The trouble, I think, is that the week that followed was NOT particularly fun. It was one of those long-haul, rough weeks at work, where everything feels like a grindstone. Even kittens feel like grindstones. On the plus side, my job is to hang out with the most intelligent, loving, enlightening, hysterically funny people in the world, and talk to them about books and shapes and feelings and the habits of light. So even when the universe seems like one giant grindstone, all you have to do is turn around and say, "Hey, Bracuan! HIGH FIVE!" And then at least you know that you're all in it together. For example, we did a feelings circle on Thursday. We had to go around and say Good Morning, and then say "I feel..." and fill in the blank with how we were feeling. (I was feeling obsequious. Big words are funny to people who are seven.)
Ms. Bevans: Good morning, M.
M: Good morning, I'm feeling JEALOUS.
Class: .... .
Ms. Bevans: I have a question. Who are you jealous OF?
M: (Somewhat impish laugh). I am jealous of my DREAMS.
But last weekend, after I spent Saturday at work, I let everything go. I didn't think about bills or about grocery shopping or about laminating anything or about non-toxic adhesives. I just thought about FUN.
But actually, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to Friday. It was Sam's birthday. It was a beautiful, sunny, cold day in New Orleans. It was a pretty OK day at work. And now, for our purposes, I will ask you to refer to Sophie's Ten New Years' Resolutions: Resolution 1:
1. Get over my fear of fish. I secretly believe that I am already over my fear of fish. Well, I believe that SOME of the time. Rationally, I understand that my fear of fish is irrational. And I understand this in ways that I don't understand that my fear of the dark is irrational, or that my fear of zombies is irrational. So I'm going to do something symbolic like go SCUBA diving. I'm not really ALL-CAPS excited about that, it's just that SCUBA is an acronym and you're supposed to capitalize itI did go SCUBA diving this year, it's true, but not in an ocean with real life fish. I went SCUBA diving for a certification class with Outdoor Venture Krewe high schoolers in a big, deep pool. And that was fun, too. But my fear of fish had not been symbolically overcome.
UNTIL I was walking along on Friday, gasping under my breath because the sky looked as if a bottle of maddenlingly expensive paint had spilled all over it, and the water in the bayou was stretching out lazily among yellow-green reeds, and it was just too freaking beautiful to ever hope to describe, when I ran across what was either a) a bluebill (see right) or b) A MAGICAL FISH just lying on the bank of the bayou. I am hesitant to say it was a bluebill, because while it was that general shape, it was MUCH BLUER than that fish is. Dark blue and sparkly. And glowing. And it could talk. OK OK, it was just VERY blue, but all the Louisiana Lists of Fish I have looked at are trying to convince me that this fish could only have been a bluebill, so I'm going to go with it.
So anyway, I walked up to it because that's usually what I do when I see an object lying on the banks of the bayou. When I saw that it was a fish, my heart sank a little bit, because I don't like when creatures of the world die, but I was also excited to see it. It was so blue! I stared at it for a while, thinking, "This is really a beautiful fish." I think what must have happened is that the fish got so excited that it jumped out of the water with glee, and then accidentally ended up on land, where it suddenly could not breathe, and it died.
Only... its gill were moving ever-so-slightly. And its eyes looked oddly pleading. I was thinking about these strange fish features when the "dead" fish gathered all the strength in its helpless, legless body, and flopped from one of its side to the other.
Holy shit! I thought. Well, actually, scratch that. "Holy shit!" I said out loud, because I was on the phone with Sam, casually discussing his birthday at the time that this happened. "There is a FISH, and it's LYING HERE, and it's DYING, and I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SAVE IT!" I threw my phone to the ground. I looked at the fish. It looked at me. I looked at the fish. It looked at me. Time was running out. Here are thoughts that went through my head:
1. The oils in my hands will surely cause this fish instant death if I touch it. But there are no pieces of cloth or smooth sticks I can use to aid me!
2. This fish may be suicidal. I may be doing it a terrible disservice by throwing it back into the water. It probably takes a lot of energy to hurl oneself suicidally at a landform from water.
3. This fish has fangs and it wants to bite me and give me a fish disease.
But I had to dismiss all these thoughts, because there was no time. I held my breath, bent over, and PICKED UP THE FISH. Then, with unprecedented swiftness and might, I hurled it back into the bayou, where I watched it swim away.
PUT A BIG RED "ACCOMPLISHED" STAMP ON RESOLUTION NUMBER ONE BECAUSE SOPHIE JOHNSON JUST CONQUERED HER MOTHER-FUCKING FEAR OF FISH!
And that was only Friday.
On Saturday I spent the first six hours of the day at work, toiling away (see above). Then I came home, crawled in bed, and read for two hours while listening to Aaron Copeland until I passed out in one of those afternoon naps that actually TASTES good because it is so exactly what you need.
