Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tha Duchess

 

Po-Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Old Iron

Or

The Duchess

            The Duchess of Lincolnshire is twenty-four years old and has seen a lot in her few years; of course if you measured her in human years she would probably be as old as your new president. She is sleek, fast and cheap (much like myself); she’s at home in any neighborhood and gets waves and whistles as she passes by. She can cruise the hood or take to the road like a warrior; she’s thrifty on gas, her brakes are good and the tires are fair. She’s got 205,000 miles on her and she roars like a tiger when pressed; she’s got power under the hood and in her spirit; I wouldn’t trade her for a yard full of Jaguars.

            The Duchess came to us a few years ago after the demise of her predecessor, who was a few years her senior and had to be put to pasture as an organ donor. They both came from the same family, the Fords of Detroit. Her predecessor was simply named The Stinkin’ Lincoln and was retired at 253,000 miles because (much like myself) the engine ran like a teenager but the body was quickly falling to pieces. Both were/are four doors, power everything, boat like maneuverability and equipped with Mafia trunks that had/has a four body capacity.

            I come from a time of ‘Old Iron’. Cars that idled high and traveled well in which families comfortably took on long trips. Vehicles with names like Roadmaster, Bonneville and Couger; the Bel Aire, Coupe de Ville, Fairlane, Camaro, Monte Carlo,  Sting Ray and Impala; they were all made of heavy gauge metal and had speedometers that read up to 130+ and were not kidding!

            Well, that was then and this is now. A program called Cash for Clunkers took most of the old iron off the road and people started settling for smaller, more efficient, cramped, fiberglass and tin midgets that cannot be distinguished one from the other as far as I can tell.  I swear, sometimes I look at some of these pieces of miniature motorcars and think: “boy, you get hit in that thing and the next thing you’ll be driving is a pine box!”

            Here’s another one of ‘in my day’ stories: in my day people went out for ‘drives’; there were drive-in movies, diner and ice cream pull up and get served destinations; full service gas stations where they’d check your oil and tires (gratis); and open roads where you could sit back, guide the car with one hand completely relaxed in the driver’s seat while whoever was riding ‘shotgun’ could easily slouch with their feet out the window. Air conditioning was the rolling down of windows and vents; heat was a fan connected to the motor. Cars came in primary colors and were long enough to haul lumber. You could make your car into a pickup truck by sawing off the back half which gave manufacturers the idea for the El Camino and Ranchero, which you could close in to make a station wagon (another dinosaur).

            Those were the days of 501s, pomaded hair and unfiltered cigarettes, before seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. Dangerous days. They were also the days of kids with skinned knees and bruises from playing games now thought of as lethal. Days of playground equipment that could (and did) really put a hurt on you: seesaws, monkey bars, metal slides that could get really hot in the summer and those little merry go rounds that you’d have to run to get started and then hop on quick before you were jettisoned. Fun.

            So, you, now that you’re still hampered by the plague and you have only electronic devices to amuse, tutor and instruct you, here’s something that you can and might find fun in doing: call up a person of a certain age and ask what it was like when they only had dial up phones, played board and card games, jumped rope, threw jacks and played something called “Red Rover, Red Rover, let me cross over!” Ask what car they had. If you want to really start a conversation, ask what it cost to fill it up the tank.

            It’s a new year and you’re bored. I’m so sorry. Why don’t you take a drive to, say, Fairhope and back; throw some drinks in a cooler, pack a blanket, take old highway 90 and slow the heck down, stop at Dom Phong for sandwiches, cruise through the Rigolets and stay off the freeways and interstates. Or drive up to Memphis for some barbecue and take the Blues Trail (highway 61). See some country, crank up the tunes, hang your head out of the window, leave your cell phones in the trunk and talk to each other. Evacuate your mind. Drive to a beach, bring some egg salad sandwiches or stop at a Waffle House for a stack and a couple of over easys, put your feet in the sand, take the dog. Then come home and use your bike for the next week to assuage your ‘carbon footprint’ guilt.

