That water without sound November 30, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Catholic Church, Dominicans, New Orleans, NOLA, St. Anthony of Padua, Sunday Morning, Wallace Stevens
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
– Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens
Has the War on Christmas already begun, and no one told me? The holidays are a difficult time for the unchurched or those of no particular dogma, confronted by those who try (in the best American commercial fashion) to establish an exclusive franchise for their church. Their efforts to make of us A Christian Nation are at least a part of the problem I have with organized religion.
I was raised Catholic, like so many in New Orleans, just old enough to be the among the last who made First Communion in Latin. Outside of a brief episode resulting from watching The Robe with a high fever, which lead to a week of attending daily 6 a.m. Mass and my mother’s fervent hope that she had spawned a priest, I started drifting away in my teens. It was not just the idle rebellion of the young, who preferred to spend an hour Sunday morning lounging about with cigarettes while our parents thought us at Mass. The literature I read in the 1970s was at least partly to blame: a Baghivad Gita from a begging Krishna, all of Carlos Castaneda, the Zen and Buddhist obsessions of the Beats, Joseph Campbell: it seemed a thousand doors opened into the same space. How could only one be right?
Decades later the Catholic Church shows the same conservative face that banished the Liberation Theologists decades ago and claims a prominent place at the head of the homophobic parade running campaigns to Ban Gay Marriage. Those effort’s sole purpose is to advance the election of factions I oppose with my entire heart and soul, and the Church’s embrace of the proto-fascist edge of conservative America was just another nail driven in.
Just last week the Church announced it was dropping funding of Acorn, and the loud boors on NOLA.Com hooted and stamped their feet in agreement. I found myself researching once again the grounds for excommunication. It seems only appropriate that if I wish to formally sever any ties to such a large, persistent organization with a thousand years of closely-kept records, I should have an embossed piece of paper to file with my baptism and confirmation certificates to close the deal, once and for all.
But it’s too much damned trouble, and as one rational commenter on NOLA.Com pointed out on the discussions of the Acorn funding decision, if you’re as far down the road as researching the rules on excommunication, you’re already there. (There are some rational people on NOLA.Com, and I like to think WetBankGuy is one of them. Why are we there? Someone has to stand against the darkness). Instead of reading up on excommunication, I go read Wallace Stevens epic celebration of the question of unbelief, Sunday Morning.
In truth I can never completely sever my Catholic identify (even if I cannot recite the Nicene Creed with a straight face and an honest heart) unless I am willing to sever my head in the bargain. I was married in the Church, and carried the day with the monsignor who interviewed us for our pre-Cannan conference. With twelve years of Catholic school under my belt (stop snickering, Peter), I quickly knew the answers to all the right questions. It helped immensely when he learned I was from New Orleans. He had shared a room for a while at seminary with former Archbishop Phillip Hannan, and our interview quickly turned into old home week.
To be raised Catholic in this city is to be deeply imprinted not only with a faith but by a complex culture that goes with it. The idea of a secular Jew, someone raised in the faith and its observances who no longer follows them, is well accepted. This city is full of people like me who are indelibly marked by our faith if no longer observant: secular Catholics.
Even as I struggle with how to handle the holidays from now through Christmas–I must go to Mass, of course, for my wife is still a Good Catholic in so many ways even if only a Holy Day of Obligation–it is a time of year when my Catholic identify is reinforced not by the Church but by my family. My visiting father-in-law wanted Mass on Thanksgiving, so I got on the phone and found one not too early, then charged my daughter (who seems to be traveling the same path I did at her age, and does not go happily to church) to take him to St. Anthony of Padua on Canal Street.
The choice of church led by dinner time to a long conversation with my mother as well. St. Anthony was “her church” growing up in Mid-City, and I heard a new story, which is always a treat when sitting with older family members. The church was built by Spanish Dominican fathers, and she is a Dominican girl through and through–high school, college, the alumni association. To this day she is among the last of her circle of confirmed Dominican girls who several times a year break break with the remaining nuns of Dominican College, and if any opening to the subject comes up I will hear how this or that sister is doing. My daughter has a Dominican nun doll dressed in full habit, a gift of her grandmother, and I am sure my mom is disappointed that my daughter is at Ben Franklin and not at Dominican High School.
