It's not easy being a French Quarter ghost tour guide. I wouldn't go so far as to call it difficult either. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, actually. I've tried many times to do so on paper, to no avail. But I will say this, if you're a writer and you're not a ghost tour guide, you're a jackass of the highest form. Where do you think all the good stories come from? Being a banker? A hooker? Pssh. You have no idea. In my one year of ghost tour guiding alone I've experienced moments of absolute hilarity, tragedy and madness, and everything in between.
But we're not here for a big expo on what it's like to be a ghost tour guide, that may come later if this goes well, along with other crazy stories, right now I just want to sit you down and tell you a quick story about how I once found myself at the mercy of an injured and rather hysterical tourist. Enjoy!
My first day as a tour guide was on Halloween night. As you can imagine, that was a night of decadent insanity. The quarter was filled to the brim with demons and degenerates and all of them seemed to be looking for ghosts. Not a bad day to be a paranormal tour guide. I must have walked away that night with both my front pants pockets and back pants pockets stuffed with tips. I remember thinking at the time that this new profession of mine was going to be just fine for me and my bank account.
So imagine my surprise the day after the devil's night when I discovered that the quarter had pumped out all the degenerates and had become something of ghost town (no pun intended). I asked one of my supervisors where everyone had gone, and he told me that the end of October marks the beginning of the period that tour guides call the dead season (not sure if pun is intended). He put a hand on my shoulder and told me not to expect any tours for a while.
And he was right, of course. I didn't get any tours for weeks on end. Instead, I got a sign. A big, black sign with spooky white font that proclaimed to all that read it that there were ghosts in the quarter and if they wanted to find them they had to come to us. Since I was the new guy it was up to me to stand in the street and hold that sign while the more experienced tour guides were given the few groups of tourists that showed up.
This was a humbling time in my life. But I soon became even more humbled when the cops came up to us one day, lights ablazing, and took away my sign. You see, it turns out it's illegal to hold up a sign in the quarter. Guzzling gallons of bourbon on the street and then puking it back up into the gutter is perfectly legal, but you have to be one brazen criminal to try to pull some sign holding shit.
So now my one job had been shut down by the fuzz. Now what? Luckily, the owner came up with a brilliant legal loophole to get out of this little problem. He learned that while it's illegal to hold a sign in the quarter, it's not illegal for a sign to be standing on it's own. And so the next day I found that an umbrella stand had taken my job (actually, not only did it take over my job, but it was much better at the job than I ever was. It's hard to admit when you've been outmatched by an umbrella stand, but sometimes that's just how life goes...) But my boss told me not to worry, for while my days of sign-holding might be over, my days of sign-watching were just beginning.
"Just stand by the sign and make sure it doesn't fall down from the wind or some drunken tourist." He told me, before adding. "And remember, don't actually grab it unless you absolutely have to."
And so those are how my days went for awhile, coming to work and watching a sign until the end of the night, where I then had to drag the stand and the sign back to the company closet that was located right off the sidewalk, in between a voodoo shop and a tavern.
And now we come to where the trouble begins. For it was on one fatal night in early December, when it was cold and windy and I was ready to go home and it was the end of my shift, that I carried the sign and the stand down the sidewalk over to the closet. I was in a foul mood that day for reasons I can't recall, and my foulness soon took aim at the stand itself, which was rather heavy and cumbersome to carry. So when I reached the closet door I dropped the stand to the ground with an angry grunt and then fumbled in my pocket for the keys. Once I successfully opened the closet door, I walked in with the sign, leaving the stand right there on the sidewalk, hoping that maybe if I turned my back from it, the lousy job-stealer would disappear.
Instead, something bad happened.
It all started with the sound of a metallic thud. Followed by the sound of a loud, annoying cry. And then, three words shot out into the air that will likely haunt me for years to come.
"My leg! Oooh!"
I suppose that's more like two words and a moan, but in any case, it soon became the chant of the wounded that night.
