What is in my Flask

thoughts on life from Brian Van Brunt

New Orleans Blog


New Orleans always has held a special place in my heart. Some have asked me what I do in the city when I visit. So I made this list. From the get-go, NOLA pushes against the idea of order, so no numbered lists—just a collection of places that are special to me. Maybe they will become special to you as well. I did give in a little and put them into general categories of food, fun, booze, sleep and next (stuff I’m gonna do next).

FOOD* **

*a note about food in NOLA. I have a close friend, Angie Doss, who introduced me to this concept of packaging your leftovers and asking for some “to-go” plastic wear and giving them to someone you see on the street. I think this is an amazing concept and I encourage you to do it. I have never had anyone refuse, and more often that not, I have had people smile in a way that made their day. This doesn’t fix the problem of homelessness, but it helps. Honestly, the only challenge I think is trying to sort our the difference between the homeless and the hipster. Make it a fun game.

** I’d say the first 10 below are the ones I try to go to each trip.

El Gato Negro Oh man, this place. I know you don’t think of Mexican food when you come to the city. Listen, I get it. I also know California and Texas have this kind of locked down. But, listen. I travel a lot. This is the best Mexican food I have ever had. Hands down. Their queso is like exactly as it should be, just a nice kick and super cheesy. Honestly, I’ve been there twice, and I’ve ordered the exact same thing. Queso and one ground chuck beef taco with sautéed mushrooms. The queso comes with flour tortillas. It’s enough to make three tacos. Like it wasn’t enough, they have pineapple, cilantro margarita that is the best I have ever had. Don’t miss the place on the end of Decatur. It’s also right near the French market and the Frenchman, so plan to wander around there.


Who Dat Café.  A little bit of a hike in the Faubourg Marigny, but well worth the walk to Burgundy street. There are two things you don’t want to miss here. They do the perfect bloody Mary. Just the right spice and kick and often at the $5 price. The other is the corn cakes. They are kind of like pancakes but fried in butter and made of corn. Not that you can see them beneath the cheese, bacon and chives. Each forkful of this mammoth breakfast/brunch gauntlet is worth it. Don’t order anything else. Just this bliss. Great place to hang out and write as well.

EAT New Orleans. Located on the corner of Dumaine and Dauphine street, EAT is this hidden gem in the quarter. They do an amazing deviled eggs that are spicy and served with bacon or smoked salmon. They have the chicken pot pie skillet that was equally good along with a crab and shrimp seafood linguine. The menu changes frequently and they have a really nice BYOB policy without a corking fee (this means just bring your wine, beer and other booze to the table with you).  The window seats are great for people watching with a bottle of your favorite wine. One of those places you wander into at the end of Bourbon.

Coops Place A bit of a dive and a hole in the wall, but well known by locals and tourists in the know. Some of the best fried chicken in town. Have it along with some rabbit jambalaya or some fried seafood. Must be over 21. FYI, no babies in the bar. Erica introduced me to this place and it has become a quick favorite. There is a really funny NOLA bit about parades and Coops by Hannibal. Check it out here.

Red Fish Another great restaurant at the top of Bourbon street in the middle of everything. They do like 10 different kinds of fish with varied sauces (my favorite is tuna with lemon butter). Ask for the mint julip in a classic julip cup. The friend Oysters with blue cheese and crystals hot sauce is one of the best bites in the city. Dessert is also not always easy to come by in the city–which is surprising. But they do this here. Its called the double chocolate bread pudding. It involves chocolate being poured. Like your own fountain.

Muriel’s Classic NOLA cuisine set right next to the hotel Place de Arms and the cathedral. The goat cheese crepes are the go-to dish to try here. The blackened fish and the pork chop are other favorites. Cool courtyard bar (indoors) and another place where you can escape the heat of the day for some classic white table cloth dining. Great lunch menu.

Stanley’s  Right next to St. Louis Cathedral. They have a great omelet sandwich. I had this like for a week straight. Solid bloody mary. If they ask you to get a double, the answer is always yes. They do a really nice brandy milk punch as well as a nice dark roux gumbo. Second best gumbo for me—my first is at K-Pauls.

Acme Oysters  Some see these as a tourist place and will fight you if you argue differently. My thought is that leaves more for us and they can go somewhere else. Great po-boys and they do an oyster grilled with butter, garlic and cheese that is one of the best bites in the city. Try to go on off times (between lunch and dinner) and consider sitting at the bar. No outside drinks strictly enforced and they won’t seat you until everyone is there.

Lucky Dog carts Hot dog carts throughout the city at night. Definitely a tasty dog. Onions, mustard and ketchup please. For the Confederacy of Dunces fan, this is a must. They taste better after 10pm and in the terminal at the MSY airport. People may initially say, “Do I want a hotdog from a street vendor?” I’d say they are surprisingly good and the vendors all do a nice job with sanitizing.

Clover Grille At the end of Bourbon street. The dive of dive diners. But, amazing hamburgers make by taking a hubcap over the top of the burger on the grille. Also, second best tater-tots in the city. Not a fancy place. Also, the rules on the menu make the place worth it for a trip. Just keep your hands above the table at all times. Don’t talk to yourself. They make a super good grilled cheese and a surprisingly epic turkey club sandwich. Also, they are open 24/hrs.

Sylvain  Fun, small intimate place for drinks and meals. They do a great brunch with this amazing shot called an orange Lazarus. Don’t miss this. A quick turn by Jackson square over to the Chartres. Can get busy, so reservations can help—particularly for brunch.

Arnaud’s Located on Bourbon and Bienville, Arnauds is another one of those suprises. A fixture of NOLA, it specialized in French cuisine and fine dining. They have two dining rooms, one for reservations and the other for walk-ins. I’d say go for the one in the back. The do a veal Whol dish that gives you a taste of the best they have: Veal Chantal, Arnaud’s Crab Cake and Crawfish O’Connor. Need a fix of escargot or frog’s legs? This is your place. One of the most extensive offerings for oysters in the city. Really romantic spot for a nice dinner.

Bourbon House On the corner of Bourbon (ha!) and Iberville, this place has an extensive collection of bourbon’s that speak to this Kentucky boy. They have raw bar that serves a “Fruits de Mar” platter in various sizes that is really good. Really strong horseradish, which is a must. And they do a raw oyster set topped with caviar which is a favorite for me. A little more a place for a quicker meal in the heart of the quarter.


Commander’s Palace One of the older restaurants in the city, Commanders Palace is located in the Garden district. They have amazing turtle soup and do delicious things with the crab, local fish and pasta. Requires some slightly fancier dress and can be a bit more expensive. They often two exclusive experiences, a chef’s table for four people and a wine cellar table for 8-10. These are epic dining experiences with great wine pairings from their wine cellar with 33,000 bottles. Call early for these.

Cafe Amelie A cute hidden place on the edge of the quarter. Romantic dinners in their courtyard with amazing cocktails. Its super close to my favorite hotel, the Place de Arms. Can get busy around 7pm for reservations. Kind of the perfect New Orleans place to eat. Best enjoyed on a dark fall night. They have some amazing bread pudding creations with candy bars and other creative options.

NOLA A fun restaurant on St. Phillips. It used to be more upscale and fancy, but recently they have moved more to small plates. The BBQ shrimp are really good as well as the pork chop and friend chicken with sweet potatoes. The shrimp are served in a dark sauce, not a traditional BBQ, but its equally delicious. They also do a house pineapple infused vodka that they can do with soda water or in their Cosmo. Don’t miss. They recently re-did the entire interior, so it’s a little bit of an adjustment from what it was before. Much more casual. They make this amazing pineapple infused Vodka that my friend Poppy likes from California. She isn’t wrong.

KPaul’s This classic New Orleans place is tasty and provides a heartier fair. While all the meals are filling and delicious, my favorite is their gumbo. They use an extremely dark roux and it is just the best flavor. They also have a delicious sweet potato pecan pie. One of my favorite tricks is to wait until about 9 on most nights and just sit at the bar and order these two things. Located just a bit from the St. Louis Cathedral on Charters.

Mr. B’s Bistro Another classic in the city. Right in the heart of the quarter on the 200 block of Royal. Steak, BBQ oysters, great cocktails, it’s a mix of upscale and casual. No t-shirts or sandals, though. Gotta wear pants. Good place to try, not the top of my list. Don’t judge, but I got a really good hamburger here for dinner. They also make a solid garlic chicken.

Antoine’s One of the oldest restaurants in the city, Antoine’s is great for lunch or dinner. They offer a weekday lunch special three course menu for $21 along with .25 martinis of the day. Ask to sit in the back of the restaurant at lunch time, they often try to fill up the front first. They are known for some amazing oyster dishes, a baked Alaska and a diablo coffee they set on fire.

Camila Grille  There are two of these, one S Carrollton and then this one in the quarter. Great for a greasy spoon breakfast. This one is technically called the Grille, but that was a new name like two years ago. I imagine there was some kind of lawsuit that downgraded it to the Grille. Not a fancy place and don’t get too complicated in your orders. I’ve watched people trying to order an earl grey tea with honey and lemon be kicked out of the place. Bacon, eggs, Reuben, or get some grits. Fun to watch the waiters interact with the crowd and chefs. The original in Carrollton section of the city. I haven’t found it yet.

Boo! The one in the quarter is closed now. I swear to the sweet baby Jesus they better not put a soap shop in here.

Dat Dog Ok, back to hot dogs. Here is another place to check out. They have like 10 different kinds of hotdogs and sausage. Worth the trip over. There is one on Frenchman and one over on Magazine.

Felix  Right across the street from Acme. You might be tempted to say “hey, maybe I’ll go here instead.” You should do that. That way there is more seating at acme for me.

