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Musings

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 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.

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.]