A Cherub, Queen, Regrets, and My Obsession with Good Omens

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Where do I start?

I suppose with the cherub(s). The plural will explain itself later.

Unfortunately, because of Hurricane Katrina, I only have a few pictures left of Jennifer Elaine. No photos left  from our childhood, when she truly resembled a creation of Raphael himself. The artist that is, not the archangel.

Cherub
Cherub (detail from Sistine Madonna), Raffaello Sanzio Raphael 1512

Three of us made up “the girls” of our block. We were the only kids who lived on the block the longest. There were others who came briefly and went. Some of whom I am still friends with in adulthood. But the three of us were “the girls.” Sort of like a more homogenous and smaller version of “the them.”

Donnell (myself), Jenny and Amanda. They are twins, fraternal but still very much identical to the human eye. We were the scourge of the 500 block of Community St. in Old Arabi – just blocks away from New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward neighborhood and minutes away from the French Quarter (where much of our teen years were spent). For all intents and purposes, that was our neighborhood. We decided who joined our band of merry miscreants and who didn’t. There were kids from other blocks who later became part of our friend group as teens, but as kids it was just us.  We frequently had trouble with a group of boys from the next street over, and I will confidently say we always defended our territory with little effort.

The area from Community Park to the Lebeau Mansion (no longer standing) was ours. We owned it proudly. We rode our bikes to the Mississippi River levee and gazed upon our land. Even if there were other groups of kids who did the same, to us the dominion was ours.

In the early 1990s, we watched filming of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire* from that same levee. Our levee.

(*Sidenote: Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles are my longest running literary obsession. Those novels and The Phantom of the Opera.)

lebeau mansion
The Lebeau Mansion as it was when we were kids. It had a long history, but was sadly burned down in 2014 by amateur ghost hunters. (Source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeBeau_Plantation)

All things pass with time, which I imagine is the natural order of things – if there were a natural order. As we became teenagers, our paths became a great deal disjointed. But we lived across the street from each other. Right across the street. We were still the girls, even if we weren’t always together causing mischief and causing Mr. Otis, the old man who walked his cat on a leash, bouts of agita. 

Jenny & Donnell at Burmasters
Many eons ago, Jenny and I in our regular local watering-hole, where things just seemed right. Long before smart phones and instant pictures, hence the quality of this photo. I’m the one in glasses.

By now you’re wondering where this rambling stream of consciousness goes next. Now I will address the next topic and major intermixture that will help make sense of the finale -my current Good Omens obsession. A novel that somehow I hadn’t discovered until 2019 when it was released as a Prime original series. And which since discovering have fangirled the hardest over in several years.

Queen

The three of us, the girls – myself, Jenny and Amanda – discovered Queen at quite a young age. Part of that was probably because of my parents’ vinyl collection from which I acquired several albums. One of them being the original Jazz album with the iconic Bicycle Race photo on the inner part of the sleeve, sadly yet another victim of Hurricane Katrina.

Did every cassette we had turn into Queen’s Greatest Hits? Well, there wasn’t a car to be had as we were children, but my bedroom oddly seemed to work the same magic. There were albums to be listened to and cassettes to be played and CDs didn’t exist yet. This was the Before Times, people. The 1980s.

We even had a mascot, Freddie Flamingo, which was a plush flamingo I’d caught at a Mardi Gras parade and was rather good at singing Don’t Stop Me Now.

jennyandamanda
“The Girls” as they were known around the neighborhood. Or sometimes “The Twins” aka Jenny and Amanda. Also known as my non-biological sisters.

Queen was a big part of our lives then, and still. Mine and Amanda’s anyway. . .

On November 18, 2003 my cherub, Jennifer Elaine, went to sleep for the last time. She and her twin both suffered epilepsy. She had a seizure in her sleep and it was her final seizure. Death does come like a thief in the night.

Jenny Obit
Screenshot from http://files.usgwarchives.net/la/orleans/obits/1/l-05.txt

Our Song

As kids we were all three inseparable, but I would be lying to say I hadn’t shared something with Jenny that was different than what I shared with Amanda. Neither of those being the lesser or greater. Just different. Love for them both, and I wish I could say unconditional because this is where the regret part begins.

But first, I will get to our song. It will clear up a lot to anyone familiar with the Good Omens Prime series, which is very close to the book but has new elements that I connected with on levels much differently.

One of my fondest memories from our childhood was of myself and Jenny, playing without Amanda this day for some reason. She would get mad at us because we tended to gang up on her unnecessarily sometimes. (Sorry, Amanda!) Probably she had had enough of our shit and went home to play Nintendo.

Jenny and I were running around like the little 10 year old maniacs we were in my backyard, around a table my grandparents had under a patio, listening to what I imagine would be considered an “antique” cassette player. I lived in a double. New Orleans people are familiar with the term if others might not be. My parents and I lived in one side, and my grandparents lived in the other side. Basically a duplex, but in New Orleans everything is different than the rest of America. And our housing conforms to our way of life.  

