staple them together, and that's my morning paper for the next available dawn. So there I was, Monday morning, leaning into a cushion I'd placed between my back and the back of my patio chair, embarking on a NY Times interview with Bernadette Peters.

It wasn't long before my mind began to wander back to that Saturday night some years ago when I'd found myself sitting in the balcony of a Broadway Theatre waiting for the start of Song and Dance. The show itself was a waste of time and money, although not my money. It was all a part of a weekend package Bob had won at work, two nights and two days in the Presidential Suite of the Penta Hotel and a Broadway show. I confess I had been the one to choose this production, less for Lord Whatshisname's music than for the star of the show, Bernadette Peters. I had been a long-distance fan for a long time, and the opportunity to see her perform live was something I thought worthwhile.

I wasn't wrong.

Before the curtain rose, there was chatter in the audience that she might not be appearing that night, since she'd been out ill with a bad cold or flu. But by the time the conductor entered the pit and stepped up to his podium, there had been no announcement made of the understudy performing in her place, so I settled back into my seat and waited.

Then, by God, I had to sit up straight. There she was. I'd never got a load of anything like what I was looking at on that stage. I'm from Louisiana. I'd never before seen a woman with all the various lady parts put together like God was Vargas. And they moved when she did. They had to be real. The whole first act of that show had only the leading lady onstage, singing a series of songs that told a love story, just her by herself, nobody else. There was nothing to get in the way between Bernadette Peters and me. It was an unobstructed view.

And the kid had class. She really had been suffering from a cold or flu. There were tissues stashed all over the set, and the conductor gamely vamped the orchestra through her various sniffles and sneezes so that the show ran smoothly. Well, as smoothly as a show can run when the the set stops working. Parts and pieces were supposed to move, you see, only they didn't, and there were times when, from the balcony, you could glimpse a stagehand or two slithering across the floor behind the furniture to attempt some repair or other. I wonder now sometimes if that were not some form of union sabotage done just to allow them a chance to glean a better peek at Bernadette Peters up close and personal. Damn horn dogs.

Back in my patio, I realized my reverie was better than the morning papers I'd prepared, so I continued my flights of fancy. I found myself remembering other things I'd seen or done in my life that had given me unalloyed pleasure. They were lovely recollections, and I'm grateful for my history, as simple and humble as it might be.

Then my memory conjured up last Monday evening, a week ago, my "night out with the boys", that evening that had been so joyful and comradely. I'd made my way to the Lantern, looking forward to some quiet time, never anticipating the group of irregulars that would congregate before too long.

Winston was there (speaking of "horn dogs"), tippling his beer. He's been off the margaritas since his hip surgery caused him to start popping medication that wars with his normal intake of tequila. But Winston on beer is, nevertheless, Winston on booze, so he was still exercising his modified droit du seigneur as first Lord of the Lantern.

Kevin was there, too. Kevin, as sordid a piece of work as has ever crawled from under a marshy rock, God love him. Soon we were joined by Darren who serves coffee at the bar on Sunday and Monday mornings. Darren, the quiet one. Then Patrick, sweet-natured Patrick who is fast being debauched by the rest of us.

Jimmy was tending bar, so the drinks came fast and potent, and the conviviality degenerated apace. There are things I remember, and things I forget about that night.

I remember Darren telling me about the recent conversation he'd had with the Lantern's owner, when said owner had questioned Darren's desire to live in a city like New Orleans and to work in a place such as his. He considered Darren to be "vanilla". (I immediately thought to myself, Of course you're vanilla, but so are all the other bartenders who work here ... with the possible exception of Jimmy who steadfastly adheres to the straight and narrow, preferring ladies with real lady parts. But then every family has its black sheep.) Darren elaborated that he'd responded to his boss that, yes, he might be sedate, but there was something to be said about a place where, if he decided he wanted to put on a dress, he could do so with no fear of committal. He liked residing in a community that offered him that level of freedom of possibility.

Kevin, meanwhile, was succumbing to the spirit of the spirits and began to regale Patrick with the story of his recent Craigslist escapade. A story I cannot repeat here on these pages, involving as it does Kevin's booking of a (for want of a better term) "sex-worker" to come to his home late one night. He'd given this person his address and phone number and explained that his house couldn't be missed since it was the only pink one on the block. His story went on to tell how Kevin waited and waited and waited some more, with no immediate release in sight, until finally his phone rang, and it was the whore, complaining that he was in the neighborhood, but there was no pink house, only a mauve one. Kevin's tale ended with him screaming into the phone, "It isn't mauve, bitch, it's pink. Now get in here and suck my dick!"

