.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Conversation with the Voodoo Priest

This is probably some of the strangest, weirdest things you’re ever gonna hear. But intriguing, nevertheless. So beware.

Among the many crowded shops and apartments on Dumaine Street in the French Quarter on that lovely, unsinkable city of New Orleans there sits, almost unnoticeable, the intriguing Voodoo Museum. My footsteps winded down this antiquated street and into this museum; I was hoping to learn more about this rare mixture of religion and superstition called Voodoo.

Inside, the rooms were decorated with all types of masks and little figurines of West African origin. In the front room sat a large, older white man. It is my interaction with this man that is the subject of this note. For though, the man looked as normal as any good-natured grandfather and as banal as a computer programmer, he was a powerful Voodoo priest who related to me some very curious anecdotes.

What is unfortunate is that he gave me his card, but I don’t have the card with me and I completely forgot his name. So I will just call him the Voodoo Priest.

This Voodoo Priest lives with snakes. He has about 7 of them that he lets them run free up in his apartment above the museum. Most of them are pythons. One python is an albino. There, he lives, and sort of communes with all these snakes letting them slither every which way they want. I’m sure his sleep procedures are very interesting…well, as a matter of fact, I bet any type of procedure that goes on in his apartment is very interesting. To these snakes he holds absolute control over them. Except one, which is his pet Black Mamba, the most poisonous and deadliest snake in the entire world. With this dangerous pet, he keeps in a cage. All the other snakes respect him though, namely, because….well, and this may sound strange…but they know he to be one of them. Yes, this Voodoo priest is a not only a man but also a snake, a python, himself. That is what he would call his spiritual animal. What is ironic, is that before he told me this, the way he carried himself, his calm demeanor and his mesmerizing speech sort of reminded me of a snake. Then he related to me how during his priesthood initiation, in which he was the only white man to pass the final ceremony in West Africa, among the incense and the fires and the other priests, he took the form of a python. This is how the voodoo priests realize what their spiritual animal is.

Voodoo originally comes from the nation of Benin in West Africa. A large portion of the slaves that were brought over to the New World were into Voodoo. The practice of Voodoo never really died out but spread through much of the Caribbean and into the French settlement of New Orleans. This particular priest was not only a Voodoo priest, but was also brought up a druid, from the ancient Celtic pagan beliefs. His mother was initiated as a druid at Stonehenge. He went from the paganism from Europe to the paganism of Africa. And finds some type of synthesis between the two.

Of Voodoo Dolls and Hexing People
Voodoo dolls were more or less used for helping people. But particularly in New Orleans the idea of cursing one with the pin-prick became popular. Many of the shops in New Orleans sell these dolls but they also sell their services at hexing people. That witch, that I met earlier had advertisement for this service. This Voodoo priest doesn’t agree with the readiness of some of these practitioners of hexing people. He said it was evil to indulge in. I got a since that he didn’t really like that witch; that he didn’t respect her.
I asked him if had ever hexed anyone. He said that twice he has been mugged in the French Quarter. Once with a gun and once with a knife. Well, these thieves touched him and from that point on he can work all types of things. He told me he would hate to be those guys. I asked him what did he do to retaliate. He pointed to this African looking figurine up above a mantle shelf and said, “You see that figure. –That little god watches over this place if anybody does me any harm, I can send that god to give that person the worst nightmares…so horrible in fact that they will be induced to commit suicide.”

Of Zombies and Bad Bad Mojo
I have heard stores about how in Voodoo it is possible to raise the dead. I asked him about this. He said that it is done but that it is not a very good thing. They can only do it to a person that they drug with the poison of a blowfish and only within the first 3 days of their death. And then what is galvanized is not the person like they were before. But a zombie that has no will of its own. A slave that will serve the practitioner in complete submission. He mentioned that there is a very, powerful dark Voodoo Queen that used to live in New Orleans but since Katrina, has moved to a little town in deep Canjun country called, New Iberia. This Voodoo Queen has filed all of her teeth to a point and supposedly has one of these zombies that is her slave. He told me that he has seen her bring back a dog the same way. I asked him about this Queen. He told me that she was the most evil, dark-hearted person that he knows. That she will hex death curses on people at the drop of a hat. He said that one day this Italian man came in his shop asking where he could find this Voodoo Queen. The Priest asked why he wanted to know where she lived. The Italian wouldn’t answer directly, but said that he had some business. The Priest wouldn’t give him the information because he knew how stupid it was of this Italian man to approach this dark queen. All the while, when the Voodoo Priest is telling me these things that strange sense of calmness and earnestness resonated in all of his speech.

