From left to right: Devin’s adorable daughter (whose name escapes me), Max, and Ali. Royal Street Deli, July 4, 2009.
As I mentioned, the crew of the Anne Marie found ourselves in New Orleans for Fourth of July weekend. For the night itself, we decided to head down to the French Quarter. We didn’t really have plans beyond that, but we knew we didn’t really need a plan. We were bound to stumble into a party at some point.
Max and I were hungry, so we broke off from the rest of the group and started asking random locals for some good budget places to sample the local cuisine. One woman recommended a place called the Royal Street Deli, which, as it so happened, had just opened the day before. It seemed like a nice place; small and homey, with a friendly, pony-tailed bartender by the name of Jogan (YO-gan), and a jukebox with a solid selection of classic rock albums. I noticed that they had an absinthe fountain in the corner, and were thus set up to serve absinthe the way God intended.*
To give you a sense of how provincial both Max and I were, neither of us had ever tried—or even heard of—a po’ boy before. But we soon learned it was a staple of Southern eating, and so we had the chef—a cheerful woman named Devin—whip us up a couple.
By the time we were finished, the rest of the group—by whch I mean Ali, John, and Peter—had arrived. Ali and Max, I should mention, are both accomplished bluegrass musicians, and had been busking earlier in the day (at this point their duo didn’t have a name, but these days they perform as the Tantric Rablerousers, often with my little sister Susie on lead vocals). Devin and Jogan noticed the mandolin and guitar they had been lugging around all day, and asked them to perform a few tunes. They obliged:
The doors and windows of the deli were wide open, and, unsurprisingly, the music began to draw people in. Jogan poured free drinks for the musicians and their friends. The music got louder, more exuberant. The place got more crowded. Devin perfrormed a couple songs with Max and Ali. A woman who turned out to be Lisa Lynn, a local musician of some repute, performed a couple songs with them as well.
I got talking to these two tourists: Earl and his brother, who told me to call him Forty. I don’t remember much of what we talked about, but I do recall that when the karaoke machine came out, Forty was one of the first in line. He performed a drunken, yowling version of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”
Around midnight the fireworks started, and the entire deli emptied out to go watch them from the street. Devin began to cry, and started embracing all of us; the deli was still young, its fate very much up in the air, and its success that night meant a great deal to her. Max and Ali were still playing out on the street, and wasted tourists tottered by, dropping bills in Max’s straw hat.
At some point, Earl came over to shake their hands.
“I’m a musician too, you know,” he told Max.
“Oh, no way.”
“Yeah, man. You might have seen me on TV.”
“Yeah, man. You should check out my web site. DMX.com.”
“No way, man. That’s DMX’s web site.”
Earl grinned at us. Then he told us that he and Forty were staying at the Hilton. He gave us the room number, and took off.
I’m not sure why we didn’t go to the room. They were almost certainly still up, and still partying. Sure, we were exhausted, and sure, those of us who drank were good and drunk, but that’s no excuse. Here was an opportunity to find out if he had just been fucking with us, or if he was actually the acclaimed rapper DMX. If he was sincere, then here was a chance to party in DMX’s hotel room.
Maybe we were intimidated, given his well deserved reputation for being absolutely terrifying. Either way, we walked past the Hilton, hopped on the trolley back to Tulane, and collapsed into our sleeping bags. Not knocking on Earl’s door is one of my great regrets from that trip, but all in all, it was still a solid night.
As for whether or not Earl was actually DMX: I was skeptical for a long time. Max and Ali insisted that he was who he claimed to be, pointing out that DMX’s real name was, in fact, Earl, and noting the resemblance. I responded that he was facing criminal prosecution, might already have been in jail, and besides, DMX.com has nothing to do with DMX the rapper.
But since the end of the trip, I’ve become a true believer. Not knowing the URL of his own web site sounds exactly like DMX to me. So does getting anonymously trashed in New Orleans with his brother on the Fourth of July. And there is the resemblance. Besides, who would lie about being DMX?
DMX or not-DMX; either one is fairly plausible. But what it comes down to is that, all other things being equal, it is far more fun to believe the former. So let it be known: exactly one year ago, in the middle of the most insane journey of my life, I partied with DMX. No July Fourth I have will ever top that.
By the way: if you ever find yourself in the French Quarter, grab a drink or a bite to eat at the Royal Street Deli. It really is a lovely place, run by some truly lovely people. Tell them that the guys from the bus recommended it, and send them our love.
*I was still below the legal drinking age at this point, but not in Prague, where my first experience with absinthe had been soured by the manner in which it had been served: in a plastic shot glass, as if I had ordered some cheap tequila.