Modine's New Orleans: Bead Catching

The vacuum cleaner strategy

LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION

hen I see my sister-in-law mowing her head with the vacuum cleaner attachment, I think it can’t lead to nothing good.
And on the day of the Endymion parade, too.

I got to explain. A week before, me and my mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, went to a garage sale Uptown.

Well, the first thing Ms. Larda gets is a hair-cutting gadget like the one that she used to cut all her kids hair with when they were little. Maybe you seen it on TV. It works by attaching it to the vacuum cleaner.

Next she finds this huge pink flowered shower cap with a hose sticking out the top. She tells me it’s a hair-drying bonnet that also works through the vacuum cleaner. Ms. Larda’s vacuum must have got quite a workout, back in the day. I wonder when it ever had time to clean the rugs.

And the third thing – and this was the clincher – a gorgeous long auburn wig. “For sentimental reasons. I used to wear one just like this,” she says.

As soon as she gets home, she calls up my sister-in-law Larva and tells her all about these bargains she got, and it so happens Larva is in one of them moods when she can’t do nothing with her hair and wants it cut this minute. When Ms. Larda describes the vacuum-cleaner hair-cutter, it brings back childhood memories, and Larva rushes right over to try it out.

To get the visual of this, you got to realize that Larva is the spitting image of her mama. She is the largish type, with a figure like a wedge. (Her sister Gloriosa looks like a Sports Illustrated bathing suit model. She married rich, and her hair is styled by Bartoni at the Chiquesheik Salon. It ain’t fair, but that’s what God decided to do.)

Back to Larva’s haircut. Now, from what I understand, this vacuum hair-cutter is simple enough. All you got to do is adjust it to your desired length of hair, and then attach it to your vacuum cleaner and run it across your head. What could go wrong? But I guess Larva didn’t pay enough attention to the directions, because it didn’t come out like she expected.

When she comes out the bedroom, I say – I guess I been living in the French Quarter too long – “Now, that’s a nice mohawk.” She busts out in tears. This is Carnival time; she got parades to go to; she can’t go out in public like that. (This is the one time of year she could go out like that, but I keep my mouth shut.)

Ms. Larda says to calm down, it will be just fine, she can fix it. She brings out the vacuum cleaner hairdryer. (Also good for defrosting frozen food, she tells me.) She rolls up what’s left of Larva’s hair on big rollers. Then Larva sits on a dining room chair and Ms. Larda puts this bonnet on her head and pushes the end of the hose into the vacuum cleaner. But she puts it in wrong, and instead of blowing air, it sucks it up and the bonnet shrink-wraps Larda’s head. Now Larva is hysterical and we’re down to garage sale bargain No. 3: The wig.

This turns out to be just the ticket. Ms. Larda cuts off one leg of an old pair of pantyhose, knots it and shows Larva how to pull it over her head to tamp down her mohawk. Then she puts on the wig and voila! – she looks just like Bette Midler in Beaches.
So Larva gets to go to Endymion with the rest of us.

That is one thing me and the Gunches have in common: We love parades and we’ll do anything for beads and throws. Almost anything. I myself draw the line at renting wheelchairs or carrying fake babies. And, unlike some people, I’m modest enough to keep my bosom covered. But otherwise I’m as bad as anybody else. When a doubloon hits the ground, my shoe is on it and too bad for any knuckles that get in the way.

Halfway through this parade, some float rider lets loose with a bunch of long beads and we all scramble. In all the commotion, somebody knocks off Larva’s wig. It sails up in the air and people in the crowd mistake it for beads and start scuffling over it. Finally some woman wins. She is cradling it in her hands, frowning. I elbow my way over and explain it is my sister’s wig and she says “Eeeew!” and hands it over.

I find poor Larva hidden out in a portable toilet. I tap on the door and pass in the wig. In a few minutes she staggers out, wearing the wig and taking big gulps of air. She reminds me of Bette Midler again, in the death scene from The Rose.

Just then somebody on an Endymion float yells “BETTE!” and points at us. And other people on the float also start pointing, and then they are all throwing beads. Dozens and dozens rain down on us – the longest, most gorgeous Endymion beads I ever saw in my life. Enough for the whole family and then some. It is the most we ever caught at one time.

So there you go. Contrary to what some people might say, you don’t have to show your bazonkas to get the best beads. Just shave your head with the vacuum cleaner.

You heard it here first.

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