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Month: April 2019

Tracking Happiness: Chapter 4

This is CHAPTER 4 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Chapter 4. Last we left off Lucinda Mae had made it to Yazoo City on the train. 

Stop here a moment and repeat after me: “Ya-zoo City. Ya-zoo City.” NOT yah-zoo city. As a Public Service Announcement, I’ve included in the footnotes below a pronunciation guide to certain often-mispronounced Mississippi cities. I’ve chosen to offer the local pronunciation so that if you visit these cities, you won’t be walking around talking about, durn, you didn’t know Elvis was born in Two-pellow. Go read it. You’ll thank me later.

In this chapter Lucinda returns to talking about sex. There’s a lot of talk about sex in this novel because it’s a humorous novel for adults, and sex can be really funny . . .  or not, but most of the time it makes us giggle. There’s also some actual sex described in this novel, which I know you’ll be reading, which will be embarrassing, but you must sacrifice for your art. The point being, if you are squeamish about sex you might want to stop following along right now so that you don’t get all involved in wondering what’s gonna happen to Lucinda, and if Erick’s gonna win the Mall of America Your Idea Can Save the World contest, and what about the poor chickens who are being abused under the new Chicken Palace Emporium fried chicken management philosophy, and then you’re put off by the sex talk and you have to give it up, forever left hanging. Better to give it up now. It’s not graphic sex. I’m not a graphic person. But sex is sex. You can’t make it anything else.

There’s also a reference in this chapter to the Chicken Dance which is a a famous polka song, which if you’ve ever been to an Octoberfest anywhere, you’ve probably seen. In case you haven’t, I’ve included a link to a couple of YouTube videos, because we’re developing a chicken dance theme in the notes. They’re thousands of these things, y’all, and I’ve curated them for you, including a  disco remix. You’re welcome. 

Finally, Lucinda makes a disparaging remark about the dinner she and Erick are served in the dining car on the train. This has NOT been my experience riding the train. The food I’ve gotten has always been wonderful. But, you know, that’s why a novel is called “fiction”: most of the stuff is made up. 

Okay, I think that’s enough preliminary information. 

Now go read Chapter 4 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE (I know, I know—no Helpful Train Hints or Fun Chicken Facts today. Come back later.)

NOTES for Chapter 4:

Biloxi: Bu-LUCK-see (not Bi- lox-see)

Tupelo: TWO-pah-low (not Two-PELL-o)

Lafayette County: La-FAY-ette (not La-fay-yette)

Tishomingo County: tish-a-MING-go

Yazoo City: YA-zoo (not yah-zoo) City

Belzoni: Bell-ZONE—ah

Waveland: WAVE-lan

Monticello: Mon-ta-CELLAR (this is my grandmother’s pronunciation, you’re going to have to accept it)

Coahoma: Ca-HOE-ma

Corinth: CAR-inth

D’Lo: DEE-lo

Natchez: NA-chez (not Na-chaay)

Iuka: I-YOU-ka

Kosciusko: Coz-ee-ES-ko

New Hebron: New HEE-bron 

Tchula: CHEW-la





Tracking Happiness: Chapter 3

This is CHAPTER 3 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Chapter 3. Last we left off:

Lucinda Mae had been touring the train’s dining car, when she stepped into the passageway that ties the cars together. This is truly an odd space. It’s enclosed, but very wiggly. Here, Lucinda finds herself with a man she immediately dubs “the Movie Star.” Their eyes lock, and the new chapter opens. 

This chapter has lots of true stuff from my own life in it. I’m not gonna tell you what the true bits are because, you know, it would be embarrassing. We also get into Lucinda Mae’s fashion sense and how it plays in her small hometown. Of course, I have no sociological degree that qualifies me to offer opinions on the psychology of small towns. Ok, I do have a sociology degree with an emphasis on urban sociology. Still, my opinion on small Southern towns and fashion is my own. BTW, we will wait and see whether Lucinda’s experience of her hometown as an albatross around her neck evolves. If you want to read more about my own fashion sense and how I turned one of the most devastatingly mortifying moments of my life into a published essay, go to my website and read “The Dress” which was published in Skirt! Magazine. The url is in the footnotes.

