A Romantic affair
At the end of the night from selling ice cream, I would push my cart the few blocks to a nondescript warehouse in what is known as "Storyville" . Then I would make my way back to my room, cutting through "Jackson Park", around St. Louis Cathedral, down "Pirates alley", cross Royal Street and then back up Bourbon Street to Canal Street and then three more blocks to my weekly rented room.
I was starting to sour on my romantic notion of living in the the "Crescent City". Jobs were scarce. Late at night on bourbon street, the kids would bring out their "Boom" boxes, playing their "rap" music and "break" dancing. I have nothing wrong with this, it just wasn't the scene I had remembered as a young teenager. Along the streets where trees were planted in large containers, there would be homeless people sleeping in them and on my walk back to my room sometimes they would yell out threatening in a drunken slur. I never felt really threatened, they were never that close but it was still unsettlingly.
One particular night, I wasn't working, so I headed over to Bourbon Street to watch the nightly circus and people watch, something that is always free. Tonight things seemed different, it seemed a bit of magic was in the air . I passed a cabby with his windows and doors open Big Joe Turner big band boogie blaring from his speakers. I squatted in an inconspicuous place and sipped my 16oz beer watching as the people passed, this was more like the New Orleans that I remembered. Jazz music playing, kids working the old "I know where you got your shoes" scam on unexpecting tourist, it was a good night.
I was heading back to my room when the breeze of chance blew me into a seedy little strip club. Dark and dingy, half naked girls twirled and danced, guys of all sorts sitting along the rail watching and drinking. I took my place sort of in the middle. After a short bit of time all of a sudden I felt two arms wrap around my neck and lush breast barely contained push against the back of my head. Then in a voice sweet as honey, I heard "This is the kind of man that I want to marry!" I thought "What the what???" I said "well at least lets get to know each other." I got up and we retreated to a corner table, I found out her name was Sandy, sweet as cotton candy, and while dancers twirled and old guys drooled, we drank and talked about everything and anything. I followed her back to her apartment, an old place on the edge of the quarter. You entered a gate, in the center was an overgrown flower garden smelling of Gardenias and other fragrant delights. Up a flight of steps in a horseshoe shape were 4 apartments. Hers was in the center. A big bedroom decorated in feather boas, beads, frilly clothes hung about with a big poster bed and small couch and table, a kitchenette and big bathroom with a big clawfoot tub. She poured a goblet of "B&B" ( brandy and Benedictine) and rolled a big joint. The next thing I knew it was daylight and we were naked snuggled up in that big bed. I took my leave and she invited me to stop by the club after my ice cream shift. That's how it started. I would take my push cart back at the end of the night, as I got to her club she would usually be just getting off work. We would go back to her apartment and most nights she would draw us a bubble bath where we would sometimes sit facing each other sometimes lay in each others arms, sipping B&B and smoking weed, a lot of the time just being silly and of course ending the night in that big bed wrapped in each others arms . She was a delight with the voice of a child and and an infectious giggle. She was a little rough around the edges but had some fine lines to her body. Before getting into the bath she would put her hair up exposing her beautiful long neck, which she loved for me to kiss. Some days she would get up before me and go out and get pastries, a newspaper and brew strong coffee. she would get back in bed and we would sip coffee with "Tia Maria" and "wake and bake" while she read to me all the interesting stories out of the newspaper. One day, I put one of her blankets in my backpack, we grabbed a bottle of wine and bought some picnic supplies. Then we took the trolley and with a "clank, clank, clank " rode all the way down Canal St through the beautiful neighborhood called the "Garden District" with its huge oak trees, flower gardens, a house or two covered in Bougainvillea to the entrance of "Audubon Park" . At the entrance was a flower garden with a short hedge behind it. You could see that behind that hedge was an opening through the trees. We skirted around and it seemed like a path although there were no signs of foot traffic but it was definitely maintained. We followed it and it led all the way to the levee overlooking the mighty Mississippi. We spread our blanket and as barges and other boats passed we drank our wine, nibbled at our picnic and "made out" right there for God and all to see on the banks of the Mississippi. A truly romantic time.
It was great in a lot of ways, but I was running out of money and while she was great, after about two weeks I was getting diabetes from just her voice. I started leaving early and going back to my room. Sometime during the third week , I think she figured it out and told me she had to go visit her mother for a few days and wasn't sure when she would be back. A few days later I saw her from across the way dressed in jeans and a frilly shirt talking to some biker looking dude.
C'est La Vie.
It wasn't long after that , I gave up on living in New Orleans and hopped aboard the "Southern Crescent" and headed back to South Carolina. Ill always remember that time and when ever I sip "B&B" or smell Gardenias I will remember that girl and that fragrant overgrown garden.