Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Don't Feed the Bears!

When I was in high school, I was told by a few wild girls how to get an easy morale lift. Being an adolescent, and liable to my share of the blues, ennui, and disappointments, this prospect seemed worth looking into.

The naughty Catholic school girl meme is more of a fantasy than reality.  Still, its history might have begun with Britney Spears's breakout hit Baby One More Time (1999). Anyway, you can get a naughty adult Halloween costume in that style, and one of the local breasturants had a night in which women were encouraged to dress like schoolgirls! Is that ever kind of kinky? The reality is that if any of us came to school dressed like that, we would be sent home if not expelled; and have to wear sackcloth and ashes and kneel in front of the bishop's house! And people would still be talking about it in twenty years!

No, any wildness or naughtiness was quite muted in reality.  

Since we were blessed with one of those half-days of school, four of the more daring girls invited me along on their little adventure. And oh my! It consisted of driving near a boys' high school walking down the banquette that runs along the back of that school.  On the other side was a chapel, and next to it a fenced in asphalt schoolyard, and a handball court there for no apparent purpose. Who plays that, anyway? Guys used to go behind it to smoke.). Oh, I might mention that the boys attending that school were still in session with an after-lunch recess in progress.

Anyway, we start to walk past the yard, and I was told, "Angel! Slow up and don't walk so fast! We want to be noticed by the guys. And one of us who shall be unnamed as she's now an attorney pinned up her skirt beyond mid-thigh level; and gave the most deliberately provocative walk possible. And she was wearing girls' school saddle oxfords, not fuck-me shoes! Such daring cheek! I can imagine some of the older spinsters of the Church laying into us with criticism!  Anyway, the five of us attracted several of the guys dressed in their khaki-colored military type uniforms and they came up to the fence. They gave the sense of being caged animals, which is a metaphor for high school, anyway.

One of them said, "Angel?" It was my copain Dee-Doh, so I went over and started talking to him. One of the other girls went with, "Angel, don't feed the bears," meaning letting them look but not talk to them. Such a tease!

Still, I was glad to see him and lingered a bit, until this black-robed priest or something told me to move along. I did, hoping that my friend would not get into trouble for knowing what appeared to be loose Catholic girls to the censorious black robe. Dee-Doh told me later that he was reproved for talking with girls! But only in a half-hearted way.  He told the priest that he was just talking to a friend of his sister's (true) that he knew from his parish. They didn't see him as having a priestly vocation in his future, anyway.

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.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Most Peculiar Street Name

Sometimes people bestow names on children, pets, body parts, places, and even streets that make others wonder; or at least people with some mild degree of curiosity. I confess to wondering about Mars Hill, NC. Why did the original namer feel a need to commemorate a geographical feature on the red planet? It turns out that Mars Hill was one of those places where St. Paul dropped a sermon on an unsuspecting crowd, much like Mlle. The Prophetess does on innocent Orleanians. That kind of fits in with the local religion fervor that goes with a Christian university located there.

But then looking a little further I find that the town also has a street named Ban the Blues Lane.


Where did that come from? What is named by a blues music hater? Or one of those "Don't worry, be happy" types? Does someone hate the University of Toronto or Chelsea Football Club that much? Hardly likely in western North Carolina. My Google search failed to enlighten me.

Do you have any ideas where this came from? Also, have you encountered any strange street names you would like to share?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Doing the Brackets Without Knowing Basketball

Well, it's bracket time again; and people who don't usually give a flip about basketball start considering how to fill in their brackets for March Madness or The Big Dance, and somebody or other named it in such an outlandish way. Yes, it's NCAA Basketball Tournament time; just midway between the SI Swimsuit Issue and the first game of baseball season. I'll have to admit that I'm in one of those basketball-crazed areas; so I have a little head start. Oh well......

The first thing is to note the teams' seeding numbers; the lower the number, the better the team is judged to be. Most importantly, 16th seeded teams never win; the first round is a breather for the first seeded teams. Anyway, I think that Duke and Kentucky will be in the final game.

Then the fun begins. Second- and third-seeded teams are usually safe bets. But after that, YOYO!

Me, I go with team colors next. Purple and gold or red and white look sharp. Or blue and white. Yes, baby blue and white, especially.

Duke and Kentucky are usually safe bets.  After all, Area Code 606 is basketball and moonshine country.

I never pick No Tree Dame or Ole Miss. Not my style. Teams wearing orange and white look too suspiciously like Dreamsickles to me. 

