Fractals Are Our Friend April 30, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 25, Albert Hoffman, fractals, Jerry Garcia
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So, some Swiss guy passed on at 102, or so I just read. Apparently he did something important in the realm of chemistry. I’m not sure what the problem was he worked on, but apparently the Solution was 25. We like to keep up on such things here on Toulouse Street, especially if these have any tendency toward The Odd. In remembrance of this science dude, whoever he was, we offer the following lovely mathematical abstract representation of, uh, well, I don’t know: an Experience. Just go with the flow. You’re in the hands of experts.
I rather like the video I posted last December better, but I can never hear this song too many times. Neither can you. Surrender yourself to the Gospel of Garcia. And then there’s the fractals, such a lovely tribute to all things
If I were the last astronaut left alive on the trip to Jupiter, this would be the end of my movie.
Blue Light Special April 30, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Crime, er, hospital, New Orleans, NOLA, violence
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NOLA Slate’s blog is back after a long hiatus. Read her chilling story of her adventure in the downtown ER in New Orleans one night not so long ago.
Stacy Head: Ambassador for New Orleans April 29, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, fuckmook, FYYFF, Jazz Fest, Lakefront, New Orleans, NOLA, Stacey Head, Uptown
What is it about Uptown that causes some people to be so congenitally unpleasant? (I’m struggling to compose this in my head without reference to any offensive body part or function; we’ll see). You know the ones, the kids who grew up hanging out at the Valencia or by the Southern Yacht Club pool, the kids from certain high schools who ran in circles as exclusive as (and preparatory to) Rex or Comus. Yeah, them.
Perhaps it’s living in such grand houses in a city otherwise tightly squeezed onto the small slivers of high land hereabouts, the narrow streets and crowded rows of houses that confront Them when They venture out the door and off Their own block. Maybe it is the tangles of traffic in parts of town with no wide boulevards, streets crowded with people who don’t know who They are, hourlies and layabouts passing their day without the sort of important appointments They keep. Perhaps it was the pre-gentrification habit of keeping one’s servants close by in those claustrophobic little houses, and the uncomfortable situation as the master-servant relationship changed over the decades in ways visually expressed by the replacement of lawn jockeys and faux carriage posts with discrete private police patrol warning signs.
They are (at least in part) the people of Women of the Storm, our self-appointed ambassadors to the outside world–people who still know when to wear hat and gloves, people who own their own evening clothes and periodically cast them off so that slobs like us can have cheap tuxes as needed in their fine Uptown thrift shops. They travel to Washington and New York to let the Right Sort of People know that They have things down here under control, that its safe to invest in our recovery. I am glad these people do what they do whatever their motives I am not ready to condemn an honest evangelist for New Orleans until they transgress simple decency and fairness.
Then there are people like Stacey Head: evangelists only for their own advancement, for the opportunity to profit by the flood and to flush out what they might deem “undesirables” from their idealized city, who would love to carry us back to old Virginny bayou style. They aren’t terribly fond of anyone coming home who can’t afford a proper and tasteful house in spite of the tremendous escalation of prices after the storm and the collapse of the private insurance market. They are people who resent all those low-rent types and their dependents; you know, the ones who mix Their drinks, bus Their tables and make Their beds. Stacy is noted recently for blowing kisses (presumably in farewell) to the noisy public housing demonstrators, symbolically dismissing the people who make the local t-shirt-and-tits, beads-and-beer economy work. And then there was her clever remark about people so déclassé that they would rent poisonous FEMA trailers to live in because they have no other homes to come back to.
Stacey represents the Young Turk wing of the people who gave us a generation of economic stagnation and sat idly by as public education imploded after desegregation; the ones who quietly applauded as their hirelings in Washington diverted hurricane protection funds to the Inner Harbor Navigation Lock and who were convinced the MRGO would bring us a future of prosperity; they are the people who had themselves gerrymandered into suburban Congressional districts so they could at least have a Congressman they could call on when needed. They are the people who helped engineer the election and then the re-election of Clarence Ray Nagin. Heck of a job, guys, heck of a job.
They are the people who no doubt applaud the $50 Jazz Fest ticket and sourly wish they were just a bit higher, given some of the people you might encounter at the Fair Grounds. As they used to say when I lived in North Dakota, 40 Below Keeps the Riff-Raff Out: a principle someone like Stacy would no doubt admire. Too bad I can no longer bring her back a t-shirt from the Fargo International Airport like the one I saw on my first trip there. Those now retired “40 Below” shirts featured a shadow caricature of a man with an afro and a pimp hat. Very classy.
In addition to making the world safe for mohitos and driving the trailer trash into the land of Nod, Stacy has found a new job as Goodwill Ambassador for New Orleans.
This comment from Humid Haney’s Rant blog was confirmed as legitimate in an email by the woman who posted it, and her husband has in fact sent a nasty letter to the Times-Picayune. She wondered in her reply email if Ms. Head didn’t in fact have friends at the T-P who might make sure it never sees the light of day. I think there’s a good chance Ashton the Second might keep such a letter under wraps. (Ashton. Wow. Where do they get these names for their children, from lines of clothing they saw at Perlis?)
Here’s the entire post from Humid Haney’s, confirmed by the author via email.
Please let me share a story that my fiance sent to the editor of the local paper. It tells about a recent encounter we had with Stacy Head:
My family and I just returned from a wonderful visit to 2008 New Orleans and Jazz Fest. I have attended every Jazz Fest since 1983. My 11 and 9 year old daughters have attended every Jazz Fest since their respective births. My fiancé has enjoyed the region and its offerings on no less than five separate occasions since we met a year and a half ago. Despite the rainy weather we loved the first weekend, as always, and will be back for weekend 2. While we have not lived the post-Katrina challenges directly, we certainly empathize with the challenges. It has been encouraging to see the improvement during our many post-Katrina visits. We joined the Audubon Zoo last year knowing it was unlikely we would get a chance to visit regularly, but hoping the funds would be put to good use. I have lived and worked in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge for years and someday we hope to be able to return to the area to live. I guess I know enough about the area’s culture to realize that the foregoing “credentials” are helpful to what I am now going to say.
