New to Nola

A celebration of cuisine, music, history, ghosts, swamps, and excessive indulgence.   NOLA; a celebration of life.

I arrived in the dark and taxied to an area called Lee Circle.   First, I’d drop bags and scope the area, my block and the surrounding few style=”line-height:1.5;”>.  The receptionist at the hotel was cute.  Not too sexy, not too beautiful, but definitely looked like good fun.   A bubbling personality, world traveling, finding work, then vacationing, then moving onto a new city.  Something about her tone suggested there was more to the story.

It was raining.  I passed the WWII museum. “I’ll definitely visit the WWII museum, it’s so damn conveniently close to my hotel.”   Whispering myself another lie.

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A lonesome-jubilee at “Cochan’s”.  Butter-fried meat pies and a pint of LA31.  A couple of French girls introduced themselves, after I introduced myself.    They looked like story-book ballerinas. Ballerinas are so damn beautiful.  I woke up with a ballerina many All Saints Days ago.   Back in the Frat fantasies really did come true.

I soldiered through the drizzle, down a barren block, thankful for the warm air.  I was looking for a dive: The Rusty Nail.  The way the ditzy-fun hostess reccomended it, I’d enjoy myself.   I envisioned an old pub where hell’s outcasts jammed their mental guitars, too tone-deff drunk to care if you liked the music they belched.  There’d be a big beer selection and loose local girls too classless to miss a happy hour.   Girls that enjoy wasting Wednesday evenings in the dark grungy dig’s of Louisiana’s back roads.   I envisioned I’d be happy.

I struck conversation with the big blonde babes about oil’s recent versatility in the market and how it’s influencing capital investments.   We also talked radio give-aways and how best to snort salt through a straw.   The rest of the night mapped together like a half-completed Vuze file.  I woke un-robbed and unimpressed with my unabashed self.

The sun wasn’t up just yet, but I had a fat file of work to flip through before breakfast.   I splashed water on my face, kicked myself some Nola knowledge and hustled down stairs to order a pile of shrimp & grits.  I devoured it with 6 cups of coffee and a business meeting on creative marketing.  We exchanged Central America travel stories and reviewed the nearby bar options. She was on point.

A few hours later I ate at NOLA PO BOYS.   A sloppy pile of delicious greasy goodness. I was in the heart of the French Quarter’s gaud.  Near Leffite’s, the Pirate-ghost bar.  Because they had one of my favorite drinks of all time, beer, I stayed a while.

I was advised to visit with Priestess Mariam, the Mambo of the Voodoo Spirit Temple, across from Congo Square in New Orleans.    Highest of the clergy, as mambo asogwe, she is responsible for preserving rituals and maintaining relationships with with spirit world.

The Spirit Temple was closed and that was the last effort I made to reach the priestess. The bar next-door was “Tonique”. As if this place was privy to making a pristine cocktail more eloquent.

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I’d buzz through the afternoon, blasting off work emails and drinking more beers than my wallet thought I would.   I was lost in the history, haunt and charm of New Orleans.

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Gripping half-a-six, I joined a haunted tour, accidentally rambling off insolence upon my entrance.   Our tour guide shot her grey-green marble eyes at me with a look I could quite read.   She had endless stories to tell, some with laughter some with shivers.   The rest of the tour group thought we were dating.   The concierge knew we weren’t.  Her demo tape is still on my home-office desk.  I’mma help her get famous.

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The next morning we toured the swamps and the marine biologist student from Sweden fell deeply in love with me.  Or vice versa, I don’t recall.   I couldn’t pronounce her name, even after she spelt it.  She pointed out how American it was to feed the wild boars marshmallows, emphasizing the irony by being in a state reserve.   They think us brutish, but we just avoid the nuisances of over-civilization.

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Long-haul sleepless and broke and broken

Kiev Boryspil Airport: From 6AM – 10AM I slept 30 minutes at check-in’s tile floor.  The flight ladies of Ukraine’s international airline woke me 15 minutes before they’d help me…  Not sure why.    I was pissed but know better than to fuck with the airport staff.   They hated my flirting.  I hated their ugly faces.  I probably stunk by now.   It had been 5 meals, 15 beers and 40 hours since my last shower.  I brushed my teeth though. That’s half a shower.

I dragged my haggard self through check-in to the gate and laid in pain until the delayed flight finally boarded.  I woke to another ugly woman’s mean mug.   This was a long punishing morning  I bought Ukrainian vodka to give friends, hoping to distract myself.   But I was just as sweaty and mentally distraught in the duty-free shop as I was by the fates.  I’d end up leaving  the vodka in the NYC taxi.