Of Spirit Possession
I always heard about how Voodoo practitioners had evoked a spirit to come into them under certain rituals. I asked him about this. He said that that happens when someone who hasn’t researched Voodoo enough suddenly opens that door. For once that door is open to that particular spiritual realm and the person is a novice, anything can come through. Then he told me the creepiest of stories. This priest does exorcisms also. One time he was called up North to cast a demon out. Whatever was inside the girl was extremely powerful. The Catholic priest that had tried to cast the demon out, ended up in an insane asylum. Then, this Voodoo priest looked point blank at me and said that he knew it was to be the spirit of Satan himself. I gasped. He said that he couldn’t cast the spirit out but that it ended up killing the girl and thus finally freeing the girl’s spirit from that of her capturer.

Of Other Likewise Weird Things
Our conversation bounced around such topics. Eventually he started talking about a great catastrophe that was about to occur in the 2012. What is interesting, is that his predictions correlate, with an ancient Mayan belief that in that same year horrible calamities were to occur. He then said, what many Christians would say, that God just simply wants to be remembered and that we have forgotten Him.

He eventually started to tell me that he knew that I was at a crossroads in my life that I was in a job that I didn’t really see as my career…but I was only in it to pay the bills. He told me that I would be one of the survivors of the year 2012. I knew that he wanted me to become a customer of his and pay for a real reading in which he would tell me so much more… I will admit that it was enticing. Why didn’t I do it? I simply didn’t want to open that door.

In Conclusion
The entire religion of Voodoo is based on the fact that the Creator-God is so distant; he doesn’t get involved with his creation. But there are spiritual entities between us and him and that man must persuade to do things.. That is where rituals occur to manipulate these spirits.

Praise be to our God who is not distant. Who is both here and now and is more powerful than the wickedest queen and evil spirit and who is more caring and closer than the kindest little demigod. That persuasion is not an option, nor manipulation. But that grace is everywhere and anywhere. That Jesus Christ is that door to that spiritual realm where none will be forsaken none will be chained, and none will be enslaved. Where His accessibility is open to all. Where darkness doesn’t have its shadow and Light has its full day. Where all hope, all truth, all joy, all forgiveness, all wonderment, all beauty, all peace, and all love dwells and calls us His own.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Witchcraft in the Streets

If a person who just so happens to be on Bourbon Street, and is not really into all types of debauchery, drunken revelries, promiscuous liaisons, total nudity and half-nudity, senseless carousing, mind-altering inducements, licentious depravity, hints of fornication, more hints of fornication, fornication in the streets, and fornication anywhere you like fornication, then that person begins to seek for the lesser (or the greater; it depends on how you look at it.) of the two evils.

Nevertheless, instead of indulging in the vigilant booze and boobs mentality of this notorious street, I found myself more and more drawn to the more mysterious spirit of this place, in this city of New Orleans. On attempting at finding a good metaphor for the French Quarter, I would say that this mysterious spirit is its undergarment, except you know as well I, that particularly Bourbon Street would rather throw out the undergarment altogether. So my metaphor flops.

-But this spirit that I keep referring to is the intriguing practice of Voodoo. Once again, perhaps I am wrong in calling it a pervasive spirit of the French Quarter. Most of the travelers here are unaware of what Voodoo really is, and are in no way governed by it. Their spirit is that of riotous fun. Their god is Pan. Their priest…Epicurus. Voodoo is a neat trinket, a nifty knick-knack for them that they hold at lesser value than the New Orleans shot glass they bought beside it. It was the real practitioners of this art, that I was curious about, not the consumerism of it. And maybe that’s a difficult dividing point. With Christianity it can be as well, but you see the difference is that Christianity thrives best when this division is made. (I have many who raise their hands in support of this idea; one of these hands, of which, is nail-scarred.) The practice of Voodoo and many other pagan beliefs thrive best when the two are mingled together. I honestly believe that if Voodoo didn’t make such a hot touristy impression then there would be no Voodoo...at least in this country. Our nation’s god of Consumerism would stamp it out...if Voodoo didn’t bow to this more sovereign power.

I found myself peeking into the shops at the fantastic odds and ends. -The infamous dolls and the many primitive grotesque figurines. I noticed the tarot card and palm readers line the courtyard outside a cathedral. Questions arose. What gets a person into these sorts of things? I wonder what their story is. –And, the clergy of this cathedral, what are their thoughts on this?

One shop I went into and I deliberately asked what had pulled her into Voodoo. Well, she corrected me. She was not Voodoo; she was a witch. Her friend and co-worker, who was also inside the shop was not Voodoo either. She was “nondenominational”. (I didn’t ask, but I seriously wondered what that was supposed to mean; and I assure you she wasn’t talking about a nondenominational Christian.) A fellow in the back was pointed at as being some type of mystic. (Again, another tricky word that can be attached to any religion.) The interesting thing about this New Age shop was that no one really cared about what you believed in; it was all a matter of how you perceived this belief. That is how you received your label...not in any way from whether or not you believed in a huge sea-turtle that has swallowed the cosmos or not, but in what ways you accepted or communed with this belief. The witch was very methodical. She saw her craft as science. The nondenominational was open to this idea, but also felt a lot of other things. The mystic threw his arms up in the air in bewilderment and got up and walked further back into the backroom he was already in. Maybe, I am being bold here, but maybe you can tell there is not much behind a belief when it is primarily based on the way “you” call the shots, and apprehend, and categorize everything…when the entire value is on the believer and not the “It’ of what the believer believes.

