When I came home from the party, everything had changed
Depending on your dictionary, when you look up “tradition,” you may find one of its obsolete forms:
“a surrender or betrayal.”
From the Latin “traditionem,” accusative case of “traditio” – the act of handing over, of passing on.
No matter how we’d like to think so, with our partying like there’s no tomorrow, tomorrow will always be here. It’s us that might not. Time remains, it’s us that are future dust, us that time leaves behind.
“meanwhile”: n. The intervening time.
Our persistent illusions that we can hold it back, stretch it, redirect it, meander in its slipstreams, are not unlike our notions of holding back great lakes, long rivers, swamps. We don’t always lose, but when we do, we pay dearly.
“Any minute, mama.”
“Shoulda put the gumbo on but I can’t till they get here.
Once I get started with that roux, I’m stuck.”
The sun rises and sets. The clock ticks, the calendar pages turn, the feast days come and go. We surrender and let the time flow underneath us, alongside us, between us. And we build bridges, from steel, ritual, music, food. Acts of handing over, of passing on that which we were given, at least what we’ve managed to hold on to till now.
When LaDonna’s mom says she’ll wait to go to the parades next year, when everyone’s finally back, we see LaDonna didn’t fall far from the tree. Just as she refused to bring Daymo’s death home to ruin her mother’s Carnival, so too does her mother try to wield control by sitting out as much of it as she can. Just because there might be no tomorrow doesn’t mean she has to settle for this day. Last year, that’s the one she’ll remember for now, that was a good one. Not this nobody together at the same time coming and going ghost town Mardis Gras. And sure as hell not moving to no Baton Rouge Mardi Gras. Last year, now let me tell you, Daymo walked in that door at 11 a.m. sharp. That boy was always on the dot.
all the sunlit faces
marching through the crowd
all the sunlit faces
marching through the crowd
all that day and all that night
our dead friends walked
into the streets
their faces in the doorways
like a mirror to your photographs
they mingled with the crowds until
the living and the dead became
The Creighton story line is creeping me out, as a ghost story should. It seems out of sequence and not moving toward or away: the rants, the wrestling with the book, don’t seem to carry any more weight than the pleasant enough, albeit muted interstitials of Bernette family life. Then we lurch into another Toni-goes-looking-for-Creighton scene. We hold our breath expecting to see Creighton has checked out one way or another but then he’s not. And we keep breathing and life goes on in the big house full of tasteful empty. It seems more like a loopy cycle than a descent, left on repeat till someone turns it off.
“It’s really creepy.”
“It’s good to get out and see the destruction. It’s good.”
So says Creighton the Friendly Ghost, missing and mourning his pinhole camera construct of a great city that lives on in the imagination of pretty much just Creighton. It’s fitting that when he appears to be his truest self – his video rants – he’s just a floating head. Creighton Bernette’s last known address, c/o The Isle of Denial. It’s good to get out and see the destruction because it confirms, not denies his tortured view of the romantic treasured imperfection of a New Orleans ruined by the idiocy and greedy piracy of others, and most especially by their clumsy ignorance of what made it worth living there in the first place.
I want to go back
and die at the drive in
Die before strangers can say,
‘I hate the rain.’
Written about another ruined city stolen by outsiders. By someone who moved away and then wrote about it, rather than actually dying. But Creighton can’t move, not the FYYFF guy. And the only thing he can write is himself further and further into a corner. He’s losing a little bit more every time reality pushes him back further into his head. And it’s not like he was really ‘from here’ to begin with.
People being people, we like to try to unbraid things, try to delineate between character defect and illness. I alternate between feeling angry at Creighton and Toni because they are surrounded by privileges and resources while others are dying for the lack of them, and then I relent and see them as all the more tragic because of it. Mostly I see a man in need of medication. Also, a family with more of an appetite for, rather than a connection to, the culture they are immersed in. For Creighton, tradition seems to be about rigor and mastery, not very much about surrender. Really though, who can tell what it is for him now? I see a family not realizing they’ve lost their mooring, not realizing how far they’ve floated away on the current.
“I’m just not feeling it.”
It’s an odd gesture he makes, taking off the mask and putting his glasses back on, because it makes him no less blind to what is happening all around him. He bemoans the skimpiness of the crowds, the differences, the missing. And we know, we see with our own eyes, all around him people have come together in spite of a great fucking many obstacles. Creighton can only see the empty spaces in between all the extraordinary, gloriously deliberate surrender to life noisily happening around him. Not that far from where he walks as a free, albeit satirically clothed man, another man who would gladly trade places with him, in majestic dress prettier than anyone else in town, is in jail. A real jail, not just one in his head.
In any other house, in another family, maybe someone would notice more, but they seem okay with empty spaces in the Bernette house. If everybody know everybody, why don’t the Bernettes seem to know anyone else? And Toni, why so fearful the next morning of what Sophie might see? Her dad, the day after Mardi Gras, impossibly hungover? Sad yes, but certainly not the only hungover dad in the city that morning. No sadder, Toni, than the somber little lonely supper the night before. If the Bernettes were people of faith, it seems they’d know better than to take up the sackcloth and ashes before midnight. When time hands you a get out of jail free card, you use it.
“Thank you for yesterday. That was nice. I needed a real day off.”
“Yeah that’s pretty much a normal day for me…”
“I know! That’s the problem with New Orleans. Too many people live like you.”
“Au contraire. Not enough people do.”