Friday, March 31, 2006

Heaven Beats Out Hell This Time, Louisiana-style

"Critter Platter" by Wes Aldridge

"The Boil" by Wes Aldridge

Notebook computer with all my photos from this shot and my calendar of appointments: died two days ago. Food poisoning from a bad tuna sandwich: left me tossing an cookie all night until the early morn. $400 Sprint POS Palm cell phone: died on me after the cell phone store had closed for the night. I don't think the world owes me much, but after the week of Hell I've endured, I deserved an awesome night like tonight.

I wandered into a restaurant called Gabbeaux's, a local joint on the edge of the river in West Monroe, Louisiana. Smells of Cajun filled the air as the waitress lead me to my seat on the patio. A sign boasted boiled crawfish, 3 lbs. for $10. I had never tried the red critters, but there was no getting around it this time. Everything was in its right place and it was time for something new. I made the order and tipped back a MillerLite as I browsed through the photos from today's shoots, enjoying the warm night air and breeze blowing off the Ouachita River.

As ironic and bullshit as it sounds, Creedance's version of "Proud Mary" was coming over the house speakers as the waitress brought my monster load of crawfish, complete with corn-on-the-cob and boiled potato. I stared down at the bowl of lil' Delta lobsters, and yup, they stared right back. The waitress had many other tables and scurried off before I could fully explain that I had no idea how to eat the them. It was a little fucked-up for about five seconds, but I let it pass... there was no turning back now.

Another waitress made eye contact with me and I frantically flagged her to the table. I said, "I know I seem like a total tool, but I am crawfish retarded and I have no fucking idea how to eat these damn things." [people seem to say 'fuck' and 'damn' a lot in Louisiana, so I've learned and adapted to that]

She laughed a little and grabbed one up in her gorgeous hands. She said, "well, you take the little mutha fucka and hold'em like this. Then you pull out the center of the tail to get the poo out. Break off his damn head and suck'em. Then peel off the top layer of the tail and there ya go."

The way her hands twisted, pinched and pulled the crawfish meat from the shell was majestic. My eyes followed her fingers work in slow motion until nothing was left but a little piece of white and red meat. She held it in her hands and said, "here you go."

I shit you not, she raised it to my mouth and said, "bite it, hun." So I did what any good man living the American Dream would do... I leaned in and ate straight from Kym's hand. She giggled, and I liked it. By the way, this is non-fiction. Not even the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I mean, come on, is anybody innocent? We surely weren't right then. I think it must be something about the heat in the night air in Louisiana that makes the steam really come.

Lets recap. I go into a Cajun restaurant on the edge of the ghetto after dark and order a food that might intimidate most people for the first time. I end up having a beautiful waitress demonstrate the process and hand-feed me crawfish while I sit on the edge of a river in Louisiana. Hot damn, I think this is the ticket. I might have to go grab lunch there tomorrow, I'd be a fool not too!

Tonight I got a little closer to understanding Louisiana. As simple as it seems, it was truly one of the best nights of my life thus far. Lookin' forward to many more to come.