            Every time I get behind the wheel of the Duchess I feel like taking a drive, hit the open road, put the pedal to the metal and drive it like I stole it. And here’s a little secret: I have a ’97 Lincoln Towncar that runs like a top and is as comfortable as a sofa; the mechanic gives it thumbs up with every visit, and you know what? She cost me less to purchase than six months payment on your new sissy car.

            So this New Year when you spy the Duchess, rollin’ smooth, easy (and loud) resolve to get some old iron in your life and, like me, live the dream; don’t just dream about living. Happy New Year!          

           

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Parlay Voo

 

Po-Boy View

By

Phil LaMancusa

Parlay Vous

Or

Waggin’ the Dog

            I talked it over with my dog and I suggested that as soon as we can we should go to France. Together. She’s dubious and underwhelmed and I can see that I’ll have to sell this.

            One of the side bars of the voluntary-semi-nonmedical-stay-at-home self-quarantines, besides a lot of time on my hands, is my new found ability (and inclination) to converse with things around me, animate and in(animate). To the dishes in the sink: “What are you looking at?” To my Italian pepper plant: “Stop already, I have enough @#%$%^& peppers!” To my refrigerator: “That’s the LAST beer?” To my dog: “Hey Scout, wanna go to France?”

            Scout doesn’t know what a “France” is, so I explain. “We go to the airport, get on an airplane and fly for a while to where they eat different food, speak a different language and do different things”. “You mean like Fairhope Alabama?” She asks. “Kinda.” I say.

            “What’s an airplane?” “It’s like a bus that goes in the air like a bird”.  A very pregnant silence ensues.   Then: “Do I sit in a seat, like in the car?” “How do you feel about riding in another room on the plane with the suitcases?” “I don’t think I’d like that.” “Okay, I’ll ask the vet if she’ll get you an exemption, like as a ‘companion’ dog.” “Good. Is it a long time away?” “About half a day in the plane and then another half a day on a train.” “Why can’t we take the car?”

            Will I eat? What if I have to pee? Can I sit on your lap? Will there be treats?” “Yes and no, you’ll probably be asleep the whole time, one minute you’ll be home and the next you’ll be in France, we’re going to a little town called Angais, we’ll stay in a hotel.” “You mean like Fairhope?” “Kinda.”

            “Is Mom coming?” “Sure thing, Buddy.” “What about the cats?” “The cats have to stay home”. “Will there be cats? I like cats, I have four. What will be for supper? Can I still sleep in bed with you?”

            “Well, we’ll mostly be eating out, but here’s the good news, you’ll be able to come into the restaurants and café with us; you see, in France they believe that canines are to be welcome everywhere, even where you eat out.” “Really?”

            “Here’s the other things, the language there is mostly foreign to me so I won’t be talking with other people as much, you’ll get lots of attention because many people there won’t know what I’m saying either. We’ve (your Mom and I) have been to major attractions in France and this time we’re just going to chill, have walkabouts, drink in the scenery and eat some great food; once we’re over there we’ll be eating cheeses and pastries and breads and we’ll see if we can rent a little place with a kitchen so that we can have coffee and croissants in the morning, fresh from the boulongerie, that’s what they call a bakery; we’ll drink wine in the afternoon at lunch and have Pastis with warm water in the afternoon. We’ll go boating on the river and introduce you to any new friends we make; we won’t know anyone there, it will all be new.”

            “Can we still have Happy Hour at night with beer and potato chips and treats like at home?” Am I gonna like this France place? I don’t know about this Angais place.”

            “Well, Angais is a small town in a bigger area, it’s a kinda nothing to do place but that’s what we want, eh?  There’re other towns around it, unless you’d rather stay in the country; oh, there’s also mountains and a beret museum. I saw some in-town places for rent in a place called Pau where we’d walk around and shop and stuff like we do in the French Quarter and some country places in case you want the great outdoors, names like Asson, Peyrouse and Ferrieres. I’m gonna leave it up to you, it doesn’t make much difference to me.” “Then why are we going?”

