Wednesday, March 31, 2010


"Too late I came to love you, O your Beauty both so ancient and so fresh. Yet too late came I to love you. And behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, where I made search for you."
Saint Augustine "Confessions"

I want to dedicate this quote to my beloved Crescent City, and the love I shared know who you are if this quote is speaking directly to you.

Esplanade Pharmacy

Flashes back in my mind today. I am not sure where all this is coming from, but I think something is telling me I need to get started. I need to get this story of Katrina started. I need to get it all down while the smells of the Hurricane are still fresh in my mind.
Years later, it amazes me how Hurricane Katrina can stay so close to the surface. Some days I feel like I can smell her still. Other days sounds can trigger those memories, putting me right back in all that water. There are days when it seems like I have just emerged from the madness, and I am still watching the television two weeks later amazed at all the destruction.

Today I can smell the Hurricane. I can smell the city of New Orleans, and for some reason I can smell the Esplanade Pharmacy. All these smells are swirling around me here in North Carolina. I am miles and years away from it all, yet somehow I can still smell it.
My memory takes me back to the days living near the Esplanade Pharmacy. The Esplanade Pharmacy is a convenient store as well as a pharmacy. It is a one stop shop where you can fill your prescriptions, pick up smokes, and get a candy bar. It is a small little store, on Esplanade Avenue almost at Claiborne and the I-10.
When I lived a few doors down from the pharmacy, I went in there at least once a day. I stopped in for my soda in the morning. I stopped to get a snack, or sometimes I would buy feminine products. Whatever one may need, you could possibly find it in the Esplanade Pharmacy.
The pharmacy had a particular smell. It was the smell of something old and musty. The building that housed the pharmacy was probably built in the 1800s, and her wood underneath was probably rotting from years of humidity. A slight chemical smell lingered in the air, probably from housing medication for so long that the strange medicinal smell was residual. Then, there was the smell of food. All kinds of snacks, drinks, and groceries lined the shelves of the Esplanade Pharmacy.
I used to pass the pharmacy every day on my way to meet Shay, who was my dope dealer at the time. Shay has long since left this earth, I hear. I hear he was shot in the head and killed. Rest in Peace, sir. Shay served me well for years.
I used to wait for Shay at the bus stop just down from the Esplanade Pharmacy. I would often stop in the pharmacy for a soda on my way to meet Shay if I was not too sick. If I was too sick, I would stop on the way back. It is amazing how your dope sickness seems to fade as soon as you put the foil in your pocket.
I wonder if the pharmacy still stands. I can see the dilapidated and well used pay phone, just around the corner of the store. The poles in front of the store, holding up the balcony above were black and chipping. Her yellow wood outside the pharmacy in need of new paint, and sagging slightly with age.
The floors were old school tile, black and white if I remember correctly. Although, my judgement was often so clouded I cannot be trusted to remember all the details correctly. Inside, the rows were lined with all kinds of household items from food to cleaners. In the very back, the wooden wall rose up to separate the pharmacy. The pharmacy itself seemed to be very high up in the air, almost as if it were a separate place all together. I guess this was to keep the junkies around from venturing too close to the medications, if only to drool and salivate.
The window in front was always a beacon to me. The name of the pharmacy was painted in gold, and the emblem of the mortar and pestle rested under the name. I always loved that window, as it reminded me that drugs were in there. Like any junky, the sign of an old pharmacy could get my heart racing.
The Esplanade Pharmacy, like every other business in New Orleans was ransacked during the Hurricane. I know several dope sick junkies who were quick to throw a brick through the pharmacy window in search of something to ease the pain. Two nights after the storm, I entered the pharmacy as well.
I was passing by the pharmacy with a flashlight in my hand. After getting caught in the dark one night, I took a flashlight with me when I went wading through those waters. A young man, whose eyes are wide with terror stops me in front of the pharmacy. He needs his medication, and he fears the worst without it.
This young man was bipolar or schizophrenic, and he was taking a mood stabilizer called Lamictal. He feared that without his medication, he was going to go completely crazy. I could see it in his eyes, the insanity brewing behind them. I can understand his fear. I was feeling quite insane at the time as well, and I am not on any medications to keep me in check. Of course, I would help this young man.
We carefully entered the pharmacy, stepping over the threshold and into the darkness. The floor was covered in water, and our feet sloshed around on the old tiles. We waded past the front counter, and through all the crap that had fallen of the shelves towards the back of the store. This time the pharmacy did not seem so high up and inaccessible. One step up, and the wooden barrier swung open. We carefully walked behind the counter and were lost between huge shelves filled with medicine.
Carefully, I used the flashlight to scan through the medicine. The young man was jumpy and scared. He was in a hurry to get in and out of here. I am sure his mind was running away with fears of being caught. Scanning the shelves, they were still somewhat in alphabetical order. Alazopram, hydrocodone, lorazepam, diazapam, Tylenol with codiene, phenegran...I was in a junkies heaven. I was hungrily grabbing pill bottles that were left behind. All generic because most people had no idea what these were. I forgot about my companion momentarily.
He is freaking out behind me. Begging me to help him as quickly as I can. I scan the shelves looking for the 'L's. Ah-ha...Lamictal. I hand the guy two bottles, and put two more in my pocket because Liam also happens to be on Lamictal. The guy disappears into the night as quickly as he approached.
The pharmacy is an eerie quiet as I stand there all alone for a minute. God, it is dark in here. Anyone or anything could hide in these vast shelves. I can hear the water lapping the edges of the building from the inside. I shine my flasglight around. There are pills bottles all over the floor, and in the store I notice all kinds of trash floating in the water. The shelves are a mess, bottles knocked over everywhere, and papers fallen everywhere. The junkies dream fades into a nightmare as fear creeps up my spine. I quickly survey the shelves one last time, shoving whatever I can into my pockets. I turn and get the hell outta
I carefully emerge back onto the street, not wanting anyone to spot me coming out of the pharmacy. It is not as dark on the street. The moon illuminates the water world around. I look back at the broken window of the pharmacy. The sign I always loved shattered, and the whole store seems to be crying out to me. All I see is the destruction, and garbage spilling out of a place I visited every day at one time. The sagging building seems to be sceaming out to me for help. I turn and walk casually away, with my pockets full of treasure. My heart begins to lighten a little as I think of that treasure.
That was the last time I laid eyes on the Esplanade Pharmacy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Storm

Is all around
I can smell it.
Taste it.
When you open
Your lips to breathe.

The streets are flooded
And the dying
Lie next
To the dead.
We lay in ruins.

Windows broken
On every corner
People wandering
And tired
In search
Of something to drink.

The sun is beating
Onto the streets
That have become...
So hot
And sweaty.
I wonder
How the young
Will survive
I wonder
If the elderly
Will live
Through this one.

Crumbling houses
And broken levies
Washed away
With the storm.
Crumbling artifacts
Pieces of a culture
That is fading.

Thousands of lives
Bodies never to
Be found.
Friends I knew
Are gone forever.

Years pass
And the memory
Still does not
It is clearer
To me now
Than it was
Muddled in the moment
Wrapped in confusion.
Drowning in desolation.

Beg the Sun

The sun
Always shines
After a storm
Has ravaged the land.

The darkest days
Of my life
Have passed
In a storm

For weeks
The city bleeds
And cries
For months
The city suffers
And for years
We will talk
Of Katrina.

Rains down
Upon us
At times.
But, the light
Will always
Shine again.

Let me
Shine again.

I know
The darkest days
Are over
Now I must
Bask in the light.

Let there be light.
Once more.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Warning

Thinking of meeting Bob for the first time at Nell's house, I am reminded of another incident at Nell's house. This incident was probably within the next month after meeting Bob the first time.

Liam and I decided one evening that we would like to score a little dope. We still were new to this game, and did not have anyone to call directly. Addicts like to protect their sources as long as they can, so they can make a few free bags of dope from the occasional users who do not have a connection. If you are lucky, these occasional users will become everyday users and they will pay for part of your dope for a while. Eventually, though, a new connection is found and the whole process starts over.
We rode over to Nell's house this evening, knowing we could probably score there. Hopefully, we would not have to wait too long. That night it was real quiet over there, and only Nell was home. She was waiting for Bob, so hopefully it would not be forever.
Nell seemed really tired, and she was kind of spacey. She kept apologizing for her appearance. She was pretty much just sitting on the couch, and any unnecessary conversation was strained. She said she was just really sick, and she needed Bob to get there.
At the time, I had no real grasp on the sickness she was talking about. In coming years, I would come to know this sickness inside and out. I had no idea what she was feeling, and now that I look back I think she was holding it together pretty well. I do not think I could have held it together so well when I was really dope sick.
"Have you ever had an addiction?" Nell asked us. I related my experiences with coke, but admitted I had not been using heroin very much. Nell tried to tell me what a different beast opiate addiction was. I remember thinking, how could it really be that different? I was so naive.
Nell went on to say it was one of the worst feeling in the world to be dope sick. She said there was no way she could even get into the car and attempt to drive right now; she felt just too bad. She did not look so bad. She seemed like she could drive fine to me. She was just a little tired and out of it.
Nell warned me that when you are dope sick, you cannot do anything. You are immobilized. She warned Liam and I that the only end to messing around with heroin was this terrible beast we call addiction. She told us to be careful, and to tread lightly. As naive new heroin users, we thought we knew what we were doing.
When Bob arrived and we received our package, we were giddy with excitement. We did a couple of bumps right there while Nell pulled out her works to take a shot. Fascinated, I watched her as the warm water buzz began to fill my body.
She dumped the contents of two bags into the spoon. I was thinking how much dope that seemed like to me. Liam and I would both stay high all night on one bag. Nell dipped her syringe into an old cup of water that was sitting on the table. She drew some water up into the needle. Next, she squirt the water into the spoon, covering the dope from the two bags. Her hands shaking, she put the flame from the lighter underneath the spoon.
I noticed a little trickle of smoke rising off the spoon as she slowly and gently swayed the spoon back and forth. The smell was sweet and inviting. I could smell the faint earthiness of the cooking heroin. Then, Nell set the spoon down, and carefully rolled up a piece of a cigarette filter. She dropped the tiny round cotton ball into the warm, brown liquid. Placing the tip of the needle into the cotton, she applied a slight pressure and drew the liquid up.
Nell rolled up her sleeve and wrapped a belt around her upper arm. She tightened the tourniquet and held the end of the belt in her teeth. She poked around in her elbow for just a minute before the red blossom appeared in the needle. A vein! Slowly and carefully, she pushed the needles entire contents into her bloodstream.
A crooked smile came across her face, and her eyes lit up. Her hand relaxed as the belt loosened on her arm. The color came back to her face. The conversation began to take of just as Liam and I got ready to leave.