We were listening to my Queen’s Greatest Hits cassette, if you can even imagine it, and the song You’re My Best Friend was playing. (This was the Greatest Hits with the purple [or red?] cover that came before the Greatest Hits II with the dark navy cover that included more songs from Queen’s later albums.)

RedGreatestHitsQuennalbumcover

Jenny stopped running, looked straight at me with all the sincerity a person could have, and said to me “Donnell, you’re my best friend.” I don’t recall my response verbatim, but I imagine I said to her that she was my best friend, too. 

I only started being able to listen to that song again in the last five or so years. Since Jenny’s passing in 2003, I had skipped over it whenever it came up on my playlist because I couldn’t bear to hear it. That was our song.

Regrets

As I stated earlier in this piece, once we reached our teens, we grew apart a bit. Boys that weren’t worth it got in the way and stuff got really complicated. My two best friends had always gone to a different school than me, so we obviously had friends from school that were not part of our Community St. gang.

Jennifer was always such a fan of mine. Jenny and Amanda both always had the utmost confidence in me, and Amanda still does. I don’t know why. But before I started writing this, I prayed to Jennifer and asked her for some of that confidence now. This is the hard part. A lot of things happened, memories that I will keep in the sacred tabernacle of my mind. My cherub was tempted down a terrible path. And not by me.

Everyone pretty much accepted I was the evil one. It was known. Jenny was influenced easily, and I was normally the one who did the influencing. But at a point, I distanced myself and someone else came and took my place. Someone truly wicked, not just slightly evil in a cheeky, devilish way. Not someone who’d just sauntered vaguely downward. In our youth, I might have taken advantage of the fact that I could get Jenny to do certain naughty things. If I dared her to do a thing, she did it. She trusted me.

I failed her.

Bad.

Soon things were cascading out of control, and I didn’t know what to do. None of us really did. But by God, I should have done more. I do hold myself accountable in so many ways. We weren’t angels in our late teens/early-20s. I was a fool. I should have been more assertive with her. Aggressive even. But I felt betrayed for reasons, and we parted ways for a while.

Just days before she passed, I saw her and talked to her for the first time in a long time. I asked her to come over – from my front porch. Her grandmother was ill, and she said she couldn’t at the time but maybe soon. I said OK and went on with life. All I had to do was walk across the street. I could have easily gone over to her house, if she’d have let me. I was foolish and stupid.
That same week she died.

jennyandholly
Jennifer with her niece Holly, who is now an adult woman living her own life.

“Love of my life, don’t leave me…”

My Obsession with Good Omens

Let me first start with explaining that I am very prone to fangirling. Already mentioned: The Vampire Chronicles (When we first saw Interview With a Vampire as young teens, we decided I was Lestat and Jenny was Louis, because as I’ve stated, everyone knew I was the more tarnished one.) and The Phantom of the Opera.

Not yet mentioned, Supernatural.

Most recently, obviously, Good Omens.  It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine that when I saw this trailer I was instantly interested (also a friend of mine who knows I love Queen brought it to my attention):

Did I read the novel twice in the last month? Yeah. I did.

Have I watched the series thrice in the last two months? Yep.

You know what an almost forty year old woman who still fangirls over things like a teenager discovered? Good Omens animatics on YouTube. I didn’t even know that was a thing. It is. I’ve watched many of them.

I know if she was still here, we’d be all over this. Even as adults. And every time I watch a scene with Crowley and Aziraphale, I think of her.

I think of how we’d both read the novel together, and maybe watch the series together. Although at this point in life, we would both be grown with our own families. I can romanticize my imaginary scenarios. They are only imaginary after all.

Because in the series, Crowley tells disincorporated Aziraphale that he lost his best friend, but **SPOILER ALERT** his best friend returns.

Image result for good omens i lost my best friend
Mine won’t.

There is no magical happy ending in real life. Real life is raw and uncut. There are no edits. Things we lose are gone. Only to live on in our hearts and memories.

So make it count.

(This blog entry is dedicated to Jennifer Elaine Lapara April 2,1979  –  November 18, 2003)

 

Mega Crush

Peter Parker’s been deceased for a year. A year. Sigh. I suppose it’s time to move on. I simply cannot love Otto Octavius, even if he is in P.P.’s body (ASM #700 in case you were doing anything other than pining for an expired comic book super-hero last September). I thought I might have been falling for Tony Stark briefly, but it was a passing infatuation. However, I’ve recently become intrigued by a new fictional cartoon boy.

screen2do
“Ollo.”

