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Vincent October 31, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Ah, Tim Burton meets Vincent Price. Does a Halloween vid get better than this? Nevermore!

Filth Licker v. Slash-mouth Woman October 31, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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We like our holidays here on Toulouse Street. My wife’s favorite is Christmas (and the decorations will be popping up around the house as soon as this weekend, I fear). Mine, however, is Halloween as the flood of short videos, etc. you’re about to suffer will testify.

Halloween has so many attractive aspects, not least of which is the Oddity of it all, American-style. None of this cowering around the hearth while the Wild Host passes noisily overhead. Instead we dress up our children in often ghoulish costumes, and send them out into the dark to collect candy from strangers. I will have no truck with people who think children should go out in daylight to be “safe”. Halloween is not about being safe, but rather the opposite. It is about handling our fear of the Other.

We’ve brought over most of our Others from the Old Country, where ever that may be. Ghosts, vampires, zombies, mummies: all of these as we recognize them have some root in the old fears of our ancestors. The Celts have a large part to do with this as Samhain, the original pagan holiday on this date, is a Celtic holiday absorbed into Roman (as in legions) Catholic culture, giving us Jack O’Lanterns and enough ghost stories to last us until dawn of All Saints. And as you might have noticed, we are also Eirephiles here on Toulouse Street.

It is fun to find some new ghoulies to think on come All Hallow’s Eve, and I have a new one now. The Filth Licker. The Japanese have swallowed Halloween whole like so much of American and European culture, but they’ve given in their own twist.

Monsters…are a more serious matter. They are indigenous [in Japan] and reputed to be everywhere. One is called Akaname, the Filth Licker, and he haunts dirty bathrooms. Using his long, lascivious tongue, he eats bathtub scum.

The Halloween season, then, is an opportunity to shine a festive light on the Filth Licker and his creepy kin. There are thousands of them, and collectively they are known as yokai, a word that is formed from the Japanese characters for “otherworldly” and “weird.”

I like these yokai. The Filth Licker is an easy headline grabber, but I also like the tales of Kuchisake Onna, the Slash-Mouth Woman. “This yokai is a shapely and well-dressed but violently insecure young woman who wears a mask over her monstrously disfigured mouth, which reaches from ear to ear and is bursting with teeth. First, she asks her victims if she is pretty. They, regardless of the answer, she slashes her young-girl victim’s mouth.

There there is the kappa: a short, green, flatulent monster with a tortoise shell on his back and a cup of water on his head, from which he draws his terrible powers. He likes to eat human entrails. Kappa are said to live in rivers, lakes, swamps and wetlands. To keep their offspring from playing in these dangerous places, parents over the years have told chilling tales of what an angry kappa can do. One can escape the kappa because they are unfailingly polite. If you bow to them, they will bow back and spill the cup of water than gives them there powers.

This is a fabulous bit of folklore, offering your basic Boogie Man warning about playing around water, and tossing in a lesson to be polite to boot. Strange how all of us kids behaved better with an appropriate dollop of fear in our lives. I’m not sure what message the Slash-Mouth woman is supposed to mpart, but she reputedly likes candy. If you run into one tonight the appropriate response is to toss a handful of candy as far as you can, and run like Hell.

Or she will Get You.

Happy Halloween. .

The Horror October 30, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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This election in a nutshell October 30, 2008

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I don’t usually write about politics (except for the christianist zealots and their tomfoolery). Still, I think this neatly sums things up for me (courtesy of MSNBC.com):

“The average working family is $2,000 poorer now than when George Bush took office,” [Barrack Obama] said. “Bill [Clinton] and I were in Orlando last night. When Bill Clinton was president, the average wage and income went up $7,500. So, I’ve got an economic plan that’s similar to Bill Clinton’s. John McCain’s got an economic plan that’s similar to George Bush’s. So all you have to do is look and see what works and what doesn’t. This is not complicated. We’ve done the experiment.”

