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Substack: My year in Review
2022 was the launch! 2023? We shall see!
2022 saw me moving my writing platform from Medium to Substack. It also saw me embracing a whole new social media platform (Mastodon) but that’s another story! My first article here (on substack) was published on February 25. I published it to a newsletter called “Heavy Crown Roots.” I only have two articles over there. The second one was published on April 9.
I intended to write regularly about my ancestral digging, but I don’t know…. I got sidetracked. By April 30, I made this newsletter (Heavy Crown Press) as a way to promote projects that I’m invested in. So my first article for this newsletter was ….
My friend Ellie wrote that book. I published a “Heavy Crown Edition” that, sadly, has been a flop. It hasn’t had any sales. Ellie and I went to high school together (Burbank High) and now she’s an LPCC on track to be a psychologist. She loves to tell the story of how we met in Mr. Sarquiz’s World History. She wrote this incredible book that I really believe in. If it takes time for people to catch on, it is what it is.
My second article for this newsletter was “Brando at Byronz,” published on June 27. This was almost a week after I first published it at Medium. I was still in transition from Medium to Substack. I had published “Brando at Byronz” on Medium exactly seven days before publishing it here, and exactly the day after seeing Champ Clark’s one-man-show starring John Mese.
Mese is a Baton Rouge native who went to LSU. He knows my mom from back in the late eighties/early nineties when they both (albeit on a different timeline) studied acting under the “great” John Dennis. I grew up hearing all about John Dennis and what a legend he was, and it’s funny because I only have one memory of actually meeting the man face to face. I think I must have been eleven years old and I was sitting right next to him. My great-aunt Johnette was seated on the other side of me. We were in the front row of a nondescript theatre, waiting for the place to fill up and the show to begin. I remember the show very well.
Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?
Based on a book by the same title by John R. Powers, it was a Broadway musical in 1982. All I remember about the LSU theatre production, which must have been about 1988, was how much I loved it, and that my mom played one of the nuns. Anyway, I sat between John Dennis and Johnette for what I’m guessing was opening night. But I’m pretty sure I went to see it more than once. I became mildly obsessed with the show and I remember the kids at my (ironically Catholic) school and even some of my own relatives chuckling about the title. (I saw another production of it several times too, not more than a year later, because my mom operated one of the spotlights for its run at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, FL, and I absolutely relished being allowed to climb up to her spot booth. Of course I had to be quiet, and I was, because I was mesmerized by the show. For one year we lived in Jupiter where my mom was an apprentice at the Burt Reynolds school.)
When I think about it, that experience, obsessing over Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, whether sitting between John Dennis and Johnette or in the spot booth, was precursory. Other shows, like Pygmalion, in which my mom played Eliza Dolittle, or Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love, on the main stage at LSU’s Music & Dramatic Arts building, were more triumphed. (Honestly, the only friend of mine who also saw “Patent Leather Shoes” was my neighbor whose parents happened to be professors in the art department; conversely, I went to school to face comments, all positive, about my mom in Pygmalion for months.) It was the same sort of thing at the performance of Wild Son at the “mid-city” Bistro Byronz: a packed house, for sure, absolutely packed to the capacity with niche thespian devotees. Mama and I went together to see Mese in the role of Christian Brando, infamous son of Marlon Brando and categorically not the baby daddy of Bonny Lee Bakley’s child. I was blown away by the story…. I never knew what a crappy dad Marlon Brando was, or that his son Christian never really knew lasting peace until working as a welder in Washington state.
My first articles in July—about Marcus Aurelius, about the indy film King of Herrings (2013), about my elderly cousin Canoo—reflected my shifting focus. I had some time off my day job to spend a few days at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. While there, I reviewed Bugtussle, a short film starring Derek Sitter and John Mese and currently gaining accolades on the film festival circuit. Yep, John Mese was busy in 2022. Actors act, and that’s exactly what John Mese kept doing after he graduated from LSU with a Master of Fine Arts degree. Just have a look at his Wikipedia page, which I wrote—not to brag, just sayin’. His TV credits mostly consist of appearances on various legal and crime dramas and in 2020 he had the lead role in a horror made-for-TV movie called Noise in the Middle.
I wrote nine articles in July. At the end of the month, I wrote a review of Little Women: The Musical, put on by the Play On Theatre Company in Alexandria. Cousin Leigh grayed her hair and covered herself in shawls to play Aunt March.