"My leg! Oooh!"
If I had been smart, I would have slammed the closet door shut and barricaded myself inside, not leaving until all moaning had ceased. But instead, I hurried back out to the street to see what the fuss was all about. Not that I didn't know already, deep in my heart, but part of me was praying that something else, other than the obvious, had happened.
No such luck. For as I left the closet I found a rather large woman who appeared to be in her fifties, rolling on her ground holding her leg, and right next to her was the cursed umbrella stand.
"What on earth happened, Debra?!"
In an instant, two women of the same age but of slimmer build, encircled her. They appeared to be her friends.
"My leg! Ooh!"
"Yes, we get it, your leg! What happened?" One of the friends said in a tone that sounded far more annoyed than concerned. I found this to be odd, but I was far too panic-stricken to really do anything with this information.
For the sake of candor, I don't mind telling you that I wasn't quite in my right mind at this time. I had already been in a sour, tired mood before all this, and adding terror to the concoction did not help. Yes, I said terror. In that moment I was terrified. I mean good god, this seemed to be the end of everything. If this old bat complained to my company that one of their employees' actions had caused her harm... well, that was it, I was done for. And what if she sued? Dear God, what if she made a huge deal out of this and went after the company's money? Or my money? That'd be no good at all. I had very little of the stuff but what I had I very much needed.
"My leg! Ooh! It hurts!"
I tried to push the terror away and see things clearly. I looked at this injured woman on the ground and tried to assess the kind of person she was. When you deal with tourists all the time, you develop a skill for sizing them up just by appearance. So I looked at her to see if she was the kind of person not to let things go lightly, the type of person who demanded to see the manager even for the slightest of reasons?
I looked at her round red face that was scrunched up in what seemed to be a well-rehearsed expression of pain. I looked at her clothes and saw an outfit that seemed more suited for a church or a PTA meeting in the midwest than a night on Bourbon Street. And I listened to that moan of hers, that moan that suggested that she was in more pain than anyone in the entire world had ever faced before.
Dear God, I thought as I felt the cold hand of death grip my heart, this woman is the personification of a jesus fish. I was a dead man. Again my thoughts turned to barricading myself in the closet. That wouldn't be such a bad life. Sure it would be a bit cramped, but at least I could avoid the wrath of this large, miserable moaner.
"Look, can't you just try to get up, Debra? I'm sure it's not that bad. You just walked into something, how bad could it be?"
"It's bad! My leg is done for!" She looked at me as she said this. Before this, none of them had actually acknowledged my existence, I was just kind of standing there like a concerned turd. But now she had brought me in. I should have ran when I had the chance.
"We have five minutes it to make it to the bar. We don't have time for this, Debra. Just get up and let's go."
The moaner looked hurt by this, and again I could see that this friend group was not based on equality. Debra was clearly the lowest on the totem pole. At any other time I would have felt sorry for her, but at that moment I was two pom-poms short of cheerleading this decision to ignore this woman's pain.
"OK, fine, Marcy! You want me to try to get up! Fine, I'll try!"
And with that, the large moaner left the ground, with the help of her two friends, and tested out her injured limb. The three of us, her two friends and me, waited with absolute bated breath to see if this would lead to another bout of floor rolling and caterwauling. But instead, the moaner put some weight on her leg, then cautiously took a step with it, then another, and then another. And then, as if by some miracle of god, without even looking back or talking to her friends, she casually walked right down the street as if nothing had happened. Her friends scurried after her while I hightailed it in the other direction... before quickly returning so I could put that blasted stand back in the closet, but not before cursing that umbrella stand for being a coward, hurting an innocent woman for no reason at all. And then I left it there to think about what it had done while I grabbed a drink at the local tour guide watering hole, listening to war stories from the other guides while keeping my mouth shut about any moaners or their friends I might have come across that night...
