"The Saints are costing me boo-koo money, and I don't even bet on the games," E.T. is saying.
We all look up from the omelettes and huevos rancheros that E.T. has just served and try not to giggle. E.T.'s real name is Paul or Roger, but we call him E.T. because his head has a distinct size advantage over the rest of his body. It makes you want to laugh.
"Look. It's going on noon, and the breakfast crowd is leaving, but no lunch crowd. Because there's a noon kick-off. Everybody always wants to talk about what the Saints mean to the local economy. Nobody ever talks about the negative economic impact of the Saints on local business. On Sunday afternoons, the place is a mausoleum. Maybe the second half of the season, the fans'll give up on the Saints and come back for lunch."
A guy sitting alone at the next table gets up and starts going through his Sunday paper. "Say, what's my crime?" the guy asks E.T. "Whattya mean?" says E.T. "Well, I been on bread and water here for an hour," the guy says and leaves.
He is more than replaced by the arrival of The Professor, who joins me and Yogi and Jimmy Chimichanga. He is greeted. "Trying hard to make a dime do the work of a dollar," he grunts. "How's the menu here? I've seen the cook. My dear mother warned me never to trust a skinny cook."
"He does more and better things to eggs than a rooster does," says Yogi. "But the service is slower than the Roman Candy wagon."
The Saints game comes on the little TV near the cash register. Jimmy C. asks if anybody goes to Saints games any more. "As often as you change windshield wipers in Phoenix," says Prof. "Exactly," says Jimmy. "They are now priced for the corporations. Only they ain't got no corporations in New Orleans."
"What bugs me is this sports jerk on the radio," says Yogi. "He fusses at the fans for not happily paying more for Saints and LSU tickets and ain't paid to see a game since he got his communications degree. No wonder he never criticizes."
"Whattya expect?" points out Jimmy. "You think he's gonna be a man who spits in his own bathtub?"
By now the place is empty except for us. In comes Cynthia. We are all glad to see her, except for The Professor, who has had nothing positive to say about women since his own mama went on the wrong side of the grass.
"Hi, guys," she says cheerfully. "I've been thinking that thinking is bad for you."
"Don't be so tough on thinking," Prof says. "You shouldn't be so harsh with strangers."
"Yeah?" she comes back. "How many honorary degrees you got? I forget." The top button or two on her blouse is off-duty, so the rest of us are trying to edge in. She is like a peanut in a monkey cage.
"I think I may be in love this week," she volunteers, and everybody hoots. "Love?" says Yogi. "When your granny puts her arms around you and smiles that smile, that's love. You get the best of it before you're 10 years old."
"It's time I was in love again," insists Cynthia. "Like Cher or Madonna, I gotta keep reinventing myself."
"Or like Trent Lott," adds Professor.
"Man, there is no politics like Louisiana politics, "says Jimmy. "We got a guy running for governor named Leach. Is that a great name for a politician or what?"
"I'm now restricting myself to men who smell nice," remarks Cynthia, careful to guide the conversation back where it belongs. "It means she's eliminated buffalo skinners from her social calendar," translates Prof.
Two guys bounce in and take the next table. Unfortunately, they look very much alike so they must be brothers, although one wears a toupe that looks like it's been soaked in wet nicotine. They both look like it's been a while since they've spent any time under a shower head.
But E.T. comes hustling out with a pitcher of freshly squeezed mojitos and shows them as much interest as Cynthia's blouse has been getting from us. "This is Noel and Joel," E.T. explains "They've been up the Atlantic seaboard following Hurricane Isabel. They're in the salvage business."
"Sort of like legalized looters," says one brother.
"So was it a bad hurricane?" asks Yogi. "I was watching it on TV. My impression was that if it'd been in the Gulf, it would have hardly been on TV. But if it's gonna hit the East Coast, it's on 24 hours a day. They got film of a trash can blowing across the a lawn. They even had Geraldo Rivera out there; they must have told him the Taliban was in Maryland."
"It was OK," says the brother with the bad toupe. "Of course, it ain't never nice having to talk to insurance people. But it's like there's only money to be made in the building up or tearing down of something. Like why they didn't just put a casino in the Rivergate. No money to be made in that."
"So your favorite movie must be The Perfect Storm," suggests the Prof.
There's a roar from the TV. The Titan punter fakes a punt and throws the ball for a first down, which equals the Saints' first half total.
"Hey!" Jimmy yells to E.T. "You may not have to wait till the end of the second half of the season. Them Saints lovers may be back here by the second half."