Friday, January 24, 2014

727 Bourbon Street by Mark Anthony Given

I mingle with my peers or no one, and since I have no peers, I mingle with no one.
-John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

            YOU KNOW YOUR AN INTROVERT when you read On Walden Pond by Thoreau at Fifteen an aspire to live in the woods and write Poetry. I walked into Marin's at 727 Bourbon Street and after a half dozen attempts I was hired on the spot when someone didn't show up as a Waiter. Mahogany and Brass Horseshoe Bar raised up a little after stepping up into the old French Quarter Tourist trap, on the last block of Bourbon Street before all the Queer Bars in a row start. I had fell for a beautiful Black haired Cajun Beauty named Nodileen Newell who was bar tending there at only Twenty years old and drop dead gorgeous. Drank like a Fish and swore she never had a Hangover in her life...... Vodka and Cranberry and she drank them all day long like some people sip Iced Tea. I think this was the very first restaurant I ever worked in and the fact that I had never waited on tables in a busy tourist trap, I neglected to mention to the Manager I had never worked in a restaurant before. She was busy scoring pain pills most of the time and could care less who walked in the door. If your a Waiter you can get a job any day of the week in the New Orleans French Quarter.
           THE SPIRIT OF MISADVENTURE permeate the air and the entire 120 square blocks reeks of history, alcohol,
sex and sin. I instinctual knew that having to deal with people face to face all day and have to Please them, would provide the personalty transformation I so desperately sought. When you read a couple hundred books and hitchhike from one end of the country to the other a half a dozen times, you have allot to say, but knowing how to say it, has to be acquired....
            I NEVER LIKED BARS. Both my parent's were lushes and I remember being dragged into them
places when I was a kid and would drive my drunk parent's home through the back roads of Wayne County and South Sodus, New York in a push button Plymouth Valiant. My Dad would be knocked out in the backseat and my Mom would always have her feet propped on the dash or windshield smoking Camel non filters and navigating like a bootlegger. She knew the way home like a Bumble Bee and we never got stopped. I promised myself when I got older I wouldn't spend my life in a bar room and I haven't. But when I first got to New Orleans I knew you would have to have the discipline of a Saint to not drink in New Orleans.
The Bars never close, and they even have Drive Thru Daiquiri's? I did however live in New Orleans a long time without drinking, but I was a Heroin addict by then and would walk right into in the Calio or Desire Housing Project's like a Man on a Mission' at two o'clock in the morning and some of the people were so shocked at seeing a White Man they thought I was an apparition...... I seen the look on their faces... I knew I should have been afraid, but in my mind, they needed to be afraid me......11:45 AM 9/23/2013
          I LOVED BEING A WAITER, just not on Bourbon Street. I was trying to get the Cook's job when the Waiter position became available and I wanted to be wherever this girl Nodileen was. The tables were along the wall's and a patio in the back with a large water thing in the center you had to pass to get to the Slave Quarter's where the small kitchen on one side and the public bathrooms on the other. There were four tables for customers and the door swung constantly with someone going to the bathroom. Same Tourist Food in every place on Bourbon Street; Red Beans and Rice, Gumbo, Crawfish Ettoufee, Turtle Fudge Pie. Poor Boy Sandwiches and Barq's Root beer and Dixie Beer; standard operating equipment. Too me the food looked like something you would eat out in the woods out of necessity but, people lined up day and night from around the world like it was gourmet food. What do I know....12:37 PM 9/25/2013

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dancing on Mausoleum's by Mark Anthony Given


It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans. - Mark Twain
           MY FIRST NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS I fell through an ancient funeral crypt in the middle of the night in a Mid City Cemetery. It was the late 1970's and I had hitch hiked from New York and had left the Florida Panhandle that day and had ridden with two young men going to California or Texas. They had regaled me all day with stories about the New Orleans French Quarter but refused to get off the Interstate or take Interstate 10 downtown and dropped me off at the Interstate 610 Bypass at Canal Street about three or four miles from the Quarter. A half mile from the 610 on Canal Street it does a little hip fade before continuing back on in a straight line all the way to the foot of the Mississippi River where you can get on a ferry an cross for a few bucks in Algiers, Louisiana. The Mid City area of at that intersection are three huge cemetery's. At least one is all mausoleums where people are buried above ground because the water table is so high. You dig one foot and you hit water...
            IT WAS JUST getting dark and the white twelve feet wall surrounding the corner lot had a wide open black wrought iron gate just fifty feet from the busy intersection standing wide open. As I crossed the street instead of taking the fifty or hundred foot hip fake or shift and staying on the side walk along the wall of the place, I kept going in a straight line and walked straight into the cemetery. I was sun tanned and nineteen carrying a forty five pound backpack, the weather was warm and sultry even in the late fall and the buzz of the big city was exciting and scary at the same time and when you don't have anyplace to go, you just keep going. This part of New Orleans and Canal Street was all cemeteries or upscale homes with plush manicured front yards with Spanish Moss hanging from ancient Oak Trees and felt like a Southern Romance story without the romance....
            WITHOUT SLOWING DOWN to think about it I walked straight off into the cemetery scanning left and right and doing one complete three sixties to make sure no one was following me I continued five or six rows and screwed up when I could no longer see the gate I came in and got turned around with just a few minutes and was completely lost in cemetery my first night in New Orleans in the middle of the night! (I had to throw that part in). I started to notice litter and broken bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 or Wild Irish Rose, signs of transients. When I walked in I was like in a trance from dialing four twenty all day and probably getting tired.

