"“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”"
A whole new world.
For me it was a little of all. As a teenage runaway, one day, I found myself with a truck driver headed to New Orleans. For the whole tip he told me stories about Mardi Gras and the French Quarter. Once we finally arrived, I knew I had to see the French Quarter for myself. With a promise to make it back in an hour, I grabbed my shoulder bag and headed out.
With every step I took, I was in awe of what I saw. The sidewalks were lined with two story buildings and each one had a balcony which overlooked the street below. Every now and then, I heard the sound of a gate clashing and then someone would walk out onto the street. Cars were bumper to bumper trying to weave through the narrow streets. The sound of jazz music filled the air. It was mesmerizing.
Walking around, I stumbled upon a square filled with artists and musicians. It seemed to be sort of an open air market with booths set up selling little trinkets. I sat down on the curb to take it all in. A girl standing nearby was asking passersby for spare change. She looked close to my age, so I struck up a conversation. After we talked for a while, she told me she was a run away too and had been in the quarter for a few months. Kitty was what she called herself. She seemed to know everything about the city. Thankfully, she told me about a place to stay for fifteen dollars a night and three dollars for an extra person, a flop house of sorts. She offered to let me crash with her for the night, if I could come up with three dollars; easy enough I thought. Forgetting about my previous promise to return, I was off with my new found friend Kitty to hustle some cash.
By midnight, we had made enough for dinner and our room for the night. After we ate a hotdog from a street vendor, we walked to the hotel. The hotel was unlike any I had ever seen. The staircase leading to the rooms was rickety and old. As I reached the top it let us out onto a balcony hallway that wounded around all four sides of the building. Walking around the balcony to find our room, the hall was cramped and dim. When Kitty opened the door, I was shocked at how small the room was. There was one bed, a small table with a lamp, and a chair. There was barely enough room to make a pallet on the floor. This was not a room, it was a closet. When I had to use the bathroom, Kitty showed me to the communal bathroom down the hall. Walking back down the hall, people stood in the door ways smoking, drinking, and talking about their adventures that day. Kitty knew a few people and introduced me around. One of them was named Dawg. He seemed nice enough and I went with the flow when he offered to show us around the city tomorrow. We made plans to meet in the morning and headed to bed.
The next day was a whirl wind. Dawg took Kitty and I on a walk by the river, we rode a street car, went to the largest record store I had ever seen, and we even went to a voodoo shop. It was exciting. Dawg seemed to know someone everywhere we stopped.
As evening began to set in Dawg took us to his friends, where he said I could barrow some clothes to go dancing in. After some small talk, Dawg and the lady dressed me up for a night on the town. I was excited; I had never been clubbing before. I didn’t dare let them know how old I was. I was too afraid the magic of the night would quickly end if they knew the truth.
It wasn’t long before we were off to the club. As we walked down the street, music filled the air. When we turned a corner and stepped onto Bourbon Street, I was surprised to see the street closed and people walking around drinking. We walked down the street until Dawg stopped and told us to wait by the door until he returned. Standing there looking around, it was hard to take in everything. It was a huge street party. In that moment I knew I was in a whole new world.
When Dawg came back, he handed us each a plastic cup filled with beer and down the street we walked. Turning a corner, Dawg told us we were almost there and that we had to drink up because we couldn’t take them in with us.
Once we arrived, Dawg left us outside with the man working the door. The doorman flirted with us as he asked a lot of questions. We just laughed and giggled playing along with him. It was at this moment that everything changed. If I would have just walked away instead of waiting there for him, my whole life would have taken a different path. But no, the promise of excitement and adventure kept me mesmerized standing there.
At the restaurant, Mr. X ordered for us since we didn’t have a clue what the foods were on the menu. It all felt like a dream. Nothing seemed real. Here I was a nobody, from a nowhere town, and I was wining and dining at what I thought was the most expensive restraint in the world and drinking the best Champaign money could buy.
On our way back to the bar, Mr. X wanted to stop and buy us a dancing outfit. I explained how Dawg already got me the dress I was wearing. However, I was quickly told that was not the type of outfit he had in mind. In the store Mr. X looked us each over and told the lady behind the counter what to get for us. He was buying us bathing suits to go dancing in. I didn’t question what was about to happen.
Back at the bar he led us to his office and told us to get dressed. He pulled out a g string and said, “When you are out there never take this off”. He sat in the corner watching as we took off our clothes and put on the bathing suits. Mr. X inspected each of us and sent us on our way to pick out music. I was a bit tipsy when I tried to climb the stairs that lead to a DJ booth. The DJ asked our names and I made up Devin. Trying to yell over the loud music, he helped us pick out two songs and pointed to a table for us to sit at and wait for him to announce us onto the stage.
I wasn’t dumb nor was I naive. At this point in my life, I had seen a thing or two. However, looking back on it now, I don’t really think I grasped what was going on. I was along for the ride waiting to see where I would land.