A very small aside. Katharine Hepburn brownies make their appearance in this chapter of the novel. A dear friend at my church brought Katharine Hepburn brownies to a church event. They were the best brownies I ever put in my mouth. I’ve included the recipe from the New York Times in the footnotes. I am not a cook (my husband keeps us alive every day), yet I could make these brownies. The skill level is low, the product good. 

Finally—because I know you’re getting antsy to get on with the story—in this chapter, we begin to understand how important chickens are to our tale. Yes, the novel’s tag (“A Southern Chicken Adventure”) is a clue, but you might’ve thought I was just being funny. Chickens are funny, but they’re also under siege. I mean, commercially under siege. I’m sure you’ve heard all about the hormone-induced lives of the modern chicken. What we are doing to chickens these days is not something Lucinda Mae’s dad would’ve condoned. Bill Watkins’ chicken-raising motto was “No One Here Is Mean to Our Chickens.” Remember that. It becomes important. 

Okay, I think that’s enough preliminary information. 

HELPFUL TRAIN HINT: Trains might seem like something out of the Old West, but they aren’t. On Amtrak, which is the amazing US passenger train, you can use your PHONE to board the train. Just show the conductor your ticket on your phone, and he’ll wave you on board. At least that’s the way it works in Memphis. The conductor does wear one of those little hats, though. Not all train things are modernized, thank goodness. 


NOTES for Chapter 3: 

For Katharine Hepburn Brownies:I got my Katharine Hepburn Brownies recipe from a friend. I lost the recipe. Fortunately, there are many recipes for KHB online, including this one from the New York Times. If you want to search for your own recipe, note she spells her name: Katharine. 

For more on my devastatingly mortifying fashion moment, read “The Dress”:


This is CHAPTER 2 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

OK. Chapter 2. Last we left off:

Lucinda Mae Watkins was getting settled into her berth on the train. Unfortunately her very pleasant berth brought back very unpleasant memories of her brief marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Stirling Kenny. Y’all know how that goes. Lucinda is recently divorced, so EVERYTHING brings up unpleasant memories of her ex. Fortunately, before Lucinda could get all wound up talking about Stirling, Erick knocked on the door, ready to go sightseeing.

Now, at this point, if you’ve never ridden on a train before, you might be thinking to yourself, what kind of sightseeing can you do on a train? Isn’t it just one long line of boring cars, one after the other? In fact, you might be wondering how on earth I wrote an entire novel set on a train without it being boring as hell. Let me reassure you. A train has all kinds of different cars. Club cars and scenic cars and dining cars (Pay attention: at the end of today’s post there’ll be a test on train cars. Ha, ha. Just kidding.) Also, Lucinda Mae gets off the train from time to time and has adventures.  That’s why the novel’s called Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken ADVENTURE. 

In this chapter, we’ll also get into Lucinda Mae’s body perception issues. Lucinda Mae is skinny. I’m gonna let her tell you exactly how skinny, but she’s little bitty. My fondest wish is for all Americans to have a 100% healthy view of their bodies, but Lucinda Mae is one of those struggling to accept how she is made. Bear with her, please. 

Ok. We also get a whole new plot point in this chapter that involves Erick entering the “Your Idea can Save the World!” contest at the Mall of America in Minnesota. As you’re hearing about this contest, perhaps you’re thinking about an idea you have that you’d like to enter in such a contest—for example, you’ve got a great idea for an anti-migraine device called the Mufflehead, which is a big ol’ modified football helmet that blocks out all light and sound so poor migraine sufferers don’t roll around on the kitchen floor in agony (it’s a real idea, but it’s my idea, so don’t steal it.) You might have an idea as good as the Mufflehead, and you’re thinking a train trip to the Mall of America to win a million dollars might be worth it. So you’re wanting to know if the contest is an actual real contest. Not that I know of.  But I’ve included more info on the Mall of America in the footnotes in case you want to see for yourself what they might have to offer. 

Okay. I think that’s enough preliminary information.

FUN CHICKEN FACT: Did you know that chickens dance? I mean, they actually dance. Apparently, the male chickens (AKA roosters) have their own special chicken dance they do when they’ve found a tasty morsel (I’m not gonna get into what’s tasty to a chicken.) They do the dance to convince the female chickens (AKA hens) the morsel they’ve found is great and the deserve a “reward” for it. You must go to the url in the footnotes to get the whole story. (And imagine the chicken dancing story being told in a British accent—it’s a BBC site.)


