Enter Ash Wednesday

CA%20Mardi%20Gras%20014[1]A blogging friend celebrates Mardi Gras the Cajun way with La Danse de Mardi Gras, a song popular from the old days, a huge pot of gumbo, the ingredients gathered from local farmers, and fiddle playing no doubt. Sounds like about the perfect celebration. Her piece is worth a read.

As I read, I couldn’t help but remember my own experiences with Mardi Gras, one in New Orleans and the other in Tepoztlán Mexico. Those two were enough to last the rest of my life, but I must admit, les bons temps rouler in Cajun country sounds pretty tempting.

Mardi Gras began in New Orleans as early as the 1730s. A century later, it had processions of krews (as the groups are called who come together to create the floats), torchlight processions, carriages and horseback riders.

The horseback riders have remained, the carriages grown to enormous floating pleasure palaces with flinging plastic bead necklaces and candy. The best times, for the locals anyway, are the two weeks proceeding Fat Tuesday when smaller parades show off the handiwork of their krews, which also come with flung beads and candy. I remember those parades and the beads and one night of too many Cap’t Morgans with orange juice. That night, I ended up at the uptown Maple Leaf Bar reading poetry.

This year, New Orleans is expecting a million people. A million people packed into an area 13 blocks long and 6 blocks wide. I am not tempted.

I have no idea how many people packed the French Quarter during the Mardi Gras I lived in New Orleans. I wasn’t on the street, I was working, not however at my usual job of regular night time bartender at Molly’s at the Market on Decauter Street, it was too busy for a lone woman. The daytime bartender, Walter, and a friend of his worked the bar and I worked the floor. This was in 1982, so don’t let the below photo shock you.

Face and dress, 1982

A black taffeta dance-hall girl dress with red bow and ruffles. Yep. It still hangs in my back closet although I haven’t worn it in years. But that night, I folded dollar bills lengthwise and tucked the ends under the red ruffle above my bosom. By nights end, dollars ringed the front ruffles, some along my back, and both straps: singles, $5s, $10s. I even found two twenties when I returned home the next morning. I don’t remember much about that night except the packed bar, wending my way between tables, evading hands unless they were tucking in bills, and batting my eyelashes with one upraised finger if they tried to tuck too deep. The music and noise ended at midnight; the drinkers stayed, but even they began to drift away. By the time I left the bar, near 2 am, dark and quiet as only the French Quarter can be when it shuts down, no one was on the streets. Ash Wednesday had slipped in.

The second Mardi Gras was in Tepotzlan. Look it up in Google. They say there are more brujas and brujos (witches and warlocks) in the Tepotzlan area than anywhere else in Mexico. And since it’s Morelos, they say the ghost of Zapata still rides the mountain ridges. I lived there about seven months before moving into Mexico City. My friend and I had just found a house to rent, we’d been looking for a couple of weeks, staying with other friends, and it was perfect. A cool, old Spanish style house, shaded veranda, big garden, and two blocks from the center of town and the best Saturday market I’ve ever shopped.

Tepotzlan0001 (2)That’s me on the right, balanced on one foot, hands in pockets, long hair tied back.

During the week before Fat Tuesday, dancers danced for hours in the Plaza. The dance called brincas, the jump, the dancers Chinelos, dressed in long velvet robes, masks with conquistador faces. And they jumped–around and around and around in a circle on the plaza, they jumped and jumped, hours at a time, hours and hours, drums beating time. The dancing and drumming went on late into the night. Two blocks from the center of town could be noisy.

And then came Fat Tuesday. They jumped, the drums pounded, and to accompany it all, cohetes, four-foot long rockets shaped like giant bottle rockets exploded over the town. All day. In the evening. In the night. We grew restless. Only a couple of more hours until midnight, I assured my friend who had grown cranky. Only one more hour, I said at eleven as we lay across the bed, staring at the ceiling. They didn’t stop. The cohetes went on and on, exploding over the house, the town, our village; and the munedo shop across the street doing a brisk business with much shouting, laughter, and general drunken singing.

