I wish I was in New Orleans

During the bus ride, Annie chatters on and on about Mardi Gras and New Orleans, while Ruby clutches her hands in her lap and listens to her in order to avoid thinking too much. Annie’s aunt, she says, is a cabaret singer in a club in the French Quarter, and she’s gotten Annie an audition. We get a little overview of the French Quarter (there are clubs and restaurants and parties and boutiques and art galleries!) and Ruby tells Annie about the paintings she has on display at Dominique’s. Annie is suitably impressed and squeals about all of the fun that she and Ruby are going to have in the big city, and tells Ruby to give up her address so that when Annie has her first performance, Ruby can come. Ruby confesses that she doesn’t know where she’ll be, and Annie eventually gets it out of her that Ruby’s running away from home. Ruby starts to cry and tells Annie about Grandmere Catherine, her death, and Grandpere’s trying to sell her to Buster Trahaw. Annie  gets angry and asks Ruby if she has anything of Grandpere’s with her. Ruby says no, and asks Annie why, and Annie says that if Ruby did have something of his, she (Annie) could cast a spell on him.

Oh good lord.

See, Annie’s great-grandmother, though brought to Louisiana a slave, was also a voodoo queen, and her knowledge and powers were passed down to Annie.

I will tell you right now: Every character of African descent in these books practices voodoo, knows someone who practices voodoo, or just really believes in voodoo. Now, I don’t know a lot about voodoo. Despite my lack of knowledge, however, I can can say that offering to curse a person who has hurt someone is one thing, but actually starting to chant a voodoo curse against the person without being asked is quite another. Ruby agrees with me, and quickly thanks Annie, but no thanks. Annie backs down, but advises Ruby to hold on to that cat bone that she’d given her. Annie asks Ruby where her family lives, and Ruby tells her that all she knows is that her father’s name is Pierre Dumas and he lives in a big mansion, so Annie surmises that he lives in the Garden District. Since Ruby’s knowledge of New Orleans probably starts and ends with opening a box of Zatarain’s, she is more lost than ever. Annie tells Ruby that she’ll look through the phone book with her, only she’ll need a little cash, a token if you will, to help the voodoo process along. It’s not for her, she assures Ruby, she’ll drop it in a church donation box as soon as she gets to the French Quarter. Ruby, naturally, agrees. Oh Ruby.

Annie and Mademoiselle Naivete get off of the bus when it arrives in New Orleans and find a phone booth. Ruby gives Annie ten dollars and Annie flips through the phone book mumbling voodoo spells to herself and finally tears off a corner of the page and writes an address on it. She gives it to Ruby and heads off, bidding Ruby not to forget her. After she’s gone, Ruby gives in to her curiosity and checks the phone book herself, only to discover that there is only one Pierre Dumas listed. She laughs and realizes that she paid for her company, so at least she catches on, because Audrina would still be trying to figure out what kind of magic that needed.

Ruby heads off in search of the address, and, of course, gets herself almost raped on the way, but she escapes and finds a police officer who gets her on the right streetcar. She rides it down to St. Charles Avenue (which was probably the only street in the Garden District that the Ghostwriter had ever heard of; Ruby, head down to First & Chestnut and stay with the Mayfairs, it’s the 60s, Deirdre should be around), and wanders around, marveling at the fanciness, until she reaches her father’s house. Ruby gazes at it for a while before deciding that it’s all too much, and she’s getting out of there. After all, she’s just a lowly CAJUN orphan (it’d been so long since she’d thought of that) and she chickens out and decides to get a bus back to Houma. Before she can walk too far, a convertible squeals up to the front of the house and a tall blond hottie gets out.

Indeed he does.
Indeed he does.

No, Swamp Thing, that doesn’t even make sense.

(Note: I can’t help it, everyone on that show is so hot, and it does take place in Louisiana, after all)

Blondie wants to know where Ruby is headed, and when she asks “Pardon?” he immediately laughs and mocks her accent, then wants to know where she got the “rags” that she’s wearing, because they’re not the costume he would have thought she’d choose. Ruby is confused and offended, and angrily tells Mister Hottie McRudepants that her clothes are NOT rags, they happen to be everything that she owns in the world! Now, Ruby, I know you’re tired and sad and confused and scared, but let’s consider a couple of things:

  • You are in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, a time when people wear costumes.
  • You are in front of the house where you know for a fact that your father and IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER live.
  • Ostensibly this guy, since he drove to said house, knows said people and, as he is of your age (and thusly the age of your IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER), it stands to reason that he’s one of her peers. And thinks that you’re her.

Let’s stop and think about these points, shall we? I’ll wait.

