The New Orleans Saints beat the crap out of the New England Patriots. That very same week it snows in Louisiana. In early December. Coincidence? I think not. Saints fans have been equating Louisiana’s steamy weather and making hell-freezing-over jokes ever since the Saints franchise took to the field and elevated losing to an art form.
That the Saints are undefeated at this point in the season is more miraculous than snow in early December–for the second year in a row. Hell, I don’t even want to write the word Saints in a blog post because I’m sure I’ll jinx them. And don’t even get me started on the Vikings, who happened to knock the Saints out of the playoffs the very first time they made it to post-season play. It’s enough to make me sick.
Funnily enough, in an early draft of The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, I had Father Steve visiting a friend’s house for a Monday Night Football game against division rival Atlanta Falcons. In the scene, they were throwing bottle caps at the TV by the second quarter and just quit watching at halftime, so disgusted were they at the state of play. For various reasons, I cut that scene. Now I kinda wish I had kept it, just to remind all of us Saints fans not to get too ahead of ourselves.
But I’m not complaining. Seeing the Saints shellac the Patriots was a hell of a way to start the week — and not just because it won me a bottle of Buffalo Trace. I know for people in Louisiana, it was a night of celebration.
Then, by the end of the week, they get the gift of snow. In my 18 years of growing up in Louisiana, I believe it snowed all of three times–and one of those was your typical mix of sleet and rain that many Louisianians accept as snow. But that didn’t stop us from running out into the yard and building the brownest, grassiest snowman you’ve ever seen. It didn’t stop the schools from closing. It didn’t stop Louisiana drivers from doing Brian Boitano impersonations with their vehicles, doing a triple lutz as they flew off an I-10 overpass. (So THAT’S what those “Bridge May Ice Before Roads” signs were all about.)
In the last nine years, I think it’s snowed at least four times in Louisiana–last year as far south as New Orleans. In fact, I was home for New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31 2000 and there were flakes coming down. No accumulation, but real snow flakes. I remember because of the snow. I remember because it was also the last time I put a cigarette in my mouth. (And thank god for that. At 10 bucks a pack in New York, I’d be broke by now.)
We haven’t had any snow here in New York. Indeed, it was so warm Thursday (in the 60s) that people were running the streets of Manhattan in bikinis and singing the praises global warmening.
But I got my own surprise yesterday. I returned home from work to find a big-ass box that I hadn’t ordered. I opened it to fine a stack of books. My book. The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival. The REAL version, not some galley, not some advance reader copy. The real damn book. I’m looking at the stack right now and I’ve got the same mix of feelings I’ve been having for a month now: A mix of pride, disbelief and outright terror. Every writer I’ve talked to seems to have gone through this. We’re not fishing for compliments at this point. We’re not hating ourselves. We’re just SCARED.
For the months leading up, you can’t get beyond the sneaking suspicion that something will go wrong. The publishing house will go out of business. You’ll be hit in the head by errant masonry and only be able to speak Gaelic for the rest of your life and therefore will not be able to enjoy the release of the book. A meteor might hit your town. Books might be declared illegal. You might catch a stroke.
After years of rejections, it’s only natural to feel this way. Indeed, for nonwriters, you might be able to compare it to dating. Or for Saints fans, it’s similar to your situation right this minute. As my friend Drew always used to say, “Let’s see how I can fuck this one up.”
But there’s my stack of books. It’s real. At this stage in the game, the writer starts worrying about sales and reviews. It’s sort of like those Saints fans worrying about the Super Bowl even before the playoffs start. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s in the hands of Almighty Breesus and his disciples. But still we worry. We know it’s not rational. But we can’t help it. We’re even getting that sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, remembering how excited (and drunk) we were during the NFC championship game between the Saints and the Bears, how we’d all climbed that mountain of hope only to be flung to earth by a city that can’t make a decent pizza.
But you know what we do? We have to put those doubts aside. We find a bit of optimism or bravery or childish belief. It might even be fake. But damn it. We’ll fake it, if that’s what it takes to remember to enjoy the experience, to get caught up in the now and not rain on everyone else’s parade. We’ll fake it until we make it. And if we don’t? There’s always next year. Or the next book.