“Viceroy, early in the morning. Just tryna let the sun in, and open up my eyes.” ~Mac Demarco, Viceroy
I sprang through the double doors leading into my local 7/11 stomping grounds, and strolled right on through to the front counter, where Sanj and B-rad were working the register. Sanj is the owner, a Bangladeshi man somewhere in his 50’s, probably with a wife and kid, though I’m not entirely sure on that part. Still, cool enough dude. Every single morning before my classes, as I’d wait at the bus station near by, I would take a moment to stop in and he’d offer me an assortment of free leftovers from the day before. It’s the shit they can’t legally sell anymore, but shit, free leftovers is good enough of a sell for me. Chalk that up to brown privilege.
B-Rad, usually working the night shift, was another employee I grew cool with over the course of my 3-year stint of living down the street. I’ve had deep and heartfelt conversations with the dude, but I still can’t tell you his age. Somewhere between 25-45, but he’s my dude.
This trip occurred 2015, during my sophomore year of undergrad, 11 years after Hurricane Katrina
B-Rad“What’s good Squizzy, lemme guess, pack of 27’s?”
There was also this middle-aged Indian mother employed there as well, who’d stash all the $1 off packs of Marlboro 27’s behind the counter for me…In a son-she-thankfully-never-had sorta way though. Like every single time she would ring me up, she’d never cease in insisting “You know, you should really stop smoking these. They aren’t good for you.” And every single time, she’d seamlessly come to the realization that this basically like Dr. Phil offering life advice to Keith Richards. So inevitably she’d give up her daily fight for my well being, shrug, and figure “Well, I guess could at least save you a dollar while I’m at it.” Ain’t she the sweetest? (That’s 2 for brown privilege.)
Ksquizzy“Before I answer that, answer me this: you guys got any cigarettes stored back there going by the name ‘Viceroy’? I think they’re a Canadian brand”
B-Rad“Viceroy? Nah. Never heard of em’. They any good?”
Ksquizzy“No clue. I just heard from a song. Figured, if someone made a song about it, that must be some fine tobacco.”
B-Rad“I heard that. So you with the 27’s? then?”
Ksquizzy“Hmmm, lemme just get a pack of those Kamel Reds instead. The one with the big ‘R’ on the front. I want the most communist looking packaging y’all got. And don’t you try selling me a pack of them ‘smoothes’ neither. We know there no such thing as a smooth pack of Cowboy Killers. Besides, I’m getting this motherfucker out of spite. The free market failed me on this one.”
Sanj“So are you heading back home for break?”
Ksquizzy“No Sanj. I’m heading to lands down yonder. 12 hours away.”
Sanj“12 hours. You students only have today off right? Plus the weekend, that’s only 3 days, man. Where are you going to drive for to 12 hours for only 3 days?”
Ksquizzy“Oh my dear, dear, poorly misguided Sanj. You know they say it’s about the journey, and not the destination. But if you must know, the very same person who made the song inspiring my search for these fabled cigarettes has a show going on in New Orleans tomorrow night, which my roommates and I just so happen to have purchased tickets for. For only $25 might I add. Now I’m a sucker for a good deal and a good time, but I’m hook, line, and stinkin’ sinker for anything that conjures up the possibility for both. Ya’ feel?”
Sanj“Or just a good deal of time. Looks like you found yourself quite the cult leader, eh?”
Ksquizzy“I’ve found better. Some even tax deductable.”
Sanj“You might want to add for the hotel bills and bar tabs while your at it.”
Ksquizzy“Sanj, Sanj Sanj. You know how far property values have plummeted there after Katrina? To rent a room outside of the French Quarters is dirt cheap, relatively speaking. Granted, the place we’re staying doesn’t necessarily scream Best Western, let alone the Ritz, but we’ll cross that bridge once we get there…Also c’mon Sanj, I thought you knew me better than that. I ain’t even 21 yet. Our troupe has come preprepared with beer and spirits a’ plenty.”
Sanj, turning over to B-Rad”You haven’t sold him any beer from here before, have you?”
B-Rad“Hell, I can’t remember. The kid stumbles in here drunker than a Gatsby guest at least three nights a week. I thought a prerequisite for alcoholism was you at least being able to it.”
