The band deserved to be back together. It was up to me to make it so.
Big sky Willikers was the first member in need of finding. I knew from experience he’d be somewhere in the gutters of St. Roch. I zig-zagged the streets, quizzing people — sunning fat and happy on their porches — as to the whereabouts of a drunk man in rags. Some pointed some way and others pointed another. Big Sky Willikers was an itinerant imbiber; he rarely got sauced in the same establishment twice in a row.
“Big Sky, you scoundrel,” I said at last to a heaping lump of black suit cloth in a drain. Big Sky turned his red balloon face to me, his eyes yellow as piss.
“Grah!” he said, clutching for me. I leapt back. Big Sky had vices for hands.
“You still have your spoons?” I said. Big Sky Willikers looked beyond the horizon and fumbled two pristine spoons from some deep crevice of his raiment. I smiled and nodded. I hailed a cab and sent him to a nice spot on Bourbon Street. I set him up with some fungo money, too. That way, if he wandered, he wasn’t going far.
Next, I sniffed out Digbo Skrivens in a live oak tree, peeping on joggers and rubbing his belly. He looked like a decorative gourd in a Hawaiian shirt, his stomach all pooched out, full of crawdads.
“Digbo,” I said. I poked him with a stick I’d been carrying since a while back.
“What time is it?” Digbo said. I told him it was band time and that I already had Big Sky Willikers locked. I promised him all the crawdads in New Orleans if he’d join. We shot the breeze for a bit after that, going over the hubbub and the tooraloo.
“Yeah I’ll jam,” said Digbo, at last. “Just let me ask my maw for the keys.” When it came to the ivories Digbo had hotter hands than satan himself. I happily told him to be at the Apple Barrel at sundown and reiterated about the veritable Everest of hot, spicy crawdad that awaited. I gave him cab fare and left him in the tree and he went back to scratching his protuberance as I departed.
On my stroll to the abode of the brothers Preux, I ran into the Human Jelly-Bowl Lester Mancud, an insufferable plunker of strings.
“I heard I heard you’re getting the band together,” said H.J.B.L. Mancud. He bowed his head and dabbed his eyebrows with a ring-heavy hand.
“A rumor,” I said, strolling on. H.J.B.L. Mancud whirred after me on his Segway. “I just saw Big Sky Willikers knee deep in a blizzard at the Cat’s Meow.” Said H.J.B.L. Mancud. “Now I know he didn’t get there on his own. I suspect he was recruited to The Fangwater Bayou Revival.”
He had me nailed to the cross. The Fangwater Bayou Revival was the name of my band. I’m Tid. I kept my peace and walked on, trying to poke my stick into the spokes of Mancud’s conveyance. He circled me wider.
“Oh I’m gonna be there,” said H.J.B.L. Mancud ominously from his distance. “Wherever you is, I’ll find it! Just wait!” He whirred off fast ahead but was stopped at a traffic light until I caught up. He dabbed his eyebrows and sneered at me again. We waited there, ill at ease, for the light. When the walk signal finally turned Mancud zoomed off cackling and almost hit a pigeon.
The day simmered thanks to the noonday sun’s efforts to suck all colors back to white. I had a good sweat on by the time I rapped on the thick wood door of the Preux house. Unfortunately, the brothers Preux — a twin drumming duo — were off gigging in Nashville for the week. Their mother did offer me a spoonful of gumbo for my troubles and that was indeed fine payment.
I took a sit for a spell on a bench beside Big Lake and who should come by but Rashad Dinkins. Rashad and I had — during our long history as beautiful friends — gigged from the west Levy to the east and come across a not insignificant number of Cuba Libres along the way.
“Klem, you look parched,” said Rashad. And I was parched, that was the truth. I tumbled into his black Legacy and we made a straight shot for the Tremé. There, amongst the young people and music sneaking under every crack of every door we started a few tabs and got to wandering.
