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AmyWoodruffArtist

The Creature (?)

My Royal Consort and I enjoy tent camping at least a couple of times each fall/winter, and I’m particularly fond of the various districts that comprise the thousands of acres of impenetrable woodlands known as Kisatche National Forest, in central Louisiana.

During one of these trips, a year-and-a-half ago, we camped at Fullerton Lake campground, the site of the ruins of the old mill town of Fullerton, Louisiana. We were there for two nights in late December.

Entrance to Fullerton Lake campground in Kisatchie National Forest
Entrance to Fullerton Lake campground in Kisatchie National Forest

The first night we had arrived as night fell, after a four-hour drive and some sightseeing. We quickly set up camp in one of the crescent shaped campsites that are spaced about twenty yards apart.

That first night, temperatures were in the 30s, so we built a nice fire, and after some supper followed by a bit of spiked hot chocolate, we were quite snuggly in our tent.

The peculiar thing about that first night being so very cold was the dead silence that seemed to emanate from the low temperature: there was no wind, no animals stirring whatsoever …as if we were surrounded by snowfall (I’m very much from Louisiana but I went to grad school in Vermont; I know the silence caused by snow quite well). I could only hear the occasional crackle from the fire. The thick forest almost made it sound like the atmosphere was insulated.

This was in stark opposition to the second night, in which the temperature shot up about fifteen degrees. The second night, there were winds high above, and they shifted the giant canopy of branches and leaves back and forth, lulling us to sleep in epic fashion. There were also woodpeckers hard at work in the earliest hours, followed by a drizzling rain that we awoke to: our cue to pack our camp and head home.

Google maps view of Fullerton Lake site in Kisatchie National Forest
Google maps view of Fullerton Lake site in Kisatchie National Forest

So on the first night, with the forest so oddly quiet, my Royal Consort slept soundly while I slept fitfully, waking up every so often to observe the silence. There were only two other occupied campsites, both of which were RVs parked down the road by the lake. We were some distance from those, closer to the entrance to the campground.

On one of the awakenings I had during the first night, well after midnight, I listened carefully: the silence was almost as if several quilts had been thrown over our tent.

But then, in the distance … I could hear footsteps.

The steps sounded like a large animal walking toward the backside of our tent, from a south westerly direction. I lay there in my sleeping bag, still as a mouse.

After a brief moment, I began to realize this animal honestly sounded as if it were walking on two legs. Steady, long, confident strides. Not stopping. Not slowing. I strained my eyes in the blackness expecting to see a flashlight. I saw no light at all.

Now mind you, we had done at least an hour of foraging by flashlight in that very area, looking for fallen wood and tinder with which to build our fire. And it was not smooth terrain. It was uneven, with many, many roots, fallen tree trunks, holes in the ground, and built up mounds of earth. There was thick undergrowth, tangling vines, and even thorns and stickers. We had struggled in boots and pants, with gloved hands, bearing flashlights. The backside of those campsites was definitely not a cleared area.

In my opinion, there is no way a person could have steadily walked through that area, even with a flashlight.

And these were not light footsteps. They were heavy and confident. Steady and large; but without panic, without aggression.

As I heard its steps curve around the back of the campsite, I expected to hear this “animal” pause near our tent and fire. Most creatures would, to perhaps freeze in a brief moment of instinctive fear, or to at least sniff the air in curiosity.

But this creature did not. The steps continued, as steady as before, in a long confident curve as it traveled northeasterly, deep into the thick forest. It paid us no heed at all.

I am a lover of spooky tales, ghosts, and paranormal stories. But I’m also a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic. I’ve waited seriously and open-mindedly throughout my 46 trips around the sun, in hopes of experiencing something. This, however, I cannot explain.

After a bit of hesitation, I told my Royal Consort about it the next day. Of course he laughed and insisted it must’ve been natural and explainable (he also pointed out his desire to bring our handy shotguns next time; haha). My only guess is that the aural environment created by the temperatures and climate that night took something normal, and made it sound bizarre.

Meanwhile, I do know that even a nocturnal animal with good night vision would have strode in a less steady and even manner, on that overgrown and uneven terrain.

I don’t know what was in those woods. And I cannot explain how it was able to move like that.

Thank God It’s Fryday

I always enjoy Lent … Ash Wednesday is the real New Year’s Day in South Louisiana. And part of my own Lenten tradition is hitting as many Catholic church fish fry fundraisers as possible.

So far I’ve only managed to catch three this year because it’s been a busy month. But there’s still a few more Fridays before Easter so I hope to keep the process rolling. Here I’ll document the ones I’ve had this month. All delicious!

