Friday, March 16, 2012


Actually, it was Rose who got me started writing this. All this began happening after the scholarship ended with the end of the spring of 1963. I was happy singing but I knew my voice wouldn’t last, I knew too little about what to do with it, and Sanchez was looking for a woman, and found her–yes, Rose, Dave’s lady. She took the stage now and then at the Black and Tan, when one of the two owners decided to take some time off and help run the place. She did what she called White Girl Blues. The clientele, who were all black except for the owners and a rare customer or two off the reservation, as some were hip to call it then–you could sit there and listen to them talk about her after she finished Careless Love or Make Me a Pallet on the Floor or one of those other wonderful misery purges like St. James Infirmary; you know the kind. I was there once with Dave and she came over to our table and said, I’d like to do that all the time . . . I mean, for a living. In the smoky room with its beery stench she waited till the boss man came over and asked her to spell him, but first I told her she should take my place with Sanchez and Company, that way she could spend more time at night with Dave. But who would care for LuAnn? she replied. She liked to toss her long mane of brown hair around her lovely face with its arrogant scar down one cheek from a mugger who wanted her body as well as her money and she fought back, taking the slash but kicking him in the groin so that he limped away while she was screaming for help, which never came, she said. She had to walk several blocks home and stanch the wound before Dave got home and took her to emergency. She liked to kid around and call herself The Cut Rose. Or some such name. That’s what she meant anyway. I thought she was goddam pretty and Dave was proud of his white-skinned lady with her bluesy voice and the sign of survival running crookedly down one cheek from the bone to the back of her neck. She was going to start soon at the New Congress. I was going to have to find a job that paid enough to get me a houseboat where I could live with Cathleen again because we never got it out of our system in that first brief go-around, and besides I thought we might love each other more than we wished we did. I traded places with Rose. She went to the New Congress and I tended bar at the Black and Tan, but I did not wait tables, I kept a notebook behind the bar and wrote in it every chance I got. You can fill a book like that faster if you’re working. You don’t have all the time in the world and after a while you know your job well enough to be able to think about what you want to say next time you have a minute to start setting it down. I don’t know who took care of Dave’s mother, Lu Ann, but I got the owners’ okay and hired a guy to work with me so I could walk the few blocks to Dave’s house and back to check on her every hour or two. She was a small black lady with a limp; she’d been born that way. She told me some stories I immediately wanted to write down once I got through with my own ongoing portraiture. There was the story of her husband’s boxing career and the story of her own time as a restaurant manager, no it was more than maitre’d, said she, I got to hire and fire and open and close and work the register as well as seat the customers. She said, I was a painter, I did water colors at first, then oils until acrylics took their place, and I’ll tell you, she’d go, I was the female answer to that choo-choo man Franz Kline, I called him that because his black strokes on white canvas always put me in mind of a train moving, something like an axle or whatever you call it churning around faster and faster until the whole gallery was full of such motion and I swear, you could get dizzy looking at that man’s work. (11

(March 2012:II)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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