Thursday, October 12, 2006

James Brown, Nola-Style

James Brown has put on some weight and seems to be limping less when I see him on St. Charles this week, as opposed to earlier travels.

"Is it wrong to love a woman?" he asks me, impassioned, on what turns out to be my last night at the St. Charles Tavern.

"Depends on the woman," I say, setting his usual coffee and water, which he tips 100-200% for, down beside his little boom box.

I remember hearing, but not really seeing, James Brown prior to last August; a tall, kind of hunched, long-limbed black man hobbling up and down Camp St. blaring 50's love songs or more modern, pre-Bad MJ, small though sturdy cassette player held aloft on shoulder.

Kathleen, who lived across the street before being kicked out to accommodate her now-former landlord's family last fall, tells me he is the paramour of the cat lady four doors down and, at the time, she had thrown him out.

I forget this during our first actual conversation, partly because I'm keeping an eye out on all sides in the snakepit, partly because whatever his mental and physical disabilities, James Brown, self-proclaimed, is a charismatic speaker.

"Don't ask me," I sigh in answer to another rhetorical question, glimpsing the hot 'n cold bartender over my shoulder. "A lot of our regulars can be kind of crazy."

"I talk to you because you're not crazy," he tells me, long arms flying up, fingers flaring out.

He leaves soon after, disappearing as he does, amid the Friday evening rush of the rare well-adjusted customer, like the bespectacled, pert lady who plays her poker and drinks her two white wines, the drunks, the 50- to 60-year-old filthy-fingernailed geniuses, self-proclaimed, who expect fawning and are disappointed during my shifts, the screamers, the braver friends that appreciate my heavy hand.

One day, several months later, I look out my desk-side window, talking to again hot bartender on my cell while not working, and see James Brown standing there on Camp St., sans boom box, carrying on a conversation with someone the rest of us don't see, the shadows

bounding off and around him, never


Blogger Brony said...

WOW. I really enjoy your writing style.

12:52 PM  

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