Cranky Old Guy

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
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Flag of United States  , Alabama
Monday, August 14, 2006

Obviously, I slept in today! I was sad to see that Bourbon this morning had not been cleaned up. All the trash you would associate with last night was strewn everywhere, and smelling. I went down to the Cathedral and said some prayers. I was shocked on the steps of the Cathedral to have another relative of Harry accost me! I was sitting waiting for the rain to pass, when he charged my foot! [I think that a contract has been put out on me and I am going to have to watch my back wherever I go. Thank god they hadn't tried anything last night in some the dark alleys I traversed, I woulda been a goner!] This guy was Harry's size, but amazingly quick and agile. He was hiding behind some garbage on the cathedral steps (crumpled greasy paper bag, crushed plastic cups, beer bottles and so on). We sparred a bit, and I wondered if we were committing sacrilege fighting on the steps of a cathedral but when he persisted, what could I do? I delivered a 'coup de grace' (hey, its New Orleans, French phrases are indicated) and wiped him on the steps. Hopefully I will be forgiven, but rather than retreating to the sanctuary of the church and praying for the repose of his soul and forgiveness for my heinous act, I ran across the square hoping my dirty deed had not been witnessed.

I went to the Flea Market (junk you could get anywhere) and skipped having a beignet at Café DuMonde (the recent fight having left me queasy) and shopped along Rue Royal (antiques). It intrigues me that no matter where you go here, every shop/bar/restaurant leaves its doors open to the street- and has the a/c running full blast. It seems wasteful and I don't understand. I also stopped by Harrah's Casino and gave them $100 as my part of the re building effort!

After another rest (New Orleans can be tiring), Larry and Homer picked me up and drove me out of town for a 'real' dinner. We went to "Uptown" and drove right along the river. I never could have navigated my way on my own, and in fact at one point Larry thought he was lost too. We went to "Frankie and Johnny's". Now, this place was nothing to look at from the outside, and in fact I had my doubts. The inside was not much better, paneled walls, checkered tablecloths, vinyl chairs, low ceilings, a football game going on the t.v. in the bar. But I am a trusting guy; they swore this was a famous local tradition so I ordered.

Oh, sweet mother of god! We shared an order of onion rings while waiting for our food- if only I had known! It was hard to share indeed, and I almost wanted to remind them that they could come back anytime and have these onion rings again, but I couldn't! Seasoned unlike anything I have ever had before, the outside crispy and almost as light as a potato chip, the onions fresh, juicy, not greasy, done to the proper 'limpness' but not mush. Oh, they were heaven. Then I had my fried catfish- again, seasoned just right, fried perfectly, the crispy outer shell melting away to reveal moist fish, the breading mixing in the mouth and infusing the fish with flavor. But, honestly, best of all, the potato salad. I have never had anything like it. Homemade, the potato's the perfect size, not too much mayo, perfect consistency, and huge amounts of sweet relish. I ate every bite. By this point, when they encouraged me to have the homemade dessert I had to resist- I am trying to lose weight and had just eaten more fried food than I had in months (am actually down another 5 pounds or so) and this was a calorie binge- but I did share homemade peanut butter pie with chocolate shavings- you can imagine.

They dropped me off and I rested again (and my tummy was a little unhappy, I really can't remember the last time I had fried food). I went out about 10:30. It was much more crowded than Friday night. Overall, people were younger, and the partying was much more intense. I stopped and listened to some jazz (great clarinet) and observed the crowds. I hit the gay bar I had had so much fun at the night before, but it was rather quiet so I walked up and down Bourbon more. This was when I realized I have become a cranky old guy. Somehow, watching people studiously drink themselves to a point where they couldn't walk, were vomiting on themselves, and generally being idiots annoyed me. Now mind you, those of you who know me from younger days are most likely reeling in shock and disbelief; but this is how I know I have become a cranky old man (You kids, get off my lawn!).

