New Orleans, Camaraderie Lives On

Commentator Andrei Codrescu wanders around his adopted city of New Orleans, encountering the twisted and romantic moods of his fellow citizens and visitors. He proceeds to places he has known for years, and finds out at one bar, Molly's, that a free drink awaits him. It was bought by someone who came in months before.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Commentator Andrei Codrescu has a residence in New Orleans. He's been slinking around like a cat to see what's happening there.

ANDREI CODRESCU reporting:

In the early morning, I walked to the top of the stairs of what use to be Virgin Records to look at the river and read the paper. The river looked like it didn't give a damn, which was a good thing.

A couple of tender aged love birds with bright all night eyes came skipping up. The girl was mostly unwrapped in a sari type thing. And her boyfriend had bird bones in his ear holes. She was carrying a handful of flowers that looked freshly picked from the cemetery. I smiled and she stopped and rewarded me with a carnation and a kiss.

I'm a wild flower, she explained, just in case I didn't get it.

I took my (unintelligible) down to Decatur. Out in the great outdoors of the French Quarter, garbage piled up high on the sidewalk, uncollected for at least four days, judging by the bouquet. I noted a meter maid happily writing a ticket. So things are back in some respects.

Things are also functioning at the (unintelligible), where despite shorter hours, the croissants were fresh (unintelligible). I slinked on to Lavie en Rose to use internet and admired the punks draped over the two outside chairs, feedings the dogs tuna from cans, different kind of wild flowers.

Inside the café, I saw my friend, the poet and police detective Liz G., doing her paperwork and maybe sneaking in a poem on her laptop. Welcome to my office, she said. Liz is a marvelous poet but also a tough cop, so I can always ask for the real scoop on anything going down in the city.

This time, I didn't ask. I just sat down and hooked up to America. After a few hours in cyberspace, it was cocktail time at Molly's. My pal, Peggy, was at the bar sparkling under a huge flower festooned hat. From under the hat came the rumbled assertion that I'm not leaving, I don't care. Which I took to be the answer to the unasked question on everybody's mind about what to do when they announced the next storm.

The bartender brought me a cocktail and said, it's free. Some guy came in a couple of weeks ago and bought you a drink. She leafed through the bar's thickened damp journal. Here, she said, He said to give you whatever.

I was dying to see what else was in that journal. Molly's is open at all hours and I'm extremely interested in the hour of 4 a.m. for some reason. I sipped my whatever. I was in New Orleans, all right, and the hours were starting to stretch.

NORRIS: Andrei Codrescu teaches at Louisiana State University.

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