How did I get here?
Updated: Apr 8
I was 18 yrs old when I showed up in New Orleans, a week before Mardi Gras, with everything I owned in a suitcase just like this one. My plan was to check the suitcase in a locker, at the bus station, and then find a job, and a place to live. Of course there were no free lockers at the bus station, so I lugged this heavy thing around, completely forlorn. Thankfully various
natives helped me, and I found a SRO. (single room occupancy, meaning- windowless ancient hotel room, with bathroom down the hall), I still remember the ancient metral bed that creaked so loud it woke me up. There was a job cocktail waitressing, then- a killer apartment, complete with balcony and live oak, on Magazine at Jackson. I spent my 1st Mardi Gras serving Hurricanes in a packed bar, in the Quarter. Within the year I fell in love with jazz, did all my job hunting at Cafe' Du Monde, worked many waitressing jobs, got my GED, took my SATs, got into Loyola's jazz program, and ate many many great meals.
Right before it happened to me I said to a boyfriend "I'm afraid to get into jazz because it seems like people who do don't like anything but jazz.'. I was 18, had only been in New Orleans for a few months, when the same boyfriend left his entire record collection at my house. From Lockjaw Davis to Bitches Brew, and EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING in between. ALL of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holliday, Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Helen Merrill... On and on. I had no TV and all these records. I lived in a decaying old mansion, right on the edge of the ghetto. Two steps one way you're in the garden district, two steps the other you get mugged. I waited tables on St. Charles St., and fell in love with a professional jazz pianist. He taught me how to transcribe solos, said that was the way to learn to solo, and I did Miles' solos on Oleo and Doxy, and Wes Montgomery's on 'What's New', a few others; Just the first chorus. I so badly wanted to be 'one of the boys', to hold my own in a jam session. I look back, now, and realize how little making money played onto it. It was just about being good enough to not have to waitress. I saw a girl, my age, doing piano bar and decided that was the best way, since she wasn't any better that me. Lots of scales, arpeggios, reading through charts. I was gonna need a lot of songs fast. All the jazz players I knew practiced at least 4 hours, so I did too. My only goal was to be able to do piano bar, like that girl. Years later, in NYC., that happened, but it turns out it's a pretty shitty gig. Late 90s, working in an Italian restaurant near Wall Street, I went to see a friends band at the top of the World Trade Center's 'Windows on the World'. The band was doing all original swing, and the dance floor was packed with swing dancers. I was smitten, and finally confident- I knew I could write 2 sets of that kind of music. Within months The Camaros were playing full time, all over NYC; then touring, coast to coast, most of the year.