Day of the Dead 2017, Mexico City

Looking to Put a Little Happy in Dead

Copyright ©2017 Jim Gabour

“Everyone knew that being dead could put you in a terrible mood.”

The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Luis Urrea 2006

1.

In the Mexico City airport there swirls a giant chaotic storm combining electronic ultraswank and totally nonfunctional. A facsimile Parisian sidewalk cafe stands alone, waiters in white gloves and waistcoats, across from designer clothing stores and patrons with obvious money dripping from their fingertips. They pass down a carpeted ramp right next to Gate 28, initially my gate, but now loading central-casting gold-chained mobsters and overcoiffured mobettes headed for Miami. Having been shooed away from my original chic surroundings, I am told to relocate to the other end of the terminal. I walk. Forever. There, with an undetermined wait ahead and no food in the eight hours since a 4am wake-up alarm, I find a dim bar serving “national” food. I order a dish of five tiny, greasy tacos de cochinita pibil, traditional Yucatecan honeyed pork with salsa and pickled vegetables, and am rewarded with one of the best meals I have had in years. Less than $4 in pesos. In a major airport. The waitress wore no gloves.

A Winning “Catrina”, 2017 Pazcuardo Competition (Photo Courtesy of Robin Halvorsen)My own domestic flight is also revealed to be humble. Interjet 3753 to Zijuatanejo gets two changes of gate, then cancelled outright, reinstated, then delayed twice more. And yet, as I watch, none of the electronic airport signs ever waiver in indicating that my flight is anything but “On Time.” Even though we are already over an hour past our scheduled departure. Finally we are sent to a jam-packed low-ceilinged area, reminiscent of a bad grammar school cafeteria, serving five separate gates. No groups or boarding sections are to be utilized for the flights, no such niceties are to be arranged here. The loudspeaker is dead. No matter how many times our overwhelmed young gate attendant bangs the microphone on her desk, no sound is heard above the roar of frustrated voices. Any hope for order is futile, she realizes at length, and beckons the wheelchaired customers to move forward first. Then waves to let the mob on as it wishes. I closely follow the wheel chairs. But while possible progress awaits, I spot an incredibly beautiful and impossibly tiny 3-4 year-old female, at first seemingly walking alone, then noticeably closely trailed by a tall thin pressed-upon mother. Dressed loosely in white, as is the child, she sports short pale untamed hair, and is firmly entrenched in her mid-thirties. Mother and daughter make a circuit of the boarding area two to three times as I watch. I am sweating profusely. AC is also non-functional here. But this lively pair is quite a diversion. When I finally get on the airplane and secure my seat, I see them enter and move to the rear of the plane. They are also headed to Zihuatanejo. In the steamy, lush state of Guerrero. The plane is as wild as the boarding area. There are quite obviously a number of first-time flyers, obvious as when the plane speeds for take-off and half the passengers instantly wail, make the sign of the cross, and kiss their right hands. It is a bumpy ride. I carefully monitor the young man next to me as he turns a vivid green, and put my own seat’s airsickness bag in his immediate view. Later, safely but frustratingly awaiting a semi-expensive shuttle to my hotel — as always, the airport concession doubles both transportation prices and wait times for cheaper forms of transport — I find myself bundled

Mexico City on a Clear Day

Zihuatanejo from the Airinto a cab with the mother-daughter, and a hotel waiter. The woman speaks effortlessly perfect Spanish until, as the driver curses a motorcycle cart, she says loudly, in Jersey-inflected English: “Get over it.” Thus begins our conversation. I compliment her child’s beauty. She tells me she has lived in the City (referred to as only “Mexico” by residents), and yes, she and her daughter had been horribly upset by the earthquake. Continued to be. Thus, her trip to her brother’s condo at the beach. Would she return home for Dia de Muertos? “We must,” she says. It is our celebration of life. We need to think only of life now.”

“Almost everyone I know would agree,” I say as quietly as I can. “I’m from New Orleans, you see. We’ve been there, too.”

