I’ve Had The Time of My Life

New Orleans is, of course, more than Mardi Gras; but whenever anyone mentions New Orleans, most people’s minds immediately go there.

It is probably the most famous thing about New Orleans, no matter how hard we try to convince outsiders that there’s more to the city that our annual bacchanal…Mardi Gras is always the default; so much so that the entire season is collectively (and incorrectly) called Mardi Gras; Mardi Gras is merely Fat Tuesday (mardi gras literally translates into fat Tuesday) and the rest of the season is Carnival. No matter how often you try to correct people, it never takes and so I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer correct people. It is what it is.

Likewise, people think of Carnival as a debauched event, and there is some truth to that–women do show their breasts for beads, and I’ve seen guys drop trou as well. However, I can also honestly say I’ve never seen that happen on the actual parade route on St. Charles Avenue; perhaps that happens down on Canal Street during parades, but it doesn’t happen in Uptown. I’ve only witnessed it happen in the Quarter–people on Bourbon Street displaying the required flesh for people up on balconies with a seemingly endless supply of beads, demanding boobs or butts or balls in exchange for a strand of beads. I’ve personally never dropped trou for beads–never will; why on earth would you when they are thrown with such reckless abandon from floats during the parades?

Like most New Orleanians, I had some vague knowledge of the history of Carnival in New Orleans; I knew that the theme song “If Ever I Cease to Love” came about because of a visit from a member of the Russian Romanov royal family in 1872; the Carnival colors of purple, green and gold were also in his honor. I knew that Comus, Momus, Proteus and Rex were the original krewes that paraded; that the flambeaux carriers originally were necessary to light up the parades in the darkness of the night; I also knew that the members of those original krewes–that still exist today, even if some of them no longer parade–were made of the city’s ruling class elites, and the krewes were offshoots of the exclusive Gentlemen’s Clubs in the city–the Boston Club, the Pickwick Club, etc.–that also still exist today.

But I didn’t know a lot about the history; I didn’t know much beyond what I would read in the annual Arthur Hardy’s Parade Guide, which I buy religiously every year. It’s easier, of course, now; there are parade apps that track the parades so you know where they are; whereas before you just had to stand on the route and wait, or (if you are lucky enough, like we are, to live close to the parade rout) listen for a marching band before heading down to the Avenue.

So I decided recently, since I’m reading a lot of New Orleans history, to read James Gill’s Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans.

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The white men in jackets and ties were obviously out of their element. Normally, at this time of day, they would be preparing to leave home or office for a couple of drinks, lunch, and maybe a card game at their clubs. Now, on December 19, 1991, they shifted in their seats, returning hostile glances from a large contingent of black men and women in the packed basement of New Orleans City Hall. The city council was meeting in spartan surroundings while its regular chambers were being renovated, but the physical discomforts were nothing compared to the general psychic unease as everyone waited for the great debate on an ordinance to desegregate Mardi Gras parades and gentlemen’s luncheon clubs.

New Orleans is a Southern city, with all that entails and perhaps even more. There were slaves here before the Louisiana Purchase; both the French and the Spanish brought slaves to New Orleans and Louisiana. New Orleans didn’t hold out long as a Confederate city; it surrendered to the Federal navy fairly early in the war, and with that surrender, the Union plan to control the Mississippi was one step closer to fruition. Racism, Jim Crow, and all the horrible white supremacy that comes with those things were evident here; the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision that established the horrific doctrine of “separate but equal” was a case that originated in New Orleans, and had to do with segregated railroad cars. Several years ago Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city council finally agreed to remove the Confederate statues and other memorials commemorating the city’s racist past; General Lee no longer stands with his back to the North on his plinth in Lee Circle; the statue of General Beauregard outside the entrance to the New Orleans Museum of Art was removed, and the statue of Jefferson Davis on the neutral ground along Jefferson Davis Parkway was also taken down. Perhaps the most egregious memorial–the Battle of Liberty Place memorial–was also removed in the dead of night.

