Fill My Pockets

We didn’t play our way down to New Orleans like I suggested. The plan I had previously laid out for my Dynasty band mates was that we book gigs in Minneapolis, Madison, St. Louis, Memphis, and Baton Rouge on our way to New Orleans. That plan provided a leisurely trip with lots of breaks along the way instead of what we did, which was drive 1400 miles in 21 hours straight from Superior to Bourbon Street.

Timmy kept asking if it was going to be Mardi Gras time when we reached New Orleans. After explaining thrice that Carnival only occurred once a year in the fourteen days preceding Ash Wednesday only to have him ask again if it was going to be Mardi Gras time when we reached New Orleans, I just started saying, “Yes, Tim, it will be Mardi Gras.” We travelled in Ted’s VW Van towing a U-Haul trailer with our musical equipment.

We started picking up the signal from WWL 860-AM radio out of New Orleans as we passed through Cape Giraudoux, Missouri. It was so incredibly great to hear DJ’s with that inimitable Nawlins accent. One of my favourite songs of all time came on with the great voice of Louis Armstrong, Satchmo singing,

“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

To miss her each night and day.

I know that it’s wrong… the feeling’s getting stronger

The longer I stay away.”

I had been away too long, far, far too long. It was the middle of the night, but I could feel the change in atmosphere as we approached bayou country. Shortly after daybreak we hit the Pontchartrain Causeway, the 24-mile bridge that spans from Covington to New Orleans. My band mates were amazed and more than a little scared driving over the longest bridge over water in the world. Reaching the center of the bridge there was no land in sight and the road seemed freakishly narrow. These were the tensest miles of our journey.

My heart soared like a hawk when I first caught sight the New Orleans skyline. I was home. No matter the reassuring bullshit I had fed Patty, this was my true home and always would be. Through all the times of my life New Orleans has remained deepest in my heart.

“Armond, do you think the bar will be open?” Ted asked from the driver’s seat.

“Yes, it will be open,” I replied.

“Really, at 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning,” Rock said in disbelief.

“Bars never close in New Orleans, except for midnight on Ash Wednesday when they close for about 8 hours. That’s it.”

“You’re kidding me,” Rock said, still not believing me.

“This is New Orleans, man, the Big Easy. We ain’t in Wisconsin anymore.”

Driving down Elysian Fields Rock exclaimed, “Look, there’s a negro. Hey, there’s another one.”

I laughed. There was only one black family living in Superior, the Dell family. Only a few residents had even seen them since they had only recently repatriated from Atlanta. The Superior city council had recruited the father, Washington Dell, to be a janitorial supervisor for the city schools thereby securing federal funding for employing a token black. Before we left Superior a friend of the band had warned, “I hear it’s really dark down there.” The guy wasn’t talking about a lack of sunlight.

I said to my cousin, “You’re going to wear yourself out if you start counting the number of black people you see in this city.”

We turned right on Bourbon, and then left when we reached St. Peter and there it was, Pat O’Brian’s. As I had predicted it was open. As we stepped out of the van the brunt of the heat and humidity hit my mates with the full force of 90 degree temperature coupled with 99 percent relative humidity. I breathed deeply, absorbing the wonderfully funky aroma of the Vieux Carre’, a mix of beer, piss, and vomit pungently crossed with magnolia and Mississippi River.

Patty O’s was buzzing with tourists even at that early hour. We found the day manager who showed us where to set up our equipment. Setting up in the heat and humidity nearly killed Jack, Ted, Tim, and Danny. I was amazed at how much they were sweating and panting.

“Is it always this hot,” Cousin Danny complained.

“No, it’s still early in the day. It is usually way hotter than this. Just wait until 2 or 3,” I offered no hope. “New Orleans is a soup bowl. We are actually below sea level here, about 14 feet below sea level. The humidity has a tendency to hang in the air at this depth.”

