Monday, August 11, 2008

Gay Bar in New Orleans

Po-boy Views by Phil LaMancusa

La Vie En Rose
Glitter Above The Litter
It’s Sunday evening around six thirty and we’re winding things down at the shop to go cabaret, camp and carouse. Put the cash away, pack up the pups, gather our dinner fixin’s and polish off our ritual celebratory ‘end of the day’ Miller High Life. To hell with housework.
We live in a small village called The French Quarter in the Republic of New Orleans, a small third world country, in a remote part of the Western Hemisphere. It has been rather difficult recently to find solace, tranquility or serenity. We have been at war with the great and powerful United States for over a year; indeed, some of us have opposed them for decades. At times we even distrust officials in our local government. That quickly passes when we remind ourselves that control is an illusion and resistance is futile. What goes around simply does not come around, the meek shall not inherit the Earth and, in general, kindness is regarded as weakness.
So what’s a couple of Old Farts with barkin’ dogs and aging canines to do to replenish the soul? Where to, how to reboot our sagging ideals, rekindle our faith and have a grand time without excess anesthesia or hypnotism of the senses? I tell you, sometimes by the end of my work week (that’s Sunday to you out there that have had more than four days off since last October) I feel like Tyrone Slothrope trudging through post war Europe in his Pynchonian search for Rocket 00000, if you get my drift.
We shamble (our method of getting from point 1. to point B) through the dust; smoke, litter, amateur drunks and cosmic debris of this man made hell, up two blocks and over three. The joint is on the corner, with requisite pool table, televisions, thrumping music, Saturday night’s leftovers and Sunday’s fresh meat on the ground floor. A couple of guys are cooking burgers outside and drunks debate moot points while sloshing suds on their logic.
We enter the perpetual dimness and make our way to the stairway in the back, at this point we drop the leashes and the dogs go bounding up to where everybody knows their names. The bartender greets them and by the time we get our tired asses to the top of the stairs, they have taken up their stations.
There are two types that can qualify as legitimate bar flies in my world; there’s that one that occupies a barstool and is ever ready to hop up on a lap and the other one who is most at home stretched out on the floor. We have one of each of them; their names are Rosie and Ginger, and they’re ready to settle in for a good old time. This is their once a week treat, their special occasion, a holiday if you will. A visit with the boys on Sing-along Sunday.
The Sun has made it’s fiery journey across our fetid sky, still it’s not quite set and the place is already jumping. Well, not exactly jumping, more like a very active rhythmic exuberant shimmy. Many manly voices are raised in song, not just in song…many manly voices are raised in show tunes!!
I grab a place at the bar or our favorite table, Girlfriend goes up to the Piano to feed the kitty and say hey to the regulars. I request liquid refreshment from Joey the effervescent, effusive and super efficient mixologist. Tom is tickling the ivories, tickling and teasing and guiding and beguiling a cluster of patrons who are all here for one reason. Escape.
The d├ęcor is worn Victorian chic, with black and white photos of past Mardi Gras Queens and colorful present day Mardi Gras Queens in oils by Earl Herbert (bless him).
As I sit at the bar looking out to the balcony where groups of guys are at small tables chatting, the sun is splashing color on the buildings around us with stage set intensity. Tom is playing the theme from Tara, Ken is in full falsetto pitch and there’s a pair of patrons that, quite expertly, recite the script from Gone With The Wind verbatim.
Then into, I Will Follow Him, Mister Sandman, Some Enchanted Evening and The Man I Love. A woman elbows her way to the piano and yells at her date that he almost made her spill her liquor. The piano stops and at least four voices in unison yell “LIQUOR!!! LIQUOR!!! YOU BROUGHT HER---YOU LIQUOR!!! Screams of laughter. It’s that kind of night.
Yet this is no men’s club; albeit, redolent with man smells, you’re certain to see occasional women (some obviously on first dates) come to see how the other half lives and odd couples that have grown thick and happy with each other. AND, I personally know more than one woman there that doesn’t mind being called ‘Fag Hag’. (THERE! I said it in print!!!)
I was at my keyboard last week feeling Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; listening to the Clang, Clang, Clang Of The Trolley feeling very Suddenly Seymour when I came upon a burning What’ll I Do? I emailed my very dear friend in San Francisco and asked if I should capitalize the words Gay Bar?
I was advised: “of course it should be capitalized AND underscored in red, pink, teal and taupe”.
So there it is. What works for me? It’s not rocket surgery. A few stolen hours where good friends meet to exchange pejorative banter, plan for next weeks Mascara Run and exchange fashion advice. To be sure, this is not your Mama’s piano bar, nor is it a Mitch Miller sing-a-long. It’s more camp than campfire and a place to be granted a little amnesia from the trials, tribulations and travails of daily life while we wait for our next evaporation this hurricane season. And hey, I just thought…you might not get to read this. We just never know where we’ll be when this is hot off the presses. I hope to God that we’re all still here and that you’re asking yourself what place I’m writing about and why I’m not telling you.
Well, I’m not telling you because it’s getting too crowded as it is and besides, you should already know. Send in the Clowns.

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