Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

Etienne’s Etouffe

November 29, 2011

“It comes with a heavy heart and my hat in hand that I must unequivocally declare that I will need to abrogate and hereby retract the covenant previous agreed upon by all parties. I am savvy to the verifiable fact that the brick and mortar which have most likely been derived during the reign of Napoleon are in need of a formidable amount of preservation but at this time it behooves me to choose the plumbing over the mortar as it is eminently more important and hygienic to dispose of waste in the most proper of ways possible… Please accept this mea culpa and know that within a reasonable amount of time, all deficiencies will be addressed. As you know my father and I are on the very brink of pauperism due to his severe maladies that appear to have the upper hand at this point. You being a fair-minded woman should be able to comprehend our quandary. Getting blood from a stone will not be possible.”
Rachel played the message for Steve as they sat outside eating a beignet at Café du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Rachel immediately got on the phone and called her Uncle Chaim who had been contracted to come down from Brooklyn, New York with his crew of day laborers and change the dilapidated storefront into classy restaurant called Etienne’s Etouffe. Steve learned cooking as a trade while serving time in the Wayne County Prison in Detroit, Michigan. Steve was unemployed and took to small time stickups in and around Detroit. While in prison, an old black man from the Deep South in Louisiana took Steve under his wing. Steve liked Sir Leopold’s manner of speaking and ability to cook tasty stuff that hardly anyone had ever heard of in Detroit. Sir Leopold claimed to a descendant of a man by the name of Cadillac.
“Dee people of Day-twah want to drive dem a Cadillac. I am hare to tell you mon vieux, that Sir Leopold right chair before your eyes eeze a di-rect descendant of a man by the name of Antoine Laument de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac. The city and the car have my great grandpere ten times back to thank for the name of the city and auto. You must know dat dere dat at a young age, pussy will make you do things you should not do. Dare I was, a man from deep down whare eet would take a journey jus to git you to Nawlins. Dem Cajuns knowd dat I was a true Cajun from Acadie, Acadia from my great grandpere and dat when eet was time to eat, they come to see Sir Leopold. Leopold ain’t gone live for all days and I must pass on dem secrets to one who gone carry on dem technique of making true food de Louisianne. First you gotchu a great nom en Francais. Dem name Steven est Etienne in the French. Use Etienne, learn dem ways of Sir Leopold and go to vieux carre and open up a restaurant. People gone to flock to eat down home food wid out making dem pauvre for wanting dem food.”
So it was that Steven became Etienne and masterfully learned how to cook deep down Cajun cuisine from a relative of a French explorer who might have been one of the original Cajuns and gave his namesake to a luxury automobile and named the city of Detroit what it is still called to this day.
Rachel met Steven who was a Barista at a Starbucks near Wayne State University in Detroit. Rachel was a defector from an orthodox Jewish family who decided that she was going to live like everyone else lived and fuck Christian boys if she wanted to and she did want to. Rachel tasted Steven’s concoctions and decided that they needed to relocate from Detroit to the French Quarter where mostly northern tourists could come in and get a good meal at a reasonable price and believe that they were getting the food from authentic Cajuns. Rachel had family from Montreal that spoke French and so she learned during her extended summer visits how to speak enough French for common, English only speakers to believe that she was the real deal.
Rachel and Etienne had found a great little place on Dauphine Street that was owned by an elderly former Lawyer and his son who was a substitute English teacher in the New Orleans School District. The elder Clement Dupuis was supposedly dying of cancer for over ten years but never really saw a physician for his maladies. The elder Dupuis declared that he had bone cancer when all he really had was gout. The gout was both hereditary but fueled by heavy drinking of Bourbon and eating shrimp. Elder Dupuis’ red, throbbing big toes caused him to hobble when he did attempt to walk. The younger Dupuis wore a droopy moustache and tried to speak in ways that he felt would impress people with a limited vocabulary. More than anything, it was pretentious and annoying.