          I COULD HEAR the traffic on two sides and could see well enough even though it was now dark and I decided I needed to climb up the side of one of these hundred year old mausoleums to see my way out.  I just knew I was gonna run into some drunks that wanted to take what little stuff I had but never seen anyone.   Against my better judgement I took off my back pack and scaled up the old brick plastered over and oxidized wrought iron railing and with some doing and a lot of patience I finally made it to where my head was over the field of mausoleums tops and seen which way I need to go.  I paused to rest a minute and smell the roses and see all the bright lights and the traffic whizzing bye heading to some big party somewhere.  I shifted my right foot on some gravel to get a better purchase and God as my witness, fell up to my waist into an ancient burial crypt or mausoleum in a cemetery, my first hour in New Orleans, in the middle of the night (I had to ad that because it sounds good).
 OH, YOU HAVE NO IDEA how grossed out I was;  my first thought was to throw-up but I hadn't had anything to eat all day.  My second thought was, don't fucking move or you will fall in over your head and into darkness.   My next thought was, "I hope nobody grabs my leg!"  Finally, it was, "What the hell is that smell!" 6:04 PM 1/18/2014
           I SLEPT IN THE DIRT behind a row of bushes just feet off the sidewalk having walked all the way to where Interstate 10 passes over Canal Street.  The New Orleans French Quarter begins right there when you come from under the underpass at South Claiborne, the next block is Rampart Street which borders the North side of the ten by twelve square blocks.  The blocks aren't as big as most city blocks as you would know them.  You have to remember this place is from the Sixteenth Century and it smells like it...
            I WALKED DOWN BOURBON STREET at seven am when all the garbage from the night before is put out for the garbage trucks with garbage in the streets, mostly enough crushed up 32. ounce rot gut paper beer cups to fuel a small building furnace for a day, and if Sin had a smell it would smell like piss and cheap beer and fast sex and pure desire, that was my first impression the New Orleans French Quarter...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dope Sick Angel by Mark Anthony Given


For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in your all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strije your foot on a stone. -Psalms 91:11-12
THE CAFFIN AVENUE METHADONE CLINIC, four blocks from Fat’s Domino’s house, right on Caffin Avenue, off of St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans, was a drab grey two story anonymous building on a side street except the nearly two dozen dope fiends lined up at five am, in pitch dark in the dim dull burnt orange street lights. Skinny black crack heads could be seen darting around corners like ghosts of New Orleans sultry past. The line went from the parking lot up a flight of stairs to a landing that went around the entire front of the second floor. When you went in the door it was just a phony wood paneled area with cheap chairs lines the walls except where a big fat black women could be seen handing out little clear cups of pink colored weak juice thru a thick Plexiglas sliding window. As soon as you stepped in the door you had to sign a list and then wait four your name to be called. Sitting in there with a small percentage of the crime problem in the city; small time thieves, unemployable, broke down dope fiends, I couldn’t begin to describe this sorry lot except to say there wasn’t a lot of hope for most of these mopes.

