Welcome Home You Blue-Haired Freak

Twenty-five years ago —

Welcome Home

I came home from Sweden with blue hair, much to my parents’ shock and my sister’s delight.

At least I think she was delighted. Kind of hard to tell in this photo. Certainly I was glad to be back home. It was a great experience, my year abroad, but it was also hard, the hardest year of my (admittedly easy) life, in fact — until 2005 rolled around.

The blue was already beginning to wash out by this time, revealing the bleached blond underneath.

I’m wearing a gray flannel three piece suit I picked up at a secondhand shop in Stockholm. In this getup I felt like a rock star, and I pretended to be one on the flight home. I’m not sure anyone was fooled except maybe myself.

Family Portrait

Ghost Royalty

Inspired by my old compatriot Joe Nickell, who is now an arts writer out in Montana, I commissioned local artist Jane Brewster to paint a family portrait. It’s based on a snapshot (above) taken by a random passing neighbor. The painting (below) captures the magic of the original moment and inscribes it to a deeper level. It was the perfect Solstice gift for our whole family, and it’s now hanging in our living room. Thank you, Jane. You’re the best.

Ghost Royalty


Property tax bills are coming out in New Orleans right now. But this is not about that.


I finally beat my father-in-law at Scrabble. The key play for me: MILLAGES, a triple triple bingo for 158 points. This is a word I only learned upon living in New Orleans; it’s another word for property tax. Mike challenged it, of strategic necessity, and that sealed the deal.

I should note that Mike is a competitive Scrabble player who has been know to play in Division One at the national championship. It’s truly a pleasure to play against him because he’s so damn good. I’m so awestruck that I don’t mind getting trounced repeatedly, and I usually learn some new words.

We’ve played many, many games over the years but I don’t recall ever winning a one-on-one game with him before. It’s not unusual for him to play a triple triple bingo, as I noted back in 2004, but this may well have been my first.

I should also note that we were playing nine-tile variant, so this wouldn’t be considered legit in any sense by the tournament crowd.

Final score: 469 to 382.

Unfortunately, this means I can never play Mike again.

Thirty-Four Months


Dear Persephone,

You’re thirty-four months old today, but there’s a lot of other things going on as well. For one, there was a full lunar eclipse last night. I explained how the moon would fall into the shadow of the earth, and you’d seemed to understand. I even got you out of bed for it and we looked at the moon briefly, but given that it was around 3:00AM you were a little groggy. You wanted a flashlight — I’m still not sure why.

And this evening it’s the solstice. We each opened one present tonight, and tomorrow morning we’re opening the rest. I spent some time today assembling an easel for you but you haven’t seen it yet. You’ve seen the presents accumulating under the tree, and you’re excited about them, but in no way impatient. I suppose that might be different in years to come.

A month ago we were waiting for my parents to arrive for a Thanksgiving visit. As we sat on the front porch, acorns fell from the oak tree in front of our house. That led you to exclaim: “We need to put them back up!”

I think you enjoyed hanging out with your grandparents. Just after they left you seemed to experience one of those linguistic growth spurts. Suddenly you were formulating complex sentences, such as “When you go fast, it makes me cold.” (That was on our morning bike ride.) I suspect it’s typical for little kids to develop quickly after holidays, when having more prolonged and intensive interaction with adults.

More recently we attended your first dance recital. You’ve been taking lessons in ballet and tap dance for a few months now. At the event they served beer, wine and turkey gumbo. You made it almost all the way through the your age-group’s performance before you lost interest.

Speaking of dancing, one day you started drumming on the toilet seat and singing. You commanded me to dance, and I complied. That was one of those moments I would forget completely if I didn’t write it down. But I want to remember it.

Broadcast television seems increasingly anachronistic, but we still tune in. We watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with you, muting the commercials. It was really perfect for your age. The look of pure joy on your face made me feel like I was seeing the program for the first time.

You also watch cartoons on Saturday mornings via broadcast. Your favorite show is Busytown Mysteries. Unfortunately we do not mute those commercials, and I was alarmed to note you’ve memorized many of them.

Your favorite activity these days seems to be hiding. One day your mother used a sheet to make the dining room table into a fort, and you’ve been hooked on the idea of hiding under that table ever since. Or under another table. Or just about anywhere, actually. Sometimes I’ll run upstairs to get something and when I return you’re still sitting on the couch where I left you, but with your hands over your eyes. You think if you can’t see me, then I can’t see you.

