A Long Strange Trip Into The Light (2009 Edition) December 31, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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As The Wheel turns away from the dark, let us all roll forward and second line into The Light.
It’s all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago
Pour le Québec: 400 Years, 400 Blog Posts December 31, 2008Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 400 ans 400 blogue, anniversary, exceptionalism, Montreal, Quebec
New Orleans is not the oldest city in America by any measure. A quick search of the Internet turns up many older settlements, even discounting those of the natives who were here before us. Even close to home Baton Rouge, Mobile, Biloxi and Nachitoches were founded earlier.
Still, you would be hard pressed to find any real indication in those places of their age, the feeling one gets walking through parts of New Orleans that the past is all around you; not just as crumbling bricks and mortar but a sense in the air, a way about the people you meet.
Part of that intangible feeling is our exceptionalism, our sense that we are something special, a people apart from others. You can believe in it or not, agree with it or not, but it is very much the city we make around us by our daily lives that draws the tourists in their endless hordes–the food, the music, the easiness that takes a drink not by the angle of the sun but by an interior clock–as much as our quaint Latin square and cathedral, or the wrought iron of our Spanish-built French Quarter.
Our sense of ourselves as a people and a place special and apart is shared by the Quebecois, who this year celebrate another old city on this continent, the 400th anniversary of Quebec City/Montreal. When I first discovered 400ans400blogues.com via a link into this blog, I knew I would have to write something
I felt compelled to join the 400 year/400 blogs effort in part because I am one among the partisans of New Orleans’ exceptionality, and that of our Acadian neighbors. I understand at some deep level the feeling of the Quebecois for their own self-hood and conflicted yearnings for nationality. I also join in this effort because a recurring theme of Toulouse Street and my old Wet Bank Guide blog is remembrance: of Katrina and the Federal Flood, of who Orleanians are and who we must struggle to remain. I have often borrowed the Quebec motto in these columns: je me souviens.
Here in New Orleans, we also remember.
The broad mass of Americans have ambivalent feelings about Quebec and the Quebecois. My own direct experience of Canadians was limited to the westerners who would flood Fargo, N.D. for shopping and cheaper liquor and cigarettes. They seemed good people, those I met, and I’m sorry I never made it up to Winnipeg while I lived so close. But they are of a different stock than the Quebecois, or even the hardy Scots-Irish who ultimately took over the Maritimes after the ancestors of Louisiana’s Cajun’s were expelled by the British from Acadia.
I have heard of a legendary Gallic animosity toward Americans. I have not been to Quebec and so can not say from personal experience. I only know in vague outline of the struggle of a people to maintain their identity, something I have always felt a sympathy for. I know for over a century New Orleans’ Creoles resisted Americanization, kept apart, struggled to preserve their language alive but ultimately lost the battle. Thankfully, the Acadians of coastal Louisiana did not, and the world is a richer place for it.
I won’t attempt a travelogue piece for a place I do not know. I do have a sense I would feel at home in Quebec even in my ignorance of French. When I traveled to Ireland I discovered a culture in so many ways like our own I felt as if I hand stumbled into some parallel universe where a place was transformed yet recognizable, understood immediate why a famous Celtic musicologist once remarked that the Acadians were a lost tribe of the Celtic race. I think I would find in Quebec a sensibility closer to that of New Orleans that I would not find in Windsor or Toronto or Calgary, a unique sense of self and a way of life that has not rushed to erase its European roots or turn it into a cheap once-a-year carnival.
I am not of the original French stock of Louisiana. My ancestors were among the earliest German arrivals, lured here by John Law’s fabulous campaign to attract settlers. They established themselves on what became the Côte des Allemands, and quickly came to speak French as their household tongue. Our family name, Foltz in German and the rest of the U.S., was changed almost as soon as they stepped off the boat. The Francophone officials who kept the rolls did as the Americans at Ellis Island: they spelled the names as they sounded to them, and so they, we became Folse, became in all but name Francophone Cajuns.
My father’s generation lost their French as young children when they moved up to New Orleans, and the Parisian-speaking Sisters would beat them in the classroom if the spoke “that ignorant French” of the rural Acadians, and the children on the playground would follow in kind. Somewhere along the way we lost something precious but became not Americanized as much as we became citizens of New Orleanians, were absorbed into the Afro-Carribean sensibilities of this city. We became a part of this exceptional place.
So from one exceptional place to another, from one severed bit of France to another, I salute Quebec City, Montreal, and all the Quebecois. The world conspires to turn us into some neutral and flavorless clone, strips of small square houses blocked out around busy avenues of big box stores all the same, demands that we not only all speak the same tongue but watch the same movies and listen to the same music, that we become part of the culture of Coke and cable television. And some of us resist.
Vive la resistance.
P.0.1 December 29, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Federal Flood, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Desire Street Academy, Desire Street Ministries
I have not made the Prospect.1 art pilgrimage. I am a bad boy. I am tremendously glad that P.1 has occurred, and thank every artist, every visitor, every underwriter. To you all I offer this non-P.1 piece of art, call it P.0.1, a bit of genuine New Orleans. I first posted the below on Wet Bank Guide Dec. 3, 2005 under the title Child of Desire. I would add only this, to the second paragraph: There is nothing P.1 can tell you until you have seen this panel, have understood that this is from Before, and that I believe it was meant to survive where no other panel did for a reason.
This unsigned panel was the sole surviving piece of a student mural at Desire Street Academy, part of Desire Street Ministries. Photo courtesy of Steve Crow, who took this while volunteering in the area. I think this speaks of Katrina and New Orleans in a way nothing else I have seen can approach.
Until you understand this panel, there’s is nothing that George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog or displays of Toxic Art can do to save you. You first have to understand the despair the people of the Dome and Convention Center sometimes knew long before Aug. 28. You have to understand the despair of coming home to a ruined home on a wasted street in a neighborhood destroyed. You have to understand the despair of watching America abandon the city, hundreds of thousands of it citizens. You have to understand that New Orleans is on it’s own.