I did wander a lot, and somehow ate two slices of pizza (I figured, the diet is over for the day, and hell, ain't had pizza in ages and it's N.O. so what the hell, I'm not drinking!). Now remember, the garbage from Friday was still out, rotting lustily away after a day in the high 90's, this was mixed with smells from liquids of dubious origin all over the road (spilled beer, for example, but recall earlier comments about people throwing up on themselves- and I was wearing sandals). That smell, coupled with unidentified flying objects coming off of balconies, fights breaking out and my fear of attack from Harry's compadres, led me to my room!

Of course, in the hotel it weren't all quiet by a long shot! One man caught his girlfriend down the hall in flagrant delecto with some guy, another man argued about not giving his sister money for more drugs, and so on. It was a loud, rocking N.O. night.

I left the hotel this morning with mixed emotions- I feel a little older and far away from the wild twenty year old I was. Not that I am sad about this, but it just marks more time passing for me. I did enjoy the energy, the abandon, the zest that is everywhere in N.O. But I also noted that that all comes from tourists bent on a little hedonism and oblivion- the residents seem to be a different matter. I wonder about the future of the town.

As I was leaving I went out the east side and saw much more destruction. Miles of homes that are abandoned, shopping centers that are deserted, huge apartment complexes with no roofs or windows; the mess truly does cut across socio economic barriers. From near to the city and the small homes with the paint from the national guard on the front, to middle income neighborhoods, out to the surrounding well to do suburbs- all the same. Homes stripped, FEMA trailers here and there, tarps on some homes, others left to fall in upon themselves. Trees and garbage are still scattered in building debris. It is a sad sight indeed.

The drive from N.O. to Mobile was uneventful. From Mobile, I headed north through Mississippi and into Alabama. It was fun to see kudzu in places, turning what were once forests into dreamscapes. The trees are shrouded and take on eerie shapes and I found myself wanting to play that game that children play with clouds "I see a ship!", "I see an elephant!" of course, I saw a guardrail coming at me at 79 miles an hour so I stopped the game. But as a passenger, it could be great fun to go through a kudzu forest and dream dreams of the Wicked Witch of the West and running with Harry Potter trying to escape 'hewhoshallremainnameless'.

Alabama does not waste money on rest areas. I think the philosophy is most likely "Boy, there's miles o' side o' the road, what you need a rest area fer?". Consequently, I stopped several times along the way at truck stops and very small gas stations scattered across the state. A few observations will follow- but please understand, I in no way wish to slur the flower of southern womanhood or the virile southern gentleman- but in some ways, I learned that popular culture sometimes does nail the charicature on the head!

There really are women who have long lank brown hair, sloped shoulders, slack jaws, and eyes that barely veil a hate and venom for the world. They are thin, they wear tight jeans and ill fitting tops, they tow children behind them with no interest in whether the children are on their feet or not. They scare me.

There really are men who spend the day shirtless, drinking beer bought at the gas station (coming from PA, to see gas stations selling beer, hard booze, you name it, what a wake up!) while sitting on the hoods of their cars with their beer bellies spilling over their pants and yelling to other guys either across the gas pumps or on the cell phone "Sheeoot, I done thought I lost ya and was gonna get mah dogs an come looking! You ready to go shootin?" (overheard conversation, honest). My favorite bumper sticker on a back window over the gun rack thus far:

'If it flies, it dies.'

Most boys under the age of thirteen are called either Bubba or Buddy. "Bubba, get your ass over here right now", "Buddy, stop swattin your sister or ahm gonna slap you next side of Sunday" (overheard conversations at Chevron and BP). I am not sure that the names apply only to kids under the age of thirteen, I greatly fear they keep these names after puberty.