You see, of course, how I could never repeat such a yarn. It's unsavory, degenerate. It's debased. And totally in keeping with the company I keep. I wonder sometimes if these are the people my mother warned me against. Then I remember she had also always told me to hold good-hearted people close, and these disreputable, wicked, and dissolute sinners are the biggest and best-hearted people I know.

Yeah. Life is good.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Something to Like about Being a Southern Boy

My older brother has lately started in to calling me "Lil Bro". I don't know where he got this from (probably his grandkids), cause it's sure not natural coming from the mouth of an old pawpaw man, which my brother is even though he went and bought that motorcycle a few years ago that he insists on riding around the country roads down there where we all grew up, and off of which his sorry ass will one day go flying, leaving him a drooling, damp mess in a swampy ditch somewhere until somebody misses him and sends a posse out to find the fool.

But I'm not here to judge his crazy notions.

The point I'm trying to make here is, have you ever seen the two of us together? There is nothing "lil" about this "bro". My brother may be a man among men (he's certainly a man among women, which is what got him into so much trouble a few years ago), but put us side by side and I dwarf him - at least, you know, from side to side.

No, in Southern terms, "lil" means younger, and that is something I will always be to my "Big Bro". Gets me kind of misty.

Besides, he hasn't thought to make it Cajun-cute and call me "Lil Breaux".


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Random Query

Are there any gay bars in New Orleans?

Needing People

It's a noble thing to care for someone. It's a noble thing to look after someone, to monitor their ups and downs, to make certain they're comfortable.

Every waking moment of your life.

It's an ignoble thing when thoughts of throttling that person begin to enter your consciousness. Or when little fantasies of sending them hurtling down the stairway begin to titillate.

It's then you realize you're one of those people who needs people and it's past damn time you got out of the house for a bit.

Luckily, Monday morning was set aside for my regular six-month checkup with my young Doctor Wise. As I've said before, he has such a relaxing bedside manner, and his personal charm invariably coaxes the truth from me about how I continually go about mistreating this temple we both call my body. Yet he never judges, and whatever he might have to say about me to his nurses when their day is done and they all kick back with smokes and drinks is none of  my concern.

During this visit, I asked him to look at my back. Bobby had noticed spots he called moles and pleaded with me to have the doctor check them out.

The first words out of his mouth when he saw them was, "Oh, none of these are cancerous. They're age spots ... Oh, I'm sorry."

"Never mind," I said. "I can live with that. Besides, I can always camouflage them with a good, deep tan. And I never take my shirt off in front of anybody, anyway."

"You don't go swimming?"

"No. I would displace too much water in the pool. That reminds me," I continued, "Bobby wants you to give me a pill that will make me stop eating. He says I eat too much, and I'm going to give myself both diabetes and a stroke if I don't get help."

To shorten an already overlong story, the good doctor suggested I buy this latest new-age holistic pill currently available over the Internet. Once home, I ordered some, and within a few days I expect to be running around the neighborhood with quivering appendages, talking too much, and consuming calories at a rate far greater than their intake.

But that's okay cause it's organic.

I felt so right with the world when I left the young doctor's office that I made a quick stop on Napoleon Avenue where this little old guy sells fruits and vegetables from the back of his pickup truck and bought twenty-dollars worth of healthy produce. Okay, I'm not so sure how healthy this stuff is, but, hey, it isn't pizza, right? Closer still to home, I stopped at Office Depot and bought Bobby some peripheral toys to go with the little netbook computer he won at Ringo Thursday night at our neighborhood bar.

("Ringo", by the way is "Bingo-with-an-R". Changing the name has to do with getting around the Catholic Church's monopoly on this particular game of chance down here in Southern Louisiana. [And, furthermore, it turns out it was I who'd won the netbook, but since I wasn't there, Bobby took the opportunity to claim it in my stead and later wove a tale for me about how he had been the one whose luck had won out on that glorious night. No matter. Being noble, I let him have it.])

His presents made him so happy, he suggested I go out Monday evening for a night-out with the boys.

Now, being, like I said (besides noble), one of those people who needs people, this turned out to be an even better prescription than my doctor's supernaturalist amphetamine. There's nothing like passing time with friends, no matter how unsavory or how unfit for polite society they might be. Oh, how we laughed. How we sang. How we slashed at each other's pretensions with razor-sharp wit. How we bled.

But more of that evening later on ... I'm getting bored now.
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