#107: New Orleans

DB and I get in at eight Friday night and the first stop is for po-boys the size of forearms. We devour the sandwiches on the stoop of a school building and soon any comparisons I’ve heard between New Orleans and Detroit quickly fall away. NOLA is much denser. The streets more clearly show their French and Spanish influences. We walk toward Frenchmen Street, toward the music, past Creole cottages and under gas lanterns and wrought-iron balconies. DB says there’s no other place in America where are you as aware of History.

And then there’s the humidity. Stifling during the day but more bearable at night, especially with a steady flow of cold alcoholic drinks in cups that you can carry out because of the open-container policy. The heat makes it convenient to stay out till five in the morning and sleep past noon. Being a vampire suddenly makes sense.

A tip bucket dangles from a broad ribbon of cloth. The ribbon hangs over the side of a balcony where some musicians are sitting and singing and strumming guitar. DB buys a bag of peanut M&Ms and puts it in the bucket, then tugs on the cloth. An offering. A few steps down the street we walk past a gypsy-looking auto camper, dimly lit by candles and red string lights. DB and I look at each other then go back. Not a gypsy, but a woman with a large jug of rum selling dark and stormys. In the camper there’s a tiny wood stove and a small sink. A toothbrush and toothpaste are tucked into the straw curtains. There’s a small cot with a dark red sheet hanging from it to conceal the underneath storage. And there’s a piano. She hands us our drinks and sits down to play. Her voice thunders. It thunders off the window she has to keep shut for acoustic reasons in spite of the heat. Okay, maybe a gypsy.

There’s a moment in every great trip when you get flung into space. You meet a helper who carries you across the threshold, then the trip takes over. It took over right then and there in front of the camper. The rest of the iceberg revealed itself. The night began.

This afternoon I dropped DB off at the airport. Now I’m at a hostel in Memphis, and I’m headed out into the night.