Meeting Bob

The first night I met Bob, I had no idea what a central figure he would play in my life for the next few years. Our first meeting was random, as I tried to sneak a peek of the dope man as he walked through the living room into the back bedroom. I tried to take a peek without him thinking I was staring at him. Little did I know then, he probably did not even notice me.
That day I decided to ask Bald Paul if he could score for me. This was back in the glory days when Liam and I still had our shit together enough to have a car. I ran into Paul at The Abbey, and we came back to my place to get the car.
Nell lived within walking distance from me, at least in the New Orleans sense of walking distance. People from other places of the world may feel like it is not walking distance when many New Orleanians would walk it in a heart beat.
Nell did not have a phone, and Paul was not 100% sure she would be there. He was, however, almost 97% sure she would be there. It was early enough in the day that there was sure to be someone at Nell’s house waiting for Bob. I did not know this game at the time, so I decided not to chance it. We were taking the car. I did not want to walk all the way over there if they might not even be there!
Nell lived on the other side of St. Claude, across from the Bywater neighborhood. This area over here was just a little shadier and a little more run down than the Bywater. Nell lived in a double that looked bleak from the road. It was old and run down with a dilapidated porch that seemed to be falling of the house. I remember wondering how cheap this place was every month.
The stairs leading up to the porch creaked with instability. I heard dogs barking on the inside. I had expected dogs. Like Bald Paul, Nell was also a gutter punk. Gutter punks usually have dogs and have spent a large portion of their lives either homeless or travelling the country by hopping freight trains. Gutter punks are usually unwashed hard core alcoholics and drug addicts.
Gutter punks do not often have ID of any sort, although I suspect many of them do come from decent families. They generally do not work, or cannot hold down a job. They are used to sleeping outside, and they are not afraid to eat out of trash cans. Many of them will be crashing on someone’s couch or floor most of the time. They have all lived in the same squats, and they have shared many a forty.
Gutter punks are a loud and rowdy bunch. They like to drink, and they like to fight. It is not uncommon to see black eyes and cut faces amongst this group. When they are drinking and partying, there is often some kind of commotion.
We enter the apartment in the kitchen on the back side. Paul was right, and there are lots of people hanging out waiting to score. At this time in my life, I had no personal up close experience with heroin addiction, so I was unaware what many of these people were feeling at the time.
Mara was there that day, too. I think this was the second time I had met her. She was also hanging around waiting for Bob. She had been in school that morning. Mara was in hairdressing school at the time. We hung out and talked a lot of the time I was there. I always really enjoy hanging with Mara. I was happy to see her here because we really connected when we had hung out recently on my birthday. Now that I look back on this, I also think that Mara and I were the only two that were not dope sick at this time.
There were kids laid out on every couch and chair in the place. And it was filthy in there. There was a layer of dirt and grime covering everything. Three dogs were running through the house, ripping and tearing at things. There was dog hair everywhere.
I do not think this place had ever been vacuumed, and the layer of dust was more dirt than dust. There were empty beer bottles everywhere, some of them still dripping with beer. The smell of old, stale beer hung in the air, mixed with the smell of sweat and dirt. There were empty wrappers everywhere, some with food still clinging to them. I could just feel that there were probably bugs everywhere.
I was sitting on a folding chair in this crowded little den. I was wearing a long, flowing hippie skirt that day. My eyes surveyed the squalor I was immersed in. I was suddenly aware that I was not wearing underwear. I was thankful my skirt was long, so that nothing could touch this chair I was sitting in. It was so dirty in there; I wish I had decided on underwear that day.
I sat uncomfortably in that metal folding chair for nearly an hour. I was thankful for Mara’s company. Paul had long since disappeared into one of the bedrooms. Nell sporadically checked the window to see if Bob had arrived. Kurt, Nell’s boyfriend, snored away on the floor. Finally, I hear a knock at the door.
Nell snaps to attention, quickly shuffling to the door to greet Bob. Bob was an older black gentleman. He had a shaved head and wore glasses. He seemed to have a kind smile. I noticed he had one prosthetic leg from the knee down. Trying to sneak a sideways glance at him, I wondered what happened to his leg.
Nell and Bob disappeared into one of the back bedrooms. A few minutes later, Bob emerged alone and saw himself out. I think I may have heard him mumble something about being back later. Nell emerged another fifteen minutes later. Her smile was now crooked and relaxed.
Knowing what I know now, I could tell you what went on in that closed bedroom before I received my package. Nell and Kurt broke into all the foils, dumping just a little out of each to add to their own shots. Then, they cooked up a couple of shots and proceeded to find a vein. A few seconds later, their moods were lightened.
I took my two bags and stood up to leave. I asked Paul if he wanted a ride back to the Quarter, but he declined. It seemed Paul was more interested in what was happening at Nell’s house. I shut the door behind me, excited to have two foils in my pocket.
The sun was just beginning to fade, and the summer heat had not yet arrived. It was a nice, breezy spring evening. I opened up my windows when I got home to let the Mississippi’s winds flow through my house. Opening up the first foil, I carefully split it into two lines.
Gingerly, I took the first one, partly not knowing exactly what to expect. The taste was exactly as I remembered it, earthy and bittersweet. It did not burn my nose, but instead warmed my entire body. Warmth dripping down from my head, where it started. Slowly, like warm water taking over all my blood. Like swimming in a pool as warm as a bathtub. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh…
I could get used to this!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Kick

I have been going through a lot of lot notebooks lately. I have found a lot of interesting pieces, mostly written by me...some of them written by Liam. It is amazing to me how things change. Once position, one's's way of life. Sometimes all I am left with of my former life are the memories, and in some ways this is good. And in some ways it is not.
There are quite a few memories that I do prefer stay locked away. Some things I would rather never see or know again. I do not care to revisit the desperate feeling of being homeless and rootless. I do not care to revisit those days when my writing ceased to exist. Most of all, I never, ever care to feel all the feelings that go along with kicking dope again.

Kicking heroin is a bitch. I am not sure how else to describe it, except it is a fucking bitch. Kicking opiates really sucks on every level. You are in such physical pain, and the whole time your mind is bouncing back in forth into the realm of insanity. It is an indescribable horror, and I feel like I will not do it justice with this piece.
Kicking was one of the things I had read about, but had never experienced myself before using heroin. I had read about it, and I thought I understood it. But, you can never really understand it until you have lived through it. Kicking is a different experience for each person, complete with drastically varying symptoms. No one kick is exactly the same, but they are all excruciating and horrible.

