"Just one thing that I did wrong. Stayed in Mississippi way too long." Bob Dylan
... In Which Your Narrator Convinces You that New Orleans is a Rather Sleazy Place ...
Many people have asked me how I came to be in New Orleans. My answer is simple: I came to New Orleans because sleaze is here. And a threat to sleaze anywhere is a threat to sleaze everywhere, so I'm determined to be a part of it all so as to have something to pass along as my legacy, as it were, not that this place needs ME to do it. It doesn't. This town was built on the dregs of Human Nature, theft, graft, avarice, sodomy, alcoholism, drug addiction, murder, and a bunch of aging matrons who pretend it doesn't really exist but who are thrilled by it nonetheless, all the folks who inhabit this Town Full of Hoors. It's not too different from yours,
Except that whatever people do in this place they pursue with a steadfast gratuity that would and has made Amsterdam and Rio pale in comparison, it is filled to its foamy RIM with people who revel in their own desecration, and that's fine! 'Cause they love to live it, and I love to write about it. They call it The Town that Care Forgot. Not so, pal. It is THEY who forgot to care, but it all comes out the same place anyway, and ten to one you can guess where THAT is. Your ass? NO, fool, South Rampart Street! See, that's where we begin, and it's as good of a place as any, but in this instance her name was Cassie Blivens and she'd moved here not all that long ago from the nearby town of McComb, Mississippi, without a dime to her name and the type of good looks that only serve to make you picture her after six months in the City, and that was the way I, Frankie Minot, was picturing her. Have you ever noticed that when you've known somebody for a long time, especially if you know them well, no matter how old and ragged out and fucked up they get you still seem to see them as the way they were when you first met them, and relate to them accordingly? I have, too, but not in Nola, Sport. In NOLA, I see them all as they'd look about two weeks shy of the grave, which is also how they picture themselves, and with good reason, but hey! Let the good times roll. We've got tonight who needs tomorrow? New Orleans is less like a Louis Armstrong scat tune than a bad Bob Seger tune sung by a drunk lawyer in some nameless karyoke bar. We've got Canal Street! Let's make it last, grrl. Why don't you stay.
And so here they come, from all over, from Boston, Savannah, San Francisco, Raleigh Birmingham Cincinnati Jackson Little Rock and Nashville, from Seattle and Portland and New Hampshire and New York, not at ALL to leave out Dallas and Houston and Padukah, Kentucky. Why? Money, fame?
Nope, Ace, they're here because SLEAZE is here. And you take people and you boil 'em down to the Lowest Common Denominator, you have the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir Mundi, the Divine Nous, the alchemy the salty sweat of the Mississippi wreaks on your poor, naïve, stupid little soul, not 100 yards away from where the tourists sip bad coffee and wolf down beignets at the French Market on Decatur, OOOHH, did you want a Vampire Tour? Motherfucker? Well, just look in the mirror, and if you see your reflection, you'll know once and fucking for all that everything you ever heard about that shit is wrong, because REAL vampires SEE their own reflections, and once you've seen yours in THIS town, Budrowe, you don't NEED no costume. Because you've been wearing one all your life.
This is the place where your own mask takes you over.
See, this is the American Vacation Dream: soak up the local color, be superior to it, move on, and next year we'll do Bermuda or Vegas. Do you follow me? No, I didn't think so. My name is Raphael Fleetwhite on weekday afternoons. At night, you can call me Pynchon. Or you can call me Lemmy. You can call be Bob Dylan. Or you can call me Zimmie but you see you've gotta SERVE somebody. You've gotta serve SOMEBODY! Elsewhere, you might have a choice, but New Orleans is a 4th-world country and here, you just serve the City. And why not? It's about goddamn time you did some Public Service.
Bethany got here on the Greyhound bus from Meridian on June 19. Timmy got here shortly thereafter. He got a place on Robertson, in what's called the "Tremé", and she got a place on Frenchmen Street, because she thought she was a Painter, and it seems she had Connections. Who or what those WERE is a subject for further research, but anyway, that's what happened. She was working on a series of oils called "Nola at Night". He was working on a long poem in free verse of the same title. They met at this place called The Crow Bar on Decatur Street in early August. After 5 drinks each, they went back to her place and they fucked. Not WELL, but whatever. The next day, they were filled with regret. They soon overcame it, but not, incidentally, with each other. But such is the world. And such is Life. You don't think so? Well, there's some things you need to hear. Don't worry, I didn't want to hear them, either! But now I'm all ears. After they got here last summer on a bus, some shit went down, but I have some OTHER stuff to tell you. But why, then, am I here? Because YOU are here. And a threat to you anywhere is a threat to sleaze EVERYWHERE.. And you can still see your reflection in the mirror, but either that mirror is going down HARD, or you are.
I'll leave it to you to make that distinction. If only for the moment.