Friday, May 14, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: Sodom and Gomorrah

Late into my slop-week, we decided recreation was required. I had made serious headway, and my days in town were approaching an end. We all wanted to blow off steam. Calls were made. Kids were pawned off on grandmothers. And away we went.

We wove through the streets downtown, past the Love Boat, past the make-shift hospital where Jeff worked. (And where he had contracted a weird—though apparently harmless—rash on his forehead. It had been going around. None of the doctors could identify it, so they simply dubbed it “K-pox”).

Parking was easy. Canal Street, though crowded compared to the rest of the city, was a hushed shadow of its former bustle. Lights shone in vacant stores, illuminating their looted interiors. Clothing racks stood empty. Rejected castoffs littered the floors.

As we rounded onto Bourbon Street, the crowds thickened with drunk, horny men a long way from home.* We murmured to ourselves, “It’s almost like normal.” Then a squad of Feds in full body armor strolled by.

We found ourselves in a garish bar—fake palm trees and tropical tchatchkes cluttering every corner—famed for its glowing-green signature drink. I ordered a whiskey.

We met some cops Jeff knew. The scene was an alphabet soup of government and media: NOPD, FBI, CNN, ABC. We sat back, sipping our drinks, laughing and chit-chatting as the scene stirred around. Glossy reporters paired off in corners, pulling out phones and blackberries to earnestly swap tips and numbers. Others drank and flirted. Everybody seemed to be about business of one sort or another: shop-talk or sweet-talk.

An FBI agent, a severely drunk and plainly crazy young blond woman, overheard Jeff was a psychiatrist. Her eyes lit up. “You’re a psychiatrist? Ooh, diagnose me!” (In her oblivious state, she missed Fay’s flagrant eye-rolls and violent gagging sounds.) But after making no headway in her impromptu therapy session, she switched to a nearby male acronym.

The night went on. The drunks got drunker. A skeezy, sloppy dance party started. The kitsch novelty of the deeply crappy bar was wearing off, and we departed for home (hopelessly past curfew but without incident).

I remembered why I never… ever… hung out on Bourbon Street. Our outing, though much needed, was far from a return to normalcy—it was yet another marker of exactly how strange things remained.

* Some conservative religious leaders claimed that Katrina was punishment for the wickedness of the city. (I’d heard such comments myself while flipping through the Texas radio dial.) If so, God screwed up. Bourbon Street remained dry and returned to business in short order. The workaday corners of the city carried the heavy load.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:47 PM

    It's kinda like "only the good die young"!