Fortunately, the inner bar in Patty O’s is air conditioned. After setting up we stood at that long beautiful wood bar and ordered the obligatory Hurricane drink, a deadly mix of lime and passion fruit juice and several shots of light and dark rum. Pat O’Brian created the Hurricane back in the 1940’s as a method of selling the cheaper rums at a higher profit. One of these potent drinks will make you wobble. Two will knock you on your ass.

The club provided a small apartment a few blocks away on Royal Street, which is one block south of Bourbon Street, or west, I’m never quite sure. Our second floor rooms included a balcony overlooking Royal. The guys were quite impressed that they could actually buy liquor at the corner store. By noon we were drunk and stoned with plenty of time to nap before our 8pm show time.

We were billed as being a band from Duluth – the birthplace of Bob Dylan. Like any of us knew Bob Dylan. That’s show biz for ya.

The first couple of nights went well. Our crowds were great for early in an off-season week. We sounded tight and together. At least, the tourons dug us.

Wednesday night one of my old friends, Pierre Doucette, stopped in to see this band from Dylan’s hometown. I could see him looking at me, trying to place were he had seen me before. On break he came up to me, “Armond, is that you, boy?”

“Yes, Pierre, how have you been?”

“I are fine. How y’all are?”

“Happy to be back home.”

“Your band sounding great, mon ami,” Pierre complimented. “Is dis yo’ only gig, huh?”

“No, I do 8 to midnight with Dynasty, but then Al Broussard’s band takes over. I’ve been hanging around for the first hour or so adding Hammond. It’s a kick.” Al Broussard was a vintage piano player with his own small combo that was very popular among locals. I had known Al from back in the days when my folks would occasionally hit the juke joints. I

“What you thought about accompanying me over at Tinker’s on Basin? I’ll pay you $10 an hour.”

“Hard to pass up green money. What time?”

“One till four. Easy charts, ya know. Great club. Hammond B3 & Leslie waitin’ on ya. We got strippers.”

“Crazy, man. I’ll do it.”

So, I was booked for another gig after Dynasty’s gig. Who needed sleep? Not me at that age. I was bored with playing tour guide and the guys had all found their favourite hangouts after the gig. We all went our separate ways. We were getting enough of each other as it was. No need to push the togetherness thing any further.

Thursday night, I walked the few blocks over to Basin Street, which was quickly dying and no longer sported the row of blues palaces of its heyday. There were only a few sleazy bars left. I played with Pierre’s group until almost 5am doing blues and nothing but the blues. It was a weird jernt. We smoked hashish right onstage and nobody seemed to notice or care. Obviously, this bar had paid for good police protection. Like folks often say, “We don’t tolerate corruption in Louisiana. We demand it.”

Saturday night I was chilling backstage of Tinker’s in the tiny dressing room around twelve-thirty when a lanky blond gal clad only in a silk robe entered and sat in front of the mirror.

“Hi, I’m Gloria,” she said.

“I’m Armond,” introducing myself.

“Y’all in the band?”

“For a few days.”

“Wanna do a line?” she asked spilling white chunks onto a pocket mirror that she placed carefully onto the dressing table.

“Sure ‘nuff,” I replied. I had no idea what the white powder was, but I would have said yes to anything this beauty asked of me.

She deftly chopped the chunks into a fine powder and carefully portioned out eight even lines.

“This coke just came off a boat from Columbia this afternoon. S’pozed to be pure shit. We’ll see,” she said as she rolled up a dollar bill. Snorting loudly, she rode half of one line up her left nostril, rubbed it, and then finished off the line with her right nostril. “Ear,” she handed the rolled bill to me.

I had heard of coke but this my first experience with it. Cocaine was one of the drugs they warned us about in Health Class. Just like marijuana it would lead to ruin and death. Right and masturbation was supposed to make me go blind. I mimicked Gloria’s actions by clamping one finger to close my right nostril, jamming the dollar bill up the left, and snorting in.

Ouch! That shit burned. My eyes began watering as I rubbed the left nostril as Gloria had done. I snorted the rest of the line so that both nostrils burned and eyes watered. I mopped the remainder up with my finger and rubbed it on my gums, again in mimicry. The effect was nearly immediate. I felt great, euphoric, strong, powerful, and horny.