For months stories about “Sephie and Roger” have been part of your bedtime routine. But just recently you’ve lost interest in those two. Now you just want to hear tales of “Dada’s school.” I usually just relate the details of my day at work, but on the weekends and holidays I have to get creative.

One night you surprised me by saying, as I tucked you in: “I love my butterfly quilt. I love butterflies and cats and trees and parks and houses and rocks and people and everything!” I thought that was just about the sweetest thing I ever heard.

Happy Solstice, baby.

Two Dozen

Here’s two sets of a dozen pictures each. For maximum enjoyment, view each slideshow in fullscreen mode. (A button will appear in the lower right corner after you click play.) The first batch is over 40 years old, the second batch was collected (from our refrigerator) over the last three months, but both were scanned yesterday.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video. Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

I’m especially grateful to Mom for bringing me that first set of photos on her recent Thanksgiving visit.


I was searching high and low for turkey drumsticks. They’re normally available in most local stores, but suddenly, the weekend before the holiday, we couldn’t find them anywhere. We visited seven groceries. Plenty of whole turkeys, turkey breasts, turkey thighs, ground turkey — but no drumsticks. Finally we found them at Rouse’s on the second visit. They were buried under a mountain of turkey necks.

I bought two packages, ten legs, and marinated them in two bottles of mojo criollo for a couple days. I drove all the way out to Kenner to pick up some pecan wood chunks, but I forgot that Bassil’s Ace is closed on Sundays. Fortunately Michael picked some up for me the next day, and so on Thanksgiving I was able to smoke the turkey over a pecan wood and charcoal fire for about three hours.


I’d never had turkey mojo before, and I was very happy with the result. I’ve tried several different ways with turkey legs; this had the advantage of being supremely easy as well as delicious. The skin was a little tough. That’s the only thing that might bear improving, though I’m not sure how. Other than that they were just about perfect. Even Persephone liked them.


More is merrier for Thanksgiving. My parents came to visit, and we were joined by our friend James as well. At the last minute I also invited my old friend and guitar hero Jeff Lee whom I’d only recently learned was here in town, but he couldn’t make it.

Of course we had plenty of other items on the menu besides just turkey, a vast array in fact, prepared mostly by Xy and my mother, everything from sweet potatoes to turnip greens to cranberry salad.

I’d found a pamphlet full of “Inclusive Mealtime Prayers of Thanksgiving” online, and before the meal I asked my father (as the eldest present) to pick one out and read it before the meal. This is the one he chose:

We thank you for this earth, our home; for the wide sky and the blessed sun, for the ocean and streams, for the towering hills and the whispering wind, for the trees and green grass.

 We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds, and see the splendor of fields of golden wheat, and taste autumn’s fruit, rejoice in the feel of snow, and smell the breath of spring flowers.

 Grant us a heart opened wide to all this beauty; and save us from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thornbush is aflame with glory.
 For each new dawn is filled with infinite possibilities for new beginnings and new discoveries. Life is constantly changing and renewing itself. In this new day of new beginnings, all things are possible. We are restored and renewed in a joyous awakening to the wonder that our lives are and, yet, can be. Amen.

For desert we had pumpkin pie, which Mom made from scratch, from a real pumpkin — not canned. I didn’t think that was done anymore, and I seem to remember a gourmet chef actually recommending canned over fresh, but Mom’s pie certainly made a powerful case in the opposite direction.

After the game we watched the Big Game. Dad and James and I all caught a nap during the second quarter, but we made our way down to Michael and Therese’s house for the second half.

Of course, my parents came down for more than just a meal. Wednesday morning I took them to campus and we toured the new Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion. Then we went to City Park and wandered through the Besthoff Sculpture Garden for an hour while we waited for the New Orleans Museum of Art to open. Amongst all the paintings, we made a special point to visit the life-size portrait of Marie Antoinette, as recent genetic test results indicate she’s a relative on my father’s side of the family.

My parents are really amazingly active — I was about to add, “for their age,” but the truth is I’d be just as amazed if they were in their twenties instead of their seventies. They were constantly going out for walks and exercise, and they made their way back to City Park at least once to enjoy the loop around Big Lake. A neighbor expressed concern over my father’s safety as he roamed the blocks around our house. I just shrugged and said, “He’s lived a long full life.”