As the day wore on and clouds joined the sun, so too did musicians of all stripe throng about us. It was like some great coniferous tree had been struck by a drunken driver, shaking the spring pollen that was every musician in New Orleans to the streets. Floyd Scrumpins waved at me with a moonin’ grin as he sailed past my post at the open window of Johnny’ White’s Bar. I tried to tell him about the gig since his hands made thunderous rapture on the upright bass. I think I got it out in a way he understood. No way to be sure though on account of the noise. Also passed: Trevor Juniper, Kipper Goots and even Thrillin’ Jay Bounty.
The day’s tropical humidity made my hair wild and speech emphatic. I lost track of time.
There is something sacred in a lost day, I thought to myself, slumped in the doorway of the Apple Barrel with my trumpet in hand. I didn’t remember retrieving it. I was not shocked, however, that my pockets were bereft of the meager dollars I’d managed to squirrel together for this day’s affairs. My head was liquid-greased on the swivel of my neck, my attitude upbeat as only a flow of Cuba Libres as wide and rapid as the Mississip can render me.
“Lookee, lookee,” said H.J.B.L. Mancud, picking a fluorescent feather from the lapel of his enormous pin-stripe suit. He smugly waggled his rusty steel guitar at me. By God he was going to steal the show from me like always. But on this day — this impeccable, most rapturous of days — it was no matter at all.
High above the sky blushed at the thought of another lascivious New Orleans night. As the lights came on Digbo Skrivens boogied up belly first, his keys slung up behind his head with his lanky arms hanging over. He looked high which was fine because he played tight when he was high. Big Sky Willikers hove up carrying a giant cup of something fluorescent. He waved his spoons at me and spilled some of the drink on himself. I patted his ass as he passed. And then luck of all luck the Brothers Preux screeched to a halt in their tiny Volkswagen Rabbit and unloaded all heck of drums. They said the gig had fallen through thanks to cross-booking by some money-grubbing Nashvillains. Even Floyd Scrumpins came by, giant bass strapped to his back like a coffin. I nearly cried from joy.
I sat where I sat, unable to move for the beauty of it. The streets sprung alive with the cooling air. Young men and women touched each other’s bared skin, laughing and glowing with life’s lustful holiness. The bulbs of Frenchmen Street buzzed with vortices of insects incalculable. Even the palm trees across the way dipped and swayed with the vibrant air of a night yet young.
I could hear my band in the back plunking and striking their way to a perfect harmony and I thought I should join them. What more holy joining than in music made by hands and breath, I ask you?
Ah, I was drunk, me. Too drunk to philosophize, but not too drunk to play. I harrumphed up and strolled inside, waving my horn at every single pretty lady in sight. This was going to be a good show. They were all good shows.
At Po’ Boys and Pickles I ate both po’ boys and pickles and both were equally satisfying. My main course was a Debris Po’ Boy, lovingly filled with slow-cooked roast beef, gravy, lettuce, tomato and horseradish mayo. It was not a traditional Lew-see-ana po’ boy, but it was still as stunning as a bayou sunset. A serious combination of flavors abounded. I am eagerly awaiting my next visit to try either a fried oyster or muffaletta po’ boy (or both). However, I feel like I can vouch for these other fried variations strictly because of the fried pickles. The batter that lovingly surrounded each pickle slice delivered signature southern spice and the dipping sauce (a red pepper mayo, I believe) accompanied the flavor perfectly. The best part, however, were the pickles themselves. Pickled in-house with a signature blend of some very potent vinegar, these pickles were piquant, snappy and satisfying.
$$ — Not cheap cheap, but reasonable cheap. I got out with a small po’ boy, pickles and a beer for about twenty bones, with tip.
With not too much room to boast, Po’ Boys and Pickles feels comfy without feeling cramped.
You order from the fine person at the register and they bring you your food.
I have been to New Orleans. This feels like a necessary point to mention. I have eaten a legit and hallowed fried oyster po’ boy from the one and only Domilise’s. Was my Po’ Boy — from Po’ Boys and Pickles — up to the creole snuff, then? I’d say yes indeed. The bread was crusty and authentic, the portion ample, the taste robust. They aim to do Louisiana cooking and Louisiana cooking they do. I will be going back and building po’ boys into my monthly cycle of urges and cravings. Po’ Boys and pickles, your name is well earned.
Po' Boys & Pickles
1124 Forest Ave
Portland, ME 04103