Ksquizzy“As far as prohibition, the war on drugs and collegiate liquor consumption has indicated: that principle may be sufficient, but not entirely necessary, for causation.”
Sanj“You really scare me man.”
I messed around with Sanj and B-Rad for bit longer at the register, and left 7/11 with my pack of Kamels and a free cup of strawberries (set to be passed its serving expiration date), and headed on into the backseat of my Corolla. Killy was at the wheel. We made deal that he’d drive for the whole 12 hour ride there, if I drove on the way back. “Easy”, as I cracked my first road beer. This one gets chalked up to instant gratification.
Rillz sat shotgun because I wanted the backseat, leaving me ample space to drink my beer, smoke my weed, as I sprawled my legs to eventually pass out. Which I did, somewhere early on in this road trip.
Sheepishly, I awoke somewhere in the middle of Kentucky. We were still on the road, but we in the midst of pulling over at some point on the interstate, to get some gas. We still had enough in the tank to drive about another half hour, so I drank a couple more PBR’s and packed us all a bowl, and observed the scenery from my window. There wasn’t much to note regarding that, just miles and miles of land, as barren as any Cormac McCarthy novel could describe. As soon as we pulled up to the Exxon, feeling the onset of my drunken stupor, I almost could believe what I was witnessing…
Two middle aged junkies were yelling at each other, across opposite ends of a broken down black 1990’s Camry. They obviously seemed to be married by the looks of it. JunkieWife ferociously chased JunkieHusband around the periphery of the car with a berserk snarl of aggression. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if JunkieWife shot up a vial full rabies just prior to this occasion, after watching her chuck a half empty plastic Coke bottle at JunkieHusband like she was Roger Clemens.
JunkieWife“Gimme my money. I need that money. That’s my kid’s money.”
JunkieHusband“Nah. That’s dope money.
At this, I hysterically broke into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Right there, at the gas station pumps. I was literally on the floor praying my abdominals didn’t tear, pressing my ribs against them for dear composure. They paid us no mind, however. They were too enthralled playing their respective roles as thespians in this theatrically dramatic scene unfolding before us.
JunkieWife“I’ll rip yer’ fuckin’ heart out”
JunkieHusband“Yea to fill that empty hole you got in yer’s”
I stumbled passed them, into the Exxon, Grabbed a breakfast burrito, paid for my portion of the gas, and we were out.
Being cooped hours on end in a sedan does not bode well for me, not at all. Not even if I have an entire backseat to myself. I’m about as hyperactive as a Border Collie on the brink of a cocaine bender, with the attention span to match. Killy and Rillz are well aware of this..
In an attempt to squelch or at least dampen this manic fit of anxiety I had going on here, I proceeded to guzzle down beer after beer, growing incessantly drunker. This only amplified my already cacophonous singing like a tone-deaf plugin for autotune. Killy and Rillz endured KSquizzy’s Intoxicated Karaokee Extravaganza all the way till our next stop in, Birmingham, Alabama.
Along with another gas station, we stopped by a Walmart because Rillz needed to grab something. I forgot what exactly. I was too inebriated to remember.
When we stepped in, I felt like we were in the sole Walmart in all of Wakanda. I’ve never seen so many black people in my life. Really not trying to come off as racist here, just stating the remarkably obvious. I’ve never seen the white/black ratio so much in favor of the later. Not even if than if Ms. Lauryn Hill decided to go back in time and perform a free concert at a Marcus Garvey rally. Every single person shopping at Walmart was black, and it was packed. This blew my mind, considering the African American population comprises just 12.1% of the total US overall population.
This is the same city where video surfaced of those Southern Christian Leadership Conference protesters getting hosed and attacked with dogs during the Civil Rights Movement. The same town Kennedy referenced in his campaigns. The place seemed just as segregated as it was back then.
I got lost in the electronics section, and emerged with two canisters of computer duster.
Rillz“You’re an idiot.”
Killy“HAHAHAHA. We outchea doing whippet’s baby!”
On our way out, cause we were curious, so Rillz decided to yell “Roll Tide!” to some onlookers, and just as expected,”Roll Tide!”…we were still in Bama’ territory.
