The Derelicts of Jackson’s Square

The Derelicts of Jackson’s Square in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans are a unique tribe of people that ply their trades in tarot card readings, chrystal healings, mysticism and ghosts to the hordes of tourists that grace the Square every day of the year.  They are the gypsies and the fallen, the proud and the brave, and they are my tribe if I had the courage to admit it.

 My daughter and I knew that this Mardi Gras would be different than the last, I had some deep spiritual issues that had to be addressed and we already knew that the tours we would be taking this year would not be found on any brochure.  Some journeys must begin without the aid of maps or compasses, and so as I waited for one adventure I could not see we stumbled over that which was directly in our path.

 This year was crippling in it’s coldness, the tourists and the locals were fewer and far between in the famous Square, and so we all huddled together for warmth.  My otherwordly child sat down for a tarot reading with a lad named Raven, and as I listened I was introduced to Raven’s drunk friend Squirrel who was trying desperately to gnaw off the emblem on the side of a discarded pair of running shoes, and I naturally offered him my knife with no fear.

 Squirrel proceeded to call me every name in his book, and had an annoying habit of holding up his thumb and shouting “YOU, I could kill you with my thumb” to which I replied “Yeh, and I could kill you with my Ostrich Feather so give it up”(it was packing a hypodermic needle that could down a horse) and we played this strange game for what seemed like hours.  In between profanities he told me that he was an ex marine, wounded in combat, a registered nurse and had a degree in Architecture, and demanded to be called “the pirate squirrel” for reasons I was never told, all of which was later verified by Raven who excused his friend’s hostility to drink.

 At some point in this small adventure I moved away from the table and helped Squirrel on his quest, I needed my knife back and Raven had another reading to do, and as I held the shoe for him he looked at me sharply and clearly and said “Why are you being so nice to me?” to which I did not have an answer.  I was thunderstruck by what I believed to be his fall from grace, by how closely he and I walked the same path, by how he and the others were more my family than the one I had been born into, I uttered some nonsensical reply and he smiled and said “you’re alright”.

 When the plane lifted off the soil of the land of Louisiana I found my answer in the ghost trees that were waving in the wind; I came to let go of a loved one and she was graciously waving goodbye.  I don’t know if Squirrel killed anyone with his thumb that night, I know my Ostrich feather remained in my hat, but I do know for sure that for a small spark of recognition I killed anger with kindness, and that’s a hard map to find.


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