Friday, February 27, 2015

Moving Out: Fort Lauderdale 2012

Really, I'm not ready to write about selling the house, packing up, saying goodbye and leaving Fort Lauderdale. Not ready yet to try and put the emotion--or revisit those emotions--into words. Yet, that's what I'm thinking of this morning.

We--my wife, my two daughters and I, our cats, our dog--lived in that house for over (what?) fourteen, fifteen years. Which, I believe, is the longest I've lived in one continuous spot for my whole life. I knew a lot of people in South Florida, in Fort Lauderdale, in my neighborhood, on my street. I had great and comfortable friends. I knew the plants, the seasons (yes, there are seasons in South Florida), the insects, the birds and reptiles and some fish. I knew my palms and oaks and flowering plants, my weeds and vines, my waterways and streets and communities from Key West to, basically, Neptune Beach in Jacksonville. I knew a lot of Florida--the Keys to Pensacola--with only the Tampa Bay/St. Pete area as an exclusion. Sure, it had gotten a little stale now and then, but like I said, I was comfortable.

And then we left.

I was the last one out--me and my dog and the two older cats. (My wife's cat--my cat, too--from when I first met her, M.R., she lived with us until about 2000 before she dies at the age of 20 or 21; I buried her beneath the Royal Palm in the back yard.) Our youngest daughter was in her first year at FSU and our older daughter was with my wife up north, staying in an apartment while looking for a house.

So, all our stuff was gone with the movers and put into storage. I had the Volvo and a number of boxes of personal things plus my clothes and computer plus things necessary for the dog and the two older cats.

I had made last minute plans to go to Neptune Beach and stay with Bill, but that was only temporary. had made more concrete plans to rent the condo on Camp Street in New Orleans (where my wife had sent a year; where I had spent months on the last year) . . .

Anyway, as I noted, I'm not really ready to write about it. Though, I will say, the very day I left Fort Lauderdale--January 12th, 2012, I'm pretty sure--in a full car with three animals, by the time I was up to Daytona, my brother called and told me our mother was in the hospital (she never did go back home and died by August). And that's how the year went. By the time I hit Tallahassee to see my daughter, all the animals had fleas. I had to go to a vet there to get flea-killing pills.

But two things I remember that I will write about briefly here:

One: I stayed across the street at Billy's house after I moved out. For three days, I think. And my dog could not figure out why we slept there. She knew Billy and his house quite well, but one of the saddest things was when she crossed the street and went to the front door of our house that was no longer ours and scratched the door and looked at me as I stood watching her from across the street, and could not understand why she could not go home, why I could not open the door . . . That still bothers me and it was why I could not stay at Billy's longer than three or four days even though he wanted us to be there for as long as we cared to.

Two: Was the first night at Billy's, in his spare bedroom with a single bed, that night when it was time to sleep, the freaked-out cats, my freaked-out dog and my freaked-out self, all climbed into the bed and huddled together. There was little space but we didn't care, we welcomed the intimacy I guess; cats, dog, human. It was all we had--ourselves in that bed in that room and the bed and the room did not belong to us. So, indeed: all we had was ourselves.

Okay. I guess I ended up writing about the move to some degree. There's more. There's always more. It was not a crisis. It was not the death of my mother--which is also not a crisis, though it's more important, a deeper experience and also a certain sorrow certainly from my mother's perspective and not just my own.

My family moved out. I lost my house, my friends and neighbors, the climate and landscapes, the plants, I knew well. My kids lost their childhood home and childhood friends. I'm uncertain as to what my wife lost (though she almost lost me). I had moved around quite a bit as a kid, a lot as a young adult. I was happy having a home.

Fort Lauderdale was very much home.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parasols: New Orleans 2012

I was living alone at the condo on Camp Street. Well, I had two cats and the dog and was in New Orleans for a month while waiting to move north. My wife had lived at the condo for about a year--working--and we, as a family, had plans to move to the city but that all fell through and, well, I ended up back in New Orleans for one final fling before we settled once again.

Anyway. I was there with said cats and dog and my good friend Francis came down from Montreal to visit (and to help with the drive north).

One thing Francis and I did was we went to Parasols, in the Irish Channel.

I'd been wanting to go there for lunch so we walked over to the streetcar stop on St, Charles and Julia, took that anachronistic transport down to Washington--the Garden District--walked to Magazine and then further till we hit the place.

Parasols has a lunch area but we went straight into the bar. Ordered up beers and some po'boys.

And more beers.

There weren't too many people there: us at the bar, maybe one or two at a table, two girls also at the bar and the bartender who was named Mike.

Mike was a youngish, redheaded, freckled fellow.

Mike was drunk as hell.


He was entertaining the two youngish women seated at the bar but had no problem getting us our beers and taking our order, no problem serving us our order. But he was full on drunk. He kept bringing out strange liquors for the girls to try and for him to try himself--along with shots of more established liquor. And beer. He put on a disheveled straw hat--sombrero-ish--and some old mardi gras beads and he was just staggering behind the bar, yet still operating it, taking money, making change, pouring drinks. This was all before noon, you understand.

Not that it was so unusual--especially in New Orleans--to find someone drunk before noon. I guess it was a little odd and humorous to Francis and I because we were sober and were at Parasols and because Mike was the bartender, not the drunk who the bartender serves. Anyway, there was an air of anything-goes and conviviality with just the few of we customers and Mike there and I could see how the day would play out if we stayed . . .

(A side note: When I went to use the Mens Room, that's when I realized there was a whole other part of Parasols, a lunchroom with tables and waitress and the kitchen. And in the Mens Room there was graffiti, one of which was scrawled Mike fucks chickens, or some such. And I knew who Mike was!)

By now Mike and the two women were pulling us into their orbit. Music was playing, drinks were going round, the sun shown outside, doors and windows open to the humid daylight . . . I knew if Francis and I had one more drink, we'd be sucked in to an early drunk and get nowhere else except back to the condo by three or four or five and a hangover by dinner. We had plans to walk Magazine and he wanted to look for some stuff to buy because Francis is always looking for gifts (well, not always).

It would have been so easy to stay.

It would have been easy to be like Mike.

In many ways, I wanted to see what happened, as the drinks Mike continued to pour down his gullet hadn't really hit him yet. But . . . we had to get out of there.

And so we did. Had a nice buzz for the next hour or so. Took the streetcar back (or maybe the bus, from Napoleon and Magazine). No doubt we went out that night--went into the Quarter, to the Chart Room and Harry's Corner, Lafitte's Blacksmith--my, our, usual places--no doubt with my other good friend (named Mike) who lived and still lives in New Orleans. No doubt we--that night--were like Mike.

But I don't remember that night, not as clearly as I can recall Parasols, the first and only time I've been there.