Blackhumouristpress's Blog

November 29, 2011

Etienne’s Etouffe

Filed under: Detroit,humor,Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 2:57 am
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“It comes with a heavy heart and my hat in hand that I must unequivocally declare that I will need to abrogate and hereby retract the covenant previous agreed upon by all parties.  I am savvy to the verifiable fact that the brick and mortar which have most likely been derived during the reign of Napoleon are in need of a formidable amount of preservation but at this time it behooves me to choose the plumbing over the mortar as it is eminently more important and hygienic to dispose of waste in the most proper of ways possible…  Please accept this mea culpa and know that within a reasonable amount of time, all deficiencies will be addressed.  As you know my father and I are on the very brink of pauperism due to his severe maladies that appear to have the upper hand at this point.  You being a fair-minded woman should be able to comprehend our quandary.  Getting blood from a stone will not be possible.”

Rachel played the message for Steve as they sat outside eating a beignet at Café du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  Rachel immediately got on the phone and called her Uncle Chaim who had been contracted to come down from Brooklyn, New York with his crew of day laborers and change the dilapidated storefront into classy restaurant called Etienne’s Etouffe.  Steve learned cooking as a trade while serving time in the Wayne County Prison in Detroit, Michigan.  Steve was unemployed and took to small time stickups in and around Detroit.  While in prison, an old black man from the Deep South in Louisiana took Steve under his wing.  Steve liked Sir Leopold’s manner of speaking and ability to cook tasty stuff that hardly anyone had ever heard of in Detroit.  Sir Leopold claimed to a descendant of a man by the name of Cadillac.

“Dee people of Day-twah want to drive dem a Cadillac.  I am hare to tell you mon vieux, that Sir Leopold right chair before your eyes eeze a di-rect descendant of a man by the name of Antoine Laument de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac.  The city and the car have my great grandpere ten times back to thank for the name of the city and auto.  You must know dat dere dat at a young age, pussy will make you do things you should not do.  Dare I was, a man from deep down whare eet would take a journey jus to git you to Nawlins.  Dem Cajuns knowd dat I was a true Cajun from Acadie, Acadia from my great grandpere and dat when eet was time to eat, they come to see Sir Leopold.  Leopold ain’t gone live for all days and I must pass on dem secrets to one who gone carry on dem technique of making true food de Louisianne.  First you gotchu a great nom en Francais.  Dem name Steven est Etienne in the French.  Use Etienne, learn dem ways of Sir Leopold and go to vieux carre and open up a restaurant.  People gone to flock to eat down home food wid out making dem pauvre for wanting dem food.”

So it was that Steven became Etienne and masterfully learned how to cook deep down Cajun cuisine from a relative of a French explorer who might have been one of the original Cajuns and gave his namesake to a luxury automobile and named the city of Detroit what it is still called to this day.

Rachel met Steven who was a Barista at a Starbucks near Wayne State University in Detroit.  Rachel was a defector from an orthodox Jewish family who decided that she was going to live like everyone else lived and fuck Christian boys if she wanted to and she did want to.  Rachel tasted Steven’s concoctions and decided that they needed to relocate from Detroit to the French Quarter where mostly northern tourists could come in and get a good meal at a reasonable price and believe that they were getting the food from authentic Cajuns.  Rachel had family from Montreal that spoke French and so she learned during her extended summer visits how to speak enough French for common, English only speakers to believe that she was the real deal.

Rachel and Etienne had found a great little place on Dauphine Street that was owned by an elderly former Lawyer and his son who was a substitute English teacher in the New Orleans School District.  The elder Clement Dupuis was supposedly dying of cancer for over ten years but never really saw a physician for his maladies.  The elder Dupuis declared that he had bone cancer when all he really had was gout.  The gout was both hereditary but fueled by heavy drinking of Bourbon and eating shrimp.  Elder Dupuis’ red, throbbing big toes caused him to hobble when he did attempt to walk.  The younger Dupuis wore a droopy moustache and tried to speak in ways that he felt would impress people with a limited vocabulary.  More than anything, it was pretentious and annoying.

After Rachel let Etienne hear the message from the younger Dupuis, she called her Uncle Chaim to relay the news that the Dupuis were trying to renege on the contract to fix the broken bricks on the building that was initially constructed in 1800, three years before the Louisiana Purchase.  Uncle Chaim was a nervous little man with a potbelly that claimed to be tied to elite Israeli intelligence and was wary of everyone and anyone who did not see the world in the exact same way he did.  Uncle Chaim got on the phone and called the younger Dupuis to explain to him that if he wanted to void the contract, he would have difficulties.

