Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Shanghaied in New Orleans

I'm no Kojak.  I am not a detective.  I'm just a regular person like you.  

I live in New Orleans.  Maybe that doesn't make me all that regular.  New Orleans is different, all in all.

Dreams come true in New Orleans every day.

The last time I saw Mingo, he invited me to join his "special" peppercorn club.  I refused his offer and I continue to refuse it to this day.  I still say, "Never."

The last time I saw Margarette, who is a member of The Jolly Time Peppercorn Club of Mid-City, she was pedaling her red bicycle, which has a yellow rear basket, down Eve Street surrounded by white doves.

When a pigeon is white, we call it a dove in New Orleans.  When it is any other color, we call it a pigeon.  Maybe that's the way it is where you live, too.  

The only thing more beautiful than a snow white dove is a mother.  If you don't know that, you don't know anything worth knowing.

Most of the time, the only time we see doves in New Orleans is in stained glass windows.  Pigeons are everywhere.  And, then, then, there is Margarette.  Margarette is a freed spirit in a city full of free spirits.  She refuses to drown.

And, then, there is Jimmie.  The last time I saw Jimmie, he was at the Rendon Inn.  

The next time I saw Jimmie, this afternoon, he was at Ralph's-on-the-Park, on City Park Avenue.

Believe the hype.  Ralph's-on-the-Park is good enough.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It's nice.

A view of City Park, New Orleans, across from Ralph's-on-the-Park, also in New Orleans.

Ralph's-on-the-Park has bay windows that look from the dining room and from the bar out at City Park.  Sometimes, in the distance, the train will go by.  It's nice.  Those people on the train always look so happy.

I visited Ralph's-on-the-Park every day for two years.  Not anymore.

Ralph's-on-the-Park is convenient and it is on the way home if you live in this part of New Orleans.  

Order the Vegas Strip during happy hour at Ralph's-on-the-Park.  You won't be disappointed.  

Ralph's-on-the-Park is a very popular place for its target customer demographic.  You might love it.

"Margarette called off a meeting I was supposed to have with her tomorrow," I told Jimmie.

Jimmie was scratching his back when I said this.  He finished scratching and, then, he paused before he said, "What happened?"

"She called it off," I answered.  I didn't tell him he wasn't invited.

There was silence.  It was a pregnant pause while the news sunk in.  We didn't talk to each other.  We kept to our own thoughts and listened to our own hearts.  Shhhhh.  You'll ruin it.

We were silent awhile and then the background music piped in from the ceiling got really, really loud.  The couple at the other side of the bar asked the bartender to turn the speakers down.  

It didn't matter if the Ralph's-on-the-Park soundtrack was loud or soft.  Jimmie and I still didn't talk.  

Management had to get involved.  Caleb adjusted the volume.  

When we did finally talk, with the music turned down, Jimmie went first.  "I hear that heiress has been shanghaied," he said.

"Gert Town?" I started,  "Hollygrove?  Zion City?  Hoffman Triangle?  Pigeon Town?  Black Pearl?  Tulane?  Is she at Touro Infirmary?" I nervously rattled off a couple more neighborhood names at random.  My fear factor was running high.

Jimmie put a finger to his lips.  We were silent some more.

Everybody in New Orelans loves Dixie Beer.

Jimmie and I sat next to each other a bit longer, still not saying anything.  What else was there to do?

I went to the mens room.  

When I got back, Jimmie went to the mens room.  

The mens room is very clean at Ralph's-on-the-Park.  I've never been in the ladies room enough times to comment on how clean that is.  

I assume the ladies room at Ralph's-on-the-Park is as clean as the mens room.  Jimmie and I talked about it one day when we didn't have anything else to talk about.  We concluded that the ladies room has to be at least as clean as the mens room at Ralph's-on-the-Park.  After all, they're ladies.

Emily got all excited and pointed out the window.  "There goes Margarette on her bicycle!" Emily exclaimed.

"I didn't see anything,"  I said.  I asked Jimmie, "Did you?"

Jimmie said, "I didn't see anything but I'll trust anything Emily says."

Emily said, "She looked like she was in trouble.  She was headed uptown, lakeside."

Jimmie said, "If I were going to kidnap someone, where would I take them?  I wouldn't take them to Navarre.  That's where the community college is."

Jimmie was silent a while longer.  When he was ready to talk some more, he turned to me.  He said, "Do you remember that secret wine bar?"

I knew exactly where he was talking about.

To be continued.....

A word from out sponsor:   

   La Belle Esplanade 
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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A Rendez-Vous at the Rendon Inn.

A got a text from Margarette early this afternoon.  "Meet me at Rendon Inn," it read.

You never know what you'll find when you turn a corner in New Orleans.

I texted back, "I'll be there at 2:00PM."  It's important to specify AM and PM when you live in New Orleans.  We live in a 24-hour city.  

There is always something happening, somewhere, here.  It is usually something good.

