Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #118: Chance Encounter


I was five days into my post-debacle tour, bedded on the fourteenth floor of the Monteleone, but only bedded. The five hours I was not down and out I was running the streets of the Quarter again: Galatoire’s, Mr B’s, The Gumbo Shop, Lafitte’s Blacksmith, du Monde, Maison de Ville, Peristyle, Port of Call, shooting out Metairie-way to Bozo’s and Andrea’s, back down to the Warehouse District for high tea at the Windsor and nirvana at Emeril’s. Let’s not forget Mandina’s. Please let’s not.

Running the streets, are you kidding? I was a beached whale. I’d beached one sad afternoon up on the levee, staring across at Algiers and Gretna, lamenting the demise of LeRuth’s—foot cushions for the ladies, old fashions to biochemical perfection, mandarin orange ice to titrate the bacchanalia through seven courses of bona fide heaven, all brought to you compliments of big Warren and one hellaciously large dose of OCD, throwing it all away to futz over his frozen custard down at Chelsey’s.

Day Five I was looking for tawdry, I was looking for Ignatius, I was looking for dogs on wheels. I bolted the Monteleone and headed down to the Square to check out Rodrigue’s inedible blues, with an eye out for a rolling frank.

Corner of Royal and Toulouse, Lucky Dog heaven struck, but something was up. Seller behind the cart, I knew that beefy frame—linebacker in peasant rags, tight bun atop the crown of her bushel-sized head. She’s playing Nevilles out of a pisspoor pair of JVC speakers, sounds like unforgiveable cat scratch fever, not the Holy of Holies. She scowls at me from beneath a Phillies cap, wields a magnum of yellow mustard.

“How much for a Lucky?” I ask. Flabbergasted I may be, but I’m still seekin’ tawdry.

In the inside there is sleeping,” she replies.

“Yeah, darlin’, I figure you got ‘em in the cart, but how much are they?”

In feeling anything is resting, in feeling anything is mounting—“

“Whoa, chica, I may be lookin’ for tawdry, but nobody said nuthin’ bout mounting.”

She sets the yellow magnum down, opens the cart and stares down into its beefy sauna.

“It’s a simple—“

All the yellow has discrimination—“

“I presume that would be your mustard—“

“And all the circle has circling. This makes sand.”


To which she turned up the scratchy Nevilles. Cyril be croonin’ bout that’s my blood down there—

I’m turning into Lou Costello, but I can’t help myself.

“Gert, it’s a simple proposition: two Lucky Dogs, all the works, how much is that gonna cost me?”

Down at the Napoleon, I could be into my second Pimm’s and halfway through a veggie muffuletta, but this, my friends, was a tender button not to be missed.

She stared back at me for a good thirty seconds, took a gander down Royal and another down Toulouse and then another long one back at me: annoyed, I’m sure, that I was still beleaguering her cart.

“A little piece of pay of pay owls owls such as pie, bolsters.”

Ignoring the audacity of owl pie, I answered, “Exactly what I’m talkin’ about, sister. A little piece of pay. I like that: quaint.”

Oops. I saw my mistake before the thunderclouds hit the Phillies-capped metrodome. You don’t quaint the Empress of the Lost Generation, the Hierophant of Postmodern, the Patron Saint of LangPo, the Godfather (I think she would insist) of Pablo’s Stunning Revolution, not to mention the purveyor of your one and only tawdry shank of sallow meat.

Zeus-like, she delivered: “Will leap beat, willie well all. The rest rest oxen occasion occasion to be so purred, so purred how.”

“Miss Stein, I deserved that one. Fair and square. I deserved them all, for that matter. I beg your pardon. I am beside myself with the discovery of you here.”

She turned the cap backwards on her head, mopped her face with her ketchup-stained apron. She bled a stab of ketchup from her left eyebrow. I forebore myself to touch the wound.

Scratchy Cyril slipped into Clarence “Frogman” Henry: I’m a lonely frog—

I dug deep and took a big breath. Tawdry depended on it.

And this I said: “Go lack go lack use to her. Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal. Whist bottom whist close, whist clothes, woodling. Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal. Pain soup, suppose it is question, suppose it is butter, real is, real is only, only excreate, only excreate a no since.”

She smiled, tender buttons those eyes, retro-fitted the red cap, snared two delicate shanks from their steambath, sleeved them elegantly, regaled them mustardly and, winking, asked: “Relish, too?”

“Always, my sister. Always.”

[Thanks to Gertrude for playing along, from Tender Buttons.]

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Blogger danni said...

quite a lot of story, the patois is delightful, wish i understood it better!!!

5:57 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

danni: Thanks for your comments. I'm hoping the confusion was mostly in italics and in the narrator's "Go lack, go lack" speech, because that was all Ms Gertrude Stein she-self, straight out of Tender Buttons, words she had written about "Food."

If the confusion is elsewhere, then I'm in trouble.

5:36 PM  
Blogger alister said...

‘Cept for I was antsy to get off the first four days and to hit the tawdry action which ping, ping, pinged so fantastically surreally right up my alley, I relaxed into this brilliant idea you had. But I had to get stretched out like the thick with 'tude chick stretched out the cool dude just wantin’ a coupla lucky dawgs for chrissakes. Call me slow, but I feel like I’m closing in on getting the hang of maximizing Booker. Like any art, you don’t dive in Mind first, you dive in No Mind first and let it roll you around where it will, trust it to know you a few things. Then after you’ve come out the chute, if you really must think, try not to think too loud lest you rustle the reflection. Deeelightful :-)

12:45 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Hermana exegeta, I'll take you over Harold Bloom any day. Nicely called.

1:29 PM  
Blogger San said...

A rose is a rose is a rose. Make mine yellow. Pour on a magnum of mustard. Or is that too dicey an encounter?

In my first apartment in San Francisco I had a card-sized framed print of that portrait hanging over my stove. Speaking of food. One day it fell off the wall and behind the stove. Sometimes I wonder if anyone retrieved it. I mean that stove must be out of commission by NOW.

4:16 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Ms San: I think the funniest part is that you just left the postcard where it fell. Reminds me of Monique Truong's The Book of Salt,, story of Gert and Alice's Vietnamese cook in Paris. Great read.

4:25 PM  

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