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Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fried Spinach = Yum! Who Knew?

Howdy from Kerrville, Texas! Where I've just discovered My New Most Favorite Food. OK, Ok, so I'm from Backwater Midland, Texas, and have never even HEARD of fried spinach, much less partaken of its wonderfulness. But now? Omigod. I've just eaten a passel (technical term meaning: a lot) of it, and honeys, I am HOOKED.

OK. Not really. Because, well: it has to be Deep Fried. And I don't deep fry shit. Or anything else, really. I don't own a deep fryer. They kind of frighten me, if you really want to know the truth. What with the Fair Foods--you know, the deep-fried Twinkies and deep-fried Oreos and yes, bless their hearts, the deep-fried pickles. What with all those, the deep-frying of things is really kind of frightening for me. All that grease! Which might actually be L-A-R-D. Who can tell?

But, oh! The fried spinach! It was to die for! You know I love spinach in all its forms, from raw to boiled to broiled to wilted. And the fried? It is a heaven unto itself: hot and crispy and then melt-in-your-mouth. This is, by the way, the Cafe Riverstone, in Kerrville. And if we go back there to eat tomorrow night, since we did not, alas, get to eat on the deck overlooking the Guadalupe River, since it was closed due to--gack!--RAIN, which Texas has been having in abundance this summer--we may have to go. And I will have this: an appetizer of fried spinach, and then, for an entree: fried spinach, with a side order of fried spinach, and then, for dessert? FRIED SPINACH.

And I will be very, very happy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Crazed Attack Poodle

Friday morning we had to get up before the crack of dawn to be out at the TV station for the taping of the interview. What that's like: you show up on time, sign a paper, and sit in the room and wait and wait and wait, for like hours, gradually forgetting why you're there and getting up to check out the stuff on everyone's desks, since it's way too early in the morning for people to actually be there, and you're just the teensiest bit nosy. Moi? Yeah, it's true. There seems to be a theme of penguins riding surfboards on a lot of the desks, so I'm guessing that it's about some movie and the related marketing items sold as "toys." T I'm guessing the people here are a wet dream for marketers, tethered as they are to televisions. Because let me tell you, this room has TVs everywhere, tuned to every station, all going. For me, this is a particular version of hell: a room full of televisions, all turned on at once! Aieeeeeeee! Imagine, though, the commercial possibilities to having people tuned in from the moment they wake up at home through the work day and on into the evening.

The taping itself went well, and we were back home before 9 am and went out to run. After that, I ride my bicycle. This is a good, sturdy bike my mother bought (I picked it out) for my birthday some years ago. It is not a sleek racing bike. No. It has an Old Woman Basket on the front, the kind that marks you as the sort of eccentric who weaves plastic flowers through the wires and picks up stuff off the street.

Like turtles.

Anyway. So I head off on my daily 2-mile ride, in a slow gear chosen to work my leg muscles and strengthen them to help protect my joints, esp. my knees. I don't go fast. Too bad for me.

About two blocks from my house, this guy comes out of his front door carrying a baby carrier. A little apricot poodle races out the door and down the sidewalk. The man calls to it, but not frantically--not in any way indicating that he feared the dog would run away. The dog stops to sniff at some flowers, and I smile as I ride past. But just as I pass it, the dog looks up at me and stomps his little clipped feet and shakes his little be-ribboned apricot ears and CHARGES at me. I laugh at the cuteness of this and begin peddling faster, figuring that the dog will quickly give up and go back home. It is a POODLE, for pete's sakes! Not even a standard poodle. Definitely not a rare racing poodle. Just a very small, short-legged dog with ribbons in its fur. It will surely give up and go back home to lie on the bed in the cool breeze of the fan and lick itself.

But, honey, that dog came on. He raced around me so that he was out in the street, matching me inch for inch, keeping pace with my peddling and barking furiously, gnashing his little white teeth as if to rip me limb from limb, if only he could pull me off that bike and wrestle me into the street. I move down to lower faster gear and peddle faster, trying to get him to give up and go back home to his people. But every time I look over to see if he's slowing down, he LUNGES at me, teeth snapping. It was, granted, a very poodle-y sort of a lunge, but there was no doubting his intent. I was laughing so hard I was bent over the handlebars, panting, peddling as fast as I could, trying to lose him. I drop down to a faster gear. He's still right by my foot, barking, barking, BARKING, running as fast as a poodle has ever run in life.