Unfortunately, our Jazz Fest experience was marred by a dispute over seating in the blues tent on Friday. I left to take my daughters to the porta-potties. My fiancé held our three seats. When we returned 15 minutes later, she was in deep discussion with several women. It turns out that they asked if our seats were available. The response, “no, but you can sit in them until the rest of the party returns”. As we returned, the women refused to get up, demanded we move down to use an open seat—not a bad idea, but we were still short a seat–etc. Our group, including young children, had to witness a less than kind interaction which included my fiancé being called a “Yankee bitch”–she from Kentucky with as strong a Southern heritage (and accent) as it comes. When the group of aggressors finally left, one of the women came behind my fiancé and proceeded to verbally dress her down at length. While perturbed by the incident, we attempted to enjoy the rest of the set. Of note, several seats opened up around us within two or three minutes (it was early in the day).
What happened next amazed us. A pleasant middle aged gentleman came up and apologized to us noting that he was embarrassed because the “leader of the pack” was Councilwoman Stacy S. Head. He indicated that he had introduced himself to her a few minutes before the altercation as she represented his district. He “couldn’t believe” how she and her group had acted. Sure enough when we checked the internet that evening it was Ms. Head who led the altercation. While her web-site boasts, stated credentials, church membership, etc. are all very interesting; I would submit that New Orleans deserves to be represented by better. As long as interactions are led with hostility and followed by put-downs such as that chosen by Ms. Head (Yankee bitch) New Orleans will not move forward. I have always been bemused by endless editorials about “outsiders who do not understand, have proper appreciation, etc.” The fact is the region has rich cultural and tourist offerings-perhaps better than any other in the nation. That said attitudes like those displayed by Ms. Head can deter all but the most committed from wanting to visit. We will be back because of our love for the area, but had Ms. Head randomly abused a first time visitor I can imagine a different result. A city that prides itself on tourism and is reliant upon tourist trade needs to rethink its approach beginning with what its elected leaders convey. Something is fundamentally wrong when people who visit have to do so “in spite of…”
N.B. Any hint of class resentment in this post is entirely intended and historically accurate. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Thomas Agnew and his parents for the boorish behavior of all those nouveau-riches Lakefront types from C.B.S. who came to your lovely home St. Charles Avenue home for that eighth-grade party many years ago, who proceeded to get fabulously drunk on liquor looted from their parents and then introduce your delicate future debutantes to “poppin’ the gator” to The Guess Who’s “American Woman”. Not that I regret it. It was, in that Odd way we relish here on Toulouse Street, as perfect a moment of ritualized class conflict as anyone could imagine. The Agnews may take some comfort that at least one of us turned out better than might have been expected, mounting a creditable recent campaign for Congress in the near suburbs. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want your trailer folk either, Stacey, so you can forget busing them in from the North Shore.
Dinerral Shavers Jr. Sits In On Snare with Hot 8 April 27, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504ever, brass band, Dinerral Shavers, Dinerral Shavers Junior, Hot 8, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, warrior drummer
I don’t know how many of the happy hippy mud dancers or tourists at the Jazz and Heritage Stage at Jazz Fest Sunday understood what it meant when little Dinerral Shavers Junior took the stage holding his father’ s instrument, the snare drum, with his father’s band, the Hot 8. For a kid who didn’t look much older than seven or eight he did a creditable job. I just wish I’d gotten a decent picture. You can see a bit of a blur in one picture of one of the two young men from one of the marching clubs that joined the band on stage. Seeing those three young boys walking in their father’s steps was impressive and encouraging.
May the line of warrior drummers be unbroken in New Orleans.
Remember, you can contribute to the education of this young man who lost his father tragically and at such an early age at The Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund.
N.B. Looking at the pictures while less tired on Monday, I went back and checked then fixed the reference to Dinerral Shavers Jr.’s age to be seven or eight, per this post at NOLA.com.
A Taste of the Jazz Tent April 27, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: David Torkanowsky, Earl Turbington, Jazz Fest, Jim Singleton, Ricky Sebastian, Steve Masakowski, tribute, Willie Tee, WWOZ Jazz Tent
A couple of quick camera videos from the WWOZ Jazz Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2008. Both are from the Turbington’s House set, a tribute to Earl and Willie “Tee” Turbington. The first is pianist David Torkanowsky asking for a standing ovation to the Turbingtons, the second a taste of the first set of the tribute with Torkanowsky on piano and Astral Project’s bassist Jim Singleton and guitarist Steve Masakowski. Drummer is Ricky Sebastian and I didn’t catch the saxophonist’s name (help me out, George, if you’ve got a list).
Ovation for the Turbington’s
Excerpt from the jazz set from the Turbinton’s House tribute
I spent part of the day with my friend Eric and ran into bloggers Adrastos and the lovely Dr. A, together with Sophmom and Dangerblond, and ran into various friends and aquiantences on the I left everyone I now to the outside stages and headed in to the Jazz Tent well ahead of Saturday’s torrential rains. I ended up missing Dr. John but was not disappointed to hear the full Astral Project set. At the last song, when it looked like the rain was abating, I bolted out the Mystery exit and started waking home. I almost made it, but the skies opened up no six blocks from the house and I ended up soaked. The camera, thankfully, made it through.
Today if we don’t all drown, it will be Voice of the Wetlands Allstars, Nicholas Peyton Quintet and the Hot 8 brass band. I’ll be carrying my black-and-white umbrella today to make sure I can get about and out without getting soaked to the bone. Remember: New Orleans is one town where carrying an umbrella to a show is not an impediment to dancing, but the perfect accessory.
St. Louis Infirmary-Jazz Fest From St. Louis No. 3 April 26, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Ashley Morris, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, St. James Infirmary, St. Louis Cemetery No. 3
Passed by Ashley walking into Jazz Fest this morning. The song that played when I got to the St. Leo’s Mausoleum was St. James Infirmary, one of the songs the Hot 8 played at the funeral (both in a slow, dirge version and as an up tempo number).
The first of a couple of odd bits of synchronicity today. The next was a guy standing behind me at the Acura stage this morning. Either the ghost of Everette Maddox was at Jazz Fest, or someone relishes their resemblance to the dead poet, down to the pipe. I didn’t take his picture, not wanting to spoil the odd moment.
I’m still waiting for the third odd thing to make the set complete, but the day is not ended yet.
You were right, Ray. It sounds great (but you wouldn’t know it from this crappy camera video).
Battling Fortuna at the Track April 25, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Dancing Bear, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Jazz and Heritage Festival, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA
Today I am at the counting house and not at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Our masters in the far away financial centers of the nation to the north do not take note of our particular holidays. (I was forced to take a vacation day for Mardi Gras, which is no longer an official holiday on the counting house’s calendar). And I am just too damned busy.
