The other day I had business in the Crescent City, settled it early, and went by the Bon Ton Café at 401 Magazine to pass rush hour and enjoy a fine meal. I craved crawfish etouffee in the worst way but knew I’d order their lovely redfish with crab and green onion topping. Crawfish season ended four months ago and the Bon Ton uses fresh ingredients, never frozen.
Wayne Pierce was working the door, same as always. He’s older now, but still has a full head of salt and pepper hair and was wearing a sharp charcoal suit, starched white shirt, and that night, a sky blue tie knotted with a perfectly dimpled Windsor. Did he recognize me, or was that just his way of making all his guests feel welcome? I think he remembered me, after all these years. “Your favorite table is open … would that be satisfactory?” “Of course, how thoughtful of you.” He nodded a faint smile and escorted me to a two-spot where most of a lifetime ago I had worked hard to woo The Kat. It was by a window with milk glass. Otherwise it would look into, and be looked into from, an alleyway.
The beef tips in burgundy (Today’s Special) were superb as was the coffee and bread pudding. I thanked Wayne for his hospitality, and took a stroll down Poydras to 623 South Peters Street. Was anyone working late at Letellier-Phillips Paper, now operating under the name Consolidated Fibres? It’s only 6:30. Let’s see.
The building was there, unchanged from 35 years ago. The lights were still on, and the door unlocked, so I went in as if I had good sense. I didn’t see Frank, Maxie, or Mertzweiller, nor Leo or Shorty. The place was empty. They had left it open for me. My office was there just as I’d left it with a stack of lightly read Wall Street Journals waiting for someone to re-read. The bullshot and Heineken I’d rented at the Bon Ton now wanted out, so I wandered back to the Men’s Room. Ice was in the urinal trough, and somehow I had never discovered who put it there every day or how its purchase was funded. Odd, I had been the Controller.
The plant was silent, so I figured I should set the alarm and lock up the building. But the key wasn’t on my ring, and I had forgotten the alarm code. Okay, I’ll check Leo’s Rolodex and call him or Frank or Shorty, and say hello. Then I’ll mention that Joe must have left in a hurry: he forgot to lock up and arm the security system. But Leo’s Rolodex had only blank pages. The phone books were all gone. Do they still print them?
But wait … my last day on that job was in 1979. Leo and Frank would now be at least 100. This building was torn down for the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair. They had left my window onto South Peters intact like a few columns from The Parthenon. Kat and I saw it back then, and marveled at their good taste in architecture. But the building I’m standing in is exactly as I left it. The people are gone but I don’t know how to lock it up. What now?
Then I woke up. Kat’s alarm for work will bleat in 17 minutes. I cannot go back to sleep.
I am losing my mind.