Author Archives: jimluce

Bourbon Street Review

From Guest Blogger Jim Luce

Two in the afternoon, I’m dodging bodies on Bourbon Street, ducking and juking from sidewalk to gutter to sidewalk to curb. Rolling with the shoulder bumps, sidestepping excuse me’s and sorry’s, pausing in doorways. The air is humid, close, redolent with the scents of this famously sleazy street–beer, whiskey and wine, come on in, have a good time, cooking grease, warm and enticing cajun/creole, cold grease odors in the alley, in a trash can down there somewhere…seafood, truck exhaust, rank sweat, faint piss smell. The soundtrack is an oddly synchronous symphony, a shout, a curse, female laughter, genuine, delighted, truck horns, car horns, impatient, c’mon, move your ass…. Open air bars, mazed by cases of alcohol waiting to move to the back room, dark narrow doorways, impenetrable to my eye, vaguely forbidding, wonder, stay out…. Cacophony of hip hop, reggae, classic rock, a little jazz on this street that was once all about great jazz and great jazz musicians. Neon signs, motionless in the limp air, Gumbo Ya Ya, T-Shirt Alley—“I Got Bourbon Faced On Shit Street”, Temptations, Little Darlin’s, Larry Flynn’s Hustler Club…. Mid-afternoon, wake up call for party animals, streets jammed already, tourists like me, deliverymen, shopkeepers, Bourbon Street residents, no-eye-contact types alert to potential prey, different drummer marchers…still room to fall down if you get stabbed, but barely.
Da wife (we’re from Wisconsin) is safely parked on a stool in one of the open air bars, Jester’s, happily out of the stream of stabbers and staggerers, sipping a 191 proof Jester’s margarita. She chats with the bartender, amiable young guy, full of stories of the street, decorative holes the size of quarters in his stretched earlobes. I take my camera and dive into the polluted gene pool swirling outside the bar. Across the street, between a cab and a tour bus, down a block.… Behind me, “Hey, brother, how ya doin’, like your hat. You at the game?” I’m wearing a Super Bowl cap, my Green Bay Packers having won Super Bowl XLV a couple weeks ago here in New Orleans. I turn back. “Good game,” I agree. “Coulda been a blow out. They dropped too many passes.”
“Was you at the game?” he asks again. His eyes hold mine, wet, rimmed bright pink, whites yellow. They don’t shift away, don’t look past my ear. Good sincerity technique. Overweight, shaved three, four days ago, from shirt collar to pants cuff a stained canvas of hard times. I hook thumbs in my back pockets to keep contact with my wallet and settle in to talk Packer football. He’s worn, wilted, well-spoken though, and he knows his football. It takes two, three minutes to get to it. Glances away for the first time, comes back, “I don’t mean ya no worry, friend. Been havin’ kind of a rough go lately. Haven’t eaten since yesterday morning. You think you could spare enough I could get a hamburger?” I have a twenty and three ones. “I can’t afford a burger on this street.” I smile. “I can give you enough for a beer to keep you goin’, though.” He grins broadly, busted. “That’ll work too.” I give him the three singles and we shake on it. As I move on he calls, “Hey, go Packers.” I flash him a thumbs up and move on downstream.
Bourbon Street. Once the home of New Orleans jazz greats. Now sleaze multiplied by sleaze–dark bars, strip joints, sex shops, subtle lurk of danger…gaudy, crowded, loud. The sleaze doesn’t bother me, it belongs here now, creates the atmosphere that lets the street live up to its billing of today. And it’s a good place to meet new friends and talk a little football.

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You Have Reached Your Destination or Kinda Like the Movie