And thus begins my quest for the mutual connection of heart, Mexico and Mexico City to New Orleans. Tragedy and grief in each place only mitigated by the indigenous, deeply rooted celebration.

Day of the Dead in Mexico and Carnival in New Orleans, keeping their residents alive and full of joy in dark times.

Prepping for Dia de Muertos in Mexico City’s Plaza Municipal

2.

Solidly in Zihuatanejo.

Morning One

No dinner and two strong late-night margaritas with the congenial manager of Villa del Pescador – tequila was the only liquor he had in the house — mean I get up to walk to the bathroom for toothbrushing very slowly the next morning, my first in Zihuatanejo. Odd, though. I feel something strange on my leg, something scratchy. I look down and spy a four-inch-tall praying mantis attached to my left calf. I walk stiff- legged to the bathroom so as not to disturb it, and get tissue to facilitate removing the insect without getting bitten.

That is my plan. That, and not freaking out. But I pull the thing off my leg without much hassle, and take it out onto balcony to release. As I put it down, it produces human-like movements, using its arms to toss off the tissue. Good mantis, this, as it eats other nasty insects. It is safe during daylight hours outside, but bats and other wing-born predators come out to feast on such bugs at night. I wish him well and try to forget his existence. The first day is a blur as I try to adjust to the monstrous heat here at the end of the rainy season. On the positive side, the rain has restored the verdant, over-reaching plant life all around my remote hotel dug into the cliff face the western side of the bay. The ancient irregular cobblestone road that runs in front of the hotel is said to be the oldest in the ville, having been built to deter pirates by allowing placement

My Erstwhile Roommate of cannons atop the high point that guards the mouth of the bay. 3.

My second night’s attempt at sleep features strangely loud nocturnal chirps, five in a row. Then nothing. Five, then nothing. And two hours later, the same sound wakes me again from close by, probably on my balcony. Something may be after the mantis. I open the curtains, turn on the balcony light, but see nothing. The jungle, it seems, just demands attention at certain intervals. The five narrow stories of the Villa del Pescador are built right into the face of a green quartz cliff. The natural faceted crystalline structure is allowed to come through the walls at various points, especially in the stairwells. Which reinforces the feeling of living in a cave, quite securely. It is a place of character. A rather large and pampered cow is kept in a small yard behind the kitchen. This became apparent as it moos very loudly during prime breakfast. Families laugh. Cooks are embarrassed. Breakfast is good. I have a large orange-papaya juice. Freshly made by the manager. This plant-choked part of town is also full of cats, including a large family of orange tabbies across the street, four youngsters in their early cat-teens. All are feral but speak loudly and approach closely to look at passersby. Everyone feeds them, especially waiters from the restaurant next door.

Two Unworried Neighbors

The road by which one reaches the Villa is made of rough and irregular cobblestones, very little mortar, and a near wash-out at several dips. One steep section right before it reaches the port footbridge is especially slippery and hard to pass.

I go very very slowly and only watch my feet, as there is nothing waterside to prevent cars or people from falling off into the rocks far below. Excerpt a long drop cushioned with blue morning glories. I will be here eleven days. I must remember to watch my feet.

The Hill

4.

A quiet day. Tranquillo. Reading, writing, watching the boats pass under my balcony. It is quite hot outside, “mucho calor,” as the manager warned me. This time of year everyone here lives at night. School basketball games start in the Plaza Municipal at midnight.

Moviehouse Extraordinaire

Of all things, I am going to a large bimbamboom movie, “Geostorm,” at the Paraiso (Paradise) Cinema this eve, in honor of the last time my partner Faun and I did the same thing. “Mr & Mrs Smith” was the movie of the year then, arriving in Mexico on 8 June 2005. We saw it here In Zihuatanejo shortly after it opened. The world seemed so smooth-edged then. Until the Big K arrived shortly after we returned to NOLA. 29 August changed everything. The hurricane moved on, finally. The stars of the “Smith” movie, Brad and Angelina, moved in, to New Orleans, buying a mansion some six blocks from my own humble house. But the stars, they have also moved on now, recently divorced. The hurricane is sill married to all locals’ memory.

