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Eleven January 25, 2014

Posted by The Typist in 365, cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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“Many years later, in front of the firing squad, colonel Aureliano Buendía would remember that distant afternoon his father took him to see ice.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wearing my socks out into the freezing rain to take out the garbage seemed perfectly sensible: the traction they would add, my plan to change into my L.L.Bean leather-soled slipper socks once I got settled inside. Perhaps if I had noticed the icicles hanging from the mailbox, or put my hand on the rail, thickly coated with ice, before I put my foot down and began my bumpity luge run down the front steps. I fell almost perfectly straight down but the top step offered no purchase for the seat of my pants, and away we went.

It’s not a long staircase, just a few steps, but after living over ten years in northwest Minnesota and North Dakota I suffered an especially large bruise on my dignity. Literally. My backside was fine when I stepped out of bed this morning but my foot was not. I must have stopped myself at the sidewalk with the bugly bit at the end of the second metatarsal. (I think I spelt that right. I had to look it up this morning but did not write it down. Catholic boys did not take health in high school. Or Louisiana history. We took catechism instead.) (Yes, I know. Spelled. I also use grey, and no amount of ruler hand slaps or erasers to the head has ever corrected it).

Fortunately I have an old tourist blackthorn, the paint beginning to chip here and there, with a rubber end on it. I discovered in my years on Capitol Hill, standing in the marble and terrazzo corridors of power in my thin-soled but expensive Bostonians that I have something called Greek foot or a Greek foot. Apparently there are types, and mine are prone to bearing the weight on the wrong bones until I’m hobbled. Fortunately, of all of the options I was offered: start wearing Rockports and crepe souls, custom inserts, custom shoes, or breaking the bones in my foot and putting them together in a better order, Rockports worked. And so the purely decorative blackthorn (which is a hell of a thing to try to pack, forcing every geeky tourist in Ireland to step onto the airplane with it in hand) acquired a rubber tip. The Rockports, even the dressy blood Oxford ones, were no doubt the beginning of the end of my career in Washington public relations. I would never be selected, wearing shoes like that, to arrive to work for my first day at Burston-Marstellar to read the case study on how to make the deaths of thousands of Indians at Bhopal go away. Which is probably a good thing.

I lived on the snow/ice line of Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Virginia long enough to know better than to fall down the steps. There are certain places, Washington and Dallas commining prominently to mind, that suffer from real ice storms: a quarter-inch or more covering everything. Even a slight coating is enough to be a problem. One morning I could not get up the hill to Mabel’s to drop off my daughter at day care and I had to call work from a pay phone–not having risen high enough in the ranks of Washington power to have one of those late 1980s walkie-talkies–and lather my daughter up in its-not-really-butter and syrup for an hour while the sun slowly melted the streets.

New Orleans has its occasional ice-storms. I remember the comic expedition from ’84 or ’85 to make it two-and-a-half blocks from my apartment to the K&B for cigarettes. I set out like Robert Scott for the South Pole, ill-equipped and vastly underestimating what I was undertaking. Unlike Scott I survived trek with my bones and dignity intact, although this was before ubiquitous digital cameras and Your Tube. Otherwise my dignity might have been in great peril for all the pratfalls I made before I discovered that the grass was not slippery. Still, I had to get across two lanes of Carrollton, Willow, Plum and Oak to reach the store. If I had to do it again, I would lash the fireplace poker to a broom handle and push tacks through my shoes. But, well, cigarettes. There was no alternative.

There is one thing I think everyone in New Orleans has that helps. We all have a foodie relative who insists that we keep a box of coarse seat salt around. What precisely we are supposed to do with it I forget. It’s the only salt I have so I use it sparingly to cook, but my current box–at least two years old–is still half full. It works much better to de-ice steps and sidewalks than the two boxes of Morton’s I tried back in Arlington while trying to get out and begin de-icing the car.

Fortunately our esteemed governor declared a state-wide state of weather emergency. As soon as the FEMA offices open I’m going to present myself and demand I be given the cost of a proper cane, something that Uncle Lionel would approve of, and a new rubber tip. The old one is getting a bit cracked from age.


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