Barry Gordon Thompson-Cook :: It Was On a Bayou ::

Creative Non-Fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Barry Gordon Thompson-Cook was born in Louisiana and is buried there. In between, he lived in Dallas, Omaha before moving back to Louisiana. He left his beloved Opelousas to marry a Yankee, to the horror of his family, and moved to NYC to, as he puts it, “civilize these heathens and bring some culture to the city.” He could make a mean gumbo and his hot water cornbread disappeared as soon as he spooned those puppies out of the skillet. He was a tech geek, a renaissance man. Most importantly, he was a kind man. His presence lives on through these stories, even though he’s been gone (too early) since 2010.

*The Dead Mule will publish several more of Mr Cook’s essays in the coming months.

It Was On a Bayou

It was on a bayou.  Bigger, yet….the Atchafalaya basin, the mother of all bayous.

One knee, one woman, one houseboat. Lots of hoot owls and a couple of otters, here and there.  A couple of gators, lurking, invisible, no doubt. More about the knee, later.

Winter-dead swamp. No mosquitoes. A houseboat anchored in the middle of a dead-winter swamp,  a small bateau with which to reach land, candles for light, dead-solid romantic light, that, and a charcoal grill over which to turn Cajun groceries to real meals.  

We made it. Back to shore. Eventually.

Magical. Even caught a fish, finally. Got lost after dark in the swamp, too, but more about that later.

My heart, my true Southern ten-generations-old heart, belongs to a Manhattanite. It lays, beating and palpable, in the center of her coffee table, in the off-center of her 800 square foot, tiny piece of Manhattan real estate. She can access that at her wish, or slightest whimsy. I’m coming to claim it, and share it, she can rest assured. God help Manhattan;  another Southern boy coming to civilize it.  

I still walk on the curbside of her and I still open doors for her. What a horror for a New Yorker. It won’t change, though.  

And in the swamp: we’d been prudent, more or less, driving the little bateau with its six-horse outboard up to the dock at the chanky-chank, planning to leave before dark to find our way back through the waters to the anchored houseboat. Dark caught us. We didn’t miss the dark bayou’s opening by much, but we did by enough, and pride finally gave in to the desire to protect my woman. My wife-to-be. Me, I’d still be out there looking for the right bayou, or tied up to a cypress waiting on morning’s light, but not with her at risk. We even put on the law-required life vests as the chop and spindrift grew across us in the open water. Had to tuck my tail and get the guide out to help us find our way back.  Well, hell. But worth it, to have her safely tucked back in my arms for another night.

She’s shown me the jungles of Manhattan. I’ve ridden the subway and eaten the bagels.  I’ve been to Times Square and walked along Broadway. I’ve found the little ethnic enclaves and met the high-water intelligentsia. And I’m taking the rest of my body there to join my heart.  I’m a lucky man.

And then, just when you think you’re safe, in the middle of a swamp, you teach her how to fire your rifle. What was I thinking? And she’s a good shot, too, so I’d better be careful with these stories.

Porch swings and rocking chairs on the deck of a houseboat in the middle of a swamp in a raging thunderstorm. You can’t write scripts for movies that well. Awesome, but only in the company of the love of your life. Hours and hours of talking and listening to each other about the past and the future, toes warmed by the charcoal fire. Awesome.  Untouchable. Bending lives to touch as one. It cannot be replaced or improved upon, no matter how long you live.

Then there’s Manhattan, where they won’t let this southern boy keep his guns, and mass transit replaces my jeep or my truck. Hideous, these New Yorkers. But, then again, I’m willfully becoming one of them. Adjustments, but well worth it.  

And then there’s the South, South Louisiana, specifically, which I think has touched her soul, as well. We can always come back to visit, and I think our former hosts will have a houseboat waiting.  She also picked up on bourré with a devilish light in her eyes.  Competitive, that woman. And I respect her the more for it. One of a kind, and I love her the more for it.

She tells it better in pictures than I can in words, but we had great fun in visiting the local superettes and bakeries and fishing shops. Marvelous people, marvelous hosts. And to think we could have wasted our days in a Days Inn.  

And I will say this, Southern boy or not:  there is no pizza that rivals New York’s. Also, there are no grocery stores that can touch those there, and I’m writing from a venue that prides itself on really great groceries…some things, yeah,  you can’t get up there, but most things you can. Rows of olives and stands of cheeses and shelves of various olive oils…these rival even the best of Cajun meat markets of boudin and hams and various well-seasoned meats. I look forward to New York’s deli’s.

Most of all, I look forward to holding hands with my intended, strolling the streets of Manhattan as they were intending to be strolled. Too much to see, too much to do, and all of it wasted without the right person with which to share it.  

Same goes for the South, or the West, or anywhere in between. None of it matters much, unless you’re lucky enough to find the right person with whom to share it.  

I’m a lucky man.