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Remembering No. 37 July 29, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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The New Orleans Times-Picayune has started an excellent series chronicling the investigation into one of the city’s homicides. As easy as it is to pick on our on-again, off-again local newspaper, every now and then they put up something like this and you think: Pulitzer.

Having taken more than a passing interest in the forgotten victims of the city’s murder epidemic, I applaud the TP for investing the effort in this series. It reminds us that the assumption so common here–it’s happens to “them”, in “their” neighborhoods, places I would never visit; it’s all black-on-black and drug related, and so it is unimportant to me–is a false one. It’s a comfortable lie we can no longer afford.

Victim No. 37 of 2008 does not fit into that false bottomed box. We learn installment two he “had no police record. That’s rare in a New Orleans killing: As often as not, the detectives seek justice for victims who might be shooters themselves, or at least players in drugs and guns… had been an altar boy. [He]attended catechism classes at nearby Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. He planned to be confirmed soon at the altar, the religious rite of passage into adulthood.”

When the newspaper visited his home, there was a picture of No. 37 and the only girlfriend he ever had on this desk, next to a neat stack of homework in progress. The room was littered with video games. He was by all accounts pretty much the same as my own kids. And now he is dead, guiltyof being at the wrong place at the wrong time on his way to buy some snacks at the convenience store up the street. If you have kids and live in, say, Metairie or the Northshore or even nice, mostly safe Lakeview, next time you think this happens to “them” take a hard and long look at your own child. Then tell yourself it doesn’t matter.

Lance Michael Zarders, 17, was No. 37. Thanks to this story he is not just another name on the list or a dot on a map. He has a name, and a face, and a story told. He is remembered.

If you find youself here and you know one of the anonymous victims, those who get only a line or two in the newspaper and then disappear, I encourage you to take a few moments and leave a comment. You can do it on the 2007 list post, where I still get a dozen or more vistors every day. Tell us something about them. It doesn’t matter if they were a victim in 2007 (and on that list) or 2006 or 2008. Just help us all to remember.

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Big h/t to M.D. for his 2008 tracking maps and everything else he does to make sure this issue doesn’t go away. His maps are one way in which we remember.

Black and Gold Forever July 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Updated with many more details Sunday evening.

The Ashley Morris benefit seemed a great success from out in the crowd, which was easily a hundred. It was a mix of bloggers, roller girls and some familiar faces from neither group I think run in the Defend New Orleans/Dirty Coast crowd. People dressed in Saints’ black and gold, or in Defend New Orleans or FYYFF t-shirts from Dirty Coast were clutching fistfuls of raffle tickets and prizes won at auction, including clothes modeled by burleque girls. I took home a Trinidad cigar ashtray of Ashley’s.

Much drink was taken, and there was a cloud of cigar smoke from a few of us at the blogger tables, as it should be. I picked up a couple of nice maduras from the Cuban exile’s shop just up Toulouse Street from One Eyed Jacks. Don’t ask the brand as I lost the band from the one I smoked. The second I laid across a glass of Jameson’s and left on the foot of the stage. I took a sip and sprayed a bit on the stage in the fashion of voodoo, and blew a large waft of smoke over the glass and the stage.

That bit of gris-gris did not prevent the first band from playing. An odd sounding improvisational group of cello, keyboard and drum I think must have been the Other Planets sometimes sounded like bad outtakes from Bitches Brew. Someone wondered aloud if Ashley spirit was hovering over the scene asking in a loud voice that only he could here, “what the fuck is this?” Still, they donated of their time so I shouldn’t be so harsh. In another setting I would have listened closely and perhaps been more interested, but most people don’t listen to Sun Ran or Pharoah Sanders or Miles Davis wild Bitches Brew.

Andrew “The Reverand Psych” Ward, the emcee for the evening, had an excellent cabaret shtick and watching him work with the two burlesque girls from Fluer de Tease during the auction and raffle was highly entertaining. The guest appearance by the mysterious Supa Saint, playing a wild and weirdly melodramatic, Phantom of the Paradise-styled eyboard riff over New Orleans Saints videos while the two Fleur girls danced at either end of the stage let the evening it’s critical Saints football component.

Ray Shea read his eulogy again, which I particularly appreciated as I had to leave the service in April early to meet the band at the cemetery and so missed it. Oyster was on stage as well, but had to run to the men’s room and missed what he said (but I dear hear his eulogy in April). I got back in time to her Hana speak, introducing herself as “I’m Soviet Block, and I will kick your ass,” to uprorious hooting from the Roller Girls and the rest of the crowd. I somehow missed that author John Barry, who will be our keynote speaker at the third annual Rising Tide Conference was there, and Lisa brought over Huey Lewis after his his local show at HoB.