And that's my story of a quiet night in the quarter.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Witness Me!: Tales and Ramblings From a Semi-Spontaneous and Wholly Irresponsible Road Trip - Part 1
I had been driving for four straight hours before I decided I needed a rest. There’s only so much Red Bull you can drink before you start to feel like you’re going crazy. The drive up until then had been relatively uneventful, the only surprises I had had were when I drove past a sign that read “Welcome to Mississippi” and then a few hours later I drove past another sign that read “Welcome to Alabama”. I had thought that the drive up to Nashville was a straight shot from Louisiana directly to Tennessee, that should give you an idea of the kind of planning that went into this trip.
But that was kind of the whole point of this trip. I just wanted to drive. I wanted to drive through beautiful country and go to places I hadn’t been before. This was not a trip about planning. It was a trip about doing. I wanted to do something. Something a little wild, a little crazy. So I took a month off of work from both my jobs and did just that. There was a great deal of trepidation doing this. After all, we all need to make money, right?
There was a movie I had in my head that kind of served as the theme of this trip. You can probably guess it by the title, the movie was Mad Max: Fury Road. Of course, there are some big differences between what I'm doing and what Max did in that movie. Like for instance, I'm not trying to save a bunch of sex slaves from a fascist dictator and his car gang of cronies. Well... maybe I am if we think of the sex slaves as a metaphor for my freedom and expiring youth and the fascist dictator as the system in place trying to grind me down to a nub and destroy my individuality. Oooh, I like that. Let's go with that.
In any case, I was grateful for the rest stop I came across somewhere in Northern Alabama. Not just because it gave me a chance to stretch my limbs and click my joints, but also because it was just so beautiful. Seriously. It may have been one of the most attractive rest stops I’ve ever seen. It had this huge lawn of thick luscious grass that was obviously well kept. And in this grass there were these giant pinewood trees peppered throughout. It all looked so nice that even though I still had another four hours at least of driving ahead of me, I decided I would get out my notebook, take a seat at one of the idyllic picnic tables, and write a page or two. A writer's got to write when he feels inspired. That's rule one right there.
I didn’t want to be around anyone, it’s no fun to write when you can be bothered by other people’s conversations, so when I saw the family at the table nearest to me I walked past them, headed towards a picnic table at the far end of the lawn, which was wholly vacant. But then that nearby table with the family called out to me, and everything suddenly changed.
“Hey Mr. Randy!”
There is only one type of person that calls me Mr. Randy. My students. As a part time gig I teach a class for acting and improv to first and second graders. Now, one of those first or second graders was waving and smiling at me in the middle of nowhere Alabama. It was a surreal moment to say the least.
For a few seconds, I tried to do the math on the odds of me bumping into someone I know here at this rest stop 350 miles away from town, but then my head started to hurt so I decided to just enjoy the moment instead.
My student was with her parents. They were smiling too. We were all smiling. It was just so crazy. It must have taken a full minute or two of goofy smiling and repeating the expression “How crazy is this?” before we actually began a real conversation.
In this conversation they told me that they were off on a family road trip to see an aunt… or an uncle, I really can’t remember. In this conversation I told them that my gig as a camp blogger had just ended so I decided to just spend the entire month of August traveling, so that’s why I just got in my car and started driving. I also told them that to do this I had to call off work from my other job, as a tour guide. I also told them about my other job as a improv teacher. I told them I’m doing these random jobs to pay the bills until my writing starts to pay. I rambled about all of this for some time. And when I stopped they smiled and nodded their heads.
I think they wondered why I didn’t have a family or a real job, but I can’t be sure, I tend to project these kind of things on certain types of people. You know, people who have the whole family and security thing going on. I just assume they think I'm a piece of shit for not having any of this. It's safer to think this way.
In any case, my student was thrilled to see me, so that was nice.
Back on the road, I focused on getting to my destination. Nashville. Nashville was going to be wild. Not necessarily because of the town itself, which I knew little about other than that it was a big town for country music, but because the person I would be staying with, Reilly, was a person I had a long history with. He's certainly a friend, in fact it's passed that at this point, he's practically a brother. But he's also a madman, just like me. And when madmen get together after years apart, who knows what's gonna happen.
