A Tragicomical, Unsophisticated Blog about the Weird, the Absurd, and the Banal

Thursday, October 27, 2011


To get anywhere in New Orleans you have to make an absurd number of U-turns. A few days ago, I thought this might Mean something and so I tell everyone, "You know, you have to make a lot of U-turns here." Most people agree with me, but few speculate.

There's not enough time to figure this out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Season Shift

Two days ago, the weather broke. That afternoon was hot and humid and a sudden downpour caused the temperature to plummet 30 degrees and there it's stayed ever since. This is a bit ironic since I was thinking the other day how it did not feel at all like fall. I was losing days, weeks, a season because I wasn't cold. New Orleans decided to oblige.

I think that this city functions on serendipity. The other day I tried biking from the Center Business District to the Marigny so I could settle down in a little coffee shop to write application essays. Everything was going well until I hit the bent elbow of St. Claude and became hopelessly lost for an hour. With these labyrinthine one-way streets, you can circle around your destination for hours and never find it. What's worse is that everything now is familiar to me, the landmarks and street names, but I cannot understand how they fit together. It's like a puzzle that makes a picture but the pieces are cut wrong. When I was on the verge of giving up I just happened to glance over my shoulder and see the sign I was looking for, "Who Dat Cafe."

Everyone is stuck in a malaise. My roommates, my coworkers, my friends are all suffering from a bad cold that's lasted weeks. It's as if the weather crawled under everyone's skin before finding its way into the wind.

The other day I went to another coffee shop on Magazine with my roommates, L and J. We drove down the interstate and I said, "Someone last night said that the interstate looks like a matchbox set. I think it looks more like waterslides."

"I can see that," L said.

"All New Orleans is a toy."

L looked out across the lights of the Central Business District and the illuminated crown of the Superdome. "You know, New Orleans does look beautiful at night."

I laughed. "That's like a party insult. New Orleans, you're beautiful in the dark."

"Sam, you should write that down," J said.

After we parked we walked through a residential area that looked very Midwestern. There were Halloween decorations everywhere. I forgot Halloween is coming.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Like Kafka, Man

About a month before I came back to America from my year abroad in Germany I the most Kafkaesque mugging I've ever heard of. It was about three in the morning and the evening should have been winding down, but the streets of Freiburg were unusually crowded because of a techno festival. I was feeling ambitious because I was wearing a suit jacket and my Venetian hat. M joined me outside the bar where our friends had taken up residence for the remainder of the evening and, in the spirit of things, I invited him to a friendly fight.

To anyone else, it probably looked like a real fight, but we were having a good time. Once upon a time it would have been considered noble. If only we could have had sabres, then there would have been a very traditional duel in the street over whose honor neither of us could have said.

Two large men, on the other hand, took it the wrong way. They shoved Max and I apart and cornered us.

"Why are you fighting?" said one. We'll call him A.

"Why are you fighting?" said the other. We'll call him B.

"We're just messing around," M said.

"Yeah, come on. He's my friend. Let's have a drink," I said, gesturing to the nearest bar.

"Why were you fighting?" said A.

"He asked you why you were fighting," B insisted, turning on me.

"He's my friend..." I said slowly.

"And you fight your friends?" A said.

"Occasionally," I said.

"Is that the way to treat a friend?" B asked and looked at A for help.

"That's no way to treat a friend," A replied, sagely.

"I thought not."

"Uh, guys...?" M said.

Their attention turned away from me for a moment and the three spoke in rapid German. M looked worried. Briefly, we managed to stand side by side and he muttered, "We should go, now."

It was about that moment when I noticed that A and B were both wearing navy blue, three-piece business suits. They looked like they had walked out of a conference. Their cufflinks shone like stars and they both wore scarlet neckties.

A snatched my hat away and put it on his head. It had a comical effect since his head was much larger than mine, but he still looked very proud of himself.

"Do I look good in the hat?" A asked.

"You look very good in the hat," B said.

A struck a Humphrey Bogart pose.

"Uh, can I have my hat back?" I asked.

"I like the hat," A said and turned away. He contemplated the crowd and the world, like a movie star.

"He says he likes the hat," B explained.

I was beginning to suspect that A and B were, in fact the same person. One ego complimenting the other. After M tried in vane to snatch the hat back we began to settle on terms.

"Two euros," said B, finally taking initiative.

"Fine," I said.

He looked at me for a moment, startled. I had spoken out of script. "Five euros," he said.

"You said two."

"I said five."






A turned around, gave me a pitying look and slapped me across the face. Obviously I had missed the point.

"What did I say?" I asked.

"You can't bid down," he said.

"Why not?"

"You're supposed to lose," A said.

"You're supposed to lose," B assured me.

I handed over five euros in coins and they counted them carefully. A handed my hat back and said, "It was a pleasure doing business with you." Then he and B disappeared into the crowd.

"Did that just happen?" I asked.

About a week later, still shaken, I related this story to my friend, S. We were sitting at a cafe and when I said, "He said, 'I like the hat,' and the other says, 'He says he likes the hat.'" S started laughing uncontrollably.

When S finally composed himself, he said, "It's just so ridiculous Like Kafka, man."

I agreed and laughed. We sat around for hours nursing the cheapest cups of coffee available. I budgeted enough to leave a tip.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


There's a scar on my head from where my sister hit me with a rock. When I was three and she was five we were camping and she decided that she wanted to throw a rock just as I was running in front of her. I've never seen this scar, but people Tell me it's there.

Two years ago I got "remember" tattooed to my left wrist and the first "r" healed into a tiny, raised scar like braille. I can read "r" by touch.

A few months ago, Reflex made me catch a broken pint glass. If I open my hand wide I can see a thin white line, like a Smile. It arcs upward to the first joint of my thumb where I can still see a raised scar from when my sister closed the metal joint of a reclining chair on it. That's the first time I can remember Bleeding.

In a creative writing class I sat between two women and we were on friendly terms. They were good writers. It wasn't until spring warmed up and both started wearing t-shirts that I saw the woman on my right had scars all along her left wrist "the right way." The woman on my left had raised, horizontal scars all up and down each arm.

After that day in class I went and met K at Aspekt Cafe. I told her about creative writing. She nodded and said, "Sometimes those last your whole life."

Today C drove me to deliver a grant to the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. The text was well over a hundred pages long and I spent 10AM to 11AM  meticulously putting together all three copies from about twenty individual documents. My heart raced so badly I was afraid someone might hear. After we delivered the grant we drove back over the industrial canal, left Orleans and entered St. Bernard.  C indicated a scar on her right hand that she got in Haiti.

"I hope it doesn't fade," she said. "I'm proud of my scars."

"I have one on the back of my head," I said.

"How'd you get that?" she asked.

"My sister tried to kill me."


"It's a joke. We were camping and she threw a rock and it hit my head. I nearly died that trip. Not from the rock, but from drowning." I said, "I've nearly drowned a lot and that's probably why I don't like to swim."