Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-The Death of Sara Joy

26 November 2012
: 3am. Elysian Fields is nearly deserted from the river down past Claiborne Avenue. No one out now except delivery trucks and the lanky, chemical soaked figure of Sara Joy slowly oozing out of the darkened doorway of a little cottage up from The Phoenix as quietly as possible. With an almost imperceptible click he's out the door and down the steps leaving a wake of stale Marlboros, free pot, Ancient Age, and poppers. He skips across the coral-lit expanse of blacktop and crosses to the Vieux Carre side, his wallet bulging with the $140 he lifted after the trick passed out choking himself to completion with a mouth full of Fruit of the Looms and a dirty necktie. He spits on the banquette again and again, uncertain on the origin of that awful taste in his mouth. Passing into the darkness next to a sparsely appointed tenement he can hear the sound of a couple going at it full out, screaming and slapping and calling out to God. It could be murder, it could be sex, or it could be basic cable. The event fades into the distance, supplanted by the clack of well-rounded heels on indifferent concrete. Needing coffee and more than a morsel, the vicious old queen stalks up Dauphine St. towards La Peniche with evil and eggs on his mind.
3:43am. Crossing Frenchmen Street, the smell of hashish catches his nostrils, leading him to a tangle in the shadows of a recessed driveway. In the triangle of comfortably sleazy darkness a small orange light hisses to life, illuminating fiery glimpses of prurience and the taut inked flesh of gutterpunk. Drawn to the filth of the situation Gary "Sara Joy" Pitts slides into the darkness and the musky embrace of unwashed limbs.
He only barely realizes that he's been hit when the lead pipe opens up his skull. The scream in his throat is deeply muffled, choking on his attacker. He clutches wildly at anything in reach, hearing a pleasured moan before the silence. The only other sounds are the hollow thump of lifeless flesh falling into gravel and the quick taps of running feet fading into the night.
6:43am. Walking up Dauphine with her incontinent chihuahua, a 23 year old actress/waitress/pole dancer scours Facebook for pictures of that guy she saw at her friend Pinnacle's vegan harvest feast, paying no attention as her mutt pulls her along, unguided. She stumbles over the curb and the obligatory cracks in the pavement, her attention focused on the screen. Glad that the dog has finally stopped, she digs in for several minutes before finding the shot. Yeah, that's the guy...oh, no...butter face. Nope. Don't want to have to explain him to her friends...what's that noise?
Looking down, she sees her dog muzzle deep, devouring a bumpy red sauce that looks like marinara, but smells like sourdough bread and copper wire. It must have spilled out of--
Her screaming can be heard on Esplanade Avenue...This Is My New Orleans.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-28


The sudden pounding on the front door causes Phil Tupperman to nearly jump out of his skin. He had been going about his daily routine. Thankfully it's a Tuesday. If he'd have been dusting the figurines he'd have broken an entire shelf. He pads fearfully to the door, hearing a muffled voice outside calling him.
"Philsy, it's Halloran. Let me in."
He rushes to the door and undoes all the locks. Finally getting the door open, he sees Bruce Halloran filling the doorway, a six-pack of Abita Turbo Dogs in his thick grip. Thrown off by the sight of alcohol, he looks from the six-pack to Halloran, who says
"Are you going to invite me in, or am I porch people now?"
Phil hastily steps aside, stammering "y-yes, yes--come-come in."
Halloran breezes past Phil and off into the kitchen. Trying to quickly relock the door, Phil nearly dislocates a thumb before he can go running after his guest. Inside Halloran is shifting through the drawers. Phil can only stand and watch, completely uncertain of what to do. He asks,
"W-what...what are you looking f--" He stops, and then says dryly, "the bottle opener is on the side of the refrigerator."
Halloran reaches out his arm, which seems to pull the rest of him to where the opener was magnetically stuck for several years. He wrenches it away from it's perch and puts it to use. The bottle top goes flying into the air, landing exactly on the lip of the Moderne light fixture above the Formica table. He takes a deep, long swig from the longnecked bottle, nearly draining it entirely. He comes up for air and lets out a sonic boom of a belch that startles Phil to the point of blanching.
In the next house, Phil's as-yet-unmet neighbor is sitting in her own kitchen reading the newspaper. She hears a deep, low rumble go through her house and looks up for a moment. Nothing. She goes back to reading.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Visit with Tunie Dufour après les attaques sur Paris