When we were announced on stage Kitty took me by the hand and led me up. Trying to imitate the girl who danced before us, I tried a little bump and grind as I held on to the pole. Being a bit nervous, I did my best to look sexy. Before I knew it, Kitty turned me around and began to grind on me and rub her hand up my thigh. As the men whistled and tossed money on stage, Mr. X walked over with two one hundred dollar bills in his hand. After her put one in each of our G-strings, he taped me on the ass and said, “Get dressed ladies.” Once we to dressed, we were off to get his car.
Weaving through the streets of the city with the top down and the radio cranked up, my head was swimming. I am not sure if it was the alcohol or the excitement of the night. But I was having fun and I couldn’t wait to see what was next. After a while, we arrived at a large gated driveway. With a press of a button the gates opened. As we drove along the tree covered road the moon shined through the branches. He explained how this was an old plantation house that has been in his family for years. At the time I had no idea what a plantation house was, but it was the biggest house I had ever seen.
When we walked in the door, my mouth fell open looking around at the grand staircase and chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Mr. X opened a double door and led us into what he called his play room. It was had hard wood floors and oversized furniture. He turned on the music and went to the bar to pour us a drink. We sat at the bar and flirted and giggled for a while. At some point he put a white powder on the bar and with a rolled up hundred dollar he sucked the powder up into his nose. At the time I had no idea what the white powder was. Now I know it was cocaine. He cut out two more lines and offered us each one. Kitty quickly grabbed the homemade straw and snorted the whole thing with one try. I on the other hand, had a bit of a problem getting it to go up into my nose. It burned and it hurt. With a few snorts and a bunch of egging on, I was finally able to inhale it all.
Mr. X offered for us to join him in the hot tub, on the veranda as he called him. He pointed the way for us to find a changing area. We took off our clothes and put on our new bathing suites, wrapped up in the robes and headed out to the hot tub. Once outside, we heard Mr. X call and there he was getting into the hot tub totally naked. We walked over and climbed in. I had never been in a hot tub before. It was fun laughing and drinking and sniffing more white powder. The white powder made me feel different and not at all like myself. I didn’t worry about it; I just kept going with the flow.
That was the first night I slept with a women. Mr. X taught us how to do things I didn’t know people did. After passing out for most of the day, Mr. X woke us up with boxes of new clothes and shoes. “Get dressed ladies, I have friends coming over I want you to meet.” Mr. X told us as he cut out four more white lines. After getting dressed and doing the lines, we headed down stairs and in the party room were eight men standing around drinking and smoking cigars. Mr. X encouraged us to mingle and meet his friends. After drinks and more white lines most everything began to get fuzzy. However, I know those men did things to me that I did not barging for.
Looking back on it now I’m not sure how many days I stayed at Mr. X’s house or how many white lines he gave us. After a while he took us both back to the French Quarter and took us to a house. He blew the horn and Dawg opened the door. He told us to stay with Dawg and to be at the club by 7 and left.
With very little to say, Dawg pointed towards a bedroom and told us to put our stuff in there. Kitty and I hung out in there for what seemed like forever. With no clock in the room it was hard to tell what time it was. After a while, Dawg told us to get ready to head to club. We got dressed and curled our hair. Dawg remained us we were to be there at seven and it was time to leave. Out the door we went and down the street. After a short Trolley ride we were at Bourbon St.
Once we got to the club Dawg led us through the club and into the back. He pointed to a door and said he would be waiting for us.
Walking slowly through the door, the small room was crowded with ladies trying to get dressed and do their makeup. Kitty knew a few of the girls and seemed to fit right in. After a while, a knock at the door told us to hurry up. One of the girls helped me with my makeup and gave me a line to do before sending me out the door. As soon as I walked out Dawg led me to the DJ and told him what music to play for me. Standing against the wall Dawg began to explain that the girls walk around and talk to the men. He told me that I’m not to sit down unless someone buys me a drink. Also he explained that if I find a man to buy me a drink the waitress will tell me what to do. Hearing my name called, Dawg pushed me towards the stage.
Oh my gosh, what a disaster that first night was. I was awkward and didn’t know how to dance seductively. But for some unknown reason the men seemed to love it. After two songs, I imitated what I had seen the other girls do and walked around the room collecting dollars from everyone. Some gave, some didn’t. The night seemed to last forever as I talked and drank with the men. Some paid me twenty dollars to dance between their legs. By the end of the night I had made three hundred dollars. As the bartender counted out the cash I had made from selling drinks, he wrote in his book and said, “Ok, you owe the club four hundred dollars and you made…” I don’t remember what else was said. I was in shock that I owed the club, how could this be. In any event, I had money and if they wanted a little what would it hurt; plus it was not like I had a choice.
With fifty dollars in my pocket, Dawg walked us to the corner and we got into a cab that took us to a bar and grill. We had a few drinks, ate burgers, played pool, and meet a lot of other strippers from the French Quarter. It was like one big happy family. Everyone talked and laughed, stopping by each other’s tables to chit chat. They seemed like a fun group of people.
Little did I know, the happy carefree time we were having will soon to come to an end and the reality of my situation would set it?