            “Listen Scoute (that’s your name in French), this year  has been a real wear on me; the world has had sickness and trouble in the streets, we’ve had politicians fighting and calling each other names up to here and storms blowing through and remember when our street flooded and we’ve had to stay home and wear stuff on our faces? I’ve been out of work, we’ve had no visitors and I watch the news all the time on television and read the newspaper and I’m sure that I haven’t been much fun and we don’t go for walks as often or go riding in the car as much.  And the year isn’t even over yet! And there goes that damn phone again! I just want to be someplace where I don’t know the language, the politics, the currency and I can get amnesia. I’ll take my sketch pad and some inks and maybe draw a lot of what I see. We’ll take pictures. We’ll take naps.  “What’s amnesia?”  “All of what I just said.”

            I had to stop here and answer the person on the phone who wanted to cancel my student loan debt even though I’ve been out of school since Washington crossed the Delaware and besides, Scout was at the front porch barking at the postal delivery person; a daily ritual for her. She came back in, wagging her tail and said “why don’t we just go to Fairhope? I bet you can get some amnesia there!”

            Well, you know, when your dog is smarter than you are you have to give it to her. “Okay….Scout, you wanna go to Fairhope? “Yippee!” “Okay, let’s go tell your Mom.”

            “I love you Dad!” Je t’aime aussi Cherie.”

           

           

           

Cats Part One

 

Po boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Cats Part One

Or

The Art of Herding

            Are you one of those naive people that think that they, by virtue of cohabitation, own a cat? Fool. The cat (or cats) owns you. Hello, my name is Phil and I’m a cat biatch. Mr. Money Pit. The Food Guy. The “It’s okay, I didn’t mean to disturb you, go ahead and lie across my computer keyboard because I haven’t put on your favorite bird video” guy. Full disclosure: I (and Debbie) are on call and responsible for at least a dozen of the true rulers of the planet. When Armageddon occurs, all that will be left on the planet will be the cockroaches and the cats that’ll be stalking them.

            We have four at home, they are all foundlings; well, almost. Question: Did you know that cats actually have three names? Yes. One name is the one you give it when you come to let it own you. The second one is the one that you describe them by, and the third is for them to know and for you to guess at: e.g. Cuddles; Feather Chaser; Angel of Darkness!

            Homebound we have Zack (The Bastard) who came to us as the “oh, the feral Mom had kittens under our porch and we were sure that you would take one” foist. He is a decade plus cock-o-the-walk allowing you three attempts to be nice: one pet (okay) second pet (stink eye) third pet (teeth in your hand). We love him, accept him, don’t mess with him and he’s really friendly (as they all are) when he’s hungry. He tries to escape at any opportunity and will come home within hours ravenous and taunting the other felines with his tales of adventures “outside”.

            Opie, (The Closer), named for Ron Howard, was found, mere weeks old, in the road by one of our goddess veterinarians, nursed to health and passed to us; a gorgeous orange tabby that has achieved sumo size by never being sated by any portion of food, including those of the other cats.

            Frankie and Lefty (The Entitled and The Privileged) both tortoiseshell princesses; sisters from the same litter and both at odds with each other. Frankie was rescued when abandoned (we think as the runt), bottle fed, nursed and brought home. Lefty adopted us; never letting us forget the honor of her presence and was transitioned to our new digs when our shop, which she took over, was forced to close. They’ve all been neutered/spayed and never forgave us.

            Zack, a gray and white tabby has a couple of stuffed animals that he calls ‘friends’. He does what he wants when he wants to. Opie will surprise you by stinking outside of the box (if you get my gist). The Girls have their own rooms and pass each other in hallways with nothing short of distain and Opie doesn’t care about anything but food. Opie you can love on, nuzzle and hug (unlike Zack); the princesses will put up with you as long as you’re at their beck and call. Lefty is on regular food and the rest are on prescription but that doesn’t mean anything to any one of them: Zack likes Lefty’s food, Frankie likes the dog’s treats (oh yeah, we’ve got a dog that they dismiss as irrelevant) and Opie eats anything. Lefty guilts you by standing stoically by her feeding dish until you get the message while the others decide at any given time where they’d like to partake today’s menu; they eat what they want, when they want and walk away only to have The Closer come by as cleanup crew. If we weren’t already crazy, they could drive us. They visit us in the bathroom where we keep treats for bribes to give us our moments of privacy.

