I found myself this evening crossing Katrinavilla in a most wonderful state of mind. Physically I was headed from Beachcorner, the cultural center of Lakeview for the safety and confines of River Ridge. Upon this moment, I had achieved a crackrock of the instance, pure unadulterated satisfaction. Okay, maybe a bit adulterated. Upon writing this, I realize it was completely adulterated but core pure just the same.
At the moment of my drive, Over The Hills And Far Away was playing on the radio and for that moment it was the greatest song ever written. Now that I have eaten dinner and sat down to tell this tale, I have now listened to a version of the song repeatedly about four times before realizing that I could take it no longer and turned on Minor Threat. I have also sobered and this combined with Minor Threat could possibly alter the original intent of this tale and that is an attempt to secure for posterity a momentary instance of pure satisfaction.
I will be forced upon this consideration to open another beer, the fifth of the day that is four more than my self-imposed limit. I will enjoy this beer as if it were the first breath of opium or the first taste of a woman but that has nothing to do with the story but then again perhaps it has everything to do with this tale as the title may suggest this is a story of original sin, the one driving force that has kept me going on these years.
As I left work today at the More Stuff Than You Could Ever Possibly Need Depot after a full day of selling convenience and style to the insured masses, I picked up a phone message from a former bro in garbage who like myself was eliminated by the evil It Corporation following Katrina but not before he was given the opportunity to save his own job for a few weeks by baring false testimony against Me. He was drunk and clearly by both his message and the sounds of the background noise in the process of doing the one thing that separates us from the rest of the entire fucking world, he and the characters around him were carrying on!
I, in my new found pathetic existence actually considered whether to grace the folks with my presence. I considered not gracing them with my being as I was too mature and adult and serious and bored, boring and in the process of infecting my boredom on all of those around me. I would go and have just enough drinks to tell my old bro to go fuck himself. I would go home feeling good and vindictive and afterall I was bored.
One of the characters who I suspected to be present for this gathering and probably the instigator of said gathering had just been awarded possibly the most controversial contract in the 288 year history of New Orleans and that is a lot of controversy. I use the term gathering deliberately since the handful of guys I suspected would be present are to New Orleans carrying on, myself included, as Conan McCloud and his buddies are to mayhem. We were for a few years the Highlanders of carrying on and as I was soon to find out the Quickening had arrived.
The controversial contract was for collection and storage of derelict automobiles and boats left from Katrina’s carnage. The City has awarded this contract two other times to three bidders but this guy’s firm has now been awarded it by the State. Really, if you do not know what drives the elected, allow me to inform you that it has little to do with pleasing the electorate and has everything to do with shaking down as many contractors as possible. If you can keep awarding the same contract over and over, all the better for having someone buy you lunch or dig your swimming pool or give you $100,000 in cash wrapped in Popsicle boxes for easy storage. Now, of course, the last 10 months have proven to anyone watching that while New Orleans and Louisiana have deserved reputations for corruption, they are no match for the greed and corruption rampant in the U.S. federal government. But, while FEMA is paying the bill, the most clear reason that this contract has needed to be repeatedly awarded is that the newly re-elected Mayor of the City of New Orleans, C. Ray Fudcicle is a complete and total fucking idiot! He is a born again racist also but that has little effect in this matter. The original version of the contract was for inventory, collection and disposal of the vehicles but in the shitstorm of controversy due mainly to the City not considering recycling options, our illustrious leaders at every level have figured out that by breaking up the elements of the contract they can continue awarding the contract indefinitely. At present they have awarded collection and storage to my friend. They have mandated the State Police to handle the inventory at no direct reimbursement and yet intend to still bid out secondary storage and disposal/recycling. It really makes perfect sense to double your transportation costs and create intermediate storage requirements. Perfect sense if you are a complete and total fucking imbecile or corrupt to the point of being evil.
As I pulled up to Beachcorner, I parked across the street from one of the derelict cars. It was a Jaguar with two flats and couple of broken windows and had clearly been fully submerged 10 months ago. I got to believe that this car has salvage value, I asked him to deliver it to my apartment but he immediately shut me down by explaining that he was contractually obligated to store the car at the State’s expense indefinitely. Mrs “all I can do is cry on national television” Governor of Louisiana, should be crying now but what does she care, she got a teacher pay raise approved, a campaign promise, never mind that 10,000 teachers lost their jobs and that every school in three Parishes were destroyed. She doesn’t need to cry anymore because she secured a raise that the remaining teachers will never be able to spot in a grocery basket. We just would’ve been a little better off had we voted for the Indian instead of the Woman.
I arrived inside to find all of the pre-Katrina barmaids along with a new one that was about 6’1” in a pair of daisy dukes. I intend to have a fantasy about that tall cool drink of water in the very near future. Included in this line up was a girl that has been serving me drinks for so long that I almost remembered her name. She without question has the most toned legs in Orleans Parish. Many an evening has been spent watching her shoot pool in twisted anticipation of her needing to lean across the table to make a shot. She had on long pants but it was okay since their were the lingerie girls whoring their tickets about the place. Girls in undersized drawers are like the second best thing to naked girls. Two of them looked like Anna Kournikova but younger and one looked like Michelle Wei but younger. I recognized two of them and felt good that there are at least two women left in the universe that I recognize in their underwear. Original sin was in the air.
