Saturday, April 7, 2007
The Mississippi River and an Unexpected Friend
New Orleans, La.
Note: Ben Rankin is an ALIAS
Family and Friends--
I am sitting on the banks of the Mississippi this morning, the water pretty cold and the wind even more abnormal, from what I hear, for this time of year.
The skyline from this spot is incredible. St. Louis Cathedral 600 yards to the North. Downtown Big Easy to the West.
Up walks a man, *Ben Rankin, tired. He's been up all night.
It's 10:00 am.
"What's up, bro," he says. As we talk, about the weather, the river, the "where ya' from's" I start taking his picture. It's been about 10 minutes since he walked up.
Ben doesn't flinch. But, he does put his head in his lap for a solid 30 seconds.
"I cheated on my wife last night," he says. Ben isn't the type to cry, but if he was, I'm guessing they'd be streaming. Instead, he finishes his sentences with a soft "bro."
Ben can't believe it, he says. He's been clean for two years and has new job, three-weeks old.
"I had money in my account," he says."So I took 200 out and went to Bourbon St."
A strip club on Bourbon St.
"We were doing powder, everything, bro," he says about the stripper and himself who he later ended up sleeping with.
I ask him if he's still high. "No, I'm coming down," he says. "It's bad, real bad."
"Are you going to tell your wife?"
This is the first time I see Ben smile--one of those "Are you crazy, fool?" smiles.
"I prayed," he says. He's come to the river to reflect upon his mistakes.
I'm not sure if Ben is more upset about the cocaine or the infidelity. As we keep talking about the drugs, I tell him that kids my age are big into cocaine.
"The other night," I said, "I walked into a party and five kids were doing it on the kitchen table."
Like a buffet du coke.
Ben is looking over the Mississippi, it would take an Olympic swimmer to get to the other bank.
"You know," he says, "drugs have ruined so many brothers down here."
We talk about the New Orleans murder scene. Turf wars, retaliations and drug trade, he says. No one cares about the sanctity of life, Ben says.
He grew up in the projects north of Clairborne Ave.
Ben knows about drugs.
But the father of two tells me that last night was the biggest mistake of his life.
"I was doing so good, bro," he says.
We exchange numbers. He says he'll call. As we both get up to the leave the train tracks that run parallel with the river are in use.
We're stuck between river and railroad for five minutes. Ben, between wife and life.
Me, just between a river and railroad, I guess.
Best to everyone,
To donate or help with the New Orleans drug problem Ben talked about, visit www.bridgehouse.org, a New Orleans drug rehab center with 130 beds.