And then he sees a tree across the street, and you can see the little light go on in his poodle-brain, and he thinks, "Pee! Much running make Pierre need to PEE!" And he peels off and heads for the tree.

But. I'm now at the end of the street, the part where I turn around and head back home. I can go around the block, to avoid Pierre, but if I do that, and he sees me and follows, that will put him on one of the busiest streets in town. That's not good. So I can't do that. And that means that I turn around and head back past the tree, where Pierre is happily marking his new territory, satisfied that he's chased The Bicycle of Evil out of his neighborhood. I'm figuring the odors and joys of the tree and its varied accumulation of dog pee will distract him while I peddle on by, trying to gasp quietly. But no. He sees me out of the corner of his beady little eyes and stomps at me again, and again we're off, me laughing, hunched over the handlebars, him barkingbarkingbarking and occasionally lunging as if to grab my running shoe and pull me to the ground. I fear I'll run out of air, from the laughing, and will fall off the bike and crush him, like some circus act gone horribly awry.

Fortunately for us all--me, Pierre, the bike--another tree looms up out of a yard to our left, and he again veers off to take another much-needed pee, and then his person drives up, and his adventure ends and I peddle breathlessly home, thinking, "Hey! Excellent work-out! Maybe I should rent a poodle!"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Oh, Honeys! It Was Just the BEST Day!

Oh, I just had more fun than should be allowed by law. Or at least by The Goober Police because, you know, I'm on their most-wanted list, surely after yesterday. But I had a LOT of fun.

OK. So you remember that the first two books were good books and I'm pleased with them and they had great work by a lot of wonderful artists. Like that. But they had a very narrow audience, each of them. Stampers for the first one, and altered artwear makers for the second. Not a whole herd of folks interested in either one of those, really. But this book is a whole 'nother thang, entirely; which is why, you remember, we decided to have Big Fun with it.

So yesterday I went to the local Barnes and Nobel, our only bookstore unless you count Hastings. Which I do not. It's a very sad place. Not to mention noisy as all get out.

B&N, though, is quite the nice bookstore, and it had the books on order, and I needed to know if they'd come in, since I'm doing an interview tomorrow morning for the morning news program--that would be KWES 9, if you live around here--and needed to know whether I could say, "Yes, the book is on the shelves. Run out right now and buy a copy before they all vanish! There's a $100 bill in one of them!" Because, well, you know: it's a NEWS program = everybody lies!

No, wait. That would be a presidential debate. No lying on the morning news. Got it.

But the book wasn't on the shelves. I went to the Help desk, and the nice young man there looked it up and said that there were 30 copies somewhere in the store, probably on Joyce's desk. Joyce is the Community Relations Manager and sets up the signings and stuff. And also the mother of two of The EGE's former tennis players. And very cool. And my current Favorite Person in the Universe, not counting The EGE. And My External Memory, Gabriel. But more about that later. I love Joyce.

So the Nice Young Man goes to Joyce's office and comes back with a whole box of My Book. Hooray! And he asks where I want them, somewhere in the craft section. I get to choose! And I clear off a space right at eye level, in those shelves where the new books face out? You know? And he plops a whole brace of them there. And then he asks where else, since he's got to put out all 30 of these books. And so we put some on the top shelf, too. And I'm all jumping up and down, in Total Goober Mode, and I hurry out to the truck to get my little camera, to take photos, all happy and everything.
I come back, and the manager is standing there, looking at our little arrangement, and I hear him say, "I don't like that. I don't want them there." And my heart just falls. He's a really nice guy, and I don't know why he doesn't want my book there, at least for a couple of days (FOREVER! is more what I'm thinking, but although I'm A Total Goober, I'm not naive and know that they can't just make it The Barnes and Nobel of Ricë, alas). And I start to whine, but before that first whimper even comes out of my mouth, the manager says, "We can leave those on the top shelf, but I want to make a display over there. Go get a stand." And he takes a stack of them and puts them by the computer, all by themselves! And I take a photo of him with them.