Most of us started to drift off just as the second band (which sounded excellent) started but by that point must of us were wrung out by drink and the evenings excitement. All credit and Hail to Loki of Humid City who got the Ashley Morris Foundation benefit rolling, and to everyone else who helped: Blake from Dirty Coast, the musicians who played and the artists who donated to the auction and raffle, the Big Easy Roller Girls and One Eyed Jacks for hosting us.

As I sit here bleary from drink and too little sleep, it seems following Maitri and Derrick to Fahys for drinks after midnight was a mistake, a beer too far. Still, I felt a compulsion to go. We sat in the same narrow space at the back where the first of the post-Katrina NOLA Blogger meet-ups occurred, the nucleus from which Geek Dinners and the Rising Tide conference eventually came. Back in early ’06 I put out the word on the Yahoo mailing list I started that I would stand drinks for any of the NOLA bloggers who could drag themselves to a French Quarter bar on Ash Wednesday.

Ashley was a large presence in that small crowd. It was the first time I met him in person, his traveling humidor tucked under his arm. Last night, I kept glancing over the shoulder of the person I was talking to, almost expecting to find him huddled in the corner with Troy Gilbert and John de Fraites as he was on that night. I think it was that evening over two years ago I first heard the phrase “armor the levee with their skulls” uttered, but I don’t recall if it was Troy (who latter blogged it) or Ashley who first said it. It could have come from either of them, but it surely sounds like something Ashley would have said.

It was a satisfying but eerie end to the evening, sitting in that spot where the NOLA Bloggers story began. About halfway through my second Smithwicks I had that feeling like a man on a sinking ship who knows that the water has passed some point, and the thing will soon head down. It was time to abandon ship, so I had the bartender call me a U-boat and left. Overall a very satisfying evening for a good cause.

Maitri has a few pictures and more details, and I know Dereck of bags, bugs, leaves and lizards was carrying his cameras. (You cancheck his excellent photos from Ashley’s funeral here). I’m off to check Google reader to see who else has posted anything else up.

Sinn Fein, New Orleans. We will never let the fire go out.

The Lad Searches the Night for His Newts July 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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We interrupt whatever the hell it was you meant to do when you stumbled in here to present this Important Public Service Announcement on the subject of Dental Hygiene.

But first, Motorhead must find his Newts…

Remember: as Theodore Bikel reminds us within the conceptual framework of this filmic event nothing really matters…

Be Nice or Leave July 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I wasn’t going to write about anything except the beach this week, giving myself as much of a rest on all fronts as possible. This morning I could not resist dropping into Google Reader, where I found this news:

a sign Dr. Bob made, welcoming visitors to the Bywater. It sits on private property, owned by NOCCA, a bastion of the arts, next to X/O Gallery, another bastion of the arts. The sign itself was hand painted by local legend, Dr. Bob, who has his work displayed in the Smithsonian Museum, and on Oprah Winfrey’s wall, for crissake.

And there it is. A two by three foot sign, beautifully trimmed in bottle caps, as Bob’s pieces are…Except for the gray paint. Battleship ugly fucking gray paint, rolled sloppily over the face of the sign, leaving obvious roller patterns and see-through spatter. That Asshole From Hell, Fred Radtke, has been here.

Here is an example of Dr. Bob’s art. He was featured in the New Orleans Magazine as one of the 97 Quirky New Orleans Discoveries recently, and as Lord David points out he is a nationally recognized folk artist. He is not some tagger spraying his nickname all over a railroad car.

Be Nice or Leave: excellent advice for Fred Radtke.

Radtke, you are a fuckmook. We don’t want you here in our city, anymore than we want the Klan-nostalgic commenters on the NOLA.Com stories. Why don’t you just to spray paint crap out in Metairie, where all the kiddie-taggers from from anyway. Oh, they might shoot your ass?

I’m still waiting for Shelly Midura to send me the Official List list of police-sanctioned forms of armed vigilantism. I mean, if they condone this fuckmook walking around with a pistol in his belt I would like to know what other sort of armed vigilantism we might be able to avail ourselves of to help with other crime problems.

Fuckmook.

