The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”
A few months ago, I began a story that I never finished. If you haven’t read it or need a refresher, I’ve re-printed it here in it’s entirety, including it’s “ending.”
Gipsy and I returned to a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and our old carriage house in the French Quarter. We had only just begun to unpack our boxes. We had only moved in several days before evacuating. Her apartment had been completely destroyed, mine had been under eight feet of water for three weeks. Once again, my Angels were working overtime. All of my belongings were safe and dry in our new digs.
Just around the corner from trendy Royal Street, our house at 624 Dumaine Street was built in the early 1700s. A two story 1600 sq. ft. carriage house with skylights and a newly installed modern kitchen, it had huge french doors that led out into a beautiful courtyard filled with tropical plants. It was magnificent. The only sounds you could hear inside were the “clop-clop” of the mule driven tourist carriages and the bells of majestic St. Louis Cathedral. We shared a wall with Madame John’s Legacy, the mansion/museum where the now-famous fire scene in “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” was filmed.
The first thing that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable were the looks. The other occupants of our little compound would greet me each day as if expecting a different response to their “Hi Jesse” than the one they’d been getting. Eventually, I asked, “Why are you looking at me in that way?” The response was not what I expected.
One day, my neighbor Jimmy Nolan asked, “Have you noticed anything strange going on in your place?” I said, “No.” even though I had. “Well, somebody hanged himself in your bedroom and most couples who’ve lived there have gone through a terrible breakup.” Hmmm, I thought, maybe that explains the eerie vibe we’d both felt since returning, the sounds of someone walking just above us late at night, and the cats.
Magic and the Walrus were sitting peacefully on the couch when their heads snapped to attention. The door to the atrium (my office) to their immediate left opened up. In tandem, they watched something we couldn’t see move slowly from their left to their right. Their heads stopped as they gazed in the direction of the bathroom door to their immediate right. It opened slowly then slammed shut.
On another occasion, Gipsy was bent over washing her face in the bathroom between our bedroom and the guest room. Straightening up she noticed me standing in our bedroom staring at her. She said something to me and bent back down over the sink. She suddenly stood up straight and looked back at me. I was gone. She then realized that at that very moment, I was in the middle of my second set at Margaritaville, just as I had been everyday since returning.
I was lying in bed one afternoon and actually saw him/her/it, whatever. Without warning, I suddenly felt as if I were being choked. I could feel the life being squeezed out of me. My anger rose and I fought back. It was only then that I saw a leathery grey mask of a face hovering over mine. I roared and it faded, along with the choking sensation. It became obvious that we need help.
It came in the form of Mr. Glover.
Early one evening, we heard a light tapping at the door. I opened it and a diminutive creole man tipped his black bowler hat and introduced himself as Mr. Glover. He informed me that my friend Brandi,
the lovely Voodoo Priestess up the street at Voodoo Authentica had informed him of our heint (ghost) problem. Mr. Glover was the go-to guy when it came to expelling troublesome spirits. I had been told that all sorts of people throughout New Orleans, doctors, lawyers, politicians and everyday folks all sought him for help with pesky spirits. The French Quarter is loaded with them.
We explained our problem in great detail. He told us that there were lots of heints on our particular street. He said, “Lots of ‘em are just hangin’ around, causing trouble.” He assured us he could help. We were so desperate that we were willing to try anything. After all, we were in New Orleans’ French Quarter and, when in Rome…
He reached into his satchel and pulled out a huge bundle of sage, a bottle of camphor and what looked to be a very old bible. He lit the sage and asked us to stand together. He then passed the smoking incense around us in a circular motion, up and down, front and back. We were completely engulfed in a cloud. All the while, he recited the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” etc. He then led us to each corner of every room and closet, carefully placing some camphor in each corner, repeating the biblical recitation and the circling smoke.
When Mr. Glover was satisfied that he had covered every corner and had exorcised the heints, we gave him a small, voluntary donation and he was on his way, with a smile and a doff of his bowler. The peace we felt in our big house in the French Quarter was palpable. We felt free of the negative vibes that had permeated every square inch of the house. That night, Gipsy and I were passionate lovers again. Our house felt tranquil. No apparitions or strange noises disturbed our sleep at 624 Dumaine Street. At least not for a while.
We didn’t know that the bad ones could hide.
Something terrible has happened in New Orleans. The city is in mourning. There’s a little less light in every sunrise in the Crescent City. Allan Toussaint is gone.
New Orleans is like a patchwork quilt. Each patch in the quilt is different, some intricate, some simple, each unique in what it adds. There’s a common thread running through it all: the music. When an integral patch of that quilt gets ripped away, the entire fabric shudders. The quilt is just not the same.
Allen Toussaint was a presence. If you saw him walking down the street, or driving by in his trade mark Rolls (usually on his way to the studio) you felt as if he were a PART of the street, those buildings, the cathedral, the city. He still is. I will always remember him as a humble, soft-spoken, classy dude. RIP, Mr. Toussaint. You will be missed in ways you could never have imagined. Your impressive legacy lives on in the music.
Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.