Sometime Sunday morning I awake to a blinding hangover, the sun is nowhere near up and the pain will not let me sleep, all I can do is press my head into the pillow in the vain hope that the pressure will somehow help. I take a shower, standing with my head down, letting the hot trickle of water work on my neck, but this gives only temporary relief. The clock glows 5:30 as I leave the hotel room and go down to the street hoping that the little convenience store nearby will still be open, it is not. It looks as if a giant pinata has exploded overhead, showering the street with the detritus of all parties past, the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse smells so strongly of stale beer that I gag.
I return to the hotel and the concierge tells me that the store opens at eight. I go upstairs and turn on the TV, killing time until the store opens so that I can get some ibuprofen, why didn't I bring some with me? A little before eight I go back downstairs, the store's shutters are open, but it is not. I walk to Bourbon and take a left, the intersection is now clean, the air smells of soap and there are bubbles on the wet sidewalks.
Another block down the street and there is a huge man walking the other way down the street. "Morning," I say, pronouncing it "moanin." The accent is slipping through.
"Mornin'," he replies, slowing. "You ok?"
"Those are some nice boots," he adds.
"Thanks." I'm starting to have that what-the-fuck feeling.
"I'll bet I can tell you where you got them boots."
For whatever reason, I'm intrigued. Maybe I'm still drunk, maybe I need there to be someone out there with the answers to all the hard questions I've been asking, and if the man can tell where I got my boots...
"I can tell you the street, the city and the state where you got them boots."
Shit, I'm hooked.
"Damn...you ok? Your face, it don't look right."
When a total stranger tells you that you look like shit...you do.
Have you ever been hit by light? I don't mean, "Gee, that was bright." I mean every glimmer, every reflection, pierces my eyes, picks up a rock and smacks the frontal lobe of what's left of my brain. And in spite of that, I'm now smiling. This huge man is smiling too, I really don't remember crossing the street, but all of a sudden we're standing very close, conspirators, as he takes my outstretched hand and begins to tell me how he used to rob, steal, sling drugs and mug. Very briefly it occurs to me that at this distance he could have me without me having a chance and that all my cash is in my wallet.
"But I don't do any of that any more, now I hustle," he continues. "If I'm wrong, I'll give you a shoe shine. But if I'm right, you gotta get a shoe shine."
This sounds reasonable. Don't judge me, monkey. Remember, I'm likely still drunk and I've got the distraction of having the 1812 Overture blasting right behind my left eye.
"I'll can tell you where you got them boots...street, city and state."
"You got them boots on yo feet, on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, Louisiana!"
But I'm laughing, he's got me. Then he drops to one knee as he produces a rag and shoe creme...from where? and begins to clean and shine my boots while again reminding me of his criminal resume and I'll shake his hand again after giving him way too much money for a shoe shine. But I also got a lesson: No matter where I am, that's where I got my boots.
Aliums & Aquilegia
5 hours ago