|New Orleans: a drinking town.|
The night makes a kind of mask. All cats are gray in the dark. Terrence Jefferson is making his way down Frenchmen Street, a skip in his step in time with the music pouring out of the bars. The women look lovely under the streetlights.
Winter is the kindest time in New Orleans. The damp cold is bracing. People are happy to be outdoors. They are happy to be spared, for a few months, from oppressive heat. People stamp down their feet when they dance in the street. People get more romantic. The ganders snuggle the geese in City Park as lovers stroll alongside starlit lagoons.
Happiness loves company, and there is no happiness like the kind of joy a brass band brings. There is a commotion up the street, where Frenchman intersects with Royal Street. A brass band is coming, with a parade of impromptu marchers in its wake. Terrence Jefferson joins in, dancing with a beautiful redhead, before switching to a thin-boned brunette with a bob bound by a spangled headband. When the band stops in the street, playing the whole time, the bars empty out, including the musicians. They all add their share to the festivity.
For twenty minutes, spontaneous bonhomie breaks out in Faubourg Marigny. People dance on their balconies, and throw flowers into the crowd. Someone is passing out tambourines. The musicians play all the old standards, and everyone knows the words to sing out as they dance. When the brass band finally stops, all of them sweating from pouring out their hearts, everyone offers to buy them a beer.
The stage musicians get back to their gigs. The bars fill back up with patrons trying to extend the mood from the street. A young lady with blue hair bumps into Terrence Jefferson. “Excuse me,” she says. “You’re kind of cute.”
They go into the Apple Barrel for a drink. After that, they go to the Blue Nile. After that they go to the Balcony Music Club. Then it is a long walk home-ways, up Esplanade Avenue, hand-in-hand.
Terrence Jefferson lives on Barracks Street, in a pale green shotgun he shares with his girlfriend and her two sisters. The ladies of the house are out tonight, on Bourbon Street. They won’t be home until tomorrow.
Terrence Jefferson and the blue-haired young lady stop into Buffa’s for a nightcap, then they cross the street for a tropical drink at the Port o‘ Call. As they walk past L’il Dizzy’s, they realize they still have a half-mile to go.
As they cross Claiborne Avenue, the young lady says, “This is the most romantic night, ever.”
“It’s getting a bit chilly,” Terrence Jefferson says. He puts his arm around her waist and pulls her close. She follows his lead as they take a left on North Prieur Street, then a right on Bayou Road.
Where Barracks Street breaks free of Bayou Road, there is a leafy piazza surrounded by some of the most beautiful homes in New Orleans. Terrence Jefferson and the blue-haired young lady stand in the middle of the street. They look at a patch of starry sky haloed by oak branches. She rests her head against his chest. “This is like a dream,” the young lady says.
They get to North Galvez Street and Terrence Jefferson says he lives on the next block. “I live that-away,” the young lady says, extending her thumb. Terrence Jefferson walks her to her apartment just past Kerlerec Street, and he helps her unlock the door.
Terrence Jefferson walks home, alone, with a spring in his step. He is whistling. The air is so cold, it looks like he is smoking. He stamps his feet on the front steps before he opens his front door. His girlfriend and her sisters are home early, and he is very happy to see them. He will not be alone.
One of the sisters notices a blue hair on Terrence Jefferson’s lapel. All the lights in the house are on. “I was in the most amazing second line,” Terrence Jefferson says. That explains it all, and they turn off the lights before going to bed.