Well, Ruby doesn’t get there on her own–Blondie calls her Gisselle and she still doesn’t catch on, and tells him her real name; he muses that Ruby is an appropriate name since it’s the color of her hair and she’s so proud of her hair (and still she is confused); she announces that she’s going back to Houma and he finally realizes that something’s up, and finally he whispers that she looks just like Gisselle and Ruby’s all “Ohhhhh, her name is GISSELLE”. Sigh.

Ruby explains (kind of) that she’s Gisselle’s long-lost twin sister, and Blondie introduces himself as Beau (oh come on) Andreas, Gisselle’s boyfriend. Beau insists that Ruby carry out her plan and he takes her into the Dumas’ house, where they meet the butler, Edgar, who the GW feels the need to tell us is a mulatto. Oh, I see. (Ruby can tell this just by looking at him, BTW). Upon finding out that Gisselle still isn’t ready for the party they’re attending, Beau asks Ruby if she’s hungry, and when she says yes, he takes her back to the kitchen to meet Nina, cook and Magical Negro Character #2. When she sees Ruby and Beau tells her that she’s not Gisselle and Nina takes a better look, she immediately clutches some gris-gris pouch around her neck and accuses Ruby of being a zombie.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I’m sorry, where was I? Oh right. Beau laughs a little at Nina’s folksy ethnic beliefs, then tells her that Ruby’s not a zombie, but a real, scared girl and Nina makes Ruby some potion or other to calm her down. Ruby tells Nina about Grandmere Catherine and her abilities and Nina is duly impressed. Just then, they hear footsteps in the hallway and the three look up as Gisselle walks in and she and Ruby meet again. Gisselle thinks it’s some sort of joke at first, and Ruby, again with the melodramatic explanations, introduces herself as Ruby Landry, though “it should be Ruby Dumas”. Oh knock it off and tell a straight story for once. Geez. Nina crosses herself and wanders off to light a black candle and, oh I don’t know, sprinkle mystical powders somewhere or do something else that the GW saw when he was watching Angel Heart on cable one time.

Gisselle is a damn brat. I mean, she’s a brat. Ruby’s trying to explain where she came from, Beau says he’s going to get their parents, and Gisselle’s response is  “I cannot have a twin sister, and Beau, you are not leaving because we have a party to go to and I have a new dress. Oh, I’m sorry, swamp sister, you didn’t know it was Mardi Gras? You are ridiculous. Also, I’m prettier than you, so we’re not twins, and I’d never wear those clothes, even as a costume. You could be a farmer in those clothes.” I love her. She even knocks Ruby’s outfit for being homemade, and when Beau tries once again to go and get their father, she shrieks at him and runs upstairs.

Beau shrugs this off, and goes to get the Dumas parents. Ruby sits alone for a while, afraid to touch any of the fancy furnishings, until she hears voices in the other room and then her father walks in. He has her eyes, and she’s amazed to see him after all the years of imagining him. He’s followed by his wife, Daphne, who is strawberry-blonde and ice queen gorgeous, and who immediately wants to double-check that this whole thing isn’t some sort of Mardi Gras prank that Beau and Gisselle have concocted. Nope, it’s not. Pierre sends Beau to check on Gisselle, and then he and Daphne proceed to hear Ruby’s story. Daphne is appalled, and pretty much hopes that they can give Ruby some money and she’ll just skedaddle. Pierre refuses to send his daughter away, and Daphne tries the old “But you didn’t raise her or anything!” gambit, but that only works when you’re trying to seduce someone, Daphne, come on.

So Pierre makes up a back story for them to tell society: See, when Gisselle was born, Nina was not yet their cook, that position was held by a (siiiiiiigh) mulatto woman named Tituba (Wait. Really. No, seriously, REALLY?), who was always doing crazy voodoo things all over the house, and they let her go shortly after Gisselle was born. What they’re going to tell people, see, is that the whole “We fired our crazy maid” was a cover story for the fact that Tituba kidnapped their other daughter, and people will believe this because babies are kidnapped for voodoo rituals all of the time. No, that’s their story, I swear. Tituba then sold Ruby to the Landrys, and on her deathbed Grandmere Catherine confessed it all and here Ruby is.

