A Wedding, A Funeral, Hallowe'en in New Orleans,
and a Wyatt Earp-esque adventure thru the Wild West
back - the long story
or Why I Missed Neil's Birthday
The Photographs are HERE
my mom died suddenly on October 21st. No. this is not a story about my mom's death. It is me telling of the past couple of weeks that made me smile even as i wondered if i had not been given that ancient Chinese curse= May you live in interesting times. Why do i think this a blessing?
So yeah, my mom gets sick with something that was probably cancer, and over the course of a week and half weakens and then passes away, She was a Christian Scientist and never went to a doctor in her life, so we won't know more than : Life is fatal.
i had already planned to fly to New Orleans for my friend Andrea's wedding, so afterwards i drove up to Shreveport for the funeral, and then came to grips with the fact that i am going to have to pack up her whole house - by myself - but i am still deluded into thinking that's a 3-day job, and when after 3 days i haven't made a dent, i ran away from crushing depression back to New Orleans for Halloween, had a blast, realized i might be able to call someone to help me, and then it got interesting....
There was a shooting, a cross-country trip in a 24-foot truck packed to the gunwales, pink pterodactyls, a near arrest and redneck jail for yours truly, a seventy year old cowboy, and ice cube evidence to add to the drama. It is long. You can print it out and leave it in the loo :)
So, my brother, Richard and sister, Alden and i attended the funeral, on my mom's birthday, Oct 25th - which for her wouldn't have been at all significant as she refused to celebrate such markers of time - but for me it was the day i was coming to surprise her. I had heard her say she wanted to be cremated, but she was also very proud of the fact that her father had bought her a burial plot right next to his... and being a gardner, i had no real objection when her sister, my aunt Betty proceeded to arrange and organize a graveside service. She was a gardener after all....
Also, and i think this is seemingly cold but important to note - we had no money to pay for this. And my mom had $276 in her bank account. My aunt mentioned she and her brother, my uncle Allen, would pay. Now, these siblings' relationships had been shattered and completely torn assunder and in my uncle's and mom's case - never healed - when their mother died leaving a great deal of material wealth and the failure to leave a Will.
So we sell the car- the only thing she owned outright -but there lis potential in some of the antiques she had from my grand mother - the formula seems to equate the uglier the more valuable, near as i can tell. I went online that first night to discover that the "Limoges France" tureen that weighed 45 pounds of porcelain including it's oppressively large platter was probably worth $1200 - 2000. Hence my decision to call the unnamed pattern Le Comte De F'Ugly.
You'd think Mom would have learned. [ Ahem, & yes, i have a Will but you probably aren't in it unless you want to take care of a crotchety old macaw and a dusty house with tooo many books. And now the bloody thing will have to be amended to figure out what to do with all this new crap ... i mean wealth of antique treasures. Please let me know if you excel at polishing silver or tatting lace? or if one f your ancestors happened to be the notorious Comte de F'Ugly ?? ]
The funeral started without me. It was over 86 degrees and extremely humid - hot stifling cloying mimosa-laden air in a fetching graveyard overlooking the Family Dollar across the street. My mom used to tell us she would "ascend" but when i was old enough to realize she was "lying" to me about her immortality which i had taken as Truth, she also said she wanted to be cremated. That seemed to be happening now to the elder attendees who were wilting in the oppressive heat. My sister, Alden made a decision to start the service early-ish, or closer to on time than either i or my mother ever were.
Where was I? at Kinko's, scanning and laying out a 2-page photo montage of my mom's life. I had just finished, but hadn't printed it yet, when she called me. I got there 20 minutes into the service and had 10 minutes of a charming and brief service - not the wretchedly long monotone event everyone else complained of at the "wake". I was sorry to have missed my sister's impromptu eulogy - it was perfect and beautiful and true, and like Alden's wording of the obituary, also funny and with an inside joke or two Mom would have appreciated. I get my wicked sense of humour from my mom. Even though it continued to shock and appal her until the end - it also made her laugh.
My pictorial retrospect of some scans of my mom's 65 year are online now, but this one kinda sums it up.
Oh, and i found a picture of my grandfather's aligator, Herman, i used to swim with.
Alden and Richard leave and i am looking at 100+ boxes of stuff and i haven't even BEGUN to find out what i was really in for.... you see, Alden had been there for 2 weeks and declared nothing we remembered remained. Whereas within 3 days of their departure i had produced 4 boxes of sterling silver, a huge Kilim rug, and that was only a quarter of what i would find over the next few days. I sent out an email demanding Alden and Richard STOP channelling SILVER because i did not want to spend the rest of my life polishing it. Time to focus on jewels or gold or something - at which point i found the 4 pieces of jewelry i had been looking for, which i knew she couldn't have sold. And my grandfather's coin collection.