She told me of the young priests who staffed it in her girl hood were a handsome lot who made the hearts of young Catholic girls flutter. All those young men, she told me, were all sent to the Phillipines in the late 1930s, and were murdered by the Japanese. I don’t remember hearing of girls being enamored of priests when I was young, but perhaps that is a guilty secret they only share among themselves until it is a distant memory of youth and a story to tell the family so that it is remembered. Perhaps it is like our own adolescent discussions of whose mother was “hot”, a hermetic ritual of adolescent boys before our popular culture reached the point where MILF is a common word with no trace of indecency.
New Orleans is inseparable from its churches. Jackson Square is a typical colonial plaza, with St. Louis Cathedral central on one side, flanked by what were once official colonial which are now museums. St. Mary’s just a few blocks away was an 1845 addition to the Ursuline Convent in the French Quarter, the oldest building in the district. The Ursulines were the first women’s order to arrive in New Orleans, and their story is deeply entangled in the story of New Orleans. The tale of their prayers for victory before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor persist to to this day and a mass is still said yearly to commemorate the event.
Every wave of Immigrants from the Catholic countries of southern Europe built their church in their neighborhood, and people are still fiercely loyal to their local. When the current leadership announced the closure of the historically prominent St. Augustine in Treme, the first parish built by and serving African-Americans in the city, led to a raucous confrontation with the Church authorities after the Archbishop’s chief henchman, the unpopular Rev. William Maestri showed up with a police escort to confront the protesters. And the more recent announcement of the closure of several healthy, active parishes in the Uptown area has lead to members occupying the deconsecrated buildings and suing in the cannon courts of Rome to have the decision overturned.
I am not fond of Maestri (if the use of the term henchman did not give this away) for his role as the Archbishops right hand man after the storm, particularly his role in the destruction of Cabrini Catholic Church. Whenever his name comes up (and as the spokesman of the Archdiocese and it’s chief enforcer, it frequently did over the last several years) she would always tell me how wildly unpopular he was when Maestri was assigned to the parish I grew up in, St. Pius X on the Lakefront.
Scratch any Orleanian and you will quickly uncover their own stories of their church. We are not so different that anyone else in this regard, but I have a hard time imagining the members of churches I knew in Minnesota or North Dakota rising up against their own Bishop to save their parish. It’s been done in Boston, but there is something temperamental to the MidWest that would likely prevent it. And living in a place that was still frontier just over a century ago, they don’t have the deep ties to a particular parish and building of people whose family has attended the same church for 150 years or longer.
I remain unchurched for the first time since I met that good Catholic girl from North Dakota. St. Anthony would be my parish were we to present ourselves and sign the register, and I will set foot in it for the first time this week when I no doubt find myself accompanying father-in-law and family to Mass. Once again I will struggle with how to respond, and find myself falling into the ritual and its recitations, but will stand silent for the Nicene Creed. It is a far cry from my mother’s wish to have from her two sons a doctor and priest.
To be unchurched–”unsponsored, free” in the words of Stevens–is not to be militantly atheist or a non-committal agnostic. One old friend detects currents in my life that lead her to invite me to join her at Samhain. I still pick up the old texts of Tao, Buddhism and Zen. The words of Jesus still stir me as they did Thomas Jefferson. It is more complex than that.
And so I will go to communion because it is expected and not out of any sense of communion, and without fear that I commit some heinous sin by taking it. It is not for me the transubstantiated flesh and blood simply because I do not believe. Whatever about the Nicene Creed or the political foibles of bad bishops troubles my mind and soul, the familiar space of Mass is something as comfortable as my own skin, and as easily taken up as required as a spoonful of gumbo. The kind teacher of love with the Sacred Heart is an image as powerful today as when it was first imagined. I will just try to let myself surrender to the moment because it is–not simply as I almost said but in a complex way–an ineradicable part of who I am.