And then he tells the Nice Young Man to take the rest of them and put them on the New Paperback Arrivals table, right at the front of the store!,which he does, asking me if this placement is OK with me, like I'm The Expert. I mean, really! How often do you get to go in a bookstore and put your books anywhere you want them? Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not JK Rowling, so it doesn't happen every damn day, let me tell you. And I looked at where he'd put them, and talk about being in good company! I'm not a Picoult fan, but my friend Paula is, so I took this photo for her.

And then, right below me, was this book, which I ADORE. So of course I had to get another photograph:
Now, I'm not going to believe that all those books are going to stay in that arrangement--in three different places!--for very long. Maybe they've already been moved onto the shelves. But that's not the point: it was that the people there were so wonderful about this, about setting up the little display and posing for the photo and treating me like Book Royalty (well, not really--they see me in there all the time and treat me more like I live there in the stacks and am family, but hey!). It was the most fun I've had in forever, or at least since I can remember (my friend Gabriel will tell you that that's about 25, maybe 26 minutes, tops--oh! which reminds me of a story: I'm trying to have some shirts made (more later) and so asked Gabe about screen printing. Since I have no memory and am clueless about many things that I used to know about, you know I surround myself with brilliant people who 1) know everything and 2) have fantastic memories. I wasn't happy with the first shirts I'd had done. Although the guy did great work, it was on POLYESTER, which is, as everyone knows, From Hell. And so Gabe reminded me, in the gentle way he has of not coming right out and saying, "JESUS! I just told you this YESTERDAY!" that we know Chris, who does screen-printing for a living. And he told me about where Chris' shop was, and so yesterday I went there. Only it wasn't there. The sign was there, but the door was locked,and through the windows I could see that the building was empty. Completely. So I kind of remembered Gabe saying something about this, something about their having moved, or something, and so I walked down the block to see if they'd gone next door. Nope. So I got back in the truck and called Gabe and got The IPhone of Gabriel and left a whiny message about not being able to find Chris. And as I'm driving away the phone rings and a voice says, "This is your memory calling. . . ." Indeed, he had told me where they had moved, and once he mentioned it--again, refraining from yelling, "JESUS, GET A CLUE!"--I actually remembered (remembered! what a &^%$#ing concept!) the conversation. Of course, I didn't remember the exact conversation and so didn't remember the exact location, but I did finally get there and find Chris, who is wonderful in every way and laughed politely when I told him the story--you know, the sort of laugh that indicates that the laugher is not quite sure yet if he's dealing with a deranged and possibly dangerous individual who's just pretending to order shirts as a ruse to put you at ease so they can stab you with their keys and abscond with your inventory of blank white t-shirts to make uniforms for boringly-dressed terrorists.)

ANYWAY! So the people at the bookstore were marvelous, and I had the best time. On October 20th, we'll do a signing there, and you can come and meet them for yourself. It's worth a trip to The Wilds of West Texas just to meet the warm and caring BookStore Staff and see their Fine Displays of Books and, in addition, meet a Total Goober in person.

What a FABULOUS Idea!

Suki sent a link to this photo of her reading my book. I love it, and it's given me a GREAT idea for a contest, so here goes:

What: Post a photo of a creative person (you, of course; but who else? you can do more than one!) on your blog or website reading Living the Creative Life. Send me a link so I can go see it and enjoy the thrill. Think of creative people you know. Maybe they look like accountants when they're at work, but you know they're actually rock and roll drummers or art car makers or watercolorists.

When: between now and the end of September, when I get ready to leave for Portland (more on that later). So: deadline, September 30th.

Who Wins: The coolest photo, chosen by--of course--The EGE, who's having more fun with this than you can imagine.

Prize: Well, that's the problem. I have several cool options, which I'm not ready to talk about but will, vaguely. One is an alphabet--very old, very cool. Then there are some shirts in the works. Then there's, um, well, maybe something else. So let's just say it'll be a cool prize to be determined later. The main thing is that it will be a lot of fun! If you're one of those people who does not like to have your photo taken, then there are all kinds of opportunities for creativity: costumes, for instance. Masks! Or your pet reading it for you. Think of the possibilities, and have fun!

Monday, August 20, 2007

What in the Hell Kind of Thing is This Thing?

A necklace? A collar? A bib, for crying out loud? Puh-leeze! I have no idea what to call it, but I like it. I started working on it when I was trying to sell my mother's house and did the whole St.-Anthony-Buried-In-the-Yard-Thing. Remember that? And it worked! Kind of. Anyway, I started this because I LOVE the things Tony is responsible for. Like a happy death! That's for me! Imagine going out singing and dancing. Just having a great time, laughing and kissing and doing the swing, and BAM!