The plane ride ranked high in all-time shittiest flights.  I have many.  I decide to long-haul sleepless and broke and broken and with dead electronics and dying insides.   Its because I try to maximize time before departure.  I hate it but wouldn’t change it.   Nothing in this world is free.

I had an Hasidic Jew next to me.   My mind was slap happy and hysteric with internal monologue.   I asked him questions about the giant torah on his lap and the curls he didn’t have and the Jewish faith as a whole, whole heartedly interested, half awake.     He spoke Yiddish, or Hebrew or some other dialect of gibberish, staring down at the page, dancing his fingers at it like he was casting a spell.   He didn’t have any prayer-remedies for crying babies,  I asked.  He laughed.  I seethed, then slept.

Christmas in Kiev

At the Copper Pub, I failed to please the pierced brunette lady who pretended she didn’t want to teach me Ukrainian.  I made chums with an American compatriot over beers and english.   We drank up and bounced to a new bar.  Chum knew the places we could get beers for .85 cents.  Somewhere on Sofiivs’ka Street, I think.  We befriended two pretty Ukrainian students, and their good-humored pal.  Learning language, discussing the current state of State, considering life, reflecting on it’s beauty.   Don’t mention The Beast to the East.  I ordered round after round, despit2015-01-05 15.01.26e their half-hearted protests.  At some point we were shouting “Fuck Putin”.   That was the first time I contemplated being in Ukrainian jail.  5x people eating ourselves dull, drinking ourselves drunk, in 4x short hours, the bill was $70 USD. I split it with Chum.

We smoked cigarettes and said our good-byes.  Chum and I drifted through the snowfall from bar to bar, dollar-beers everywhere.   Trudging about, a fella noticed our English and offered us beautiful Ukrainian hookers.  He was a nice enough fella, and it was a good proposition.  We took his number, maybe to call him later, and didn’t.

We found ourselves loitering.    The moon was full.  It shimmered brilliantly above in the deep, ever-expanding night.    Casted above Kyiv, watching over like a guardian.   In gratitude we began to howl.   Hooowl, hooooowwl.   Like belching gospel in church we praised.   Your light, your brilliance, your inspiration to rise regardless of all else, we thank you moon!

The main street, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, was wide and well lit.  A police office thought to talk with us, and approached.   I pushed old chum to go left, I turned to go right. We were next to Freedom Square, I noticed, naively hankering to avoid all irony.

I was so joyed and pleased with myself.  I decided this cop was my friend.  I spoke to him that way.  He liked being my friend.  Who doesn’t like having American friends?   We left the well-lit street though, and met some of his cop buddies.   More friends, I casually supposed.

Because I had drank and was in public, I had to go to jail.   Even though we were friends, it seemed.   The jail and process, loosely, brokenly described, sounded bad.   Long and trying.  As it turns out though, I can pay the cash fee upfront.   We’ve no such conveniences in America, anymore, anyways.  The USD equivalence my three friends needed was $7.    I only had a $14 note.   Merry Christmas – Veseloho Rizdva (Веселого Різдва)   My friend returned me .80 to get a taxi.   I got a beer.

I was now alone.  Head to the sky, still standing in history’s empty cross streets.  The cradle of Slavic civilization.    They were all so damn wrong, Ukraine is the coolest!  Cheap beer, beautiful women, 300+ churches, friendly police, Christmas magic – What’s not to love?

I wondered towards the blue sparkling Christmas tree I saw earlier.  By the river, if I remember right.   Another selfie-photo-shoot.   Then, a cafe for soup!  I realized I was good and drunk.  The warm air flushed my face and the room tilted wryly.   I’ve a flight in a few hours I reminded myself.  I gave the server boy the rest of my Ukraine monies (hirshi), which was more than I gave the cops.  He shit his pants.   He insisted I was making a mistake.   I looked at him square, face to face, eyes on eyes, and told him to buy something nice for the people he loves.  I don’t think he understood me, but nodded affirmatively anyways.

I was lost.   There was a karaoke bar.  I went in to warm and ask for our location.  They explained I was not smart for walking the streets at night and then hovered over my map speaking in Slavically twisted tongues.

He was a nice young lad, and she had amazingly make-upped eye lashes.   Thick like Gaga, but otherwise, a pretty girl.   Considering how long it took them to place us on the map, I didn’t take their “not smart” comment to heart.   They said if I did not take a taxi I’d probably be robbed, raped and laughed at.   The streets were empty and I didn’t believe them.  But, they also didn’t tell me how to get home, or precisely where on the map we were.  So, I let them hail me a cab.

