Posts Tagged ‘Suzanne Fitzgerald’

New Orleans

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

New Orleans

Jim Fitzgerald and Debbie Courtney in rear, Michael Wallis and Suzanne Fitzgerald in front, on Bourbon Street, New Orleans, 1968.

We came from all points and converged in “The Big Easy.” It was the spring of 1968 and some time in New Orleans seemed like a sweet tonic for all of us.

We were young, confident, and the world was our oyster. Speaking of shellfish, we ingested plenty at Felix’s, the cozy bar on Iberville Street where folks have devoured tasty ice-cold oysters on the half-shell for generations.

This photograph taken by Proud Mary Wall, one of our gang, shows Michael and Suzanne and behind us Jim Fitzgerald and Debbie Courtney. Jim is one of Suzanne’s brothers and is now my literary agent. Debbie went on to become a country-western singer. The four of us are ambling down Bourbon Street, the famous avenue that spans the length of the French Quarter.

Only a couple weeks before our New Orleans adventure, American soldiers swept into the South Vietnamese village of My Lai and massacred 504 unarmed and unresisting women, children, and old men. It would be almost a year until word of this tragedy became public. Just short days after the photo was made, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be shot dead in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel and then shortly after midnight on June 5, Robert Kennedy would be mortally wounded in Los Angeles.

But on that bright day on Bourbon Street, our bellies filled with oysters and beer, we were far from war and knew nothing of what was to come. We were midnight ramblers and daydreamers out for a stroll and fast falling in love.

Michael and Suzanne, 1968

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Michael and Suzanne

The first time I ever saw Suzanne was when I walked into that classroom at the University of Missouri — a raw and ready guy straight out of the Marines. I was struck by those Irish-Danish looks. Her smile and hair and eyes knocked my socks off.

That was in 1967. Nothing has changed that way.

Our lives blended in the turbulent and wonderful 1960s and since those long ago days we have become one in so many ways. She inspires me, counsels me, and keeps me on course.

Once I tried to find the right words to describe how I feel about this woman. Then it struck me — I remembered being a little boy and coming downstairs at Christmas and seeing that tree. I recalled the tinsel, and gifts, and the candles and ribbons. That’s what it is like being with her — that is what it is like every time I’m off somewhere and come home or those times when I look up and she walks into the room. It all comes back full force and I‘m a kid again moving down those stairs and I’m seeing those lights. She still gives me that Christmas light feeling.

My Irish luck held when she came into my life.

The Spinners

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

The Spinners

“The Spinners,” Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jan. 1, 1970. From left, Easy Gravy, Michael Wallis, Louis De Carlo, Suzanne Fitzgerald, James Fitzgerald (kneeling), Proud Mary Wall, Ed from the East, Soapy Foster.

On the very first day of 1970, we climbed into a battered red Chevy pickup truck in Santa Fe, and struck out for Taos. Joining us was our brother Jimmy, between boot camp and Vietnam, along with a band of creative co-conspirators – Proud Mary, Louie, Easy Gravy, Soapy, Ed from the East, and the pickup’s owner, Matt, who during the years of the Vietnam draft lived by the alias of T.K. Flannigan. Filled with much of the spirit that drove Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, we dubbed ourselves the Spinners.

As gypsy-footed as our name and spontaneous as our freshly-drafted New Year’s resolutions, we made the decision to leave in a heartbeat. Some of us wore remnants of our old army and Marine uniforms, others were clad in vintage cloaks and plumed hats and an assortment of colorful caps, mittens, and costumes. Between us we had a few dollars, a couple of old blankets, a bit of rum, and a lot of hope. A tarot card – The Fool – dangled from the rearview mirror.

It was bitterly cold and snow covered the ground. In deference to the low temperature that hovered in the teens, we didn’t take the preferred High Road to Taos that winds through a string of mountain villages. Instead, we chose the more direct route on the highway that slices through canyons and rock walls flanking the icy Rio Grande.

We were on a quest, hoping to find a woman we had heard and read about. We believed she could help us understand all we would need to know in order to start a renaissance. We were young and filled with optimism. No challenge seemed too great – not a seventy-five-mile ride on a frigid winter’s day in the back of a pickup, not the ordeal of securing shelter for the night, and not even the rather lofty notion that the Spinners could actually launch a major cultural movement.