My absence is mitigated a bit by the fact that I am not as excited in the particulars of this Jazz Fest as I have been in the past. If you visit Toulouse Street often enough you would notice I have rather eclectic taste in music. Jazz, however, is in a central place in my musical pantheon. This year there is nothing as transcendently perfect as last year’s Pharoah Sanders followed by Terrence Blancard date. These are the Days of the Divas in terms of major, out-of-town jazz talent and female jazz vocalists fall somewhere mid list in my own musical universe. Then there is the prospect of having to shove through crowds of Billy Joel and TimMcGraw fans to get where I want to go.
Still, to walk up to the Fair Grounds among the large and anxious crowds on a hot Spring day is more than just a concert. It is, as I wrote of French Quarter fest last year, “…more than just an option sandwiched between a trip to Target in the morning and one to Blockbuster for a Saturday night’s entertainment. It is a defining and participatory event closer to the civic religions of pre-Christian Mediterranean societies than anything in America, peopled by larger-than-life figures who represent Who We Are. Failure to propitiate them, we remind ourselves, might upset the balance of our cosmos.”
Part of the reason I did not move heaven and earth to get out today (or tomorrow) is that there are an awful lot of Big Names I’m not as anxious to see and an awful lot of schedule conflicts that have driven my crazy these last several weeks. I regret I won’t see Mac Rebennak tomorrow but there is my daughter’s dance recital. That and I would really want to catch the Tribute to Willie Tee and Earl Turbington at the Jazz Tent while Dr. John is playing. I would then have to choose between standing behind tens of thousands of die hard Billy Joel fans to catch the good Doctor, or skipping that to stay at the Jazz Tent for Astral Project. The schedule this year seems to have taken a bad turn this year from the perspective from my taste, a ill spin of Fortuna’s wheel without respect for theology and geometry.
Still, before the weekend comes to a close I know that I will find myself walking across the Fairground’s track and into the heart of it all. Sunday’s downward arc is a good one, passing from the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars (Tab Benoit, Dr. John, Monk Boudreaux, George Porter Jr., Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Johnny Sansone, Johnny Vidocovich & Waylon Thibodeaux; ah, I shall see the Good Doctor), then through the Nicholas Payton Quintet (I hope this is the Tribute to Miles Quintet I’ve read about), and with a tip of the hat to Pete Fountain as I pass the Economy Hall tent on my way back to Jazz and Heritage Stage, ending at the Hot 8 Brass Band. Somewhere in there is a mango freeze, some crawfish bread and perhaps a beer or two, if the lines are not horrible.
Even when Mammon and Fortuna conspire against it Jazz Fest will always draw us in. At the end it is worth the money and the crowds and the lines because it is not just another stop on the festival circuit, even if the fest management books name acts as if it were. To be at Jazz Fest is not to be one among thousands of fans of this or that particular act. It is to be in the middle of a bubbling alembic full of the ingredients that are the secrets of the alchemy of New Orleans: the collision of so much and various music and food, and a crowd mostly assembled not for love of any one thing but for the love of it all. Out of that vessel comes the Spiritus Vitae of New Orleans, and no matter what conspires to prevent us none of us can live without a taste of it.
Forget Jazzland and Six Flags. I’m Going To Debrisville! April 23, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Debrisville, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, amusement park, Debrisville, Flood, Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Six Flags
A $70 million plan proposed to resurrect the twice-failed Six Flags (formerly Jazz Land) amusement park in New Orleans East! Finally, an idea that could actually produce cranes, if only to drive them into the air to fly away from all the racket.
If this falls through, I think I want to put together a package for a Katrina/Flood themed attraction. I mean, why should the bus and van tour companies be the only ones making money off misery?
Announcing: Debrisville! After your solemn ride through Gentilly and New Orleans East, you’ll be ready for a hurricane of fun living the post-Flood lifestyle! Experience the genuine exhilaration of the frightening Road Home Roller coaster! Hold on to your lunch as you experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Down Annunciation! Don’t miss the thrill-of-a-lifetime ride to the top of the Helicopter Hoist! And dare to live dangerously as you play Red Light Bumper Cars!
Don’t forget to visit our water attraction Lakeview Lagoon and thrill to the latest in wave pools technology in the When The Levees Break flood pool! When that big wave come be sure to watch out for those cars and houses! Or take a leisurely tube ride down our careful fiberglass reconstruction of St. Claude Avenue in Escape from the Ninth Ward!. While you’re there, be sure to experience the ultimate in Roof Top Dining in Lakeview’s MRE Cafe!
And just because it’s not Six Flags doesn’t mean you have to miss some old-time excitement. Be sure to visit Gangsta Town, where we will revive the old Six Flag tradition of cowboy shoot outs updated for the 21st century. In Gangsta Town you can not only visit the Rock Candy Store and see the girls do the booty shake while sipping a 40 oz Barq’s at the all-ages, family-friendly Hip-Hop House Party, you can thrill to a realistic gangta gun battle right there in the street. They’ll be poppin’ and droppin’ like nobody’s business!
Anybody else in on this?
Same As It Ever Was April 22, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Carlos Marcello, Crime, guns, New Orleans, NOLA, robbery
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h/t to dsb of bark, bugs, leaves and lizards.
A New Dance Craze Sweeps The Nation April 22, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, dance, FYYFF, George Bush, Neanderthal, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK
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Today, I have never been prouder to be an …
What, did you think I was going to say American? Bwahahahaha! Hell, I’m not sure Il Dufe and I are the same species, much less willing to admit to being part of any country that would have this dolt as its leader. There seems to be something vaguely Neanderthal about him, some suggestion of an evolutionary wrong turn. Sure, he has a certain cunning strength, but he can’t seem to strike two rocks together in quite the right way. It’s like trying to move furniture through a tight spot with
my in-laws certain people. At some point you begin to see in them a not very promising line of hominid confronting a coconut and a rock, perplexed as to what to do next. You can’t quite figure out how their lineage survived the stone age.
Oh, and George: FYYFF.
Like I said before: Tell him to send his wife instead. At least she has the grace to bring something when she shows up uninvited
Mailbox Mama April 21, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: art, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, NOLA Rising
Here is a fantastic piece of street/folk art I found in Mid-City, painted on an unfortunate canvas. I’m glad the authorities didn’t catch this artist decorating this communal mailbox, but these things are such an abomination. They have no place in neighborhoods of historic housing stock, and they rob parking spaces in areas where there is little or no off street parking.