Red and black? Now this seems to be a color too often associated with sexy lingerie that guys buy women as gifts. Anyway, some Texan team wears those colors. Red and black teams are a good choice, as Stendahl observed.

Whoever chose USC's or Oregon's colors should be kicked for bad taste, or pitied for colorblindness. Protanopia, most likely.

Consider teams' mascots when making your choices. Can you believe teams with nicknames like Gentlemen, Hats, Billikens, Hokies, or Hilltoppers? No, go safe and select teams with forceful names, like Tigers (Yay LSU) or Bulldogs.

For the middle-seeded teams (7th vs. 10th, 8th vs. 9th), just flip a coin. 

And don't cry, Argentina, if some of your picks don't come home to roost. Just don't bet the rent on the NCAA Tournament. It's not like it's soccer.

The bast part of it is hanging around a sports bar on some night in the first weekend. Sorry, one of those nights is a Sunday, so if sports bars are closed on Sunday, just hang around a pizza palace with a t.v. You can believe the wait staff will be glued to the screen. The downside is that the pizza will often be done haphazardly.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Lewd Dude's Tips for a Successful Road Trip

Dean of Students: I want to introduce to you Milton Paroxetine, a student here at Southern Indiana University,  Mr. Paroxetine has reached a level of achievement in his reputation for wild, decadent partying that he was widely known as the Lewd Dude. Now he has agreed to share with all of us some tips for a successful road trip:

Milton: Thanks, Dean. Let me say that I appreciate this opportunity to share my proven tips to my fellow students. You are definitely an enlightened college administrator! And it's in all of our best interests to have a safe, if not sane, spring break trip. So, here they are; I learned these tips the hard way so you won't have to.

1.  Get your car serviced and inspected before you hit the road. Also, make sure your insurance and registration is up to date.

2.  If you're going to New Orleans or the Gulf Coast, drive the speed limit and don't have open containers! We once got stopped in Alabama not with banjos on our knees but open beer bottles. One of them fell out of the car and poured beer on the deputy's pants. Remember, 40% of revenues in some counties come from speeding and prohibition fines. And the worst speed trap is Ludowici, GA!

3.  Take old school highway maps. The GPS may direct you through back ways that have limited eats and convenience stores. 

4.  Keep your eye on the prize! The South is loaded with seemingly interesting but ultimately disappointing sites that might take you off your route and waste your time. Do you really want to tell people back at the U. that you went to the Ave Maria Grotto or the Jack Daniel Distillery or the condom factory in Dothan for your Spring Break?

5.  If in a mixed road trip, try to achieve a 1:1 sex ratio or nearly.  But, hey! Part of the attraction of a road trip is finding opportunities for sex and partying without any after effects. Ideally, what happens in Panama City should stay in Panama City.

6.  Before choosing a place to go for Spring Break, do a little research on how permissive and Spring Breaker-friendly the local police are. Stay away from places that you know someone who went there and got tossed in jail.

7.  If you go to New Orleans, DON'T drink Hurricanes! Okay....drink only one on a dare.

8.  On the Gulf Coast, Sex on the Beach is a possible drink but not an activity. The local cops don't like that. Seriously, even a crappy motel is better, and you don't have to worry about sand. Work out your motel room sharing in advance on the way down.

9.  Don't try to pick up local girls. Especially in New Orleans! Look for other Spring Breakers. Hey, it's okay for a little slumming and cross-pollination between Ohio State and Michigan students. But remember: what happens on Spring Break stays there!

10.  Buy your weed before you go. There are some narcs who pose as dealers to trap Breakers. Buy your beer on site: you might need a fake i.d.

11.  Choose your destination carefully. Here are some primo Spring Break locations, as determined by wildness and lack of inhibitions: 
(a) Panama City Beach
(b) Daytona Beach
(c) Key West
(d) Miami
(e) South Padre Island
(f) Myrtle Beach
(g) San Diego
(f) Las Vegas
(g) Lake Havasu City
(h) Cancun
(i) Gulf Shores
(j) New Orleans
Obviously, places like Omaha, Cleveland, or Spokane would not be in the running.