As the sun began to set, I put on the song "Spikey Cars" on my Ipod. It's a song from the Mad Max Soundtrack. You know the parts of the movie where the action and insanity is just peaking and there's that song that just takes it to the new level? That's "Spikey Cars". I highly recommend giving it a listen if haven't. Especially if you're driving down a long highway to an unfamiliar city where guaranteed madness awaits you. It really completes the moment.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
When I was in 3rd grade, my family moved up into the mountains. Like the way, way, way high up mountains. it was rather insane time in my life for a million reasons. I wrote a piece about it that I am very proud of and hope you check it. Also, planning on writing a lot more in here, with much more frequency, so I hope in a few weeks you come back and check up with greater frequency as well!
The Flat Part of Black Road
The Flat Part of Black Road
Friday, March 13, 2015
So I got this piece about my Mardi Gras experience published. I'm proud of it, I think it's funny. I hope you do too. Check out it in the link below. I would write more funny things write now but I'm in the middle of doing a bunch of stuff I don't wanna do. So while, I'm doing that, you guys should... well click on the link obviously. I don't know what you should do after that. This world is filled with so many options...
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
There are three things you will need to know in order to fully appreciate this story. One, when I was a child I was accused of shoplifting when I was, in fact, innocent, and I was too scared to speak up for myself at the time, and that memory of failed action has haunted me ever since. Two, I have an unusual bladder, one where once I even have one beer in me, shrinks like the Grinch’s heart the day after Christmas. And three, at the time that this story takes place, I had been in the middle of a considerable dry spell, romantically speaking.
OK, so just to recap: dry spell, false accusations during childhood, and small bladder. We good? You got it? OK, great, then let’s get this puppy rolling then.
The story starts with the middle item on the list rearing it’s ugly head. I had to pee. This wasn’t such a big deal, except I had a lady with me. We were in the car together, I was driving her home after our date. The date had gone reasonably well, in my estimation, and now the plan was for me to take her home, walk her to her door, and kiss her. It was a bold plan, but then again, I’m a bold man. Always have been.
Anyway, the only thing standing between me and this plan was my bladder. Like I said, it was causing me a great deal of discomfort. Would this discomfort affect my kissing performance? That certainly seemed like a possibility. After all, shouldn’t the passion of the kiss outweigh all other passions at the moment? I felt it should. And yet, I could not honestly imagine a scenario where anything could outweigh the passion I currently had to relieve the pressure of gravity on my bladder until this problem was taken care of. What a fool I had been for ordering that second beer! Clearly, my hubris had gotten the better of me in the moment.
I turned into the gas station nonchalantly, hoping that my date would keep on talking without noticing what I had done.
“Oh, do you need gas?”
Damn, she noticed. That left me with two options. One, I could lie to her, telling her I do need gas when, in fact, I don’t. Or two, tell her the truth, that despite my two visits to the men’s room at the venue, nature was still calling me like a crazed ex-girlfriend who won’t accept that it’s over. While I’m not one who normally believes that deceit is the optimal route when getting to know someone, I also wasn’t willing to admit that internally I had the workings of a seventy year old man.
“Yes, I need gas.” I said. Then I hopped out of the car before she could ask any more questions.
I headed to the gas station store in a brisk but collective manner. It wasn’t a slow walk by any means, but it also didn’t scream to anyone watching Hey! I need to pee, get out of my way! (Remember fellas: It’s important to be smooth on a date at all times, you never know if she’s watching.)
Once I was inside the store, though, I became an entirely different beast altogether. I shed my cool casual walk, and replaced it with my patented get-the-hell-out-of-my-way-before-I-shower-you-with-my-shame-juice stagger. I lurched to the far corner of the store, figuring that would be the most likely place for the restroom to be. I cursed when I realized my assumption was wrong, and looked high and low for any sign for the restroom. I found one in the other corner, and blazed a trail to the promise land.