Back on the road, and at this point, I had enough computer duster in my lungs to refurbish an antique typewriter. I looked out the window, and every star had one of those, Donnie Darko-ish plasma steams protruding out of all of them. They all looked like slow motion shooting stars, and I was able to see their projected paths. I still don’t entirely get that movie, but I felt a moment of insight.
At one point I made Killy swerve and almost crash…
Ksquizzy“That dog…that dog…was about to catch up to us”
Rillz“We’re going 80mph on the interstate….”
Tuckered out from my day of drinking and oxygen deprivation, I went back to sleep until we arrived in New Orleans. It was about midnight when we finally reached. We knew that the Big Easy slept for no man, but we were mere mortals ourselves, and thus decided to take it easy ourselves that night. We checked in at our motel, at the Red Carpet Inn.
There was a greasy looking guy chatting it up with the night clerk at the front counter who told us that if we planned on going downtown tomorrow (which we obviously were, because there doesn’t seem to be any other semblance of life residing here in the outskirts) to go look for him, and he would give us a good discount on beer. We dismissed him, not only because we were all 19, but also because we didn’t WANT to know what part of the city this guy resided in.
After checking in, we all decided to venture around the proximity a little to get a sense of our surroundings, and to find a good place to get high. Now remind remind you, we weren’t staying in downtown New Orleans, we were staying staying at a motel just outside of it. Right before that sacred bridge, that connects the rest of New Orleans to Elysium.
The unworthy rest of New Orleans, the part we were staying at, was a shithole. All the houses were dilapidated and boarded shut. The 8-story hotel next to us looked like it hadn’t been in service since Katrina…at least. We wanted to check the abandoned place out, but we’d figure there might be a couple junkies squatted there who’d do a whole lot more than throw half empty plastic Coke bottles for our money. Still, the gas there was the cheapest I’ve ever seen in my life. $1.74/gal (this was before that massive spike we had recently, when a gallon was only $2.05 in Blacksburg. But even for those standards, that’s absurdly low). We find a securely secluded spot for us to spark a blunt, and head back to the Red Carpet Inn to call it a night.
“And oh, don’t let me see ya crying. Cause oh, honey, I’ll smoke ya till I’m dying”
I woke up to Killy singing Viceroy, and remembered today was the day of my concert. I hopped out of bed like terminally ill patient with a newfound zest for life, and grabbed a cancer stick from my pack of Kamels to join him.
Ksquizzy”Yo, you know that King Krule guy you always listen to?”
Ksquizzy“Hearing the dude sing, I honestly didn’t expect him to be a skinny ginger kid. I always figured the dude was gonna be black.”
Killy”HAHAHAHA, It’s geeky right?”
We both agreed to the irrelevant topic at hand, as we both silently smoked our respective cigarettes, taking in the asbestos ridden landscape all around us. I felt like monoxide and cigarette tar weren’t the only things fucking up our lungs here in this part of New Orleans. We smoked a little weed, got ready, filled our flasks with bourbon, and called an Uber to take us downtown. I huffed a little more computer duster before we headed out the door.
Rillz“Dude, you really need to lay of off that stuff.”
Ksquizzy“What? Hulas and lays in the cut? Rillz I don’t wanna look like no damn tourist. This ain’t Hawaii.”
Inhalants are a very fleeting high, however. Usually just a minute or so. I was relatively sober by the time we got in the Uber, as I quietly reflected upon the disparities I saw on my way there, between downtown New Orleans, and the rest of their indigenously indigent localities. In short, it was a classic case of a Dickensian Tale of Two Cities. Even in the middle of the day, downtown New Orleans was opulently embroidered in an assorted display of colorful beads and prodigal lighting. The rest of New Orleans, in contrast, seemed decadently dark, dreary, and drug-infested. Motown music merrily spilled into the streets downtown like liquored-up tourists, while the inhabitants living elsewhere sang the blues from a paper bag. Killy was up front talking to our Uber driver, and how she’s been having to work more and more over the years just to make ends meet.
We got out in some parking lot near the French Quarters, and gave our Uber driver 5 stars and a tip for being a cool enough to give us her daily account, and chauffeuring us with no complaint. After walking maybe about a block and a half, a homeless dude sprang out of nowhere.
