Sunday, August 05, 2007

Soap Opera Sunday

One of my favorite bloggers, Brillig, has been writing her sudsy tales and is now organizing a collective bath with her friend Walking Kateastrophe. Fortunately, they are not requiring weekly commitments. They let you play when you want, as often as you want.

So here is one of my favorite tales to tell.

I hopped on a plane Sunday after the holiday break to return to New Orleans. I had spent the holiday hanging with family and went down to New Jersey to ring in the New Year. I had been teaching an Emotional Disturbed Behavior Disordered first through third grade class in a predominately black school (there was one Latino student). The year I started teaching David Duke, the former Klu Klux Klansman leader, was running for Governor. The students spoke of their fears that he would be elected.

But first I had to fly through Houston.

While waiting for my connection to New Orleans, I saw Phil*. Phil was one of the trainers at the health club I worked out at. Health club being a bit too fancy a description for it really was a storefront with gym equipment.

Phil looked awful. He was with a group of guys who were all in various states of awfulness. But there was one who was bright and talkative. Phil waved and walked over while his buddy followed. I learned that all these New Orleans guys were in the Army Reserves and returning from a weekend training. Apparently, they all went to a strip club the night before and Phil became, shall we say, friendly with one of the ladies. He was nearly passing out while talking to me.

We all got on the plane and I was seated in the row in front of Phil and his friend, Jack*. To this day I'm not sure how he did this but somehow I ended up sitting next to Jack and Phil had my seat. Jack was very talkative. We had similar tastes in music and talked about bands we had seen in concert. While talking about his fiancee he commented "She's a Yankee just like you. Can I have your number? I know she'll like you."

The plane landed and while we were collecting our luggage Jack brought over his fiancee for us to meet. They insisted we have dinner together. I thought nothing of it.

Jack called me Tuesday evening to join him, his fiancee and a friend for dinner that Saturday. He gave me directions to their house and it was easy to find that night.

I walked in to the shotgun-style house to find Jack and his fiancee, Susan* setting the table while their friend was furiously cooking in the kitchen. While I don't remember everything he made, there were these stuffed bell peppers that came from heaven. If heaven has stuffed bell peppers. They were a charming group but I don't remember much of the conversation. I remember the bell peppers.

We decided to go hear some music but first had to visit Jack's parents' house. I think a cousin was visiting before leaving for a tour of duty in Korea and both Jack and the friend wanted to say good luck. Shortly after I was introduced to Jack's father it became apparent he didn't like me.

His only daughter had just announced her engagement to a man from Boston, my hometown. His girl was marrying a Yankee.

The worst part of the visit came in the family room. I was sitting on the sofa next to Jack's dad when he went into great detail about another son's mugging. He kept referring to the assailant as "a Democrat".

"And the Democrat hit him on the head..."

"And the Democrat kicked him..."

Strange, I thought, that he would know the political affiliation of a mugger.

"Oh that's right," Jack's father sneered, "you're a Yankee. Down here we call them n*ggers Democrats."

Right then all the struggles of my black students came crashing down on my shoulders. How the hell could they get ahead when this man, an acknowledged leader of the community, spoke so ill of others? I literally felt my vision narrow. I could see Jack, Susan and their friend huddled in the kitchen. I later learned they were in a panic trying to figure out how to extradite me from this drunk, angry man.

The extraction, drive and settling into a table at the music bar are a bit of a blur. What I recall next was going on a pure tirade about racists, the struggles of poor blacks in New Orleans (of course, I was such an expert at 23 years old having lived there for 5 months), stupid white men, etc. etc.

The friend, who was half-Cajun and half-Italian, agreed with everything I said. He even said that when he married, he was going to take his wife's last name. Eventually I calmed down. We danced, drank and even hatched a plan for the four of us to go to the friend's parents' house "in the country" the next day.

That morning I got a call from the friend that a visit to the country was scratched but he asked if I would go out for drinks the upcoming Wednesday. I agreed.

The first bar we went to was the hotel where the movie Pretty Baby was filmed. An old-style hotel. The bar was paneled with dark wood and the bartenders knew my date by name. Once we sat down for a drink he started telling me about this book he read about welfare policy in my home state. He had read a book between Sunday and Wednesday.

I got home an hour before I was to report to school that morning. Needless to say I wasn't the most effective teacher that day.

I later learned that the Tuesday phone call by Jack, inviting me to have dinner had preceded the call to the friend. Apparently the subsequent phone call was "Man, I met this girl on the plane and you HAVE to meet her!"

Also, Jack didn't like the friend's girlfriend. The day after we met, the friend broke up with her.

I married the friend three years later.

*Phil, Jack and Susan are not their real names.

We're still in touch with Jack. He and Susan never married and eventually broke up. He did marry and his family had to leave New Orleans and resettle elsewhere after Hurricane Katrina.

Phil was killed in the late 1990's in a bar fight. I'm forever grateful that he introduced me to Jack, who introduced me to my love, all because he didn't like the girlfriend.


Kateastrophe said...

I love it! What a great story! Thanks for playing and I hope you play more!!

Brillig said...

Oh my gosh, SMID!!! What an amazing story! Yay for Phil and then for Jack and then for the friend!!! I love the bit about your tirade, and how Mr. SMID was agreeing with everything you were saying. hahaha. Fantastic story. And thanks for playing along!

Gunfighter said...

So.... did he take your last name???

Real Life Drama Queen said...

What an amazing story indeed. All started from a friendly conversation. Awesome.

Fourier Analyst said...

I like Mr. SMID already, though I am very interested in hearing more (hint, hint). But a great story on meeting up! YAY SOS!

anno said...

That is an amazing story. And more on Mr. SMID is definitely in order.

Dedee said...

Awesome story. I love how things just work and work and work all around and eventually work out in thise story. That's crazy!

Please play more!

Luisa Perkins said...

Wow. That's a terrific story! It's amazing how convoluted the road to true love can be.

Jen said...

Brilliant story SM! You told this with such twists and turns - I loved it!

I'm really liking this Soap Opera Sunday bit!

Again, great post!

Goofball said...


so...does he have your family name now ?? And does he still agree with everything you say?

Jami said...

I'm with GF and GB - I want to know if he took your last name. Or maybe at least did the hyphenation thing. Give, girl!

Great SOS and a great story, period.