Gloria had been circling her head around, snorting several more times in quick succession to drive the coke farther into her nose and brain. She went down for another line, then handed me the bill again. I complied. I was ready to feel even better.

Gloria tilted back in the chair propping one leg on the dressing table. Her robe top fell open exposing a perfect set of small boobs. Below, I could see all the way up to her fuzzy box. I recalled a bet that Ted had made with Tim one night, “I’ll bet you a five-spot that the carpet don’t match the drapes.” I sort of understood due to the context of their conversation, but now I totally got it. The carpet did indeed match the drapes on this girl.

She started rubbing her thighs with her hands. “Man, I feel so… alive,” she announced as she rubbed her box directly with ornately painted fingers while making an “mmmmmmmmmm” sound from deep within.

“Lick me,” she said abruptly.

Ever obedient to females, I leaned over and began licking her left nipple, but apparently that wasn’t what she meant.

“Eat me,” she commanded, grabbing my head with both hands and pushing it down toward her pubic mound.

Lick what? My mind asked. There? No, not there. Eeewww. That’s where she pees from. I had only read about this part of sex in a couple of poorly written trash novels that we stole one night from a car outside a bowling alley. She can’t possibly be asking me to… No more time to wonder, think, or waver, as she thrust my face into position. Man was this ever going to be disgusting, my brain screamed. But it was too late, I dove in. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for this beauty, even that. It was exceptionally weird for about the first twenty seconds, but it didn’t taste as bad as I had expected and my objections were quickly replaced by the moans of pleasure she was emitting.

Gloria really dug my attention. Her legs rubbed against my ears causing me to hear the ocean along with her cries of pleasure until she clamped her legs around my head and began to shake. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. I wiggled my head back and forth trying break her grip, but that motion just made her shake more. Finally, she loosed her grip of my cranium whereupon I gasped for breathe like I’d just broken the surface of the ocean after swimming up from 50 feet. She grabbed me under my shoulders, dragged my face up to hers, merged her hips with mine, and sucked violently on my tongue. It felt like she was going to suck my tongue right from my mouth, but the distraction coming from the action below made me not care. I experienced an explosion the likes of which I not previously felt.

Back at the mirror we snorted two more lines, then… lather, rinse, repeat. This wasn’t sex with a girl. This was sex with a stripper, an experienced stripper from New Orleans. This story would play well with the dunderheads back at school.

I had just discovered a whole new level of banging. I was in true love with this gal, like no other before her. That was it, I was ready to declare my independence and live in New Orleans with beautiful Gloria.

We continued until the coke was spent, along with us. In an example of perfect timing, Pierre knocked on the door to announce that it was show time.

“You’d better get out there,” she said. “I’ll be out dancing in about 15 minutes. Play good.”

“I will,” I assured her. I kissed my new love on the mouth and headed to the stage.

Oh, I was going to play good, alright. I felt invincible. We jammed on the song “Kansas City” for more than 15 minutes. Then, Pierre launched us into the Them song titled… you guessed it: Gloria.

Gloria strutted across the stage and onto the pool table positioned down on the floor a few feet away from the organ. The club was packed with people, mostly guys. When Gloria came out all the men pushed toward the stage and circled the pool table. Gloria wore shear silk panties, a silk translucent bra, and the shear silk robe she’d been wearing backstage. Guys offered money up just for her to lean over to give them a closer look at her goodies.

It wasn’t long before one of the louts climbed onto the table offering up a 20 dollar bill. She stuck the 20 in a side pocket of the pool table and planted her crotch directly on the guys face. Before long she was writhing on her back on the pool table pouring baby powder onto her golden mound and inviting all comers.

One after another guys stuffed money in the pockets for an opportunity to chalk their sticks in her talcum. We just kept jamming on the song Gloria, E-A-D, E-A-D for an hour or more. A continuous stream of three or four guys at a time climbed onto the table. She’d be jacking off one or two, sucking another while yet another humped away. I felt like I’d been caught in the middle of a Fellini film. At one point, I heard Gloria holler above the music, “Come on, boys. Fill my pockets. Fill my pockets. I need you to fill my pockets.”

