Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ardis Wood

Savannah Georgia.
Local Nuts, Kooks and The Crazy.
A Tale of Love, Lust, Betrayal & Murder in the Historic District of Savannah, Georgia.

Just kidding. The story is about a bunch of kooks & nuts who live in and around the historic district of Savannah. Mind you, this is nothing but pure D-assed gossip, rumor, speculation and what I can remember to the best of my recollection, what I am about to tell you.

Pay close attention, but don’t get too wound up on the details. Alright?

Okay, so here goes…
My partner and I have a flat in Savannah. It's just shy of 1,400 square feet and we own the entire top floor, 2 story building, overlooking one of Savannah's finest and most-prestigious squares. There are eight to ten live oaks that are several hundred years old, dripping with moss along with Dogwood & Apple in our square. Our flat was built in 1873 and has stunning floor to ceiling windows that overlook the square. We also have original hard-wood floors - heart of pine. We restored the floor to its original finish and dolled up the flat with lovely linen-covered furniture, live phalaenopsis orchids, candles and some wooden antiques here and there. We can hear the horse & buggies clip clop around our building on Charlton Street among the Spanish moss-laden trees.

The kitchen gourmet, marble countertops, stainless steel & french china, I love to cook and my idol is Ina Garten. I adore Martha Stewart.

We have French doors with hundred and thirty eight year old, rippled glass. The doors open up to two marble-floored balconies where we can let in the fresh southern air, laced with the scent of magnolia, fragrant horse-pissed streets & Sunday breakfast from the Firefly Cafe, on the corner.

One of our favorite things to do, is to lie in bed on Sunday mornings, playing on the computer & watching TV while eating scrambled eggs with & freshly baked sourdough, perhaps a bit of fried potato, toast, ripened tomato and grapefruit juice while we watch Giada DeLaurentis or Sandra Lee share their grand kitchens and favorite recipes. Dark roast coffee, only. Black.

From our luxurious king bed & balcony, we have a pristine bird's eye view of the Universal Unitarian Church across the Street. Each Sunday, we wake up to Haley & Zoey who jump on our chest for their morning tickle & scratch and I always say to Tony: Guess what we have to do today? The answer is always: Nothing. It's Sunday.


I say: Oh Shit! Church is starting and we're going to miss it, to which Tony says: Let's say we went & don't go. We never go. We think church groups are silly & ridiculous. A bunch of gossip mongers feigning religion under the eyes of an invisible entity created in the minds of humans.


Instead, we lie in bed laughing at the cacophony of cackles and wails coming from the parishioners of the church, when they're out on the streets, or inside their temple.

Lots of times they look serious, as if engaged in life or death circumstance.

Well, I have to correct myself. One time we did attend the Universal Unitarian Sunday service on Valentine's day, two years ago but only because I was invited by the Reverend Mother, herself. After a rather snippy incident, she wanted us to hear her story on homosexuality as told in that stupid biblical story Sodom & Gomorrah. She embellished on the account, or changed it altogether. Which, I do not know.

Her sermon was titled: Love.

My story goes like this:
The properties we live in are always on the market for sale. We restore old buildings & lovely homes and live in them while they're up for sale. We flit from place to place like a Tsetse fly on a pack of flea-infested camels. One Sunday morning, Tony and I were getting ready for an open house at one o'clock. Our house was in order and ready for show so Tony went to put out our one and only, city-allowed, open house sign. It wasn't much of a sign. In fact, it's still in our closet. It's six inches tall, and twenty-four inches long.
It simply says:

and has a small black arrow, pointing to the left.

So Tony walked over to the corner between the church & the Firefly Café, plopped the sign at the edge of the street on city property, in which they call an easement, in the oriental jasmine at the side of the church.
Because the flow of traffic around the Historic Squares of Savannah, that’s the best place for a sign to keep people from traveling right, off in another direction. He then started sweeping the sidewalk free of the old fallen live oak leaves on a gorgeous, spring day. Even though it was only the beginning of February, it’s the most beautiful time in Savannah in my opinion.

Not five minutes after he planted our OPEN HOUSE sign with the little black arrow that points to the left, church let out. The parishioners are a mish mosh of typical Universalists, who dress in anything from a pair of shorts without shoes or a shirt, to ladies in fancy high heels, skirts, jackets and a flourish of pinned & piped hats purchased from some fancy place like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Ross Dress For Less or Lane Bryant. A few of them are well-known local nuts in Savannah.

In fact, there a few who attend church in shorts. One is a guy who attends church in a pair of shorts, barefoot & shirtless- has often been seen riding around the Bonaventure cemetery on his bicycle, naked. Sometimes he swims the intra-coastal, reed and egret-infested waters at the cemetery's edge.

The gossip is that his name is Ted Bryan-Turner which is suspect, since they are relying on that man's word combined with things people know about his family background. He has told people wildly different stories of his times in Savannah and other places. When his family was alive, they kept him on meds and he would still occasionally spend some time "away," but of course his parents are long gone and he doesn't have any sort of supervision.

