Tuesday, October 04, 2005
A Quarter Life
Ensconced with my girl in an evacuated courtyard apartment on Ursulines Street. A midnight call to my mom for her birthday leads to two hours of telling the old French Quarter stories. I'm older now, and now I'm more curious about her crazy life back then, as a teenage hippie runaway on Bourbon Street in the sixties, back when the French Quarter was truly weird.
She told me about how she go-go danced (not stripped) in silver boots at the Gunga Den. It was owned by mob boss Larry Lamarca, who's girl my mom also knew, Linda Brigette, a famous bombshell burlesque dancer. About how one night a local guy grabbed Miss Brigette's boob, and Lamarca went off, told the bouncers to watch the door, told the band to play loud and don't stop, and took the man into the back courtyard and beat him bloody in front of the dancers, including my mom.
She told me about Ruthie The Duck Girl, who used to roll through the streets of the Quarter on roller skates, holding a big white duck, bumming Kools and beers off locals, and occasionally screaming "Fuck off and die, motherfucker!" to startled, nervously amused passersby.
So many stories. I thought her life after I was born was full of turmoil and craziness and stress and eccentricity, but it was always so. Things I've seen in this life lead me to believe that some people are fated to a wild, erratic life, tossed from storm to storm. My mom is one of those people.
That's what I was trying to do when I bought her her Eden, make a place for her that wasn't erratic. A place with no strings attached, and no landlord breathing down her neck. A safe home for the runaway. But now she's a runaway again, of a sort. Back to square one. Try again.
She said, laughing, "Thanks for the trip down memory lane." And I had been Googling while she had been telling me her stories, not because I thought they were tall tales, but because I wanted it in front of me, to see as well as hear. And Google confirmed everything she told me. And I told her what Google said about the characters she told me about.
It told me that Miss Linda Brigette died of a stroke a couple of years ago. That Ruthie The Duck Girl became the Duck Lady, and went mad, and wound up in a nursing home. Hopefully not one of the Flooded Death Nursing Homes Katrina left behind.
"Awww," she said, "New Orleans was easier on people like that back then. I don't know if it would be possible for them to exist the same way, now."
Posted by clayton cubitt at 4:38 AM