Prose: Philip Kobylarz
The Bachelor of New Orleans
It seems to me and the thousands of others I live with in this jungle that the leaves have a capacity to drip. Just as they are now, everything is dark green, as if it is slightly gouty with the color of photosynthesis and wrought iron fence. It is too damn hot to do anything but drink. Tea, chilled wine, beer from the bottle, cold coffee and vodka in crushed ice. Just to drink.
Someone once said the balconies here were exquisitely designed for the purpose of funeral viewing. I beg to differ. Truly, they’re platforms from which gentlemen might look down the blouses of women. Or young girls fresh from the innocence of schooling. the absolute proof being that they were indeed invented in France.
French, however, the weather declines a certain inclination of being. A breeze from the dread North has removed the powder from beignets ageing the laps of Café du Monde patrons in a sweet, delectable snowfall. One can only wonder what the sugary Vietnamese waitresses think about this, among thoughts on the placement of chairs, noodled soup spiked with hot sauce, the total absence of cleavage, and the 47 bus dreamily waiting for them at the squeaky end of the St. Charles trolley. Passenger cars halting at the thought of returning home.
How boring it is on days too cold to foment revelers like a fine head of mold or a pie slice of Roquefort. Umbrellas are meant to soak up showers of sun and carapace the sidewalks in vibrant bloom. Why most umbrellas are black bodes ominous meaning. Bats wings carapacing wind.
That I don’t have a cat is a stereotype in itself. My German Shepherd is stretched upon the floor like a seal on a newly discovered beach. A pesky moth assails a lamp and throws a puppet show on the wall both beautiful and disturbing as to keep even a Malay occupied without a cherished nut of Betel. DeQuincey would be at home in a place like this, that no one really lives in but occupies. Each time one leaves the privacy of home, it’s a new gothic dream to be enhanced by one’s novel perceptions. There is always wisteria to be noticed.
The mime on a plastic milk crate whose heels are bleeding from lack of care points to me and cracks an unorthodox smile. He will always be here and you’ll see him when you come to visit. You won’t leave him a sous.
Off of Dumaine, under steel and concrete alligator tails of freeway overpass, a house stands. Its color is almost orange that is pinkened by the sun. The windows are out, blackened teeth that have transported vines from the underneath and grow like a bejeweled lampshade covering the roof. The blue of the street sign is too much contrast.
In this coffin that would impress a mid-continent African, she lies. She has been there for six days.
Countless Mardi Gras ago, there was a float when I was so desperate as to have taken a room at the Hotel Royale and spent the weekend looking over prospective ladies in its lobby– I remember her. Forty feet long, legs outstretched, perfect man-made toes, an Egyptian dancer costume that owed much to the invention of the bikini, she was a gigantic Gypsy Rose Lee with an Italian smile. Bright green scarabs of last summer’s flies could not compare to her Byzantine inscrutability.
On one particular day much like this one, I sent a drink over to a street vendor who had glitter in her hair and on her balmy face. She wasn’t offish nor would ever accept such an aspersion. She came over and said “Hi” and rubbed a glittery concoction of lotion and baubles into my mane. As she did this, her partner looked away, a man of some thirty odd years.
So many and such are these connections in a city blessed by a Turk’s scimitar. We talked a while about selling clothes, studios in the city of Algiers. We lingered and langered. We looked into each other’s eyes. It was that simple. It always is. To be crude, this is how it goes down. As simple as a credit card transaction. And anonymous.
We went to a motel of her choosing just outside the Quarter–I know a few, don’t make me name them. Though their names ring with the pungency of the ever present tropical air and smoke of long ago inform their curtains. Honeysuckle and Mayflower bloom irresolutely. There is always the scent of flowers in the background.
This particular inn is a club land all to itself. The drapes are a science fiction of satin rose. They are stained with what we presume to be food. The furniture is 1950s stock. A desk. A nightstand. A toilet and a bathtub. A badly functioning t.v. If we’re lucky, a small refrigerator sweating. All that any two people will ever need.
And a recording camera.
