Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hooray for Tacky Honeymoons!

A few years ago, I proposed that the State of Louisiana should issue to each woman in the state, on having reached her 18th birthday, two coupons: one for a perfect, romantic, solemn wedding and the other for a tacky, fun wedding.

Lately, while looking through bridal magazines, I encountered several honeymooner-oriented places in the Poconos and in Wisconsin that featured bridal suites with heart-shaped beds and Jacuzzi hot tubs to ensure an utterly romantic setting for that first occasion for those, uh, intimate relations! I wondered if this was one of the romantic customs of Easterners, whose ways and mores I had only a nodding acquaintance. Anyway, like Korea's Jeju Love Land this seems to be a charming celebration of coitus!

Do these extravagant and bizzare romantic fripperies serve to disinhibit the possible shy couples from this occasion, or is it another part of the good humor that emerges in the course of the marriage of true minds? And what other surprises await the blushing bride and groom? X-rated movies on television? Quart-sized containers of K-Y Jelly? Heart-shaped waffles at breakfast? Maybe the poached eggs or omelets can be made with a heart-shaped pattern? Sappy romantic tunes played during dinner and the entertainment?  There's plenty of room for creative excess.

And maybe that will give the happy couple another topic to talk about, not to mention tidbits that can be shared with friends and family upon their return to the everyday.

Folks, you owe it to all to be able to share with them truly surprising, if not bizarre, stories of your honeymoon experience. They don't want to hear about the tennis courts or the beach. Only lightly allude to the sex, especially to impressionable aunts and randy uncles. Remember, you had them come to your conventional wedding, with the priest, rabbi, or minister instead of the Elvis impersonator, the traditional bridal music, exchange of rings, the genteel kiss at the altar, and all behaving with utter decorum. Therefore, you need to make up to them by having a completely off the wall honeymoon to enjoy, to tell them about afterwards, and later to tell your granddaughters. Don't just go to a resort on the Gulf Coast; go full romantic and go to the Poconos!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Marie Laveau

Some of the more enduring stories about old New Orleans center around that voodoo practitioner, Marie Laveau. What is fact and what is an entertaining story is hard to separate at times.

First of all, there was two Marie Laveaus; both with reputations for practicing voodoo.

The first Marie Laveau (1801-1881, probably) was a free woman of color* who sold liquor and acted as a hairdresser. She married Jacques Paris; but he died in 1820. She took a lover and is said to have had 15 children, including the second Marie Laveau. She was the first Voodoo celebrity or superstar. And, as such, she is often represented as a sinister figure.

However, in reading into her life a bit further, it seems that this good woman had a depth of character that was not mentioned in the alarmist stories about how she possibly practiced voodoo. In fact, practically all voodoo was performed for beneficial intent: to get money, for romance, to sell a house, to keep a husband or boyfriend faithful, and so on. Her reputation and that of other voodoo practitioners needs rehabilitation, and soon!

Here's an obituary from the Daily Picyaune marking her passing that may have been a better fit to her actual character than the character assassination that was to come from ignorant and sensationalistic writers since it came from her time frame and not later when the weird stuff got added on:




Those who have passed by the quaint old house on St. Ann, between Rampart and Burgundy streets with the high frail looking fence in front over which a tree or two is visible, have been within the last few years, noticed through the open gateway a decrepid old lady with snow white hair, and a smile of peace and contentment lighting up her golden features. For a few years past she has been missed from her accustomed place. The feeble old lady lay upon her bed with her daughter and grand children around her ministering to her wants.

On Wednesday the invalid sank into the sleep, which knows no waking. Those whom she had befriended crowded into the little room where she was exposed, in order to obtain a last look at the features, smiling even in death, of her who had been so kind to them.

At 5 o'clock yesterday evening Marie Laveau was buried in her family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Her remains were followed to the grave by a large concourse of people, the most prominent and the most humble joining in paying their last respects to the dead. Father Mignot conducted the funeral services.

Marie Laveau was born ninety-eight years ago. Her father was a rich planter, who was prominent in all public affairs, and served in the Legislature of this State. Her mother was Marguerite Henry, and her grandmother was Marguerite Semard. All were beautiful women of color. The gift of beauty was hereditary in the family, and Marie inherited it in the fullest degree. When she was twenty-five years old she was led to the altar by Jacques Paris, a carpenter. This marriage took place at the St. Louis Cathedral. Pere Antoine, of beloved memory, conducting the service, and Mr. Mazureau the famous lawyer, acting as witness. A year afterwards Mr. Paris disappeared, and no one knows to this day what became of him. After waiting a year for his return she married Capt. Christophe Glapion. The latter was also very prominent here, and served with distinction in the battalion of men of San Domingo, under D'Aquin, with Jackson in the war of 1815.

