Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Customs Dreams, Hurricane Earl and Books, Books, Books

So, after leaving my last blog in the proverbial dust for so long, the intrepid and adventurous Venus in Fangs has returned and is heading out into the unknown yet again. The first time was waving goodbye to my beloved Vancouver in order to see what this Folklore stuff was all about in Merry Old St. John’s, Newfoundland. After finding out I liked this Folklore stuff very much indeed, I have worked my way through a few degrees, and am now finished course work, studying for comprehensive exams, and am off to New Orleans, Louisiana, USA for fieldwork and fun! For 3 months. Eeeep.

Did I mention I’ve never actually been to the States before? Well, I went on a couple day trips to Bellingham, Washington, or once to Seattle for a concert (Skinny Puppy…why we had to travel to Seattle to see a band originally from Vancouver is still beyond me, but there you go), and I did go to Harlow in even Merrier Old England last summer. But yeah, for those who read the old blog, I started most of my travelling in my 30s, and am now almost 39 and really heading into the US for the first time.

Needless to say I’ve been having mad dreams regarding boisterous laughter from the airport personnel working the body scanners, and gloves snapping crisply onto large, hairy hands in the customs rooms as I am searched for hidden bags of cocaine, heroin and other “mule packs” up the old bummoli. I feel fairly certain, though I won’t tempt any fates here by saying I know for sure, that this will not happen. But the dreams cometh anywayeth.

Thanks be to the Folklore Gods that a friend is coming with! Yep, my good chum Phoebe will arrive a mere 20 minutes after me! Lord knows why she agreed to this, or what will happen to her on this wacky adventure, but she’s been gracious enough to come and help get the old gal settled in NOLA. We shall wreak havoc on the city……….if by havoc one means drinking a lot of coffee at caf├ęs and checking out some jazz and maybe going to the zoo and a plantation tour. Yep: Wreak. Some. Havoc.

She is, this Ms. Phoebe, a very good friend as, in true Venus fashion, I discover that there is some sort of hurricane on the loose in the Atlantic and heading for the Gulf States and Eastern Canada. I mean, come on! Even if I was staying home in St. John’s, we are RIGHT ON THE ATLANTIC. You think something would have tipped me off that some sort of “weather” was on its way. But, as per usual really, in my normal glib and uninformed way, I only found out about it as I skulked about on my new laptop trying to decide just how much “extra strong” deodorant I should slather on before heading to the airport in the morning. Thankfully for me, thus far my new chum Earl doesn’t seem to be planning a visit, though we may end up with some crap weather. I’m worried for friends along the Eastern Seaboard, but thankful that I will not be flying through some crazy Class 12 storm cloud peering out the window for gremlins on the wing!

And speaking of gremlins…or, well, monkeys on the back, so to speak, did you catch the part where I’m “studying for comprehensive exams?” Yep, it really wouldn’t be me if I didn’t nail the windows shut, batten the hatches, paint myself into a corner and then, while wearing my bacon suit, let a hungry tiger loose in the room. Now, I’m not saying that drying paint will keep me from running full tilt from a tiger, but yeah, I’ve set myself up for a wee bit of stress and weirdness, yet again. Due to courses being finished, and a pesky language requirement, I’m stuck studying and WRITING my comps, three 8-hour days of hell and hokum in November, from the Big Easy. On top of trying to do loads of fieldwork. Weeeeeee….. Come join us, we’re all mad here! And what has been the biggest challenge thus far in this comps hell? Books, books, books, articles, books, articles, articles, articles, classnotes. Yep, here’s a riddle for you: how the hairy heck do you get all the materials you need to the place you’re going to be for three months when you can only bring so much luggage and the books are heavy and the classnotes are scattered and you are unsure if the libraries will let you borrow stuff and you really really really want to do well or at least pass these suckers? Discuss.

I was thankfully able to solicit a couple letters of introduction, and I plan to do a LOT of begging at circulation desks. Kinko will become my new best friend (sorry Crystle) as I plan to do a LOT of printing there, and I finally broke down and shipped books to myself keeping only a couple starter things in the luggage. This will be a challenge. Yep.

Ah well. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 39 years in my “bacon suit,” I seem to somehow battle through and succeed. I can never tell if I’m actually a bit clever, the most medium-luckiest son-of-a-bitch ever to walk the planet, or if the fates are just pulling me through in order to lead me to some HUGE whammy later, but I get through things and soldier on. Good soldier. Brave soldier.

Stupid soldier. Sheesh….

My fieldwork will definitely be a blessing that will hopefully cancel out the anathema that is my comps. Not that comps can’t be sort of good, in their way. I do like studying and learning and getting things down and figuring things out. But I definitely prefer going on tours, talking to folks, and writing a LOT more! Not to say that fieldwork won’t have its own stressors, as I definitely get shy at the worst moments. But I gots me a cooooool topic, so heyla, off I go!

Just to clarify, what I’m doing is looking at belief and dark tourism in New Orleans. What’s belief and dark tourism? Why, any type of tourism that deals with belief or darkness, silly. Basically, I’m looking at ghost tours, voodoo tours, vampire tours, cemetery tours, etc. and trying to find out why people go on this type of tourism. How belief is dealt with, what sorts of narratives are going on, are there new narratives post-Katrina, and also how these types of tourism are often very cost-efficient (you don’t need much for a walking tour but some historic knowledge, a route and a good story teller), and how this type of tourism helped grow the New Orleans economy back after Katrina. I think a lot of issues are going to start really rearing their macabre heads as I actually get into the tours and start talking to guides and companies.

Ah, ain’t it grand to be a Folklorist!

So, that’s it. The beginning to this blog. I hope to keep it entertaining, and I’m sure some wacky shizznat will go down in old Nawlins. It will be a fieldwork blog, and I hope to keep you abreast of the happenings in the South, research tips (mostly, I’m sure, in the “Do Not Do This” variety), and something fun to read over a delicious lunch of a sandwich, perhaps with some delightful potato chips on the side.

Here’s hoping finger stay out of my bum, we all get in safely, and I don’t accidentally take the one “Death Cab” parked at the airport!


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