After that, I did a deep dive into some lesser known credits achieved by Paul Newman. All that was spurred on by the documentary, directed by Ethan Hawke, that made waves this year. You may have heard of it. (My mom loved it, and honestly, I enjoyed the way she talked about it more than I enjoyed the documentary itself, which I thought kind of a snorefest.) After the trilogy of articles about Paul Newman, I made myself get caught up on Stranger Things, because Season 4 came out this year, and I had not even seen the first three. But my heart is more in articles like “Make it Do” and “Echoes from Hell,” which I brought over from Medium. “Make it Do” is about my magical day with Cousin Canoo, when I adopted the motto “Make it do” as a way of basically seizing the day, Carpe Diem style. “Echoes from Hell” is about women whose struggles and very existence might have been entirely obscured but for their names on the 1950 census that got released to the public back in April.
In addition to my day job as a bureaucrat, and besides writing for this blog, I’m a staff writer for my neighborhood Stroll magazine. One of my assignments in August was to write about the Baton Rouge Gallery, a non-profit “center for contemporary art” in City Park. I visited the gallery while the works of Matt Kenyon still dominated the its exhibit spaces. But the article for the magazine couldn’t be about just one artist; it had to be more of a promotional piece for the gallery’s ongoing events. So for this space, I went more in depth about Kenyon’s work specifically. It was my first taste of “new media” art and it definitely enhanced my appreciation for socially conscious visual expressions.
I love helping artists. Writers write and I’m a writer, and I like to think that I’m using my superpower to help other artists get their work seen and heard and felt. I believe in Ellie Trotta’s novel of magical realism. I believe in filmmaker Derek Sitter’s high impact shorts—little films with big ideas. I believe in Wild Son! You know, it’s not just that I think John Mese is a cool guy and a great actor. It’s that the play itself gives a voice to someone who never really got to articulate his story in his lifetime. You might think Christian Brando was just a rich kid, a silver spooner, with too much money and too much time to waste, but you would be at least somewhat wrong. He might have been what we call “Hollywood royalty” but he definitely was not spoiled. He grew up getting the shit kicked out of him and then he went to prison for shooting the dude his sister said was abusing her. I never knew any of it until I saw Mese channel Brando at Bistro Byronz. In August, Mese took the act to Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe. That was the international debut. I suspect Wild Son got a little lost in the buzz, yet the play went on. The goal was to put butts in the seats and have the show be seen, and that was done.
The Internet has given us so much, so many ways to express ourselves. We’re all trying to express ourselves. We love it, but we also get angry and jealous, opinionated and competitive, lonely and discouraged. I have to remind myself that the Internet is not my personal stage. While it might feel like the spotlight is or should be on me for a certain time, it’s not the only spotlight. There is a lot of information buzzing around. People catch the beams they catch. Sometimes in my own family I feel, perhaps, like Wild Son trying to make a splash across The Pond. My mother’s siblings and my first cousins are all preoccupied with sports. For one aunt, it’s all about tennis and yoga—and wine, well, we have that in common, although she likes red and I prefer white. My basketball-loving uncle is married to Madame Volleyball; their elder daughter is a volleyball coach, like her mom, and the younger daughter is apparently on a similar course. The younger professes to want to be a chef, but she’s 17 and she’s doing varsity volleyball for now, so…. Sports, food, sports, food? Obsessions like those are just alien to me. My obsessions are the things that line the walls of three sides of the room I call my home away from home—the library, haven of my day job. Volleyball? Please. In middle school, my attempts at volleyball earned me nothing but mockery. I was the four-eyed girl who couldn’t even get the ball over the net, who spent her break times in the school library and ran to the public library every chance she got. So it was in 2022—I hit the books hard in September because I was back in school. I’m an online graduate student on track for a Master of Library Science. This last semester, I learned about Special Collections. I wrote about that in my article “About the Crown Jewels.” The Queen died as I was getting my feet wet in that topic, so naturally, while the world grieved the 20th century’s most shining icon, I couldn’t help musing about the collection to which her Imperial State Crown belongs, and comparing it to a delicate medieval manuscript known as the Beatus.
There is nothing like royal drama to consume the public imagination. While Britain had to change its national anthem to “God Save the King,” Denmark decided to shake things up as only the might. The Danish monarch’s decision to slice and dice royal titles happened alongside ongoing questions about whether the teachers in Montecito would have to curtsy before Archie and Lilibet Diana. (Ridiculous, I know; I’m being facetious.)
I’ve covered a lot of ground since starting this blog—short films, ancient manuscripts, unfinished Regency works, existentialism and Stoicism, documentaries, grimoires. Should I keep it going in 2023? Should I change gears, i.e. cover something more or less? Now’s your chance to speak up! Drop me a line or a comment. I appreciate all of you, whether you’re a free or paid subscriber. Paid subscriptions here aren’t cheap, so I understand the reluctance to go that route. Consider buying me a coffee, though. I finally got a Ko-fi page! Check it out: https://ko-fi.com/heavycrownpress. Caffeine is an absolute necessity for this overworked bureaucrat/grad student/ceaseless writer! Happy New Year!