It has been a couple of hours since my last shot, and this time I am determined to quit. I have no choice at this point because there is no more dope in the house. I had tried the taper off method, and I always found a way to use just a little more. I also tried to kick while keeping just a little bit for emergencies. When you go into that all out insane and pain mode, the emergency suddenly becomes pertinent.
I know what is in store for me soon. I am no stranger to kicking. I have either been avoiding it or doing it for the past few years. I know that pretty soon, I will be immobile. My nerves are beginning to tingle all over, and my mind is already starting to think it has started. I know it is all in my head, but I am reeling with anxiety, anticipation, and fear.
I first feel the kick in the back of my throat. I guess it is not by chance that I feel both the dope and the kick in the same place first. The back of my throat begins to get dry and scratchy as the dope in my system runs low. If I have a pocket full of dope, this tickle in the back of my throat tells me it is time to do more. When there is no dope, this tickle is the first signal to set off the anxiety...building up to the insanity of need.
The back of my throat tickles, like I need to cough. I clear my throat, searching for the cough. Searching for the source of the tickle. I know this tickle will drive me insane as the influence of the kick wears on. I have two packages of the Dad's root beer cough drops made at Walgreen's. I will eat all of these in a couple of days while trying to kick. They keep the tickle at bay, and they restore a small piece of my sanity. And they do taste pretty good.
My mind is already starting to run away. My heart beat has quickened with anxiety. And the restless boredom of the kick is the next thing to creep in. I cannot seem to focus on anything other than the impending doom. I flip through the channels, not much is on. When the remote control rests on something interesting, it is only minutes before my mind begins to wander. I try to read, but I find myself reading the same lines over and over again. It is like I cannot grasp the meaning of the words, and my cloudy mind somehow thinks that by reading them over and over again I will understand these words.
But, I cannot focus on anything. My attention will start to focus when the fear of the impending doom start building this dark cloud hanging over me. My mind is flitting back and forth, revisiting the same thoughts over and over again. It is like my mind is on one of those toy trains, just riding around and around. Looking at the same scenery over and over again. Each time the train goes around, the same thoughts are circled round in my head.
I just want to chill out. I cannot seem to sit still. Television on, television off. Stereo on, and stereo off. Sitting at the kitchen table. Sitting on the couch in the living room. Laying on the makeshift bed created from pushing two couches together. Up, down...and up, down again. Pacing the length of the little red shot gun house, my feet wearing a smooth patch on the hardwood floors.
I cannot seem to get comfortable. My legs feel so uncomfortable. Not crampy like you see in the movies, but just restless. Stand up, pace. Sit down. Stand up again. Lie down, toss and turn. Maybe I should try to sleep. I know it may be days before I am able to sleep again.
I lie on the makeshift bed. I am on my left side, and it feels comfortable. Close my eyes. Not comfortable. Roll over, adjust. My mind is still running like that toy train. Turn on the tv. Cannot concentrate. Cannot focus. Anxiety. My heart quickens as my mind runs past that part of the track that is looking at the horrors of withdrawal. Anticipation of the dreaded worst.
The dry throat. And the stomach begins to turn. Growling, with that empty feeling that is brought on by the lack of dope. Growling empty stomach makes me feel like I have to puke. I do not want to go to the bathroom. But, I feel like I really need to throw up. My mind is telling me to just let yourself throw up and you will most certainly feel all better. My mind tells me not to even go into the bathroom, or you may not leave for a while.
I stand up. And I sit back down. I keep thinking about dope. The taste, the smell...the feeling of the shot. Sniff...that's all I really want...just a little taste. Growling stomach is pushing me towards the bathroom. Throwing up would make me feel much better, but dope would make me feel even better.
Heroin, Oxycontin, vicodin, morphine...images of pills and powders are running through my mind. They are riding on that train, too. Round and round. Pink little pills, blue ones and green ones. Brown powder, bittersweet powder. White pills, oval and round. Pills and powders, floating by. I am watching pills and powders out the windows of the train, whizzing by. Hundreds of them. All I can think about is pills and powders. Oh, just give me something.
Smoke a bowl. Whew...that helps. Calms the nerves. Stops the pacing. Stops the twitching of the hands and feet. Calms the thoughts. The train stops running round and round the track for a few minutes. Calms the stomach. The rumbling seems to have given it a rest. The trip to the bathroom is postponed indefinitely. I turn the television back on for the tenth time. This time my eyes can focus as my mind zeros watch. My thoughts drift to the television.
A couple of hours pass and the anxiety creeps back in again. My hands shaking with anticipation. My mind starts to obsess about the dread again. The impending withdrawal has begun its attack again. The train whistles out of the gate, headed on its path once more. The stomach rumbles and growls. This time the nausea takes over.
I get up, giving in to the disease. Call the dope man. No answer. Leave a message, and he will most certainly call back. Take the cordless to the bathroom for a while. Turn on the water. The running water is soothing to my ears. To the touch. I kneel at the toilet.
My guts are wrenching now. Nothing comes up, just empty attempts at vomiting. Stick my finger down my throat. If I could just throw up, I know I would feel better. Dry heave, dry heave. And then I throw up some bitter yellow bile. This must be all that is left in my stomach. This poison is making its way out of my system, and this yellow bile seems to be pouring out of every hole.
My head drops in front of the toilet in exhaustion. I am sweaty, and covered in my own spit. This bitter taste is all I can see; yellow in front of my eyes. Wishing the phone would ring. I don't know if I can take much more.
I take off my clothes and let my long hair down. I get into the tub, scooting up Indian style to sit as close to the water as I can. The flowing water is the only thing that seems to relax me. The only thing that seems to ease the pain. I run my hands under the water, flowing powerfully out of the faucet.
I put my head under the water. The warm water feels good, so I turn it up a little. Warm water, rushing past my head, my ears. Drenching my long hair. Warming me to the point I start sweating again. It is hard to breath with all this steam as my head is bend forward, under the stream of warm water.
Switch the water to cold. Ahhh, cool relief. A chill runs up my spine, but I am momentarily distracted. Regulate the temperature once again. It is flowing like a nice, cool bath. Plug up the tub, and let it fill. I lie back, staring at the ceiling. Mesmerized by the sound of the flowing water. I start to relax when I realize how much this uncomfortableness has invaded by bones. I sit back up. Hands under the running water. It feels like the veins in my wrist are screaming as the water runs over them.
They are screaming. I can hear their tiny voices, echoing in my brain. "More. more, more..." I feel like screaming, too. But, I cannot. I am too weak. And too uncomfortable. And too nausea's. Inside, I am screaming to MAKE IT STOP!
The phone rings. I jump on it like I have been sitting right beside it. Staring at the phone, waiting for it to ring. Almost knock it over into the bathwater. Click on the talk button.
"Oh, hi Bob. So glad you called. I was getting nervous when you didn't answer."
"Yeah, I was hoping you would swing by. Where are you?"
"In the neighborhood? Oh, thank goodness. Yes, I am very ready."
I hang up the phone, and leap out of the tub. I put my long, wet hair up into a towel. I do not care if it is a tangled mess later. I do not care about anything right now, except the ringing of that damn door bell. I hope he does not have too many stops before he gets here.
I throw on my bathrobe without even drying off my skin. The cold air feels good to my crawling skin. Distraction. I stand in front of the window unit air conditioner, letting the cold air run over my wet body. My legs are itching to pace these wooden floors. My stomach still growling and rumbling.
I hear uneven footsteps coming up to my door. I know the sound of those footsteps. They are the footsteps of a man with one prosthetic leg. They are the sound of a man with a pocket full of dope. I cannot open the door fast enough.
I swing open the door. A smiling dark face is looking back at me. Inviting him in, all my symptoms have already disappeared. My anxiousness is completely faded. I hold out a hundred dollar bill in my hand that is no longer trembling.
I am salivating as he pulls out a large bag full of that delicious brown powder. A part of me wants to attack the man, snorting all the dope out of the bag in a insane motion. I want to drown in this stuff right now. He carefully measures it out, using the tiny plastic spoon kept behind his ear. It seems like forever before he hands me back the CD case with a hundred bucks worth of dope on it. I practically snatch it out of his hands.
Ravenously, I cut out a big fat line and quickly snort it up. Ahhhhhhhhhh....Well, thanks, Bob, let me see you out. I open the door to let the man out. The sun is shining, and my day is so much better than before.
Never mind another failed attempt.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Reading old journals, I am struck with how different my perspective is today. I am thankful to be where I am, which is able to see and process things clearly again. I feel now much more like the person I used to be. The person I was before I started using. I am blessed to be where I am now.
In the previous posting, I included a piece from an old journal about the first time I tried heroin. In reading this, I see a stark contrast in there to the reality that I now know to be true. An active addiction, we tend to make these excuses for our behavior. There is always a legitimate reason in our minds to use. Often times, these reasons are merely delusions.
I remember hearing so many addicts claiming they never felt comfortable in their own skin until they tried heroin. In different treatments, I often heard stories of people who had been on many various antidepressants or antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. They claimed nothing made then feel as normal is heroin did. In this piece I wrote years ago, I claim to be one of these cases...whose quality of life was enhanced by using dope.
Looking back, this was all a crock of shit. I crock of shit that I apparently believed. And I believed that it happened to me. That was just another excuse to use. I may have not been using when I wrote this piece, and I may have written it during one of my clean times. ( I am not exactly sure when I wrote it, but I know it was after Katrina.)
The fact of the matter is that before I started using, I was pretty comfortable in my own skin. I was confident, and I was outgoing. I had dreams and goals. I was talented, and I was hardworking. I always had a lot of friends, and there were seldom times that I felt like an outcast. I had not been through any kind of trauma, and I had not experienced a lot of death or hardship. I was a pretty well balanced individual before I started using.
My mind never ran away with obsessive thoughts before I started using, and it mostly ran on a normal speed. I was not riddled with anxieties, as this old piece of writing seems to suggest. After reading this piece, I looked back at myself. I never remember being very uncomfortable in my own skin before I started using. Instead, I remember being a happy, well adjusted social butterfly.
I guess I made up this troubled persona just like I made up so many excuses to keep my addiction going. There was the pain excuse that all junkies use. I supposedly got in a car wreck and injured myself badly. It amazes me now how I was almost even able to convince myself that these lies were true. I truly believed I NEEDED heroin.
It is actions like this that make us question which came first sometimes, the mental illness or the addiction? Sometimes the addiction drives us insane. Sometimes we are already insane, and the addiction keeps us from really losing it. And then there are all the delusions in between. As an addict in active addiction, WE ARE ALL DELUDED. I am just thankful that we can get better.
Now that I am better, I realize how crazy it all really was.

First Taste

I was going through some old journals that I have kept throughout the years. My perspective have changed so much, but sometimes I find some really great jewels hidden in those old musings. Some of those old writings seem to be drowning in heroin and the mentality of a user, and some parts are so foreign to me now.
Here is one of the jewels I found. It is about the night I first tried heroin. Another entry on the blog that was later written about the same event is called "Birthday." I have probably written about this event numerous times. Each time, written in a different mind frame or different perspective...or under the influence of different chemicals. This particular piece takes place moments after I snorted the allusive brown powder. The bittersweet taste was just spreading through my entire body.
"The air around me looked a little fuzzy, like everything had a soft edge to it. Every one's face seemed to be in a soft portrait light that softens the face and vignettes the edges. I was more relaxed than before...kind of like, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, relief.
Relief from myself. Relief created out of an overall numbness. I started to feel very normal. I stopped obsessing about silly thoughts and just relaxed. Relaxed all the way down to my bones...all my anxieties magically disappeared. My mind seemed to slow down to normal speed once again. All I could feel was comfortably numb. For the first time, I felt pretty good in my own skin.
The night wore on, getting foggier and hazier. Of course, I did a little more heroin and continued on the Jameson. The lights above the bar seemed to twinkle; everything looked soft and inviting. I remember sitting out back behind The Abbey. Every face, soft and a little hazy. The air seemed thick for March, and there was a low lying fog surrounding me. The Christmas lights hung around the patio twinkled and glowed. Everyone seemed to be smiling or laughing. I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of detachment.
And I liked being detached. Heroin numbs you from feeling. I felt insulated by this detachment. The world was mad around me, and I could care less. I felt too good to care about anything. I was, in a sense, painless."

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Novelty

I remember
When heroin
Was new...
And exciting.

The danger
Lurking just
Around the corner.
We were
The odds.
We were
Checking it out.
Feels good.
To be
So naughty.

