I am sorry that I don’t write to you as often. Here is my life in a nutshell. I received notice that yet another flight to French Polynesia has been cancelled. The country is now closed until May and no flights are flying until then. Rumors of mandatory vaccines are floating around too. Every day I grow more gray. My frequency, without the sea, is half-a-heartbeat less, perhaps more. I’m down south just dripping along. Doing everything I can to stay tuned into nature- forest bathing, sound bathing, swamp bathing. I’m even eating trees over here- everything is blossoming and I’m running around town popping redbud flowers in my mouth before the petals can think about falling. Vitamin C, baby! Oh the sweet, oh the sour!
Listen, let me tell you a little secret about the south, when stuff blooms you gotta move in on the bloom as fast as you can. Because one week it’s snowing and your rocking your snow bibs and slip sliding away. Then the next week, it’s hotter than Hades and your wearin’ nothin’ but your undie bundies and picking wildflowers, when out of nowhere, a tornado lifts you and your cat into the air and plops you down in the next county over. Then what does it do the very next week? It snows again and all that spring had sprung is gone. The week after that you get caught in a gully washer and end up on the other side of the Mississippi River and you’re scratching your head wondering what in the heck the people living in East Jesus, Arkansas did to disrupt the heavens this time.
I had an epiphany the other day- all sailors who cruise are like oatmeal, just add saltwater and bam we’re thick as thieves. Thanks to this fact and my recognition of it, I have found a sailor who will let me be their “concubine” when I return to French Polynesia. This is the easiest way for me to stay aboard Juniper in foreign waters. My concubinator and I met via social media. He’s my age, speaks 5 languages, carries a passport for two countries, makes musical waves on stringed instruments, learned to sail in one weekend then crossed an ocean, is a mechanical MacGuyver, and a Sagittarius. I know, he doesn’t sound real to me either, but I have verified his existence among mutual sailing friends. When I meet him, the first thing I’m gonna do is pinch him, if I don’t hear a sound, I’m gonna dash to the doctor to have my head and my eyeballs checked. I’ll sing, “Doctor, ain’t there nothin’ I can take? I said, Doctor to relieve what I hallucinate,” I’ll sing just like Harry Nilsson on Nilsson Schmilsson. Anyway, even if it’s not real and this whole concubine thing blows up in my face, it sounds like a great start to a book- “At the age of 38, I changed my name to Honeybird and became a concubine…” Are you biting your nails? Is the page turning? Sometimes I wonder if I just do stuff in life for the story I’m gonna tell about it down the line. Or is it that I’m just restless and reckless? Or is it just that there is a hole in my head where the honey used to be?
Work-wise, I just finished a multi-media project for National Geographic. It’s about coral reefs. I also made a music video for the bassist of Future Islands. Now I’m working on my sailing Youtube channel, and two years worth of footage is coming your way soon. I also made another channel called Sunshine & Salt, that will feature my short southern fiction stories. Do you like that name? Sunshine & Salt? I just came up with it. Yes, yes, yes I will tell you when you can view all of these things. Soon, my friends, soon.
Sometimes I wish that I was one of those Hindu deities with twenty arms, so I could create more and faster. I wish I had a thousand eyes too. Like what if my whole head was just eyeballs all around it and then I had my twenty arms. Think of the stuff that I could do! My name would be Octopus Iris Eye and I could read and edit videos and sail and write and juggle balls and cut hair and paint and play poker all at the same time! I wouldn’t be able to go in public without wearing a bag over my head, and I wouldn’t be able to eat because there would be eyes where a mouth should be, but I could be like a plant- fed on sun and water, or better yet an air plant just living on air.
LOUISIANA PART IV- CRAWDADDY
It’s Sunday. I’m surrounded by drunken daylight and pigweed. Life smells like a strip mall in Florida during a hurricane. It’s warm out and I can’t stop thinking about summer camp. About clementine clouds and tie-dye and horses and wide-open spaces that will empty my head out.
Come right or wrong, I spend the morning slinging crawfish- chasing pounds down and selling them round town. Crawfish, crawdaddy, crawdid, mudbug, ditchbug, bug, crayfish, mountain lobsters, yabbies! How many different unappetizing names can you give to one thing? Whatever the opposite of salivating is, that’s exactly what my body does when I hear all of those word.
In case you don’t know, crawfish is the official state crustacean of Louisiana. They live in freshwater, eat dead leaves and microscopic organisms, and dig mud tunnels – thus the nickname, mudbug or bug for short. Bugs are cousin to lobsters and they can swim backwards. That’s why when someone is backing out of a deal down south, we say they’re “crawfishing out of that deal.” Around New Orleans, more people are waving flags with mudbugs on them, than they are waving flags with stars and stripes. I even saw a mudbug sculpture the size of an elephant on top of somebody’s roof. Louisianans love them some mudbugs.
Now in Arkansas we call them crawdads or crawdaddies. And a crawdaddy was the first crustacean I ever did meet. I grew up fishing them out of creeks, collecting them in buckets, playing with their pinchers, and tossing them back in. I never did look at one and think about eating it, but today I guess I’m gonna.
This is how the mudbug slinging came to be. My friend of a friend decided to host a crawfish boil down on the bayou so that I could have a real Cajun experience. We need some live bugs to make this boil happen. We go to the Crab House. It’s crawling with seafood and frozen daiquiris and hungry people. This guy Frankie, who looks foreign, is boiling their last sack of bugs. I ask Frankie where he got them. He says, “You don’t know what kind of strings I had to pull just to get these and I need a whole lot more.” We exchange numbers. I tell him my name is Honeybird and to call me if he finds any.