New Orleans Bourbon Street

From Guest Blogger Jim Luce

Wisconsin is an Indian word for “White Out.” We had snow up to the window sills in February, which we’d hand-fashioned from ice to a faux oak finish. The average daily temperature was fifteen-degrees-below-Antarctica. Celcius. My wife and I decided to make a break for it and drive to the Mississippi/Louisiana Gulf Coast. The problem with leaving White Out for the warmth of the South is that you have to drive the entire length of Illinois. Illinois is an Indian word for 2000 miles of corn and soybeans. You also have to drive the entire length of Mississippi. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is beautiful, the rest of the state is, well…Illinois. Mississippi is an Indian word for “pretty much just Illinois.” Since it’s a long straight shot from northern White Out to the Gulf Coast of Pretty Much Just Illinois it would be easy to find our way. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, I plugged in the GPS we’d named Tommy Boy—after the movie of the same name, one of the all time great road trip movies—and told him to take us to the coast.
“You want to go where?”
“The Gulf.”
“Yawn. Proceed south for 2000 miles. Then you have reached your destination.”
“We want to go to New Orleans, too.”
“Proceed south for 2000 miles, then turn right. Then you have reached your destination. Wake me when we get there.”
We wouldn’t dream of taking a trip without the God-like Tommy Boy, his wonders to perform.
Tommy Boy guided us right into the heart of New Orleans, Louisiana, and straight to our hotel. Louisiana is an Indian word for Eat Stuff That Crawls. New Orleans is a French word for Show Us Your Breasts. The Big Easy is also one of America’s most dangerous cities—when I turned on the TV the lady said “…at this time last year there were 13 murders in New Orleans.” She stared into the camera, face serious, eyes sparkling.  “Sources within the NOPD tells us that this year the total number of murders is up to 35.”
Whoa. People, slow down, pace yourselves, it’s a long year. This is only the middle of February. I went out on our balcony and heard loud hip-hop thudding on the street somewhere. It got my head bobbin’, got my rap goin’. “Yo, y’all, we so cool, all old and stuff and up in N’awlins, all up on the roof and stuff wit’ da people down below….” I went back inside in case someone might hear me. Somebody else can be number 36.
Thanks to a coupon we picked up at the Eat Stuff That Crawls Welcome Center, for $54 per night our first room came complete with a giant cockroach. Apologetic, the hotel immediately gave us another room with a toilet that wouldn’t flush. My wife and I talked that over and decided if we played our cards right we could bargain them down to a room with bed bugs and no air conditioning but decided we’d probably done the best we could for that low price.
We did all the touristy stuff required of us (it’s in the Rules section of the passport that allows you to drive through Illinois, right next to the section titled Mental Competence Declaration), and moved east to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. After ten days of beach basking and Cajun gluttony our finances laid claim to the fatal number 36. It was time to head back to White Out, but first I wanted to load up on boudin sausage since it was unobtainable anywhere but down here in Cajun country.
“Tommy Boy, take us to Specialty Stuffed Meats.” We’d been told by the desk clerk it was only two and a half miles but a little hard to find.
Indeed. Two towns and seventeen miles later: “You have reached your destination.”
“We have reached your *&^! butt you remedial piece of satellite misdirection. This is a low rent….”
“When possible, turn around, you have passed your destination.”
“Tommy, can you interpret WTF? I did not punch in ‘Dollar General’, ‘Payday Cash’, or ‘Shorty’s Bail Bonds’.” We programmed you for ‘Specialty Stuffed….”
“In 240 feet bear left, then turn right.”
“WTF?”
“Turn around.”
I spent that last afternoon on the beach, watching the ocean…gathering about me peace, love and understanding. We were heading home tomorrow but I thought we might wing it without the GPS. Tommy Boy and I were experiencing trust issues.

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Poofs and Paranoia

By Guest Blogger Jim Luce

I need a new poof basket before I can shower again. As a guy it’s vital that I make noise when I shower so I play basketball. That’s easier than it sounds, our shower is tiny—3-foot by 3-foot—so a full court press isn’t that tiring. A poof, by the way, is a puffy spherical soft plastic shower thingy that you squeeze liquid body wash onto, Oil of Olay® for example, while reminding yourself that it doesn’t make you less macho since you normally shower with muriatic acid and a wire brush.

A poof basket hangs in the shower for storing the poof. Or for basketball. Anyway, while in the shower the other day I fired a one-hand shot from outside the key and missed. Fortunately the poof bounced off the rim and rebounded back to me. I drove for the basket, leaped, slam dunked the poof and hung from the rim for a moment while the crowd roared…and the basket broke.

I haven’t found a replacement yet and since I can’t sing I’m afraid to take a shower. I might be overstating this—I’m second in paranoia only to Woody Allen—but a poof and its basket are my defense against the number one shower danger we all face—and have for the past fifty years. Norman Bates.