Until this young man and everyone like him can lift up their faces and stand and take the first steps toward the future, there will be no recovery. It doesn’t matter if those steps are taken in New Orleans or Houston or Atlanta, there will be no healing until he and all like him are healed.
There will be no rebuilding until this artist comes home to stay, and a decade from now takes his children down to the ‘hood to see this piece once again mounted. There will be no recovery until he can stand before this and say, proudly, I made that, out of this place and the life of this place, just like I made the house you live in and the life you have in this city, just like I made you someone who can be proud, living in a place to be proud of. Out of despair you can make something beautiful.
Going Out Gracelessly December 23, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
I was done with the Xmas Hostilidays but if I don’t hear this song at least once, the season is not complete.
Have yourself a Very Merry Christmas, a Happy Haunnakah, A (belated) Beauteous Solstice, a Roaring Yule, a Wonderful Kwanzaa or celebrate as I do, and have yourself a Very Merry Cocktail, one for every variant of the holiday you can think of. Mistletoe is Good.
I Hate Illinois Nazis December 23, 2008Posted by The Typist in Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Algiers, murder, racist, shootings
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The tale of some residents of Algiers setting up a vigilante militia in the days after Katrina, and one member’s boast that shooting black residents was “like hunting pheasants in South Dakota” ,have swept through the blogs and into the Times-Picayune.
The article is poorly titled “Katrina’s Hidden Race War“. I don’t think a handful of shootings qualifies as a race war. And given that the organizers of this were from out-of-state, I think I like my own headline even better.
Given that we are all forced to live with the rumors of what happened at the Dome and Convention Center, which are largely urban legends unsupported by evidence, I am glad this story has finally surfaced. That is not to say that shootings, car jackings, rapes and other assaults did not occur in the city, but not where people had assembled for safety.
You were much more likely to get shot trying to cross the Danziger Bridge that at the Convention Center.
At one level I’m glad this story came out, if only to try to lay to rest the idea that barbaric behavior after the storm was racial.The asshole from the Gretna P.D. who pointed an assault rifle at the head of an acquaintance’s son as they tried to walk across the bridge to their home in Algiers was as much of an out-of-control animal as whoever torched Oakwood and these white racists from Algiers point.
When civil society breaks down two sets of people come to the fore. The most powerful tale is of the altruists, people like the “Cajun Navy” of sportsman from all over Louisiana who arrived unbidded with their duck boats and other shallow water craft and conducted the majority of rescues in the days after.
The other group are the animals who see an opportunity to run amok. These vigilante’s think of themselves in the same glowing terms as those who made heroic rescues and gestures of relief. They are not. They are among the rabble who ran wild and lawless in the streets, and they deserve to be immortalized along with looters of televisions and shoes and the police on both banks who also run amok.
Read New Orleans Slate’s eyewitness account of life on Algiers Point after the storm.
St. Stephen’s Day Murders December 20, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: hostiladays, Xmas Christmas Parody carols
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I was going to save this for the holiday known in the Commonwealth as Boxing Day, but I can’t resist. It is one of my favorite holiday songs. It takes the edge off of the holiday frenzy like a big glass Jamison’s. I often listen to this record in my alter ego E.L.F. (see below), and bellow along to this one at the top of my lungs as I hang the lights. This was a much safer activity in Fargo, when it was often 20 or 30 Fahrenheit out at light stringing time, but so far the neighbors on Toulouse Street are all still speaking to me. What they say about it when I’m not around I can’t say.
This is not a video, just a still of the album cover where in you will find Elvis Costello and The Chieftains singing The St. Stephen’s Day Murders.
The Ghost of Christmas Future December 18, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, food, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK, Xmas, Yule.
Tags: A Christmas Carol
I wrote this little penny dreadful in one furious draft on Monday night, and I have been plinking at it since. I think it probably needs a serious once over with a blue pencil by someone else but Christmas is almost here and I’m not a patient person. Criticisms by comment or email welcome.
This is a work of fiction. Any perceived resemblance to persons living or dead should be discussed with your therapist at your next session.
Finally, this is the sort of thing that happens when you read the early short fiction of P.K. Dick around Christmas, something I don’t recommend. I have since switched to Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and feel entirely better.
The Ghost of Christmas Future
“Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.”
–Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”
Maria settled into the hard, wooden seat as the antique red streetcar jumped to a start and slowly whirred up to speed, clutching a shopping bag close to her chest. A few rolls of half-used foil wrapping paper stuck out of the package, the odd cut ends flapping a bit in the breeze as the car slowly got up to speed. These cars had once been air conditioned, or so Maria was told, but it had not worked any time she could remember. At least the windows opened, unlike the even older buses that carried her for the last part of her long trip home, those windows long fused shut by neglect and humidity. The December air was a lukewarm bath, not hot like August but not the cool that might come by Carnival if the city was lucky.
As she settled down for her long ride home she glanced out at the brightly-lit high rise buildings that lined the river, then turned her head away. She had spent the day in one of those, scrubbing out toilets and kitchen floors. From a distance at night they looked glamorous, like a city in an old movie. The insides she knew well enough after a dozen years working there as a maid, the apartments did not look so glamorous from down on hands and knees scrubbing.
She peered instead into her package, trying to decide if there was enough paper on the rolls to wrap the cast-offs she had gotten from Mrs. Lafont: toys her employer’s children had outgrown, a beautiful silk scarf in a slightly out of fashion pattern for herself. It would be better than last Christmas, the first after her husband died; coughing up the last of his life with the black mold and stucco dust he had breathed ten and twelve hours a day as a young man demolishing homes after the flood.
Better than last Christmas. She tried to convince herself the children were still so distraught over the loss of their father that the lack of presents that Christmas was a small thing, but she could see it in their eyes as she dressed them for mass on Christmas morning as they stared at the empty corner where her husband had always managed a small, leftover tree on Christmas Eve.. It was just another measure their loss, the first of many days when they would miss his presence.