I am grateful to have called in The Holy Infernal Triumvirate of Bob Evil, Seth Malice, and Steve Heck. From them, came Steve. And therefore i am not, in fact, curled in a fetal position in Shreveport, but trying to type this whenever i need a break from opening boxes. It's like Christmas, only even suckier!
Steve Heck was one of the best things that ever happened to me... an instant best friend i could trust - literally - with my life. Oh, yeah, and he's a Scorpio. Figures. I adore Scorpios.
So i had met Heck briefly at BurningMan only this year - after hearing legends about him and his infamous piano sculptures for years. Really all i knew about Steve was that Bob Evil passed my request to Seth to come keep me company in Louisiana - because like me Seth is from Austin - on to Heck who, overhearing, said - "NOpe, she needs me. I am the guy for the job."
THE VIEUX CARRE
So i flew Steve Heck to New Orleans - thinking we will dash back to Shreveport .... but no, Steve is waxing poetic about this corner and that gutter he had woken up drunk in (and we aren't even within two blocks of the Quarter yet ) and i decide we need to at least see what going to a bar with Steve is like.... Then we spent 3 hours and what was the best and only real classic French Quarter experience i've had - i challenged every bartender at every bar we hit to top the previous bartender's Bloody Mary. About 14 recipes into the taste test, i decided on two first prizes and then gave up to get some sleep for an early departure Tuesday. I think i passed out when i hit the pillow at the Mazant Guest House my beautiful newly wed friends Andrea and Jeffrey run. But not before writing them down! HuzZAH! Wanna know the winners? it will cost you a jar of pickled green beans - i have been looking ever since leaving Nawlins, and no one carries them outside of New Orleans that i can find !!! THAT is my favorite ingredient in a N'awlins Bloody Mary!
Steve played some music on the drive back to Shreveport including his band, Bucknuckle, and that of his friends the Hazard County Girls and the Inbred Bipeds. The Inbred Bipeds are awesome!!! Self-taught bayou swamp rock and completely ingenious and brilliant! We talked about bands, bars, and blues.
NOT MICROWAVE OR DISHWASHER SAFE
The next day, i continue dividing and packing and labeling the 100 + boxes of stuff.
I had to handle insane quantities of valuable china - Limoges, Wedgewood, Spode, Royal Worcester, yadda yadda . . . all worth a fortune - but only if there is not a crack or chip on it. I am trying to impress this on this giant burly bear of a man who keeps rolling big blue eyes at me in sheer boredom and waiving my concerns to the cloying humid clouds above.
I rented a 24-foot truck from a man named Bruce at Budget. He was awesome on the phone, gave me a great deal - without my having to pull the "my mom just died" card.
I slept 4 - 6 hours a night and woke up and never sat down until i collapsed into bed at wee odd hours when i could no longer see straight. We had only the big Budget rental truck. Miraculously, my mom's dear 85-year old friend Andrew and her friend Kathy materialized twice a day to ask what we could eat, since we had no transportation and would return with food. Both of them missed my mom horribly, but kept the talk to happier times, as i told them i had no time to grieve yet, with so much to do.
Then last Saturday night, with only one thing left to load - the PIANO, of course! - this kid tried to rob Steve with a Saturday night special as he was coming off the truck in front of my mom's house !!! He shot at him 3 times, and the first one hit Steve!!! Thankfully, in the leg! But Yes they SHOT the piano mover., fer chrissakes ! I was on the phone to 911 after the first shot - but when he crashed thru the french doors in my mom's backyard - crawling thru on his hands and knees yelling he'd been shot and i couldn't see anything behind him ... i was SURE they were behind him and coming to kill us all ... Kathy a friend of my mom's was there too. And there was NO furniture to hide behind or anything! it was prolly the scaredest i have ever been.... the cops showed up, took Steve to the hospital - he was out in under 2 hours !!!
IT GETS BETTER:
Meanwhile, i listened to the cops and the two detectives begin their "investigation" One called to me "Was Steve drinking anything?" i was confused... drunk? hell no, not on the job! I asked what they meant. Four uniformed men circled a small pile of fresh ice cubes and pointed to them with their flashlights.
I pointed to the fridge already loaded and packed into the truck since the night before. "Nope, he was drinking room temperature coke in the kitchen, not near the truck, and not with ice."
"Then this must be the suspect's ice."
With a straight face, I suggest fingerprinting it.
They nodded before realizing what i had said. They laughed.
