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Monday, 10 February 2014 03:16

The Thing About the Desert...Part 2

Written by

On September 24, 2013 I returned from a two week vacation during which I flew to Texas and ended up taking a 3600 mile road trip across six states, along the way visiting four national parks and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen since the first time we met five years ago, when I threatened his life over a card game in Morocco.

Along the way, my friend and I decided to look into local ghost stories and ended up with one of our own. This is part 2 of that story.

Click here to read part 1 first
Click here for part 3

 

A look at Google Earth shows the area to be dotted here and there with houses but on the ground, in the dark, the turnoff to Angel Canyon Road from Highway 89, some six miles into the desert north of Kanab, felt so remote it may as well have been the far side of the moon. After leaving the highway we followed the road down a small rise, past low shrubs and patches of scrub grass, to the start of the 350-acre Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Best Friends is noted as being America’s largest sanctuary for companion animals, recognized for their commitment to their “no-kill mission”; they believe that 90% of shelter animals are adoptable, or could be with the proper care and treatment. It seemed a bit grim, then, that the sole reason we were in the neighborhood was on the off chance of seeing someone wearing a fur pelt and firing pellets of ground-up human body at their enemies, but that didn’t stop us.

Aw, that's cute. Now make with the evil witches

 

The shelter was long shut by the time we got there but the outside lamps were on and the cold luminescence was the only light we had aside from stars. In that sort of environment even a place called Marshall’s Piggy Paradise (the first building on our left) takes on an evil bent but by the time we had passed the Visitor’s Centre and run out of pavement, the heaviness had left.

We stayed there for a time, simultaneously relieved and disappointed that the most unusual thing we’d seen that night had been the worryingly pale skin tone of the McDonald’s shift manager.

When you're done over there these nuggets could use more honey mustard


Beyond this point, the road – what little of it we could see in our headlights – narrowed to a hard-packed red dirt single lane, bordered on the left by a sheer wall and on the right by the blackness of Angel Canyon. Exactly how far down that yawning void went we weren’t sure but when the alternative to our search for bowel-emptying terror was a 75 minute slog to the Super 8 Motel in Hurricane, Utah, we were willing to risk tumbling down an embankment.

However, a few minutes of rumbling through the dark lost us our cellular signal and about 10 minutes past that we both expressed a strong desire to turn around at the next opportunity. Not because we were worried about evil witches, you understand, but because we’re smart enough to know nothing good happens to anyone who drives off into the desert at night, especially two city slicker bozos.

 

"Wolf Creek" would also have been acceptable


The next morning we left Hurricane under clear blue skies and drove back towards Kanab and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. The road into the park is long and straight, bordered by spruce and pine trees, and we were so taken with the beauty of the day we completely ignored the sign warning us about having just passed the last gas station for miles. After all, the dashboard readout above the radio - which also helpfully provides the time, outside temperature and direction of travel - was telling me we still had 100 miles left on the tank. Some fifteen minutes later it hit me that the Subaru can run around 370 miles on a full tank and we’d had to have driven close to that since our last fill-up. Sure enough, after pulling a U-turn and heading back to the service station we discovered the tank was almost completely empty.

After filling, the dashboard readout informed us this particular tank of gas would take us some 600 miles and we joked about stumbling on to OPEC’s secret stash of “super gas.”

The hiding of SuperGas was Nixon's final "f*ck you" to America before the mothership took him home

Of the Grand Canyon’s major “rims”, I’ve visited two – the West and the North. The West is owned entirely by the Hualapi people and home to their famous SkyWalk – a horseshoe-shaped observation deck with a glass floor, allowing you to see the several thousand, chest-clutching feet of empty air directly beneath you. It’s the sort of thing you have to experience at least once in your life but as the Hualapi control all access to the West Rim that experience will cost you $70.

The South Rim is where most tourists congregate and is, by all accounts, as crassly debased by commercial enterprise as one would expect of a natural wonder in America. In contrast to the 9 miles of unpaved road leading to the West Rim, South is a mere 90 minutes from Flagstaff on US-180, meaning any moron looking to check “Grand Canyon” off his list of places he’s had a hamburger and donkey ride can quite easily do so. In fairness, the South Rim is also the place to go for what is said to be exceptional whitewater rafting and, honestly, the Canyon is worth looking at from any angle.


