daily preciousness

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Brit invastion

At 30,000 feet, it hit me. I was on my flight home from D.C. -- in cattle class -- when I realized that Cathy was coming soon. I would only have two days to clean up the apartment. But I knew it would take more than a casual dusting. It would take a major cleanup. Why? The british were coming.

Cathy and I were on the JET scheme together, teaching English in Japan a few years back. When I was in London, she put me up (or put up with me, depending on how you look at it) and went out of her way to show me a good time. I wanted to return the favor.

So Cathy and Angie, her friend from work, came to Baton Rouge to see the sights. We saw a plantation home, the rural life museum and the old state capitol, in addition to eating at some nice restaurants. I really shocked myself by loving the blackened grilled alligator at Mulate's landing and restaurant. Not being much of a meat-eater, I reluctantly nibbled a little piece of it. It was amazing. Really delicious. The waiter, a strapping young lad with deep-set eyes and a friendly manner, had informed us that it was "farm raised" gator -- none of that tough, swamp-bred stuff for Mulates. It was amazing. I nearly ate the entire appetizer myself. The girls hardly had a chance to try it. I was just out of control. My rationalization was this -- gators are carnivores, so what's another death, really, when you think about it?

During our first day of being tourists, I was pleasantly surprised by the transport. We drove to a plantation home in Cathy's rent-a-car. I was shocked at how slowly and carefully she was driving. The last time I'd ridden with her, we were speeding towards a birthday party in a little town an hour away from London. I can clearly recall my life flashing before me, a vivid series of moments from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood. The scenes in my mind were moving as quickly as the English countryside was outside the car window.

But this time, on my turf, Cathy drove very carefully, obeying all the traffic laws. I actually encouraged her to speed up a bit, but she steadfastly refused my suggestions. Instead, she made her way through the winding roads of River Country without haste or impatience.

We soon arrived at Oak Alley. The trees framing the house were very charming. Inside the house, incense candles made for an inviting touch. The tourguide was actually very good. I was impressed at her depth of knowledge. It was obvious that although she was young, she wasn't simply reading from a script. She had some background on the time period when the house was built. And our little tourgroup consisted of us, a gay couple and a straight-looking couple. It was very small and comfortable -- not one of these huge busload sized tourgroups. It went by very quickly and we soon found ourselves outside the warm and cozy house. The wind had picked up a little and I was thoroughly cold outside. There was even a sheet of ice on the water troughs. Brrr!

The next day, I brought them to the Rural Life Museum, which is actually where I take all my international guests. (Doesn't that sound pretentious? Cathy and Angie are the second pair of international out-of-towners that I've taken there. I took some French guests there, too, not that long ago.) They seemed to like it. The slave cabins and the simple acadian home showed them how simple life could be: bare walls, nearly bare floors, absolute necessity was the order of the day. It was a stark contrast to Cathy's (and even to my own little) Gucci existence.

Sunday they left Baton Rouge for New Orleans. They wanted to ride the riverboat, go to a voodoo shop, see the above-ground crypts and, of course, undergo extensive retail therapy along the Riverwalk Shops. Monday afternoon, after work, I joined them for a little nightlife fun in the Big Easy.

First, I showed them the W. It's a hyper-trendy hotel where everyone wears black and the concept of simplicity is next to godliness. The hotel lobby looks like a set from a movie -- sleek furniture, elegantly modern lines and distinctly Japanese touches, well beyond the Ikea sensibility. It's almost got a German feel to it, but not quite so cold. All in all, a great experience. I was happy to plop down $25 for 3 cocktails. I was helping to fund a truly cool and elegant establishment.

Next, I took them on a mini-tour of the land-based casino in downtown New Orleans. After the 3-minute walk through the clouds of tobacco and the atmosphere of pension checks being wasted, we found our way to Canal Street.

I took them to a little out-of-the-way spot that doesn't make it on many a tourist's list of things to do. There's this little street just off Canal that has a flavor all its own. It's a little area I like to call "Bourbon Street."

It's this area of New Orleans that has its own little microcosm. It's always entertaining. You never know who you'll meet or hook up with there.

So I take them to Oz, which is supposedly among the top five gay bars in the country. They're celebrating Monday night with a gong show. With each drink, you get a chance to be in the show. If you don't have a talent, you will have to "name that tune." Of course, after the many G&Ts, red bulls and other cocktails the girls and I wolf down, we would win a spot on the program. An uber-campy 50-year old guy with a Minnie Pearl hat and a vicious yet rather glam dragqueen from hell were the host and hostess. The ... um ... "lucky" contestant had to share the spotlight with these two attention-hungry divas. Not very pretty. The drag queen was truly evil, making nasty jibes at everyone in the room and especially at the contestants. I feared the worst.

It happened.

The girls, claiming that "British people don't do this sort of thing," elected me as representative, pushing me up to the stage.

Evil drag queen barked that I looked like Forrest Gump. (I think she was referring to my very short haircut -- which does look rather unfortunate, I have to admit.) Then they played some awful pre-80s disco music that I'd only ever referred to as "that music that I makes me want to leave the dance floor when they play it." I didn't know what it was. The mean man said they ought to revoke my gay license and seemed genuinely upset that I didn't appreciate the rather foul, course music. Fortunately, the drag queen helped me out by whispering "funky town." (I wouldn't have otherwise known it.) So I won a chance to play pachinko. It was sort of like a game on TV's "Price is Right," but without the spaying and neutering. I won on my first attempt and got a gift certificate for $100 at a hardware store. Exciting stuff! Now, if only I (A) knew where it was and (B) would be in New Orleans one day soon to spend my free money! We'll see.

After my traumatizing experience with the vicious drag demon, I was happy to get back on the barstool and drink red bull, a new energy drink. We talked and laughed for a while. Then Angie gets it in her head that I must approach some guy tonight so that I can "pull." (What a great British euphemism that one is!)

"Who do you fancy, then, love?" she asked, oh so beguilingly. Then, following my eyes to the hunk du jour, she said that I had until the end of the next song to go over and "chat him up." But I couldn't do it. I was tired and lacked self-confidence. And I didn't even feel like "pulling" anyone that night. However, Angela was resolved to be Yenta-like at any cost. So, she started a countdown, then proceeded to act like a highschool girl relating my crush on him. It was mortifying. And delightfully fun at the same time.

What awful luck. The beautifully sculpted Adonnis I had my eye on was married. He pointed to his ring finger, banded, and just gave me an innocent smile. His name was Costa, from the former Soviet Republic. He was from Russia with Lust. What a delicious man! I introduced myself in Russian and explained that I loved the language, worked in a library and enjoy listening to the radio. (This is the extent of my Russian -- I can't remember much because I studied it in high school way, way back in 1989.) Costa was polite, but fled the scene as quickly as he could. I don't blame him. I suppose Angela and me make a potent combination of good intentions and sexual predatorship. We were a naughty duo. But I blame her, mainly because I'd never hit on anyone like she was doing. Mind you, I don't blame her in a bad way. It's just that it's not my style of good communciation to approach people that way.

After several hours of dancing, we made it back to the hotel by 3. I was in bed by 3:30 and slept soundly (despite the snoring) until 7, when I had to get up and leave for Baton Rouge.

Work the next day was a blur of call numbers and patron faces. I don't really recall doing very much. Granted, the online public access terminals were down, so I couldn't do any updating of records or any such business. So I mainly just did shelving and very low-key tasks.

Sleep tonight will be a wonderful thing. And I'll sleep soundly, knowing that Cathy and Angie had a good time in Louisiana. They'll leave tomorrow morning first thing. And then, the british invasion will be over.

Until the next time I see them, anyway.


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