She lifted up her shoulders and straightened her back as she took in a deep breath, then let it out in a long sigh to settle her mind, looking straight ahead as the car rattled toward the last of the high rises and the first checkpoint. A man in a black uniform with a small automatic pistol hanging at his waist from a shoulder strap stepped into the car, and Maria fished out her papers. It was the first of several times she would need them that evening, and she kept them in the little pocket of her bag ready to hand.
A pair of guards from Bywater Security stood laughing over a cigarette just outside the window at Maria’s seat, but the guard from the Downtown Security District who entered the car was not smiling. He walked slowly down the aisle, glancing casually at everyone’s proffered passes and ID cards. He passed Maria with just a desultory glance, but yanked the papers out of the hands of the young man sitting just behind her. Maria looked straight ahead but could see in her mind the scene unfolding as she had seen it a hundred times before: the guard staring intently at the card, then at the young man, then back at the card; his hand sliding back from its position resting atop the gun and toward the grip, his fingers stroking the metal as if the gun were a small lapdog. She heard him grunt and then shuffle on toward the back of the car. He pulled the stop cord, and the driver released the rear door to let him out.
It was the same at each of the neighborhood security boundaries on her long ride home to the back of town, the private police in their black uniforms manning their check points to see who was coming into their zone. Her grandmother had told her stories about growing up in Chiapas in the days of the rebels, of the soldiers with their machine guns patrolling the streets. Here in New Orleans, her grandmother told her, they mostly left you alone if your papers were OK. Back in Mexico it was not so good. Many young men were killed by the soldiers there, their wives abused. It was so much better, she was so, so lucky to be growing up in America.
She put her ID and pass back into her purse, checking to see that the envelope of cash Mrs. Lafont had given her as a Christmas tip was still safe in the bottom of her bag. Satisfied, she took out a small compact and looked into it instead of at the passing high rises or the river front parks her maid’s pass would never admit her to. In the mirror she saw two men she didn’t notice when she boarded the car, or remember seeing come down the aisle.
One was an older Anglo in a faded t-shirt, some design with a skull and a gun that said Defend, perhaps a retired soldado negro from one of the security districts. . Next to him was another man in a dark hoodie with the top pulled so far up and over his head that she could not see his face. It was so dark under the hood she thought he must be a Black, but she could not be sure. She was amazed the guard had not stopped this odd pair and hauled them off the car for further questioning. Even if the hooded one wasn’t a Black, and you never saw them inside the river front security districts, even if he were also an Anglo, wearing his face covered like that would be all the excuse they would need.
The hooded one turned toward her as she watched them in the mirror, and still she could not see his face in the mirror. She snapped it shut and shuddered as she crossed herself and kissed her thumb, murmuring the last phrases of a Hail Mary under her breath. As she did so the last of the high rises passed them by, and the Old Quarter began. Her grandmother had taken her down to the cathedral when she was a child, before the security districts replaced the old police and instituted the passes. They would sit among the pigeons and tourists and grandmother would tell her of her own girlhood in Mexico, of the cathedral on a square where the boys walked one way and the girls another on a Sunday afternoon, where she had met her grandfather, back in the years before he came to the city to work after the first flood.
She crossed herself again, feeling safer as the three towers of the church passed. She turned her head to watch them go by. In the corner of her eye she saw the seats where the hooded one and his companion had been were empty. The car had not stopped, and no one had gotten off. Her head snapped back to the front. Without looking down her hands fished deep into her bag and she dug out her rosary.
Scrouge did a walk through survey of the house. The dishwasher was whirring away in the dark kitchen, and all of the food put away. He took away the last shreds of wrapping paper from the cat, and tucked away the important looking bits of paper or odd bits of gifts. The Santa presents for the kids were laid out by the dining room fireplace. The cookies were out for the Big Guy (his teenage children had rolled their eyes), and he snagged one off the plate as he passed. His wife and children were all asleep. Christmas Eve was almost done.
He slipped quietly into the room they called the walk through closet, the one closest to their back bedroom on that side of the shotgun house, and took off his dressy Christmas Eve clothes. He pulled on some comfortable jeans and a Defend New Orleans t-shirt, one of almost a dozen he owned emblazoned with some emblem or slogan about saving the city. It was time for one last Christmas tradition.
He would slip out as he had every Christmas Eve since he returned to New Orleans for a late drink with friends at the Holiday Lounge deep in the Bywater. The place was a year-round tribute to Christmas, lit inside entirely by the fat colored bulbs he remembered from the trees of his youth, the walls hung with every sort of imaginable cheap holiday decoration: jolly plastic Santas and snowmen in top hats, rainbow-hued wire reindeer and candy canes, and a large Styrofoam figure of New Orleans holiday icon Mr. Bingle, the little snow man with the ice cream cone hat.
The Holiday was a New Orleans icon, and Scrouge was all about the icons. In the years since the hurricane and flood he had worn his love of New Orleans like a forearm tattoo, prominent and indelible. Since his return to New Orleans his life had been part pilgrimage, making a point of visiting all of the city’s notable spots at least once and his favorites whenever he could. He wrote about these places on an Internet site he had founded dedicated to preserving a small bit of each: an anecdote, a photograph, some scrap like a coaster scanned and saved for ever. That was not tonight’s agenda, but he knew he would likely write something out of tonight’s visit.
He sometimes wondered, sitting at the computer late at night, why he felt compelled to do this. It was more than just the web site, although it made him something of a notable character about town, something like always wearing a hat (which he did), and he relished the attention. Some times when the words would not come and he knew he should go to bed, he would instead sit on his porch smoking wondering: was there something more personal driving this constant comparison of the city he had left in his rear view mirror New Year’s Eve 1986 with the one that was slowly rebuilding itself all around him, the compulsion to stuff as much of the city as he could into his head. He told himself it was research, preparation for doing what he most wanted to do: to write something important about the city, a book immortalizing it against the slow erosion of time or worse the final flood, the one that would erase it for ever.
He peeked in one last time on his wife and then his son before leaving. Tonight shouldn’t be about the damned blog, he thought. He was going to see some of his oldest friends, people he had known since they were in kindergarten, the people after his wife and children he most cared about. Tonight should be about a different kind of remembering. He took the pen and small pad out of his back pocket, and laid it on the kitchen counter, and left.
