Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Orleans 14.10.1990: French Quarter Ganymedes and Newcomb Pottery

Yesterday Steve and I got up at 5:55 A.M. to go to a garage sale in the French Quarter. The ad in the paper spoke of an old cypress hutch, and we wanted to see if it was anything like the one we have. We arrived at 6:35, the first to do so. The address—741 Dumaine—turned out to be an apartment attached to Clover Grill, an all-night diner across the street from (and sharing clientele with) the world-famous gay bar Café Lafitte in Exile.

In this day and age one is of course hesitant to stand on any street corner in the French Quarter at 6:30 A.M., when dark still reigns. So when we drove up we sat awhile in the car, mumbling back and forth in our sleepy, wimbly state about what to do.

Finally I pointed out that Clover Grill was full and if need be, we could always duck in there in case of trouble. Steve went to park. I got out and leaned on the wall of the house. As I did so, I immediately noticed that a stocky, cigarette-smoking man in shorts across the street was staring at me casually but intently. I realized he was tricking and thought Steve and I had driven up, chatted, and decided I would get out to pick him up! I tried to show not disapproving disinterest, to preserve his feelings.

Gradually it became apparent to me that no corner in the Quarter was so alive as this one at 6:30 A.M. Saturday. Merry singing from Lafitte’s, alternating with loud female rock vocals. For some reason, I could also see a flickering flame through the smoked glass doorway, like a gas lamp but in a spot where one ought not to be.

Tricks came and went. Groups of three and four young men in all types of clothes emerged and sauntered down the street. A thin gray-bearded middle-aged man came out of Clover Grill and parked himself on the other side of the doorway of 741—another garage sale client. A man in tight, dirty jeans and one of those yoked and strap-bearing muscle shirts gay men love came up and said to him, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” The thin man: “From around,” in a high rural-South voice (north Louisiana? Mississippi?). The man then went into Lafitte’s from which he was ejected shortly by a bouncer shouting something about motherf---r, don’t show ass, drugs, etc.

All the time the sky grew lighter and lighter, and cars of tourists cruised slowly and dreamily past. Two policemen on motorcycles came up to the Grill, and the first hustler—by now on the corner, having given me up—shouted to us, “Did you call the police?”

Steve struck up a conversation with Thin Man, who turned out to be a regular, a quasi-antiquer/junker who goes the round of garage sales on weekends. He asked what we liked—Victorian? Anything? He allowed as how he had recently purchased a piece of Newcomb pottery for peanuts.

As we talked, a Ganymede with perhaps not entirely naturally glowing and flowing locks came UP—bemuscled and bemuscle-shirted—opened the door of 741, turned around, and asked the three of us, “Was you wanting a room?” We reminded him there was a garage sale at his apartment at 7 (it was now 6:48 or so). “Oh,” he said, “yes.”

As he spoke, the waiter from Clover Grill came up and said, “You’re having a sale? Whatcha selling?” Blondie: “I’ve cleaned out my attic. My husband keeps bringing home all this shit and I’m selling it.” Waiter Apparently did not quite catch it all, because Thin Man repeated it to Water. He and Blondie and Waiter all appeared to know one another.

Waiter seemed not quite all together, though amusingly distrait. He sported a Café Lafitte t-shirt and lots of name tags, and a baseball cap. Blondie returned to Café Lafitte, whence he had come. Five minutes later, a light and a sound in 741, then the door opens and sale begins. Thin Man knows the seller—“Joe, what ya got on this?” Waiter returns.

Joe to Waiter: “What you want?” Waiter, arm flailing, hand displaying a cigarette coyly perched between fingers: “Dick.” Steve to Joe: “If you rent a room, that comes with it.”

And indeed as we shopped someone did rent a room. At first I believed she was a damsel in distress, over-fatiguée from a night of bar revelry. But as she ascended the stairs in her green satin blouse, I realized she was a he, a he-she. Saturday A.M. in the French Quarter . . . .

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