Steve Bivans

Author, Fear-Less Life & Self-Publishing Coach

A Viking Fathers Day!: Almost to Number One!

Hello fellow Vikings!Vikings War and the Fall of the Carolingians cover

Hope your Fathers Day is off to a great start, if it’s started and you’re not still in bed!

Just an update on the new book, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians is now

#3 in one category (books, history, france), and #4 and 5 in two others!

We’re alllllmost to NUMBER ONE!

Can we get it there?

Yes! With a little push from you, my friends, we most certainly can!

Something like that… lol

And before you know it, we’ll be at NUMBER ONE BABY!

THANKS Y’ALL!

YOu really don’t know how much I appreciate all your support!

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller, The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Vikings Beat the Black Death!

UPDATE!

Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians is #1 in 5 categories, and hit 571 overall in Amazon’s Free Store!

Hey! I even beat out the Black Death! Not too shabby! lol

 
Thanks to all of you for sharing and grabbing a copy!

Free till at least this afternoon around 5pm CST!

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller, The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Get Your Free Vikings Book!

Hello friends,

The day has come!

Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians is LIVE and FREE for the today and most of Monday!

Do go pick up your free copy on Amazon, HERE!Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 4.44.32 AM

If you don’t have a Kindle, that’s okay. You can download the Free Kindle App by clicking the ‘READ ON ANY DEVICE’ button, under the photo of the cover, on Amazon!

If you’re on the Official Launch Team, or a close friend of mine who is hesitant to take the free book, since you want to support me by actually ‘buying’ it, I thank you. Trust me, downloading the free version WILL support the book. But if you want to wait until it goes to $.99, just stay tuned. I’ll post another short blog article to let you know when that happens.

Free or at $.99 both help to promote the book, though the final rankings for the book do depend on actual sales.

Thank you, to all of you who have already read an advanced copy, and especially to those who have posted a review!

The reviews are a MASSIVE help in promotion and ranking of the book on Amazon. So, whether you pick up the book for free, or at $.99, please take a few moments when you’re finished reading it, to post a short review. It really does help the success of the book.

That’s enough for now.

Thanks to you all!

Steve

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller, The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Viking Women, Feud, Violence, and Resolution in Saga Age Iceland

The “great village” mentality of Medieval Iceland, as Jessie Byock describes it, probably helped to curb feud violence in Iceland.

Conflict did occur however, and the Icelanders had institutions to deal with this problem.

The central institution for conflict resolution was the Althing, while local chieftains called goðar handled minor local problems.

If these institutions failed to resolve a conflict it could be handled by an older, if less peaceful institution, the blood-feud.

The first two solutions were controlled and run by men.  Women played very little if any role in the Althing and though they could act in their husband’s stead on some matters, the men of the community, alone, were charged with handling the legal matters.

This does not hold true with the Feud, as an examination of the Icelandic Sagas proves.

In the age-old institution of feud, the women in the Icelandic Sagas played important roles.

The most common female role in feud was as ‘goaders’, verbally coercing the men to take bloody revenge.

Women seized upon other roles as well. While the majority fell into the goader position, some also served as key planners of the vengeance, while some (not content to sit home and await the outcome) accompanied the men to serve as witnesses.

Some took on the roles of men as blood-letters and others as mediators.  As evidence for this, I will refer to three of the Icelandic Sagas: The Saga of the Volsungs, Laxdaela Saga, and The Saga of Grettir the Strong.

The Goaders: Viking Women as Inciters of Violence

Any examination of women’s involvement in feud should begin with their most common role, that of the goader.  Although Icelandic women were precluded from the official institutions of conflict resolution, they frequently played a major role in the unofficial institution of feud.

In this way, women exerted some degree of control within their families, communities and the legal system.

As goaders, the women of the sagas worked to incite the men to act.

In Volsunga Saga, Brynhild urges her husband, Gunnar, to kill Sigurd.  Thorgerd and Gudrun work their men into a frenzy in Laxdaela Saga.  Gudrun convinces several men to ambush Kjartan. Then on the morning slated for the attack, she threatens her husband Bolli with divorce if he refuses to join them;

if you refuse this journey, it will be the end of our marriage.”

In response to Kjartan’s murder, his mother, Thorgerd, goades her remaining sons into exacting an exceptionally bloody revenge on Bolli.  After dragging them past Bolli’s house, she breaks into full goading mode:

“I know that Bolli lives here, your brother‘s killer.  And you are remarkably unlike your noble kinsmen if you don’t want to avenge such a brother as Kjartan was…I for one believe it would have suited your better to have been your father‘s daughters and been married off.”

