I was standing shirtless in a black-and-white houndstooth blazer and wing tips with no socks at the corner of Marengo and Saint Charles watching the trolley cars rattle by. I still had my cell phone and was trying to think whom to call with a gentle heart and moral imagination in this occult, steaming city. I had a number. I dialed.
“Hello. Is this Nathaniel Rich?”
I hurried to explain who I was and how I’d obtained his cell-phone number.
“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m in a bit of an odd situation. I have to meet someone in an hour or so, and I don’t have any pants. Or shorts. What I’m trying to say is, frankly, I’m not sure how to explain it, but, to cut to the chase, all I have is a towel. That’s what I’m wearing right now.”
It was a blue terry-cloth towel that I’d taken from the B&B when they threw me out. They’d held the rest of my clothes hostage until we settled a dispute about the bill. Fortunately it was a short walk from the house to Saint Charles where I thought, given that this was New Orleans, a cab might dare pick up a seminaked man with his wallet in one hand and his cell phone in the other.
It was about a nine-block walk to Nathaniel’s duplex. Happily, it was a warm, clear day, cloudless sky and all. The birds were singing in the pink bougainvillea and the calm palm trees. I tucked the towel snugly around my hips, put my phone and my wallet in the pockets of my blazer, and stepped gingerly—feigning boldness—across Saint Charles.