And they did. They filled her pockets, as well as several other orifices. I can’t swear to how much she made that Sunday morning. My best guess is that they filled her pockets with over $1,000.

As my coke high wore off so did my infatuation and desire to forsake all to live with G-L-O-R-I-A, Glow-oh-ria, G-L-O-R-I-A, Glow-oh-ria.

Later that night, Pierre admitted that he had sent her back to the dressing room with the cocaine and instructions to ease my tensions. He thought it would help me play better. I’ll be damned if he wasn’t right. I did play better.

Around 5am I returned to our chateau on Royal to find a party raging with drunken naked chicks everywhere. Candlelight was the sole illumination. In every direction I turned there was a couple balling. I felt like I’d stepped back in time to the early days of debauchery in New Orleans. Or, maybe I had passed through a time portal.

It didn’t matter, I found an eager, available young redhead who wanted to do it on the balcony. She said she was a vampire and wanted to bite my neck. What the hell, why not?

She even asked if I wanted to walk the three blocks down to St. Louis Cathedral to ball in Jackson Square, “in front of God and everybody.” That adventurous I was not. I reminded her that the sun would rise soon and a vampire like her had to return to her coffin lest she burst into flames in the sunlight. She dug that I was going along with her vampire shtick and pulled me into a large walk-in closet were we banged more betwixt the coats.

Sunday evening, we were a ragged group of musicians. Fortunately, we didn’t have to play that night. We had dinner on the Delta Queen as it paddled up the river for a peaceful sightseeing tour. Well, it was peaceful for everybody except Rock. The star of our show got seasick on the river and spent most of the trip hurling over the rail.

Monday afternoon we drove the VW van down Chef Menteur Highway across Chef’s Pass and into Mississippi. We drove until we found a seafood restaurant on Highway 90 in Biloxi recommended as having the freshest, biggest shrimp anywhere on the Gulf Coast. They were right. We all ate our weight at the all-you-can-eat buffet while enjoying the unimpeded view of the Gulf of Mexico. It was a restful day that we all needed desperately.

It was impossible to predict that two years after our visit, nearly to the day, that that restaurant and most of the coast would be destroyed by Category 5 Hurricane Camille.

~~~

The parties continued night after night during the second week of our tour. We caught on with locals who would ascend to our chateau to cook their specialties. We ate the best that New Orleans had to offer. There are as many different Gumbo recipes in the Big Easy as there are people… and they’re all great – the people and their Gumbo. We smoked the best pot and hashish the world had to offer. We talked and jammed with the nicest, most creative people you ever want to meet.

I specifically remember a cat by the name of Ed Volker who also played organ and piano. He was a warm, genuine cat who loved to talk music. We got on famously as we compared Hammond techniques and shared registrations (drawbar setting) to our favourite songs.

Ed was in a band (I’m really reaching back, now) that I think was called the Rhapsodizers. I really dug the cat and assured him that I’d look him up the next time I was in town.

All too soon, our tour was over and it was time to head back north to the Land Beyond Reality.

As we drove north across Lake Pontchartrain I told my band mates about my experience with G-L-O-R-I-A, Gloria and the “Fill My Pockets” episode. Ted asked, “Remind me why we are leaving this place?”

We all laughed and then broke into a chorus of G-L-O-R-I-A, Glow-oh-ria. That song would never be the same for any of us as it had now become a road legend.

The next time you hear Van Morrison or a local group singing “Gloria” make sure you fill their pockets or at least their tip jar. Tell them that Armond said thank you.

~~~

In one of the myriad of strange twists in my twisted life I am currently playing “Gloria” again onstage with Spade McQuade who is a good friend of Van Morrison. Spade played with Van years ago. Both are Belfast natives. So, there are two degrees of separation between my Gloria and the man who wrote the song “Gloria”.