Jacked Up On Jo And No Place To Go
A soy latte, my second for the day, this one for supper on the drive across the Causeway–and straight to Union Station in New Orleans–the place from which Ignatius launched himself on a ScenicCruiser across the dark and dangerous beyonds outside New Orleans, over primordial swamps, to The Medieval Department at LSU. It’s hard to imagine universities even having such departments these days–even the Classics departments have been given cement shoes for the last couple of decades. The station today looks much as it would have in the 1950s.
An Oprah Winfrey period piece production added a mote of verisimilitude to my photo excursion. Cars from the period Ignatius roamed the city were parked in the old turnaround, waiting for shooting to begin.
Inside the terminal, which was built as a hub for bus and train traffic, I looked for the “coloreds only” signs for the restrooms that were still visible when i first saw the station about 1989. I found a man who’d worked there for 32 years. He told me there were never racially separated restroom facilities, and that the Oprah crew were re-creating separated drinking fountains. I remember restrooms marked for “colored” chiseled into the concrete of the place, but our memories play tricks on us.
The Union Terminal is a grand old place, with huge black marble slabs, and while the streets around the place is undergoing renovations, the building is much the same as it was when I first saw it, and still much of it is as Ignatius would have seen it when he began his treacherous 60 mile journey to Baton Rouge. When I first drove over the swamps, I was afraid, too. It never seemed that structures, such as pylons supporting causeways poked into the swamp would be overtaken by nature, perhaps before I reached dry land, and cooked into the general slew.
More on my evening of shooting–even the things I dread the most: Bourbon Street, and the other Quarter locations mentioned in Toole’s book–tomorrow. Monday I plan to go to the Tilton Library to look at the Toole collection. I am mostly interested in the photographs because the focus of my ruminations is the culture of the 1950s and 1960s, not Toole. Tomorrow, a cogitation on the representation of Ignatius under the Holmes clock. Here, thanks to Oprah, are some cars to put you in the mood.
My day ended at Morning Call, where I had the de rigeur chicory cafe au lait, and, heaven forefend–beignets–in Metairie before getting on the Causeway to drive back to Covington. They don’t even serve anything else there. And coffee means cafe au lait. You can put sugar in it at the table, but if you order it black, thinking it’s like the restaurant coffee you get in the midwest, you can’t be prepared for the tar-colored and consistency chicory/coffee blend they will, with warning, bring to the table.
The faces of the employees and customers haven’t changed in this place since I started going there on Saturdays at midnight in 1990 to get a Sunday Times Picayune, a cafe au lait and greasy paper bag of beignets to eat at home while looking through the paper. One cup at midnight didn’t keep me awake, and while I waited for them to prepare it, I watched the old ladies and gents come in after an evening at the Jefferson Ballroom. They’d be wearing something like old people’s versions of prom outfits, ladies in full skirts blooming out from the waist, and gents in oddly colored and tailored dress jackets. They’d primly dust the powdered sugar from their finery, unwilling to give up the custom of coffee and beignets at midnight after the dance, however sugary and sticky it might make their later good night kisses.
Tomorrow, Ignatius’s Paws, or perhaps more on the Morning Call, which is really, to me, the Midnight Siren. And then, fat people abound. Ramblings on those might appear anytime.