            Besides that, we have two cats, Ginger and Harriet, that have made our porch and our front yard their new homes; they are both runaways that have homes but, have decided that we should feed them and let them take over our outside of domicile spaces. Ginger, of course, is an (semi scruffy) orange tabby and Harriet (not their other “real’ names) is a gorgeous petite long hair black and white movie star.

Then there’s Jessica Always the Bridesmaid (whom loves and loses family after family) that we feed down the street. People love her, care for her; let her be an outside cat that they heap attention on and then, BAM! people move on and leave Jessica to fend for herself (again); some of it is her resistance to inside living, most of it is the vagaries of fortune. Also, sometimes when Tom’s away, we feed Ignatius who lives under his house and is in love with him, who used to be called ‘Balls’ before that “visit” to the veterinarian, a beautiful black male.

We also feed daily somewhere between five and seven ferals that we did a devil’s bargain with the SPCA (“if you neuter we will feed”); the formal word for this family is clowder, a group of felines. After five years of feeding them (there were at one time ten of them), they still won’t befriend us.

So, you so-called cat owners (and you know who you are), take heart that there are others like you that are only here for the felines and yes, you will spend more on their health bills than on your own, you will miss them when they’re not prompt at dinnertime and worry if they are not looking frisky enough. You’ll put up with their favorite piece of furniture to sharpen their claws being destroyed before your eyes, the occasional regurgitation on your precious rug and the inappropriate bladder releases on that bath towel that you neglected to pick up, because you realize that it’s their world and you are only here to care for them; you’re in their life. And you know what? That’s alright with meow.

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

White and Blue

 

Po Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

White and Blue

Or

Social Insecurity

A few weeks ago I made the mistake of posting on social media that I believed that there was no justification for looting, the destroying of private property, and/or violence in what should be civil protests. I released a virtual sh*tstorm of responses, one of which accused my viewpoint of being naive and clouded because it was coming from a place of “privilege”. I was enraged. I immediately dusted off my cred resume to check off my qualifications for the miscreant that would dare to label and libel me with this poison arrow that went to my heart. Privileged.

Raised poor: check. Single parent, five children, on welfare, in the projects: check, check check check check. Mistreated and maligned: check again. Second generation American, Viet Nam era veteran, retired and living on Social Security: that’s me. Who would have the nerve to think me “privileged”? This conundrum kept me from getting the peaceful rest that I so well deserve (and have earned), causing me to ponder both weak and weary.

There was no systemic racism in my young world per se. Everybody almost instinctually distanced themselves from anybody and everybody who was not of their class, religion and background. We were biased against (and were suspicious of) Aryan Eastern Europeans, Asians, Blacks, Latinos, Swarthy Mediterranean types, Jews, Protestants, intellectuals, anyone possibly Socialist, Fascist or Communist and the possibility of persons that would become known as the LGBTQ+ community. Also, those that had more money than us, certainly those that had less and anyone who rooted for an out of town sports team. In short, everyone around us. We all got along in social and public places (even making friends) and  we never pictured those people or ourselves as being underprivileged or disadvantaged… just different than us all and everybody else.

I was a difficult child, imaginative, intelligent, insecure and headstrong. I got in trouble, pushed boundaries and avoided conformity; doing as I pleased, when I pleased. What was I rebelling against? In the words of Johnny Strabler: (Marlon Brando, The Wild One, 1953) “Whaddya got?” I never considered myself part of a privileged class until the other night when the ‘get a clue phone’ rang and the voice on the other end said “But, you’re white”.

It’s true. I am white. Walking down the street, entering a business, congregating with other white folks and being out and about in general, I appear harmless and nothing to be apprehensive about: “it’s okay, it’s just some old white guy”.

When applying for a position or attention, I’m out on stage in my ‘normal’ clothes and I put on my ‘white’ vocal accent and use my ‘white’ enunciation and there I am: the old white guy. I know how to work the system. I can rent pretty much anywhere I want and can afford. I don’t appear suspicious, so any time I walk into a saloon, the bartender wants to know what I want to drink instead of making sure that the cash register is closed before they serve me. I don’t look tough, so that’s a plus; I don’t act tough, because, basically, I’m not. I’m pretty much accepted anywhere I go because I’m just some old white guy. I don’t know what it’s like to be Black, Jewish, Hispanic, Palestinian, Gay, a woman, person with disabilities, someone forced to live on a reservation or anyone else that gets singled out for abuse, or dismissed for no apparent reason except that they are who they are.