Of course, a lot of likely Republican voters aren’t too fond of experimental methodology. I mean, it’s not mentioned once in the Bible, now, is it. As for the rest who are not going to vote for That One for That Reason Which Shall Not Be Admitted, I just wanted to let you know that we have all the bridges wired to blow in case all you bat shit crazies just to our north lose it on Nov. 5th.

Grandpa Elliot and Friends: Stand By Me October 29, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Most of you probably know of Washboard Chaz, but unless you frequent the quarter you may have missed Grandpa Eliot. He is often found playing a mean harp on Toulouse Street and Royal (or is it Chartres?). Here he is with a few other fellow street performers from all over the world covering “Stand By Me”.

And don’t miss this short of One Love by the same Playing For Change: Peace Through Music folks.

Don’t forget: It’s time for Rising Tide, the annual bloggers conference on the future of New Orleans, with featured guest Harry Shearer!.

Tiny Demons October 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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The New Orleans blogosphere is quiet about the news that that Chris Rose was arrested in some sort of alcohol-fueled domestic dispute. Rose is a frequent target of blogger jibes (the term “douchebag” and “Rose” being nearly synonymous), and he is annually brought up as a possible guest speaker at the NOLA Bloggers’ annual Rising Tide conference, and the suggestion is routinely and ritualistically hooted down.

We tend to pick on Rose because New Orleans’ blogosphere is full of people who think they could do Chris’ Rose job better than he does. I’ll admit there are days I read his column and I am one of those. Frankly, there are reporters and writers in the blog list at the side of this page I would hold up any day against anyone at the Picayune. Still, most of the bloggers have never written for a newspaper, have never had space to fill without an idea in their head, with a deadline bearing down on them. Sometimes you pound out some crap and if you have half a talent and more than a little luck, everybody is happy and gets to go home to dinner. Forced to fill the columns of a newspaper Living section, Rose does his 60 Second Interviews and slavers over Brittany Spears in a distasteful way most middle age men secretly understand.

He is certainly full of himself in spite of the crap he sometimes passes over to the copy desk, and so an easy target. Still, I tend not to pick at him in my own little space here. I’ve lived that life where the line a good editor can file any hole isn’t just a lewd jibe over after deadline drinks but a daily fact of life, so I give him some slack for the nonsense. Being the Angus Lind of the X-and-Y generation probably isn’t as great a gig as we all think it is.

I did write one slightly snarky piece when Rose discovered his fellow writers on New Orleans in the blog space after Ashley Morris’ untimely death. I suggested we were more like Rose than many of my colleagues in the NOLA Bloggers group would happily admit. The first time I gave Rose some notice was something I wrote long ago, when the weight of survivor guilt watching It all unfold in my city was almost unbearable. It was a letter to Rose, posted on Wet Bank Guide but also sent as an email. I never got a response, but I didn’t expect one. If you can find your way back to the original Rose column I referenced in Shadow of the Elephant, I think it explains in part at least why I find myself writing this today when something tells me I should just leave it alone.

Back in his post-K hey day, Rose often wrote about his family, in particular about taking his children out to experience everything New Orleans. My children were not raised here, and I have great sympathy for that experience. In fact he wrote so often about his family I was surprised to find that this weekend’s incident took place at an ex-girlfriend’s. It’s hard to feel complete empathy for Rose. If you live here long enough you’ll know enough stupid drunks or worse, and you start to lose patience for that sort of behavior. Maybe it’s just my age. But then I think of those kids.

Rose also wrote about his battle with depression. Down here where people pop Xanax like breath mints it wasn’t as important a story for us as it was for the rest of the world. They need to know that Living in a post-disaster landscape is not anyone’s idea of easy, much less Big and Easy. Of course people go though Zoloft like they’re Chee-Wees. At least the pills are better than the alternative: for example, finding yourself dead drunk at an ex-girlfriends trying to explain how fucked up your life is when she (and her new beau) don’t want to hear it.