After the SuperGas incident, we spent the better part of a day hiking around the North Rim and I can safely say it is my favorite part of the Grand Canyon thus far. Being at a higher elevation means its cooler than the West and South, has more plant life and, according to the US Government statistics, gets around 10% of the traffic, meaning it’s a hell of a lot quieter. Consequently, hours Mike and I were both in an unshakeable state of pleasant relaxation as we watched shadows lengthen in the sunset at day’s end.

“This is unbelievable,” he said.

“It really is.”

The sun dipped further.

“You realize we still have a six hour drive ahead of us, right?” I asked.

“Yeah, but looking at all this...who cares?”

That was hard to argue with.

A few hours afterward the sun had fully set and we were barreling down US-160, which cuts through the Navajo Indian Reservation.

The night before, cranked on sugar and fatigue as we wandered through the Hurricane Wal-Mart at 2am, Mike and I had looked up more Skinwalker stories on the road to our next stop, Cortez, Colorado. We discovered a particularly savage one from the town of Kayenta, where the storyteller alleged Skinwalkers had attempted to breach the door of her family’s motel room. The story didn’t mention whether the Skinwalkers had announced an intention to torture their balls – Kayenta isn’t all that far from Utah after all – but either way this sounded much more exciting than knocking about a zoo in the dark.

The first time it happened I only caught it from the corner of my eye.

Wednesday, 05 February 2014 01:35

The Thing About the Desert...Part 3

Written by

On September 24, 2013 I returned from a two week vacation during which I flew to Texas and ended up taking a 3600 mile road trip across six states, along the way visiting four national parks and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen since the first time we met five years ago, when I threatened his life over a card game in Morocco.

Along the way, my friend and I decided to look into local ghost stories and ended up with one of our own. This is the conclusion of that story.

Click here to read part 1 first
Click here for part 2

 

The first time it happened I only caught it from the corner of my eye.

The Subaru’s dashboard readout had still been misbehaving, no longer even pretending it was properly calculating the miles remaining in our tank – from 600 it had counted down to 500 or so, then back up past 600 – but just around midnight the whole thing went completely blank, then flashed briefly, before going back to normal.

“Did that just go blank?” I asked.

“It did, then it flashed 1:00.” Mike replied.

“So now the clock is boned too?”

“That’s the thing," he said. "It displayed 1:00 on the ‘miles remaining’ part.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

A few minutes later it happened again and I caught it – sure enough, the whole screen went blank then “1:00” flashed where previously it had listed the miles remaining. Looking at the GPS I made a few mental calculations and realized 1am would put us right around Kayenta. When I told Mike all he said was, “I’m glad you’re driving.”

Both 1am and Kayenta passed without incident and Mike started muttering about the terrible things in store for the Subaru dealership when he got back to Austin.

This is where my memory breaks down a bit because the next thing I remember happening was around 1:23am, five-and-a-half miles outside the town of Teec Nos Pos. The problem with this is that to get from Kayenta to 5.5 miles outside of Teec Nos Pos takes about an hour, so theoretically the earliest we could have been there was 2am. Regardless, this time it wasn’t the dashboard readout that acted up but my GPS.

Now, it's been three years since I bought my GPS and I can safely say it is, aside from my car, the greatest purchase I've ever made. If not for the technological wizardry of the people at Garmin I'd have been dead the first time I ventured out of Victoria, my desiccated skeleton sitting in the desert somewhere staring dejectedly into the middle distance while two geckos get it on in my brainpan. It has always been unfailingly reliable, so it took a minute to register that it was telling us to do something absolutely harebrained.

In the middle of nowhere and seemingly apropos of nothing, my GPS, which had been monotonously counting down the miles to Teec Nos Pos for hours and by its own estimation still had five and a half to go, suddenly stopped in mid-sentence and said, “In .5 miles, turn left.”

Mike looked at me.

“Uh, Bren? I thought it was 5.5 miles.”

For the first time he sounded concerned.

“It was.”

We slowed to a stop as the counter ticked down to zero and saw, to our left, another narrow dirt road not unlike the one past Best Friends. It faded from view after a few feet and all we could see beyond it was where the darkness of the landscape met the deep blue of the night sky.

“Maybe it’s a short cut?” Mike asked.

“No, I’ve got this thing programmed to avoid dirt roads.”