HomelessDude“Gimme some money to eat, man. C’mon, look at my hand. I fought in the war.”
Ksquizzy“A please wouldn’t hurt, besides your hand looks pretty fine to me. Not like, hand model fine, but fully functional nonetheless.”
HomelessDude“It’s nerve damage.”
Ksquizzy“Then what’s the point in showing me your hand?”
Rillz“Where’d you fight anyway?”
Ksquizzy“You still waiting on pension or something?”
I gave HomelessDude the couple crumpled up dollars I had in my pocket, for enduring the condescending ridicule, and we proceeded to make our way.
Rillz“You know he probably wasn’t even a war vet. And he’s more than likely just gonna spend it on drugs.”
Ksquizzy“I mean, so was I.”
There where bands and street performers at every corner, busking to make a dollar. Lot of them were really talented too, which was to be expected. Blues, folk, rap, country-western, etc. The music scene in New Orleans is a diverse but hard-knock gig, that will carve any sickly amateur into a rugged musician, if they hustle at it long enough. Still, that’s just for the sickly few who’ve managed to rough it out. There’s a reason John Mayer attributes The Big Easy as one of biggest influences in his music.
A group of 5 or 6 black kids run right up to me, Rillz and Killy, and start breaking out into rhythmic step. They were pretty good and well coordinated, but as soon as they finished youngest out of the street performers walked up to me in expectance of a cash reward, which I was unable to grant because I gave it to some phony Vietnam Vet. Seeing that I could not conjure, and fork over any dough, they grew agitated and started yelling at me. I should’ve listened to Rillz, at least these kids earned it. Now I feel like a privileged douche, who just freeloaded on their performance. But hey, is it my fault they didn’t learn the art of negotiate beforehand?
Besides the average crowd of struggling musicians and boisterous tourists were especially inebriated on this Saturday, as college students donned in Florida or LSU jersey were drunkenly roaming around everywhere. SEC football down south ain’t no joke, and the regimented drinking schedule for a college student starts particularly early for a game day tailgate.
Eventually we made our way to Bourbon Street. The unholy Rubicon, marking the primal battlegrounds, where one can indulge in the most sybaritic acts of drunken debauchery. At one point I saw a drunk chick grinding on a cop, while the cop gave his other cop friend his phone, and asked him to record it. These were the people who were supposed to enforce ‘Law and Order’ in this city…so you could only imagine the chaos that is to ensue when you got a street full of people, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, pumping testosterone/liquor/college football in their arterial system.
Rillz“Honestly I wouldn’t mind dropping out of school, moving here, and busking throughout the course of my 20’s.
I would probably would probably have to agree with him, though only up through my 20’s. Rent was cheap. It was chaos. It was fun. But looking at the warn expression, and even more worn garb on the wrinkled skins of older regulars of the downtown scene, I feel like that shit would get played out real quick.
Also I knew I wasn’t musically talented enough. Rillz actually shreds on the guitar where that would actually sound feasible, where I’m ‘competent’ at best. But I’d starve here if I tried to make it as a musician. There was a lot of talent here, and no one looking to scout them. At some point, I rolled up my pants cause it was unusually hot outside for “Fall Break”.
Rillz“HA! You look like Italian metrosexuals from Milan”
Ksquizzy“Ma vaffanculo va.”
At this point, as refreshing as the warm Jim Beam mixing around in my flask was, I needed a real beverage to cool me off. I needed an ice cold beer. Only problem was that none of us were old enough to purchase any, and we didn’t think to carry any with us in a backpack or something. We tried at some hole-in-the-wall bar (literally), where regulation seemed the least bit of their concern. That ended embarrassingly, as we tried denying the obviousness of reality, and the guy asked for I.D. and we immediately just walked away with our heads downward. Honestly we probably should’ve shown it anyways, with how busy he was with systematically handing out the beer in a timely manner, he probably would’ve forgot the cutoff year.