He set the alarm, locked the door and stepped out on the porch. As he double checked the latch by pulling on the door he heard a “pop-pop-pop” in the distance. It could be fireworks, he told himself. They were illegal in the city, but people started buying them across the river as soon as the stands open and shooting them off at all hours of the day and night.
Or it could be something else: gunshots. The city had been in the middle of some level of crime wave—going from bad to horrible to back to simply bad—for years. He felt safe in his immediate neighborhood but there were vast stretches of the city that were simply dangerous, just as there were enormous areas that looked not much different three years after the hurricane and flood than they did three months after.
He often wondered if it was enough just to be here, to just write about the city, if that would really make a difference for a place at once so wonderful and so wounded. He had tried to do more the first year he was home, but the cross-currents of planning meetings and volunteer projects, and of family and his new job, had nearly drowned him. He had spent almost three and a half years writing almost every night about New Orleans, sharing it with the world. That had to count for something.
As he left the Holiday and walked back to his car up by the river levee something drew him up to the top of the levee to see the city strung out along the river, the lights of downtown in the distance. He lit a cigarette and looked at the city twinkling in the humid air, then up at the clear sky. A middle-aged man had no business being out looking for magic in the Christmas Eve sky at 1 a.m. in a sketchy part of town, but nothing moved except a tow boat. All was calm, and city was bright.
When the figure in the black jeans and hoodie pulled up over its head suddenly appeared next to him, he froze in place. He could not discern a face inside the hood, as if it were covered with a black stocking. He was certainly about to be robbed, and he hoped it would stop with that. But the figure did not pull a gun, or say a word for what was probably a minute but seemed in his adrenaline rush to be an hour.
The figure pointed at first without speaking, the long sleeve of the over sized hooded sweatshirt hiding its hand, in the direction over his shoulder. He turned and saw the city transformed. The low buildings of the Bywater were gone, replaced by what he was sure were a row of high rise apartment buildings of the sort he remembered from his years in Washington, D.C. A red street car like those that ran up and down the riverfront closer to downtown was slowly crawling up Chartres Street.
It had been a typical, warm Christmas night in New Orleans but he was suddenly soaked in sweat under his clothes and shivering as if he were coming down with the flu. The figure just stood there, pointing at the street car stop down the levee. He tried to speak to it but when he opened his mouth only confused bits of words would come out. Finally the figure spoke. “We’re going to ride the car downtown. There is something I need to show you.” Confused and feeling ill, he pulled his jean jacket closed in front and hunched his shoulders and walked unsteadily down the levee.
“How did it happen, Spirit, all of those ugly glass high rises, the private police? Why didn’t we stop them?” Scrouge asked. The empty black hood was silent, its sleeves buried deep in the pullover’s pockets like a robed monk. Scrouge was not sure he had ever seen hands at the end of those overly long sleeves. It set a brisk pace as they walked through the French Quarter. Little had changed here, Scrouge thought, as they passed by knots of laughing people roaming the streets, past restaurants with lines waiting outside, and crowded bars with music blaring.
“It’s quicker this way,” a voice from inside the hood said, clipped and business like, the voice of a policeman urging the crowd to move on.. Nothing to see here, it seemed to announce. “The back-of-town buses don’t run all the way up Canal anymore. They’re not allowed past the checkpoints.” “Checkpoints,” Scrouge repeated as if tasting a new word from a foreign language as he stumbled on a broken bit of sidewalk, trying at once to look around and keep up with his guide.
As they came up to Bourbon Street the crowds were heavier and more boisterous, the sort of scene Scrouge had witnessed on a hundred other weekend or holiday nights. He could hear someone picking Christmas carols on a guitar and singing in a nasal, mid-South accent. The hooded spirit stopped for a moment in front of the busker just as he finished a song, turning his dark hood toward Scrouge. “Merry Christmas, y’all,” the busker said to no one in particular, as if Scrouge and the hoodie were not there. “Giving is the reason for the season,” he shouted to the crowd, nudging his guitar case with the toe of a western boot.
The spirit just stood there, the faceless hole seeming to glower at Scrouge, who dug into his pocket and pulled out a rumpled bill and tossed it in the case. “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas to you, sir,” the busker bellowed. Scrouge looked at the Spirit, who said nothing, then turned to ask the singer where he was from. “Tennessee. I’m just down here working for the holidays,” he said. “The French Quarter Corporation doesn’t pay as well as Disney, but they’re a lot looser about how you look or what you do with your off hours. And who doesn’t want to come to New Orleans, at least once?”
Scrouge started to answer but the hoodie pushed through the crowd to cross Bourbon and Scrouge hurried to follow. He looked up and down Bourbon and it was the same strip of neon lit drinking joints it had always been, crowded with people wearing beads they had bought in t-shirt shops that alternated with the bars for blocks in either direction. Scrouge thought it odd that they all wore badges around their necks. Conventions usually didn’t come in town at Christmas. “They’re tourists, but not conventioneers,” the hooded voice said. “Those are passes from the security district. When the city voted to dissolve the police and let the private security districts take over, the Quarter was closed off to the rest of town, to keep it safe for the visitors.”
“But what about locals who want to come down here? Can’t they come to eat at Galatoire’s or Acme or Oliviers?” Scrouge asked. “Those places closed after the second flood,” the hoodie said and marched on. Scrouge stopped walking “Gone?” he said, his gaze sinking down at the sidewalk. “Second flood?” Everything felt like a dream in which he had shown up in a classroom prepared for the wrong exam. He looked at his hands, as if there was something written there that would explain what was happening, but there were no crib notes. He looked up as if to follow up his question and noticed his guide was almost half a block ahead. He hurried to catch up.
The streets were quieter on the Rampart side of Bourbon, just as Scrouge remembered them, but something was missing. There were no cars lining the curb. There were just a handful of gaudy colored little toy things that looked like a cross between a golf cart and the car George Jetson drove, each plugged into an outlet on a small post with a horses head at the top. The carts were painted on the side like cabs: Condo Conti, Vacance en Dauphine, Burgundy Street Guest Houses. The scene made Scrouge think of exclusive beach resorts of the sort that did not allow cars but gave each guest a buggy to use to get to the beach or the golf course. “Precisely,” the hooded voice said, as if once again reading Scrouge’s mind.
