Friday, February 26, 2016

EXCERPT FROM MY MEMOIR...

Hi folks,

I've been editing my memoir preparatory to my agent sending it out and intended to do some cutting, but instead added a bit to it. I've left a lot out but this bit was interesting I thought, so am including it. It's near the end of the saga, right after Mary and I got married and we moved back to New Orleans.

Hope you get a kick out of it.

            We moved to New Orleans shortly after we got married. We found a duplex apartment on Burthe near the Camelia Grill and Mary got a job at David DeLong’s salon a block away and I got a job at Busta’s at the Fairmont (Hotel) down in the CBD. I got to ride the streetcar to and from work each day and it was wonderful.
            We had a weird experience the first weekend we were in town. Just about broke, we decided to drive down to Grand Isle on the Gulf which I was familiar with—my Uncle Buddy before he passed away had a vacation home there and we used to visit all the time. Our plan was to do some crabbing and enjoy the sun and surf. It was a holiday weekend, Labor Day.
            A block away from our apartment, I discovered I’d left my billfold at home. We were already running late, so I decided not to turn back. That turned out to be a big mistake.
            On the way down is a town called Golden Meadow. There was a famous bakery there that I wanted to show Mary. When I was a kid, we used to visit it and they were famous all over the world—even shipping their goods to Paris. Golden Meadow also had another claim to fame. They were the site of a well-known speed trap. Since the oil bust a few years back, the town had fallen upon hard times and to make money the police department had set up a speed trap for unsuspecting tourists that had been publicized in New Orleans. A reporter had gone undercover and exposed the scam and we’d just seen the TV report. Just before the bakery, the speed limit was 35 mph which I was careful to observe, remembering the report. We went in. Mary was impressed and we bought some rolls and other things and then came out to our car.
            We jumped in and again, I was mindful of the speed limit. What I didn’t notice was a new speed limit sign just on the edge of the bakery property. That one lowered the limit to twenty mph. A block away down the road, there was an old clunker parked by the side of the road and an old guy in front of it on the road, waving his arms. Figuring he had car trouble, I pulled over to give him a hand.
            As soon as I approached him, he pulled out a gun from behind his back and stated he was a cop and had me lie down on the road where he cuffed me. For speeding. Out of nowhere, another car, this time a clearly-marked patrol car, appeared. I was put in the back seat and the uniformed cop told Mary to follow us to the police station.
            Some shit, huh?
            When we got there, the police chief who turned out to be the old guy I’d stopped to help, told Mary my fine would be a hundred dollars for both the speeding ticket and the fact that I didn’t have a driver’s license on me and that I wouldn’t be released until it was paid. We didn’t have a credit card and didn’t have enough money on us to pay the fine. We had a book of checks but they were from a Ft.Wayne bank and we hadn’t yet had time to open a New Orleans’ account and he wouldn’t take an out-of-state check. He said Mary would have to find someone to cash a check.
            Mary’s face was absolutely white. She had no idea where we were and her sense of direction was… how do I say this?... flawed, so I wasn’t sure she could even find her way back if she went very far. I think she was thinking the same thing.
            She left and I’m sitting there on a chair as the chief began taking info from me. When he got his paperwork done, he told me to stand up and follow him back to the cells. Another cop came out from some room and asked the guy if he was going to shake me down.
            “Nah,” the guy said. “I don’t think he’s got a hand grenade on him, do you?” If I had, it would have been hard to hide. I was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of cutoffs and flip-flops. He turned to me and said, “You don’t have a hand grenade on you, do you?” He was laughing.
            “Not this time,” I said. I wasn’t smiling.
            Neither was he. The guy came unglued and walked over and got me in a hold and the other cop came over and shook me down. “That isn’t funny,” the chief said. “Last week we arrested a guy and he did have a hand grenade on him.”
            They took me back to a holding cell and I sat there for three hours. Mary finally returned just when I’d about given up hope of ever seeing her again. She had the money and paid my fine and we left. Just turned around and went back home.
            On the way she told me why it took so long. She’d had to drive around to a bunch of little towns around Golden Meadow to try and find a place to cash a check. Most places were closed because of the holiday and the few she found wouldn’t cash a check from Indiana. Finally, when she’d just about given up, she said a manager at a supermarket had taken pity on her and cashed one for her. She might have been crying at that point, though she never admitted to that.
            A week later, we had another “adventure.” I snagged a job at Busta’s after going through a couple of interviews with him and submitting my resume. It was a great salon in a great hotel. The salon was just across the hall from the famous Sazerac bar and just down the block-long hall from the famous Blue Room. The rumor at the time was that Frank Sinatra kept a suite there with a year-long lease for $10,000 a night and rarely visited it.
