Saint Roch Avenue

“My shift started at 7:00. I didn’t know anything about this until I came in – they just told me ‘Last call at 11:15. Close at midnight.’” Bobby shrugs under sunglasses outside Big Daddy’s around 12:20am, corner Franklin and Royal in the Faubourg Marigny. A few feet away, a city officer is checking through its glass side door, ensuring the 24/7 bar is indeed closed. Inside sit empty chairs, a vacant pool table, and a silent TouchTones jukebox.

Across the street at Mimi’s, two staff drop quietly off the mosaic tiled step of the former Third District Building Association. Sam shrugs in his favorite chef’s pants, a mirage of happy donuts fumbling as he finds the pocketed American Spirit yellows. All windows shuttered, all glasses cleaned.

Across at Flora’s, regulars sip the bottoms of their caffeinated nightcaps, talking in low tones with each other, gesturing loudly. Our unusually usual unusual scene is set by the traffic light: a signaling series of green… yellow.. red, red, red, red, green… passing through, as flashing blues of SUV authority bounce against the orange brick walls. We’d wondered if the cops had a key. We didn’t expect we’d ever see the corner shut so far down.

There has been little rest since. Woke early and walked the few groggy blocks for a French Roast, $2 from Christiane. Jamie’s cooking breakfast, taking further steps to secure the kitchen for Ali’s dinner tonight. Jack is there, a fellow poet, sitting with Oz. Oz is such a dog, with his ridiculous cone of shame. Scott jokes, “He’s a method actor, preparing for his role as a lamp in the school play.” Jack feels like it might be nice to set up our typewriters on Royal Street. It seems like it might be a beautiful day in the Vieux Carré after all. I leave him behind to investigate on foot.

Passing the Christopher Inn retirement tower by Washington Square, I notice printed signs in the window; they say that all visits are restricted and everybody must be checked in through the front. Jeremy was intending to move in today. Tim says hello from the bikeshop around the corner on Frenchmen, asks how I’m holding up and if I liked the poem he wrote. I did, we bump elbows. Café Negril and the Spotted Cat are closed indefinitely; the Art Garden and Palace Market too. There’s a GoFundMe for the artists, but what of the bartenders, the bouncers, the cooks, the musicians, the poets, the servers, the shoeshines? Soon everybody will be saying “I got ‘em on my feet.”

Crossing into the Quarter, Decatur and Esplanade, the French Market is bare except food vendors. Café Du Monde (and all sit-down cafés and restaurants in town) will close at 9:00pm. It usually only closes thirty six hours a year, for Christmas. There are very few painters or tarot readers on Jackson Square. Byron and Gail at the tour shop tell me the Archdiocese has closed all its cemeteries to tours as the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, chimes noon. Truman Capote lived here at 711 Royal Street in 1947, wrote his first novel upstairs. Other Voices, Other Rooms. Goorin Bros.’ hat shop next door is closed, indefinitely. A clerk at Dirty Coast, a clothing store on the other side, tells Byron they’re closing tonight. Gail has a few haunted history tours lined up, but no groups larger than seven, obeying the mandate.

There were some rumors that a testing site would be opened soon at Armstrong Park or Congo Square, but its back parking lots are bare. I am eating my pulled pork sandwiches on the ancient Bayou Road, turning slightly in a glancing arc through the Faubourg Tremé. Lot lines and frame façades make odd angles to the cross-streets. Leaves sweep across Esplanade between the I-10 overpass at Claiborne and the entrance to City Park, right where it all smashes at N Miro. Through the spotty traffic on the early 1830s thoroughfare, flash of a late 2010s blue bike, light enough to spot mid 1960s Jerry chilling on the stoop of his new place. He slips me the half-joint in his pack, points out the sprouts poking up from a makeshift bed he built against the wall where a chunk of sidewalk went missing. “I ordered some netting. It should climb it quick enough with all the sunshine it’ll get here. Y’all will be infecting everything while I’m inside eating my green beans.”

 


 

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