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Forty: Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You February 1, 2014

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.

It only took a minute. “Step back behind the barricade, sir,” the police officer said.

“Just give me a minute,” the out-of-town photographer replied. Wrong answer.

Marianne and I used to watch parades no St. Charles just over Canal when we lived downtown back in the early 1980s, and had struck up a friendly conversation with the photographer and his girl friend. She was so proud. He had just had the cover of Time or Newsweek the week before. I forget which now but I remember checking and it was true.

They let him hand his camera and bag to his girl friend before they cuffed-tied him and led him off to the nearest Orleans Parish Prison bound bus. She was absolutely inconsolable. I thought about but did not vocalize beyond a glance exchanged between Marianne and I the Kafka meets Dante in Hell experience he was about to have on Carnival weekend at OPP.

And then I remembered. An old friend I had fallen out of touch with, a Republican Commiteeman back in the days when they had parole power for municipal offenses. I hadn’t talked to Walter since they’d raised the drinking age to 18 and his bar on Veterans had gone under, and probably years had passed between that and the last time I saw him tending bar at Nick’s Original Big Train Bar, a landmark long gone the way the Dixie Brewery across the street is about to go. We went back to first grade at St. Pius the X and our older sisters had been friends.

This was before cellphones so I had to find a payphone on a parade route at which one could actually hear. I dialed information, and hunted down the only Walter P- (thankfully) in the phone book. I dialed is number, thinking there was little chance he would be home on a parade night. Thankfully he answered.

I don’t recall exactly how the conversation went, beyond asking him how he was doing and could he do me an urgent favor. Without hesitation, he said he’d take care of it. And the photographer was standing on the corner of Broad and Tulane by the time we had managed to wrangle a cab and get to Central Lockup through the parade madness.

You have to love this town, and the people in it.

If I had to pick an incident where I paid this back the first that comes to mind is meeting my new good friends from Brooklyn John O’Dwyer and Lori Youmans. As is my habit I was hanging on my front stoop drinking coffee and contemplating switching to beer, watching the Jazz Fest crowd go by. I don’t know how John or Lori picked me, but they did. She had blown out her sandal before even setting foot through the gate. We managed a duct tape repair intended to get to inside to buy some ridiculously priced pair, but it managed to hold the entire day. They stopped by on their way out, bought some of my neighbor Jimmy’s barbecue while I supplied the beer. Patrice admired his Bob Dylan shirt so much he gave it to her in exchange for one of mine. They are now regular visitors, and I have an open invitation to crash with them if I’m ever up in New York.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right actions, tzedakah, hasanat, punya: there is no rule more basic to the religions of the world. My favorite reformulation of this idea is a song by Leon Russell, “Prince of Peace”:

Never treat a brother like a passing stranger
Always try to keep the love light burning
Sing a song of love and open up your heart
For he might be the Prince of Peace returning


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