One possible benefit of this is that someone may catch Fred Radtke, the infamous vigilante Grey Ghost, a self-appointed one man war on graffiti and street art, the in act of slapping his signature smear on federal property. I think a trip through the central government’s justice system might cool is ardor for trespassing on private property to cover graffiti or any sort of street art that offends him.
Up from the Underground April 20, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, Kubla Khan, New Orleans, NOLA, Sunday Morning, The Abbey Bar, underground, Velvet Underground
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Good evening, this is reel three of the Underground Weekend. See the Underground Man below as to what has prompted this. These posting may make more sense starting with Underground Man and reading up in order. Or they may not make sense at all.
Sunday Mornings long ago, back from a night in the underground of quarter rats who peopled Decatur Street after dark (a time I once described in a poem with the line: “we lived as we read and gladly would have died of it”, thinking of Bukowski); a morning listening to the music at the Episcopal Church next door on Esplanade (now grown famous for it’s dedication to local musicians); coffee dark as tar and an early morning cigarette listening to the French horn solo from the open windows not 10 feet from my patio seat, dreaming of all tomorrow’s parties.
The Underground does not live exclusively in the dark. It is all around you, even if you think you’ve grown old and lost the thread. Going for your Sunday paper tomorrow you may pass someone just back from The Underground (his flashing eyes! his floating hair!) just bursting with a story to tell, if only you had the match they asked for, had a reason to linger and listen.
This concludes reel three and the Underground weekend. Tomorrow we return to the counting house.
Hey, white boy, what you doin’ uptown? April 19, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, Carlos Castaneda, Magnolia, New Orleans, NOLA, Popeyes, underground, Velvet Underground
It’s Saturday, April 18 and this is reel two of the Underground Weekend.
The line of this song that resonates with memory is “Hey, white boy, what you doin’ uptown?” I have absolutely no familiarity with what the rest of this song is about. I swear. I mean, I got kids I’m raising in this town, so I’m not telling any stories. The line reminds me of our frequent stops long ago on Claiborne Avenue near the Magnolia for some 3 a.m. chicken at what we used to call the Project Popeyes. We would stumble in, white as altar boy gowns, reeking of smoke and of liquor for a quick dark, spicy, rice to finish off a loveless night. We used to get some looks wandering in there, but one of the useful things you can pick up reading Carlos Castaneda–other than a superficial knowledge of plant pharmacology–is the concept of fearlessness. Ah, to be young and invincible and free from any preconceptions about what might happen next. To be living in the Underground.
Fearlessness, it seems, is incompatible with the burdens we take on in this world. A family with children? A mortgage to keep a roof over their head? The lesson I take at 50 from Castaneda is that a warrior must be impeccable, which proves to be much harder than fearless, more work and much less fun. Here in the Ersatz Underground we still have a little of the freedom that fearlessness requires.
This ends reel two of the Underground weekend. The next reel will be tape three. No, Peter, you may not post Sunday Morning as your SMV, as that will be tape three.
Why Popeyes Wins the Chicken Wars April 19, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, KFC, New Orleans, NOLA, Popeyes
Even in this Franco-Iberian outpost in North America, horse hasn’t quite caught on.
Orpheus Crescending April 18, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, underground, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Lou Reed, New Orleans, NOLA, underground, Velvet Underground, Venus in Furs
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There was an Underground once.
I was a child when this was recorded, listening to drivel on WTIX.
Somewhere tonight in this city boys in black with china white skin strum chords from the end of the world to their cigarette thin girls.
I am not there and neither are you. Some underground we are.
End Part One of the Underground Weekend, Friday April 17 2008. The next tape will be Tape Two…
The Underground Man April 17, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Debrisville, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Ashley Morris, Bloggers, blogging, Chris Rose, New Orleans, NOLA, Times Picayune, underground
“So long live the underground. I already carried the underground in my soul.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground
New Orleans Times-Picayune pop-culture columnist Chris Rose discovered the city’s digital underground, as he puts it, when he stumbled into the occult and hermetic bloggerhood of New Orleans, “…a massive community of underground writers, cranks and misanthropes who are keeping it real around here.”
Hmmm. I think he gets curmudgeon in there at some point as well. I don’t think we’re quite as far underground as he finds us to be. Certainly there are a lot of people who would recognize bloggers Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage or Bart Everson of b.rox. Karen was written up in the Wall Street Journal (with a picture, no less). Bart was one of the leaders of our neighborhood’s recovery process and before his daughter was borne sat on more committees than most know exist. Both spoke at the 2007 crime march. Not precisely misanthropic. Now we certainly can be the cantankerous bunch, especially when confronted with the class of people Ashley Morris liberated the movie line “fuckmooks” to describe.
Later, Rose is a bit kinder (possibly after he recovers from being called a douchebag by one local blogger, although I have to wonder how easily offended a guy is who calls his standup comedy routine “the Asshole Monologues.”) We are, Rose continues in a more positive vein, “…members of the vibrant New Orleans blogosphere, virtual warriors who lock and load for hours over their computers at night, driving legions of opinions, complaints, vitriol and humor out onto the Information Superhighway, giving both locals and outsiders alternative, sometimes insightful and always uncensored accounts of life in the Big Uneasy. “
Damn. Well, that was nice enough, although I often write early in the morning. After a long day in the Big Uneasy its often difficult to put words together that would make any more sense than the drunken and incomprehensible speech I gave (or should I say attempted to give) rather late at Ashley Morris’ wake. And it’s certainly a bit nicer than his opening gambit. Still, on balance he makes us sound like 21st century variants of Dostoyevsky’s unpleasant character, well versed enough in modern technology to make our mark but consumed, at least some of us, with complaints and vitriol.
The Big Uneasy. Most people down here actively hate that trite bit of marketing nonsense Big Easy. But this play on it I rather like. It summarizes us all and where we live with a minimum of fuss. It fits in well with the neologisms of the NOLA Bloggers: Debrisville, Federal Flood, We Are Not OK. Rose has taken on for himself the stage role of Mr. Big Uneasy, beginning with a fabulous column he wrote back in the Fall of 2006 and later when he first dropped from the paper’s columns, then returned to publicly recount his struggle with depression.
