Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Crawfish, Smelly Bourbon Street and Other Tales of NOLA: Part 2.

In the interest of time, and because I felt we should switch shizzle up and not make a huge mother mammoth entry that no one will actually read, we will be retelling random anecdotes from our very fun adventure in New Orleans and the outlying bayou areas to the south. None of them will be in chronological order. That would be too easy - ed.

As stuffed animals go, Big Bear Grimshaw gets a lot of action. When I was six or seven, I used to regularly marry him off to whichever of my friends was braindead/bored enough to let me until I got my noble cat Arnold, who became the de facto groom until I went off to college. Big Bear has met Brother and Sister Bear from the Berenstein Bears, and is basically famous throughout the lands. Before making the big move to the city, my mother desperately tried to get me to keep Big Bear in New Jersey. "He's getting old and falling apart! He needs a rest! The other kids will be MERCILESS and will DESTROY him!" I thought these all perfectly legitimate concerns, but we didn't get this far in life to just leave Big Bear molding in the forests of Western Jersey, so off we went. Of course, my mother had overreacted even beyond her own capacity to do so, and when we arrived in the cinderblock goodness of Weinstein, all of the girls had stuffed animals propped up on their beds, as did the subservient Indian across the hall, who did not let go of his mother's hand for the entire move-in day until she reluctantly left at, like, 11PM. For the next four years, Big Bear was married off to several stuffed animals, including Mr. Bear Burleson and Beanbag Ribera, a bear and cat, respectively.

Every female NYU student's room.

So it was no great surprise when, several weeks before my scheduled trip to N'awluns, I was informed that Beretta Mego's mom also had a dilapidated creature who was single and looking. Yippee is a 40 or 50-something-year-old dog from way back when, and has apparently been sitting quietly on a dresser for decades, waiting for an excuse to let loose. Big Bear provided that excuse, and plans were excitedly made for a wedding double feature - BRagsy and Beretto Mego, and then Big Bear and Yippee to close it out.


On my first night in Louisiana, Beretta Mego's family had this huge mother crawfish boil, which was a legit big deal. There was literally 140 pounds of crawfish waiting to be gnawed upon, with heaps and heaps of boiled creatures that looked a LITTLE too much like Sebastian from "The Little Mermaid," but we are all about new experiences, so we inexpertly ripped off crawfish tails and valiently attempted to extract meat from various crawfishian extremeties, only partially successful. I was surrounded on one side by several sympathetic lads who politely offered suggestions as the mound of crawfish parts grew larger, and on the other by some of Mego's great aunts, who all dramatically pitied me and kept unwrapping the meat and making a nice pile for my consumption. We love all.

"Ariel, the human world, it's a mess."

Now, Big Bear was in my white knapsack because Mego had insisted I bring him down to meet Yippee, but I wasn't quite prepared to just bring him out of the bag at dinner and hear all the screams about the gray moldy alien at the far end of the table, so he stayed safely hidden for quite a while. However, I eventually wandered into the kitchen to scope out this amazing vanilla cake and ran into her mom, who immediately inquired after my orso. There was no going back. I rummaged around in my bag and came up with a scrunched up, balding animal, who looks more like post-stroke Woodrow Wilson than a stuffed bear. Squeals were heard the world over, and Mego's mom produced a ziplock bag from the top of the fridge that had a label on it that said, "Health insurance." Inside the bag was an unrecognizable mound of fabric and loose strings. Several of Mego's aunts had come into the kitchen after hearing the squeals, and an audible hush fell over the room as Yippee was let out of the plastic prison. "Oh my god!" breathed one of the aunts. "IT'S YIPPEE!" The room exploded in murmors and excited whispers, and more relatives came in to see what was going on. "Is that Yippee?" "YES!" "I HAVEN'T SEEN YIPPEE IN 40 YEARS!" "Neither have I!" "He looks just as bad as he did then!" In the middle of this chaos, Mego's grandmother grimly takes me aside. "You know, I've stitched that THING up more times than I can remember. I had to even give it a new TORSO." I took a closer look at Yippee, who was being giddily passed around the room by middle-aged women, all swapping Yippee-related stories. It was true - Yippee's appendages were a soft brownish color, but his actual torso was a completely different color AND material. Then I looked at Big Bear, who is on his 17th eyes and 56th nose with a brown velvet neck brace. Sometimes perspective is necessary, and sometimes, looking like our 28th President at death's door isn't the worst of all possible worlds.


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