Molly’s was home to the demimonde, to artists, journalists, retired teachers, lawyers, politicians, cops, and people of uncertain description. Laura and I wrote poetry together there, sometimes with other poets. For a time I became addicted to the video poker machines in the bar and lost a lot of money. I once brought Philip Glass, the musician, to Molly’s, and he sat before one of the machines and became instantly fascinated by their Zen randomness and sounds. We had a hard time getting him away from it. We snapped great moments in Molly’s photo booth, when there was one, immortalizing the goofiness and sweetness of ourselves.
—- Andrei Codrescu, Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans – Some Prefatory Remarks, from New Orleans, Mon Amour, Twenty Years Of Writings From The City
He presided, he directed, he ruled, he snarled. From his perch at the Window of Molly’s which is where I mostly saw him, he listened indulgently to the speculative thrusts of the Window Gang, paid slightly more attention to opinion derived from inside info, and gave his full ear to inside info itself. Like everything that went by the Window on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, including a variety of humanity that would have made both Goya and Picasso shriek with delight, on couldn’t be sure of the exact percentage of B.S. Monaghan alone seemed to know. People vied to be in the Window Gang, but few could stand the Chief’s tests, which to the innocent must have often seemed rough, illiberal, crude, or so deliberately provocative as to preclude any rational response.
—-Andrei Codrescu – The Passing of Jim Monaghan, New Orleans Bar Owner, from New Orleans, Mon Amour, Twenty Years of Writings from the City
The best place to write… or to sit… possibly to drink… in the French Quarter is the window at Molly’s. Take my word for it.
A machine will squirt out Molly’s frozen Irish coffee (caffeine, ice cream, alcohol – three of the four major food groups) into a plastic to-go cup and you can sit inside the window, outside the window or even mill around on the Decatur sidewalk.
Today the bar was packed with a dozen young women, obviously a bachelorette party, all wearing identical denim shorts and t-shirts emblazoned with “I LIVE TO BE DRUNK” in glitter. They handed me a phone and asked me to take their photos lined up at the bar. I arranged them and took some shots, they were particularly giggly happy with the landscape photo.
There are bikes locked up all over the French Quarter, mostly to the wrought iron columns supporting the ubiquitous overhead balconies. Most of these are heavy, beater bikes – in deference to New Orleans’ rough streets, giant potholes, and flat-as-a-pancake geography. Every day, though sitting in front of me, well-locked to the pole on the sidewalk was a nice Specialized road bike – looking fast standing still, if also well-used. One day, I arrived early enough to watch the owner arrive and lock up – he was obviously a worker in a nearby bar or restaurant. That day someone else had already locked up to his pole, but he maneuvered around and managed to lock on the other side, sharing the pole. It was his spot and he was going to use it.
One would do well, as I have done many times, to investigate a single place over time, at different times of the day. Molly’s on Market, for instance, is home in the early afternoon to a lively Window Gang consisting of a varying crew of journalists, men-about-town, women-about-town, writers of fiction and poetry, mysterious characters either larger or brighter than life, led on by Jim Monaghan, proprietaire extraordinaire, Irish wit, and provocateur. Monaghan’s extravagant personality imbues the day, but the night belongs to the tribes of the tattooed and pierced young. At night a sloshed picture gallery displays itself with sensual impertinence.
—- Andrei Codrescu, Solution: Enivrez-Vous: The Bars of New Orleans, from New Orleans, Mon Amour, Twenty Years Of Writings From The City
“The beauty of Molly’s is that it is not, whether in the daytime or at night, the exclusive preserve of an age or income group. Unlike the sterile night scenes of pretentious San Francisco or New York, Molly’s (and most other New Orleans bars) welcomes all ages, all colors, and all sexual persuasions, provided they are willing to surrender to the atmosphere.”
― Andrei Codrescu, New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City
“Don’t play the saxophone, let the saxophone play you.”
― Charlie Parker, Parker, Charlie E-Flat Alto Saxaphone
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.
“Oh, I’m not a percussionist, I just like to hit things.”
― Tom Waits
“If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”
― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
“Party lights hang over the street, yellow and red and green. Sadie stumbles over someone’s chair, but I’m ready for this and I catch her easily by the arm.
“Sorry, clumsy,” she says.
“You always were, Sadie. One of your more endearing traits.”
Before she can ask about that I slip my arm around her waist. She slips hers around mine, still looking up at me. The lights skate across her cheeks and shine in her eyes. We clasp hands, fingers folding together naturally, and for me the years fall away like a coat that’s too heavy and too tight. In that moment, I hope on thing above all others: that she was not too busy to find at least one good man …
She speaks in a voice almost too low to be heard over the music. But I hear her – I always did. “Who are you, George?”
“Someone you knew in another life, honey.”
― Stephen King, 11/22/63