THIS WAS ONLY THE SECOND clinic I had ever been in and in my mind, just an experience I’d later be able to write about. I’d always heard how hard it was to kick methadone and I guess I had to find out. I have kicked everything you can imagine, even cigarettes and alcohol, and nothing comes close to the living hell of kicking Methadone. The first clinic was “The Tulane Clinic,” right on Tulane Avenue and a side street just two blocks from the Orleans Parish Prison. Paid an old descript black man who said he was a doctor a hundred and forty bucks and showed him my tracks, he gave me a sip of the devil’s elixir and I was on the bus. You could show up and get in a line of fifteen or twenty dope fiends when they opened or wait until eight fifty, or ten minutes before they closed at nine am, and go straight to the window. After six weeks on that clinic I “Jumped Off,” jumped in my car and drove to Florida and drove from Rest Area to Rest Area, throwing up dyeing, feeling like the worst Flu you can imagine. Dying of thirst but one sip of water will send you into five minutes of dry heaves hanging on the edge of a picnic bench at the farthest picnic area available in the middle of the beautiful afternoon. I finally had a “Come to the Devil Meeting,” in the wee hours of the morning right there in the front seat of that Cutlass Supreme, in a lonely parking lot along the interstate. This was the first time I got called on the carpet by the Demon himself, the second time was when I kicked this shit again, later that same year, and I never messed with it again. But you know what this son of a bitch wanted? He wanted what I wanted to give more than my very next breath; he wanted ever sip of that pernicious pink juice back, and all of it. My stomach felt like two giant hands were just wrenching my guts trying to wring out every drop of it. Days and days this went on. The second time I kicked it was on the second floor of a beautiful beach home I had rented in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, a hundred yards off the white sandy beach from the Gulf of Mexico just forty five minutes from New Orleans. Tossing and turning and cursing and cussing and you would sell your left nut for five minutes of sleep. Oh, my God, I am begging, do not ever mess with Methadone and if you do, don’t go longer than six weeks because unless you want a little sit down with Devil himself, don’t mess with the pernicious substance, probably on par with the new Bath Salts, also created in a Government laboratory, in its range and depth of misery it will cause.

WHEN THE DEVIL showed up he was pissed and he wasn’t take no for an answer. I swear every word of this is true. I was lying in my beautiful queen sized luxury bed in a seven hundred and fifty thousand dollar home that cost me two hundred dollars a month to pay someone to mow the yard. Peninsula porch on the second floor looking out over the Gulf of Mexico, surrounded by doctors and lawyers vacation homes, it took a week or so to get used to the gently crashes of the water on the surf and constant breeze. You know what he wanted this time? He wanted me to curse God…. Most of what I write is true and I am prone to making stuff up, but trust me just this once; just like in the Book of Job, we went ‘round in ‘round in my mind and I resisted at every front. Growing up a Baptist in the Deep South, cursing God and you would lose your religion. You’d be excommunicated I imagined. Condemned to Hell. Same deal, raging fever, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat or drink and miserable in the lap of luxury, and just when swan diving off the balcony became a viable exit strategy, my bed was surrounded by Angels. I don’t know how many, there were many of them, I’d say at least eight or nine, maybe more, completely surrounding my bed, even the head board where the wall was, bent at the knees on the floor; they were there for me.
THEY ASSEMBLED THEMSELVES around my bed, the one's closest to me at my immediate right, grabbed my right arm like you would someone in need of help, and I felt a warm embrace. It took a moment to realize what was happening and they seemed to know I needed time to absorb this. The very instant they got there, no words were spoken, just like in The Bible:
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. –Psalms 19
THE MOMENT THEY SHOWED up, my fever broke, I relaxed and felt like I had reached a pinnacle and now would be alright, and was able to fall asleep until dawn for the first time in nearly two weeks. I had kicked Methadone all by myself, and for good....
One good slug off this stuff and all was right with the world… Tasted ordinary enough and it took probably twenty to forty minutes to feel it depending on how bad you needed it. We called it the “Golden Hour,” because of the warm golden hue you feel absorb you. The "Golden Hour," in medicine, it is said, you have one hour to get to a hospital once you start feeling like someone’s digging an arrow in your left shoulder without analgesic, signaling a impending heart attack. Like sliding your foot into well worn pair of leather shoes and smell of worn leather, Grand Ma's house and Apple Pie and a summer Gulf Breeze all rolled into one, you feel like if you were just told your whole family was killed in a car accident, you’d feel like, oh well it will be alright, I mean nothing matters, everything is fine, no hurry, got to go to jail?, no problem, until that shit wears off.
I must confess, being a child of the Seventies, I did have a slight ulterior motive. I had read in Abraham Maslow’s writing that you could induce a life lasting religious experience and or transformation of your personality, as I had by this measure, and trust me it worked, but it ain’t for the faint of heart…
(Originally published under other of my 20 something Blogs....-mag)

Lock Up the Sherrif?

The state trial judge who locked up an assistant district attorney for violating a gag order this week is now ordering Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman show up Friday afternoon. Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo issued a subpoena for Gusman to appear at 3 p.m. today....

ONLY IN NEW ORLEANS my newest blog...