It’s been three years since Rose sat on that stoop he wrote about in late 2005, in the middle of the post-Flood bedlam, trying to figure out what happened to his world. Back them I felt an immediate empathy for him which time and his own goofiness have not completely erased. He set himself up to be the poster child for New Orleans post-K but to do that he had to stay through it all, had to continue to find new ways to tell a story we all sometimes wish had an end.

I was immediately reminded when I read the Rose story of Picayune photog John McCusker’s own confrontation with the police. It has taken them a while to catch up, but the demons that chased McCusker like the police have finally caught up with Rose.

Somewhere deep inside my own demon is chuckling as I read about Rose’s mishap, but I shove him back down and tell him to be quiet. We’ve all seen the demons down here get the upper hand. McCusker’s story has always stood out in my memory, as did the story about the elderly gentleman who couldn’t hold on any longer waiting for his Road Home money and walked into the river to drown. We all know of the marriages ruined, the children still afraid of thunderstorms.

It’s best we all just let it go. We don’t want all of the demons let loose down here by the flood and its aftermath to think they’re getting the upper hand. Pay no attention to that guy perched on the edge of your night table in the checkered pants. Demons are like that crazy lady down the street. If you start to pay them too much attention, you’ll never be rid of them. Best we all mix a strong drink and flip on Rob Zombie’s Halloween horror movie festival on cable TV, pretend that demons are only in movies and always meet their well deserved end about the time the popcorn runs out.

Radtke cited by N.O.P.D. October 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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The infamous gray paint vandal Fred Radtke has been issued a criminal summons by the NOPD after a team from Radtke’s Clean Sweep defaced a commission mural on private property, New Orleans CitiBusiness reports online. The New Orleans Times-Picayune had earlier reported the police had declined to press charges in spite of the flagrant offense, telling the property owner that the Radtke team’s trespassing and criminal damage were “a civil matter”.

If he is charged under the state’s new anti-graffiti law, Radtke could face a minimum one-year in prison, based on the value of some of the art he has recently defaced. He was not charged, however, for defacing works by the stencil artist Banksy on private property, an act caught on videotape. (see the link)

Rather than retype the excellent work of Loki at Humid City, I suggest we jump over their immediately to follow this developing story. Over to you, Loki and the Humid City Team.

Gumbobama Yeah You Right October 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Eh, la bas.

Buddy, Can You Spare Some Bootstraps? October 21, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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America is worried. What it will be like to lose your home and all your possessions, to see your job shipped off to another town, to be forced to pay out the mortgage on a house no longer yours while you try to make the rent? Will the government help me, or will all those hundreds of billions in aid they voted just evaporate into people’s pockets before it gets reaches the average person?

How, they worry, will they survive such a catastrophe?

I suggest they have a parade. It worked for New Orleans.

In your parade, America, you can celebrate that even in bankruptcy you will not be forced to live for years in a 280 square foot travel trailer, being slowly poisoned by formaldehyde. Moving in with relatives–for a year, or two–will test your virtue and bring your family closer together than you can image. The bankruptcy judge may make you pay out the balance of your mortgage after the auction, but at least you will not be forced to pay the full note plus rent if you won’t live in the trailer, while you fork out trebled prices for materials to build a new home with your own hands.

You can celebrate that your children will still have schools. With books. With any luck, they need not be completely uprooted from the family and friends who give them stability. You will still have things like your wedding and family and children’s pictures, the treasured family items no bankruptcy court would care about but which mean the world to you.

You may have to work two jobs to pay off that bankruptcy judgment under the new rules (while the people who bilked you walk away rich), but it can be done. At least you will not be forced to labor in a squalid flooded house, forced to choose between wearing a Class III respirator in a airless heat index of 120 or breathing in visible black mold.

You can celebrate the inner strengths you never knew you had, the ones most Americans only read about in books like “The Greatest Generation”, the hard resolve you fear you are not equal to. You are. If a bunch of indolent and dependent Orleanians could do more than any bankruptcy judge could ever impose on you, imagine what a lot of resourceful and self-reliant folks like yourself can manage.

