Rendered Fat Content


N-Awl’ns wakes with a thud muffled by a sweet, persistent haze. Nights stretch into next days here; reveling lasts until it flames out, regaining only a cinder of consciousness at first light. The early streets are empty save for the dedicated joggers and the service and construction workers. Everyone else seems to sleep in, or to have just not regained consciousness yet.

I’m out early continuing a quest to find one order of hash brown potatoes, which seem to have slipped out of the American morning into myth or legend. I find a small deli whose menu promises reward, but delivers the modern compromise I call SmashBrowns: outsized Tater Tots® smashed flat. These represent compromise because nobody seems to win anything in the transaction. The customer loses texture, taste, and satisfaction while the proprietor loses another could-have-been satisfied customer. Contrivance (or connivance) takes another hand.

I revel watching cities awaken. I love seeing the detritus in morning’s light and the starched office workers solemnly march into gleaming towers. This town retains its city-ness, with sidewalks, small parks, storefronts, and venerable office blocks, and I appreciate the tenacity this took to preserve. Most places abandoned their heritage in favor of cheaper suburban land and pop-out construction efficiencies. This place drags its history along.

The weather report promises thunder by noon, and the air feels thick with the approaching storms. The sun shoves gamely through, indirect light softly illuminating my last morning here. We head toward the shallower south today, hardly wiser than when we arrived three short days before. We gained some degree of orientation, though I got us lost walking to supper last night. I recognize some street names and seem to have gained some edge in the Husker Du game that learning any new place entails. I leave still a stranger, to myself no less than to this fine city.

My aimless strolls have earned me nothing but experience here, but that seems plenty this morning. Whatever striving I might have enlisted could not possibly have contributed to any happy accident like enlightenment or discovering my gift. I’m satisfied with the experience, which might have taught me nothing but nonetheless reassured me. Whatever my gift might be, it seems to perform reliably. Like a light switch I routinely engage, it works without me knowing how it works or what makes it work. Were I an engineer, I might lose sleep over not understanding the source of this apparent magic. Being more a metaphilosopher, I’m pleased to not have to know to benefit from this ubiquitous presence. I am here. ‘Nuff said.

We didn’t close the town last night. As we headed back to the hotel, the revelry seemed to shift up into an even higher gear—the decibel meter on my smarty phone rated it equal to a loud motorcycle—but that din faded as we followed the levee along the muddy riverbank. I woke refreshed at four, aching to slip out the door one more time before we left for Biloxi, Mobile, then points ever further north, my gift mysteriously secured somewhere on board.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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