Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

Awake Since the War



Tired? We don't know tired. My Romanian translator, Ioana, and two of her colleagues, young journalists, flew across the Atlantic from Bucharest to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Atlanta, rented a car and drove to New Orleans with a stop in Montgomery, Ala., to see a friend. When they arrived in New Orleans at about 2 a.m., they headed for Bourbon Street and by 5 a.m. they were in bed. At 9 a.m., they were ready for breakfast. I'm pretty hardcore myself, but these East Europeans must be making up for years of communism when they were asleep while the dictator ranted on TV. Those were the days! Restful.

The Romanians don't have a monopoly on that kind of schedule, though. Everybody's working from dawn until late into the night, and we all seem to have forgotten the three principles of doing anything: 1) Do you want to do it? 2) Do you need to do it? and 3) Is it a gift to yourself? If the answer to at least two of those questions is no, turn over and sleep some more. Actually, Ioana, the tireless Romanian, told me this: Find a busy person to promote wishful thinking.

After breakfast, I gave the Romanians my abbreviated tour of the French Quarter: the Faulkner Bookstore, where they met Joe DeSalvo, the owner; the Mississippi River, where they all remembered childhood books in Romanian about the Mississippi River; the statue of Joan of Arc; the Pope Circle in Jackson Square; Central Grocery; and then Molly's. They had all read my book about New Orleans (in fact, Ioana had translated it into Romanian), so they felt that they knew the place. Molly's is incredibly famous in Romania because of this book, and a Molly's in Bucharest is only a matter of time. At Molly's they had their first Abita and I introduced them to some friends.

I said that it's unfair that the older I get the harder I work, because the fair thing would be to get younger the harder you work. Everybody laughed about that, and Sir Charles said, 'Let's not talk unfair." The way he said 'unfair" " it didn't just mean us, but the whole city of New Orleans, the whole country of the U.S.A. and maybe the whole world. I took that to the Romanians, and they understood it perfectly, because not much had been 'fair" in their history. Still, they were having a great time, so they must have answered at least two of the principles positively. After becoming addicted to Abita, they went out to hear music. I went to take a nap. Next morning they drove back to Atlanta.

Ioana is now translating this somewhere between Alabama and Georgia, and I'm thinking about pretending that I'm in Sibiu, the peaceful medieval city where I was born and slept through my childhood and adolescence, but I hear that they've repainted the old buildings and the place is mobbed by tourists.

Andrei Codrescu's latest book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing From the City (Algonquin Books).

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