To think we almost bypassed the “Venice of Cajun Country” and went to Thibodaux, Louisiana instead. We would have missed the pleasure of a sleepless night at the Sugar Bowl Motel, where you’d do well to take a look at your room before paying because, according to a sign in the lobby, you won’t be getting any refunds. This was the first of many signals that we’d taken a wrong turn. There was also our door's gouged, gloryhole-like peephole, which I stuffed with toilet paper so we could have privacy- and the smears of used oil on the walls plus the fact that the bathroom looked more like Freddy Krueger’s boiler than a place to remove your clothes for a wash. Our neighbor spent the evening leering in his doorway while other residents lurked about in pants large enough to tarp a side of beef.
We fled the motel soon after checking in. Took our belongings with us and sought a more cheerful place to spend the evening. We started at Big Mike’s Barbecue, the busiest place in town. I’m not sure if Big Mike needs to keep his meat in the smoker for a few more hours (or a few less), but the ribs were leathery and the brisket ropey. After a failed attempt at nightlife in a local dancehall where a handful of teenagers stood at the bar smoking and doing jello shots, we landed at Which Craft?, a beer bar attached to a Thai restaurant.
Here plates of Pad Thai clang against glasses of Abita and Weihenstephaner as the post-work crowd swarms the bar and stumbles to a wall of refrigerators that hold hundreds of bottles. It took a minute to catch on and learn that instead of ordering your beer at the bar, you grab it yourself and bring it to the bartender so he can pour it and put it on your tab. There were a few moments of solace as I sipped a Tripel Karmeliet and then moved on to a Liberty Ale, that modestly hopped, malty treat from Anchor Brewing Co. We played a game of cribbage and watched the drinking crowd.
At the end of the bar sat a mass of thick, middle-aged men who seemed to be regulars and who had obviously been there awhile. A young woman who was drinking alone in sweatpants held their attention. She was egging them on, talking about certain parts of her body being too difficult to shave. We left when the drunkest of the bunch ramped his overtures to embarrassing heights.
In dire need of further fortification for the evening to come, we walked to a convenience store in front of the motel. We ran into one of our neighbors at the 40 oz.-end of the beer fridge. I was diving in for a mega-can of High Life and he was seeking a Bud Light Platinum. “After a couple of these, I’m good,” he said.
We walked back to the hotel together. "You guys moving in, too?" he asked. "Yeah, yeah," I said, and threw the chain which was bolted to the door amidst a sea of pocks and shadows left by a succession of previous chains.
Rain and ice pellets fell on Houma and the morning seemed like it might never come.