Since part 3 was a potential three-parter, I thought I’d move on after only two parts. We are talking about the Uncanny Valley here! Unexpected things happen and things happen unexpectedly!
We pick up where I’m searching for 241 Chartres Street and ending up, not there…
I confirmed that the Mississippi River has two distinct sides – one on my right when walking upstream, and the other on my left when walking downstream. Lesson to all: When on the wrong side of a large body of water, walk in the opposite direction.
I’ve yet to conduct studies on other structures, but as soon as Kickstarter funding comes through, I will post results here. Until then, stand. Sometimes standing is making progress.
After over an hour of walking through many abandoned and neglected places (most poorly lit, if at all) I stumbled onto a non-abandoned place with a real no-kidding “open” sign in the window.
“I’m looking for 241 Chartres,” I said, grabbing a waiter’s arm.
“241 Chartres? Sir, this is the 2800 block. You’re over 20 blocks away. I’ll call you a cab.”
“No need,” I said. “I will just retrace my steps. I should be there by daybreak.”
“Sir, it’s not safe on foot this time of night. You came all the way on foot?”
“First, I’m not on foot. I’m on feet. Second, I am not alone. See!”
I flashed the fine art book but he was not impressed.
“Just point me in the general direction of behind me.”
The waiter stared at me then beyond. He raised his arm as if gravity held a stronger than expected pull on his limbs. He pointed into the darkness.
To this day I have no clue how I ended up that far from my destination. I am convinced that the street numbering sequence in the Uncanny Valley becomes random at random times. I think at one point I actually made the Mississippi River flow vertically.
After about 30 minutes, I noticed an intermittent shadow of a figure walking at my pace on the opposite side of the street. His silhouette appeared only under the street lights, but blended with the darkness between the lights. His figure was like a shadow torn between independence and the comfort of the familiar.
At an intersection, the figure turned and walked toward me. I panicked and backed into an alley and waited for him to pass. He didn’t. Deciding that I would rather risk an encounter with a modern version of Jack the Ripper on the street than have my night vision reveal whatever I imagined standing or crouching or hanging next to me in the alley.
I darted out of the alley and directly into the waiting figure. Before he could speak, I did.
“Pardon me, but I’m lost and it’s late. I’m looking for 241 Chartres Street. Can you give me directions?”
He didn’t say a word at first. He did a quick 360 scan of the area. Thinking he wasn’t sure where he was either, I explained that the address was here in the French Quarter.
“This is not the French Quarter,” he said.
“Maybe it’s in the Arts District? I’m not sure.”
“This is not the Arts District either. You shouldn’t be here. Not at this time of night. It’s not safe.”
“I understand. I’m just passing through.”
“You don’t understand,” he said. “A girl was stabbed to death right here two weeks ago. The two guys who did it were never caught. You need to leave now.”
“Then point me toward 241 and I will be on my way.”
Looking around once more, he said, “Follow me. Hurry. This way!”
I followed the running man down dark side streets, across intersections, between buildings and businesses and once over a fence. When I couldn’t quite see him, I ran toward the echoes of his running. The few times I stopped, he yelled, “this way,” until I caught up.
Twice along the way, I almost bailed on him to try it again on my own. I couldn’t help but wonder if this could be a trap. Then it hit me. The two guys who stabbed the girl were never caught. How does he know there were two guys if they were never caught? Is he one of the two? Is he leading me to his partner, after making sure I’m completely disoriented and out of breath? I decided to follow his lead.
I glanced at street numbers as I ran. One address was on the 400 block of Chartres. The numbers were dropping. Finally, I saw 275 Chartres St., which was directly across from gallery sign. I had made it!
I told him that I saw the gallery ahead, and was good from here. He refused to stop leading me. He walked me to the door of the gallery. We caught our breaths the man held out my art book. Apparently I had dropped it when I came out of the alley and he picked it up for me. I took it and thanked him. Two quarters and two pennies were resting in his palm. I stared at them, not sure what to do.
“52 cents is all the money I’ve got,” he said.
My intelligence hit an all-time low with my next statement.
“Oh wow! I really appreciate the offer, but I really don’t need your change. I’m good with just being alive, thanks to you.”
The man looked at me as if he could stab me repeatedly without a partner. He looked down at the two quarters and two pennies in his hand and then back at me, as if giving me one more chance to be less stupid.
Oh… Oh! You just saved my life and you’re expecting a monetary expression of gratitude! I’m sorry! I don’t get out much these days.
“I’m sorry. I misunderstood. Here.”
I turned away slightly, fumbled with my wallet, then slipped out a nice crisp $20 bill. I folded it in such a way as to seem more like a $50, then placed the small green paper triangle on top of his 52 cents. The bill self-unfolded to reveal its true value.
My life is worth a grand total of 20 bucks, or $20.52 with change, I thought. How sad, yet somehow I was gratified by the randomness of it. I zipped up my wallet in my jacket pocket, all the while thanking him for his help. I looked up to shake his hand but he was gone. He had disappeared back into the shadows as quickly and silently as he had appeared an unknown number of blocks earlier.
I’ve wondered if that man could have been an angel. I was raised to believe but I may never know. Would an angel be broke and asking for money in exchange for a good deed? Times are tough all over I guess.
I composed myself, then entered the gallery with time to spare for signatures in the fine art book, which somehow had also survived the night, in spite of myself.
I opened the door to the gallery, and the night got really strange.