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The French Quarter In January

Chicago is an icy hellscape, so I decide to celebrate the new year with a trip to New Orleans.

It’s 71 °F when I step out of Loui Armstrong Airport and into the sticky heat of the south. My driver says he moved to New Orleans from Jordan six years ago. He gives me a complimentary water bottle and a stick of Double Mint gum. I marvel darkly at the state of the massive abandoned buildings of downtown as I’m driven to my hotel in the French Quarter. The south reminds me of what the north would look like 50 years after humans went extinct.

I notice that the cemeteries are beautiful here. Each grave a mausoleum.

New Orleans is grimy. A lot of missing roof singles and moldy bricks. Crooked sidewalk slabs. Peeling paint. It’s January and it’s freaking HUMID as HELL. It feels like it does it July in northern Illinois. The ground is wet. Everything is wet and I can’t tell if it just finished raining or if the city is sweating.

I check into my hotel and begin to explore the city. Street signs are conspicuously absent at many intersections. The narrow streets make a maze of balcony’s and hanging plants. I get lost but I don’t care because I did the achritecture and vibe.

I wonder into an art gallery and the curator, a tall European looking man named Jerome chats me up. He says that the week before it dropped to 50 degrees and the locals were shivering, walking the streets in mink coats.

I go to French Truck Coffee and buy a New Orleans style iced coffee. That’s coffee, chicory and A LOT of milk. Plus A LOT of crushed ice. It’s amazingly delicious and refreshing. The best part is chomping on the coffee flavored ice crystals after drinking the beverage. I almost buy a French Truck Coffee hat even though in my secret heart I won’t ever wear it. I’m such a sucker for souvineers. My hatred for the predominant American religion of consumerism is matched in intensity by my addiction to spending. Suddenly, it feels much cooler outside.

I buy a Brick House cigar from a miserable troll of a woman on Canal Street. “Bad day?” I ask, referring to the toxicity of her vibe. “Everyday is a bad day in this hell hole,” she growls. Then, she nearly has a rage seizure when I hold my phone in front of the wrong area of the chip reading machine. “Alright! Jesus Christ! Fuck!” I yell out in the liquor store and the thing finally bleeps as I’m charged for my cigar. I exit and light my stogie. I regret not calling her a cunt.

I’m lonely and tired and I think the reason I feel lonely is that I’m so tired.

I go back to my hotel on Royal Street for a bit.

The homeless people look like they’ve been homeless for a long time. Canal Street reminds me of the Vegas Strip without the gambling and ritz – similar layout, atmosphere and heat. I’m not sure how I feel about palm trees. I like magnolia trees a great deal.

“I must bring back a piece of Nawlans to commemorate this trip,” I remind myself. I almost buy a Mardi Gra mask, but think better of it and continue down Decatur Street.

Like every main drag in every major city in America, black men cruise laps in Bonivilles and Impalas with oversized gold rims and tacky, iridescent paint.

Back in my hotel room I drink Budweiser and Milwaukee’s Best and watch a giant cruise ships awkwardly navigate the Mississippi.

Final assessment: I enjoyed the French Quarter, but I won’t be coming back anytime soon. I had no idea it was so touristy. The French Quarter feels like an amusement park recreation of a city. All of the interesting cultural characteristics that were once an honest expression of the personality of the city are now used as bait to lure rubes into oyster bars, voodoo shops. It kind of bummed me out to see how commercialized the Big Easy has become.

Morning satisfaction
Bourbon Street, Jan. 11th, 2022
Deep fried crawdad tails
Oyster Creole
The muddy Mississippi


Do Not Read

The internet told me that Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is said to be “one of the best literary ghost stories published during the 20th century”. Horror nerds fill the forums with corroborating praise.

So, I drove to the used book store and I bought a copy and started reading.

The book caused surprise. What I learned – and could not have predicted – is that Jackson’s acclaimed novel is not a horror story, but a work of psychological fiction written within an atmosphere of – not fear or otherworldly spookiness or anything frightening or uncanny – but of pensive sadness and anxious gloom.

Jackson’s talents are on parade. Her prose is soft and musical. Her dialogue fresh, clever and true to life. Some of the characters jump off the page. Eleanor Vance, and her free spirited sidekick, Theodora, are fun, well rounded and sympathetic.

Nonetheless, skillful writing is not the distinguishing feature of The Haunting of Hill House. What makes this book particular for me is that it has been placed in the genre of gothic horror without providing readers with one single solitary moment that even approaches a fright.

The standout moments of the book in relation to the supernatural occurrences of Hill House fell so short of effecting me in anyway, and are so prosaic, that I mistook them as foreshadowings of meatier, more acute scares to come. My assumptions were wrong.

The big scares during the first half of the book are that the inhabitants of Hill House hear unexplained noises, like the sound of an unseen ghost roaming the halls at night. Then, what might be a ghost bangs on a bedroom door for a while. To make these pedestrian proceedings even more shrug worthy, Jackson’s writing is at it’s least inspired when her characters are directly engaged with the ghostly forces of the house.