As they passed Burgundy headed toward Rampart Scrouge noticed the wall. At first he thought it was just the commercial building that had once stood between Rampart and Basin, but as they came out onto Rampart he saw it was a high wall that ran up and down where the neutral ground once stood. The river side of Rampart inside the wall was filled with men, but it was not the crowd Scrouge would expect to see on mid-Bourbon around the epicenter of the gay bars. These men looked like the spillover from a lobby of a hotel booked solid with visiting dentists, mixed with packs of boys wearing shirts with fraternity letters on them The women stood apart, on the steps of the houses or hanging out of windows, bare-chested in tiny miniskirts , or in burlesque lingerie, or in nothing more than body paint.
The black uniforms of the security district strolled up and down the street in pairs, stopping to eye the knots of drunken men as they approached the women. The men would stop, made hesitant by the guards’ stare, then the girls would grab them by the arm and lead them laughing down the alleys and into the doorways, and the guards would pass on. The sign on the corner did not read Rampart. It said Storyville. “Got to give the tourists what they want,” the hoodie said, pausing a moment while Scrouge took in the tableaux. Then it grabbed his arm, and started to frog march him toward the wall. “Hey, wait, where are we go… ”. Scrouge’s voice was cut off as they passed through the wall.
They were standing on the lake side of Rampart. The street was brightly lit by high street lamps but deserted. “How the hell did that happen?” Scrouge asked, but the hood just turned briefly toward him then started again to walk toward Basin Street. Scrouge just shook his head like a dog shaking off water, and hurried to catch up. “Are we going to the cemetery?” he asked the dark hood. “Not this one,” the voice inside the hood answered. “There is another. We have to catch a bus first.” It turned left at Basin and started to walk toward Canal Street.
The old housing project still stood on Basin, but it was dark. “Where are the people?” Scrouge asked. “Gone,” the hood answered. “Most could not to come back after the second flood. A lot were drafted into the Army after the riots.” “What riots?” “The government announced after the second flood that any return would be limited by lottery, and that the lottery tickets would be sold,” the hood said. “Most couldn’t afford tickets, and they wanted to come home. When they burned all the trailers in the New Treme resettlement park up by New Roads and rioted in the streets in Houston, a lot of the men were swept up and sent off to fight in the Chindopak.”
“Chindopak?” Scrouge asked, his voice cracking as he stopped dead in the sidewalk. His breathing grew heavy and his chest heaved as his body wrestled somewhere deep inside between anger and panic. “What. Second. Flood. You have to tell me. What the hell happened?” Scrouge labored to speak between gasping breaths, and finally bent over and put his hands on his knees and tried to get his breathing under control. “You have to tell me. Damn you.” The spirit had walked ahead a dozen steps. It stopped and turned. Laughter came out of the dark shell of a hood. “Damn me”. More laughter. “Too late,” it said, something like a chuckle in its voice, if you put a chuckle down the garbage disposal. “You need to worry about your own damnation. I’ll take care of myself.” It held out its sleeve toward Canal. There was a hand, Scrouge noticed this time, black and gaunt like an overcooked turkey wing, a thing of skin and bone. “Come on. We have a bus to catch. I’ll explain while we ride.”
“Yes, they built up the levees,” the spirit explained as it stared out the window , the ancient bus rumbling down a dark and lamp less Canal Street. “In the last big storm they mostly held but the East and St. Bernard were drowned again, and abandoned. One of the new pump stations was overwhelmed and the lakefront was inundated. The core city was saved by the second line levee they built over the old railroad embankment through Mid-City. That’s when they started to build the high-rises, to pull everyone into the high land in the old city’s footprint. No one argued this time.
The bus slowly rumbled down Canal Street empty and surrounded by darkness. “No one knows where the fire started, but it was a dry storm with very little rain, and with several feet of water in the streets of Mid-City this section mostly burned,” the spirit said. Scrouge measured their progress through the dark by noting the intersections where the car stopped, although there was no cross traffic and no one got on or off: first narrow Galvez, then wider Broad and finally the open expanse of Jeff Davis. Here and there in the dark were bright islands of light, illuminating rows of identical white trailers on city blocks covered with white clam shell and surrounded by metal fences. “They built these parks for the workers they need to keep the tourist industry going.”
“I don’t understand. After the flood….” “The first flood,” the spirit corrected him. Scrouge stared straight ahead and through the empty bus for a moment, then down at his hands again and resumed. “After the flood, we all came back. We worked so hard. How could it they let it all happen again?” Scrouge looked not at the hooded spirit but up at the roof of the bus. “How could it happen again? How could it all turn out so wrong? ” sounding like a child who had just been told there would be no Christmas. The hoodie continued to contemplate the dark windows, ignoring Scrouge’s question. The bus rumbled on and Scrouge turned the other way and likewise stared into the darkness that surrounded him.
The bus pulled up to Carrollton, and the driver announced, “Cemeteries. End of the line,” as he set the brake, opened the door and stepped out and lit a cigarette. He headed off toward a portable toilet set on the neutral ground. The hoodie stood up and waited for Scrouge to do the same. He rose up and walked unsteadily down the aisle toward the door, grasping the railings at the stairs until his hands turned white, unwilling to step out. “Out,” the voice behind him said, and its bony hand gave him a push.
He stepped out into the single bright street light that stood over the driver’s toilet and looked into the darkness. Moonlight glinted off the rows of white metal boxes that marched off into the distance on the lakeside of Carrollton. “Why isn’t this trailer park lit up?” Scrouge turned toward the hoodie and asked. “Because it’s not a trailer park,” it answered. “It’s what the driver said: Cemeteries.”