Some say and according to the church, his address is out on Bonaventure road somewhere, but nobody seems to know for certain. Maybe he lives in the cemetery among the marble and statue. Some say he is the textbook example of homeless schizophrenic. Those jumps into the river might be his only way of getting a bath, since he always seemed unwilling to head to Inner-City Night Shelter. As rumor has it. That mailing address in the church directory was probably a place he lived at "way back when" & he's been known to have hung around that Church and ride that bike since the seventies or maybe sixties and the editors of the church directory probably didn't really know what else to put down on paper.

He is non-sequitur in dialogue and according to hearsay, sometimes downright nuts. His "joys and concerns" announcements in the congregation made a lot of the old & new people uncomfortable; and that, along with some of the others rattling on about relatively unimportant stuff made the Worship committee change the J&C portion of church services into just lighting candles. No talking.

As if all the other people in the church are quite normal and sane and have brilliant things to share with the flock of sheep. I highly doubt it.

Oh yes, and the UU church claims to be non-denominational, but there’s a whole lotta J&C goin’ on inside those doors & under the cathedral ceilings. The church stained glass windows are a hideous harlequin or jester pattern of diagonal diamonds in leprechaun green, royal purple- pumpkin orange. The exterior walls are a gloomy gray. So bright, gaudy are the windows that there is nothing worse than when you’re on the inside of the church and the sun is shining through making those garish colors jump right out of the stain.

I don’t know what Mills Lane was thinking, when he designed that window. Being gay, he should have known better.

I know. I attended the Valentine’s Day sermon on Love that February. I had a curiosity lacking in church attendence nearly my entire life, to see how it would be viewed as an adult and an atheist. The reverend mother insisted atheists loved the Universal Unitarian Church for its lack of pomp and circumstance.

That turned out to be a total lie.

In any event, I had also heard that the naked swimmer, Mister Bryan-Turner, fell off an ambulance as young doctor, and got a head injury. I was told, that his often odd announcement on things in church went something like "on this day in 1625 such and such happened." or "This is my parents (long deceased) wedding anniversary."
I was told that not only does he swim in the St. Augustine creek, naked, he used to work at Dewart’s Framing taking care of the garden.

Also in the nude.

You can go and check with Belinda there (on Lincoln near 37th by the train tracks) for more information, or go interview him yourself...or...God forbid, stop by the Universal Unitarian church for refreshments on Sunday next, about noon...he's usually there.

His bike is old, fendered, it has a rusty basket attached to the front with a 1964 Georgia license plate bent, crumpled & affixed to the front. Basket is usually filled with odds & ends, bits and pieces of scrap metal, aluminum, plastic and paper trash. He looks as if he hasn't bathed in years. Skin the color of worn leather, aged about 70, silver scruffy hair. Perhaps a beard. He looks like he's homeless. I bet he hasn’t cut his toenails in decades which is an oddity among the bonnets, dainty daisy print, nylon and polyester, stockings and high heels.

Tony and I giggle, roll over on our sides and scream in fits of laughter at the gentlemen & ladies clad in wool, polyester, cotton or a mix thereof on the hot and humid days. Ties, Jackets. Long sleeved shirts, socks and loafers are ungodly to me, in seventy five, eighty, ninety or one hundred plus degree heat. How can those sweat soaked, Jesus lovin’ (mostly), delusional people stand wearing clothes in that sweltering southern sun? Oh, I know the Universalist’s say they're a a group that enjoys the company of atheists, Jews, Buddhists and Jesus lovers all seeking inter-relations on their journey through life, but mostly their sermons, singing, pamphlets, web sites, news articles, pot luck, story telling and gossip I hear, portends Jesus.

Don't argue with me.

I've researched it well. Yes, I am afraid the UU's are just like every other church in the world, tithing for salvation, money goes into the pocket of the leaders of the church. If not, explain to me why the church holds vast amounts of property world-wide. Tony sweeps and turns when he hears clip, clap, clip clonk, clip clap, clip clonk and there before him is a woman crossing the street in a polyester blue blazer, ruffled-collar blouse, brown heels and something atop her head that resembles a twig and mud sparrow's nest.

Determination afoot.

She stomps up to Tony, shoves our OPEN HOUSE sign with the little arrow that points to the left, into his hands, dry washes her hands in the air and says: This hideous sign is ugly. It destroys, devalues, demeans, diminishes the elegance and sophistication of The Historic District of Savannah and I am on a committee to rid this town of this unsightliness!

And she is. She’s trying to fight billboards from popping up all over Savannah. That’s fine, but we’re talking about a small open house sign, on a corner, for an hour or two on weekends.

To which Tony stumbles a smidge and haughtily replies: I know, I know, don't put my fucking sign in the front of the fucking church property.


She turns sharply, a clip clop clump clops back across the street where she disappears beneath the clerestory. Tony decides to stick the sign at the corner of our building there in the oriental jasmine. To bad because the church corner location is better visibility & traffic. Now we’re liable to lose half of the cars to their wanton freedom to sail around the square at leisure and the direction of their choice without the benefit of knowing our gorgeous unit is just perfect for them, had they seen the now missing sign.

Tony yells up to me, Hey Steve, you'll never guess what happened! Some crazy old bitch from the church…

And he turns around to show me where he replaced the sign and guess what?

The sign is gone. Gone as in: GONE. Missing. Not there. Zero. Vanished. Nothing. No sign. Gone.

G O N E.