Dad was in the midst of a book about the notorious Skull and Bones Club, and he kept making dark conspiratorial comments about the various skull logos emblazoned on my shirt, scarf and bandanna. Eventually I hinted that he should check out the Illuminati. I shudder to think what might happen to him if he investigates too deeply.

And no visit from my parents would be complete without putting Dad to work on some house projects.


Friday night we headed back to City Park for the first night of Celebration in the Oaks. The crowds were surprisingly thin, perhaps because of the sudden turn in the weather from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold — or maybe people don’t really turn out in great numbers until later in December.


It was a good visit, and a good holiday. I’m also happy to say Thanksgiving no longer vexes and perplexes me. I now understand it as a time to celebrate a particular sentiment — namely, that sense of gratitude we all feel, at least occasionally. Last year I posted a list of people to whom I’m thankful, and that remains pretty accurate. If I wrote such a list now, the main thing I’d want to do is expand the scope, to include the Earth and cosmos.

But Thanksgiving is over, and I’ve got to get back to work on other things.

PS: I finally caught up with Jeff on Friday evening, and we had a blast jabbering into the night for hours on end.

My Sister

I had my phone turned off from Saturday night when I went to bed until after noon Sunday. When I fired it back up, I got a volley of three text messages from my sister via Twitter.

U still up? Txt me from ur personal.

For some reason she doesn’t have my phone number. She follows me on Twitter and gets updates sent to her phone. It’s actually our main way of keeping in touch, though it’s kind of one-sided. Mostly I post and she receives.

Five minutes later:

U still awake? Need to talk.

No, I wasn’t awake. It was two o’clock in the morning, I was asleep, and my phone was off.

Twenty minutes after that:

I see all ur random bullshit daily. U cant take 5 sec to talk to ur sister when she needs u. Thks.

And that’s my little sister in a nutshell. Quick to anger! She’s kind of like a female version of Steven Seagal — “the woman with the short fuse.”

After some phone tag and a further exchange of texts and voice mail, we finally got to talk mid-week. I don’t need to spell out the details here for the whole world to see. That might get my ass kicked.

Let me just leave it at this: I love my sister, but that late-night text message was too funny.

Easter Surprise

Guess what I was doing 33 years ago today?

Well, actually I don’t know. But I know what my mother was doing. She was posting a letter.


I know this because the letter was recently unearthed by some relatives, and Mom just sent it to me. It’s an Easter card to my Grandpa Sid.

Easter Card

And here’s the enclosed photo of yours truly.


Sometime after my garbage collector phase and my fireman phase, my childhood ambition was to be a nuclear physicist. That did not come to pass. However, I did make a kick-ass science fair display, with a little help from my parents. Won me a blue ribbon!

I was ten years old. That was a third of a century ago.

PS: I said I didn’t know what I was doing on April 6 of 1977, but I just checked my journal and found this entry:

Bought Digital Watch: time: 10:36 AM
L.S.Ayres – had breakest with mister Bunny

And as a bonus here’s my entry for April 10, 1977:

Easter Sunday
Found 61¢ for Easter

Honoring My Mother


Today’s the birthday of a very special woman in my life. I call her Mom.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that I owe Mom for whatever sense I may have for the importance of ethics, morality and social justice. I don’t know if it was learned or simply inherited, but I’m pretty sure it comes from her — and I’m pretty sure Dad would agree and not be insulted by that assessment.

The same goes for spirituality and religion; though we’ve had some divergent views, I take such matters to heart, and I credit Mom for that.

However, it’s only recently that I realized another maternal legacy which is perhaps even more central in terms of who I am and my sense of self-identity.

It was at a recent social hour sponsored by my office here at the University. I was showing off a calendar Mom had made to a co-worker from the library. She was quite impressed and exclaimed, “So now we know where you get your creativity!”

And it dawned on me that she was absolutely correct. I’ve always felt a strong urge to create, to make things, to express myself, to communicate. It’s one of the driving forces of my life, even though it is often frustrated or sublimated or corrupted or diverted in various ways. Now that I’ve been given pause to reflect on it, I recognize the same impetus at work in Mom’s life. She takes photos and makes calendars and greeting cards and a host of other projects large and small.

So there you have it. Almost everything I am I owe to my mother.

Happy birthday, Mom!