Anyway, here he is. I'm pretty pleased with him and, if I can figure out how to alter the way I put it together, I want to do some more. Can you tell that this is a time for finishing up things that have been hanging around WAY too long? Yep. . . .trying to clear out space for Whatever Comes Next. I can't wait to find out what that is. . . .

And check this out: My Very First Big-Girl Lipstick. Oh, sure: I've had lipsticks before. Not too many, though, as The EGE hates it. Oh, he doesn't care if I wear it; he just won't KISS me while I'm wearing it. He says it's feels nasty. Whatever. But I haven't ever paid more than like, oh, maybe $7 for a lipstick. This little beauty here, on the other hand, was like $19. Yeow. What I did was walk into Dillard's yesterday, during the Terrible Tax-Free Weekend--what was I thinking?--and tell the Very Snooty Make-Up People that I wanted lipstick to match my hair. They were not amused. And they weren't much help; The EGE found this one all by himself. Isn't it grand?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Something I Love a Lot

You know how subversive scissors are, right? You get them and try to tame them--get them to work smoothly, sharpen them, coddle them, even find cute little holders to put them in so you can carry them in your bag without sliding your hand in there to get your wallet and stabbing the fire out of your index finger (guess how I know about this). And still they vanish. They leap out of there when you're not looking and take off for some Disney World for Scissors, where they have little scissors burlesque troupes and mini-cutlery rides and stuff.

Or maybe they're still in your house, just hiding from you because they're total slackers and don't want to work for you and know you can't afford to buy endless pairs of scissors because, you know, those things are too damned expensive to be replacing every week.

Ha! So wrong! We've got the little buggers now, because I found these fabulous scissors at (omigosh) The Dreaded Wal-Mart (where I hate to shop; and I hate to give them any business, the scum. But.). I needed a pair of scissors and had looked everywhere for some that were 1) sharp enough to cut thread cleanly and 2) cheap enough so that I wouldn't gnash my teeth when they jumped ship and lit out for LA.
And look what I found! Not only do they cut thread (well, one pair is a little lazy on that job, but the others are fab), but they're CUTE! With nice rubbery handles. And guess how much! Just guess!

(I bought 24 pair. Yes, I did.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hey, Jeri & Kim!

The Book Box goes to Jeri Cochran, and the wooden box-that-wants-to-be-a-book-box goes to Kim R, which was really easy because no one else wanted it, believe it or not. So--send me your mailing addresses, and I'll get these in the mail. Thanks for playing, and stayed tuned for next week's give-away!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Cool Box for a Book

A couple of people said that my Book Box inspired them to make one of their own, and when we were going through the FE (the storage building), The EGE found some boxes. One is really cool, with little drawers that may or may not work for holding beads--I'm going to check it out for that. Here's the other one:
It looks like it would be perfect for making your own Book Box. In fact, at one time it had a book in it, one that I made to go in it. But, for some reason, I never finished the book and never did anything with the box. So here it is for someone who will do something with it. It's made out of basswood, I think--not very sturdy--so the top's going to need some glue eventually, I think--and very light. The dimensions are 12 3/4" tall by 7 3/4" wide and 1" deep. If you want it, post a comment telling me by tomorrow--yes! tomorrow! I'm going to do both this box and The Book Box at the same time--and then, after you do Something Cool with it, you have to show me photos, OK? I can't wait to see what someone might do with it!

Shopping Thomas Mann on Magazine Street

We've been to Thomas Mann's gallery on Magazine in New Orleans before, but I didn't actually shop then. You know I'm not much of a shopper. But I've always loved his stuff and have always gnashed my teeth that Belle Armoire profiled him before I started working for them.

