7. Salsa Lessons
A friend of mine set me up with an exchange student from El Salvador. We met at Café Istanbul in the Faubourg Marigny. Los Bebes del Merengue were performing a late-night set.
She asked me if I liked to dance. “Of course,” I lied. “I LOVE to dance!” In retrospect, I wish she had asked me if I knew HOW to dance. The answer would have been a definitive “No!”
When we stepped out onto the floor, she began to gyrate like Shakira on speed. Her hips defied laws of human physiology. I did everything I could just to stay in front of her.
After a minute or two, the crowd parted like the Red Sea. People surrounded us and started clapping to the music. It was like that famous scene from Saturday Night Fever. “Damn, maybe I can dance?” I thought. Then, I realized that all eyes, including mine, were glued to her. She was unbelievable. Note: I later discovered that she was actually the captain of the National Dance Team of El Salvador.
By the time the song ended, a line of suitors had formed. It stretched from Frenchmen Street all the way to La Boca in Buenos Aires. Humbled and intimidated, I wilted away into a dark corner like a discarded corsage. I forfeited the floor – and my date.
8. The Colombian Drug Tsar Princess
I told a friend of mine that I wanted to marry a Colombian drug tsar princess. “Being a poor teacher from New Orleans,” I somewhat joked, “I’d be the perfect alibi. She could launder her father’s dirty pesos at my studio apartment. You know, they say the most beautiful women in the world are from Cali!”
“Really?” my friend said. “A student of mine in the ESL program at Tulane is from Cali. Would you like to meet her?”
“Is Colombian coffee the richest, most aromatic kind?” I said with an espresso shot of sarcasm.
We got together at Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street. True to form, she was obscenely attractive. She was Remedios the Beauty from 100 Years of Solitude; she was a young Sofía Vergara, only with a less abrasive accent. She was, in other words, my dream date!
Wanting to make an impression, I broke out my rusty Spanish and launched into a monologue about Pablo Escobar, the infamous “King of Cocaine” from Medellín. I figured the topic would be both germane and “divertido” or amusing. It was – and, it wasn’t!
“Don Pablo is my hero,” I declared! “He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He’s a regular Latin American Robin Hood…”
My friend kicked me under the table, but I couldn’t stop. I was on a roll.
“I’d love to visit Hacienda Nápoles,” I continued. “He’s got giraffes, elephants and hippopotamuses! You know I was once mistaken for Escobar in the jungles of Ecuador! He deserves his own telenovela…”
When I finally paused to gauge her response, I saw nothing but ice cycles in her big brown eyes. She said in course, blunt English, “Stop it! ¡Cállate! My father is a federal judge in Bogota. Pablo Escobar tried to kill him. He is the devil. Never, NEVER mention his name in my presence again!”
I spent the remainder of the evening trying to dislodge my shoe from my esophagus. Needless to say, I would never be in her presence again.
9. The Haircut
I was getting a haircut at Right Up Your Alley on Magazine Street in New Orleans. I had a friend named Gaylynn who worked there. The salon was attached to a coffee shop called Café Luna. Looking out the window, I saw a woman sit down at a table with a tall cappuccino and a newspaper.
“Oh my God,” I exclaimed, “I’m in love!”
“You should go talk to her,” Gaylynn suggested.
“No,” I said, “I’ve got a better idea. I need to call my friend Zack. He lives just down the street. I’ll have him bring her flowers.”
Sure enough, Zack appeared within minutes carrying a beautiful bouquet of Louisiana irises. He placed it on the table next to the woman and said, “They’re from an admirer.” The woman smiled and blushed. She then finished her coffee, got up and left.
“Now what?” said Gaylynne.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Did you see the smile on her face? It was absolutely radiant!”
“Yea, I know” she said, “but did you get her name and number? Did you ask her out on a DATE?!”
“Oh, oh yea,” I stammered. I felt like Sir Bedivere the Wise from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I had just sent in the Trojan Rabbit, only to realize that I hadn’t filled it with brave, chivalrous knights.
I went to Café Luna every day for the next three weeks, but the beautiful woman with the tall cappuccino and paper never reappeared.
And then I met my wife. But that’s another story…
Folwell Dunbar is an educator, artist and survivor of many failed dates. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org