The witch, I couldn’t get her to converse with me. She is usually paid to move her mouth and seeing how I wasn’t paying, not to mention she was a witch, she seemed slightly bothered by me. The nondenominational was more open and started describing all the wonderful and not-so wonderful things about gris-gris (Herbs and special powder used for incantations), when all of a sudden this slight jarring was going on inside of me. This was not physical. -Something spiritual. –Something similar to a void yawning open. Just then words fell into my thoughts, “What am I doing here?” In complete reaction, inside my thoughts, while starring point blank at this fortune-teller as she rambled on about gris-gris, I thought the name, “Jesus” and next I thought, “Jesus, forgive me” or “Jesus, draw me nearer to you.” And then in complete reaction to this name, it almost seemed that the atmosphere around me was revolting at my thought. There was this inner shaking. It may have been my imagination. –But I left that store as soon as I could. Outside, I coughed and had to shake myself a bit. “Okay”, so I thought, “I won’t be going back into any fortune-teller huts, intruding on them and inquiring about this and that.” Of course, this didn’t quiet my inquisitive mind about Voodoo at all...they’ll be more about this later.

So far, I think I have given the French Quarter of New Orleans a bad name. It is not all so. I am very driven to that place. –And most of my spare time in New Orleans, I spend it walking those streets. They remind me of a foreign country. And I love that foreign country feel. There is an amazing vitality throbbing down the avenues, bristling at the cafes. I can’t really put my finger on it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Vampire Legends of New Orleans

New Orleans is an eerie place. It’s so Gothic in one sense. So dangerous in another. Altogether, it’s highly mysterious. I mentioned in my last note that I had gone on a vampire tour in the French Quarter, so I felt it mandatory that share with you what was given to my ears. Why? Being frightened is better when you can share the experience, and seeing how it is Saturday, and I am back in Baton Rouge with nothing better to do, I thought I would write these stories down.

A certain mysterious man walked the streets of New Orleans a few decades ago. But for the subject matter at hand, our story stretches further back to France in the illustrious 1700’s. For there was also a certain, mysterious man who charmed the courts of Europe. His name was the Comte Saint Germaine. –A very strange, extraordinary, enigmatical character. He was a master of the piano and the violin. Could converse in 6 different languages. His skills as a conversationalist were unrivaled. (a skill that is nowadays a lost art.) His wealth unfathomable; He carried gems around in his clothing. And no one knew how he came into such wealth. No one knew anything about his family, where he came from and who he was. One of his greatest passions was alchemy. And he was believed to have an extraordinary talent for not aging. Maybe it was his vast knowledge of cosmetics and herbs. The philosopher Voltaire called him, “the man who knows everything and who never dies.” No one really knows his age. He looked about 40. And continued to do so for over half a century. As charming and engaging as he was, and how he graced the dinner table of many dukes and kings even, no one had ever saw him eat anything. Only sip his wine, exquisitely, and ramble on about everything from history to chemistry. To this day, this mysterious figure has his own occult following. From theosophists to complete way-out-there mystics. He was purported to die in the year 1784, though no one ever really saw his death. And some claim to have seen him many years after this date. But nevertheless, he disappeared from court life (I would too if I knew that the French Revolution was coming; which some people claim he did have knowledge of).

Fast forward to the 1920’s in the jazz-raving city called New Orleans and there appears a man by the name of Jacques Saint Germaine. And in almost every caliber of description this same character matches that of the Comte above. Around 40 years of age, with heavy, heavy money bags, and the most fascinating of dinner guests. And still a complete mystery as to who he was and where he came from. He would throw lavish parties and invite all the proper and elite. Everyone would sit there divulged in the conversation and the food, and curiously enough, this Jacques would never eat a morsel, only sip his wine.
But one night he had a lady stay a bit late and out on his balcony this Saint Germaine grabbed her and tried to bite her neck. She escaped by falling from the balcony and then ran and reported the incident to the police. When the police actually decided to do something about it, Jacques Saint Germaine had entirely vanished. They searched his apartment and they found certain tablecloths and each of them laid out with large splotches of blood on them. They searched the kitchen. No sign of food or that food had ever been there. All they found where bottles of wine. And after pouring themselves a glass, drinking it, and then spitting it out, the authorities, vouched that this was not only wine in these bottles, but wine mixed with human blood.

New Orleans leads our nation’s murder rate. Not only that, but it has always been a notorious place for missing persons. –That is, people just disappearing and no one really knowing what has happened to them. It has been the influx of all the diverse culture that makes New Orleans what it is, that has enabled, perhaps some of the unlucky to be overlooked between the intermingling of the cultures. The blood of the French, the Spanish, the Indian, the African, the Creole, the English, all mixed together here where the mosquito is not so picky. Nor perhaps, other creatures.