I quoted the Spinal Tap line about dusting vomit for fingerprints.
They start to discuss the possibility of testing ice for DNA.
I ran to the house to get my camera.
They got a baggie.
They noticed at the last moment and studiously looked away... but there they are, in uniform.
They put the ice cubes in the baggie to take back to their lab.
I kid you not.
You have to hear Steve's story - he was completely clear and did some brilliant things - He saw the kid's cold eyes and watched him pull the trigger back, aimed at his head or chest. He knew the kid would shoot regardless, so he threw down his multitool and his tape measure loudly to distract the kid before running down the opposite side of the truck - ran AWAY from the house which i am forever grateful for because the little fuckhead actually CHASED Steve up the street. up another driveway and back across a yard to my mom's backyard gate !!! before prolly figuring he was going in for a gun!!! - Steve was counting til 5 shots - there were only 3 - but at the 5th one he was gonna turn around and snap the kid in half.... shit he had his wits together.
Meanwhile, i was sitting on the last stitch of furniture in the damn house - besides the piano of course. A big armchair located in the back of the house where a phone line still existed.I was downloading tons of emails from people still bumming from elections that i wasn't allowed to participate in. When i heard the first shot, Kathy, my mom's friend, was talking. I silenced her to hear the yelling i then heard from the front of the house. I screamed at her to go call 911 while i was ripping the phone line from my laptop and doing the same. I was put on hold. When i got thru, the bored woman on the other line asked all sorts of inane questions.... can't they pull this shit up on a screen already? i was thinking. Kathy meanwhile had fled to the bathroom and called and got busy signals. The French doors to the backyard were pitch black - i couldn't see anything.
When they burst open - i had just locked them - and Steve crawled through on his hands and knees, yelling he had been shot and bleeding from god knows where, i immediately thought THEY were behind him and we were about to be invaded and slaughtered. OK, i am writing this, so you know that didn't happen.
But i have never felt so utterly helpless and scared. I went from "i know what to do" to a trembling mass of fear and frustration - i had NO idea what to do! Someone bursts into your home after gunning down your friend .... what? run? hide? die like a dog?
I yelled to the woman on the phone the blow by blow of what was happening. Steve was giving me a visual description of the gunman, which i repeated. She asked questions, i asked him... yadda yadda. I asked why couldn't the 911 operator couldn't talk to him directly so i could a) see how bad he was hurt and b) lock the fucking doors again or something and c) find out where Kathy was. The front door was wide open too.She kept repeating "No Ma'am. You must stay on this line if you want help." over and over like i was a moron, which i was beginning to feel very much akin to.
When i saw the fire department arrive - in a screaming angry hive of red flashing lights and siren wails and at least 3 trucks and shortly followed by a host of police cars, i finally told her i was hanging up and needed to go tell them they were at the wrong house !!! which i did. They were next door with flashlights in the backyard, and across the street at the neighbor's - who happened to be a fireman ! so when the call came, they thought one of their own was in trouble and responded thusly! thank god.
Meanwhile the neighbor across the street who had seen the two kids case our house and then double back to confront Steve came to keep me company and not be alone waiting for Kathy and Steve to come back... he is a fireman. My mom loved firemen. He grinned and said yeah, she brought them cookies and stuff all the time.... I know she considered them true heroes. On her one trip to SF she was completely jealous of Elizabeth Coit's erection to her affection for fire men, The Coit Tower. I think they symbolized for her the good in America. They don't carry guns and they don't arrest people. They save lives and get cats out of trees.
I told him about Justice, [ http://www.pureeviltm.com/justice ] and he went home quick and returned with a Shreveport Fire Department Hat and a Tshirt - the latter of which i gave Steve. But i wish to god i had been able to find the hat the next morning when i was in Arizona!
So Sunday we actually finished and left....Steve was limping and mom's mexicans showed up to finish... they are totally cool. I couldn't call them the night before until the cops were gone, of course.But they stayed with me too while i waited for Steve and Kathy to come home.
Steve came back saying he was just glad that it had been him and not either of us. He was a gentleman with a rawkus sense of humour who appreciates the finer things in life - like the fact that he got out of the emergency room without stitches, without a bill, and "before Last Call and got 3 free drinks for my story of the battle of Wounded Me"... Kathy confirmed the nurses were all aflutter too, with his wit and gallantry. And maybe he will even start a business ! Steve Shot Treatment Center - if you have a headache, you can go to Steve and complain and he will shoot you in the leg, and i guarantee your headache will have stopped hurting!
The irony that he lives in Oakland and had to come all the way to Louisiana to get shot? stuns me. Meanwhile, Steve is planning to start a Shot Clinic, where you go when something pains or irks you, and he shoots you and then you forget about whatever it is that you came in bitching about... i think it will work.