“The problem with the fucking south is that they are always about thirty years behind the fucking times.  I know you people don’t consider yourselves like the rest of the south because you watch people fuck in bars and listen to Jazz on Bourbon Street.  Well I’m here to tell you that all you fucks could have never won the Civil War cause you’re so fucking stupid.  You think you can just call my niece and tell her that your old man is deathly ill and you ain’t got any money and so the deal is off, right?  Wrong!   The fucking Mossad will come down to New Orleans and take you and your lame father and drop you off on the streets of Baghdad with a sign around your fucking necks that reads, “Infidels” in fucking Arabic.  You have no idea who are fucking with.  At a minimum, I will send your fucking asses to work at Mc Donald’s to pay me my money…  Is this getting into your backwoods, livestock fucking head?  I do the work or you will regret ever fucking with me, got it?”

The younger Dupuis paraphrased all that Uncle Chaim threatened to a group of building inspectors that were still sifting through condemned homes from Hurricane Katrina some five years later.  A large man by the name of Marcel, who had sideburns and a nearly third trimester gut on him, listened to the younger Dupuis.  Marcel believed with all of his being that Jews killed Christ.  What Marcel never stopped to think about was the fact that Jesus was Jewish.  Marcel spit tobacco into a cup and shook his head in anger as the younger Dupuis shared the conversation with the men he knew as friends and fellow card players.

“He said what?!  Sommabitch Jewboy got some goddamn nerve comin down here thinking he gone run things.  Put his ass on the phone.  Sommabitch ruined my suppah.  I ain’t even the appetite no mo to eat now dat I’m so hoppin mad.”

Marcel leaned forward in his seat and spit once in his cup before asking Chaim Saul if he was the person he was speaking to on the phone.  Chaim acknowledged that he was indeed that person.

“Son, imma tell you now, man to man dat if that money ain’t re-turned in the manner in which you received it, we gone send our own people up north to bring yo fat ass down hare an feed you to dem gators.  You thank I’m jus talking, test me, boy.  In this day of GPS, you cain’t hide.  Let me break it down for you- money tomorrow, no money, kidnap yo fat ass, gator buffet, comprenez vous?”

Within twenty-four hours, the FBI was interviewing all parties on what was agreed upon and discussed, what was threatened and promised.  The city building inspectors were worried about things like pensions and jobs in a town that had extraordinarily high unemployment.  Marcel thought that maybe an apology and a handshake could begin to sort out the misunderstanding.  It took an inordinate amount of ass kissing to keep Chaim from pressing the issue legally.  How was it that the contract was honored and Chaim wound up making twenty percent more than initially agreed upon?

“Listen to me, Eliot…  Send me two fucking guys who look the part and I can get them some bogus ID…  I know the job I took is only worth $20,000.00 but now it is a matter of principle.  I can’t let these backward fucks back me into a corner.  You send me the guys.  I fly them in an out of New Orleans in a day to put the fear of Jesus into them and then this is done… Come on, you owe me.”

And so they lived happily ever after…

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November 12, 2011

The Beat Your Ass Cafe

 

Patrice Fort was born and raised in a really small town that most people never heard of in Alberta.  For those of you in the states, Alberta is a province, which is sort of like a state except that it is not a state.  The Fort family slowly moved from the Plaines of Abraham near Quebec City and over the years kept moving west like the Mormons in search of a new town called Springfield.  The Forts wound up in no place Alberta.

Fort, if you know the French language, means strong and Patrice was the epitome of a Cro-Magnon man of the modern age.  Patrice was a hair over six feet tall and weighed 250 lbs.  Patrice was a solid mass of muscle like a human pit-bull.  At a young age, Patrice learned that his ice hockey skills were mediocre at best.  Patrice was not fast and did not make the best decisions on the ice nor did he have the best shot.  Patrice was able to fight and from the age of thirteen, Patrice never lost a fight.

The thing that scared people most about Patrice when they were faced with fighting him was that there was no anger or malice.  It was just something he was born and bred to do and so he would pummel opponents who messed with the premier players on whatever team he happened to be playing on.  It was during juniors that life suddenly changed for Patrice.

Patrice’s Quebec junior team had gone south to New York City to play in a tournament sponsored by some bank that no longer exists in the states.  Patrice had never been to a city as large as New York and had never imagined so much humanity crammed into such a small space in a place like Manhattan.  Patrice went into a Starbucks and ordered a tall hot chocolate and watched the unique people that walked down the sidewalk near Times Square.   From the Starbucks window, for Patrice it was like watching a freak show at the circus. There were so many different types of people, in varying sizes and shapes. An older woman of about sixty years of age came up and spoke to Patrice in a way he had never heard before.  Even though the woman was older, she was shapely and confident.

“Many years have come and gone man and you’re one of the last relics of the Neanderthal period, man.  All swelled up with muscles and I suppose you never took one supplement… Man, dig that crazy tune.”

Herbie Hancock was playing Cantaloupe Island over the speakers in the Starbucks.  The woman put her hand on Patrice’s large forearm and closed her eyes as the song played.  Patrice looked at the strange woman and sort of dug the tune that softly played.

