Friday, October 24, 2003


Sounds kind of pretentious to say it, but it means different things to different people. How about, I had an epiphany? Well, walking to work the other morning, suddenly, a light went off in my head. Oh. And I can couch it it buddhist terms, christian terms, California-new-age-let's-all-feel-good terms, but in the language of my people, I figgered something out. I figured out how to let go of some of the struggle. A weight was lifted off of my shoulders. A close friend dismissed it by saying it was just my drugs kicking in, but that's not true. It is true that I had a third cup of coffee that morning, but it was more than that.

For the past few months, I've been less energetic than usual. OH, hell, I was seriously depressed. Wasn't nothing wrong with me as far as I could tell. I was a year older and fatter, working at a dead-end job that I'm trying to milk out another half dozen years, have lost interest in a sexual relationship of any sort, what could I possibly have to be depressed about? On top of that, I felt like I was skiing down an expert slope and I'm a beginner. Everything was going a little too fast and I felt that I was in the last turn instead of the next. There was this layer of anxiety. I didn't feel like I could pull it off. I was losing control.

Control is an illusion, anyway, right? I have no control over anything. Never had. I surrendered that illusion Tuesday morning while walking to work. With that surrender came the most peaceful feeling. I'm three days into it, and maybe it won't last out the week and I'll go back to that steep slope, but I don't think so. But even if I do, I won't be quite as afraid as I was two or three weeks ago.

Tomorrow I'm cooking gumbo for 16 people I don't know. I donated a gumbo supper/cooking demonstration to my girlfriend's choral group, the San Francisco Choral Society. Usually we sell 4 slots for about $50 each. It's a total win-win situation. I get to have nice people come over for a smart party where I get to entertain in my best Louisiana or Texas accent, show off my china and silver, regale them with tales of my life on the bayous "back home." The choral society gets a $200 cash gift, the people get a lesson in making gumbo, and we have one fun afternoon. I play cajun music, ply them wine, and real good food. This year, a couple who bought tickets, asked if they could invite their cooking club along, adding 10 to the count. That's $800 to the chorus and oh, my god, I've got a crowd coming over to eat.

I've noticed that when one is depressed that their house cleaning skills seem to be one of the first things to go. I looked around my house and thought, oh my god, I can't let people see this mess. Then I remembered Tuesday's epiphany and thought, people aren't necessarily looking at the things you're pointing to. Sometimes they're just looking at you point. You know, I think my place is charming, just as it is. Is it a mess? No, I prefer to think it has a "lived in" feeling to it. Those people are coming to taste my gumbo, not to judge my housekeeping. (I will clean the cabinets, floors and bathrooms and put out flowers, but that's it! The tub doesn't need to be scrubbed--no one's going to be taking a bath, ya' know?)

I'm cooking chicken and sausage gumbo. The reason it takes a cooking lesson to cook gumbo right, is because you can't start with a recipe and do a traditional gumbo unless someone has showed you how. Why? Because you wouldn't know if you got it right or not. It's not because it's hard to do.

My families started arriving in Louisiana in the late 1780's, about 20 years behind the Cajuns, following them into the back bayous of southwestern Louisiana. It didn't take ten years to begin seeing our names marrying theirs. We immediately became part of Louisiana's fusion of culture. I'm pretty sure my people, the Ashworths and Perkins and Clarks and Drakes and Bunches and a dozen others, reflected the Scots-Irish culture of backcountry South Carolina. Cooking was at best primitive. Meat would probably be stewed or fried. Bread would be corn pone. It is doubtful that they even had sourdough. Next to the Cajuns we were primitives. We were also Baptist and they were Catholic, but still there was intermarriage. Abner and William Ashworth, the sons of Keziah Dial and James Ashworth, married Cajun women: Abner to Rosalie Gallier, and William to Deliede Gallier. Thank god for it, too, because the cooking in our family got good, quickly.