NOTES for Chapter 2:

What Mall of America has to say about itself: 

My essay on a train trip to North Dakota (from Memphis—that’s a LONG way). The essay first appeared in River Teeth (along with an essay from Philip Gerard!)

The Hart Women Step Out

This Saturday April 27th at 5:00 Central time in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, my family saga novel THE HART WOMEN will make its public appearance.

THE HART WOMEN was created by Marisa Whitsett Baker and me. I wrote the story (and revised it and re-wrote it and re-revised it, but that’s what “wrote” means.) Marisa created the books that hold the story.

The bone folder to fold the pages and thread to sew the binder

Both the story and the hardbound book are integral to the creation of the reader’s experience. The story is of elderly Emily Hart Fielding wandering through the decrepit family home, trying to decide whether to renovate the house to its past glory or give it up. As Emily struggles to forgive the choices she made during her life, she writes her memories and reflections in her journal. THE HART WOMEN is that journal.

Some of the novel covers will feature handwritten excerpts from the story

The reader will be holding in her hand the book with its soft cloth binder. She will slowly turn the pages, enjoying the feel of the book as much as the unfolding story. From time to time, she will close the book, marking the page with her finger, and study the photo on the front.

She will wonder how life would have turned out for the woman in the mirror if different choices had been made. She’ll ask herself if her own family might have made choices that crippled the chances of a family member. She will slowly continue reading, savoring the sentences even as she’s eager to hear how Emily decides to handle the future.

Each novel will have its own look. “The Hart Women touches on generational Mississippi families, its women, tradition, and life in The Deep South.” Janice Hall, Central Station Bistro

You can read a (tiny) bit about the launch here in the Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, community newspaper, the Shoo-Fly. After the launch, we’ll be taking individual orders for the novel. I’ll share the images, and you can decide which exquisite one you’d like to own. 🙂

Have You Eaten an Alligator Gizzard?

Today we start a series offering funny commentary on TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. You’ll enjoy the gossip, novel backstory, and personal revelations whether you’ve read the novel or not. If you haven’t read it, this “one chapter at a time” approach might just suit you to a T. Every Monday, I’ll give you the skinny on the chapter, you’ll be laughing, then you go read that chapter. On Wednesday, we do it for the next chapter, easy-peasy. I’ll also be offering FUN CHICKEN FACTS and HELPFUL TRAIN HINTS with each twice-weekly entry. Each entry will be one chapter at a time. We are wisely starting today with Chapter 1. As with the novel itself, some of what we’ll be covering here is “ribald,” to use an old-fashioned word. Don’t read this at work unless you giggle very quietly.

Ok. Chapter 1. Let’s get started.

The TRACKING HAPPINESS story is told through the eyes of Lucinda Mae Watkins, who lives in Edison, Mississippi. Edison Mississippi is not a real place. I made it up. You might ask yourself why an author would make up a town when there are plenty of good towns in Mississippi to use. I don’t know about where you live, but in Mississippi, if you’re talking about a small town, everybody in the town is gonna think you’re talking about them. Of course, I AM talking about folks. But you don’t want people to know it’s exactly them. So I fictionalized the little town of Edison, MS. Edison is NOT Edwards, MS, though—like Edwards—Edison is about 45 miles west of Jackson towards the Mississippi River. And it’s tiny. 

On the other hand, Mississippi is an actual state. And Lucinda Mae has some things to say about her home state. But as far as I know, no court has ever allowed a state to sue an author because the state got its feelings hurt. I pause a moment to add that my family has been from Mississippi since God was a toddler. That makes it okay for me, through my character, to poke fun at the state. But. It’s like talking bad about your mama. It’s perfectly okay for you to do it, but let someone else chime in, and they’re likely to draw back a nub. So don’t be emailing me with your “bashing Mississippi” stories. It won’t end well.

Right. In this chapter you learn immediately that Lucinda’s best friend Eric came to Mississippi via the International Ballet Competition. Now of all the weird facts I made up for this book, this, the oddest fact of all, is true: the International Ballet Competition is held in Jackson, MS every four years. It rotates with places like Helsinki and New York and some other cities. I could tell you how it came to Jackson, but it’s kind of a boring story, so just know it’s true. If you’re interested in learning more about the IBC—what days it runs in June, whether you might want to buy tickets or, you know, apply to compete—I’ve included footnotes (footnotes!) below.

