The Argentinian Beatnik
I don’t remember how I first met Caesar. That happens a lot in New Orleans, but I do remember seeing him at the Cafe Envie, sitting at a table with one of his doodling pads. He told me to sit still and sketched a caricature drawing of me at a table wearing my fedora typing at my laptop. He had been backpacking a long time, blowing through South America like a feather in the wind, and consistently on the verge of starvation. This man gave everything to his art. I watched him create cardboard displays for his postcard portraits and he dedicated himself to living through his art. One day I asked him what Argentinian writer I should be reading. Without hesitation, he said “Borges, Jorge Luis Borges.” I had run across the man’s short stories. They were surreal juggernauts of imagination, something I hoped to discover in my own writing. Caesar showed me the true meaning of dedication. I was happy for him when he met a pedicab driver and dated her long enough to stay at her place. This guy had an itch for traveling though, and kept talking about saving money to go to Europe, to Berlin. One night at the Cafe Envie, we both watched a couple interact at a table. I was seeing language while he was seeing images and we both made up narratives based on our assumptions. Based on the couple’s mannerisms, I was thinking infidelity. The woman was younger so she was sleeping with her therapist. Caesar and I filled in the gaps. That’s what you do in New Orleans. You fill in the gaps of your life with stories, some real, some imagined. In the end you’re either a cynic or a sentimentalist.