“People are always saying that this or that is the shit.  I’m here to tell you that this is the true shit, man.  You weren’t around when this shit was devised.  People were swinging to Benny Goodman and then cats like Herbie came round and opened people’s eyes to music that could speak without words.  1964, we all thought the world would end, man.  Kennedy killed and a cowboy with his hands on the nuclear button, man.  Beatles came and what did they say?  They said too much but listen to this here, man.  I know you can feel it, cave man,  baby…  I bet you’re hung like a horse.”

It was the first time that Patrice had ever had sex with a woman and the woman was older than his own mother and twice as shapely.  There were very few sags and lumps on the old Beatnik woman. They made love, if you want to call it that, several time over the course of an afternoon while listening to cool Jazz and hearing the woman read Beat Poetry by Ginsberg and Kerouac.  Patrice left the small basement apartment in Manhattan and was never the same.

As the years went on, teammates came to understand that Patrice was a bit out there but they respected the difference.  And wouldn’t respect a man who could kill them with his bare hands.  On planes and trains, Patrice listened to Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk through earphones and wrote poetry.

What colour is blue when the sky is gray.  Walk down the streets of Detroit like I came from Mars, come to visit bars full of coulorful coloured folk and they think they know me because the press wants to own me, ride me, pride me like a pony and it’s phony.  Won’t eat gluten. I’m free like Putin who wants to keep Russia from anarchy after the fall of The Wall and Soviet dynamo.  The Red Army Team came to town when I was young.  Ate biscuits and drank coffee in a vast land.  I followed the road from Alberta to everywhere, man.  Everywhere is nowhere and yet I’m somewhere between where I should be and where I am.  Sit in the shade  sipping wine no words to this Monk tune that rolls through my mind.  If the colour blue is true, I hold out hope for me and you…  Coltrane, last train try in vain…  Gonna sit outside in Portugal or Spain and write a few words on the balcony in the rain…  Rinse and repeat that, Cat.

 

Now to you and I, words strung together such as this meant little or nothing.  A long stream of unconsciousness.  Patrice was traded from Phoenix, to San Jose to Boston and then went to Nashville and landed in Detroit at minimum wage for the NHL.  The Detroit Red Wings were a finesse team that really did not need a lug or a goon to go out and fight to protect the true hockey players of the team.  The fighters were an outdated necessity from days gone by of clutch and grab hockey a la Philadelphia in the 1970’s.  Detroit grabbed Patrice and never really played him until one day against Chicago, a heated rival who happened to be winning the game and taunted the Detroit team.  The Detroit coach, Mike Babcock, nodded to Patrice, who on his first shift, beat up two Chicago players and mistakenly punched a referee.  From that point on, Patrice had a home in the hearts of Detroit Red Wing fans.

Most people don’t know the story behind the finger snapping when Patrice takes the ice.  To those from out of town or watching on Versus, it may sound like the theme from the Adams Family is being played.  Before long, large groups of Beatnik poetry types who frequented Patrice’s café in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, began going to Detroit Red Wing games, wearing jerseys that had the name FORT on the back.  Scruffy faced young men who appeared to be anti-sports, showed up wearing Red Wing jerseys, snapping their fingers violently whenever Patrice got on the ice or fought.  Before long, everyone got in on the act.  It was like throwing octopus on the ice.

After home games in Hamtramck on Jos Campau there is a Beatnik café where people drink and read poetry to Jazz.  It is called, Beat Your Ass Café.  It is nothing more than an old Polish watering hole that Patrice bought to host poetry readings and feature live Jazz.  On the walls are pictures of some of Patrice’s best fights with the dates and names of opponents. Patrice usually appears after games and reads his latest poetry while young Jazz musicians play behind him and others.  It is standing room only after Red Wing games.  Dig that.