Fifteen children were the result of their marriage. Only one of these is now alive. Capt. Glapion died greatly registered, on the 26th of June, 1855. Five years afterwards Marie Laveau, became ill, and has been sick ever since, her indisposition 

becoming more pronounced and painful within the last ten years.

Besides being very beautiful Marie also was very wise. She was skillful in the practice of medicine and was acquainted with the valuable healing qualities of indigenous herbs.

She was very successful as a nurse, wonderful stories being told of her exploits at the sick bed. In yellow fever and cholera epidemics she was always called upon to nurse the sick, and always responded promptly. Her skill and knowledge earned her the friendship and approbation, of those sufficiently cultivated, but the ignorant attributed her success to unnatural means and held her in constant dread.

Notably in 1853 a committee of gentlemen, appointed at a mass meeting held at Globe Hall, waited on Marie and requested her on behalf of the people to minister to the fever stricken. She went out and fought the pestilence where it was thickest and many alive today owe their salvation to her devotion.

Not alone to the sick man was Marie Laveau a blessing. To help a fellow citizen in distress she considered a priceless privilege. She was born in the house where she died. Her mother lived and died there before her. The unassuming cottage has stood for a century and a half. It was built by the first French settlers of adobe and not a brick was employed in its construction. When it was erected it was considered the handsomest building in the neighborhood. Rampart street was not then in existence, being the skirt of a wilderness and latterly a line of entrenchment. Notwithstanding the decay of her little mansion, Marie made the sight of it pleasant to the unfortunate. At anytime of night or day any one was welcome to food and lodging.

Those in trouble had but to come to her and she would make their cause her own after undergoing great sacrifices in order to assist them.

Besides being charitable, Marie was also very pious and took delight in strengthening the allegiance of souls to the church. She would sit with the condemned in their last moments and endeavor to turn their last thoughts to Jesus. Whenever a prisoner excited her pity Marie would labor incessantly to obtain his pardon, or at least a commutation of sentence, and she generally succeeded.

A few years ago, before she lost control of her memory, she was rich in interesting reminiscences of the early history of this city. She spoke often of the young American Governor Claiborne,** and told how the child-wife he brought with him from Tennessee died of the yellow fever shortly after his arrival with the dead babe upon her bosom was buried in a corner of the old American Cemetery. She spoke sometimes of the strange little man with the wonderful bright eyes Aaron Burr, who was so polite and so dangerous. She loved to talk of Lafayette, who visited New Orleans over half a century ago. The great Frenchman came to see her at her house, and kissed her on the forehead at parting.

She remembered the old French General, Humbert, and was one of the few colored people who escorted to the tomb long since dismantled in the catholic Cemetery, the withered and grizzly remains of the hero of Castelbar. Probably she knew Father Antoine better than any living in those days - for he the priest and she the nurse met at the dying bedside of hundreds of people - she to close the faded eyes in death, and he, to waft the soul over the river to the realms of eternal joy.

in all Marie Laveau was a most wonderful woman. Doing good for the sake of doing good alone, she obtained no reward, oft times meeting with prejudice and loathing, she was nevertheless contented and did not lag in her work. She always had the cause of the people at heart and was with them in all things. During the late rebellion she proved her loyalty to the South at every opportunity and fully dispensed help to those who suffered in defense of the "lost cause." Her last days were spent surrounded by sacred pictures and other evidences of religion, and she died with a firm trust in heaven. While God's sunshine plays around the little tomb where her remains are buried, by the side of her second husband, and her sons and daughters, Marie Laveau's name will not be forgotten in New Orleans.

So there you have it. Other sources from her time said only good things about her. It may be that Marie Laveau, in her own quiet and eccentric way, may have followed the Biblical injunction to love thy neighbor. She had some of the right stuff of which saints are made.

Some morons see fit  to deface her tomb to obtain good luck. They can be prosecuted for this. And should be for defacing a grave.

*An old term used in the antebellum period in Louisiana.
**If you're  interested, many of these people are mentioned in Wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sir Francis Drake's Plate of Brass

State and local history is serious! Because some people have a horse in that race to a great degree, I would never post a jokey story from some state's history, particularly if it runs counter to the accepted wisdom.

However there is a society in California that sometimes plays jokes and pranks on each other. As the story goes, four members of the Anxious and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus* decided to play a trick on one of their members, Herbert E. Bolton of the University of California. Since Professor Bolton had been urging his students to look for the legendary Plate of Brass in northern California that was described by Francis Pretty as having been planted by Sir Francis Drake to formally lay claim to Nova Albion, as he termed the part of California that he discovered, the merry pranksters decided to do a prank on that topic.

