I had to get some paperwork notarized. I also had to go to the bank. Foolish me, believing erroneously that I could do both at the same place, I am redirected to an attorney in Exchange Alley, a little side street in the French Quarter.
I peer through the gate into a dark ground floor room, when a frighteningly intense man with frighteningly even choppers leaps out at me.
“I’m looking for a notary”, sez I.
“Well, you’ve found him. What do you got for me? It’s $25 per document. Do you have the money? Do you have it on you now?”
And I show him my paperwork, and he takes my money, and he finds a couple of witnesses and we all sign the paper.
Then he takes a hard look at me and says, “Do you need anything? You look like you need something. Follow me.”
And this series of statements is so odd that I don’t think twice (really, it’s a wonder I haven’t been kidnapped & turned into peanut butter a dozen times for all the strange people I take up with), and I follow him into the bowels of the building, up a tall staircase, and into a musty, filthy, pathetic excuse of an apartment. There’s a very strange, animal smell that I can not place, a mix of meat, man, body odor.
The attorney/notary says, “This was my tenant’s apartment. He shot himself. I gotta get rid of all this stuff. You need any hats? Sunglasses? I’m gonna keep this,” pointing to some kind of radiation/flight jumpsuit, “it’ll be fun to have around. What about some playing cards? You need scissors?”
I’m trying to roll with the sudden odd turn of events, so I help myself to a dozen or so of the deceased cd’s (deceasedees?) while my benefactor attempts to foist random items on me and that thick smell fills my sinuses.
When we leave the little sad space, I am treated to a passionfruit juice at Jazzy Tacos, which the attorney has just opened next door. He owns this building, the one down the street, 25 others around the Quarter. He tells me he’s making as much money just chatting with me as he would if he was working. He proudly shows me his recent Zagat’s write-up as we sip and talk real estate on a 70 degree Wednesday afternoon. He admonishes me for not wearing a helmet, implores me to brush and floss, tells me that all the things I do make him feel tired.
I take my leave of him and bike home, helmetless, with the dead man’s loot rattling in my bike basket. Checking the jewelboxes at home, I find a twenty dollar bill, and I write around the perimeter, “This bill was found in a cd given to me by the landlord of a man who shot himself in New Orleans. Truth is stranger than fiction.” I use the bill as part of the payment to ship artwork out into the world.