My day had been brutal; punishingly hot as only a resident of the mid Atlantic could understand. The heat and humidity seemed to unite to form a custard I had to swim upstream through in order to complete the most minimal of tasks. And nothing about my day was minimal.
Upon punching the clock I tapped ‘go home’ on my trusty GPS and drove my sweaty carcass back to Baltimore. At some point my navigation gadget spazzed out and routed me through a part of town I had never seen. The sun took a dive and the GPS continued to malfunction so I scanned the unfamiliar and trash strewn streets for solace. A few blocks up a neon light flickered. So I stopped and went in. The joint was jumpin’ and only one seat at the bar remained, next to a fire-engine red dress and long blond hair. I took a seat and tried for some time to get the bartenders attention. No luck. Just then my leggy neighbor at the bar turned to me and scanned me up and down and said in a deep baritone “You pretty.”
(!!!!!) My mind raced back to my only encounters with the transgender population which were limited up to that point, to rumors of somewhat burly adolescent girls in middle-school and an androgenus creature who I worked with in a logging crew named Seymore who is still a mystery to me. And of course the pop-culture referrences from my youth – Ray Davies’ Lola, and Lou Reeds’ Holly. ‘Shaved her legs, then he was a she…’
I acknowledged her compliment with a polite, if a bit startled smile. Sensing my inability to be seen by the man behind the bar she said “’Chu whaunt?” I told her, and with an ever so slight motion with her head, got the bartenders attention. “What’s up, Jesse?”
…And the colored girls go do-d-doo,do da doo-doooooooo….
“Princess ova ‘ere whaunt a iced-tea.”
My drink appeared immediately. And I thanked Jesse and drank deeply from my glass just as the door swung open. Trouble has always seemed to follow me through my life and this evening was no different. Trouble walked through the door in the form of two swaggering thugs complete with gangsta stroll, gold capped teeth and the desire to ruin somebody’s evening. They honed in on me immediately, standing inches behind me. Talking loud about me being in their seat. I braced for what was coming and let the instinct of street fighting and later my boxing training from years ago come to the surface, and take over. As I turned to face these two, an enormous arm, easily twice the size of mine shot over my shoulder-skin as black as the night sky, directly at one of my smack talking foes. A cherry red fingernail pointedly stopped in the sternum of its’ target.
Jesse’s voice boomed…
Both men stopped cold, and all the menace in their faces faded instantly and they shrank quickly into the crowd and were gone.
I don’t know what Jesse was before that night. I don’t care. Or what she did for a living-again, who cares. All I know is she commanded respect, and she definitely had mine. I offered to pay for her drinks but she politely, firmly declined. As I got ready to leave she put her Key-Royale down on the bar and stood and we shook hands and I had to stand on my tip toes to give her a kiss on the cheek, and I was on my way.
Yes, there was stubble. Who cares.
This one’s for you, Jesse.
Don’t Mess with Princess
Charred, Laminated oak ply
Beeswax and graphite
24″sq x 17’h