If you are like many Americans, the one’s who don’t belong to church or club, the people who famously “bowl alone” as the book says, now is the time to reach out to your neighbors and organize yourselves. Don’t think that an angry vote in this election year will be enough. It won’t. Face up to the hard facts we’ve learned: 90% of “government aid” vanishes before it gets anywhere near you. You might not think you live in that sort of country, but you do.

You will need to organize as people down here did, in neighborhood associations and new groups to fight with the government, your bank, whoever. If you don’t, don’t expect the government or anyone else to reach out and help you. Those days are over. When the houses in your neighborhood are left empty for months or years, you’re going to have to get up and go mow that lawn if you don’t want to look at it (not to mention the snakes and rats).

Your neighbors–you know, the people you just wave to as you drive from home to wherever–will help you more than you can imagine. Tens of thousands of them have come to New Orleans to help people out of no other motive than pure altruism, some deeply Christian and some just plain goodness of heart. Until something happens to you and yours, you’ll probably never realize this. They’re not just your neighbors; they are people who share every aspect of your life, good and bad, and are willing to step up to help you when you’re down.

New Orleans has rehearsed the complete collapse of the American Dream for the last three years, and yet every day you can find us at the neighborhood bar sipping a cold one while discussing the Saints and the venality of politicians, or at that restaurant around the corner getting a po-boy. Life goes on. Come the Fourth of July, you’ll find Going Fourth on the River, a bit choked up as we watch the bright red, white and blue bombs bursting in air. No, we don’t believe in that old American Dream anymore, at least not in the way you still do, America. We have a clear-eyed take on what government has become, what insurance companies (for us) or banks (for the rest of you) are really about.

The campaign to subtly sabotage government in the name of lower taxes and less regulation has left an empty shell that cannot help you, not in the way it helped your grandparents out of the Great Depression, or your parents in the transition from WWII to the prosperous 1950s and 1960s. That government is gone. And the businesses you grew up learning to trust: don’t. With the end of regulation went any sense of civic responsibility. But then, the current criss has taught you that, hasn’t it?

Here’s what you do. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start going again. It will be hard. There will be tears, and there will be anger. Just remember that your spouse and kids didn’t do this to you. Neither did your best friend since grade school. There will be blank days when nothing much gets done, work or personal. You won’t remember what you did or why. And there will be days and nights when perhaps a bit too much drink is taken. The next day, pick up the empties, make yourself a big pot of very dark, strong coffee, and start over starting over. It’s the only way to make it.

You can and will get through this, even if it plays out in the worst way you can image, but you are going to have to help yourselves. Forget all that nonsense you’ve heard about New Orleans. They people who are home (and we are far more than the 200,000 I often wrote of in the past) did it themselves, with the help of friends and sometimes complete strangers, out of their own pockets.

The way the economy plays out may be the last straw for some–the ones with empty 401ks and maxed out credit cards and a house still not finished, but not for most. We’ve been tested and in spite of all the lies you’ve heard about shiftless Orleanians waiting for their government handout, it’s all bullshit: they’ve done it on their own. There is nobody in America alive today under the age of 80 who understands hard times better than New Orleans.

If you want a lesson on how to survive the next few years, I suggest you hop on a plane or gas up the car and come on down to New Orleans–before someone cuts up those credit-cards–and we’ll show you how it’s done, and throw in a good time to boot.

Hell, you might even decide to stay. We have lots of cheap, fixer-upper houses down here, if you don’t mind a little hard work. And as we’ve been reminded again and again and again since the levees failed, you’re all about hard work and self-reliance, America. At least that’s what you keep telling us. And we understand. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Well, here’s your chance. Show us Orleanians aren’t the only ones who can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

(Hat tip to Veda for this idea)

Electoral Dysfunction October 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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Even if the time isn’t right and you’re getting a bit over the hill, there’s still hope for your old soldier who won’t stand to attention. Try K-Cirevam, the miracle tonic that will help you get up and over your electoral dysfunction– you know, that “old ideas” slump–and prop up your sagging fortunes. You can stand tall again and win the adoration of women and men everywhere. Your running mate will thank you.

