Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Strange Mystique of New Orleans

                It’s impossible to be called to a city that you’ve never visited simply through your own imagination, yet I feel like that’s exactly what New Orleans does for me.  I’ve never been there… never seen hide nor hair of its infamous city line or banks along Lake Pontchartrain.  Yet for some strange reason, I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye.  Isn’t that peculiar?  I think the strangest oddity of all is perhaps that I don’t see it as it stands today.  I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what I thought New Orleans looked like today (honestly my first thoughts of modern New Orleans jump to Lil Wayne and that’s a scary thought), but I seem to have quite a vivid picture of what I think the New Orleans of old looked like.
 Perhaps it’s the antique flair of a different era, where elegant parties, flashy Mardi Gras Queens, and voodoo priestesses reigned supreme.  I can hear the distant melody of a trumpet softly serenading some remote corner of the French Quarter, as a gentle breeze sweeps through ripe with the smell of honeysuckle and sweet Magnolia blossoms.  I can hear women laughing, holding on to their beaus as they head to a party… one that won’t end until the dawn conquers the uncertain night.  Maybe it’s the antique houses with the wrought iron fencing that seemed to swirl and curl into vines and tendrils. 
I see these things… I imagine them… it’s almost like I’ve been there before.  Maybe since that area of the US has been glamorized in so many movies I’ve seen, I just seem to have developed a liking for what I think it might be like.  I’ve sought out certain things native to New Orleans just so that I could be a part of it.  I found a little boutique café in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, DC run by a family from New Orleans, and their food was spectacular.  I had a poboy and a trio of beignets sprinkled with powdered sugar so sweet that it seemed to melt into the hot dough and form a syrup.  Delicious!
I think if I could have lived in another time, I would have loved to live in New Orleans, where race didn’t seem to be as much of an issue as it was in other places in the US.  Where a person would hear talk of the infamous Quadroon balls where white men and free women of color would get together to form an alliance of some sort… what they call a placage.  Or what would it have been like to see Marie Laveau down in Jackson Square dancing with her pet snake, Zombi, leading the city to its Voodoo calling on St. John’s Eve.
What beautiful threads of multi-culture woven into a rich tapestry of history, New Orleans has.  Or at least I think it has.  I dream of it sometimes… of the ancient cemeteries of yesteryear, filled with white slave masters, black mistresses, and a bouillabaisse of different people, coming together to coexist peacefully… or at least more peacefully than the rest of the Southern US.  The jazz funerals with bands following the dead to its final resting place… The Mardi Gras beads and sex in the streets as a last hurrah before Lent…  New Orleans is a beautiful city of sin.
Even the taboo… the images of voodoo dolls with pins stuck in them and priestesses worshipping the Loa with faces painted white and ash upon their foreheads, they all bring a certain mystique to the city that just seems to draw people in.  How could you resist wondering what a place like that would be like?  And how could you resist being attracted to its rich traditions, wanting to be a part of it in some way?
Maybe I will get there some day…  I will hear the music and taste the Andouille gumbos, and sip café au lait, taking in the afternoon sun.  I’ll slap the mosquitos and visit the bayou, stopping in to some remote hole in the wall that specializes in crawfish and jambalaya.  I will visit that strangely addictive place… and I will be a part of that culture, if only for a day.  I will see what my heart wishes to see, and it will remain with me forever.  Laissez les bon temps rouler, la Nouvelle Orléans!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Twilight... Buying into the Hype

