Sunday, October 27, 2013
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Black Magic Woman
Mama lit another candle, and then disappeared into another part of the house. She returned carrying a small jar, a necklace, and an ornate box. After placing them on the kitchen table, she brought the teakettle from the stove. Thunder, lightning, and pounding rain continued outside the house without any sign of slacking as steam swirled up from our teacups.
“Hold out your palm,” she said.
When I extended my hand across the table, she tapped something into it from the antique jar.
“What is it?”
“Like in magic mushroom?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Is it dangerous?”
“Not with me here it isn’t. I’m a practitioner. Remember?”
“I trust you.”
“Good. I’m giving you just enough to help induce a trance so I can channel the spirit that visited you in the hospital. Chew the mushroom; swallow it, and then wash it down with tea.”
Thunder rocked the ceiling as she pushed the box toward the center of the table. Wax had begun dripping down the sides of the candle and drying on the tabletop. Mama didn’t seem to notice, or to care. In the flickering light, I could see the box was constructed of beautifully polished wood with intricate markings carved into it.
“What is it?”
“More magic. A music box made by monks in the Early Middle Ages. Christianity was in its infancy in Europe at the time, and still very much a mixture of folk religion and paganism. This music box produces a very specific and wonderful melody. It was used in rituals to create trances.”
“For what purpose?”
“To ward off demons, curses, and the evil eye.”
“It must be very valuable. Where did you get it?”
“Don’t ask,” she said. “Is the mushroom working yet?”
“How will I know?”
“You’ll know. Put this around your neck and drink the tea.”
She handed me the pendant necklace with a stone, black as the sky outside the house. Rain and wind had set the chimes on the back porch sounding a discordant mixture of percussive music. Something heavy blew loose and slammed against the wall. I held the stone in my hand, rubbing its polished surface.
“What is this?”
“Psilomelane; a mineral with very special properties. It’ll help us induce the trance.”
“This isn’t going to hurt, is it?”
“Stop kidding around. No time for silliness.”
Mama wound the music box, and then opened its carved top. Centuries had not dulled the instrument’s dulcet tones. A simple, repetitive melody began filling the kitchen with metallic-inflected sound. As it continued, it seemed to probe my very psyche.
“Breathe in,” she said. “Breathe out. Close your eyes and become one with the tones. Focus only on the melody.”
The tune was enchanting, the pleasant pitch of plucked pins as poignant as a full orchestra. Noise of the storm had disappeared as the mushroom started working, the far wall rippling and changing colors from vivid yellows and reds to ghostly white through my slotted eyes. I felt weightless, as if I’d somehow risen out of the chair and was floating, not touching anything. When I glanced at the candle, the wax pouring down its sides had turned to blood. It was the last thing I remembered for a while.
Wyatt’s eyes had closed, his head tilted, chin almost touching his chest. He didn’t notice the shimmering cloud that had suddenly appeared behind him, or the spirit staring at Mama with steely resolve. It was the spirit of a young man, his dark hair and distinctive clothes cut in the style of a different era. Though an aquiline nose dominated his face, it somehow made him appear regally handsome. He wasn’t smiling.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Zacharie Patenaud,” the apparition said. “Who are you, and why do you summon me?”
“I’m Mama Mulate, a close friend of Wyatt’s. I called you here for answers.”
“The man you call Wyatt has the answers.”
“If that’s not his name, then what is it?”
“I do not need to tell you what you already know.”
As Mama stared at the flickering apparition, a python appeared around his shoulders. The eyes of the dark reptile glowed red as it jutted its neck toward her, Its mouth open wide with evil intent. When Mama put her arm up to block the assault, pentacles, pentagrams, and hexagrams began flying toward her like an out-of-control, 3-D movie. The melody from the music box had become suddenly and relentlessly loud.
“You are cursed!” she shouted. “Why have you attached yourself to Wyatt?”
“Because it is he who caused the curse I bear. I’m doomed to stay with him for eternity unless. . .”
“Only he can have the curse lifted.”
“You make no sense. Why would he place a curse on you that would have such an evil effect on himself?”
“Only he knows,” the spirit said.
“That isn’t true. Someone else has cursed you. A facilitator of the Devil and not Wyatt.”