John and Wayne Carter were brothers. Seemed to be normal in every aspect. Had normal labor jobs down by the river and lived on a street in the French Quarter. It was the 1930’s and times were hard. So a man worked all he could and rested when he could. One day, a girl was reported to have escaped from the Carter brothers’ apartment, and ran to the authorities. Her wrists were cut. Not enough to cause immediate death, but more so, to drain slowly of that red source of life, over the course of several days. The policemen ran to this 3rd story apartment and found 4 others tied to chairs with their wrists sliced in the same fashion also. Some had been there for many days. The story was that both of these brothers had abducted each of them and would drink their blood at the end of every day when they came home from work. They also found about 14 other dead bodies. The cops waited that night for the return of the brothers and when they did, it took 7 to 8 of them to hold down these two averaged size men who had been doing manual labor all day. A few years later when they were finally executed, the bodies were placed in a New Orleans vault. Cemeteries in New Orleans are fanciful in their own making. Not only are they more ornate than the rest of our nation’s, but they recycle them using the same vault over and over again. The remains sift down into the back, bottom of the vault, when it is all rubble, and the new body is slid inside. After many years, they were placing some other Carter in this grave and what they found in the vault was nothing. No John or Wayne. They were gone. To this day, many sightings have occurred in the French Quarter that match the descriptions of these two brothers almost exactly. Years later, an owner of their apartment, saw two figures that resembled them outside on their balcony one night whispering to each other. Both figures jumped off the top of the 3rd story balcony and took off running.

The rumor is that if a vampire drinks of your blood 7 nights in a row, then and only then can you become a vampire. Some of those kidnapped in the Carter brothers apartment had been there over 7 days. One warped fellow, named Felipe, went on to become one of the nation’s biggest serial killer. And of course, he would do more than just kill them, he was believed to drink all 32 of his victims’ blood.

During the early colonization days of New Orleans, France was having a hard time getting women to go over there. (One of the necessities for building any colony). This was mostly due to the fact that the men originally sent to New Orleans were all sorts of thieves and murderers, and culprits of every type and cast. (Not to mention all the snakes, the alligators, mosquitos, and humidity). Eventually some women were sent, (some sources say they were almost nuns, some say they were prostitutes) but nevertheless few of them made it. Many of them stayed in Mobile, Alabama when their voyaging ship ported there and they were told what type of riff-raff they were almost tricked into marrying. However, these girls had the most interesting of portmanteaus. They were shaped like little coffins. So, to the New Orleans men’s dismay all that arrived in New Orleans were 300 of these coffin-like suitcases. Some stories say they are empty, some say they contained the undead. To this day they are reported being kept in the attic in a convent in the French Quarter where the windows to this attic are nailed shut because they have a strange way of just opening by themselves. Years and years later, in 1978, two amateur reporters demanded to the priest to let them in and see these coffins. The priest, of course, denied their entrance. So one night these two men attempted a stake out on the convent premises. They climbed over a wall with their entire recording equipment and set up their workstation. The next morning, on that very street was found strewn about, the reporters’ equipment. And there on the front porch of the convent’s door steps were found the almost decapitated bodies of these two men. 80% of their blood was gone. This is scientifically impossible for any normal murderer to accomplish. It baffles investigators to this day and this crime is still completely unsolved.

Such are the stories that were told to me a few nights ago, and the reason it was hard for me to get to sleep. We were also shown certain settings of the movie “Interview With A Vampire” which was set in New Orleans. An intriguing movie based on a New Orleans author Anne Rice.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Very Own Series of Unfornate Events Ever Since I Crossed That Dad-Gum Mississippi

