Several days later, I was at The Abbey in the morning. I loved The Abbey at ten in the morning, when most of the patrons sat scattered around the bar, all knowing each other in one way or another. Those early morning hours in a bar are some of the most sacred hours of the bar, where most of the regular morning patrons have a special code. You are allowed to go into your favorite bar at ten in the morning and not speak to anyone. At ten in the morning, the bar can offer a great place of solitude. In the unspoken language of the daytime alcoholic, we all knew there were many more boundaries at those early hours, like ten in the morning.
And at that early hour, often times The Abbey hosted a few patrons, still up drinking from the night before, as their speech got more slurred and their trips to the bathroom become more frequent, leaving them looking slightly rabid by the time the morning had really set in. The ten o’clock hour at The Abbey was always an interesting mix of night and day. A clash of cocaine and alcohol that usually ended in one big conglomerate party.
The inside of The Abbey was always dark, even on the brightest New Orleans day when the sun beamed through all the glass all over the Quarter, The Abbey remained relatively dark. The dark wood interior added to both the mystic and the misery, making the atmosphere mangled and magical all at the same time. The dark wooden bar rose like an altar, with its massive and intricate mausoleum molded shelves behind where the Gods were left an offering. Within the crevices of the mystical shelves were trinkets and memories of days past, tucked away behind all the layers of dust. Pictures of the lives gone past, stapled crudely to the wooden wall above, a shrine to the one we have lost.
Above the entire bar hung an old stained glass shape, reaching and spanning out across the bar, with years of dust hanging from all the corners. The floors below hosted worn, old linoleum that was often sloshed with beer and dirt. The old jukebox in the corner with the best mix of old punk music, was always blasting Social D. Or Nancy Sinatra. Or the Beatles. Or Merle Haggard. The Sex Pistols. Louie Prima. And the Grateful Dead…but, only if you dared.
The Abbey was far from Bourbon with all its neon and glamour, tucked away on lower Decatur, and always spilling out interesting characters tumbling into the street. The door always stood open, with thick, clear refrigerator flaps falling over the gaping door hole. It was nice and cold with the massive air conditioning cranking most of the summer. Barstools, mismatched and well worn, where patrons sometimes sat for days. Ashes of former pets, patrons, and owners rest in the mausoleum-like shelves that rise from behind the bar, splashing the place with spirit and camaraderie. And it all sits, collecting dust and split beer.