Rambling notes from a fortified compound in the Deep South

Perjaps you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from Paul lately. Well, I’ve been busy, and some of it has even been semi-fit for public disclosure. Right now, it’s 3 am and I’m sitting in the main room of the notoriously deranged youth hostel in midcity New Orleans – in 2003, I lived here for nine months, of course I would return here for my mental health trip. I’m not totally sure that the trip is doing anything good for my mental state, but there is a certain … odd familiarity to this place. I was last here (except for a brief trip to get sworn into yet another totally superflous bar whose dues I’ve stopped bothering to pay on the grounds that I’d rather sell my body for medical experiments than ever practice law in Louisiana) in spring 2004, and very little has changed.

Last night, I was up until 4 am chatting with a clone of [an ex-friend] (my favorite bit: the story of a friend who used to regularly dress up on a uniform from red China, and once went to a dim sum place and wondered why she got terrible service), and this morning, I got up just in time to go to a wine tasting in what must be the only civilized place in town, with my dear friend E., source of a good 85% of the New Orleans stories that I can repeat in public and a fair number of the ones I can’t. We were going to meet up with her friend A., who founded a food-for-homeless project and deliberately named it so its acronym would be an obscenity. (That, I call style. I may have to seduce the woman just on principle. Except it’s such a hassle to try and live like Valmont when one hasn’t brought a car – terrible, terrible logistical glitches abound.) alas, she couldn’t make it, so we ended up chatting with a gang of random extremely stylish middle-aged wine afficianodos (how do you spell that, anyway?) and E’s charming boyfriend.

From there, I hitched a ride with E. to my former mainstay coffeeshop (ok, number 2 coffeeshop, beind the old 24 hour place formerly at the top of Frenchmen street that used to be about 50/50 hipsters/gutterpunks and with the secluded nook in the back where that one girl talked me into reading passages of Diary of a Seducer back and forth to one another) (oh god, is this going to be a stories about women blog post? Perhaps it is – so many of the stories from this town and that period of my life, 2003, when I lived here…), in the garden district. This is the place that has all the folk music in town, which I ordinarily can’t abide, but this joint is so delightfully chill, even for New Orleans, that I come anyway.

(and the good, competent kind of chill, not the usual New Orleans sort – I’d love to drop my neurotic hyperefficient capitalist frenemy N. in the middle of this town and watch her little mind go snippety-snap)

This was the place where (since this is obviously a stories about women post) I met this one girl, who led me off on a long moonlit walk to secluded places in the garden district, only to reveal a) boyfriend, and b) rather younger than I’d thought. Uh, rather rather younger. And after I fled…

This is also the place where I picked up a group of friends who promptly dropped me after the following dialogue… Oh, god, I can’t print that one, not even in my gonzo mode. Suffice it to say that it involved me loudly proclaiming in public that some unknown (as it turned out) activity sounded like a good idea, to a chorus of “shut the fuck up, you idiot,” and only years later realizing, “OOOH, they were talking about DRUGS!”

Yeah, I wasn’t a very hep cat.

This time, I walked in and was immediately challenged to a game of backgammon by an archeologist (M) who is on her way to Iran via Chicago and London. She had to remind me how to set up the pieces, whereupon (as anyone who knows how I play all games, namely with ruthless aggression, can predict) I promptly crushed her in two games, one of which was a complete shut-out, and then lost the last by a single piece. And then by her suggestion we switched to chess. Awkward. Then I dragged her most of the way across town so I could get a po-boy at my favorite joint (which is no longer 24 hours, bastards!), and then hie to the club where I spent pretty much every night when I lived here.

(The guy at the door tried to charge me cover. At that place! If there’s one club in the world where I will never pay cover… Fortunately, one of the band’s leaders, a dear friend, J, saved me.)

Scheduled at that club – a formerly avant-garde jazz/random band that has since gone rock-ish, but better. I was their booking agent for a while – the other leader introduced me to the crowd as the guy who got them their first rejection from jazz fest (me: “but not the last!” – how can I be expected to pass up that shot?). Sadly, M had to catch the streetcar back (yes, I abandoned her to find her way back across town alone, I’m a bad person, but it’s my BAND! Perhaps I’ll drag her out tomorrow.) while the opening act (terrible white nerdy rap by one guy who looked like a Portland hippie and another who could be the doppleganger of any middle-aged Jewish professor on any campus in America) was still on. Fortunately, E. came back to keep me company.

Fabulous gig, then I went downstairs to trade wisecracks with J’s utterly delightful wife, while J. semi-seriously fumed about something else I ought not to print (although, really, it’s the music industry in New Orleans, so…), hitched yet another ride with E. back to the depraved hostel, and, an hour and a half of typing a blog post on my iPhone later, here I am.

And this is why I am not blogging much. This is also how one ought to do this town, and why one ought never live here if one is like me and cannot stop this lifestyle when one starts it.

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