Back In The Saddle (But No Beer For My Horses)


Back to the FutureYesterday morning Debra showed up and escorted Jake, the friend she’s let crash here, to the door. She was in a grim mood but told me nothing about what happened. When I made a few timid inquiries the short replies implied it was none of my business, though I felt otherwise—few things being more intimate than where you lay your head. At least it’s made for a good story. And there’s a valuable lesson: If you rent to a writer beware of stirring up drama if you don’t want it going public!

Still, you may be wondering how we got to this point. As I recouped in Florida I had little to write about so was lax in posting, but my few days back in town have been quite eventful so suddenly I have a lot of catching up to do. So let’s jump in the DeLorean with Marty McFly and crank the dial back three weeks.


JustifiedI had always planned to return to Florida in mid-June to visit and retrieve some furniture once I had an idea of what I’d need in my new abode, but a week stretched into two and a half due to illness and preparing my condo for the market. I had been sick and then stressed out, so I left earlier than planned and spent a shameful amount of time in bed catching up on Netflix and DVR (Justified Season 4 was awesome and I am now addicted to American Horror Story!) and eating good (and healthier) food. I still managed to be productive, though, meeting with a real estate attorney and cleaning and rearranging my condo for showing.

Whatever Delta funk had infected me, though, took nearly three weeks to work out of my system (New Orleans biological voodoo is fierce—I’ve spent half my time here getting over something!) and my rattled confidence took just as long to recover. While this town is friendly and welcoming when you’re waving tourist $$$, I’ve found in moving here that it’s, under the welcoming veneer, a very closed southern town much like Charleston or Savannah. I didn’t expect to be an overnight success, but making personal and professional inroads has been more difficult than expected. Blogging about this disconnect prompted one reader to ask if I was giving up on New Orleans. Of course not! I’m in it at least until March 4, 2014 (next Mardi Gras, for those slow on the uptake.)  I just needed a break. This is supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime, after all, so I’m going to have fun even if it makes me miserable!

Back in the SaddleBesides, no place is perfect, and as my stay in Jacksonville dragged on it was soon clear it was time to move on. An appointment with a realtor pushed my departure back to last Friday and I decided to stay one more night to help a friend celebrate officially reclaiming her maiden name. Finally, Saturday morning, I loaded up the V-8 workhorse and headed west. As my verve and swagger revived those last few days I got on an Aerosmith kick, so to quote those bawdy Bostonians, now I’m Back In The Saddle Again!


When I went to start my truck that morning, though, my brand new battery was somehow completely dead. After getting it jumped, the skies opened up without warning as I carried my suitcase out. Sometimes I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something!? Once on the road, though, the drive was uneventful—I’m getting a hang of the one stop journey—and it was still daylight when I pulled onto Decatur Street. Someone called my name and I looked up to see Jake waving from the balcony. I waved back and then he went inside and closed the door.

To avoid exposing myself to French Quarter pillaging, I always move stuff into the building first and then worry about getting it up the long and winding staircase later. Both the cab and bed of my truck was packed, and Jake never poked his head out to help with the furniture although I’d asked before leaving town. I was already drenched in sweat as I moved the first load up the stairs. When I arrived at the top landing, he was waiting for me: “Dude, I only ask one thing,” he said before I could even set anything down, “that you don’t write about me in the blog.”

It was an uncomfortable arrival. I figured Debra had been reading but doubted he would bother. I know the portrait I’ve painted hasn’t been flattering, but it has been honest and I had decided that, considering I’d asked for none of this and she knew going in I was here to write about my experiences, it was all fair game. Now, though, I felt a twinge of guilt.

maple_packageGranted, I had to ask repeatedly for him to quit eating my food, to clean up after himself when dishes would linger in the sink for days, to not smoke with the doors open and a breeze carrying through the place, etc. On the other hand, I’d made fun of his story of the 19-year-old girl he’d met before going to Africa, though the telling had been innocent enough. He did try to be friendly and, although I  worried I may return to find the guitar I left behind in a pawn shop, I never felt physically threatened. He’d even insisted on cooking me breakfast the morning I’d left for Florida, although he admitted to ‘lifting’ the bacon he went to the store for!

Thus I didn’t feel completely in the wrong, but I did feel guilty. I fumbled an explanation and apologized if I offended him, saying I’d avoid mentioning things as much as possible, though explained that the whole point of my being here was to write about it. He nodded and took off as I finished unpacking.


My guilt was short-lived. Once I had all but the heavy items  upstairs, I went to the refrigerator, drenched in sweat, for some water. The back of my neck instantly turned red. All the beer I’d left was gone.

I went through all the cabinets and boxes of cereal had been opened and nearly finished, a whole container of sugar had been drained  dry, snacks were gone, and a liter of Gatorade missing. As I walked downstairs I spied my laundry detergent tossed aside empty in the trash. Basically, anything that didn’t require cooking (because effort required was the only safeguard) had been finished or nearly so. My guilt turned to fury. I’d asked multiple times for him to ask before taking food, yet always felt bad and gave in when he asked. In my absence, though, it had all been fair game. Taking food when your hungry is somewhat forgiveable. Taking beer, hardly necessary to sustain life, just showed blatant disregard.

It’s hard to think clear when you’re upset, so I called a friend back in Jax and took some time to relax before finally taking an inventory of my room. If any possession were gone I was ready to pack up and drive away. Jake did seem to operate by some sort of moral code and left my ‘stuff’ alone, but it was an uncomfortable position to be in, having to have faith in where he may draw that line.


aerosmith-line-2My mind was now mulling over Jake’s request not to mention him. I didn’t want to escalate the situation, yet my experiences are mine to share and his pilfering of groceries had zapped my sympathy. Besides, it certainly is an interesting story. Every writer must figure out where to draw that line as to how much they share and live with the disapproval of those who don’t like the results.

It was all too much to figure out after a nine-hour drive and unpacking. I needed a drink. Since there was no beer in the refrigerator, I tossed on a fresh t-shirt, grabbed a ball cap, and headed out not caring how I looked or smelled. It was New Orleans, after all. Someone in the bar would surely be skuzzier!





  1. Glad he is gone and hope no keys were made. Interesting story. Hope some happier stories appears the next time.

  2. “a whole container of sugar had been drained dry”

    That’s a LOT of sugar for one guy. I’m still working on a bag from last year. Perhaps in his haze of lazy thievery he mistook it for a giant coke stash?

    • WV Gumbo says:

      I know!?! That’s what I thought. That would have lasted me until Mardi Gras! That was weird and the beer just blatant. Being hungry and broke is one thing. That’s just greedy and plain stealing.

      I’ll keep an eye open for rolled up dollar bills dusted with sugar, though!

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