By the grace of God (the same God thoughtful enough to fill Jesus’s blood with red wine), it didn’t take long until we saw that same greasy Spanish dude from the night before, sitting on the lawn of some outdoor music venue. He sold us some beer at $5 a can. It wasn’t as good of a deal as the cheeky fucker advertised the night before, but it’s not like we had any other options. Besides, I was already abhorrently drunk, which only makes me that much more susceptible to buying more alcohol. Think of it like a positive feedback loop, with some negative repercussions.
We sat on the grass for a bit, listening to some old dude play on stage play some creole rendition of Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’. This city will turn anyone, from anywhere, towards the blues if there in here long enough.
Realizing that it was almost 7PM at this point, and the Mac Demarco concert was about an hour from now, we decided to grab ourselves subs from a Jimmy John. As we passed the Civic Theater, the venue we were to attend shortly, guess who we saw coming in to set up, Mac fucking Demarco. He was walking down the street with small entourage smoking a cigarette, wearing a pair of camouflage overalls and matching hat. Towards the cuffs of his overalls, could that be? They were rolled up as well.
Ksquizzy“HA. Fuck you Rillz. I ain’t no metrosexual, it’s just some Mac Demarco riverboy shit you woudn’t know about”
Rillz“Did you gain something from that?”
Ksquizzy“A bit of a draft around the ankles I guess”
And just note for future reference, we both separately came to the same conclusion that makeshift khaki’s are the shit. I’ve had people automatically assume from my fashion statement, that I listen to Mac Demarco. I mean, I do, but it’s still a bit presumptuous.
We walked by them, not trying to go out of our ways to look like fanboys, and let them set up soon cause the concert was approaching. Then it hit me, I ran back around the corner, but they were gone.
Ksquizzy”Damn. I really wanted to trade him for a Viceroy.”
We managed obtain our subs with minimal cause for concern, and found our way back to see a line quickly congregate. We talked, mingled, and ate with the others in the line who were congenial enough. I wasn’t sure what exactly what a riverboy was before I said it earlier, but I sure understood the prevailing demographic now. I looked down at my attire.
Ksquizzy“NO! I told myself I wouldn’t fall for it. The polarizing groupthink. The conformity. I told myself I wouldn’t go too deep the rabbit hole into the cult following. I told myself I was unique. But as I look at this metaphorical mirror right here, and gaze upon my stained flannel, drab dad hat, and war-torn vans – Fuck I really am a riverboy!”
Rillz“So is this supposed to be worse than being a metrosexual or something?”
Ksquizzy“I DON’T KNOW!
Killy“Hey, to each his own, I guess.”
While waiting in the line, Killy managed to strike up of enough conversation with probably the only middle aged man at that venue. They started getting really engaged in some discussion about dude’s kids, and Killy’s future plans for children. It’s shit that I didn’t I really care to hear so I tuned out. Still Killy managed to strike up enough rapport with the old man, where he agreed in buying us beer when we finally got in the venue.
We were piss drunk by the time the opening act came on stage. The frontman of the band looked like Tony Hawk. Me being the insensitive, attention seeking, little prick I am began yelling things such like:
“Hey, do a trey flip!”
“Holy shit they made a mash up of Pro Skater and Guitar Hero”
And my trademark affirmation of the weekend, “I love huffing computer duster.”
The crowd was actually digging it though. The band even began chuckling at times. Believe it or not, but Rillz, Killy, and I even got everyone in the venue to sing Sheena is a Punk Rocker, by the Ramones. They’re really easy lyrics to pick up, even if you’ve never heard it. It follows the classic Ramones formula timeless British Punk Rock lyrics: Just recite the title over and over again.
Eventually Mac Demarco hit the stage, and the angsty just sunk back into hippie lawlessness, not like Bourbon Street lawlessness, but in a mellow kind of way, where everyone just kind of figured it was fair game to smoke weed and cigarettes inside the venue freely. The peaceful type of anarchy listless hippies often preach of.
The security guards attempted to squelch this all at first, but the shear numbers proved to them that resistance to the masses would be futile. Especially considering the fact that the main act is also smoking a cigarette on stage. Guess they probably figured to take up all the obvious fire martial violations with him after the show.
This was right around the time he was dropping his second album, appropriately titled “2”. Still he knew Salad Days was the album that got here, teetering on mainstream indie-appeal. For someone playing in two-platformed theater, seating a maximum capacity of only 1,200 people, he played one hell of a show. There’s a reason why he has a cult following.
