How's Bayou? Kisses and catfish
It’s true, OK? I did kiss Celeste, my first girlfriend, in the garage at 406 Walnut St. in Uptown New Orleans when we were 12 years old.
It just happened. And it was no more than a peck – I swear -- as Mrs. Nissi Sato, wife of the Japanese Consul General in New Orleans at the time, swung open the heavy wooden doors just as our lips brushed.
I want to emphasize that there were thousands of 12-year-old girls I did not kiss that year. And I still don’t know the name of the anonymous accuser who tipped off Mrs. Sato that there was more in her garage than the family’s nifty little foreign car that lovely fall morning at our fourth-grade party.
But I suspect it was the other guy who was sweet on her, the one who didn’t want me to become class president.
One of the joys of running a business is filling in online merchant credit-card forms, especially when you are unable to scroll all the way down to the bottom to hit send.
Trying to fill in the security form, I was only able to reach 'The name of your first girlfriend" and type in “Celeste.”
Memories rushed back, slamming against the cold, cruel wall of her choice of someone other than me. I loved the elevator in her parents’ three-story Garden-District mansion and their live-in housekeeper, who produced the most amazing guava jelly each summer and ratted to me on the other guy’s progress. At least I was her favorite.
I even had the Archie and Veronica cartoonist, Bob Montana, whom I met at an event my parents organized, create a sketch of her.
But to no avail.
Several hours after completing the online form, I was shopping at a local big-box store. I must have been looking mystified, as an attractive store associate scurried over to help me.
My eyes locked on her nametag: Celeste.
"I just typed your name into an online form,” I blurted out. Then, realizing how that might be interpreted, I continued, “when it asked for the name of my first girlfriend.”
Her computer brought up my address on Bayou Lafourche.
“I was born in Napoleonville,” she proudly informed me, “at the old hospital.”
Ah, yes, the old Assumption General, with its two one-story, pale-green, wood-frame buildings and small waiting-room unit on the road to Attakapas Landing.
“Mama had only chosen a boy’s name,” she continued, "so I was named after the doctor who delivered me. All my family went to that hospital.”
Including her 92-year-old parrain.
“You know, the other night that old man went out alone in his boat on the bayou to run his catfish lines. He pulled one in, tripped and cut his hand on the catfish fin; and by morning, it was all swoll' up.
“So he called his brother in Pierre Part to get him to come help him clean the fish, but he misunderstood his brother and thought he said to come to his house, so he plopped the catfish down on the seat of his car and headed out.
“But he fell asleep at the wheel and went off the road.”
The fish bouncing around in the car must have alerted him that something was wrong, as he was able to avoid the 18-wheeler coming from the other direction – and a trip to the new hospital.
“An’ doan you know,” la nouvelle Celeste sighed as she typed my name into her computer, “he was back running those lines by himself again the next night, with his hand still all swoll’ up.”
She was friendly, to be sure . . . but it was her parrain, not me, that she loved.
And by the way, I never became class president.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.