And we still live on the same street. This current end-of-the-world movie was also just premiering in NOLA right when I left home, in October 2017, as one of those simultaneous worldwide splashes created by West Coast film factories. The effects in the trailer looked pretty awesome, though derivative of so many of the “disasters to end the world” movies of the last decade. Turns out I had seen all the worthwhile parts of the movie in the three-minute preview.

Also interesting how it all translates. Late last night when the five odd noises woke me again I turned the TV in my room on, to clear my head. There it was: “El Svelte Detective en Hollywood“. AKA “Beverly Hills Cop”. “Geostorm” becomes “Geotormenta“. So I walk to the early feature at the Paraiso, figuring that the comfort of 90 minutes of AC alone is worth the price of admission. I buy my ticket, and between me and the entry hall there is a preacher with a stand of pamphlets, the primary purpose of which is to ask what the passersby would do in the event of one of the cataclysms.

He speaks to me through a megaphone, though there are less than six feet between his mouth and my ear. But I turn my head aside and enter the movie without even a nod in his direction, inconsiderately ignoring his insistent pleas for my salvation.

When I emerge, I notice that the main picture on the preacher’s display shows the exact same disasters in the exact same order from the movie. And I am not kidding. Exact. Earthquake (Hong Kong), tornados (India), tidal wave (Mumbai), and fire via lightning (Orlando). Some odd religious collaboration with Hollywood must exist in the disaster cosmos.

The preacher is still shouting loudly into a megaphone that we will neither survive nor achieve Paradise unless we repent.

I do not tell him that I had just achieved entry into Paradise, for a mere thirty pesos ($1.75), and the popcorn was good there, in spite of the disasters. And though the AC was not working (dammit), kids were running in the aisles, and bag ladies were panhandling, I had still enjoyed a “Svelte” movie in El Paraiso. Though the floor show was much better than the film. I don’t think any of the actors plan on moving to New Orleans. At least not after this “desastre” of a film.

The Preacher’s Packaged Disaster Message

5.

The next day, passing theough the same street in the early morning, I notice abnother religion, somewhat more ancient, has taken up residence right next to the preacher’s pamplets, that display now bracketed by the movie house and a serious spread of drying flower petals intended for decorating graves on Dia del Muertos. Along with a word from their sponsor in a miniature coffin.

The shades of orange are marigolds, cempaschuchil, the predominant flower, used for centuries for this purpose. Cheering the dead. The pink/purple/red petals are terciopelo rojo, red coxcomb, only adopted after the arrival of the Spaniards. Who first moved the celebration to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day in the sixteenth century, then added the coxcomb petals to the decor, to signify the inclusion of the “blood of christ.”

Drying Marigold & Coxcomb Petals, and Driving off Preachers

The petal color remains in displays in more traditional Christian areas, but is hardly known among the indigenous tribes in the coutryside.

In any case, the disaster-doting minister was intimidated by the imagery and/or flower insertion, and by mid-day had moved away fom the movie house to the more tourist-laden Paseo se Pescatores. Where tidal waves seemed far less imminent.

At the evening screenings, I notice that “Geotormenta” attendance remains abysmal, in spite of dozens of bright new posters around the Central Market.

Maybe if they lowered the fee to enter Paradise things would perk up.

6.

The Metro at a Quieter Hour

I had not expected the Number 1 Metro line to be so crowded when I boarded at Insurgentes. The progress of days was quickly approaching Halloween in Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico, AKA CDMX), the first night of three in the Dia de Muertos celebration.

The train was headed east to Pino Suarez. There I would to transfer to the Number 2 and head north one stop to the historic Zocalo. This massive square serves as a principal focal point for the seemingly endless urban sprawl of over 21 million people. I had been told the Zocalo would already be full of the raw materials for offertas, small offering altars for the dead — candy skulls, the yellow marigolds, candles, skeletal statues — well in advance of All Souls Day, 2 November, the definitive and final Day.