            Twilight… what can be said?  Moody, brooding, sparkly vampires walking around not biting people.  It sounds absurd, and that’s hardly a formidable vampire, now is it?  I mean, what happened to the intense seduction of vampires?  The blood lust?  The sheer brutality of it when he’s angered?  Now that’s what makes a vampire!  Not to mention, the allergy to sunlight?  Remember when vampires used to burst into bright flames and burn like nobody’s business when exposed to the sun?  What about the old stake through the heart?  Or even coffins?
            None of that was in Twilight… and I admit, because of this, I wasn’t interested in watching it.  In my opinion, a moody, sparkly vampire certainly makes for a poor excuse for a night stalking bloodsucker.  But alas, my curiosity got the best of me.  And as Borders was going out of business and having a helluva sale, when I saw the book being advertised for about $5 bucks, I said, what the hell… I’ll give it a whirl.  How bad could it be? Right?  What I discovered was completely unexpected.  What I found instead of vicious, sexy, blood sucking vampires with huge chompers was an intensely romantic love story that touched even me.  Who would have thought?
            The love story between Bella and Edward was seductive to me in the sense that it was so unconditional.  He loved her so much yet his natural instincts wanted to do what all vampires must do… kill her.  But he fought it… fought it because he swore not to drink human blood and somehow… somewhere… this incredible, passionate, deep, yearning type love developed for her.  And I think the best part about it was that she was just as drawn to him… just as in love with him.  For lack of better words, it was simply beautiful.
            Stunned… utterly stunned, I decided that I needed to read the next book in the series: New Moon.  I rushed myself on down to Barnes and Noble and purchased it and began to read it.  To my surprise, Edward leaves Bella… for her own good.  The heartbreak that was portrayed there was incredible.  Bella was more depressed than anyone I had ever read about in a book; and I found myself crying along with her.  Perhaps because I understand and could definitely relate to how she felt, having experienced so much heartbreak and loss myself.  I had to put the book down… couldn’t finish it.  It made me depressed to read about the emptiness she felt.  It reminded me of my own emptiness... that hollow place inside that houses the pain from losing love.  I decided the best way for me to get the gist of what was going to happen was to watch the movies instead.  Maybe the movies would be kinder on my senses, and I wouldn't be sitting there crying like a blubbering fool.
            I went to Target and found all three movies on sale.  I think I now understand what the hype is about.  It wasn’t the fact that Edward was a vampire but the fact that the love between the two young people (and I use the term young loosely considering Edward is actually 104 years old) was epic… immortal like the vampire himself.  Though the first movie wasn’t as good as the book, I found that the love they experienced was very pure and very much coveted… by me.
            It makes me feel silly to yearn and long for that type of love when I know it’s just a story.  Maybe that type of love doesn’t even exist.  I don’t really know.  But I know the times where I thought I had something similar, I didn’t.  And each time I watch the movies, I find myself crying… crying for me.  Crying because I don’t have… and have never had what two fictional characters have.  I found myself crying because when Bella thought she had lost Edward forever, I understood her despair and desolation.  I found myself crying for poor Jacob (the werewolf) who was in love with Bella but couldn’t have her.  Found myself crying because I know how that feels too.
            I suppose at this point I understand people’s obsession with this series.  Maybe they long to feel the same love that I do… that Bella and Edward do.  Maybe the only way they can get close to it is to watch two fictional characters act it out.  I think that’s sad… sad and a tad pathetic… but in my case, an unfortunate truth.
            It sounds stupid, but I hope that someday… someday soon, I can experience that eternal, unconditional love that Bella and Edward have.  I hope that as hard as I love… whomever I am meant to love, that they will reciprocate the feelings.  That they will fight to keep me close to their heart the way Edward fought for Bella... and the way that Bella fought for Edward.  Sad to say that a whiny, moody, high schooler and a sparkling vampire are the models to show you how love is supposed to be, but it’s pretty true.  I hope someday that I can find my Edward… if he exists for me.   Until then… I guess I’ll always have Twilight. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Truth about Real Zombies

Hmm… do you ever think about Zombies and what you’d do if you actually met one?  Probably not, because if you’re like most “normal” people, something as silly as a Zombie has no place in your life; and unless you’re watching the Chiller channel or some B list movie that has horrible special effects where there’s some second rate actor eating the brains of a dead carcass, you probably don’t give Zombies any thought at all. And rightly so.  You’ve got more important things to think about like Obama’s national debt problem and that Casey Anthony trial that went left field out of nowhere.

