Since this recipe is based on an old New Orleans treat it only seems fitting that I talk about moments from my many years in New Orleans.
Bartending on Decatur Street was a sure fire way to amass a lot of stories. Molly’s at the Market on Decatur St. in my day (1999 until...God who remembers) was a place where you could run into people from all walks of life. The bar patrons at certain times would include lawyers, reporters, goths, punks, strippers, writers, tattoo artists, musicians and the list goes on and on. It was a great time for Decatur Street and I am glad I got to be part of it.
Some of my most memorable moments weren’t from the patrons but the crazies on the streets.
We had the very nice gentleman that sold used stuffed animals that he pridefully carried around in his white trash bag. He was a very nice middle-aged man that suffered from a mental disability. He would come in and proudly describe his stuffed animals and let us know what time his Mom was picking him up and what was on the menu for the night. Needless to say, I had way too many dirty stuffed animals for a person with no kids. How do say no to a sweet soul selling grungy teddy bears?
There was the mid 50’s, hauntingly skinny lady who would run by while wearing Mardi Gras beads yelling random profanities. All I could think is maybe she had killed her husband after he commented how she looked fat in those pants and now she is cursed to run continuously cursing his name. We all know we have been close to the moment when we think, “Its worth it.”
Ruthie the Duck Lady was probably the most famous. A sometimes sweet, sometimes extremely angry elderly woman who roamed The Quarter, walking her ducks. I wasn’t at Molly’s at this time but a story that was passed down is one of my favorites. According to Decatur Street lore, Jim Monaghan threw her a birthday party. Instead of being happy she yelled at him and proceeded to storm out of the bar, with her ducks following behind her. I just love the idea of someone yelling, “How dare you throw me a party. Come on my feathered friends we are outta here!" I am sure it didn’t happen exactly this way but I choose to believe this version.
My strangest moment by far had to be with this one guy that every day would walk up to my window bar, dump the ashtray and run away. Usually, there was no communication between him and I. To be honest, I started to look forward to the ashtray bandit. I don’t know if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed or had a fight with his imaginary best friend but one Saturday he changed it up on me. He stopped at the window and just stood there glaring at me. I calmly explained to him that in order to stay at the window bar he had to buy a drink. He just stood there glinting his eyes and glaring at me. I offered him a glass of water thinking he was maybe just thirsty. As I hand him the water I explain to him again that the window bar is for paying patrons only. I don’t know what I expected to happen? Did I think this obviously mentally disturbed person would grab the water and say, “Well thank you, Ma’am, you have a wonderful day,” and walk away, off to fulfill his ashtray dumping duties? This is not what happened next. After a couple more minutes of glaring at me, I had to now inform him with a little more force that I needed him to leave and I would like to avoid calling someone to remove him. Like a switch flipped in his head, he grabs the water and runs away. Five minutes later I am standing behind the bar and he appears again in the window. Before I can say anything he yells, “Jesus Loves You, Bitch!!!!” Dumps the ashtray and runs away. I just quietly said, “Thank you, I think” and sat in awe. He had single-handedly became the most confusing relationship I have ever had. He seemed to dislike me but still very concerned with the state of my eternal soul. We never broached the subject but after that day I feel like he knew that I knew we had a connection that could never be broken. “Jesus Loves You Too, Ashtray Bandit!!!” Till we meet again may all your ashtrays be full and your bartenders be bitches.