I entered the bar telling myself that I would have one beer, not a cocktail but just one beer. I would let the one beer take the edge off and then find a polite way to tell my turncoat friend to go fuck himself and also lightly but professionally grovel for work from any friends that I have that just may happen to be sitting upon a giant municipal contract. As I walked in, a roar erupted from the back of the crowded bar. As I approached I was accosted by an unfamiliar hand offering a Heineken. It was ice cold! I was home! I might have two but that’s it.
Amongst the crowd at the rear was a sizable contingent from the St Bernard Parish Department of Sewer and Water. They were what we down here call “essential personnel.” They greeted the highest storm surge on record for North America and waited 5 days longer than the City of New Orleans for the first Army Hummer to arrive. They had stories!
I was sipping my third beer with one of the Kournikovas on my lap. She was a sweet young thang in every sense. Not real good with the English though. She was awfully cute and awfully young and was probably not a victim of some sort of Eastern European white slavery ring. She was however on my lap and her perky supple rack could barely be contained in her too small frilly top. Linda from the sewer of God’s Country had lit a Kool, it smelled of ambrosia. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!
Linda told a story of the desperate days in God’s Country in the early days of September. They had survived the storm and the floodwater was receding with every tide. They had made it to the secondary command center on the upper floors of Chalmette General Hospital. They watched as people wandered both by boat and self out of the marsh. Desperate times had called for desperate measures. Two teams were sent out to forage which as you know is what white people do instead of looting. The primary destinations were the Family Dollar in Chalmette and the Home Depot in Meraux. Their instructions were to gather anything usable that was above the water line and all the beer that they could carry whether above or below. Priorities are important as is anesthesia.
She said that they took what they needed in order of importance was beer, cigarettes, feminine products, toilet paper and bottled propane. I asked about water, she said that they got water and soap from the National Guard a week later and it was welcomed. She explained an elaborate sterilization process for the beer that had been submerged utilizing bleach and science. She finished the story with a community wide understanding of important priorities.
As she told this story, I was hearing the other version from a couple of my bros from Garbage. On the one week anniversary of landfall, little to no outside help had arrived in St Bernard. The Sewer folks had begun to assess the ability or inability to get pumps back in operation. They had yet to see the first element of the federal government and had only seen a few helicopters fly over. Most of the aircraft seen were running search rescue in neighboring Eastern New Orleans and the Ninth Ward. A lone helicopter landed as close as possible to the Chalmette General Site. Aboard were my two bros one of which is formerly of St Bernard Parish Government. They had purchased 50 filet mignons with all the trimmings from Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Baton Rouge and flown it to the downtrodden in God’s Country. I thought that was beautiful and ridiculous in all its splendor. As Linda said, “we were getting desperate and up flies Stevie with a large amount of beef!”
She also explained that somewhere along the way in that week it just did not seem so important not to smoke as she had quit in 1998. She has been smoking and quitting ever since.
When I first arrived, the lingerie whores came around hustling off their raffle tickets. When I was accosted, I was with my turncoat friend who also is possibly the tightest son of a bitch on earth. His tightness that I reference was during a period during which he was taking down 6 figures a year. Now that he has been unemployed for 3 or 4 months, I could only imagine that he could give Shylock a lesson or two on misering. A golden opportunity presented itself when the lingerie whore arrived. I announced that I would forgive him for fucking me if he bought me some tickets.
It was perfect I envisioned, he couldn’t possibly do something as full fledged squanderous as buying these tickets knowing clearly that it was as pointless of an expense as recreational income could ever encounter. Then, his refusal to buy the tickets would open the door to a little long overdue berating of saving his own ass and then being fucked the same way by the same guy that he sold his soul to. He bought the tickets without hesitation! Fucker!
He didn’t just buy the minimum either but an amount pissed away to a degree that encouraged one of the Kournikovas to come sit on my lap to get more. That’s a lot of tickets. So this whole thing completely derailed my ill intention. How could I ever hold this against him now? He left me nothing to do but give him unconditional absolution in this matter. That was okay because I still didn’t have to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he lucked into a little unconditional absolution. I was feeling good as number 3 hit the bar and Kournikova lept into my lap like a galloping gazelle. Damn that cigarette smelled wonderful.
So, number 5 came to the bar as cold as number 1. Number 4 was a shoo shoo as my former boss dumped it before its time with a drunken arm. 4 ½ was 3 ½ passed my self imposed limit but still 26 or 27 pints less than my driving threshold that is itself a few gallons less than my spend the night in jail threshold. The Kool tasted like shit as I enjoyed every breath of it. At this moment and just for a moment, it was Xanadu or may I even say the mythological Elysian Fields that were only a mere mile or so away.
I hit the road with a pair of jeans that fit a good bit better than when I arrived. The tobacco buzz was still there on top of the long weeks end Heinekens. I drove back to River Ridge lavishing in all the immature wonder of driving with a buzz. At that moment, Led Zeppelin was playing the perfect song and the buzz of original sin was fresh in all of its repetitive grandeur.