Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Easy does it

I just wrote half a novel trying to describe a perfectly indescribable experience. I waxed on and on about the meticulae of it; I hadn't even finished describing the first day I was in town. I figure it's a lot like telling someone a dream you had: they can't ever see what you saw, and they don't understand the glorious hyper-reality of it all, because it's not their dream. It's your more-brilliant-than-crayons colors, your angel-voice songs, your bacchanalian indulgences. Bear with me. The shimmering memories are like fireflies - they stop glowing when you hold them in your hand. I'd rather show you a fragment of a wing preserved in amber than a lifeless body crushed by enthusiasm.

Things I hated before I got there:
-the 45 mph headwind we took off into, shaking the plane on the runway
-the guy on the 194 who invited me to sit next to him
-the expensive glass of box wine I bought to pass time in the airport
-American Airlines

Things I ate while I was there:
-Bananas Foster french toast
-quiche with sausage and portabello mushrooms
-chicken smothered in cheese
-violet candies
-whole roasted cloves of garlic in a sandwich
-beignets and more beignets and not enough perfect cafe au lait
-blackened redfish and bacon dressed greenbeans
-etoufee with shrimp and crawfish
-an almond croissant and the first ripe strawberry I'd eaten in months
-a giant ice cream cone covered in rainbow sprinkles (or shots or jimmies. pick your favorite term)

Things I heard while I was there:
-Jimbo Wallace slapping his bass with one finger
-five of the oldest men on earth singing gospel songs
-Django-style hot gypsy jazz
-an unholy and compelling fusion of ska and death metal
-a few minutes of Scott Weiland sounding dee-runk
-a hip-hop artist asking an audience to "Please... put your fist in the air!"
-a siren, trashcan lids, a megaphone, and a theremin
-NOT Nine Inch Nails, REM, or the Horrorpops (I didn't know they were playing)

Things I saw that were animals:
-two turtles sunning themselves on the detritus on the canal near the city park where Voodoo was held
-a tiny lizard on a wall, pointed out by my companion
-an abandoned plate of unidentified something that wriggled when I walked past (I'm pretty sure this was animalian in nature)
-two awesome dogs in an Irish bar

Things I drank while I was there:
-two awful espresso drinks, the first a push button affair that tasted like plastic and the second pulled on a lovely brass machine: this tasted of disaffected hipster
-an $8 shot of Jameson's poured by a friendly bartender in a Quarter bar
-a $4.25 tumbler FULL of Jameson's poured by a friendly bartender in a not-quite-the-Quarter-anymore bar. He told us where to go to buy cheap bottles of PBR.
-bottled water
-not enough perfect cafe au lait
-a lovely cafe viennois with sweetened whipped cream

Things I hated while I was there:
- hand grenades in not-yard souvenir cups with stupid straws
-most of Bourbon Street
-the giddy tourists who don't know King Oliver from a hole in the ground crowding into Preservation Hall and gawking at these amazingly talented musicians like they're in Frontierland
-the empty houses and empty streets and broken cobbles
-not remembering how to get from place to place; the map in my memory would not superimpose itself over the streets I was standing on

Things I fell in love with a little bit or a lot or all over again while I was there:
-the thin pulse of a hand-muted trumpet
-the balconies festooned with boxes of flowers and flags, and in some cases mannequins
-the years you can feel through the soles of your feet when you walk the cobbles and bricks
-that statue of the lovers reclining in the back patio of Lafitte's
-the hole in the wall Cajun place with the surly staff and homemade tasso ham in their jambalaya
-jazz tuba
-sitting on a bench in Jackson Square close enough to share the liner notes on my new CDs
-burlesque dancers
-cafe au lait
-holding hands

Things I hated on my way back:
-not buying the shiny pink parasol the second I saw it
-American Airlines charging me for checking my bag
-buying a back copy of Rolling Stone before realizing it was three weeks old
-the coffee I overpaid for in the Dallas Fort Worth airport
-the Dallas Fort Worth airport
-holding my tongue and holding my breath and not saying all the things I meant to say or wanted to say, like: please. and: thank you. and: you are on that list, the one before this one. and: goodbye. I always forget to say goodbye.
-crying from holding it all
-getting a cold from the stupid airplane

Random marvelosity that is my new obsession:

During one of their shows that I saw, they showed a little video of New Orleans being joyfully inhabited by the sort of misfits and angels that I want to make friends with, while Clint (the lead singer) crooned I Can't Give You Anything But Love.

Not a single picture exists of me in New Orleans this time. It's like I was never there at all. If it weren't for the bag full of clothes smeared with powdered sugar from the piles of beignets, I might begin to doubt it myself.

1 comment:

  1. How could I have forgotten the statue of lovers?

    beautiful post, I'll have to read it a few more times.