In case you are not from around here, and fall into that group of fu——–, uh, I mean people who think that 1) New Orleans was wiped from the face of the earth two years ago by a vengeful god and is no longer your problem, or 2) everything down here in just peachy after Mardi Gras, the bowl championship game and NBA All-Stars, let me set the record straight: We Are Not OK. I am one of the few people I know not taking some sort of psychoactive meds to combat a condition I think strongly resembles combat fatigue as much as anything else. Chris Rose became the poster child for this condition, but he is one among tens upon tens of thousands.
Almost 1,000 days after the failure of the Federal levees life down here is still a struggle most Americans can’t imagine. For people who have invested themselves beyond just their own house and circle of friends and family, the people who have taken on in some small or large way the rebirth of the entire city, it can be as bleak at times as the denuded WWI battlescapes I believe the stage directions for Waiting for Godot were meant to invoke.
The thing is, Chris, you’re not unique; not in the way Ashley was unique. Most of us who write as you do, as we all do, about the city and our lives here share a common stage and read from the same script, function not as characters but as members of a chorus. We act from the same flaws and echo each other’s lines, waiting to share that moment of carthasis with the audience. Now Ashley, there was a character. When he walked onto the stage it was: cue the lights and orchestra (snare and kettledrum, fortissimo please). We’re glad you found him, sorry you missed knowing him, and appreciate that you helped to share his story to the larger world of newspaper readers.
He struggled as we all struggled, but as with everything else in his life he did it with more gusto that most. If he seemed at time cantankerous or misanthropic and downright cranky, he was entitled. We’re all entitled: you, too, Chris. The NOLA bloggers are not, however, the caricature of the cantankerous blogger: that 21st Century, Web. 2.0 version of the crank with a typewriter and a mimeo machine, guys who write and mass mail letters to every member of Congress, who litter coffee shops with uncollected petitions.
We are, as you admit in one moment, a lot like yourself. We are people who write about this city and the people in it, not for a living as you do but as a very important part of our lives, as one of the tethers for our sanity in this crazy place where It’s After the End of the World. We are underground men (and women), but not in the Dostoyevskyan sense. We are in part an underground resistance to the poor, lost fuckmooks on Perdido Street and everywhere you can find them, here and away; to the “shootings happen to someone else, to bad people but not to me” mind set; to the “charter schools are wonderful, just like Catholic school without the tuition or the knee patches and let the rest rot” view of the world; a resistance against anyone who would profit from our pain or settle for less than something better for New Orleans.
We’re not paragons, of virtue or anything else. We’re as dysfunctional a band as any mid-career high school class, mad as bats as often as not, cranky as an Ash Wednesday hangover and drunk 24-7 on the elixir of New Orleans.
Welcome to the underground.
Cannibal Creole April 15, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, cannibalism, creole, New Orleans, NOLA, odd
And now for something completely odd and pointless This one is for Micheal Homan, who seems to have this thing about cannibals rattling around in his head. How about some long cochon du lait? Hey, don’t blame me. Blame Our New Anne Rice" (just kidding).
Created by OnePlusYou
Slaying the Mooks with Joy April 14, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, Ashley Morris, jazz funeral, New Orleans, NOLA, tourists
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…it was clear they understood that they were witnessing something extraordinary, something ancient and primal, and something wholly authentic. This (let’s face it) totally bizarre mix of people crying, dancing and celebrating in a cemetery, merging grief with the joy of living, is something they will take home to the land of beige boxes, or wherever it was they were from. A centerpiece of their travel stories will, no doubt, revolve around this remarkable thing that they witnessed. And somewhere, someone will understand, if only for a moment, why we live here.
And there will be one less mook in this world. Nice one, Ashley.
Oh, Didn’t He Ramble? April 13, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Ashley Morris, Hot 8 Jazz Band, jazz funeral. St. Louis No. 3 cemetery
There are lots of pictures up of yesterday’s jazz funeral for Ashley Morris, but I want to call you in particular those by dbs of bark, bugs, leaves and lizards which are simply fantastic. The black and white drop outs below are particularly fine. So many have written so well about Friday’s event, I’ll leave it at helping to share out what Ashley cared deepest about (after his family): the unique music and culture of New Orleans.
The band turns that final corner with the mourners close behind. The dancing is tentative at first. We we are mostly as white as a truckload of Bunny Bread, and for most of the crowd this is their first jazz funeral. By the time the band has climbed the mausoleum steps in the next picture, the joyous sounds had mounted the crowd like the loa.
This is the part that G-Bitch describes, “the important dance-and-sweat-until-the-tears-stop part of the ritual,” the band on the steps of the priest’s mausoleum and the crowd around the camera.
I missed Ray’s eulogy as I had to split and run over to meet the band. I’m glad he’s posted it on his blog.
Ashley, remember this: no one who ever knew you can pass in or our of Jazz Fest without you in their thoughts. Like the bone men, we will carry you in our hearts into the Fairgrounds. You are a part of this city forever.
Tragedy In Two Acts April 11, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Dinerral Shavers, Helen Hill, Hot 8 Brass Band, murder, trial
Yesterday a jury acquired the accused killer of music teacher and Hot 8 Brass Band member Dinerral Shavers after the state’s key witness could not identify the accused in court. What, does this kid not watch TV? Its the guy in the suit at the table with the lawyers you don’t know. Jeezus.
I won’t recount the whole sad tale. You can read about it here. The aftermath of Shavers’ shooting as a comedy of errors sandwiched between two tragedies: Shavers’ death and the failure of the N.O.P.D. and district attorney’s office to bring a sense of justice and closure to Shavers’ family and friends.
Shavers’ killing and that of artist and filmmaker Helen Hill galvanized the city in 2007, leading to a crime march by thousands of Orleanians to their City Hall to demand that the police, courts and city find a way to stop the killings.
The judge’s final remarks were a pointed comment on what is going down on the streets of New Orleans:
“This is like Baghdad,” [Judge Jerome] Winsberg told the jury after reading their verdicts aloud.
People are shooting each other over neighborhood alliances, he noted; children are not only raising themselves, but being left to care for toddlers and babies in the 2200 block of Dumaine Street.
Winsberg said he wasn’t commenting on the verdict, just the four days of testimony that preceded it. A subset of New Orleans unfolded in court, the judge said, one in which no one seems to live with their parents, but guns and “beefs” and threats are ever-present.
