He was sitting alone in the corner of the dark bar, mysterious figure that he was, with one hand on a Sugar Hill brew and the other tapping a violent rhythm like thunder on the table in front of him. His hat was pulled down over his eyes, drawing a shadow over the man. Except for his nervous rhythm, he seemed cool and calm-- impervious to wiles. My first thought was to dismiss him and carry on my business of drinking until the drinking was through, but something about him made me curious, and from the way he sat, turning to face me every time I crossed the room, I could tell that he was curious too.
Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I approached him. He invited me to sit beside him, which I did, reluctantly. He said his name was Rene Calvo, and removed his hat as I sat down. I could now see his eyes, which were dark, like coal. He inquired my name, which I told him. When he asked what I do for a living, I told him that I was an out-of-work jazz singer, but that these days I spend most of my time dreaming.
"Really?" he said, suddenly appearing more animated. "I have a rock band and I could use a female singer."
"Yeah, right," I said, rolling my eyes. "Everybody wanna be a rock star."
He showed me a postcard of his band, featuring himself surrounded by three well-dressed Nubian princesses. He was wearing a long suede jacket in a charming shade of hibiscus red and holding a guitar, while his princesses looked on alluringly. The top of the card read "The Goddess Lakshmi."
This was not enough to convince me, as anyone can have any mumbo jumbo printed on a postcard for distribution.
"Do you trust me?" he asked.
"Why should I trust you? You're a stranger."
"Yes, but I'm an open book."
Even as I was pondering these words, he pulled back the curtain in front of what I thought was a wall, and what lay before me gleaming was a twisted three-ring circus of activity. He stepped inside and beckoned me to follow. I froze, petrified but ever more curious. I watched as he approached the two gentlemen who seemed to be in the center of the activity.
"What's going on, boys?" he said, jovially addressing the pair.
One of them, a fascinating figure whose skin was as black as ebony on one side of his face and a titillating white on the other, was lighting up a bong. This character, I found out later, was called Amos Christ.
"Hey! Fucking a dude! Party's on!" he drawled, taking a hit.
"Yeah, baby!" the other quipped, pulling down on what looked like a chauffeur's cap. I found out later that his name was Jazzy Jeff. "Skeeze my pole!"
"Skeeze the pole; pass the bowl!" Rene laughed, and took a hit from the bong.
"Who's at the door, man?" Jeff asked after a second. I trembled like a king hemmed in by his pawn, wondering if now was the time to run.
"Yeah, man, let that sweet thing on in. Let her on in, man."
To be continued...