Memory Lane

The Algerian

ACROSS THE Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans is an area called Algiers, and I lived there for a while. Following is a true story that I published online years ago, but I like it still, so here it is again. I first wrote it in the third person, so I’ve left it that way, but the “he” is me.

* * * *

He downed four cold Dixies in the bar on Canal Street during his lunch break as the sun pounded the pavement outside. It was sticky summertime.

Fortified, he rode the black BSA back to the office and bid the boss goodbye. Four years at the desk were quite enough.

But he still had to eat. You can’t dodge that.

Yellow Cab hired him for the early shift, leaving him work-free by mid-afternoon. He always walked the heat-cracked sidewalk to a close-by tavern from his shotgun duplex on Verret Street. It was Algiers Point, a ferry ride across the murky Mississippi.

Every afternoon he sat in that bar inhaling cold Pearls and quail eggs, blowing the taxicab tips.  The air-conditioning was terrific.

The duplex was dusty, stuffy and sparsely furnished. A table and two chairs adorned the kitchen. A fridge chilled cold cuts and gin. The ceiling was old pressed tin, and the windows were very tall.

There were two rockers on the front porch for air and a mattress on the bedroom floor. That completed the Louisiana decór.

A wanderer girlfriend visited now and then. She was eye-bogglingly beautiful and sat cross-legged on the floor in the darkness combing her long blonde hair as Leonard Cohen sang Suzanne.

(He ran into her again a few years later at a news stand. She was Easyrider magazine’s cover girl. A photo spread inside showed her half naked dancing atop the bar in a tavern somewhere in the Gila Desert of southwestern Arizona.)

Two months later a call came from the Caribbean. A better job. And soon after, the BSA swayed in the hold of a Sealand freighter churning toward San Juan in the Antilles.

And he was flying high, skirting the Bermuda Triangle and sipping a cuba libre the silky stewardess had sold him.

A first step into America Latina.

5 thoughts on “The Algerian

  1. Oh, yea, the America I use to know, where you didn’t have to have a college degree to be able to put a roof over your head and a little food on the table. If you didn’t want to take life seriously and just enjoy it you could. I remember I worked with a girl at a restaurant, and she had a degree, and I asked her why she was working there instead of what she went to school for. I told her it would probably be better for her, being the pay would be better, and she could afford the better things in life. She told me, I just want to enjoy life and see the world. Before I knew it, she was off to the Virgin Islands. Last I heard she was in Florida working in a flower shop by the ocean, and she is loving it.

    As for me, when I settled down and got serious about life is when all my health problems started. I wonder if I will ever get back on track and enjoy my life again? I feel sad about what I see happening In America. The rent is so high, the houses are so expensive, you have to work two to three jobs just to pay the rent. I believe we as a society are going to pay dearly for this. I shed my tears for the America I once knew.

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    1. M&C: Not that I would want to live in the U.S. again, but even if I did, I could not afford it. I’d have to be one of those old coots working as a Walmart greeter. I wonder if that job still exists? As for your friend, I have been in the Virgin Islands too. It’s very nice there.

      As for you and your troubles, as I’ve advised before, move down into central Mexico where it’s civilized, and get away from the border. We await you.

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      1. Yes, Warmart still has them, but they are just younger now, I don’t see the old people like I used too. I have never been to the Virgin Islands. I can only imagine how pretty it is. And yes, maybe one day I will wise up. LOL.

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  2. Sorry for being such a lurker and not commenting but once in a blue moon, but this story brought back a positive memory from my time working on The Steamboat Delta Queen. The band leader I worked for wanted to record some of his arrangements of the Dixieland music we were playing on the boat, so we did an album in a studio at the intersection of Belleville and Alix Streets in Algers. Here’s a link to CD Baby where you can listen to small segments of the tunes for free if you are so inclined.

    https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/edwise.

    We had some extra players on the album who are some pretty big-time New Orleans musicians, so it turned out to be a good album. The neighborhood certainly has a “vibe” to it, and I hope Katrina was kind to those old houses. Going to have to see if I can find an image of that Easyriders magazine cover.

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    1. Paul: You have been lurking for way too long. You must do better.

      I did listen to some of the tunes, which bring back memories of that whole world. Thanks. On the CD cover, I assume you are one of the “others” listed. I have not been to Algiers — the New Orleans version — in about 35 years. Even the couple of times I’ve passed through New Orleans since I moved to Mexico I did not cross over to Algiers. I would like to know what it looks like now. It was a very traditional New Orleans neighborhood when I lived there. As for the Easyriders magazine cover, good luck with that. I tried it already years back. Maybe you can find it. If so, let me know. It would have been an edition from the late 1970s. Boy, she was a major babe. And crazy as hell.

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