I will have the sad privilege of seeing the Hot 8 at a private event later today, and telling them how sorry I am for how all this played out. The band will be at French Quarter Fest tonight at 6:30 p.m. in Wollenberg Park. I encourage you to come out and show these guys some love today.
I Know You Rider April 10, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, Ashley Morris, celebration, funeral, Grateful Dead, I Know You Rider, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, We Are Not OK
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Jesus the Jew jumped up in his pew and sang a simple song:
I Know Your Rider and then for an encore You Just Keep Me Hangin’ On
–Some Drunken Idiot
I’m tired about writing about the Other, about all of It, this crazy After the End of This World we live in. This is for me. It is my invocation for tomorrow morning, to carry me through the day. It is for all of you, my blessing on a sad day; but most of all for myself:
“I wish I was a headlight/On a north bound train.
I’d shine my light/Through the cool Colorado rain.”
Quotes From A Life April 10, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Ashley Morris, fuckmook, memorial, Norman Mailer
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As we prepare to bury our friend Ashley Morris tomorrow, I want to share some quotes from an article I found in the break room todayi n USA Today. These are taken from the write up of a memorial for Norman Mailer, who passed away last year.
I’m not comparing Ashley’s blogging to Mailer’s writing (although at times, on a personal preference level, I’d probably have clicked his blog rather than pick up Mailer. That’s just a matter of taste). It is more the striking synchronicity of the person these eulogists are describing. And there was something of Mailer as well as H.S. Thompson about Ashley. He and Mailer certainly shared a taste for the scatological imperative.
Tina Brown, the British-born writer and former editor of the New Yorker, said Mailer was “everything I came to America for: a large-scale, flamboyant risk taker who refused to be defined by anyone other than himself.”
Write Kate Mailer recalled a family mountain climb led by her father during a thunder storm. She saw a warning sign and told her father, “We’ll all die.” To which he answered, “You have to learn to question authority. We should all be lucky enough to die on a mountaintop.”
And finally author Don DeLillio, praised Mailer as someone “figuring out the world, sentence by sentence.”
If you knew Ashley, this needs no explanation. If you didn’t and you know something of Mailer’s life, the perhaps it will help you to understand the Ashley we have all been memorializing this past week and will bid farewell tomorrow.
And don’t forget to click the link at right to help Hana and the three small children Ashley’s untimely death leaves behind.
The Shepherds and the Wolves April 9, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Flood, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Church, demolition, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Sinn Fein, Taliban, We Are Not OK
Last night we took a woman and her daughter to dinner at Liuzza’s and to Brocatos, people my wife knew in North Dakota who came here on a Lutheran Church mission to work on homes in St. Bernard Parish for the St. Bernard Project. The church that hosted them was an Evangelical Lutheran Church led by a pastor who himself lived through the disastrous flood of Grand Forks, N.D. and who willingly took on to rebuild a church and congregation here in Lakeview.
What happened here, my wife told her friend, had reaffirmed her faith in organized religion: so many religious volunteers have come and done so much work. I wanted to disagree, but I bit my tongue. It is not organized religion that is rebuilding our community, and most certainly not the church my family professes, the Roman Catholic Church.
My own growing distaste for that institution (not its people, mind you; certainly not all of the clergy) was firmly cemented when It joined the pantheon of clannish hate cults, jumping up to their too-tight clerical collars into the Gays Aren’t People campaign of the last few election cycles. My loathing was made stronger watching the local hierarchy decide without explanation which parishes would live and which would die in the post-Federal Flood city, especially the painful episodes of St. Augustine’s and St. Francis Cabrini. the “cathedral of the lakefront“.
One simple fact to know about The Church, or any church: where parishes returned, congregations followed. Where pulpits were left empty and the churches left filled with the rotting remains of vestments and missals, people were slow to return if they came back at all.
Witness the miraculous recovery of the Vietnamese-American community of New Orleans East, an area like most of those east of the Industrial Canal lade completely to waste. Led by Father Vien Thé Nguyen, Our Lady Queen of Vietnam first sheltered those who stayed for the storm then led the recovery of their community.
Or look at Lakeview. Fr. Paul Watkins, the parochial vicar (associate pastor) of St. Dominic Catholic Church in there , told Brian Denser of WTUL’s Community Gumbo in 2007: “we have spearheaded the recovery…everywhere the priests were allowed to return those neighborhoods have come back. The parishes that were closed…the neighborhoods are all exceptionally grim.”
Now, take a drive in the area around Parish Avenue where Cabrini Church once stood to you can understand what other areas of the city looked like, say, two years ago.
Today the Archdiocese of New Orleans will announce the closure of additional parishes. These are not those drowned by the failure of the federal levees. Take for example Our Lady of Good Counsel on Louisiana Avenue in Uptown new Orleans. Accomplished local novelist (and blogger) Poppy Z. Brite distributed a statement that tells us the story of the church where she was just baptized into the Catholic faith this past Easter:
This 114-year-old church ministers to 450 families, including a large number of elderly and disabled parishioners who do not have the ability to travel to another church. Both OLGC and another historic Uptown church, St. Henry’s (which is 152 years old and ministers to 300 families) are to be closed in April. Our Lady of Good Counsel was one of the first Catholic churches to reopen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, we have repaired the
minor wind damage we sustained in the storm, doubled the size of our congregation, and made great progress toward paying off our debt to the archdiocese. Our congregation ministers to the local poor through the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other organizations, and we hold a popular St. Joseph’s altar each March 19, where the saint is honored and the public is fed.
Our Lady of Good Counsel is architecturally significant, with a magnificent high altar, remarkable stained glass windows, a working pipe organ, and other details that would make it part of a standard church tour in any European city. Under the archdiocese’s current
ruling, this beautiful and sacred building will be sold off to the highest bidder and could even be torn down. Only in New Orleans do we have so many unseen treasures, and only in New Orleans, it seems, are we so ready to throw them away.
An arch diocese, indeed.
Here is the beautiful building the Archdiocese intends to sell off to the highest bidder. Given the building type , unless another faith’s congregation takes it over it will be demolished. I wish the same fate on those who would demolish this as others wish on the Taliban who demolished the great cliff Buddhas. The two groups differ only in degree, not kind.