Now, it’s in the bathroom when this story goes from your run of the mill bladder-needs-disrupt-romantic-desire story, to something far more nefarious. For it’s in the bathroom, while I was using the urinal, when an old, middle-eastern man who appeared to be an employee of the gas station, walked into the bathroom and washed his hands. He didn’t go to the bathroom himself, you understand, he just washed his hands in the sink. This wouldn’t be all that weird, except for one thing. The whole time he washed his hands he was staring at me. And it was not a kind stare either, it was a mean, angry stare. Instinctively, I returned his stare with a mean stare of my own, and before I could even realize how weird this random angry stare-off with a stranger in the bathroom was, he disappeared back out to the store. Obviously, I was perplexed, but I also knew that there was a female in my car who needed a good kissing in the near future. And now that I had discarded my discomfort, I had to focus on that task, no matter how many odd, old men angrily scowl at me while I relieve myself.
So I left the restroom and made my way to the main door of the store. That was when I heard a voice from behind me.
“What did you take??”
I turned around only to find the old man scowling at me once again.
“What?’ I asked in a genuinely confused tone.
“I know you took something,” He barked. “You come in here, you go to one corner of the store, then the bathroom, you are up to something!”
Now I saw what’s going on here. I was being accused of shoplifting. You remember the number first thing on the list, right? That’s important right now, because that incident and the baggage that came with it, came roaring out at me at that very moment.
“Excuse me?! Are you accusing me of stealing! You think I stole something! How dare you! Well go ahead then! Check my pockets! I dare you! Put your hands in my pocket and check! I didn’t steal shit!”
At this point, the other clerks working in the store could tell by the earnest anger in my voice that their coworker had made a mistake, and so they politely told me just to go, that they were sorry this happened. The old man himself even put up an almost apologetic hand and I saw the anger fall from his eyes. I had won the moment. My childhood injustice had been righted.
I could have just walked out of the door right then, enjoying my small victory. But, you see, I have never been a clever man, and that becomes especially clear now. For I decided that the best thing to do was let loose a “Yeah, that’s right mother fucker.”
Now, let’s just take the time to make things clear. I’m in no way the kind of guy who goes around telling people “yeah, that’s right motherfucker”, unless I’m joking around with a friend. I’ve never said it seriously. I know there are some people, tough people, who do, but that’s not me. But in that moment, I realized it could be me. I could be the guy who underlines his righteous victory with a vulgar, masculine send-off.
I could be that guy!
So I became that guy.
And it felt good being that guy…for a quick second, and then the old guy heard what I said and things got dark. Real dark.
Now, I’m not sure if the term motherfucker means something different in the country that this person was from, or if he generally just takes exception to someone insinuating that he fucks his own mother, but whatever the case, his eyes went back to angry in a flash. Actually, that’s not true, they didn’t go back up to angry, they jumped that level altogether into something I could only call murderous. This guy’s eyes wanted to murder me, and the rest of him didn’t seem too against the idea either.
“Hey!!!” Was all he said. Or at least, it’s all I heard him say before I hightailed it out of the store.
I collected myself when I was near the car. I calmly and collectively hopped back in the car and drove off in a casual, yet masculine manner, hoping by doing so my date wouldn’t ask any questions.
“Didn’t you want to get gas?” She asked, confused.
“Uh, yeah, but they were all out.” I said, not thinking about what I was saying. There was a long pause after this, and I looked over at her and knew she wasn’t buying that for a second. And so, realizing that there was really only one thing to do at this point, I told her the truth. All of it. And, because I’m one lucky son of a bitch, she loved the story. She laughed, and I laughed, and then we both laughed some more. A terrifying moment turned into an awesome one.
And then a few minutes later, in front of her door, I kissed her. I kissed her good.
Yeah, that’s right mother fucker!!