: A cool, breezy weekend in the Jewel of the Crescent has given way to a warm and sunny Monday morning. The kind of morning that defines a day in New Orleans. Just enough humidity to be warm but not so much as to cause a person to sweat unduly just walking to the car. The sun is bright and clear, but not so clear as to be sharp. Like the city herself just enough light is diffused in the air to make almost anything look pretty.
But inside the double shotgun on the corner of Dauphine and St. Roch, Tunie Dufour sits in her front room with the shutters closed against the bright. In her hand she holds the television remote, occasionally flipping the channels between the various morning news broadcasts.
"...several counterattacks in dozens of locations around France yesterday, following on the French air attacks in Syria on the ISIS strongholds in Raqqa. French president Hollande has now said that the raid in Belgium in search of one of the terrorists has now become an international manhunt--"
"...after Gov. Bobby Jindal demanded that President Obama's administration give him an exact count of the Syrian refugees relocated to Louisiana, stating the he wished to 'avoid a situation like what happened in Paris.' The Obama administration has put that number at 14 across the state, six of those here in the New Orleans area..."
"...with social media blowing up with backlash against the support shown online for the victims of the Paris attacks on Friday. 'Decolonized Scientist' on Twitter posted 'Those comparing Mizzou to events in Paris today are doing so to delegitimize black students, not honor victims in Paris.' At-Doctor-Stacey-Patterson also posted 'look at all the racists on Twitter using the Paris tragedy to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement at home. So predictable.'..."
"...has caused concern across the nation. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said he would not accept Syrian refugees into his state, saying he 'would not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way.' Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said that his state was 'putting on hold' receiving any new refugees from the war-torn..."
"...candidate Donald Trump came out against the administration at a rally in Beaumont, Texas, calling it 'insane' that the US is taking in 250,000 Syrian refugees. As of this report, the Obama administration has only agreed to take in 10,000 refugees..."
"...didn't take long for the conspiracy theorists. Within hours of the attacks YouTube lit up with videos like this one from a user called 'redsilve' who claims the attacks are an elaborately-plotted hoax by the illuminati to institute a quote 'new world order.' Another user claims this video shows what they call 'terror actors' milling around outside the Bataclan proves..."
In the loft above, Harold stands in his pajamas looking down on her. He wipes the sleep from his eyes and grumbles, "you still watching that stuff? Let it go, woman."
Tunie turns down the sound and says plainly, "they want a war, Harold."
"Hell. Ain't never known a time when some damned fool someplace didn't want a war," Harold yawns, scratching his sides to get the blood moving. "We done seen all this, bebe."
"It's different this time, Harold!"
He knows that tone. She's genuinely concerned. Nothin' for it, best to head on down and get it out of her system. Otherwise there will be no peace in his day. He steps carefully down the impossibly narrow and shallow staircase. More like a carpeted ladder than anything else. He gets down to the kitchen, pours himself a cup of CDM and walks into the front parlor. He sits down on the sofa next to her chair. She's staring at one of the talking heads on the news. Some protest someplace. He takes a long sip, then says
"All right. Tell me."
"We're heading for another world war."
"Been headin' that way since the Cold War, 'Pie." Harold takes another swig. "What's different now?"
"Because...because now..." Tunie reaches her hand out towards Harold, who dutifully places his mug of coffee in her waiting hand. She takes a few sips from the aromatic black liquid and says intently,
"Before now, it's always been the government who wanted to go to war. But now, it's the young people who want to go to war. Against each other, against the older generations, against...everybody. You can see it in their eyes, in what they say now."
"Tunie-Pie, calm down," Harold says, trying to sound reassuring.
"It's not like it was when we were growin' up. It's not even like it was when the grandbabies were growing up. It's different now. Look," she says, handing the cup back to Harold and picking up the remote. She flips through the channels with lightning speed until she finds an example.
"Look at that. That's a rally in Germany against the Syrian refugees coming into their country. They want them out. Look at the faces. All of 'em in their 20s and 30s. Now, look at this."
She flips again to another channel showing pictures of the victims in Paris and their attackers.
"Look, Harold. All of 'em children. Including those crazy bastards who killed them. Now look at the survivors. Same ages. Look here."
She flips again. Harold takes another sip and asks, "how many damn channels do you have, woman?"
"Shuddup" she mutters, landing on one of the inane national morning news programs. "Now look. All these children bitching and complaining that they aren't being taken seriously because Paris took all their publicity. The children are organizing protest marches, they're promising to be violent if they aren't being paid enough attention, they're saying it's all a plot to take whatever it is they want the world to notice. We marched for civil rights. Our kids marched against Vietnam. These kids are marching and yelling against the world and each other. And you know just as well as I. All it takes is one damned jackass who can get their attention to turn them into an army. Blind, impotent anger. That's all I see, Harold. And if they get the wars they want, you know who's going first, don't you? Auguste and Jerrelle. They're both conscription age."
Tunie blinks hard, fighting back a persistent tear. Harold stares down into his cup, searching for something to say that will make his 'Pie feel better.
But he's not a talker. He's a side man. He plays what he feels. OK.
He rises, takes the remote from Tunie's hand and switches the TV off. Extending his hand, he pulls her from her treasured Barcalounger and putting his arm around her shoulders, walks her back through the house and out into the courtyard. He sets her down with his coffee and says firmly,
"Drink your coffee. I'll be back."
He retreats back into the house, leaving her alone beneath the banana trees rustling in the breeze, making patterns of sun and shadows on the concrete. The air is nice, but Tunie can't enjoy it. She's seen the hatred, the ignorance, the anger from all the children. It reminds her of when segregation was still in force. She and Harold both had endured insults, fights, blatant refusal, and terrorism. Though they didn't call it that back then. Back then, it was just the white people that looked like that. But not anymore. Now all the children have that look. She keeps hearing the old rhyme in her head, but with new words she can't erase.
Red and yellow, black and white. All are hateful, want to fight.
Just then, the sound of Coltrane's "Sentimental Mood" oozes from the outdoor speakers as Patrick and Jerry emerge from their back door, carrying plates of eggs and bacon. Harold emerges from the house with four glasses of Tunie's version of a mimosa; muscadine wine and pineapple juice. They assemble around Tunie for a special breakfast. On the river just a few blocks away, a freighter sounds it's whistle. The long, sonorous tone reverberating through the Marigny, sending the starlings into flights of dotted swiss across the azure sky...This Is My New Orleans.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-27