But first, a reading for the First Sunday of Advent in anticipation of the Yule.
Thanksgiving Prayer November 28, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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And thanks to Greg of Suspect Device for sharing William S. Burrough’s Thanksgiving Prayer.
Still Waiting, Still Dreaming November 28, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: C. Ray Nagin, corruption, Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Warren Riely
“Nothing to be done.”
–Estragon in Beckett’s
“Waiting for Godot”
Was it a year ago or more that I found something comforting in New Orleans’ embrace of Samuel Beckett’s dark play “Waiting for Godot”. There was certainly something apt about it, to be embraced by those so many who stand in a barren landscape and wait, our frantic debates simply filling the time while we wait for some abstract Redemption.
If we wait, we will find ourselves like Beckett’s characters, left despondent by the news that Godot will not come today, and may or may not come tomorrow, debating how we might go about hanging ourselves and in what order. At least that’s the cheerful feeling I take away from reading the paper this week.
First there was the CNN One Crime at a Time special on crime and corruption in New Orleans. It was a sloppy piece in many ways, giving a complete pass to Mayor C. Ray Nagin on corruption and focusing on excessive use of city cars as its best example of dysfunctional government. Blogger Mominem of Tin Can Trailer Trash offered this better list in an email discussion of the city’s dysfunction, and called us a Failed State.
I don’t know about “broken windows” but “broken government” is certainly an thread. As far as I can tell there is not a single process in City Government that works up to the level of incompetence.
It takes 4-6 months to correct an error in property taxes.
It takes 2 years to get a property tax refund and you can’t apply over payments to future taxes.
The Sanitation Department doesn’t know what houses to tear down
The Police can’t keep track of evidence.
The DA can’t file motions to seize cash from drug dealers.
The Sanitation Department doesn’t know how many houses it’s being billed for, so it just pays the same amount every month.
The City has no idea how many cars it owns, who has them or who uses city gas credit cards.
The IT department can’t get crime cameras installed.
The IT department can’t get crime camera’s repaired.
It takes the city a year to get computers for the [Inspector General].
Our Chief of Police, Warren Riley, was also given free reign to rehearse his stock hand-wringing speech about poverty and bad schools, while offering no hope or relief for either his beleaguered officers or the citizens. It was a speech I would get to hear twice this week, which I will get to in a minute.
Then came the announcement that our Betters have come to a decision on building a new hospital complex downtown. Rather than take the advice of the citizens to rehab the historic Charity complex (and some some loot to boot), or perhaps to take the idle ruin of old Lindy Boggs/Mercy Hospital in my own neighborhood of Mid-City, they will instead demolish an entire neighborhood of hundreds of homes in lower Mid-City to build their bio-science field of dreams.
One ignored side effect of this is that the area where I worked for the last year-and-a-half, the north side of the Central Business District, will remain mostly a ghost town of abandoned commercial buildings. All that is needed to complete the hair-brained scheme to convert downtown into some sort of condominium time-share hell is the other bright idea of our recovery leaders to move the civil district courts into the criminal justice complex down Tulane Avenue (adjacent to the new Hospital World), leaving the city’s commercial center a whistling ghost town.
I could go on, but I think Karen of Squandered Heritage has said it all.
Then there was the joyous holiday news that New Orleans is once again Queen of the South, and perhaps of all America and much of the world, a true leader in the field of crimes committed in our streets. Riley predictably attacked the statistics (as City Hall will do when they hear bad news about the city), and gave again his standing spiel on poverty, bad schools and crime, but offered no vision for how to get out of the hell whole the city has found itself in.
Again, I defer to Jarvis DeBerry, who pretty much sums up my own reaction here.
There is no hope under Louisiana law of recalling Nagin and booting Riley or the rest of the band of buffoons who make up his administration. (Still, go sign the petitions anyway). So many opportunities we have missed, from squashing the culture of crime as the city slowly repopulated to turnig a city full of aging and dilapidated homes into a vibrant place again, to perhaps “shrink the footprint” of the city into a space more easily defending against flooding not by government fiat but my making the city core an attractive place to live again.