And then I clip clop across the street in my flip flops & shorts in my finest white t-shirt, march right up to a group of Universalist’s engaged in gossip right there on the corner and say, you religious people are anything but religious. In fact, you're nothing but a bunch of nasty, gossiping, mean and evil people who hate everybody, but think you're holy, righteous and self-important.

A gasp.

They query me but I am already riled up. So I enlighten them. Our sign is on city property. It’s on the corner.
It’s the most-benign sign in the world, this is how I make a living.
The church doesn’t own the easement from the sidewalk to the street. Furthermore, we placed the sign on the very corner so it would not be an a-front to your eyes when y’all leave your stupid
church to go home. Our open house is at 1, your church dissolves between noon and one, y’all will go home to your homes mostly outside of the historic district and won’t have to worry about us at all.

In fact, if anything, y’all are just standing here loitering on city property after church services. You’re on the city sidewalk yourself. And now our sign is conveniently missing and I thought all of you church types don’t believe in STEALING. Isn’t that one of your TEN COMMANDMENTS? Well, who stole our sign?

At this point, they all start apologizing and pointing fingers and they think they know who the mud, twig and sparrow headed, high-heeled woman was that attacked us: Ardis Wood.

They of course, are so sorry, surprised and upset that someone stole our sign. They of course have no idea who could have done it, but they promise to check about and see if they can get an answer and will, of course, get back to us. None of them would ever do such a thing, but Ardis, Ardis is a little touched in the head, determined, thinks she owns the historic district, doesn’t live here, actually, says a very TALL parishioner named Tom. I think his name was Tom. Or was it Tim? John? Whatever.

Two of the church members were obviously ‘sisters’. One was named Mark and I can’t remember the other, because frankly? Who cares. He was tall though. TALL. Tim, Tom, Jim, John. Whatever.

They acted totally innocent as if the sign just in front of them and the scene that ensued, magically disappeared or vanished into the heavens, never to be resurrected again. It’s not my fault that I can’t remember the tall one’s name… as Mark had lopsided teeth so bad that I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.

When he stopped smiling, his smile disappeared but his teeth didn’t.

Oh well, never mind… storms back across the street.

Ten minutes later, Tony decided to walk down the block to see if he could find our sign.
Threw it in the bushes, perhaps. When low and behold, he glances into the church dumpster and lying there on top of church’s garbage and religious stink, glaring back at Tony was:

With a little black arrow that points to the left.

At this point, I’m livid. I stomp back across the street sign in hand, y’all know perfectly well and I was right, y’all are a bunch of liars and self righteous bible thumpers and I give the gossiping gaggle of geese the ‘what for’, something, something, something… y’all are nothing but a bunch of phony bitches and nasty liars. And I tell them how religious people really frost my ass as they try to assure me that they aren’t like most religious people… they’re better.

Then I wrote a scathing letter to the minister of the church: Just what are you teaching your congregation?, clicked ‘send’ where it vanished into cyber space. That afternoon in my inbox was a reply.

Dear Mister Steven Hough,
Blah blah blah, I’d like to take you to lunch at 1 o’clock on Monday. This is an unfortunate incident and not representative of our congregation. Please let me know if this is acceptable to you, I’d like to take you to the Firefly and we can chat then.

Yours Sincerely,
Reverend Joan Schneider

Universal Unitarian Church Of Savannah
On the corner of Harris & Habersham Streets
Savannah, Georgia 31401

What the heck.
Let’s let her take us to lunch.
It might be fun, we’ll meet someone new and hopefully hear some juicy gossip about the other nuts in the church from the Reverend Mother herself.

No sooner than we had decided that, we went out to close up our open house and there among the Spanish moss is Reverend Joan Schneider closing up shop in the late afternoon warmth of early February, turns and starts across the square. Tony called out to her and introduced himself and then upon getting a closer look, said to Reverend Joan P. Schneider: You look
like Dr. Ruth Westheimer!

Only she had a cigarette dangling out of her mouth and large bug-eyed glasses.

Blind as a bat. 86 or 87 years old, hacking and wheezing from lung tar and puss. Body trying to break up the mucous and poison.

She was about to jump into her car, license plate: UUREV. We agree to go to lunch which turned out to be a nice time. We laughed & shared stories and Joan begged us to come and listen to her Valentine, Sunday Service message about LOVE. She promised to address Ardis. Bing, bang, boom… we’re best friends.

Joan loves the Bible and we love Joan. But we don’t love the bible. Okay? In fact, we hate it.

A few mornings later, I am in my usual morning attire: Shit stained underpants & stained t-shirt, (cocktails & hors d'oeuvres the night before & morning coffee) barefoot and fancy free. My hair looks like it’s been cut & fluffed by our lawn mower and I have on my I’m blind as a bat glasses, no contact lenses (yet)… with my second pair of reader glasses askew on the bridge of my nose while writing to all of my adoring fans on Facebook.


What the hell? I jump out of bed, run my tongue across my un-brushed teeth full of scum from cocktails & hors d’oeuvres the night before. I throw on my bathrobe, skip downstairs and glance out of the front door window, open the door a tiny bit. There is a lady standing there in what feels like freezing air, in formal attire: red pillbox wool hat piped in black, a Little Red Riding Hood red cape, a skirt, black nylons and red spiked high heels as I slowly answer the door, her hand clutches her purse so tight that I can actually see her knuckles turn white.