: Unable to sleep and perturbed by Miss Sara Joy’s constant snoring (seriously, how can a dog that small make a noise that loud?) Bruce Halloran sits up in his emperor-sized bed and thinks over the events of the last several months. There’s ol’ Philsy Tupperman, wasting away in that farmhouse in Old Metairie. Still following in his dead mother’s footsteps, keeping her shrine as spotless as she demanded but was never able. Then there’s the prickly Dr. Youngblood, holed up in his mahogany paneled cocoon. Straightjacketed by his public persona. The mention of his former love sends him into tighter constrictures. Frankly, he’d be surprised if the good doctor didn’t shit twine.
What the hell is he going to do? It’s not like he can just show up on either of their doorsteps with the other in tow and force them to talk. Philsy would probably crawl underneath the house and Youngblood most likely has a hotline to the NOPD on his keychain. As much fun as both those scenarios would usually be, neither one solves the problem of fixing what Gary Pitts engineered three decades ago.
At least the depressing spectacle of Hallowe’en is now ended. Looking out from his third story perch upon the hipsters going about their tragically fabulous costumes, all Halloran can do is lament the loss of true originality and innovation this city once took immense pride in presenting. He is whisked back to the 80s once more and the brilliant, cutting-edge costumes that amazed everyone fortunate enough to see. The political commentary, the blatant-yet-distinguished sexuality, the sheer force of the abandon. It was a marvelous time.
Unfortunately, Bruce isn’t so ingrained to his past that he cannot see the world as it is. If he were, he wouldn’t have the same feeling of malaise that has troubled him since happy hour started at 4:20pm yesterday. As much as he would like to shuffle off the world around him and happily cocoon himself in the musty patinas of yesterday, he can’t.
You see, for all his faults Bruce Halloran does have at least one timelessly redeeming feature; he is, has always been, and will always be current. It’s a trait he both shares with and abhorred in his late mother. Until the end of her days, Mother Halloran was as fresh as wet paint. She embraced the modern. Just not the modernity her son enjoyed. While he was listening intently to Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan, Mother was embracing Juice Newton and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. When she suffered a sudden heart attack at a Kathy Mattea concert, Bruce attended the funeral in a mauve Nudie suit embroidered with blue roses. A nod to her favorite color and the only part she ever played on stage.
The family wasn’t pleased, but the undertaker was happy to show his appreciation.
Being so afflicted, Bruce cannot ignore how the current world thinks. Anything can be what they now freely call “slutty.” Cartoon character, crayon, crudite, you name it there’s a tramp version out there for you. The depressing trend of young men actually participating in costuming has led to a new version of tramp yet to be widely identified. But it will in another year or so. The phrase “boy tramp” leaps to mind.
But more importantly the forms of protest are now more nuanced and more blunt. Cases in point: The beautiful young straight couple at dusk holding court on the banquette directly below his patio. Both of them are painfully young, each with washboard abs on full display in the well-aerated judges robes they were barely wearing. She was a slutty Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a halter robe, patent leather jet beaded bustier, fishnets and high-heeled platform mid-thigh black latex lace-up boots. He was Antonin Scalia, only in the exact same outfit. They both had gavels. Hers was branded with the GE logo, his with the NRA.
Later that same night another somewhat less fit couple arrived. Both were barely dressed, only more disturbingly matched. She was barely containing a pair of silicone surprises and a matching pair of hips beneath a repurposed Stars and Bars, while her bohunk boyfriend managed to carve out a wife beater and cut-offs for himself from the backup flag at Klan headquarters. They didn’t stay long, but while they were there they enjoyed a lot of popularity.
The modern. The current… desperately trying to move who’s never known a day that wasn’t long forgotten by the world…...wait a minute.
Halloran runs back into his condo, startling the sleeping Miss Sara Joy into paroxysms of surprise. Landing in the rolling chair of his office, he grabs hold of all his notes on the matter, tossing page after page until he comes to his scribbled notes on one of young Mr. Tschantz’s emails. Reading the cryptic scrawl his 6th grade writing teacher once called “a pharmacist’s nightmare,” Bruce finally comes to the two little identical notes in different colored inks about Youngblood and Philsy.
“Chained to the past.”
The next thing Miss Sara Joy sees is his Master walking slowly over to the shiny glass thing where the happy water comes from. He knows what that means. Nothing else happening tonight except a narrow window for cuddle time. Miss Sara Joy jumps up onto his pillow on the leather sofa and makes himself comfortable. He’s gonna be there a while.
Outside, the cold, damp winds off the river filter through the Crescent City with a slow persistence. Autumn is growing older and the weather has grown tired of warm and dry. Throughout the city windows either draw to narrow slits or close entirely to the outside world...This is My New Orleans.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-26

: Jeremy Youngblood’s Uptown home is much like his office. Classic lines, masculine colors of burgundy, hunter green, and brown leather. Every sofa and chair purchased in the late 1908s, each menacingly inviting clad in lots and lots of handtooled overstuffed leather polished to a high sheen. As if they had never been sat upon. Classic persian rugs from the same era, each regularly cleaned and preserved. Walls of rare books encased in vacuformed polarized plastic rebuking the afternoon sun in its slow descent towards the horizon. The study is filled with an auburn glow. But not the hazy macrocosm that defines a New Orleans home, filled with all the little swirling particles of dust and skin and a hundred other airborne bits. The filtration in the climate control is top of the line.
Almost no unwanted bits of old history floating about.
Youngblood wanders down the ebony paneled walls of the former carriageway of the 1857 home. He bought the house in 1990, beating out a trust that wanted the place on the National Registry. No way that was going to happen, the property was too prime. With the assistance of his architect, patient, and occasional trick he carved out five luxury condos that made it into Architectural Digest. All of which are now empty except for one. He is the only person living in the building.
He’s considered restoring the house but his accountant says “that’s not good business sense. Better to have property you can sell or rent, eventually.” He cannot argue with the logic of the statement. But something still deep inside him keeps saying “take it, make use of it. What about everything you wanted to do when you were young?” He turns the corner and sees the Magritte pencil sketch he bought right before...well, before. Called Fumeur, the sketch was intended to be a gift for--
He cannot bring himself to even think Phil Tupperman’s name. But it is there. Unspoken, always waiting. Taking another glance at the picture his mind flits for the briefest memory of how he thought Phil would react when he saw it. The memory is quelled, buried deeply into the good Doctor’s psyche where it continues to burn with all the other neglected embers.
In Old Metairie, Phil Tupperman goes about his regular routine; dust the living room, vacuum the rugs, sweep, and a good coating of Lysol to finish. He follows the same patterns throughout the house as he has always done since his mother brought him here. He buys the same cleaners, the same laundry soap and fabric softener, everything that his mother used.
But today? Today is somehow...different. Because today, he’s suddenly thinking about Bruce Halloran. He hasn’t seen or heard from Mr. Halloran in weeks. And yet,
He finds himself in front of the telephone in the living room, holding the receiver and punching in the number on Bruce Halloran’s card. He’s on the next to last digit when his hand stops.
What if he’s busy? What if he’s angry? What if he decides to never come back?
Slolwy, Phil lowers the receiver into the cradle. It’s for the best, he tells himself. Don’t pester the man. patient. He’ll call again, he’ll come by….when he’s ready. It’s...for the best.
My, how dusty these tables get during the week…
: Luxuriating in the mercifully dehumidified shade of her faithful banana trees, Tunie Dufour takes the time to enjoy the arrival of autumn in the Jewel of the Crescent. At her side, an octagonal plastic throw cup emblazoned in chipped gold lettering "Krewe of Juno & Jupiter 1985" filled with her beloved muscadine wine. Above her, the tattered banana leaves flip and crackle in the breeze, keeping time with the enormous wind chimes installed by Jerry & Patrick. Their sonorous baritones are calming but always remind Tunie of a monastery. Taking a deep breath, she exhales and closes her eyes to listen. The air is clean, not a trace of exhaust. It's nearly perfect. The only thing missing is the hint of Hubig's pies being made just up the street.
There was a time when every neighborhood had it's own morning smells. When the Crystal Preserves plant was still working in Mid-City, you could drive by there around 6am and it would smell like the most wonderful breakfast you could imagine. The same was true for Hubig's.
But now, they're both gone, like so many others. How many times has she seen this old place change? And yet somehow, here in her little courtyard beneath the trees, everything is as it has always been.
Just inside the open door to the laundry room, she hears the shrill pounding ring of the doorbell.
Rushing into the front parlor, Tunie unlocks the French doors to reveal a thin young man snappily dressed in a shirt, tie, and vest and barely taller than Tunie herself. A pleasant little smile emerges across his smooth face and he says cheerfully,
"Good morning. You must be Miss Dufour."
"Yes," she replies, watching his hand reach into the breast pocket of his vest.
"My card," he says, handing her the thick linen vellum card. "My name is Mr. Tschantz. I represent the firm of DiNotto, Tschantz, and Asino."
"How nice for you," Tunie drawls, slipping the card inside her bra. "What brings you to my door, young man?"
Mr. Tschanz grins wider and says,
"I'm looking for your fiancee Mr. Harold Amos. Is he in today?"
Tunie peers at the pale pencil on her stoop. An errant breeze sweeps up between them and for a moment they both smell...pie.
“Come in, young man. I’ll see if Harold is around. Can I offer you a muscadine?”...This Is My New Orleans.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Meanwhile, back at Tunie's Place...