New Orleanians like to pretend that New Orleans doesn’t have that same vein of racism and white supremacy the rest of the South does; but it’s definitely there. It might have more a genteel veneer over it, but it’s definitely there. Orleans Parish is probably the most progressive parish in the entire state–but that’s also an incredibly low bar to set. The vast majority of people I know were in favor of the removal of the memorials, and whenever it came up on a local news website, the comments against the removal were almost inevitably from non-New Orleanians, and usually ginned up the standard Louisiana complaints about New Orleans: out of control crime, poverty, crumbling infrastructure. But all of those things were also true when the city was segregated and operating under Jim Crow; anyone who reads New Orleans history knows that the city was always a hotbed of crime and sin and debauchery.

Lords of Misrule opens with the attempt by the city council in 1992 to desegregate the krewes; my first-ever attendance at Carnival was a mere three years later, and people were still talking about it. The result was three old-line krewes (Comus, Momus, and Proteus) decided to stop parading rather than desegregate (there is a krewe now parading under the name of Proteus again; I don’t know if it is actually the same, original Krewe of Proteus or a newer krewe who took the name). Opponents of the ordinance claimed it would kill Carnival, which is now one of the primary economic engines of the city; nearly thirty years later we can attest that didn’t happen. Modern Carnival attendees don’t now about those krewes and they aren’t missed. But Gill uses this battle at the city council as a jumping-off place to examine the history of the racial politics in the city, and throughout, he uses Carnival–and how racist events in the city, such as the Battle of Liberty Place–to illustrate and illuminate that history.

It’s an enjoyable read, a little eye-opening in places, but a good read, and he also does an excellent job of exploring how Comus was not only  Confederate, but later, if not directly tied to, then definitely sympathetic to the Klan and the cause of white supremacy. Some of these civic leaders who would be, or had been, King of Comus or King of Rex also were leaders of the rebellion, the Klan, and so forth.

And it isn’t until the final chapters that any bias on the part of Gill becomes even remotely obvious; I got the distinct impression in the final chapters that Gill opposed the desegregation of the krewes–but he never comes out and says that; the final chapters simply read that way to me. I could be wrong.

But I do recommend it. It’s a good, interesting read, and sheds some important light on forgotten parts of New Orleans history.

Drivin’ My Life Away

We left the Orpheus parade last night when it started raining and the wind picked up. It was already cold out there, but that weather shift was going to take it from merely unpleasant to intolerable pretty fast, so we skedaddled back to the Lost Apartment and called it a night.

But Orpheus is a beautiful parade, and the floats simply breathtaking.

And there’s nothing like Carnival to make me remember why I love this city so much. Carnival is pretty much unavoidable , no matter how hard you try, and there’s no point in resisting it because it isn’t going away. Even those who hate Carnival (which I don’t understand, unless they are also the people who kick puppies and so forth) have to ride the wave until it’s over. Today is the last day of my Carnival related vacation, and it’s been absolutely lovely. Did I get everything done that I wanted to get done? Of course not. I never do. But I did do some thinking, and thinking time is often in short supply. I’m looking forward to getting back to work on the WIP–I may go back and revise the first ten chapters to weave in the threads that are missing before writing the second half of the book–and with any luck, I can have a decent draft of it finished by the end of March.

Fingers crossed.

It’s very cold this morning for a Mardi Gras Day, and I kind of am glad Paul and I don’t do Fat Tuesday anymore. Not that it wouldn’t be fun, but all the costume planning and so forth, and I doubt seriously I could drink all day anymore and still make it to work on Ash Wednesday and be functional. Sigh, the pleasures of getting old. But I always feel like my time is borrowed, and the life I have is a gift I never thought I would see. So there’s that, you know?

I do have some cooking to do today; I need to make bacon for lunch sandwiches and I am going to make the chili today–thank goodness it’s cold, right? I am also going to go ahead and make chicken salad for Paul’s lunches this week.