The prospect of my final destination was exciting, but I could not help but be slightly claustrophobic in transit, crammed upright in close proximity amidst a lurching solid mass of people. 4.5 million people a day pay 5 pesos (30¢, 20p) to ride the Mexico City rails. But I was confident. I reminded myself that I had dealt with many such subways in Tokyo, New York, Seoul, London, Paris, all with massively intimidating rush hours. I survived those experiences, had learned my lessons, and now waited until late morning to travel, expecting to find loose, if not empty, trains at that hour.

This was one more major misconception on my part. The entire train was packed to the point of suffocation. So much for the benefits of travel experience.

Just a few minutes into the journey I suddenly heard a muffled though loud “WAOW WAOW WAOW WAOW!” and just as quickly saw everyone in the car stiffen, lose their composure and start yelling loudly. A woman screamed: “Alerta sismica! Alerta sismica!” She, like many others, was thinking

“earthquake warning.” People started pushing toward the doors, even though the train was still accelerating rapidly.

Then a deep, unruffled voice rose above the bedlam: “Cálmese, senora, cálmese. Es un telefono.” And it was. A telephone.

A very embarrassed teenaged girl was struggling to get her cell out of her clear plastic purse, and quiet the ringtone. If looks could kill, this unfortunate young woman would have disappeared off the planet in a puff of pre-pubesecent smoke, the express wish of dozens of sweating, panicked passengers in the car.

I had read that Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera himself said he deplored residents setting the audio of the city’s seismic alarm as a ringtone, and asked that they delete it, saying the sound provoked a nervous anxiety among the populace so soon after the disaster. “It causes great confusion,” he said. I can now personally verify this.

Quake Warnings Everywhere

Quake Warnings Everywhere

September 19, 2017, is still very much on people’s minds. That very morning of the 19th, to commemorate the horrific earthquake of September 19, 1985, which killed over 5,000 in the City, the government staged the first demonstration of the refined SARMEX system — Sistema de Alerta Sísmica Mexicano. For the first time, that alarm was broadcast loudly on 8,200 street megaphones, many sounding exactly like that which I heard replicated on the Metro: “WAOW WAOW WAOW WAOW!”

A Whole Damaged Block in La Zona Rosa, Mexico City’s Equivalent of the French Quarter, Still shut Down

As if called from the deep, just hours after these earthquake drills, an actual 7.1 magnitude quake hit the city. It was the second powerful quake to strike that month: an 8.1 magnitude tremor had panicked the city just twelve days earlier.

I flashed on my own experience with disaster timing in New Orleans, the demoness Katrina descending on 29 August 2005, to the day exactly forty years after Hurricane Betsy inflicted historic damage to the city.

In my reverie I also remembered a visit to the Golden City oriental supermarket back home, just a few weeks ago, being startled at the cash register as each of a dozen customer and employee phones, including mine, simultaneously started screaming “Hurricane alert! Hurricane alert!” It was clear, blue and cool outside, and the minimal hurricane Nate only showed up two days later as barely an inconvenience.

But Katrina had been real, almost 2,000 had died, and the closely-following wildness of Mardi Gras 2006 had proven necessary to the return of any sort of normal life. In 2017 I find myself again in another very-different-but-same city coming back to life amidst a massive celebration. In Mexico City.

This fiesta revolves around yet another different, but connected, Catrina.

Millennia in development, Dia de Muertos was dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as the “Lady of the Dead,” who evolved into the modern La Calavera Catrina, this brought to life in the skeletal engravings of José Guadalupe Posada.

José GuadalupePosada, La Calavera Catrina, circa 1910-13 Zinc Etching

Another Catrina.

A Catrina, Mexico City 2017

And then there is the corresponding phenomenon of the Mardi Gras Skull & Bone gangs in New Orleans. The comic enforcers of mortality who run on the holiday morning with the words “You next!” as a tribal call.