: It happened suddenly.
Tunie Dufour was sitting downstairs in the living room watching the 6 o'clock Eyewitness News on WWL. The report was 15 seconds away from starting when Harold Amos suddenly appeared in the loft, shouting,
"Woman! You've got some explainin' to do. Now."
Tunie's lips purse into a tight, nearly perfect circle. She's never responded to idle commands from men. But then again, there hasn't been a man in her life like Harold since her late husband died in 1975.
So...what else is there to do but trek upstairs?
Making her way up the incredibly narrow staircase encased in the matching barge boards taken from the last Dutch-African emigre ship to made port in New Orleans, she meets Harold on the landing with a traditionally distrustful sneer.
"Woman," Harold exhales with ferocity. "I've seen the worst of humanity. I've seen horror, terror, starvation, want, greed, and evil in my time."
Tunie adjusts herself so as to not give the appearance of impertinence. She's spent a few years with this man. She knows when he is serious. Intentionally crossing her hands in front of herself, she widens her eyes and looks to him with the closest approximation of innocence she can muster. She didn't grow up with her sisters and brothers for nothing.
"But." Harold intones with the ferocity of a Piney Woods preacher. "I. Have never. Seen anything. Like. This!"
At the word "this" Harold pulls an aged binder from behind his back. Tunie knows in a heartbeat what he is holding. and it fills her nearly to overflowing with the curious mixture of pride and shame that only a native New Orleanian can fully understand. She bolts for the kitchen, her only thought a full glass of her treasured muscadine wine.
A slight grin crosses his thin, wizened lips. With the alacrity of a man a quarter of his age (a situation which causes him a world of disgust,) he goes after her. He clutches the ornately-inscribed leather book as if his life depended upon it. Reaching the bottom a step and a half behind her. Harold lands on the linoleum-clad hardwood floor and nearly shouts,
"Petunia! What have I found in the book?"
Tunie freezes. She is taken over with alternating feeling of rage, familiarity, violation, consummation, and revenge. None of which particularly appeal to her. Still. He's crossed a line. He's gone someplace he shouldn't have. He's--
"I found your scrapbooks in the attic while I was putting up the digital antenna."
Tunie bristles, half expecting what she's gotten in the past.
Damn it. Why does he always, ALWAYS have the exact right answer??
"You......why?" he asks, blinking back his emotions. "Why would...I mean...why not?"
Tunie doesn't know what to say. She has never known what do to in this situation. Her siblings had always denigrated her for being so forward. Yet the friends she made were so incredibly supportive. Tunie intentionally freezes her face. She's learned over the years to keep her emotions to herself.
"Petunia, I'm talking to you!" Harold bellows like the musician that he is; easily heard over a twelve-piece combo. Next door, Jerry and Patrick rouse for a moment from their reverie on the davenport.
They will realize in a fortnight when Tunie relays the story that they felt the sound through the ground and floorboards.
"FINE!" she caws, throwing herself against the upstairs railing, trying her best to look like Dorothy Dandridge. "I...I wa...s hoping. YES! Hoping! That you would...deeeeee.... cipher my...ah...uhm--intentions.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-25

