Postcard From New Orleans

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02/06/2010

Neighborhood: Letter From Abroad

Postcard From New Orleans
NOPD Police Line by Brendan Riley

1. My first night back in New Orleans I get pulled over by a police car. It’s night at the edge of the French Quarter.

2. From amidst flashing blue lights, pierced by that one super bright lamp the cops shine into the car, a figure emerges. I am alone.

3. "I’m sorry," I say. "I for some reason thought you were parked." "I was in the turn lane," he says.

4. He peers into the back of the car. A baby seat, a suitcase, a bulging black garbage bag, an air mattress. "Your license please."

5. "What’s your first name?" he asks. If this is an attempt to determine if I am drunk, it is setting the bar very low. Why this question?

6. "Thomas," I say. And then, perhaps in apology for that innate pang of pride that I have answered correctly, I add, "I teach at Tulane."

7. "What do you teach?" he asks. When I tell him he says, "Interesting." "Why?" I say. "You working on a novel?" He sighs deeply.

8. "I want to," he says. "But I don’t know where to start." "Starting is difficult, "I say. "Do you have a character in mind?"

9. "I have a voice. But not really a character." For five minutes we discuss writing. The problems. At some point he hands me my license.

10. I tell him to look me up anytime he wants to talk. I ask his name. He says it. "Blumfeld?" I say? No, he corrects my pronunciation.

11. "I’m serious, look me up," I say. "OK," he says. I want to ask, "What is the novel about?" I don’t. He looks pensive, concerned.

12. Maybe I am afraid he doesn’t know. But do I know what mine is about? We part warmly. "Good bye, Thomas," he says. He turns off the light.

Thomas Beller is a writer and founder and co-editor of Open City magazine and mrbellersneighborhood.com. He teaches creative writing at Tulane University, and you can read his tweets at twitter.com/thomasbeller.

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