My heart
Quickening pace
With excitement
As I opened
The tiny
Little foil.

A taste
Too early
In the day.
Around the corner
From work
To score.
A little more
Always an excuse
To do more dope.

My whole body.
We are all
In on the game.

The tingle
and you are left
In withdrawal.
In pain
With suffering
Oh, and
Did I mention,
Temporary insanity?
And diarrhea?
And restlessness?
As you lie awake
For days on end?

My heart
I have a murmur now.

The White Shirt

My little friend Dave was such a character. He had been a cook at Mr. B's for quite a while. Like so many of us back in those days, his lifestyle got the best of him and he started bouncing around to various jobs. He had started busing tables at a little Italian restaurant in the same block as The Abbey.
I used to meet Dave out on Decatur Street a lot of nights. Liam got off later than both Dave or I, so we would just have some drinks while I waited for Liam to get off from his restaurant job. Dave was hilarious, and he was so full of life. He was always doing something off the wall. Dave was the first to get loud and rowdy when the alcohol took over his brain. And Dave loved to get high, often taking it to extremes before anyone else. One of the first times I ever shot heroin was with Dave.
A couple of weeks went by and I did not see Dave very much. He seemed to have been MIA for a while when he popped back up, beaming from ear to ear. He had been back to Mississippi where he was from visiting...and he had met a girl!
I never knew Dave to really have a girlfriend. He was not gay or anything; he just did not seem to care too much about girls. I would imagine he did not have too much luck with the women because of his outrageous lifestyle.
He had met a nice country girl from Mississippi. She was also in the dark about a lot of his habits. She had the naive notion that she could curb his dabbling with drugs. Little did she know Dave was not dabbling, and he was quite the expert at hiding is escapades. Dave had moved this nice little country girl right into his apartment in New Orleans. Pretty soon, his undercover tactics would have to get serious.
One night Liam and I are at our house on Port Street, just hanging out with a couple of people. I was selling various drugs at the time to support our own habits, so Dave would often stop by before going to his house around the corner. He would often show up, hair wild, eyes wild, acting crazy and loud about something. He often stopped by to buy a little something to bring him back to reality before he went home to his country girl.
This particular night Dave shows up around his usual hour. He was still wearing the standard waiter uniform of a white button down shirt and black pants. As usual, Dave is disheveled and going a million miles a minute. He whirls in like a tornado, ripping through my house. He is talking fast and gesturing frantically.
He turns to me, telling what he wants to buy. As I go to put his package together, he starts asking what kind of sauces we have in our refrigerator. Liam mention ketchup and mayonnaise when Dave interrupts him wanting mustard. Liam says he thinks we have mustard. Dave says he needs as many different colored sauces we have, as long as they are not red. Looking at him with a bewildered expression, Liam goes to get sauces. My guests are staring at this little man just whizzing through my house seriously questioning us about our condiments.
Dave whips off his button down shirt. Standing in a wife beater, Dace spreads the white shirt out on the floor. He is carefully inspecting the sleeves, smoothing them flat onto the hardwood floors. Liam returns with the condiments and hand them to Dave as we all look on in curiosity.
He starts applying mustard and various salad dressing to the inside elbow of his waiter shirt first. Then, he puts smears of the various colors all over the shirt. What the hell is he doing? He is purposely adding sauces to a somewhat clean work shirt. His hands making quick and spastic movement, he is really into his work. We all look at each other and then eye Dave with much suspicion. Liam shakes his head and finally asks, "What are you doing, dude?"
Dave tells us that he was shooting coke after work in some bar. That explains his speedy speech and sporadic actions. That explains his sense of both insanity and urgency. But, what about the fucking shirt? Dave points to a tiny stain of blood on the inside sleeve. He is super paranoid his girlfriend would notice it, so he decided to splotch the shirt up real good. Liam asks, why not just use ketchup? You have lots of ketchup that could get on a shirt in a restaurant.
Dave looks up at Liam like his intentions should be so obvious. "Yeah, okay," Dave says. "Then every stain on the shirt will be red. She will never fall for that. I can hear her now...what you only have red sauces at the restaurant? Yeah, okay, dude."
My entire living room is laughing now. Dave puts the lids on all the variously colored sauces, and he put his shirt back on. He stands in front of a mirror, inspecting his artwork. He looks closely at the arm to see if the blood stain is now less obvious. He seems satisfied with his work. He takes his package and heads back to the bathroom to level out his buzz a little.
Dave returns slowed down beyond a normal rate. His eyelids are a little droopy. His smile is now relaxed and content. "Well, I better head home to my girl now. See ya."
"Good luck with the shirt, Dave."
"Huh?" Dave looks back bewildered. He looks down at his shirt. Seeing the stains all over it, I can see the light bulb of recollection go off in his head. "Oh, yeah, that. It will be cool. I don't even care what she says now."

Divine Retribution

Talking to an old friend the other day, I am struck with how the universe works. I have always been a firm believer in threefold, which states that whatever you put out in the universe comes back to you three times as good or bad. For instance, if you put out get three times negativity in return. If you put out love and goodness, you will be rewarded threefold. Some people call it karma, and other people say it is divine retribution. Whatever it is makes us sometimes realize how the balance of things can work.
My friend Scarlet and I used to be real tight back in the day. We had a lot in common, both straddled between two different worlds. Sometimes back then, people used to confuse the two of us. Scarlet was into all the same shit I was, only she had more of the die hard attitude. She could be cold and calculated in order to take care of her business. When Scarlet needed something, she had a way of making it happen.
Scarlet was married to a kid that seemed pretty nice to me. From what I gathered, they were very tight. They had been madly in love, you know, soulmates and shit. They were thick as thieves, always getting high or scamming to get high together. I used to see them fight sometimes, and it seemed to me that their addictions had become more important than their love. I hate to see this kind of thing happen. It is tragic, really. And I really relate to these kinds of tragedies.
Scarlet's husband always treated her like a queen. He was sensitive and caring, and his feelings could easily be hurt by her. He would do anything to make her happy. You could tell he adored her by the way he looked at her. You could tell he admired her strength and often found solace in it. She was his rock even when he was drowning in the storm. And he was fiercely loyal. I never even saw him glance at another woman.
Scarlet took good care of her man. He worked sporadically, and she always complained because he had not kept a steady job in years. He had a great job before they started using dope, maybe working in a kitchen somewhere. Since their lives had been overtaken by heroin, they had fallen on some hard times.
Scarlet always made sure they had a roof over their heads. They had been evicted from apartment after apartment, so they were crashed at different hotels for years it seemed. It is expensive to pay for a room by the night, especially when the couple spent between one and two hundred dollars a day shooting dope.
Scarlet always made sure there was enough food to eat, and cigarettes to smoke. And she always made sure her man had his dope. Granted, when she would slave away all night at the strip club while her husband was not working, she would do more dope than she gave to him. I could not really blame her since she was putting out at least two hundred dollars a day for all their expenses.
I am not sure how Scarlet paid for her lifestyle sometimes. Sometimes, she would make really great money at the club. She was generally one of the top earners. But, every night cannot be a busy night. And every morning the same need calls on the junky, demanding the same high. Many nights she had five hundred dollars before nine, and other nights there is no way any girl made even a hundred. But, Scarlet always managed to come bouncing back into the club high as a kite, with her loyal husband escorting her to the door. I am not sure if her husband really knew where all the money came from, but then I think he just was afraid to ask. After all, he needed his fix more than anything else, too.
After Hurricane Katrina, I lost touch with Scarlet. I heard she had stayed behind and was forced to evacuate many days after the storm. It was the same as so many of us. Sometimes I wondered what had happened to her. I wondered where that confident girl who could get whatever she needed had disappeared to. She had a survival instinct. I knew she had made sure her man came out of the mess okay, too. She would have never left him behind in that shit that Katrina brought to New Orleans. And she probably made sure they raided the pharmacies so the lovers would have their fix.
I got a call from a friend who ran into Scarlet in the French Quarter. She handed the phone to Scarlet, and I was able to catch up with her a little. She had changed as much as any of had since getting clean. Scarlet had also started her life over, clean and sober. It is always interesting to see the paths we take in life.
Scarlet had gotten a divorce. She said the addiction and years of abuse finally tore the lovers apart. I am not even sure if she really knew what happened. There were so many lies and just too much water under the bridge. Both Scarlet and her husband had moved on to start new lives, separately. I was shocked. They had just been so close, and I could not imagine that their paths had gotten so far apart.
Scarlet had gotten involved with another man. They ended up having a child together. She was also separated from him, and she was out on her own with her young son. Her child's father had turned out to be a bum. He did not help with the baby very much, and he had no intentions of improving his life to better their son. Her child's father was lazy and unmotivated. Not to mention, he had turned out to be quite a pervert.
When they met, Scarlet said she was completely lost. Without her beloved soulmate, she did not know what to do. Missing him terribly, she clung to this man she had good sex with. Good sex and a lot of it does often lead to a pregnancy. Clinging to the fantasies of a perfect life and the desire to have a child, Scarlet went forward as planned.
She only had sex in common with her baby's father. After a baby is born, we all know how the sex life dwindles. Scarlet was nursing and not sleeping, and her baby's father was still expected sex all the time. Her desire had dwindled and her heart was no longer in it. She had a renewed interest in life after the birth of her child, but not much interest in sex anymore. What new mothers really do though?
Shortly after the baby was born, Scarlet discovered her baby's father was cheating. She tried to work it out for the sake of the child. She tried to just ignore it, knowing that he had a large appetite for sex that she could satisfy. But, she just could not let it go. She was bombarded with all kinds of thoughts and memories as he pressured her for sex nightly. She had to end the relationship and strike out on her own.
I thought about the days when we used to get high together. I am pretty sure she was not the world's most loyal wife. I felt that maybe it was divine retribution that she also gets cheated on later. Maybe this is a just punishment for someone who throws away such a strong connection for the pursuit of addiction. But who I am to talk? I lost everything because of my addiction as well, and I know how crappy that feels.
The good thing is that Scarlet is also much happier now than I have ever imagined. I am also a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I think Scarlet has come into her own in spite of all her tragedy. She has become a strong mother who does need any assistance from anyone else. She lives her life for her son, now. She is back in school, and she will certainly provide a stable and happy life for both her and her son.
I asked her if she thought she might ever get married again. She said she doubted it. She was already married to her son's future for now. Scarlet had enough sex, drugs, and rock and roll for a lifetime. She once used to tell her younger girlfriends to never settle for less, and she was going back to that mantra. She was such a powerhouse on her own, and she did not need the companionship. She figured everything was back in balance in her world this way. Scarlet giggled, "But you never know...I may meet someone that will change my mind one day. He would have to be a very amazing person. I doubt that kind of thing happens twice in a lifetime, though."

