A Fight on Royal Street

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day One, Monday, July 10, 2017

As we sit in a group listening to speakers outline the upcoming week – I find myself sitting next to a big window looking out across Royal Street. It is the usual narrow French Quarter lane – two stories – balconies above. I should pay better attention to the speakers but my eyes are drawn by the parade of sweating tourists moving by on the sidewalks. Some of them look into the window at all of us sitting there – confused looks, “What are these people doing in there?”

As I glance across the street I see an old man struggling to lean a bicycle against the wrought iron post supporting an overhead balcony. He had a red milk carton full of crap strapped to his bike – a sign of a serious bicycling homeless person. After he managed to lean the bike, he turned, stretched out, curled up, and went to asleep on the sidewalk. The tourist parade continued unabated. They would point at him as they passed.

It is almost like his location is marked on their tourist maps – “Unconscious Drunken Man with Bicycle.”

A few minutes later another odd man with another bike walks up and starts talking to him, “Hey! You’re sleeping on Royal Street! Do you need an ambulance?”

In a split second this disintegrated into shouted curses, “Fuck you!”, “No! Fuck YOU!” – over and over. I didn’t look up because I was writing the start of this thing here. But I heard a clattering and crashing – the two were now fighting.

(This all happened after I had already started on this subject or I would have written about something else.)

When I write I feel a need to explore the thin membrane between the comfortable everyday world we move in and the unimaginable terror of the chaos that rules on the other side.

This drunken bicycle guy lives right on the membrane, stretching it thin – crucified on the border between the tourists of the French Quarter and the trackless void beyond.

When I looked up, everyone had moved on.

I guess now they will have to change all the tourist maps.

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