I just wanted to take a quick minute to salute my parents. They just finished another week of volunteer work, helping to rebuild New Orleans. As per usual they stayed at Camp Restore and kept busy, but I did manage to visit with them a couple times. This time they brought some friends with them from Indiana.


Of course we had to get my dad some appropriate attire for the trip back home.

I’ve lost track of how many stints they’ve done, how many hours they’ve logged. The scope of the cataclysm here is such that even as we approach the five year mark there is no lack of work to be done.

Dancing with Beautiful Strangers

P & Me

Our first plan was to reprise last year’s costumes which we didn’t really get to employ last year. But then it became clear that this Mardi Gras would be unseasonably cool, and perhaps downright cold. Costuming as Olympian deities seemed like it would be uncomfortable, and so I scrambled at the last possible minute to come up with an alternative.

What could we wear and still be warm? Robes, I thought, big robes, big enough so that we can wear anything we want underneath. Since the Saints won the Super Bowl, I could make gold robes for all three of us, and we could wear black beads, and we’d be set. (Black robes with gold beads just seemed too easy somehow.)

I found instructions that looked simple enough. Most of the gold fabric had flown off the shelves of the local fabric store, but I managed to find some drapery-type stuff in back. Couldn’t settle for yellow, mind you — it had to be gold. I also got some gold rope to use for belts.

I borrowed the use of a friend’s sewing machine and soon enough we had our costumes. We added black caps for good measure. We borrowed a wagon from another friend.

Mardi Gras is primarily an early morning holiday, at least to me. It’s kind of like Christmas in that way. This is contrary to the image many casual tourists might have in mind, due to the common association linking revelry with late nights. But I rarely stay out late on Mardi Gras, and for me the best part of the day is generally before noon.

We some friends in the Marigny for a breakfast party. We donned our costumes and around 10:00 AM we joined up with the Societé de Sainte Anne which seemed to be passing by. I say “seemed to” because the Societé de Sainte Anne is so secretive, so mysterious, so surreal and chaotic, that it’s really kind of hard to tell exactly where the parade is, even when you’re in it. It is a collective hallucination.

Soon Persephone was dancing with a beautiful stranger.

Dancing with a Beautiful Stranger

Isn’t that what Mardi Gras is all about?

Persephone has a great time. She had a fever last year, so this was her first real Mardi Gras. At one point she was literally agape, mouth hanging open is amazement, to see so many wild and colorful characters.

I did not take many good photos. I was juggling a toddler and a wagon and of course Xy’s always a handful.

Pulling the Wagon

Xy pulled the wagon at times, but most of the way I found myself carrying Persephone in one arm and pulling the wagon with the other.

We saw a guy in an egg costume. He told Persephone he was Humpty Dumpty, then thought better of it, saying, “You probably don’t even know who that is.” Persephone whipped out her Mother Goose book and immediately turned to this rhyme.


While wearing mittens no less!

Later we saw another Humpty Dumpty, a guy with his head made up like an egg, with tiny articulated arms on either cheek which he manipulated by a clever arrangement of rods, complete with a brick wall under his chin. I didn’t get a photo but it was pretty amazing. I saw so many amazing costumes. A Kachina doll. A bicycle hidden inside a giant shoe. A fully functional sound system sheathed in metal shaped like a bull and bellowing steam. Hindu deities with multiple arms. A mobile drum set with stripper pole. Saints-themed costumes were of course ubiquitous. I didn’t even get a picture of my friends as the three big quarterbacks the Saints took down. Imagine Brett Favre with a walker and you get the idea. Everyone wanted to take his picture but somehow I failed.

Perhaps the most mind-blowing costume of all was this tree house.

Tree House

How tall is that thing? They are looking down on people in second story balconies. And somehow it’s moving around. It’s a riff on a recent local news story about an artsy tree house that ran afoul of city inspectors.


I wish I’d had the presence of mind to get a portrait of all three of us together in our matching costumes. Some random stranger took a photo of us that looked pretty good — he showed it to me on the viewfinder — but I’m sure I’ll never see that again. Here’s a photo Howie took showing my daughter and me on Royal Street.

B & P

Probably the best photo I took was this portrait of an older man in a wheelchair, wearing a pink boa, smoking a cigarette and taking it all in.


It was a great day but not without incident. At one point I crossed Royal Street a little too hastily. I was trying to dodge what appeared to be a large ocean-going vessel when a king’s ermine cape got snagged on the wheel of our wagon. For this act of carelessness, I incurred his royal displeasure.