Self actualization comes slow and with my short attention span I had to repeat to myself the fact that in the real world I am invisible and pretty much immune to the reality that there are people out there having legitimate beefs with the world at large because the world believes in reality that they don’t, in fact, matter. That old song: “The whole world is teeming with unhappy souls; the French hate the Germans the Germans hate the Poles; Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch and I don’t like anybody very much” fits well. And then the oppressed have the nerve to bitch about the oppressor. The nerve.

In the screw or be screwed world that we live in there seems to be little hope for what our venerated religious saviors have instructed us to do: love one another and treat one another the way we wish ourselves to be treated, with kindness, respect and dignity; with fairness and equality. Is that so hard of a pill to swallow? Obviously it is.

Well, I’m still rebellious and although in the scheme of things I’m still immune from the challenges that persist, I believe that seeking justice is the highest form of rebellion; so I’ll continue to rebel against racism, sexism, classism, slavery, ageism, and bias.  I’m for equality and the betterment of education, wages, housing and the protection of the environment. And most important, I’m against labels, boundaries and walls that keep people apart from one another.

What I believe we need is for a level of intelligence to become common that allows all of us to see past our preconditioned and preconceived ideas that not all living beings need to feel safety in movement and environment; to be able to live free and without constraints. None of us should feel the need to protect ourselves because we feel threatened by someone or something different than ourselves, and should live the faith that that is totally and unequivocally reciprocated. We should put an end to hate and hurt. It’s proven to have a counterproductive track record.

Also, I still believe that there is no justification in looting, violence or destruction in civil protests. But what do I know? I’m just this old white guy.

 

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Katrina 15 years

 

Po-Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Katrina Fifteen Years

            6:10 A.M. Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slams into the Southeastern gulf coast as a category 3, 4, or 5 storm (depending on your sources) with winds of 127 miles an hour. New Orleans, taking only the outer bands, was still hit hard; by that afternoon 20% of the city was flooded. By August 30th 80% of the city was under water. By September 1st, 55,000 people had sought shelter in the Super Dome and Convention Center having refused/unable to evacuate. Many were still in their homes, many of them dead. Over a million people fled after hearing the mandatory evacuation order 48 hours before. The last of the water was pumped out of the city on October 11th, 43 days after the storm hit. We were, as General Russel L. Honore quipped when seeing the local, state and federal responses, “Stuck on stupid!”

            In the aftermath, our city was (almost) completely evacuated, troops went door to door looking for survivors and bodies; Debbie and I were in the French Quarter holed up at our apartment on St. Philip and Dauphine Street for six days before we saw any first responders and by that time we had finally found a way out of town. I aged six months in those six days. Very few remember or recall those days and those that do usually don’t want to talk about it.

            Here’s what I remember: the night before, we went bar hopping, playing kick the can in the street and wondering why that pizza delivery was taking so long. First bands start 1:15 A.M. A few hours later Debbie was dragging me and a mattress into the hallway to cower as what felt and sounded like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse enacting a no-knock warrant accompanied by chimneys imploding. A 50 year old cypress tree was bashing the house while conducting a concerto of small tornadoes in the ‘Wreak Havoc Overture’ through the neighborhood. Background music was provided by the Torrents of Rain Orchestra.

            In the morning (expecting to go for coffee and a NYT), electricity and water cut off, the streets are empty. The next day, the last neighbors on our block caravanned out. Somebody gives us their dog. Very quiet. Looting had started almost immediately, Cartier, Brooks Brother, Pottery Barn, convenience stores, Winn Dixie, anything that can be taken is taken for little or no apparent reason. One third of the police force drives out of town. Psychiatrists that can prescribe anti-depressants are gone and folks are off their meds. Charity Hospital is under siege by boat. We clean up debris like good citizens. The weather is hot and there is no air conditioning.

