That sweeping machine in the sky, the sun, has swept
The stars like littered cans from night's high way,
And over the Quarter and Superdome has crept.
I hear Fats Domino on the jukebox cry.
And, while parishioners at St. Patrick's pray,
At Hummingbird we worship Bacchus high.
Day laborers Handiman employs next door,
We rise to go to work, but I propose,
To toast our industry, just one drink more.
In seersucker suits raise coffee cup
And scan exchanged commodities and stocks,
We thumb our noses at the Boston Club.
Did that stop Huey Long from getting shot?
And, as the jukebox plays their jazzy songs,
Don't Jellyroll, Kid, King, and Satchmo rot?
Down in New Orleans where everything is fine.
Stick's passed away, but you know he went to his grave
Drinking wine, spo-dee-o-dee, drinking wine.
If you don't know it yet, it's time you're told:
You're only young once, there's no second chance,
And everyone alive is getting old.
Our town's illuminati guzzle beers,
Because a beer that's not will soon go flat,
And faster drinkers hear more frequent "cheers!"
And yesterday's Times-Picayune is where?
It lines bird cages, wraps up trout, starts fires,
Packs boxes, catches spills, and we don't care.
Read avidly historians refuse,
And history's what's remembered, not what was,
And facts and truth are things we pick and choose.
The street that separates the blue from green,
The pampered Garden brats from Channel trash:
Ignore them both and conjure that tureen.
A Dixie beer, a muff, and Ruby Yat
Beside me with her junk-filled shopping bag --
Oh yeah, Lafayette Square is where it's at.
No argument will ever settle that.
It doesn't matter: if you want to sing
And you don't know the words, you just sing scat.
On floats of papier maché that tractors tow,
Tossing trinkets, beads, doubloons galore --
They care not for the worth of things they throw.
And those who spend it all upon a thrill
Will neither have enough to make the moon
Linger longer on Blueberry Hill.
To finish first that loses by a head
Or runs away and wins by several lengths --
To be disqualified for drugs instead.
Auditioning for directors oversexed
And for five minutes pour their hearts out just
To hear them say "We'll let you know" and Next!"
With Galvez, Napoleon, Claiborne, and Lafitte
For prominence in our history, yet to us
They are no more than names of city streets.
Which turns to red whenever I'm in sight,
'Sa tribute to the men whose names are streets --
The more the signals, the more the fame is bright.
Remember: stopping shows that you're well-bred,
For failure to observe a traffic light
Shows disrespect for all the streeted dead.
Don't worry where you've been or who you'll meet:
Just set 'em up and drink 'em down, because
Tomorrow you may be a city street.
Stump Lady, Brother Luke, and Hank the Hack,
Who all would die again, if they could twice,
To learn their names aren't worth a cul de sac.
Where they once drank and drank, and slurred and slurred,
Must vacate too the stools they occupied,
Let others speak and hear the drunken word.
Let's bum the rest on Camp and buy some wine
Before we crumble into dust and trade
Alcoholic spirits for divine.
Or buy those radial tires t'avoid a flat.
Our clothes can stink and we can ride on rims,
Because today, tomorrow ain't where it's at.
The Moral Majority, and Communists
Will all return to dust and blow about
With Krishnas, Moonies, and the other ists.
And dance they teach concerning right and wrong,
And each impression made on mind was such
My bladder would retain a beer as long.
And, being in the honors section classed,
I made straight A's and learned there isn't time
To savor anything before you've passed.
Against my will and didn't ask for birth.
And, when he likes, no doubt the Reaper too
Will come to get me without calling first.
Say, wouldn't you complain if thrown a curve?
And so I drink my beer and upward shout,
"Hey, whoever you are, you've got some nerve!"
'Cause everything I learned came by degree,
I published in the journals, made a name,
And saw the more I'd learn the less I'd see.
And must conclude the secret that I sought
Will yield to other skills than scholars have
And 'snot the sort a student can be taught.
And, 'cause they're so deserving, I besmirch
The reputations of our town's elite,
And at the Hummingbird renew my search.
