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Saints and Sinners 

Right over the railroad tracks, there's the funeral parlor, and the parking lot is exceedingly empty.

"An empty funeral parlor. The sight of it always makes me happy," says Jimmy Chimichanga. "Because it means on this day, at least, death's got no place to go."

A few blocks more, and we pass P.J. McMahon, a formerly fine funeral home which is now boarded up. "Now you must be delirious," I say. "Death don't even stop there any more."

"Man, I was gonna be waked there," says Yogi. "I guess they didn't want my business."

"Many still do," says Jimmy. "But how'd they go outta business? They were a New Orleans landmark."

"Folks ain't getting buried no more," I say. "Everything now is cremation."

"Yeah, well, it's a good thing we already got all them cemeteries above ground," says Yogi. "You ain't gonna see tour buses pulling up to no crematorium."

We pull over by this convenience store because Jimmy is looking to fill up his flask with some Maker's Mark. "We ought to not be going to the Dome," I say. "At my house, I got a gallon of salsa and my girlfriend Dorito."

"Yeah, but it ain't the same, seeing the game on TV," says Yogi. "I ain't watching TV till I can go three straight days without seeing Michael Jackson."

"Yeah, you right," I say. "It distorts reality. Like I watch Seinfeld, and for a guy who's supposed to be a loser, George gets a lot of chicks. All uptown girls, too. This never happens to losers in real life."

"You're telling me," says Yogi.

Jimmy comes out with his cell phone in his ear.

"You can't get away from 'em; they're like an electronic ball and chain," Yogi says. "How's anyone cheat on his wife?"

Jimmy clicks off and says we have to swing by Tulane and Broad on the way to the Dome to visit his brother-in-law, Larry the Lawyer, who's on the wrong side of the bars today. "I gotta call this lawyer Fudge for him," Jimmy says.

"How come when a lawyer gets in trouble with the law, he always has to call another lawyer?" Yogi wants to know. "A plumber don't call a plumber if his toilet breaks."

We get to Central Lockup. "Man, we're gonna be late for the game," says Yogi. "We're gonna have to park in the Warehouse District with all them bums once-overing my car."

"There ain't no bums there any more," I say. "Gentrified."

"There are still bums there," says Jimmy. "Only now they all have jobs. If you count lawyering."

Because Larry the Lawyer knows someone at the desk he is allowed to meet with the three of us in the little office off to the side. There is a guard, a guy with a very large chest and a very small head. He stays outside by the door.

"What's the story, morning glory?" Jimmy Chimichanga says to the guy who fooled his sister, bad.

"Well, you know your sister went to Florida to see your cousin last week, and I was gonna join her. Only things been going feeble for me, so I am gonna burn the house down for the insurance. But I figure it will catch fire after I leave, and no other party involved. How? Well, I fill the room with crepe paper. Then, I take this big turtle I bought and tape a candle to his back and light it and drive away as fast as an Escalade can go. There's no one like me, boy."

"Who's trying?" Jimmy says. "But why are you wearing that orange jumpsuit now?"

Larry the Lawyer twiddles his thumbs for a minute and then says, "Well, that nosy neighbor, Mrs. Madere? She sees the light from the candle, moving slowly from room to room, and she calls her nephew, the fireman, who lives two blocks away. He calls the firehouse, they investigate, and when I get back from Florida, I am rather arrested."

"I know that fireman," says Jimmy. "His name is Smokey. Helluva name for a fireman."

"To add ants to the picnic, when they are investigating, they come across some pills your sister got from her friend, and they are calling them 'mind-altering drugs.'"

"Now, that's bunk," Yogi says. "Wanna know a mind-altering drug? Viagra! That makes rams out of lambs. What is that, a drug that confuses reality? What about Botox? Made my old lady think she's Kim Basinger. That's confused reality."

As we leave, Larry wants to know what we'll do.

"Well, not much till after the Saints game," says Jimmy. "Then, I'll try Fudge's number again. I'd rather try to raise Fudge than raise bail."

On the way to the Dome, Yogi suddenly says, "Hey, what happened to the turtle?"

"He's still around, I think," Jimmy says. "But when Larry gets out, the turtle ain't got much future."

"I'll bring the dry sherry," says Yogi, wetting his lips.

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