Well! A bright and lovely good morning to you, I hate t’ bother y’all but I am Ardis, the lady that threw the sign at Tony? His name is Tony, right? Well, I wanted to tell y’all about how sorry ah ay-am and how em-bar-rassed ah-ay-am and I wanted to invite ya both t’ lunch next week so we can chit chat and well, you just hafta or I’ll dah! And she says, ‘DIE’ in a long, southern drawl, honey dripping off the tongue like thick butter and drawn out like:


I’m sure there was an e or an i in there somewhere, but I don’t think I quite heard one.

And y’all just hafta know how sorry I ay-am, Ah truly ay-am, I sa-way-ah and well, whaddaya say? Will you fellows join me for lunch? Ma treat? I wanna make it up to y’all.

And I am standing there clutching my bathrobe which has no tie, in my shit stained underpants with the t-shirt riding up over my fat belly, two pairs of eye-glasses askew on the bridge of my nose like a Pins Nez, uncombed hair and breath that most likely smells like something that: D‘-aaaaaaaaaaaah’d.

Well, um… uh, yes, I think yeah. Okay, we’ll meet you for lunch. When and where? *I can feel my face flush with embarrassment at the way I look. And I actually say: Would you like to come in? Praying to Jesus that she doesn’t because my bed & body are a personal mess and she says no, I really cain’t as ah’ gotta run ta anoth-uh meetin’ and that’s just reeeeal sweet of you, but I’ll see you at lunch and I promise y’all we’re gonna be the closest and best of friends. Ya’hee-ah?

Was there an ‘R’ in there somewhere? If there was, I didn’t hear it.
And so we meet for lunch, blah blah blah… kiss kiss kiss. Lunch was fabulous and cost a fortune… wine, dinner, dessert and anything else on the menu y’all want, ma treat.

As it turns out, Ardis is an absolute Southern charm, when and if she wants to be. Oh, she’s a snippy bitch alright. She has a superiority complex like many “Southern” women do. Maybe the word is: snippy,
and a bit yappy.

Southern from New York. And if I am not mistaken, Ardis is an old Southern name from the period of the Civil War. Made up? Contrived? Perhaps, but most likely. Although her mother just passed, a southern belle no doubt.

She was dressed in a way that appeared rather elegant, although I had seen her in the same outfit the day before. Smelled of musky arm pit & perfume with a slight stain across the front of her right tit. I wouldn’t quite describe her as having a superiority complex as much as I would say she is rather, uppity.

She’s trim, angular in appearance and well-kept. Face taught, little bit of makeup, bird-like beak for a nose. She pushes her hair up with both hands, “Is ma hay-ah alright? How do I look?”

I don’t know. Sixty Seven?

You look lovely, Ardis. Thank you for inviting us to lunch. And she quips ma-pleas-shuh, now y’all are simply gonna love this rest-ah-rant the food is superb. Y’all are just gonna daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

And we go inside and order. Ardis eats like she hasn’t had a meal in three weeks, yet she is slender and trim. At lunch she had a bowl of soup: exotic mushrooms in a French cream sauce. Assorted rustic breads, a steak sandwich, baked potato, salad, two glasses of wine and dessert with coffee. Plus she ate a few bites of Tony’s dessert. Not that I was paying attention or anything.

At lunch we find out she has a son, forty something or other, atheist. Ardis says she’s agnostic herself and the goal of the church is to help people on their spiritual journey through life.

Spiritual? What the heck does that mean? More gobble-de-goop nonsense that religious and or delusional people make up, I‘m certain.

But what do I know? I’m into reality. What happens day by day, happens day by day. A few of my sources who love to gossip about that church say that they worked on the Property Committee with Ardis, and while they gave her props for taking on a committee she really didn't know a lot about nuts and bolts stuff like a/c, construction estimates, etc. They said she had this unspoken but obvious wish to "make her mark" on the Church via aesthetic stuff. She wanted to have the Church look a certain way and had no problem asking the parishioners to pay for that look, if you catch my drift. She kept going online and finding grandiose features in other Churches that she wanted to add, like changing out those harlequin-pattern windows and making the balcony area fully accessible. It's easy to spend other people's money, I guess, but as you can guess most of the committee members had to talk her down from her caviar dreams on their hamburger budget.

And the odds and ends and drivel I heard from the church members would tell me that they thought most of the church leaders & organizers
are genuinely trying to do the right thing, and in many cases their hearts are in the right places. It's just that some of them have led lives where they were "in charge".

Perhaps they had careers in big business operations, or they worked in careers where the loudest voice got the most reward,. I was told that The Reverend Mother, Joan, struck a very careful, but still forceful, and sometimes manipulative balance between getting people to compromise, but making them think they were getting their way. I was told of the year one particular person was on the Church Board and said it was stormy to say the least, mostly because many of the people accustomed to being "in charge" and getting their way were all on the board at the same time. There were certain people who resented Rev. Joan because she kept trying to get the congregation to become more "professional". That is, programming, hiring, staffing and committees that fit a Church of a small size, rather than continuing to behave like the small Church they had been for years. The demanding ones seemed really good at saying what should be done, but didn't want to follow through (in other words, they didn't want to do the grunt work, or they tried to push the harder stuff off on others, as a boss would do in a company).

