Tuesday, November 15, 2005

PKSD and you (and me)

I went to see Theresa Andersson at the Maple Leaf this past weekend. She has a fantastic voice (some Bonnie Raitt and early Rickie Lee Jones in there, plus some wild trills of her own that probably have a Scandanavian origin I'm too ignorant to recognize), but I wouldn't really call myself a fan. I went to meet some friends there.

What struck me most about that evening, something that hadn't really occurred to me before, was what a hard-drinking town New Orleans seems to have become. Now, it may seem ludicrous to say that hard-drinking is an indication of something different here. After all, public intoxication has always been about as common as cheap beads in the street after Endymion; yes, I'm aware that this is the site of the cocktail's invention, land of the go-cup and home of the hurricane. But I'm not talking about heavy drinking or freqent drinking or even outrageous levels of intoxication. I mean hard drinking. I mean Nick from "It's a Wonderful Life" leaning in to Clarence and sneering: "Hey look, mister - we serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don't need any characters around to give the joint 'atmosphere'. Is that clear, or do I have to slip you my left for a convincer?"

Oh, Nick, that's not the way it used to be.

Now maybe it has something to do with Theresa Andersson. Maybe her distinctive brand of flirty, swirly performance, her country-pop melodies infused with virtuoso vocals combine to conjur a particularly bitter following. Seems unlikely to me, though. She's so sunny and, well, damned good looking.

I think it's more likely a symptom of a more general syndrome, something like Post-Katrina Stress and Disorder. Which is what we're generally feeling. I've heard it from so many friends now: the mental treadmill effect that consumes half an hour of wandering thought to bring you back to "now why was I in the kitchen again?"; the inability to complete the most mundane tasks (and particularly the most mundane ones--been shopping lately? keeping up with email? Suddenly writing a business letter is one of the labors of Hercules); the constant urge to self-medicate (just give me gin and cigarettes; I'll be fine).

Chris Rose describes it perfectly. We're all nuts, and we're all at least somewhat aware of our insanity.

Still, it was more than a little disconcerting to see my fellow drinkers pouring down the booze as though something in their stomaches needed dousing. Strange to get elbowed aside repeatedly at the bar, like I was trying to order shots of Jager at the Boot.

Oh,well. Guess I'll go give out a couple pairs of wings.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lap of Luxury

Everything's a luxury here. Hot showers. Lights. Garbage pickup. High-speed internet. Let me tell you, we're living large now, and I'm basking in it.

Of course, we need reminding. And maybe that's why some of my friends are happy about the bi-weekly power outages in the Marigny-Bywater (the last two have lasted longer than 12 hours). Better than any mint on the pillow, any plush towel and robe combination, these timely plunges into pre-modernity set our high life in relief.

And maybe we need reminders on a different level, as well, signposts that tell us again just how far we are from normal in this town. In a narrow band of neighborhoods bordering the river, a band that stretches from the Industrial Canal all the way to Audubon Park, it's quite possible to forget that we're still living in a disaster area. Sure, it takes a willful effort, a decision never to cross St. Claude or the Industrial Canal, never to venture past St. Charles Uptown. But many of my neighbors are willing to make this effort. It's a necessity, they say, for maintaining their sanity.

And I can't help but think that those among us who willfully ignore the destruction just out of sight are among those who are already returning to the petty, suburbanite, soul-killing grievances that infected the neighborhood association meetings and email lists before the storm. They are the same folks who complained about the free food available in Washington Park and had it shut down (reportedly 30 complaints). These are the vigilant neighbors who hear that a coffee shop has reopened with live music and complain about zoning for live entertainment. They raised their voices along with those who screamed at the Entergy reps when we lost power overnight weeks ago.

To these folks, I say, there's a tour bus leaving for the L9. Maybe we should all pony up and charter one. After all, isn't part of living in the lap of luxury our ability to play tourist in our own hometown? C'mon, I hear it goes by Fats Domino's house, too!