I personally look forward to picking up a pice of art donated from NoLaRising’s paint party Saturday at the FYYFF Ashley Morris benefit Saturday night. I’m going to nail it to the front of my house.

Update: Before and after pictures.

http://drunah.livejournal.com/1049540.html

Looking for the Ocean July 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.

February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.

– Two log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way.

This is not the ocean, these rolling waves crashing into the sand just below my balcony. It is merely the edge of the thing, a ragged hem. The ragged band of devotees to sun and surf who assemble each morning at the water’s edge do not really understand the depth and breadth of what lies past the dim gray line that is the horizon.

I have never voyaged out onto the true ocean, the place where land is mostly memory, but one of my compulsions is reading the literature of adventure, particularly that involving long, solo voyages into the heart of blueness. Here on the shore we are barely acolytes of the sea, mere poseurs compared to men and women like Moitessier, the ones who sail out far and alone into the very depths of the Southern Ocean.

There is no Poseiden lurking off the shores of the Florida panhandle. The young women basking in the sun substitute weakly for sea nymphs, sandy-diapered children chasing the sea birds and the rolling breakers are our only water sprites. The ocean of the water gods, the ocean of Moitessier lies far beyond anything the beer sipping sunbathers can even begin to conceive.

I think my neighbors in the sand would find the epigram above confusing. To me it is one of the best descriptions of Oceanness, of the true nature of the great rolling thing at my feet that I have ever found. I know that Ocean is out there, and I am as humbled as a Haji standing in the sand just gazing out towards it.

Fireworks Suddenly July 21, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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They come out at night, the flashlight people
combing the tide line, lights swinging wildly
like some Shakespeare clown watch with a bottle.
What do they think to find out in the night
that would not wash up in the glare of day?

Fireworks suddenly burst over the sand
with a bang whoosh snap pop hiss of colors,
bursting metallic blossoms in the dark,
leaving a column of smoke, hesitant
then rushing past us like a crowd of ghosts.

A whale, my son turns and says as sudden
as the fireworks. What, I ask? A whale,
that’s what might wash up. Let’s go down and look.
Blink: one flock of lights vanish. Down there some
thing large and dark sings a watery blues.

Cross posted from Poems Before Breakfast. The flashlight people in Destin, Florida fascinate me. I don’t recall them from my trips here as a child, or on the beach in Rehoboth, Delaware.

Pardon me if I’m brief. I have to run out this morning and replace the landlady’s blender.

Falling off the edge July 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I’m off to the edge of the world for a while to watch the waves roll in and out. Might be quiet around here for a while.

See you at the Ashley Benefit: tanned, rested and unsteady.

This is what you paid to see, right? July 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Big h/t to Oyster for calling out this 2 Cent production.

Angels Sustaining and Triumphant July 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Like everything here in postdiluvian New Orleans the movement towards a Katrina Memorial drags slowly on. Everything down here moves by fits and start, like an old man pushing a scrap cart up the street.

We are not building the New Jerusalem here, for all of the bright and optimistic noise made back in the heady days of the recovery planning process. Thousands of citizens came together, night after night, to draft the plans for their shining city behind the small hills called levees. So many plans, drawings, maps and renderings, reduced in the end to pickings for that scrap man.

In spite of the monumental failure of the city’s leaders to produce any large projects people all over town are hammering their lives back together. Those who are here are busy and more than a bit worn down by it all, as might be expected. Rebuilding a city is hard work, especially as we are going by the well-established shanty town method of everyone for his or herself because the government and their consultants have only managed to erect promising looking signs (Coming Soon!) after three years. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the memorial will be delayed. I have to wonder if it will ever be built.

Few expect the monument to be built by the target date of Aug. 29, Katrina’s third anniversary. “Maybe by the fourth anniversary, maybe the fifth,” said Gwendolyn Davis Brown, 53, the niece of the Rev. Lonnie Garrison, a longtime pastor at Pilgrim Progress Missionary Baptist Church in New Orleans who died in the aftermath of the storm. “There’s so much stuff going on in the city, people still have to get back into their homes,” added Patsy Dupart, 58, Garrison’s daughter.

The memorial itself looks quite nice online, although the rendering of two angels rescuing a fleur de lis looks off in the promised bright bronze. Here in the back of town (as the cab maps still refer to our section), down by the cemeteries, we are used to the more ethereal look of angels in pale marble. The expression on the picture I found here seems a bit off as well. The top most angel looks a little too coquettish and pleased with herself. We prefer our funereal angels to find the matter a bit more dolorosa. Since we seem unable to locate any construction cranes to erect in the city, perhaps we could manage something more triumphant like Sadako proudly holding her paper crane in Hiroshima; an angel sustaining in the heraldic sense (think of the Columbia Pictures woman bearing a torch), holding a fleur de lis up to the sky.

