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...

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