I got home to the Dream Hostel in a daze, and chattered with some German fellas.   The dark haired girl in her pajamas wanted to be my friend and I wanted to be her everything.  She was from small town Ukraine, street-wise and appreciative of what this life offers.   Its amazing how quickly we’re comfortable with strangers on the road.  Or maybe thats just what falling in love is, and the ones we cross paths with on the road are the ones we fall for. I fall for?   I’ll never be sure.

It was time for me to go and she gave me a friendly peck on the lips.  I shook off the chills and said good-bye with an overwhelmed heart.   I actually don’t even know her name.  But it’s not her I’ll miss.  This good-bye was really good-bye to the road.  For now.  I’ll get on that plane and be back in NYC with my apartment and my suits and my fancy job and my lack of friends, or desire for any.  It’ll be back to the same fantasy everyone I just met wishes for and I can’t get away from.

I hopped in a taxi with the German fellas, instead of sleep.  It would be wiser to soldier through the sobering at the airport.  I had one last flirt with the sandwich girl before check-in.   Time to pay the price.  I felt like a mack truck carrying an entire forest of logs backed up on me.   Demons at battle within and throughout my body, eating me alive from the inside.  I had no attention span, no tolerance, and could hardly walk.  Physically gross, mentally ravaged.  Maybe this balances out just how much fun I crammed into my short stay.  4 churches, 15+ U-brewed beers, 5 meals and a heart infinitely exploding with false love.

Good bye Ukraine, I love you.

Learn Ukrainian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBwMg6Eav-0

Cradle of the Slavs – KYIV

It’s Christmas Eve! Веселого Різдва !! These Eastern Orthodox got it good with the post-New Year celebration.  The commercialized, corporate-fueled eviscerating Christ and love blizzard has passed and snowy air dusts calmly in the cool night, on the big old city.

Landed 10AM in Ukraine. A frail older fella stood hunched over, holding up a paper sign “JOE MECCA”, Damn! Hell yeah Dream Hostel. The old fella and I taught each other how to say “hello” (pree-vee-yet), “please” (büd laska) and “thank you” (Djahk Oh-Yoh) in our respective languages. Those plus charades was how we communicated. We walked 20 minutes to his car. It smelt like stale cigarettes and cheap air freshener. We awkwardly danced to pop-electro music, driving down the long high-way stretches under dismal gray clouds. The open land had a sad, poor, eastern European feel and I wondered if everyone was right… Ukraine?

Ultimately, they were wrong, I was right. Surprise, surprise.

We drove straight and fast, I watched the trees, the empty land and the morning pass by.  The billboards had a funky alphabet. A magnificent stone women held a sward to the sky! The statue must have towered 60 meters – massive! “I will pay her respects this afternoon!” I suggested to myself. Gold domes shined above the city like a never-forfeited hope the people held. I arrived at the Dream Hostel real hungry. I should have been more mindful of the roads that lead us there.

привіт ! The woman behind the desk had round glossy baby doll eyes. Brighter than the stars. Her hair the color of a late-afternoon sunshine on a meadow of golden wheat. Wheat for brewing. She had the answers to all my questions, a bash2015-01-05 14.26.35ful smile, a twinkle in her face and a knife to my heart. I imagine every asshole flirts with her. I’m just another. “I’m from New York”, I replied to her curiosity. She swooes, as if I said something devilishly charming. Now she’s playing me. Or, I’m Don Juan vid America – breath taken. It’s been an hour in Kiev and I’ve already adopted a certainty to return. Damn, I’m primitive.

I grubbed on chicken smothered in Kyiv gravy and smashed potatoes. On the streets stands sold delicious desserts, round chocolate cakes and puddings and sprinkles and happiness. The wind whirled wisps of snow flurries before me. I was glad I had my hat. The skirt of the town had a chill and eerie emptiness that authenticated it the storied Eastern Europe.

I ventured to explore the churches. There’s 300x+! Glorious, opulent, powerful artwork, extensive design. A child stared up at the wall of heroes, the dead men that hel2015-01-05 14.38.25ped over-throw the president last year. Saint Anthony’s illuminated the imagination. For a moment, I felt sinless. Above, in the center, an empty dark dome, like a looming black-hole sun reigning over me.Metaphors and rock chase me. Candles, donations and prayers. Outside, I had a selfie-photo-shoot with the pale blue and glistening gold cathedral. The dark fell quickly. Near the gondola down to the town, a coffee-cart served me espresso.

I planned to return around 5PM, but would be 12 hours late.