Stink hits in July like nothing else in New Orleans. Indeed, the whiff of an overripe human being, mixed with perfume or the ketones of booze or a spritz of Axe Body Spray from the pits, can clear out a room—unless you’re body-blocked in a concert or trapped in dialogue or duty-bound to man your post.
And such was the dilemma of my friend, who I’ll call Prince of the Derelicts, the 26-year-old lover of one of the city’s preeminent historians, as he stood dressed in an orange, red and blue Swiss Guard outfit that vaguely smelled of ribbon. He leaned against brick and, beneath a black beret, puffed on his Juul beside a Royal Street doorway.
Posing tough in his multicolored blouse and pantaloons, he looked like a dandy thug. Prince had already attracted some attention, as was fully the intention, when he emerged onto the street in matching Swiss Guard outfits with my husband Ryan.
Their purpose? To guard the gates of the building while, above us all, the Mystik Krewe de la Rue Royale Revelers met in conclave to choose the next Grande Dame of their famous Twelfth Night Party, aka the “Grand Reveler” of Mardi Gras 2020. To make this choice, they would require much booze and spirited discussion and, most importantly, protection from intrusion of the masses. Hence, the twinky Swiss Guards playing bouncer, who I nicknamed “Kinderguardians” as I stood by and sipped a Pimm’s Cup.
Former Grand Revelers gained entrance. All else were turned away. Well, except me, whom the sentries permitted to lounge with them in the breezeway. The aroma of the fancy soap shop next store infused the air with lavender and bergamot, and we laughed as passersby paused to high five or take pictures with the Kinderguardians.
Then I was standing directly in a horse jockey’s crotch and breathing through the hole of his dick. Or, at least, it smelled so. My brain told me so, though my eyes told me different. And I turned to see Prince conversing with a dreadlocked gentleman bearing a go-cup. This person was, for lack of a better term, olfactorily challenged.
“Yo, where you get dem costumes,” the man inquired.
“Yo, they were like 80 bucks off Amazon,” Prince responded.
I took a step back, but Prince was stuck—honor-bound, as a Kinderguardian, to defend the entrance. As John Adams once explained, “A sentry’s post is his castle.”
Yet I did not know, in this circumstance, how the Prince of Derelicts could handle this tête-à-tête. But handling it he was with aplomb, with no visible reaction to the diffusions of what can best be described as man-cheese emanating like radiation waves. Ah, it occurred to me that, given Prince’s nickname, his nostrils must be attenuated to various “street bouquets.”
“They great. You got extra? Lemme buy one off you,” the man spoke in rejoinder.
“Nah, sorry. Amazon,” Prince countered.
“What the fuck am I gonna wear for Halloween then?” the man then shouted suddenly, almost irately.
“How bout that,” Prince answered quickly, diffusing the situation by pointing to a nearby television box that a neighbor had left on the curb. “You could tape it up yellow and SpongeBob the fuck out of it.”
The man stood quietly, quizzically. “Yeah, you right,” he then said, grabbing the box, unfolding it square and stepping into its gaping center.
He pulled the cardboard up to his waist, admiring its general shape. The flapping wings, which settled down by his knees, gave the silhouette of a skirt. “Thanks a millions!” he declared, high-fiving Prince as he began to shuffle onward.
“Yo,” Prince turned and whispered, “that dude’s my friend, but he sorta stank.”
Prince waved his hands to clear the air. The ruffles of his Swiss Guard blouse billowed with each swoosh, and then he tucked his head beneath his beret to steal a puff from his Juul. He seemed determined to play it cool.
But I caught him smiling to himself when he looked up, as if admiring his recent feat. And we watched a man he’d told to wear a box waddle away down Royal Street.