Nothing to be done, Estragon says. I don’t want to sink into that sort of lyrical dog philosopher cynicism. There is so much to be done. If we cannot drive out Nagin and his crony’s short of a touch-and-pitchfork assault on their castle, then there is a life to be lived here, to day-by-day prove the naysayers wrong. There are letters to write, calls to be made and petitions to be signed. There is a band to see tonight with old friends on Frenchman Street, and a meal to be eaten with my visiting father-in-law in one of our favorite restaurants.
There is the day to day battle of New Orleans: not a glorious moment like the defeat of the British in 1815 or an ignominious one like the uprising of the Klan against Reconstruction. This is the long campaign to make this city livable again by the act of living here against all odds and saving what we can. When Nagin and his crew are memories we will still be here.
Carry Me Home November 23, 2008Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: book, Carry Me Home, Federal Flood, Katrina, Lulu.com, New Orleans, publish, Wet Bank Guide
So, after much messing with the manuscript and a thousand delays (I had hoped to do this before rising tide, and now it’s nearly the holidays), I’ve put together a collection of pieces originally from my Wet Bank Guide blog and compiled them into a book, “Carry Me Home — A Journey Back to New Orleans.”
Many of the pieces were re-worked for a hard copy publication, and given the editing they needed. So many were originally written in the wee hours of the dark with on better proof than a spell check. I had the idea to collect these at about the same time I decided to close the Wet Bank Guide chapter.
I appreciate the advice I had from several NOLA Bloggers with experience in the publishing world. I decided (against their advice) to make this a self-published venture partly because of the amount of time it would have required to go down the traditional path. It would have been a very different project, and tied up my time looking back at the Web Bank Guide era instead of looking forward. Now that this is behind me I hope to have time to focus on other non-blog writing projects.
The book is available today at www.lulu.com. As part of the Lulu distribution system, it should hit Bowker’s Books in Print in about two to three weeks, and onlines retailers like Amazon and B&N.Com by January. I intended to hit the pavement to try to place it in independent local book stores as well.
Thanks again to all of the people who left kind comments or sent emails back in the days of Wet Bank Guide, and encouraged me to keep writing in that forum. A big thanks to author, blogger and Wet Bank Guide reader Michael Tisserand for the blurb and to Greg Peters, one of who’s kind links to WBG ended up as a blurb as well. If I left anyone off the blog list in back I’m sorry. At one point, I had to start culling names to keep the book at 160 pages after edits, as I already had an ISBN number assigned and could not change the page count.
Remember Them All November 21, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Crime, murder, New Orleans, Remember
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This Is The Way The World Bends November 18, 2008Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Charles Bukowski, demolitions, despair, Karen Gadbois, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, New Orleans, Squandered Heritage, T.S. Eliot, Veronica White, Whitney Houston
“I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.”
–“Consummation of Grief”
One of those bleak days when someone in an email thread starts quoting T.S. Eliot, and you look out of your office window to make sure the person spouting Old Possum is not standing out on a ledge staring off into space. Outside it is a beautiful Fall day in New Orleans: cool, sunny, no hint of humidity, the kind of day when you wished the fireplaces worked. Somewhere out there in the apple-crisp golden afternoon they are tearing down someone’s perfectly sound house. You can almost see the dust rising in the distance without knowing which way to look, because you know with some certainly that somewhere, out there it is happening.
It would be enough to drive one to drink, living in our wildly dysfunctional city, if drinking were an exceptional occasion down here. But we drink because it’s five o’clock somewhere and who says a Sazerac wouldn’t go with an Oyster Salad at the Palace Cafe at lunch? I think it would be just fucking lovely, much preferable to standing out on a windy precipice spouting Oxonian doom. In fact it’s probably the perfect way to cap a morning spent driving around admiring the homes and community buildings that will soon be a patina of stucco dust on an empty lot. Another sazerac? Absolutely.