            There was a front—page news story going on at the time about a murder trial involving furniture magnate Aaron Mintz who had discovered his dead wife one morning along with his mistress. It seemed clear it wasn’t the suicide Mintz claimed since she was found with the gun in her hand… what made suicide clearly not the cause of her death was that the gun was found in her right hand and she was left-handed… and she’d shot through a pillow Mintz’s legal team claimed she’d placed over her own head before pulling the trigger. I guess out of consideration that she wouldn’t wake anyone…
            Well, after I set up my tools and met some of the staff, a gorgeous young woman with long blonde hair swept into the salon, tossed the receptionist her fur coat and sat down in my chair.
            “Hi, Les,” she said.
            It turned out she was my first client.
            I wondered how she knew my name and that got cleared up quickly. She was Ruth-Ann Munitis, the aforementioned Aaron Mintz’s mistress. Ruth-Ann was also reputed to have been Dutch Morial’s mistress before hooking up with Mintz.
            She started talking to me like I knew all of these things—which I didn’t and only learned later. She told me she was taking over the salon from Busta and had read my resume and was going to need a salon manager and thought I had the kind of qualifications she would be looking for.
            In a daze, I excused myself from her and went to the back room where Busta was and told him what she was saying. He clued me in with the short version. That she’d bailed him out a few months ago when he was heavily into debt for cocaine and gambling debts and had become his financial partner. Then, things started going south, he said. She began taking over more and more of the salon and the last straw was when she told him she wanted all the stylists to start wearing tuxedos when we worked. At that point, he tried to pull out of the partnership, but she wasn’t standing for that and had her lawyers trying to take over and he had his lawyers fighting all that. Each night after the salon closed, he would take the appointment book and all the client records home with him so she couldn’t steal those and lock him out.
            It was just a total clusterfuck. And here I was, first day on the job, and right smack in the middle of it. He advised me to keep on her good side as she might win and I’d need a job.
            I didn’t know what to do. It ended up, I went back to her and told her I needed time to get up to speed on everything so if she’d be so kind I’d appreciate it if she had someone else cut her hair.
            That night, I told Mary all that was going on and she was in a daze. New Orleans was turning out to be very different from Ft.Wayne!
            The upshot was, I kept on working for Busta for another few weeks and Ruth-Ann would waylay me when I left for the day and I kept putting her off for a decision. The decision wasn ‘t hard—I mean this was the mistress of a mob-connected guy and it looked obvious she’d taken part in the murder of her boyfriend’s wife. I could get a glimpse of my future with her and it didn’t look rosy.
            Finally, I had to quit. I hated to since I really liked Busta and the salon, but then Mintz got acquitted and Ruth Ann got even bolder and it was time to boogie on down the road. Turns out Mintz was mob-connected also, as a few years later he got convicted in a mob scheme to steal from the Las Vegas gambling company Bally’s.
            From there, I got a job at the Uptown Square salon and that had another twist to it. Then-governor Edward Edwards used to come to New Orleans periodically, and bring his wife. When he came, he’d rent two adjoining suites in a good hotel and he and his wife would bunk in one of them with the other suite reserved for one of his many mistresses. All of that was quite open. In fact, they did a local documentary on Edward’s philandering and interviewed his wife who was blunt about it. Yes, she said, she was very aware that he kept mistresses and she was friends with almost all of them. It’s just the “Louisiana way” she said and it was.
            Well, I got involved with all that inadvertently. It turns out one of Edwards’ favorite girlfriends was a fellow stylist at Uptown Square. Whenever he and his wife came to town, she was one of the ones he’d call. When that happened, she’d just take the weekend off and the clients on her book would go to the junior stylist. Who was moi. In addition to my own clients, I had to take care of hers as well. I was humping my ass off to take care of a double load. Thanks, Guv…

            Stuff like that kept happening and I’m pretty sure Mary was kind of freaked out at the kind of town New Orleans was proving to be. I loved it, but I was an adrenaline junkie. That didn’t describe Mary so much…

I love New Orleans and miss the excitement that was always ongoing!

Hope you enjoy this small excerpt and will want to buy the whole enchilada when it comes out. Right now, the working title is RENTING SPACE IN MY HEAD, but that could change...

Blue skies,
Les

4 comments:

Col...Colman...col2910 said...

Sounds like it'll be an interesting read!

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Col--appreciate it.

JoAnn Williams said...

As a fellow southerner I know You can't make this shixx up. (even if Les did move North, he's still a southerner)

Sounds like modern take on southern goth. Can't wait for it to come out.

Les Edgerton said...

Absolutely right, JoAnn. This was just some funny stuff that happened. Most of it is pretty dark...