March 15, 2019: fish plate from Archbishop Rummel High School's fishing club. Have been picking up this one for several years now & it's always magnificent. They were one of the first drive thru versions I had ever been to.
March 15, 2019: fish plate from Archbishop Rummel High School’s fishing club. Have been picking up this one for several years now & it’s always magnificent. They were one of the first drive thru versions I’d ever been to.
March 29, 2019: St Benilde Catholic Church fish plate. Been going here for several years also; always a treat. This is one of my favorite little churches in Metry. And this year, they added a drive thru option! Used to be a huge line in their school cafeteria.
March 29, 2019: St Benilde Catholic Church fish plate. Been going here for several years also; always a treat. This is one of my favorite little churches in Metry. And this year, they added a drive thru option! Used to be a huge line in their school cafeteria.
March 29, 2019: St Rita Catholic Church combo fish/shrimp plate. First year I've tried their fry & it was reallly good. They're actually located in Harahan.
March 29, 2019: St Rita Catholic Church combo fish/shrimp plate. First year I’ve tried their fry & it was reallly good. They’re actually located in Harahan.

Other ones I’ve tried in previous years include:

  • St Ann Catholic Church & Shrine (off Transcontinental Ave)
  • St Mary Magdalene Catholic Church (West Metairie Ave)
  • St Edward Catholic Church (West Metairie Ave)
  • Our Lady of The Rosary Catholic Church (Esplanade Ave)
  • St Joseph Catholic Church (Tulane Ave)

I think there may be a couple more, but those were rather memorable. Churches fry the best fish. Haha.

Christmas Coast

Hey, look at me with a new post! Ha.

This morning my Royal Consort and I went down to Lafitte, Louisiana to volunteer for the annual Christmas Tree Project. We did this as part of a philanthropy project of the dance krewe I’m a member of, the Organ Grinders.image0000021(1)

The project is part of Jefferson Parish’s coastal restoration program. Each year parish residents put their discarded Christmas trees on the curb, which are picked up by Waste Management and brought out to the Marina site. Then, volunteer workers, along with parish personnel, volunteer firefighters, and this year, Kenner Police Department, converge on the tree piles and load them onto boats. The boats then head out to the placement site.

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At that site there are “cribs” built out in the waterway out of 2×4 wood driven into the muddy base beneath the shallow water. The trees are placed within the cribs, which creates an artificial barrier that allows the land behind it to rebuild as sediment gathers and plant life gets a chance to take hold again.

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I’m an outdoorsy type and it was a beautiful cool day so I was definitely in my element. The pelicans swooped low overhead.

Coastal erosion is a massive problem in south Louisiana. It has been slowing in n recent years due to a variety of restoration efforts such as this one, but recent statistics say that we’re still losing land at the rate of about one football field every 100 minutes. That’s a threat to wildlife, historic sites, and the natural hurricane protection that our coastal marshes and wetlands used to provide.

After our work there was celebration with the Cajun band T-Monde, and a delicious fish/shrimp fry with sides. I’ll be picking pine needles out of my clothing and self for some time to come.image0000021

Meanwhile, look for me dancing with the Organ Grinders in a variety of Carnival parades this season, including Muses, Tucks, and others. (The OGs are online at http://www.nolaOrganGrinders.com and in an active Facebook community.)

Some info on the Jefferson Parish Christmas Tree Project is available at: http://www.jeffparish.net/index.aspx?page=321.

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A Little of What I’m Up To

Look! It's meee!! Bottom frame, upper center.
Look! It’s meee!! Bottom frame, upper center.

It’s been a crazy couple of years but I’m hoping to get back to this blog. Maybe once a month? We’ll see, haha.

I thought it would be interesting to report that I had a fun time appearing in the music video for a recent song by legendary New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, titled “Saints Friends,” which was filmed in July 2018. The video, sponsored by Bud Light, was released on the New Orleans Saints’ Instagram (IGTV) page as part of the opening of their football season.

I’m including a screenshot of one of the best images of me; it’s not great, as it was quite a jubilant crowd. I’m actually seen repeatedly throughout, however, as the camera pans, holding a black and gold umbrella. The screenshot is from around the 01:58 mark in the video. Also featured throughout is my Royal Consort, Mr. N, who accompanied me.

Again, we had a blast. Even if we did have to drink Bud Light.

Our poor Saints. They were doing so well. Alas …we have next year. Who dat.

A Halloween Treat: My Only Ghost (?) Experience

The Copper family "ghost" photo.
The web-famous Copper family “ghost” photo.