The kind of day when you wished the fireplaces worked–that’s what I said, wasn’t it? That is what started this slow slide from a pumpkin-perfect November afternoon that became two drinks at lunch and the next thing you know you’re standing someplace you ought not be reciting The Hollow Men to the fire department. And all because someone suggested today that it was OK that New Orleans didn’t work, that this was part of the charm.
I have lived places where things work. And I have lived in places that are charming. While I can’t say I’ve lived in any place that was both at the same time, I know such places exist. New York is not charming, exactly, but it is a place that Orleanians are drawn to, and one of the few places from which they never return. Cajun Boys, too. And in comparison to New Orleans, it works. Hell, they just decided to let their mayor run for a third term, while we would be hard pressed to give ours a five minute running start before we loosed the dogs.
San Francisco is charming and the last time I checked it mostly worked. They weren’t randomly demolishing houses on Telegraph Hill or painting over the murals in the Castro with gray paint. The average Xcel customer pays $75 a month for electricity. Even if they have our ruinous fuel adjustment charges, that would still be a fraction of what we pay here. With the possible exception of Lombard Street the roads will not destroy a car in three years of use. Oh, and they have street cars. Not just two kinds, but three or four different models, plus cable cars.
Here the city demolishes houses in a way not quite random but almost like a puzzle in a mystery novel, a seemingly stochastic pattern like the rain of rockets on Pynchon’s London. You come away convinced their is some method to the madness, but you struggle to find one that will not drive you insane in the knowing of it.
The strange campaign to demolish wide swaths of the city is just one well-documented example of our spiraling dysfunction. Our mayor lashes out at a council member for racial slurs she never uttered, taking the word of a fabulously incompetent department head who spends her days visiting Whitney Houston web sites looking for fashion tips when she is not presiding over both the random home demolitions and a set of garbage contracts awarded to campaign contributors that would make Dick Cheney blush). Embarrassing? I guess you could say that, but it’s more maddening. If I start to tell you about the Sewerage & Water Board hiring a rabbit with a pocket watch to inspect the lines, stop me. It may not be true, but I would believe it in a second.
New Orleans is one of the great places in the world to live. It is also one of the most difficult, largely because of the sort of nonsense that passes for governance. When we talk about “what’s to eat” we mean which restaurant and not a strategy for survival. Then you read a story about a man three years after the Federal Flood speaking wistfully of what it would be like to have a refrigerator. And he’s not even Karen Gadbois, who has dedicated much of her life over the last three plus years to documenting and combating the slow destruction of the city not by wind or water but by a malicious incompetence. You would start quoting Eliot too, if you had taken up the burden she has carried all this time.
My own advice to her: don’t stop. We would trade the mayor, his extended family and everyone else on his floor of city hall just to keep you at it. The he charm of New Orleans isn’t just our food or our music or just our eccentric ways (bog bless ‘em), and it certainly is not the inmates who have taken over the asylum the way they have at City Hall. The charm is in the neighborhoods, not in a single abandoned property that could not be saved but in the whole swath of houses around it where everyone remembers St. Timothy who taught first grade, which tree came down in Betsy and took out everyone’s power, and what the Tuesday lunch special is up at the corner. It’s not just about savings houses or a corner church or store. It’s about saving a way of life
And if you want despair stay away from the hyper-intellectual overkill of Eliot. Nothing better fits a distracted and melancholic have-another-drink funk than Bukowski: pure despair for the savor of it, like a cheap cigar. But I would recommend instead that next time you drive the ‘hoods don’t just see the house with No Gas spray painted on it. Look at the ones all around, at the people on the stoop and the corner store that just re-opened. As crazy as it all seems at some level we’re winning because as whacked as daily life here can be we keep coming home.
Drive-by Tagger Strikes the Gray Host November 18, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504ever, blog tagging, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, tag, tagging
I have been tagged.
God, I hate this sort of thing. It takes me 30 minutes to figure out what to write on a birthday or retirement card, and now I have an obligation to write six random things about myself for all the world to read. I think that last sentence was No. 1 And then I have to visit this unhappy task on six other people, which at least allows a certain sense of shadenfruede.