Cade De Monde   A required tourist stop. Beignets are like French donuts. They can be a little heavy, so getting a coffee is a must. There café au lait comes with a chicory coffee, that can be an acquired taste. They are open 24/7 which is a bonus for those late-night hankerings.

Café Beignet  For better beignets, I like Café Beignet on the 300 block of Royal street. Check it out. Its getting popular, though—so there might be some lines.

Elizabeth’s Restaurant  Great breakfast place outside of the quarter down in the Marigny. They make this amazing praline bacon. Worth an uber if you aren’t feeling the Grille or Stanley’s. It’s also pretty close to Dr. Bob’s folk art. I keep wanting to be into this place, but the art just isn’t my style. Check it out if you like here.

Court of Two Sisters Court Tavern on Bourbon  The court of two sisters is a really nice brunch place, but also a cool gumbo shop on bourbon. It’s an easy in and out place with some quality gumbo and a really nice roast beef po-boy. Ask for it dressed to get mayo, tomato, pickles and cheese on it.

Mother’s Restaurant  A true gem in the city. Casual atmosphere and amazing ham and turkey and sausage. My favorite is a debris sandwich (the drippings and meat from a roast beef) and a simple biscuit with ham. There are always lines here, so plan ahead during the busy seasons.

Green Goddess  A cool little outdoor place with great vegetarian food (and other). On a little cross street called Exchange Place, definitely a great little place to stop for a snack. Cool beers and great vibe. A little hot in the summer to eat outside, but a great place to grab some food hang out. They have this amazing meatloaf po-boy that is something you don’t want to miss.

TuJaques This place has been around before New Orleans was New Orleans as a Spanish armory. It serves great traditional New Orleans fair, my favorites being the crab au gratin, brisket, and the gnocchi. They also have a great off menu item which is a garlic chicken with homemade fries. So much garlic. Be prepared. They also make this fun and silly grasshopper drink that is good if you are in the need for some sweets. Located on Decatur, it’s a little restaurant and pretty easy to score reservations. A good place if you want a white table cloth experience but forgot to make reservations.

Reds Chinese This one is fun. Overheard walking on Bourbon, apparently its a mix of creole Thai food. Which sounds fascinating, so we asked them about it. Overheard restaurant finds is like drinking stolen beer. It always tastes better. Outside, a single red square stands bacon against the night. It says, “Here lies some epic cajun infused Chinese food.” Well, not really, its just a big red square. For me, the craw rangoon, pork belly buns and the generals chicken made the track worth it. Top notch find, random drunk Bourbon people.

Willie Mae’s Scotch house I gotta say, this has been on my list forever. It’s also a bit off the beaten path to get to on the far end of St. Ann, but there have been epic stories told of the chicken in this kind of Viking/Norse song tradition. Go forth, young man. Find the best chicken you can. Take and eat and conquer. Or something like this. In the end, I found it good. It was good fried chicken. By the sheer length of the line outside and the number of people wheeling luggage, apparently heading to the airport right after eating (or perhaps this was their first stop), this place is loved. The sides are delicious and remind me of a home cooked meal. Mashed potatoes and peas, cornbread, red beans and rice. It was really good. That being said, I still give Coops place my friend chicken award, but I would go back and try it with Dave since he had to skip fried chicken and have hummus instead.

Doris Metropolitan I gotta say, I’ve walked past this place on Charters street several dozen times. Its most notable for the full window into the refrigerator holding aged steaks. Like places like Arnaud’s and Red Fish, they have quality bar seating that rivals the actual restaurant. First off, my best advice to you if they ask if you want bread is to say Yes. They have an amazing bread section that comes out with red vine salt, a trio of flavored butters….just was really good. I had the Tuna Tartare for an appetizer and it was really good. I went steak. Bone-in Rib Eye, Cap Off, medium rare. It was a great steak. Overall, the place felt classy, but the bar stepped it down some. To me, it was almost like stepping out of NOLA for a bit, away from Cajun everything and back to a high-end steak house with great options for people who may not want steak. They had surprise flight of amaro liquors, these bitter digestives that I don’t think I really knew much about. Think something like Aperol or Campari. Didn’t realize this was a thing. Really good!

Hard Rock Café Don’t go here. They closed the best dual piano bar on bourbon to replace it with this dumb place. I veto it.

Briquette We went around Mardi Gras, so probably have to go back to get a full feel. It was pretty empty, and I had a bad run in with the waiter. He was kind of pushy, didn’t take drink orders, skipped the ladies and went to the men to order—turns out he was new. Also, there website is weird. Like nothing on it but a briquette. Which is a cool graphic, but maybe menu? I’m not gonna eat your briquette, dude. Anyway, they switched out the server and we had a good meal. They did muscles and truffle fries that were an amazing appetizer. I had a chicken dish that was really good and the tuna. I’d tell you what the dishes were, but I can’t find the menu. Really cool warehouse kind of atmosphere. I would go here again, but it wouldn’t be my idea or suggestion.IMG_3361

Louisiana Pizza Kitchen I know, I know. Pizza in NOLA. But sometimes you have a hankering. This place does oven baked thin crust. Great sauce and meat. They do a really good Caesar salad and nice gumbo as well. Its over by the French market and on the way to Frenchman street. So kind of a fun place if you are on the way somewhere. I know. But try it. Also, pitchers of beer.

Port of Call  It’s been a bit of my white whale, trying to get to this place. But I finally made it. The bar is dark and has lots of seating. The two times I’ve gone, it’s been a little more on the quiet side, but I hear that the place can fill up quickly. They do a simple burger—with or without cheese or mushrooms and instead of fries, they do a baked potato. Apparently, they don’t have a fryer, but have two ovens. Thus, tasty potatoes. Its good solid food and the they have a pretty intense collection rum-based drinks that will kick your ass. The Monsoon is a popular one and super strong. The red turtle is a little sweeter. The goombay punch has a coconut vibe and the Huma huma has a nice melon flavor. Also, coldest beer in town. They say they have the best burger in NOLA, and I usually don’t get into “best of” kind of debates. It’s a solid good burger and I def like the idea that they can do it rare and it means rare. Definitely a good stop. Upon checking my notes, I found this little gem describing the monsoon agter having the red turtle, a beer and the goombay punch.  “Moo soon strong as fuck”

Belle’s Diner A 1950’s themed diner between Decatur and the French market. Traditional diner food and cool music. Fresh OJ machine, great bar options and how can you pass up a “boozy shake.” I had the Hell Belle omelet that had hot sausage, cheddar cheese, and roasted peppers. A good alternative to the Grille that shut down on Charters. Not a place I think I would seek out again, but not bad and a cool location if you are over here. It’s open most days 7am-7pm.

Snug Harbor Heralded as the alternative to Port of Call on Frenchman, that was pretty accurate. A bit more open and a little less cramped, they had a larger menu beyond hamburgers and baked potatoes, but really, that is the main draw of this place. Quality burger and great loaded baked potato. Perfect for sucking up all the alcohol consumed while listening to Jazz music on Frenchman. Apparently, they have jazz here as well, but weren’t playing while I was there.

Kingfish Another one of those little cool places right in the heart of the quarter. Located off Conti and Charters, the defining characteristic of the restaurant is a cool wrap-around bar that reaches into the dining room. Lots of good craft cocktails and solid gumbo and entrees. I had the boudin balls (little spicy pork balls) and the chicken andouille gumbo. Not overly busy, even on a Saturday for lunch/brunch. And with a big surprise coming out of left field, I’m gonna say this gumbo beats our K-Paul’s for me. Dark roux, great sausage and chicken flavor, perfect rice. They did it really well. That and a cool black and blue bread pudding (black berries and blue berries). Kind of a cool idea.

Nola Po Boys Located over near the 900 block of Bourbon, it’s a little po-boy shop. I’m pretty sure it is also related to many of the street bike taxis—there seem to be a lot of them there. The shrimp po-boy was on the spicy side, which I liked. Small place and good food. Another place that I think is more about location and where you happen to be.

Horns Surrounded by a trellises and plants with lots of outdoor seating, this cute little place is nestled up outside of Frenchman on Dauphine. It had some great music going and the indoor setting was all well-worn wood and had the feel of a reclaimed barn with dark maroon vinyl benches and feeling of place and history. I had a savory bread pudding made with spinach and mushroom with over-easy eggs. Strong coffee and some fun fancy drinks like the Velvet Elvis (tequila, lavender syrup, grapefruit and lime). I came early in the morning and it was pretty slow, but the place had “gonna be busy” vibe as the day worked its way to evening.

IMG_2108The Orange Couch Not too far away from Frenchman, the Who Dat Café and Horns lives this little bakery and coffee house. Its bright, airy and entirely populated with writers and students working on stuff. Great power outlets, good wi-fi, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, strong coffee and, you know—an orange couch.


Tableau A little Brennan’s restaurant on the corner of Charters an St. Peter by Jackson square. Its right in the middle of everything and originally, I worried the food would suffer due to the touristy location. I was wrong. The food was amazing. BBQ shrimp with an amazing hot sauce, quality hamburger and a really nice red fish. Oh, and the Gnocchi appetizer. The best I have ever had. The day I was here, it rained in this epic way outside by the square and you could just sit there and watch the rain come down.

IMG_3152Broussards I’ve been to this place twice. Kind of a fun, hidden gem in the quarter off Conti and Bourbon. They do great brunches (everyday over the summer). Endless mimosas and rosé wine. They do a great crystals, honey, cream sauce with the BBQ shrimp. So good. I’ve had the happy our Hors d’oeuvre and cocktails. They make a mean corpse reviver #2 and croque monsieur. A little fancier for dinner—but casual for brunch. Outdoor courtyard and elegant dining room. Oh, and try a grasshopper. Like a girl scout cookie in a glass.



