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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Julia's Cameo As Amber

This is a pretty sweet story, I think. Not the one I'm about to paste, which is also pretty sweet, but how it came to be.

I knew my fiancee (WIFE) Julia back in 1988 at LSU. I loved her then, but she and I were both committed to other people. I love her now. I'll love her even more tomorrow. She made such a lasting impression on me that I wrote about her in the New Orleans part of my first novel, Pageburner. That was twenty years after I knew her (I moved to California, she moved to New Orleans), and EIGHT years before we reconnected. How crazy is that?

Anyway, here's her part. Close friends of hers will probably get even more out of it...

I love you, Julia!


"Further up the street was a farmer’s market. In New Orleans it was The Farmer’s Market. It had the odd feel of a train station without trains. Virtually everything you can hope to find was on display for sale.


There were small mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables, and Paige made note to stock up for her trip in the morning. Vendors had fresh shrimp, catfish and boiled crawfish, which Paige decided to try at lunch. They looked like tiny lobsters.

There were Rastas with purple ribbons in their flowing dreadlocks, selling bolts of imported fabrics, silks, hemps, Kente’ cloth. She approached a hippie chick in her late twenties selling beautiful pieces of handmade jewelry, and Paige knew she’d have to buy something.

“Are you finding everything you need here in New Orleans?” the girl asked knowingly, glancing sideways at her apparent boyfriend, who sat disinterestedly reading an underground comic, looking like nothing so much as an updated Maynerd G. Krebbs.

Paige knew instantly that the two did a little dealing on the side to supplement their income.

“Yeah, I’m good, thanks,” she said. “I’d like to hear about your jewelry, though.”

The girl’s expression brightened, somewhat. The favorite subject of any artist was their art, an extension of themselves.

“Well,” she began, “These are all hand-made pieces, I do them all myself. The beads and whirls are made of copper from Argentina. I use hemp cords to string them so they’re nearly impossible to break. This is amethyst, which is mined in North Carolina.”

Paige picked up and admired the light purple crystal as she continued. “These are jade, from the Orient, both China and Japan. The rough-hewn stones here are actually opal fragments, also from Japan.”

The jewelry was quite a change of pace from the gaudy diamond, gold and platinum trends that dominated the bigger world markets. She looked at the hand-labeled tags attached to the necklaces, and saw they were horrendously under-priced, with each selling for one quarter of what they would on the west coast, or less.

“What about this section?” Paige asked indicating a few pieces off to the far left of the display table.

“These,” she said lifting one up to the light for Paige to admire, “are amber.”

The Louisiana morning sun was soft, and caused the bauble to glow a light yellow-brown.

“It’s beautiful,” Paige remarked.

“Amber is crystallized prehistoric tree sap,” the girl said. “They’re a little more expensive because they have scientific value. Museums like to sell the ones with insects in them, if they don’t put them on display.”

Paige remembered this from Jurassic Park, the Spielberg movie. She eyed the ones on the table, which seemed to be insect-free. “Do you have any like that?”

“Well…actually,” the girl said as she reached into a box beneath the fabric-covered table. “I do have one. I was thinking about keeping it. But you’re pretty cool, and our rent is due.”

She handed Paige a necklace with a large, tear drop-shaped piece of amber hanging down at the bottom of the loop.

“I’m afraid it’s forty dollars, though.”

Paige held it up to the light to reveal a tiny Junebug encased in the dark, honey-colored stone. 

“Wow!” she said, duly impressed. “I’d love to have that. Are you sure it’s for sale?”

“Sure,” the girl said. ”I have a collection of them at home. Want me to put it on you?”

Paige turned around and lifted her hair. The amber rode perfectly, right above her modest cleavage.

“Thanks a lot,” Paige said sincerely when she turned back around. She reached into her purse and produced a hundred dollar bill.

“Oh, it’s sort of early. I don’t have much change, yet,” the girl said upon seeing this.

“It’s okay,” was Paige’s reply. “Keep it.”

The gratitude on the girl’s face was heart-wrenching. “I can’t do that,” she said, “Let me go break it at the fruit stand.”

“Keep it,” Paige said more insistently.

The girl said nothing, but looked at Paige with wonderment and gratefulness for a moment. “It looks great on you,” she finally said.

“I know,” Paige said and smiled. “Thanks a lot. You two be careful.” With that, she turned and continued her stroll through the market, happy to have fed a starving artist."