When I woke up we had to scrounge to finish our Loteria Card costumes. You may feel like you missed a step here, and that's because you did. Two weeks ago, Leah had the great idea of marching in the 6 t' 9 parade dressed as creepy loteria cards. We all sort of thought that cutting, painting, sandwich-boarding, drawing, and re-painting plywood would NOT be that time-consuming of a costume. But then it was. Actually, that was sort of a blessing in disguise, because it meant we all had a lot of excuses to hang out and craft and talk about boys and school and not school and crazy outfits and goals and dreams and sauerkraut. Well, not sauerkraut. But we COULD have talked about that if we wanted to do. That's how much time we had to be together. I have to admit, of course, that like most things that work out in my New Orleanian life, the pull of the work was really Leah's, and it never would have worked without her. For that I am a very lucky person.
The final loteria krewe for the Amigos at the 6 t' 9 Parade were: Leah, Hannah, Ari, Mariette, a girl I hadn't met before, and me. On Saturday evening we got to dress up in front of the bathroom mirror and spray things out of aeresol cans like we were going to a high school prom. Then we headed down to St. Claude Street, and became spectators. No matter how good your costume is, it's impossible not to become a spectator when you are marching in a New Orleans parade. So much goes into them! You see people in crepe paper dresses and hats that light up; babies decked out in lace and face paint; tall shoes full of water and beads; amazing music and smells and everything gold and glittering and neon. This time there was Mexican candy and a mariache band. A woman filled her pull-cart with marigold plants to hand out to people watching the parade. A whole band of children rode in a Day of the Dead Carriage with skeleton faces, gritting teeth out the windows. A woman dressed like Frida Kahlo danced to the second line behind us while jutting out of enormous cardboard picture frame like a painting come to life.
See? That's New Orleans.
We marched for three hours. I want to show you pictures of everything we saw -- the wedding with the bride in a whispery off-white lace gown, watching the parade from the church steps with her new husband and all her well-dressed guests. The sunset that made the whole parade stop and turn around and collectively groan, "Oh my God." The dancing children and drunk Mexican wrestlers throwing Milky Ways into the intersections of streets. It was all worth documenting. But my camera ran out batteries within the first ten minutes, and I guess I'm almost grateful. In the end, I got to drink it all in. That was a tremendous gift.
On Sunday, Ari and I had our annual Harvest Festival. This is its third consecutive year of existence. At the first Harvest Festival, Ariana and I lived in a house together at 140 Otis Street. We bought thirteen pumpkins from the pumpkin patch down Isaacs and invited ten people over to carve them on the front lawn, drink apple cider, and decorate pumpkin cookies (see left).
This year, we wanted the sentiment to be basically the same, but we decided we would only invite each other. And Leah. This really took a lot of the stress out of the whole event, to tell you the truth.
But it was still ideal. We started by carving twenty apples. Then we made: pink cinnamon apple sauce (We used Red Hots. Brilliant.), apple cranberry pie, apple cider, and three flavors of pumpkin seeds, including curry, Cajun, and sugar and spice. The house smelled so good. The air outside was cold, so we opened the doors and let all the crisp fallness of the October night mix in with cinnamon and cloves and baking apples and cranberries, and we put on sweaters and Lindy Hop music and just hung out in the kitchen for like five hours.
The pumpkins, however, presented a bit of a fiasco. They didn't have any at Rouse's, so we had to use a pie pumpkin and a couple of white pumpkins. The white pumpkins carved out fine (and it was pretty novel, actually), but we had to use a SAW to get the lid off the pie pumpkin, which made the very thought of carving the features on the face of the pumpkin impossible. After much deliberation, we decided the best route would be to use an electric drill to make a nice pattern of holes in the pumpkin. This is not a joke.
On Monday Ari and I went to see "Where the Wild Things Are" for the second time. On a Monday night!!! Are you GETTING how much FUN I have become?!
It's Halloween again. Already! I know, I can't believe it, either. I am very excited about living life right now. There are so many things I still want to experience and do before I leave New Orleans. Thank goodness I'll be here another year at least.
That said, I can't articulate how much I am looking forward to coming home (because Portland is still, and will always be, home) for a week for Thanksgiving. I can't wait to eat my mom's cooking and to let my dog lick me all over my face. It will be weird to be home without Alexis. It's the first time we've ever not spent Thanksgiving together as One Big Happy Family.
But we're all doing a pretty good job of taking care of ourselves these days. I'm proud of the Johnson family. We have had some nutty times, that's for sure. At points, I think we actually redefined "dysfunctional." Now we're redefining it again by being enigmatically functional, normal, rational, and sane. Cheers to us.
Another month has unwound and lies, autumnal, in the rear view mirror. I am practicing, above all, patience. Tom Petty says, "It'll all work out, eventually." He was a good songwriter, so I'm gonna go with him on that one.