No One Had Responded To Its Message

“On the prow of the wagon, in an attempt to attract business among the Quarterites, Ignatius taped a sheet of Big Chief paper on which he had printed in crayon: TWELVE INCHES (12) OF PARADISE. So far no one had responded to its message.”
― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

Saint Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans

I’m getting packed, getting ready to drive to New Orleans for a week of this year’s Writing Marathon.

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Eating Barbequed Iguana

I’m on a mexican radio
I wish I was in Tiajuana
Eating barbequed iguana
I’d take requests on the telephone
I’m on a wavelength far from home
I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
I dial it in from south of the border
I hear the talking of the dj
Can’t understand just what does he say?
Radio radio…
—- Wall of Voodoo, Mexican Radio

The Tennessee Williams quote on the wall at the Gallier House, Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans.

I wrote about this on my Facebook page back in February – but I don’t think a lot of people followed the link.

At any rate, this story started back in 2012, on a trip to New Orleans. I ran into a group at the St. Vincent’s Guest House and soon was involved in a one-day writing marathon – walking around with a handful of folks, scribbling away.

I was inspired by the experience to the point I organized a Writing Marathon or two of my own, here in Dallas.

Then finally, in July of last year, I was able to swing attending the full week-long Writing Marathon Retreat – branching out from the Gallier House to write across the French Quarter and beyond.

One day, the group I had gone with that day stopped for the fixed-price lunch at Antoine’s (highly recommended if you are in New Orleans in the summer). I remembered an incident that had happened in that very restaurant thirty five years earlier. I pulled out my pen and notebook wrote up my memories in the bar.

At the end of each day, there was the option for a few folks to stand up and read from what they had written earlier. I put my name on the list and read the story from Antoine’s. The readings were recorded.

Then, in February, a selection of the recordings were played on KSLU radio.

You can listen to the 2017 readings AT THIS LINK – If you want to skip ahead, my reading is at about the 14:10 point.

If that link doesn’t work – go here – http://www.kslu.org/awards_recognition/index.html and click on “2017 Writing Marathon.”

People have asked me about the siren at the end of my reading. That isn’t a sound effect – the fire engine actually went by on the street outside, siren blaring, as I finished.

Now I need to get going and register for the 2018 Retreat. So much fun.

Standing on the Pedals

“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.”
― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

New Orleans

Dancing With the Dead

“He was in Guanajuato, Mexico, he was a writer, and tonight was the Day of the Dead ceremony. He was in a little room on the second floor of a hotel, a room with wide windows and a balcony that overlooked the plaza where the children ran and yelled each morning. He heard them shouting now. And this was Mexico’s Death Day. There was a smell of death all through Mexico you never got away from, no matter how far you went. No matter what you said or did, not even if you laughed or drank, did you ever get away from death in Mexico. No car went fast enough. No drink was strong enough.”

—- Ray Bradbury, The Candy Skull

Molly’s at the Market, Decatur Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

Molly’s at the Market, Decatur Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

Verti Marte

“I always tell my kids to cut a sandwich in half right when you get it, and the first thought you should have is somebody else. You only ever need half a burger.”
― Louis C.K.

For a week in New Orleans I was walking back and forth from the Writing Marathon location in the French Quarter to my son’s house in Treme. I noticed a little place on the corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls Street called the Verti Marte. It wasn’t much to write home about, a tiny little bodega, but I thought it might be a good place to pick up groceries on the way home. My son, Lee, used to live near there so I asked him about it.

Verti Marte, Royal and Governor Nicholls, French Quarter, New Orleans

“Verti Marte? Oh hell yes. We have to go eat there.”

That’s good enough for me – when he had some time off of work, we drove down, parked in Faubourg Marigny and walked back to the place.

Verti Marte is a tiny spot, crammed with stuff – there is barely room to walk and no room to pass another person in the narrow aisles. It is open 24/7 and, although unknown and ignored by tourists, is an oasis of delicious usefulness to the people that live in the French Quarter.

Plywood from Katrina, Verti Marte, Royal and Governor Nicholls, French Quarter, New Orleans

On one wall are two large pieces of plywood that protected the windows after Katrina, covered with spray painted messages begging the Verti Marte to reopen.

Menu, Verti Marte, Royal and Governor Nicholls, French Quarter, New Orleans

The entire back wall, behind a long glass counter, is occupied by the extensive menu. I have never seen so much offered by such a small spot. I ignored the long lists of salads, soups, entrees, and wraps and concentrated on the sandwiches.

Sandwiches – French Bun
Roast Beef
B.B.Q. Beef
Grilled Chic.
Fried Chic.
Ham
Ham & Ch.
Turkey
Hamburger
Cheeseburger
Chicken Salad
Tuna Salad
Smoked Saus.
Hot Saus.
B.L.T.
Meatloaf
Meatball
Fried Shirmp
Oysters
Cat Fish
Shrimp & Oyster
Club
Grilled Cheese
Ruben
Tam’s French Fri
All That Jazz
Royal Feast
Philly Cheese Steak
Muffeletta
Turkey Croissant
Turkey Burger
Talapia
Green Giant
Mushroom Mt.
Veggie Burger
Shrimp Philly
Country Fried Stk
Creole Chicken
Parmesan Chicken
Ernies Powboy – Thanks Ernie

One day, at the Writing Marathon, someone had read a piece that they had written on the eternal question, “Can one person eat an entire Muffaletta in one sitting?” Ever since I heard that, I wanted one.

I didn’t want to answer the question that day, so Lee and I split one – and it was enough.

Muffaletta, enough for two, Verti Marte, Royal and Governor Nicholls, French Quarter, New Orleans

Cyclist With Backpack on Royal

New Orleans – an Alternative

Pre-Katrina I biked around New Orleans many times. The city is pretty flat, which makes it easy on the knees. On one trip I discovered a bike path along the top of some of the earthen lebees. It was delightful; one could see the river on one side and the city spread out on the other.

Here there are few of the usual interstates that divide and wound cities. There’s mostly just I-10, on its massive concrete pilings, which snakes into the center of town, desperately trying to stay above most of the funk and humanity below. New Orleans was, and I suspect still is, one of a few large cities across the U.S.A. with character and personality, with its own food, culture, language, and music. It never fails to inspire, though it has clearly flourished despite much neglect and years of abuse that were revealed to the world when the hurricane struck.

I bike along Magazine Street and then on St. Charles where what at first glance appears to be Spanish moss in the trees turns out to be Mardi Gras beads, hanging from the weird branches, block after block – and it’s not even Mardi Gras season.
—- David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans