There was this restaurant which hadn’t been on my radar as a destination, but the one we’d meant to go to told us on the phone Our last seating is at 8:45 on Sunday, and it was 8:35 already, so.
So we opted for this New American place also in the Bywater. Trendy. When we arrived it was Well, no reservation, give me a few minutes, trust me and after 15 minutes of being ignored by the bar and searching our phones for alternatives, he gave us a table that had been empty in plain sight since we walked in. It’s like they want to make you sweat and make the reservation-rule-abiders feel good and special.
Anyway we had a pretty smashing meal and a nice Alsatian blend and got friendly with our server, who turned out to be a recent-ish transplant, a singer, in love with the city, on that arc, that high note where you’re meeting people and making things happen. We talked with her at length after meal service had finished and she told us about a bar farther out that she liked, so we decided Fuck it let’s go.
Some blocks later we found the place. It had a vast high-ceilinged interior, like so many places in NOLA— always surprising as they look small from outside. It was a chill vibe, and good music playing. Some folks playing pool at the far end.
There were a couple of people in black hats and robes like witches with fairy lights on. Another with them was dressed like some kind of dinosaur or abstract unicorn, and some in regular clothes. A private party, they seemed, off at a table. We sat at the bar and ordered, were served. I got consumed with the orb lights, gradually shifting colors and making decent compositions in the camera. I wrote in my book a little.
The bartender, a beanpole sporting a hipster half shirt and suspenders was speaking more or less continuously to a chap sitting on the other side of Z. Z and I chatted here and there, but he seemed distracted. Maybe he was tired, or listening in on the conversation. I couldn’t hear anything but the rutabaga-rutabaga murmur of television scenes in rooms where music and conversation overlap.
As we finished our drinks I asked if we ought to stay or move on. Z said Move on. When we were some blocks away Z relayed to me the disturbing conversation he’d overheard between beanpole and the guy, who’d been explaining that his coke dealer’d raped someone. The two of them then went on to discuss all the many ways said dealer had fucked numerous people over in the more usual ways; money, broken promises, &c.
I dunno if the dealer had been arrested or if he’d now gone a shade too far to be tolerated by the guy at the bar; I didn’t hear any of it. Maybe he was doing that thing of fishing for a shared line or two by talking about such things in earshot of strangers who might by chance also partake. I told Z he should’ve said he wanted to leave sooner. It clearly made everything uncomfortable. Z’s experience had been nothing like my naive absorption in orb lamps shifting colors, and book and pen.
It makes you wonder about all the many conversations in all the bars and restaurants that go on all over the world— all the conversations you don’t hear. It makes you aware how much general trust there is in polite exchanges, and how separate you are from what’s behind every door, every curtain.
It reminds you that everyone has a different measure or barometer of what’s normal, of what counts as day-to-day, and makes you thankful that your version is way less fucked up or hideous than some others.