            Police loot Walmart for electronics, leaving the guns and ammunition that the store sells for civilian looters. Looters breaking into hardware stores steal bolt cutters, looters use bolt cutters to break into warehouses, stealing forklifts. Armed looters on forklifts off their meds. A kid steals a city bus and drives folks to Houston. The busses for evacuation high and dry but keys are under water.  Curfew imposed. Warm beer at Molly’s at the Market, solidarity and community updates. Cops put snipers on rooftops to discourage looters, Governor: “Shoot looters on sight.” Mayor hiding out in a hotel, George Bush does a flyover. Esplanade Avenue is impassable due to fallen trees and debris.

            Water in the street, petrochemical waste, medical waste, human waste, decaying animal waste. Explosions on the river Wednesday night. Rapes. A couple of corpses reported abandoned on streets. Folks drifting into town from lower nine. Animals not allowed in shelter, being turned loose, reports of dogs being shot to discourage ‘packing”. No ice, no refrigeration, no toilets, no bathing (no water). No lights at night besides gaslights. The kindness of strangers, food sharing, help with bolt cutters to free a chained dog. The Nelly Deli gives away supplies on credit. We now are caring for 4 dogs and 3 cats. Our house is known as ‘Dogpatch’.

            Radio reports ‘French Quarter looks like an island’, the ‘sliver by the river’ holds, all else under water. Animals coming out avoiding drowning, alligators, raccoons, snakes and rodents, seeking higher ground like people do. People rescued from rooftops only to find that there’s no way out of the city, people turned away at gunpoint from crossing into Algiers. Nita and Jeffery have their apartment taken away at gunpoint. Reports of trucks with bodies being dumped in the river, running gun battles. We’re holed up on the second floor, banging tin sheeting to discourage ‘visitors’.

            A radio report that thousands have been standing on the overpass for days waiting “where are they going to the bathroom?” one reporter asks, “They’re crowded together!” Looters set up a market in the Convention Center which was broken into by folks not wanting to go to the Superdome where that roof has blown partially off.

            A fire at Saks Fifth Avenue set by looters and a scramble for water to put it out. Police tell us to not bike ride because people are getting ‘bike-jacked’ for a way out of town. Food rotting in refrigerators and restaurants (it’s Labor Day weekend, people stocked up). Reports of a car to be had if we can get to it. Cemeteries flood and bodies rise to the surface.

We’re invited to a meeting at the Bourbon Orleans ballroom where the topic to be is the intentional flooding of the French Quarter to ease the outlying areas. Those left here transmit information and hearsay as they get it, some is rumor and some turn out to be uncomfortable truths.

Fifteen years later we veterans of Katrina find nothing about the coronavirus extraneous or dismissive; but still, ask any one of us and we’ll tell you that we’ve been through worse. Quit your bitching and put on a mask. As deadly as Covid-19 is, I wish Katrina had been this easy to deal with. 

Waggin' the dog

 

Po-Boy View

By

Phil LaMancusa

Parlay Vous

Or

Waggin’ the Dog

            I talked it over with my dog and I suggested that as soon as we can we should go to France. Together. She’s dubious and underwhelmed and I can see that I’ll have to sell this.

            One of the side bars of the voluntary-semi-nonmedical-stay-at-home self-quarantines, besides a lot of time on my hands, is my new found ability (and inclination) to converse with things around me, animate and in(animate). To the dishes in the sink: “What are you looking at?” To my Italian pepper plant: “Stop already, I have enough @#%$%^& peppers!” To my refrigerator: “That’s the LAST beer?” To my dog: “Hey Scout, wanna go to France?”

            Scout doesn’t know what a “France” is, so I explain. “We go to the airport, get on an airplane and fly for a while to where they eat different food, speak a different language and do different things”. “You mean like Fairhope Alabama?” She asks. “Kinda.” I say.