I also discovered that that as a very blonde man in a car with a roof that comes down (how you strap yo kill to the roof o' that thang?) I was a little skittish. The number of Bush/Cheney bumper stickers pretty much matched the number of gun racks, dogs in the back of pick ups, cars without windows (or with blue tarp duct taped in the windows), and billboards assuring me that Jesus was gonna save me (or come for me) real soon. I don't think I would like to be a democrat, gay, liberal...; oh hell, don't think I'd like to be me here in Alabama!

Ah well, no slur to Alabamans. But it gets worse. So, I drove and drove and 'made for' (still love that phrase) Montgomery- capital of this fair state.

Never having been here, I followed my usual modis operndi- I followed the signs to downtown and looked for a hotel. Montgomery has a beautiful capitol building; great ionic columns, large white dome, surrounded by administrative buildings. I was the only car on the streets. Now, it's Sunday afternoon so that wasn't so unusual, but the town was a little eerie. There are only two hotels in downtown Montgomery: Embassy Suites and Guesthouseinn (or some such thing). I tried Embassy Suites first, $175. I declined and went back to the Guesthouseinn (or some such thing). Little alarms started going off when I went inside and it smelled like very old cheese. But I persevered. The front desk man had trouble with my credit card (no lights behind the desk) and I had to read the credit card number to him as he tried three times to enter the number in the 'type in' system (no computer). But it was only $60. After twenty minutes we got it done (and of course, I hadn't stopped by the 'side of the road' lately and was more than eager to see a flush toilet). Got my bags, went up to the room and took care of things- then noticed that the bed had a very serious sag in the middle. And there was no other furniture but a t.v. on a low dresser circa 1970. Now, the fact that there were only four other cars in the parking lot also had alarm bells going off, but, hey, on an adventure right? And what the hell, gotta hit a less than perfect hotel once in a while on an adventure, right? Then I noted the bathtub with the leaking water, the carpet was stained, and my senses alerted a bit more. The dirty walls, ominous silence and lack of towels made me take stock.

It was at that point that I heard the whispers.

Harry's widow must have hired mercenaries! I could hear them under the bed, beneath the carpet, and behind the piece of paper taped to the shelf (no closet) that said "People who use the luggage rack will have there extra charge" (no idea what that means).

I went back to the front desk, still the adventurer "Where is the nearest nice place to eat?".

"Go down the road a piece and theys a Wendy's or MacDonals. You go a mile further and theys a Ruby Tuesdays".

I'm game, I'm a world traveler.

I went down the road a piece (here in the capitol). Theys a Wendy's. Theys a Mac Donals. I din't look for the Ruby Tuesdays.

I went back, said I wanted my money back- and went and got my bags. He had to call his Manager, and I quite frankly, I doubt the charge was removed from my credit card- I don't care. I got limits. While talking I learned that this is not in fact Guesthouseinn (or some such thing) and that shortly it will be taken over, and that the restaurant is closed, exercise room is closed, meeting rooms are closed, bar is closed, well, its just kinda closed!

Despite being bushed (hhhmmm, 'Bushed', can we make a new meaning out of that phrase?) I hit the road and went 'a piece' an found a Days Inn. I checked in, at least they had a computer at the front desk! Once I hit the room, found leaky water in the tub, stained carpet, saggy mattress and a door that had a chain lock that is ripped out from the peeling shellack of the wooden door. Ah well.

Per the front desk, the only place to eat, well, its;

Ruby Tuesday's.

That's it, after a five mile drive! So here I sit having those drinks I shoulda had in N.O.!

Now, I am sure that Birmingham has lovely neighborhoods, great restaurants, beautiful homes and kind people. In fact, the people at Ruby Tuesday's are great! My waitress is from Detroit, sweet as a peach, has been to Philly and exudes southern charm.

I am about to go back to my 'hotel'.

If I you don't hear from me in a day or two, don't come looking, chalk it up to 'adventure' and go on with life. Don't come to Alabama.

Sheeooout, I think hear Harry's kin a comin up behin me here at Ruby Tuesdays, gotta scoot! ...............
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