Touchdown Jesus The Jesus statue on the back side of the St. Louis cathedral casts a sweet shadow up a night. It’s a classic picture from the city. He has been affectionately named “touchdown Jesus” and is fond of pineapples.

Ritz Spa An indulgence, for sure. They have amazing massages and a cool locker room with steam and showers with wall jets. They have a neat voodoo massage option with cool music and a spiced bag of herbs that are used in the process. Come early and leave late to enjoy the wave pool and hot tub. Great mani-pedi services. They also have a really nice bar at the hotel set in a square courtyard on the second floor.

New Orleans School of Cooking This cooking school offers a 2-3 hours class where you don’t really cook, but rather watch one of the chef’s cook. They tell you stories about the city, make gumbo, pralines, etouffee and red beans and rice. They start with biscuits with Steen’s cane sugar and move through two more courses depending on the menu of the day and often end with pralines and pecan pie. I’ve been about 11 times, and find it a great way to learn about the city, have a meal and spend some time with friends. It’s about $30 for the experience. Also, free beer.  Its right next to Emril’s NOLA restaurant on St. Louis street between Chartres and Decatur.

Sucré Macaroons. So many macaroons. For your face. To Eat. If, you know, you are into that kind of thing. Banana Fosters is a favorite. Apparently, they also have “big awesome cookies.” I’m not sure about that.

Papier and Plume This little shop on Royal has great selections of paper and pens. Cool messenger bags, cases, old school ink stamps and calligraphy supplies. Definitely worth a stop by.

Harrah’s New Orleans Cool casino themed after the city. Nice mix of slots and table195838_526742796653_8267623_n games. Really happening poker room. I played once at a two-four limit table with Ray Liotta. He scared the shit out of me. It was a low limit table, 2-4 hold em. And the whole time, we all felt like we knew he was somebody. He wore this stupid baseball cap and kept talking about American Idol, like normal American’s do. But we weren’t sure who he was. So, when he went to the bathroom, we all talked and figured out it was Ray Liotta. When he got back he admitted it and we played some more. I asked him for an autograph and he said he would sign one a little later. I even won a hand bluffing against him. Which was also scary. When he got up to go to the bathroom, I saw my chance and went over to him on the way back. I said, “I’m just such fan. Casino, Silence of the lambs. I don’t want to be a bother..” and I held out the paper and a pen. He looked at me with intense eyes and said, “WELL, YOU FUCKING ARE!” In my head, I was like “holy shit, he is going to kill me for asking for an autograph.” I stammered, “I’m sorry…I didn’t…” Then he took the paper and said, “Nah, I’m just kidding…” in this calm and happy voice. Dude. That guy got me.

Ignatius J. Reilly statue  Speaking of which, check out this statue dedicated to our favorite French quarter character. Set out from of where the old D.H. Holmes Department Store was. Hang some beads on him for some good vibes.

Faulkner House Books  Next to the pirate bar, take a break and see where Faulkner wrote and lived. Some great old books here. Worth a stop. You can be all classy and well-read and such.

Wellington & Co. Speaking of silver and jewelry, this is a great place to get some fine jewelry. Ask for Ryan, he will steer you right. Located on Royal..a great street to check out some antiques.

Ghost Adventure Tours  A guided tour through the city. I like the Voodoo and Cemetery Tour #1. Worth the cost to see the cemetery and hear some of the stories. It takes about 2-3 hours, and isn’t too strenuous. You may want to not pick 11am in July, though. Super hot in the cemetery. They do discounts for pre-pay and groups. So worth asking. usually about $20-$30 a person.

St. Louis Cathedral  Worth a stop to come in from the heat and see one of the most beautiful churches in the country. Several of my friends from NJ hang out here.

New Orleans Silver smith Great little silver shop. Lots of estate jewelry and some new (located on Chartres in the quarter). I may have started my flask collection here. This collection may be at 8 flasks. If you stop by, see what they are holding for Brian. Send me a picture.

Lady of Guadeloupe  Cool church right outside the quarter. Has a really neat grotto with candles and cool worship space to reflect. There is a long history to the church being a place where many bodies were kept during the yellow fever outbreak. Oldest church in the city and home of the St. Jude shrine.

Marie Laveau tomb in cemetery #1 A required stop to pay homage to the great voodoo queen Marie Laveau. People leave offerings and some have written on the tomb, but this is frowned on. Best to see this on a tour, as the cemetery is often locked at night and during the day.

Palace Market A cute artists market in the heart of Frenchman street. About 30 booths with jewelry, art and cool creative things to purchase. They are open most nights from 9-1—but look for the Friday and Saturday nights to see the most artists booths.

Police horses  The police on bourbon have horses. It may come into your mind to say something like “OMG, I have a horse and I ride horses and I know all about horses and can I touch your horse and maybe get a selfie with you and the horse.” Just leave them alone. They are here to trample you if the crowd gets out of control and push you onto the ground. BBTTH

Cajun Pride Swamp and Plantation Tours I rarely get pulled out the city, but this one time I was talked into a swamp boat tour. I was with two of my friends, who happened to be black. When they asked if we also wanted to do the plantation tour, one looked at me and said, “Too soon, man.” Agreed. I learned that alligators like marshmallows. And that there are lots of bugs in New Orleans swamps. It was a fun thing to try for a long afternoon, but probably not a repeat for me.


Thoth Float I ride with Thoth for Mardi Gras. I’m pretty sure we are worshiping an
ancient bird. The parade route is here in case you want to try to catch some beads or a doubloon from me. Also, FYI, if you are on a Mardi Gras float, choosing absinthe and ice as your float drink is ill-advised.

O’Neil Gallery This is one of my favorite places for art in the city. Peter lives and Florida and does some amazing work. I have two of his pictures in our bedroom in New Hampshire and some plans to pick up some more.


French Quarter Mule Rides Across from Café Du Monde and next to the St. Louis Cathedral, there is a line of mules that can take you on a cool tour. Many have mixed feelings about the animals being worked this hard in the heat. Often tours that cut through Frenchman can bring jeers and protests from locals. The drivers assure people that the mules are kept well and have a good life. Honestly, I don’t know how to feel about them. They are best at night and cost about $30 a person.

Queork Seriously, I hate this place. Queork should be for cork boards and maybe the bottom of your shoes. Perhaps bobbers. Maybe wine corks. If you are with me when we walk by, I will grumble. Slightly less now that Stephanie from Pere Antoine bought a cork phone case. Grrr.

Champions Square Located outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it’s the place to get your Who-Dat on. I’ve been to exactly two football games in my life, one of them here and one of them at Giants Stadium. The vibe in the stadium is really cool. Chanting and goodness. Definitely worth a swing by during a game.

French Market This place is over by Decatur. There are food shops and some upscale shops as well. They have Sno-Ball (like the flavor ice of NOLA), alligator sausage, gumbo and oysters. The lower part of the market has tables like a flea market for great cheap little things for souvenirs. Worth a walk through, I think. Also near cool shops on Decatuer and El Gato Negro, you know, if you need some queso.

27973293_158565354799513_4935476658415074901_nTrashy Diva Clothing / Trashy Diva Lingerie Boutique This is my wife’s favorite story in the city. They have two stores on Royal street. One has some cool retro 40’s and 50’s dresses, which aren’t cheap, but are really pretty. The other is Trashy Diva intimates and a collection of incredible lingerie and bras. Both stores have a very nice bench that men can sit on and wait.

NRSH (Soap) I have no idea what is going on. But there are like three soap shops all next to each other. I’ve hear the guy who bought the Grille building on Charters also owns these soap shops. The soap is nice, but I don’t get it. There should not be this much need for soap. They were all on Charters. I’m investigating. I have three theories: 1) I need to get into the soap business cause the mark up must be amazing, 2) there is a Fight Club Project Mayhem thing going on here, 3) the guy who bought the building is also buying soap shops for his kids. Updates to come. I did take a sample of the lemon soap and it was very nice. I just don’t understand.

Rouses Market Fresh fruit, cheap booze and all the things you need when you are away from home. The narrowest isle ever and simple going into this place is like a rite of passage in the quarter. Right in the middle of everything on Royal street.

Bargain Center This is over in the Bywater. It’s a cool mix of indoor flea market meets like a antique shop. Lots of random furniture, pictures, glassware…kind of like a grandmother’s attic kind of place. I bought a cool table here. Ubered that 1840’s bastard back over to the apartment.

Collectible antiques This is a little antique shop on the 1200 block of Decanter. They have a lot of nice things that aren’t over the top, Royal street prices. It’s an older store just made for wandering through and exploring. Clearly when I moved to NOLA, I needed to invest in a decanter and some candelabras. I found some nice deals here. Remember to haggle. I found they would come down 10-20% on the prices posted.

Second Line Arts and Antiques. This one is across from Collectibles. While they have some antiques, its way more about local artists and created items. They have an outdoor market and about 30 indoor booths that have local artists works. Lights worked into saxophones, old bottles, ironworks and collectables. It’s a fun and eclectic way to spend an hour. Also, if your friends are scared of bugs—this is the stop for them. Cause for some odd reason, they have like 200 glass boxed butterfly’s and bugs for sale as well. I don’t know why. I suspect it is related to the soap conspiracy.

St. Charles Streetcar After a long debate about streetcars versus trolley’s, we climbed aboard and tried this out. If you are so inclined, they are mostly the same, though a streetcar is used for more shorter, more local trips. It’s cheap at $1.25 a person. They have day passes as well. The streetcar takes you across to the garden district, Tulane and Loyola. Its a great way to see the houses, get over to Magazine street places to eat and shop and generally get a feel for the culture of the town. The cars can get quite packed, so its not the most comfortable mode of travel, but its a quick and cheap way to get over to Commanders and the St. Louis Cemetery #1 (which is currently open 7-3pm—just as a heads up).