            “What’s an airplane?” “It’s like a bus that goes in the air like a bird”.  A very pregnant silence ensues.   Then: “Do I sit in a seat, like in the car?” “How do you feel about riding in another room on the plane with the suitcases?” “I don’t think I’d like that.” “Okay, I’ll ask the vet if she’ll get you an exemption, like as a ‘companion’ dog.” “Good. Is it a long time away?” “About half a day in the plane and then another half a day on a train.” “Why can’t we take the car?”

            Will I eat? What if I have to pee? Can I sit on your lap? Will there be treats?” “Yes and no, you’ll probably be asleep the whole time, one minute you’ll be home and the next you’ll be in France, we’re going to a little town called Angais, we’ll stay in a hotel.” “You mean like Fairhope?” “Kinda.”

            “Is Mom coming?” “Sure thing, Buddy.” “What about the cats?” “The cats have to stay home”. “Will there be cats? I like cats, I have four. What will be for supper? Can I still sleep in bed with you?”

            “Well, we’ll mostly be eating out, but here’s the good news, you’ll be able to come into the restaurants and café with us; you see, in France they believe that canines are to be welcome everywhere, even where you eat out.” “Really?”

            “Here’s the other things, the language there is mostly foreign to me so I won’t be talking with other people as much, you’ll get lots of attention because many people there won’t know what I’m saying either. We’ve (your Mom and I) have been to major attractions in France and this time we’re just going to chill, have walkabouts, drink in the scenery and eat some great food; once we’re over there we’ll be eating cheeses and pastries and breads and we’ll see if we can rent a little place with a kitchen so that we can have coffee and croissants in the morning, fresh from the boulongerie, that’s what they call a bakery; we’ll drink wine in the afternoon at lunch and have Pastis with warm water in the afternoon. We’ll go boating on the river and introduce you to any new friends we make; we won’t know anyone there, it will all be new.”

            “Can we still have Happy Hour at night with beer and potato chips and treats like at home?” Am I gonna like this France place? I don’t know about this Angais place.”

            “Well, Angais is a small town in a bigger area, it’s a kinda nothing to do place but that’s what we want, eh?  There’re other towns around it, unless you’d rather stay in the country; oh, there’s also mountains and a beret museum. I saw some in-town places for rent in a place called Pau where we’d walk around and shop and stuff like we do in the French Quarter and some country places in case you want the great outdoors, names like Asson, Peyrouse and Ferrieres. I’m gonna leave it up to you, it doesn’t make much difference to me.” “Then why are we going?”

            “Listen Scoute (that’s your name in French), this year  has been a real wear on me; the world has had sickness and trouble in the streets, we’ve had politicians fighting and calling each other names up to here and storms blowing through and remember when our street flooded and we’ve had to stay home and wear stuff on our faces? I’ve been out of work, we’ve had no visitors and I watch the news all the time on television and read the newspaper and I’m sure that I haven’t been much fun and we don’t go for walks as often or go riding in the car as much.  And the year isn’t even over yet! And there goes that damn phone again! I just want to be someplace where I don’t know the language, the politics, the currency and I can get amnesia. I’ll take my sketch pad and some inks and maybe draw a lot of what I see. We’ll take pictures. We’ll take naps.  “What’s amnesia?”  “All of what I just said.”

            I had to stop here and answer the person on the phone who wanted to cancel my student loan debt even though I’ve been out of school since Washington crossed the Delaware and besides, Scout was at the front porch barking at the postal delivery person; a daily ritual for her. She came back in, wagging her tail and said “why don’t we just go to Fairhope? I bet you can get some amnesia there!”

            Well, you know, when your dog is smarter than you are you have to give it to her. “Okay….Scout, you wanna go to Fairhope? “Yippee!” “Okay, let’s go tell your Mom.”

            “I love you Dad!” Je t’aime aussi Cherie.”

