STOREFRONTS, NEW ORLEANS

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There are stretches where you would swear that the only thing holding up some of these buildings is the other buildings on either side of them. It must be hard to keep a balance between authenticity and structural integrity, but they seem to be doing it. The oldest buildings in Norfolk, such as they are, have been renovated to death, and seem more like curios under glass than buildings with a continuous record of habitation. It doesn't help that most of them are museums, or attorneys' offices.

FRENCHMEN HOTEL, NEW ORLEANS

You can browse my newly-updated Google map of New Orleans sketches here. The red pushpins are this year's sketches; the blue ones, last year's.

It wasn't a fancy place by any means; in fact, it was replete with cute little idiosyncracies, like a smoke alarm that went off whenever you took a shower, which led to some moments which I'll bet will seem funny in a few years. On the plus side: the hotel was painted a startling salmon color, which made it easy to find at 3 am with blurred vision, which comes in handier than you'd think. And it was across the street from a fire station, which meant that one of the guys could run over with a defibrillator whenever I required it, usually after consuming something étouffée, flaming, or blackened. 

MARIE LAVEAU'S, NEW ORLEANS

One of the really special things about the French Quarter is that these incredibly old buildings are not roped off and hermetically sealed and patrolled by potbellied security guards. Marie Laveau's is a tacky voodoo souvenir store; Lafitte's blacksmith shop down the street, which is--hold on a minute, let me wikipedia its ass--yes, which is the third oldest building in the world, is now a bar with a big old blacksmith's fireplace-thing in the middle of it. No frou-frou Colonial Williamsburg here. Okay, sure, both places are infested with humorously-attired people from Kansas, but at least here they're all staggering drunk. Colonial Williamsburg could stand to loosen its merkins a bit and offer Huge Ass Beers along with the Brunswick Stew and Hoppin' John. Having to sidestep a pool of vomit would lend a real air of authenticity to experiencing the birth of our country. 

THREE PEOPLE NOT LOOKING AT ME

I have to ask, Why? Am I invisible? Am I repulsive? Is it the hat? It's the hat, isn't it? I can remove the hat. I can destroy the hat. But it's not the hat, is it? If I fell down, would they hear me? Would they rush to me and look for little tags hanging around my neck telling them what to do? Would they attempt to resuscitate me? Would I be forced to say "Please do not resuscitate. Because, like, I'm fine. I just wanted to see if I was here"? Should I follow them, shouting, until they acknowledged me? Should I pretend I'm crazy, so they'd think I was crazy in a different way than I am? Should I ask the hooded man if he has body parts in his case? Should I ask the women if they know anyone from Scotland, just in case? If they start walking faster, can I take that as an acknowledgement of my presence? Do I sound like a teenager? Is it appropriate for an old man to possess the angst of a teenager? Is that why they don't look at me? Are they embarrassed for me? Have I reached twenty questions?

HOUSE ON ESPLANADE AVENUE

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Lots of faded grandeur on Esplanade Avenue. Nothing that some nice new vinyl siding won't fix. I know vinyl siding is probably economical and it's better than pure decrepitude, but in an established neighborhood it sticks out as inelegantly as an abandoned house. Here's another thing I think about: do people who live in McMansions know they're called McMansions? What do they think of that? Thinking about stuff is fun.

PLACEMAT NUMBER TWO

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Forget expensive breathalyzer tests--doodled placemats are much more accurate as a means of assessing states of inebriation. Less invasive too. The only time I was ever breathalyzed, the examiner said "did you have scallops for dinner?" There is no dignity. You heedless arrogant young punks will find out soon enough. The older you get, the harder it gets to maintain your dignity, that's been my experience. But then why are there whole classes of dignified oldsters? Judges and shit. Don't judges put their pants on one leg at a time? And don't they fart while doing so? I don't get it. Maybe they're senile and they just think they're being dignified. That would explain a lot. The "corporations are people" thing, for one.

