back to the Black Table

  In two weeks, Iím going to New Orleans. I have never been to New Orleans before, and, truthfully, Iíve never really had much desire. The place seems downright scary to me. I think itís the apparent lawlessness that gets to me. People are drinking liquor on the street, cops are blissfully ignorant of anything going on, everyoneís showing their breasts for no apparent reason. These are scary, bad things. Really. They are.

A friend tells a story of a visit to New Orleans when she was in college. Sheís pretty and fun but somewhat mousy and hardly your typical Girl Gone Wild. Two girlfriends and she made a trip down there for Mardi Gras. They started drinking as soon as they arrived. By the end of the trip, sheíd done three new drugs sheíd never tried, stayed up for 36 straight hours and engaged in three-way sex. My eyebrows may have raised a little. ďOh, Will, Iíd never think of doing anything like that, and itís totally unlike me,Ē she said. ďBut I dunno Ö just something about New Orleans.Ē

This is the Old West crossed with Caligula. This is a city full of Penthouse Forums. In New Orleans, Satan is mayor, and the city council president is the Marquis de Sade. Charlie Sheen would be antsy in New Orleans; Tommy Lee wouldnít leave the suburbs. It is little wonder they are putting an NBA team there; I find it surprising it actually took them so long.

And this is where Iím going in two weeks. The occasion: a bachelor party. I am clearly not making it back to New York alive.

I mean, Iíve been to bachelor parties before, and all in all, theyíve been relatively sedate affairs. One was spent sipping beers while floating around on a raft on Lake Mattoon. Another particularly reticent groom-to-be ended up sipping Natural Lights in the basement of a fraternity while we all watched Happy Gilmore. Hell, just last week I went to one where we saw a Cardinals baseball game in the afternoon and went to a concert that night. Treachery might have happened afterwards, had everyone not been so drunk and tired and old. Everyone hopped in a van at 2:30 a.m. to head to ďthe clubs,Ē whatever that meant, but as soon as one guy piped up, ďHey, my apartmentís right on the way. You think you guys could drop me off?Ē everyone else folded quickly thereafter. Thatís about right. Thatís what a bachelor party should be like.

My ideal bachelor party involves a bar here in New York City called Arleneís Grocery. Every Monday night, they have a live band and an emcee. You put your name in to sign up, and, essentially, itís punk rock karaoke. You can go up there and scream out Ramones songs with a live band behind you. (The guitarist is actually quite good, and heíll even mouth the words to you if you donít know them.) If I can ever persuade an unwitting damsel to marry me, thatís what I want for my bachelor party. To me, it seems like you should do something youíll never be able to do once youíre married or have children. Weíll rent out the place, just me and my boys, and weíll just get drunk and rock out. I can think of no more memorable evening, at least until I black out, when Iím likely to try to take my pants off over my head and gyrate to "Sweet Child Oí Mine."

I donít know where the notion of strippers was introduced into the occasion. I have been to strip clubs before, and with one notable exception that Iíll annoyingly not get into here, Iíve found them intensely depressing. The women donít seem happy, the men donít seem happy, and the waitresses who arenít strippers definitely donít seem happy. Theyíre desolate affairs: dark, smoky, nasty. Inevitably, someone will be getting a lap dance right next to a chair of spilled beer. One time, a well-dressed woman stormed into the club and started screaming at (presumably) her husband right as a large-chested woman grinded into his crotch. She grabbed his hair and dragged him out. That couldnít have been a fun car ride home.

I donít know for sure if weíll be hitting any strip clubs at this upcoming bachelor party. Iíve yet to receive official confirmation. But weíre going to New Orleans. What do you think?

And what kind of strippers does New Orleans have? (Short answer: Men dressed like women.) It is a mortifying concept. Strippers, lawlessness Ö and voodoo. Something about the voodoo history of New Orleans creeps me out too. I keep worrying Iím gonna be stumbling through the street, take a right when I should have taken a left, and end up passing out on some high priestessí grave. Iíll wake up and discover my left ear and my testicles have switched places. I donít believe in voodoo Ö but Iím in no particularly hurry to take any chances. Donít want to mess with that.

And what if there are voodoo strippers? The scenarios race through my brain. They come into our hotel room or something, and they immediately see us as the middle-class, bloated, pathetic white boys we are. They start to take their clothes off, and then BLAM! Their hair has turned into a nest of snakes, and their breasts have suddenly caught fire. A second head pops out of their stomach. They speak, and they sound like Harvey Fierstein with testosterone implants. I notice the groom-to-be has turned into an armadillo. Then they close in on me. They swell my head to 15 times its normal size, and turn it green. Iíve become a giant brussel sprout. I hate brussel sprouts.

Perhaps Iím overreacting. Perhaps it will just be six guys celebrating the impending marriage by sucking down Hurricanes and watching sports. Maybe weíll play some golf or something. Perhaps weíll even make a speech in his honor. Of course, if thatís what the plan is Ö why in the world are we going to New Orleans? Arenít we just asking for trouble? In ordinary life, weíre well-behaved, law-abiding, God-fearing upstanding citizens. Why are we tempting fate like this? Whose idea was this anyway? Weíre toast. Weíre mince meat. That place is going to eat us alive.

Besides, itís going to be quite difficult to fit into my tux at his wedding when my headís the shape of an enormous brussel sprout. I mean, Iíve already sent in my measurements.

Pray for me.



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