A few words about Charles Wheaton, my parrain

Daddy on the left. Uncle Charles on the right.

In South Louisiana, the Cajun French word for godfather is parrain. Good luck pronouncing that correctly. It’s one of the few Cajun French words I know that isn’t a curse word. Parrain.

Last night my parrain died. Charles Wheaton. My daddy’s younger brother.

I saw him last year at my brother Daniel’s wedding. But the last time I had any kind of extended conversation with him was a few years ago, in Opelousas. I’d swung by the group home where he was still working at the time, before the state of Louisiana decided that taking care of adults with developmental disabilities wasn’t worth its time or money. Uncle Charles had some choice words about that.

But what we actually talked about that day, and what sticks with me, was my first novel. The one about the priest. He told me he got a kick out of the book, that he loved it. And let me tell you, that’s going to go down as one of the proudest achievements in my writing career. Because Uncle Charles was the storyteller of the family. I might be able to write a story or two, but Uncle Charles could start talking and the whole house would fall silent. Only for a minute or two, though, because it wasn’t long before people were practically falling off of furniture from laughing so hard.

I seem to remember his stories starting with, “Hey, yall remember that old boy.” His stories were often about some old boy. Back in the day. That did something that was hilariously unspeakable. I remember at least one that involved a horny farm boy, an unwilling animal, and a load of one party’s excrement dropped into the other’s pants. Uncle Charles didn’t worry much about mixed company. And he often seemed to delight in making pearl-clutchers clutch their pearls just a little bit harder.

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The 2018 Meat Sweats Tour: Few Things Finer Than Carolina (and Barbecue)

As the first two plates of chopped and sliced pork were placed on the table in front of us, accompanied by sides of Ore-Ida-looking French fries and an entire basket of hush puppies, my first thought was, “I hope I can handle a whole week of Carolina barbecue.”

My son Nick and I were at Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina, the first stop on one of our somewhat annual barbecue tours. Our first trip, the Barrage of Brisket Tour back in 2013, took us to the Austin area, where we made five stops. The next tour was 2015’s Madness in Memphis , where we hit six barbecue places (and one fried chicken joint).  In 2016, it was Kicking It in Kansas, for seven stops.

That last name is pretty damn awful, and I admit I’m retroactively naming some of these because I dubbed this year’s trip The Meat Sweats Tour.

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Clean-up In Apt. 5

My toilet is so clean you could actually eat out of it. I swear. Come over. I’ll hook you up with some Ramen or something.

But seriously. This weekend, I found some time between hangovers and driving out to East Hampton in craptastic weather to do some much-needed cleaning in the apartment.

Not only was it dirty, but there were the obvious psychological implications associated with cleaning after a relationship falls apart. I’d actually swept through the living room after the first week, completely rearranging that into something that didn’t resemble an unholy cross between Hoarders and a college dorm room. I came really close to hanging the flat-screen on the wall out of some misdirected spite but I didn’t like the thought of the wires running down the wall to wherever I’d put the Xbox, Wii and cable box. I liked even less the thought of the TV pulling out of the wall and crashing to the floor thanks to my slapdash handywork.
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The Turducken Flies at Midnight

Shhhh. Be vewy, vewy, quiet. We’re on the trail of the Turducken, a mysterious beast that haunts the wilds of South Louisiana. It’s a hard thing to track, partly because it’s not one, but three beings that form a symbiotic parasitic relationship. First, we have the Swamp Chicken. It feeds on nothing but live crawfish, raw rice and, when it can catch it, the even-more elusive six-legged Boudin, whose chirps and squeals can be heard on rainy Louisiana nights. Next, the Ground Duck. The Ground Duck hides in its lair for months at a time, waiting for the right moment when a Swamp Chicken walks by. Then it pounces. What follows is a revolting battle as the Ground Duck distends its beak far enough to swallow the Swamp Chicken whole. The job done, it lies there defenseless, much like a boa constrictor digesting a pig. And along comes the rarely seen Pelican Turkey, which simply makes a “Gobble-gobble” noise before scooping the new formed Duck Chicken with its impressive mandibles.
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It’s a Family Tradition

Why are my uncles and cousins drunkenly wrasslin’ over a pineapple, I found myself thinking not very long ago. And why is my other cousin dancing with a mop while standing in a laundry basket?

Most of my family lives in South Louisiana and they’re Cajun through and through. Even when the crew from Ville Platte invades Face Book en masse, as they’ve been doing in the last couple of months, they bring their style to social media.
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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Today, while the wife was out doing good deeds, I shook off the slight hangover and braved the wind and cold to buy a Christmas tree. I had to walk all the way across the street to the tree folks outside of the CVS on Court Street. There I bought the smallest tree I could find. They’d sold out the smallest of the small, so I ended up with a five-foot spruce of some sort. A little pricey for my liking, but it doesn’t shed as much as the cheap ones and is less likely to catch fire and kill us and everyone else in the building. Wouldn’t want our very first Christmas tree to be the very last.

Picked up some decorations from the CVS–standard shiny balls in two different sizes and two 100-bulb strands of white lights. Guess it’ll be some time before we can fill the tree with “unique” decorations. Susan felt it would be cheating if we went out and bought a barrell full of quirky things–and probably expensive. But we do have two non-traditional decorations–a plush Snoopy and a snow-boarding dog. No one who knows my wife will be surprised by this.

Unlike me, the tree looks good and smells good. Now, let’s see if I can sleep tonight or if the fear of burning to death will keep me awake.