Thanks a lot, Ms. Slate. But for you and Polimom, I will oblige.
OK: First The Rules.
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up
The first one is easy and already said: 1) as verbose as I may seem here, if you put a greeting card in front of me at work and I need a quick, trite phrase or sentence, I am stumped. That does not make this task any easier.
2) If my hair grew like my toenails, I’d look like Sidney Torres instead of a bald wookie.
3) Like most men I can’t help but look at women appraisingly. At my age, if they look back with anything like a hint of a smile I immediately check my fly, then my shirt for stains.
4) The most popular link on this blog is Middle Aged Men Gone Wild in the French Quarter. I think these visitors are terribly disappointed.
5) I have never been one of the cool kids, and I’m puppy-grateful that they let me hang around anyway.
6) I picked up the nickname Dancing Bear when I was a teenager (after Captain Kangaroo, not the Grateful Dead) because when we would get popped at Pinecone Forest at the lakefront I would do a fake soft shoe dance when the Beatles When I’m 64 came on. It got to be a routine where people would demand I do it. To this day I have friends who still call me Dancing Bear, or just Bear for short.
Four is a cop out. And I (or at least the I who lives on this block of Toulouse Street) is a non-conformist, so here’s another. Think of it as Lagniappe.
6 1/2 ) I tear up at the end of West Side Story. And Cool Runnings.
There. That wasn’t so bad. Now I have to tag six other people, for which I imagine they will forgive me if I avoid them long enough then buy a a lot of drinks when we do meet.
Let’s see: Peter; oh most definitely. Oh, and Skooks because the snark (if he does it) will be endlessly entertaining. Next, Le Mom Noir Pistolette. I think I’ll tag NOLA Notes since all I know about her I learned on Twitter, which is sort of like the relationship you might have with the priest you’ve only met from behind the confession screen. New Orleans Gypsy gets tagged because her blog is fascinating, she doesn’t post enough and her answer would be as interesting as her posts always are. Umm, and Tim just as good natured harassment.
Love Is All You Need November 16, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: All You Need Is Love, Beatles, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Life, Love, New Orleans, Prop 8
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So I finally crawl out of a weekend of work hell and settle down to catch up on the blogs and I read all of Morwen’s (righteously) angry Prop 8 rants and the Zombie is all over the Church of the Hateful Jesus.
And then I read this from Big EZ Bear and I think: who gives a fuck what they think in Bush or Barstow, here in city that care forgot we haven’t forgotten how to care for each other, whether partners of a lifetime or a lot of strangers in the blight.
I love this city more than they love their god or their country because here we remember what that god’s son said and why this country was founded. All you need is Love along with Liberty in the Pursuit of Happiness and you end up with a Life worth living.
New Orleans has more than its share of Philistines and Pharisees but like the guys in this video we can stand up in a world full of darkness and anger and envy and jealousy and just make our own joyful noise and beam it into the world. The rest of America can hang us all from their crosses like the army of Spartacus because they hate us for our freedom and their children will still flock here because we know how to live.
All together now:
Speak To Me, Frederico November 15, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Fellini, La Dolce Vita, New Orleans, NOA, Parlimi di mi, Toulouse Street
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I Read The News Today, Oh Boy November 14, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, Dry Loaf, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Wallace Stevens, We Are Not OK
Words fail me sometimes. One night’s worth of sleep in the last two days courtesy of the Counting House. Some days I am not sure if a better use of the newspaper is to read, or to wrap a lead pipe and beat my head with. The latter would sometimes be less painful. Maybe I should get a job with one of the city’s sanitation vendors, and let the robotic arms do all the heavy work.
Thankfully others have words for me when I have none. If this poem doesn’t cheer you up, I recommend sitting on the porch reading Bukowski and drinking absinthe until you can just make it in to set the alarm and collapse into bed. Sadly, I’ll probably be shepherding another technical conference call from hell tonight instead. We can all rest in the grave.
By Wallace Stevens
It is equal to living in a tragic land
To live in a tragic time.
