Friday, June 27, 2014

Saturday Night Fever

Here’s a little coincidence I found interesting.  A couple years ago I went to a clandestine restaurant, an occasional dinner an acquaintance puts on for friends and strangers in his amazing medieval-era cellar.  25 Euros for the entrée, main dish, dessert, digestif and all you care to drink in beer and wine.

And you can smoke -- for a cellar it's well-ventilated!

The cuisine was Haitian creole and as part of the fun, guests were asked to dress up according to a "Voodoo" theme.  (I use the less academic but popular spelling throughout this post).  I decided to dress up as Baron Samedi.  Baron Samedi is a Loa, or spirit, a kind of  "leader" of the Ghede family of Loa.  The Ghede are a boisterous bunch:  hard-drinking, foul-mouthed and lusty, they govern matters of fertility, and death.  There are other Barons (La Croix, Cimitière, Kriminel), but it's sometimes unclear if they are separate incarnations or merely aspects of Samedi.  Peu importe.  Samedi is the best-known and clearly the most important.

The Baron is usually depicted dressed in a black tuxedo and top hat, dark glasses and cotton plugs in his nose.  He often carries a cane.  Basically the dress of a 19th-century aristocrat....or corpse; his face is often skeletal, if not an outright skull.

For my costume, I dressed up in a black suit and decorated a black cane with a crucifix and pair of small antlers, then painted my face and hands to have a skeletal appearance.

But for the hat, all I could produce was my brown fedora.  So, imagine my surprise when I turned to Wikipedia while waiting for my wife to get ready.

More recently an unknown, light-skinned, dark-haired young man has been associated with Baron Samedi. Holding true to tradition he is seen only on Saturday after the sun has set, wearing a fitted dark suit. He sticks to the party lifestyle of drinking, smoking, dancing and sex, affiliated with the Baron.  The only real difference seen in this new adaptation is that instead of his usual top hat, he is never seen without a fedora.

I’m a light-skinned young man, it was Saturday night, I was dressed in a fitted black suit, wore a fedora and I was off for a dinner which would include lots of drinking and smoking, possible dancing and hopefully, sex.

I was amused and to be honest, not flipped out, but a little puzzled.  Given the circumstances, this was meaningful.  I didn't expect a description that justified my departure from the standard iconography.  What finally flipped me out was that when I finally got around to recounting this little anecdote -- two years later -- I went back to Wicker-podium and was surprised to see that the reference no longer was there!  The young man in dark suit and fedora was gone.

Luckily, Wicked-pantaloons keeps a record of an article's entire history.  I had to convince myself I hadn't imagined the whole thing.  What follows is a brief summary of the citation.  It began on March 5th, 2012, when an unknown user wrote

More recently the image of a dark haired young man has been associated with Baron Samedi.

This evolved into the longer description quoted above within a few minutes.

On March 15th, the description was calibrated a bit, but the essence was the same.  Like on the 5th, the user was anonymous; the IP address was different and might have been a different person tidying up some grammar.  Maybe it was the same person.  For both users, the only contributions were to the Baron Samedi article.

But a short time later, May 5th, the text was removed with the comment “somebody’s idea of a joke”.

On June 27th, a third (or second, or the same) anonymous user whose only contributions are to Baron Samedi, wrote

However more recently he has been portrayed rather differently. Now the the image of a dark-haired, light-skinned young man is seen as Baron Samedi. This new adaptation stays true to tradition wearing a fitted dark suit, but there are differences. The dark glasses, nasal voice and cotton plugs have been removed. Replaced with slight facial hair and and earring on his left ear. The most notable change, Baron Samedi seems to have traded in his top hat for a fedora.

(This isn’t the version I noticed, and I have neither slight facial hair nor an earring).

On July 25th this was removed in turn: “removed removed newer portrayal because there is no citation for this image of the Baron”

On July 28th the same text was added back in. (A 4th anonymous IP dealing only with Samedi).

On the 30th another user removed it, saying “Revert when you have a source for this nonsense”

It was again added on August 9th by a 5th anonymous user.  Again, the user’s only concern on Wikipedia was Baron Samedi.

Finally, it was removed on September 1st with the comment “there is no material available to suggest the addition is factual. if you wish to readd it, cite a source."

OK, so this is all a fascinating look at a minor revert war.  What’s interesting (to me) is that it seemed to describe me pretty well and I happened upon it during the few months it appeared.  Not so strange I suppose, given my interest in Voodoo and a few months is a pretty large window.  That said, the version I saw, which didn’t include details that would have made it less descriptive of me at that moment, was only online for part of that period.  I also found it amusing that a person (or persons) found it important enough to keep re-adding their own description over a period of 6 months, apparently vigilant enough to notice it had been removed within a few days to a month afterwards.

Writing this out and reading back over it, it all seems so trifling.  It was a mere coincidence; but given the association with Voodoo, it had some resonance and stuck in my memory.  If this had happened to a more impressionable soul, a better poet maybe, it might have been a magickal sign, an invitation to ride the snake, a personal Loa revealed....

Another part of this story is that three months prior to this dinner, drinking with cousins, we joked about how I was the Baron of Fondemenge and, for a brief time, including during this period, these cousins would write to me as “Baron”….

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