: Walking Miss Sara Joy around the neighborhood with a Bermuda shorts pocket full of wadded plastic grocery bags, a wide straw hat and cat’s eye sunglasses, Bruce Halloran is still waiting for his little boy to crap. He’s marked every available vertical surface in the neutral ground on Elysian Fields from the river to St. Claude Avenue, but as to the rest there is sadly no sign of development.
Which really chaps Halloran’s ass because it’s hot outside. Not as hot as it had been just a few weeks ago, but hot enough to break a sweat. Back toward the river again.
Walking back toward the river they pass the Phoenix. Former site of his and Gary Pitts’ numerous licentious encounters. Usually far to many to remember. But today he suddenly recalls one particular incident with ringing clarity.
Sara Joy had taken up a stool at the 'all new' and 'improved' Phoenix after Katrina. In their day the Phoenix was the palace of fleshly perversion, the place to find any position or persuasion, chemical, hormonal, or otherwise. When Sara Joy and Halloran ruled the roost here, the joke around town was The Phoenix had the only pool table made by Sealy Posturpedic. The courtyard with the barber's chair so perfect for leather worship. The upstairs bar with just enough light to make out sizes and directions and the darkened cage in the corner providing the necessary hardware to create the soundtrack for the night. Sara Joy’s memories were the remnants of sweat, bourbon, cigarettes, and poppers, and he loved it. There wasn't a square inch of the building where he didn't do somebody, just in 1984 alone. But after Katrina it stood as a sterile parody of its blanching filthy glory, clogged with foreign faces and overpriced cocktails. None of those people knew him.
So technically he was 'new meat.'
Taking up a perch at the far end of the bar, he’d cruised the dismal pickings, ordering a bourbon and coke from the overly ingratiating bar bear. After about 15 minutes of bland club music and no other prospects for entertainment he was about to leave when a couple of thirtysomething cubs took up the stools next to him, obviously having an argument. The dreck on the sound system made it hard to hear everything, but he heard enough.
"...saw you looking at him...", "...nothing happened...", "...because of you, Trevor...", " always do this...", " you want Billy now...", "...have to tell you again, its you...", "...prove it!"
A thought crossed Sara Joy's malicious mind. Reaching for a nearby pen, he slipped a dollar out of his wallet and wrote in bold black letters;
'I want U now! Call whn U ditch the bitch. Billy'
Watching from the corner of his eye, he watched Trevor pay the bill while his whiny boy-toy demanded attention. Bar bear drops the change unseen by the quarreling couple. Sara Joy slipped  the marked dollar into the pile of change and walked away. The couple stormed out, Trevor in tow. Reliving the story again, Halloran can see the wide smile crosses Sara Joy's cruelly thin lips, revealing that weathered fence of teeth only seen at the Preakness or royal functions.
And he waited with the patience of one who knows the joy of anticipation.
43 minutes later Whiny Cub returned with grudgefuck in his tear-riddled eyes and a crumpled dollar bill held like a shiv in his hand. Pitts watched his prey make his way past the gossip gauntlet and march upstairs. Bruce can hear Pitts describing himself with “the leisurely stroll of Lauren Bacall”, positioning himself at the bottom of the steps, arranging for maximum impact, then "ascending to descend."
Halloran continues to follow along automatically behind Miss Sara Joy as he mulls the story over again in his head. Why would he remember this now? Granted, it’s another example of the dirty little tricks Gary Pitts lived by and adored. But what isn’t? There must be something to make that one episode leap out at him. There must be something he’s not seeing.
*swkl-plitch*  Halloran’s right foot slips slightly ahead of him before halting.
Like her namesake, Miss Sara Joy has crapped on everything again...This is My New Orleans.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Stopover at The L Household

: Running in from the backyard with Rex, The Wonder Dog at her grubby, blinking heels, Erica L lets the screen door slam again. They stop instantly, awaiting the onslaught from Mom lurking somewhere nearby. Don't slam the stupid door, she'll scream for the umpteenth time. Only there's no scream this time. Erica looks down at Rex's glossy black face and they stare at one another in amazement. Erica leaves the kitchen and walks into the living room. No Mom. She walks down the hall to the den and finds her dusting the room while deep in conversation with someone. Erica and Rex walk over to the big easy chair while Mom's back is turned, and jump in, Rex turning himself into His Girl so he can perch his top half on her lap. The news is on TV, but the sound is down. On the screen is a shot of an unattractive woman with long, limp brown hair, glasses, and a sweater her grandmother wouldn't wear. The crawl at the bottom of the screen says something about being arrested and put in jail.
"I know, it's amazing in this day and age," Mom says, her earpiece blinking blue as she talks. "...yep...yeah, she--...yeah..." She's stuck in a loop and begins dusting the tops of the books on the shelves, standing on her tiptoes to reach the top. "...yep... Well, that's what I was---yep....yep.."
She turns around and sees Erica & Rex in the chair and jumps a little. Erica mimes "who is it" and gets back the signal for Uncle Jerry. They both smile. Mom cuts in and says,
"Jerry, hold on. Erica just came in, she wants to say hi--" 
Erica rolls her eyes and frowns, pointing to Rex looking expectantly saddened.
"...a-and Rex. They both wanna say hi, hold on." She pulls her phone from her jeans pocket and taps the screen.
"Jerry, can you hear us?"
"Of course I can hear you! Hello sweetie. Hi Rex." Uncle Jerry's voice fairly booms from the speaker.
"Hi Uncle Jerry!" Erica shouts. Rex barks once. He's not really sure why, but everybody else was making noise, so it seemed like a good idea. He's glad he took the risk.
"Can you believe that crazy broad in Rowan County? Gawd, I hope somebody does a made-for-TV movie about her so I can watch something else!" Jerry caws, forcing Mom to put him back on her earpiece. She turns and goes out of the room mumbling. Erica grabs the TV remote and turns up the sound.
"...ordered her to jail when Davis refused to allow any of her deputies to hand out marriage licenses. Clashes ensued outside the court when the decision was announced. with one group of Davis supporters attacking a group of LGBT protesters on the courthouse steps. Televangelist Pat Robertson expressed his displeasure with the ruling, saying 'gays want all Christians thrown in jail, get used to it.' Presidential candidate Ted Cruz also came out in support saying he stands with Kim Davis, and that 'the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith.' Donald Trump--"
Erica mutes the TV instantly. Some names aren't allowed in the house. That was five of them.
Mom comes back in, her earpiece in her hand.
"Is Uncle Jerry coming over?" Erica asks excitedly. "I've been working on my Tallulah Bankhead, tell me what you think!" She jumps up, throws her hair in front of her right shoulder, extends her face and says "Dahling. I call ev'rybody dahling because I can never remember their names! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahah!"
"If I catch you with a cigarette and a martini before you're 50, I'll murder your Uncle Jerry. Why couldn't he have turned you on to Shirley Temple?" 
Still in her Tallulah phase, Erica croaks"Louise Brooks said Shirley Temple was a swaggering, tough little slut."
"Erica!" Mom's eyes and nostrils flare. "Jerry?"
"Uncle Patrick, dahling. He also said you caaaan't get a maaaaan in a Peter Pan collar, dahling."
Mom closes her eyes and sighs deeply. She's having a flashback to growing up with Jerry. 12 years old and spewing one-liners from all the old movies he forced her to watch over and over again. And now she's raising another one. She's beginning to understand the murderer mentality.
Erica smiles. Obviously her La Bankhead is spot-on. She asks again.
"Are Uncle Jerry and Uncle Patrick coming over or not?"
"Not," Mom says, expecting what she gets; Erica throwing herself melodramatically into the chair, Rex barely able to vacate the space before splashdown. "He and Patrick have dinner plans for tonight with Miss Tunie and Mr. Harold."
"Foop!" she sneers. " What did he want, then?"
"He was going on about that clerk in Kentucky again."
"They sent her to jail!" Erica exclaims, pointing to the TV. "Isn't that what they wanted?"
"It's not that simple, sweetheart." Mom walks over and turns off the TV. "There's a lot of people who are still very upset that gays have won the right to marry. And this woman in Kentucky has become a symbol, on both sides. Do you know why she went to jail?"
Erica and Rex look at one another knowingly. Mom's decided to have what Dad calls a "Huxtable Moment." Rex lays down at her feet as His Girl gets comfortable.
"They said on TV that she wouldn't let anybody else give out licenses. Which means she didn't do her job, so they sent her to jail. But I don't understand why she went to jail. Why didn't they just fire her?"
"Well," Mom says, sitting down on the sofa. "They can't just fire her. She was elected. Only the state of Kentucky can fire her, even if she's in jail."
Erica thinks for a minute, then asks "why are they saying that she was arrested because she's a Christian?"
"That's the complicated part. She says the reason she's not doing her job is because her religion won't let her let gay people get married."
Erica frowns as she thinks, and slowly asks "sooo...if I say that homework is agai--"
"No." Mom says firmly, suppressing a smile. "Doesn't work that way, especially here. And that's why I wanted to talk to you about this before you go back to school tomorrow."