This is scathing abuse, but effective, as they promptly put together a plan to murder Bolli in his summer house.

Why is Goading Necessary? Aren’t Vikings Inherently Violent?

The degree of goading involved in both of these cases begs the question; why was such abuse necessary?

Icelandic women sometimes had to work very hard to get their men to exact revenge.  This is mostly due to the nature of the ‘great village’ communal idea that Byock refers to.

According to Byock, Iceland’s feuding practices were different from other Scandinavian, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, because of the insular nature of the Icelandic community.  While the other countries organized themselves along familial and clan based lines, in Iceland, due to the isolation of the island, families intermarried more often, confusing and complicating familial alliances.

This was further complicated by the fact that women retained their alliance to their father’s line, as well as to their husband’s.  This intermarriage meant that there were rarely clear-cut alliances or enemies.  Without the sense of ‘us versus them’ that one finds in more clannish societies, like Scotland, men were more reluctant to take revenge through feud, as their enemy was more often than not, blood-related.

We can see this reluctance play out in the sagas.

In Volsunga Saga, after Brynhild threatens to leave her husband, Gunnar, unless he kills Sigurd,

Gunnar “became very distressed.  He thought he did not know the best course to pursue, for he was “bound by oath to Sigurd.”

Gunnar knows that he will be an oath-breaker if he kills Sigurd and this is an unforgivable act in Icelandic society.

In Lacdaela Saga, in response to Gudrun’s tirade of insults, both Ospak and her husband Bolli show reluctance to take revenge on Kjartan.

Ospak tells her that,

“she was making too much of this,”

and Bolli argues that,

“it would not be right for him to do that because of his kinship with Kjartan, and he recalled how lovingly Olaf had brought him up.”

Bolli had been raised by Kjartan’s father, Olaf, and as such was Kjartan’s foster brother.  This is a perfect example of how interlinked Icelandic society was.

After suffering the verbal attacks of Thorgerd, her sons sought the assistance of a friend, Bardi, who warned them,

“To violate a settlement with one’s kinsmen would be widely condemned.”

He goes on to say, in reference to their invitation to join in on the killing,

“I know you would think it improper of me to shirk it…Nor shall I, if I cannot dissuade you from it.”

This demonstrates three things all in one statement; the reluctance that Bardi has to join in the violence against a kinsman, the anticipated fallout that will come from the society at large, and the strong ties of kinsmanship to Thorgerd’s family which sway him, in the end, to join in the feud.

To convince men to break such strong bonds of kins-manship and to risk the condemnation of their community, women had to goad them severely.

Viking Women as Generals and Witnesses

When the goading was over, there was still the problem of carrying out the vengeance and sometimes this required solid planning, a hidden talent of some Icelandic women: the role of General.

Sometimes the men needed help to plan out the bloodletting and their women were happy to pitch in.  Planning revenge could be tricky, especially when the ones slated to do the killing are a group of reluctant men.

Gudrun certainly had no compunctions about planning the counter-revenge for the murder of Bolli.  She held a long discussion with Snorri the Priest on the particulars of whom to kill and who should do the killing.  She even pretended to promise an engagement to Thorgills Holluson in order to get him to agree to lead the attack.

Not to be outdone by her rival, Thorgerd was not only involved in the planning, but insisted on tagging along to keep her sons in line.

She told them in no uncertain terms,

“for I know you well enough, my sons, to realize that you will need spurring on.”

Then she takes on the role of battlefield strategist and general when (as Bolli is desperately struggling to keep his intestines from rolling onto the floor) she gives them play-by-play instructions,

“there was no need to shrink from dealing with Bolli thoroughly; she told them to finish off their work.”

They promptly separate Bolli from his head and the killing ends. Thorgerd was certainly intent on seeing the job through to the end.

There is one more woman in Laxdaela Saga who can be labeled as a ‘planner’: Aud, who takes on the sole responsibility of planning revenge on her ex-husband, Thord.  However, as she also falls into another category, she is better left for later.

Viking Women as Witness to Honorable Death

Thorgerd and Gudrun are also the best examples of women as witnesses to feud.

In the aforementioned attack on Bolli, it was not only Thorgerd who is present at the killing, but also her rival, Gudrun.  Gudrun had been sent out of the shieling by order of her husband, Bolli, but she returned afterwards to ask his killers how the event played out.

