Monday, January 6, 2014

The Sugar People

Josh's sister turned 30. It happens. In a little over a year, it will happen to me. For Josh's sister, it had to happen in New Orleans. She wanted us all down there with her, so we all went down there with her. We stayed in a purple house. The ceilings were unreachable. The French Quarter was a mile away. Josh and I walked everywhere we could walk.

Each morning we went out for a juice breakfast with Josh's sister. The first morning we hiked to a place called The Green Fork. Actress Jennifer Coolidge stood in line behind us. We waited for our juice. Jennifer Coolidge sampled a muffin. Josh suggested she try the vegan blondie. Jennifer Coolidge tried the vegan blondie. "Oh my God," she said.

The walk back to the French Quarter had us passing a day-drunk man preparing to pee on the courthouse. He told us not to worry because he was wearing triple-thick pants. Two stone eagles flanked the man. We were witness to a freedom we'd all exercised before but never with a daylight audience. We kept walking.

But we didn't walk everywhere. Some group trips we took a taxi. One of our drivers was a doctor. He gave us his business card. He signed the A in his name with a cartoon penis. A woman in our group asked the doctor for details on his doctorate. The doctor had never been asked specifics. "Communications," he said. "Well, journalism, really." We all agreed there was no money in that. As if we had to vocalize it. The doctor drove us to the nicest restaurant in town.

Another driver asked if we'd heard of the Sugar People. Silence. "Sure you have," he said. "You've heard of gay people. They're the Sugar People." It's true that once every year in New Orleans there's a festival for the Sugar People, and they come dressed to kill. The same driver warned us of swamp dangers. He made sure we were clear on alligators. Like how an alligator drags its prey to the river bottom and waits for the flesh to soften enough for consumption. Death is all over that town. I saw bones on the sidewalk. The cemeteries are above ground. Even the donuts, the beignets, are little pillows on which heart attacks slumber. Yes, it felt like home.

A friend asked if I might want to move to New Orleans one day, and I said I felt like I'd already lived there before. There are places that fit you. Kansas City fits me. Kansas City fits other writers, too. My friend and poet crush, Jordan Stempleman, was asked to guest-edit an issue of NOÖ Weekly by Mike Young. Jordan chose writers with a stake in Kansas City. I'm one, and then there's Anne Boyer, Dan Magers, Ryan MacDonald, Lesley Ann Wheeler, Bridget Lowe, Teal Wilson, and James Tate. That James Tate. My story is dark and cold. It's in a fitting place. We all suffer January.

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From the mouths of beasts.