Like I said, the second half does not compensate. The scares are even sparser.

At one point, Eleanor and Theodora are walking together, outside of Hill House, around it’s hilly property. They reach the end of a path and come to a garden where a family is having a picnic. Theodora screams and the pair retreat to the house for safety. We realize that the family was actually probably a ghost family.

Very low effort stuff. However, the incompetency of the ghost scenes makes sense within the broader scope of the book.

Hill House is a McGuffin of sorts. So is Doctor John Montague and his experiment and all of the underwhelming non events that vaguely suggest at the idea of something ghosty. That is why every moment that the reader is meant to recognize as scary reads like underdeveloped, low effort filler.

Jackson doesn’t want to write about the terrors of the spirit world. She’s interested in people and their psychology. Therefore, the horror aspect of the novel is so thin, because it is only there to serve as a trigger to explore the troubled psyche of Eleanor. What’s meant to be notable is Eleanor’s reactions to Hill House.

Eleanor’s past traumas are brought to light where they can be better seen and understood. We learn that Eleanor has a case of arrested development. After spending her entire adult life caring for her invalid mother, she is trapped in suspended childhood. She longs for freedom. Yet, she has already locked herself into the dungeon of expectations put forth by Montague, her new burdensome parental figure.

So, The Haunting of Hill House is not a horror novel. Well, it is a horror/ghost novel, but only in the most technical and literal sense. Every ghost scene in the book could be skipped, because all of the horror content is passionless filler.

That’s okay, though. What this book teaches us is that the dark baggage of our soul is more frightening than a haunted house ever could be. Right?

No! Absolutely not. I bought and spent the time to read a horror novel, because I wanted to feel that uncanny discomfort and that childlike credulity that makes a grown man sleep with the lights on. It doesn’t matter to me that the non-horror elements are well done. Jackson should have done a better job at creating a dark atmosphere.

Critiques of my take will say that the book is more than sixty years old. That I shouldn’t judge a book from the mid-twentieth century with a contemporary measuring stick. The Haunting of Hill House was scary at the time and for the audiences it was written for.

Maybe so. It’s hard to believe, though. Poe was writing truly scary American horror fiction more than a hundred years before Jackson published Hill House. It’s hard to imagine horror fans could find this acceptable after reading Poe.

This book is a bummer.

Do not read.

Witches Brew

October feeds my oversized idealism, ballooning it to grotesque dimensions.

Idyllic as they are, the many charms of warm weather months cannot equal October when the satin breeze of hunting season stokes the crackling hearth.

When the pantry is ripe with harvest-fresh apples, and lanes with marigolds are fragrant, the soul leaps and sings the psalm of the season – “Thank the Heavens For the Days of October!”

I can’t believe how gay this is.

Fall aficionados enjoy horror flicks and spooky cocktails. Last Saturday, A Nightmare On Elm Street (Wes Craven’s original classic) and a steaming caldron of Witches Brew provided creepy entertainment.

Witches Brew is an eerie mixed drink that looks and tastes like witch blood. It’s a very cinematic drink. It looks more like a movie prop than a tasty Halloween beverage.

Witches Brew ingredients:

2 oz Midori

2 oz Cointreau

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

1 Inch Block Dry Ice

1 Maraschino Cherry

He’s how to make the drink.

First, let’s take the Midori, the Cointreau and the Lemon Juice and toss them into a cocktail shaker. Then, add two handfuls of normal ice cubes and stir until cold. Now, strain the drink into a lowball glass and garnish the drink with a single Maraschino Cherry.

Now comes the fun part. Double, double, toil and trouble – it’s time to turn that cocktail glass into a smoldering witch cauldron!

Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide. Quite a few grocery stores sell it in 12X12 slabs. I bought some at Miejer, check your local grocery markets for availability.

Line your kitchen sink with a clean towel for protection. With mallet and screwdriver, break the dry ice into 1 inch blocks. Now, drop a block into your drink and *POW*. Instantly, your drink is now steaming and gurgling. It’s a great effect. The radioactive lizard color is perfect, because when the cocktail is doing it’s thing it looks like a mad scientist’s bubbling potion.

How does the drink taste? Well, it’s obnoxiously sweet like melting a bag of green sweet tarts. So, not good. But, come on. Who didn’t see that coming? Witches Brew isn’t about enjoying taste. It’s about drinking in the spirit of the season with a candy sweet Halloween drink!

When In Dallas

Visit 400 Grandi.

I recommend the Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese. It’s a dense mound of pasta ribbons dressed in meat ragu. The taste and texture is from another world. The dish conquered my ageusia.

Order the Salami Board for savory tidbits of cured meats and cheeses, Italian bread and pickled vegetables for a pre-entree rehearsal.

If there’s room, the Calzone Nutella is a quirky treat that tastes like it sounds.

No wine, sadly. I was dining with abstinent Baptists. When in Rome.

Our waiter gave us a show. I estimate his dreadlocks weighed twenty pounds. He was a storyteller, a personable host and he had us laughing when he visited to check on us and freshen drinks.

Italian restaurants have a dreamy, subterranean feel after dark.

