» The Benny Poda Years «
Kevin McGowin
Chapter 15 - Nola

"Feel like fallin' in love with the first woman I meet. Puttin' her in a wheelbarrow and wheelin' her . . . down the street." — Bob Dylan

If there's one thing I liked about Dietrich, it was that he knew how to fight.
        This is not to say he didn't have loads of other qualities to recommend him, as I'm sure he did, but every time I saw him he was high on coke and fighting. And I was high on coke and fighting, too. But I came to love the man dearly. If I were a fag, like Gary Harris, I would have fucked him. This land is your land. That land was MINE.
        New Orleans then as now was a place where you REALLY had to watch your ass. The entire place is like a Paris slum. Paris, actually, is a very safe city. The same cannot be said for the poor-man's Paris of America.
        When was the last time you thought about Jim Plunkett, that old dude who used to play quarterback for the Raiders?
        We were shooting a game at this joint on Canal Street and Plunkett was in there, drunker than Kenny Stabler. Higher than Don Meredith. He kept screaming at me from the bar that my clothes needed to be washed, which they did, of course, and of course that's not the point. Man, I DID NOT need this shit. I just wanted to finish my game, earn a little money and go drink and eat at a jazz club somewhere.
        The only reason I didn't put a stop to it just like that was that, one, he was bigger than me and two, I wanted to finish the game and not get kicked out of the bar, because it was a place the tourists frequented and you could sure make some money beating up on their cueless asses. And then there was the matter of his plays.
        I'm the type of man who'll cut a great writer like Jim Plunkett some slack, because that one he wrote where the dude screams STELLA!, well, THAT gave me goosebumps and I saw it, like, 15 times when I was in New York one time and had some money. And the one about all those drunks waiting for the Snowman, wow, that sure hit home. And the one where the salesman dies and the one about that lesbian who offed herself by walking into a pond in her back yard. And I could go on. Have you read his plays? Strange, I'd stopped being able to find them in bookstores. Nothing by a Jim Plunkett, they always said. But those plays sure are terrific.
        But finally, a man has to fight or be disrespected, and I broke off a cue and I broke off a long-necked beer bottle and I went up to the asshole. "I love your plays and I respect you," I told him, "But I'm not standin' here singing Hickory Dickory Dock to your dick, either. You need to shut the FUCK up, RIGHT now, or we're gonna scrap." Deet was behind me with a cue of his own. I wondered whose side Kenny Stabler would be on. He was already passed out in the corner.
        "My plays?" said Plunkett. His demeanor had changed. I guess he respected my willingness to stand up to him. "My plays are like my CHILDREN!" He said.
        I was mollified a bit by the obvious emotion in his voice. "Well, yeah, I'd figured that," I said. "But there's no cause to be railing on me, man. All I'm trying to do here is make a living."
        "But how'd you FIND them?" He asked. "How did you KNOW that about me? I've been a failed playwright for YEARS—they've never even been PUBLISHED." He seemed impressed and amazed.
        "Jim," I said, you're drunk. I guess it's been a bad week for you. But don't be down on yourself—it's fine work."
        And just then, some aging biker dude piped up from down the bar, "Plunkett—and PLAYS! Ha! Are you a fag? Aren't all playwriters fags?"
        Plunkett was embarrassed and furious. "Perhaps I AM a homosexual," he said in a what-the-fuck-are-you-gonna-have-to say-or-do-about-it kind of tone. "Yet unlike Nassir, I have MADE something of my life. And unlike YOU, motherfucker."
        Did they fight? You're asking me DID THEY FIGHT? Christ, it was a brawl the likes of which I hadn't seen in YEARS, and when a couple of other old biker dudes pulled blades and were fixing to jump in me and Deet got in there and started pounding and gauging like you're trying to kill your worst nightmare. And when it was over we were in a New Orleans holding cell, pretty beat up, but WE had been the men still standing at the end of THAT. My only regret was the money and I said so aloud. And after that little "incident," Canal Street would think as long and hard as it was sentient enough to do so about having us back.
        But when we got ROR'd in the morning and got our effects back, Plunkett, who was still with the Raiders then, gave us $100 to get on our feet, a gesture I'll always appreciate.
        And THAT'S how we finally got the fuck out of Nola.

    Lecture on Things to Think about During the Second Half

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