She's put on her serious voice. Oops. This can't be good.
"Because she made the decision to defy the judge and go to jail, a lot of people are upset about it. Because people think that it affects their religion. We've talked about this before, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember." Jeez Mom, it was only a couple of months ago. I'm not stupid, Erica thinks.
"So I want you to promise me that you won't get into it with people about this in school, all right? It's late summer, people get crazy this time of year. And this whole thing? Well, it''s just a little too much." Mom leans in to Erica, very seriously.
"No matter what anybody says tomorrow, promise me you won't get into a debate or a fight, OK? Promise me!"
"I promise, I promise. When is Dad coming home?"
Mom leans back and stands up, turning on the lamp next to the sofa.
"He's said he'll be home by nine, if not sooner. It's inventory at the store tonight. We'll eat when he gets home. Now go upstairs and take your bath, take Rex with you--"
Erica and Rex break for the stairs as Mom yells after them.
"--and tonight can we please keep the water in the tub?!?" The pair galumph up the stairs as Mom walks back over to the TV and taps it back to life. They're still covering the brouhaha over Kim Davis, and all the people protesting and shouting into the cameras. If they can all just get to cooler weather in October in one piece...This is My New Orleans.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-24

: “Ladies, Gentlemen, and...well, the rest of you know what you’re called these days,” quips Princess Stephaney to a modicum of laughter. “Get ready for our main event. You’ve seen her at OZ, the Golden Lantern, and right here at MAGS. So pull your hands out of wherever they may be and put ‘em together for The! Ambrosia! Delight!!!”
All around Bruce Halloran, sitting alone right next to the stage, the crowd erupts in adoration for their newest fixation. The flavor of the month. Whilst the masses cheer, a distinctly Broadway staccato rhythm belches out through the speakers. In five notes, he knows what it is and his eyes roll around in his head. Is she kidding? Jerry Herman? In this day and age? He takes up his cocktail just as Ambrosia Delight appears onstage in perfect time. She brings along a microphone and an old suitcase, the kind they called a valise in the day. She looks as if she’s standing in the middle of her wardrobe. She drops the valise on the stage, where it opens automatically.  She sings.

I gotta give my life some sparkle and fizz
And think a thought that isn't wrapped up in his
The place that I consider paradise is
Wherever he ain't! Wherever he ain't!”

Belting it out, she proceeds to defiantly strip away the extra clothing, tossing it into the open valise.

“No more to wither when he's grouchy and gruff
No more to listen to him bellow and bluff
Tomorrow morning I'll be strutting my stuff
Wherever he ain't! Wherever he ain't!”

She fairly growls the song in places, but she’s filling the room. Looking around, Bruce sees all eyes on the stage. Even in the very back they’re paying attention. He turns to see Ambrosia getting down to the bottom of her costume rack. Yet, even as she sheds away what has to be the most interesting thing about her, the intensity of her performance is...well, it’s just He can’t think’s so out of character…