12.  Bring along enough money to post bail or pay small fines.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Billy Bob and the Bikini Baristas

Well, Billy Bob decided to go legit: no shady doins' any more; he wuz going to be a strictly Main Street businessman, which was easily achievable in sleepy Possum Trot, MS. The problem was that Billy Bob didn't have no skills, nohow; so he opened a coffee bar that gave some routine business but nothin' special. Well, it was a small town market, Mississippi-style. What made it a problem further is that two fast food places with take-out windows started serving breakfast; and sausage biscuits caught on like a case of poison ivy!  But Billy Bob was looking for a better business model for coffee houses; and he got one on the internet that he saw instead of looking at a little light porn.

He read that some Washington State take-out coffee places featured bikini baristas; and they were doing a quite nifty business in the coffee-thirsty Pacific northwest. Would this also catch on in Mississippi? Billy Bob noticed that cute cheerleaders boosted attendance at the junior college games, not to mention Mississippi State. Well, he was going to give it his best shot.

So he hired two good ole blonde gals, one with tall and one with grande assets, to wear bikinis while selling coffee. Immediately, there was an increase in business. So to boost it a bit further, he hired a brunette gal with venti-sized boobs to appeal to all preferences. Over time, the gals substituted pasties for bikini tops, which added to the spectacle.  He also added some tarted-up flavors to his coffee menu, just in case. Customers came from as far as Meridian and Tuscaloosa.

Now business was really, really growin', and the girls were plumb happy 'cause they got big tips at a rate unheard of in Mississippi. And things were really good. However, the forces of morality in Possum Trot began to rally an opposition, led by two of the local ministers. They took a complaint to the town council; and in true democracy fashion, there was a hearing. Besides, there wasn't a high school football game on that night so entertainment was sparse.

The ministers argued that, while drinking coffee in itself was not sinful, having it sold by underdressed misses was a blot on both the laws of God and of man. Mothers for Morality also made a case to prohibit bikini baristas in Possum Trot. Others came forth, until the local bootlegger said that this sort of business would be bad for the community (his business) and result in a crime wave. Besides, the teeny weeny bikinis the girls wore were as thin as fettuccine!

Then the Methodist minister noted that, since the coffee shop opened, there was a decline in public drunkenness and swearing locally. And people were more alert during church services.

Main Street business interests mentioned the very salient fact: there was always a police or sheriff's deputy or state trooper parked downtown, and crime was down! Furthermore, there was a spillover effect: the bikini coffee house drew in customers who also bought gas and shopped locally, and this meant more sales taxes. Besides, it increased local employment for three more persons.

The holy roller minister did own up that there was a lot less dancing going on in Possum Trot.


So the City Council, in an attempt to make peace locally, asked rhetorically if it would be okay to allow the bikini coffee house if the baristas would wear real bikini tops instead of pasties?

Billy Bob and the girls agreed. As Ellie May (the venti brunette) put it, my damn left pasty tended to come unstuck a lot, anyway.

So with the wisdom of Solomon, the bikini barista flap in Possum Trot was over. Who says compromise is a bad thing? Maybe there's a lesson here for Congress.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Face in the Window

Pickens County, Alabama is one of those out-of-the-way places, 35 miles west of Tuscaloosa and with a 2010 population of 19,746. Not a lot happens there; however, one of the spooky stories of the South comes from the county seat of Carrollton, Alabama, a town with about 980 residents. This is the Face in the Window.

According to one version of the story, the Pickens County's courthouse was burned down by Union troops during the Civil War. Soon after the Great Unpleasantness, a second one was built, but it was also burned down and arson was suspected. That riled some folks. There was a local former slave, one Henry Wells, who had a reputation for trouble and he was rumored to have burned it down during a failed burglary attempt.

The citizens of Pickens County, figuring the third time's the charm, erected a third courthouse. By the time suspicion regarding the second courthouse's burning had focused on Henry Wells, this third one had been erected. When Wells was arrested, they locked him in the garret or attic. Some versions had it that while fleeing, he attempted to hide in this third courthouse, but a lynch mob pursued him there.

While he was hiding and looking out of the window at the angry mob, a lightning flash occurred. And supposedly his image got etched into the lower right pane of the garret window on the East side. This image was discovered soon after the lynching by one of the lynch mob members, who remembered that Wells would leave a reminder that they hanged an innocent man.

To this day, this supposed image of Henry Wells continues to stare down at Pickens County residents as a cautionary message against lynching.

However, another version of the alleged events tells a different story. This one has it that Henry Wells died of natural causes, but that another lynching got mixed up in the narrative. Choose the one you prefer.