(Hole for sixpence)

So they obtained a sheet of brass, and hand-carved the text to make it seem like the real deal. Then they planted it in Marin County near where Drake was supposed to have landed; and waited for someone to unearth it.

Someone did, in 1933. However, the original finder forgot about it for a while then tossed it out on the side of the road in another part of Marin County. Someone else discovered it in 1936, and there was a lot of fanfare about this find when it was brought to Herbert Bolton.

Things got out of hand, and the original pranksters were hoisted by their own petard. (Ouch!) This was because in part the University of California paid $3500 for it and it was announced at a meeting of the California Historical Society.

Anyway, there was some question from the start as to its authenticity. Still, it was displayed as a treasure in the University of California Bancroft Library until 2005. At that time physical, chemical, and even linguistic tests established that the Plate of Brass was a fraud. Well, damn!

However, what if Queen Elizabeth had pressed her claim to the Golden State? After all, California was not one of the original thirteen that declared their independence. 

In my opinion, the Bancroft Library should have continued to display the Plate of Brass. After all, it was a world-class prank!

*It doesn't mean anything.

Monday, March 23, 2015

St. Clementine

Clementine was one of those seriously holy girls, despite living in the hollows of West Virginia. She said her prayers, followed the teachings of her religion religiously, and always told the truth. This last trait disqualified her from advertising or politics as possible occupational choices.

So she turned to cookery. As was the custom of the area, she started out making pasties (meat pies), but her pies were without favor with the coal miners and moonshiners because she used ramp and turnips to excess.

Clementine was abashed. So she prayed to St. Gennaro, and he told her to make a pilgrimage to New York and Chicago, which she did. In those amazing places she learned about pizza dough. However, the natives of the two places were in a disagreement about what sort of pizza is better. So sad. 

But Clementine was influenced by the Spanish mystic, Teresa of Avila, and tried to achieve discipline in the pizza dough, and to explore the full advantages of different types of toppings. Sadly, she found that some people were impious enough to eat anchovies on their pizzas, which was a sin against God and man, and at Yale, yet! 

She founded an order of pizza-making religious, and established a Rule of the order: (1) Go towards fresh ingredients, including fresh tomatoes, pineapple, walnuts or pecans, and artichoke hearts; (2) If meats are to be used, elect the spicier ones like pepperoni or prosciutto or Andouille; (3) Use a first-class cheese, like provolone, mozarella, or gargonzola; and (4) The sine qua non: cilantro! Avoid the near occasions of pizza sins: (1) Filled-in crusts; (2) Fish of any kind; (3) Kale; (4) Undercooked pizza crusts; (5) Overuse of marinara sauce; and (6) Cheese Whiz. Clementine further pronounced that pizza should be served hot, and preferably with beer. 

St. Clementine was proclaimed a saint and a general benefactor to man. And to women who wish to pig out and party! Her feast day is March 23rd. It should be properly celebrated with an brick oven-baked pizza and a righteous beer. 

St. Clementine

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Going South to Irony

Any understanding of the Southern United States is necessarily incomplete unless you realize that there's a lot of irony and self-satire going on in some places. Of course, Southerners are serious, too damned serious, when it comes to topics such as football and barbecue. However, even some irony comes into play even with those institutions. Many of the folkways have this self-effacing irony to them, like we're really not taking ourselves seriously. Indeed, that's the key to Southern identity: being able to be amused at Southern stereotypes.

Take the trashy bit of irony in lawn decorations: the plastic flamingos. It is not unknown for people with otherwise impeccable lawns and landscaping to place one or two of these pink plastic avians on the lawn; perhaps as an aww shucks statement lest people think they're full of themselves.

And that Possum Drop in western North Carolina that PETA got so hot and bothered about a few years ago? In fact, the possum was ceremoniously lowered with the New Year, treated royally up to then, and no possums were hurt with that bit of local tomfoolery.

Southern dialogue sometimes has a mild irony to it: "It takes two men and a boy to look at her," "That dog don't hunt," "Whoever does that doesn't love the Lord and Southeastern Conference football." Not to mention "Bless his heart." That comment carries an implication of "he's so dumb as dirt he can't help himself."

A few years ago an owner of a garden statuary store displayed a number of nude garden statues that were not moving fast enough, so she dressed them in little bikinis and they started selling. Prudishness? No, acute saleswomanship!

Jeff Foxworthy redneck jokes are enjoyed nowadays within the South. Few necessarily associate the term redneck with dermatitis, historically one of the symptoms of pellagra. Some people enjoy playing redneck too.

And sometimes local festivals feature redneck games such as axe-throwing, watermelon seed spitting, the mud pit belly flop, the armpit serenade, and tossing the hubcap.