Saenger Theatre Sadly, I have yet to go here for a play or theatre, but I was surprised to learn of this hidden gem in the city. My friends David, Chris, Vanessa and Ro rented a condo up on canal by this place and I started watching some of the shows that were coming doing. They draw some top-name folks…Hamilton, Tony Bennet, NIN, Les Misérables, and Book of Mormon. Kind of good place to know.

House of Blues Oh man, what a story. So, to begin with, I’m not a big concert goer. I grew up pretty conservative Christian and the best concerts I was allowed to go to were Stripper and Carmen (pray for me). So, when I wandered past Willie Nelson’s tour bus…I was like, huh. I think I can make this happen. The venue was super cool, small and intimate and had standing room for a couple hundred and then banisters around the main floor and second floor. Willie was nothing short of amazing and besides getting a contact high from the smoke in the crowd, Willie was throwing bandanas left and right. I’m not quite sure how, but I ended up with some woman on my shoulders as she thought this would be a good way to catch a bandanna. Sadly, there was no bandana that was thrown our way. There may have been a point where she tucked a lit joint into her bra before climbing up. Honestly, the night was a little hazy. Anyhoo, concerts! They have concerts here.

One Eyed Jacks This has been another one of those bucket list situations for me. My first concert in New Orleans was a random lucky connection to the House of Blues to see Willie Nelson. There was a variety show there tonight called Blunderland and it was amazing. The venue is this cool little place with a bar in the middle and this raised felt red wallpaper that just adds to the overall vibe of the place. Def worth checking out if you find a band you like or a show.


Three Silly Drinks: If you do find yourself on Bourbon, make sure you have a drink in hand. You can carry drinks out of restaurants and bars in to-go cups. This has resulted in the creation of some epic to-go cup options.

The hand-grenade, Hory Gator and the Shark Attack:  Tropical Isle has a series of bars on bourbon. The hand grenade is served in a long green tube with a little shooter of rum in a hand grenade. My personal favorite from there is the shark attack. I won’t spoil it for you, but order a shark attack and see what happens. Hint: is awesome, film it.

The Resurrection: Stop by Spirits on Bourbon to find that glowing skull drink. It’s here. Called the resurrection. It tastes blah. But glowing skull.

Is that a Real Pineapple? Stop by Cane and Table They have a drink here that is like $30 for two people served in a fresh pineapple. Buy this drink, skip dinner there and wander throughout the day refilling it. I’ve never had so many people curious about where I got a drink before in my life. In the end, I left it at the feet of touchdown Jesus on the back side of the St. Louis Cathedral. I hope I started a trend. You can also order different things in here, I had a double greyhound worked in. They have good ice. That sonic-like stuff. Another alternative is to stop buy Rouses market on Royal


13 Monaghan Small bar on Frenchman. They have the best cheese tots and are open late. Great location to grab a PBR or similar drink. They also were very willing to make up a drink to put into the giant pineapple I often carry around the city. Very accommodating people.

Tolteca Tiki Bar  A hidden place above Felipe’s Mexican restaurant. When you go up to the second floor, be ready to see a whole new place. It’s a dark bar with authentic tiki drinks, gummy shots and some of the coolest bitter drinks I’ve ever had. A great place to escape the city if things are too loud or bright or intense for a few hours. Try the two-ton swizzle. And see if you can find the table where I left a little piece of my heart that one time.

Carousel Bar at the Monteleone This place was cool. They are known for their Vieux Carré, a mix of whiskey, cognac, bénédictine and bitters. Its sweet and strong. The bar slowly rotates in a fun, but not make you sick kind of way. I’d say it makes a rotation about once every hour. It usually pretty busy in there, so timing is key.

Pirate bar Cute little bar next to Jackson square. Famous for absinthe, but they don’t do the full fire preparations. Try a toxic Jesus shot and walk away with a little baby Jesus. They also make a decent margarita if you aren’t feeling the absinthe.


Old Absinth House This is the place to get some stuff set on fire. Fair warning though, before trying absinthe as the person if they like black licorice. Any answer besides “yes, I do” means they will not like absinthe. Ever. At all.  Anyway, pick an absinthe and get an Abita amber chaser and watch the fire. Also, don’t play Don’t Stop Believing on their juke box. They will kill you.

Fritzel’s European Jazz club  A cool little live music venue on Bourbon Street. Not the best music you will hear in the quarter, but always a solid band, good drinks and easy location to drift in and out of during a busy trip. UPDATE: So, just for fun. Tell the bouncer at the door “The Vampires sent me” and have a $10 cover charge. There is something special hidden away in Fritzel’s that will make your trip. (Also, I promise it isn’t a guy who punches you and takes your money).

Chart Room Small local bar in the heart of the quarter. Great place to chill and learn a bit about the culture of the city. Fun to see the limited juke box and I feel like the stories here get more interesting as the night draws on. Once, there was this one armed lady in a red dress….

Pat O’Briens It’s hard to visit the resent city and not have one of these crazy sweet, high alcohol content Hurricanes from Pats. They have a neat dueling piano bar (take a moment of silence for Howl at the Moon) and a fun courtyard with fire and water features. Don’t worry about stealing the glass, its already yours (they are smart)—if you don’t want to glass, you have to return it to the bar for $3 back. Also, if you want to take it with you, tell them and they will give you a nice box. No exposed glass on bourbon street. Everything else, just no exposed glass. As a helpful FYI, there are two entrances here at Pat’s. One on bourbon and the other on St Peter. They also rent out a cool room upstairs for parties of 25 or more. Truly a once in a lifetime experience if you have the ability to do it.

Sac au Lait A cool farm-to-table restaurant in the warehouse district. They serve boars heart. And things in glass with smoke. A fun and cool place to try. Really cool cocktails. And a bartender her found my flask and didn’t steal it (it was a really nice flask) and instead saved it for me until the next day. So, go there, and tip the bartender well.23722457_870466027543_8713787075601856204_n

Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop Cozy little bar on the far end of bourbon street (I know, cozy and bourbon street don’t go together—but they also do). Good hurricanes and gin and tonics, quiet piano music out back, dark at night with only candlelight in the bar. Can get pretty busy during peak seasons.

Pere Antoine Named after the famed rector of St. Louis Cathedral, this place makes some great peach schnapps ice tea drinks. Super strong. Ok, there may be a theme developing in this blog about alcoholic drinks that be obtained close to Place de Arms. Stephanie bar tends there. Tell her I said high. Maybe leave her a rubber duck.

The Dungeon  Ok, so, well. Dive bar is accurate. Fireball and cherries is accurate. Gin and Tonics that glow in the dark cause of black lights and quinine in the tonic is accurate. This place is loud. Only opens after 11pm and the metal stools vibrate in fun ways to the bass cranking in the upstairs. Like a heavy metal version of the pirates of Caribbean ride, be ready for nooks and crannies, cave walls and hidey holes. Dead men tell no tales.

Maison One of my favorite places on Frenchman. Live music, amazing cocktails and cool bar snacks. They do this Bloody Mary that stands like 9 inches tall. My favorite cocktails are the confederate jasmine (ford’s gin, Campari, cointreau, and fresh lemon juice) and the walk the line (Nolet gin, Aperol and fillet blanc). Great cool place to spend a hot afternoon. Don’t forget to tip the band. Lots of seating and while it gets busy, it just never feels that way here compared to other places on Frenchman street.

Harry’s Corner Another great little hole in the wall. They only take cash and probably not the bar to order a complicated drink. They have these great windows you can sit by and watch some of the city pass by on a cool autumn day. They also do these simple red beans and rice, sometimes with cut up hotdogs in it on Mondays. Kind of simple and fun place. Makes me happy here.

The Abby The term “dive bar” can be used in lots of different ways. Here, it is used in the best possible sense. It has a neighborhood feel with lots of regulars and even more character. Curtis, the bartender, gave me a lesson about a longneck being a type of beer, not a brand. Things just went from there with him asking my wife and I to yell “Fuck you Bobby!” for no particularly reason to someone passing outside on the street. A larger question might be “Brian, why would you two yell that?” This can be answered by the $5 longneck and whiskey shot special that is always in effect and Bethany’s new found love of screwdrivers.  Of note, this is the bar where Angelia Jolie used to frequent before some knuckle-head mentioned she was there at an adjacent bar that resulting in lots of tourists harassing her and her leaving through a back door. Speaking of back doors, Curtis also informed me they have the best jukebox in town with a selection of customized mix CD’s with a song entitled “You will regret this” which has a William Shatner singing rocket-man 25-minute type spoken word weirdness that involves a lengthy description of one’s parents have anal sex. So there is that.

Oz As we are neighbors, it seemed only fitting that I try this place out. Bethany and I stopped by to refill my giant pineapple drink from (it was created two hours earlier at Cane and Table while waiting in line at Coops. Today it was a double greyhound and that cool pellet ice and a pink twisty straw. After being razed by Coops wait staff (rightfully so) as “the guy with the fancy pineapple” the drink evolved with a shot of blueberry vodka (and when I say shot, I mean three shots cause that’s how it was poured), two shots of citrus vodka and then the rest of Bethany’s third screwdriver). And, if I wasn’t clear earlier, social etiquette dictates that you add new drinks to the pineapple if you bring it into other bars. Don’t sit at a bar with a giant pineapple and not buy anything.  Ok, so—at OZ, the drink then had two more screwdrivers added to it and eventually ended up being spilled (a bit) on our balcony while throwing beads to a bachelorette party and a lady who recognized me from a threat assessment training in Austin (hi, Audrey!). Any-who, Oz had a cool concrete bar, comfortable seats and, according to Bethany, this amazing bubble sign in the middle of the bar with the world OZ in it that fascinated her more than the super-hot and buff male bartender. I pointed out that primarily all male bar would have comfortable seating and a sturdy, well-made bar with deep places for your knees; cause men get cool things while women have pockets that can’t hold their iPhone. In all fairness, t would be better to visit later that night when they were doing drag queen bingo, but we figured this was a good first time stop. For those who haven’t pieced this together, OZ it is one of several gay bars in this area of Bourbon. The bartender shared he he had another straight friend visit who was concerned about being in a gay bar he told him, “Listen, the worst thing that is going to happen to you is people will be more polite than usual, better dressed and—totally worst-case scenario, someone may offer to give you a blow job. So really, stop worrying.” Bethany raised interesting points about gentrification (is that used right here?) of the bar with straight couples and bachelorette parties frequenting it more, but this still remains an area of debate in our household.