I have bounded into Louisiana, Cajun Country, the Bayou State, Little Old France, Whatever you would like to call it...and it has not been pretty. Hoodoo or Voodoo or some other ill such luck has attached itself to my sojourn here. Nearly every couple of hours I feel that ghastly, phantom pin-prick. I'm mishap's doll...that's what I am. It's amazing how we tend to tie inanimate objects to the mercurial outcomes of this incongruent life. A favorite pair of shorts or underwear, a baseball glove, a pair of shoes. I'll even catch myself doing it the other way. With bad objects..that if you use this or wear this...this catastrophe could very will be the outcome. But I guess I'm revealing to you all, with shame you understand, how superstitious I truly am. But then there is location-luck, you know you'll go to a town or a restaraunt and everything will just flow. But then you'll go to other places and everything will just sink. So far Louisiana has been a rather consistence experience of sinking. Almost getting quaint in its regularity. (Not as loathsome as my time in Poland, however;which was a horror story in its own right.)
My first exposure to everything not being right was when I crossed that Mississippi. I can't remember what Parish it was, something French sounding and something in the middle of nowhere. My destination was this little town called Leesville where I was to build the Walgreen's store there a rack. Well, naturally, I get lost. County roads (excuse me, parish roads)have a way of dissolving into each other. So many intersections. So few attention on the driver's part to see all those signs and numbers whizzing by. I guess this is my fault, being highly engrossed in an audio book about the Civil War (the kind you find at Cracker Barrel)...so instead of seeing road signs, I'm envisioning Confederate soldiers and Union generals. And somehow I wind up where neither one of these would dare to trod. -Desolate Swamplands, while the night turns purple deepening into dusk. Eventually I come upon civilization and it is the city of Alexandria (Little did I know, I should have returned to the swamp). This city I shall not spend too much time grumbling about, but educate the reader that if you are passing this way go straight through it until you get to Baton Rouge...don't even stop. The way the roads are designed(or not designed) really makes you have to think of driving as more of a chess game than a source of transportation. The city's main streets straddle the main Louisiana highway and its like dodging sprinklers when crossing the street. I don't know how many illegal turns I made in this city. My arrival was sort of late and nearly all the hotels were booked. Inn after inn, I was turned down as I darted back and forth all over these jumbled up roads like an anxious nativity scene, but without a star to show me the way. Finally, I came upon a room.
But I couldn't sleep. It was a slightly cheap room and the air conditioner was very vocal about this. Making its presence surely known every time it switched on or off. Every time I was about to doze off, it would do one or the other and I would be jarred out of my slumbers. I soon developed a complex called the air-conditioner turning on or off complex, (it's not a very fun complex to have) and just the apprehension of this noisy interruption kept me awake. Well...sort of. I dozed in and out of sleep. So I can't even tell if I slept more than 2 or 3 hours. That night's a mystery to me. I just remember about 4 o'clock I got really mad and decide to confront this vocal air conditioner, so I begin pushing all types of buttons very hastily (I may have even banged on it a couple of times; like I said that night was a blur; and you see this is embarrassing for me, you guys seeing my temper)but I end up breaking the air conditioner. Or maybe (and this is what I suspect)it just decided to scorn me all together and stop working. Well, its Louisiana. And there's no way a person can sleep in a room without air-conditioning. So I storm out and decide to check out a bit early. And the sad thing is that only 30 minutes before, I had taken a Tylonel PM which helps me get drowsy. For some reason, the computer's downstairs were deciding not to work either and so it was announced to me that I couldn't be checked out. So I just sat there...my jaw dropped at the hotel attendant (I was too tired and already had my explosion to vent in any further) until suddenly the computer starting working and I could check out and leave that dreadful hotel.

I decide "This is a perfect early morning for WaffleHouse. Kind of makes it all worth while." But wouldn't it have to be....that there's not a single WaffleHouse within the vicinity, only an IHOP. So I drag my tired, despairing self to IHOP. I sit in the booth trying to read, attempting to write something, while smacking on some sausage links. I guzzle down coffee. But to no avail. I was so tired. I thought for sure I specifically asked for Caffienated. But I was almost using my Swedish Crepe as a pillow. Something was wrong here. I'm normally very stimulated by caffiene but it almost had the opposite effect. I went to my car, drove to a nearby parking lot, wrapped a blanket about me, and reclined the seat back. Nearly 2 hours later I wake up in a sweat with the Louisiana sun much higher in the sky, beaming down on me. The air conditioner had been off and I was seating in this oven asleep the whole time. And then I'm itching. And this is where I'm really going to embarass myself, but I think I sat on some poison hemlock last weekend at the Highland Games, while I was wearing only a kilt. So I believe I sat on some sort of poisonous plant completely bare-cheeked. And so I have that itching going on back there. (Of course, I didn't notice this until I got into Louisiana.)

I drive another hour until I get to Leesville and find out that the shipment had not arrived yet. So I have more time to kill. And I must check email. I had to find out what stores I needed to go to down here in New Orleans. I had no clue otherwise. So I go to the Leesville Public Library and try to run off copies but they don't have Excel, so great...after I set up this store, I have no clue at where in New Orleans I'm to drive to. The shipment finally arrives at that Leesville store and it takes me all afternoon to set it up.

So I'm tired, I'm clueless, and I'm itching and there was nothing for me to do but drive further down into the bayous of Lousiana.
I opt on a night in Baton Rouge at a better hotel. I find a computer with a printer. And I have some country-fried steak for dinner. (Things are looking up again). But then on a whim to drive to the store later that night, I happen to swerve a tad off the road right where the road is broken up and jagged. Had it been a few feet ahead or behind, I would have missed this razor asphalted bear-trap. But no, I hit it dead on...and my right front tire immediately rips. Fortunately, I wasn't far from my hotel. So I just drive the half a mile back to my hotel, my car sort of lopsided. It's much like the lyrics of that great Janis Joplin song..."Busted flat in Baton Rouge..." (How many people do you know can say that they lived out that very lyric?) However,at that time I didn't have such thoughts. I was ticked. It meant that the next day I had to get a new tire...which meant getting up early...again. I was in a dark, bitter cloud and dang it, I needed some cortizone creme to rub on my backside. I thought to unwind a bit. So I go to this hotel bar and decide that I really need to loosen myself up. All I get is a margarita. I do not know what kind of tequila they put in the thing. But I do know, and yet this is also to my utmost embarrasment, that I have the weakest constitution when it comes to alcohol. This stems from complete lack of experience in drinking; (it may also be that tiny shred of Native American finally showing up somewhere; either ways my Scotch-Irish nor German genes didn't contribute to this side of me.) I guess the good thing is that I was no longer angry. The bad thing was that I was half drunk. I know...I know...its girlish. Laugh at me if you will. The fact that I only had ONE margarita and i felt my feet were almost walking on the ceiling. I went to my room and passed out.