I am trying to decide what I want to write next, if I do another Scotty. There’s an amorphous idea boiling in the back of my head that’s been back there for quite some time–Hollywood South Hustle–which would combine two stories I’ve been pondering for a while (I am leaning toward this one as the next Scotty because the other two–Bywater Bohemia Bougie and Redneck Riviera Rhumba–don’t have even an amorphous story dancing in my head other than the titles. I think Redneck Riviera will have to have something to do with Frank’s wrestling career and the other has to do with gentrification, but that’s all I’ve got. Hollywood South on the other hand has two different plots I want to write–one about a film industry scam that actually happened here in New Orleans, and the other about the victim of a vicious assault, twenty years later. It’s just about trying to figure out, really, how those two plots roll into each other and can run parallel to each other in order to make a cohesive story. Plus there’s another plot element that needs to be wrapped up, carried over from the current, and I think this plot can accommodate that story pretty well. This is kind of the Scotty book I originally intended to write as the fourth book in the series, but Katrina pretty much buried that, at least for a while. (I’ve already spun part of that original plot into Murder in the Rue Ursulines; but since it was a Chanse book it changed a lot; enough so that using the original idea as a Scotty would absolutely work.)

But…it’s nice to have another idea for Scotty lingering in my head, on the back-burner. Maybe I’ll even get to it later this year.

Stranger things have happened.

I also want to work on Monsters of New Orleans. I’ve not done any short story work in a while, and I kind of miss it. I had another story turned down by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, but that’s only whetted my appetite to try to get something else published in there. There’s a long story, novella-length, called “Never Kiss a Stranger” that I’d also like to get back to work on, but on the other hand, I’m wondering if the story might make for a better novel than long-form story. I suppose I should finish a draft before making a decision, one way or the other.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines for me. I was thinking about working on some stuff today, since I’m not leaving the house, but I think I’ll just read instead.

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone.

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Into the Night

The sun is now out, but it’s still only forty-nine degrees.

The great irony of this is that I’d intended to make potato-leek soup today and white-bean chicken chili tomorrow; after buying everything I needed to do so the weather turned beautiful, and I thought, great, this is no longer soup/chili weather…forgetting that southeastern Louisiana weather can always turn on a dime.

In case you’re wondering, the combination of parades and finishing the Scotty did result in my kitchen and apartment being disgusting messes, which I intend to rectify to today. I managed to get the dishes (most of them) done; there’s a load running currently in the dishwasher (still some dirty pans in the sink), and I’ve got both the washer and dryer currently running. The potato-leek soup is cooking, and in a minute or two I’m going to get out of this chair and get back to work.

Also, I’m thinking if the sun is out I should brave the cold and go take pictures of the Bead Trees of St. Charles. Perhaps when I have a handle on all this cleaning.

Someday. Although I just walked my old broiler pans out to the trash (I bought a new one; the old ones were kind of gross, really) and it’s fricking cold. Perhaps the Bead Trees can wait until this weekend. A quick look at the (basically useless) weather forecast shows that the temps will go back up after Ash Wednesday…but the forecast can change here from hour to hour and day to day.

Heavy sigh.

But I do get to look forward to Mario Lopez riding tonight as Celebrity Orpheus! That’s certainly worth braving the cold to see.

But tomorrow is when it ends for another year, midnight on Fat Tuesday with the tolling of cathedral bells and the beginning of Lent with the arrival of Ash Wednesday. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the ritual of the clearing of the streets in the Quarter at midnight on Fat Tuesday, but it’s interesting to watch.

Bill Loefhelm (you should be reading his work if you aren’t already) wrote a terrific piece about writing about Mardi Gras here, and as I already mentioned in this sentence, if you aren’t reading Bill’s books, you really should be. It’s never too late to start, either.

I am currently taking a break from cleaning momentarily. I can’t believe it’s already after two; only four hours or so until the parades start for tonight, and I feel like I’ve not managed anything here in the Lost Apartment…and I catch myself thinking well, whatever you don’t get done today you can get done tomorrow and then have to remind myself THIS IS NOT HOW YOU GET THINGS DONE.

All right, back to the spice mines.

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Dim All The Lights

It is cold this morning in the Lost Apartment; kind of gray out there with the sun hidden behind fluffy white clouds. There’s a sink full of dishes, clothes in the dryer, and mess pretty much everywhere. At some point I have to go to the store today–there are things we need that cannot wait till Wednesday–but I am going to postpone the mail until Wednesday on the way to to the office. I also need to do some wrap-up work on the book at some point today, but it’s still pretty much finished. I want to get that done today so I can spend tomorrow reading…which, since it doesn’t seem sunny, will probably work. I wanted to take my camera out and take pictures of the Bead Trees of St. Charles–an annual tradition–but without sunshine the pictures aren’t as effective…so, unless the sun comes out today, that’s something that’ll have to wait until the weekend.