My friend of a friend and I start calling seafood joints and walking into every seafood-looking place that we can find. We keep getting the same answer, “I can sell you some frozen ones, but live, you won’t find none now, waters been too cold.” After an hour of searching we call a man who has one sack of bugs left for sale. I feel like I’ve hit the freaking jackpot and I’m dancing out the car window and coins are falling out of mouth. I say, “Hot damn, you really have bugs? Will you will sell us half the sack?” The man’s voice sounds like grit and gravel, “Nope, nope. Can’t do that. It’s all or nothing.” I’m silent for a second, shoving coins back into my mouth and trying to figure out how to convince him otherwise. I mean that’s 15 extra pounds of bugs that we don’t need! Then Grit and Gravel says, “Listen lady, you want the sack or not?” Me, “Yes, we are on our way, my name is Honeybird, don’t sell that sack to anybody else with any other name!”
His shop is on the outskirts of town. It takes thirty minutes to get there. As we’re driving, I keep hoping to see a pelican trying to eat a human- cause that can happen apparently! Have you seen one with it’s mouth open? Prehistoric!
Grit and Gravel is covered in smoke and whiskey and he’s got the hard lines of life running through every inch of him. His shop looks like somebodies forgotten attic- junk on top of dusty junk- pool tables covered in junk, glass cabinets filled with junk, walls of junk. I try to buy some pool noodles from his pile of junk but he says the only thing his willing to sell me are bugs, a bottle of liquor, or a cheap thrill from his one functioning slot machine. I can’t figure this man out fully. Maybe he doesn’t really need money? Maybe he’s selling hard stuff and he’s got piles of dirty money stashed under dust? Maybe he’s washing that dirty money clean with mudbugs?!
We buy the sack of bugs. It’s made of green mesh and is bigger than a goose, but smaller than a bear. The bugs are real frisky inside of it. We can’t eat all these bugs, so I call Frankie at the Crab House ‘cause I know he’s desperate for some. I say, “Frankie, it’s Honeybird, we met an hour ago. I found some bugs! You wanna buy half a sack?” Frankie does, but he gripes about the price, so we give him a discount in exchange for a daquiri. I walk away feeling like I’ve been doing something illegal.
We go to the bayou. Boiling the bugs takes all day. We make flower crowns out of wildflowers and play lawn games and lounge and loose a frisbee. Around sunset the bugs are boiled and we dump them onto a table. There are no plates or anything, just hands and mouths and everyone starts going at the bugs fast, like they might crawl away after they’ve been boiled. I’m holding one and I don’t know what to do with it. This chick named Batman says, “Here, watch me, you gotta twist the tail and suck the butt.” I twist the tail, then I’m all, “Wait is that it’s poop?” And she’s wearing a strawberry dress and she’s all, “Oh no, they don’t poop, you can eat that.” And I’m all, “Baloney, everything poops!” I think Batman might buy a ticket to heaven if I was selling one.
Anyway, I start twisting and sucking with the rest of them. It’s totally barbaric and somehow sexual, mudbug juice dripping down cheeks and chins. The meat is real sweat too. Sweeter still cause it took so long to find it.
Thirty minutes later all 15 pounds of bugs are gone and we’re a pile of jelly jiggling like mud. That’s something. That’s Louisiana.
My spirit feels all fresh and a strange sensation takes over me. Its 8 p.m. Everybody is dancing in the moonlight. I follow the flower reflection of the moon to the banks of the bayou, then down into the water. I sink into a realm of mud mermaids. One swims up to me and says, “Darlin, what ya doing down here, where you know you can’t breathe.” And I say, “I thought it might feel better down here bayou.” Get it, BAYOU. BY YOU. BYE, BYE. SEE YOU LATER, ALLIGATOR!
5 Replies to “A LIFE TIME IN LOUISIANA- PART IV & OTHER THINGS”
Holly Golightly was a complex character. Not only is there a splash of Holly in your post the words from sound of music come to mind. How do you catch a moonbeam in your hand?
We used to catch crawfish out of Lake Pontchartrain and boil them right away with some Zatarin Crab Boil, eat them right there by the side of the lake. We’d spread newspaper on the old wooden picnic table and eat the crawfish right on the newpaper, let the shells pile up and then when done, wrap the shells in the newspaper and chuck it into the big trash can. Several bottles of Jax beer, or Dixie, or Regal beer. I miss those days. Your writing, Honeybird, is always so evocative. Even if one has not experienced what you write about, one would want to. You make long ago seem like yesterday.
all morning i have been trying to work without crying in my respirator. i know what this means to you and i have tears. keep the faith and send love to them who will save your JUNIPER. they will. it’s in their spirit, why they are there.
Antonin’s boat got off and is sailing today. you will too.
Everything that’s happening in the moment is the culmination of everything that’s gone on before. Katherine Lindell, editor of Hawaii Ocean News, sent a message asking me to thank you once again for lending your photographs for use in one of her articles about Hawaii’s mismanagement of its public boat harbor system. Things have evolved since you’ve been here and boaters found their voice . . . and this is where it’s all gotten to: https://hawaiioceannews.com/index.php/2021/03/25/hawaiis-legislature-a-culture-of-corruption-normalized/
. . . sometimes we need the heart of a warrior.
yes!!! So happy things are happening. All thanks to you! Keep making people thing and helping the world change and giving voices to the voiceless!