Wednesday, March 11, 2009


We see the bumper stickers: Tennessee is a State of Mind, or whatever state the bumper's touting at the time. Or Being from the South is a State of Mind---that one's not too prevalent here, but I've seen it from time to time.

But States of Mind, now---that's a complicated subject. Mrs. G. at today reflected on the gentleman-in-a-dress who sought her wardrobe counsel in Goodwill, and she came through as always: Polite and helpful and truthful and Minding Her Own Business. She gave her approval of a couple of classic blouses, nixed the too-too Eighties dress, and both parties smiled and went home content.

It put me in mind of my own first glimpse of a well dressed gentleman, in New Orleans about thirty years ago. Sis and I had “done” a lot of the sights, tramped through Jackson Square and the French Market, and were sitting in a little plaza on a park bench, enjoying ice cream cones and the passing parade of strolling folks.

Far away, we saw her approach---a smaller woman in a ground-sweeping skirt of pale gray, her high-piled white hair glistening in the sun. She walked as if onstage, using a posture more related to a catwalk than a stroll---one hand on a hip, the other extended gracefully forward, as if for a courtier’s kiss. She swayed the forward hand side-to-side with each calculated step, clearing her path and garnering an assemblage of onlookers who parted before her and remained in her wake like the Red Sea, staring at her strange progress down the cobbles.

She was so beautiful, with that shining hair and her pearly costume and the grace of her bearing, and not until she was right in front of us did we realize her gender. On closer look, she was wearing a delicately-lacy white blouse, with a skirt-matching shawl, and she was truly the ideal of every Grandmother Norman Rockwell ever drew---simply stunning in her perfection, but for the almost-imperceptible cheek shadows.

We watched her go her way, and went home ourselves, for we had to get dressed for a Dinner Theater evening. We drove twenty miles out into the suburbs to Sis’ house, and then possibly twenty more in another direction to the theater. We were sitting at our table during cocktails, telling DBIL of our afternoon’s outing, and were just describing the beautiful “lady” we had observed, when I happened to glance two-tables-over, same level, and there she was.

With a very tall, high-chignoned young woman in a pink pants-suit, French manicure, Liza lashes and not quite enough Max Factor to hide the beard shadow. They were with two gentlemen who were enjoying their company immensely, and seemed to have a wonderful evening together.

Just the coincidence of that odd, interesting moment in the Square and seeing the same unmistakable person at such a remove, the same evening---that was a strange thing, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Nor how beautiful she looked in the afternoon sun, swaying her way through the admiring crowd.

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