It will end soon, I kept saying. Well, not soon, but it did end. As the first traces of dawn slid over the sky, the cohetes went silent, the drunks went home, the village grew silent, as only an exhausted village can do, and we slept.

Thank God for Ash Wednesday.




On Writing: Digital Publishing

WritingThis is for my friends – YOU, particularly (you know who you are…) who publish ebooks and work in the digital publishing world.

The following is from a post by Jane Friedman who is deeply involved in the digital world. I get her newsletter and wanted to pass on the information. If you publish ebooks, I highly suggest her site. Jane Friedman has a wealth of information. This is what she says:

In January, I’m moderating a panel at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo, which focuses on information and ideas about the digital publishing landscape.

In advance, I’ve answered five questions about digital publishing to help attendees make the most out of the three-day event, and lay the groundwork for conversations that will take place at the conference and continue afterward. Those questions include:

What’s been the most newsworthy event for authors in 2014?
What big change am I anticipating in 2015?
What’s the most important thing publishers need to accomplish in 2015?
Will Amazon’s dominance in the ebook market increase?
Who’s flying under the radar and may break out in 2015?

What Authors Want Survey
Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest are again partnering on a study to understand what authors are doing and what they want. They will present the results at the conference. Click here to take the survey.

Jane Friedman






Baffled by Miracles

imagesCAVP7MLPTwo days ago as I swept the floor in my workroom, I saw a small dark packet on the floor. I picked it up, having no idea where it came from. The packet was, in actuality, a Ziploc storage bag with another smaller packet inside. The dark material inside the smaller packet looked like old wood slivers and crumbled dust. I shook it down, turned it over, and I found the picture of an old friend.

This was the last packet of three packets I bought in Mexico in 1985. I was in Mexico making a movie and had a day off so went down to the market and bought three of these packets of picture and incense. Not reading Spanish very well, other than making out words for prayers or luck or money, I took them to my hairdresser. Que es? I asked.

Many of you have, perhaps, heard the story of the hairdresser who was, in reality, a curendera or healer, and who took me out beyond a pile of boulders as big as a house to kneel in the desert night. She blessed me and the packets, chanting, praying. The packets stayed warm for hours. Gloria’s style of healing is what’s called an orasionista (think oration) who heals with words and energy. Because of that experience, I ended going back to Mexico and living there three years.

I thought I’d lost it. I knew I’d given two away to friends who had problems, but I’d kept this one of San Martin de Caballero. I’d figured I could use someone with a helping hand.

Oddly enough, as if that weren’t enough, a couple of weeks ago, working on my writing, a memoir that contains parts of my Mexico life, including the blessing by Gloria, I thought of this packet of powder and wondered where it had gone to. Perhaps to someone more in need than I.

Two days ago, he galloped back into my life to lay at my feet the proverbial cloak of protection. I have no idea where he came from, but he came.

I’m always baffled when miracles come into my life, and I’ve had many. My husband is one. The Little House on the farm another. Many times I’ve been blessed by miracles and each time I’m as baffled as I was the night I knelt on the cold, stony ground and felt the energy from Gloria’s hands heat the three packets of powder I held in my outstretched hands.

I am now the orationista, the one who heals with words and the energy. And I’ve often wondered, after I was ordained twelve years later, if Gloria received a message too, one that said hacerlo! Do this.

Here is some of the story of Don Martin and why he became a saint thanks to information in Wikipedia. If you’re curious, there’s much more on the site. Just search San Martin Caballero. Don Martin, the horse rider. And a legend based on generosity and kindness.

Martin of Tours (316 – 8 November 397) was Bishop of Tours, whose shrine in France became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Around his name much legendary material accrued, and he has become one of the most familiar and recognizable Christian saints.

The Legend: While Martin was a soldier in the Roman army and deployed in Gaul (modern-day France), he experienced a vision, which became the most-repeated story about his life. One day as he was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens, he met a scantily clad beggar. He impulsively cut his military cloak in half to share with the man. That night, Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away.