A witness to a hero’s death is an important part of the taking of vengeance.  Someone must witness how the hero dies in order to uphold his or her honor after death.  In this scene, Gudrun plays this role and is probably the most haunting witness in the three sagas:

She [Gudrun] asked them how their encounter with Bolli had gone. They told her what had happened. Gudrun was wearing a tunic with a tight-fitting woven bodice, and a tall head-dress, and around her waist she had tied a fringed sash with dark blue stripes.  Helgi Hardbeinsson went up to her and took one end of the sash and wiped the blood off the spear with which he had run Bolli through.  Gudrun looked at him, and smiled.

Gudrun is a bold and fearless woman.  As a result, she obtained the story of her husband’s death, his bloody clothes and her own sash to use later as goading tools to exact revenge on Helgi.

Thorgerd served as a witness to a job well planned and well executed.

Both Gudrun and Thorgerd represent ways in which bold Icelandic women could take an active part in feuding.  However, neither woman steps completely over the boundary into the roles reserved for men.  Neither Gudrun nor Thorgerd take up weapons themselves or personally arbitrate the end of the feud.

Viking Women with Weapons

There are two women in the sagas who do assume roles generally reserved for men alone: Aud and Thorbjorg.

In Laxdaela Saga, Aud lost her husband Thord, who accused her of wearing men’s trousers, apparently grounds for divorce in Medieval Iceland.

Aud exacted bloody vengeance upon Thord, not by goading other men into attacking him, but by riding to his house, strolling into his bedroom and stabbing him as he attempted to get out of bed.

The scene is full of gender-bending allusions: Aud wore “breeches” (the charge that led to divorce in the first place) and Thord mistook her for a man.  The gender issues draw attention to the fact that she was not acting as a woman, but taking on the role of a man.  Aud is an excellent example of a woman in a man’s role as bloodletter.  She is not alone in assuming a masculine role.

In Grettir’s Saga, Thorbjorg, a wife of an influential farmer, assumes the role of her husband as the arbitrator, or mediator of a conflict between a group of lowly farmers and Grettir, whom the farmers have captured while sleeping and are getting ready to hang from a tree.

The farmers had already dragged Grettir around to all of the local chieftains, but none of them wanted to deal with him.  Thorbjorg warned the farmers against killing such a powerful and influential man and then freed him after making him swear an oath to cause no more trouble in her region.

The farmers apparently recognized her authority, because they released Grettir to her and Grettir had little choice but to recognize her power over his situation.

The existence of such women in the sagas begs the question of how realistic were such situations?  How many women stepped into traditionally male roles?

Neither Aud nor Thorbjorn are criticized for their actions.

Aud’s brothers seem impressed by her actions if guardedly optimistic about the repercussions.  Thorbjorn’s husband is at first upset over his wife’s actions, but is convinced by her argument that it will bring honor to them both for having acted thus.

Motivations?

This brings us to the final section and the question of what motivated these women to act in such bold ways?

While revenge might suffice as a motive for most of the cases, namely the planners, goaders and Aud, it is insufficient to explain the case of Thorbjorg.

In her case, she explains her motive to be the increase of honor.  The easy answer would be to say that Thorbjorg was looking for honor and the others were in search of vengeance.

I would argue that they all were attempting to regain honor that they perceived to have been lost.

Honor was an important factor in Medieval Iceland, and all of Viking society, and indeed, all of Northern European society at the time.

In Volsunga Saga, Signy killed two of her sons and betrayed her husband, so she chose to die with her husband in their burning house, because

“I have worked so hard to bring about vengeance that I am by no means fit to live.”

She felt as if she had lost so much honor that the only way to gain any of it back would be to die beside the husband she had betrayed.

Brynhild repeats this same motive when she stabs herself to death.  She lost honor because she had broken her vows to Sigurd, to Gunnar, and to herself.  She also lost honor by not marrying the best man, Sigurd, who married another woman whom Brynhild sees as inferior.

In a similar situation, Gudrun lost honor because her first choice for husband, Kjartan married a lesser woman, so she plots his demise.  When Kjartan’s widow died, Gudrun left the job of revenge to her mother-in-law, Thorgerd, who defended the family’s honor by goading and plotting the death of Bolli.

Aud felt dishonored by Thord’s rejection, but instead of goading her family into taking revenge, she regained some semblance of honor by attacking Thord on her own.  In fact, one might argue that Aud should be awarded higher honor than many of the men in the sagas, as she carried out the attack solo, with no backup, an unusual procedure, even for the men.

Conclusion

While men dominated most institutions in medieval Iceland, women asserted themselves in bold and sometimes masculine ways.  These three sagas suggest that if faced with the choice between honor and disgrace, Icelandic women would go to extraordinary lengths to retain or regain the former.

