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Sunday, April 02, 2006

THE HUSTLE




My friends call it "DON'S CORNER" because it's usually the meeting point as we venture off in different directions exploring the gay bars of New Orleans.

I don't usually like drinking inside the clubs; finding the music too loud, the crowds intense and the people somewhat boring.

Since you can legally drink on the street in New Orleans, I prefer to take my drinks outside and watch the action on Bourbon Street. "DON"S CORNER is directly outside the Bourbon Pub on the corner of Bourbon and St. Anne, which is where I met him.

I watched his hustle as he played the tourists strolling up and down Bourbon Street. "I bet ya five dollars I can tell you where you got your shoes" he would tell the passing tourists....... and they would stop and they would say, "yeah, right..... like you think you know where I got my shoes'; 'ok sucker, it's a bet." and he would innocently respond, "you got your shoes on your feet, on Bourbon Street". Caught completely off guard, the tourist realizing that he was being observed by several locals and a bit embaressed, would hand over the lost five dollars and be on his way...... he had just encountered his first and one of the oldest New Orleans hustles.

I continued to watch, smiling in fascination at the stupidity of so many people as he kept playing his hustle over and over again and pocketing more and more money. He looked over, noticed me smiling and smiled back but continued his hustle looking in my direction every once in a while to see that I was enjoying his performance.

Suddenly he looked over at me and yelled, "watch this" and changed his hustle.

"I betcha five dollars I can spell your last name", he began telling tourist after tourist; and one by one, half drunk they would stop and take the bet. "I told ya I could spell your last name" he would confirm, "so here goes.......hmmmm let me think....... Y-O-U-R-L-A-S-T-N-A-M-E...... see, I told ya I could spell your last name. Now pay up!" And they did.

After a while, he came over to me and said kiddingly, "I betcha I can spell your last name" and I said to him, of course you can.... I've been watching you spell it for almost an hour.

He said he was going to get himself a drink and I quickly decided it was time to make my "hustle".

I offered to pay for his drink and the one after that if he would tell me every hustle going on in New Orleans, and he agreed.


Together we walked down St. Anne to the next corner where Good Friends Pub is located. We went upstairs and sitting on the balcony, he explained the New Orleans hustles. We had two drinks and he made the final hustle of the night......

"So are you taking me home?" he asked. Taken a bit off track, and without thinking, (although that idea had had been on my mind the entire nite) I immediately replied sure. But first, the ground rules.


I stay in a guest house on Ursuline St. where I've stayed for the last fifteen years. It, like all houses in the French Quarter is located directly on the street. Access to this guest house is from alleys on either side, leading into a spectacular courtyard. At the entrance to each alley is a 30 foot high steel gate with security locks, coded for each individual guest. As my guest, you can't get in and you can't leave unless I code you in or out. It's a wonderful safety feature.

When I go to the clubs, I take no more than $40.00 with me. At the price of drinks, that can go pretty fast, which means I have very little money to "lose". The remainder of my money, credit cards, jewelry, etc. is locked in a safe deposit box at the front desk of my guest house, which just happens to be across the street. In other words, if you're thinking of playing a hustle on me.... you're heading in the wrong direction!

He paid for the last round of drinks, which we took with us and left for 623 Ursuline, my second home.

The following morning, he left giving me his telephone number. He lives at home (the hustle helps support his family) with his mother and several brothers and sisters. He asked me to call, I said I would. I knew I wouldn't.

He was back with his hustle that night. When he saw me approach, he stopped his hustle, came over and gave me a hug and kiss (in front of a large crowd of people) and went back to his hustle. He stayed with me that night as he did most nights that week; as he has each time I've visited New Orleans for the last six years.

The hustle eventually stopped. Alan got a job at Charity Hospital and continued helping support his family. I began calling and asking his mother to let him know when I was coming to town.

I've no clue where he is today. I'm not at all sure I'll see him in June. The area he lived in before Katrina has been destroyed, the telephone number is "out of service".

Damned Katrina, New Orleans will never be the same.

P.S..... The SEX by the way, was over the top!

8 comments:

nancy =) said...

what a lovely story...beautifully written...a terribly sad ending, tho...

damn katrina, indeed...

peace...

BostonPobble said...

neat, neat story. be sure to check the hospital where he worked pre-Katrina in June! and keep us posted.

The Blog Whore said...

Great story!

Well told.

sjobs said...

That was a lovely story and I am so sorry that Katrina has messed with your life so.

I hope that you can connect again with him in June.

Take care,

Mary

CrackerLilo said...

Damn Katrina anyway!

I hope you can find him again. What an amazing story.

I believe with all my heart that missing is good, because that means you had something worth missing. At the same time, I hope for your sake it ain't all over yet, and I'll be praying, if that's okay with you.

*hug*

leone said...

You little minx!!!

Hypoxic said...

I loved the recalling. Hope you get to see him again!

RED QUILT MAKER said...

Talk about "making the heart grow fonder." You just did.

I'll bet Donnatella is jealous....
I know I am...
You, you....

rQm