The other near-disaster came when we stopped at a friend’s condo. Persephone was playing with a toy that belonged to the resident canine, and they got into a fight. I got in between them right quick and the girl emerged with only a tiny scratch under her left eye, but she was quite frightened. The dog bit me on the leg, and I shudder to think what might have happened.

We were back home shortly after five. The girl was utterly exhausted.

If this Mardi Gras could be said to have had a theme, deeper than the Saints mania, it was perhaps a renewed snese of optimism and confidence, the hope that we’ve turned a corner in our recovery, that, as Adma Karlin puts it, “deep down the 2010 carnival season marks when, at long last, post-Katrina New Orleans became, again, just New Orleans.”

Here’s hoping.

A Tale of Two T-Shirts

I spent the last week recovering from my family reunion. We have one every five years, and this was the tenth such event. The family is spread around the country pretty well (except for the northeast) so we have been rotating the location ever since my grandmother sold the farm. This time we were in the Pacific Northwest, on the coast — Manzanita, Oregon, to be exact.

It was a wonderful time for me and, I think, for all 35 attendees. Did I say I was recovering? Well, yes. It was a very full four days. Air travel is no fun, and I was especially anxious about traveling with a toddler, but our daughter did better than expected on four flights totaling over ten hours of air time. It’s actually Xy who’s had the hardest time of it. She doesn’t travel well in any event, and hanging with in-laws over the holidays is of course stressful, and she was coming down with something when we started. She’s got just about the worst cough I’ve ever heard and I think maybe an ear infection too. She’s on an antibiotic now, plus some steroids, but she’s not getting better as quickly as we’d hoped.

Yes, it’s nice to see my extended family, though to tell the truth it’s hard to really catch up when there are so many people and time is so brief. But there’s more to it than just catching up.
Continue reading A Tale of Two T-Shirts


Here is a mix we listen to in our house when someone passes on.

We listened to this last night after getting news that Xy’s grandmother Pauline had finally slipped away after a protracted struggle.

My notes indicate Pauline appeared only in a single episode of our TV show, namely “A Day in the Life,” ROX #63.

Pauline made a brief appearance in ROX #63

Unfortunately this show isn’t on-line yet, but faithful viewers may recall Pauline was not very impressed with her granddaughter’s salsa.

Pauline’s presence loomed large in other parts of the series and my life. She designed the achingly hip jacket Xy wore in ROX #29. And of course it should never be forgotten that she footed the bill for our puppet-show wedding as seen in ROX #41.

It struck me that as Xy no longer has any living grandparents, so too Persephone now has no living great-grandparents. Since two of our friends and contemporaries also lost grandparents over the last couple weeks, it’s feels like the end of a generation.

I understand there will be no funeral. She didn’t want one.

So long, Pauline. You will be missed.

Song My Parents Taught Me

Apropos of nothing at all, here’s a mix of songs my parents taught me.

Mostly these are songs I remember hearing my father sing while he did dishes or what have you. I think of my parents as pre-rock’n’roll but that’s not exactly true. You’ll hear some early rock hits here as well as the old vocal groups from back in the day. These songs stuck with me for years and I still sing some of these myself. Maybe some day my daughter will learn them too.

I burned this mix to a CD and sent it to my parents a few years ago before a visit. They listened to the disc on the drive down and attempted to fill out a little form I’d devised, “Name That Artist.” A fun game, and they scored impressively well.

I said these were mostly songs my father sang, but there are a couple glorious exceptions. See if you can catch them.

Three on the Fourth

We used to purchase thousands of flags for International Flag-Burning Day [anthem] and build huge bonfires. It was so thrilling to watch the colors of every nation go up in flames. But who can afford that in today’s economy? Besides which, we realized we were subsidizing the flag industry. That’s no way to end to the scourge of nationalism! So we decided to boycott International Flag-Burning Day, to stay true to our principles.

Instead, we filled up the kiddie pool, fired up the grill, cranked up the tunes, and enjoyed what I suppose is a pretty traditional celebration of the fourth of July. It felt like a day at the beach. We had a blast, and it dawned on me that we have rarely taken time to play together as a family, all three of us. Usually one of us is minding the child while the other is cleaning or cooking or doing some work. There’s a lot of play at our house, but the girl is usually playing with Mom or with Dad, not both at the same time. Playing together, all three of us, was a whole different vibe. I relate to Xy in one way, to Persephone in another, so this felt like two modalities intersecting. It felt like two worlds colliding — but in a good way. Life felt suddenly much richer.

