When I lived in New Orleans I smoked a men’s pipe. It was a beautiful, hand crafted pipe purchased from a little shop on Decatur street. It looked like something a 19th century politician would smoke while brokering a backroom deal.
I really thought this was a cool affectation, being a woman who smoked such an exquisite pipe. I filled it with black cherry tobacco. I lit it with a flourish. I prowled around French Quarter bars while puffing away, talking about literature and punctuating my statements by jabbing the air with my pipe.
Sometimes I even referred to it in a French accent, by calling it a “peep”.
Then one night I walked into my favorite haunt, and a chorus of people shouted out, “Hey, it’s The Pipe Lady!”
My peep slipped from my lips and onto the dusty wooden floor…
I had become a New Orleans character–like Ruthie The Duck Girl, Perri The Hobo, Chicken Man, or Banjo Annie.
It was official. I was The Pipe Lady. And I was dangerously close to turning into a quirky attraction on French Quarter walking tours. But I wasn’t sure that I could live up to all that pressure. Being a French Quarter eccentric takes stamina, endless creativity and a liver as strong as your personality.
I gave up my pipe the next day.