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Down in the Quarter

Down in the Quarter

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Published by: stumbleupon on Aug 16, 2012
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08/16/2012

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Down In The Quarter
Reality is the rapist of the fanciful and indiscreet, a despoiler of dreamers and the dreamt.It’s the morning after Fat Tuesday near the intersection of Canal and Tchoupitoulas and I amtrying hard not to collapse into the Technicolor deposit I just made at my feet. Purple, green andgold never looked so wrong. I don’t know how I got here. Only flashes remain like visionsstained with the garish—of revelry through a libation darkly glimpsed. I have lost my right shoe,my left contact lens and certainly any snippet of dignity I might have laid claim to before comingthe Crescent City. I’m also wearing so many plastic beads around my neck that I can barely turnmy head.I find Decatur St. and know it will take me near Jackson Square. From there I can findmy way back to the Royal. I arrived in town two weeks ago to gather firsthand material for afeature article I’d pitched to Mel Carnally. She’s the editor-in-chief of a slick New York bi-monthly dedicated to steering the tastes of the uppity, vapid and venal. My kind of people. My
 
Collier intention, my literary goal was to craft a series of vignettes featuring local personalities and their singular contributions to what makes New Orleans version of carnivale the
ne plus ultra
of  bacchanalian excess. So far, I have the recorded yet unrefined ore from a beignet maker at theCafé Du Monde, the gayest float designer this side of the Castro district in San Francisco, a part-time homeless guy who makes folk art Mardi Gras costumes out of items he collects from thestreets in the off season, a middle-aged transvestite considering gender reassignment who swearshe played with the Harlem Globetrotters under the cognomen Cheese, a pair of street sweepersthat conjure memories of Laurel & Hardy with their bowler hats and dueling brooms routine
and 
twenty nine minutes thirty two seconds of Mac Rebennack telling me about the night he took a bullet for a bandmate. I bribed him with a fried oyster po-boy and two Barq’s from Johnny’s anda line about dating his half sister’s daughter. By the time Ash Wednesday was on the wane, thealcohol in my system had diffused enough for me to remain upright without assistance. Theweeklong saturnalia has passed and I am not a single syllable closer to finishing a
dream
assignment. We’ve already established what happens to dreams and their conjurers.Mel published my first short stories when I was still in grad school where she worked asthe student editor for the school’s literary opus. Over the years with her rise in publishing, we’d become close—a bit too close maybe. Certainly closer than anyone should to someone with the power to hire and fire them without provocation. She had recently been named editor-in-chief overseeing the rollout of Condé Nast’s slickest rag since the resurrection of 
Vanity Fair 
. Sheeven hired an illustrator 
du jour 
out of London to produce electronic watercolors to accompanyeach of the proposed vignettes. He said he couldn’t start without the finished vignettes and, “Gee,do you think you could snap a few pics with your cell while you’re at it, mate?” The nerve—and just what the heck is an electronic watercolor?2
 
Collier Mel knows when I’m having trouble. She also knows how I work and to ask about it toosoon is to woo half-assed results. Instead, she’ll ask me how I’m feeling, about the weather,who’s feeding the goldfish, am I getting enough fiber, everything
but 
the work. She believes inmy process and I avoid giving her any reason to think otherwise. Today is different. I’ve nevegone so long without hammering out a draft so she’s not alone in the worry cellar. Did I mentionthat Mel has a fondness for edged weapons? Samurai swords—the whole bushido-zen-karate-green tea swilling thing and yes, she can hand me my ass on any given Sunday
through
Saturday.And yes, we’ve slept together but not in a while, okay?After a few false starts, I’d left the laptop’s blinking cursor where I found it for thefourteenth day in a row. Instead, I had answered the call of the vile. I rented a satin harlequinsuit and joined the parade. I picked that particular costume for its stealth properties and becauseit would fit over my street clothes. That and an abundance of pockets for the pint size libations Iwould need in order to wage war on my liver.So here I am, dressed like a fool pacing about half shod and half blind, gesticulating tomyself like an idiot in search of a village freely tossing lamentations over my predicament atanyone who passes within earshot. “Big Easy, my ass!”Working my way back toward the Royal, I reach out to touch the wall occasionally, whenI see a shaft of late daylight spilling from the wall ahead. As I near, I squint and in so doing,strike my head on something so hard my field of vision narrows. “Son of a…,” I huff grabbingmy head dropping to my knees. I look up at the squeaking menace and gingerly check my hair for  blood. Long ago some craftsman had fashioned the outsized wooden sign into the 3D shape of ahand pointing a finger. Two feet long from fingernail to shirt cuff and generations of smog andnear constant humidity have left it indistinguishable in color from the surrounding walls. Theiron bracket on which it hung had swung loose on its mount leaving it at just right height for 3

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