Some of the stories Steve told me on our long drive ... he only saw his father a handful of times growing up, and each time his dad tried to impart some life lesson to his boy. One time he took Seve to his Aunt's farm, and for hours had Steve catch every animal he could , one by one. And then throw them into the pond. "See how they swim?' Then, a couple of hours later - Steve was tired by then too - he tossed Steve into the pond and walked away. That was how Steve learned to swim. There is a correlative story about how he taught Steve to ride a bike.
Monday, in Texas, Steve bought a Bubba Stik at one of the Love's Truck Stops - it's tall enough for him and has a brass knob on top that comes from a draft horse's collar - stylish and funny ... and Steve limps along with a floppy hat and somehow reminds me of an aging Paddington Bear.
We stopped at a Dairy Queen near El Paso so i could show Steve that a DQ outside of California is really good fast food - crispy tasty baskets of chicken stripss and awesome hamburgers, and not just an ice cream parlor.
Across from us at a table was this old gap-toothed cowboy wearin' the coolest green leather boots! And spurs ... he was clearly authentic.I asked him about them and he told me he had won first place in the Top Hand steer cutting competition at the Rodeo 3 years ago.. He won these boots, a breast plate for the horse, and $300 cash. He found out that his boots were worth $600. so he was pretty pleased. Especially since he wore them every day to work - he showed me "how nice they held up".
His name is Wendell Scott.
Down the road a piece we found an artist who probably would like BurningMan:
By now we have driven across Texas, which takes two days if you go lengthwise.... and up thru a bit of New Mexico, and were in Arizona. We stopped at a Comfort Inn because Steve is too big and too wounded to curl up and sleep in a truck while i drive. I hit the pillow in mid-sentence....zzzzz
I am woken by Steve bellowing "SHut the FUCK UP or i will SHUT YOU UP!" and the sound of the sniggering next door cease for a second. Then start up again. I realized then that i had heard it all night long as a white noise to my nightmares.
Steve apologizes for scaring me bolt upright, and says that in addition to being loud and obnoxious all night, they were trying to break thru the adjoining door to our rooms repeatedly. As he says this, they smash against the door again!!!
Some of that abject fear from when Steve was shot at my mom's house and i thought gunmen were storming the house and i was trapped went thru me in a cold rush and i was up, dressed and THEN i heard them out front yelling "Nigger" to god knows who ... ok, NOW i am completely ballistic.And fueled by adrenaline. Maybe that combination of fear and rage is Hunter S's fabled adrenachrome?
I grabbed Steve's Bubba Stik from beside his bed and smashed on the adjoining door myself with the stik, - leaving a dent or three in the metal door - which freaked them out - then i came out our front door and around to their open front door. I yelled at them that their behavior was unforgivable, that they had been obnoxious and loud all night, and that i would call the cops if they didn't shut up or leave now ...
"You're crazy, lady" says the pasty-faced dork who continued pouring water into the iron on the ironing board in front of the open door. I kid you not. Ironing rednecks??? i mean, if he had appeared in a tutu i would have been less surprised.
Furious that he wouldn't even look me in the eye, i poked his iron with the Bubba Stik and knocked it off the table to the opposite side - away from both of us. NOTE... i was NOT in their room. I just poked into it a bit with the stick to get his attention. Then i threatened to smash the windshield of his gorgeous 65 blue and white striped Shelby 'Stang out front. Which DID in fact get his attention.
I left telling them that since they had attempted breaking and entering my room i would call the cops if i heard another peep from them. I shut our door, shaking now, and called the front desk to tell them. They asked why i hadn't called them first, and i didn't have any good response to that, but agreed it was dumb of me, and could they please just get those idiots out of there?
5 minutes later, the cops arrive. The pasty-faced biggots had called them. Our door is still shut so i hear this thru it.
The police ask if the TV had been on all night? why had it been so loud? What was the problem?
One says it's no big deal. And another says some crazy girl threatened to bust the windshield of his car. Then one of them said his girlfriend worked at a restaurant right next to the police station and yeah, didn't they know each other ? Then he told the police i had come into he room and chased them around with a stick.
There is a knock on our door. I open it. He doesn't look at me but asks the guys next door if they want to press charges against me. This man in front is not wearing a visible badge. His jacked is held right over it for some reason, and there is no mark on the front of his jacket. He turns to me and demands my ID. I answer by asking for his. He repeats his demand, and i echo mine.
I tell the cop that the guys had yelled nigger outside twice that morning. i told the cops they had been trying to break in to our room all night, and had been yelling.
