Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Orleans Short Story Part 10

Short Story 10: The House on Conti Street
Well, just as we surmised, Hinch did value the gang more than the money that he could have skipped with and, as instructed, took the ‘fast cash option’ and deposited a cool two million dollars in the Whitney Bank branch office on Chartres St. in the French Quarter.
The next part was equally as easy. Hinch located a real estate agent that was working as a bartender at Molly’s on Toulouse Street and purchased a less than perfect, three-story apartment building at 926 Conti Street for eight hundred grand. He took out a loan for the place using the bank account as collateral, with the interest on the two mil taking up the bulk of the mortgage payments and we all moved in together. The building had three apartments in the main house, one per floor. There was a two-story slave quarter attached to the front house, which gave us two more small, but perfect, flats; a courtyard enclosed by eighteen foot brick walls topped with wicked barbed razor wire and broken wine bottles cemented into the cap for good measure. A two story maisonette in the rear of it completed the layout, all according to the specifications of Pearl’s plan. But, I’m jumping ahead of myself.
Return now to the night of the culinary disaster, Greasy Bastard cooking and a nice chat with Pearl on how we would split up more money than any of us had ever seen, compliments of a sophisticated software heist, a kidnapping and some strings pulled by Chinese businessmen who controlled the outcomes of American lotteries, and Billy butting in with his special brand of pessimism.
Pearl had countered the interruption thusly: “Alright Billy, I’ll bet my Porsche parked outside against you getting circumcised that whoever cashes this ticket in on Wednesday will be the winner of four million bucks. How ‘bout it?” Billy’s jaw dropped at the mention of his Johnson.
“Ahh, c’mon Bill,” Anne threw in: “it’s not like everybody hasn’t heard about that ‘purple hooded serpent’ that you’re always bragging about.” Billy liked to refer to his penis by that name and it was a quick and effective riposte that got Billy to cease his vocal objections to the plan or anything else for that matter; you might say that Billy had effectively been rendered verbally impotent.
Petey was up next and with a sigh of resignation he said: “Alright, Pearl-- run it down -- what’s the plan?”
And Pearl replied: “The caper will take place at Blanche’s restaurant where Brandi already works. Anne will volunteer with the festival and be our inside contact in case anything starts to go awry. Billy will get a bartending job at the restaurant and coordinate our escape, Hinch will get a job as a buggy driver, Syl and I will handle the technical stuff, Petey will be working in the kitchen at the restaurant and Morriarity will cover our backs; but first, we have to all move in together and get our asses cracking. any questions?”
“Just one,” I squeaked “what about me?”
“Oh you,” beamed Pearl “you’re going to be the professor!”
“But you said…”
“I said that the device will be presented by a professor; I didn’t say who the professor would be.” Here she let the other shoe drop “besides, any other person who would do the presenting would know that the machine is a fake and probably give us some trouble if we were to attempt a snatch.”
“You mean…” Started Sylvinia
“Yeah Syl, there’s no such device; but you and me is gonna build one with a receiver in it and we’ll control the show from our little home away from home, you know, re-mote-ly.”
“Alright, so the New York Times…”
“I got that article published” said Pearl with great satisfaction “just to sweeten the pot, so to speak; the Chinks went ape shit when they read that.”
“So,” said Petey “we’re gonna sell something, and steal something that does not exist, kidnap a man who is on our side, split a hundred million bucks…”
“ninety eight.” She corrected
“Whatever” Petey continued, “and we’re just going to disappear?”
“No,” said Pearl “First, the CIA has got to steal it from us…”
"Oh, you worry warts; we'll work it out; besides, the fire will keep everybody way too busy to notice our little shenanigans."
Sooooo…back to the present. As adroit as you readers are, you probably have not overlooked the mention and allusion to a talking cat named Professor Morriarity or P.M. If the existence of this feline, in this story, has not raised any red flags for you then I assure you that he resides in your subconscious ready to pounce into your reality with a question about his history and identity… sooner or later. Either that or you’re really not paying proper attention and we’re wasting our time here. To clear things up for those that are paying attention here: first of all, Morriarity is not a male cat, ergo, that is not her real name. Point in fact is that all cats have not two, but three names. All cats do; and Professor Morriarity, in this case, is NOT her name.
Another thing is that very few felines will converse in a human language; they all can, but very few will. It’s just not done, breach of cat policy and all that. You might say that it could and probably would lead to a catastrophe of humongous and epic proportions. So we all doubted that P. M. would talk to Pearl but frankly we couldn’t be sure and didn’t want to risk crossing her. Leave it to say that we (collectively) wouldn’t trust P.M. with ‘our backs’. (Besides, we all knew that Pearl was an accomplished ventriloquist.)
Likewise you may have surmised that all characters portrayed in this tale live in their separate realities, but none so much as the lady that’s known as Pearl (had she not come through with the two mil, we would not be having this discourse), and it’s not as if we didn’t not believe in a’ talking cat’, let alone its inclusion into our larcenous little family…. but…. what if she wanted a cut of the take?
Be that as it may, we all settled in to our new digs with a mite of trepidation, a slight tickle of apprehension and a boat load of the hormones that only a group of thirty-something’s could keep airborne.
Hinch took the downstairs slave quarter efficiency mainly because he had to get up and leave early for his job as a buggy driver and to be with the dog. Billy took the room above him with space for his exercise equipment. Brandi and Anne took the downstairs flat in the main house with Sylvinia and Pearl using the upper two floors for laboratory and habitation. Petey and I shared the upstairs of the maisonette with the downstairs converted into communal kitchen and dining area spilling out into the courtyard. I was in charge of the cooking for us all; where’s a greasy bastard when you need one?
Hinch asked P.M. where she would be staying and the cat replied with typical feline candor: “wherever the fuck I feel like.” Pearl was quick to point out that P.M. would be running reconnaissance to find the most direct route over the rooftops to Blanche’s for our electronic feeds and we all settled into a funk of suspicion and doubt for our success. We had a scant six weeks to fine tune this adventure and I realized that my cooking would be the easiest (and best tasting) part.