The next day, I get up and change my tire. All the while this Mexican is staring at me, wrestling with the lugnuts to get them off. I go to Walmart and get a new tire. $100 gone. And I make sure I buy some Cortizone Creme. So there I was in the back stall in the Men's room at a Wal-Mart, applying cortizone to my itchy hindparts on a muggy day in Baton Rouge while my flat tire was being replaced. Could life get any worse? Folks, the next time you undergo hard times...remember this. Compare your situation to this and feel good that you have not stooped to this level.

The rest of the day goes by and I get to New Orleans. Things get better and still are. But last night, I went to this Vampire Tour in the French Quarters and to be completely honest, and once again to my severe chagrin, I admit to you...that I could not sleep last night again...because the willies was scared out of me. Don't laugh. I think I have some sort of phobia of the undead. Nothing scares me more. (Only when I'm trying to sleep) So everytime I would turn the lamp off, my vivid imagination would come out to play...and I would see phantoms sitting in the room with me all covered in blood, waiting for me to doze off so that they could feast on my own blood. Yes, silly, very silly. But I guess, if you haven't picked that up about me that than you are not very literate. So it is now 6:30 in the morning and I have not slept a wink. I wrote this instead. I guess, its time to go to Wafflehouse.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Weekend in a Kilt

Chasing one's heritage is like chasing a particular cloud in the sky. Always far off and nebulous, when you have locked your eyes on one, it quickly melts into another and then another until you are not really sure which was your cloud to begin with. Our heritage is very much like that…as phantom wisps of the intangible….skirting over us some lost, ambiguous, dream world.

I went to the Scottish Highland Games, not because of an ecstatic desire to commune with the lost relics of my ancestry. –But more for the sake of curiosity, to live as I always tend to, just for the heck and the adventure of it. Now, I do have some Scottish ancestry, flowing, here and there, in these veins, patches of plaid blood. But this root shoot was all a very, very, long time ago. And like a lot of us, I’m an intricate knot of British Isle extraction, with here and there splotches of a Continental European make-up, throw in that tangled tree a Creek or Cherokee Indian or two and you have the gnarly genealogy of a true Southern man.

So I went to this Highland Games up in the mountains of northern Georgia along with two friends of mine Nathan Martin and Matt Hughes, neither one of them of particularly strong Scottish backgrounds as well, but all of us had one in thing in common. We all wanted to wear a kilt. -And that is probably all that matters.

There must be 1,7683 different tartan styles of kilts and only 1 way to wear them.
-That is with both feet on the ground. One leg up and you are promptly displaying more clan heritage than any Scotsman has ever worn on the outside of his kilt. For it is true, as a rule, a man is not supposed to wear anything under his kilt. This makes sitting down much more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Women and females, I admire you, I never knew how much of a strategy it was for you to sit down. It was either one of two techniques 1) the Keep Your Legs Glued Together Formation which can become uncomfortable for us males or 2) the Formation, Spread Your Legs So Wide That Your Sporran Pouch and Kilt Censure Any Nudity, which is a formation that is a bit bold in its operation, but oh so very comfortable.

Now, the way most kilts go is that you wear the plaid design (tartan) of your particular clan, but seeing how the 3 of us were of splotchy Scottish lineage we really couldn’t just claim ourselves to be in one clan. As fun as this may be, this may have made some of the real clansmen that were there a bit angry. So we each bought our own separate tartan. I went with the Royal Stewart Tartan, which if you know your history books is the King of Scotland’s very own tartan. If you’re going to buy a kilt you might as well go for the gold, don’t settle for less, shoot for the highest. Nathan wore a hunting tartan of the same lineage. (different colors but same clan; we both were very fortunate that the Stewart clan was not at these Games; they may have been miffed.) And Matt wore a hunting tartan for the ever popular MacLeod clan. (you know the Highlander on TV, his clan.) Later, we soon came to realize how less stringent these clan rules are. The majority of the people there in their clans trace themselves ever so freely, finding great-grandmothers and far-off uncles as links into the clans that they so proudly devote themselves to. The 3 of us, with a lawyer’s mentality, could probably do that as well. But no, we decided to band together and start our own clan. Some of you may laugh, but this can be done. There was one clan there that did that just recently and could historically back themselves up, stating that all the clans were started so. You have a family and then you have devotees to that family…that is the definition of a clan. So on June 10th , 2007, we created the clan MacAwesome. And it is everything that can possibly live up to that name.