“My little love nest was a terrible trap
With me behaving like a simpering sap
And so I'm looking for a spot on the map
If he's going south--”
She rips away the last of the facade, revealing a form-fitting unitard in her exact skin tone, covered in a sheen of aurora borealis rhinestones and sequins. The lights seem to instantly grow brighter. Every breath creates a light show all over the room, preparing them all for her to blow the roof off the joint.
“I'm going north
If he's going back
I'm going forth--”
Ambrosia takes in a huge breath to finish off the song just as she lays eyes on her worst nightmare. Sitting six feet away from her was the fat, doughy, pasty-pink, face of Bruce Halloran. Without thinking she lets go every awful, horrible, dreadful thought she’s ever had concerning him.
“Wherever heeeeeeeeeeeee aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin't!”
The force of her voice blows Halloran’s eyelashes back and for a brief, precious moment makes him look 10 years younger. The collective eyes of the audience widen to capacity before giving way to tumultuous applause, wolf whistles, and the pounding fists out front and backstage. Onstage, Ambrosia Delight begins to feel a little faint. She loves the applause, but...Halloran. Oh dear God. Halloran! Before she can gather herself, she rushes off.
In the audience, Halloran still can’t believe what he’s seen. He refuses to call it “talent.” At least, not right now. Not until he’s seen more. Besides, what else is there to do? It’s not like he has a schedule for a while. But if he did, first thing on the agenda would be getting another cocktail.
Backstage, Ambrosia has left and only Avalena in some very uncomfortable clothing is left. The older queens congratulate her and go about their business, while the younger ones are less impressed but congenial. It doesn’t matter. Avalena needs to get out of here. If that sonofabitch Halloran recognized her, it’s all over. And she’s not strong enough to survive that. Not after...not after what that other sonofabitch Gary Pitts did all those years ago.
She has to get out. Now! Grabbing her things and shoving them into her bag, she pushes past Tammi Tarmac with a hollered “sorry Tammi” and rushes out the side door just as Princess Stephaney emerges from the hallway curtain. Seeing Ambrosia rushing off, Stephaney follows her down the alleyway, calling out,
“‘Brosia honey. What happened? Where are you going? You’ve got two more numbers to--”
The slamming of the metal gate cuts her off cold. Left in the mid-evening August heat, she turns back towards the bleach-scented, air conditioned air inside the bar. As she enters and closes the door behind her, she announces to the room,
“Morganza Spillway. Congratulations, you’ve got another two numbers tonight. Hope you're prepared.”
At the very end of the makeup counter, a young, lithe boy with dark chocolate skin and childbearing lips stares back at the Princess through the mirror. Naked from the waist up, the waist down is pink lame and organza ballgown with matching satin mules...This Is My New Orleans.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-23

: Bending down to adjust her hosiery covered with sequined fishnet stockings, Avalena Beasley is nearly there. In the dirty, sordid little back room of MAGS on Elysian Fields, she’s trying to get her head together before she sets foot onstage as Ambrosia Delight. The tiny room is small and hot, perpetually stinking of beer, old bleach from the grubby concrete floor, and MAC cosmetics going slowly to pot in the heat. Around her, a host of younger queens and fading stars jostle for position at the two door mirrors installed above the makeshift countertop, each one determined that they are the main attraction tonight.
But Avalena knows better. The main attraction tonight is Ambrosia Delight. She’s the only one of these queens who performs with her own voice, still a rarity in New Orleans drag. She avoids the hustle and bustle at the makeup table by arriving in makeup, ready to perform. She has to. None of these queens knows that she’s a biological woman. Graced with a naturally deep speaking voice, she’s forever having to correct people over the phone when they call her “sir.” But when she sings. Ambrosia has been compared to Odetta, Nina Simone, and most recently Duffy and Adelle. It’s what drags them in, to hear the drag queen who sings like an actual woman. They haven’t had that in New Orleans since the early days of Varla Jean Merman. But Varla’s voice is more classically trained. Ambrosia’s voice (for Avalena cannot sing as herself,) is firmly rooted in classic Motown. And if the bar rags are to be believed, they love her.
Just then, her savior and best friend in the drag scene, Princess Stephaney emerges from the narrow hallway to the room with a double shot of Jameson. She’s not like the other drag artists in New Orleans. She is sassy, confident, and most importantly, mature. Ready to hand you your ass with a slice of her rapier tongue and salve your wounds with an immediate cocktail, she has become Ambrosia’s most ardent supporter. Though she’s not likely to let you know it. No reason to inflate a queen’s ego. None at all.
“Here ya go, “Brosia,” she says, handing the filled glass over. “It’s a full house out there.” Leaning in to Ambrosia’s ear, she says as softly as she can, “everybody’s talking about you, baby.”
Ambrosia smiles, and says a bit more deeply than normally, “thanks, Princess. As long as everybody’s happy, I’m happy. Any problems with the DJ? Last week I had to sing acapella.”
“No, I checked,” Princess Stephaney replies, her characteristic good-hearted sneer taking up it’s accustomed position on her exquisite lips. “He’s been cut off until after the shows are over.”
“Thanks, Steph,” Ambrosia smiles, downing the Jameson in a single gulp. She hands the empty glass back to the Princess, then goes to her back to pull out a compact to check her lipstick. Perfect. Not a smudge.

Deciding he needs to get out of the condo, Bruce Halloran darkens the door of MAGS, packed to the gills with pliant young flesh. He forcibly pushes his way through the pond of twenty-thirtysomethings all standing around trying to score time with the others of their ilk. Just like Mardi Gras on St. Charles Avenue; push your way through and get out of it. He makes it to the bar, where there is no bartender. Big surprise, he thinks. He looks around the room for a familiar face. Or at least one that will respond to a customer waiting to place his cocktail order. Finally, he sees Princess Stephaney emerge from the back room. She sees Halloran with that constipated look on his doughy face, and slows her pace to a saunter. Just to keep him waiting a little longer. Finally she makes her way back behind the bar and, taking up a bartowel, starts wiping things down as she asks without looking in his direction,
“Whadday want, Halloran?”
“Double shot of Maker’s, neat,” he barks over the din.
She goes about making the drink with a studied efficiency, doing her best to avoid actually having to look at him. Carelessly, she slides the drink to him on the bar and slaps her hand down on the twenty laying limp upon the bar. She makes the change and is just about to hand it back to him when Halloran barks,
“You sloshed half of it over onto the bar!”
Finally taking a good, long look at Halloran, her free hand closes the till as her other reaches over the tip jar. “You’re lucky it wasn’t in your lap, you bastard.” She drops the change into the jar and smiles acidly as she begins to walk away.
“Hold on, SssssssTEPH” he hisses. She turns back to him. “Who’s on tonight? It isn’t you, is it?”
“I don’t perform on off nights, asshole. And that’s any night you’re here. It’s Persana, Tammi, a new girl called Morganza Spillway, and Ambrosia Delight.”
Halloran sneers at the lineup, giving Princess Stephaney the opportunity to walk away without having to murder him. Halloran takes up his drink and searches for a table to watch this shitshow. Besides, he can always stick around later. Just to see what the dregs are like, maybe pick up a trick. There's some eligible talent in the room. Specifically the fratboy wannabe's in the corner. They're all knocking back shots like it's going out of style. Have to keep an eye on them. Easy pick'ns. He finds a place down front, an area that quickly empties out upon his arrival.