High ceilings. Sunken booths. Vines. Stony walls. The snug bends and turns of the design. It’s like being in the grotto of a Mediterranean Count. A secret place were you say an ancient password for admission.

What a night.

Being A Grown Up Feels Like Punishment

I have a giant, existential chip on my shoulder.

My default emotional state is bored, gloomy irritation. Especially with the chores and social obligations that make up the bulk of waking life. I resent the passionless, undifferentiated routines of adulthood.

It takes a lot to make my happy. It takes very little to upset me. If you’re a happy extrovert, imagine being hungover, sick and under-slept. Then, imagine you feel the soft warmth of a spring sun on your cheeks, and every atom of your being laments YUCK. That’s how I feel spiritually everyday. I have a permanent spiritual hangover.

I’m too proactive to be depressed. Tennis, gym, travel, recreational reading, foreign language learning, an exciting lucrative career. Depressed people don’t fill their days like I do. It’s not depression, but more like an unshakable restlessness. A powerful desire to disengage. To withdraw into the silky, timeless, freedom of sleep and stay there, resting, as long as I like.

If this sounds like the whining of an ungrateful pansy, you’re not neurotic. You’ll never get it.

I wish that I could hear God whispering in the wind and feel his presence filling the world with Devine love. A hideous world lies before me.

But I continue to pray. I pray that one day I’ll wake up, and suddenly real life will begin.

It’s Almost Time

It’s morning and winter’s gray stiffness pins me to the dirt.

Somewhere, in a narrow crawl space of my mind, there is the inkling of hazy disappointment. It’s the first day of spring and I’m cold. Not chilly. Not in need of a light jacket to get me through the short frostiness of daybreak. I’m freaking cold.

I scrap ice from my rear windshield.

It’s almost noon.

The world is flat. Grass is hard and rumpled. The corpse of a shrub, once the vibrant centerpiece of a blooming garden, clings to a desert floor like lost hope. But there is change in the wind. The air has opened and the sky has grown larger. For so long the clouds hung in a frozen droop, like a ceiling of filthy pigeon feathers. Now there is only brightness above. A breeze nips at my arms and face, but there is a blue, electric energy coursing through the neighborhood.

Evening is near.

Canopies are empty but now they’re awake, and the branches seem to stretch and sway, pawing at moisture in the air. It’s the promise of a holiday. Suddenly life is busy with plans and wishes. The air is bustling. Birds watch and wait in expectation of some long awaited celebration. A turquoise shimmer is running through the breeze. Good times are on the horizon.

The real spring has almost come.

I Was Wrong About Trump

It certainly appears so, at least. 

Biden didn’t win. Corporate media knows it. Politicians know it. The American people know. The world knows. Trump knows that his historic, landslide victory was stolen by the same people that talk about democracy and suffrage like sacrosanct entitlements from God. 

The statistical anomalies are unprecedented. The impossibly massive voter turnout in key democrat electorates is an alarm bell stuffed in an anomaly, wrapped in a red flag. We’re meant to believe that – by an amazingly fortunate coincidence for the left – Biden outperformed Obama in these key urban areas despite Trump picking up points in every demographic group in the rest of the country. 

Then, there is the fact that GOP poll observers were removed to the cheers of the vote counters. USPS employees reported being told to backdate ballots to the day before. There is footage of mysterious, 2 am deliveries of ballots with no documentation of custody right before the math defying spike in Biden votes.

This fraud was obnoxiously amateurish. Need I go on?

Dominion voting software switched Trump votes to Biden votes. In 353 counties, there were 1.8 million more registered voters than eligible citizens. A ridiculously disproportionate amount of mail-in ballots came in for Biden. For example, in PA, in nearly every county, Trump was awarded exactly 40% less votes than he won on election day. Meaning, if Trump won 80% of the vote on election day, he won 40% of the mail-in vote for a county. 

The number of unlawful ballots that were awarded to Biden is absurd. Biden lost. You’ll notice that the only people that deny that Biden lost are the same people that repeat whatever the last thing they heard being said from corporate media as if it is an objective reporting of facts. I hate leftists. 

Alphas don’t allow their destiny to be stolen. Real leaders fight for the people that put their necks on the line to stand up for them. That’s why I thought Trump would cross the Rubicon. 

During his term, Trump protected his constituency from invaders. He put America first, making trade deals that benefited us instead of globalist creeps. He struck fear in the hearts of anti-Westerners and fought against the establishment’s policies of mandatory degeneracy. Trump was a fantastic President. 

So, I thought he would join the Caesars of history and, with the military, stop the illegitimate transition of power to a party of losers whose clear objective is to destroy and enslave real Americans. I was so sure I bet two grand on it

Guess I was wrong. Maybe not. I still hold out hope. Trump is the 4d chess master they say. Maybe Trump will save the day by playing the long game. Stranger things have happened. 

One thing is for sure. Half the country no longer believes in the legitimacy of the system. 

And that is a dangerous situation indeed. Dangerous for whom? That’s what I would be asking myself now if I were pathetic enough to be a leftist.