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Many, many
Mistakes I have made.
I took for granted
I left behind
I violated
And lies
That I told

It is too late
To take back
The things
I wish I could
And it is too late
To change the things
I wish different

From here
I am satisfied
Having learned
From my mistakes
And I am satisfied
To have finally
Found myself

Just one more thing
I would like to do.

For every thing
That was stupid
And everything
That was painful
For throwing
It all away
Taking so much
For granted

I never meant
To cause
So much damage
And I never
It all to turn out
This way.

No Pants Night at The Abbey

On Thursday nights, Genevieve used to have a "No Pants Night" at The Abbey. For a while, when you went to The Abbey on Thursday nights between 6pm and 2am, Genevieve would demand your pants as soon as you ordered a drink. She would refuse service to anyone who would not take off their pants and give them to her. Genevieve kept all the pants behind the bar until you were ready to leave. Everyone in the bar was in their underwear!
One Thursday during the Jazz Festival, Liam and I decided to stop by and get Joe for a few drinks on Decatur Street. Joe lived near the Fairgrounds where the Jazz Festival was held. Liam and I stopped by his apartment after we left the Festival.
Liam and I were somewhat tired after being out all day. When we got to Joe's, he had not even taken a shower yet. Joe was a gracious guest and he gave us several bong hits to pack up and smoke while we waited for him to shower. Joe generally smoked pretty good weed, so Liam and I were at least somewhat forgiving for him not being ready.
Joe, of course, took his sweet time in the bathroom showering and primping for the evening. Liam and I looked a wreck after walking around in the sun at The Fairgrounds all day, so we were not sure what the big deal was. But, then Joe did like to look good and I guess that can take some serious time and effort.
When Joe emerged, shining, from the bathroom. He was definitely ready. He had shed the dirty smell of the kitchen he toiled away in all day. He was wearing a pink polo shirt with khaki shorts. Liam and I chuckled at the pink polo shirt, chiding Joe for his preppy attire. Once again, Joe appeased us with goodies.
"You guys are gonna leave me alone in just a minute," he says as he pulls a plastic baggie from his pocket. Inside, a shiny white powder glistened inside as it caught the overhead lights. Just what Liam and I needed to pick us up, a bump of cocaine! But, that night Joe was in a generous and buoyant mood as he dumped out a big pile onto the kitchen counter. He pulled out a credit card, smashing and cutting three fat lines. Oh yeah...
We were all smiling and buoyant on the way to The Quarter. We talked quickly, excited to be going out together, excited to be buzzing with cocaine. We were The Three Amigos at this time. We always hung out together; Liam and I watching Joe as he tried desperately to take a girl home each and every night. We all worked very closely together, and partied even closer. The three of us certainly knew how to get in some shit together!
It had not occurred to any of us that Genevieve had implemented the No Pants Night, least of all Joe. Joe had a huge crush on Genevieve, although she enjoyed blowing him off and making fun of him. Joe was convinced that, like a schoolgirl, this was Genevieve's way of saying she really did like him. He was convinced he would win her over eventually.
We get to The Abbey just before it got too crowded. We walk in, flying high from some big, fat lines. We are dying for a shot of Jameson. We are ready to get into whatever this night may bring. Floating into The Abbey, I notice that no one is wearing their pants. It dawns on me that we will have to take our pants off, too.
No use arguing with Genevieve; she does not bend easily on certain rules. And we were dying for a drink. It had been a long hour and a half since Liam and I had our last beer at The Fairgrounds. And coke can make your mouth so dry!
We order three shots of Jameson, three Hi-Lifes, and one coke back. (I need a coke back for my Jameson.) Knowing we will be refused the much needed beverages, we go ahead and shed the pants. Joe whips his off quicker than I thought possible.
Beaming, he puts them across the bar directly into Genevieve's demanding hand. I can tell by the sly smile on his face, he is not hesitant or shy. Bold and unabashed. Then, I look down to discover Joe is not wearing any underwear!
At this point, Joe looks absolutely ridiculous. He is proudly grinning from ear to ear. In retrospect, I think he had been planning this for weeks. His shirt is just long enough to ALMOST cover everything up, but not quite. So Joe is standing at the bar, Jameson in one hand and beer in another, just as happy as he could be. His pink polo hangs down, just below it his skinny legs are sticking out. If you look a little closer, you notice a little bit of his crown jewels are also sticking out. He is also still wearing his brown loafers.
Liam looks down in shock and horror. He is laughing under his breath as he steadily moves a little farther away from his friend. Later that night when Joe tries to sit down next to Liam on a bench seat, the same bewildered and laughing look takes over Liam's face. "I wouldn't sit there if I were you, dude..." he tells Joe. By that time Joe has such a good buzz on, he just looks at Liam and laughs. He makes no attempt to move. No use fighting, Liam just gets up and moves over to my side.
We are steadily drinking, as one tends to do in The Abbey. Joe disappears to the end of the bar by the front door. He is talking to a couple of ladies down there. It is obvious they are tourists, and we have never seen them before. Joe is cheesing it up like he generally did when he was giddy and buzzed. Liam and I joked about who would possibly take home the guy in the pink polo with his dick swinging all over the bar.
When Liam and I leave, Joe say he will get a ride home. He is enjoying the company of these women. He gives us no details, and we certainly do not ask. We know he will volunteer all the details in the morning anyway. Be safe, amigo...
The next morning when we get the scoop from Joe, we do not believe what we were hearing. To this day, the story here seems too crazy to be true. But, was true! The two girls were not just a couple of friends visiting New Orleans, but they were actually mother and daughter.
Joe is hitting on the daughter most of the time he talks to the two of them. He is standing there in the pink polo with his dick hanging out just a little, and somehow he still manages to charm both mother and daughter. The mother agrees to let her daughter go back to Joe's place. She just requires that he leave his driver's license so she can be sure to have her daughter safely returned in the morning. She even pays their cab fare!
According to Joe, he had a great time but he did not get much sleep. In the morning, he promptly returned daughter to her mother, and the three of them went out to breakfast! (Of course, mom footed the bill here, too.) The three of them had a jolly breakfast, laughing and joking about last night. I think the mother was probably just happy her daughter was returned in one piece.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


How do you do it?
All shrouded
In lies.
On top of

It is all built
On lies.
It always was.
Deep inside
You know the truth
Is lying

Is it easier
To just pretend?
After a while
It seems they
Become truth.

The past is never
With lies
And a future
Should never be constructed
On lies.
Somewhere deep inside
The truth
Is always hiding.

You know it...
Unless you are
One of the experts
Who really believes
Your own lies.
And then,
All I can say is...
It is your own demise.


Sometimes it is something really small that can trigger a flood of memories for me. Something so insignificant, like a sound or a smell...and then you are right back there in your mind. It is things like this can make it so hard for someone who is shaky in recovery; someone who is not standing on firm and solid ground. All it takes is a little bit of instability and a trigger of some sort to send us reeling.
In early recovery, we learn all about triggers. AVOID TRIGGERS is another recovery mantra. Change PEOPLE, PLACES, and THINGS is yet another recovery slogan. These we can learn to do, but those insignificant triggers still pop up. Those unexpected things like sounds or smells. These are the ones that can throw an addict back into addiction so quickly if he is not in a better place.
My life is in such a different place now, and for that I am thankful. I actually had one of these triggers pop up for me today. A simple sound, and a rush of memories came flooding back over me. Now, my reaction to a trigger is so different. Chills went up my spine as my mind saw certain pictures with horror. I was afraid, finally, for all those fearless times before that I just kept on using.
Sometimes when I look back, I am afraid of the way I used to live. Other times, I just get a flash of a frightening event. At the time, I was not scared. At the time, I was so deep into my addiction that I could not see the danger I was putting myself in. All I could see was getting my next fix, however I had to. Now that I am miles and miles away from it all, I am scared to death of some of my behaviors.
Sometimes there are images that pop up that I have not thought about in so long. At the time of my addiction, so many things I did not even think about. Then, I just reacted to my environment, doing what it took to keep myself and Liam well. I have realized recently, that many of the events of the past have adversely affected my existence today, and often times I did not even remember that they happened...until something triggers the memory.
The other day, a memory was triggered where I saw myself sitting in the passenger seat of a big truck. I was with a man wearing jeans and cowboy boots. He seemed nice enough. We pulled into a farm of some sort. I remembered going into the barn and looking at the horses. I remember being slightly afraid of the horses, which was odd because I grew up around horses.
I am sure I was wasted when all this happened, as I remember it was late at night. There was a old house on the farm that was being renovated. I am not sure if the man with the cowboy boots lived here or would be moving in soon. There was a bed and an old wood burning stove there. There were dishes there, so someone stayed there on occasion, that much was obvious. The man may have told me the deal and I just do not remember that.
The house was all wooden inside, and it was really neat and old. The gentleman showed me another room that was full of guns. He had these old military boxes there with all kinds of antique and illegal guns. He had one of those old school automatic guns like you see in old gangster movies. He also had a cannon there. He told me he still shot cannon off during parties. There was a ton of different guns in this room.
Obvious to me looking back, this place was not in the city of New Orleans. I had no idea how far from the city I may have been. And I really had no idea who this man was. But, here I was in his world in the middle of the night. Obviously, I was up to no good.
This memory is so hazy that I almost question myself if it really happened. It has a dreamlike quality that makes me wonder if maybe I just dreamed it. But, I know that I did not. I know that this really happened...I have just stored it somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind. When the memory flooded back, I was afraid, suddenly aware that anything could have happened to me that night. Anything could have happened to me so many nights I have tried to forget. And these memories, however repressed, affect the way I think even now.
Today, I heard a phone ring. It was the ring tone that triggered memories for me. Just the regular stock ring tone of an older Motorola phone that I have heard a thousand times. Still, a flood of memory washed over me...and I began to shudder.
That was my ring tone for a few months. It was the few short months I was back on New Orleans after Katrina. Those were some of the most lost times of my life. Hearing the ring tone, I was suddenly reminded of those days and again, a shiver ran up my spine.
Images of dark and dirty old houses, left in ruin by the storm. Working in sleazy clubs, and my city inundated with strange construction men. A ridiculous little troll calling me all the time to hang out. Strange people, strange times. Reunited with old friends and up to no good. Lost and found in all kinds of shady places. I shudder to think of things I did in that desperate hour...just before I began to stick my head above the water. A few wasted months. Images I may never recover from.
I am, however, thankful that I am not thrown back into cravings with these triggers. I finally have fear of the dangerous past, where before it never occurred to me. Before, the drugs were all I thought about, all I knew. Now, the drugs are the last thing I think about when these memories flood over me. I am blessed that things have changed. I am altered forever.
I used to say that I felt like I had truly broken the addiction when the first thing I thought about every morning and the last thing I thought about at night was no longer drugs. I relished in the fact that I was not thinking about drugs every day, twice a day. Now, I realize how much farther along I am today. Today when I look back, I am afraid of things I did. Today, I realize how deep I once was...and how far away from that I am now. Finally. Thankfully.
I try not to hold regret. Lots of those days, I look back at with fond memories. In a way, I would not change what I endured if I could. I am thankful to have lived through it, and I am thankful for all I have learned from my transgressions. I think I am a person much closer to truth because of the things I know. I am a stronger person through my adversity. It has been a long and bumpy road, but the path has been interesting.

