April 10: I am asked to judge at a lemonade tasting. Lemonade Day is a program for children to learn the art of business via a lemonade stand, and the tasting event precedes it. Various tots arrive with jars and their mothers, and TV 3′s Marcelle Fontenot, Blaise Zuschlag, and I begin. The first contestant has made watermelon lemonade and the male judge loves it, maybe because with the addition of alcohol it would make a great cocktail. Many cups later, an Egyptian boy blows away the competition with his mint-infused concoction. We announce our results and at least one small entrepreneur cries and has to be carried out.
I feel like Simon Cowell.
April 11: Evangeline Downs hosts A Night at the Races with Jake Delhomme, courtesy of the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Celebration committee. Couples have paid a couple of hundred to hang out with Jake and EvD doesn’t disappoint. Neither does Jake. I remember the Firefighter’s Ball where I observed a lady stroking a Jake-autographed football jersey up for auction. I decide not to tell him that story.
I get a distress call from designer Raoul Blanco, who is several hours late. “We are lost. Is that event in Opelousas?” I learn there is an Evangeline Downs Races n’ Aces betting parlor in St. Martinville and SIRI doesn’t know the difference. Unfortunately, neither does Raoul. “I walk in and they look at me kind of funny.”
Raoul is dressed expensively in head-to-toe black and sporting a diamond earring. Nobody at the betting parlor strokes his jacket.
Society. The kind of place where they stab you in the back and then have you arrested for littering.
“I have to be careful,” she said. “Things are getting said, passed around. Insinuations of the cheapest kind. You know, jealousy.”
Who? I wanted to know.
“The same ones as last year,” she replied.
Then it hit me. Of course, that guy. I like rock bottom guys. It’s a comfort to know they can’t sink any lower.
This time he was putting the word out she was spending money in the big city, taking business away from The Berry, and trying to make a name for herself, when in fact it was him spending money in the big city, taking business away from The Berry, and trying to make a name for himself.
It’s a rough little game, philanthropy. You try to do something good for your fellow man, raise a little money, build a few playgrounds, keep the kids off the streets–and The Berry has some mean streets–but no good deed goes unpunished. Neither had this lady. Her only crime was she liked to put on a little shindig where the suits dress their best and pay to play, all for a good cause. They say charity begins at home, but it doesn’t. She and this guy were both from the same town and he’d been trying to take over the action for years. I was disappointed.
No one got shot.
Late March: My daughter flies to visit her old college roommate, Shelly, a civil engineer. I remember Shelly also worked on the dewatering plan for New Orleans before Katrina. She subsequently moved to Texas where there’s no water.
A well-meaning guest at Chorale Acadienne’s Moonlight and Music takes my photo and likes it so much she sends it. My eyes appear noticeably black and glassy, like the demon in The Exorcist. This concerns me.
I receive a thank-you note from Monsignor Keith Derouen of Our Lady Queen of Angels and file it away for future reference. I don’t mention the photo.
Speak of the devil and he appears in the form of two subtle bids for e-book reviews, one romantic novel and one memoir. The first is A Walk in the Park: A Vietnam Comedy and the other is Spotlight, a chick-lit novel. So, the only war we never won and the stick-on-a- picket fence clatter of an AK-47 on full automatic or the distinctive clatter of a woman on full automatic, a war men will never win.
Viet Nam I can do.
The Hotel Acadiana wasn’t what you’d call a posh joint but it did all right. It wasn’t the kind of place where the doorman turns up his nose at anything less than a ten-dollar tip and the lobby’s the size of a football field. But is held its own and tonight they had a boxing ring in the middle of the ballroom, crystal chandelier and all. There was no way you could miss it. I made my way to the bar.
“It’s kind of where boxers start, in rooms like this. Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad…before the UFC took it all away,” said a masculine voice behind me.
You don’t have to go far to find men at a fight. Old ones, like Phil the Molar, young ones, fathers and sons–Saul the Prof’s old man was the ringside doc, here to make sure no one got carried out. Tonight’s bouts were a big deal, State Golden Gloves. “Would you like to sit down? Saul said. He was sitting at a table with a blood pressure cuff. I was looking for the society suits like Tony the Mouthpiece, the ones putting up the big bucks to sponsor this shindig, but Saul would do. A real gentleman, he went to get me a fight card and even walked me to the door later on his way to grab a smoke. “Thanks for coming,” he said.
Boxing is a simple sport. Either beat a guy up more than he beats you or hit him so hard he can’t fight anymore. I’ve learned a lot from watching it.
When you’re in society, always keep the gloves on.
In society, the basic rule of homicide applies. Nothing stays buried forever. It didn’t this time, either.