In the aftermath of the attempts to destroy the nation’s oldest African-American Catholic congregation and the demolition of Cabrini Church, I’m near speechless. What more can I say about Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes and his arch-henchman Fr. William Maestri? Having dropped the F-bomb more times this week than I have in all the months and years since 8-29, I think this time insteadd I’ll just quote (but not profess) the words of a simple carpenter whose teachings Hughes and Maestri once swore to profess: Forgive them. They know now what they do.
As these new centurions of the Roman Catholic Church draw out the last nail, wagering perhaps over what the auction price will be, it is important we remember this: Our city is being rebuilt by in a very large part by individual volunteers who understand, who have internalized an important part of the message of Jesus: to help the downtrodden, the afflicted and oppressed. They come not at the direction of men with great offices in Rome or opulent television studios in the suburbs of the south. They come because of their personal commitment to live out the charge laid on them twenty centuries ago:
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
The Catholic Church, an anchor of this Franco-Iberian founded city, is just another institution that betrays us, just as government–the city, the state, and the central government–have betrayed us. Each of these looked on our suffering and saw an opportunity for profit and advancement. Tomorrow the NOLA Bloggers will bury our good friend Ashley Morris, and we will remember one thing he leaves behind, his own charge to people not his disciples but certainly his comrades: Sinn Fein, Ourselves Alone. The Church’s actions today remind us that the institutions we have trusted are now run not by shepherds but by wolves. We can only save ourselves by our own actions and in spite of them.
Sinn Fein, New Orleans. And thank you, Claudia and all of the volunteers of all faiths (and none) who have come and helped to rebuild our city. May you hold Hughes and Maestri in your prayers and beg for them mercy and forgiveness, for I should give them neither.
Remember Ashley Morris April 6, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Ashley Morris, Bloggers, funeral, New Orleans, NOLA
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Funeral arrangements are set. Visitation will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the service will be at 1 p.m. this Friday, April 11 at Schoen Funeral home on 3827 Canal Street, with internment at St. Louis #3 cemetery, 3421 Esplanade Avenue, to follow.
Please visit www.RememberAshleyMorris.com and give generously to help his family (he leaves three pre-school children behind). There’s a Pay Pal account so it couldn’t be easier. There’s a direct link to the Pay Pal at right under Ashley’s picture.
Loki and others are also working on a benefit for Ashley’s family;details to follow.
Thanks not only to the NOLA Bloggers who’ve done so much for Ashley (not the least of which are their memorials on-line), but also to Gambit Weekly writers for the memorials at their blog by Micheal Tisserand and this anonymous one.
Tisserand nailed Ashley to the page with this:
“Ashley Morris was emblematic of the new wave of post-Katrina bloggers in New Orleans: fiercely local and quick to take to the guard tower against those who might malign or even misunderstand his beloved home. He was more volatile — and more entertaining — than most writers who cover the city in any media. He lived on the rough draft, which made him invaluable during rough times.”
Never Let The Fire Go Out April 4, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Ashley Morris, dead, death, excitable boy, fuckmook, je me souviens, New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, NOLA, Remember, Sinn Fein
Some of us make small marks on paper or simple bits of dark on a light screen. It is not much, these words, but it is something; perhaps to be read by a stranger who discovers a different New Orleans than that gleaned from the television news or some bad film, or by someone who finds a kindred spirit or who discovers in one of us something they did not know about themselves.
Words on the internet are more transient than bar room banter or check-out line chit-chat. In a few years, without some special effort, much of what we all write about New Orleans may be lost forever, stored on some disk or tape for which all of the readers have been lost. Most of us will be happy if we can leave something our children can remember, like the ribbon-tied bundle of letters from my father to my mother from World War II I have stashed away; something they can sometimes touch thoughtfully, can show to their children and say: “this was your grandfather’s; he did this.”
A very few of us rise above that personal level of history, make a larger mark in this life, like elephants passing on the savanna: something monumental moving through the world, a rumbling in the earth and a trumpeting cry, a trail of marks left behind which other men will find in some dim future and say: that is what it was like in that place and time.
Ashley Morris, was one of those few.
There are a scores of us who write passionately about New Orleans. What we do is little enough but it is something. Just to live here in what one wag called Debrisville is more than a little. It takes a commitment most Americans couldn’t begin to muster. The ones who most likely could manage it have all volunteered for Iraq, and we seem to be running out of them.
Above the simple bloggers and patriots of New Orleans like a hierarchy of angels are the people who don’t just live here and count that enough, who not only make the time to write about New Orleans but who do so much beyond, who give so much of their life to the city–Karen Gadois, Ray Shea, and Bart Everson come first to mind from among the ranks of bloggers.
And then there was Ashley.
His was not simply a life ardently dedicated to New Orleans. His life was inseparable from the city whose fleur de lis symbol he had tattooed upon his arm. He was not just spirited in his love of this city, he was in some sense a spirit of this city, a sort of deva or force of nature, the dedication so many people feel for New Orleans concentrated and made incarnate in living flesh.
I think Greg at Suspect Device may have said it best yesterday: “Ashley was fire. Ashley was the furnace where the rage was forged, where the steam pressure built, where raw anger began its conversion to power and motion. He was not a one-sided man, by any stretch of the imagination. He was intolerably funny. Talented. A father. All of that. Not an angry person except when driven to it. I feel tonight as if the fire has gone out and the boilers have begun to cool and the whole beastly thing is slowing to a crawl.”
Ashley burned with an angry flame that made something holy of the word fuck and gave names and faces to a throw away movie line–fuckmook–and made it a part of our everyday vocabulary. . But he also burned with a consuming fire for New Orleans’ food, the high and the low, and the more of it the better; for the New Orleans Saints, heroes and bums, winning or losing; and finally for the musicians of the city. Ashley was the one who stepped up to challenge venerated icons like Habitat for Humanity and Harry Connick, Jr. when it became clear that the “Musicians Village” would not be reserved for musicians.
He certainly lived large. A born raconteur (and don’t we love them more than any other people in North America), we all listened breathlessly to his tale of trying to hunt down Hunter S. Thompson while doped up and hampered by injuries from a motor cycle accident. He loved the aura of people with a bad boy shtick of their own, most of all Warren Zevon. He took a line from Zevon, “Excitable boy, they all said” and made it the signature of his blog.
His energy was borne in part of contradictions. For all of his incendiary bravura, around his three small children he was a model of tenderness and fatherly energy, his fire banked to the glow of a warm hearth on a cold winter’s night or the crackling fun of a fire for roasting wienies and s’mores. He didn’t post pictures of his kids up in his internet persona. They lived in a separate world, carefully guarded and at the same time taken out to experience all of New Orleans they could from the very first. They were , kept away from the man with the burning brand in his hand as they were initiated by him into the ways of the city.