Café Lafitte in Exile Another one of those amazing bars in the city. Part dive bar, part gay bar it is dark and inviting. Cool fire feature at night in the lounge. Of note, we met a guy named John Vincent who was a base jumper who launched himself off of the world trade center in 1991. Clip here. I’m pretty sure he is living his best life ever cause he was wearing this awesome custom zipper boots, and called Bethany  “cherry pie” cause she was looking amazing in her cherry dress and purple hair. Located a block from Lafitte’s blacksmith shop, great bar hopping opportunity.

21 Amendment I think I missed this one so often cause I’m also coming out of Acme after a pitcher of beer and a dozen char oysters and having a quiet drink isn’t the first thing on my mind. I was wrong. The day I wandered in they had nice live music. Great craft cocktails. I had the Uno Mas—and then I had one more (see what I did there?). margarita with Mezcal, ancho reyes verde, lime, sugar, cucumbers and bitters. Also, more about ancho reyes verde here—but a green chili liquor. Dark and cold bar to hang out in during the summer. I heard it gets really busy at times—so just be aware. It’s close to everything, so easy to jump in and out, I’d guess. Cool couches and lounges in the back.

Black Penny  Little bar on Rampart with an amazing craft beer selection. Lots of sours and cool exposed ceilings and fun music playlist by the bartenders. I wandered in trying to make it to ACE hardware this summer to buy some chains for hanging plants. It was hot, y’all. Like Africa hot. I had a watermelon sour and like three glasses of water. Fun, cool place.

Apple Barrel Cute little bar on frenchman with live jazz. Cozy set up (read small), so timing seems pretty important in terms of when you settle out this way. Wandered in for a beer and a set or two. Good place to chill on frenchman.


Place de Arms My favorite place in the city to stay, hands down. Simultaneously in the middle of everything and set away, the hotel holds this great little courtyard and cool pool area. Not overly expensive, and a block to the café de monde, two blocks to bourbon and right next to the St. Louis Cathedral.


Snake and Jakes (fun dive bar with Christmas lights)

Little Dizzy Recommended by Gumbo Marie at the school of cooking.

St. Roch Market I keep hearing about this place, lots of cool restaurants and this hidden little gem. Next trip!

Shaya Some very close friends swear by the hummus here and it has been voted best new place in the US—so who is to disagree with that.

Le Petite Grocery this cute little place keeps getting mentioned to me—its a must try.

Latitude 29 Another Tiki bar? Ok!

Atchafalaya Hard to say, but is supposed to be good. Restaurant We’ll see.

Rawhide 2010 S&M bar with bloody Mary’s? And the slogan, “Everyone ends up here sooner or later” And done.

Nola Cakes. My friend Kaydee recommends this place strongly—apparently over by who dat café. It’s on my list

Cafe Degas.  Cute little French place I need to try. Another Kaydee suggestion

Juan’s Flying Burrito This one gets solid mention around town. Apparently, they do an epic non-traditional taco Tuesday.

La Crepe Nanou A recommendation from a shop keeper on frenchman. I mean, crepes. So, its on the list.

Josephine Estelle A little outside the quarter, but apparently an amazing place to eat over in the warehouse.

My friend in Maryland, Lori suggested these places. She warned me they are outside of the quarter a bit.     Kenner Seafood       Pascal’s Manale         Bevi Seafood





Featured post

That old abyss…

NOLA, March 2019

Last year, I taught a doctoral class at a university on the topic of violence in written communication as it related to the likelihood of targeted, mission-oriented violence. One of the assignments was to analyze a fiction writing sequence to assess the potential for leakage related to violence. As I like to use my life in my creative work, I used a scene from Wolf Howling to give the student’s some source material to analyze. I won’t spoil what scene for those who haven’t read it (but come, on—you should read it), but think green light, a ghost tour and little red riding hood. They liked the assignment and offered some insightful analysis.

One of the students, a particularly bright one—shared some observations. She said, “An overall tone in this writing sample makes me think the author doesn’t see the best in people, but instead, the worst. Everyone, from the tourists to the murder was described in a way that focused on their negative qualities. Racist t-shirts, dismissive parenting, suffering from loneliness, and a pervasive sense people are out for their own interests. Very few had characters had any redeemable qualities.”

As you can imagine, this has been floating around my mind for the better part of the year. Kafka wrote, “A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.” And this got me thinking, is that true for writers? Are we exploring our own frozen seas? Crafting our own axes?

I’ve been a therapist for over twenty years. I’ve often wondered what this did to me. I know what we do, what we see, our careers and work have an impact on how we see the world. The things we do sneak into our hearts. Bartenders considering the barfly’s drinking habits and addictions, nurses talking to patients who are slowly killing themselves with sugar, cigarettes, or nicotine. Has working with people who are struggling to stay alive and overcome their mental illness created a, shall we say, depressing view of human nature for me? Has that drifted over into my books?

The short answer is, probably. As I’ve worked on Samsara, one thing has been clear to me. This project is more than a book, it’s part of me. The writing has been a process of exploring who I am and what lays in front of me. This is why I’ve enjoyed seeing which characters people resonate the most within the story. Are they drawn to a reflective Wagner, the mysterious woman with the dog, Ella and her hard-as-nails persona, Albert with his obsessive and chaotic mind, Dalton as he collects the world’s beauty, Kara as she exploits herself and the men she comes in contact with, Cooper and his naïve optimism and creativity, Liv and her sadness and depression, or is it the mystery of sharks, Mr. Conrad, and Valentine’s cold, enigmatic presence? Dealer’s choice.

To me, there’s a cost to experience; a cost to creation. How do we understand (I’m looking at you, Hawthorne) where the observation changes the observer; how the author’s mind creates and is—in the same way—created, where the therapist heals and when they suffer, how the teacher teaches, the professors profess, how those who have been hurt, in turn, hurt others. What exists, at the heart of it all, and what’s the payment to the yellow-eyed demon at crossroads? There’s a Ying-yang to it all. We’re at the poker table, pot-committed, though unaware of cost for entry and what, ultimately are the stakes we are playing for in this game of life.

So, I keep writing, because this is what I do.

Tell next time.




Dreams and Prophecy

New Orleans, Bourbon Street, 2018

My lovelies,

There are times when I think I am actually writing to the future. Samsara holds within it a circular arc. Readers approach the vortex and find themselves in a bit of a Rorschach test; driving them to resonate with or reject the stories, themes and characters they encounter. One of the harder parts, I think, is figuring out how much of this is for me and how much for the reader.

This past week, I introduced to you Monique, a voice actress who has done exceptionally well in creeping me out when she appears in her dark outfits, candlelight and tells stories with her intense eyes. I’ll be using these for the next few months to help advertise the book, so I hope you enjoy. If you can’t tell, I like the idea of blending reality and fantasy and the interplay between how we create and what already exists.

This writing has made me think more about the process of creation. How much of it is inspired by others and how much is fed by our dreams and the stars. I’m not quite sure I’ve come to a resolution on this. But it is one of those things that causes a sweet pain, like prodding a loose tooth as a child. Even then, you knew the pain would produce something. Pain is the midwife to creation, to art, to life.

I was walking the streets of New Orleans last month and saw Sean Friloux, the artist who created the cover for Wolf Howling. I commissioned the piece from him to create an alley with a black cat. He does these powerful, dark and haunting landscapes and has a love for the city that equals my own. I love the way it came out and I have the original hanging in my apartment on Bourbon. Sean was showing some new pieces in the Pirate’s Alley near the Cathedral. Nothing made me happier than seeing he had some paintings for sale with black cats in them. It’s that interconnection again of art and artist; of admirer and participant. Which came first? The painter or the writer? The alley or the cat?

I’ll end with a dream I had last night. It’s likely this will find its way into either Catching Opheliaor Oracle Gazing. I tend to work in these sketches—a flash or idea that drives my creative process.

“I see,” she said, with the faintest nod. “I truly appreciate your dilemma here.”

Her voice sounded soothing, but that wasn’t how it made him feel; not in the least. He staggered back, increasingly unsure of his safety. The panic started when she crossed the gloomy, February-desolate, street to block his path. The panic had risen with each of her approaching steps; giving rise to a more palpable, inexplicable terror.

“If I may be so bold,” she stood in front of him now, blocking his path, “allow me to explain the birthplace of your current predicament.”

He tried to place her accent. Something Australian or British, but even exotic. She had dark skin and braided hair. The braids were tight and dark, like so many small snakes, speckled with gold rings printed with symbols and words he couldn’t begin to recognize. She was eloquent, but there was something underneath that hummed in a more primal way, like the background noise from a television playing static in the hour of the wolf; that time between night and dawn.

“The sticky wicket here, forgive the expression, is your assumption that our encounter is greeting; a hello…perhaps even an introduction.” The gold bands with their intricate and ancient carvings, glimmered in her hair from flickering gas light above them. She held a confident smile on her jade-painted lips.

