Every year, while thousands of tourists crowd the streets of New Orleans for Mardi Gras, a handful of hard-working people are forced to watch partygoers from behind large glass windows.
These windows trap workers from the outside world, while everyone else in the city is free to enjoy the infamous celebration.
USF alumnus Michael Patrick Welch is one of the people who had to earn a living while the others enjoyed the festivities and drank the night away. His new book, The Donkey Show, is a semi-true tale of his life in New Orleans and his first Mardi Gras celebration.
“We worked it out to about 68% (factual),” Welch said about the authenticity of his book.
The Donkey Show is the nickname of the fine-dining restaurant where the main character, Patrick, lands a job, but the title also has other implications near the end of the story.
The book leads a reader into a New Orleans setting much different from the highly romanticized one described by many authors before Welch.
The Donkey Show examines race relations and portrays the struggles of moving to a new locale. It is about the people he meets, the jobs he works and the antics that go on during his daily rituals.
The main character’s love obsession, a fascinating young woman named Mizzy, is based on the author’s current girlfriend. Welch said her character is more extraverted than his girlfriend is in reality.
“But everyone else in there is pretty damn right on,” he said.
Welch was born in Indiana and grew up in Ft. Myers. He spent his college years at USF, where he double majored in painting and literature.
While he was living in the Tampa Bay area, he was a columnist for The Weekly Planet and eventually moved over to the St. Petersburg Times. His writings and essays have appeared in various other publications as well.
The author self-published his first book, Commonplace. It is a collection of the author’s personal and brutally honest Web logs, or blogs.
“It was really, really personal,” he said. “I put everything that happened to me in it and it really was probably a pretty bad idea. It was very honest so a lot of people started reading it.”
The book is now out of print but is scheduled for re-release by Equator Books, the company that published The Donkey Show.
“I’m really compelled to tell the stories of things that happened to me. I’m not very compelled to make things up,” he said about his writings.
In addition to writing, Welch also plays music. He is currently part of a trio called White Bitch, a nickname given to him by one of characters in The Donkey Show. The band plays electronic music and incorporates skits and stories into its performances.
Welch used to perform on his own but said the show is better now that there are more people involved.
“It’s much better and much more well received, now that it’s not just me,” he said.
The Donkey Show is available at the Inkwood Books in Tampa or online at www.equatorbooks.com.