So this year I shopped. We spent about an hour schmoozing with his gallery manager, who had a lot of other titles and was really helpful. We didn't actually meet Mann, although he did come in to say, "Hi" on his way to the workshop. I couldn't really think of a reason to meet him except to say, "Gee, I wish I'd gotten to interview you. Poor me!" She took me back in the workshop and let me go through the "onesies," the earrings without mates. And all the other earrings were available either as pairs or singles. Perfect for me! So here's what I bought: [Note: what looks like grey hairs on the earrings is actually strands of the batting I used to try to hold them upright for photographing. It's not icky!] Bear with me as I learn how to better use my new little camera. It takes much better close-ups, but I'm still learning how to use the various settings.
These are the water meter hole cover things in New Orleans. People steal them, apparently. So now there are all kinds of things made to look like them--place mats, doormats, hats.
And these fab earrings.
Here are some of the earrings. The mermaid reminds me of the piece on the cover for the issue when we profiled Thomas Mann. It was much fancier, but I love this one and her little navel pearl. She moves, of course.
And here's a ring. The little part in the middle moves. So cool.
Coffee cup earring.
Collaged hand earring that The EGE bought for me.
Cool stud earring--the heart is raised above and sticks out.
This isn't his work--it's by an artist who was a political refugee from Czechoslovakia. I saw this in the jewelry case in the Artists' Market in the French Market, and the woman running the gallery called Stefano to come sell it to me. He rode his bike over and told us his story and then used an awl to scratch my name in the back, with his name and the date. Very cool guy. The copper came from the replaced roof of The Old US Mint, the second-oldest building in the French Quarter. The image for the brooch came to him after seeing Labyrinth, and he got up the next day and made it with this one eye, the only one he had--he has no idea where he got it. Very cool, no? I'm going to add either a leather cord or some kind of heavy chain and wear it as a pendant. I cannot wear pins or brooches: I forget to take them off my clothes and ruin them in the wash. Always.
And then, in the French Market, there was this booth with these way-cool bags. I looked at all of them one day, trying them on my shoulders and hefting them and going through all the pockets, and then went back the next day and picked this one. It has great pockets and a place for everything, esp. my cell phone, which fits perfectly inside an outside pocket that's right by my hand when I carry it--I loathe having to dig around in the bottom of a bag when the phone rings. You know I brought it home and tossed it in the wash to soften it up. Now I'm going to write all over it--as soon as things slow down enough for me to actually DO that. One more thing on the to-do list.
And that's enough shopping for me to last for a long, long time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Creative Life #7

--Frank, sales associate and gamer

Monday, August 13, 2007

Creative Life #6

"I like to look at the pictures"--David, jeweler and purveyor of Fine Rolex Timepieces, who, after hearing about Adam placing 3rd in the world in Cowhorse competition, said, "I placed First in the World in Watches."

David is a hoot--if you ever need anything watch-related, go see him at Christiani's Jewelers on Wall Street in Midland.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

If You Think You Have "Gaydar," Honey, Think Again

You know how it is: you have a couple of friends who are gay, know a few other people from work or the gym or wherever, and you get to thinking that you Can Tell. Right? You're all hip and observant and everything. You think you Know These Things.

You are soooo wrong. Trust me. Because, just recently? The Last Person on the Planet Likely to Be Gay came out to us. Oh! No. I am not talking about The EGE. No. Nor my father. Nothing that rife with personal drama.

But someone you'd swear--absolutely SWEAR--is a homophobic Republican redneck of the First Order. The kind of West Texas Man who dips and spits and scratches himself and would never, ever be caught dead in plaid shorts. That man. You know the one. The one who sort of snorts and paws the ground and makes you run screaming into the mall, where you're sure he would never, ever follow you. You could hide out in Victoria's Secret or Ambercrombie and Fitch and know you were safe forever (because West Texas Redneck Men would rather have their peckers boiled in oil than set foot in those places).

And yet, apparently, it is true. But listening to him, I just can't get my mind around those words coming out of the mouth of that particular person. It just won't compute. It's like hearing George W. Bush chanting the Heart Sutra. You know? It's impossible. I even told him that I suspect he's just pretending to be gay so I'll like him more. If I had a transcript of the conversation, I would go, "OK. Gay." But if I look at this person as he's talking, all I can see is Total Redneck. Although he's smart and funny, he's always been someone I'd never introduce to my friends for fear he'd say something horrid to them involving the F-word (and I'm not talking about "fuck").

I'm thinking there's money in this. We could do a tour, some kind of Meet the Texas Redneck thing, where I take bets on which of oh, say, a dozen men in a line-up might be gay. And I get money for wrong guesses. I'd be RICH! Because nobody would ever, ever pick this guy. Never! Even I wouldn't pick him! I'd pick ANYBODY instead of this guy! I'd pick ME as The Possible Gay Man before I'd pick this guy!