The clan MacAwesome did attend the actual athletic events of the Highland Games, but they didn’t participate. Nope, we were too skinny for such burly feats of strength. For that was all the Games were, huge, muscle-bound giants throwing big rocks and large hay bales the highest and the farthest. The most impressive of these feats is the caber toss which is this huge log that the Scottish athlete has to throw making one end fall over the other. I was almost hit in the face with one…that was the extent of my participation. I was really bummed out about the unfairness of it all. I don’t mean to make fun of Scottish tradition, but it seems a bit odd having sports on how far you can toss a rock. Weeks before, I wrote an official of these games showing my concern that it really wasn’t fair for us more slender constitutions. Because what could we participate in? I asked him about wrestling, perhaps, something that involved not only strength but agility and speed and quick-thinking. I also mentioned even fighting with pointed sticks. But his response was curt. He said that Highland Games had always been this way for centuries. So I came to the Games understanding that the fish and chip line was the only competition that I’d be in.

All in all, I learned many things from this past weekend. It is a wonder how far the sound of bagpipes can travel, it is also a wonder how haggis can actually taste good (and it can). It is enlightening to me that actually the idea of a man wearing a skirt is maybe the way it should be. I believe we may have things reversed wrongly nowadays. A girl…skirt, a guy…pants. But I only ask you to contemplate anatomy for a split second and realize that the man should be the one wearing the skirt. It finally makes perfect sense. I also find it intriguing that William Wallace was not even a Highlander but a Lowland Scot who never wore a kilt. It is also an education to me to know that the true Celts (the ancestors of the Scots, Irish, and Welsh) were originally the blondest people to begin with, not the red-haired people we take them for. This was important for me, for walking around these clans I felt more like a Scandinavian invader than a true Scotsman. It is nice to also know, how much a conversation piece a kilt can be when you wear it out in public away from the Highland Games. This was always fun. And I learned so many more things that I don’t even know what to write. So I will leave it at that.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

My Walt Disney World Escapade.....Part 2

A Continuation from the previous note…

So our eyes locked and he knew…he had to know that I was indeed sneaking into Walt Disney World. There is that split second of a decision that is to be made where the seconds stretch themselves into an eternity and a thousand possibilities jam and collide into each other, of which a few become so vivid that inside your head you sit their entranced as to the possible venue that you could take. My first, and finest impulse was to run. To flee back into the woods. Just to get…one step ahead of the lawmen, That’s all and that’s no joke, These guys don’t appreciate I’m broke, One trick ahead of disaster,
They’re quick, but I’m much faster. Here goes better throw my hand in.
Wish me happy landin’. All I gotta do is jump.
And of course they would shout at me, “Riffraff! Street Rat! Scoundrel!” But you know I just don’t buy that.

But running away would place me in a mean measure. And escape would be very, very slim. My other option would be to go the route to evoke their pity. Maybe clutch the fence and stare dreamily at the other side and with my wistful eyes communicate my desire to be up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun, wanderin’ free, wish I could be, part of that world. However, this route was highly unlikely with tough security officials even if they do work at Disney.
“You sir, what are you doing in there?” the man said.
“I’m exploring” I responded in an upbeat manner.
“H-how did you get in there?”
“Why, I went through the gate that’s kinda, sorta open way over there.”
“Do you have a ticket!?”
“Nope.” And before I could say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious half the Disney security militia was on the seen. It became the Fox surrounded by a bunch of Hounds. I was tired. I was thirsty. And I’m not as young as I used to be. The Brian Harrison of a few years past would have risked it and jumped back into the forest and narrowly escaped or been doggedly defeated. I was a radical. No middle road. But that sprightly time has elapsed and what Tarzan-like juvenilia I have lost, now is replaced by that adult super ability, my own honed and mature powers of negotiation, which was at its highest pitch. No need to run. I’ll talk my way out of this one. Just a little misunderstanding. That’s all.

So I threw on my wit and charm. It is the only thing one can do in such chim-chiminey circumstances. It was my genie in a bottle, my star that I cast my wish, that made no difference of where or what dire situation I was in. The security tried unlocking one of the gate doors, but they didn’t have a key. So I volunteered to show them the way I got in. Every help that I gave them, they maybe could perhaps return the favor. So with this large barbwire fence between them and me. I began to follow the fence around which was on the outskirts of this forest. They sent a tall black old man that reminded me of Morgan Freeman. -He was kindly like that. And so I began to talk to him as best that I could. Become personable with him even with the fence between the two of us. He on the outside and I locked on the inside. We eventually came to the door that I had sort of clambered through The other security had followed by vehicle.
“So you climbed over the fence?”
“Well, more or less, went through the opening.”
“You climbed the fence.”
“No, its kind of an opening that I slipped through ”
Every definition here was important. If I climbed over the fence then it was a direct blame placed upon my willful intentions. However, if I passed through their opening, part of the blame goes onto why they do not keep their own gates completely shut. I should’ve been a lawyer. And every word that escaped my lips, I accompanied it with a playful grin. And I was pretty sure that they were letting their guard down towards me.