The sense of rescue the current angels convey seems wrong as well. The lists of the dead and the adjoining ovens to hold the unclaimed will give us enough of a sense of what is past and done. What is needed at the center of the hurricane swirl shaped ground is something that will speak to us on the day it is unveiled, that will tell the story of the New Orleans rising out of the floodwaters.

The city itself is its own best memorial. No one can fault Frank Minyard’s insistence that we have some fitting place to bury the unclaimed dead, somewhere better than the current potter’s field he describes as “a swamp”. If we are to have a memorial to the flood (I haven’t even begun to address whether we need a Katrina or a Flood memorial; some other time), and if it must be on the open piece of ground at Cemeteries and be itself a cemetery, then I would hope there is something about it that rises above that frozen moment of 2005 and carries the visitor into our future.

If the statuary won’t give you the rest of the story, then let the city tell its own story. I would suggest to a visitor that as they leave the memorial site (should we in fact ever manage to build it), then stroll up Canal Street back towards the river, and consider that once ten feet of water stood there. As you reach Carrollton, turn and pick a busy restaurant, any restaurant. As you stand in that bustling neighborhood consider the pictures most shops have somewhere on the wall, showing their business ten feet under or after. Then look at the place and the people around you, the old made new and full of life.

Those people in line with you and the ones behind the counter are our angels sustaining and triumphant.

FYYFF: Black and Gold Forever July 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Don’t forget about this event. The Wets will be back from the beach just in time.

I just had to add this stylin’ poster.

FYYFF

It’s Black and Gold Forever: A Fundraiser for the Ashley Morris Memorial

Saturday, July 26 @ One Eyed Jacks
615 Toulouse Street
Cover: $10

www.rememberashleymorris.com

Dirty Coast Press, The Rising Tide and the Big Easy Roller Girls Present:

FYYFF It’s Black and Gold Forever: A Fundraiser for the Ashley Morris Memorial.

Featuring: Fleur de Tease, The Other Planets, and emcee Andrew Ward – The Reverend Pysch Ward + Simon Lott, Helen Gillet.

To The Reader July 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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“I am tired. I am weary
I could sleep
for a thousand years.”
— Velvet Underground

I am so tired lately. I’m just crawling out from under some respiratory illness but could not miss work last week, so all you see around here on Toulouse Street are some lazy You Tubes, a perfect analog of my situation: collapsed on the porch, listening to music and trying to read. Words rattle around in my head, but I’m too tired to make them come out here. I slouch in my plant hidden chair watching the fan whir like a helicopter turbine. Still, we go no where. The ice water glass drips cool condensation into my hand and I wipe my forehead with the icy balm, but I just can’t seem to drag myself out of that first heat wave lethargy. At the same time, I seem to be spending more effort at PBB, which is something for me but perhaps not for you, mon sembable — mon frere. And the subject of my last effort there, No. 14, is a poem about, well, boredom. At least my brain has not completely shut down. We seem to have a theme going, after a fashion.

And so I retreat into quoting, the refuge of the lazy blogger.

Among the vermin, jackals, panthers, lice,
gorillas and tarantulas that suck
and snatch and scratch and defecate and fuck
in the disorderly circus of our vice,

there’s one more ugly and abortive birth.
It makes no gestures, never beats its breast,
yet it would murder for a moment’s rest,
and willingly annihilate the earth.

It’s ENNUI! Tears have glued its eyes together.
You know it well, my Reader. This obscene
beast chain-smokes yawning for the guillotine —
you — hypocrite Reader — my double — my brother!

— Charles Baudelaire’s Au Lecteur (To the Reader) translated by Robert Lowell, from Marthiel & Jackson Matthews, eds., The Flowers of Evil (NY: New Directions, 1963) [and I changed boredom back to ENNUI. So shoot me. I was going to put the hookah back in but stopped myself.]

Happy Birthday April July 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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And now for something completely pointless.

Thanks, Karen.

Bastille Day July 12, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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La Marsellaise is such a lovely song.

