A Victory Ship, A Bourbon & A Jukebox - On Christmas EveThursday, December 04, 2014
The year 1966 was one of the saddest of my life and it culminated with the loneliest Christmas Eve I have ever experienced.
It was sometime around July of that year in the middle of a bleak and humid Buenos Aires winter when I attempted to call up my girlfriend Susy for solace. She answered the phone and told me (here it is a recollection and I don’t remember her exact words), “This is the last time we will ever talk and I will never see you again. Do not try to reach me. You're an uncouth and uneducated sailor. I now have a new friend. He is older and plays the violin for the Teatro Colón.” And that was that. I went into my room at a pension run by a retired German submariner from WWII and cried. To make it worse I put All Blues (Miles Davis – Kind of Blue) on my record player and went into a lower plane of depression. But since I was 23, youth took over and as soon as spring (the jacarandas turned brilliant blue) arrived I knew I would be soon returning to my home in Veracruz, Mexico.
Sometime in the end of November I boarded the Argentine Merchant Marine ship, Río Aguapey as its only passenger. I made friends with a couple of young junior officers. They, the daily lunch and dinner of steak with my personal bottle of Argentine wine helped to alleviate my pain and forget Susy. In my cabin, when I was not taking photographs of every evening’s sunset, I read Oswald Spengler.
Christmas Eve we docked in New Orleans and I decided to take a walk on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. I heard lots of Dixieland sound coming out from many bars and clubs. Since I was a connoisseur (I thought so) of cool jazz this music was not my cup of tea. I opted for one of those places that had strippers. I had never ever seen one (I made up for lost time when I moved to Vancouver in 1975). I sat on the front row (not yet knowing that it would soon be called genecology row in Vancouver) and ordered bourbon. I stupidly thought this was the drink to order. Since I do not like spirits, sipping the stuff burned my throat. A bored looking woman appeared. She went to a jukebox on the side of the stage and plugged it in. She pressed a few keys and began to dance. All I can remember it that I was thoroughly bored, depressed and I left as soon as she finished. Before she left the stage she unplugged the jukebox.
I went back to my ship. Most were asleep. I climbed into my bunk and felt saddened by the experience. New Orleans had been my first return to the United Sates in about four years. I did not like the US that I had found in New Orleans. It seemed to be a Christmas Eve unshared.
In the late 80s I returned to Buenos Aires. I called up Susy. She was divorced. I rang the bell. She opened the door and staring at me said, "Aren't you going to kiss me?"