Scrouge walked slowly away from the light and toward the field of white boxes. The play of the darkness and the street lamp had confused his sense of proportion and perspective. The boxes were too small to be trailers. They could only be one thing. “Tombs,” hoodie said. “Government-issue ovens, the trailers they used after the first flood, just scaled down for their new occupants. When this section burned, they turned it into a cemetery.”
Scrouge’s slumped like a cheap suit jacket on a wire hanger.
“When the new pumping stations and the high levees were finished everyone started to feel safe. They grew tired of evacuating for every storm. The first flood faded into a story their parents told, something they never thought could happen to them. All of it faded: all the work their parents did to rebuild the city, the constant battles over decades it took to build the levees and try to put things back. They forgot what it was like when the city flooded the first time.
“They grew complacent, stopped paying attention to what the government did. Or rather, what it didn’t do. Part of it was exhaustion. There parents had fought for decades and were just worn out. They stopped trying. The children didn’t remember because their parents were tired of talking about it, and the memories grew distant and vague, just history but not their history. Like their parents before them everyone just assumed all the work was behind them, that the levees would protect them.
“After the second flood, this is where they put the dead,” the hoodie said, “the people who stayed, the ones who didn’t remember.”
Scrouge turned away from the tombs and looked up dark Carrollton Avenue toward the park. This was his old neighborhood, the last of many he had called home in this city. Everything he remembered, all the old storefronts on the river side: gone. Venezia’s and Brocato’s, the old bar with the red door and the new Spanish place that opened after Katrina, the whole river side of the street was wiped clean. . The old Reuters building was a hulk in the distance. And on the other side the white tombs marched away into the distance until he could not see but only imagine them enveloping his house on Toulouse Street, flowing on until they merged with the old cemeteries he knew: St. Patrick’s, the Mason’s, Odd Fellows, Greenwood.
Scrouge fell on his knees and wept. The bus driver ignored them and climbed back into his bus and drove off. He had seen it before. The spirit stood there watching, silent. Finally, Scrouge looked up. There was a faint shimmer of zodiacal light in the east. Soon the sun would come up. He rose unsteadily to his feet and turned toward the hooded spirit.
“If you are the spirit of a Future Christmas, then it’s not too late, is it?” Scrouge asked, his voice still cracked from his tears. “Isn’t that how this works, just like the old Dickens’ tale? If we don’t stop fighting, and always remember, it doesn’t have to be like this? Isn’t that it? Isn’t that how this works?”
The hooded figure was growing transparent as the sky grew lighter. Scrouge could see the driver’s toilet through the sweatshirt and black jeans. As it slowly faded it echoed his words back to him not as a question: as a statement. It raised its bony hand one last time and pointed at Scrouge. “Don’t stop fighting,” it said, the voice growing fainter as the figure slowly vanished. “Remember…”
Scrouge sprang up in bed, knocking over a tumbler half full of water and the bed side lamp. The back door of the bedroom in the shotgun house was open, and he heard his wife asking, “What was that?” He could smell coffee. He jumped out of the covers and ran around the bed to the back door and stuck his head out. “What’s today?”
His wife gave him a puzzled look. “Merry Christmas?” she said as much a question as a greeting? “Are you okay?”
“It’s not too late!” he whooped as he took three steps in two hops. He ran over and knelt beside his wife and gave her a bear hug. “Not too late for what,” she asked, “to make coffee? I took care of that.” “Mmmmmmm, never mind, Merry Christmas.” He held her silently for a moment. “I’m sorry, I just had a really weird dream.” He let her go, stood up and stretched. “Do I smell coffee?” “Uh, yeah, that’s what we were just talking about. You forgot to make any last night, goofball. I think you had a bit too much Christmas Eve cheer.”
“Yeah, coffee sounds really good right now. Are the kids up?
“No, so try to be quiet.” His children were teenagers, and as likely to sleep in Christmas morning as any other holiday of the year. They had opened their best presents on Christmas Eve, a habit his wife had brought down from the Midwest.
“OK.” He climbed up the steps to the house and tried to walk as quietly as he could over the hardwood floors. Living in these houses was like living in a boat. You could hear everything. He wondered again how entire families had managed to live in half of the double he’s made into a single home. He grabbed some coffee in the kitchen and went out to the front porch, leaving his wife alone in back with her to-do list and her coffee. He slid the latch as silently as he could, and stepped out onto his porch and looked up and down his street. The mostly shotgun houses ran off in both direction as far as he could see, from City Park Avenue up toward Carrollton Avenue, and in his minds eye he could follow the street all the way through the city to the French Quarter.
It’s not too late, he thought as he sat on the stoop and sipped his coffee and took in the warm Christmas morning in New Orleans. “It’s not too late,” he said out loud to a passing cat, one of the dozen semi-feral cats that lived on their street. It came up and he scratched its head. “We just have to remember, and never give up.” Two children from the house on the corner, just moved home from evacuation and who barely remembered this city, rode by on shiny new bicycles, laughing. A neighbor ducked out in her robe for the newspaper, and waved and shouted a Merry Christmas. As he echoed “Merry Christmas” with a broad smile and a wave, over on Canal Street the bells of St. Anthony of Padua began to ring.
Save The Mid-City Bonfire December 17, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA.
UPDATE: If you are coming to the bonfire, please read the Guidelines here. 10-31 mf
The City of New Orleans has announced plans to try to suppress the century-old tradition of a bonfire of Christmas trees on the Orleans Avenue neutral ground at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Here’s some commentary from the NOLA.Com Mid-City Forum posted by someone with the pen name doeraymefaso. I think the suggestion that this is all the work of ‘Communiss’ gives some credence to the idea he’s been around long enough to know what he’s talking about.
Sadly, our council member Shelly Midura has indicated that she supports the decision to kill a century old tradition. Rumor is that they will flood the street with police and firemen to make sure it doesn’t happen. Apparently the NOPD and NOFD don’t have enough to do on New Year’s Eve, such as stopping idiots who fire live rounds into the air.
Please call your councilperson, and the NOPD and NOFD and tell them to back off. If they hate New Orleans traditions, I hear they’re hiring in Atlanta.