Aux armes, citoyens ! To arms, citizens!
Formez vos bataillons ! Form your battalions!
Marchons, marchons ! Let’s march, let’s march!
Qu’un sang impur May a tainted blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Soak our furrows!
Aux armes, citoyens ! To arms, citizens!
Formons nos bataillons ! Let us form our battalions!
Marchons, marchons ! Let us march, let us march!
Qu’un sang impur May their tainted blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Soak our furrows!

How would you say in French: We will armor the levees with their skulls?

Listening for the new told lies July 12, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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‘Facing a dying nation
Of moving paper fantasies
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes”

It was Peter at Adrastos who made some remark about “the hippies” in reference to a McCain ad. Somehow that put me in mind of this song.

McCain. Iran. A dying nation of moving paper fantasies.

1968 was a long way from the end. Kids who started high school that year died in Vietnam.

Obama and the Democrats had best not fuck it up.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON July 11, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Ok, your hopelessly lazy and stupid host seems to have missed a link to some of Darrell Borque’s poetry. Here is a several mostly prose poems posted on a University of Lafayette website. The form is called ekphrasis, a term I just learned yesterday (See, poetry is improving) which involves describing a work of art in one media in another (in this case, poetry about a painting).

Given what he really thinks is going on in this picture, I think the Right Reverend Jindal is perhaps correct in submitting Borque for review prior to offering the State’s Imprimatur. I mean, really, in front of the children?

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON IN A DUTCH COURTYARD:
MENAGE A TROIS WITH CHILD WITNESS
By Darrell Borque

(A Dutch Courtyard,
Pieter de Hooch ,
1629-1683)

What these people have withdrawn from is large.
Immeasurable is what they have been drawn toward.
A whole town with churches and a marketplace, barges
in the waterways near the loading docks, the guard
drowsing near the banking house with gleaming sword
lie in the precincts just beyond their wall.A red serge
she’s opted for is but one bright, desired thing; a word
in private, full tankards, exchangeable heat.Courage
is what it takes to cash in toil for velvets and leather,
or to catch the beauty of a man’s limb and not flinch;
in the lifted glass she tells them afternoons in the heather
field is a possibility if they play their cards right. Wench
is a laughable appellation in this close company. Whether
or not ships sail, a possibility; glee in moorings, a cinch.

November 2000

We don’t need no stinkin’ poet laureate July 11, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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In another giant step towards the reinstatement of the Dark Ages, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declined to send up the name of the Blanco-nominated poet laureate to the Senate for confirmation in the last legislative session. The story broke in the INDependent newspaper and was later taken up by the Lafayette Advertiser (but no other Louisiana news outlet I can find).

When asked by the Advertiser, Jindal or someone (it’s not possible to tell from the badly edited story) suggested that retired University of Lafayette professor Darrell Borque might be renominated.

In a quote that syntactically cannot be tied back to anyone named in the story, someone told the Advertiser, “In no way is it reflecting on him,” he said. He’s looking for the best and brightest, and after a review, that might be Bourque, he said.”

This is a dangerous and powerful position, poet laureate, so I guess we have to be careful. I mean, you don’t want just anyone going out into schools around small children teaching them about poetry. I mean, you know what artists are like. Better run this one past the Grand Inquisitor.

I can’t find any examples of his work published online, but there is a reference to him found on Google Books in verspers: Contemporary American Poems of Religion and Spirituality. I guess if you’re going to write about God or spirituality and expect to be renominated by the likes of Jindal you better be the right flavor of Godly.

Now in the great scheme of things maybe you don’t think this is important. Its not as if Louisiana isn’t rife with more serious problems. You may have noticed that here on Toulouse Street we think poetry is important. The schools should expose everyone to it as much as possible because it teaches the power of language and its uses and combines the imaginative with the analytical in a way that I can’t help but believe improves the thinking of those who read or study it.

Perhaps the Jindalites don’t agree, and couldn’t see the point in bothering to send Borque’s name up. More disturbing is the thought that someone in a post like this might be subject to the sort of ideological vetting common to the modern GOP even when patently illegal.

You can spend your time worrying about the War on Terror. I’m much more worried about the Taliban among us, the ones standing next to you in the grocery check outline who would cheerfully take on the task of loading the queers and apostates and liberals into the cattle cars. If this respected retired professor isn’t renominated, it will tell us something about just how deeply Jindal has drunk of the kool aid.

Update: If you came to this post directly, browse to http://www.toulousestreet.net and you can read a poem I found online.

