Updated: May 6
on one of my excursions to Paris Road in Chalmette with Amy
I have this primal need for survival that I inherited from my father. My daddy grew up poor with no education. He quit school in first grade because of kids bullying him over his cleft palette. He went to work as a child with my grandfather and began earning his keep. My daddy was one of ten children my grandfather had. Grandpa Henry and Grandma Annie believed in getting up early to gather the yard eggs, milk the cows, and to slop the hogs. Early morning was also the best time to work in the fields because you were going to be scorched once that overhead sun would hit the Louisiana dirt. OD, my daddy, believed that working hard proves your value as a human being-its good for the soul and that if you’re not working hard, then you're not a good person. My daddy loved to talk about his work. It was the way he connected with people and the way he owned his power and showed his value. As a child, I resented him because of this. I would try to find other things to talk about, but it always went back to work for him. I am glad I understood and accepted that about him as I got older. I began to ask him questions about his work showing interest. It became our bond.
And my daddy never said anything negative about me or my brother being gay.
Here I was with a pocket full of re-location money from my old landlord, but I still needed to find some kind of normal work to keep the money flowing and an apartment to live in. Those weekly drag shows in the French Quarter might have made me miserable, but at least it was a routine flow of cash and gave me a purpose that I was used to. I knew my schedule for the week.
I still had my faithful hair clients but they weren't enough to survive on. Someone suggested, why not open another hair salon and be a part of the community? having anything in the French Quarter is a twenty-four hour, three hundred sixty five day business. It's hard to have a seperate life from it if you live in the Quarter.
When I was having a quiet Sunday morning doing my weekly shopping at the A&P, and I ran into people who knew me, they would ask what was wrong- was I depressed or hungover? Quite frustrating when your two choices are turn on or be my Sunday quiet shopping for groceries self or turn it on so I could get things done and back to my Sunday. Maybe I was a little bipolar in thinking I could have disappeared after being the one to crave the acknowledgment of being noticed in other ways.
I don't know what is about the Quarter, people want to commiserate and tell you all their problems even while someone else was in my chair paying for my time. Some even like to perform a dramatic piece where they performed a soliloquy. Most made me their bartender telling me their problems and going back to their lives feeling better. Hairdressers should be paid like a therapist. Clients paying for my services in my chair were the ones who suffered.
I even tried to police the situation by nicely putting one out, but two would take their place.
So you know the reaction when people said why don't I open a hair salon.
A friend offered for me to stay at her house for a short period. I was putting pressure on myself to make a permanent decision about where I wanted to live. What would people think about me if they knew I was homeless?
Collette had a cute villa in Gentilly with two dogs. She was working out of town on a movie. Colette is one of the strongest women I know. Feminine at heart but can do just about anything she puts her mind to. I met her when she was in the Disco Amigo Mardi Gras dance troupe. She can build a house or boil crawfish or put on a sexy dress and dance the cha-cha.
After my extended stay, I bid farewell to Colette and her Gentilly villa to follow my dreams and go on to my next stop in this life-recreating cavalcade. That sounds funny reading that. What were my dreams? Where would I go to learn what they were? Was God going to give me a sign? After all, I am a 56-year-old man.
As far as my next gig, it was decided by my heffa mafia that my services were needed to help my friend Mel recover from her recent foot surgery.
Women are the most potent driving force in my life. My mother and my aunts taught me to surround myself with strong women for protection and decision making. I learned the philosophy of either being right or being happy in all situations with women.
These three ladies quickly stepped in telling me to pack my crates and suitcase, I was moving to Metairie on Causeway Boulevard to take care of Mel and her three cats- Mr. Ralph, Missy Lou, and Stubby, the feral outside cat.
Mel and I have known each other since working on Canal Street together at Maison Blanche in the 90s. She is the picture of a retail manager in Webster's. We share great memories. Once, her friends put a signed Reba Doulas photo in one of her friend's band member's car for his wife to find. She thought her husband and Reba were having an affair. The woman was ready to rip Reba a new one when Reba showed up at the Treasure Chest Casino in drag where they were playing and realized it was all a joke.
Our friendship has endured both losses and some incredibly fun times. I was doing her hair when my niece called me to tell me my mother had passed.
During all this change, I was still dragging around my big ole' orange suitcase but my wigs were inside.The gays of the French Quarter might not have understood Reba. but my friends out of town sure did-I was on tour. I took buses and planes and even bummed a ride.
I had plans to take a step-back from Reba, but right now it was not meant to be. Thank God, these people kept me going. Emotionally, it was what I needed. There's nothing like looking at yourself on a public stage with that spotlight on you. You either have to grow or go.
Reba was going everywhere-.Baton Rouge, Mobile, uptown, downtown, the
Marigny, the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library in Atlanta, Georgia and Savannah, which had been on my dreamscape since reading "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
Coffee shops have always been a way for me to reboot myself. The French Quarter is full of coffee shops with people to watch and listen to. I didn’t live in the Quarter anymore and wasn’t sure about people watching in Metairie.
My favorite coffee is an iced PJ's cold brew with a Sweet and Low or a Splenda. I googled coffee shops near and found that a new PJ’s location had opened nearby.
It was about 4 pm on a Thursday, so I headed over to Airline Highway to get myself a coffee and do some social media on my Mac. The sun was beginning to shift away from the window, so I grabbed the table by the window. I like to spread my stuff on the table, and if there is an empty chair, I pull it next to me and put my bag on it. This does two things- my coffee, headphones, laptop, and cell phone provides a physical barrier to stop people from sitting down, and the headphones stop them from talking too long unless I invite them to.
I was deep in one of my Apple murder podcast on my headphones.
This is my happy place, indeed.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted what looked like a bat out of hell flying in the parking lot on four wheels. Driving a fancy black Cadillac, this woman looked like she had just left the beauty shop on Metairie Road with a mound of copper red coiffed hair. She parked in a spot by the door. It was a scene from a movie. She pushed her green sunglasses down her nose and was getting something from her passenger seat. After three minutes of gathering her things, she grandly exited the car. I know she had to feel me staring hard at her. I was Twitter-pating. I had to see the outfit.
She was wearing a black and white caftan flowy top, black pants, a big black and white necklace, black and white bangle bracelets, and some dark-green Italian leather looking platforms. Her dark green sunglasses matched her shoes.
Overstated? Never. After all, it was Metairie.
I had no idea I was about to meet one of three women who would change the course of my life.
The crew at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library
New Smyrna Beach
Allegra Williams , New Smyrna
Sometimes Uncle Tony likes to strip.
More to come...........