So when you're out there, checking out people, thinking you know them so well and can read them like books, think again. What we see is only what they want us to see and what we, ourselves, want to see. I hope I learn to realize that I know nothing of anyone else except that they are human, just like I am. Beyond that, they are Delightful Mysteries.

Of course, I still think this guy's only pretending to be gay so I'll like him more and quit calling him a Redneck Sumbitch.

Works in Progress

Thought I'd show a pieces in progress, as well as two more pieces in the Be Your Self series, also in progress. I love seeing pieces of people's work as they're working on it, where you can kind of see the creative process in action, see how their brain was working as they thought through various problems.

Here are David, on the left, and Oliver, on the right. There's a bunch of work left to do--sewing the images on the fabric, then stamping the text, batting and putting it on stretcher bars, then the stitching. It'll take a while, but once I get the text stamped, it will be portable--that's always a relief, to get it to that stage.

Then, yesterday, I started on this piece. When we went out to run yesterday morning, we found our tortoise--at least we're pretty sure he's our tortoise--completely flattened in the street. He's been in our backyard for years and years. When we see him out, we feed him cat food. But every year, for a week or two, he tries to cross the street. We've always caught him and taken him back around to the back, but apparently he got out again while we were gone. This made me very sad, so I decided to make something.

First I searched for images of turtles and tortoises--I did a couple of Google image searches. I was going to take a photo of the flattened shell, but The EGE got rid of it (so I wouldn't keep standing in the middle of the street, looking sad, I guess).

Then I did some really bad sketches, trying to get the shapes of the plates, or whatever those parts of the shell are called.

Then I found an image that I liked and traced it and altered it so it looked like I wanted it to.

Then I went over the lines with a Sharpie, taped the paper to the glass door (for light), taped the fabric over it, and traced with a Pigma Micron (or Zig--I use them interchangeably). I ironed the fabric onto freezer paper to stabilize it, and then I painted it, which kind of obscured some of the lines, but that won't matter as I work on it more. I used Neopaque and Lumiere paints and a good, stiff fabric brush, which makes all the difference in the world when you paint fabric.

Now I'm going to make it into a turtle sandwich--batting and backing--and start stitching and beading. Got to get busy--I've been sitting here at the computer instead of sewing, waiting for loads of stuff to wash: I'm cleaning off the porch, washing the towels and rugs and getting it ready to use, now that we're back home for a while. What a mess--the storms here made everything muddy and nasty.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

One Final Story About New Orleans, In Which I Pay Actual Money to See a Sweaty White Guy's Testicles

Goodlordalmighty. The things I do for my friends. I hope they appreciate it, given the trauma I've gone through. Because, see? I didn't PLAN to see the testicles. No! Testicles are not the finest work of nature. It's like man was standing there, naked, and there were a whole bunch of odd-looking bits left over, scattered about with some clumps of hair, and Mother Nature didn't really know what to do with them but didn't want them to go to waste and finally just said, "Oh, to hell with it; let's just roll them up and stick them down here where they won't show." If I tell you that I think I may have also seen a penis, but that I'm not sure, you're going to be sitting there worrying about me all day long, so I'm going to have to tell you The Whole Story.

See, there is this bar just a block away from our hotel in New Orleans. We've been by it a million times but have never gone in, as they charge a cover. Plus the guys at the door are not very welcoming to middle-aged breeder couples from Podunk, Middle America. Not that I'm saying they're haughty or just the teensiest bit snooty and so My-Abs-Are-So-Fabulous or anything like that. But you can always tell they're looking you over as you walk past and finding you lacking in oh, so many sartorial and style categories. Ones you don't even know about, possibly involving your eyebrows or footwear choice.

