The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

May 28, 2016

Vicious Cuisine — How New Orleans just made me eat something very, very naughty

They say in Vegas that what happens there stays there, but for most of what happens in New Orleans, what happens there has an afterlife that wafts eveywhere. What I have done makes me want to confess in pre-Vatican-II Latin: Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

The French Quarter is a tourist destination for decadence.  I was not there exactly as a tourist when I committed my trespass against decency.  No, I was there on business, truly — getting my book The White Trash Pantheon (Vox Press, 2015) in local independent bookstores like Faulkner House Books on Pirate’s Alley and Beckham’s Bookshop over on Decatur Street. I was literally minding my own business, that of poet, when I was seduced by the vicious underbelly life of the French Quarter to do something so unspeakable, I hardly tell you all now how decadent it was.

I am an unlikely candidate for temptation to commit the many vices present on Bourbon Street.  First of all, I drink in moderation whenever I drink.  As a woman of Irish ancestry, I have my ancestors’ hollow leg, anyway, unlikely to be overcome by intoxicants of the fermented kind.  The idea of vomiting on myself in an alleyway doesn’t sound like a fun afternoon, even in the rain. I am unlikely to seek out the ministrations of strippers and prostitutes.  Not even Sam Heughan taking off all his clothes would inspire me to find places to stuff dollar bills, and he is my ideal log thrower in a traditional Celtic caber toss, certainly. I have no desire for any perversion I could hire an illicit sex worker to perform.  My money is therefore generally safe on Bourbon Street, as is my soul.  The Lord’s Prayer asks that we be not led into temptation, and Bourbon Street is not a direct path to any temptation for me.  I see the end from the beginning there — vomit on shoes, throbbing heads, empty wallets, and a need to see the doctor, just in case. Bourbon Street does not lead me into temptation, even though it does not exactly deliver me from evil — if you don’t want a hooker on Bourbon Street, there are voodoo curses available for a price.  I am a generally forgiving soul.  I do not play with witchcraft — it’s not a toy; it’s not a joke; and malevolent intentions are in themselves curses on the holder of said intentions.

But Bourbon Street, named for the decadent royal dynasty that built Versailles, is not the only decadent street in the French Quarter.  Conti Street, named for one of the leaders of that dynasty, a Prince of Bourbon, held my decadent downfall a few days ago.  Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa.  I am an American.  I have American sins. Mea Maxima Culpa.

At a lovely new shop, I stopped as the rain burst from the sky.  The thing you see in the photo seemed to call out my name. It glistened before me as thunder rattled the pastry  cases at the shop. The French Quarter, after putting forth all other forms of temptation in front of me, finally found my kink, my proclivity, my sin.  Indeed, it is a sin akin to original sin — that of eating what one mustn’t ever eat. The object of my desire seemed to whisper what Stanley said to Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire right before he rapes her — “We’ve had this date since the beginning.” Like Blanche, I swooned and let myself be ravaged.

bacon donut

This is the bacon maple donut available 24/7 at Sweet Things & Grill #2 on Conti Street in New Orleans.

No one should ever eat a bacon-topped maple donut, but if it’s wrong, well, I didn’t want to be right.  The salty grease of the bacon mitigated the over-sweetness of the maple fondant frosting. It tasted like American imperialism, like land stolen from Native American tribes.  It tasted like the last day in the imagined chateau of the Marquis de Sade (who must have known the Prince de Conti for whom my fated destination with the donut was named), when all the other decadence was spent in his banned book.  It tasted like the fifty-first shade of gray.  It tasted like my mortality, embraced suicidally, as the paramedics placed the cold paddles on my chest and shouted clear, and I murmured, “no — let me go toward the light, that salty, maple light.”

It tasted like the end of Jim Morrison’s song, “The End.” It tasted like New Orleans, wrapped in bacon, slathered with syrup, demanding a perpetual carnival, then throwing the ashes from the smokehouse where the bacon was cured into the river at the Saint Ann’s Parade.  This is the end, my only friend, the end.  This is the end of America, its ultimate expression of selfish piggishness as the Third World starves.  This is the end, mon semblable, mon frère.