When darkness fell we watched the fireworks over the Mississippi from our front porch.

Twitter Bridges the Gap

Twitter has become such a faddish phenomenon it’s almost embarrassing. Amidst all the hype of celebrity tweeters and whatnot, it’s easy to lose sight of the flexibility and just plain usefulness of this tool.

This was driven home to me when I was recently visiting with my sister. She’s not very cyber-wired and wasn’t really familiar with Twitter. This despite the fact that she’s been using the service for over a year.

Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister

Back in late 2007 or so, my mom was frustrated in trying to communicate with her daughter and granddaughter. Mom liked e-mail while my sister and niece preferred text messages. Sister and niece didn’t spend much (if any) time in front of a computer, and Mom didn’t have a cell phone.

It occurred to me that Twitter could bridge this gap. It would allow my mom, my sister and my niece to stay in touch with each other via their tech of choice. Mom could post up from her computer and the girls would get it on their cell phones. They could text back and Mom could receive that on her computer.

Working through Mom we finally got it going in early 2008. So my sister had a Twitter account and was sending and receiving messages, but thought of it as a private communication channel with Mom. Little did she know I was following her updates too. But she wasn’t getting my updates until our recent visit, when I set her up to follow me.

I’ve hooked a number of friends into Twitter without ever sitting them in front of a computer. It can all be done via phone using The Official Twitter Text Commands. Unfortunately there are a few glitches. For example, my sister had to text both “follow editor_b” and “on editor_b”, the first command to subscribe to my updates and the second to turn device notifications on, i.e. to get those updates sent directly to her phone. This seems a little redundant to me; if you send a message from your phone to follow someone, I’d think it would be implied that you want to get their updates on your phone as well. Indeed, Twitter’s documentation even says “using follow/leave username from your phone is the same as using on/off username” but it didn’t work that way for us.

The important thing is that we enabled the communication. Now my sister, who lives over 800 miles away from me, can be a little more connected into my life. This blog can’t do that, and neither can e-mail or Flickr or Facebook or any of these other crazy services that I use. Only Twitter bridges the gap from the net to phone so easily.

My sister is hardly aware of the overheated hype surrounding Twitter, and I’m sure she couldn’t care less about it. She just wants to be in the loop when I get a speeding ticket in Cullman County or when I find my missing earring or when my daughter says a new word.

And now she is.

That Was Fun

Parties are strange affairs. People gathering together for no other purpose than to celebrate life and enjoy each other’s company. What an ephemeral proposition! And also how wonderful. It’s almost enough to make one suspect that gross material possessions are not the most important things in life. Hmm.

We had a great party here yesterday. I expected between 50 and 100 people, and I think we we were somewhere in that zone, with people coming and going all day. We killed the keg (a small but delicious keg of Flying Dog “In Heat Wheat”) which made me happy. We ate all the jambalaya, both veggie and meaty, and I made a lot. We enjoyed a fun set of acoustic bluesy songs from Herbie Jo Johnson aka Herb Reith. Despite our protestations to the contrary, Persephone did receive a couple of amazing, unique, original gifts, which I’m sure she will come to treasure. More about those later. Plenty of people brought food and drink, all of which were gratefully consumed. We had not one but two doberge cakes. Why two cakes? Because there were actually two birthday girls. It turns out Piggy, the girl who stays across the street sometimes, was born on the exact same day as Persephone.

Persephone’s grandparents got their first taste of Carnival madness with the biggest krewe of all, the gaudy proposition known as Endymion. There was much curiosity as to when exactly the parade would reach us. For future reference I will relay what Carmen so diligently reported to me: Grand Marshal Kid Rock crossed Salcedo Street at precisely 5:55 PM. Next year we’ll have a pool. I asked Mom what she thought of the parade, and her reply was amusingly frank: “There were a lot of delays.” Which I gather was true, though I only left the house once to gaze at the stupefying spectacle, when Xy was exhausted, and I held Persephone up to admire the passage of I think one float before she fell asleep in my arms. Dad came back to the house a couple times to refresh himself, but I believe Mom took in the entire parade without a break. And that is one long-ass parade.