Because you all know I adore the creepy stuff …

Lake Charles, Louisiana, 1992

I was in college, and one of my very best friends (and occasional boyfriend) was rather superstitious. His latest deathly fear was that the house where he lived with his parents was currently occupied by some type of malevolent entity, such as a spirit, demon, or space alien. The house was the innocent kind of 1960s-era brick structure that was least likely to inspire tales of horror. All the same, his parents were going on a cruise for several days, and he was convinced he could not stay in the house alone, lest he meet his demise. Being the invincible skeptic that I tend to be, I offered to stay the weekend with him to assuage his fears. I also kind of thought it would be funny to watch him be scared out of his wits by his own overactive imagination.

Rather banal
Rather banal

I arrived in the early evening and we watched some VHS movies in the living room, snacking in front of the television. As the night progressed, we turned off the TV and begin to chat, lounging comfortably on the carpet of the living room floor. We were never the most affectionate couple, but we were very compatible when it came to animated conversation. The room was at the back of the house: it had a sliding glass door that opened onto a small back patio, and a large window opposite that overlooked a large courtyard at the front of the house that was enclosed completely on three sides. At each side of the window, hallways led to the left and right into the other two wings of the house, which together with the living room/kitchen wing, made a square-ish ‘C’ shape that hugged the courtyard.

We were still there in the living room when, perhaps around midnight, our conversation was abruptly cut short. For some inexplicable reason, I quickly looked at the window that overlooked the courtyard, expecting to see something looking in at us, but there was nothing visible. My friend turned a shade of ashen gray; I thought the poor boy was going to faint. Regardless, his fear no longer seemed an entertaining non-issue to me — whereas previously I had just about ignored his claims with a completely blasé attitude, I could tune him out no longer. An intense feeling of oppressive dread had overtaken me, sharply interrupting a completely innocuous conversation that would not have provoked such sensations.
“You saw something?” he asked timidly.
“No,” I told him, not wanting to scare him unnecessarily. However, I couldn’t just lie to him. “I … ‘felt’ something.”

“Felt something?!” he inquired. He was on the verge of panic.
“Well … yeah,” I said, choosing my words as carefully as I could.
“Who was it?” he asked.
“Who?… well, I don’t know about who…” I began, and then, without thinking, blurted out “But I know that it was standing on its hind legs.”
“WHAT?!” he cried. “Oh, Jesus Christ… standing on its hind legs?!”
I cringed. This was obviously not the most tactful way to deliver such a disturbing instinctive impression to a friend with a fearful nature. Not to mention the fact that I realize the mightiness of the power of suggestion, and I was nowhere near convinced of my own deductions. “Hey, look, it was probably nothing,” I insisted. “I just got the heebie-jeebies, that’s all. We didn’t ‘see’ anything.”

He looked at me blankly. He obviously wanted to trust my confidence, as shaky as it had become. However, he was already convinced, thanks to his own previous ‘sensations’ of a presence, and of being watched. Honestly, though, I still wasn’t convinced. In fact, I was quite ready to write this entire moment off as a robust case of The Creeps. We went on to bed.

We went to his room: there was no way he was sleeping in there alone, he assured me. His bedroom was at the end of the hall that came off the living room to the left, so it was the anchor to the left side of the courtyard (the right side of the house if you were facing it from the street). This hallway also included two other bedrooms and a bathroom, and the hall was lined with cabinets and a counter-like shelf on which decorative trinkets were displayed. In his room we talked a few moments longer, and then settled down to sleep, the door locked and the lights off. We were both a little rattled, but I’m a pretty decent sleeper so it didn’t take long for me to slip into a peaceful doze… Until the smash.

My friend and I both shook awake, the sound of a crash down the hallway jolting us from our quiet. We lay there for a few seconds, both frozen in fear, at which point my friend very quietly whispered, “Did… you… hear… that?”

“Yes,” I quietly said in return, the sense of dread incredibly powerful this time. It was undeniable; my skepticism had vanished like so much smoke. Mere seconds after our furtive verbal exchange, a riotous cacophony exploded from the hallway: a sound resembling stomping feet, slamming cabinet doors, walls being pummeled by a body and/or heavy objects that might have been flying off shelves. We lay there, stiff as boards, listening to the fury in the hall that seemed to be getting closer and closer to the bedroom door.

And then, probably three seconds after it began, it ended in a heartbeat, with the violent slamming of the heavy wooden exterior gate-door that separated the courtyard from the front lawn of the house.

