Ever hear of the Baby Dolls of Mardi Gras? Or Black Storyville?

Some of you might know that one of my personal goals is to never, ever stop learning (this is why I sometimes need to schedule dates around classes I’m taking, even though I’ve finished school).  And some of you might also know that I love local history, especially the history of the “adult professions” in New Orleans. I’ve written a bit about the era of Storyville in New Orleans.

Storyville was the red-light district of New Orleans between 1897 and 1917, and it was just across Rampart Street from the French Quarter. Of course, the “ladies of the evening” had been working in that neighborhood long before then, and its closure didn’t stop them–as Martin Behrman famously stated upon learning that the Navy had ordered the district shut down, “You can make it illegal, but you can’t make it unpopular.” Storyville is, of course, a fascinating topic, and it’s a neverending source of subject matter for a variety of stories and films set in New Orleans, both fiction and nonfiction. But it isn’t the end-all be-all, even for its time period. It’s actually just a small part of the story.

New Orleans is a diverse city, and it always has been. In Storyville, white gentlemen could visit white, black, or creole “ladies of the evening” in small rooms they’d rent called “cribs.” But Black men weren’t allowed to visit these ladies Storyville. In fact, Black men in Storyville were usually there to perform as musicians–they weren’t allowed to play, as it were, with the ladies of Storyville, but they could play for them and their clients.

So, what was a Black gentleman to do? Well, just uptown there was a neighborhood called “Black Storyville” where he could find a lady willing to spend a little time with him for a price. It wasn’t technically legal (like it was in Storyville), but officials turned a blind eye.

A sort of Mardi Gras rivalry between the ladies of Storyville and the ladies of Black Storyville developed, and the Baby Dolls tradition grew out of that.

Book by Kim Marie Vaz - The Baby Dolls
And lucky me! Knowing how much I love local history (especially parts of it that aren’t so well-known), one of my sweet clients bought me a book all about it: The “Baby Dolls”: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition, by Kim Marie Vaz of Xavier University of Louisiana and published by LSU Press.

It’s a really fun and fascinating read about a subject most people don’t know much about. Highly recommended to anyone who’s interested in learning more about the history of New Orleans, and much appreciated by me. So thank you–you know who you are ;)

Another Gift!! And What a Perfectly Perplexing Present it is!

I received a gift (again, a surprise!) from one of my now-favorite (we’ve met twice since) clients the other day:

Luigi Serafini's Codex Seraphinianus - a gift from one of New Orleans escort Annie Calhoun's favorite clients ;)
Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus

It’s Luigi-Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus. I had it on my Amazon Wishlist for a while, but I never expected anyone to actually choose this, of all things! I’m so glad he did, though. I think it is the perfect addition to the other books on my coffee table: Bellocq’s Storyville Portraits and this coffee table book about Catholic churches in New Orleans. I love watching people’s faces when they sit down and idly flip through the pages of each, speculating on my choice to display these three books so prominently in my living room, and wondering what in the world that says about me, hahaha.

I love Codex Seraphinianus because it’s such a weird book, and I guess it’s only really a book in the strictest sense of the word. It’s more like a piece of art in book form. Continue reading “Another Gift!! And What a Perfectly Perplexing Present it is!”

Well I, for one, am loving 2014…

We’re already 11 days into the new year, and it looks to be a good one from here. I’ve already traveled to visit friends (with another trip in the works), met some really cool new people, and reconnected with a few old friends. Annnndddd…I’ve made my New Year’s resolutions!!

My Resolutions for 2014:

  1. Come up with a daily schedule
  2. This is a big one. Because I do a few things part-time, my schedule is constantly changing, which isn’t very conducive to managing time efficiently. But I’d love to be the type of person who always wakes up, walks the dog, eats meals, and works on projects at certain set times in the day. This is my big goal for this year.

  3. Learn to give a good massage
  4. I admit, I have no idea how to give a good massage. I’ve been told I give a good backrub, but I really have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m afraid my backrubs are more about strength than sensuality. I’d like to change that.

  5. Start painting with oils again
  6. At first I set the goal to do a still life a week. That way, I’d get really bored with still lifes (still lives?) by March, and, having regained my proficiency in painting vases and flowers and books and things, I might be motivated move onto something more challenging. And if not, well then, at least I’d have 52 paintings of vases and flowers and books and things by the end of the year. But now that just seems like too many paintings, and an abandoned resolution in the making. So I’m leaving this one a little hazy for now.

  7. Travel more
  8. Travel used to be a big priority for me, but in the last few years it has sort of fallen by the wayside. I’d like to get out of town and enjoy a short vacation every once in a while.

  9. Finish at least one of my unfinished novels
  10. This one’s self-explanatory.

  11. Read more novels
  12. In 2013, most of my reading consisted of the short fiction in the New Yorker. I would like to get back into the habit of regularly reading full-length novels again.

  13. Make resolutions throughout the year, not just in the beginning
  14. Resolutions: They’re not just for New Year’s Day anymore.

That’s all I’ve come up with so far. I’d love to hear what goals my readers have set! Oh, and if there’s anything you think I should do in the coming year, feel free to comment below. Suggestions are always welcome ;)

So I just read “The Dark Arts” by Ben Marcus…

This is easily the best piece of short fiction I’ve read in years.  

I’ve read a ton of great fiction in my day, but wow.  This story floored me in a way that I can’t remember happening in a very long time, probably since undergrad.  Not that I’m not routinely impressed and affected by great writing (I am); I read a lot of work by contemporary writers and occasionally revisit my old favorites, and I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by artists (literary, visual, musical, performance, etc) who continually surprise and inspire me with their talent.  But damn, sometimes something just knocks you on your ass and you think, wow, this person just reached up into my gut and punched me in the brain…and it was good.

I got that feeling when I read this:

“Instead, Julian was stuck with whiny, nasal English, in which every word was a spoiled complaint, a bit of pouting. In English, no matter what you said, you sounded like a coddled human mascot with a giant head asking to have his wiener petted. Because you were lonely. Because you were scared. And your wiener would feel so much better if someone petted it. How freakishly impolite, how shameful, to let these things be revealed by one’s language. At least overseas he didn’t speak much English. He didn’t speak much anything.”

“The Dark Arts” by Ben Marcus (from the May 30 issue of The New Yorker)

(sidenote: shoutout to this blog, which I like to check after I’ve read a particularly good–or particularly unsatisfying–story in TNY. I’m happy to say we’re in agreement on this one.)

P.S.:  Thank you for the subscription.  You know who you are.

Short Stories (Fiction) in The New Yorker

I’m not the biggest fan of the gym, so I make it more enjoyable by bringing along an issue of The New Yorker (one of my lovely clients bought me a subscription!) so that I can read the short fiction while I work out. It works pretty well.

So I found a cool blog: New Yorker Story Critiques

And now, when I finish a story, I get out my phone and look at the blog to see what they thought. So I guess this blog is indirectly contributing to my overall health, seeing as I end up staying on the elliptical for a few extra minutes, lol.