Probably the funniest thing, to me, was when Gerry came in the front door, quite late in the game, and started hollering at me down the hall. I haven’t seen Gerry in years and I didn’t recognize him at first. He yelled something about “penis reconstruction dot com!” which was an arcane reference to a court case I helped him with years ago, but I didn’t key in on it. All I could think was, “Oh sweet Jesus, some lunatic has wandered in off the street and he’s going whip out a razor and castrate us all.” But it wasn’t a lunatic, it was Gerry and his wife Carmen (not to be confused with the other Carmen mentioned above) who were our very first neighbors, in the Warehouse District, when we moved to New Orleans ten years ago. So cool to see them again. And it turns out their daughter Raquel is born on the same day as Persephone. She was just celebrating her sweet sixteen. And to think she was seven when I first met her.

I was too busy playing host to take very many pictures. But other cameras were more active. For example, here’s a photo from the fearsome lens of Howie Luvzus:

Ray & Seph

And this photo (also by Howie) really captures the spirit of the big parade:

Endymion 2009

Well done, Howie.

If you were here and took pictures, I encourage you to share them by any means convenient, Flickr, Facebook, e-mail. We’d love to see them.

Also: Nobody puked. It was a good party.

Persephone Meets Persephone

Here’s Persephone (my daughter) with Persephone (the float):

Persephone & Persephone

Also pictured: Persephone’s father and grandparents.

In fact, this morning we got a tour of the Rex den from the very kind Dr. Stephen Hales, who also took the photograph. It’s my parents’ first Mardi Gras as well, so this is all new to them. I think they appreciated the tour most of all.

I was also interested to read a story about Rex getting involved in the public schools in yesterday’s paper. Another Katrina effect.

Spirits of Spring

It’s three weeks until Mardi Gras.

I’d been meaning to post something here about masking on Mardi Gras, how it’s pretty much essential to the spirit of the day, how it differs from Halloween, and so forth, for the benefit of my parents who will be coming down for their first Carnival ever. But I’ve ended up talking with Mom on the phone a few times instead, so that essay will have to wait for another year.

Though I’m a big proponent of masking, normally I don’t have very good ideas for costumes. But this year it occurred to me: Since it’s Persephone’s first Mardi Gras, she could go as Persephone and Xy could go as her mother, Demeter. Perfect!

(That leaves the question of me. I’ve always identified with Hades but I’d feel a little creepy in that role now. Some myths say Zeus is Persephone’s father, but I’ve never liked Zeus much, and moreover that strikes me as a latter-day patriarchal insertion. In earlier versions of the myth, I believe Persephone was a product of parthenogenesis. No father. So I hit on the idea of going as a celebrant in the Eleusinian mysteries. Say what? Yes, I fully realize no one would “get” that; I’d have to distribute an explanatory pamphlet. But it makes perfect sense, since I do worship my Demeter and Persephone, and the conceit does have the virtue of being extensible, so my parents could also mask as celebrants if they so desired.)

But look out — here comes a mind-blowing revelation. The inimitable Dr. A sent me a message via Facebook yesterday:

I was reading the Andy Hardy Mardi Gras guide last night and saw that Rex’s theme is “Spirits of Spring” and that they have a Persephone float!

I could hardly believe it. I had to verify, it seemed so incredible.

And it’s true.

I should mention that I’m usually not checking out the big parades on Mardi Gras. After all, you can see parades all through Carnival if you so desire. The real fun on Fat Tuesday is not to watch a parade but to be a parade. So although Rex is a classy affair, with some of the most sophisticated and highbrow themes and some of the most aesthetically pleasing floats, I wasn’t planning to make a point of checking Rex out. We’d been planning to hook up with Saint Anne.

But this seems too cool and too cosmic to ignore. Now I’m inclined to change our Mardi Gras plans entirely and head uptown, which I haven’t done for years. In fact, Mom & Dad, if you’re still looking for costume ideas, you might want to check out some of Rex’s other Spirits of Spring as outline in this RTF document. Or — this only just occurred to me — you might consider Persephone’s grandparents, Cronus and Rhea. For some reason Zeus is sounding better to me now.

Persephone’s first Mardi Gras, and there’s a float in her honor. My mind is still reeling.

Oh, one last thing: If anyone reading this has an “in” with Rex, my daughter would love to get a sneak peek at that float.