Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crescent City Sketches, II

Even the mornings are hot in the Crescent City. On Bourbon Street the humidity congeals into a thick stew of smells – piss and vomit and alcohol and the rot of the city, all stale and stinking. Through this stew he walks as the sun crests the buildings. Across the corner a man hoses the vile spillage of the night before from the stoop and the sidewalk and into the sewer. He smiles and waves at the man and walks on. Down the street, past cabarets and sports bars, all quiet in the morning light. The girls are gone, at home in their beds still asleep or bleary eyed as they search for their glasses, their hair tousled and their faces unpainted. Gone too are the men who stood in the streets hawking the lewdness and competing for a crown of unchastity in language as they sought to draw passersby in beyond the doors of the windowless buildings. No neon signs blaze out the promise of skin and cheap liquor. No street preachers stand in the way decrying the blackness of the sins the creep and crawl through the glow of the night lights. Only a few tourists wander onto and off of the street, peering at the strangeness of Bourbon street with no bourbon.

He walks on, past Toulouse Street, and then right on St. Peter's. Rainbow colored flags line the opposite side of the street. On his right Pat O'Brien's sleeps on. At length he emerges into Jackson square. The palmists and the readers of Tarot line the fence around the park, mingled with the street painters and jewelry stands. A few tourists climb the steps into St. Louis Cathedral. He joins them, working his way around the building carefully, taking in the art and stopping now and then to whisper a prayer to one of the saints. On the way out he slips a five dollar bill into the box and lights a few candles for his grandparents. Back in the sun he turns his feet back to the hotel, and the shuttle, and the airport, and home.

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