Day trip to the end of the world.
One day some years ago we got in the car, got a literal bucket of drive-through daiquiris and pointed the car south. A stand-up bass player was driving the car, and he popped in a cd and casually told us it was an album he had just finished recording with Tom Waits the week before. These are the kind of people and the kind of strange cars you find yourself riding in in New Orleans.
We drove and drove—we didn’t care where or when. We pulled over at a bridge crossing and got out to examine all the sunken shrimping boats. Mosquitos the size of birds got one whiff of our California blood and descended. The most vivid visceral sensation I can recall from that trip, a few days later: sitting on the sidewalk curb of upper Esplanade sticky with sweat and juice from the Capri-suns a woman gave us from her front porch, covered in mosquito bite welts and bruises from riding our bikes 10 miles in 100 degree heat to hop the fence at the abandoned Playland. The kind of sweet, dog-panting exhaustion that comes around less and less after childhood’s end.
Back in the car, we drove and drove and suddenly the paved highway graded into a dirt road for about 20 feet and then nothing. The road just…stopped. We skidded to a halt and blinked. Something loping on all fours ran in front of the car. “What was that?” we shrieked. It was a cat, a cat the size of a goddamn dog. There was nobody around. We hadn’t seen another soul for miles. At the end of the dirt road, before the nothingness of swamps began forever, stood a building on stilts that just read, “BAR.” We looked at each other and shrugged. “We are either going to make friends or get murdered,” one of us said.
We eased open the door. The bar was enormous, and there were all of five people in it: two old men at the bar, a woman shelling crayfish at a table, and the bartender. We all exchanged blinks. “Well, well, well,” one of the old men said. “Welcome to Cocodrie.”
Over the next six hours they fed us fresh crayfish and gave us money for the jukebox and showed us maps of places that don’t exist anymore. They told us of all they had lost in Katrina, dryly and matter-of-fact. In southern Louisiana you get used to the ephemeral, the fleeting, the disappearing, the shifting of land and water. Nature snatching itself back. I wondered what that does to a person, how that shapes you. There’s a recklessness of spirit there—why not live as hard and wild as you possibly can since it might all be gone tomorrow? For years I refused to look up on a map if Cocodrie was real or not. I wanted to remember it as a half-dream, because the feelings in dreams stay sharper than memories, sometimes.
The sun went down as we climbed back down the steps from the bar on stilts. Had we really just spent an entire day inside of it? Time, too, felt sticky and fleeting all at once.
The five of them stood in the doorway and waved and waved at us until they were just a speck in the rearview mirror. “Y’all come back to Cocodrie soon,” they said.