March 2003 - NOLA

by M Bat

There was finally a breeze. I'd been monitoring the weather channel all week, waiting for the temperature to get somewhere where I might feel comfortable. The weather channel promised it would on Sunday, which was today.

This Sunday morning, we got up shortly after dawn and drank in the bar downstairs first.

"Because we can." We decided this should be a new motto for New Orleans. There's a lot of things that you can do in New Orleans. And we do some of them.

Me, too, although I'm just visiting. 

I feel almost like my IQ has dropped several points in just a few days. I would try to blame that on the correlating rise of the temperature, but, no, I know that it is because here the fact I know the lyrics to old heavy metal tunes counts more than the fact I can recite "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" from memory and know that Marlon Brando's performance of that eulogy in the 50s film version of Julius Caesar turns me on.

Actually, mentioning that Marlon Brando's performance in that movie turns me on gets me points here, too. It's not what turned me on, though, that matters. It's just that I'm female and mentioned out loud, in public, that something turned me on. It perks their ears up.

They don't call it the Big Easy for nothing.

Although we still say the new slogan ought to be "Because we can."

I cross through the Quarter to the next bar, where the bartender on shift is one of my old good friends whom I had come to New Orleans to visit. And I come in to spend the early early morning hours not as if I were in a dive bar but instead to spend time with him.

We have no grand salons, hardly ever even living rooms, people like us, and a dive bar can become a cafe, a pub, a lounge, a wildebeest's watering hole -- even in the dawn hours before last night's beer stench can be temporarily washed away. Passing time is counted by drinks instead of ticks. Two beers, an Irish coffee, two shots (one a Scooby Snak shot), a chicken song, and lord knows what else go by, and I suddenly decide I should take a walk because I want the air -- air in which there is finally a breeze and a chill -- both of which I appreciate and prayed (to the weather channel) for. 

I walk down Decatur two steps just about, turn up Gov. Nicholls and walk to the next block, Chartres.

My legs feel good in motion -- the breeze hitting my tights. I have a cigarette in one hand, a plastic cup in the other filled with 1/4 cup of the Harp I had been drinking and that I put in it to take with me on my walk.

Because I could.

I turn up Ursulines. See a historic church, see the site of an old convent girls' school.

It is Sunday. I'm smoking and drinking at 8 am, taking a walk and feeling sexy. I see the school and think of all the girls who had probably been beaten for doing, thinking, so much less than this.

And so I look hard at the wall and curse it for repressing those girls long gone from these walls and from the earth. "I will fight you," I say to the wall.

Then I come back to the bar, retrieve my notebook, sit outside in the air and write this. Because it's probably a better idea than standing around with a beer in my hand talking to old walls.

Henry, who I do not know except to know he told me his name was Henry a while ago when I was in the bar and he introduced himself to me, comes out of the bar. As he walks off down the street, he says to me:

"Take care, little Bat, you'll be in my prayers."

I look up just briefly and smile. "Thank you." Because it's important sometimes to thank those who want to pray for you, I think, whatever their reasons. When someone wishes you well, whatever method, let them and be grateful.

But, still, to myself, I ask:

Why? Why pray for me? The air is chilly and I am more than content. I have the thawing blessings of the last dregs of winter, and my plastic cup overfloweth. 

Why? Why not? Because we can.



This story was originally published in 2003 in St. Paul's Arts & Press

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