“He paid for the curse with twenty coins of gold.”
“Then you must have done something horrible to cause him to to do such a thing. What is it you did?”
“Elise,” the spirit said.
“A woman? He cursed you because of a woman?”
“What matters is that only he can lift the curse from my soul. If he does not, we will remain together for eternity,” he said, his image growing dimmer.
“How can he lift the curse?”
“That is a question only he can answer.”
The music had grown earsplitting, Mama’s eyes rolling to the back of her head as she tried to muffle the sound with her hands.
“What’s his name,” she shouted. “And the name of the woman who can lift the curse.”
The apparition’s voice and its image began to fade. He held out his hand to her as he disappeared into darkness. Mama continued shielding her face as the serpent, and flying Devil signs went with it.
When they were gone, she poured a straight shot of whiskey and then slugged it down in one gulp. After her second shot, the music box lay quiet, thunder shook the roof, and the candle in the center of the table flickered and died.
Friday, October 18, 2013
John "Pink" Pinkney lost a leg in the Civil War while serving with Company D of the 1st Texas Infantry Battalion. After the war, he hiked from Georgia to Texas on the wooden leg the Union doctors provided him.
He died long before I was born, but my grandmother assured me he had no ill will against the Yankees, and had told her many times they treated him with respect while he was in their prison camp.
I'm glad I had no one to bury on the day I visited because I had no prior approval.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Not long ago, I reconnected by email with my old Vivian friend Jay Denny. Finding out at a North Caddo High reunion that I had started writing novels he’d bought a copy of Big Easy and began reading. Like me, Jay Denny lived in New Orleans for a time. He has moved back after a stint in LA. Here is a ghost story he swears is true. He is allowing me to tell it but made me promise not to reveal the actual hotel and bar so as not to offend the ghost of Madam Marie Laveau.
* * *
When I was nineteen, I lived across the street from Madam Marie Laveau’s house on St. Anne’s. In the seventies, I worked in a hotel on Rampart. It was rumored that part of Madam Marie’s bed was on the wall above the bar. It was a side piece that had a sliding door. This is so she could close herself off totally while sleeping and no one could cast a spell on her.
In the nineties, after a long sojourn in California I was back in New Orleans for a visit and decided to stay at the hotel. I went in the bar to see if the bedside was still there. It was, the bar remodeled, and the bedside moved it to a new spot.
I didnt tell a soul thinking some disrespectful person might mark it up if they knew the story. After checking into my room, I went about the business of seeing old friends from my LSU days and having dinner with them. We ate at recently opened Baco on Rue Chartres.
After returning to my hotel room I retired for the evening and turned out all the lights but one in a little dressing area kept coming back on. Thinking it had a short, I unplugged it. It came on again! Then I realized my room was directly over the bar and the piece of Madam Marie’s bed. Now that I think of it, maybe she was trying to thank me for not giving away her secret.
Born a mile or so from Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma, and continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. If you liked Ghost of Marie Laveau, please check out his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook author pages.
I bought my first camera, a 35 mm Yashica rangefinder during the summer of 1968. I ached for that camera for weeks before purchasing it from one of the many electronics stores that line both sides of
Canal Street in . New Orleans
The Yashica was great and let you do the focusing, set the f-stop and the shutter speed. Of course if the printed picture was over or under exposed, or out of focus you had no one to blame but yourself.
The sturdy Yashica took awesome photos but I soon decided that I couldn’t live another day without a single lens reflex. Since I couldn’t afford a more expensive brand with interchangeable lenses, I settled for a fixed-lens, Kowa SLR. It wasn’t as sturdy as the Yashica nor did it take pictures even half as good, but I kept it until it finally locked up on me.
Gail and I had little money for cameras after we married but I did manage to purchase a Minolta SRT-101 while passing through
on the way back to Japan
from R & R. The Minolta was another
awesome camera that finally, like all SLRs, finally broke because of all its
moving parts. Since the Minolta, I’ve
owned many more cameras. My latest
purchase arrived this very day, an old Pentax K1000 with a 50 mm lens. Vietnam
No one buys 35 mm SLRs anymore. Well, except me. A few years ago, on a surfing trip through eBay, I purchased ten or so SLRs of various makes and models. I have so many cameras and lenses that I can never use them all, and, well, I’ve now discovered digital photography.