But! There are dancers in there, svelte (if sweaty) young men wearing nothing more (at least on first glance, but we'll get to that later) than animal print (cheetah? leopard? you don't really want to be caught peering closely enough to find out) loincloths and combat boots. I know this is a very hot look because my friend Mark told me so, although that was many, many years ago and one would have thought the aesthetic would have changed. Oh, wait! Does the whole gigantic breasts and G-string thing ever go out of style? Duh. So never mind. Hotness never changes. My bad.
So I decide to improve the lives of The Wonder Gays and Gabriel and Lil' Bastard--and, hell, a whole host of other friends--by taking a photo of a hot guy dancing on a bar so that they'll have hope that not all gay bars are as skanky and sad as the one we went to in Odessa. David and Keith already know this, having reported on bars in Dallas and Toronto, but I'm all about spreading hope and joy and light, so I get my new little camera and set off, late on Friday night. The EGE goes along, which is a good thing, as it turns out I have no money, having spent all mine. He hands over $5, and I set about charming the doormen into letting me come in to take photos. They are not, as you might expect, thrilled about this. On the one hand, it is a slow night, and $5 is $5. On the other hand, what could be more irritating and pathetic than to have a woman wanting to take a picture for "her friend back home." They're thinking a bunch of women who get together to drink wine and whine about their husbands, women who will titter (titter! what a silly word!) embarrassedly over this photo I want to take, all bachelorette-party-ish, but older and needing bifocals to see the naughty bits.

Finally one of them lets me in, at which point the other tells me that they really don't allow photographs. Now, normally I'd say, "Oh, hell, no! You're not even going there: taking my money and THEN telling me I can't take a photograph!" But they kind of had me, so instead I sweet-talked my way up to the bar, where I set about trying to get the dancer's attention. He was squatting atop the bar, with his back to me, meaning his scantily-clad butt, which was supposedly as sweaty as the rest of him, hovered at about the level of my nose. So I was holding my breath, as you might imagine. And I couldn't very well tap him on his shoulder to get his attention, since I couldn't reach his actual shoulder, and I assume there are rules about tapping Mostly Naked People anywhere else. So I kind of cleared my throat and said, "EXCUSE ME!" Because it was, of course, really noisy. And he stood up and turned around and looked at me the way you'd look at a cockroach in your soup. Which I guess I kind of was. I explained what I wanted to do, and he mumbled and acted like he was going to say no--I was NOT going to throw myself on his mercy by bringing up The Gay Friend Card, you know, where you try to curry favor by saying something asinine like, "I have a lot of ______________ {gay, black, tall, rich, disabled, whatever} friends!"

Finally, he agrees, and I step back and adjust the camera--you know, for lighting and distance and all that. And I'm looking into the LED and finalizing the settings and look up just in time to see him flip up his loincloth and FLASH ME! Except I didn't realize that that was what had happened, because I was not thinking about what he was doing; I was wondering if I should have used the ISO setting or the Night Portrait setting, you know? Because I know damn well he's not going to let me take a photo and look at it and go, "Oh, no, that's not right. Hang on and let me take another one. Nope, that's not it, either. Could you stand over there under the beer sign?"

So I'm not really sure WHAT I saw. I saw testicles. Those are, sadly, hard to miss. And if they were accompanied by a penis, then there was something else entirely going on. I mean, like some costume or some accessory that um, sort of changed the landscape, if you will. Some sort of truss or something. Or else there was just much sadness and lack in the world of this boy. I would have to feel very, very sorry for him. And then there was something else--I swear--something that looked like a little red bow. But by the time I realized I was seeing something that was NOT loincloth, it was all over: the clothing was back in place, the photo was taken, the sweaty guy had approved it (he wouldn't let me leave until he had). I couldn't very well go, "Wait a minute, wait a minute! What was THAT? Is that your dick? Or what? And was that a BOW in there? What's up with that? Let me see--I didn't really catch it the first time."

I'm still confused, when I think about it; and I'm just very, very glad The EGE was spared.


So we went back to the room, and we got ready to have our nightly indulgence of The World's Most Fabulous Chocolate and brandy. And there was all this noise--this laughing and guffawing and banging and snickering and yelling, all out in the hall, right outside our door. I assumed it was the guys next door, a bunch of college-looking boys who never appeared without a beer can in their hands. We had heard one, earlier, standing out on the balcony talking to someone on the phone, telling them how "totally fucked up" he was and saying he'd just thrown a chair off his patio. He meant "balcony," but either way he was lying. The EGE and I just looked at each other, going, "He's lying!" dumbfounded that anyone would want to make themselves sound like more of an idiot than they already were, being drunk before noon. Ah, the loveliness of beer.