Normal Is The New Black July 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I don’t know when I stopped asking the hard questions. I routinely wrestled with them for over two years at Wet Bank Guide, but being angry all the time is wearing on a body. At some point, I think I just began to drift into that happy place the pollsters find us in.

Normal is a pretty tenuous concept from one end of Toulouse Street to the other. Still, just because every passing day makes it that much easier to get your New Orleans groove on does that mean we can all just forget about our unlivable Entergy bills and leaky levees, the broken streets and schools, the politicians who all seem to have a sense of decorum and propriety acquired on another planet?

Among my new regular reads is Cliff, who joins that honor roll of NOLA bloggers who stand ready to ask the questions that never seem to occur to Garland Robinette or the Times-Picayune columnists.

In his current post episode of Sitting On My Porch my favorite questions are: “Where are all the comments from angry suburban residents in Mandeville, LA threatening to leave the the Northshore because of all the corruptness in local government and law enforcement? Isn’t that why they all say they left New Orleans?” and “Mayor Ray Nagin has a 31% approval rating. His rating is 49% approval with blacks and 11% with whites. Judging by the quality of life these two groups have in the city right now, shouldn’t those numbers be reversed?”

If at least a few of Cliff’s questions don’t leave you squirming uncomfortably at your keyboard, the ones everyone in New Orleans should be asking regardless of race, then I think the new normal has gotten here just a little too soon. Remember two years ago, when there was some hope that washing the slate clean might, just might make things better?

Atlantis July 9, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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The rocket stands on its launch pad like mythical Babel, a pointer and a reaching out towards the heavens. A triumph of modern technology, it lifts itself by an alchemy of the ancient elements, the composite pieces of water and air joined to make fire, to lift men above the earth. A trembling in the ground and a roaring in the ears and it is away.

We watch its arc, the contrail cloud left by as it climbs into the sky. Men in white shirts sit nearby and below ground staring into computer screens, reading out their ship’s progress in numbers. Some figures climb as does the rocket–altitude, speed, the g-forces of acceleration, tracing their own mathematical curves that mirror the rocket’s. These men have built this marvel and monitor the operation of it hundreds of thousands of tiny composite parts, willing it to defy gravity and rise into the sky.

The music of this film is perfect, an analogue in sound of the complex mechanical systems we are watching, Phillip Glass’ electronic transmutation of organic music into the electronic space: crescendo and diminuendo replaced by attack and fade, the symmetries of the baroque distilled into the circuitry of the sequencer, the natural sounds of voices and pipe organ channeled into the sequencer’s inexorable logic.

We have reached in this space faring ship the apex of man’s upward climb, have tried to realize that reaching into the heavens symbolized by Babel and the pyramids. We are God’s new Chosen People. He has willed that we will master not just this one continent but an entire world. Now we reach up into the space beyond this planet so that men might walk upon the moon, someday journey to the stars.

And then it happens, as if an invisible bolt of lightening was sent down from the heavens. The vessel of all our modern hopes and dreams disintegrates in a cloud of flame and shrapnel. It is the old story again, Babel confounded and the landscape littered with gruesomely dead Greeks who had set themselves up against Olympus.

As the rocket explodes and the burning remains of the rocket slowly tumble down, following gravity’s rainbow arc back to the earth, the voices take up the refrain again: Koyaanisqatsi, a Hopi Indian word meaning variously ‘crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living’.

Here in New Orleans we do not erect towers to the heavens. We build a city where men have always built, on the fertile flood plains of a convenient river, and close to the bountiful sea. The first temples were reared in places like this, inside those first cities on the flood plains of Tigris and Euphrates. If it is an act of hubris to be here then gods have made a terrible mistake in creating man as they did (or worse, have created him to fail for their entertainment).

Here instead of towers we build levees, low mounds of dirt and clay by which we would defy the flooding river and the ocean. Where hubris and engineering intersect we find politicians peering over the engineers’ shoulders and asking, can we do this cheaper? Faster? Better? There is a rule in projects such as these, called the iron triangle. Simply stated the rule is: better, faster, cheaper–pick two. We squabble with the government for levees that would withstand a 100 year flood, and dream of the 10,000 year protection of the British and Dutch, and hope for the best.

Time has shown we did not build well enough, or perhaps we built too well. Left untouched by man, this delta would eventually be abandoned by the river, and the land sink into the sea. We are victims of our own progress, of the channeling of the river for navigation and the containment of its nourishing floods, and of the extraction of the liquid mineral wealth beneath us. By doing so we have destroyed much of the buffering land around our levees, and so accelerated the time span of our drowning from the geological into generations. The levees we built were not enough to stand against an immense wall of water running downhill in time.