After Rachel let Etienne hear the message from the younger Dupuis, she called her Uncle Chaim to relay the news that the Dupuis were trying to renege on the contract to fix the broken bricks on the building that was initially constructed in 1800, three years before the Louisiana Purchase. Uncle Chaim was a nervous little man with a potbelly that claimed to be tied to elite Israeli intelligence and was wary of everyone and anyone who did not see the world in the exact same way he did. Uncle Chaim got on the phone and called the younger Dupuis to explain to him that if he wanted to void the contract, he would have difficulties.
“The problem with the fucking south is that they are always about thirty years behind the fucking times. I know you people don’t consider yourselves like the rest of the south because you watch people fuck in bars and listen to Jazz on Bourbon Street. Well I’m here to tell you that all you fucks could have never won the Civil War cause you’re so fucking stupid. You think you can just call my niece and tell her that your old man is deathly ill and you ain’t got any money and so the deal is off, right? Wrong! The fucking Mossad will come down to New Orleans and take you and your lame father and drop you off on the streets of Baghdad with a sign around your fucking necks that reads, “Infidels” in fucking Arabic. You have no idea who are fucking with. At a minimum, I will send your fucking asses to work at Mc Donald’s to pay me my money… Is this getting into your backwoods, livestock fucking head? I do the work or you will regret ever fucking with me, got it?”
The younger Dupuis paraphrased all that Uncle Chaim threatened to a group of building inspectors that were still sifting through condemned homes from Hurricane Katrina some five years later. A large man by the name of Marcel, who had sideburns and a nearly third trimester gut on him, listened to the younger Dupuis. Marcel believed with all of his being that Jews killed Christ. What Marcel never stopped to think about was the fact that Jesus was Jewish. Marcel spit tobacco into a cup and shook his head in anger as the younger Dupuis shared the conversation with the men he knew as friends and fellow card players.
“He said what?! Sommabitch Jewboy got some goddamn nerve comin down here thinking he gone run things. Put his ass on the phone. Sommabitch ruined my suppah. I ain’t even the appetite no mo to eat now dat I’m so hoppin mad.”
Marcel leaned forward in his seat and spit once in his cup before asking Chaim Saul if he was the person he was speaking to on the phone. Chaim acknowledged that he was indeed that person.
“Son, imma tell you now, man to man dat if that money ain’t re-turned in the manner in which you received it, we gone send our own people up north to bring yo fat ass down hare an feed you to dem gators. You thank I’m jus talking, test me, boy. In this day of GPS, you cain’t hide. Let me break it down for you- money tomorrow, no money, kidnap yo fat ass, gator buffet, comprenez vous?”
Within twenty-four hours, the FBI was interviewing all parties on what was agreed upon and discussed, what was threatened and promised. The city building inspectors were worried about things like pensions and jobs in a town that had extraordinarily high unemployment. Marcel thought that maybe an apology and a handshake could begin to sort out the misunderstanding. It took an inordinate amount of ass kissing to keep Chaim from pressing the issue legally. How was it that the contract was honored and Chaim wound up making twenty percent more than initially agreed upon?
“Listen to me, Eliot… Send me two fucking guys who look the part and I can get them some bogus ID… I know the job I took is only worth $20,000.00 but now it is a matter of principle. I can’t let these backward fucks back me into a corner. You send me the guys. I fly them in an out of New Orleans in a day to put the fear of Jesus into them and then this is done… Come on, you owe me.”
And so they lived happily ever after…

