Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pages from my diary of flamboyant untruths, part two:

Don't miss the first installment of this thrill-a-minute saga
of bad pick-up lines, otherworldly evil, nervous breakdowns,
romance, and spiritual renewal...

There is a blues song with a lyric that goes, “Gonna go to
Louisiana, gonna get me a mojo hand...” Well, that’s exactly
what I did. I went to Louisiana and I got me a mojo hand. This
was, in many respects, the worst mistake of my entire life. This
is why, in addition to this fine webpage, I work assiduously to
teach children the dangers of hoodoo. If you are a school prin-
cipal, church youth group director, or other concerned citizen,
please contact me to have me come and deliver my powerful
lecture and Powerpoint lecture, “The Dark Arts Fucked Up
My Life Big-Time” Powerpoint presentation. I swear to you,
that’ll get those kids back onto the straight and narrow path
for good, or your money back.

Anyway, this is my diary, and most certainly not a place to
advertise the wide range of services I provide. So never mind
what I just said.

Except for that business about going to Louisiana and getting
me a mojo hand. That really happened. Except it didn’t. Be-
cause I’m making all this up. Maybe it’s best if we don’t focus
too much on matters of truth versus not truth, especially when
we’re discussing the forbidden secrets of hoodoo.

One of these is that you cannot purchase a mojo hand in Minn-
esota. That’s just the way it is. So a few years ago, a few friends
and I packed up the car and made the long drive down there.
The stated purpose of the trip was to see the city were jazz
was born, eat delicious Creole food, and get blotto every night,
but I had a hidden agenda. I was going to get myself a mojo
hand. I’ve always wanted one, you see. My intentions were
innocent, however: I just thought it would be a nice thing to
show off at parties, strip clubs, and underground gambling/
hashish dens. Sort of a calling card, I guess, but instead of
“Hey! There’s that guy who always wears the tie shaped like
a fish!”, it would be “Hey! There’s that guy with a mojo hand
full to the brim with John the Conquer root!”. Perhaps it was
an immature dream, yet it seemed harmless enough.

Before I got to New Orleans, I just assumed you could pick
one up at any Wal-Mart down there. This proved to be not the
case, though, and soon I was slipping away from my friends to
haunt the down-and-out streets of the historic Treme district.
Here, on an out-of-the-way stretch of clapboard shacks just
around the corner from the St. Louis Cemetery, I saw a sign
in front of a decrepit little house saying “Gris-Gris, Toby Kits,
Trick Bags, Conjure Herbs, and Hot-Foot Supplies”. I figured this
place would do fine, so I strolled up the weed-choked walk and
knocked on the flimsy screen door.

After a minute or so, a hunched and ancient woman crept up
to it. “You here about the mojo hand, boy?” she asked, in a
voice so dry and raspy it seemed that she was made of dust
and old newsprint.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said and she beckoned me in with her long,
spindly fingers. I opened up the door and stepped into a small
living-room stuffed floor to ceiling with strange plants, gaily
painted sculptures of saints and demons, sackcloth dolls, and
various indescribable objects. The lady was already digging
around in an wooden chest and, as she did, she hummed a
simple and hypnotic melody. My head was spinning just from
being in there. Everything was crowded together and the air
smelled like things I had never smelled before. I resolved to
purchase my mojo hand and get out. I wasn’t going to tamper
with strange, otherworldly forces for a moment longer than
was necessary.

While I was plotting my escape, the woman turned and looked
me up and down with her one functioning eye. “You want it
with the John the Conkeroo or you want it with the black cat
bone?” she asked and I jumped at the sound of her voice.

“T-th-the John the Conquer, please,” I said and she chuckled
as she returned to her chest full of mojo hands. There were
quite a few in there. There were big ones, tiny ones, elaborate
ones, simple ones, pretty ones, ugly ones, and ones that seemed
to glow from within with an unholy light. For me, she chose a
fairly normal looking one, as far as mojo hands go. It looked like
a shriveled-up baby’s mitten hanging from a strand of frayed
leather. She dangled it in front of me and, after deciding that
it looked appropriately “hoodooey”, I nodded my head and
said I’d take it.

“That’ll be twenty-seven dollars and thirty-eight cent,” she
told me, “We take Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Dis-
cover, and Diner’s Club, but we don’t take no out-of-state

“I’ve got a Visa card,” I said as I gave it to her. She brought it
to a battered plastic machine that sat on an end table with legs
carved to resemble decapitated chickens. With feeble hands,
she slid my card through the device and began to wrap up
what I foolishly thought would be my new treasure.

As my credit was waiting for approval, I noticed that the room’s
only window was blocked by a large jar filled with a brownish-
yellow fluid in which floated hundreds of swirling, staring orbs.
Just to make conversation, I pointed at it and asked, “What’s
that over there?”

The hoodoo lady squinted up at the jar, which was catching
the mid-day sunlight and giving the whole place a deep sepia
glow. “That?” she croaked, “That’s a ten-gallon jar full of
goat eyeballs...”

“Oh. Right,” I said. I was trying to play it cool, as though
a good percentage of the retail establishments I frequented
sold goat eyeballs in one form or another.

The lady could read my thoughts, however, and she didn’t
buy my casual act. “Do you like it?” she pressed.

“It’s alright, I suppose,” I answered.

The old crone started to cackle with glee, a sound that was
like dessicated leaves being dragged around by a rusty rake.
“Well, it sure do like you!” she crowed and that was when I
first noticed how the jar was wobbling, its contents thrashing
around within, as though the eyeballs were all at once jockey-
ing for a better view.

I wasn’t sure what would be the proper way to react to this.
“Huh,” was all I said.

“You want her?” the old lady asked, “I’ll throw it in for no-
thing. Take it off my hands.”

“Oh, that’s okay. I’ve already got one,” I lied, but the hag just
started in on her cackling again.

My receipt started to clatter out of the dusty machine and I
sighed with relief. Relief that was, to be sure, soon to prove
quite premature. “I don’t think you have a choice, boy...” she
chuckled at me as she tore my slip off and set it before me.

“I don’t?” I asked as I bent down to sign it. In my mind, the
situation had shifted to a point where it was safe to be patro-
nizing. At the time, I didn’t notice the way the hoodoo lady
was straining against another eruption of laughter, an erup-
tion which finally burst forth from her wattled throat the
moment I was finished scribbling my signature.

This outburst went on so long I felt compelled to interrupt.
“Well, ummmm, I guess I’ll just be going now...” I said, taking
up my package and turning to the door.

Not so fast!” she screeched. I spun around and saw that
she was holding up the slip I had just signed, waving it in my
face as her spittle rained all over me. It read:

1 Mojo Hand
1 Lifetime supply, John the Cockaroo
1 Jar of Goat Eyeballs, 10-gallon

Clearly I had been outmaneuvered. My gullibility has had con-
quences of the gravest sort, as we shall soon see. Tomorrow, or
perhaps the next day, I will share with you how this ten-gallon
jar of goat eyeballs almost ruined some of my most treasured