Note to Self

We all have days in which we look back, and we remember. We long for things of the ancient past. We miss the comfort of the destruction, or we want what used to be. We all have those days, wallowing in the waters of regret and what ifs.
I have spent too much time in those shoes. My own shoes have now become hard and unworn, leaving blisters on my feet. So this is when I take off the shoes to walk barefoot along the ground.
The Earth below my feet is soft, and the grass lightly tickles my toes. The life beneath my feet is teeming in this springtime air. The vibrations from our Mother Earth move through me, striking me to relish in her beauty.
We can all be beautiful from where we stand, if we try. Sometimes there is a lot of hard work, coming back to ourselves. Demons to face, and dragons to slay. So that we may once again view the world from our enlightened eyes. We must walk our own path, leaving the dust particles to fall where they may.
Sometimes we are full of despair, feeling like we can never love again, like we can never write again, like we will never soar again. Do not let despair make a home in your soul. And do not let regret take hold of your life. Throw them out the window...and walk tall.
Make your own path, and live your own life. Love yourself, love your family, and love your work. Do not dwell on these things past, and put your focus towards the future. You are only yourself, and that is all anyone can ask. Take today and run with it into tomorrow. Only you can make the change.
P.S. And write, write, write!!!


Looking back
In order to
Start anew
Let by gones
Be by gones
And just...
Move on.

We look back
We look back

But the fact is
We cannot change
The past
So now...
We must
Look toward
The future.

We cannot go back
We only want
To move forward
As much as
I sometimes wish
I could go back
I know
All I really want
Is to be me.
And only me.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Thinking of Savannah, and I am struck that I need to write something about it all. I have been rehashing all the events that happened in Savannah with a therapist for years now. This is the first time I have written about it. I guess that I have this fear that once I write it down, it becomes real. Without writing it down, I can still pretend I imagined it all. Without writing it down, I am refusing to come face to face with all the details. And without facing it, I can just keep shoving it under my carpet. But that has been going on so long that these events in Savannah have crippled me for years. It is time to let go. It is time to put it all down on paper and lay it all to rest.

I was sitting remembering Savannah last night, thinking about all the details of those times. Images of the coolest little Asian market popped up. The market was just around the corner from our little house in Savannah. We used to go there all the time. In the back, there was a door that opened up into a vast room full of authentic Chinese food, herbs, and utensils. You could find anything you wanted there. Liam and I used to peruse the aisles, just looking at all the fascinating things.
I remember the smell of Savannah sometimes. It is like it is so clear in my mind and close to my soul that I still remember the smell. It smelled fresh for a large city, like the river that runs through it. Fresh, like the grass that covers all the small parks. Fresh, like seafood and the ocean. Savannah does not smell polluted like so many big cities. It smells old, and it smells earthy.
I am reminded fondly of the first days I spent in Savannah. Days like a dream. Those were the days before it all changed. Those days were on the dawn of change. It seems those tranquil days in Savannah were just moments before the huge explosion. Those days were just before the storm; the winds that changed it all.
We used to walk all through the neighborhood in Savannah. We were drawn to the cute little house in what appeared to be a quaint little neighborhood that reminded us of home in Louisisana. We were not far from downtown Savannah by the river. We were right next to a convenient store. At first, we thought...oh, how convenient!
But it turned out that the convenient store was crack central. The first night we were in that little apartment, the store across the street was hopping all night long. Bass blasting from lowered old cars with shiny rims. People hanging out in the parking lot and behind the store all hours of the night. Nice cars driven by white college kids pulling up regularly and not staying long enough to purchase anything from the store. Liam and I were enthralled, curious about what drugs were being sold over there.
Liam and I had just gotten on methadone for the first time before we moved to Savannah. We were ready to start anew, or so we thought. We went from calling ourselves "Bonnie and Clyde" to referring to ourselves as "The Cleavers." Like most first time methadone users, we thought our lives had become out of control. We naively thought, if we could just get on methadone....
We were not yet in recovery because taking methadone daily and changing no other habits is not recovery. We thought we were cured, though. We kept drinking, and smoking weed. We even kept using heroin sometimes. We would skip our Sunday take homes, and then get high Sunday night. We thought we were really on the up and up. At least, that is what I thought.
Often times, a junky gets on methadone and other drug problems begin to manifest. The methadone does not cure the problem of addiction; that can only be done with determination and hard work. (Neither of which Liam and I had put in at this point.) With the corner by our house popping every night, we eventually ventured over to find out the details.
Crack. They were selling crack. I had smoked crack several times at this point. Crack was not something I would say that I was into. Crack is one of the few things I had very little experience with. Liam, on the other hand, had more experience with crack. He had not only smoked it a lot before, but he really liked it.
Before long, we were smoking crack. At first, it was just occasionally. We would get cravings. We wanted to get high. We needed to fill the void that was left by not using heroin everyday. Sometimes, we would venture out to the liquor store and buy a bottle. Other times, we would just go across the street and score some crack.
What can I say about crack? When I first tried it, I did not really get very high. But several moments later, I found myself wanting more and more. That is how crack always was for me...I wouldn't always get very high, but I always wanted more. Now there were times I would get high, but there were never any times I was not left with the craving for more. Liam obviously felt different than I did. I later discovered his love affair with crack had started years earlier.
Still these times seemed like the sun was still shining. Liam and I were still in love with each other, and in love with our life together. There had been some times of desperation, and the world was truly crumbling around us...we were to blissful to do much about it. Little did I know, that soon everything would change for me forever. Little did I know, that in a few short weeks, my life would never, ever be the same. Little did I know, that I would be sorting out these details for years.
The crack spree only lasted a couple of weeks. Crack is expensive, especially when you really like it. Now, the rest of the story is from my is how I know it. It is how I remember it, and the conclusions I drew from the facts I was not aware of. To this day, I am not really sure of all the details of certain parts.
Liam was smoking crack when I was not there, at least this is the way I came to see it. Our money was disappearing quickly. I would come home from work, and he had been drawing all day long. He would only draw like mad when he was smoking crack or shooting coke. The landlord had seen him going into the house across the street, which was a known crack dealer. He showed up at the landlord's house late one night, wanting the rent back. He was sweaty and in a panic. He made up some lie about needing a doctor for his wife. I believe that he was smoking a lot of crack by himself, and he had managed to rack up at least a little bit of debt on the streets.
All the little things kept adding up, and eventually I confronted him. At first, he started to deny it all. But, he did realize that he needed more help than just the methadone. I felt like the methadone had given me a new lease on life, and Liam felt it only deepened his desire to get high. The methadone filled all my opiate receptors, keeping me happy. Liam began to crave other things. After confronting him, we decided he needed to get more help. We looked in the phone book and started calling rehab centers.
This was the first time either of us had ever looked at rehab for anything. We were shocked at the cost! We barely had enough to pay the weekly clinic fee, let alone several thousand for inpatient rehab. I knew there were state supported rehabs, and I was determined to keep looking. Even if Liam had to get on a waiting list, I knew we could do this.
Liam on the other hand was desperate. He was probably craving. He was definitely frustrated with our life and my nagging. He was a mess that morning. I remember him crying to me about how hard it was; how he just did not know what to do.
In frustration, Liam broke down and called his parents. I had suggested we keep calling these numbers in the phone book first. I wanted to exhaust all our options, and have a little more of a game plan. Liam was desperate, and he called his parents and spilled the beans about everything.
They wanted him to come home right away. They said they would take him to get into treatment. They said they would shelter him while he gets better. They bought him an immediate ticket home. We got several take homes from the clinic in Savannah, and set him up to guest dose in Virginia.
Before he left, I asked him if he owed anyone any money. I needed to know what was going on because I was going to be left in that house all alone. The dealers on the corner knew we lived there, and it was only fair to me to know what I was up against. Liam said he owed one kid about forty bucks, and other that that...he was debt free.
At the time, I believed him. At the time, I believed a lot of what Liam would say. I guess love can be blind, and sometimes lies do not matter. All that was about to change for me, though. Little did I know, that the events to come would scar me forever.
Liam made it safely home, and I kept on about my business in Savannah. I went to the clinic everyday, and I went to work everyday. I came home to an empty house. I would call Liam, but his parents often refused to let us talk to each other. I was lonely, and I was starting to be angry. Why was I always left to pick up the pieces? We owed everyone money at this time, the landlord, heroin dealers, our parents, electric company, phone company, and cable. We were in financial ruin, and I was trying to pick up the pieces.
One night after work, I went out to a bar with several employees. I did not eat much in those days, as methadone seemed to have that effect on me at first. I got pretty drunk, and then I drove myself home. Things are spotty in my memory from here on out. I remember going over to the store across the street.
I went in and got something to eat and drink. I am sure, like any good junky, the mission at hand was really to get something more. I remember sitting down next to the old dready man who would sometimes score for us. He was a crackhead, and we often paid too much from him, but he was the only one I knew. I know I asked him to score for me, and I think I may have even mentioned that Liam had gone home to his parents for a while. The old dready man said he would score and bring it to my door.
I went home, and promptly passed out. I am not sure how long it was before I heard the knock on the door. It could have been hours, or it could have been only minutes. I perked up, expecting a little package to wake me up. I went down the stairs to answer the door.
I know I should have looked through the peephole. I know I should have asked who it was. I know I should not have just opened the door blindly. In my defense, I was wasted and I was a junky. How many times before had I flung that door open excitedly to find the package I was waiting for standing right there? I know I have more sense than I did that night when I just flung the door open.
Suddenly, there is a gun in my face. Two guys I have never seen before tell me to shut the fuck up as they let themselves in. I had let my long hair down for the night, and they grabbed me by it and pulled me up the stairs. The next day, I had rug burns where I was drug up the stairs. When we got to the top, they started asking questions.
I remember they told me my husband owed them lots of money, and I think they said it was several hundred dollars. They told me they were going to get what they were owed. One guy was obviously in charge, and he ordered the other guy to take me into the front room. The guy in charge began to ransack my apartment as I was pushed into another room.
I struggled a little, and the coffee table came crashing down as I fell. The guy pushed me down on the couch. I could hear dishes breaking in the other room. I heard everything I owned clattering to the floor. I heard stuff banging against the walls. There was destruction going on just past the room I was held hostage in.
And the destruction of my life started in the room I was held in. I remember looking up at the stranger after he pushed me onto the sofa. He was on top of me, and I remember looking at his face. I had never seen this man before. With one powerful swoop, he pulled off my pants. I remember wondering what was going on.
Next, he ripped off my underwear. I am not even sure if I struggled much at this point. I remember being so shocked that it seemed I could not react in time. When I felt him inside me, and saw him on top of me, I kept thinking...this is not really happening. I remember thinking over and over...this is not really happening. Then, they left.
I was left there, crying. That was the last thing I remember before I passed out. I think I wanted to call Liam, but I was just so drunk.
I woke up on the air mattress with the phone in my hand. I had pissed myself in my sleep. I woke up with a terrible headache, and smelling of whiskey. I got up to change my pants. Looking around at the destruction in the apartment, my memory flooded back to me. It came in short bursts, like images flashing on a screen. The memories were so fragmented by alcohol and fear, that I was not sure exactly what happened.
The apartment was a wreck. They were obviously looking for something. Every drawer was emptied out, and everything was overturned. Our lock boxes for our take homes were smashed to bits. Broken glass was everywhere, from dishes and from the coffee table. My keys were at the bottom of the stairs by the door...and the car key was missing.
I looked outside, and I realized the Jeep Cherokee was also missing. After surveying the damage, I just broke down. I called Liam, and told him what happened. He told me to call the police, and then call him back.
The police did very little. They took me to the hospital, and they fingerprinted the apartment. They just considered it to be a crime against a junky, and they did not really care. They apparently found no matching fingerprints. Although, the intruders were not wearing gloves and their fingers were all over that apartment. The police felt I owed someone money, and I deserved to get raped. For the record, a lot of people I knew felt that way.
Years later, I am just now starting to forgive Liam for leaving me there unprotected in a situation he knew was so dangerous. So many times over the years following the rape, I did things to get back at Liam for this particular crime. When I violated the rules of our relationship, it felt like a little bit of that gnawing hole left by the rape seemed to disappear. Now, I know that each time I lashed out, a little bit of my soul was gnawed away. Now I know, that those pieces were not being replaced but instead more of myself was being taken away. In the years following these incidents in Savannah, my life plummeted in more ways than one. I cannot completely chalk it up to the rape...but I know so many of the holes within me did, in fact, begin here. In Savannah. My life began to unravel that night, and I aided it along, just pulling at the loose string. I aided it along by pushing these memories further into my mind. I aided it along by striking back. You can never get back what was lost, but you can move forward. So, here I am, moving forward, finally...from these demons that have haunted me for years.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dreary Day