But even though you might not be thinking about them, I’ve got news for you: Zombies are real. Now what do you think about that?  Oh, I’m not saying that those idiotic reanimated corpses that are sluggishly walking around town biting chunks of flesh out of people’s arms are real… that would be ridiculous, but there is such a thing as a real Zombie out there… theoretically speaking, of course.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert in the ways and culture of the Voodoo religion.  Hey, I’m not an expert on the ways and culture of any religion, but I’ve read up on the subject just a bit and the findings are a tad interesting… if not uncomfortable.  I’ve read that a Zombie can be created if the coup de poudre (a powerful powdered poison made from the toxins of a puffer fish) is ingested or absorbed through the skin.  Oh yeah, and this is usually carried out by people who are involved with the Voodoo religion.  No judgment!  Just saying… you won’t usually see a Baptist or Methodist handing out Zombie powder.  Now let’s think about that for a moment.  All it takes to make a Zombie is some really powerful, toxic powder.  Lord have mercy!  If the terrorists ever get a hold of a secret like that, the US is in big trouble.

Anyway, the way that it works is that the powder begins to affect the person's heart, slowing it down to an almost undetectable rate.  It then leaves that person completely paralyzed for at least 36 to 72 hours, making it appear that the person is dead.  Just what the world needs… another crazy ass powder that leaves you without the ability to move or function… as if there aren’t enough nonfunctioning assholes out there…  But even though the person is unable to move in addition to their extremely lowered heart rate, the person has full awareness of what’s going on around him or her.  Talk about torture…  If you do make it out alive, your head is probably all messed up watching everyone around you think that you're dead.  My head is messed up just thinking about it.

In most cases, the person is often buried alive and upon regaining “consciousness” it can look like the person is rising from the dead.  And what is a reanimated dead person but a Zombie?  It amazes me that anyone would actually set out to do this to another person, but this condition exists just the same.  It’s strange… and pretty insane, but true.  Of course, this type of thing would only work if the person wasn’t being embalmed.  Obviously if a mortician embalms you while you’re in this state, you’re gonna bite the big one for real and can kiss Zombie status goodbye.  But in under developed countries- particularly Haiti where this type of thing has happened on more than one occasion, dead bodies just aren’t embalmed.  That leaves a lot of room for the walking dead.

Now, there have been a few documented cases of Zombies roaming around in Haiti.  Maybe that’s why they don’t have the highest rate for tourism in the world…  I know I’m not gonna hop on a plane to a place where there are Zombies walking around all willy nilly.  Anyway, one of the most famous documented cases is that of Clairivius Narcisse.  Don’t take my word for it, Google him.  I suppose he’d done something to wrong someone or maybe he’d just made someone pretty angry, but someone (probably a sorcerer they call a bokor) gave him a dose of Zombie powder and turned him into a Zombie.  I think the whole point of this is to enslave the person… maybe enslave their soul, but then again, I don’t really know.  But it is claimed that Narcisse was declared dead in 1962, but when he returned home in 1980, he was pretty “Zombied out.” 
I hear that others aren’t always quite as lucky as Narcisse, who seemed to retain his sanity.  A lot of other Zombies suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen while buried alive and seem to wander about aimlessly with no recollection of who they are or where they’re from.  Sheesh!  That’s an awful way to spend life… or can you even call it that?  I suppose once you’re declared dead and buried, life has ended right?

My advice to everyone out there is to stay on the good foot.  Don’t make anybody mad.  If you thought Hannibal Lecter was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  You never know who has the power out there to put you on Zombie status and I’m pretty sure you’re not trying to find out.  Keep it polite out there, ya’ll! The US doesnt need Zombies... we've got enough scary stuff going on... like Republicans and OJ.