Regard now the sloping, mountainous rocks
And the river that batters its way over stones,
Regard the hovels of those that live in this land.
That was what I painted behind the loaf,
The rocks not even touched by snow,
The pines along the river, and the dry men blown
Brown as the bread, thinking of birds
Flying from burning countries and brown sand shores
Birds that came like dirty water in waves
Flowing over the rocks, flowing over the sky,
As if the sky was a current that bore then along,
Spreading them as waves spread flat on the shore,
One after another washing the mountains bare.
It was the battering of drums I heard
It was hunger, it was the hungry that cried
And the waves, the waves were soldiers moving
Marching and marching in a tragic time
Below me, on the asphalt, under the trees.
It was solders went marching over the rocks
And still the birds came, came in watery flocks,
Because it was spring and the birds had to come.
No doubt that solders had to be marching
and that drums had to be rolling, rolling, rolling.
Doing Exactly What You Said November 12, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504ever, blog, blogger, blogging, Brad Pitt, Cliff's Crib, New Orleans, Ninth Ward, NOLA
I started off the day reading this cheerful piece on the Times-Picayune/NOLA>com site about the New Orleans City Council’s efforts to extract someone’s head from their ass (the Mayor’s, the Recovery Czar’s, their own) so they could figure out when the pretty signboards announcing progress in recovery might be replaced by something like actual progress on city-controlled recovery projects. Typical happy reading down here in Year Three.
Thankfully, I got over to read what Cliff of Cliff’s Crib said on a similar subject. Cliff does a better job of summing up what’s going down and going wrong (and right) than anybody else in this town. I wanted to call out this from his last post:
Brad Pitt had a radical idea for hurricane recovery. He presented a plan, people gave him money to do it, and then he did what he said he was going to do. Sometimes great plans are very simplistic. I was wondering. Has the city council or the mayor recognized this man for this work? Has he gotten a key to the city? Does he get to ride in the Zulu parade? What about a good pot of red beans? Maybe we can give him and Angelina a second line in their honor when they are in town. I would like to nominate Mr. Pitt for a new position in the city. He should be the Director of Doing Exactly What You Said You Were Going to Do.
And I nominate Cliff for Director of the Ministry of Speaking Truth to Power, for at least the salary the mayor’s half-dozen press hacks are getting.
All The Little Piggies November 10, 2008Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: bailout, Banking, Counting House, economy, pigs
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Ah, happy Monday mail call at the counting house….
Blarney November 10, 2008Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Altan, Blarney Stone, Celtic, Fiona Richie, Ireland, Thistle and Shamrock
I found this picture of your humble narrator kissing the Blarney Stone during our trip to Ireland in ’91, a belated honeymoon not long before Killian was born. (We found out later that Killian was with us the whole trip, pub crawling and all, but I used to like to say that Killian was Our Little Souvenir of Ireland. If Rebecca or Killian read this, I am in so much trouble.
I have it on the best authority (everyone we met that night in the pub some miles away) that this attempt to win the gift of gab was a completely unnecessary exercise on my part. I think that was a compliment. Rounds were bought right after, so I’m pretty sure it was. This is every bit as much fun as it looks to be, especially with a night-three-in-Ireland, pub-crawling-then-up-early-and-on-the road hangover.
My own Irish ancestry is only 1/32nd, but this apparently was just enough to convince my father-in-law I might be acceptable. I think it may have helped when I pointed out that Fiona Riche, host of the nationally-syndicated Celtic music show Thistle and Shamrock, suggested that the Acadians were a lost tribe of the Celtic race. There was a feeling, especially in the smaller towns where we sometimes stayed, deeply akin to the vibe of South Louisiana: music and drink mixing in that particular amalgam known in Ireland as craic, which is best translated as “When the Good Times Roll.”
Oh and the food is excellent. Breakfast is your typical British Isle nastiness of overcooked eggs and bangers and lunch was often a pint and a choice of toasted sandwiches (ham, cheese or mixed?) but dinner was always excellent: usually a tough choice between fabulous fresh lamb and salmon, along with some straight from the garden vegetables all swimming in butter rich sauces.
