Thursday already. Planned last night to go for an early morning swim, awakened this morning for a thunderstorm and lightning. Oh well. Supposed to do this off and on all day. But, I’ve awakened in a wonderful, wonderful mood.

I finished, The Book of Beloved yesterday evening. After shopping for sandals I didn’t find, skirts I didn’t find, etc. But reading this book starting the day before yesterday, Raissa, the heroine, has been invited to her Uncle Brett’s antebellum mansion outside of Mobile in 1920, his campaign is to have her live with him because he loves her, and wants her to leave the grief of her lost husband behind. He’s a great guy, his house is gorgeous, Haines’ description of the port life of Mobile and the town remind me of hot summers in New Orleans when I was a kid when an icy glass of Coke was nectar from the gods and relief from the heat; it called me back…you know, when we swapped emails years ago, we both admitted to climbing into trees as kids to sit there and read, both of us no doubt inspired by Jo March, who read in the apple tree…anyway, Uncle Brett throws parties for her in this beautiful mansion that is so haunted it practically shrieks. And Raissa sees a Confederate soldier who stands under her balcony at night and calls, “Raissa, come to me.” At the parties, they serve Planter’s Punch. Oh, that called me back. Mom loved Planter’s Punches. I haven’t had one in so many years. So, after shopping fruitlessly for sandals and skirts, went to Joe W’s and had a nice chat with Butch. He and a coworker looked online and gave me the ingredients to make a Planter’s Punch. Myers dark rum; pineapple and orange juice, grenadine, dash of bitters. Got it. Garnish with fresh pineapple, one of my favorite things on earth…

To return. In her Uncle’s home, Raissa’s spirits no pun intended rise. Of course there is a mysterious death. But she decides that she wants to write ghost stories. I have to admit, so do I. In the midst of all of this, she writes one and sends it off to the Saturday Evening Post.. Let me get another cup of coffee.

I have returned, and just re-positioned my right leg by flinging it over the big blue exercise ball, my habit when I post here.

Raissa, her Uncle and some of his friends take a trip to New Orleans to visit a medium much respected by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Raissa is a sensitive, and when she arrives in New Orleans, her first person voice says she sensed freedom; celebration; freedom of all kinds, social, sexual, artistic, racial. Freedom. Unlike Mobile and the rigidity of the rest of the south.

So, I’m not going to tell the whole story but at this point I will insert SPOILER< SPOILER< SPOILER SPOILER. Do you know what The Book of Beloved is? It's something Raissa finds in the attic in a trunk after the lid flies open. It is a collection of daguerreotypes of beautiful young men, some dressed like pirates, Confederate soldiers, gladiators, all completely nude from the waist down in a state of–excitement–with subtly ribald captions describing their sexual prowess with $2.00, or $2.50 a night listed. It's the book of a male prostitution ring the fine ladies of Mobile used while their husbands were away fighting the Civil War. And that is the key to the murder, the hauntings, etc. And the young men are either kidnapped Indians taken as children, or the progeny of the white planters with their slave girls that they sell into prostitution. Through all of the ghostly things, the parties, the dreams, the characterizations, Haines weaves a fine social thread through this story. A really good book without one boring page.

I think if I start writing ghost stories, I'll do it in the kitchen–it's so cheery.

Last night I tried my hand and made a small pitcher of Planter's Punches. Sipped it in the Mason jar glass and it was honestly one of the most refreshing drinks I've had in a long time, so tropical and ice cold–didn't make me tipsy, just relaxed me, wonderful. And I watched a movie I always sort of cherished, Conrack. With young Jon Voight, the story of a southern white teacher who goes to an island off South Carolina to teach black children. He’s a free spirit, a bit cocky, but wonderful, and it’s a true story by Pat Conroy. It reminded me of my Head Start days; enjoyed it all over again.

Well, that’s the way it is so far at 7:10 AM in my neck of the woods, here in the Ernest Hemingway room.

PS–Raissa wants to be the next Edgar Allan Poe, or some dude named La Fanu? Have to check that last one out!

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