Skull and Bones Gang, Mardi Gras , 2003 Royce Osborn. Used by Permission

A DOTD tribute skull for filmmaker Royce Osborn, who passed last month, (courtesy Robyn Halvorsen)

There are, of course, many commercial exploitations of the Day of the Dead, underlined last year by the City’s use of left-over James Bond movie props to create a faux first-of-a-kind Day of the Dead parade. It was well-received by visitors, though thoroughly denigrated by purists. It returned this year as the “Day of the Dead Monumental Skull Parade,” traveling from the Angel de la Independencia Monument to the Zocalo. At first it was scheduled on All Souls Day, November 2, but then City government moved the event outside the actual Muertos celebration, to Saturday 28 October for a higher ROI, return on investment. They left the “bones” of the parade the floats in the city center, the Zocalo. No matter. I will attend. I have a parade reflex, inbred from my hometown.

Even though not as elaborate and culturally authentic as some rural celebrations, examples of real intent exist in Mexico City’s Panteon des Dolores graveyard with 700,000 graves, and over a million human remains. I was stunned when I arrived on All Souls Day at the thousands upon thousands of families walking in the gates with huge armloads of flowers and other gifts for the dead, along with cleaning pails and brushes for the site.

The Panteon stretches across more than a mile of the City, covered in ancient trees and flowering plants. At its heart is the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons, Two huge concentric circles containing the sculpture-augmented graves of 200 poets, painters, musicians, doctors. This day the painter Diego Rivera had the most elaborate altar at his gravesite.

The Entrance to the Panteon des Dolores

Just as profoundly, though, the Mexican Dia de Muertos is observed among the many and varied indigenous peoples, and is said to culminate around Patzcuaro, and the villages that surround its lake, some 200 miles due west, where a nest of New Orleanians have found a deep NOLA connection to the culture, and settled.

Rivera’s Altar

Like New Orleans realtor Robyn Halvorsen, who leads the Société de Sainte Anne Mardi Gras parade back home every year. She has spent the last decade of her non-Carnival time restoring an extraordinary hacienda in the town of Patzcuaro itself, and has witnessed those multiple years of Muerto revels:

I love it because it is spiritual and so moving. It opens another culture and another way of life. We meet and greet departed souls with the things they liked one night a year and welcome them. It is a little different in each village.We always visit Judith Diem in Tzurumútaro. She was a bohemian gypsy artist who died at 97. She swore she was the bastard offspring of the pirate Jean Lafitte and his Nubian mistress, hence the New Orleans connection. She has an unadorned gravesite except for a carved cantera sculpture. It isn’t tended too well. We take Mardi Gras beads to put on the sculpture every year.

One year the son of her former housekeeper was there drinking. There was a vase of feathery pampas stems. He got drunk and accidentally set them on fire. The entire gravesite was aflame. It was quite dramatic. We decided Judith would have enjoyed that much more than the flowers.

This season I experienced the Day itself in the nation’s capitol, connecting with the emotional process of the people as they once again find their way to make fun of death in perilous times.

They had skeletons dressed in rescue workers clothes highlighted in their All Souls Day celebration in the Zocalo. Everybody is a citizen of worth.

In that, I feel the bond, NOLA to CDMX. And always, always look forward to a parade.

It won’t be long now. Will it?

 

#Methree: The Waning Moon of Southern Gentility

#Methree: The Waning Moon of Southern Gentility

If I didn’t have to make a living I would never have ventured outside of the soft comforter and thick dark curtains of my deeply warmed hotel bedroom that winter day. I had been earlier reminded once again that the enclosed streets of Manhattan can channel wind gusts so ferociously frigid that no amount of outer clothing can totally hold out the cold. And as a New Orleans resident, I simply had not the opportunity, or will, to shop for the sort of thermal wear that would at least allow me to exist comfortably, even just in transit from one building to the next, in this town in January.