Everything in him wanted to run, though the most he could muster was a deep inhale; an unconscious preparatory action prior to flight. The air he took in was heavy with electricity and it left the smell of ozone thick in his nostrils. He felt the storm approaching and was desperate to find shelter. Yet, he remained motionless.

“Our encounter is not a greeting between new friends…” She came closer, her body against his, and raised her left hand to his neck. She smelled of old earth, of vanilla and spice. He did not resist her touch. He could not protest.

She continued, “…but rather, a departure.”  Her hand caressed his neck. He was certain she could feel his pulse, hammering against the artery walls like a rabbit being chased by a wolf.

Her right hand came up and rested on the center of this chest. She then slid it slowly above his heart. Her wrist was encircled with a woven gold and burgundy colored gems. She smiled as she felt the rush of blood throbbing beneath her touch. She drank in his fear and finished with, “This is not my hello…but rather your goodbye.”

Her hand snaked around to the back of his neck and he shuddered at her touch. She kissed him with lips that were full, soft and very cold. She parted her lips briefly to permit her tongue to explore him. She drew back and they each inhaled and exhaled several slow breaths; sharing the air between them like a sacrament.

He dove into her eyes with while the taste of juniper and rosemary lingered on his lips. Her eyes held visions of death; of an immense and ancient void crawling with hungry, massive forms in the glacial blackness. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t breathe.

A vertigo rose to meet him, and he began to sway. He tried to grasp at fragments of his reality, but he found them cracked and splintered; falling from his consciousness to be consumed by the dark gravity her center.

He had a fleeting sensation of weightlessness and a then a sensation of falling movement, sliding very quickly down a massive chute. A deepening, unimaginable terror unraveled the remaining strands of his sanity. The darkness rose up and took him.

“Valentine,” she said to the empty street.

“My name is Valentine.”


New Year Cheer


New Orleans, 2015, Absinthe House

I started a tradition a few years back. On New Year’s Eve, I’d have a drink each hour and dedicate it to a friend I was thankful for in my life. Sometimes, I’d try to make a drink that was inspired by their personality, other times it was just a drink (it’s just a duck). I never really been a resolution kind of guy, but I do like the idea of reflecting on the year and acknowledging the people I cherish and love.

To that end, I think there is a perception I spend my entire life created drinking and hanging out at bars. As my partner Bethany tells me, people tend to assume all I do is travel to exotic locations to sample beverages and food. I assure you, this is only partially true. There was a lot of work this year, many challenges and lots of seltzer water consumed.

Although—we do choose the masks we wear, so I take some responsibility for encouraging this perception of ‘party’ Brian. I think it probably comes from missing out on social drinking and parties in high school and college (damn church)— however, I realize that at 46, perhaps this explanation (excuse?) is losing some of its luster.

Anywhoo…fast forward to New Year’s Eve. I’m lucky enough to be spending it in New Orleans with some close friends (Doug and Jeanne) and my wife. For those who know New Orleans, they know there is a festival, pub-crawl, crawfish boil, BBQ, cocktail event, parade…for just about every occasion. You can imagine my happiness last month when I saw on there was a pre-Christmas dive bar pub crawl. While I couldn’t attend (something about me being with my family on Christmas), I did get inspired.

This past year, 2018, has been the worst in my life. While I have so much to be thankful for—my book being finished, a great job, amazing kids, and a smoking hot wife….it’s also been a year of grief, loss, sadness that has tested me to the limits. While I tend to be public with much of my life, I don’t always share how bad the depression and grief has been with the world. What has helped me, more than anything, has been my friends. And to that end, I want to acknowledge them here. With booze.

If you are out and about in the Crescent City on December 31st—please consider joining us tomorrow. If you are home, please consider following this festivus- adjacent tradition of thanks. I’ve included the schedule for tomorrow here. I’ll plan to post on Facebook at each stop. After New Year’s, I’ll update each of these stops with the FB posts here on the blog. For those of you who have also had a hard year—perhaps you can raise of glass of cheer to those who have helped you in your life this past year.

I am lucky to have many friends. If you aren’t acknowledged here, please attribute this to my liver’s limitations. There are so many of you whose friendship has been beyond wonderful.

I am reminded of a play that had this great line in it. I’ve lost the name of the play, but the line stuck…“Every ship at the bottom of the sea had a map.” The list below is a starting place for us—my Babe Ruth pointing at the outfield with his bat. Whether I smack this list out of the park remains to be seen…this is our map, we may sink.

11-12pm Who Dat Café: 2401 Burgundy St (Bloody Mary)

12pm-1pm Cane and Table: 1113 Decatur (acquiring pineapple, salty dog goodness)

1pm-2pm The Abbey:1123 Decatur St(beer and a shot)

3pm-4pm Coop’s Place: 1109 Decatur St. (acquire fried chicken and ABITA)

4pm-5pm Santos:1135 Decatur St (dealer’s choice)

6pm-7pm Tiki Tolteca: 301 N. Peters Street (Zombie)

7pm-8pm Snake and Jakes: 7612 Oak St. (PBR, yo).

8-pm-9pm Good Friend’s Bar: 740 Dauphine Street (new bar, dealers choice) and Rawhide 2010: 740 Burgundy Street (Bloody Mary?)

9pm-10pm Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop: 941 Bourbon Street (Hurricane) and Café Lafitte’s in Exile901 Bourbon Street

10pm-11pm Cat’s Meow701 Bourbon Street and Oz: 800 Bourbon Street

11pm-12pm Potions: 733 Bourbon (Absinthe cocktails!)

12:01 Spike pineapple on Touchdown Jesus fence, chant British things

My flask is full.



The thing I love about you

San Francisco, Pier 39, Sept 2018

At the center of it all, when everything else is processed and parsed, it really comes down to this. You accept me. I know it’s an odd word to use to describe love; so far away from passion, commitment, kindred ideas, patience, kindness, friendliness, shared goals for the future, long-suffering. But this is the thing I love most about you. That you accept me for who I am.

And this acceptance, more than anything, requires knowing me. It’s hard to accept someone you don’t know, hard to lean into something that might give way. But you know me.

And this acceptance isn’t synonymous with being agreeable. That mask can only last so long, though our masks are what we choose them to be. You are formidable when you take a stance; when you dissent and resist; when you fight against the harmony of it all; when you convey that sense of commitment to me. You don’t lose yourself, but rather share your vulnerabilities and fears. You bring them to the harvest table to be consumed with mine.

I crave those Counting Crows conversations, when the lights move about the room and the music comes from the darkness. We hope and dream; heartsick and panic-verged. We listen to the ghost whisperer in the speakeasy; telling stories of bones together, chalky and white, resting eternally in the Caveaux. I think about us, mixing our contemplations and truth together, Palmer and Gaiman style, no bed song here for us.

You know me. My passions and appetites, worries and fears. You know my grandest moments and most catastrophic slides. Fallen Azazel, hand on your throat. Candlelight and sand; those lingering moments. Deep passion and quick anger, the fox bites when he is cornered.

You know I accept too quickly. I love too quickly. You know that about me, watching the girls in their summer dresses.

And that, in a roundabout way, is what I’m saying. Your acceptance of me, a faith in who I am. This is what I love about you. A willingness to stay by me; to tolerate me at my best and cherish me at my worst.

This is the thing I love about you.

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Istanbul, 2018

I really like this city. I’ve been once before, though for too brief of a stay to fully enjoy it. Sadly, this trip had an element of the bitter-sweet to it, as my travel companion lost her mother the night before the trip. But I tried to make the best of it.

Given the recent explosions of late, the airport created a little stress for me. While I know it’s safe and I’m much more likely to be killed in SO MANY other ways, I did have a moment while waiting in the customs line. Someone left a rather dubious looking package on the corner of an airport pillar. My exchange with security went as follows:

Me: “Ma’am? Someone left a bag here on the corner next to this pillar.”

Teenage Girl working security: *shrug*

Me: “Not a security worry?”

Teenage Girl working security: Meh *shrug*

And…off we go.

First, full on kudos to Miranda for picking the hotel. This lady knows how to pick a solid hotel. The hotel was named FER and is in the heart of the city. While much of the city was explored through Brian picking his way left or right out of the hotel and wandering, I do feel like I was never more than two blocks to something I wanted to see. I’d highly recommend this place in the future.

I had been to the blue mosque once before and while I was bummed it was closed this time, having seen it made this a bit more palatable miss. I did get a chance to visit the Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, museum. This was a church, then another church, then a mosque and museum over the centuries. Apparently, another 500 people had the same idea to visit, so as I waited in line a tour guide approached me and offered to take me to the front and give me a guided tour for 150 Turkish Lira. Sold.

Ok, another thing. They accept Turkish Lira, USD and Euros. Which makes everything super confusing. 1 US dollar is 1.2 Euros. 1 Turkish Lira is around .25 USD. So, overall, I have been a mess with money this trip. It was suggested I download eCurrency app. But where is the fun in that?

Anyway, so 150 lira for a tour was like $40 USD, I think? Which, for a half hour tour and skipping to the front of the line seemed worth it to me. I’ll have to get back to you on Miranda’s feelings on this as I’ve once watched her berate a Nepalese taxi driver over .25 for a ride. I mean, with love, of course. Miranda is classy that way.

One of my favorite things to shop for here is the misbaha, or Turkish prayer beads. You will see people carrying around all forms of these throughout the city. These are used (as I understand it), by Christians and Muslims alike. Either in reciting prayers or simply keeping God on your mind. I’ve liked it for that, kind of a spiritual fidget spinner. I worry some about the cultural appropriation of this, but overall I think people seemed more generally appreciative of attempts to understand their culture. I found a really nice set made from amber, which apparently is a thing beads can be made out of over here. They are from Poland.

