I want to go back. Because everything is awful for everybody forever, the only thing I really requested from the Santa with whom I sleep this holiday season was everything that I cannot have. I existentially pouted and stamped feet for a meaningful history that was not my own — because my own history could best be summed up by a Saturday-afternoon sex-toy nightmare on a 1985 Spencer Gifts shelf, and I already have enough of those — and waited for him to do nothing … or buy me a cheerful book about Abraham Lincoln's bouts with depression. He did. I got really bummed out.
"Oh, and I'm taking you to New Orleans," Alan dug a piece of hope-lint out from behind our gift-free Christmas tree.
"That'll do," I doured.
So here we are, suspended 6,000 feet in the air like so much disbelief, cloistered together in a makeshift time-machine bubble attached to precisely one propeller, two wings and a certain amount of faith in gravity. In a way it feels like time travel, as the fingers of unpopulated tidal wetlands weave their asymmetrical patterns in the still life beneath us. For thousands of years they've been winding their merry way around Florida's Big Bend like some kind of geographical "fuck you" to the sandy beaches of tourist exploitation, and they aren't going anywhere. Oh, no. I'm getting deep.
"They look like fingers!" I take a big slurp from my timeless travel cocktail. "You know what that means!"
"Don't start," Alan clenches his fist and face.
A much starker view of a more recent history comes into view as we touch down in the Big Easy. The executive airport — housing precisely zero executives, by all appearances — is a mess of broken windows and toppled hangars, to the degree that our even showing up for leisure purposes in a private plane feels like a crime against humanity. Then again, for selfish reasons, this little Katrina flashback is perfect for my historically bad mood. Fuck humanity.
Which is precisely what we do. Within seconds of our arrival at the hotel, Alan's mind is audibly whizzing with dollar signs and little colored chips, while mine splashes along with vodka and regret. Dutifully, we traipse our way down to the speculative sparkle midway of Harrah's casino and join the other sickly rats of American failure in the futility dance of spending money to make money. Of course, nobody ever wins here, otherwise they wouldn't be so ugly, right?
"Some Guys Have All the Luck" is thumping through the misery concourse, and right next to me a 40-something poodle blonde with 2-inch roots is mouthing the words through her frown. It is no longer 1983, she must be thinking.
Nor is it 1977, but that doesn't stop me from pulling my wanton Christopher Street ass up to my favorite Village People Party slot machine. Through my animated daydreams of pinching the asses of construction workers in bathhouses while a cop throws a giant disco ball at my score, I somehow manage to squeeze $65 out of a fiver and get a free drink. All of which means if I gamble any more, I'm bound to get the clap, discover drugs and overdose in a bathhouse changing room. Fortunately, I was only 5 in 1977. This is not my history.
The next morning, I assign a more trenchant designation for our post-holiday foot-dragging and decide to aim our furrowed financial brows in the direction of death, because that's what I do. I die.
"We're going to see Napoleon's death mask!" I stamp and pout again.
There will be no buts about it. This little piece of historic and morbid pottery is housed at the Cabildo, the Louisiana State Museum in Jackson Square. I've been secretly planning my rendezvous with the little French guy since the first bit of turbulence over the Gulf: I would either see him in New Orleans or rest with him in the fires of hell. We could compare notes on delusions of grandeur while holding our hands in our shirts. It would be fun!
In fact, it isn't really. It's just a plaster cast of a sunken chin in a glass box. I hope nobody plasters me on my deathbed. At least not my face. Hello, Cynthia "Plaster Caster" 1969! Goodbye, 1821 deathbed in British exile.
More bits of manufactured history follow as we wander the uneven sidewalks of the French Quarter. Like when a wild-eyed black guy breezes by us and whisper-screams "nose candy!" in my ear.
"He thinks you look like a cokehead," Alan suggests.
"But that's history!" I bite my lip.
Alan, meanwhile, strikes up a dreary conversation with the owner of Meyer the Hatter (est. 1894!) comparing and contrasting the headwear tendencies of presidents Roosevelt and Johnson, a conversation that reveals that Mr. Meyer actually knew them. Boring.
On our way home, hanging from the sky like a bent popsicle stick over a crushing sea of clouds, it occurs to me that no history is good history and all history inevitably repeats. Alan unbuckles his seatbelt, pulls out a coffee canister, gets on his knees, wobbles a little and pees into the receptacle in my plain (plane!) view.
"You want to watch?" he goads, swinging his baby's arm around. "Look, I'm getting half wood!"
Eww. I want to die. Just beneath us, the Crystal River nuclear power plant appears, representing all of the hope and catastrophe of the future.
"Maybe we could just crash into that," I ooze in prophetic tones. "You know, go out big."
"No, we won't be doing that," he smirks. "We have to get back."
I don't want to go firstname.lastname@example.org