Punker Notes [Original Novel]
Part Two: Road Trip
“Yer welcome ta stay here in my house as long as you want,” Thelma Arcenaux, sitting in her living room, taps the side of a Dixie Beer can in time with Jimmie Rodgers.
“T for Texas..., T for Tennessee... T for Thelma, that girl that made a wreck out of me... A yodah-lay-ee, oh-lay-ee, oh-lay-ee,” Jimmie Rodgers, the grandfather of country music yodels at the end of the line. We’ve got the music going on our little tape player shortly after arriving in Harahan, a suburb of New Orleans.
“Yeah, that’s me..., Thelma,” Jenkins’ grandmother gets a kick out of the ‘Thelma’ lyric in the song.
The next day, in the morning, Jenkins, Frank and me head down the street their grandmother lives on towards the Mississippi River.
We sit down on the levy to smoke the roach of the joint we had bought in Chicago. Jenkins had saved it as somewhat of a souvenir to smoke with his brother.
“Yeah, went to this place called Chancey’s in Metairie with Scott and Jim,” Franks refers to a couple guys who live next to their grandma. “Pretty cool place, not a lotta people there. They play a buncha new-wave and sometimes some punk.”
After we finish the roach Frank pulls out a pipe. We smoke some of what is almost the last of a few buds Willard had mailed him from California.
We walk back to 139 Evelyn Street where the Cadillac sits in the Arceneaux grandmother’s driveway. The three of us decide to go for a ride. With Jenkins at the wheel we head out to Jefferson Highway and make a left going east. We pass through River Ridge then Kenner. As we head further east the highway changes names a couple of times. Then it turns into River Road and we’re motoring along next to the Mississippi. The road is no longer a highway at this point, just two lanes snaking along bending and turning with the river. We move along taking in the rural Louisiana scenery.
“Fuck dude...! Fuckin A! Fuckin’ plantation,” goes Jenkins.
“Yeah dude..., Destrehan Plantation. You been here before,” Frank replies.
“What...? When Pawpaw was alive?”
“Yeah, you musta been too young... We were here with Mawmaw and Pawpaw Arcenaux. Long time ago.”
“Fucking rad,” Jenkins sounds awed. “I wanna trip out on this place. Wonder if anybody’s gonna freak out on us if we drive on in.” He pulls the car over to the side of the road right in front of what is obviously the manor house, quite commanding in appearance.
Jenkins steers the sedan into the plantation’s driveway. It’s a narrow gravel path set just to the right of the house dividing a rich, deep, green lawn in halves. The grass is just long enough to need a mowing. There is a row of live oaks next to us with long thick branches low slung just a few feet above the grass. The branches sprawl, stretch, reach out into the yard. This whole scene along with the damp late summer heat is really doing our stoned heads in.
“Fuck man..., I don’t see anybody,” Jenkins remarks as there doesn’t seem to be anyone tending the place at the moment. “Man..., that house... Fuckin’ looks pissed or somethin’. ”
The dwelling certainly doesn’t look like some quaint luscious residence you might see in a movie set in the antebellum period. It looks out from behind sturdy Greek columns placed at five-foot intervals wrapping the entire place appearing to bulwark it while giving the onlooker a feeling of unwelcomeness.
The Sedan De Ville purrs along, right past the house. Then suddenly after we pass the backyard, we’re surrounded by a completely unkempt area with paved narrow roads. Weeds standing tall thrive among a scattering of live oaks. Chunks of farm equipment rusted practically unrecognizable lie here and there in tall grass.
“This musta been the farming area and that there...,” Jenkins points to a row of disheveled cabins overgrown with moss and ivy with a little kudzu hanging from branches down unto caved-in roofs, “musta been the slaves’ quarters or some shit.”
“Fuck, we should go see our great, great, great, great Pawpaw’s plantation. But it’s so fuckin’ far away. Way over in St James Parish,” Franks suggests.
“We don’t have no great, great, great whatever grandpa plantation owner...!” Jenkins laughs.
“We sure as fuck do...!” Frank’s a little pissed. “I walked to the Harahan Hall of Records out on Jefferson with Mawmaw a couple weeks ago and she showed me. Fuckin’ Richard Joseph Arceneaux... Joseph Arcenaux,” Frank alludes to his late grandfather, Joseph Burton Arceneaux.
“That’s just some bullshit Pawpaw made up cuz ‘e loved to brag to ‘is buddies about him havin’ a ancestor that was a slave-owner. I remember ‘im bein’ all racist and shit all wasted on scotch on Christmas with his hardcore Jefferson Parish accent goin’ all, ‘Ye-aah mah great grampa usedta beat them Afro-Americans put ‘em they place. Can’t do that now’days though.’ ”
“Fuck dude...! Mawmaw’s got pictures and shit.”
“Those fuckin’ pictures were from our great grandpa’s farm... He was a farmer... That’s all...! That was a long time after all these plantations went to shit.”
The argument ends abruptly when a lone motocross rider blasts through a small crossroads we’re approaching and we kind of realize that nobody’s gonna hassle us out here.
“Hey man..., check it out,” I point to a smokestack about fifty feet high half covered in ivy sticking up out of the untended vegetation. “Let’s stop here... I wanna paint that.”
Jenkins stops the car right there in the middle of the narrow road. I head around to the trunk and start digging through shit looking for my paint supplies.
That night we decide to go out even though I’ve spent most of my final paycheck. Jenkins doesn’t have any money at all and neither does Frank. But we decide to go out to the bar Frank had been to and just get a couple of drinks.
“Fuck, I found like, twenty-some bottles of champagne in a cabinet in Mawmaw’s living room,” Jenkins pulls a bottle from underneath his shirt as he gets in the back seat.
Frank, in the passenger seat directs me toward Metairie as we head to Chancey’s.
“Fuck yeah, bra. Goin’ ta Metry bra. Scam on some Metry chicks,” Jenkins mimics the local dialect.
We pull up to the place, a square single floor brick building that’s sitting right next to U.S. 10. We park in front of the bar, but before going in Jenkins jams the champagne bottle upside down into his jeans.
We’re disappointed to see that there are no girls in the place. We sit down at the bar and I get a Budweiser. Frank asks the DJ if he has any Damned records. He doesn’t, but we find out he has T. Rex’s Electric Warrior. So he puts it on letting the whole of side ‘A’ roll on. We end up in the poolroom which is separated completely from the bar with the space all to ourselves. We shoot pool and take sips from Mawmaw’s champagne getting into the T. Rex.
Photo by CirrosisAguda