And it didn’t surprise me that both The Puerto Rican and The Italian turned up at the same time. You didn’t find one without the other these days. The Puerto Rican was in the rag trade and The Italian liked her glad rags. Seems a con artist had burned a friend of theirs, Thad Morgan, and they were looking for the louse who’d auctioned off the painting of Jimmy Hendrix and then pocketed the proceeds. Not only jacked the Jimi, but stiffed the do-gooders and homeless kids at the same time. The guy had a rap sheet a mile long. He’d sold the goods at a benefit in Charleston and then flew the coop with the money. Now the word was out and there were those who intended to do something about it.
The Puerto Rican had posted a warning. “I am not looking for sympathy,” he said. “I just want you to know how pathetic and shady people work.”
You’re preaching to the choir, Cisco. I work the society racket, remember? The Devil just dresses better, that’s all.
Early March: My daughter takes me shopping for a new cat after mine passes away. I have cried less over men.
We have an appointment to see Una and Harry at the Spay Nation shelter. Una’s called that because she has one eye and only bunks with Harry, a big black tom. Harry can’t go to pet adoption day because he likes to fight the dogs. They are feline bikers.
Lafayette holds its monthly ArtWalk. Rosanne Cash is appearing at the Acadiana Center for the Arts and this draws a larger than usual crowd, including a couple of members from the Iberia Performing Arts League– Sir Boors and King Arthur of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Sir Boor’s duct tape helmet is a nice touch. Everyone wants a phone photo with them. King Arthur kisses the ladies’ hands. No one much cares about Rosanne.
In the grand gallery, FaceTime debuts, an exploration of portraiture. There is a video of a woman with band-aids covering her face, which she takes eons to remove and two male mannequins in white rabbit suits sitting on the floor.
I love society.
Late February: My daughter returns from visiting the ex-boyfriend biker in Colorado and Mardi Gras Weekend begins. There is a two-truck pile up on Congress that backs up traffic for hours. Not the only train wreck, according to her.
The Cajundome redoes everything and you can’t cross over from Cajundome Blvd. You must talk your way through several police checkpoints and approach from the rear parking lot. Hurricane evacuations are easier.
March: Xanadu has their ball, followed by Triton. Some Xanadu women wear togas, most wear real dresses. Xanadu and Triton cross-pollinate so whoever you see at one you’ll see at the other. Triton used to throw me out when I wore my tuxedo. I miss those days.
King Gabriel has his luncheon, Bonaparte comes and goes, Queen Evangeline’s luncheon, Queen Evangeline’s breakfast–the Mardi Gras March has begun and nothing can stop it unless hell freezes over.
Then hell freezes over. The Lafayette parade route looks like some post-apocalyptic landscape where everything’s deserted. The only people left are at The Advocate, where a couple of men still know how to cook over open flames. The fire keeps us warm, too. Sometimes we see the walking dead with beads. Hunhhhhh…hunhhhhh….
I walked into the hotel and he was on me like Muhammad Ali.
He was muscular and still handsome in a rough sort of way. He’d been a heavyweight back when, now a bum ticker had taken its toll. They don’t make them like him anymore.
I didn’t mind the embrace, but I bet there were plenty of men in the ring who did.
“They told me to find a seat. Can I sit with you?” he asked. I didn’t mind that either. Boxing’s always drawn me. Most people only see sweaty, stale smoke and battered men, but I always saw a guy knowing what’s coming to him in the end, and taking it. There’s nobility in that.
Like me, He’d come to eat lunch with a room full of women and listen to the first female to run the Boston Marathon, the one who signed up as a man because women couldn’t run it and when she was spotted, some knucklehead tried to tackle her. People are always ready to hold out a hand and slap you down. Never to help you up. I could see what he saw in her. Starry-eyed idealists, they’re the ones making real trouble in the world. I took her picture so I’d remember.
Dames. They don’t make them like her anymore, either.
February: My daughter flies to Colorado to visit the ex-boyfriend biker and asks me to watch her dog for a few days.
Apollo has its ball. The krewe sold out 10 days after the tickets went on sale in October and they’re all here, including society editor Jeff Gremillion from Houston Magazine, along with guests from Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Iberia. Straight-shooter and chief deputy Edward Fremin from the Berry gives me his card and says to call if I need anything. He may have meant tonight. I love Apollo.
The lights dim, Dextaci sings the national anthem and rockets zing overhead. You can feel the flames and fog from the stage. Captain America appears, drops to one knee and proposes to one of the Apollo Army dancers, who accepts. I don’t remember that from The Avengers. Charlie Brown and Peanuts start popping tags to Macklemore, Betty Boop Bob Pastor comes out in a bathtub and I don’t know how Silver Surfer Huntor Dake is breathing when his skin-tight lamé costume covers his nose. Finally, Imperial Ruler of the Comic Universe Mitch Reed is crowned.
And bikers think they’re bad.