I have never seen the End of the World, but I met those who went there, and it is good.
The End of the World is in New Orleans. Did you know that?
More specifically it’s in the Bywater, a ramshackle neighborhood that used to be swamp and then plantations and only when the city really, really grew did it become actual houses. The Bywater is the ghost of Before the Flood and it is a town unto itself, a town of hand-built drum machines, lumbering vardos, secret gardens and working artists.
You know how the grinds settle out in good coffee? If New Orleans were a cuppa, the Bywater would be that last rich sip with the grit in your mouth.
And somewhere in that mouthful, right around where you make that wrinkled face, you can find the End.
It’s just a strip of riverbank. It juts past the levee, unpoliced, a place to smoke your hashish. That is the end of Orleans Parish; that is the end of everything.
Then fog, murky water, dragons, Arabi, chemical plants, bayou.
I tell everyone I biked the whole length of the Mississippi River. It’s a lie. New Orleans isn’t the end, though many an adventurer has stopped there for good. Siduri has a back door, and she says keep going. Go past the End of the World.
So Saturday I bike 80 miles.
With me is this sly East Coast girl who’s never pedaled more than 20. In her words: “what’s the worst that can happen?” I like her accent, like Old Fashioneds and empires.
80 miles on a narrow road in a land of semi trucks, refineries and sun. There’s nowhere to camp, nowhere good that we confirmed; but there are places no one looks.
What do I do things like this? Why go into the unknown? Is there, as it feels like, some current in the land that gathers in these lonely spots? And if there is, why is it so hard to feel once you’re out in the thick of the heat, the sweat, the fear?
The journey may be gentle or ungentle. We might succeed or fail. Smoke and towers in the bayou, two hearts under the sun. It’s worth the sweat. Somewhere down there the road just stops, it stops, and I’ll see it, and keep walking, walking at the End of the World.