If you haven’t figured out we are Eirephiles here on Toulouse Street, here’s a bit of one of our favorite’s: Altan. We saw them live at the Celtic Festival in Washington, D.C. in the early nineties. It was pouring rain out and the tent was jammed to standing room only right to the edge. I spent the whole time in the tent with little Killian on my shoulders bouncing to the music while she shrieked with delight. They dedicated a song to the “da dancing with his little daughter on his shoulders in the back” and I was as happy a lad as might be found there that day.
Midnight at the Movies November 6, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Bambi, Godzilla, Midnight Movies, New Orleans, Toulouse Street
Ah to be say 16 and standing outside the Carrollton or some other small neighborhood theater at a quarter to twelve waiting to go into to see Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels, The Groove Tube or some other wholesome fare at the Midnight Movies. There was a certain je ne sais quoi in the air at those events. Or maybe it wasn’t something French but instead something Mexican. I really can’t recall. I’m not sure when or where I saw this except that it was as an opening short at one of the Midnight Movies.
I’m off to a wedding in Gulf Shores on the Redneck Riviera, second time for the 50 something fellow with whom I saw many of those Midnight Movies. Try not to let them demolish the house while we’re gone.
Spirits in the Night November 4, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: America, Bobby Kennedy, New Orleans, Obama, Toulouse Street
It is not the specter of Bobby Seale but the spirit of Bobby Kennedy that walks in America tonight, not an angry radical reaction to the angry reactionary nightmare of the years just past but an eternal flame that burns not just on one lonely hill tonight but all across the land in the hearts of Americans.
It has been a long journey of forty years, wandering in the desert, since that night in 1968 when Kennedy told a crowd much like those we saw tonight–young, many African-American–that Dr. King was dead, and calmed their fear and anger with the words of Aeschylus. Neither man lived to see this day.
But I see the ghostly hands of King and Kennedy upon his shoulders as Barrack Hussein Obama leads this nation on our first step into the Promised Land.
Sad Baritone Saturday November 3, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: election, Fi-Yi-Yi, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, the blues, Toulouse Street, vote
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A sad baritone blowing big round Jello-tremulous Os of the blues. That’s what started this ramble into a pleasant melancholia, a fizzing afternoon beer buzz sadness not quite cheerless, simply there like a color in the air, a sky so blue and clear you can hear it like a faint hum beneath your feet, a Fall afternoon so perfectly empty you just want to lay down in the arms of some big oak and root, thinking: well, if the world is going to caterwaul in a crashing train wreck, I guess I’m not busy today. Go ahead. I voted early.
And then you remember the Indians, stuffed into the lobby of the museum and so you go and the colors aren’t quite right, all that expanse of white marble flattening the chromatic costumes into something cartoonish, robbing the scene of all depth perspective like some VCR on endless loop alone in a neutral cream room of neatly labeled artifacts under glass instead of the slow approach up a street lined with low, sameish houses, long rows of shotguns and maybe a catacorner store, first just a spyboy peering around the colored chalkboard brightly proclaiming Hot Breakfast and Cold Beer, then a hollering of tambourines in the distance and then you spot them, turning a corner, creatures from a dream peopling an otherwise ordinary street, singing in a language they have made themselves.
That’s when you decide No Thank You. I want to slap the snooze button on that doom clock. Your time doesn’t apply to us down here we’re on Central River Time and things, things are just a bit slower and we’re not quite ready for all your rapturous end times of votes and riots, we’re all in pawn up to the brim of our sharp fur felt hats so here’s a dime, call in all your tall Wall Street stories to someone else. If you’re going to destroy your world try to keep it down to a manageable rumble in the distance, please, perhaps a smudge of smoke on the horizon like a marsh fire and leave us to ourselves, to the scat-o-logical chantings of Fi-Yi-Yi to mad tamborine time, the bright side of the poverty and sadness you turn into columns and hours of politics and we turn into a sad baritone blowing big round Jello-tremulous Os, measuring the girth of the blues just about city sized and right for us, thanks.