I let the car idle for a minute. The dashboard readout malfunctioning was one thing but that and the GPS going loopy around the same time was more coincidence than I cared to consider. At that point I didn’t even want to think about the fact the dashboard readout hadn’t started acting up until after our spook-hunting trip to Best Friends. Our windows were down but all we could hear was the engine and a soft desert wind – thankfully, no muted piping came from the place beyond our headlights.

“So, do we turn left or not?”

Concerned or not, Mike was evidently feeling more adventurous than I was.

I hit the accelerator hard.

“No. No we do not.”

“Do you think it was Skinwalkers?” Mike asked, only half-joking.

“No doubt. The ball torturing kind too, knowing our luck.”

He locked his door.

Ordinarily, if you ignore a suggestion made by the GPS it’ll calculate a route based on your new direction but that didn’t happen this time. Instead, as we put space between us and the turnoff it kept insistently bleating at us to make a U-turn. We had to turn the damned thing off completely before it began behaving normally again.

We finally arrived at the Super 8 in Cortez around 3:30am. Before turning in, Mike and I fired up Google Maps in an attempt to figure out exactly where that left turn would have taken us, hoping we’d discover a shortcut the GPS had known about but of which we were clueless. After a good half hour of poking around the res roads near Teec Nos Pos we had no choice but to admit whatever road it was sending us down went directly into the reservation and nowhere else.

Aside from a fruitless midnight drive around the most reputedly haunted parts of Santa Fe, New Mexico two days later (in the midst of a thunderstorm, no less) that was the end of our adventures in the paranormal. The dashboard readout never again reset itself and by the time we’d made it back to Austin, though we couldn’t say exactly when, the ‘miles remaining’ calculator was back to functioning properly. An inspection by Subaru turned up no faults in the car’s onboard computer and when pressed on a possible cause for what happened the mechanic more or less said, “Search me.”

We talked about that night more than a few times on our way home and though we cracked wise about it there was always the big question, one we only ever broached a handful of times and never for long: what would have happened if we’d taken that left turn? Would we have heard an unexplainable melody grow louder the further we drove down that road? Seen eyes in the dark?

No matter what came after, I strongly suspect I would not be here now to tell you this story, because, as I’ve said, nothing good happens to those who drive off into the desert at night.

Whether it would have been the Djinn, Skinwalkers of the ball-torturing persuasion or the old reliable 3 Ds (disorientation, dehydration, death) is anyone’s guess, because that’s the thing about the desert:

This is the third part in an ongoing series that covers my visit to New Orleans in summer 2008:

My room at the Dupre wasn’t noteworthy in any way except for the vast beige curtains. Normally neutral colors are able to mask the most fantastic things; put Godzilla in a beige pantsuit and he could destroy all of Japan without anyone so much as stopping to ask him for the time. In the case of these curtains, even beige couldn’t conceal their being the size of several football pitches. There was enough fabric on display to reupholster the sofas of every grandmother in Florida, with enough left over to make Gojira that pantsuit. Whichever humanitarian had last cleaned the room left the air conditioning on so that the pleasing glacial air I had enjoyed in the lobby was to be found here as well. I dropped my bag, magically four-hundred and seventy-two pounds lighter, on the king-size bed and changed out of clothes that were sweat-stained into clothes that soon would be. My nod to futility finished I turned my attention to the rest of the afternoon, and my checklist.

I have an informal checklist that I generally adhere to when I arrive in a new city. The items are in no particular order and while it’s not vital that I get to all of them I do try. So far today I had already accomplished two: “Find the hotel without getting mugged” and “humiliate myself in front of a woman”. Since I’d started dating Nicky I had been able to retire a few items from the list, like: “Strike out at the bar and come home alone, but not before buying some Jim Beam on the way” and “wake up in the tub”. Not all of the items are related to alcohol, at least not specifically, but it was late afternoon and so logically the next item to be checked off had to be “find a bar”. I don’t make the rules.

Back into the elevator and down to the lobby. Rhonda was gone, so I was spared another performance of “Socially Awkward Theatre” before I had to walk back out into the living sauna outside. My shirt stuck to me immediately and I didn’t even bother trying to tug it away – it was only going to go right back where it started. On the corner a tout tried handing me a restaurant brochure but I begged off; over the course of the next couple days we’d get used to each other and instead of pimping whatever jambalaya joint was paying him I started getting “Hey brother”.

