Bye bye Bowie


When I was 20 years old, I lived in New Orleans and waited tables at a place in the French Quarter called the Café du Monde. Nearly every tourist who passed through the city stopped there, to sample French doughnuts called beignets covered in powdered sugar, and café au lait mixed with chicory. I worked the shift between midnight and eight in the morning, mostly waiting on drunks, but so avoiding the busloads of sightseers who trooped in during the day and early evening.           One night a startlingly beautiful man arrived with what was clearly his retinue of three or four other people. They all ordered coffee but eschewed the beignets. The beautiful man -- who earlier that night had played a concert in Baton Rouge -- was in one of his more conservative periods, his hair straight and parted on the side, dressed in a brown jacket, a plaid shirt and a woven necktie. I realize that this is dating me, but this was back before he got his teeth fixed. The crooked choppers were the only imperfection in an otherwise flawless appearance, and sort of served as a reminder that he was an actual human being and hadn't arrived from Olympus.

          Now I am really dating myself: in those days, the total charge for all of their coffees was $2.98. After I served them, one of the group gave me $3.00 and told me to keep the change. I never blamed David Bowie for getting my tip stiffed from me. The boor was a member of his entourage; the man who sold the earth couldn't have been bothered to handle the money.