It was like I ripped the head off a chicken in a sacrifice to some shadowy Dick Cheney-like Orisha, then drank the blood from its neck, smearing the mess all over my white santera dress, then rolling my eyes back in my head, seeing a vision of the molecular structures of lipids and glucose in an orgy of stray atomic legs as I chattered like a blonde Fox News pundit as the crawl of words underneath my head ran like this: “Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain/ And all the children are insane /All the children are insane /Waiting for the summer rain, yeah”  — The end, beautiful friend, the end.

I wish, as I kneel here confessing myself to all of you, that I could tell you I was sorry.  I am not.  I will have to work out at my new gym in Algiers for at least a week just to burn off the calories that one donut put on my body, but how can I say I am sorry?  New Orleans made me eat it, the way it seduces all newcomers somehow.  I confess the sin of American gluttony and hegemony.  I confess the sin of re-appropriating Jim Morrison and Charles Baudelaire to hegemonic ends, the end.  Honestly, the donut was quite delicious, and if there is anyone who needs to gain at least twenty pounds for some reason, perhaps just one of them wouldn’t be bad.  I do not have that need.  I am at the gym now.  I was asked by the trainer why on Earth I would eat that bacon-maple donut, and I said, “It was like Everest.  I ate it because it was there.”

It was there, the full expression of our American flaws, the rock uplifted, slithering exposed. Yes, I ate that thing.  Yes, I need to sweat. Yes, the  end, the end.

For your own apotheosis via a bacon-maple donut, find it if you dare at Sweet Things & Grill #2, 806 Conti Street, New Orleans.


April 25, 2010


Me with yet another pet -- okay, really Donna Douglas, but hey, it could happen!

In the beginning, there was me, just me, an apartment dweller.  I was accountable to no one.

Then, an older lady where I lived in Queens, around the corner from me, asked me if I knew anyone who wanted a kitten who had wandered onto her stoop.  The kitten came home with me.

I moved to Mississippi.  There was a man with a dog.  His little dog, a daschund, seemed easy enough to handle along with my cat.

Then my step-daughter told me her mother was going to put her dog to sleep if she didn’t find another home for it.  That dog lives here, too.

Then that dog brought home a live tortoise.

I remember watching The Beverly Hillbillies as a child and thinking how nice it would be to have a way with animals, with “critturs” the way that Ellie Mae Clampett did.  I heard her Southern accent, but I did not understand that her hillbilliness and her crittur skills were linked.  I only knew that when I asked my mother for a pet chimp, she told me that was not a practical choice for suburban dwellers.

Now, however, while neither having a pet chimp nor being truly in the back woods where my husband might shoot up some bubbling crude (alas!), I see a certain link between more rural life and pet life.

I find myself, like the lady in the unicorn tapestry, chosen by critturs for my extraordinary sweetness and purity — or maybe they are just looking for any chump who can fry up some bacon and let them lick something covered with the resulting grease.

I was not trained for this — I have cocktail party social skills, not hillbilly crittur skills.  However, I can adapt — if I imagine myself organizing a soiree with games, and the pets are my guests, here are the activities we seem to have planned:

Crudites and cocktails — more like crudities than crudites.

Parlor games with the following names:

  • Fetch the stick
  • What are you chewing on?
  • Whose poop is this? ( suggested by my friend Inna)
  • bath round up (like a conga line with barking)
  • Eat this, not that
  • The cat is not a_____ (Chew toy, enemy of the state, or other construct of indeterminate origin)
  • Musical bowls
  • Come back here!  Come back here NOW!

Personally, I would like to plunge us all in the cement pond and get us clean with chlorinated blue water three times a day.

I don’t have a pet chimp, but I might as well have one for all the mayhem in my life.  I used to have something like style.

I caught the new dog chewing the stuffing out of one of my duvets.  Recently, I was wiping up the food spill messes in the kitchen with a rag.  I left the rag in the laundry hamper.  The dog reached her head in and ate the rag — the whole rag — then vomited it up on the kitchen floor.  This resulted in the use of another rag to wipe up messes, one that I have hidden from dog reach.

My nails are gritty.  My pink bathrobe is covered with muddy paw prints.  My hair looks less like Ellie Mae’s and more like — choosing a mid-century TV reference — Phyllis Diller’s.

I remember that apartment dweller.  She looked nice, but she was lonely.

I have always wanted (secretly) a cloying entourage.  I now have one.  Wherever I go, I hear thundering hoof beats behind me.  I might decide, after all, to fry up some bacon, and none of these critturs, with the possible exception of the tortoise, would want to miss that.

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