K-Cirevam is not for everyone. Side effects may include swelling and puffiness especially in the face and cheeks, restlessness, excessive blinking, mental and verbal confusion, shortness of temper, delusions of candor, and rigidity in unexpected parts of the body. If K-Cirevam causes such rigidity for more than four hours, especially in the thumb, call your doctor immediately.

K-Cirevam When you need to convince them that you’re the one who’s ready. Consult your witch doctor. Use only as directed.

A heckler’s veto October 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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That was the best line in a Thibodeaux, La. Daily Comet article on the decision by Central Lafourche High School to ban reading of the book “Black Hawk Down”, citing profanity. Tenth grade teacher Jared Foreman assigned the book to “spur student interest in reading.” The decision was handed down by Principal Jimmy Ledet on Oct. 3, the last day of the 27th Annual Banned Book Week.

Foreman said the students were a little shocked when the principal asked that they return their copies to the school library. He said students were half way through the book and many had told him it “was really getting good.”

Apparently, a single parent complained after the students were halfway through to book, even through the teacher sent a disclaimer letter to parents and posted a notice on the school’s parent information website.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the office for intellectual freedom for the American Library Association, told the Daily Comet, “…one parent has made the decision for the entire community that this book should not be read in class. It is like a heckler’s veto.”

The Comet story concludes with:

Just before the students returned the books, Foreman said his class marched to the school’s flagpole and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as a group.

“I wanted them to remember they had to return a book due to censorship,” he said.

I wonder how many of these delicate children waltzed into the R-Rated film based on the book unchallenged, or brought it home from the video store? At least the school system is prepared, on the word of one parent, to protectthem from the sort of speech they might otherwise be exposed to by, say, watching cable television.

I can’t tell you how proud I feel that Louisiana did not disappoint in finding an opportunity to ban a book during Banned Books Week. It’s good to keep the brand out there, as our mayor well knows.

I set out to find a copy of Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War
to read that week. I’ve never read it, and as a Catholic School survivor I thought I might find it interesting, but I struck out in the first two book stores I checked. I had to settle for reading Judge John Woolsey’s decision in the obscenity case against James Joyce “Ulysses”, since it’s been laying by my bedside reminding me I did not manage to get through it last June.

Perhaps Louisiana’s Poet Laureate may be willing to speak out against this sort of thing. Oh, wait, we still don’t have one. Never mind.

h/t to His Yellowness Jeffery for calling this one out.

In the Zone October 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Inspired by today’s article on the return of the Roosevelt, and a mood not far off from the likes that inspired the piece originally, I offer this repeat from my old, Katrina-themed blog Wet Bank Guide. [Lazy, yes, I know.]

Sunday, August 05, 2007
In the Zone
Today I walked past the Fairmont Hotel on University Place and the back door was ajar. I stopped and leaned over the police barricades that still block the entrance and peered over the once red carpet on the steps–now a burnt umber–down the long lobby hallway into the dark. There was enough light to admire the first ornate arch in the long procession that divides the lobby, and I was fascinated at the lizardish dragon rampant on the gold colored span. The hallway was strung with a chain of work lamps that together with the receding arches gave the impression of looking into a mine works. It was difficult to see much past that first arch in the dim tunnel. A distant chandelier that still hangs between the arches winked faintly with refracted light.

I can’t tell you the last time or reason I had to walk down the hallway of the hotel we all know as the Roosevelt, but I do have an almost visceral memory, like the recollection we have of dreams, of walking down through that lobby, stopping in at Bailey’s on the Baronne Street side for a cocktail after whatever event it was that drew me there. Still, I can’t remember the occasion. That glimpse into the past of Sazerac and the Blue Room (a venue I peered into once but never visited for a concert) sent me rummaging in long forgotten corridors of my own mind, dimly lit and little visited themselves, trying to recall the reason for my last visit without success.