One of my sources who left the church told me that, what would often grate on his nerves the most (and what ultimately made him leave the church) was the hypocritical way many of them would behave toward others "outside their circle". Churches like that present themselves as this "accepting, liberal-minded and tolerant place“. He told me he was all for that, of course. The trouble is that they often lapsed into the same sort of subtle shunning and open mocking of groups with whom they didn't agree, or anyone who wasn't as PC as they proclaimed themselves to be.

It was a weird variation on how many perceive hard-core Christian fundamentalists to behave. And he said, maybe I'm making more of it than I should have, but I noticed members practically shunned this one particular family who came to the Church for a while because the father was in the Army. He sometimes came to services in his fatigues, and he could see people giving him dirty looks. The army family quit coming and he said that he was hardly surprised. Conversely, many members would fall all over themselves to welcome African-American visitors because the UU Church is one of the least "black" denominations. It hurts their "PC street creed" to be part of a very "white" Church, so every time black folks drop by, they are treated like royalty and it's hilarious to watch. So it seems that if you fall into the right oppressed minority group, they're all over you.

There were also personal conflicts between individual members just like there would be in any large number of people. Most people were really sorry to see Rev. Joan go because she's a great speaker/minister, but some of us knew she was also a good behind-the-scenes diplomat/mediator between these disputing parties. I knew very well that once she took off for Ohio, a lot of the people who "behaved" out of respect for her had no reason to behave any more. Her replacement, Jeanne, seemed to like the strife and did a lot to throw gas on the fires, probably because she didn't really like being in Savannah and wasn't a very pleasant person in general.


And so I asked, what would make a church that claims to love and welcome everybody, snub a military man? And my friend said: The UU Church has a large contingent of purportedly anti-war or pacifists and the types who want to know why “we can't all just get along' types“. Their "social justice and action" committee is led by a woman who organized a (small) protest once a month downtown at Johnson Square called "Stand for Peace," and while a lot of people in the Church are able to differentiate between supporting the men and women of the military and not supporting the war(s), there were and probably still are, a lot of members who don't see the difference. They were the ones my friend witnessed showing open disdain for the military guy, his wife
and his kids.

My source said, “I didn't see it personally but I heard that one member even got offended enough to ask the guy how he could possibly work for such an evil enterprise“. I hope he said "because I look really hot in camo fatigues and the short haircut."

And he goes on, “I say "purportedly" mostly because the minute Obama came into office, the "anti-war protests" slowed down considerably. My Hypocrisy Antennae went up even more when Obama continued Bush's policies in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan and there was still virtual silence from the "anti-war" Social Justice Committee. Heck, when we went into Libya they probably had to be placed on suicide watch. Like I said earlier, I can't stand to see people be hypocrites, so it's for the best that I left.”

And that’s what I have been saying about church & religious people for a long time. Heck, my mother even told this to me when I was eight: Churches & the members are generally hypocrites.

As I said, gossip & rumor.

And, Ardis is a task person. I saw her clipping the ugly, old, dead church garden one day in a jacket & skirt wearing gloves, sneakers and a large brimmed hat with a pink ribbon on it. When she finished, the garden looked as ugly as it had before.

And, giant pruning shears.
She was a power pruner. I imagined one mis-step and she might prune my peen to the base had I passed her on the corner of the garden. Better be on the watch & careful.

One of the church goers is an overweight Queen who works in the flower department of an elegant and upscale grocery store on the outside of the district, ‘bout twelve miles south on Abercorn. Fresh Market. He reminds me of Ignatious Riley from the book, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

John was Born: December 17, 1937 – Died: March 26, 1969)

A brilliant novel it won the Pulitzer,
posthumously. Poor John blew his brains out in car. I think he left the engine running and had a hose hooked up to the exhaust, piped it in threw the rear window, climbed in the back seat with a brief case & gun, dressed in a suit, and blew his brains out.

I think it’s the Southern heat, makes folks crazy down south. John was from New Orleans, and wrote about the French Quarter. The people there as loony as the people in Savannah.

Biloxi, Mississippi, he blew his brains out there. His novels were rejected during his lifetime. I read that after suffering from paranoia and depression due in part to the failures of trying to get his book published, he committed suicide at the age of 31. You can read all about him. But do so after you read, A Confederacy. Then read, Ignatious Rising. Fascinating story.

From Wikipedia: Dunces is a picaresque novel featuring the misadventures of protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly, a lazy, obese, misanthropic, self-styled scholar who lives at home with his mother. It is hailed for its accurate depictions of New Orleans dialects. Toole based Reilly in part on his college professor friend Bob Byrne. Byrne's slovenly, eccentric behavior was anything but professorial, and Reilly mirrored him in these respects. The character was also based on Toole himself, and several personal experiences served as inspiration for passages in the novel. While at Tulane, Toole filled in for a friend at a job as a hot tamale cart vendor, and worked at a family owned and operated clothing factory. Both of these experiences were later adapted into his fiction.

