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.

Back to San Juan

NO, I’M NOT going back to Puerto Rico. I think about it a lot though. I also think about buying another motorcycle, which I’m not going to do either.

I lived on a roof there. Technically, it was a penthouse, but pinning the penthouse label on the place, which I’ve often done, is making it sound far fancier than it was.

The view was spectacular and, if memory serves, the rent was about $100 a month, but this was in the mid-1970s when $100 meant something. Now it’s coffee at Starbucks.

An element of this time that I haven’t mentioned in the past was my neighbors. Directly next door, and four stories down, was a police outpost that included a holding cell.

But just past that was another “high-rise” of about five floors. My building was five floors, but it sat a bit higher on an incline, so I had a view down to the roof of that other building.

That was where the hippie family lived.

We never spoke, and we rarely even waved. They were not Puerto Ricans from the look of them. The family consisted of Mama Hippie and Papa Hippie and a brood of about four or five mini-hippies, ages 8, 9, 10 and so on.

But I’m sure they enjoyed their life in the Caribbean air, there with the green sea and blue sky and almost endless ocean breezes. Off to the left was the El Morro fortress. To the right sat the hulk of San Cristóbal.

Those five stories were navigable only on foot. There was no elevator. This discouraged casual jaunts outside. And the step risers were not uniform, making the ascent more arduous. I usually went out once at midday to shop and again in the afternoon, going to the newspaper.

Five stories high does not provide a true picture because the street ran along the edge of a high cliff above the sea. Actually, I was probably about 10 stories above the surf.

Ascending the steps was up a dank, gray, concrete stairwell. On reaching my door, the topmost, you opened it and were instantly flung into another world. There was the sea, the forts, the heavens, ahead, up, and to the right.

To the left was the living-room door. The living room was tiny, and sparsely furnished. At its far end, to the right, was the kitchen, so tight that the fridge lived in the living room.

Straight ahead was a door where you entered a vestibule that provided two options. Ahead to the bathroom or right to the bedroom. Funny, I don’t remember the bathroom.

SJ
View over the bed.

The bedroom had a double bed and two windows. One was above the low headboard with a view of San Juan Bay and the mountains.

The other window was on the opposite end, just to the right as you entered the bedroom, and it opened onto the large, uncovered patio.

The entire apartment, not counting the open-air patio, would have fit into the Hacienda’s living room easily.

It was a fascinating, booze-fueled, time, often warm because there was no air-conditioning, and there was a hammock out on the patio. But the nights were cool enough.

I never encountered the hippie family, head-on. You’d think we would have passed on the street downstairs on occasion, but we never did in the 10 months I lived there atop the world.

I have quite a bit of history in the Caribbean, having visited also Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgins.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading along. I write this sort of stuff more for myself than anything. Don’t want to forget.

Always a danger in one’s dotage.

Moon sets on 2015

New ImageWORDPRESS SENDS stats every December.

The Unseen Moon welcomed 75,000 visitors in 2015. The busiest day was January 15 when I posted Just plain nuts. It looked at the goofiness of the United States, a favored theme here.

I get into politics now and then, and cultural issues too.

My top commenters were Kim G, a gay Bostonian, and Robert Gill, a straight Arizonan. Kim tilts to the left, and Robert leans to the right. I like that. The ballyhooed diversity.

The most-visited post, as it is every year, was Havana sex, etc. This has been the case since it was first posted after our anniversary trip to Cuba in 2012. This happens due to Google searches, of course. You naughty people.

By the way, Havana sex, etc. was the second of two posts about our Cuba adventure. I have since joined and deposited them on their own website, Cuba: a communist hellhole.

For those of you who think it’s a good idea for government to set things right and make people “equal,” I recommend a visit to the collectivist heaven in the Caribbean.

The top referring website was Mexpatriate — in the key of Steve. A tip of the sombrero to Steve Cotton. Gracias.

Other data reveal that most readers are not in Mexico but in the United States. I knew that already, and it’s why I discourage comments in Spanish.

Next month will mark the start of my 12th year doing this, first on the defunct Zapata Tales and, since 2011, on The Moon.

Being a former newspaper editor, it lets me keep my hand in the word-and-opinion game.

I appreciate everyone who passes by here, especially those who leave feedback, which most people do not. This is normal on blogs everywhere, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

I hope 2016 is a great year for all of you. Thank you for paying attention to an old coot who ended up atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico with time on his hands.

I never planned this. It just sorta happened.

Cuba, revisited

Cuba-Flag-on-Grunge-Wall

WE FLEW TO Havana in April of 2012 for our 10th anniversary. On returning, I wrote two long posts here about our experiences on the dismal communist island.

Those two posts remain to this day the most visited due, one imagines, to internet search engines. Comments on those posts are now closed, but they racked up the most feedback ever here on The Moon.

I have married those two posts and sent them on honeymoon to their own website. It is slightly different from the originals, updated and improved, and you can find them at their new home: Cuba: a communist hellhole.