Sexual Healing

Friday, the cusp of a three day weekend. Southern Decadence gets into full swing today, and I shall be out on condom duty with my wonderful and young co-workers, standing at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon. I shall be taking lots of photos of the crowd; it’s always kind of a fun time, if a bit exhausting to stand that long in the heat without the benefit of alcoholic beverages. It’s hard to believe this is my (sigh) twenty-second Southern Decadence. Yikes.

Southern Decadence was one of my favorite times of the year; I still enjoy it, but not quite to the extent that I used to, of course; being older and wiser in theory, the truth simply being that my body cannot bear the wear and tear of a Southern Decadence the way it used to. There are few things my body can handle the wear and tear of these days. But I don’t mind it, please don’t think that I am pining for my past, misspent youth (or middle age, really). I even wrote a novel about Southern Decadence, my second one to see print, and the one that introduced Scotty Bradley to the world: Bourbon Street Blues. It’s so weird to me to still be writing about Scotty, all these years later. But I did get some work done on Chapter Four yesterday; it’s still not completed, but it’s getting there. I hate writing transitional chapters, but at least this time I was able to use this chapter to find, once again, his voice. I always worry that, as I get older, I will lose the ability to find Scotty’s voice inside my cluttered, scattered brain; and yet there it was again these last two mornings, spilling out of me and making me smile. I love the character very much, you see, and I never really want to let go of him or say goodbye to him. He’s not the same sweet, fun-loving rascal that he was when I first dreamed him sixteen years ago and started writing about him; he’s older, he has to be a little more cautious about what he eats, he aches a lot more than he ever did before and his body takes more time to bounce back. But he’s in a good place, he doesn’t resist getting older, and he doesn’t miss being younger. Scotty still sees life as an adventure, and always looks forward to what’s going to happen next.

He’s just so much fun to write about, you know?

It’s hard to believe there are so many books with him now–Bourbon Street Blues, Jackson Square Jazz, Mardi Gras Mambo, Vieux Carre Voodoo, Who Dat Whodunnit, Baton Rouge Bingo, and Garden District Gothic. I am writing the eighth Scotty now; I would have never believed back in 2001 when I was writing the first one that I’d be writing an eighth one all these years later; I certainly never thought this series would last longer than the Chanse series. Scotty’s world is much richer and more vibrant than it was when I first wrote about him; we’ve gotten to know him and his family on both sides; he has a nephew-in-law now that he cares about very deeply; and he’s a richer character from everything he’s been through–but he doesn’t regret anything. Everything he’s experienced, good or bad, has brought him to where he is now and who he is now, and he’s happy with his life so he doesn’t regret anything.

And that’s kind of a lovely thing, you know?

And since we’re on the subject, before I head back into the spice mines, here’s who I currently think would be perfect to play Scotty, True Blood star Ryan Kwanten, and how delightful that I was able to find a picture of him wearing pretty much what Scotty was wearing in the opening scene of Vieux Carre Voodoo:

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And here’s an excerpt from Chapter One of Bourbon Street Blues:

In the summer, the French Quarter reeks of sour beer, vomit, and piss. At seven ever morning, the hoses come out and the vomit and spilt liquor and piss is washed down off the sidewalks. By eight, Bourbon Street stinks of pine cleaner, a heavy, oily scent that cloys and hangs in the air. It hit me full force when I slipped out of the front door of the Bourbon Orleans hotel at eight-thirty in the morning. The bellman on duty winked at me. I shrugged and grinned back. I wasn’t the first non-guest to slip out of the Bourbon Orleans that morning, and I wouldn’t be the last that weekend.

It was Southern Decadence, after all. Urban legend holds that Southern Decadence began in the 1980’s as a bar-crawl-type party a group of gay guys had for a friend who was moving away. They had so much fun, they did it again the next year. Each year it grew and grew until it became a national event, drawing gay men from as far away as Sweden and Australia. As opposed to other circuit events, for years there was no big dance party. It was just a big block party held in what we locals called the Fruit Loop, a five-bar, four-block stretch that runs from Rawhide to Good Friends to Oz and the Pub to Café Lafitte’s in Exile. All the bars have balconies except for Rawhide, and of course you can always take your drink with you.

The gay boys had started arriving yesterday afternoon, with the big crush coming in today, Friday. Labor Day weekend. The end of summer, when the locals can begin to breathe a little easier. The mind-numbing heat will break in the next few weeks, and what passes for our fall season will begin. Sunny days with no humidity and the mercury hovering in the seventies and low eighties. In New Orleans, we turn off the air-conditioning when the temperatures drop into the low eighties and open the windows.

I headed for the corner of Orleans and Bourbon. My stomach was growling. The Clover Grill was just a few blocks up Bourbon, and one of their breakfasts was sounding damned good to my slightly swollen head. There’s nothing like scrambled eggs and greasy full-fat bacon to make you lose your hangover. The food at the Clover Grill is one of the best hangover cures in town. I shifted my gym bag to my other shoulder.

The bars at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon still had patrons. It was probably too early for new arrivals from out of town, so these were the holdouts from the night before, who still hadn’t grasped the fact that the bars don’t close. Tourists always have trouble pacing themselves in New Orleans. Bars that have no last call is an alien concept to most. The bars had been packed with tourists who had come in early for the weekend, the liquor had flowed freely, and there were very likely a lot of drugs to be had. Today the bars would be packed again, almost impossible to navigate through. I waved at Abel, the morning bartender at the Pub.

I was dancing at the Pub this weekend for extra cash. One of the porn stars, Rock Hard, who was supposed to dance this weekend, had overdosed on crystal meth on Wednesday. Condition stable—but no condition to dance. Randy Westfall, the manager, had called me on Thursday afternoon to fill in. It was very good timing. I was behind on some bills. It probably wasn’t very good karma to be happy that Rock Hard had overdosed, but I reasoned that it was probably a good thing. Perhaps the overdose would wake him up to the fact he had a substance-abuse problem, and he would now get some help for it. The summer’s heat is always a bitch on my personal training business, but this one had been particularly bad. It had been hotter than usual, which is a staggering thought. Everyone who could afford a trainer had left town. Those who didn’t leave didn’t want to sweat any more than they already were. Can’t say that I blame them—except when the second notices from my utilities start arriving.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

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