New Orleans at last! Currently at a little, ramshackle cafe, Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, with colorful tables and chairs; and walls of painted wood boards, the paint worn completely away in places so that the bare, old wood showed through, and faded nearly colorless everywhere else; horses and their jockeys in mid-race form painted across the top, and a couple of old ceiling fans connected via a belt to a pulley on each. It is a decidedly second-wave shop. One of those fair trade joints serving coffee that “tastes like coffee”. It’s comfortable, warming, welcoming, and they serve day-old baked goods for a dollar. There is a strong community vibe here. I actually like it a lot. It’s sort of my ideal coffee space, and is reminiscent of the feel of an old cafe I frequented when I made my first forays into coffee shop culture. I just wish the coffee was better. That said, like the ubiquitous American diner with it’s $1.50 unlimited refills, the coffee quality or lack of, is part of the experience.
Across the street at Cafe Degas, a woman is picking glass out of her car from a smashed rear window. Crimes of opportunity are pretty common in the area according to my friend. She doesn’t seem upset, merely resigned. I wonder what, if anything, was stolen.
Back at the laundromat. Lost track of time at the cafe. I haven’t been to a laundromat in years. Forgot how I missed it—the people coming and going; the noises of all the machines, some rather surprising so that you think they might explode, or maybe just breakdown and stop mid-cycle. Walking tentatively, and slightly bemusedly, into a laundromat after having been away for years is an awkward experience. Where are prices for the machines? Where is signage with directions? Where is the change machine? Is there an ATM? Where are the detergents because I don’t have any of my own? You’re like a blind man clacking around with his cane. But once you get everything sorted—once you withdraw your money from the ATM, once you exchange it for quarters, once you figure out how to get the detergent you want from the dispenser, and once you’re tossing your clothes into the wash, it feels like home again, then you walk over to the cafe and read a book or write about your experiences entering a laundromat again for the first time in years, or you walk home, or you just stay at the laundromat and read or write there.
I particularly like, at the laundromat, the notes stuck to the machines proclaiming them “out of order.” Some of these are just sticky notes applied to the drier window perhaps, or a scrap of paper taped over the quarter slot on a washer. There are other reminders too; reminders to remove things from pockets, or to check for gum and other sticky substances because we, the laundromat, are not responsible; and notices that your clothing will be removed from the drier and you will be charged if they sit for too long. And many of the signs appear to have been designed in the 90’s. A combination of hand-written lettering and Windows clip-art. It must be a sort of laundromatist’s unwritten code because I’ve never been to one thats signs were designed any differently.
It’s 7:30 and I’ve found a bar I like: Bar Tonique. Ordered a Veux Carre. Never had one before but it has things that I like: brandy, whiskey, vermouth, etc. Should be interesting. You know, new drinks, new experiences and all. I feel like I should be paying $16 and not $9, though, so I’m skeptical about the ingredients’ quality. It’s a nice place, regardless. All warm brick; warm, worn wooden bar; warm, low lighting; weird sort of teal ceiling that isn’t really teal; and a chandelier of sorts that looks like it was made from the same part of various of the same model lamp; a bit disjointed and lopsided. Like they had eleven of a thing and cut each thing off at the same point and took those cutoff parts and stuck them together, all radiating from a sort of central rod. It’s one parts Beetlejuice to one parts Alice Through the Looking Glass to one parts Frankenstein. The menus are written in big letters, colorfully, on chalkboards mounted on opposing walls. There are two ceiling fans turning slowly, as if they know they’re supposed to be working but also know there’s no damn point in it so they’re just going to give the least possible effort. And just like the motivation of these fans, there’s a guy on the opposite side of the bar from me with a blank look on his face, and he’s sitting in front of a basket of citrus and his face is brilliant red so that he looks just like a juicy piece of fruit himself, and I can just imagine the bartender picking him up thinking he was a piece of fruit and placing him on her cutting board and slicing a piece out of his cheek or lips or nose to garnish a cocktail.