I saw the movie Psycho when it first came out in 1960 and I’ve been playing basketball ever since. The crowd noise is key. That’s because Alfred Hitchcock forever changed the way we shower. Forget form and style, think noise. Janet Leigh was quiet as she showered and look what happened to her. Since then guys have learned to stand with their face in the spray and snort and blow like sperm whales. We grunt, talk to ourselves, swear, choke, play basketball…anything to keep a little noise going. Women have an opposite philosophy on shower defense. Women are very quiet. They’ll stick their face into the spray quick, then back up and say, “Mm.” Just “Mm.”

Very softly.

I’ll bang an elbow on the faucet handle, and go, “Ow!”

Women go, “Mm.”

I drop the soap, and say, “Damn!” A woman says, “Mm.”

I bend over to wash my feet, hit my head on the faucet and yell, “@#%&$!dammit! Who put those @#%&$! faucet handles in here!”

A woman slips in the shower, crashes out into the bathroom through the shattered glass door, lands on the tiles naked, broken, slashed to ribbons, and says, “Mm.”

That’s because Norman’s out there.

Ever since 1960 when we get into the shower, man or woman, we’re aware of Norman Bates. We’re so vulnerable when we’re in the shower it’s terrifying. We’re naked. We can’t see through the shower door or curtain. We can’t hear anything over the noise of the shower spray. We climb into the shower, turn on the water, and realize: “Wait, Norman isn’t growing old in a mental institution somewhere, he’s in the house. Sure, maybe this won’t be the time he slips into the bathroom with that 16″ butcher knife, but maybe it will be.” We don’t know. We’re naked, nothing to defend ourselves with but a half-ounce sliver of Soap-On-A-Rope left over from 1964. What if this is the shower?

That’s why we behave differently.

Every woman alive today was Janet Leigh in a previous life. When women pull that shower curtain shut they know Norman is in the house somewhere, maybe in the kitchen. That’s why they’re so quiet: “If I’m really, really quiet, he won’t realize I’m taking a shower. He’ll just grab a couple of cookies and leave. Or maybe he’ll hang out for awhile, waiting for someone to take a shower, get bored, hack Jim into bloody chunks and leave. Whatever. Gotta be quiet. Mm.”
You know how when you shower this little pool of water builds up on some concave part of your body, up on your shoulder blade maybe, then when you move the puddle falls onto the shower floor with a tiny splash? Sometimes when a woman is showering you’ll hear that little splash, and right away she’ll go, “Mm.” She’s in there thinking “oh, crap, now I’ve done it, Norman won’t be content with cookies now.” In an instant she’s got the Soap-On-A-Rope in one hand, the back brush in the other, the towel wrapped around her arm for a shield…it’s just her and Norman now, mano a mano.

Guys are just the opposite. We’re ostriches. If we can’t hear Norman, he doesn’t exist. If we make enough noise that we can’t hear that squeaky shower-scene music from Psycho, Norman isn’t going to come into the bathroom. Keep the noise going, you got no problem. Make sure Norman knows that’s a guy in the shower. He’ll grab a cookie and leave. Or get bored and hack Judy to pieces. Whatever.

Me, I’m going for the high risk shots, the three-pointers…get the crowd on their feet and loud. Gonna be good to get another poof basket, get in the shower again, get a pick up game going. Maybe with Woody Allen.

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Stop it, Hollywood!

Recently Hollywood has tried to add new life to the traditional zombie movie. I imagine the zombies are all for this but they should not have a say.

Zombies shamble. They do NOT run, jump or climb, they shamble.

And that’s as it should be since running, jumping and climbing are not healthy activities for the undead. They are brittle creatures. Their skin doesn’t even stay on well. I expect that’s a result of their high protein diet since all they eat is living humans—when they can catch them.

Of course that’s Hollywood’s quandary. Back in the day when zombies were black and white and had people trapped in drafty old farmhouses survival was pretty much a fifty-fifty proposition. If you were a zombie you and your friends would try to get into the farmhouse and do lunch without getting your heads blown off by a shotgun. As we all know the zombie’s head is its control room. Blow the head off and the undead becomes a real dead. On the other side, if you were a living person inside that farmhouse you’d wield your double-barrel—The Decapitator—to repel unwanted guests and avoid having your throat ripped out by the jaws of a zombie. A little aside here: Alligators are credited with having the most powerful bite of any living creature. The zombie’s bite is even more powerful but isn’t credited due to its life status.