Drizzling down outside
Dreary, dreary day.
It is dreary from
The inside out.
But not as bleak
As it used to be.

Friday, March 19, 2010


As I am doing all my business on the computer early this morning, I noticed the date today. March 19. I am reminded that it is the birthday of a man who passed away several years ago.
This piece today is going to be a little different. It is not going to be about drugs. And it is not going to be a commentary on life, or a poem, or a scene from my eyes. This is going to be a piece in memorandum. A tribute to a man I once knew. A tribute to a man who always touches my heart now, when I look back. When this man died, I was caught up in my web of addiction. I did not say my proper good-byes. And I did not pay my proper respects.
March 19 was the birthday of Liam's father. Or was it his mother? His father and mother were born on March 19th and 20th. I am pretty sure his father's birthday was first, but then I cannot be sure. We celebrated them both together, and I am not sure which was actually on which day...but I think Bill was born on March 19.
The first time I met Liam's father, Bill, he did not make a good impression on me. At the time he came to visit, I was dancing to support Liam. He had just lost his job, and I was taking care of everything that I could. It was my car that Liam took to the train station to pick him up, and it was my money that was keeping Liam's pocket full.
Liam and I were both into drugs when we first met. Now that I look back on it, I am sure Liam's father could tell something was not right with his son. And like any father in denial, or maybe just plain ignorance, Bill laid all the blame on me. He stayed up late one night, yelling at Liam and bashing me. I overheard the whole thing from Liam's bed at that little apartment off Farm Pond. My feelings were really hurt. I was so sure that Bill was not seeing anything clearly.
Liam always told me that his father has always felt bad about that first meeting. Since we were together for ten years, I was able to make a better impression on Liam's father later. Bill had told his son that he felt bad about all the things he thought about me at first. Years later, he told his son how much he really did like his new wife. Bill never brought it up to me, and he never apologized to me. But, now I know...that was just Bill's way.
Liam and his dad did not always get along. In fact, they often butted heads on many things. But, I never once doubted that Bill loved his son. He may not have been happy with decisions Liam had made. And he may not have agreed with his son's financial instability at the age of 27. He may have wanted his son to turn out very different that he was at the time. But, Bill's love of his son never wavered.
Liam's father would often repeat himself. Liam and I used to laugh about the way he would harp on both of us, reminding us of something over and over. Bill would bring up the same issues over and over, knowing Liam would not have a better answer later. We thought that it was just the way that Bill knew how to connect with his son.
On a family vacation on summer in Charleston, Bill would faithfully ask us about the green pass every time we left. The family had rented a house in a gated community, and that green pass was necessary to get back. Bill was always overly concerned that his son had forgotten something. And in Bill's defense, Liam was very forgetful. I think now, that was just Bill's way of trying to be nurturing and guiding his wayward son.
At the time, my perspective on life was very different. I was not a parent then. And Liam and I liked to get high. We liked to drink, and we enjoyed hanging out in bars. We often did not understand Bill and his vast concern for us. We felt that it was unwarranted and counterproductive for Liam's self esteem. Looking back, I think that even then Bill had a sense of danger where Liam and I were fearless.
In Bill's defense, he had known Liam much longer than I had. I know now, that when you nurture a child from infancy, you just have a sense when something is not quite right with them. And I believe that Bill's fears and concerns came from that place deep inside a parent; that gut feeling that just puts us on alert. Time has proven that Liam's father had a right to be concerned.
Liam and I both made a royal mess of everything. I am glad that when Bill passed, Liam was there. And he was in a sober frame of mind, even if only temporarily. I am glad that Bill was not around to witness the bitter end of that lifestyle for his son. It got ugly at times. But, I do wish that Bill could see his son today, sober. I have not talked to Liam in quite sometime, but I like to think he is sober and happy. Bill would be proud at the things his son has accomplished.
Liam's father was so generous. He was always there to bail his son out of any jam. Liam sometimes took advantage of this trait, and his parents often supported our habits unknowingly. I am sure Liam has regrets about taking advantage of his father's endless generosity.
Bill used to take us to Walmart and get all kinds of things for our house when he visited. He would always get you the best Christmas presents. Bill always put thought into gifts, so the recipient was sure to like it. Bill loved giving gifts, and I think it made him truly happy. He was a man who always took care of his family. Sacrificing himself so that his children could have what they wanted.
Bill was in the Navy, and he drove trucks for years afterwords. He had a tattoo of his wife's name on his forearm. It was just plain black ink with his wife's name in plain handwriting. He did hate all his son's tattoos, though. Bill was a tough guy from New Jersey, and he always maintained the accent and attitude...even after he had lived in the South for years.
Liam's father was a Civil War buff. And he loved to surf the Internet. Bill shared his family's passion for good food. Whenever Liam's dad visited New Orleans, we were sure to eat a few great meals. Bill was so proud to see his son cooking behind the line at the prestigious job at the Redfish Grille. Liam's father was the cook in the household, and that was a passion shared by father and son. Those men loved to eat good food!
Liam's parents always remained an active part of his life. I hope to be the same way with my son. In the height of our addiction, my parents had pretty much written me off. Liam's parents, on the other hand, refused to give up. As much as their son tried to push them away, they kept a strong hold. Liam's father was not the type of man to give up a fight...especially when his son's life was at stake.
I know I did not make things any easier for Liam's family at times. I wish I had been able to apologize to his father for all the mistakes I made. I wish I had been able to see those mistakes before it was too late. Unfortunately, that was not the case and my apologies must be made here. I was caught up in that web of addiction, and I could not see the hand in front of my face clearly. I am truly sorry about the pain I know Liam's family suffered because of my recklessness. I only wish I had been able to pull my life together sooner than I did.
But, we cannot go back and change the past. We can only live with it, and if we are lucky...we learn from it. I gave up a great family with my in-laws. I gave up a lot in those days, trading it for another bag of dope. I know I can never go back, and I know there are certain things that I can never make right. I know that all I can do is move forward, and make the best of a bad situation.
So, today...I pay tribute to a man who deserved to be sung praises by me. I pay tribute to a father, who had such an unselfish love for his children. Bill was a great father, wonderful husband, and a righteous man. He raised two beautiful children with the best of his life. I know there is not a day that passes that those two children do not think of him. Happy Birthday, Bill. You are missed very much.