Not surprisingly, to explain this anomaly in a window, the local community would tend to opt for the story with the greater dramatic value. There were even embellishments to this legend and a local drama.

Here's Kathryn Tucker Windham, Alabama storyteller and writer, giving her version of the story:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQcPzB_UFys

East side of Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton, AL

The discoloration of the garret window

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Proof that the Vikings Discovered Texas

Only die-hard Columbus fans hold to the notion that Chris Columbus discovered America. Well, he may have been the first European to discover San Salvador, if you discount the Caribs who probably thought when seeing him, "There goes the neighborhood." Anyway, the Vikings led by Leif Erikson apparently landed at Vinland (Vineland), somewhere in North America.  (Some hoaxsters nine centuries later carved a hunch of runes on a stone in Minnesota, and claimed that the Vikings discovered that state! No, we have to find someone else to blame for Minneapolis!

Recent archeology evidence indicates that the Vikings may have sailed further south than expected, into the Gulf of Mexico. As a matter of fact, a grave excavated in Norway indicated that its occupant. one Thorbob the Short, was buried with a helmet having unusually long horns. This seemed to fit in with the local legends which asserted that Thorbob the Short and his intrepid Vikings went to a warm land with unusual animals. A local parchment illustrated these animals which looked like Texas longhorns, coyotes, an horned toads. Is it possible?

One little aspect of the local legend is that Thorbob affixed these longhorns on his helmet, thinking he would bring a new fashion to Norway. However, the length of the horns posed an impediment to wearers' wishing to gain quick access or egress to mead houses.  Because of that, Thorbob's style did not catch on.

Also, Europe was nearby, and a great place to go and raise hell! Some even made a permanent home in Normandy, and gave up wearing horns entirely in favor of the sporty beret.  Think of how satorical styles would be different in Fort Worth or El Paso if those beret-wearing Normans had discovered and colonized Texas!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Angel and the Beauty Pageant

I suppose the stage was set for this when I was young.  Daddy took me out to eat at our favorite hamburger joint, Bud's Broiler, where we saw one of the contestants from a children's beauty pageant, all decked out and glamorous.  I thought in my six year old way, wow!

Fast forward to when I was in college.  Like a typical 18 year-old, I joined a few clubs, but did not rush a sorority.  Things were going on well in my freshman year; and it was time for the annual beauty pageant at the University.  True to the pattern, the sponsors requested that various student organizations submit a nominee for the Miss Campus Queen Contest.*  My organization had not been planning to submit an entry; yet the president of a rival academic organization made a crack about our organization having homely girls; and not having anyone worth making an entry, as they knew they were overmatched.

The major league bitch!  My club was so totally pissed; and resolved to enter one of theirs come hell or high water.  However, some of the other girls begged out because of feminism, because of pregnancy, because of being swamped with work or studies, or because "she knew her butt was too big."  Anyway, they were pretty well scraping the bottom of the barrel, and Tee Angel was one of the remaining double-X chromosome certified possibilities, and (most importantly) I could not talk my way out of it.

I must admit that I was secretly pleased; and learned about the scope of the pageant.  Sure enough, it required some display of talent, some  adroitness at answering questions (I was definitely in favor of world peace) while wearing an evening dress, and that dreaded and most expected part: the swimsuit competition. 

Anyway, since I was nominated by an academic nerd organization, I had no one to fill me in on was to expect or how to perform, so I thought I'd wing it.  On further reflection, I asked Mama for some help as I was over my head.  She was a big help by helping me modify my old prom dress for the pageant.  Indeed, she thought it was a total hoot!

So I did a beauty pageant.  And I got a look backstage.  Most of the girls were friendly and doing it for laughs like I was, or because they were talked into it and relatively clueless!  There were, of course, a few professional pageant competers who tended to look down on the unwashed that they had to share a dressing room with.  

 For my talent I performed the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker Suite.   I thought I did well; considering that the competition included a rope twirler, a clogger, someone who could not quite sing on key, a yo-yoer, and someone who sang "Baby One More Time," complete with sexy schoolgirl outfit!  However, I lost to another contestant who twirled the baton!  That's the kind of talent that is recognized.