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Gypsy Voodoo Queen Martini Maker

October 21, 2009

It all at once hit Glad. Her husband had been having an affair with a woman the same age as their children and their son was in trouble once again with the law. Glad began to cry as she stood in front of the prison. She felt so helpless and alone. Glad wondered what it was that she could have done in her life to deserve what was happening to her.
Standing outside his cab, within a few feet of Glad was Horatio. Horatio was an average European looking man with a strong five o’clock shadow. He had been talking to his cousin who had just opened up a martini bar on Halsted Street on the south side of Chicago. His cousin reasoned that since so much of the south side was being bought up by developers, it was just a matter of time before young urban professionals would troll the neighborhood, looking for a place to wet their whistles. His cousin went by the name of Toula. It was really something too hard to pronounce in Hungarian and so she went by Toula and told people that she was Greek. When Greeks spoke Greek to Toula, she could speak Greek. Toula once had a husband that was Greek and he spoke Greek to her. Hungarians would have known she was a Gypsy if she spoke Hungarian to them. Instead she claimed that she was Greek and cut down on discrimination.
Horatio hung up his phone and approached Glad who was sobbing heavy. Horatio suspected she was robbed or assaulted in some way and genuinely wanted to help.
“Lady… You okay, lady? Why you crying, lady? Somebody try to take your money, lady… Come on, why you crying?”
Horatio, rubbed Glad’s bare arm. Ordinarily Glad would have been taken back by such a thing by a stranger, but she was actually comforted by the stranger whom she did not fear. She explained what was going on to Horatio. Horatio offered to help her occupy time for the next half day.
“I gotta place you can visit, lady… It’s a really nice place. It’s run by my cousin Toula… We’re Greek, lady? You Greek?”
“No, I would say I’m mostly Irish with a little English and German…”
“No wonder you cry… You all mixed up, lady. I cry too if I not know if I German or English… During the war, you would know which side yourself gone try to kill the other half…”
With that Glad smiled and laughed a bit. Horatio gave her a napkin from Dunkin Donuts from his glove compartment and herded her into the cab. Horatio had a CD of Frank Sinatra playing in his cab.
“You like Frank? I like Frank a lot. When I live in Europe, I like Frank. He the reason I move here. I say to myself one day… I gonna go to Chicago just like in that song Frank sing about… Don’t worry bout nothing, lady. I gone take you to Toula. You gone stop and talk to Toula. Toula gone help you feel better and you gone look at the world like it a sunny day… It a nice day to be alive, lady… You gone see.”
Horatio called Toula and they spoke in a Gypsy dialect of Romanian as Horatio drove towards her martini bar that had been open less than two months. The martini bar was only a few blocks away from US Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. At the ball park, the players were getting ready for the game against the Chicago Cubs. The White Sox won the night before and were poised to repeat during the afternoon game.
Toula was readying herself for overflow of patrons from the well established drinking holes of White Sox fans. Toula believed that blue collar baseball fans, would like something different. She was right. Many people in the area liked the idea of a bar where martinis were served. Toula served beer but it was beer from Greece. Many were reluctant to try the beer because they could not read the label. It looked too foreign to them.
Horatio told toula in their Romanian dialect, that he had a really nice woman who
was all alone in Chicago and that she needed a place to help her feel better while she waited for her son to be released from jail. Horatio explained about the accident that her husband was in and the discovery of an affair too. Horatio believed that Toula could help. Toula had the ability to make people forget whatever was on their mind for a while as they watched and listened to her speak and gesture. Toula appeared to dance as she walked and she spoke poetically and cryptically.
“What do you believe, my beautiful friend?”
“Do you mean faith? I was raised Catholic…”
“You were raised Catholic… That means that someone had imposed their faith upon you at an early age and you have yet to decide for yourself, what it is you believe…People who know me call me Queen Toula.”
Toula had lived in New Orleans for ten years and while there, she became interested in a Voodoo museum in the French Quarter. Toula herself lived on Dumaine, down the street from the museum. Toula became very involved in Voodoo and believed with all her being in it’s powers.
Toula cut a lemon peel from a lemon as she spoke to Glad. Glad sat on a bar stool at the bar. Nobody had come in as of yet, it was still morning. Toula proceeded to make two martinis for Glad. One was made of apple and the other pear. Toula explained that she was a bonified Voodoo priestess. Glad was sceptical. Toula knew that Glad lived a pretty straight forward life and that Voodoo sounded make believe.
Toula locked the front door and took Glad to a room in the back that had statues, beads and candles burning. It was called a gris-gris room. Behind that was a former closet that was turned into an alter room. Around the alter were notes, locks of hair, trinkets, photographs. Glad was impressed.
“Give me something that represents you…”
Glad took out a photograph of herself that she thought made her look very attractive. She kept it with her for days when she felt ugly. Glad would take it out and look at the photograph and feel better about what she looked like. Toula began to blink and held the photo close to her cleavage. Rhythmic music played in the back ground. It seemed African. A lot of drums and a tamborine and some call and response in a foreign language. Toula began to dance in a circle. Her summer dress clung to her as she got sweaty. Toula had the body of a teenager. She was wiry strong and very fit looking. The trance like dance went on for several minutes. Glad kneeled in the corner and watched. The music sped to a frenzy and then it stopped. Toula dropped to the ground in a pool of her own sweat. Glad thought that she had collapsed and came to her aid. Toula looked up with piercing eyes and grabbed Glad by the chin so that she would carefully hear all that she was about to say.
“You have to believe me without doubt… Do you understand? You have been racked with self doubt your whole life. You have gone day to day feeling as though you were never good enough. You have let others walk on you and you have wallowed in your self pity… You are going to change all that beginning today. It starts now…”
Glad took a drink of the martini that was mixed to perfection. It was an apple martini that was tart yet sweet. She guzzled the martini down and then took a sip of the pear martini. Glad had always hated the texture of pears. It made her skin break out into goose bumps whenever she bit into a pear. Apples never had that effect on her but pears did. Glad took a sip and broke out into goose bumps. She told Toula that she could not drink it. Toula with a stern face and intense eyes, pushed the drink back into her hand.
“You must drink it… It is part of the gris-gris… Do you want this to work? Do you want to believe that change is possible? Then drink it…”
Glad wolfed it down and felt nothing more than buzzed. All that Glad had to eat were a bag of cookies that she bought at the airport in Detroit. That had been hours ago. The drinks hit her immediately. Toula left Glad in the room to reflect on what would be different from that point on. Toula went back to conjure up two more martinis. One apple the other pear.