Sometimes this was accomplished within the traditional roles assigned to women.  However, if the retaining or regaining of honor required an Icelandic woman to overstep the traditional gender boundaries, some at least, stepped over firmly, and whoa be it to the Viking man who fell into their crosshairs.

Love this article? You’re gonna LOVE my upcoming book (June 11th, 2017)!Vikings War Carolingians cover

Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians!

more information, and a FREE ADVANCED COPY on the book page

Love Vikings? Check out my other articles:

Bibliography

Byock, Jessie. Viking Age Iceland. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 2001.

Laxdaela Saga. translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Falsson.  London: Penguin Books, 1969.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong. translated by Bernard Scudder.  London: Penguin Books, 2005.

The Saga of the Volsungs. translated by Jessie Byock.  London: Penguin Books, 1999.

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller, The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Captain Larry LaFeet: The Land-Pirate of Decatur Street

 

I lost my pride on Decatur Street.

This isn’t one of those, somewhere, sometime, thangs, either. Hell no, I know precisely where and when I lost it, my pride that is.

It was liberated by a buccaneer, a pirate, on Decatur Street, in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Thursday the 23rd day of March, 2017.

When I say ‘buccaneer,’ I ain’t talkin’ about a swashbuckling, sea-legged pirate, either. Nope. He was a Land-Pirate, a Boot Buccaneer.

The Story Begins…

On our first trip to the Big Easy–our only trip so far–Paysh caught a nasty stomach bug, which I mentioned in another article on Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar. The bug, or whatever it was, really knocked her down on the second day of our trip, and while it subsided somewhat during the week, it was a factor the entire vacation.

By the next to last day, Thursday the 23rd, she was feeling a lot better, if not quite 100%, and we headed down to the Quarter in the afternoon to stroll around, eat dinner, and see the sights.

We had dinner at The Gumbo Shop, which was quaint. I had the jambalaya, which was pretty good. Paysh–thanks to her gut parasite–opted for mashed potatoes, which really sucks ass if you’re in New Orleans at a place called The Gumbo Shop.

It was a very cool place, though, with an open courtyard in back with plants and palms and a fountain and sculptures.

gumbo shop new orleansWe sat in what was probably the colonial kitchen on the backside of the courtyard, a brick structure with French doors, old wooden tables, the remnants of the fireplace, a gumbo pot on the old, brick stove next to the fireplace, and pots and pans hanging on the walls. The setting was superb.

After dinner, we strolled around Jackson Square looking for a mule carriage to ride, but had very little luck finding one.

No matter where we went, we seemed to have just missed them, kind of like surfers seeking the perfect waves, “Shoulda been here yesterday, man.” Ce la vie.

A Pedestrian Pirate Attack

New Orleans is reknowned for its pirates. Pretty much everyone knows of Captain Jean Lafitte, spelled with an ‘i’. But have you ever heard of the most famous pirate of all? Larry LaFeet? spelled with two ‘e-s’? Probably not. pirates on Decatur Street

Here’s the story…

We had pretty much given up on procuring a carriage so we decided to walk up and check out Artillery Park , overlooking the Square, when I was attacked by Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate.

Artillery Park  is a raised area overlooking both Jackson Square to the north, and the mighty Mississippi to the south, and was the position from which Big Easyites in a more violent epoch, could fire flaming cannonballs at approaching, hostile ships sailing up the river to attack the city. Some of those ships were flying Union Jacks, and some of them Jolly Rogers.

On this fine evening, however, the cannons were apparently un-manned, because one of those pesky corsairs slipped the net.

As we were climbing the ramp up to the park, he sprang from the dark cover of a palm tree, on to the path.

“Hey brother!” was the shot across my bow that alerted me to his presence.

At that point, he was flying friendly colors, though he had a Jolly Roger in his back pocket, as I was to learn soon enough.

“Those are some nice shoes!” was his second shot, closer to the hull of the ship, but still friendly.

My suspicions were both eased AND tightened at the same time, if that’s possible? I was disarmed somewhat by his amicable nature, but suspicious of his admiration for my footwear.

They were just Red Wing boots: nothing special about them. They were certainly not worth shanking me to steal them, which lessoned my alarm, too. But why would he give a rat’s ass about my shoes?
To say I was taken off guard is a gross understatement. I wasn’t knocked to the floor, but nothing in my upbringing had prepared me to respond to surprise compliments from a Cajun pirate.

I say he was a pirate, not because he was dressed as one or anything. He didn’t look like Captain Jack Sparrow stumbling along with a finger hooked in a bottle of rum. I’m not sure what he was wearing, actually. It was pretty dark.