This bonfire has been going on long before the fifty years stated on this forum. My father remembers having the bonfires as a boy and he is 96 years old. It was always just a neighborhood thing until recent years. Now someone or some group has to protect us from ourselves. I would think the people calling for control don’t lived around the Orleans Ave area, if they did they would know the bonfire has always been under control and people at the bonfire can govern themselves. I guess this is our future, more control by people who think they know what is best for everyone else. It think this is what some might call communism. To everyone out there who thinks they want what is best for other, please leave well enough alone. MYOB Keep it real. Fight the powers that be, hide your trees until the very end. Remember when we had to hide the tree behind Diebert school and when they took the trees off the neutral ground we went through the neighborhood getting everyone to give up their trees. Real Mid-City neighbors would never dream of destructing this historic event.
Help save our city’s traditions. Help save the Mid-City Bonfire.
Call in the USO December 15, 2008Posted by The Typist in Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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The annual NOLA Bloggers War of Bad Holiday Videos is starting to get out of hand. Time to call in the USO and raise the troops morale. Here’s some Pops holiday cheer piped through an old Philco radio console.
Granda Elliot’s Nutcracker December 14, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: busker, Christmas, Eilliot Small, French Quarter, Grandpa Elliot, harmonica, New Orleans, NOA, street musician, The Nutcraker, William Tell Overture, Xmas
One-time recording artist Elliot Small, better known to visitors to the New Orleans French Quarter as Grandpa Elliot, displays some serious harmonica chops for us on this mixup of a Nutcracker Suite and the William Tell Overture.
This Playing for Change video is now the leading driver of visitors to this site. Grandpa Eilliot is apparently quite an internet celebrity. But internet hits don’t pay the bills, and until he sets up a paypal donation button all I ask is this: if you find yourself Christmas shopping downtown, spare a buck for this street legend. Imagine what the quarter would be like without street musicians (particularly the talented ones).
The Ghost of Christmas Present December 14, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Christmas, Danny the car wiper, ghost, Junkie's Christmas, William S. Burroughs, Xmas
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“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.
Everyone who has finished high school in American in the 20th Century has likely read O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”. You may wonder where is the connection between that story and William S. Burroughs’ tale of a junkie, a heroin addict: Danny the car wiper. Some might consider this story Oddly unsympathetic, but if we cannot find the same satisfaction in this tale we find in O. Henry’s then the very last traces of magic have gone out of this world and for all our pretty lies our own lives are no less bleak than Danny’s.
The Ghost of Christmas Past December 13, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Christmas, Fargo, Guy Clark, L.A. Freeway, New Orleans, NOLA, North Dakota, Xmas, Yule
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The last Christmas with real snow and frost on the windows that did not come from a can. A place where you could cut your own northern pine if you had enough hair on your balls to haul yourself out into the woodlot at twilight as the temperature plunged toward the wrong side of zero. The last Christmas with a real fireplace crackling not some video loop on the CW with bad Christmas carols.
It was a good life, one that helped make my children the fine people they are today. It was a good place full of good people, and my wife who brought me there the best of the lot. And still I would sit late at night, perched on the bricks in front of the fireplace sneaking an inside cigarette as the draft sucked away the smoke and I sipped a midnight whisky, hearing this song and dreaming of trees draped not with lights and tin balls but faded beads.
Jingle Bombs December 12, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Xmas Christmas Parody carols
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OK, Adrastos has won with a piece so not for prime time I’m not ever sure I should link to it until I add his site to the porn filter. But because Young Wet Junior has been bugging me to view then post this featuring Jeff Dunham’s Achmed the Dead Terrorist, here is his first entry into the War On Christmas (Carols).
Gifts for Children You Don’t Like December 12, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Xmas Christmas Parody carols
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Maybe it’s just a mood I’m in, but this year’s journey deep into the bowels of the Internet for idiotic Xmas videos is turning into something like a road trip with Edward Gorey and Hunter S. Thompson, with Ozzy Ozborne in the back trying to roll with the top down.
I think I need to go plug in all the lights, put on Leon Redbone’s Christmas Island and gargle with Peppermint Schnapps.
On that cheerful note, here’s The Possessed Xmas Dog Toy:
Christmas Memories of Another Sort December 12, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Every now and then I get a new comment on this post. I wonder if the holidays will bring more people Googling up loved ones as an exercise in remembrance, just as I found myself researching a group of people I knew when I lived in Washington, D.C. but have lost touch with.
While the many dead are an abstraction for the casual reader of the newspaper, for some they were friends and family. All of them, whatever they had become, were once as my own children.
Soon, I will need to reach out to a couple of other bloggers, and see about the sad task of making a list for 2008. Before I post this, I will have to scroll far down the list of tags in WordPress and find one I have not chosen for a long time: We Are Not OK.
New comment on your post #227 “Silence is Violence Remembers”
Author : …
E-mail : …
Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=126.96.36.199
BRETT JASON JACOBS
Although we lost the privilege of having you by our side, you will always be in our heart. We miss you so very much. Until we meet again, may you rest in peace.
You can see all comments on this post here:
Coal Is Good December 12, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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The NOLA Bloggers battle of Bad Xmas Videos drags on, and a dark sense of foreboding settles over the trenches like a dusting of snow. Since Laibach seems to still be working on the Final Mix of the increasingly apocryphal A Very Fascist Xmas, we’ll have to settle for this. It starts out with the voice of a tortured soul signing a recognizable carol then swells up into something profoundly disturbing. What is Odd is that this is structured around an actual carol. These people make Korn doing Jingle Bells sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Happy Birthday Jesus. The part where it sounds like wolves are tearing the band apart at around 2:30 is particularly unsettling. If you make it all the way through this you are deeply disturbed. I have to go now and
sacrifice a small goat to The Horne’d One In the Dark Forest wrap presents.
Happy Birthday Jesus December 11, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Xmas Christmas Parody carols
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He’s a Pepper. Who knew?
