with one Brandi, wherein we ate much seafood, sweated out whatever we drank, walked everywhere, dashed through rain, drove in circles, got chained in amongst tombs, witnessed Gothic Horrors
, nearly hit 57 pedestrians
dressed like zombies, consumed all of the beignets, debated the pronunciation of "beignet," basked in cool Mississippi River breezes, befriended rats, listened to 8 writers read
(including Brandi) and admired unexpected giant puppets
, who gazed cooly and without judgement back at us.
Like this one:
Our day began sheepishly early.
We left Tuscaloosa at the crack of some time past dawn, 7 ish a.m., and arrived in NOLA around 11:30. Ish. Filling our empty stomachs with food at the Green Goddess seemed more important than timekeeping, at the time.
Waking is the best way to learn a city. We walked to the French Market, to the River Walk,
where it is evident that the Mississippi is broader in the shoulder than our fair Black Warrior River back home.
We explored touristy shops, you know, the vood00 ones, the hexy ones, the mask ones, the vintage clothing ones, etc. There was a fun stand of steampunk gear at the French Market, where a wonderfully friendly lady persuaded us to try the mustaches-on-sticks. I said things with a mustache I would be concerned to say without: "flibbertygibet," "macrame," and "incomprehensible!" -- but I was unable to match the sales lady's austere Sean Connery impressions. "I moustache you a question, m'dear..."
I thoroughly embarrassed my friend.
She demanded we head next to the St. Louis Cemetery, where back among familiar granite and marble I might regain my senses.
The cemetery contained a mix of grand
and dilapidated tombs, all above-ground. I can't tell you why, because we certainly didn't take the tour.
Suffice to say that old and new lay serenely side by side...
Someone had either risen or been uplifted...
And others, quietly remembered and protected.
Some had been stripped by thieves or vandals.
Others look like they are still visited.
When we had fulfilled our morbid curiosity, we went to leave, and saw that the gates had been barred shut. Apparently they're serious about closing at 3, and we were too distracted to read a sign with the hours.
Undeterred, we scaled a giant wall with the help of convenient milk crates and passersby.
The... wall looks higher when people are standing next to it... and when you're uh, on the top...
The grey skies depicted above turned into deluges, and clever as I am, I had left the umbrella in the car.
We checked in at our hostel in the Garden District, which looked suspiciously like the Bates on a soppingly grey Friday the 13th.
Dinner, oh dinner! We stuffed ourselves with shellfish of two varieties back in the French Quarter (sadly, neither was crawfish, which is out of season), and I only lost the car for 15 minutes when we tried to leave.
After driving in circles looking for the Mudlark Theater
, where B was to read as a part of the Southern Comfort Book Tour
, in increasingly dim light and among increasingly looming, paint-peeling houses, we stopped in the middle of a gloomy intersection and gave up on ever finding the place... just as we realized we were right where we needed to be.
The Mudlark is in a very residential area that still shows the effects of Hurricane Katrina. I don't know why we were so surprised, since the former Alabama Art Kitchen of Tuscaloosa had rooted in an old house among old houses.
The outside of the Mudlark Theater is grey and almost sad, but look through that door, just look:
Untold treasures, I tell you! If you like puppets, that is.
Puppets scale the walls and hang from the ceilings.
They cluster in trios and stare down at you disapprovingly.
They ride forth into the negative space above your head.
And the skeletons here are kept in the bathroom, not the closet.
As for the Southern Comfort Book Tour, it was fabulous! Educational. I heard about how I dated this guy I had wanted to date but who turned out to be a disappointment. I listened to a woman's wrenching poems to her never-to-be-born child.
And before a cascade of red cloth, Brandi read about torsos.
I do like a good torso.
After the reading, we headed straight for bed, but not before consuming unreasonable amounts of beignets from Cafe Du Monde where the broad-shouldered Mississippi could disapprove and the rats could nibble at our toes.
On the morrow, er, this morning, Brandi joined the rest of the SoCo Tour for their journey to the next reading city. I drove in more circles around the French Quarter, dreaming of a parking spot and hot breakfast, but instead took to the highway and the rain. I met up with an old friend in Hattiesburg, MS, where we ate sandwiches at a record shop.
Podcasts make a 4.5 hour drive go all the faster. I listened to some from The Nerdist
and The Moth
, attracted as I am to solid articles. Driving is the best time to hear stories about growing up biracial at a time when my parents did not, or how sometimes, just sometimes, coming out is more impossibly wonderful than one's darkest fears.