10 March 2017

Funerals. Damn.

O'Neil De Noux

Retired from law enforcement for a couple months and I've gone to three funerals. Men I worked with back in the 1970s-80s, back when we were young and the world was a gritty, exciting adventure. We were blue knights riding dark streets with .357 magnums in our holsters. Jefferson Parish was our beat, along the west side of the murder capital of America at the time - New Orleans.

 Police Mutual Benevoleant Association Tomb
Greenwood Cemetery  New Orleans

We road in one-man cars back then with radios in the cars. Some nights we'd handle 15-16 calls. I remember nights when I never saw another cop until we turned in our units at the end of the shift. We just heard each other on the radio. Other nights - oh, My God - what adventures. It was the best time of my life. Then I became a homicide detective and slipped into the dark side of life.

There were harrowing nights as a road deputy, of course, and lots of fun nights. I'll save those anecdotes for later blogs. Now it's funeral time, time to bury men I haven't seen in over thirty years.

Two of the guys we buried were in uniform, still cops. Familiar faces with wrinkles and jowls and faded hair or no hair. I'm a white-haired retired cop who has been a writer for 30 years. My 34th book is due out this month. Some have heard I'm a writer but most remember me as a homicide detective. Not a bad legacy because my partners and I were pretty damn good detectives.

Crown of  Police Mutual Benevoleant Association Tomb
Greenwood Cemetery  New Orleans

At the wakes we shared anecdotes, bizzare stories and sad stories, a couple stories of heroism. Several people came up to me to say they thought I was dead. Not yet. Hell, I thought they were dead. I was sure ONE of the men we buried last month had died years ago. I told him that as he lay in his coffin. He didn't respond.

Some remember I'm a writer. Here are quotes from the peanut gallery:

"Hey, you still writing books?"
"When are they gonna make a movie out of your books?"
"I read one of your books."
I asked, "Which one." Response was a blank look.
"Hey, I liked the book with the cocaine lady on the cover." (first edition of my 3rd novel)
"I didn't like a couple of your books."
I asked, "Which ones?" Another blank look.

Inevitably I got this -
"I've been meaning to contact you. Man, I got a great idea for a book. Case I worked. We need to get together and I'll give you the details. You can write it and we'll split the money."

I try to be polite, explaining I'm in the middle of writing a book now and have plots laid out for six more books and a file cabinet draw of folders with novel and short story idea. I DON'T NEED ANY IDEAS.

I tell him, "You write it. It's easy." I paraphrase what Hemingway once said, "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."
The anwer I got - "You still use a typewriter?"
"No, Papa did."
"Papa who?"
Not a literary group.

Greenwood Cemetery  New Orleans

On my way out of the last wake, an old buddy called out, "I loved your book."
"Which one?"
"The Mardi Gras Killer."
I stop, tell him I didn't write that book, never heard of it. Who could kill Mardi Gras? I've seen non-denominational Bible people screaming at the women flashing their breasts on Bourbon Street, but that didn't kill Mardi Gras. Oh, maybe there was someone killing people at Mardi Gras. What a unique idea.

Saint Louis Cemetery #1
New Orleans

Time to go back to my novel and bleed a little and wait until the next funeral. As Lawrence Ferlinghetti tells us, "The world is a beautiful place to be born into ... Yes but then right in the middle of it comes the smiling mortician."

Photos above by O'Neil De Noux.



  1. Great piece, O'Neil. Love your stories and how your buddies "loved" your books...blankly. But I am sorry about their passings.

  2. Sad occasions _ and more frequent the older one gets _ but what a spectacular cemetery. I can see why New Orleans is a continual source of literary inspiration.

  3. 34 books--what an accomplishment. Congratulations on both of your (successful) careers.

    I too am sorry about the passing of your friends. In my opinion, policemen and doctors are the true heroes of our time.

  4. I enjoyed your post,O'Neil, both the moving passages and the humor. Thank you.

  5. Ah, O'Neil, your article brought some memories of my own to the front, some good, some bad, some humorous, some tragic. You're right about the instant adrenaline when things start to happen, and then there's the boredom in between events. Radios and Kel units that decide to quit working, backups that are too far away, unreliable informants (some of which try to trip you up), shots fired, and it seems a lot of people have guns, you just don't know which ones until something happens. Still, it was a good life (for me) and I wouldn't have missed it. The funerals are hard though. Brings more memories.

    You didn't touch on the lawyers on both sides of the aisle, nor the politicians that throw their weight around, both overtly and covertly, but I'd bet you could write several blogs on those topics alone.

    In my earlier years at SS, I used to tell a lot of street stories and sometimes even relate them back to various published stories. Wouldn't mind hearing some of yours. The real stories make for fictional plots, turning points and unique characters.

  6. O'Neil, great post. Funerals bring the rats out of the walls, especially in our own heads. My husband and I have lost way too many friends over the last two years... It's getting grim.


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