November 2, 2011

Cleveland de Brasil

Mathew, Mark and Luke all lived in a gated community on a hillside that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.  All three of the men were part of the hated 1% of the United States that appeared to be flourishing off of the backs of those being displaced from homes and depleted of savings.
            Mathew and Mark had become friends with Luke and his wife Maria a few years back after Luke made a killing buying and selling real estate.  Luke’s name was actually Joao, which is John but decided to go with the middle name of Lucio or Luke. Understand?  Orange County in California saw home prices tank before the rest of the nation.  Luke moved from Ohio by way of Sao Paulo to southern California and quickly became a very wealthy man.
            Mathew and Mark’s wives, Martha and Myrtle were friends with Luke and Maria and really appeared to like them but actually were suspicious of them and wondered how it was that both of them could seem so in tune to one another and so happy and content and yet never speak to one another.  The quartet noticed that quite often, Luke and Maria would just look at one another without saying a word and it appeared as though they had a conversation with their minds.  Mathew finally said to Mark when Luke went to his wine cellar to get a bottle of wine that he had purchased at a small winery in Italy.
            “I think these two are aliens…  I know it sounds weird but how do two people look so perfect, act so perfect, never fight, never complain and yet look at you as if they know something you’re trying to hide something that they already know about.  Who comes from Cleveland and makes a fortune in real estate?  What’s their secret?”
            The three sets of couples sat eating and drinking wine in Luke and Maria’s backyard that had a magnificient view of thePacific Ocean.  It was warm as the sun began to set.  The wine flowed like water.  Luke had more alcohol than he had had in quite some time and could not contain himself any longer.  Luke was no longer the quiet observer as usual.  Luke went from being quiet to loud and aggressive yet maliciously playful all along.
            “Let’s play a game… Shall we?  A game of, ‘I know what you’re thinking’…  You all must agree to this first.  I want to make sure we are all on board,” said Luke.
            Maria grabbed her husband by the arm without saying a word.  Luke pursed his lips and held his hand up.  Maria blinked hard and took a seat with her arms folded.
            “This game is called Guess the Guests…Now then… One among us is sleeping with another among us while married to two others among us.  One among us has actually been set for life since birth and has set up a faux business to give the appearance of hard work while screwing the secretary while she shoves beads up his ass in his office.  One among us worried about insider information that they had knowledge of and is worried about the feds closing in on them.  One among us is fucking everything they can whenever the chance presents itself including with friends of their offspring.  One among is certifiably cuckoo and is on every sort of medication you could imagine to help this individual walk a straight line.  Straight enough so that nobody knows or suspects that something very wrong is going on inside their brain…  I’ll make this easy on all of you.  If you take me and my wife out of the running on this guessing game, that narrows the field to just the four of you.”
            “Luke! Nao… Por favor, pare.  Eles nao sabem que podemos ler suas mentes…”
            The guests were stunned that Maria could speak another language other than English.  She looked like them and sounded like them but then suddenly bust out in another tongue when the chips were down and out.
            “You see it for yourself tonight, my dear friends…  My wife and I are truly capable of disagreeing, of fighting, of disappointment in one another.  Here I am a Midwestern fly-by-night who happened to have that Midas touch… Like Goldfinger, right?  I make money hand over fist and you all wonder how.  How is he doing this?  How do these two manage to get along so well?  They seem plastic.  They seem fake.  They seem to be aliens who use some sort of telepathy to communicate with one another like some sort of weirdo Twilight Zone bullshit, right?  You’re goddamn right that I see it in your eyes and read it like a book.  I know your secrets…  I know your dirty little secrets and you can’t hide from Luke.  I  know when you’re being honest and that is far more than any of you know about yourselves…  So as they say in Brazil or shall I say Cleveland, after too many drinks; go fuck yourselves and cry or have another drink and dance…  I will be back.  I am going for more of the truth serum… A little of that Cleveland Indian fire water.  You either be gone or remain when I get back.  You have a choice.”
            Nobody left the table and nobody spoke while Luke was gone.  They were all stunned and shocked by the brash outburst of a man who had never said very much in the past.  Luke had never bragged or judged before. Loud Samba music accompanied Luke’s return.  Luke laughed loudly with a cigar dangling out of the corner of his mouth, holding four bottles of red wine.  He was singing along with the song in Portugese.   The guests all guessed it was Spanish.  They were wrong.
 
            Batom- a bala bate no meu coracao.  Dentes espalhados pelo chao- Natural- E a vezes social…  Vai la cou boi!
           
            Nobody in the backyard had ever really heard Samba music before or danced to it except Maria who had grown up with it long before they reached Cleveland.  They all drank and all danced and gave very little thought to the things Luke had said.  They may as well as have danced naked. Their inhibitions disappeared. The Mexican wait staff and the Vietnamese au pair joined in on the dancing as did neighbors adjacent to Luke’s property until the sun came up over Santa Monica Boulevard.
 
            At about two in the afternoon following the party, Luke stood and stared out at the water the way he had once done at the Atlantic Ocean as a boy and Lake Erie as a younger man.  He held a cup of coffee and suffered through a headache as he watched surfers off in the distance wading on boards, waiting to catch the right wave.  Maria approached Luke and without saying a word, spoke to her husband in Portuguese.  I could write what she said to Luke in Portuguese and it would really sound pretty.  In English, this is how it went;
 
            “You nearly let the cat out of the bag last night.  I really thought you were going to tell them how we know… They could never begin to grasp how we know things.  It would blow their minds.”
            Luke or Lucio, Joao or John, took a drink of his coffee turned to his wife and replied without opening his mouth with a big toothy smile.
 
            “Pessoas de Cleveland… pode ser estranho… 
 
             “The People of Cleveland… can be strange”

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