“Yeah, that’s him!”
“Right over there? Coco Robicheaux?”
These two bozos climb around their wives, wobble and nearly fall through the Apple Barrel window, I guess to harass Coco Robicheaux.
“Let’s split,” I say to Kim.
Down the block, a movie flickers black and white on the side of an apartment building. Louis Armstrong talks with someone, we cannot hear what they say. We hear the sound of someone playing Miles Davis inside Snug Harbor. While most of Frenchman Street is crowded tonight, this end is fairly empty, and we lean against a car and stare up at the projection.
Once upon a time, the malfunctions of government and culture frustrated the citizen in pursuit of public works or speedy service, taught each and every one to slow down, to keep calm while waiting in the K&B checkout line, to let it slide. This, after all, is the Big Easy, and some molasses in the gears was what you accepted in order to get the leisure, the random joys, the access to secrets and the chance celebration. If you worked less and partied more than anywhere else in the nation, you paid the piper with potholes and a barely readable newspaper. That seemed like a good enough deal.
Now, you get near standstill at the Walgreens, absurdity in the city administration, and Stooges-esque confusion in the single biggest recovery any US city has ever faced. The trade-off? Golf shirts drunkenly protecting their seats in tiny bars, protecting seats they don’t even need but are too fucked up and confused to understand what as you patiently explain that. You get leathery executives and their wives swaddled in all the same fabric, chests hanging out, sipping Chardonnay and sampling paintings like hand-served cheese skewers. You get a strain of the Bourbon Street virus in every gutter, in places that were, so-to-speak, safely off the guidebook path. You get piglet cops shuffling down a closed off Frenchman Street, monitoring the baby boomers who’ve paid for all access bracelets.
Am I some cranky elitist? Do I look down my nose at what I perceive as “uncool” or “bourgeois?” I don’t know, I suppose so. I know I have a memory of the cops busting up Frenchman Street when people lit fires in the middle of it, and the sidewalks on both side lined with handcuffed, supine weirdos. And I know I have a litany of bad, underwhelming recent memories that begin with me in a good humor, approaching a performance, a free show, what I think is a sure-thing, and then me finding myself surrounded by fucking Key West. I have several vivid recalls of reaching a well-known door and realizing I lack a) the will to spend so much to enter, and b) the desire to rub shoulders with easily-tickled voyeurs.
I’m sorry. I never thought the Jimmy Buffet thing was funny, but was cool with it having a clubhouse next to the French Market. I’m a little bent when now that clubhouse encompasses every place with a stage. Again, I hear you, we need the money, we need it any way we can get it. But what the fuck’s going to be left?
Louis Armstrong had this thing where he gave out laxatives all the time, to friends, to heads of state, to anybody. As someone put it to us the other night, “he really believed in them.” That man was a prophet of many truths, even inadvertently hinting that someday, the anal and old would come together to drink their tummies full under his image.
Or at least down the well-guarded street from it.