I hear you knocking; go back where you been"
'Sthe riddle of my jukebox oracle:
The game of life provides no way to win.
"You only live once and when you're dead you're done.
It doesn't matter if you're young or old:
Just let the good times roll and have some fun."
As though that cylinder had been a man.
I said, "Ruby, that's recycling!"
Said Ruby, "Metamorphosis, Cayenne."
To get himself a body that would clink!
The only drawback's that he must go flat,
And, when he's lost his head, how will he think?
Some clay, and Jason's armed opponents come
From serpent's teeth, why should I wonder at
A man transformed into aluminum?
Lead human lives, or just my favorite brand?
Are they transformed because we call for beer?
Or is it that supply creates demand?
His tab and turn him upside down to quench
My thirst and drain his vital fluids dry.
Does he make protestations? Does he blench?
My lip and thought and thought until I hit
Upon a workable solution: drink
And drink until you done got over it.
Of wondering if the can can feel abuse?
And, when you're hanging from the gallows, why
Complain about the rope burn from the noose?
Just search your pockets for what's due and grab,
Besides your hat, one for the road before
The Great Bartender puts you in a cab.
The only thing to say is "Shame, shame, shame."
'Cause, if you leave the barroom with your thirst
Unslaked, you've only got yourself to blame.
Objective is to have some fun and gain
Canal Street with your floats and bands intact --
That's life, unless it's canceled due to rain.
Or that your absence will upset the cop
Who'll take his beaded bribe from someone else,
Who'll quickly take your place soon as you drop.
That no one can remember what's-his-name?"
-- Your mother and your father, creditors,
Your wife and children, and old flame.
'Cause all the bands and tractors showed up late.
And, when you'd finally started to enjoy
Yourself, you found you'd reached the Rivergate.
To start the game? Buy silver sets and hide
Them in a cabinet? The race is on,
The track is short: get on your pony and ride.
His wife didn't have no hair, and that's a clue
To help unravel all life's mysteries:
Truth wears a wig, 'cause it's baldheaded too,
Of washed and set and teased and bouffant lies,
Decked out in all the latest fashions just
To teach discretion and to tantalize.
The stingy socialist, the generous Jew,
Perfidious friends and faithful enemies --
You need a program to determine who is who.
What's thought of you, who sneer at nuns and wink
At cops, and slobber when you're interviewed,
And make up ghastly stories for your shrink.
You'll long for children, but you won't be wed;
You'll stay up all night long and wonder if
You brushed your teeth before you went to bed.
You threw me out and left me not a stitch,
Used all my savings for your escapades,
And prompted me to make my fateful switch.
When heartache is the only souvenir.
And so I checked in at the Ozanam,
Transferred allegiance to my Dixie beer.
And what of all the essays that I wrought?
One question only weighs upon my mind:
What of all the beers I could've bought?
An angel enter -- real or fantasy,
Too drunk to say. He grabs a stool and says,
"Where y'at, Cayenne. The drinks are all on me.
He asks. "Why Satan and his cohorts fell?
'Cause everyone in heaven -- Virtues, Thrones,
And Seraphim -- is always drunk as hell.
That sometimes even angels go for Bolla.
And tell them all to pray for our indulgence
Like Christian Brothers. To hell with Coca Cola.
And so I can assure you nothing's truer:
No beer on earth will get you higher than
The premium served by Heaven's Master Brewer.
Of conscience as you practice for the binge
Of eternity. God knows you'd rather have
Your insides burn than have your outsides singe.
The systems you think strange, and yet you take
Your own so seriously and pride yourself
On moral and religious codes half-baked.
The property, and, having signed, expect
The title to be registered? And don't
You tend to doubt those 'facts' that can't be checked?
Delivered by the sages and divines
About a place they've never seen, and not
Invest in Chalmette gold and diamond mines?"
When I admired his wings, he praised my hat;
And when I begged him tell it like it is,
He said this only: "Heaven's where it's at."
Just what is man -- free agent or a pawn?
Is death the living end, or dusk 'fore dawn?
And if souls never die, where have they gone?
Or I might say that man's a marionette
Whose strings are pulled by God, or then I might
Say man's an aerialist without a net.