I also truly love the Muslim culture. The call to prayer throughout the day echoing from the minarets, the beauty of the mosques and the kindness in the people. For many reasons, it saddens me the way many in the U.S. see these people. I know I am just touching the surface here, but I do enjoy the way we all strive to reach for God in our way. Even if our way is not reaching.

The Turkish tea is another wonderful, bitter and enticing delicacy over here. You can sweeten it or have an “apple tea” if bitter isn’t your thing. But I would encourage you to try it as it comes first. It is an acquired taste. The tea traditionally comes in rather unique pear shaped glass with a little sugar spoon.

The sea market, or Arasta Bazaar, was a fun wandering stop. Lots of little shops to check out. Iranian Saffron is something sought after here and I ended up picking some up. It makes this brilliant yellow saffron tea and is amazing in rice. It is quite expansive, however, ranging from $8-$12 a gram. I’m also told it is easily duplicated, so finding a reputable (re: permeant) shop is ideal.

The Grand Bazaar is a challenge to describe. It is entirely enclosed and seems to be made of up 4-5 football fields in size. There seem to be districts dedicated to antiques, designer clothing, gold and silver exchanges and jewelry. Spices and Turkish delight are displayed in colorful shops that would make Edmund’s head spin. Many of the streets and sloped and worn with age. Metal detectors and guards are posted kind of informally at each gate, giving some balance to security concerns.

Food wise, Turkey offers an amazing variety. Three of my kids are vegetarian, so I’m always on the lookout for different options.  In Istanbul, many of the foods are based on nuts and fresh fruits. Hummus and kebabs are readily available as well as stews and many vegetarian dishes. Grilled vegetables and many vegetarian dishes are available. Street venders sell grilled corn (Kestane) and roasted chestnuts (Misir). My favorite is a round pastry like a pretzel covered is sesame seeds that is called Simit.

Next trip I’d love to see the spice market, cistern and the blue mosque again. My favorite memories have been sitting quietly and having a tea and shisha while watching the world go by me.
I hope this blog encourages you to try Istanbul. It is a wonderful place with a kind and giving people. The airline Turkish Air offers a pretty reasonable roundtrip flight from Boston around $900 and taking the red eye (leaving Boston around 11:30pm) was one of the easier international flights I’ve done. It’s a short ride from the airport to downtown and many hotels will offer the transfer as a service.

In summary, things Brian learned this trip:

  • The general perception of American’s wandering around Istanbul is we want 1) a tour, 2) a carpet or 3) a leather jacket.
  • While marble looks pretty, it is my opinion that the city may need to rethink doing all of its streets in marble. Cause when it rains, super slippery.
  • People with laptops in a café are not a thing over here. Well, insomuch, that I am doing it. So, trendsetter.
  • No shorts in the mosque. See previous New Orleans comments “no babies in the bar”
  • Head scarves around town are pretty hit or miss. So ladies, your call.
  • Apparently, if I have a shisha, I like watching football. This may apply to other things I previously didn’t think I liked.

Obligatory song reference here

The Play is the Thing

New Orleans, Madame John’s Legacy 2018

My wife and I wandered into a unqiue theatre experience while in New Orleans. One of my favorite things about the city is how it’s always changing; just this constant flux of people, restaurants, entertainment and weather. You never quite know what is here. A moveable feast, indeed.

The Stranger Disease and was billed to be about the 1878 yellow fever epidemic that struck the city taking over 20,000 souls. It was billed as an immersive theatre experience set throughout a courtyard in the 1788 Dumaine Street residence, Madame John’s Legacy. Rest assured, there were many comments between us about the potential lack of seating and concern over impromptu interpretive dance performances (only further encouraged when we arrived to learn that the play was done in cycles…calling forth the Dude’s landlord’s Marty dance cycles in The Big Lebowski). But our fears turned out to be unfounded and the play was a truly deep and disquieting experience.

You were given a choice to either stay in one place such as a basement hat shop, bedroom in the upstairs of the house or out in the courtyard. Alternatively, you could follow one of the actors around to see how their individual story developed. While I’m sure there are deeper academic roots to this theatre process, it was reminiscent of a video game open-sandbox style adventure that allowed you to choose what to focus on throughout the night. You could spend time watching the hat maker agonize over writing a letter alone in the basement, another characters praying for salvation from the plague, or someone folding the laundry or engaged in a heated argument. It created this sense of anxiety that you were always missing something or only getting part of the information you needed to understand what was happening. Which, in the end, was exactly what the characters were feeling as they started to come to realize the coming yellow jack plague, quarantine and hard choices they had to make about leaving loved ones or staying in the city. Kind of a brilliant design.

There was also something in it that reminded me of The State of Siegeby Camus. Maybe it was the chaos of pending disease or perhaps the way both plays break down the traditional audience/ performer barrier. For me, both evoked these unsettled feelings around our current political climate, the role of incomplete information, authoritarian rule and the fear of a lurking apocalyptic event (albeit nuclear war rather than yellow jack). I found The Stranger Disease equally moving and disturbing.

As is a mark for any good play the true goodness of the performance and writing snuck up on me after some reflection. It took me days to process and the layers and quality of the performance and the larger messages. It is running until April 22, 2018, if you happen to be in the city. Don’t miss it.

600 words

New Orleans, St. Ann Street

I sit across from the couple by the window. She is young, and full of energy and happy. She wears a black dress with red cherries and I can tell it’s the kind of dress that took her some time to choose. You can see her, right? Back in her apartment, casting off the green dress on the chair and then tossing the less form fitting, flowy black one across the bed? You can see her, debating which shoes to wear; flats or heels. She knows flats are the smart choice given the uneven streets, but heels make her legs look amazing. You watch as she paces back and forth, a different shoe on each foot, holding each out in front of the floor length mirror, trying to decide. She doesn’t ask him which looks better, not because he won’t give her an opinion, he’s totally the kind of guy that would give an opinion. She just wants to make this choice on her own tonight. She picks the heels. It’s a good choice and she is confident now, sitting comfortably across from him, free from her previous uncertainty. Her confidence is vibrant and attractive, and you can tell from the way he looks at her that they are very much in love.

It’s a small restaurant, in the heart of the quarter surrounded by old buildings and gas street lamps. They sit at a table by the window, dressing the restaurant for those passing by; those recovering from a day of drinking and excess with lent and ashes. He notices she is low on wine and he pours her more from the bottle with a twist, just so. They laugh and tell stories and eat. They are relaxed and happy, enjoying each other’s company.

She rests her hand in the middle of the table. It’s a fine hand, beautiful and thin, laying on the white linen between them. She sets it past the bread and the carefully poured wine; past her mostly untouched pasta and shrimp dish. She rests her hand on the table, crossing the expanse that separates them. He pours more wine, cuts into his food, and smiles at her and they laugh. It isn’t that he rejects her hand, he just does not take it.

I want to pull him aside. I want to tell him, as we pass each other on the way to the bathroom. I want to tell him to take her hand. And that’s even more than he needs to do. Just reach out and touch it. Reassure her. I want to shake him a bit and tell him its plain to see this is what she is asking for. Just the briefest touch. I don’t say this, of course. In case you are concerned. I never would. He would think me intrusive. Or that I was a crazy person. He would tell me there is nothing wrong between them and they are very much in love. And all of this would be correct. I’d have nothing to say back to him. He is right. Everything is fine.

After a few minutes, her hand slowly retreats. She brings it to her hair, adjusting a stray lock or brushing it back past her ear, it doesn’t really matter which. It was one of those two. She smiles at him and listens as he tells a story about a friend at work who didn’t get a promotion that he was supposed to get. They are happy and drink their wine and eat their food. They are content and in love.  Anyone can see it.

Makin’ Gumbo

The Dudes Abode, Gumbo time 2017

It’s been four years and, with the holidays coming, I thought I’d write a blog about cooking something. My favorite something to cook is gumbo. Though, this isn’t my favorite thing to eat. Actually, it’s probably not even in the top ten, but there is something calming and peaceful for me about cooking it. Which is why I’m writing a blog about cooking it rather than just cutting and pasting a recipe. Gumbo cooking kind of requires a narrative.

I first learned to cook Gumbo in New Orleans at the School of cooking. Which, BTW, is a bit of a misnomer ‘cause you don’t actually cook at the school of cooking, but rather watch them cook and then eat what they cook. Which, when all is said and done, is really better. Also, free beer. But I’m getting off topic.

First, Get yourself one of those rotisserie chickens. I know, I know. You can roast your own chicken. But this is easier and really, pretty much the same. Don’t get any weird flavors like BBQ, just the regular. Then, just kind of go to town pulling off all the chicken and put it in a bowl for later. Break it up into bite sized pieces. If you are lucky enough to have a strainer pot, you can put the chicken in a strainer with like, maybe, a gallon or so of water. Then break up the chicken parts and just let it boil for an hour or so. The longer the better. You can add some salt if you like—or even some garlic sliced up. The school of cooking sells some cool dried sliced garlic that I use in the broth. You could also add prawn/shrimp bodies here, if you wanted to have a more seafood tasting broth.

Get a bunch of celery, onions and bell peppers. I usually buy like two onions and three bell peppers, and then however many stalks of celery then cram into those bags at the store. Cut them all up into small pieces and then set them aside. If you happen to have a sous chef, then this part is easier, or if you live in New Orleans on somewhere in the south where you can just buy pre-cut pepper, onion and celery, then again, you are golden here. But otherwise, ya gotta get to cutting.