THREE NEW ORLEANS PEOPLE

There are few pastimes more enjoyable than sitting in the window of a sunny restaurant with a café au lait and watching the streams of people moving by: obese multicolored tourists; slouching, loose-gaited natives in porkpie hats; slightly tipsy wedding parties; hipster upright bass players lugging their instruments to the next gig; people dressed in strange costumes and painted silver all over (there's a remarkably large number of these); an Abraham Lincoln impersonator who's very short and very irritable because he keeps getting mistaken for Toulouse-Lautrec; a husband and wife wearily bickering; a gaggle of giggling matrons holding gaudy go cups and bumping into each other; the same husband and wife leaning against the cathedral kissing; a couple sitting idly in a restaurant window, watching the parade and smiling. 

NEW ORLEANS PILL VENDOR

I know what you're thinking: "You're exercising artistic license again with the magenta hair, you son of a bitch!" I'll ignore the profanity and go right to the demurral. This is not an example of artistic license. We're talking about New Orleans, remember. If the guy had looked like a Norfolk Jaycee, that would have been taking artistic license. This man did have magenta hair. This was before the absinthe, so I'm almost 100% sure. 

NEW ORLEANS BONIST

This guy was in a really good band, sitting in the middle of Royal Street. I don't know how musicians do it, I really don't. Even the Sawtooth Palm Buggers, a really really good band, plays at dba on Frenchmen Street with just a little bucket on the floor to accept cash. If I had to set a bucket on the floor in front of me to get paid for what I do, I wouldn't get squat. Bernice would probably pee in it.

PLACEMAT NUMBER ONE

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What does a sketcher do when he or she is whiling away the hours at a bar and it's full of interesting characters having weird conversations and there's a nice white sheet of paper right in front of him or her, beckoning? Well, besides that. He or she draws, of course. And an observant waitperson will keep feeding him or her or him and her a fresh placemat when the old one fills up or gets stained  by a mojito or an abita, it's hard to remember. The stain I'm thinking of was kinda green, but it wasn't absinthe, that was the other place. Maybe it was old earwax, there was plenty of that flying about. At one point there was an 8-oz tumbler full to the brim with Grand Marnier, but that wasn't green, not at the start, at least. And it for sure wasn't one of those fucking Hurricanes. Learned my lesson about them last time when I woke up in a dumpster with no pants on and a tattoo likeness of Jim deMint on my butt. Can you tell I had fun?

NEW ORLEANS MUSICIANS

If you don't think it's hard drawing a sousaphone, you've got another think coming. Getting those oblique ovals and their relationship to each other right was a bitch. Damn Dr. Souss for inventing them anyway! We saw these two in various places at various times over several days. It's not easy being a musician. Reminds me of a corny old joke, and although it's not recommended for someone my age to be telling corny old jokes, I'm going to anyway. I wonder if that's what getting old is really all about: you're well aware that doing certain things, such as farting in public or buying one of those fleecy things that's like a backwards bathrobe, perpetuates an unpleasant stereotype, but you just don't give a shit. Anyway, here goes:

Three men (of course) approach St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter asks the first one, "How much money did you make last year?" "$150,000," says the guy. "Ah, you must be a physician," St. Peter says, in a smug kind of way because he takes pride in this particular parlor trick, "come right in. And you, sir," he says to number two, how much did you make?" "$300,000," number two says. "An attorney!" cries St. Peter, obviously happy to have found this diversion. Can you imagine how grindingly tedious it must be to play doorman to untold millions of heaven-goers every single day, while the really fun people are queued up at That Other Place down the street? I'll bet he sometimes wishes he believed in that version of the Rapture where a mere 144,000 show up, the downside being that as far as I can see, spending eternity with 144,000 of these jokers would be pretty much the opposite of Heaven. I mean, imagine the after-dinner small talk. You'd throw out "did any of you guys see 'Waiting For Godot'?" and 144,000 faces would turn to you blankly, and then after a few painful minutes would go back to lawn care or whanot. It would be kind of fun, though, if they spoke in tongues. I picture one guy starting, and then it spreading infectiously through all 144,000, like those YouTube videos of turkeys. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so St. Peter says to the third guy, "How much did you make last year?" "$18,000," the guys says. "Oh yeah?" says St. Peter, "what instrument did you play?" Ah ha ha ha ha ha. *fart*