Also, there are redneck beauty contests, featuring contests dressed in Daisy Dukes and exhibiting redneck talents. Contestants try to combine beauty with a subtle irony. Here's a comely contestant for the one in Woodstock, AL.

So it always pays to take Southerners acting stereotypically Southern with a grain of salt. There's a lot of leg-pulling going on.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Waitresses' Physical Characteristics and Tip Size

As a person who has worked as a server, I find it intriguing to read about the relationship of certain characteristics of the server's appearance or behavior to tip size. Previously, Geoffrey Miller found that lap dancers tended to receive larger tips during that time of the month they were ovulating. Barring that normally unavailable bit of datum, are there other characteristics of the server that possibly influence the tip.

Obviously, customers leaving the normative 20% of the bill as a good tip for a table server is not always followed. In some places or areas of the country, 15% is considered  acceptable. People who tip less are cheap so-and-sos.

However a paper by Michael Lynn (2008) reported on possible relationships between characteristics of waitresses and their self-reports of average tip size. Specifically, he asked the waitresses to self-evaluate their sexiness and attractiveness but also to report their ages, breast sizes, hair color, and body type. Finally, Lynn asked the women to give their waist and hip measurements, yielding their waist-to-hip ratios (WHRs). The ages of the respondents were primarily younger, with about 85% being below 35.

In general, self-perceived attractiveness tended to decline linearly with age of the respondents; but self-perceived sexiness tended to increase, peaking in the 30-35 age group. Women who were blonde, thin, or who had larger breasts and lower WHRs tended to report getting larger tips. Older waitresses reported getting larger-sized tips, especially those aged 35-40.

Offhand, it seems that there are several dimensions that may affect tip size. Very clearly, certain aspects of sexual attractiveness, especially to guys, do play a part. However, some other dimensions may play a part. For instance, the fact that older waitresses seemed to garner large-sized tips could be due to one or more additional factors in play: (1) These older waitresses have probably been waitresses longer, and have learned more waitress-related skills; (2) They may have or acquired self-presentation skills that enhance their encounters with customers; (3) They have more outgoing personalities that put customers at ease; (4) As compared to their younger counterparts, the average customer may identify more with them; (5) Older waitresses may be perceived as more needful of larger tips, and the customer may sense a greater obligation to tip them better.

Have you any thoughts along these lines?

So what can a potential waitress do? There are several things that seem to come to my mind. First of all, having an outgoing personality helps. Smile. Also, paying attention to details in the ordering and service process. Anticipate customers' needs. Understand the ambiance of the setting and whether you are expected by the customers to be sophisticated and formidable, or friendly and open. Good ole girls fit better with customers in truck stops or even breasturants than they would in four-star restaurants!

Which leads to how sexy you should act or whether you should use any enhancements. You're on your own in that area. I am convinced that the most effective way to appear sexy is to comfortable in your own skin. Sexiness is both in the eye of the beholder and the self-perception of the beheld.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

News From Beat Five

It's about time to take a look into the doings of backwoods Pearl River County, namely the Beat Five. Things have been a little tame lately; but there are a few little odds and ends.

Cordie May has diversified her business activities in selling pecans and arranging sin tours into another sideline: selling fishing supplies. There's crappie fishing in Homochitto River and the Pearl River. She even had a going trade in selling bait. Cordie May put up a sign in front: Cordie May Has Worms! Yes, she deliberately traded in on the double meaning behind the signs. Claims it actually helps business.

By the way, crappie is a type of fish, not a negative evaluation of the fishing there in Homochitto River.

The Sheriff's Office reports that some dumb ol' Federal Agents raided a farmer who they thought was growing a big crop of marijuana. It turns out that those marijuana plants they harvested had one inch pods on them. I guess the farmer and his kin will not be able to make gumbo! Okra may look like pot and some people think of it as a weed, but you can't smoke it.

The holy rollers turned thumbs down on Brother Bill's suggestion to include snakes in their worship service. As Sister Emily put it, "The only snakes we want to see are when we drink homemade likker!

The bridge over Buzzard Creek is not really out. The sign was just put up to discourage revenuers from going into the back area. Revenuers are so credulous!

Squatters have taken to living in the large number of FEMA trailers parked in that lot on MS 43 N toward Columbia. If their numbers get large enough, they may incorporate and petition to move the county seat there.

On Halloween 28 privies were tipped over by pranksters. One minister was using it when his was tipped. Darned delinquents! 

Speaking of outhouses, some of the more effluent residents of the Beat have resorted to making theirs out of brick. This landscaping initiative originated as the result of a misunderstanding of a description of Cordie May. Here are three examples of distinctive Beat Five architecture:

Thomas Jefferson designed the original.

It helps you attain a spiritual outlook
as well as a good tan.