Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ave atque Vale

When I first sneaked into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and made my way back to the apartment in the Quarter, the first person I saw was Chester Breaux, walking up Decatur Street with that genteel-hobo stroll of his and trundling a suitcase on wheels behind him.

My first thought was, I’m ashamed to say, please, sweet Jesus, don’t let him ask me if he can crash with us.

I should have known better. Chester had any number of places he could stay. He had been working at a hotel on Frenchmen Street, and that was where he had ridden out the storm. There was no more food or water left there, so he was making his way back to his own place which was nearer to Johnny White’s where there was food and water and other assorted beverages, the kind to make one want to sing.

But now the song is done.

Never again will we hear him take his leave with the explanation that he had to check the “bear traps” he’d left scattered around the Quarter.

No one is left to “scratch his cat.”

And he will never rebuke us again saying, “You don’t wanna go dere,” or “Let’s take it outside.”

His nom de carre may have been Chester the Molester, but his molestations were of the ticklish kind that lifted you into a jolly mood and left you there long after he had slipped away.

Chester had the gift of love.

I raise a last glass and offer a final salute to my friend: Hoo-ee!


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