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Time to Quit Whitey


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
La Pura Vida
Or
Time To Go
            The headline would read “New Orleans Oldest Working Pot Dealer Turns Himself In!” and indeed he will. Whitey Jackson, age eighty-four, will take his walker into police headquarters and explain to the Desk Sergeant that he needs to make a statement to the narcotics officers, the DEA and especially to detective Bobby Phelps. The Sergeant would explain that detective Phelps had retired years ago and could he (the sergeant) help him (Whitey)?
            “I’m here to turn myself in, I’ve been dealing in New Orleans for almost seventy years and it’s time that you caught me; I figured I’d tell Bobby first as he’s the one that’s been trying to nail me. Here I am. Lock me up. What’s for dinner?”
            Two smiling plainclothes cops will escort Whitey to an interrogation room and have him sit down, get him a glass of water and “Now tell us… what’s this all about?”
            “Well”, Whitey says “I’ve been to the IRS to turn myself in for tax evasion and they said that until I prove I was actually making money that they couldn’t charge me with having not paid taxes; what I really want to do is go to a Federal facility, it’s much nicer than State, you know. I got names.”
            It’s true, Whitey had been ‘selling vegetables’ since High School, never filed taxes, made a good living, supported a couple of families and some of his friends through hard times; it was well known that if things got tough, you could always reach out to Whitey. He drank smooth gin and always tipped well, but was never flashy. He used to have an old four door white Crown Vic that he’d take trips to Texas border towns with, he said it looked so much like an undercover cop’s car that no one dared pull him over, he especially liked Laredo and across the border in Nuevo Laredo with its dirt streets, seedy bars and easy women. Sometimes he moved ‘freight’.
            But times had gotten tough in the last dozen years, old contacts had gotten older, suppliers became unreliable, some jailed or gone out of business, it was more difficult to get ‘product’ across the borders and prices increased with inflation; he could have diversified, but he was against ‘hard stuff’ and mind blowing substances were iffy in quality and result. No: ‘Mary Jane was her name and connecting her with people was his game’.
            He fell on hard times. His landlord had passed and the landlord’s kids had kicked him out of an apartment that he had for forty years, he had to sell his cameras (a dear but expensive hobby), downsize (a word he hated) and move to smaller quarters. He had no savings. He got a minimum from Social Security and qualified for Medicare and other forms of geezer ‘on the dole’ incomes. He had never had an occupation other than his dealings and had no marketable skills. His health was failing and he had just one plan ‘B’, turn himself in and become a ward of the state.
            Some friends got him into an ‘assisted living’ facility, which was a postage size room with an alcove kitchen and a bathroom the size of a foot locker, it was vermin infested and mildewed, but it was close to the French Quarter and fit his budget.
            He wasn’t used to being broke and he missed his old hangouts, he remembered the old days and sitting in coffee houses for hours espousing wit, witticisms and philosophy with high likeminded miscreants. He enjoyed opera and jazz and for the life of him couldn’t understand ‘woke’ music and he hated rock and roll. He was used to the easy life, strolling around New Orleans like a king, anticipating the arrival of ‘vegetables’ after he retired his car and taking his time leafing through his book of names to ascertain who had not scored for a reasonable period of time; he’d make a quick call on his burner phone and set up meets, pass a good time and a package and head out into the humidity toward another watering hole and possibly another exchange of goods and services.
            It all came to a head when he took a fall in the hallway of his facility, He had hit his head, limped back to his room and lay on the floor bleeding for almost two days until one of his friends got worried and came to check on him. He was in the hospital for about a week and had a lot of time to think, “Time for pan B”, he decided.
            Whitey made the headlines; it was a slow news week. It was a slow court week as well and he was charged, booked and let go on his own recognizance; he wasn’t considered a flight risk. He promised names, dates and places of half the city including society swells, bankers, politicos, real estate brokers and high priced Madams; it would never come to charges but it would make great gossip which was something New Orleans ate for breakfast.
            Then Whitey disappeared. Theories and conjectures flew. The Mob? Some guilty big shot? All anyone knew is that one night a long black limousine pulled up outside his building and Whitey was whisked away.
            Six months later, Slick Willie showed me a copy of a photo of some old dude on a beach (skinny legs and all) with a hand written message; finally, news of Whitey was circulating. Slick said he got his copy from The Dodger who got it from Princess Diana via Lady Blue, Sonny Duprey, Raspberry Mahogany, and a few dozen others. It read:
            “Dear Folks, On the lam in the Papaya Republic with old friends, the grass certainly is greener and free. Love W. 
P.S. If the phone’s not ringing, that’s me not calling.”