Next up, the fun part. It’s roux time. You can do this different ways, using oil or butter. If you use oil, use vegetable oil and not olive oil. Butter can burn faster, so oil is more forgiving. But butter tastes better. I’ve even heard of some folks using bacon grease. I just use a stick of butter and a cup of flour. If you are making a lot, you can use two sticks of butter and two cups of flour. I recommend a nice cast iron skillet if you have one. Melt the butter first and then stir in the flour. Then you stir pretty constantly with a spatula or wooden roux spoon for about 10-15 minutes until it has this amazing smell and looks like a chocolate color. Don’t burn the roux.

Once it’s done, you can add the trinity of peppers, onions and celery to cool down the roux mix. Turn the flame down and stir occasionally. Next, either strain your broth or just pull the top of the pot out that has the strainer. Basically, you want a nice clean broth. I add a few cups of broth to the roux and pepper, onion and celery mix and let it sit and cook for a few minutes.

I’m a fan of browning the chicken in the pot I’m gonna cook the roux in. So, I do that with some oil, salt and pepper. For me, it’s good when the chicken leaves some marks on the bottom of the pot and is nice and cooked (don’t burn it, but that kind of crisp brown look). If you like a sausage gumbo along with the chicken, you can do the same to the sausage here. Most recommend a hard andouille sausage. I find that sausage overpowers my gumbo and prefer just a straight chicken.

Once the meat is cooked at the bottom of your soup pan, you add the chicken broth (should still be hot)—and stir off the chicken stuck on the bottom of the pan. Kind of your call on how much broth. I like a thinner gumbo with a darker roux taste and my favorite part is the broth, so I make it more that way. If you do less broth, you are basically making closer to an etouffee, which is a thicker and meatier version of gumbo great over rice.

Once you have your broth quantity figured out, then you add your roux mix with the celery, peppers and onions. Do yourself a favor and give that a taste. Its hot, so don’t burn your tongue. If you have something like Kevin’s hot stuff or the New Orleans School of cooking spice mix, I’d add some of that here. Remember you can always make it hotter, but you can’t take away the spice. If you don’t have the mix, you could do something like this: 2 tablespoons of paprika, salt and garlic powder, then 1 tablespoon of onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dried leaf oregano and dried lead thyme. Some add white pepper, thyme and basil—that’s your call.

Now you are pretty good to let it simmer for a stretch. I usually do about an hour. But again, the longer the better. If you like shrimp in your gumbo—I’d add them about 15 minutes before serving so they don’t overcook. Timing here depends on the size of the shrimp. As an aside—if you are into the shrimp and seafood, you could get the full prawns and add the bodies to the stock with the chicken earlier if you like.

The traditional service is with a ball of rice in the middle of the bowl and then pour the hot gumbo around it. Enjoy!

(Today—my flask has a nice Cabernet Franc called Brave and Maiden)


Bethany figure drawing, 2017

I’ve always been jealous a bit of those who could sketch. Which is extra annoying since my wife and daughters sketch better than I could if someone gave me decades to practice. But at least I write, and I enjoy that. While sketching seems to be a term initially limited to drawing, I think it’s fair to talk about sketching in other ways. I’ve been working on a novel for some time (I know, I know, it’s taking forever!)…and I thought I would share some of the recent sketches I’ve been working on. Like drawing sketches, they are incomplete without rhythm or reason.


She was a tall, thin woman with an old brown, long-haired Chihuahua. She reached for the dog wrapped up in a pink and black, TSA approved, dog carrier and held him in her arms. The carrier was tattered and well-worn, much like the woman. She had a slight shake to her hand as she cradled the dog in a blanket on her lap. They sat across from me in the airport waiting lounge.

I was tired, coming off a red-eye flight from LAX. We were in Chicago and headed to Philadelphia. A young, black woman sat down next to her on the right. She started playing YouTube videos with the sound turned up way too loud for a public waiting room and was clearly oblivious to this social folkway. The dog eyed the black woman.

She stopped looking at YouTube for a moment and turned to look at the dog. The dog growled at her and the tall woman pulled him close within the pink polka-dot blanket and said “Aw, you stop that now” in a vaguely condescending and reproachful way. The dog snuggles deeper into the blanket and regard the black woman with disinterest.

The tall woman addresses the black woman. “See, he don’t mind you.” And then to her dog, “Don’t know why you are growling. They are the same.”

I find this statement slightly racist, like the tall woman was clarifying all of this out loud to convey she hadn’t raised a racist dog. Which, for me, made it seem like she had, in fact, raised a racist dog.

She held him even closer, “Mama will keep you warm.”

While I’ve always had an affinity for long-haired Chihuahuas, I did not have as much of an affinity for the owner. As I watched her more, I noticed most of her teeth were gone and she had a poorly done script neck tattoo that was faded and difficult to read. I figured meth was the likely culprit here.

She cooed again to the dog and I remembered this story from a Buddhist teaching. It implied that all people were all really the same people. There was no death, but instead we would come back as another person. There was no self, but instead this universal connection between everyone. There is no individual, but we are each other. I thought about this some. Could it be that I was this tall woman, that I was the young black lady watching her YouTube clips turned up too loud? That we were all the same. Maybe. I closed my eyes and waited till we boarded.

Sad eyes

I sat up near the front of the plane and I watched people line up and wait. The line slowed down as passengers attempted to cram their bags in the too small spaces.

I noticed a young, blonde woman waiting for her turn to progress in the narrow aisle. I was drawn to her sad eyes, like she had reached for help too many times and always came up empty. Her hair came down in tangles and she wore an over-sized sweater that hid her frame. It didn’t surprise me when she stopped and paused two rows down from where I sat. I had seen this before. She would look down at her ticket, and she did. She would calculate which number and letter combination lined up with the window or aisle seat, and she did. She made eye contact with me and I stood, letting her make her way to the window seat in my row.

I used to like the window seats. They were cozy and they felt like losing yourself in a movie as the plane took off and flew through the clouds. I suppose current aisle preference on flights echoed my current malaise. Now, I just wanted an extra few minutes to move to the front of the plane when the bell dinged at the end of the flight and the plane was settled at the gate. The plane gave this kind of bounce right before the bell and then the race was on. There was a loss here, I suppose. The same kind of loss when you stop marveling at the wonder of flight and think more about whether or not you will make your connection. I thought back to that point where I stopped looking out the window at the clouds and started to look more towards where I was going when I landed. It made me sad, too.

She settled in with her green, Jansport backpack pushed neatly under the seat. We smile again, briefly, and I wondered some at this. The convenience of kindness, the shared stuckness between Minnesota and Salt Lake. Embarking to in-between towns and cities, hubs people passed through. I thought about her cable-knit sweater and how it would be too warm for most people on the plane, but she seemed to disappear underneath its warmth. I closed my eyes as the plane hatch was closed, as we rolled back from the gate and flew to our in-between places.

State of Siege

I open my eyes and there is an older woman with a red-sweater moving across the aisle in front of me. She has on homemade jewelry, round-aqua stones with gold circles closing in on themselves in a kind of fractal design. She coughs twice. It’s that kind of deep chest cough that is the either the early stage of bronchitis or pneumonia. I’m sure it would have scared the country doctor in the early 19th century, but apparently is not as debilitating as it once was. She launches immediately into a story about cough drops, sharing too much, with everyone around her.

“I hate those people who cough all the way through the show. I usually remember to bring cough drops, but I didn’t this time. And I feel just terrible.

She continues to move across the aisle in front of me. She is a large woman, but not enormous. She struggles to fit in the seat and announces to everyone again, “my hips used to be able to fit in these seats. But that was a long time ago.”

She settles into her seat and begins to scratch at the back of her head with an intensity – as if searching for some kind of relief that never comes. Her breathing is labored from the coughing and she inhales deeply, as if never quite getting enough oxygen. She apologies to the two elderly women sitting next to her and claps her hands together in an odd gesture, with her fingers outstretched.

“Would you like some gum?” one of the elderly pair asks her. “I don’t have any cough drops, I’m afraid. But I have some gum.”

“Oh! I suppose that might help.” She takes the trident gum from the woman and repeats herself for no clear reason. “I hate those people who cough at the theatre. I find it very annoying. And then when they have a cough drop, they take so long to open it. Just rip the wrapper off, I say. Be done with it.”

She carefully unwraps an extra piece of gum and places it in her pocket. She says, “I’ll save that for later. And it’s unwrapped. So that won’t be a problem.”

I wait for play to start. It’s by Camus. I haven’t seen it before and I wonder if it might have already begun in front of me.


Gas Lamp

I’m walking outside of the theatre and someone calls to me. “Hey.” I keep walking.

“Hey! I smoke cigarettes. It’s a bad habit, but you know. Do you have any?”

The voice is slurred and I walk by quickly. The guy stumbles and his friend holds him up and back some from pursuing me more.

“Nah, man.” I say without skipping a step. I’m not scared, more annoyed at the hassle of them.

“Billy!” his friend chimes in, he’s been drinking too, but isn’t drunk. Not yet. “Billy, you sound like a crazy person asking for cigarettes that way out here.”

The conversation fades out as they stop walking. I keep moving and glance back across the 20 yards separating us. The friend is trying to hold it together but it’s clear he’s fighting a losing battle. Billy focuses on his feet, somewhat amazed that they seem to hold him up.

“I just need a smoke.” Billy says.

“I know, but when you ask like that you sound like a homeless, crazy person wandering in the Gaslamp.” The friend replies.

As bad luck would have it, the pair pass a tall-lanky man wearing ill-fitting sweat pants and a ram’s t-shirt says, “What the actual fuck did you say?!?”

Billy’s friend goes into overdrive. “Oh no, man. He wasn’t talking to you.” Billy looks around confused, clearly lost on the nuisances of the miscommunication.

“I’m not homeless,” sweat-pants says, raising his voice. “I have a home right over there at Covenant house.”

Their voices fade as I continue to walk away into the night.







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