“Thanks?” I replied.

“How y’all doing tonight?” he followed, quickly.

“Uhh, pretty good,” I was beginning to regain my composure, I thought, and asked the obvious question, “What can I help ya with brother?” Hey, I was in his city, so trying to be polite and give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m that kind of tourist. The kind that doesn’t request Piano Man in a touristy bar, or treat the locals like a nuisance.

“Those are some nice shoes,” he repeated, “Betcha I can tell you exactly where you got’em, the state, city, and street where you got’em! I betcha. Hey, this is how I make my livin’ man, ya know, I don’t beg, or sell drugs on the corner, I got kids to feed at home, I’m just out here shinin’ shoes and talkin’ ta people ya know, whatcha say? Betcha $20 I can tell ya where you got them shoes!”

Now, let me just say in my own defense, that you’re reading this stuff at your leisure, so don’t judge me too harshly for what happened next. I wasn’t reading this shit; I was trying to follow his offer, challenge, whatever it was, in the dark, taken off guard, and he wasn’t waiting around for me to ‘get it’ either. He was a mutherfuckin’ fast talker, and I mean really fast. It was mostly a blur of syllables flying by of which I caught only every 4th or 5th.

I’m quite certain that the dialogue I remember is faulty as hell, since I didn’t hear or comprehend 90% of it, even as I was hearing it for the first time. My memory of what transpired is colored by the aftermath. In retrospect, I have cobbled together what I think was his tactic:

  1. Catch me by surprise. CHECK
  2. Keep me off guard. CHECK
  3. Always keep the initiative. I never had a chance.

Once a pirate has you against the gunwales, you’re fucked.

And I was definitely about to walk the plank.

I was shark food, chicken of the fuckin’ sea, even if I didn’t know it, yet. He had me in a corner, and there were fins to the left, and fins to the right.

“Whatever, man,” I said, half out of breath from trying to follow his turbo rant. I was thinking to myself, He can’t possibly guess that I got these from Robert Street in West Saint Paul. My accent definitely doesn’t give it away. I’m not from Minnesota, and you can get Red Wing boots, anyfuckinwhere.

“Betchatwentydollars and if I’m right you owe me twenny and twenny for shinin’ yer shoes too. Whatdayasay? ThisishowImakealivindon’tchaknow? Got kids to feed, I ain’t pushing drugs or robbin’ nobody? It’s an honest livin’ whatcha say?”

I’m tellin ya, he was throwing cutlass jabs and firin’ hot lead as fast as he could sling it, and I was starting to smell like blood in the water. My brain was reeling from the barrage of questions and his speech was almost hypnotic.

I felt at this point that we had somehow ‘bonded’ though that doesn’t make any fuckin’ sense, I know, especially in the post mortem. But in that moment we were two dudes understandin’ one another, I think? Fuck if I know.

The Curse of Pride

This is where my pride got me, I think. It was all about pride.

I pride myself as a pretty smart guy, usually. And my mother raised me with a very acute bullshit meter—though she would never call it that. I can smell a scam a mile away, or so I’ve always thought.

But this time, the pride I’m talkin’ about isn’t in my ability to catch the con, it was in my general affability, sense of fair play, and belief in the basic goodness of humanity.

The problem with that pride, in this instance, was that I was in a fencing match with a pirate in a dark alley, and he had the advantage, because he knew something I didn’t, and he was a master of language, as you’ll see.

Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate had engaged me in a conversation, or at least that’s what I thought at first. But the speed of that exchange was such that I never had time to gather my wits. He came out of the dark, opened the exchange and took complete control of all of it. At no point did I ever really regain the initiative. He was a master of conversation.

Or at least the ‘con’ sans ‘versation.’

He employed all his wits and training to maneuver me, my sense of humanity, and my pride to the edge of the plank, with salt water and tiger sharks swirling in the surf under my feet. Metaphorically speaking of course.

The magic of Yes

Every great salesperson knows that the key to closing the deal is to get your prospective buyer to answer a series of simple, no-brainer questions in the affirmative. If you can get them to say ‘yes’ several times, then it becomes increasingly difficult to put a stop to it, and one more ‘yes’ is almost assured.

At this point, I’d said ‘yes’ too many times to say no.

I had been tricked into giving away several yeses by Larry the Land-Pirate, without even realizing it.

It was like subliminal messages in a 1970s movie that make you want to eat ten pounds of popcorn and become a diabetic drinking five gallons of Coca Cola to wash it down with. Larry had included several tiny, barely noticeable questions in his rapid-fire con-versation:

“I’m just makin’ a living right?”