In New Orleans we tend to live in our cherished past a lot of the time. For us history is not a marker on the side of the road, one notable building or a small district full of quaint shops to which we take visitors. Our past stands all around us, bears down on us like the towers of Manhattan on a first time visitor. It reaches up like a hand from the grave and tries to trip our ever step forward, the smoky ghosts of slavery blinding us and the afterbirth of the civil rights movement twisting every turn of public policy in ways we can not seem to stop. It is not just the momentous events of the past we must contend with, but a thousand small things from the past that inform the way we live in the present moment the way water cups a swimming fish or the breezes lift a coasting bird. Our past may is as ever present as the humidity, a very part of who we are and how we live.

In spite of that awful moniker Big Easy New Orleans has never been an easy place to live. Just ask my wife, who traded the Nordic efficiency of the upper Midwest for a turn in the south, a place where mañana and baksheesh are not just scores in Scrabble but instead the way we govern the machinery of our life. I won’t rehearse the entire litany of woe involved in rebuilding a city from scratch. Suffice it to say that every few steps forward, as we watch the ground carefully for roofing nails or bits of nail-studded plaster lath, we walk forehead first into something hard.

In spite of the weight of history and the difficulty of the moment, I am not living in the past. Increasingly, I am living in a Richard Alpert Right Now, a locus in time informed by the landscape around me and my sense of its age, its rightness for the place, the uneven and green-occluded site lines of a city settling into the earth as perfectly as a Mayan ruin rising out of the jungle. The monumentality of the city informs the moment as you perceive it. To truly live here is to walk through a series of present moments like cells in a film, the action is in front of you or inside of you and the great pillared oaks and moss-draped homes are just backdrop.

I think it is in part that very difficulty, as well as something in the climate, that leads me to find myself increasingly living in a present moment. More worrying is the feeling that here where it’s after the end of the world, I am becoming like Thomas Pynchon’s anti-hero Tyrone Slothrop in Gravity’s Rainbow: inexplicably entangled with the ugly juggernaut of history as it unfolded in World War II until he disconnected from it altogether, withdrawing into himself, his “temporal bandwidth” approaching zero.

There is also the story about Tyrone Slothrop, who was sent into the Zone to be present at his own assembly perhaps, heavily paranoid voices have whispered, his time’s assembly and there ought to be a punch line to it, but there isn’t. The plan went wrong. He is being broken down instead, and scattered. His cards have been laid down… laid out and read, but they are the cards of a tanker and feeb: they point only to a long and scuffling future, to mediocrity not only in his life but also, heh, heh, in his chroniclers too…” (737-38)

The reconstruction of the city around me will last at least as long as WWII. There will be long periods of boredom and routine punctuated by times of great excitement, much of that of the unpleasant kind. Yes, we will have shore leave for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest but most of our time will be spent scrapping rust and paint knowing all the while that just over the ocean’s horizon there is something threatening.

In this peculiar armada the officers are as useless as the French nobility. They look fine high up there in their crosswise hats and give marvelous speeches, but we know from hard experience that they are worthless. People mutter all around the city about mutiny of one form or another, but mutiny is a lot of damn work and it is awfully hot. I like to think we could yet rise up and have our storming of the Bastille moment but every passing day it seems more unlikely. No Fletcher Christian or Maximilien Robespierre has stepped forward to lead us, and every angry mob needs a leader.

Perhaps I ask for too much. If history and the city consumes us all one-by-one but the city lives on, that perhaps what was always intended, why were were all lured home. In the end, perhaps Pynchon has given us the model to surviving it’s after the end of the world. If history has gone too wrong for any one of us to stop what is happening around us, maybe it is better to amble down a shady street in New Orleans without a particular thought in my head except the distant sound of what might be Slothrop’s harmonica, to disappear into the random noise in the signal.

This is not hell, this is the street. October 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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I was lucky enough to see with my own eyes the recent stock-market crash, where they lost several million dollars, a rabble of dead money that went sliding off into the sea. Never as then, amid suicides, hysteria, and groups of fainting people, have I felt the sensation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing but rottenness, for the spectacle was terrifying but devoid of greatness… I felt something like a divine urge to bombard that whole canyon of shadow, where ambulances collected suicides whose hands were full of rings.”