Atlantis is not a myth. It is a prophecy. Someday it will be our history.

At the beginning and end of Koyaanisqatsi are shots of pictograms left behind by the desert dwelling natives of the American southwest. These simple pictures made from materials at hand have lasted the better part of a millennium, stand as the mute testament of people who have come and gone. What will we, the people of New Orleans, leave behind as our testament? The computer that holds these words, made of plastic and glass, copper and steel, will last long enough to bump up against an archeologists trowel if it is not too far beneath the sea, but the words it contains will be lost forever. What you read here today will not stand up through time as those simple drawings go

For all of our foolishness of dredging channels and building levees, digging our city’s own grave with every shovelful, we have a good life here. In spite of all the problems we have made for ourselves, amplified times over by the inevitable flood, New Orleans is not Koyaanisqatsi, not in the sense the filmmaker intended with his endless scenes of ant-like Metropolis. We manage a life here measured not by the speed of our machines or the height of our towers but instead by the music and the food and the ritual, by the way we live with and inside of those things. While we cannot completely master time any more than we can the land or the river or the sea, we have managed to bend time to a different tempo, one more in balance. It is something worth sharing with the world, and will someday be worth remembering.

I am left to rely on the hope that the music and food and ritual have so imprinted themselves upon the world that they will not be forgotten, that the word Creole (and its close cousin Cajun) will be spoken in kitchens long after the city is gone; that as long as Carnival is celebrated somewhere New Orleans will be remembered as one of its great centers; that the sounds of jazz will someday be played not only on a reproduction coronet by scholars–the way early European music is remembered today–but as something as vital and as ineradicable as language: somewhere in the future in something like a nightclub people hear the music, and rise up and dance.

That is the image I would scratch on the wall by torchlight and leave behind us, if only such a thing would not be drowned: a man raising a trumpet to the heavens leading a parade of figures, some bearing heaped platters, who dance to his music.

Ruby My Dear July 6, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Searching for an old musical reference here, it occurred to me that I had never posted on Thelonious Monk.

What the hell have I been doing?

I am not Nat Hentoff and won’t pretend to be. I can’t take apart charts or knowledgeably discuss the session musicians of this or that recording. There are two approaches to music, one strongly Apollonian and as concerned with discographies and session notes as a baseball fan is with statistics and records.

My approach is definitely more Dionysian What I take away from jazz is more mysterious and ethereal, a transport out of this world and deeper in, rather like Don Juan’s magic mushrooms: a study aid for the satorially challenged. There are people who will take your further out than Monk (Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders come to mind, among those I have written about or posted recordings of here). Monk at his best takes you in further than anyone else.

The man could certain write a tune. (And somewhere poor Mr. Hentoff, who is still with us, is having mild chest pains as I write the world “tune” in proximity to Monk’s name). Still, he can claim a fare share of of modern standards as his own. If I say ‘Round Midnight” you say (I’m just guessing here, but I bet I’m write): Miles Davis.

That was a Monk tune.

Ruby My Dear is one of my favorites, a slow ballad that showcases his ability to swing with the group and still take the melody line and work his magic on it. That magic is a bit hard to explain. His playing style both on solos and ensemble rhythm have an angular intensity to them, like walking into a fun house where the floor is tilted and the furniture nailed down. He uses ornamental notes and chords and silences in ways not thought of or described by the people who gave grand Italian names to the forms of “grace note”. It is as if he took up the melody like a tightly wrapped present and occasionally gave it a good shake, then put his ear up to it to listen to the result. It’s a bit disconcerting at first but just listen. There is an internal logic there and something like the sound of one hand clapping.

This is Johnny Griffin on tenor. There are outstanding recordings of “Ruby, My Dear” with Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane. My favorite is the Solo Monk version which is just that: Monk alone with his piano and his music.

I will spare you the odd performance on theramin I found out there. God, but the Internet is an Odd place (and that is why we like it, but really). Here instead is an odd video of no seeming purpose but which thankfully contains Monk’s solo performance of this number. Just close your eyes, and let him carry you away.

I should also point out that through the efforts of Terence Blanchard the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz program relocated from from Los Angeles to New Orleans, and is now based on Loyola University.

