We all know that the “coin toss” involves throwing a coin in the air to choose between two alternatives or settle a dispute between two sides. It happens every Sunday during football games, in the sport of cricket and, in 1845 to decide the name of an Oregon city. Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove both owned the claim to the land on which a town would be built. Each wanted to name that new town after their own hometown; Boston, Massachusetts(Lovejoy) and Portland, Maine(Pettygrove). The coin was flipped, Pettygrove prevailed, and the town was named Portland. Coin tosses have won games, bets, and even elections that end in a dead heat. The Romans certainly started something with their shipboard betting game.
We flip our own coins every day, although we prefer to think of it as “making choices” rather than letting “heads or tails” dictate what we do or don’t do. It’s as simple as getting out of bed in the morning, choosing to drink coffee or tea, putting together an outfit for work; there’s a theoretical flip of the coin in every action or inaction. You could argue that we “do the things we want to do” and you would be right. Sometimes you can qualify that as “what we need to do”, but there’s still that inherent choice factor. The whole concept can drive us bonkers when we dwell too much on it, so we don’t. We simply make our decisions based on past events or the desire to experience new things, meet new people, chart new paths for ourselves….in short live our daily lives. We make mistakes, ignore warning signs, redeem ourselves, and believe we positively affect the lives of those we care about and hope to keep close to us. Most times we may not see the ripple effect our choices have on others…or on ourselves. It’s a risk we take every day;doing nothing can be a profitable or as harmful as doing “some” thing.
Confused? The solution is easy. Just flip a coin.
By the way,Mae is back…flipping some coins of her own as she and Drum navigate New Orleans…all because Drum called “tails” and won.
Mae and the (French) Quarter
You can call me Mae. I know we’ve been through the whole magilla of who I am and where I come from in another story (or if ye haven’t you’ll figure it out as we go along), but right now I’m preoccupied. Me dissolute drunkard of a brother Drummond, angel of my soul and burden of my days, is gone. Disappeared. And I’m sitting here on a bench in Jackson Square tryin’ to decide how I lost him.
I suppose beginnin’ at the start of things would make sense, since last heard of we were makin’ our way south out of New England to get a jump on the winter weather. Thanks to Father Andy and McGinty, Drum and I had enough for a bus ticket apiece to anywhere from Atlanta to New Orleans to the Tampa Bay depending how we decided to travel. Drum flipped a coin; heads Tampa Bay, tails New Orleans. Both near the sea. Seems to be a thing he needs, the hearin’ of waves or sloshin’ of water against wooden pilings. Or it could be he just misses the river that runs through Dundee in Scotland. I do sometimes too, but I can live without the surf lappin’ at me feet. But I ramble. Tails it was and New Orleans it was. The Big Easy, Drummond told me. Sunshine and warmth and no weather to worry about in the winter, just those hurricane storms in the heat of summer. Friendly people too he’d heard, although from who he didn’t say. I didn’t ask. Drum makes friends as easily as he manages to find the nearest open bottle. Me, I keep a bit more to myself until I know a person. That and the tendency to be prepared for almost anything has served me well so far.
So, Drummond and his rucksack and me and my old battered trunk boarded a bus for the trip. Lots of other people came and went as we made some stops along the way, some traveling light, others with family and food, but all buildin’ their own little walls as the wheels churned down the highway. Drum slept a lot. He was, thank the Lord, at that time off the booze, so there was no need to watch him, but his body took to sleep like another drug, and I didn’t try to stop it. Fragile, he was from all the abuse and travel. We’d stayed in places grand and not so grand, with the second being the most common. Tent cities, homeless shelters, and food that was basic but not always the best. Again, I was the sensible one, stockpiling canned soup and fruits for the times there was no kitchen to serve those in need, but soups and fruit are not meat and potatoes. But then Drummond chose this life and I chose to follow in case he needed me.
When we got to New Orleans, we found ourselves in MidCity …that’s what the bus driver called it anyway. Once off the bus, we stopped for a moment to get our bearings and take stock of our surroundings. Me looking for a church of some kind to see if we could shelter there for the night until I could locate a crib for us, Drum looking at the men and women carrying bags from the nearby liquor store. I asked at the ticket counter if there was a Catholic church charity nearby. Not too far a walk because of my trunk and Drum’s legs of course, but one that would welcome some with little enough orf their own. The woman there mentioned Our Lady of Guadalupe on Rampart Street and wrote down the way to get there.
As it happens, Our Lady is also an international shrine for Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes. Seemed fitting somehow that we should be given directions there to a shelter, temporary the woman in the church office warned us but a shelter all the same. Drum needed to rest, and I needed to find a place, one like I had in Charles City, so I could set up my crib and sort out my things. So, once I got Drum settled in on a cot and snorin’ away, I set off down the streets of New Orleans. Somethin’ near the water maybe, so I headed towards the river. I didn’t get too much attention, having left my heavier clothes with Drum and in my trunk, but the humidity made me wish I could wear even less. By the time I got to the French Quarter I needed something cool and liquid. Not one for the big stores or the touristy shops, I found me a beverage cart not all that far from Café du Monde, near the levee they call Riverwalk. It cost me two of our remaining dollars, but the water sloshed down my throat like liquid manna and I climbed the stairs to see the Mississippi River that both loved and hated the city. I looked at the warehouses lining the banks and noticed most were busy, trucks coming and going, people walking in and out. Nowhere I wanted to stay. Still, I took the time to go look…and when I went back to the Shelter, Drum was gone.
So here I am on a bench. And I think I need a sign to guide me. Like that coin on the pavement. So I reach down and a voice says, “We’ll flip for it now, won’t we?”