I think that’s enough preliminary information. At this point, we bring you a Fun Chicken Fact or a Helpful Train Hint. This is your first chapter, so you’re getting both. After this, you’ll get one or the other but not both. Don’t be greedy. Enjoy today’s lagniappe. 

FUN CHICKEN FACT : Did you know that chickens eat rock? Apparently, rocks help the chicken’s gizzard digest its food. And, yes, in our extra, extra fun fact for the day, chickens have gizzards. Gizzard is a real word. Alligators have gizzards too. Some people eat chicken gizzards. I’ve never heard of anyone eating an alligator gizzard.

HELPFUL TRAIN HINT: When riding the train, bring a pillow. This hint is helpful only if you will be riding the train for an extended period of time. You do NOT need a pillow if you’re going from, say, Memphis to Greenwood. You DO need a pillow if you’re going from Memphis to Williston, North Dakota. Better yet, reserve a berth. Your poor, cricked neck will thank you.

Now, go read (or listen to) Chapter 1 of TRACKING HAPPINESS. We’ll be back twice a week to yak about each chapter of the book. Enjoy.

FOOTNOTES for Chapter 1: 
For more on what the International Ballet Competition has to say about itself:
For the 7 important facts about me, see the slide show on the Home Page of: 
To see Elvis performing “Jailhouse Rock”:

Easter 2019: How Did I Get Here?

My Lenten practice wasn’t random. This year, I chose to create one thing of beauty each day of Lent (Lent is 40 days). I might not have articulated it on day one, but I chose this discipline in contravention of the more traditional view of Lent as a time of deprivation, penitence, and “doing without” as a cleansing process preparing us for the rebirth of Easter. The concept of humanity as sinners needing to be washed clean by the blood atonement of Jesus’s crucifixion is not for me.

I’m not alone in this. Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, says the substitutionary atonement theory of Christ has never been part of his order’s belief. What a relief. Even as a young girl, I wondered who would admire a parent that would send his son to his death for any reason whatsoever; it offended me that my selfishness was supposed to be so great that I thought this sacrifice was okay because it was for me.

So what is Easter to me? It is the mystic moment when we choose not to hate. Choose not to exact revenge. Choose to love inside a sea of hate. When we choose to look for—and find—God in the most terrible of circumstances. This most unheroic of choices, that is the cross and Easter.

It is a view of Jesus I chose to participate in this Lent when I took on adding one thing of beauty to the world each day. It was an act of support and solidarity, you see. God suffuses this amazing world. This is the way Jesus saw the world, as full of God. I want to see it that way too.


Easter Saturday 2019: The Beatitudes

³“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
⁴Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
⁵Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
⁶Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
⁷Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
⁸Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
⁹Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
¹⁰Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5: 3-10

Lenten Beauty: 4/13/19

In my last Lenten Beauty posting of 2019 (Holy Week, which we have now begun, is no longer Lent), I created the beautiful thing of making it to Charlotte, NC to visit my mother, despite a medical emergency on the plane and an aborted landing, represented by this comforting light in her apartment:

They Won

Every article begins with the story of How They Lost. The defeat, the humiliation, the unprecedented collapse. But, last night, one year later, the story was of How They Won.

In another time and long ago, I went to the University of Virginia. I was young when I arrived, only seventeen years old. I wanted to go to a BIG, GOOD school, and the grounds of the University of Virginia were beautiful. I applied nowhere else and got into UVa early acceptance. My first year, Virginia won the ACC Tournament. Wally Walker was a first round draft pick. For a girl who grew up in the ACC in a UNC family, my expectations for Virginia were high. When I graduated, I believed the next year Ralph Sampson would carry the Wahoos to a national championship.

He didn’t. He won every collegiate player award there was to win for 3 years running and took Virginia to the Final Four twice, his final time in 1984. They haven’t been back since. Until this weekend.

We watched much of the semi-finals and the finals with the boys. I had to explain the meaning of “cliffhanger.” When Virginia beat Purdue at the buzzer, I full-throated screamed. When they beat Auburn with .6 seconds left, I could not believe what I was seeing. When they went into overtime with Texas Tech, I left the room (I learned that trick from my dad, a Tar Heel fan who frequently could not stand to watch the games.)