We recently purchased Megamind for the boy, at my urging. (He really wanted it. Really.) I’d seen the movie already and, like many of Dreamwork’s cartoon movies, it caused me to laugh my ass off.  Even still, it wasn’t until watching the movie a few times that I developed my new admiration for the bad to good super-genius with the complexion “of a popular primary color.” Firstly, he has some similarities to P.P., well only one, his scientific genius. That’s really all the two have in common. BUT, I realized there was much Megamind and I have in common. For example, we have the same taste in music. His wardrobe is quite impressive, except he’d might have to give up those baby seal skin leather boots. I can’t deny they look cool, though. And, in some ways that are similar but different, we both decided to change our lives toward the positive. Also, we’re both short.

The only video I could find that I wanted to use here has Asian subtitles, so, if you can read them, COOL! If not just ignore them and watch the video. K thanks.

Beside what we have in common, he makes me laugh. That always really wins me over. I’m really into blue, too. A lot. It was one thing I loved about P.P., his red and blue suit. And while Megamind: Defender of Metrocity might not look as steaming hot in the Black Mamba as P.P. looked in his tights, he has kind of a cute tush. I also enjoy his languid movements, and evil laugh. Oh, just everything.

megamind_evil_overlord_by_zeroxkinz-d473br9
Minion’s pretty cute, too.

But alas, there is Roxanne Ritchie, whom Megamind deserves. Because they’re both fictional cartoon people, and I’m just a fan-girl with unrequited, and possibly psychosis linked, love interests.

 

(Disclaimer: Megamind and everything with his likeness on it is the property of Dreamworks Animation and Paramount Studios. Peter Parker, Spider-Man, and any likenesses thereof are the properties of Stan the Man Lee and Marvel Comics [and now The Walt Disney Company].)

(Disclaimer Disclaimer: While I am a fan of Will Ferrell, please don’t analyze my Megamind crush as some Freudian, unconscious desire for his body. Thank You.)

 

New Old Books

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shark Week has ended, and I must admit I am having withdrawals. It happens every year. See, I really like sharks. Like, a lot.

I’ve even acquired the moniker “Nell Shark”, given to me by my dad when I was a teen. I wasn’t only given the nickname because of my love of the carnivorous fish, but also because there was a time when I could consume anything I wanted, like a shark, and my dad would joke that I’d probably swallowed a license plate somewhere. This name was also born from a nickname given to my dad in the time of Saturday Night Live’s Land Shark sketches. He’s often called Lan, and so he became Lan Shark. Being his offspring, I suppose it was only natural that I also share the shark title. Over the years I’ve taken on more of an image of a whale-shark, but I digress.

Microsoft Free Clip Art

If reincarnation exists, I want to be a shark. I think it would be wonderful to swim freely in the ocean, at the top of the food chain, not a worry in the world. Except for, you know, commercial fishing nets, shark nets designed to protect beaches, fishermen killing you for your fins, and crazed people hunting you because they think you’re going to chomp innocent surfers and swimmers for fun. Besides all that, I think it would be real nice. I’d even make extra sure not to accidentally taste anyone, which as we all know, could result in maiming or killing them.

Speaking of hunting sharks and sharks accidentally tasting people, one of my favorite movies is Jaws. I love the movie, although I don’t love what it did for sharks. I must make an admission here, as well: I’ve never read the novel.

Used hardcover copy of Peter Benchley’s Jaws copyright 1974 Doubleday & Company, Inc.

I know. I’m sorry for my literary sin of loving a movie for so long without reading the story which inspired it. Truly repentant. My penance will be to read War and Peace twice and recite The Illiad fourteen times. I’ve never read War and Peace, either, but I imagine reading it twice would be quite the compensation for any wrongdoing.

But now, now I can claim absolution! For I have received my copy of Jaws, the novel, written by one Peter Benchley (I understand Mr. Benchley and his wife became advocates for shark conservation after seeing the anti-shark furor created by his novel and from Steven Spielberg’s movie which came out a year later) .

Back cover: Peter Benchley

And I didn’t just buy the novel, I bought a vintage (sure, why not?) hardcover copy. It’s used, not in mint condition, but in good condition. The jacket is a little torn, but the book itself is in tact. It was cheap, and it smells delicious. Ecstasy! Is anyone not excited by the smell of an old book? It’s just me, then? All right.

I was pleased and surprised when the book arrived. When I ordered it, I was under the assumption that I was ordering a used copy of a print reissued in 2005. But no! It’s the real thing, baby. Not some reissued young whippersnapper copy. I’m very happy.

To a lot of people this is a silly thing about which to become excited. Oh well. Not to Nell Sharks*.

Microsoft Free Clip Art

*My son, Robot Boy, is also a big shark fan. Even at his young age, he watches Shark Week programming, and chomps like a shark on the chewy tubes given to him by his speech therapist. Once, before he was sick, Jaws came on television. Fearing he would be afraid, I stood in front of the television as Jaws attacked some folks on a banana boat while blood filled the water. RB saw Jaws’s attack anyway, and instead of crying or getting scared, he started shouting “Rawr! Rawr!” pretending to be Jaws. His nickname is Chompy Shark.