At one point, I ended up getting hoisted up and crowd surfing as well. The thing about crowd surfing is, you eventually fall. Luckily some chick helped me up.
ConcertChick“Hey you’re the guy from earlier who was making all those funny jokes about huffing computer duster earlier”
Ksquizzy“That wasn’t a joke.”
ConcertChick“Can I give you my number?”
Ksquizzy“Sure…but my phone’s dead.”
And it really was, unfortunately. And it’s not like there’s a pen, paper, or chance she’d be able to recite it me coherently. Still, I don’t know anywhere else this dialogue could conjure me getting a number from a chick. New Orleans is something, huh?
At one point Mac Demarco ended up crowd surfing. And remember when I said it was a two-platform theater. The crowd actually hoisted him up from the ground pit up to the second level. That takes a really dedicated fanbase to pull off…or just a real strong crowd. Still jumping back down to the pit into the crowd was pretty ballsy too, assuming they’d all be so willing to catch him, which they were. At one point, while being tossed amongst his adoring fans, someone handed him a cigarette, and someone else lit it. That shit was pretty baller.
When the fans chanted for an encore, he just played AC/DC Thunderstruck on the speakers, and shotgunned a tall boy. Then he just let everyone come up on stage. Modest showmanship.
Killy, Rillz, and I were head out to leave when ConcertChick finds me on my way out.
ConcertChick“Gimme your friend’s phone. I’ll put my number in there.”
Ksquizzy“Well I feel like that’s going a bit of the extra mile, but hey, then again I am quite ‘the shit’.”
Rillz let me borrow his phone, and she put her name and number down. She told that she was a local from here, and her mom owned a bakery. She said a lot of famous people rolled through. She said that she’d cook for me, and the thought of having her make me a sandwich for me the next day in her moms bakery really stirred the misogynistic pot for me.
I reconnected with Rillz and Killy, and they were with four other girls. It was one of their birthdays, and really took a liking to Killy. It was the fat one. Killy was not about this current predicament he found himself in. Rillz and I egged it on, cause two of them were pretty attractive.
It was a little further on when we found out that they were still high school seniors. At least the plump birthday girl looking to gobble up Killy was 18. I didn’t care to ask the others how old they were. I don’t know where Louisiana stands on their consent laws and penal codes, and I really don’t want to look for a reason find out. Besides, at least I already secured a reliable enough booty call for the night.
Killy“God damnit”, he kept whispering under his breath.
Not just that, one of them said they’re mom was meeting them.
Ksquizzy“What? Like to chaperone?”
HighschoolSenior“Nah. Just to hang out.”
Rillz“So like those ‘cool moms’ trying to vicariously feel young again through their daughters?”
Well it’s not like we had any in for alcohol from anyone else in the city. Besides, they said she was buying.
The rest of the night spent on Bourbon Street was a blur. Bright lights and pretty colors. The pungent smell of vomit flooding the streets. Sketchy dudes trying to sell you some “cocaine”. The one thing I do remember from that night was that mom partied harder that night than any one of us. I remember a house occupied a fraternity was throwing beads down, in exchange for chicks flashing them. And what do you know, without a moments hesitation, she tosses up her blouse and yelled to get the attention of every passerby in the vicinity. I really wondered how all of this affected her daughter. Probably traumatically, though she seemed pretty proud of her mother…it was fucking weird. I still got those beads they threw down to her hanging from the rearview mirror of my Corolla till this day.
It was getting late into the night, when we decided to head back. Naturally I was pretty horny to finish out the night, so I hit up ConcertChick if she wanted to come get high and kick it. She was about it. She asked me where I was staying, and the briefly ensuing text messages on Rillz’s phone went something pretty much like this:
ConcertChick“Where are you staying? I know every single hotel in New Orleans.”
Ksquizzy“The Red Carpet Inn. Ever hear of it?”
I never knew what to make of that. Did she know of the place? Probably. I wouldn’t blame her for venturing all the way this far from downtown just for some riverboy tourist who huffs computer duster It’s fucking sketchy. Guess I can’t chalk that up for being frugal.