On December 24, 1964 my ship the Argentine Merchant Marine Río Aguapey docked in New Orleans. I was the only passenger and I was being sent back home to Veracruz after two years of service in the Argentine Navy.
With no family or friends (my shipboard young officer friends were all quite drunk by the evening) I decided I was going to explore Bourbon Street. I passed several noisy jazz bars playing Dixieland (not one of my favourite moments of jazz) and headed to a strip bar. I had never seen a stripper or a burlesque dancer take her clothes off.
Since I was an unoriginal idiot I purchased a bourbon (what else?) and sat down to watch. The first dancer showed up on stage and connected a jukebox. Then she made the motions much like a robot of taking her clothes off with no expression on her face. Perhaps the only good thing going for her was that she was not chewing gum.
As the evening progressed (I nursed the one drink) I became more and more melancholy. A young woman approached me and sat down. She told me her name was Guillermina Santa Bárbara. She said she was from Puerto Rico. She had noticed my sad face and wanted to cheer me up. We talked in Spanish (natch!) and I felt better. Perhaps my Nochebuena was not completely ruined. I have to this day no idea if she simply was a good soul or was after my money. I was penniless. But she gave me a 8x10 glossy.
I went back to the Río Aguapey. It was dark and silent. I went to the bridge to find Captain Guillermo Migliorini drinking coffee. He was a kind man and asked me how my venture to the city had been. I told him that I had met a woman who was his namesake. We both smiled at the coincidence.
And I went to bed.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.