At 2:00, I was at Rendon Inn.  It is very nice in there.  It is remarkably clean in there, too.  A very nice layout for a bar with a kitchen.  I think two tables have been there since opening day.

There is a large patio outside at the Rendon Inn, accessible through an open door.  The door was open because today was in the low eighties and sunny.  What a March!

When Margarette showed up, she ordered a bowl of gumbo with potato salad for an extra three dollars.  When the bowl arrived it had a generous scoop of potato salad in the middle of the gumbo.  

Potato salad in soup?!?  That's the Cajun way.  The Creole way is with rice.  Some people like it one way and some people like it the other way.  I don't know where Margarette was born or raised.

I don't know how old Margarette is but I'm pretty sure she was born in the last century.  With some people, it's hard to tell.

"The Operation Catfish is cancelled," Margarette told me.

She wouldn't answer when I asked why.  She was tightlipped except when she was shoveling in the gumbo.

Margarette had ridden her bicycle to Rendon Inn.  Unless you know exactly where you are going, or, you are totally lost, you will never find Rendon Inn on your own.  You'll need someone to draw you a map.

Margarette's bicycle was locked to the street sign on the corner of South Rendon and Eve Streets.  When she was finished eating and had wiped her mouth, a flock of snow white doves landed around her bike.  

There must have been fifty doves.  Some of them were on her bike, some of them were under it.  Others were next to it, on one side or on the other.  

They looked us us through the front window.

"I've got to go" Margarette told me.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"I'll tell you that the next time I see you.  I'll text you."

We shook hands.

Margarette unlocked her bicycle and pedaled down Eve Street toward the river.  

"Hoo-boy, the river, again," I thought to myself inside my head.  

"What's the next rumor going to be?" I wondered aloud.

Jimmie leaned close to me.  "I think she's an heiress," he whispered.

To be continued......

A word from out sponsor:   

When you are ready to visit New Orleans like you mean it, there is only one B&B hotel where you should stay.  It's La Belle Esplanade, the small hotel that will respect your intelligence.  You belong here.  Here's the link to La Belle Esplanade's blog.  This blog is good but La Belle's blog is "The Best Written Blog in New Orleans."

The #1-ranked small hotel in New Orleans since April 2014.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

An Unlikely Suicide on Esplanade Avenue

The last time I saw Margarette, she was pedaling her bicycle down Esplanade Avenue toward the river.  If someone had told me at that moment that she would be drowned by midnight, I would have said, "No way."

I still say, "No way."

A house in our neighborhood that you'll see if you walk to the river from here.
I suspect a hoax, and not only because Margarette is a professional practical joker.  Nothing adds up.  No body has been found.  I think it's too early to declare Margarette dead.  Who knows for sure?  Only Margarette, I guess.

When someone goes swimming in the Mississippi River in New Orleans, their body is found two, three, forty miles downriver from the French Quarter.  No one survives being swept downriver.  Swimming in the Mississippi is a death sentence.  It's muddy, too.

The current is strong in this part of the mighty Mississippi.  Human arms and human legs cannot compete against the mighty Mississippi's current before or after the English Turn bend in the river, which is at a 90 degree angle.  You'll be ground up by a tugboat's propellers.

The collected force of America's heartland flows through New Orleans.  Few fish are strong enough to swim upriver.  Not even whales.

Margarette is a friend of mine.  I'm going to still use the present tense when referring to her until proven otherwise.  

Margarette lives in our New Orleans neighborhood, in Tremé.  Maybe you've seen her.  She rides a red bicycle with a yellow basket on the back rack.  She rides that bike straight as a shot arrow, and, almost as fast.  She is quick on two wheels, proof that two wheels will set a person free.

She has big brown eyes as big as Bambi's.  

Margarette was a member of the Jolly Time Peppercorn Club of Mid-City.  That's not the Peppercorn Club that Mingo tried to get me to join.  The Jolly Time Peppercorners of Mid-City are a wholesome and family-friendly organization.  

Around our part of New Orleans, we call members of the Jolly Time Peppercorn Club of Mid-City, Peppercorners.  It's not unusual to overhear someone say about someone else, "You can trust them.  He/She is a real Peppercorner!"  That's high praise in this part of New Orleans.

Members of Mingo's Peppercorn Club aren't called anything but thugs, deadbeats, crooks, cockroaches, or mudbugs.

I hope Margarette is okay.  Some people at the donut shop told me that she had committed suicide by swimming in the river.  That's unlikely.  

I saw her last night and, if I can be  said to be any judge of character, suicide was the last thing on her mind.  She had just won $200 in the Louisiana Lottery off a scratch-off ticket.  

She was smiling like nobody's business when she pedaled away from my house.  Everybody smiles in New Orleans all the time, but that grin gets extra-wide when a person wins the Louisiana Lottery.  Hoo-boy.  Margarette was a winner.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  

Like a chicken, Margarette can't swim.  She flies down the street on her bicycle.  I can't imagine that she'd try to swim in the mighty Mississippi.  She knows better.  Those rumor-mongers at the donut shop don't know what they are talking about.  I'm sure Margarette is okay.

