Back in New Orleans in the late 90s. Disconnected from the rest of the earth. I was there to study chemistry and Nabokov. Smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee by day; I had two pea green armchairs and ten French windows in my bedroom, a pool table with red velvet in the long room in the front of the house adjacent to the porch. We used to run the phone out the window and lie on the porch swing. Smoked cigarettes and drank coffee there too, watching the weeping willow tree drooping in the front yard. Waiting on night...
Come night, didn't matter where I went, there was music and booze and cigarettes and a barstool or jukebox to lean against. Free food too--red beans, mac and cheese--to keep me there longer.
I was hungry, but I didn't know how hungry at the time. I waited tables in the Quarter and had free meals of leftover chicken strips and french fries as I bused the plates.
I roamed by bike or caught rides in friends' cars. MK's 1996 red thunderbird, JK's 1990 accord, or whatever wrecked-up junk NB was driving at that time. EM had some little black car shaped like someone lopped off the tip of an arrow. I remember riding in it once and listening to Master of Puppets somewhere out by UNO.
We'd finish a night out at dawn and head to Morning Call in Metairie for coffee and beignets, then sit there staring into the mirrors at the coffee stand looking at ourselves, like, How the hell are we going to get through this day now?
Go home, close the shades, sleep. Wake up and make jambalaya or order from Romans. Sit there on the porch, waiting on night again.
I've been back since Katrina a dozen times. The city looks "good", but like most cities that I've left and returned to for a visit, what I knew is almost totally gone. Maybe that's why I ran after this man trailing a Mother's Day second line and caught his portrait. "I'm that Heinicken man!" he called. Green bottles buried in his cooler topped off with waters. "Get your night on."