tests to come.
Along with my wings and certification papers, Commander Fritter presented me with orders to report in ten days to the Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Florida, to go immediately into carrier qualification training.
I left Corpus Christi with 245 hours of flight time in the log books.
The intrigue and romance of New Orleans still captivates me, left over from my first visit that year as a guy from the West Coast who had never before breathed the moist, decadent air of the Mississippi delta country.
“The Big Easy” was a stopover on a lurching train ride across the South to Atlanta and down to Jacksonville. I stayed in New Orleans three days and three nights. Joining me on that R&R holiday was a former Corpus roommate and avid jazz fan named Dick Brubaker, from Bakersfield, California. Dick had remained in the Navy and was a newly commissioned Ensign.
We shared a room in some forgotten low-budget hostelry located on the St. Charles Streetcar line. But we spent most of our time rolling around the French Quarter, the Vieux Carre, where wrought iron balconies held up tottering facades—the beautiful and the decrepit. We reveled in the Quarter’s wartime, carnivalian atmosphere.
The sounds of great jazz resonated up and down the streets. Before we were through, I think we hit every jazz joint in the Quarter. And most of the bars, too.
At The Old Absinthe House Bar—the same bar where Otto Larsen and Eddie “Double Thumb” Daniels grabbed a fistful of matchbooks for me when I was about twelve years old—we downed bottles of Dixie Beer and gorged on freshly-shucked raw oysters from the Gulf-washed backwaters of southern Louisiana.
Early one evening, coming out of an ancient bar with peeling yellow walls, we asked a dusky, almond-eyed beauty if she’d like to join us for dinner. She caught us by surprise when she smiled and said, “Yes.” A short time later, the three of us were happily drinking Ramos Fizzes and digging into bowls of steaming jambalaya in a romantic little outdoor courtyard restaurant which she had recommended. It was next door to a gaudily painted tattoo shop—an epitome of the Vieux Carre—the charming and the seedy, side by side.
At the end of an engaging dinner, Dick and I decided to invite our guest to