Then they won.

My UVa socks from 1976

Once, when we all still read newspapers, I asked my husband why guys read the sports page the day after a win when they had seen the game themselves the night before. He said something about wanting to read the analysis. This isn’t true. You read the stories of the game the next day to savor. You read to make that moment of winning go forever. You read to assure yourself it was real.

Last year, the University of Virginia was the first No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to lose in the opening round to a No. 16 seed. With a loud, embarrassing thud, the mighty ACC team lost to the equivalent of a community college.

This year, the University of Virginia won the NCAA Tournament.

I sang the Good Ol’ Song at the top of my lungs, head out of the window, belting into an enclosed parking lot that had the acoustics of a cathedral. I think they heard it in Metarie. For a moment, I was once again that too-young girl who went off to college and fell in love with what she found there. The lawn, the Rotunda. The hallowed halls, the friends. The joy of being alive. And kick-ass basketball.

Hats on Parade

So, in searching for photos for a recent blog posts, I was taken with how many of my photos have me in hats.

This doesn’t look like it, but it was an Easter hat (with Evangeline)

I’m talking about the hats that were NOT costume hats.

One of my many grocery store hats, which are my favorite.

Even to me, some of these hats are odd.

Does it look like I stole this hat from a Leprechaun?

Not to mention this beauty, which I was wearing just this last Christmas.

This hat looks like I’m wearing a mushroom on my head. A sophisticated mushroom, but still.

When my husband and I first met, he wasn’t a fan of hats. He has, however, always been a very tolerant man.

That time this winter when I felt like dressing Secret Agent style, avec hat.

And, wearing my hats, I’ve worn him down. He now loves my hats. Good thing.

I wore this hat ALL last summer.

So, as we roll toward the end of Lent, you can absolutely count on my wearing an Easter hat.

My Easter hat from last year.

You can also count on my sharing it with you!

(If you’ve enjoyed the hat parade, you might enjoy MODEL FOR DECEPTION, my novel featuring Vangie Street, fashion model detective. )

Vangie Street is older—thirty-two to be exact—when she takes up modeling in the “big city” of Memphis. She loves showing the fabulous clothes almost as much as she loves her pound-puppy Retro, her cute if slightly decrepit Midtown cottage, and her hunky new boyfriend Nash. Life is perfect—until an expensive earring shown by Vangie’s modeling partner Heather Jackson disappears at the Memphis spring fashion season kickoff. When Heather herself disappears, Vangie must use her “clothes whisperer” intuition to puzzle out the truth of what’s going on….and keep her own self out of trouble. 

Model for Deception is a cozy mystery featuring fashion model Vangie Street who reads people by their clothing choices. Vangie’s sleuthing insights leave us wondering: what exactly do our fashion choices reveal about ourselves?

Lenten Beauty: 4/8/19

I did not write this book. But I did share it with my grandsons this morning. I said, “I am reading the FUNNIEST book.” I told them the premise (“A squirrel gets sucked into a vacuum cleaner and comes out with superpowers.”) We read the comics in it. We opened it randomly and started reading from right where it opened. We laughed. And laughed. And laughed. It was a beautiful moment. And we created it.

The Inappropriate Dress Gene

There I was, stepping into the gala for the graduating seminarians. The seminarians wore black shirts with white clerical collars. I wore a minidress from Billy Bob’s Chinese Laundry in New Orleans. It was leopard-printed. And flocked. 

I can’t help it.

I have an Inappropriate Dress Gene. 

My mistakes are not fashion faux pas. I know exactly how one ought to dress. I was raised by a grandmother who traced her lineage to the banks of Deer Creek in the town of Leland in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. My Bigmama taught me the black dress you wore to a cocktail party Friday night is not the same black dress you don for the funeral Saturday morning. I fully understand the seriousness of dressing appropriately. I just tend to miscalculate. 

I made up this dress by pairing the outer layer of my wedding dress over a black slip dress, and I was asked, “What are you wearing?”

