Like my mother-in-law Ms. Larda always says, God don’t open a window without shutting the door.
Easy for her to say, being as her insurance paid off and she is back in a nice renovated house right where her old one was. My house is an oily spot in the Chalmette swamp. But to give God credit, I like my new little apartment. My gentleman friend Lust let me rent it for cheap, in the old slave quarters behind his bar, the Sloth Lounge.
It was probably the slave broom closet, from the size of it. But it’s just me and my youngest daughter Gladiola, and we got free wireless Internet and cable TV because of the bar being right there, so we ain’t complaining.
I don’t drink a lot, but it is nice to know that if I ever need to wake up to a good Bloody Mary, it’s right downstairs. My brothers-in-law, Leech and Lurch, they are dying to trade places with me – they live on the other side of Ms. Larda’s double. But that would mean I have to live with my mother-in-law and they would get to live behind a bar and that would bring out the worst in all of us.
The Sloth Lounge is in the French Quarter, and life here is a lot different from how it was in Chalmette.
Now in Chalmette, people park on their front lawns to keep from having to mow the grass. They bang out dents in their carburetor at 4 o’clock in the morning. They set off bottle rockets in the yard every time the Saints score a touchdown. Normal stuff.
But that’s not how things are in the Quarter. For one thing, you don’t need no TV. You got a reality show prancing past your window, only nobody would believe it was real. Purple- and green- and pink-haired people, undressed, underdressed or dressed like God-knows-what. No telling which sex they are, if any, so you don’t call nobody “ma’am” or “sir” – just “baby.”
And Brad and Angelina are just around the corner.
For me, it’s the new normal.
And at Mardi Gras, besides the tourists influxing, we also got what you call, with all due respect, the nutcases. They walk around carrying signs that say “Repent!” and “The End is Near.” There are a lot of ends near in the French Quarter – some of them got quite a bit of cellulite on them, too.
Last year, my Aunt Chlorine from New Jersey calls to tell me she joined a Digital Crusade Against Sin. She and four other Crusaders are coming to New Orleans to save our souls from the everlasting hellfire and damnation, or more flooding, depending on what God got in mind this time. They are going to wear their pure white choir robes, and carry signs, like the rest of the – with due respect – nutcases. Plus, they’re going to catch youthful sinners in the act, and take their pictures with their digital phones and post them immediately to a Web site (IsyourchildatMardigras.com) so parents can’t claim they didn’t have no idea what their offspring was doing.
She says the Crusaders want to sleep where they picket, so can they room with me behind the Sloth Lounge?
Well, Mardi Gras is to French Quarter bars as Christmas is to Walmart, so I know Lust won’t want nobody bringing up hellfire and damnation and maybe flood right in front the Sloth Lounge. That might discourage business.
But the silver lining to having an apartment the size of the handicapped stall in a public bathroom is that you can truthfully say you got no room and maybe they better ask Ms. Larda.
Turns out Ms. Larda don’t want Chlorine and the Crusaders at her house either – not that she is no slouch when it comes to religion. She shoots off novenas like bullets to heaven, and she can rattle a rosary as good as a nun. But she loves her Carnival time, and she firmly believes God is happy to wait until Ash Wednesday for us to repent and think about The End.
So she comes up with a white lie that she is going to have to repent for. She says her dog, Chopsley, has been foaming at the mouth ever since he got bit by that bat, so it might be better if Chlorine and her friends stay away, in case he is coming down with something.
Next, Chlorine calls Gloriosa, my sister-in-law who lives in a nice big house Uptown. Gloriosa can always use a hand, or five, with her kids – they got the energy of two whirling dervishes – so she welcomes Aunt Chlorine and the Crusaders and invites them along to the Rex parade on St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues.
The Digital Crusaders don’t realize that St. Charles and Napoleon is not where the sinning goes on. They are kind of let down when the evilest acts they see are kids in Elmo costumes snatching beads away from each other. Here they are, all decked out to be the scourge of sin, with their white robes and signs, and people just admire their costumes and hand them beads.
Thank God, some college girl who don’t know the rules – lewdity is OK in the Quarter, not Uptown – up and flashed float No. 13 for a pair of long purple beads. So the Digital Crusaders got to be shocked and dismayed. If they had recovered faster, and been a little better at technology, they might have actually succeeded in posting her picture to their Web site.
But after that, they were happy to sit back and eat fried chicken with the family and just watch the parade. They went to bed early and left the next morning.
By then, the real sinners were standing in line at church to get ashes. The End hadn’t come, but it was time to repent.