Is Margarette dead?  No way.  

I got a text from her this morning.  It said: "Let's get the whole gang together and meet at Frey Smoked Meats on Friday.  They have fried catfish for Lent."  

"Operation Catfish is on," I texted back.  It was 9:00AM when this exchange took place.  It was windy this morning.

Bienville and North Lopez Streets, New Orleans, Louisiana.
If I don't hear from Margarette by next Friday, I guess I'll know if she's alive or not on Friday.  We're meeting at Frey Smoked Meats next Friday at 1:00 for catfish.

Mmmmm..... Catfish at Lent.  It's not much of a penance.  Especially if we are having lunch with Margarette!  Only a week to go.....

A word from out sponsor:   

When you are ready to visit New Orleans like you mean it, there is only one B&B hotel where you should stay.  It's La Belle Esplanade, the small hotel that will respect your intelligence.  You belong here.  Here's the link to La Belle Esplanade's blog.  This blog is good but La Belle's blog is "The Best Written Blog in New Orleans."
You belong at the #1-ranked B&B Hotel in New Orleans.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I Haven't Joined Mingo's Peppercorn Club

New Orleanss 7th Ward at Night.
I was at Buffa's this morning at 2:00AM, March 4.  New days start at midnight in New Orleans.  Yesterday was the feast day of St. Katherine Drexel, who founded Xavier University in New Orleans. Since midnight, it's been the feast day of St. Casimir.  

If you're not Catholic, you don't care.

We are in the second week of Lent.  It feels longer than that.

A guy sat next to me at the bar and he ordered an Abita Amber.  He nursed at that beer bottle for a long, long time, always looking sideways at me.  He was either looking at the TV or he was looking at me.

I was reading my Bible at the time.  I had gone through two pages of tiny type when the guy next to me said, "Mingo wants to see you."

I didn't take the bait.  I said, "Mingo's been dead for over a hundred fifty years."  He knew I was right.

"Not that Mingo," the big mook said.  

"I know the Mingo you mean," I said.  I closed my good book.  "Where does this Mingo want to meet me?"

"Next to the dumpsters at Manchu Chinese Food."

There are two Manchu Chinese Food shops within a short walk from my house.  Both of them are painted purple.  Both of them are famous for their fried chicken wings.  Most people prefer the ones on Claiborne Avenue under the I-10 overpass, though.  It is the more iconic location.  I asked at which of Manchu chicken shops I was supposed to meet this Mingo.

"On St. Bernard Avenue," the mook said.

Good.  To get to the Manchu on Claiborne Avenue means I would just have to walk down Esplanade Avenue to get there.  There is nothing wrong with that, it's a straight shot, but I make that walk every day.  For me, it is a much more picturesque stroll to the Manchu on St. Bernard Avenue.  

I feasted my eyes.

The 7th Ward is full of interesting details.  I was looking forward to meeting Mingo on St. Bernard Avenue.  I took my time.  The dumpsters stink outside Manchu Chicken.  It serves him right.

On my way to meet Mingo, I stopped to watch a puppet show some neighborhood kids were putting on in a dishwasher box.  

On my way to meet Mingo, I bought a huckaback from Widow Beaudreaux and I sucked on it as I made my way to St. Bernard Avenue.

You never know what you'll find when you turn a corner in New Orleans.  Every errand is a pleasant adventure.

I talked to Mingo.  We made a deal.  He didn't shake me down.  He was as good as dead.  That's why he wanted to talk to me.  Maybe somebody who reads this blog will give him money.

He offered to make me a member of his club.  I told him I'd think about it.  What else could I do?  I'm going to think about it.  I'm going to think about it for a long, long, long time.  I don't know how long I'm going to think about it.  Maybe I'll think about it for a hundred fifty years.  I don't know and I don't care.  When I come to my decision, Mingo will be the first one to know.  I'll tell him personally.  I won't use any surrogates.  

I live on Esplanade Avenue.  One side of my street is the 6th Ward. The other side of my street is the 7th Ward.  You never know what you'll find when you turn a corner in this wonderful city your humble narrator calls home.  

New Orleans is full of surprises.  I know.  I live here.  I have lived to tell yet another tale.  I hope to live to tell many, may more.  A bad day in New Orleans is better than good day of fishing.  You'll see when you visit.  Visit New Orleans like you mean it.

Do you like soda pop and ice cream?  New Orleans is a city full of daydreams that turn into jolly escapades.  Catch a wish and you'll find yourself in New Orleans.

A word from out sponsor: La Belle Esplanade.  
When you are ready to visit New Orleans like you mean it, there is only one B&B hotel where you should stay.  It's La Belle Esplanade, the small hotel that will respect your intelligence.  You belong here.  Here's the link to La Belle Esplanade's blog.  This blog is good but La Belle's blog is "The Best Written Blog in New Orleans."
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