Needle slides in
Like butter,
Glides all nice and easy
No resistance

Pull back,
No problems,
The flower blossoms
Red poppies
Into a tiny cage
My life essence
Flows back,
Into a tiny cage

Slowly, at first
A rope thrown
Over a cliff
Rope falls short
And plummets
Down, more slowly
Its solution is thick.

On the bottom,
It blossoms
A flower
Opening its petals
Growing, flowering,
Blossoming out...

In one final swoop,
Its gone.
In one final swoop,
It is all gone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Invitation

The life of a junky, so complex and harrowing. So agonizing, and yet so provocative. What makes one begin this life that we all know is so bad? The allure of the lifestyle is what reels us in, reaching out to us from a doorway down a darkened hallway of a very old place. She slowly peeks out, raising her delicate finger, and beckons you to come inside. Sit down, stay awhile.
When you enter, you are confronted with a 1920s bordello parlor decked out with deep red velvet curtains and ornate golden couches with tapestry woven upholstery. Ceiling fanes gently swirling way up clinging to the tall, tall ceilings. The breeze is blowing through the room, gently spreading out the scent of old and flowery perfumes. Smoke and incense rise in the air. Fresh flowers are in vases on every table, and the coffee table is full of dainty little snacks. And it appears that there are several snifters of something warm, and dark, and inviting…
Come inside, sit down, and stay a while. The air is thick with the sweet scents of various burning herbs, the sweet smell of cannabis rising like smoke signals from somewhere in the darkened corners of the room. Pillows line the ground in places, making palates for relaxing. Sweet, sweet smell of something bittersweet hangs around in the air. The sound of metal clanking to the ground, sounds like a spoon hitting the hardwood, chimes from down another dark hallway.
Velvet edges. Red, and gold, and deep purple. Ornate metal and opaque busts that seem to glow in the lamp light. Drapes all over everything, the end tables, the doorways, the couches. Draping velvety colors, deep reds, and browns…tones of the Earth. Bright contrasts of purple, deep like the veins of the heart. A baby grand piano in the corner, with a lamp to light the keys. The lamp is gold and intricate, with a shade made from deep, deep blood red, with tiny golden tassels dangling around the edges.
Stepping out on to the balcony, the sun is shining bright. I squint my eyes as they adjust to the contrast. The balcony is made out of old wrought iron, its pattern swirling like vines inside their appropriate squares. Plants hang from the ceiling, in baskets that are held up by ornate wrought iron. The plants are lush and green, overflowing from their pots spilling out into the afternoon sunlight. The balcony overlooks a tiny street.
On first glance, it is an old street. The air is warm and muggy, and the sidewalks below are old and worn. The buildings are bright and narrow. Perfect little roofs with windows all over…old antique glass refracting the light in all different directions. The objects inside look slightly bubbly from the balcony. Dark edges, all around the glass middles with wooden window panes. The greenery is very lush to be this far in the heart of a city. Tiny streets below with cafĂ© tables and back alley gardens. Looking back into the parlor, it looks pitch black.
The smell of bittersweet, slowing cooking down the darkened hallway is calling out to me. Quietly whispering in my ear…begging me to come back inside. Come back inside where it is warm and insulated. Come back inside where it is fuzzy like a dream. Come back inside where it is dark, and our truths can be hidden well inside our cloaks. Come back inside; sink into the luscious soft sofa. Put up your feet, and we will close the shades.
Inside it is dark. But it is warm and liquid, like a womb. Insulated, protected from the world outside, where the sun is blazing. Shining light into my cracked surface, making the light refract everywhere. Inside, it is cozy and safe, as I become enveloped in the fantasy. Dark and hazy…just come inside. Make yourself comfortable. Stay a while. It is okay with us if you stay much longer than you planned. It is okay with us if you never leave. You can stay here forever, insulated in this old fantasy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Outside, I hear the thunder rumbling. A crack at first, followed by the slow rumbling that reminds me of the belly of a beast. The rain is falling steadily outside, pitter pat, pitter pat, and I hear it running down the sides of the house. My mind is flooded with memory. Just for a moment, the flood of memory takes me to places all over. I am momentarily suspended in time, and I am far, far away from my neighborhood.
And I am back at home. The thunder in New Orleans was unlike the thunder here. It is much rainier in that Gulf region of the United States. In the summer in New Orleans, it is not uncommon to have a little thunder every day. Some summers, it will rain a little bit every afternoon...or early evening.
Summer in New Orleans can be stifling heat and extreme humidity to anyone who is not a native. I loved the summer in New Orleans, and the heat rarely got to me. Maybe because I have always lived in the South. The mornings in the summertime were not always hot, and sometimes that is when you could feel the breeze coming off the Mississippi. As the sun comes up over New Orleans in the summer, it is moist as the breeze brings in little bits of the Mississippi. The sun is not yet hot enough to create a sauna, but you can tell it is just over the horizon.
If you are not from New Orleans, you probably would complain about the humidity. You get used to it when you live there. I personally can almost breathe better in the humidity. When it is really humid, there seems to be an extra layer of haze that lies over the city. The sky is not blue and cloudy on those days, but instead takes on a kind of light grey to white.
But, the summers are constantly sprinkled with showers that offer some relief from the heat of the day. Almost every afternoon, the sky will darken up and thunder can be heard in the distance. It is so beautiful there. The sky may be bright blue and covered with clouds. Or the sky may be blue, and clear. Or it may be one of those hazy, humid days. Nonetheless, the sky darkens and the thunder begins to rumble.
The sun is often still shining as the thunder begins to rumble over New Orleans. It is like a hungry giant. It starts with a slow rumble, short and in the distance. The skies seem to start flickering at the first rumble. Slow and steady, the giant's hunger grows, and the thunder seems to roll through the streets of the Quarter. Gaining momentum and volume as it rumbles right through the city, thunder claps above your head.
And the sky sometimes opens up at this point. Sometimes even when the sun is still shining on the fringes of the skies. Summertime rain is fast and hard, often falling in huge drops...spotting the Quarter from the river moving in. Sweeping through the projects and the fauburgs and through the business district, and mellowing out after the first few minutes.
The first few minutes are rapid, and pelting and foreboding. If its not a big storm, the rain will quickly lighten up, and heads start ducking out of bars and alleys and restaurants. Hard and quick, duck into a bar for a shot, and the momentarily be on your way...the thunder seems to just rumble right past the sanctity of the Quarter.
Katrina was different, though. I remember hearing the thunder clapping, waking me up as I tossed and turned, sweating and kicking. I remember startling awake with each loud clap, jerking my eyes open to see the flashes bright across the sky. More quickly, the lightening and thunder came, until almost flashing and clapping in unison. Over and over again, the lightening is lighting up the sky...quick and fast like gunshots. And the thunder is rumbling and clapping so frequently it reminds me of an explosion. Violent and angry, this giant is way beyond hungry. He seems to have come with a vengeance.
The next day, as the sun rose with the waters, the evidence of the vengeful giant lay apparent to all the onlookers. The copper roof of the Cathedral is twisted and bent, while pieces are strewn about. The streets are covered in debris, as it was blown everywhere. Wood and metal and sticks and dirt and furniture and other coveted items. The wind has ripped through the city, leaving a path of destruction in its wake...only to be finished off by the rising waters.
Outside, the rain is beginning to slack off. The thunder has stopped. Looking out here, I see hills where the water is just running down the sides of the street. And I am reminded of living where it is flat. You could see for miles when you looked down the streets of New Orleans because it is so flat. The sky seems to hang down lower in the Crescent City, so low that some days it seems like you could touch the clouds. I miss the landscape down there.
I regret that I did not soak up the city the way I should have in the years I spent there. I missed out on just observing the lovely world around...the river, the old buildings, the history, the magic, the feeling that you get in certain places. I missed out on soaking up her energy and her vibe, and just reveling in that magical feeling the city provides. I was caught up in the grind, and I never stopped to admire this unique world. Now, miles and miles away I am taking notice of all the details I missed from just the memories in my mind.
I miss New Orleans terribly. She is never far from my mind, as I write about her...she cultivates and grows in my mind. My heart is never far from that home. And my body is never near that home. This is a better place for my life now...and mostly it is the only place for my son to grow up surrounded by family. We always come back home where our roots are. We may long for those days past, but we are grounded firmly by our roots. And I am blessed to be able to come back to my roots, that for so many years I refused to water....and they became brittle and dying. Until I was able to come back home to drink once again from the family well.