You humans never listen anyway.
And so I counsel all who ask, to drink,
And leave the questions for another day.
Computers claim to live because they think,
And men to never die because they fear
The thought of nothingness? Who cares? Let's drink.
Mercy to the men who presuppose
That they can overcome a natural force,
Contain it, or divert it, or oppose.
Th'Atchafalaya switch another day.
The vanity of humans notwithstanding,
The Father of the Waters goes his way.
Will only raise the level of the flood
That someday soon will sweep us all away
And transform all the Montzes into mud.
He said, "Forget the past!" I said, "Forget
The what?" He said, "Don't worry what's to come."
I said, "Hey, don't tell me. Tell Ruby Yat."
'Cause one thing that he knows is where it's at.
And don't make faces if he wants to trade
His brand new wings for my old crumpled hat.
I told you that's what overdrinking brings.
I'm sick and tired of fooling 'round with you.
Now where's your hat, and where'd you get those wings?
And pass the buck. I hate a man who rues
The money and the time he's spent on me.
The members of my fan club must pay dues.
The lot of those who win with theirs who lose.
There are no ties, no rematch: when you pick
Opponents, then, be careful how you choose.
To what the difference is what error's whose,
When neither one of us has won the game,
And's clear we've both been beaten by the booze.
And all the things you would have done if rich.
Don't envy what you can't obtain, and don't
You ever call me 'bitch,' you sonofabitch."
How can you talk to old Cayenne like that?
You wouldn't say those things if you weren't drunk.
Now drink your beer before the thing goes flat.
And one more draft apiece was 'nough to steer
Our hearts back toward each other, and we smiled,
If only 'cause we're both too drunk to sneer.
Or crumpled in the trash, this much is sayable:
No matter what distinction claimed, they all
Taste pretty much the same without the label.
To slake our thirst and get us high and burp us.
Choose Bud or Schlitz or Miller and dispense
Into a common vessel all the surplus.
I argued, but that canned, uncanny voice
Corrected me, contending, "There's a world
Of difference 'tween Volkswagen and Rolls Royce;
'Mong Venus, Bacchus, Elks, the Plates, and Rex;
'Tween black, white; young, old; male, female; hot, cold;
'Mong passionate love, ideal romance, and sex.
This notion of equality is bunk:
We're made unequal and we end that way.
The only time we're equal's when we're drunk.
Requires intoxication just to breach
The wall of proof established by our sense --
For color, odor, tone, and touch to bleach.
When used to advocate a life austere.
For raising spirits to a common pitch,
The greatest equalizer is a beer."
So pretty, called the Crescent (Walter Mitty
Of a city), drinking beers and hearing
Things -- now that's what I call nitty-gritty.
Then gut and clean and lay out on a slab,
And ship my body to the world's deprived,
Dipped in Remoulade and stuffed with crab,
The Garden District Needy, who'll renounce
Their status symbols, lick their lips, dig in
And break their fashion diets with the pounds,
Led by the other half, for mine was rife
With misconceptions too, until I met
My match and had my knock-down, drag-out fight,
No man at all, but bourbon, scotch, and rye,
And vodka, gin, and rum, tequila, wine,
And Hadacol -- becoming an ally,
All those who try to cling to neutral states:
No middle ground, no zone demilitarized
Divides ascetics and insatiates.
Their fall, let's shun all sham, discard pretense,
Remember that it's later than we think,
By God declare ourselves, get off the fence.
Our bunions remonstrating as we troop
Down Magazine toward Lafayette Square,
Savoring our Salvation Army soup.
No one alive can make us jump through hoops,
Revered by loyal Skid Row retinue,
His Royal Highness, King of Camp Street Stoops,
Of Everything Licentious and Unclean,
Her Majesty, the Empress Ruby Yat,
The Sovereign of the Sauce, Princess Obscene.
To waste my time in worry and in doubt.
And, though I'll never make "The Social Scene,"
Among the folks who matter, I've got clout.
It gives me pleasure every day to flout
Laws made by sober men, each night to end
With Ruby on the banquette, passing out.