“I’m not on the street sellin’ drugs, know what I mean?”

“Everybody’s gotta feed their kids, right?”

By the time he got around to the final thrust on the origin of my shoes, I said,

“Okay, Bring It! Deal!”

And the tigers of the sea feasted well that night.

The word deal had no more rolled off my tongue when he ran his cutlass through and I tumbled into the salty, sea, encircled by sharks, and staining the waves a crimson hue.

There was no hesitation in Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate’s victory lunge. He didn’t wait for me to change my mind, deliberate on the question, or to scream for help. The sands of the hour-glass had run out.

His sword was like a flash of lightnin’:

“You got them shoes, on your feet, on Decatur Street, in New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana!”

As the word Louisiana came out of his mouth, he lunged to the ground with a squirt bottle in his left hand and a rag in the other, squeezed some white-ish looking foam on the toes of my boots and proceeded to ‘shine’ them with the cloth.

I was struck dumb and motionless, like some troll in a Tolkien tale, caught by the sudden onset of the sunrise and the spell of a wizard.

“FUCK!” I said, utterly flummoxed.

I had fallen victim to a simple play on words.

Because I had been taken by surprise, and kept off balance, and given too many yeses, I’d paid no attention to his choice of verb.

There are at least two definitions of the word, got.

One, is the past tense of ‘to get,’ to obtain something in other-words, and that’s the one Larry had implied in his initial challenge:

“I betcha I can tell you where you got them shoes.”

I knew precisely where I had obtained them: on Robert Street in West Saint Paul, and was supremely confident that there was no fuckin’ WAY that he could deduce all of that.

But what I should have done—and would have if I hadn’t be on the ropes the entire time—was to remember the other definition of got: to possess something, or to have something in your possession: i.e., I’ve got shoes on my feet.

“Damn!”

There I was, a writer, fuck, a best selling AUTHOR, standing in the dark, on Decatur Street, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, outwitted with words by a con-man land-pirate.

Fuck me.

I was out of my depth at that point. I had been taken by a simple play on words, something that I do to other people all the time. Hell, I do it almost every evening at the dinner table. I learned it from birth.

My dad is a pun artist. He lives by the pun. If there’s an obvious, cheesy pun lying on the table, he’s always gonna pick it up. Doesn’t matter if it’s a can of Cheez Wiz, or stinky bleu; Sam Bivans is always gonna pick it up and voice it out loud. He did it every single day of my childhood. He’s still doing it. And I learned the art from him, though mine are usually a fine cheese: like Irish Cheddar or Brie.

But there I was, on Decatur Street, out-punned, out-witted, and out-worded by Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate, a boot buccaneer with maybe a high school education. Hell, he might not have even finished that!

Of course, he might be an out of work English professor as far as I know. He didn’t look like one, but I don’t actually look like someone with almost a PhD in history, either.

To Pay or Not To Pay?

I really wanted to squelch on that bet, since I had obviously been bamboozled.

But he had appealed to my pride, to my sense of humanity. I mean, he had kids at home, or at least he claimed to have them. Who fuckin’ knows if he actually had kids. But I’m quite certain that he was banking on the chance that I might.

Nothing plays on a parent’s emotions like the thought of kids going without in a hard world.

Kids or no, I tried to wiggle out of paying him for the shoe shine part of it, since I couldn’t really remember if I had agreed to that part or not. I can’t accurately convey the confusion he invoked in my mind. He sounded more like an auctioneer than anything else I could liken it to. It was machine-gun like. So, I tried to get out of half of the bet,

“I’ll give you twenty,” I said without conviction, “but not forty.”

“Nope, the deal was forty dollars, man. Everybody gotta feed their kids.”

If I had pushed it, he would have had little recourse, short of violence. But unless he had a gun on him, he was gonna lose that fight. I had 150 pounds on him, and if it came to that, he would see a different side of Steve Bivans….the Blackbeard side. I’m secretly a land-pirate, too.

But my pride and sense of fair-play–even if I felt I’d been hornswoggled–won out in the end. If I reneged on the bet, I would have had to relinquish all of that pride, and that wasn’t something I was willing to do.

After a second or two, I turned to Paysh—who was probably just as shocked as I was that I’d been bested in a game of words—and said,

“Give him the forty, bebe.”

I was defeated and confused.

I’m still trying to figure out how anyone could possibly con ME out of $40. And he tricked me with a play on words, a simple fuckin’ pun.

Got.

Unfuckinbelievable.