Recommended beverage pairing for this music is Brother Thelonius Belgian style dark ale. It’s not just the cool graphic (I have the poster and t-shirt, and Im considering the tattoo). As a hop snob I’ll point out that it is first rate, and you may disregard the further postings of anyone on Beer Advocate who does not give it a solid A if not an A+. But this is not about the ale. (And as I post this up Martin’s Wine Cellar is closed so you can’t get any until tomorrow). It’s about the music, so stop listening to me ramble on and go press that play button. Again. I’ll see you on the other side.

We Are Wanderers July 5, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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2 comments

We are wanderers. Are you anymore?

Saint Jerry Play For Us.

Independence Day July 4, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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If you remember nothing else about history on this day, remember the American city of New Orleans “dodged the bullet” until the Federal levees failed and the combined might of the United States of America stood by and watched them drown. We will never forget.

So have a Happy Independence Day from Toulouse Street as we Go 4th on the River and celebrate, an activity we have pretty much perfected for all occasions even in the face of death.

Independence is a grand thing to contemplate..

You may grill your weenies. We will boil our shrimps. Eh la bas.

Goodnight, America July 4, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Fifteen thousands watts of oral circular polarization. That’s what he said, right? Ten hut!

Is this a great country? Or what?

“Why don’t the Pentacles keep their evil spirits away?”
— Jourma Kaukoken

Bukowski’s Bluebird July 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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This is my answer to the poetry challenge posted by Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers to write something in response to Charles Bukowski’s Bluebird. (Cross posted from Poems Before Breakfast)

The poem removed pending publication in The Deal Mule School of Southern Literature.

The Whole World Is Watching July 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Today I received an envelope written in a careful but fluid hand, and started to open it before I noticed it had no return address, except for this:

Inside, I found a “zine”, a small self-published chapbook of artwork and writing by Micheal Dingler a.k.a. Rex of NoLa Rising, founder of New Orleans’ insurgent public art movement. Inside are various montage of words and line art expressing his take on New Orleans, war, corporate America, and Top Reasons Why I Love New Orleans. It is titled (I think) “He Dreams In Widescreen”; at least that phrase appears on the cover.

I don’t know why but the booklet immediately put me in mind of the Yippies. Perhaps it had something to do with listening to Allen Ginsburg singing William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience while I scanned these pictures (something I once owned a vinyl copy of, but like many cool things it vanished in late 1986 while I was out of town. Long story. Some other time). My mind started to wander to Jerry Rubin’s Steal This Book, and an image of Ginsburg and friends carrying pictures of vegetables marching around the Pentagon.

The artwork in particular reminds me of the insert booklet from Blows Against the Empire, the Paul Kantner concept album released under the name Jefferson Starship. (No, not the band that made “We Built This City” and other dreck. This record was four years before that, with Stills and Nash along with Garcia, Kruetzman, and Hart and some other folks sitting in. Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?) “It’s a fresh wind that blows against the empire”, that album booklet tell us. Almost 40 years later, Rex has the same message.

You may think all of that 60’s stuff was silly nonsense. Perhaps it was, if you were expecting the Dictatorship of the Stonertariat as the outcome. And yet it was a time full of actions and ideas entirely consistent with the founding premises of a country created by guys who sat around drinking rum-and-water out of quart tankards, who thought after a couple of rounds that it was a Swell Idea to dress up in Indian costume, break-and-enter then toss other people’s tea into the harbor all as a dress rehearsal for committing High Treason in the defense of Liberty.

Crazy Bastards.

There is a bit in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. …

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Thompson was wrong. The wave did not simply break and retreat. It broke into a thousand rivulets and left behind uncounted pools filled with strange creatures. What happened was a small transformation inside the heads of a large number of individuals. Those tiny transformations produced the world we live in today, the people many of us are. A lot of other people who had very little fun back then or missed it entirely and resent it greatly have gone to great lengths over the last generation to try to put that genie back in the bottle, shredding the constitution and generally fucking up the country and much of the world in the process.

I’m sick of them, of it, of the IT the U.S of A. has become. I’m sick about what was allowed to happen here in New Orleans, and what continues to happen. And after reading this zine I would have to say so is ReX. Are you?

My favorite page in the zine is near the end. At the top of a largely blank page it reads, in broken Courier type, “THIS PAGE HAS BEEN LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK FOR ADDITIONAL ARTWORK”.

I think you know what to do.

If you have any hesitation about that consider this:

The revolution will not be televised. The whole world is watching.

Inside the place where those two statements are not inconsistent is the answer. When you get there you can borrow my Sharpie.

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