…Which brings me back to this over-weight Queen from Fresh Market, goes by the name of Jimmy. The funniest thing about John Kennedy Toole’s mother, was that she taught elocution lessons during the Great Depression. As if the people who were struggling to survive and feed their impoverished families, also needed to pay to learn the art of speaking clearly and well, with correct enunciation.

“The Ray-in In Spay-in, Falls Mainly on the Play-in”.

Jimmy’s elocution is excellent. Heavy on the southern drawl.
Dress a bit fappy. Looks okay in a long coat, kind of silly in a green apron. He’s about as Southern as you can get, his dialect southern homosexual.
I get a lot of gossip from him.

He is a sweetheart and a blabbermouth.

He describes Ardis as more of a social climber in this tiny Unitarian Church and considers herself a leader in organizing church functions and what not. Jimmy is in on one of the social groups of the church, and Ardis the other. I think they call them cliques. The popular kids on one side of the church, and the rebels on the other. Really dislike each other but portend gracious fakery when face to face.

Except the last time I checked, Ardis’s name was nowhere to be found on the church website. Snubbed?
Well, when it comes to cliques & fake people, one day you’re in, the next day you’re out in these gossip & backstabbing clubs.

Church Website states the results of the past election, week ago, perhaps.
Emeline Piggot
President Judy Dingleberry
President-Elect Suzanna Glitter tits
Treasurer Courtney Suzanna Lipschitz
Secretary Pamela Plumtree
Kristen Pasta Eater (second year)
Louise Frenchfry

Ministerial Search Committee
William R. Dingleberry
Marjorie Ball Licker
Patrick Dunglicki
Donald J. Silverman
Martha Sue Weaver Davitt
Lizzy Lester, Alt

Nominating Committee
Chair, Kathleen Fluffy Bunny
Ritchie Carbunkle
Virginia Gibbler

Patsy Sue Floppenknockers, Director of Music That Has Inspired Her

Robert Pickle Poker, Director of Religious Education (translatrion: made up mumbo jumbo)
Dickie Longerboner, Church Administrator
Marcy Magpie, Church President
Judith Pickle


It seems that Ardis relocated to Savannah from New York something, something fourteen or fifteen odd years ago. Fell in love with a big fat man named Ray in Savannah, married him and lives in a smallish ranch home with her husband, in Ardsley Park. She used to have a tour-guide business whereupon she gave southern walking tours of the historic district dressed in period clothing from the Seventeenth or Eighteenth centuries. Parasol in hand. I read a letter she wrote to the editor of the Savannah Morning News where she writes that she likes to bike in Victorian dress.

I’d love to see that.
Bicycling in a floor length dress?
Wouldn’t the ruffles get caught in the spokes?

I used to shake my head from my air conditioned flat as I often saw Ardis in Troupe Square, summer last,
clad from head to toe in musty smelling old garb, giving tours to eight, ten or twelve interested people. And I will tell you what, the temperature outside in the summer is way over one hundred, even in the shade and wisps of Spanish moss. Pray that you’re in one of the squares that has a fountain and if you’re very lucky, a rare breeze. But not likely. It’s not so much the Southern heat that is bothersome, as it is the humidity. Suffocating, it draws the energy right from your soul, drenches the exterior and wilts the interior within minutes. When you walk outside in July, perhaps, it’s like walking into an inferno blast of heat. Sweat starts dripping from every pore in minutes.

Damn chiggers will eat you alive, get all up on your stomach and in your underpants. Itch like hell for weeks, too. Scratch the bites bloody, they swell & itch some more. Agonizing.

In turn, Tony and I took Ardis & The Reverend Mother,
Joan P. Schneider to lunch, together, as it’s only tasteful and the southern thing to do. We took them down to Broughton Street on the corner of Bull and Broughton and had lunch at Saigon. It’s an excellent restaurant if you like Thai and Vietnamese Cuisine. The chef is from Thailand and the food is remarkable. Best Thai or Vietnamese you’ll get in Savannah, leastwise. It’s in the district, north side near Bay & River Streets which run near and along the river. Savannah is a great walking city.

Either Ardis or Joan picks at the spice, I can't remember which. Some folks will refuse Thai based on spice, alone.

There are twenty three parks or squares, as they are known, in the historic district of Savannah. Laid out one on every other block or so it seems. A few cemeteries within, the lovely Forsyth Gardens & Park on the south, the fountain there is stunning and a lovely respite on any day when walking the small historic district. The park and much of Savannah is a garden of exotic and fragrant trees from magnolia to red bud, dogwood, live oak, and specimens from all over the world. Old homes, high porches and entry ways, a bicycle here and there. Perhaps a lovely flower box.

Next, Ardis invited us to her home to meet the TALL guy whose name I cannot remember for the life of me, Tim or Tom? Jim? John? Whatever.

and his cute lover with lopsided teeth, Mark. A get aquainted cock-tail party with token homosexuals, a fag hag & Ray. Well, what the heck, we’re relatively new to the east side of the historic district and we might as well meet our semi-neighbors, church neighbors if only. So what if they’re religious kooks & nuts.

So? I am gracious and charming with people that way. A magnet of kindness to be admired. I might even sit a throne. Sometimes when I am in my bathrobe and shit stained underpants, I feel I should have a septre and maybe even a crown… or a diamond tiara.
Sometimes I feel just like Eva Gabor from Green Acres when she stands on that New York balcony, Yorkshire terrier in hand, maribu penoir blowing in the smoggy city breeze. Penthouse living. That’s the life for me. I get allergic smelling country air. New York is where I’d rather be.