I have a tiny little Nikon that takes wonderful pictures and movies if I feel like it. I can download them instantly to my computer and crop, touch-up and doctor any photo to my heart’s content, or delete it completely if I don’t like it.
Unlike my old Yashica, the Nikon performs all the tasks for me. I barely have to think about it. I love it, but sometimes, usually late at night and after quaffing a few strong brews I regret the loss of choice and decision I had back in 1968, but not enough to give up my little Nikon.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Primal - Amazon
Primal - B&N
Sunday, October 06, 2013
Halloween was on a Friday, so we planned the big bash for Saturday. Not all of our guests got the message as three revelers showed up for the party Friday night. Born on the day before Halloween, I seem forever destined to be connected to that holiday.
Anne and I married early in 1980 and decided to host a Halloween party that year.
Anne and I married early in 1980 and decided to host a Halloween party that year.
Jakob, an Israeli expatriate that was doing stonework around our house for us, showed up as a cowboy. He was soon followed by Nancy, a geologist, dressed, strangely enough, as an Indian princess. John, another geologist, showed up a little later, his only costume a mask.
Nonplussed, Anne and I broke out the alcohol. There was a championship boxing match on television that night -
own Sean O'Grady versus James Watt, a Scottish boxer. The fight took place in Oklahoma City
and to say that there was a bit of home cooking going on is but a mild
statement. After a few rounds Watt
head-butted Sean resulting in a horrible cut over his eye. Watt should have been disqualified and
O'Grady declared the winner. Instead,
the local judges ruled the cut caused by a punch rather than a head-butt. Glasgow, Scotland
Those days there was no rule about excessive bleeding. To say that there was a little blood strewn around the ring would be a true understatement. The ring looked more like the inside of a working slaughter house, all the viewers, including myself, in shock and totally aghast. The fight was soon called and Watt proclaimed the world champion.
We went on to drink, carouse and to celebrate into the wee hours, neither Anne nor I in much shape for the real Halloween party that continued as planned the next day.
A few years later I met Sean O'Grady at a Christmas Party in
. The room was crowded and I was standing
against a wall, sipping my whiskey. When
O'Grady spotted me, he pushed his way through the crowd, looked me straight in
the eye and said, "You look just like "Little Red" Lopez." Oklahoma City
He wasn't smiling and I could tell from his expression and the clinch of his fists that he was getting ready to hit me. Having seen his devastating punching power on more than one occasion, I immediately raised my right palm.
"Believe me, I'm not "Little Red" Lopez. I'm one of your biggest fans."
Sean smiled and we proceeded to have a nice conversation. Lopez, it seems, had beaten the teenaged O'Grady and he had never forgotten, or forgiven. I have posted a picture of "Little Red" on my photo page so you can see for yourself that I look nothing like the former boxer.
That was the first Halloween party that I hosted, eventful like everyone else that followed. I have another Sean O'Grady story but I will save it for another day.
Friday, October 04, 2013
· 3 pints Okra
· 6 tomatoes, fresh
· 2 onions
· 2 T butter
· 2 dozen oysters
· 3 T rice
· 1 red pepper pod, deseeded
Wash and stem the okra, and then slice it very fine. Chop the tomatoes fine and preserve the juice. Chop the onions fine, and then fry them in the butter, in a large pot. Wash the rice well. Slow stew the onions, tomatoes and juice, and pepper in about three quarts of water and one pint of oyster juice for three hours, stirring frequently. Don’t add the okra and rice until ten minutes before serving, then let it come to a boil. Drop in the oysters, boil up once, and serve.
Note: South Louisiana usually has a long growing season, but the Creoles of New Orleans didn’t have fresh okra and tomatoes during the winter. They resolved this problem by canning fruits and vegetables during the months they were plentiful. To follow the original recipe, use one can (jar) of okra, and one can (jar) of tomatoes instead of fresh okra and tomatoes. Either way is wonderful.
Born a mile or so from Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma with wife Marilyn, and continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans. Please check it out on his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook author pages.