A dog sleeps on a bench next to a knapsack. This takes place in an area where the sidewalks are mostly weed grown through and cracked by tree roots. There is garbage collecting in the hollers. Vaguely, there’s the smell of the fish markets. The Tandu market’s sign has suggestive words I don’t need to understand to feel. THUC PHAM A DONG.
I have met a delightful lady. Madam street vendor. We get to our destination: room 229 on the corner of the concrete and steel railing complex. The second and top floor, a premiere etage if there ever were one. The room smells of smoked smoke. We watch t.v. for a while or drink some grocery store bought wine. The volume of the television is quite loud, the way I prefer it. The blue flashes of lighting it makes on the walls become our paparazzi.
She poses. I capture digital still lifes. I am Bellocq with technology. This is our Storyville. I throw a towel over the wall lights to mute the texture. These masterpieces will fill galleries of men’s minds. I am a premiere artisan and she is the perfect life study.
Then the real fun begins. Vaudeville without costumes. She denudes, totally. She reveals thighs untouched by the daily sun. Her panties remain imprinted on the broad expanse of her buttock. The Venus of de Milo has nothing on her.
Her breasts plop out of her brasserie like ripened fruit peeled fresh from black lace skin. Her artwork is fully exposed from a gleaming nape to a small spider inked in above her right ankle. She is made of a mixture of porcelain and alabaster.
She is mine to manipulate. Awkwardly, as is routine, I remove my own sartorial shackles. With the camera on and slightly breathing, it sometimes beeps with excitement and watches politely, perversely as I begin our situational escapade.
What we do you have perhaps seen many times, in coarse lighting, accompanied by some poor studio musician’s dream of a successful jingle. But the details, in which either God or the Devil lie, are never caught on tape. Reality comes in waves, as light particles have the habit of doing.
A modern day voodoo act my art is and she rarely objects to anything I suggest, my silly duchess. She’s in need of bodily un-encumbrance. Her body is a rare letter in Old Church Slavonic and it wishes to be morphed into new characters which all signify unmet desire.
It’s raining again. Water is always in the air here. It’s why seeing blooming birds of paradise becomes somewhat boring. Like chicory flavored coffee, great meals of gumbo, silk cakes, bourbonned drinks. In Marigny, there is a restaurant ambitiously named “Feelings”. In acts and deeds, this city harbors few worth noting.
Everything becomes cliché. Fried dough cakes of any other name. Five men dressed as nurses, one carries a large syringe and they all have drinks in red plastic cups. Men in eateries, not the fine kind or those of any caliber, lick their forks as if they are the tongues of the food they decimate, bone by bone.
On the freeway leaving the city behind as an improbable aquarium on a lake of knife blades, an alligator is run over by an interstate truck driving towards a rest stop in Lafayette.
Parasols, wooden mood flooded with jazz and the absence of the smell of vodka, paintings of what remind one of dreams never dreamt. A flock of nudes in pastel is always so appropriate for the lighting. That art will sell for more than it’s ever worth and will hang in an established neighborhood.
Old people in the riverside park feed seagulls.
Who doesn’t like oysters and working hard, long hours, coming home to a kitchen that is scented with couscous spice and boiled lamb? Most homes are hotels we get to decorate at any rate. We rarely think “theme”. Carpets of roasted almond.
There is a smell the Spanish moss gives off to those daring enough to climb the oak trees octopus limbs. This is where I enjoy my art in almost immediate playback. No one ever sees me. No one ever wonders, anymore. Peeping Toms keep resumes that are dot-matrix printed and scant at best. Most people, these days, drive through parks. Only the very young or the destitute invade them anymore to climb their moss-enshrouded trees.
As slowly as barges make way into the liquid darkness, a few patrons of Antoine’s leave, still tasting the meal in their mouths as they exit. It is a type of sex, good food, and the garbage that leftovers will become, eventually making it into the streets. A meal of meal to be washed away by the street cleaners.
Pity those who work on oil derricks who cannot see me editing in nature. None too soon, they’ll log on and burn their own midnight fires. The video screen itself burns like an essential oil. My signature appears only as a gesture and a wink that goes unseen.