The noise kept on and kept on, and finally I went to the door and opened it and put my finger to my lips and said, "Shhhhhh! Someone's going to come up and get you if you don't be quiet out here!" And all that noise that I had imagined was being made by a party of frat boys and some hoochie mamas they'd picked up in the street, with much nakedness and revelry and possibly incipient puking, which was My True Fear, was actually being made by a 45-year-old mother of five and her husband, age 47. I know this because she told me this many, many times, adding that she had a grandchild, as well, and that when they'd told her, she'd cried until she threw up. Lovely!

This woman was lying on her back in the middle of the hallway, with her legs in the air, trying to take off her heels. Her husband was trying to help her but fell down and just gave up. She seemed very happy to see me and wanted nothing more than to crawl into my room to tell me her story--she kept saying, "JUST LET ME TELL YOU MY STORY!" only it came out more like "JUS' LE' ME TELL YOU MASTORY!" And she kept trying to crawl into my room. I was sure that, the moment she did, she would either pass out and die or puke, in which case she would still be dead, as I would have to kill her.

"Do you need help?"


"Do you want me to call someone?"

Like that. Over and over. I said, "Someone's going to come out here and take a picture of you," hoping that would encourage her to crawl on down the hall to her room. She said, "OH! WOULD YOU? AND SEND IT TO ME?"

So I did. Of course I didn't get her name or address so I could send it to her; I don't think any of us really had access to that information at the time. I did worry about them the next day--if you're 22, you can recover from that kind of drunkenness in a day or so. But when you're a grandmother? Oy. I hope she recovered in time to enjoy the rest of the weekend, because it was way too fabulous to spend in a dim room with a wet cloth on your forehead, chewing aspirin (I know this from reading James Lee Burk, where people often chew aspirin, which sounds only slightly better than eating dirt).

Then we spent Sunday afternoon at Satchmo Summerfest, listening to the Rebirth Brass Band and Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. It was hot and close, with tons and tons of people. And here's what I learned:

--Years ago I read a review of a movie set Down South, and the reviewer scoffed at directors' portrayals of Southerners as always being sweaty. He wrote that it's a cliche and that, In Real Life, there's always air conditioning in cars and houses and businesses and no real chance for people to be so sweaty all the time. He had obviously never been to New Orleans in the summer. It isn't that hot, but it's humid, and there are tons of people, and you're out walking. Many shops have antiquated ac systems, and it's often hotter inside than it is outside. You sweat. A lot. So you always carry either a fan, or a rag, or both. The men carry rags--either washcloths or hand towels or some kind of small, absorbent cloth. You use it to mop off your face and head; and, if you find cool water, you can wet it and use it to cool yourself down. If you're a woman, you carry a fan. Either those kind like funeral homes hand out so you won't fall out during the service, or the old-fashioned kind that fold up. During a break, we walked over to the French Market and bought a selection of the latter, and I spent the rest of the day and evening perfecting my dramatic Fan Flourishing Technique. I'm quite excellent at it now, after much practicing. Luckily for me, The EGE is a patient man, not given to fits of irritation at someone who keeps on flinging open a fan and then closing it with a snap, over and over and over. Walking on the street. In the hotel room. At dinner at A Nice Restaurant. In the car on the way home. Otherwise I'd be dead.

--people in New Orleans really do know how to have fun. It's hot, it's sweaty, there's nowhere to sit or lean or really even stand where air can get to you. But there we are, packed all together, listening to the The Rebirth Brass Band and then to Kermit Ruffins, and we're old (much older than I, even) and young (from babies to little kids who danced on stage) and black and white, rich and poor, drunk and sober--all dancing and clapping and having a grand time on a Sunday afternoon. Many of the people who come to Satchmofest are natives, rather than tourists (although I'm sure there are a lot of us, as well)--we've talked to them. Many of the people this year were Kermit's fans who see him all the time. The crowd had a fabulous time, all the way until closing. Just a little bit of that approach to life would do Midland a whole lot of good. Help some of these people loosen up just the teensiest little bit.
We left on Monday morning. As we pulled away from the hotel, The EGE stopped at the intersection of Bourbon and Orleans streets, opened the back door, took out the box that holds my mother's ashes, and waltzed with her in the intersection. He said he wanted to dance with her on Bourbon Street. It took me completely by surprise, and I had to scramble to find my little camera.