In January it’s so nice
While slipping on the sliding ice
To sip hot chicken soup with rice
Sipping once, sipping twice
Sipping chicken soup with rice. - Maurice Sendak, ”Chicken Soup with Rice”
For us, it’s turkey soup. I make the stock twice every year, once just after Thanksgiving and once just after Christmas; the carcass, shorn of every scrap of meat I can manage, goes into the pot of water and spices along with the neck and the giblets, and after several hours of cooking I remove the now-bare bones and let the stock cool before ladling it into jars. I usually get three or four liters of stock, put one into the refrigerator and freeze the rest, and each jar makes enough soup to feed four people on a cold winter’s evening. After working outside on one of those bone-chilling days there’s nothing quite like a bowl of hot soup to warm the insides. By the time spring arrives we’ve usually polished off most of it, but I can generally manage to keep a jar in the freezer just in case the next November is unseasonably cold.
As I’ve said before, one of the reasons we moved here was so I could enjoy four good seasons rather than the two in Louisiana, which I refer to as “too damned hot” and “too damned cold”. Yes, believe it or not, it does get cold in Louisiana, and because it’s so damp one feels it far more than in many a place where the mercury drops far lower. Where we live now I can work outside in -7o Celsius weather and be quite comfortable as long as it isn’t windy; in Louisiana 5o Celsius is almost unbearably cold. I even knew a Scotsman who told me that he had never spent a winter in Glasgow as cold as those he endured every year in New Orleans. But even that wouldn’t be so bad if the cold were predictable; in Louisiana it can change within hours. One day in mid-December of 1989 I went outside to my car in a bikini (I was washing clothes and it was the only clean thing I had); a couple of days later it snowed. And in 1993 we went to the home of our friends Frank and Olivia on the evening of New Year’s Day wearing jackets, only to find a warm, muggy fog outside when we left their house in the wee small hours of January 2nd. A strange mass of warm salt air (one could smell it) had come far inland from the Gulf of Mexico and knocked out most of the electrical transformers in our suburban town; we invited friends over on the evening of that day for a cookout in order to use up the meat in our freezer before it spoiled, since we were told it might take days to restore the power.
Monday, January 2nd, 1995 wasn’t nearly so festive; it was the day my ex-husband Jack left me. I had a library conference in Baton Rouge but he was off until the end of the week, and while I was gone all day he pulled up a truck and emptied out our house of everything which belonged either to him or to both of us; I was left even without a bed. When I came home to a dark, empty house I was literally stunned; I felt faint and confused. Luckily Jack had left me a phone so I called Frank (Jeff was already embroiled in his own marital problems, and Frank lived only a few blocks away). I should probably tell you a little about Frank; he was one of Jeff’s circle of friends, and he and I first became close while I was going through a bad spot in 1984. He has always been a good and true friend, such a close friend in fact that one of Jack’s divorce accusations was that I had an affair with Frank. Nothing could have been farther from the truth; even if I were the cheating type (which I’m not), and even if Frank and I saw each other that way (which we didn’t), I still could not have betrayed Frank’s wife Olivia, who had become my closest female friend just as Frank was my closest male one.
So in the circumstances, it should come as no surprise that I called on Frank. He was there in literally minutes, and told me that I was coming to their house that night. It was not an invitation but an order; Frank knew that I would not be rational and needed a strong hand at that moment. They didn’t let me go home for three days, and those three days were spent talking with both of them until they were relatively sure I could be trusted alone. I was sent back with a sofa-bed (“we were planning to replace it anyway, really!”) so I would have something to sleep on, and they checked on me often in the next few months; I am not exaggerating in the least when I say I absolutely could not have made it through that time without them, and though we don’t see each other as often these days they are still among the human beings I love most in the entire world (along with Grace, Denise and my husband).
Several more Januaries went by, during which time I got over Jack, moved back to New Orleans and started stripping. But as I’ve already described in my column of July 30th I eventually tired of putting up with strip-club bullshit and on Sunday, January 2nd, 2000 I called Pam’s escort service and was interviewed that very night. Why hers? Because she was the only owner answering her own phones that day and I wanted to start right away; such are the vagaries of fate. As I said in the July 30th column I took to escorting quickly and by Mardi Gras was well-established on my new path.
I had never liked January 2nd as a child; I wasn’t fond of school and so the first day back after weeks of holiday fun was quite depressing to me. Perhaps the feeling was mutual; for years the day always seemed determined to mess with me in some way, whether major or minor, and it wasn’t until the very last specimen of the date in the entire second millennium that it changed. For though previous January Seconds had depressed, annoyed, inconvenienced or devastated me, that day in 2000 opened a door to a whole new profession and a whole new world which gave me financial independence, a sense of purpose, many novel experiences, a greater understanding of men, a husband, a country estate and now this opportunity to reach out to others. Thank you, January Second; whatever our differences in the past, you’re OK in my book now.