Like most of New Orleans, the French Quarter, or Vieux Carre, hasn’t had an easy time of it. Founded in 1718, it’s the oldest part of the city and has fallen into disrepair more than once since then. In the 1850’s it was saved by the Micaela Almonaster Pontalba, or the Baroness Pontalba. After being betrothed at the age of 15 to her cousin Xavier Celestin de Pontalba she was sent to Paris, where it became glaringly obvious that her cousin had not married her for love, forever sullying the reputation of those who wish to swing from the family tree. Eventually the good Baroness fought to get her fortune back, eventually winning but not before having to endure several drawn-out lawsuits and the inconvenience of being shot by her father-in-law. Four times. If we consider the effects of inflation, this makes her the 50 Cent of her era. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, ask your kids.

Upon her return to New Orleans she commissioned the building of what are now known as the Pontalba Buildings, along Jackson Square. The Quarter again fell into disrepair in the 19th century and became a slum, home only to the poorest of the poor. In the mid-20th century another restoration effort was began and continues to this day. Now only the richest of the rich can afford to live there, but the gentrification is evened out by the muggers, rapists and Murphy artists who stalk the streets after dark. God proved his commitment to seeing how that particular social experiment plays out by sparing the Quarter during Hurricane Katrina (ok, the fact that it’s above sea level helped). Now, three years later, business was picking up and the streets, while not crowded, never wanted for company.

I walked around for about half an hour, passing Jackson Square and the Pontalba Building, as well as Cafe du Monde, the Big Easy’s best known purveyor of the famed beignet. Bourbon Street was as advertised: lined with tourist-trap strip clubs and places that promised “real live sex acts”, with accompanying snapshots on the outside billboard in case you found the wording ambiguous. The snaps were grainy-crime scene shots showing expressionless men and barely-awake women simulating, in various positions, what two very bored corpses would look like if they decided to engage in congress. My gathering impression of New Orleans was of it being the kind of place where you could have anything you wanted so long as you didn’t mind running the risk of not waking up the next morning.

This was backed up by Marie, a bartender in the generic boozer where I found myself soon after. As I worked through a few bottles of Abita beer she told me the story of a man in his mid-20s who had been in the previous night. He’d been trying to score weed and after finding a likely candidate had climbed into their vehicle to make the deal. In the morning his friends were waiting outside the bar looking for information; no one had seen him after he’d gotten into the car and he hadn’t been back to his hotel. I asked Marie whether they had gone to the police, and she said that had been their next stop but it was unlikely to do any good; this kind of thing wasn’t uncommon.

As she said this her face darkened and she stopped speaking. She was young, in her mid-twenties and considerably overweight. Her long straight blonde hair hung well past her shoulders and I remember noticing that she had perfect teeth. She had come to the big city from Havre, Montana a year prior and when she spoke again it was to say that she sometimes regretted the move: “I used to think that I was better off being nowhere than being back there. Now I’m not so sure. At least back home if someone kills you, they have a reason.” She stayed quiet after that, and the whole place suddenly took on the air of a carnival ground the day after it's left town. I drained my beer and headed out the door to find dinner.

To be continued

Did you miss parts 1 & 2?

Every Man a King, Part 1: Sweat and Amtrak
Every Man a King, Part 2: On Getting Shot in the Face During Breakfast

The taxi driver was an elderly black man with a closely-cropped head of gray hair and whose deeply-lined face betrayed very little expression aside from boredom. I gave him the name of my hotel, the Chateau Dupre, and he nodded his head slowly: “Mmmmhmmm. Da Dupre. Mmmmhmmm.” He signalled and slowly pulled into traffic. “I had planned on walking”, I said for no reason in particular, and after just enough time to think I was being ignored he said back, “Hmmmmmmm.....why you wanna do a thing like that. Too hot to be walkin’ ‘round. Mmmhmmmm.” Thrilled to have my laziness validated, I settled back into a seat that smelled of Old Spice and older cigarettes and watched the Crescent City roll by.

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company and named for Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans and Regent of France until 1723. While Regent may sound like an impressive title, like some kind of Ultra-King, it actually refers to the person acting as head of state while the current ruler is incapacitated, absent or under the age of majority. In this case, d’Orleans was Regent for an at-the-time underage Louis XV. So he was, in effect, Royal Babysitter. This looked terrible on his business cards so he tended not to hand them out unless he was drunk and spoiling for a fight.