Epilogue

I somehow managed to survive the sharks in the water, though I was definitely limpin’ around on a stump, Captain Ahab style. I’ll be limpin’ for awhile, I reckon.Artillery Park New Orleans

Sans my pride, Paysh and I walked to the top of the hill to see Artillery Park, took selfies of ourselves with St. Loius Cathedral in the background, and then consoled ourselves with beignets at Cafe du Monde, which is a pretty good place to massage a bruised ego. Nothing a few donuts covered in mounds of sugar can’t cure.

At that point we realized that there were no more mule carriages carting tourist, pirate-bait around, so instead we opted for a bike taxi tour.

The funny thing is, that  the next day, on Friday, we were back in the Quarter, and no less than two times that day, I was approached by land-pirates with the same opening thrust,

“Hey man, I like your shoes!”

Ha! I think not.

“That only works the first time, man. Good try though!” and I kept walkin’.

So, if you’re ever on Decatur Street, in New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana, especially at night, keep an eye out for Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate and his compatriots.

Then either leave your pride at home, or wear some ugly shoes.

If you enjoyed this one, check out my other Big Easy Adventures:

  1. The Big Easy: First 24

  2. A Pirate’s Revenge: An Evening at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

  3. Cafe du Monde: Feed Your Powdery Addiction

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller, The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Cafe du Monde: Feed Your Powdery Addiction

I hate tourist traps.

Well, come to think of it, that’s not entirely true.

Sometimes, you just have to stop into that old-school, roadside souvenir shop with the ginormous statue of Sitting Bull, Paul Bunyan, or Babe the Blue Ox, even if Babe is missing his testicles. That’s another story.

I mean, sometimes cheesy is just fun. You don’t have to actually buy anything, of course. You can just walk through and poke fun at the cheese. It’s a thang.

But for the most part, I really hate tourist traps.

The worst are the ones in strip malls, or some new building stuck in the middle of the actual attraction, like the ones across from Graceland in Memphis.

Holy hound dog, they’re pathetic.

How many Velvet Elvises can you pack into one strip mall?

Apparently a whole shitload. If you can imagine it, the King’s countenance was upon it, and upon a whole host of things that your dreams–indeed even nightmares–would never include. I’m pretty sure I saw some feminine hygiene products in there with fat Elvis’s mug on them, probably singing “Hunk a hunk a burnin’ love” or something.

Anyway, I can’t stand those kinds of tourist hell holes.

There are some tourist traps, however, that you simply must see if you’re visiting certain places in the world. The Eiffel Tower is one. Of course, if you’re in Paris you can’t actually avoid it, per se, since you can see it from everywhere in the fucking city. Or at least I imagine it’s that way. I haven’t actually been to the City of Lights, yet.

If you go to New Orleans, you simply must do the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, the latter at least once, unless you’re a twenty-something college student, then by all means, drink your self to Polookaville, barf on your girlfriend’s shoes, and piss in the street till you get busted for being an ass. But for most of us, myself included, one walk down the street is enough. Okay, two.

But the Quarter as a whole? I think you have to do it every time you go. In fact, it’s the reason I’ll go back, again and again.

And once you’re in the Quarter?
There’s one place that you simply HAVE to do: Cafe du Monde.

Cafe du MondeCafe du Monde, New Orleans

Most locals will avoid talking about the Quarter very much, or only with disdain, since they’re so jaded and tired of frat boys puking on their shoes and pissing in the gutters. I get it.

But when it comes to Cafe du Monde, they all agree; you simply must go there and have beignets. And they’re absolutely right.

In fact, there’s only three reasons I can think of to not go there:

  1. You’re suffering from celiac and can’t eat gluten. There’s so much flour wafting through the air near that place, that you’ll probably break out in hives and shit yourself just walking by, so avoid it if that’s the case.
  2. You’re diabetic. Or
  3. You’re one of those  people who don’t eat much of anything because it was once in the same county as an animal, or because you don’t eat sugar, or you just hate yourself and beat yourself up with a massive Guilt Gavel for eating anything that isn’t broccoli.

In that case, don’t go to New Orleans, at all. Food is the number one reason to go there, period. Are there others? Sure, but who fuckin’ cares. It’s about food.
Okay, booze too, and music.

Keepin’ it Simple

One of the things I rant about all the time is the attempt by restaurants around the world, but especially in the U.S. to please everyone that might possibly, one day, walk in the fucking door.

Instead of focusing on a narrow selection of dishes, they create these enormous menus, sometimes with a hundred or more items on it, to makes sure that everyone on the planet, including your grandmother suffering from rheumatism and an acute case of I’m a fucking bitch, will find something they can choke down.