So get this.
We arrive at her home on time, her big fat husband answers the door and in we go toting a bottle of Clos DuBois Chardonnay, Jeckle, or Estancia. I cannot remember, perhaps we brought two bottles, and we’re greeted by Ardis in the kitchen who is drinking something with pineapple,
I think.
Or, was it oranges?
And then she seats us at her formal dining room table where she has prepared an awkward spread:

A chaffing dish lined with:
Cold, miniature Vienna Sausages (pronounced vie-een-ahs in the South) They look like lethargic baby hotdogs suffering from anemia
Cold miniature Gherkin pickles,
Cheetohs or cheese curls
And a
Ketchup dipping sauce.
Charmed, I am sure. I pick up a dead vi-een-ah and slosh it through the sweet sauce or was it ketchup? A lovely accompaniment with a dry and oaky chardonnay.
No thank you, I’m stuffed on these here duh-licious vi-eeen-ahs and couldn’t possibly eat another bite.

I’m not certain but I think she forgot the graham-cracker hors d’oeuvres and the Kool-aid cocktails.
*sips wine, reluctantly sucks on a Vienna and I think to myself: relax. Who cares.

And then we move outdoors to her patio whereupon the other two queens finally show up late…the TALL one and the one with lopsided teeth. Jim? John? Tom? I still can’t remember even though I am sure he told me four or six times. Kiss, kiss, hug, hug… dainty greetings & good cheer. And then we all choose a seat to sit down where three of us grown & tall men, promptly fall through the rotted fabric of the patio furniture with a


Onto the wooden deck.

And there we were, three grown men in the shape of the letter Z if it were turned on its side, asses through the giant holes we had just created as we imploded into the patio chairs, asses on the wooden deck with our knees wrapped around the aluminum frame of the chair and our legs sticking up and out in the air as if we were on a gynecological table waiting to spread our legs for an examination of our pussies.

No stirrups.

And of course Ardis, is flabbergasted, shocked and horrified. No problem, we re-adjust and re-seat ourselves.

Here now, these seats are a little more sturdy. You can see panic in her eyes, face flush. After the cocktail party I saw the two queens on the street a few times. The TALL one and the one with lopsided teeth and a cute face. Each time I see them, I get the distinct feeling I am being snubbed. I have no idea why. The cocktail party was lovely. Conversation was lively and everyone left with big thank yous and hugs. But I know a snub when I am snubbed, and snubbed I was. Who cares. Lot’s of people in the world. Never hear from them again.

A year or two later, I invited Ardis to my Valentine cocktail party on a Saturday before the Fourteenth in Savannah. Stunning party with champagne, my doctor flew in from Laguna Beach for the party, gin, wine, vodka, tequilla, sparkling waters, juices, liver pate, spinach dip with rustic breads, valentine’s chocolates & cakes we had about fifty people. It was a great evening and after the main crowd left, we settled into the living room where a more intimate cocktail party commenced, this time close to mid-night with a gift from one of the intimates: the strongest and smoothest marijuana I have ever smoked in my life. In fact, it was so good, I hounded the guy for nearly a month to get a personal stash for myself, to no avail. Some potheads are so selfish and really,
who cares if I am so needy and wanting?

As it gets hotter in Savannah, and more humid, the horse piss in the streets becomes perfume. Cruelty to horses, really. Pulling those enormous carriages through the streets with a bunch of screaming kids and ugly tourists on parade. Those people might look a bit better if they walked and got a healthy glow. Poor horses. Sometimes I yell out from my balcony: CRUELTY TO HORSES! Though nobody pays me any attention and one of the Horse & Buggy tour owner/operators assures me her horses are well fed, watered and never walked on hot days. I reply: I’ve seen your horses about on 100 degree days in full sun. She says, oh? Is that hot? I figure if it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t bother them.

To which I reply: You’re not pulling twelve hundred or two thousand pounds worth of bloated tourists and a carriage with boiled peanuts & lollipops. The water for your horses is filled with slobber, oats and an assortment of leaves. Looks like it hasn’t been changed in a month. Would you drink that? Never mind, it’s too hot, poor horses. My heart aches for them. Probably been pulling carriages around Savannah since Oglethorpe created it.

We ended up going to the Valentine’s Sunday Sermon in shorts, t-shirts with pullover sweaters, socks & flip flops because, if the barefoot and half naked guy can do it, so can we. I tell this to Joan and she laughs and says: Come. I think the sermon was actually on February the Fourteenth, a Sunday a year or two past.

Joan’s sermon and the entire service that Valentine’s Sunday was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. Seated near Ardis and her big fat husband Ray, the congregation fills in the pews, sits in fits & gaggles. Carry on like a bunch of magpies… yip yip yip yip…yap yap yap… blah blah blah blah. And then the service starts and they all stand and sing this ridiculously stupid UU song that they’ve sung for a hundred billion years. Their own website touts an impressive musical choir of almost 20 people. Honestly? I sat and listened to them sing and they can’t sing, they're weak and flat, the piano is out of tune and there are no accoustics in the church. Maybe they’re all tone deaf. The web site boasts a choir and musical group that sounds more like a sales pitch than reality:

“There are few churches of our growing-but-still-diminutive size that have a music program as consistently good, not to mention varied.