– Federico Garcia Lorca

New York (Office and Denunciation)

Under the multiplications,
a drop of duck’s blood;
under the divisions,
a drop of a sailor’s blood;
under the additions, a river of tender blood.
A river that sings and flows
past bedrooms in the boroughs-
and it’s money, cement or wind
in New York’s counterfeit dawn.
I know the mountains do exist.
And without wisdom’s eyeglasses,
too. But I didn’t come to see the sky.
I’m here to see the clouded blood,
the blood that sweeps machines over waterfalls
and the soul toward the cobra’s tongue.
Every day in New York, they slaughter,
four million ducks,
five million hogs,
two thousand pigeons to accommodate the tastes of the dying,
one million cows,
one million roosters
that smash the skies into pieces.

It’s better to sob while honing the blade
or kill dogs on the delirious hunts
than to resist at dawn
the endless milk trains,
the endless blood trains
and the trains of roses, manacled
by the dealers in perfume.
The ducks and the pigeons,
and the hogs and the lambs
lay their drops of blood
under the multiplications,
and the terrified bellowing of the cows wrung dry
fills the valley with sorrow
where the Hudson gets drunk on oil.

I denounce all those
who never think of the other half,
the irredeemable half,
who raise their mountains of concrete
where the hearts of little
forgotten animals beat
and where all of us will fall
in the final fiesta of jackhammers.
I spit in your faces.
That other half hears me,
eating, pissing, flying in their purity,
like the supers’ children
who take their flimsy palettes
to the holes in spaces where
insects’ antennas are rusting.
This is not hell, this is the street.
That is not death. That is the fruit stand.
There are broken rivers and distances just out of reach
in the cat’s paw smashed by a car,
and I hear the song of the worm
in the hearts of many young girls.
Rust, fermentation, earth tremors.
You yourself are earth drifting among numbers in the office
What am I going to do, put the landscapes in their right
places?
Put in good order the loves that soon turn into photographs,
that soon become pieces of wood and mouthfuls of blood?
No, no: I denounce,
I denounce the conspiracy of these deserted offices
which erase the plans of the forest,
and I offer myself as food for the cows milked empty
when their bellowings fill the valley
where the Hudson becomes drunk with oil.

Federico García Lorca, 1929-1930

(translation of the first half of the poem by Greg Simon and Steven F. White)

(translation of the second half of the poem by Galway Kinnell)

I’ve got a bike October 12, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Here’s a tidbit that washed up on the shores of the Intenet the other night. I think it will put to rest the insistent belief of some people that Frank Zappa was just another burnout of the 60s. He clearly had started down his own long, strange road much before then.

I wonder what Mel Torme thought of “musican bicyclist Frank Zappa”? The band, with their final Dolphy-esqe outtro, seems to have got it.

Continuing watching the entire episode below:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Down the Baudot Hole October 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I frequently walk to work down Union Street, a quiet, mostly abandoned stretch of downtown New Orleans where I can get my thoughts arranged for the day without worrying about who I walk in with and small talk.

I notice the empty shells of the Dryades Homestead building, a back office shop once by the look at it, somewhere I might have plied my own counting house trade were I working half a century ago. I also pass the sad shell of the NOPSI building and New Orleans Reproductions, which I would sometimes visit as a child in with father, breathing in the odd aroma of blueprint making. The area where I park and walk is a truly sad section of the city, entire blocks of blight and ruined building stretching up into the sky.

While I am often drawn to the city-scape around me it it not safe to travel New Orleans sidewalks with one’s head in the clouds. I’ve ruined one pair of pants and shoes already in a nasty spill by not watching for the broken pavement under my feet. If you were to catch me on Union Street at quarter of eight of a weekday, you would find my eyes pointed down at the ground, where I often get distracted by the numerous iron manhole covers and access plates that decorate the pavement. I have to admit that since I was a child these have always fascinated me, especially the odd lozenge shaped ones that look like Vienna Fingers cookies. All of these various bits of time-word steel have always fascinated me. I am surprised that only today I have found sewerhistory.org, and I think I’ll have to try to keep my visits under control lest I find myself dressing like Ed Norton.