Yesterday was fun.  I gave up on Thoth about half-way through; there was an enormous break in the parade, and the longer I stood there the less I wanted to. Also the wind started picking up, the sky got gray, and I felt a few drops…tired and wet wasn’t something I felt particularly up for, so I decided to come inside and rest up for Bacchus. I’d already caught plenty of beads, and with Bacchus and Orpheus in the future…yeah, I called it an afternoon and came inside.

The three day parades yesterday rolled as floats only (no marching bands or walking groups) because of inclement weather in the forecast; they also moved them all up to eleven in the morning and they followed each other; so Thoth rolled hours earlier than usual. I was inside yesterday around two; Thoth usually begins at two-thirty and it was already half-way past.

It’s also amazing how fast those parades can move when it’s just floats.

And Bacchus was, as always, fun despite the cold. Paul caught some beads directly from Bacchus (Jensen Ackles) himself, and I got some doubloons from his float.  Here are some great shots of the parade (and Jensen).

After Bacchus, we came back in and got caught up on Schitt’s Creek and How to Get Away with Murder, and then, tired and worn out for a day mostly spent on the parade route, I went to bed early and also managed to sleep in, which was quite lovely.  The temperature is currently in the low forties, which doesn’t bode well for Orpheus tonight, but I also don’t mind bundling up for this parade. It has the train float which is one of my favorites!

And then tomorrow, we will just rest and relax and get ready for the three day work week.

Happy Lundi Gras, everyone!

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You May Be Right

So, the fact that I am a Luddite is a well-established fact by this point in time, so new technology and so forth always throws me for a loop. The most recent example of this for me is Spotify. That Bitch Ford ™ convinced me to give it a try, and I keep getting sucked into making playlists and remembering oh yes, I loved this album or Oh! Oh! I wonder if this artist is on here and yes, time suck. Big time.

And Apple Music is probably very similar. And I already have iTunes. But I have a thirty-day free premium Spotify account, so I have thirty days to decide if I want to abandon this or go to Apple Music.

I managed to revise another chapter yesterday. Just the one, dear? is an actual valid question; it’s true. But I went and did errands, then I had to make room for things and throw things away, and there was laundry to get done. I am probably going to run to Costco today to get it out of the way–Paul had something delivered to the mail service yesterday, and if I have the leave the house, might as well run another errand and get it out of the way, right?

It rained a bit last night during the Druids parade, but remembering the mantra (marathon not a sprint) kept me inside and off the route until Nyx arrived. By then the rain was gone and there was a surprisingly large crowd out there on the route. I didn’t stay out there for the entire parade; there were still another six or so floats left when we called it a night, but I’d already  gotten a purse (thanks, Beth!) and a plethora of beads, among other things, and so it wasn’t a big deal to end early. There are three parades tonight (!): Babylon, Chaos and Muses. Muses is, of course, one of the more popular parades, so it will be mob-like out there tonight. Patricia Clarkson is the Muse tonight; the first woman to be Muse twice, and she gets to ride in the big shoe. I’ll try to take some pictures–I always try–but there are no guarantees. It’s also supposed to rain around five, but it’s also not supposed to last long.

I also need to do some cooking today; bacon and chicken breasts and so forth, so there’s readily available food for us to eat over the weekend; today is a good day for that. I woke up early this morning, and while it’s taken me a little while to get going, I am feeling energized and ready to get some shit done. I’ll probably start revising Scotty when I post this, and then head to Costco and get the mail on the way back.

Got to start checking things off that to-do list; today is a great day to get started on that.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Let My Love Open the Door

76 degrees already this morning, with the mercury forecast to continue to rise throughout the day, with heavy rains in the forecast for tonight’s parades. I think I’m going to spark up the barbecue this afternoon–get that true Carnival experience but barbecuing burgers and hot dogs–and probably try to get some work done around the parades.