Daphne’s dubious since Ruby is so deliciously low and so horribly dirty, but Pierre talks her into it with promises of how impressed all of New Orleans will be with the lady she turns Ruby into. Plus, she’ll be the number one dinner party guest since everyone will want to hear this sordid tale. Daphne doesn’t want Gisselle to know that she’s not really her mother, so Pierre decides that they’ll tell her this nonsense too. Ruby agrees to lie. Daphne goes to prepare Ruby’s room, and Pierre and Ruby talk a little about Gabrielle and Grandmere Catherine and Daphne. There’s some random family history that just underlines the whole BLUE-BLOODED CREOLE thing, and then Pierre takes Ruby up to her new room. On the way, they run into Gisselle and Beau, and Gisselle is none too pleased that Swamp Girl is still there. She shrieks some more and goes into her room with a doorslam. Beau goes to leave and she pops back out and demands to know what’s up with that, since they’re going to the GD Mardi Gras ball. Pierre concedes that he can tell her all the news in the morning, and Gisselle and Beau leave. Pierre leaves Ruby in her new room. She’s appropriately awed by everything, and she goes to bed wondering if it’ll all still be there in the morning.

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Schatzi says:

    “So at least she catches on, because Audrina would still be trying to figure out what kind of magic that needed.”

    Oh, Audrina! That girl really needs to find herself in a Tom Robbins book.

  2. Reine says:

    Sigh..these are Neidermanns, are they? Surprised that anyone uses a word like “mulatto” these days. Or maybe it was correct in the time Ruby lives.

    I remember from Pearl in the mist that ther was a schoolgirl named Abby who was one-fourth african-american, and naughty Gisselle referred her as…well th word in Finnish is “kvarteroni”, don’t remember the original word. But even that was like fifties or something like that..

    1. Megan says:

      Well, this series takes place in the 1960s, and I’m sure that, in parts of this country anyway, words like mulatto and quadroon (which is the word you’re thinking of re: Abby), were still in usage, but my issue isn’t so much with the words themselves as it is with all of the white characters being able to “Name that racial heritage!” at a glance, and with the fact that it keeps coming up for every single non-Caucasian character. Almost every African-American character is described as mixed, and I just get the uncomfortable feeling that Neidermann thought that he was making some kind of statement with that, though darned if I can figure out what that statement would be.

  3. Shannon says:

    Oh, I hate that Neidermann.

    Giselle is kind of fabulous. I’m not sure I’d react much better if my apparently mentally challenged twin sister who I didn’t even know existed just showed up at my house.

    1. Megan says:

      Yeah, Ruby really doesn’t make the best first impression.

  4. Reine says:

    Quadroon, thanks, that was it. And yes, I did get your point :).
    And on it goes, in other books. Just started re-reading All that glitters (see what your blog does, have to dig up ALL my VCAs) .
    Funny how they translate the names in my countri F.ex:

    Ruby = Villiruusu (Wild Rose)
    Pearl in the mist = Käärmeitä ruusutarhassa (Snakes in the Rose Garden)
    All that glitters = Ruusun hohde (Glow of the rose)

    And there isn’t FinnisH translation of Hidden Jewel or Tarnished Gold

  5. Bridget says:

    Great recap! LOVED the Witching Hour reference. Talk about a F$%%d up family

  6. bookslide says:

    Hee! Mayfairs.

    1. Megan says:

      There is SO MUCH New Orleans-related stuff out there, it seems a crime not to put some of it in. Between the True Blood/LA stuff, the Tom Waits title of this post, the Mayfairs, the Zatarains, Angel Heart…it’s a goldmine of cliches. I’m saving Gambit, I haven’t found him a spot yet.

      1. bookslide says:

        Gambittttt

        We’re nerds, girl.

  7. Kylie90210 says:

    You could be a farmer in those clothes

    Love this Clueless quote 😀

    I actually kind of understand where Daphne is coming here… Her husband cheats, she puts it behind her, accepts his child as her own, then BAM, Ruby shows up and threatens to ruin it all.

    1. Megan says:

      I absolutely agree. I mean, no, Daphne and Gisselle aren’t the greatest of people, and Daphne especially does some terrible things, but the beatification of Ruby and Gabrielle just grates at me. I mean, in the prequel, Daphne’s only faults seem to be that she’s a little too into what other people think of her/playing the society game, and while those aren’t fabulous character traits, they’re not CRIMES. She’s clearly devastated that she can’t have children, and then her husband not only cheats on her, but has a baby with the other woman and Daphne’s just supposed to accept it because CLEARLY Pierre and Gabrielle are soulmates or some such nonsense. I know that she’s supposed to be this Ice Queen who tore Pierre and Gabrielle apart, convinced the poor CAJUN girl to give up her baby, and then whipped Pierre into a shell of his former self, but damn if I don’t feel sorry for her anyway.

      1. Kylie90210 says:

        Exactly! I mean, she gets kind of nasty later, and I never understood her later treatment of Giselle when they seem to be okay here, but I always felt a bit bad for her.

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