No one from my neighborhood back home has ever even seen a parka or down jacket, much less needed to wear one.

But I had a business meeting that could not be missed. A meeting whose results would involve bad habits of mine like eating and paying the house note. Thus it happened that at 8:30am, I faced an aggressive, sub-freezing arctic blast that bore straight up the stone canyons of mid-town Sixth Avenue to assault my face and feet. I leaned into the wind, hands in pockets, chin under collar. Yes, I was sadly unprepared, had no scarf, gloves or hat, so the cold physically hurt, the northern winter besting a body I previously thought at least somewhat inured to extremes of temperature. But New York City cold was much much tougher to bear than New Orleans hot.

I was ready to be indoors, out of the wind, and artificially warmed. My appointment awaited in such an environment.

I approached the massive deco doors, all thick glass and stainless steel, anticipating the relief I would find inside, and began lifting my all-but-frozen right hand well in advance of contact, so I could grip the vertical pull bars and quickly get inside.

As I did so I felt a hard elbow to my left side ribs, and then again. I remember vocalizing an “Ow!” after the second blow, quite loudly, and turned to see a very well-dressed and styled thirty-ish female, brunette with blue eyes and grey pinstriped suit, preparing to hit me again. She wanted to move through the doors in front of me, and this was how she communicated that wish.

To expedite her need for personal fulfillment I reached forward, pulled the right hand door open, stepped back, bowed my head a notch, and beckoned her to enter. Instantly, she stopped, hard, visibly vibrating as she recentered her gravity from movement to stasis. She focused straight ahead and stood unmoving in the center of the doorway. People who had been part of the mob behind us milled around, trying to pass by her, then, seeing her expression, thought better of it and veered left to the other door.

She turned to me. There was the sound of two polished enamel surfaces gritting one against the other. Her perfectly painted lips were slightly apart, revealing a bank of straight, exactly arranged teeth beneath. She was not smiling. Her teeth came apart and a disturbed voice emerged.

“You pathetic, weasel-assed loser!” she cried, breath steam encasing her words. “Do you have any idea what you are doing? I am not your bitch, you creepy… misogynist… jerk!” I turned. I could not yet quite comprehend that she was speaking to me, the man who had simply opened the door for her. I had only offered to let her pass first, before me, into the cool high-ceilinged oasis I so coveted.

But she had not entered. Instead she stood before me, enraged: “I could kick your ass, sonny boy, for being such a sexist pig.” She moved forward, her pressed and pleated jacket pushing the edge of the door back into me.

I glanced about, ostensibly looking for help or at least a sympathetic witness. No luck. In spite of the shouting we were barely drawing a solitary onlooker amidst the midtown New York workday crowd, individuals who could care less who or what goes down, as long as their own progress is not impeded. I was truly at a loss. I was the person who had been rudely punched, pushed aside without prelude. I was the person who had, with an even temper, politely offered first passage to an aggressive and intolerant stranger.

Wasn’t I obeying the rules? For performing just such gentlemanly actions as an eight-year-old, I had been rewarded with compliments and treats by my mother, grandmothers, and aunts. Here, decades later, the same “polite” human being was being threatened with bodily harm for an identical action.

“Let’s move along inside, folks,” was suddenly shouted over our heads. It was the lobby doorman, trying to get the crowd motivated and doors closed, in the process giving the woman a split second of diversion and closure. In that instant she pivoted, rejoined the flow and disappeared. The crowd again filled in all space around me, shoving me forward, moving me bodily into the building. Once in the doors and still dazed from my encounter, I was shunted to the side, ejected from the purposed stream. No one turned to look. It was over. My assailant was gone, disappeared, as probably was I from her memory. There was no one to record or remember the moment except me.

This was not how I was brought up. Everyone I knew, regardless of socioeconomic position, had uniformly adhered to a certain poetic ideal of chivalry and courtesy, however misplaced. Men and women alike.

