oh, you spin me right round, baby, but not like a record. you spin me like the carousel bar, that bastion of pure NOLA weirdness in the "quiet" part of the french quarter. the captain and coke only puts a fine point on the dizzy good vibe of this cool november evening, generated largely from that slow, measured rotation, experienced for hours on end. you almost forget that you're turning, but you are. the kindly old eccentric on your right side insists on giving us his blessing for our evening's activities, another classic NOLA moment. in new orleans, your secrets are never just your own. but we sit and laugh, spinning in more ways than one.
you flatter my ego; i flatter you back. you lose that layer of cool, that polish you always carry, and give in to the absurdity. no one knows us here; we're just two more strangers. it feels like something out of a tom waits song. you expect the bartender to have a tattooed tear for every year he's away, except that this isn't ninth and hennepin. but the patrons do have that sort of weathered patois in their voices, that slightly less than above-board sensibility that every good adventure bar should have. this is the city that care forgot, after all.
maybe that's why you feel so free. well, that and your johnnie walker black. but you wear it so, so well. you get looser and looser with each rotation around the room. you laugh easier, you indulge that battered old codger and his tales of gridiron glory from far longer ago than anyone in the room would have the rudeness to admit. you take to ordering my drinks for me, your repressed southern gentleman instincts flowing forth as easily as the bourbon flows into my glass. and you touch me so openly, in ways you never would if this night weren't so singularly constructed. you lock eyes with me, stroke my cheek with the side of your hand and proclaim, "anything for you." we'll debate the truth of that line later; it's irrelevant right now. this night sparkles with the surreality of the surroundings. when you take me out of this reverie and back into the harsher, less well-crafted narrative of the outside world, you won't wait for the hotel room to show me what you're after. you'll trace the back of my neck with your finger as we wait for the elevator, and as we ride up, up, up, you'll start right there what you intend to finish behind the locked door down the hall. you've been filled with the spirit of the night, that bar, that sepia-toned conception of what every louisiana evening should be: a hazy, liquor-soaked dream, where the lines of the real world curve where they'd ordinarily be straight.
tonight, you surrender to the fantasy. and it's as close as you'll ever come to surrendering to yourself.
this piece is based on a real bar in the hotel monteleone on royal street in new orleans. i've explained my love for NOLA a few times before. this is my stab at trying to bottle the magic, the je ne sais quoi that resonates in the air down there. ain't no doubt, cher bebe.
Letter 70: Be Louder
4 weeks ago