Glad sat on a bar stool and ate peanuts out of a bag and sipped martinis. She had
one pear and one apple. At noon time, Glad was on her sixth martini. There was a band of young black men, playing jazz fused funk for the patrons that were downing a few drinks prior to going to see the White Sox take on the Cubs at US Cellular Field. Nobody spoke with Glad and Toula was racing around making sure that everyone had drinks with her two man staff. It was their busiest day. Toula would be able to pay the rent with just that one day. Within an hour, the people filed out and the band sat at the bar to have a drink. The band was taking a break until after the game. One of the men in the band was a man named Anthony. Anthony was a tall black man of nearly fifty years of age. He had the body and energy of a man half his age. He wore bib overalls with a tank top t shirt underneath. He wore a White Sox hat and laughed heartily at everything said. He sat besides Glad and stuck up a conversation.
“Motown… Oh yes, oh yes. Spent mucho time in D town. Matter fact I lived just round the corner from Tigers Stadium in Corktown. Shit… It was dangerous foh a brotha in that hood. I member once driving my 1968 Chevy Impala down Michigan Avenue round bout there and some young brothers threw a brick through my passenger window. I’m just driving listening to some Marvin Gaye and the next thing I knew. I was wearing the glass of my passenger window and a brick sat on my lap… Hee hee hee… First I was
like… I’m gonna whoop me some ass and then I remembered me once dropping bricks from the overpass on the 94 back when I was a lad…Hee hee hee… God took while but he didn’t fo-get. He might take while to get back to you but all deeds will not be fo-gotten… All in all though, De-troit a good town. You want some good food… I mean really good foh the soul, honest to goodness, soul food to rest the soul and make you feel good foh living, there a restaurant off seven mile and a woman go by the name of Matilda… She was in her late fifties and built like a kettle… Pretty nuff smile and sweet as her sweet potato pie… I taste that food, that pie and I said to her, I done found the love of my life…hee -hee hee… Yes ma’am… Every time I got a gig in De-troit, I stop there… You probably ain’t never been round them parts… You probably from way out west somewhere… I’m right ain’t I girl? Yes sir… north and west, way far way from the hood… I ain’t hating though. You all got nice homes, nice restaurants and people obey the speed limits… Hee hee hee… What brings you to the south side of Chicago?”
Glad did not hold back. She took a good half hour to tell Anthony about her relationship with her husband, problems with her son, her lack of sex and low self asteem. Glad told Anthony about her plan to get into shape and eat better. She told Anthony that she was going to internet date and find a good man to be with who really appreciated her. All Anthony could think about was having a casual romp with a sexually frustrated woman. It did not matter if she was a bit homely and unfit. Anthony had a thing for women with smaller waists and large asses. He always marvelled at that phenomena of nature. A twenty inch waist and thirty eight inch hips with buttocks large enough to set a drink upon it.
Anthony used to believe in monogamy and fought hard to be exclusive to his wife. It was during a six month job working on a cruise ship that things changed for Anthony. He had been working with three young women from Sweden who believed that if you wanted to have sex, it was possible to do without having any other feelings other than sexual attraction. Anthony understood their point of view and quickly adopted it. Anthony’s wife was not so understanding or tolerant. It had been nearly ten years since his divorce. Anthony was much happier and really appreciated the variety and more than happy to not slog through the mundane necessities of day to day life, with each woman he met. That was for their husbands.
“Come on… It’s much more comfortable upstairs…” said Anthony as he lead Glad up the stairs.
At that moment, the White Sox had scored three runs in the sixth inning and were
ahead. There was still about an hour or so until the hoards returned either despondent or euphoric over the outcome of the game.
Glad had never been attracted to black men. There was something too raw about them in all facets of who they were. Of course Glad tried to be open minded and tried not judge all blacks the same but she could not help it. Black men were scary and strong and when they had their minds up to rob or rape you, it would be done. Black women were sexual too. Glad had decided that all black women constantly ooze sexuality in how they look, talk and dress for nothing more than attention from black men. Anthony was the exception.
Anthony thought about sex every twenty seconds like any boy with an extremely high libido. Being nearly fifty years of age, Anthony learned that he could have all that he wanted by being nice, attentive and patient. It nearly worked every time. White women would talk and drink and before they knew it, Anthony was just like white men. He wasn’t so scary after all. It was the same with Glad. Glad never panicked as Anthony helped her remove all her clothes. Glad never panicked either when Toula walked into the room and joined them in the bed. Glad kept her eyes closed and enjoyed her sexual spontaneity more than any sexual experience she had ever had before. After nearly an hour, Anthony dressed and went down to start playing again with the band as customers began to return. Toula too dressed and headed down. She took Glad’s chin in the palm of her hand and asked her if she felt better. Glad felt much better. In fact she masterbated again while the post game interview went on. White Sox won 4-3 against the Cubs. The booze would flow like water in Bridgeport that night.
Glad fell asleep for close to a half hour. The sound of the drums and bass woke her from her slumber. She dressed and made her way down the stairs. The room was shoulder to shoulder and required some tunnelling in order to get through the door. Toula was feverishly mixing drinks and Anthony had his eyes closed while playing a Stan Getz tune on his tenor saxophone. Neither Anthony nor Toula noticed Glad leave and within a few days, they both forgot they had met her. They both meet so many people everyday.