I digress, though that’s what asides are for. In the years since black and white farmhouses, Hollywood has given living celluloid humans all sorts of flight-or-fight technology—automatic rifles, hand grenades, flame throwers, crotch rocket motorcycles, muscle cars, mountain bikes…yes, even a pedalled bicycle can easily outdistance a shambling zombie. Thus the Hollywood dilemma: advantage, living human. Imagine you’re a member of the walking dead looking for a snack, you shamble up behind an unsuspecting farmer, desperate to stifle that moaning groaning noise your kind can’t help, you lurch toward his neck and the bleepin’ guy leaps on a tractor and trundles away to the south forty. On a tractor. That does maybe 10 mph wide open. You’d want to flop down on a rock and quit.

Movie makers recently have tried to even the score by creating zombies that are able to run…ok, they aren’t Olympic sprinters, but still…and not only run but climb fences and ladders and jump down from modest elevations. Here’s where I say “Stop it, Hollywood.” If you’re going to have running jumping zombies you’re going to have to improve their diets with some citrus, bananas, greens, whole grains—see the food pyramid. Otherwise you still have the traditional fragile zombie, let’s say a female—she attempts to run, the impact of foot upon ground drives the tibia through the skin of her lower leg and mobility is lost. She can still drag herself along the ground by her fingers, destroying her nails, but that’s really just a form of shamble. Imagine trying to climb a chain link fence and your own weight pulls your fingers off. Or you jump down from a large shipping crate and the blow of the landing drives your thigh bones up and into your control center to render you for real dead. Better off shambling.

So here’s the message, film makers: if you want us to continue to believe that zombies are real, and that we should leave a night light on, either stick to the shamble or come up with a semi-healthy creature—the partly dead, the walking half-dead, the 35% dead, whatever–something that eats right and is only partly dead and therefore able to chase us and climb our fire escapes. Please keep the involuntary moaning and groaning though.

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Coffee Ramble

Caffeine junkies, break room drinkers, morning gulpers or aficionados we like our coffee. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was fifteen and worked at an A&W root beer joint where I added enough cream to my first cup of coffee that I invented the latte. Since then I’ve run the gamut, or maybe gauntlet, of everything that coffee has to offer—black coffee, coffee with cream, with cream and sugar, with cream and various artificial sweeteners banned because they cause cancer in California, twelve to thirteen cups per day of vending machine urine with artificial cream wannabe, homemade battery acid from a French press, homemade espresso battery acid from one of those little aluminum one-cuppers, new and improved battery acid using a cheap counter top espresso machine and a tiny stick-your-pinky out espresso cup, the same battery acid in a grown ups cup with steamed milk reminiscent of A&W latte, espresso cum latte cum cappuccino from a counter top DeLonghi machine that actually produced a layer of crema and tasted enough like true espresso that in two years my love affair fatally injured the lining of my stomach and returned me to regular coffee with cream ala A&W but on speed dial via a Bunn coffee maker clocked at zero to twelve cups in sixty seconds. Then I retired. Visited Louisiana. Discovered café au lait from Café DuMonde — coffee with chicory served with hot milk. Bought a Kuerig one cup coffee maker, put the other machines in the rummage sale, now start the morning with a single always exactly the same strength and quality cup of–Emeril’s Big Easy Intense, Coffee People’s Doughnut Shop Coffee, or Newman’s Own Extra Bold. The next and final two cups of coffee later in the day are hand made café au laits built from a can of Café DuMonde Coffee with Chicory. Then I switch to Scotch.
Wait, I forgot about the John Wayne battery acid, cowboy coffee brewed in one of those classic blue enameled pots sans basket burned black on the outside and grossly funky on the inside. Fill with water, pour coffee in and boil directly on the hot coals of a campfire. Lastly add a raw egg when the coffee is ready to cut some of the acidity, plus as the egg sinks it pulls a lot of the suspended grounds to the bottom of the pot. Never ever wash that pot and the coffee gets smoother and more palatable as the years pile on. Then I switch to Scotch.

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