The CBD is full of NOPSI-blazoned covers that will probably outlast the Entergy brand. I am amazed to see how many of the downtown NOPSI meters have been worn smooth by the passing of feet, or pressed into a concave shape that catches rain by decades of the stopping of cars and trucks. How many thousands upon thousands of pedestrians passing does it take to wear off that heavy relief embossing from steel?

The S&B covers I find downtown are not the ones we all know from the curb in front of our house, from the Ford Meter Box Co. of Wabash, Indiana, and featured on any number of items like jewelry and t-shirts. Most of the downtown’s are labeled Water, Drain, or Sewer. Somewhere on Baronne is one labeled Steam. I lived in or visited the Midwest enough to be familiar with the idea of central steam as a utility, but I wonder if the pipes down there are still hot to the touch. Who were the customers? That one always put me in mind of trips to the Dentist at the D.H. Homes building, of groaning radiators and rippled glass office doors with stenciled names, a place one might go to hire a private detective.

I’m not completely surprised to find lingering Bell Telephone Co. covers, as the Bells sort of survive, and their manhole covers (like those of NOPSI) are likely to long outlast the company they serve. However I am intrigued by one set of covers that follow Baronne Street through the Central Business District: those of the Western Union Telegraph Co. When I see those and I’m not too deep in thought about the affairs of the counting house, they immediately take be back to an era before my own time. I wonder what I would find beneath them, imagining fat cables of cloth-covered wires humming with urgent Baudot-encoded message bound for delivery by men with caps and bicycles.

I wonder what would happen if I ventured down the Western Union rabbit hole? If I traveled a ways down that tunnel, where might I come up? And when? I imagine popping up onto a street lined with Packards, De Sotos and Studebakers, surprising a street filled with men in sharp hats and women wearing gloves.

If I venture down perhaps I should dress appropriately (having a ready collection of hats to hand). After dusting myself off in front of an incredulous street of onlookers, I could saunter over to something like the Canal Street I remember from childhood, busy with streetcars, picking up a green sheet and a pack of Picayunes beneath the psychedelic Walgreen’s sign then wander over to the Sazerac. Or better yet, I might drop into visit my old great-aunts Gert and Sadie–as younger women–in their apartment on Royal Street just in time for cocktails. The Hove’ Parfumier won’t let me go in back, and I have an urge to look up that massive spiral staircase and into quiet patio at the back of their building one more time.

I Tell You We Must Die October 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Tonight I went to the Deustch House Oktoberfest, listening to a bad Om Pah band play the Hogan Hero’s Theme and chicken dance endlessly. While I was walking up to the Deustch House my wife called, railing about the freaks at the latest McCain-Palin rally. While the phone was out, I checked my email. The counting house’s stock was down, again, another five percent.
When that wore itself out, I found my way to Frenchman Street in search of the Jazz Vipers. Instead, I found a rather hot Kelsmer band.

It occured to me as I sat at the bar at the Spotted Cat finishing my beer before I went home (since there was to be no Jazz Vipers or at least too late for my taste): I have tonight heard the soundtrack of Weimar Amerika. “Kill him,” they shout at their rallies.

Please just Show Me the Way to the Next Whisky Bar.

{chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp} October 8, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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No, I haven’t gone over to laying beneath a tree in City Park with a cane pole, although I have to admit to a certain attraction to that idea. I’m tremendously jealous of the kids (and teachers) who have a summer vacation, even if they have to work odd jobs. There are days at the counting house where park ranger sounds like an untterly fascinating profession. Or pehaps fire watcher. You know, those guys who sit out in the wilderness somewhere in a tower watching for fires.

When there’s nothing going on here, maybe there’s something going on here. Or I might have must mosied over to my own little Briar County on the Bayou to sit down and calm myself. Now where’d I put that corn-cob pipe?

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