After being ceded to the Spanish Empire in 1763, New Orleans returned to French control in 1801 and then in 1803 it was sold by Napolean to America as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The Purchase encompassed portions of several states, in most of which, today, you are likely to either be very bored (Kansas, Nebraska) or very shot (Arkansas, Louisiana) and though Napolean made the deal for several reasons there was one I particularly respect: he desperately wanted America to grow into a military power such as could pull England’s hat down about its eyes and then box its ears.

Normally once the French leave a place you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a great party, and while the popular image of New Orleans is a bacchanalian one, where a handful of beads will, under the right circumstances, undo years of finishing school, the city has been troubled for years. The most persistent of these troubles is violent crime; in 2008 New Orleans had, according to F.B.I. statistics, the highest murder rate in the United States at 64 homicides per 100,000 people. Statistically speaking, the Big Easy towered over famed Murderopolis Los Angeles, whose collective gangbangers only managed a measly 10 homicides per 100,000. I’m no statistician but what that says to me is that you are six times more likely to end up with superfluous ventilation while enjoying a morning beignet than you are while cruising down Crenshaw in your hooptie. This thought gave me some pause as the taxi crossed Canal Street and into the French Quarter.

When I take a trip of any length I usually pack my kit in an oversized backpack and no matter how much breathable, space-aged, nylon, crosshatched, polyfiber mesh is in the design, by the end of the day my back is sweatier than Meat Loaf at the end of “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”. For this trip I had switched to a duffel bag, stupidly thinking that by carrying the bag over one shoulder instead of two I would somehow be less likely to sweat. I know – in retrospect it doesn’t make much sense to me either. As it turns out the only difference I experienced was a very sore shoulder and a list to my walk which made me look like a sailor on leave. I hauled the bag from the taxi with a grunt and when I closed the trunk lid the normally heavy sound was instead soft and ineffectual, as though even sound waves would rather be off nursing an iced tea in the shade somewhere. The taxi lazily pulled away from the curb as I crossed under the white and grey awning that extended from the hotel’s front.

Aside from the devout and the insane most of us will never know what it is to be in the presence of God but I imagine the experience to be much like going from summertime in New Orleans to the air-conditioned lobby of the Chateau Dupre. The lobby was cavernous and dark, despite being lit by large windows at the front and a constellation of overhead lights at the back. The walls were painted brick, grey on one side, and white on the other; to the right of the heavy wood check-in desk was a blue and white French living room set. The desk clerk was absent so I laid down my bag and had a look at the array of brochures displayed on a credenza against the far wall. I had settled on a bayou tour by airboat when I heard a cigarette-hardened female voice say, “Help you, sugar?”

Turning around I saw that the desk clerk was a short, whippet-thin woman in her late 40s. Her hair was jet black and her face hard until she smiled, after which it opened right up like clouds parting for the sun. Her name was Rhonda, and the entire time I was at the desk she shamelessly flirted with me, and, as usually happen when confronted with the opposite sex, my charisma shifted from Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon in four seconds flat. After pre-paying my airboat tour for the next morning I mumbled something that sounded like “thank-you” and shambled into the elevator. New Orleans had won the first round.

Continued:

Every Man a King, Part 3: Back Home If Someone Kills You They Have a Reason

Did you miss part one?

Every Man a King, Part 1: Sweat and Amtrak

(Author's note: This is the first of a series on my visit to New Orleans in Summer 2008. A restaurant review is coming, I promise.)

When I stepped off the train onto the platform at Chicago’s Union Station the first thing I said was “God it’s hot.” The humid afternoon air made my clothes fall limp, beads of sweat prickle across my forehead and my duffel bag felt thirty pounds heavier than when I had boarded in Seattle. I heard a laugh behind me and turned to see Ed, a jolly, potbellied auto mechanic I’d met in the dining car the night before. He was on his way home to Gary, Indiana from the Land of a Thousand Lakes and even in heavy work jeans and a t-shirt didn't look like the heat affected him one bit. “Hot, huh? And you’re going to New Orleans?” He removed the toothpick from his mouth, tossed it on the ground then shifted the strap of his backpack from one shoulder to another. He chuckled again, “Friend, you’re gonna die.”