My years practicing law in Jackson, Mississippi were, for the most part, benign—the social pressure squeezing a female lawyer into dressing compliance in the 1980s was fierce. So when I married and moved to Memphis, my dressing kind of spurted free like a spasming tube of toothpaste. At the same time, the sartorial stakes skyrocketed. My then-new husband owns a shopping center wherein is located the swankiest women’s clothing store east of the Mississippi River. One evening we attended a dinner party hosted by the store owners. Determined to put my best fashion foot forward, I arrived at her dinner party wearing a black lace see-through shirt and black bra with a fringed scarf strategically draped across the front. I thought I was so sophisticated. The woman cocked her head at me. “Look at you,” she said, smiling. “Memphis doesn’t dress like that.” 

I took it as a compliment. 

Not so the Cotton Carnival partygoers. When I attended their Mardi Gras party wearing a tiger-printed catsuit, no one would make eye contact. Or maybe it was the wig with its multi-colored, clacking beads. I was Cleopatra—Memphis, capitol of ancient Egypt, get it? No one else got it, either, not one of those sedately-dressed women in long black dresses who considered a feathered mask on a slender stick a costume. Only Preston Shannon, the famous Beale Street singer, appreciated the look.

My beloved black petticoat

I am perfectly familiar with the Backwards Compliment (“Only you could get away with those Python pants”). The Veiled Suggestion (“Now, I would’ve worn that red dress to a Christmas party.”) Not to mention my favorite: the Exaggeration. A friend once reported I’d been seen wearing black leather hot pants to a party. Sure, I had on black leather skirt with a fringed vest. But black leather hot pants? Who even knows what hot pants are these days?

Southerners as a group are not tolerant of those who dress inappropriately. If you think they are,  you’ve never worn a floor-length silky beige dress to the Orpheum Theatre only to have a woman standing outside ask, “Is that your nightgown?” In fact, Southerners go to extraordinary lengths to ensure every person at a party is wearing the exact same thing. If you go off-script, women will glance at their pink-flowered Lilly Pulitzer dresses then deliberately rake their gaze across your silky pink halter top and thread-bare jeans. “Rock-star chic” is not a Southern term. 

My boro-sewn britches

Of course, I could forestall such comments by aiming for the median. Instead, I stand in my closet, hands lifted, and feel the call. If it’s the orange curve-enhancing dress that makes me look like a shrunken version of Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, so be it. Only when I find myself in a roomful of knee-brushing Sunday school dresses, do I think, hmmmm. 

I bought that orange curve-enhancing dress for a public reading

And don’t get me started on parties with a theme. The invitation arrives in the mail. I rip it open. “La Moulin Rouge,” it proclaims, a gay Paris scene splashed across the front. Excitement wells, common sense jumps out the window. Surely I should foresee the slim cocktail dresses with pink boas draped around the neck as garnishment. Instead, I deck myself out as a Toulaouse Lautrec painting—chunky boots, ripped petticoat, peek-a-boo bra. The women at the party flip their boas at me. At home, I kneel in my flouncy skirt and pray: “Lead us not into costumed temptation, deliver us from social evils.” 

Imagine this pink skirt with a red petticoat under it, and you’ve got Moulin Rouge

I don’t want to leave the impression everyone judges my dressing a sin. I have those who encourage me in my choices…. you could call them accessories after the dressing fact. From them I get free clothes. I’ve been given a pair of black and white snakeskin boots, a 1920s antique silk blouse, a great-aunt’s mink-collared sweater, and a $25 mermaid-tailed chartreuse gown. Of course, these treasures came to me because the owners won’t wear them.

Dressed for the track in the gifted mink-collared sweater

Now that I’ve worn out my sartorial welcome in Memphis, I’ve taken on New Orleans. For the most part, New Orleans is extremely tolerant of odd dress. But we’ve rented an apartment in the Bywater. It’s a chic apartment. Everyone going to and from wears black. The apartment’s tag line is: ”You Are Beautiful.” I fear the lease has a clause (written in invisible ink) allowing the management to kick you out of your loft if you don’t comply. When management signs off emails with, “Stay Beautiful,” I read it as a threat. 

Oh, and the seminarian’s fundraiser with me in the leopard dress? I listened when I asked my husband what type of party it was, and he said, “I don’t know. Just some type of fundraiser.” I now request copies of every invitation we receive. If I’m going to misstep, it’s gonna be all on my own.

If you enjoyed this essay, take a look at MODEL FOR DECEPTION: A VANGIE STREET MYSTERY. This fun Southern mystery features a fashion model as an amateur sleuth. You’ll love the clothing talk!

© 2017 - Ellen Morris Prewitt |