I can remember an all-too-true joke from my grudgingly polite university days:

Q: Why don’t Southern belles indulge in group sex?

A: Because it’s waaayyyy too much trouble sending out all those thank-you cards afterwards.

* * *

Then the year inexorably moves into September, and I am back home sweating, though happily.  The situation evolved from an evening spent at a favorite haunt watching a much anticipated college baseball game in the company of several bad bookie-&-gambling friends. Gambling is one of the few vices that I personally do not enjoy, preferring more concrete rewards for the expenditure of cash.

But the milieu of these dedicated speculators is a treat for an observer of human nature. It was a great scene, anyway, with hordes of turistas traipsing through the bar on their way to the dining rooms, all wondering at the strange activity along the polished cypress bar – cellphones held high displaying changing odds, antique pagers dinging on snakeskin belts, manicured thumbnails punching numbers into calculating apps on phones, leather cups of dice banging on the bar.

This is the place. A loud room populated by large females in yards of stiff shiny fabric, loud males with coiffed overcombed heads and dense forests of exposed chest hair, polyester shirts, and ultra-shiny pawn shop jewelry. West Coast horse races on one screen and a college football game on the other.

The point spread peaks at 5 just before the patriotic noise of anthem singing has dwindled. It could have been larger, as the downtrodden (picked pre-season to land in the bottom half of the SEC) Louisiana team is playing the number one squad in the country. But as the first kickoff drifts to earth, the dishwasher from the Cafe du Monde across the street comes running in, still wearing his apron, with his entire week’s wages in cash – $313 in small bills, he said he’d had lots of overtime – and takes the lesser team, covering the spread at 15‑1 odds. He says he wanted to back the home team, even though, of course, he is from Nicaragua.

A wonderful scene. In lieu of a proper dinner, I am excitedly eating free bar food, in this case small plates of very fatty pork rinds, and drinking an indeterminate number of Wild Turkeys on ice.

Then, amidst thunderous yelling and screaming and beverage consumption over the course of two quick hours, the underdog local guys actually beat Number One. The dishwasher comes running in just at the last out of the ninth inning, sees the score and faints. $4,695. He bought us all rounds before he was even fully conscious.

Consequently I’m hyped and happy and on my way home at an early 9pm, trying to calm down, and I pass by Washington Square, two blocks from my house.

It is Decadence weekend, and the square is packed with the rainbow crowd. There’s a band playing in the Square, and lots of omni‑sexual bun‑squeezing going on. I’m in a hurry to get home, and try to avoid a half-dozen very very butch babes hanging out drinking Budweiser longnecks at the entrance to the festivities. As I walk around them I nod and say – again in typically polite Southern fashion – “Good evening, ladies.”

I mean, folks, I am just being nice. WRONG.

“Who the hell you calling a lady, boy?”

“Something wrong with you, son?”

“You got eyes, asshole?”

They are a tad drunk, way more so than I, and looking to source a little sisterly aggression against my perceived un‑PC remark. I don’t even understand that they are talking to me until I hear one of them running up. The next few seconds happen very quickly. Keep in mind that I had gone to the bar early, and hadn’t eaten anything except seriously greasy handfuls of homemade pork rinds at the bar, to go along with those couple of iced bourbons.

I spin to see what was happening, only to spy all six of the big girls coming up on me, fists balled, shoulders set, and lips snarling. All are considerably taller, and weightier, than I. Three are carrying now-empty glass longnecks by the top of the bottle, club-style.

And just then – I have no idea why other than the combination of nervousness with adult beverages and pork products – I pass gas. Loudly.

The half-dozen burly women stop dead in their tracks, mouths open. Time stops.

Finally, almost as a unit, they howl “GaaaaAAAHHHH!”, turn around, and stomp off in disgust. Speaking in loud voices about the inherently despicable nature of men.

And thus was I impolitely saved from yet another physical drubbing at the hands of females enraged by my automatic, literally Southern-engendered idea of “politeness.”

I simply must learn to live as a less-considerate human being.