As we eased into New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, once again, Muffy took it upon herself to play that song again on speakers, for the train to hear. This time, however, all of the patrons that we'd befriended over the past several hours sang along with us.
There was this old Irish woman whose son lived in Kankakee, IL, and got all excited when Willie dropped the town name in the song. A gentleman from Memphis kept on singing out, "Good morning, America, how are ya?" on repeat, laughing in embarrassment, but playing along anyway. Others, too, whose names and life situations I completely forget.
It was like living in the jaunty, annoyingly elevated and rosy minds of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Secretly, I loved it, and in my head, a motley crew of strangers harvested complex vocal harmonies and shared rhythmic dance sequences with the steel rails of the train, and singers dropped their personal lines with smiling, coaxing asides to scowling passengers who eventually realized that they needed to lighten up and live, dammit, and in the end succumb to the raw power of Willie Nelson and his proverbial back-up singers.
Jesus, I don't even know if that made sense.
We stepped onto the platform, twenty minutes after the song was over, and people were still humming the tune, singing with each other.
In the end, though, I think everyone was just really excited to get off the goddamn train.
Immediately the five of us snagged a cab and headed straight to a show at the Dragon's Den, packs and all, just so we could watch a band from Indiana that we see all the frakking time in Chicago.
On our way to the show, our cab dragged behind a short man in a vest and fedora riding a doubledecker lamplighter bicycle and balancing a live rooster on its high horse handlebars.
The Dragon's Den is on the border of the French Quarter and Bywater, littered with those heroin chic little crust punk fuckers.
You know the type. The ones who are trying so hard to express their individuality through fashion, and in the end just all look like a clan of dirty little homeless people, with torn clothing and too much eyeliner. The punk-punched leftovers of last night's party...why do they try so hard to be each other? Individuality should be effortless.
Just as an aside, to the naysaying elitists: the harder you try to be different, the more of yourself you will lose. You are conforming to the movement of non-conformity, and there's already tens of thousands hiding in there, striving for cool. I propose that to truly be different, you must first abolish the concept of "cool," because really, that's all that's holding everyone back from becoming what they want: they're afraid it won't be cool enough for their peers.
Define cool however you want. It could be crust punk and dreadlocks, it could be power suits and couture handbags, it could be serving fried catfish at a Christian Mission House, it could be dried flowers and old oiled leather. Murder the concept cool, cement and bag it, because you don't need it, and it's holding you back.
At least I think you don't. I could be wrong.
Now, Bourbon Street? That's not cool. I know, I know, I said murder the concept of cool and don't judge and be yourself and all that business, but seriously, fuck that succession of city blocks. Amateurs, the lot of them, puking and pissing and crying all over themselves. One girl: riding a mechanical bull with a short skirt and an open crotch, giggling uncomfortably, embarrassed at getting mad at the operator, who gyrated the bull and pimped out her box for the bar, grinning like a pedophile at the playground.
Bobbay yelled at that guy for nonconsensual eye-rape of a girl too scared and stupid to stand up for herself. I have never been prouder of a friend.
And so, the Professional Drinkers Association was born: consisting of Us, passing drunks their good, solid reputation back, with a handshake and a guffaw, not as slutty bullshit Tinkerbells oblivious to action, but as sloppy, poetic fighters and dreamers and champions of hilarity and conversational soul.
Welcome to New Orleans.