Friday, January 14, 2011

About that New Orleans short story

Okay Cats and Hats, just a heads up: the story started on the blog in October and it is yet unfinished, we're getting ready to throw in part ten, I keep going back and tweaking chapters as I forge ahead with new ones. We both won't know exactly what the outcome is until I write the words "The End" on it. I thank you so much for your continuing support, patience and interest in me. Please feel free to email me with suggestions, comments and/or suggestions. Keep reading! Yours Me, Myself and I

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Orleans PoBoy Views 3/11

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Forward March
How I Won The War
Okle-dokle, I know that there are March events to write about; French Quarter Fest, Tennessee Williams Literary Fest, Saints Patrick and Joseph, Mardi Gras, Time changes, a big Krishna event, Passover, the first day of spring and a planet-wide day to light up a big fatty. Also, March 3rd is my brother’s birthday, but I’m not writing about that either (although I could dig some dirt in that acreage, it won’t be in this issue).
I’ve got another event that I want to talk about: March 2nd over half a century ago I entered into the United States military. The U.S. Navy, needless for me to say, forever changed my outlook on many things including life, love, a supreme being, travel and the wisdom that comes with being cooped up on a floating, self-sustaining, outdated, lumbering and cramped boxhauler with two thousand testosterone pumping teenagers roaming the seas; ready to do battle.
I come from the projects of New York City. At the time of my youth the city had not changed much since the great depression; it was a city for only two classes of people: the very rich and the very poor. I sold newspapers in bars, hitched unsanctioned rides on the backs of trucks and got into as much trouble as my family would allow, which was never enough for me. I hustled my way out of high school a month after my seventeenth birthday with the plan to get out of my circumstances and join the ranks of older kids who had found their way out by joining the military. I was convinced that these guys were accomplishing my two greatest life goals: drinking and whoring. I chose the Navy because of my fear of being wounded or, even scarier, killed on a battlefield far from any bar or bordello; the reflection that an enemy using live ammunition, aiming anywhere in my direction, was a disquieting thought.
It is amazing to me now, a half a century later, that any country can enlist children and have them fight and die for ambiguous reasons of territory and the greed that old men have; the same old men who are comfortable in knowing that they will not be the ones out there with weapons, spoiling for a fight and anxious. But, that’s another thought for another time.
Well, children we were: dumb crackers, poor blacks, city punks and a smattering of ethnics: Hispanic, American Indian, Asians, Indonesians and Jews. It was the time that coming of age in this country made you eligible for a thing called ‘The Draft’; you were going to spend time in the military sooner… or later, so I chose to join.
Whether or not you know it, the military, when not engaged in actual warfare, rehearses for it with the same zeal. So, I spent four years being in and practicing for my ass to get blown to Kingdome Come, traveling the world and ready for action that rarely came. We came close one time in what is now known as, “The Cuban Missile Crisis”. Of course, at the time no one told us that we were saving the world; all we knew was that we were spending months cruising around a piddlyass third world communist island when we could have been elsewhere letting off some steam.
Being in the Navy meant that I got to travel; in fact, I got to spend four consecutive winters in the Caribbean. I also saw England, France and Germany in my wild teenage days. Furthermore, for all the times that you practice or are in military skirmishes, there are periods that are called R&R (rest and relaxation). These times should be called I&I (intoxication and intercourse) for that’s what those times are really about.
Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Panama, Haiti and Cuba all have left indelible marks and scars on my psyche. At the time of my tour of duty, the military was touted as the place to send your child if you wanted him to become a “MAN”. What we were were armed children, harassed and told what to do by ‘lifers’ every minute of every day until our next port stop and what we called our ‘Liberty’; ask anyone who has been there.
A ‘Lifer’ is someone who has found a home in the service and someone who will retire with benefits before they are forty years old. What they get in the meantime is food, clothing and shelter and the joys of bossing around anyone younger than they are. As a city punk, I was in more than my share of trouble and swore that for all of the good times that I had getting drunk and laid, I would “pick shit with the chickens” before I would ever repeat the experience. What am I now? An old guy who gets free medical care from the VA and loves to travel.
In the service when a young man cannot be fully controlled they have a place for them: the kitchen with the other fuck-ups and that’s where I spent the majority of my time, in fact now, it’s where I’ve spent the majority of my life. Even out in the “real world”, Kitchens are where you find the largest concentration of dysfunctional misfits. Ask any cook.
After four consecutive winters of sunshine I was unsuited for northern life and that’s how I came to be transplanted in New Orleans in the late 1960’s. I love the hot summers here, I tell people that, for me, it’s just like being back in a kitchen. After living in the men’s world of the military, when I came to New Orleans I got to (and still do) experience a childhood as in nowhere else I’ve ever lived or visited. I’ve also gotten to do a lot of cooking here, both personally and professionally, a unparalleled adventure.
So you see, at this time of year I think back to all the roads that I took to finally get home, and I’ve found that New Orleans is my real home; if I hadn’t left that other home at seventeen to sail the seven seas, I’d probably be a geezer street punk in New York City, without a profession, wandering about and wondering who the hell all these yuppie white kids are.
Most important: to all those children who wear or have worn the uniform of this country, thank you for serving and keep your head down and your powder dry. May you also live long and prosper.