I don’t know if I always had a journalist gene, or it’s just something that intertwines itself within the double-helix for curiosity, but stories that don’t walk a straight line fascinate me. Especially stories that don’t just dip their toes, but wade waist deep into the confluence of environment, politics, conservation, money. Any one of those combined with the erraticism of human nature would be enough. Find that wedding of the waters and you better start looking at the local levies – something eventually will give. Maybe what intrigues me even more is the convolutions that the various channels take, and the moments of serendipity. Those moments I’m finding are often over a pint in a pub.
You can just call it drinking, but it’s more. It’s journalistic in perhaps the oldest sense of the craft. A filtering process. Sorting on the fly what is and isn’t helpful verses pure raconteur BS – which of course can always lend a bit of color. Out side the DC beltway and unless you are overseas, there seems to be less hard stuff, but a couple craft beers, local brews, do just fine.
Some watering holes work better than others. And each locale has its flavor and approach. I’m not skilled at them all – yet. I’m not good with bad beer. In other words, fishing dock lounges are my Achilles heal. The kinda places where the lingering combination of grease and cigarette smoke veneer even the clean flatware and the smell haunts you in your motel room even the next morning. Places where nothing on tap, more often bottled, is darker going in that it is coming out. Beers often referred to by the person behind the bar as “beer product” and most carry the label “lite”. And all of the establishments start and end with someone’s first name – women’s names are the worst, they hold the promise of cleanliness going in, then dash your hope and your senses.
Yesterday afternoon I visited one of my favorite pubs here on New Orleans’ Magazine Street – finally yielding to that little voice. The same little voice that over the years tells me, “talk to that guy or gal sitting next to you” and I finally relent to discover a valuable lead or relationship that far exceeds the cost of the brew.
There were just two of us sitting outside at 4PM and serendipity killed the power on the power-outlet he was using. So laptop in one hand, pint in the other here he came. Sharing an outlet bonds you in this digital age, the way a bad cab ride or train trip did a couple decades ago, or a five-day monsoonal rainstorm in the third-world still can.
An hour later, and half a pint (second round) remaining, we shut laptops and commented on the weather – snow up north in home towns. My home town was his envy, after this was over. This, turned out to be the BP mess. Much of the next several minutes was peppered with, “off the record”, but in their turns comments, facts and anecdotal debris floated down several of the above channels, pushing me closer to the confluence of this oil mess. Information like, there are places people just aren’t looking, “there’s $5 billion in charter fishing in the Gulf”, yes, follow the money.
I’m headed for Grand Isle this weekend from that conversation. My other Nawlins “Deep Throat” connected me to other activities, separate, out of Grand Isle. All channels seem to be flowing south to Grand Isle – now if the island just had a good pub!
PS – I debated on where to post this, here or over on my general blog Perambulations – in the end both – it’s as much a Louisiana/Gulf story as general journalists journey.