I only worked two hours yesterday morning, so I went in early and did all the things, departed and went to the grocery store on the way home–there’s no way I can move my car again before Sunday evening–and then came home to do odious chores. But I got all of it done, reorganized some cabinets and the refrigerator, and then relaxed in my easy chair while I waited for Paul to come home so we could have dinner and go to the parades. Alas, he didn’t get home until too late, so we missed Oshun and Cleopatra. I guess I could have gone by myself, but that’s not as much fun, plus getting up early and doing the running around and cleaning and so forth had left me rather tired. I watched some television, including another episode of Versailles, and retired to bed relatively early. I slept well, which was lovely, and am up and at ’em this morning. I intend to get some revising done before the parades arrive, and there’s some tidying required for the living room.

But this morning I feel rested and like I can conquer the world, which is a lovely feeling.

We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we?

Hilariously, part of my work on the kitchen yesterday including moving small appliances–I moved the microwave from next to the refrigerator back to the other counter, so it’s next to the stove now, and the coffee maker from there to the counter next to the refrigerator. As small a change as that was, it opened up the kitchen and makes that area look bigger. (I used to have it set up this way for years and changed it about two years ago; yesterday it dawned on me that was why the kitchen looked so much more crowded, so I switched it back.) I also put two boxes of books up in the attic, which was also a satisfying feeling, and at some point today I am going to combine some small boxes of books into a bigger box, and put that in the attic.

I’d also like to finish Lori Roy’s superb novel Gone Too Long this weekend, if i can. I am a little behind on the revising (as always) but am hopeful focusing can get more done before and after and around the parades today–as long as I don’t get too tired out there on the parade route…there are five today.

FIVE: Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta, and Pygmalion.

Sigh. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

I am also kind of looking forward to finishing this revision because I really want to get back to work on the WIP, which I think has a lot of potential…and there’s some stories I want to revise. It occurred to me the other day how to solve the problems with “The Problem with Autofill,” which is actually also going to need a new title; whereas I like the original title, it doesn’t really fit the story, and trying to make the story fit that title doesn’t work, either. So I will file the title away (like I had to do with “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”) and hope that a story will eventually come to me that will fit the title.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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I Can’t Tell You Why

Wednesday morning, and it’s also pay day–on which I pay the bills and watch all the money I worked so hard for vanish in the blink of an eye. I cannot believe in two days the first parades will roll down St. Charles Avenue…which means when I get off work on Friday I need to run all my errands, because making groceries will be an impossibility over the course of the weekend–at least until Sunday night. But then…I only have to work two days next week, and then I am on vacation until Ash Wednesday.

Woo-hoo! Vacation!

I only got halfway through yesterday’s chapter; I was tired last night after a second long day at the office–I didn’t even watch another episode of Versailles, and was also too tired to read. My short days are coming up, though, and I should be able to get caught up on my reading and my revising over the course of the rest of the week…bearing in mind there are parades this weekend. Oshun and Cleopatra are Friday night, and there are five on Saturday–Ponchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta and Pygmalion. Sunday there are four: Femme Fatale, Carrollton, King Arthur, and Alla.

There will be beads.

But the true madness begins next week.

I seem to be having some trouble this morning getting motivated; I am feeling lazy this morning. Perhaps it is a lack of caffeine, perhaps it’s just a holdover from the last two length work days, I don’t know. The weather took a strange turn yesterday. It was chilly and wet in the morning before raining all afternoon. Usually, this means another drop in temperature at this time of year…yet the fog rolled in and when I left the office last night it was extremely humid and warm. My car windows were all fogged up, as were my windows here at the Lost Apartment…and the sweater I’d worn because it was chilly was too heavy and hot. I have no idea what I should wear to work today…maybe a sweater over a T-shirt, so I can remove the sweater if it gets too warm. My windows are covered in condensation, which means it’s much warmer outside than in.

So, I just looked at the weather. It’s 72 degrees right now and the low is 63. Yeah, probably no sweater today after all.

All right, I am going to try to finish revising that chapter before work. Back to the spice mines!

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