We knew at that moment that whatever had unleashed its fury on the hall had left the premises for the night. We were too terrified to leave the room, however, and stayed the night there in a fitful slumber without further incident.

The following morning, we investigated the hallway. No objects were disturbed, and there was no physical evidence of the previous night’s rampage whatsoever. Within a year, he and his family moved out of the house and purchased a more desirable property.

[Originally published at http://ghostvillage.com/encounters/2008/05162008.shtml on May 16, 2008.]

“Moon Cove” Throwback Tale

Completely pleased with the new work I’ve done with the Moon Cove digital projection — it truly looks better than ever: great new images, enhanced editing, and my latest equipment/software combination is superb. I’ve got three more performances in this run.

The projection wasn’t always so rosy, however. It’s always been a thorn in my side. Here’s a look back at one of the most notable projection issues I’ve had with this show:

Moon Cove debuted at the fifteenth Dramarama festival, which was in April 2008 at the Contemporary Arts Center. That rendition of the performance, while important to do, was a bit of a disaster. My nerves were shot and I kind of destroyed the script while onstage. Additionally, an issue with the projection arose. The projected images are supposed to make it appear that I’m standing in a landscape, with the images preferably six or more feet in height, starting from stage level — the projection is the “scenery.”

But about twenty minutes before showtime, I found out that due to the position of the images via rear projection, it would indeed be seen from the floor level of the stage as planned — but the projection would only be about two and a half feet tall.

Seriously.

She's not so scary when she's tiny.
She’s not so scary when she’s so tiny

I felt like I was in the Stonehenge scene in This is Spinal Tap. It was ridiculous. I performed the show awkwardly, trying to keep from blocking the projection completely with my legs.

After the performance, my younger sister, who had been distributing playbills, whispered a deadpan joke: “You know, all you had to do was just step on that fifolet.” I laughed … but that night was pure agony.

“I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.”

– David St. Hubbins, This is Spinal Tap

 

Three more shows! Performances info is on the Moon Cove page.

Three Weekends of “Moon Cove”

2008_mooncove_toussaintThe latest, never-before-seen version of my original solo show Moon Cove will be onstage in just a few short weeks!

I’m proud to say that Moon Cove has gradually become a mix of the best of my works’ qualities: strong experimental performing arts, meticulous detail in atmosphere, character, and physical execution, recent advances in digital projection technology, and story elements that are (from what I’m often told) intricate, emotionally intense, fairly eerie, and a bit of a head trip. (Heheh.)

You know, one of the most exciting things about this show for me has been the many incarnations in which it has existed. I think I can safely say this is, at the very least, the sixth draft of Moon Cove. I’m really feeling the home stretch, as if this may be the final, best version. For example, in 2015 I got some great insights from a trusted loved one that helped me take the script apart and put it back together again … which resulted in a stronger, spookier, and overall more potent version. That was incredibly satisfying! One of the playhouseNOLA combo imagesmany things that happened during that process? I rearranged the scenes!! The story still happens in relatively the same order, but the new order of the scenes made unbelievably strong differences that I’m so pleased with.

Additionally, I’m (as always) refining both the digital projection footage into something much more impressive through re-edits and added imagery, and by obtaining better technology all the time … new equipment, software, etc. These elements also appear to be reaching their apex, which is a dream come true, as Moon Cove is so personal and important for me.

And of course, the actual performance that I physically do live onstage every time Moon Cove is presented evolves all the time, into a more powerful entity, like a muscle being honed. Which can’t happen without the spectators in each and every audience. It’s a give-and-take, back and forth, which generates creativity through the most pure, human means possible.

But to be deadly honest here: quite unfortunately, as many times as I’ve performed Moon Cove, very few people have actually seen it. So if you haven’t yet seen it, this is the ultimate time to do so. And if you have seen it, then I thank you deeply for being one of those special folks, and I humbly request that you join my marketing effort, and spread the word (and perhaps you’d enjoy checking out a different, more exciting version yourself?). Tell all those you know who appreciate unique experiences!

Because those who have seen earlier versions of Moon Cove in the past have really said great things about it … not to mention the positive press reviews, which you can read on my website!

Moon Cove details are located on my artist website here, including a full description of the show, its performance history, and info on the upcoming run. Also, be sure to check out the trailer video, also there!

The latest shows will run for three weekends on Fridays & Saturdays at 9pm, from July 29 – August 13. Tickets are $10 and performances will take place at Playhouse NOLA, 3214 Burgundy Street, in downtown New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood. I’ve included images of the space just for fun.

REALLY hope to see you all there!

Love, Amy