Chapter 13 Hinky Relationships


Johnny and I continued in our relationship. He just laughed at the turn of events when I got the job at the Hotel Casey and not him. He also got a better job than the Black Garter. Ironically, it was at the Cheetah Lounge, where I had the run-in with the would-be rapist. He was drinking a lot more. Many bartenders tend to be alcoholics. It is the one job where you can drink booze for free and get away with it. Johnny’s drink was Dewar’s Scotch on the rocks. One day I got a call that they had taken him by ambulance to the hospital. He was serving a customer and then he was on the floor unconscious. Bloodwork showed severe anemia and liver problem. Not many people were using the word alcoholic then, but that’s what he was. The way I was drinking put me on that road too. The next night a beautiful black woman came in the Hotel Casey bar. Her name was Nikki. She ordered a drink, an expensive drink, Courvoisier cognac. I poured it into the special tall glass for brandy and gave it to her. We started talking and I just fell in love with her immediately. She was unabashedly honest and forthcoming about her life. She didn’t seem ashamed about anything. Then customers started to come in. Eventually, a man sat next to her and asked to buy her a drink. I poured her another Courvoisier. Within a few minutes the man left and before he left, she told him tip the bartender. Then she looked at me and said take my brandy and put it under the bar. The next time a man buys me a drink give me that drink back and you keep the money. That was how our relationship started. She taught me a little con game. She came back after 20 minutes or so looking just as perfect as when she had left. I found out later that her perfectly coiffed hair was a wig. She sat back down at the bar and asked me for some ice water. In no time another man came in and we went through the same scenario. I got the drink from under the bar kept the money for the drink. She reminded him to tip me. She was a force of nature, beautiful and intelligent. That was my first up close introduction to the world of prostitution. Nikki was dating a very famous basketball player at that time. He was married to his first wife then, therefore the affair. He paid for her apartment in New York. He had a game in Scranton that weekend at the CYC. He toured with the Harlem Globetrotters. The team combined comedy as well as great athletic ability in their show. They were a world-famous exhibition basketball team. He's not alive so I can name him, Meadowlark Lemon. He and Nikki were scheduled to have a romantic rendezvous at the Casey. She came in two days earlier to make some extra money. I asked her since he was rich, why didn’t she just let him take care of her. She told me a woman should always have her own money. I grew up watching Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed show. Housewives wore pearls and high heels while they vacuumed the carpet. I had been brainwashed by the propaganda that women needed men. They couldn’t ever be entirely self-sufficient, especially if they wanted children. Women’s Liberation was still in its infancy, so I was mesmerized by this strong independent woman. That fact that she prostituted herself did not matter. If that was her choice, who was I to judge. She became my first female black friend. The next night we went to dinner in the Hotel Casey Gold Room. It was a very expensive place. I could have paid my way, but Nikki insisted on paying. She also tipped our bartender in the Gold Room very well. Unbeknownst to me, she also gave him her room number in a note. So, she had a little fling with him later that night. After dinner, I went up to Nikki's room and we talked and smoked pot. She taught me a lot about life in the few days I knew her. She introduced me to the word “hinky”. She was telling me a story and said “I knew something was hinky.” When I questioned the word, she told me it meant something that is wrong or out of place. I don’t think it was in the Oxford dictionary yet. After that, whenever I thought someone was dishonest or suspicious, I used that word. It made me feel very cool. I really admired her independent spirit. I didn't care what she did for a living. She was just a unique person, one of a kind. I only spent a week in her company, but a strong bond was created. A bond that would resurface years later. Meanwhile, Johnny and I decided to get an efficiency apartment on Spruce St. The only catch was the owner was very conservative. If she was going to rent to a couple, they had to be married. Johnny had a friend that lived in the building. Her name was Franny. Franny was having an affair with one of the bar owners in town. I won't say his name because his family is still alive and I don't want to tarnish his reputation. He paid for her apartment. Franny gave a recommendation to the landlady and told her we were married. We got the efficiency. Johnny was not just a bartender; he was also a musician. This is where I think I really started asking for trouble, dating musicians. Word of advice to the young, never date a musician. He played drums in a band. I can't remember the name of the band. But they were very popular around town. They played at The El Dorado. This bar was owned by the DiLeo family and it was right across the street from the Hotel Casey. I was really in love with Johnny. At least I thought I was in love and of course I thought he loved me. It would be a long time before I understood that saying I love you does not necessarily mean I love you. I spoiled him. I was making so much money at the Hotel Casey. I was shopping the best stores. I started to buy him clothes too. I thought everything was perfect with us. Until one day I came home from a shift at the Hotel Casey and the closet was empty of all his clothes. I can still remember my heart sinking to the floor. It was so painful to think that he had left me. We never had a spat or any disagreements. I went to the El Dorado and sure enough, he was sitting at the bar with some floozy. I knew the girl from the bar scene. Let's just say I had one hell of an outburst. That was probably the first time I heard the line “It's not you it's me “.






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