Monday, April 23, 2012
Brown Derby Number 3, New Orleans, LA
Many people muddle their way through a New Orleans night. When you are thirsty in New Orleans, you will always be able to find a drink.
Wake up and smell the chicory in the coffee. When you need a tonic, there is more than one big shot of vim in New Orleans.
Don't confuse Music Street with Frenchman Street, or Agriculture Street with Arts Street, or Duels Street with Law Street. When a cemetery is five short stories tall, you know you are in New Orleans. If you find yourself weeping from joy, or laughing from loss, you are probably on Piety Street, or Magazine Street, or General Pershing Street, or General De Gaul Avenue. Uptown, Downtown, or Old Algiers, the same song keeps playing, the same pulse keeps beating. The policemen perform their patrols. Business goes on uninterrupted. There is more than one way to keep the peace. A city's nature can be eternally lush and eternally chaste in any given circumstance.
I was at the Brown Derby Number 3 at the corner of Jefferson Davis Parkway and Tulane Avenue getting an order of fried chicken livers when I bumped into Misery Childs as I paid for my order. Only a capricious, or an unconscious, mother would call her daughter Misery. We all grow into the name we are born with. Sometimes it takes a lifetime, but once a seed is planted it has no choice but to sprout.
Misery Childs and I know each other. We took a food handler's safety course at Delgado Community College last summer. Misery got the highest grade in the class. "Hello, Mr. King," she said. "Can you spare a quarter?"
I had spent my last dime on fried chicken livers. We went to the neutral ground at South Jefferson Davis Parkway, and I opened the styrofoam container. I only ate two livers. Misery ate the rest of the ample portion. She ate like she hadn't eaten for days. She licked her fingers. She licked the styrofoam.
It was getting late and I had to go home. Misery told me she had business on Airline Drive. "Thanks for the nice evening, Mr. King," she said. She added, "Balaenius Rex!" as we shook hands.
I smiled halfheartedly. "Balaenius Rex!" I said in return. We shook hands, again. I headed toward Canal Street. She headed toward whatever errands she had on Airline Drive past the Crystal Preserves Building.
I am sitting on my back porch as I write this. A cockroach has just run over my foot, fleet and light as a mouse and just as furtive. I wonder what Misery Childs is doing right now.
Balaenius Rex, indeed. Vita brevis et novum orlaenium longa. Humid city air can set a person free for a spell. It must be dark before dawn breaks, even when every morning begins in gray fog.