Next, the head honcho arrived. She was a bulky blonde lady who had that aura of bossiness about her in which you find most women who carry such security jobs. This was going to be tough. I called to her from the distance and began my schmoozing. I had to become a sort of Jack Sparrow that had walked out of that ride in that park and was making his swaggering attempt at talking himself at of yet another bleak adventure.

“I can see that I’m at odds as to the situation, but regardless of why I’m back here, I’ve got a pretty good idea for a new ride…you could call it ‘Sneaking Into Walt Disney World’ where all the tourists hop over fences and run through a forest being chased by alligators.”

“Listen if you just let me out, I’ll pay the 70 dollars and we can forget about the whole thing. –And then you guys can let me in this wonderful park. All I really care about is getting a snowcone right now and maybe riding a ride or two.”

The Lady then said that she had to wait on the County to get there. I gulped. That was not good. “The County?!...Now, there’s no reason to go and bother them. This is just a little mishap that we both can work out. I’m sure they’re busy with very important things. You know like Florida forest fires and crack dealings.”

“Well”, the lady responded, “ I need to run a background check on you. Make sure you’re not a terrorist or anything.” And with this she gave me a flirtatious smile.

And I replied with sarcasm, “Yes, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed terrorist.”

“Ha!” she laughed, “a blue-eyed terrorist.” And she delivered that same grin to me. Yes, make no big deal out of it and consider myself cocky, but if we were in different circumstances I would be well on my way to having her number in minutes. It was working.

“Okay, so what if I offer you the $70 for the ticket….plus I buy two Mickey Mouse T-shirts…one for myself and one for my sister. And I’ll go home….and you won’t have to worry about pressing charges…that sort of thing.”

But she was resolute on waiting for the County which was taking its sweet time. At this time, I noticed that I could be arrested for one of the dumbest things a person could be arrested for. Where was my Jiminy Cricket warning me about this before? So while I was on this side of the fence with the gators and they were on the other…I prayed. “God…I know that this is all stupidity on my part. But please don’t let me get arrested.” And then I felt reassured that I wouldn’t be spending time in a jail cell. Eventually, the deputies cars rolled up and three real officers jumped out. They took my license and did a background check while I still remained locked in the swamp. They, of course, found nothing…maybe a bad speeding record. And then they unlocked the gate..not to let me out…but to let themselves in. They spread eagled me on the fence and did their police frisk. Quite embarrassing with the occasional family van that passed by the adjacent road. Next, they explained to me that it was up to the head security…that lady…whether or not I was charged with anything. (in my opinion, a good sign). They took me outside the gate where everyone else stood and then they made me sit down.

A speech followed by one of the Orange County officers. “The Disney World people are some of the nicest people you can find. The sweetest, kindest people….but if you cross Disney and you make them upset then they will retaliate and they will not take kindly to you. And Disney”, he said with utmost solemnity, “you have made upset right now. You match descriptions of some recent occurrences around here.”

This shocked me. There was this one Disney employee among the others that was large and portly. He was the only one that I didn’t seem to rub a good vibe onto. He was the only one who truly seemed upset. I looked over at him, knowing that he had to be the vindictive authority here, “Is this true?” I sheepishly asked this man, betraying a sense of hurt in my voice. The fat man responded huffly. “Yes” and then looked away.

But this was not really true. Authority figures, whether policemen or security have a way of amplifying disappointment and suspicion. They exaggerate one’s crossness and seriousness to cause fear. All vital steps to make you feel a threat so that you will not do it again. I agree with their measures though it is a little misleading. All you can do is just be as honest and as respectful as you can and you will pass through.

Then the deputy announced my sentence. “You are hereby given a warning by Orange County for trespassing and you are banned from all Disney property, studios, or stores in any state or country. If there is a failure to comply, if you walk onto any Disney property you can be immediately arrested for breaking this ban.”

It was in one sense a relief. In another a condemned pronouncement. No Disney. I spoke up, “What if 10 years from now I have a family and we come to Disney, I can still be arrested right on the spot?”

“Yes, but you can call in the future and get Disney to lift the ban. It’s all up to Disney.”

Next, they took my picture and my fingerprints and was going to escort me to my car. I had to ride in the back of the deputy’s vehicle.

“This is the part where I have to watch my head, right?” I said before I climbed in.

“Yeah, you must have been through this many times before.”
“No, I just watch Cops” I said with a grin. He took me to my car and then suspicions were aroused again as to how I knew to park there….as though I had done this many times before. I told them that I just drove around until I found it. They said alright and they let me go. And I drove off that property thanking God and perhaps still thinking to myself Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally, Golly what a day.