It was the mix that made Ashley the person he was, the person we all loved. His anger, his humor and the palpable aura of love and pride when around his wife and kids: all of these made him more than just an angry, ranting blogger or another fan with his team inked on his arm. He seemed the complete package and then some, an edgy something extra like painted flames on a car visibly built to exceed not just the speed limit but all common sense. He seemed to signify some thing or other we all perhaps felt we lacked because he seemed to have it all going, plus that bit of Thompson-esque crazy most of us don’t dare try. If you know a little of his life story, you know he was not the complete package, that living large was perhaps a compensation for his past, for the demons that likely stalked him right up to his last day in Florida as he tried to put his deceased mother’s affairs in order.
Now is seems the fire is all out and the demons are all fled. Perhaps.
I was not as close to Ashley as some other bloggers became. He was for me one of our crowd, our krewe of bloggers, and I mostly saw him at blogger functions: our parties, the planning meetings leading up to our Rising Tide conferences, times like this. I would run into him on the street, and he would almost always offer me a cigar, and they were always the best damned cigars I ever smoked. But I can’t say we were close. Instead I knew him as I knew so many of the other bloggers through our constant exchange of blog comments and emails, because we talked as constantly as the people of a small farm town.
And so when I woke up this week and wrote a quick blog post to excuse myself from not posting much because my own life seemed to be spiraling out of control. I then opened my email and found out Ashley was dead. I was devastated. It was as if someone had ripped a huge hole in my chest, carving out that piece of ourselves unrelated to circulation that we still call our heart.
I remembered that feeling. The last time I had it was a Monday night in August two-and-a-half years ago when I came home from my son’s football practice to find that my city had not “dodged the bullet” but instead was drowning, that the Big One–the flood we all knew could come–had happened at last. This week I was once again the hollow man. Something was taken from me, a place left empty that I was left to my own devices to fill.
And so I read what all of Ashley’s friends had posted on line. I only left a short comment on Hana’s message on Ashley’s blog telling us the news, and a short post of my own here. The word Fuck in my post that day appears not because I was angry. It was too soon for anger. It was instead an invocation of the spirit that Ashley carried, that Ashley was. It was like Eliot’s final Shantih Shantih Shantih at the end of the bleak “The Wasteland“. It was the yell tens of thousands of southern boys hollored running up hill to their death in battle long ago. Ashley had fallen, and I wanted to pick up his damned flag–the white field with three gold fleur de lis–and carry it charging against all of the fuckmooks of the universe. It was the whispered invocation of the Bone Men, an invitation to Ashley not to leave but to stay and be carried through the city once again.
As the day of the announcement of his death wore on and became the day after, the strange communities we have built for ourselves in this dystopic, postdiluvian world – the NOLA bloggers, Hana’s fellow Roller Girls – rallied to help Ashley’s family. I realized that while Greg Peters had nailed Ashley to the canvas perfectly he had gotten one important part wrong. The fire was not going out. It was spreading like a Pentecost. Like the equally tragic loss of Helen Hill the year before, I know his death will become a galvanizing moment that will ultimately feed the bigger fire of all of the people Ashley represented: the partisans of New Orleans.
That is not to excuse the fuckmook god that would take Ashley from his widow and young children and leave all the in-his-craven-image fuckmooks to live, this callous mechanical universe that randomly takes the best and the innocent and the beautiful and leaves the rest of us with the wreckage, that seems to laugh in its trickster sleeve as it silently mocks us: figure it out. Well, we have figured it out, with Ashley’s help: Sinn Fein, Ourselves Alone. We get it, god. So as Randy Newman, another partisan of New Orleans, once said long ago: “Lord, if you won’t take care of us/Won’t you please, please let us be.”
The world is a smaller and colder place without Ashley Morris. And that’s easy for his friends to say. We are not his family robbed of husband and father. But still I know that Suspect Device got it wrong (for once, Greg: it happens to us all). Ashley’s fire has not gone out. It has moved on. It has spread itself through his friends in their hundreds and will unleash itself first to help Ashley’s family and ultimately to save the city that was as inseparable from his identity as his head was from his body.
We will never let that the fire go out.
- IMPORTANT UPDATE: Please visit www.RememberAshleyMorris.com and give generously to help his family (he leaves three pre-school children behind). There’s a Pay Pal account so it couldn’t be easier. There’s a direct link to the Pay Pal at right under Ashley’s picture.
And death shall have no dominion April 3, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Bloggers, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, NOLA, Odds&Sods, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, And death shall have no dominion, Ashley Morris, Bloggers, dead, Dylan Thomas, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, R.I.P
By Dylan Thomas
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.
And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.
Ashley Morris April 3, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Odds&Sods, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Ashley Morris, blogger, dead, death, father, friend, fuckmook, mime, musician, New Orleans, NOLA, R.I.P, writer
UPDATE: Click here to donate to the Ashley Morris Memorial Fund to help out Hanna and the kids.
Update 03-21-10: This post seems to be getting a lot of hits, so when you’re done reading the links eulogizing Ashley Morris, stop by this post to read about the character based on Ashley, played by John Goodman, who will be featured in David Simon’s Treme.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
It is not right that the fuckmooks should live and Ashley should not. There is no person alive who loved this city more than he. No one.
He leaves behind his wife Hana and three small children: Katerina, Anabel, and Rey d’Orleans.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Ray was one of Ashley’s closest friends here. By all means read his memorial.
Another update: Ashley, you glorious mofo, you have two-and-a-half times the hits Al Copeland got when I wrote about his passing.
More Here: Never Let The Fire Go Out
Update 6-14-10: Interesting. “Fuck, fuck, fuck” was the text message I sent two people last night just as the Treme charcter Creighton parks his car down by the river. Just for the record: Creighton Burnette is a composite of several people who were the basis for creating a fictional character. While FYYFF and the series opening rant were pure Ashley Morris, it would be a mistake to conflate the man with the fictional character. For more on the Creighton character, visit the Back of Town blog.
Koyaanisqatsi April 3, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Koyaanisqatsi, life out of balance, New Orleans, NOLA
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So much I want to write about and do but right now my life is just too crazy, too much out of balance, too much Koyaanisqatsi.