Welcome to the Crescent City

New Orleans …where the wicked, the sacred and the macabre blend into a big, muddy gumbo. Nothing’s ever too far from the next thing. Wealth and poverty nestle up so close they strangle each other. Their deaths are marked by a celebration of life; the slow, steady funeral march that turns into a bacchanalia. Is that pageant Catholic or is it Voodoo? What song is it that they sing and what language do they speak exactly? Is it the humidity driving you crazy or the hedonistic effluvia of pagan Rome? It’s hard to tell what is what and who is who when they don their carnival masks. Nothing and no one need be themselves. Not when secrets revealed lay truth at death’s door.

And there are secrets here. There are entire societies based upon those secrets. They are right there looking you in the eye from atop giant, wavering monstrosities of paper mache. But you don’t question their masks either. It’s part of the whole damned thing. Even the king’s got his face hid! But you just throw your hands in the air and wave to the spectacle as it rolls by.

When it’s all done, you can walk back home or just as soon not. Nothing ever closes. Nothing that matters anyway. Sin, in all its irreverent finery, sprawls across the bar top and gives a mischievous little laugh before bursting into flames. And they consume you, those flames. You and the fella sitting next to you, who’s about a dram away from oblivion. But you don’t mind. That fire will cool you down in all this heat. So damn close to Hell the magnolia starts to smell like brimstone.

What’s it matter anyway? You’re already dead. Dead on your feet with your head in the clouds. it ain’t so bad, is it? Go ahead and have another drink. Piss away your dignity and your last dime. Tell the preacher you can’t tithe ‘cause the Devil’s already got your money. “Take it up with him,” you say. It’s out of your hands. Now it’s up to the folks that really run the show. You don’t know what they look like but you’ve seen them a thousand times.

They’re the police man looking down his beak of a nose at you. They’re the whore laughing at your little pecker and the French Market Chinaman selling you weevils. They’re the soul-stomping continuity of day after bourbon-drenched day that manifests from thin air as sure as an afternoon drizzle come summertime. It’s like the air is flooded and you’re never going to rise up out of it. You can’t float. You’re so far down in it, you’re breathing it. And how did you get here?

You remember a little filly down on Magazine. She had her skirt hiked up above her knees and she was squatted, just pissing in the gutter. You think you kind of liked it but your feet kept carrying you down river. You crossed Poydras then Canal. You got in a scuffle with a panhandler, you think. Anyway, your lip is fat and you’re angry. Might as well have another drink and cool down. But who was that that was laughing? Seems to you they were every inch of them as black as night. And they weren’t no colored. Not even one of those boys gets that dark. You were down by the river, you recall; sleeping off your first drunk of the day down under the wharf. And they was laughing! Wasn’t nothing funny. But you, you guess. All covered in dirt and grime and sweat. Your clothes were stole off of some dead man. You’re down to a few teeth and one shoe. Last you heard, your momma hoped you was dead. No wonder that little imp was laughing. You’re a joke.

Then why are you crying? Why are you so sick of it all? Why are you listening to that red voice tell you to do it? It’s been telling you that for awhile now. It’s been creeping into your head while you sleep and sitting on your chest. It smells like wet dirt.

You think you’re going to listen this time. What’s it matter anyway? You’re already dead . Dead on your feet with your head in the clouds. The Devil’s got your money and your momma wishes you were dead. But something tells you Hell won’t let you escape that quickly. You have a feeling you’re going to be around for quite awhile.


The Infernal Crescent City

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