Backstage, Avalena is completing her transition to Ambrosia when she hears Stephaney’s voice on the mic. She’s announcing the lineup for tonight. When she reaches Ambrosia’s name, the room erupts into cheers. A shy little smile crosses her lips. It soon spreads to a wide, incandescent smile. A sparkle appears in each of her eyes, and she fairly glows in the ongoing acclaim. Ambrosia Delight is finally here, and she’s ready to lay waste to the city...This Is My New Orleans.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-22

: The midday sun streams through the louvered windows of Jeremy Youngblood’s Uptown condo, creating vivid stripes of light and shadow upon the good doctor sitting silently in the easy chair facing the windows. From this perch on Benjamin Street, he can see nearly the whole of Audubon Park. He’s recovering from a week of...indulgences, of which he is not proud. His excesses have once again caught up with him, and he is paying the price for the extravagance. Dehydrated, over exerted, and taken with a powerful malaise, he sits like a wax figure at Musee Conti; unmoving, slightly pained, and unaware of the outside world.
He’s been a bad boy of late, immersing himself in the bar life yet again. Only it’s very different now. He’s well over 40, though still remarkably fit. Even that detestable Bruce Halloran said so. ‘I never forget an ass,’ he said. He’s certainly paid for it. In his twenties he spent maybe two hours top at the gym. Now, it takes over four hours with diminishing returns. But this past week? No time for the gym. He was too busy stalking the old stomping grounds in the Quarter and the Marigny.
What a creature of habit I am, he thinks. More than a decade removed and he still haunts the same places. At least the ones that are still open. Golden Lantern, Good Friends...The Corner Pocket. It also used to cost him much less. But nowadays the young blonde hustlers are more concerned with cash than with gifts and attention. Still, he spent the cash. Chasing. Chasing, chasing after…
In Old Metairie, Phil Tupperman pads quietly through the sprawling farmhouse, going about his daily chores. Today, he’s dusting, and finally trying one of these new “dust collection systems” from the grocery store. Mainly because he hasn’t been able to locate a store that still carries feather dusters. Even that old neon green nightmare he found six years ago was more convincing at the end than these frilly fabric pads in the box. And what’s this fork-thingy for anyway? Fortunately, the instructions on the box aren’t entirely undecipherable, and he is soon on his way.
He has to admit it. These things certainly do the job. Though it is unnerving to be able to actually see the dust as it accumulates on the fabric. Seems accusatory somehow. Running the duster over the telephone desk, he spies Bruce Halloran’s card. It’s been a few days since he entered Phil’s life. He’s beginning to wonder why he hasn’t called since he...he...since he forced him to remember. He should have called by now. But maybe there’s a good reason why he hasn’t called yet. He did say he would call when he knew more. But more about what? He told Mr. Halloran everything he could remember…
The porcelain cats need dusting…
Enjoying the solitude of her office without Halloran’s pernicious smell, Avalena Beasley fairly hums through her work and his with an alacrity usually reserved for the young and unjaded. In the past weeks since he took his extended vacation, the office has thrived. Not one complaint from the call center, human resources, or any customers. All she has to do is deal with the paperwork, which is just fine with her. She prefers it. Now if she can only find some way of convincing the higher ups that she can do this on her own and have them get rid of Halloran.
Reconsidering her limited options, a knocking sounds at the door. Before she can grant entry, Myrtle Mae sticks her head in and coos,
She pushes aside the door and enters, carrying a large white box. She looks like the last snowman of spring, just about two days away from being a puddle. She’s a nosy old biddie who has to know everyone’s business.
“This was just delivered for you, so I rushed it right over!” Myrtle Mae fairly gushes the words, settling the box on Halloran’s empty desk. “It’s heavy. I wonder what it is? Oh, there’s a note.”
She produces a folded sheet of paper and hands it to Avalena. She takes it and opens it up, turning your back on the squat, fawning turnip with a henna rinse. Opening the paper, she reads;

“Miss Beasley,
I signed for this, but I’m leaving town today for my vacation. I asked a friend to drop this off so you wouldn’t have to wait for me to come back. See you in two weeks.
Mr. Dalloway”

Avalena inspects the shipping label, and her heart sinks.
“Thank you Myrtle. I appreciate you bringing this by.” She takes Myrtle by the arm and begins escorting her out, but Myrtle won’t be deterred. She turns her way out of Avalena’s grip and heads back towards the desk.
“It’s just so heavy,” coos Myrtle, her heavily lined doe eyes rolling uncontrollably in their sockets. “And I did carry it all the way up here from the lobby.”
“We’re on the second floor, Myrtle.”
“Well, the elevators were busy, so I took the stairs.” Myrtle oozes, flashing her lashes like pennants. “What is it?”
Avalena smiles a broad, false grin and says evenly, “I’m sure I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting anything.” She takes Myrtle once more by the arm, this time a bit more forcefully and says as they walk towards the door, “And I won’t know until after we close up, because like you I have a lot of very important work to do. Thanks for stopping by, goodbye Myrt!”
She slams the door for emphasis.
Avalena knows exactly what is inside this box. She recognized the postmark instantly. Damn you, Dalloway, she thinks. You could have kept the damned thing for two weeks! Still, it’s not a total loss. Halloran wasn’t here when it arrived. And Myrtle Mae is no bother. She thinks no one notices when she skips lunch and takes off from work a half-hour earlier than everyone else. Locking the office door, she walks over to the desk. Using her ring, she slices through the packing tape, the overpacked box springing open. Inside is a white and mauve miasma of real chiffon, satin, and rhinestones. Ambrosia Delight’s new gown. Afraid to pull it from the box for fear of never repacking it properly, she stares at the intricately beaded bodice now puffing up from the cardboard. She wants desperately to put in on but instead retapes the box closed, effectively emptying Halloran’s tape dispenser. She shoves the box under her desk and returns to her work. Just a few more hours until she can get this beauty home...This Is My New Orleans.