The Illinois Central Railroad put the City of New Orleans into dayliner service in 1947, as a more affordable, single-day alternative to their luxury overnight sleeper the Panama Limited. Both trains ran from Chicago down through Jackson, Mississippi to the Big Easy in about sixteen hours until 1971 when Amtrak took over operations and, after some juggling, discontinued the City of New Orleans. The popularity of Arlo Guthrie’s song of the same name is generally credited as being the reason behind Amtrak’s decision to return the City of New Orleans to service in 1980 on a 19-hour overnight run. Even if it had nothing to do with their decision it's one of the reasons that, after four days of carousing in Chicago, I ended up back at Union Station bound for New Orleans. It's a flippant reason for hopping a train, yes, but not nearly so flippant as the reason why I ended up in America in the first place.

Earlier that year, I was on a Greyhound bus back to the coast from Revelstoke when I stopped to visit a friend overnight in Kelowna. The bus station there was unremarkable, a dusty waiting room filled with passengers harboring knives and grudges, all sitting in chairs designed by the Marquis de Sade. The attached cafe was a different story, it was like a holdover from the past; Formica counters, awful pictures of food on the wall and a menu that hadn't changed since Trudeau's long walk in the snow. Over a fried egg sandwich I lamented the gradual disappearance of places like these, mom and pop operations selling soul food that warmed the heart as it hardened your arteries. I decided that since, at the moment, I had the time and the money – why not see some of these places before they're gone? As a devoted fan of James Lee Burke, when I think of unhealthy, dilapidated things with character I think of the American south and so three weeks later, with Chicago behind me I was passing through Fulton, Kentucky on the City of New Orleans.

On the Seattle-Chicago Empire Builder train our car attendant was Ghul, an impish bald man of indeterminate origin who was a master of turning up with free alcohol whenever I was in danger of boredom. On this leg of the trip our attendant was Sal, a native of Louisiana who operated at half-speed while making damn sure we all knew he didn’t care whether we had a good time or were eaten by toothless mutants. At dinner, a couple proudly told him that they were newlyweds going to New Orleans for the first time on their honeymoon. The ensuing silence made me think he’d fallen asleep behind his sunglasses until finally he said, “Ain’t that a bee” and swaggered off to give someone else their opportunity to be ignored.

In the dining car, different groups are sat together in order to make the most of limited space and every night you have a chance to meet someone new, although there’s no guarantee that your dining companions will care to do anything but truffle their meal down at light speed and get back to their roomette. There’s also no guarantee that if they stay, they won’t be rude, insane or, worst of all, boring. My dinner on the City felt like it would never end; I was sat with a family of missionaries who were completely besotted with their youngest member. He was, at most, seven and appeared to me to be an unremarkable and rather loud little monkey but according to them he had climbed mountains, built houses for the poor and knocked up an entire beach volleyball team or something to that effect. When I’d finally managed to steer the conversation away from little Buddha I blundered onto one of their other great loves: sitcoms. You can’t imagine my surprised joy when the conversation ground to a halt after I brought up Two and a Half Men: “That’s a little too risqué for us. You know, we really should be getting back to our room.”

The next day at lunch I was sat with Bill & Frank, a couple in their mid-50s who were regulars to New Orleans and great conversationalists. Bill was an accountant and Frank worked for Amtrak’s administrative division in Baltimore. They were devoted fans of the filmmaker John Waters and connoisseurs of great rum and after our meal they invited me back to their room for a chat and as the crumbling beauty of the American south slid past they tried to educate me on both subjects. Though the films of John Waters sounded unique and fascinating Bill & Frank's dissertation on the finer points of Angostura 1919 came with samples, so it received the bulk of my attention.

As we crossed over the bayou nearing New Orleans, I accepted an offer to have them show me the finer points of its nightlife the following evening and returned to my roomette to pack. By the time we reached the city the rum buzz had settled into a golden glow but I was still in no condition to face a day that clung to me like fryer oil. I’d planned to walk the thirty minutes from the station to my hotel in the French Quarter but after stepping onto the platform I knew that had been a pipe dream, even without a skinful of booze. I learned that in the heat of daytime on the Gulf Coast any ambition not directly related to cold drinks or fried food is short-lived. Since my walk into the Quarter promised neither I hailed a cab.

Continued:

Every Man a King, Part 2: On Getting Shot in the Face During Breakfast
Every Man a King, Part 3: Back Home If Someone Kills You They Have a Reason

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