In Nawlins, the heat doesn't just envelop you; it bears down on you, like a humid overcoat. You walk through the old streets waiting for night, like an alcoholic vampire. Your need is great but your born-on age has brought you wisdom about one thing and one thing only: The correct time to start drinking the brown wine. For now, since it's just past noon, it will only be acceptable to dive into Fatty McGinty's and sit at the bar scraping the label off of a Dixie Beer bottle while you watch Boston lose another close one to Steinbrenner's tools on the 32" Zenith TV with questionable reception.
The sign outside reads "The Crow Bar" but you knew Fatty when he opened this place up in '72. Fuck corporate America with this filthy pun on the stately raven. Fatty fell dead in '79 at sunset while the old TV (a Magnavox 24") showed Jimmy Carter on the Evening News with some preacher-haired anchorman talking about that malaise shit. Fatty had a Dixie beer in one hand and a refinanced mortgage at 16% in the other. It's hard to say which one killed him, but most folks in the bar at the time blamed the third party: That peanut-eatin' fucker from Georgia.
You sit and smell the noonday bar smells, a mixture of cleaning fluid and puke, while you order your third Dixie. It's the fifth inning now and Boston has that familiar look of a team about to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. You and the meth-addicted bartender start to discuss the phenomenon of Dixie Beer. It all starts with a discussion of his neighbor and (as he tells it in his hyped-up strung-out vernacular) "who's yo' baby's nigger daddy." He gets stuck on this phrase and it comes out "who's yo' baby nigger, daddy?" a couple of times, and even "who's yo' baby's daddy nigger?" at least once. It's hard to understand the full ramifications of this familial trailer park story, but one thing is very clear. His neighbor (a young African-American with a lot of hostility) does NOT like Dixie Beer. You grasp from the thread hanging on the edges of this rambling monologue that it's not the beer he hates, but it's the name of the beer.
"How did the word Dixie get so messed up, dude?" you opine as you light up another Marlboro red. "Even Bob Dylan sings a helluva version in that Masked and Anonymous thing that came out last year. Ain't nobody gonna call Bob Dylan a racist without me rearranging their furniture."
The blacked-out door to the bar opens up long enough for a tourist to peek in and decide that he'll go somewhere sane. The blinding shaft of light puts an ice pick in your left eyeball, but it flips a switch in the bartender.
He says he'll be right back, and you watch the rest of the bottom of the eighth as the Yankees rub their filthy-moneyed boot heels in the face of any hope in Boston. When the bartender returns, it's obvious that he's just had some of what is killing him. Now his eyes are as wide as your Dixie Beer coaster and he's ready to tell you the history of this proud Nawlins brewery. He's pacing back and forth in front of you, as if he was on a short leash, swinging his head wildly from the TV to your otherwise calm barstool. He starts talking like rounds coming out of an amphetamine-fueled M2 .50 high-calibre machine gun.
"It's the goddamned cypress, man! Nobody uses that shit any more. It's too expensive. It was Valentine Merz opened up that brewery in 1907. A big brick building on Tulane Avenue. He paid $85 grand for the building and all the most expensive shit you could get back then. He outlasted Jax and Falstaff in the '70s. The beer wars were some tough shit back then. But it's the goddamned cypress, man! Nobody uses that shit but Dixie. They age it in them cypress barrels. You seen that shit in the swamps, right? Now Joe Bruno and his old lady, Kendra, own the place. It was asshole deep in dept when they got it in '85, but they doin' OK. Sellin' some Blackened Voodoo bullshit that's caught on with the yuppies, but it's what you're sittin' there sippin' on that's kept 'em in business. Goddamn, man, you got a light? I think I just cut myself. Fuck. You want another? Fuckin' Yankees. I hate 'em."