Back in the day I was a blues singer…

September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

Fresh out of art school I got a job as the illustrator for The Baltimore Zoo.

Orgie Kimball worked there too, and had for many years.  When I met her she was a stooped and tired woman who wore a powder blue smock with cigarettes in the pocket and a shiny wig that had faded to a brownish-lavender. When asked what she did, her response was blunt.  “I clean toilets.”

But one day, bird keeper, Leon Dunn, said, “Orgie, tell Adrian what you used to do…”

She sighed and waved a hand. “Oh, back in the day I was a blues singer over to The Club Orleans.” She reached inside her smock and pulled out the wallet she kept tucked under her bra strap.  She flapped it open and handed it to me so I could see a photo taken when she was big and brassy and all-that.

“I used to sing with Billie Holiday,” she said, her voice gaining strength. “Billie always wore them flowers in her hair.” A finger touched the photo, stroking the ostrich plume in hair that was now covered by the unfortunate wig. I noticed that she squared her shoulders. “Billie’s flowers would go flat on her halfway through the night, but my feathers would last!”

I learned from Orgie Kimball that you never know who you are talking to, and anyone I’ve gotten to know since only has reinforced that notion.  Most of us have better selves disguised as cleaning ladies.

Nobody just cleans toilets.

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