Unmasking

November 9th, 2011 by Editor B

Ancestor’s Dinner

A bit discombobulated and disconnected for this recent holiday. Perhaps that’s because I was traveling just before — the POD Network traditionally has their conference at the end of October, and this one was combined with the annual conference of the HBCU Faculty Development Network, and we mustered our biggest contingent (four) ever. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I got back to New Orleans last Sunday and immediately baked some pumpkin bread. Persephone came home from a friend’s with a Disney Snow White costume on. “Uh oh,” I thought. Sure enough, she refused to wear the costume lovingly made by hand by her grandmother (an Air Princess) because she was dead set on Snow White for Halloween. It’s amazing how much Disney princess stuff has infiltrated our lives even though we haven’t bought any. Truly, we live in the Age of Cheap Crap.

Even so, it was magical to follow my daughter around on a short jaunt through the neighborhood. It was her first night to ever do this and she was enchanted, as befits Snow White. Many of our neighbors were waiting on their porches, enjoying the flow of kids in costume. It’s a tradition to cherish, even as rampant commercialization threatens to spoil it and everything else we celebrate.

Masking

But I have to wonder: How many of my neighbors understand what Halloween really is? The “een” part gives us a clue. “E’en” is a contraction for “evening,” as in the evening before. So many of these ancient holidays begin the night before. The actual event is the next day. Christmas Eve has always seemed to me one of the most magical nights of the Christian calendar. How many of my neighbors celebrate the day after Halloween?

Well, actually, quite a few. This is New Orleans after all. The next day used to be a holiday at the University and dammit, I took the day off. It should still be a holiday in my opinion. When I passed by St. Patrick #1 on a quick errand that morning I saw plenty of people tending their family crypts.

My main activity of the day was masking of a different sort: covering up some lead paint. There were two strips on either side of our porch, about one inch wide and maybe ten feet tall, which the painters missed. I’ve been meaning to address these areas for a couple years now, ever since I noticed them. I used duct tape to remove as many paint flakes as I could. Then I covered everything up with a thick coat of high-quality primer, and ultimately a topcoat of paint.

Given that these two strips face outward to the sides of the house, where we never spend any time, this was probably not a critical fix, but I certainly feel better now that it’s finally done. I’m confident the lead paint will stay contained for years, by which time Persephone will be past the most vulnerable phases of her development.

Ancestor’s Dinner

That night we shared a delicious family dinner. Corn and tomatoes with bread. Our special guest: Glenn Dee Petty, 1923-1990, Xy’s dear departed grandmother. The main dish was one which Xy remembers Glenn Dee preparing. We had a place set for her with a photo on display. As we ate, Xy shared various memories. Since Persephone never met any of her great-grandparents, this is the only way she can really come to know of them. For that matter I never met Glenn Dee either.

It was a festive and sweet moment. I think we will expand on this concept and do it again next year.

Unmasking

Several weeks ago, a friend and co-worker, Dr. Mark Gstohl, was planning to shut down his Facebook account. He was finding some of his interactions more aggravating than enlightening. He has a wide gamut of friends across the political spectrum, and he was experiencing a lot of negativity. I offered to swap accounts with him. At first I made the offer in jest, but I became more intrigued as I considered the idea, and so I offered again. We agreed to give it a try just for the month of October. We briefly discussed the ethics of such a maneuver, but the issues at stake didn’t seem very serious. So we went ahead. We continued to use Facebook as we usually did, but we were logged in to each others’ accounts. So, Mark (who is an ordained Baptist minister) was posting Bible verses in my name. Further muddying the waters is the fact that we both have numerous third party services tied into Facebook. We didn’t swap any other accounts, so both our Facebook feeds comprised a mix of items generated by one or other of us. At the end of the month we took off the masks and reverted back to our real selves. Most people laughed it off, or scratched their heads in confusion, but my old high school chum Georgie said she felt “betrayed and tricked.” Maybe we should have taken the ethical issues more seriously. For what it’s worth, I apologized to Georgie and I think she’s forgiven me. This episode raises some questions about identity and expectations in the age of social media.

6 Responses to “Unmasking”

  1. chrissieroux Says:

    It’s funny, the Bible verses didn’t throw me, particularly in light of your recent writings on spirituality. The Scooby Doo video was a little odd, but since we like Hex Girls too, it was really just a pleasant surprise (and turned out to be you, anyway!). Some things caught my eye as surprising, but you have such eclectic interests and an open and curious mind, I never thought anything amiss. Cool experiment.

  2. Robyn Says:

    I’m sort of sorry I missed the facebook shenanigans. What an interesting idea. Did anyone question you overtly or notice that things were out of character? On either page?

  3. Mike Paxson (featuring Susie) Says:

    What a great entry, Bart. Though I think about Mom daily, I hadn’t thought about her as she was in that photo (or about her corn and tomatoes) for a long-ASS time. I was remarking to a friend that she turned 21 on September 30, 2011 (21 years since she died).

  4. lemming Says:

    I’m with Chrissie – I just assumed you’d been doing further delving into spirituality!

  5. Editor B Says:

    Chrissie: You’ll be happy to know Persephone is liable to sing either of the Hex Girls songs from that episode at the drop of a hat.

    Robyn: I think most people reacted like Chrissie did. Certainly nobody seemed to suspect anything was up until the ruse was revealed. I did take some flak for picking the “wrong” college football team as Mark, though. That was funny.

    Mike: Funny, since mainly I know her from that photo, it’s the only mental image I’ve formed of her. My Dad always remarks how much she looks like Xy.

    Lemming: I’m tripping that you’re still reading me after all these years. Always great to hear from you!

  6. b.rox » Archive » Forty-Five Months Says:

    […] goblins,” scratching their heads, unable to find you in costume.) You also enjoyed our Ancestor’s Dinner and now have some idea who at least one of your great-grandparents is. And on Día de los Muertos […]

Leave a Reply