This is the biggest mistake made by every half-assed, shitty restaurant in America, and probably world-wide.

Stop doing it, damn it! It sucks.

The only thing this philosophy ensures is that your restaurant will fuck up everything on the menu, and get nothing right.

This usually includes the service, since the wait staff and kitchen staff are overwhelmed trying to remember every lame-assed item on the menu, what goes with what, what’s in what, is it gluten free?, fat free?, flavor free?,

“Ma’am, would you like that overcooked, under-cooked, or liquefied in a Ninja blender and served with a fucking straw?”

No wonder most restaurants just suck.

Cafe du Monde, however, has taken the simplification mantra to its inevitable conclusion. If you really want to master something, only do one thing, and fuckin’ do it right! And that’s what they’ve been doing for probably a hundred fuckin’ years, 24 hours a day, 364 days a year. They only close for Christmas, and the occasional hurricane, and I’m not talking about the drink; I’m talkin’ about storms like Katrina.

Booze and storms don’t slow down Cafe du Monde. If they did, they’d never open in this city. Hell no, this is the place where everyone goes: famous people, and the great unwashed, like myself. Hell, the place has been in songs. Jimmy Buffett was so in love with the place that he included it in one of his.

The Cafe has mastered the mantra of simpleness.

There’s only like five things on the menu:cafe du monde, new orleans, beignets and coffee

  1. Coffee
  2. Milk
  3. Orange juice
  4. Water, and
  5. Beignets

And when it comes to the only food item on the menu, beignets, there ain’t 31 fuckin’ flavors!

Fuck no! There’s one!

It’s basically a square donut. And it’s so simple that it doesn’t even have a hole!

They deep fry it, bury it in about 50 pounds of powdered sugar. I’m not exaggerating. Okay, maybe it’s only 49 pounds. Then they serve them up three at a time, and that’s it. They don’t do anything else.

Want something else? Tough shit. Want beignets? Sit the fuck down and eat’em!

Snow-blind in the Big Easy

Whatever you do, don’t wear dark clothing if you venture into the Cafe du Monde.

Wear white. All white.

In fact, bring a large tarp and some duct tape to secure it around your neck, or everyone in the Quarter is gonna know that you were eating beignets under the green and white striped tent.

Tourist, who’ve not had the experience, will think you’ve just arrived from Central America and managed to get past the trained dogs at Louis Armstrong International. There’s white powder EVERYWHERE along Decatur Street. Mostly it’s on people’s shirts and in their cleavage, not up their nose.

It doesn’t take a Sherlock to track the patrons of du Monde. We saw a park bench several blocks away encircled with a white, powdery substance, which was either cocaine, or confectionery sugar. The proximity to the cafe suggested the latter. The debris was heaviest in front of the bench, but left the impression of two human asses in the center of a halo of sugary goodness.

I was instantly hungry.

Practice Makes Perfection

The beignets at Cafe du Monde are the real deal.

They’ve been making these things forever, round the clock, and guess what?

When you do that, you get pretty fuckin good at it. There’s a reason everyone goes there, even the locals, and the famous, the rich, and anyone with enough pennies to scrape together an order; They fuckin’ rock!

They are simply orgasmic.

Even if they don’t have a hole in them, they’re the best donuts you’re ever gonna eat.

They will change your world. They’ll ensure that all your babies are born naked. Trust me, they will.
And while you’re having a religious, elevated blood-sugar experience, you’ll have plenty to look at.

Go there for the beignets, but stick around for the show.

The scene from under the tent is mesmerizing.

In front of you is Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, the epicenter of New Orleans. There are hundreds of people walking by at all times of the day and night. Musicians, artists, and freaks are performing along the sidewalks. Con men coax the cash out of the pockets of unsuspecting tourists—I’ll tell that story, later—and mule-drawn carriages clip and clop past, while bike taxi drivers strain to shuttle their over-fed fares off to France-man Street—the new Bourbon as any local will tell you.

If I could eat a thousand beignets in a day, I would do it just for the view. Okay, I’d also do it because I’m a sugar addict, and this place is to sugar addicts as Medellin is to those who crave nose candy.

If you’re ever in New Orleans, take some extra insulin, sit your ass down under the green and white tent, put on your tarp, and dig in, because you’ve reached Nirvana at Cafe du Monde!

If you enjoyed this one, check out my other Big Easy Adventures:

  1. The Big Easy: First 24

  2. A Pirate’s Revenge: An Evening at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

  3. Captain Larry LaFeet: The Land-Pirate of Decatur Street

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller, The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

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