You have to love New Orleans. There is always something happening, but it’s never happening in a hurry. No matter what the hour, people are always milling about; some for nefarious reasons, sure, but it’s hard to feel lonely in the Big Easy. A guy creaks by on a rusty, Frankensteined bicycle and lifts his chin in a greeting. If he lets go of the mismatched handlebars to wave, his ride might come apart. Most people who are up this early on Annunciation Street are just getting home. Like vampires, we shield our swollen eyes from the first rays of the sun and growl in protest, but while they’re settling into bed, I’m settling into this wobbly porch chair to begin the painful process of trying to bleed ink onto an empty page. With a looming deadline and a trashcan full of failure, I contemplate alternate occupations, preferably, something that doesn’t involve pen or ink or keyboard of any kind, but I’m too clumsy to pole dance and too mean to waitress, so my options are limited.
The alcoholic across the street staggers out and vomits off the side of her porch. She cusses incoherently at her yappy-ass dog and stumbles back inside, slamming the door behind her. Six a.m. on the nose. She is nothing if not reliable. I scowl at the fading tan line on my ring finger and try not to think about reliability.
A disgruntled rumble draws my attention skyward. I’m a bit on edge. There are two tropical storms churning up the Gulf. It’s not even hurricane season, but I guess they didn’t get the memo. False alarm. It’s only a sanitation truck, a few blocks away. “Prehistoric garbage trucks have the city to themselves” plays in my head and, wishing I had written that, I silently curse Mark Knopfler. I bet he never has writer’s block. I scratch through my last, feeble sentence and scribble Why I Hate Mark Knopfler. I number one through ten. Hell, at least I’m writing.
“Numbered lists are all the rage now, right?” I ask the lizard on my porch rail. He puffs his throat and nods… or maybe he’s doing pushups. New Orleans lizards are so enigmatic.
I alter my title: Top 10 Reasons Why I Hate Mark Knopfler and continue.
1. Prehistoric garbage trucks. Mine is closer now, chomping contentedly on pizza boxes and beer cans that should have been recycled. Definitely looks prehistoric.
2. Streetsuss. Not even a word, but he convinced everyone on the planet to sing it like they’d been hearing it all their miserable lives. Who does that?
3. Effortless artistry. Okay, even in my hatred, I can concede that Mark Knopfler might be one of the greatest living guitarists, but would it kill him to pretend it was at least slightly difficult? I saw a clip of an interview where he waved off a compliment and complained to Anthony Mason that he held a guitar “like a plumber holds a hammer.” I rolled my eyes so hard I sprained them. Whatever, Markie.
4. Should come with a warning label. I was in a public place when I first heard “If This is Goodbye,” his duet with Emmylou Harris. I wasn’t moved or touched. No, I was devastated. I ugly cried. I hiccup-sobbed. When I finally managed to compose myself, puffy-eyed and racoon-faced, I was thoroughly humiliated.
5. … I trade my pen for a coffee cup and straighten my back as the garbage truck rolls up in front of me. Sanitation workers dressed like Oompa Loompas jump off the back and accost a row of huge, plastic refuse bins. They spin them around, lift them over their heads, and dump their contents into the hungry compactor. It’s surreal because their movements are synchronous. The dance is choreographed to the music emanating from the cab of the truck: I’ll be your private dancer, a dancer for money, any old music will do… The driver blasting the music at top volume catches me staring and flashes a radiant smile. She’s not just singing; she’s performing and she doesn’t care who sees her. Short-cropped, golden hair, flawless mocha skin, and full makeup – sparkly eye shadow, blood-red lipstick, and eyelashes far too long to be real – this is not the sort of person I expect to be behind the wheel of a trash truck, belting Tina Turner. The epitome of regal, she belongs on a float…or a throne.
New Orleans is magical. She’s always holding something up her sleeve to surprise you. Hypnotically, I move toward the truck driver. I want to tell her she’s exquisite. I want her to know how enchanted I am, but all I can say is, “I love that song.”
“Isn’t it great?” Her chunky bracelets clack in rhythm. “Mark Knopfler wrote it.”
I blink. Nuh uh.
“You know,” she tilts her perfect head, “the Dire Straits guy?”
“I know the Dire Straits guy.”
The Oompa Loompas are back on the bumper. One of them pounds the side of the truck, and it rolls away, leaving me in a cloud of carbon monoxide. I drag my reeking trashcan back to the yard and reclaim my pen. I scratch through the top of my list and scribble Top 100 Reasons Why I Hate Mark Knopfler.
This won’t take long.