I'm sorry that when it came to spontaneous answers I was not the one to get the World Peace Question.  Instead, I was asked by a sports-minded judge about what I thought of artificial turf.  I gave a flip answer on a whim thinking that my answer would be remembered for its originality:  I replied that men should go au naturel rather than wear wigs!  He then asked be what I thought of the designated hitter rule.  My response was that a girl should learn to defend herself, and not simply get brothers or boyfriends to do the heavy work!  [Maybe I would have qualified for Miss South Carolina.]  At least I didn't such hard to answer questions as "What if the sun doesn't shine tomorrow?" or "What would you do if your future husband disapproved of you having worn a bikini before he met you?"

My evening gown part of the pageant went well due to Mama having modified it well.  But then there was the dreaded swimwear competition, where we serve as eye candy, more of less, for the yahoos.  Suffice it to say that I did not employ technical enhancements, unlike some of the other participants.  And I did not inspire any "ahh" or "wow!" comments.  Instead, I strutted and fretted my overly long minute on the stage, and was seen no more.  Followed by modest applause.

I was neither the winner or one of the runners-up.  However, this saga ended on a happy note.  When I attended the next meeting of the organization, they gave me a standing ovation, and a tiara, declaring that I was their Queen.  I actually came to tears; and took it with me during my textbook salesperson days and, later, when I went to graduate school.

*There were universities that had Miss Campus Chest contests over 50 years ago.  These supported the Community Chest, but also emphasized certain prominences.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

St. Gertrude of Nivelles, Cats, and Go-cups

St. Gertrude of Nivelles (621-659) was a noblewoman who, when aged ten, rejected a potential arranged marriage between the offspring of a king and her and declared that "she was a bride of Christ." Unfortunately, she was married anyway.  After his death, Gertrude became an abbess instead and is recognized as the Patron of Cats as well as the sick, the mentally ill, and travelers. She is historically invoked against mice and rats. Does that make her first of the crazy cat ladies?

How many cats must a woman possess in order to be a crazy cat lady?  Is there any generally accepted number?  I can accept that the general concept requires that the person must be (1) a lady, (2) be crazy, and (3) have many cats. It can be expressed in set notation as:

 [Lady ∩ Crazy ∩ Many Cats.] 

Does this concept exempt tramps or skanks, mentally sound people, or collectors of Pound Purries (stuffed kitties)?

I might also add that Gertrude is invoked a by travelers for a safe journey. Supposedly, a drink before hitting the road is referred to as 'St. Gertrude's cup.'

I guess that also makes her the patron saint of go-cups. Would that also apply to go-cups of coffee, or is that only for alcohol? At least drive-in daiquiri stands have a patron! (People find it incredible that there are drive-in daiquiri stands on SE Louisiana!)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pwisen Malek

The island of Pohnpei, one of those in Micronesia, has an interesting yet unfortunately-named physical feature. It is called Pwisen Malek, which translates literally to Chickenshit Mountain. This landmark acquired its name because of an old native legend which traced its origins as due to a giant chicken defecating on that spot, leaving a mountain of manure. I'm glad I don't have to clean up that!

[Thanks to Dee Dee for this story.]

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Monstre Sacré

A monstre sacré is the French term for "sacred monster"; a celebrity whose fame, talent, charisma, or earning power gives him or her a cushion from the consequences of his misconduct.  Therefore, this person can get away with acting abusive, insufferable, and jerk-like.  She or he may offer unqualified pronouncements and engage in bizarre behavior.

The entertainment magazines and the paparazzi feed this tendency, as do the "posses" (camp followers) that these luminaries have around them.

Do you really think that show-biz temperament displays are anything more than power displays?  Or the "train wreck" actresses who flash more than they should?  Do you think their displays were entirely accidental?

There's the Hollywood conception that any publicity is better than no publicity at all.  This principle, fortunately, does not extend to politicians.  After all, they have to be re-elected, and cannot alienate too critical a mass of potential voters.

[Memo: To The Donald
If you want to dabble in politics, you need to commit fully to playing the game! Stop acting like a jerk.]

The fact is, outrageousness is permitted by default in people with special talents, position, or connections because those people can get away with it.  There's both the absence of the moorings of custom for them together with their acquiring a sense of entitlement.  And the result is that they become nuisances. This applies to assistant principals too.

Ultimately, monstre sacrés are people who advertise their importance and power by he prodigious expenditure of social capital in terms of other peoples' patience and good will.  These are people who want to make it absolutely evident to others that they can get away with it, or the social costs for misbehavior are trivial for them, who see themselves as above the common herd.  Does this help to understand wacky or rude attention-grabbing at the Grammys or the Academy Awards, or the errant douchery of people in the media?

A comparably well-behaved monster.