The number of people in the choir is growing into the 20s -- it is an enthusiastic and highly bonded group that serves the church not only with musical gifts but also as a wonderful example of people enjoying each other and getting along beautifully together.”

Highly bonded & beautiful? Getting along beautifully? What about all the rumor, gossip, cliques and in-fighting? And they’re not good. I sing better off key than they do. What a load of crap.

And their brochure goes on to say: “We have soloists and instrumental musicians who give their all for us, and really enjoy it. The choir is meeting new challenges as our director gives us music that is more complicated and fun -- with great results. Members are growing and it shows.

Our music director is a treasure -- a person of beauty and remarkable talent.”

Of course, that’s what they say in print and to her face. Behind her back I’ll guess: “she’s a bird nosed freak with bulging eyes and a voice that squawks like a canker sore and plays the piano like my drunken uncle Willy”. Way too skinny, that one there.

Then I read that:

“Her musicality informs every aspect of her life.”

And I wondered what the heck that actually means in English, or French or Swahili for that matter. And they go on to inform that this brilliant musical director who directs almost

T w e n t y

people should probably have her own building named after her, perhaps they can re-name City Hall. Okay. That’s an exaggeration. I tend to do that a bit. But they do go on to say she created a:

“Musical revue that included amazing talent drawn from Kelly's wide range of musical friends and associates. It was a thriller evening -- with a gifted group of instrumentalists accompanying (and starring with) singers of all ages in everything from blues to folk, from Broadway to classical, from rock to pop.
"Savannah Sings the Season" -- was a remarkable and highly original coming-together.
Our Christmas Eve service is a unique blending of the traditional Christmas story with beloved holiday music and UU's ability to create a welcoming space for those of any faith *Christians, who want to celebrate the renewal and hope of the Christmas message.

And so, their Christmas message is traditionally Christian and although they say they are not Christian, the people I talk to say there’s a whole lotta Jesus lovin’ going on inside that church. Must help the tithing process or something.
Perhaps the stained glass has burned membrane inside their head? I have no idea. Rumor & gossip folks. Except, when you look at their very own website, they say this year:

“Our religious education classes are based on four pillars: Unitarian Universalism, World Religions, Judeo-Christian Heritage, and Social Justice and Peacemaking. Each year, we study a different pillar. The pillar that we are studying for the 2010-2011 church year is our Judeo-Christian Heritage.”

And there you have it.


I heard they had a whole lot of that same kind of study many many years in a row, now. And that’s the rumor & gossip I hear, until you actually bring that up to one of the members and they hem and haw and glance anywhere but at you when they talk to you as they go on their merry adventure of make believe, prayer and the study of miracles.

None of which are actually a proven science. Fact is, praying is about the same as flipping a coin: 50/50, heads or tails. Things either happen or they don’t happen folks. It’s called reality. Prayer studies have shown to have zero effect on anything, or anyone.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, they sing a few more… and then they march the kids down the aisle in what might have been choir robes, although I could never tell because they put the kids behind the old, dilapidated out of tune baby grand piano at the front of the church. You couldn’t see them little maggots come hell or high water for the adults standing up and blocking my view. Of course, the congregation and the children’s choir is either flat, out of pitch or tone deaf. The kids sang as bad as the adults, or maybe it was the other way around. You really couldn’t tell.

Then they passed the collection thingy. Black velvet sacks hanging from wire hoops. I eye the bags as they go row by row, watching carefully… I see very little going in them, and more passing them by. And I think to myself: Buncha hypocritical cheapskates. And the bag goes by me and I can’t pass it fast enough. Get that thing away from me. Begging money for God? Crazy is as crazy does.

And then the Reverend Joan P. Schneider comes walking down the aisle in what appears to be a sleeping bag, a paper bag or Sheppard’s robes with a stupid piece of rope tied across the front. Face covered, she reads softly as she walks down the aisle and up to the pulpit where she continues on in a drone that was, honestly? So boring I thought I might have more fun plucking my teeth out of my mouth with pliers than listen to her ramble on about some stupid expounded upon and contrived story. In low & monotonous pitch. I swear, I had no idea what she was talking about. It kinda sounded like: blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah.

After she finished, I looked at Tony and whispered:

And I look at Ardis who is sitting next to me and I said:


And we’re skidaddling and sneaking quietly out of the front door trying our hardest not to be noticed and guess who is standing there nearly blocking our exit? Reverend Joan P. Schneider, post sermon.

She asks why we’re leaving and we hastily make an excuse, all the while running for our flat across the street laughing and cackling and trying not to fall down in fits and giggles. Perhaps we are even shaking our heads a bit, we duck into our condo and roll into the living room and throw ourselves onto the chairs, bug-eyed, panting and gasping for breath. Whew. That was a close one.

Are those people fucked, or what? I told you it was going to be like that!

I have told that story repeatedly, and now I have told you. And that is the absolute truth, the way it happened, to the best of my recollection. Give and take, gossip & rumor.

I swear on the bible, it’s true.

-Steve Hough

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