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Grey Gardens

New Orleans is known as a magical place where we live carefree. Many of us like to go to the same restaurants, where we request our favorite server to serve us our favorite foods and drink our favorite wines. When it's good, we make rituals around it. We love to celebrate with a nice meal. It’s a long tradition to talk about where we've eaten, where we plan on eating, and the foods from the different restaurants we've eaten while having dinner.

I have a friend who goes to lunch at Commander's Palace on the first Friday of every month at a table reserved for him upstairs in the garden room. Ti Adelaide always makes her way over to his table to say hello. And he’s treated like a rockstar-everyone knows him. And he is in no way does he act entitled ort deserving but humbled and grateful.

Down in the French Quarter, a group of people, mainly made up of women and their husbands, called the Krewe of Cork, meet once a month for lunch at different restaurants across the city. They bring their own wines and have them corked at the table. The Friday before Mardi Gras, they have breakfast at the Court of Two Sisters along with bottomless bloody marys before they begin their afternoon Mardi Gras parade through the French Quarter in costumes, toasting all the locals and tourists alike who've come out to witness the spectacle. They end their night at the Royal Orleans ballroom, dining, dancing, and, you guessed it, more wine. In the South, we love to celebrate with food and alcohol. We are known to sit around and talk about where we ate, what’s good, where we’re going to eat, and who we ate with while drinking

One of the former queens of the Krewe of Cork has what she calls a monthly roundtable discussion that meets at all the local restaurants on Fridays. The ladies dress in their hats and feather boas. The Rib Room at the Royal Orleans and Antoine’s are two of the most popular places for her Friday lunch eons The former queen is a self-proclaimed socialite, demanding her picture be immediately taken. People flock around her. because she has created her very own society. You have to give it to her; she keeps things interesting even in the middle of the hot and humid summer days.

One of the ladies who goes to every one of her round tables is the muse of the day, my good friend Donna.

As I was preparing for my journey to Asheville, everyone was coming up with new and exciting gigs to keep me in New Orleans. A friend called and said she knew someone who could use my organizational and personal assistant skills. I told her it sounded fun, and I was definitely interested.

A few weeks later, we were sitting on the front porch of the French Press Coffee Cafe when she decided to text Donna to find out if she and I could meet. Donna and I recognized each other when she greeted us at the door.

She told us that she lived in her house most of her life. It was once her family’s home. Now it was her, her cat, and the gardener who both served as security for the estate.

Donna intends to remodel, but instead of fixing things, she’s bought more for when the task is complete. Donna is what I would call a hoarder of beautiful antiques, department store furnishings, and huge Mardi Gras paper mache flowers and jesters that lean against each other all along the walls. Donna needed me for one thing. I would soon find out to be her Big Edie opposite her Little Edie. We could have our very own Grey Gardens of New Orleans and charge admission.

With great pride, Donna started our tour of her house in the backyard showing us her beautiful Coy pond. Behind the pond was her guest house that Hurricane Ida had ripped from the foundation and torn in half, shifting it to the side of the support foundation but still attached as one piece.

The next stop on our tour was the downstairs apartment in the back of the main house. The bed was covered with boxes of things that Donna planned to use for her remodel.

The next part of the tour was the main house that Donna lived in. Most of the doorways were blocked with boxes stacked inside the frame but still had enough space that only someone the size of Donna could fit through. Donna knew what was in every box.

She had a system and a plan.

Going to the third floor, there was no sheetrock on the walls or any floor treatment covering the insulation that filled the space between each wooden beam. In the front of the third floor is the room where Donna intends to be her kitchen with a refrigerator full of expensive French champagne. I'm with Donna on this one; why bother remodeling when you can drink good champagne? I complimented her on the view from the window., She told me that the space in front of the window was the kitchen sink, and behind me was where the stove would be. If Donna could see it, I could too. Cheers.

We started photographing Donna on a Sunday around 11 for about two hours of fun, and I watched Donna come alive. I saw the spark in her eyes. She said she hadn’t been feeling well, and I could tell it was just what the universe ordered.

She told us the story of her ex-husband reconnecting with her through Facebook Messenger and that she still felt there was still a spark there. She said she is a little guarded because Douglas is a recent widower.

She told me some of her history. She and her sisters were born in New Orleans but soon moved to Shreveport, but their mother didn’t want them to grow up speaking hillbilly, so she made their father move them back to New Orleans. Her mother was very protective of her daughters and didn't let them too far out of her sight.

Donna was born privileged but didn’t act on it. Unlike the other uptown girls, she was not interested in debuting in the white gowns. Donna liked to play basketball.

She was still young when she met the man who would become her husband. Douglas was tall, good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy, but Donna had no interest in him because he was after one of those girls who went to Newcomb that Donna refers to as a “Newcomb bitch.”

After two years of dating the Newcomb bitch, Douglas began to put the moves on Donna. After five days of an intimate relationship, Douglas invited her to visit his family in Jamaica. When he finally convinced her to come, he proposed to her. The young couple were in love.

They soon moved into their apartment, which Douglas’s mother didn’t approve of, so she bought them a boat and remodeled it to fit the young couple’s needs.

Douglas liked to smoke pot at a time when it was considered criminal and got them both kicked out of a few schools. Somehow they wound up on one of the islands in Hawaii with a pet ocelot and some monkeys visiting them on their patio when Douglas got caught smoking again. This time they were at a Mormon School, so they had to endure listening to the teachings from the Book of Mormon. It was easier for Douglas because he didn’t challenge the learning. Not Donna, who grew up a New Orleans Catholic.

Douglas was, in a lot of ways, Donna’s protector. She signed up to become a Scientologist. After she got home and Douglas found out what she had done, he went down to the corner where the Scientology group was and made them destroy what Donna had signed.

Donna found out that Douglas was divorcing her when a lady from the store she purchased a plant from told her her credit card was declined. Donna wasn’t worried because sometimes, when you travel, this happens. When she called the bank, they informed her the credit card was canceled.

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