Then one of the jerks next door says that i am dangerous and they didn't want to press charges necessarily, just protected from being assaulted by lil' ol' me. The cop yells at me to get my ID. Steve is calmly telling me to just get it - i have already turned around to do that, but i cannot resist goading him again.
"How do i know you aren't a security guard?" knowing full well he might have hit me for that ! Then he was yelling "Because it says POLICE in big letters down that car!!" and i said "How do i know that is your car?" And he screamed "You better stop being ignorant!" - just like Michael Jackson. Then i said quite clearly " My 'ignorance" and your 'logic; what a team" and turned my back on him. He was yelling something about taking me to jail, and I was thinking" - but didn't say outloud "So if you identify with your fucking cars so much, then those brats drive a car that says MUSTANG which means DOG FOOD to you, right?"
He ended up calling another cop to deal with me who was polite - as i was to him. He was Hispanic and clearly not a redneck jerk like the other cop..The kids were removed and i stayed and showered and realized i was glad i didn't own a gun...
As they left the 250-300 lb blubbering wusses rushed past me - shying away from me and asking the cops to "keep her away from me" - which kinda made the whole thing worth it - that and the adrenaline that fueled that days' 8-hour drive stint on my part... criminy - in retrospect, it was stupid and dangerous and i was reacting to fear.
Wednesday, at 4 AM, we pulled up to Beanflower House.
Thursday at midnight we finished unloading. We are done! Steve Heck and I busted ass all day, and my friend Aaron came and helped. There were other offers but i guess they didn't make it down.
Thank you Kevin Mathieu !!!Kevin took the train down from SF & arrived around 6PM - i had called off a few offers to help thinking we'd have it done before then and i should know, cuz i packed and labeled all of those 100+ boxes, ferchrissakes - but the memory does funny things when it wants to forget.... hummm? Yeah, let's have another kid, honey! or, yeah, let's go have Christmas with your folks again....
Make a Will, provide for an Executor - maybe someone you want to piss off but still trust :) - and put someone else's name on your bank accounts in joint - you don't even have to tell them until the Will is read. But it makes EVERYTHING easier. Especially in states where the state takes all if you don't. Like California.And Louisiana. Hell - they froze my mom's bank accounts and require a Court Order to release them to the successor! a Will won't do the trick. We were almost prevented from selling her car - her only real asset besides the antiques and stuff - but we did manage that after 3 days and many many hoops - Alden finally found a lovely Southern used car salesman -crooked as a jaybird? what is the idiom for that? anyway, Mister Danny took care of the title and bought the car in cash - about $1500 less then we were offered the day before - but that was before we found out we had put my mom's name down wrong on the title (her correct name, but not the same combination she used on her driver's license and usual signature) -Oh, and the dumb notary we had begged to help us had put TODAY"S date on my mom's signature.... sheeeesh.
Oddly, they kept saying things that made it clear that we needed to produce her immediately to straighten things out. I thought about it.... I had a notarized date too ... heh.
For her house, we are going to let Elly and her husband Chayo continue to pay the mortgage and move in until we decide what we can and should do. I would LIKE to have them pay off the mortgage ... and then give it to them if they pay it all off. They can continue to collect rent on the duplex to assist in paying off the mortgage and keeping the duplex viable until the Mexicans either get busted or the house is paid off.... but since they are on separate banks, one doesn't necessarily effect the other....The danger in that is of course if something bad happens -= who is liable? we would like to set it up so it isn't US!!! we are going to talk to lawyers but meanwhile Elly and Chayo are protecting the house and managing the duplex, so it is good.
I left Elly a Spanish and English translation of the Owl and the Pussycat to explain four of the special tiles my mom had in her kitchen...
NAG NAG NAG
Give it away while you can see the joy on their faces.
I told that to my grandmother and she said she just couldn't. Shit, she was 90 when we talked, and died 3 years later,.. and her children went to war with each other over stupid possessions. My mother actually sued her brother. My uncle never set foot in my mom's house - his baby sister who lived a mile away - until i asked him to come get some stuff i wanted to give his family while packing. He hadn't known she was ill. He hadn't seen her in probably over a year.
I am grateful not only to Aunt Betty for being with my mom at the end, but for being there for us too. She is super cool and after so long, i am happy to be developing a relationship with someone my mom loved so dearly.
One of the things i found in packing was a box of dozens of letters a young Uncle Allen wrote his kid sister after she married my father and moved to Alabama and was setting up house there for the first time. The letters are written from his Navy base in Alameda. They are brilliant. funny .. adoring. He loved her so dearly.