Cemetery in Snow December 11, 2008Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
Tags: cemetery, haiku, Snow
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New Orleans snow turns
old tombs white again. Later
rain repaints them gray
I spent yesterday in the chill drizzle photographing 231 tombs to collect names for a statistics project for my daughter. I wish I had been there when it snowed instead of trapped high up in the beige boxes of Place Sans Charm. The counting house gods also do not approve of posting to Poems Before Breakfast on company time, so this will go here.
Until this morning I didn’t know much of the history of St. Louis No. 3, except that it was built as a yellow fever cemetery. You can find a number of burials from 1878, presumably from the yellow fever epidemic of that year, along with quite a few from 1897 and 1905 when the fever also swept through the city
Google later confirmed that, yes, it is those Tujague’s and Galatoire’s who are buried at there, along with the members of many religious orders. There are the tombs of the Little Sisters of the Poor (who once begged door-to-door barefoot in New Orleans) and and the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, an order founded by St. Francis Cabrini.
Visited St. Leo’s masoleum but forgot to bring a cigar. Sorry, big guy.
Sneaux December 11, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA.
Tags: New Orleans, NOLA, Snow
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It’s snowing. In New Orleans. And it is starting to stick to cars and roofs and by one report to the grass Uptown.
I tried to steal the Times-Picayune’s picture but the damned Counting House firewall won’t let me complete “insert into post”. Scrooges. At least they let me put another lump of coal in the grate.
It was snowing about this heavily (and wetly; the roads were attrocious) on the Friday evening in Februray ’06 when the kids and I left Fargo to bring my wife’s car to New Orleans. How convenient that the Ben Franklin High School entrance exam right after Mardi Gras, so we spent that week here.
I will no longer kid the Mrs. about still having a scraper in her car from it’s days in Fargo, N.D. You never know when you may need one.
Santa’s got a little friend December 11, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Xmas Christmas Parody carols
Maybe it’s just that I’m old enough to remember crap like this being on the jukebox in old po boy shops and corner bars, but at some level I like this. Perhaps it’s just that I miss novelty songs, which the record companies no longer put out.
Look up to the sky and see (Santa?) December 10, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Xmas Christmas Parody carols
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Do Not Mock JibJab, Old Man December 10, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Xmas Christmas Parody carols
I can’t figure out how to embed this damn thing, so you’ll have to click this link.
You won’t be sorry, unless your name is Greg and you have mocked the JibJab.
Santa’s Baby December 10, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Xmas Christmas Parody carols
What, Kathy Lee Gifford? Is that the best you can do? What’s next, some William Shatner, perhaps?
If this doesn’t frighten you right into the New Year prematurely then we knew who’s keeping Chris Owens in business.
Eenie Meenie Chilli Beanie December 10, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: elves, fart, Xmas Christmas Parody carols
The Christmas Spirits Are About To Speak
Ah, aren’t holiday traditions the best part of the season? Just remember, Greg started it I suggest we all pitch in to get him a coal burning fireplace for Xmas.
E.L.F. December 7, 2008Posted by The Typist in Chieftans, Christmas, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
Tags: elf, holiday
1 comment so far
Or how to keep your Electric Light Fanatic’s head warm while putting up the icicle lights, and give a smirk of silly joy to every passing dog walker.
Silly Xmas Carols help the job go faster.
And so onto some seasonal sedition to make the moment complete.
Local Bookstores December 5, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: books, deVille Bookstore, independent bookstores, New Orleans, NOLA, NOLA Rising, Rex
Two quick notes on local bookstores. With the opening of the new Borders on St. Charles Avenue, its more important than ever to remember the local stores that have continued to serve the city when all chain bookstores chose to locate exclusively in the suburbs.
First, there is this note from Stay Local, calling out this Saturday, Dec. 6 as a day to celebrate our local bookstores. It you haven’t finished holiday shopping yet, there is no better present than a book. (My Xmas list for this year was short, and my book is The Maximus Poems by Charles Olson.) (No dear, don’t buy it from Amazon. Have someone local order it. You can walk to deVille from work.) And if someone wants to get me that $225 copy of the Everette Maddox song book, you can find it on Amazon.
On a related note, one of my favorite local bookstores (because it’s just around the corner from work) is hosting some of my favorite local artists/activists. This just in from the deVille Bookstore mailing list:
We are pleased to invite you to the opening reception for Galerie deVille, located in the deVille Books store at 134 Carondelet Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., on Saturday, December 6, 2008.
The exhibit is entitled Inside Out/Outside In: A Celebration of New Orleans Street Art, featuring the work of Rex, Paint, Scott M., Ellipses, and Bullet-Tooth Maggie, among others.
In conjunction with this event, all “Art” books will be available at a 30% discount during the reception.
For additional information, you can go to http://devillebooks.blogspot.com.
Rex and company. Art books, 30% off. Sounds good. Did I mention that books make great gifts? (Did I mention “Carry Me Home“? Oh, my. I meant to).
Yeah, jewelry and power tools are nice (perhaps not in the same way to the same people, but still nice), but it’s just not a holiday break without a big new gifted book to dig into.
So what are you waiting for?
Another giant passes December 4, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: Baby boomers, Dr. John, Folk Music, Gen X, Gen Y, Mac Rebennack, New Orleans, NOLA, Odetta
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Folk music and civil/human rights icon Odetta, the woman Dr. Martin Luther King annointed “The Queen of American Folk Music”, has passed.
I have a suspicion that so many social media readers are Gen X and Y, people whose memories stretch back not much further than the late 1970s. Do they know who Odetta is and what’s just happened I wonder?
I had to explain to my son the other day the concept of a variety show, but he’s just thirteen. I wonder how many 30-somethings or younger have any concept of who the Smothers Brothers were or have heard of the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour, much less any knowledge of the prominence of folk signers in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Odetta was a major influence on more familiar names: Bob Dylan, Janice Joplin and and Joan Baez. (Y’all youngsters at least recognize Dylan, right?) And she moved through the mid-century with other giants like Pete Seeger
One of the last of the Baby Boomers, I grew up in a household where there were New Christy Minstrels and Weavers records and strange LPs of African drumming with jackets that could pass directly onto a kerchief at the Congo Square Stage at Jazz Fest. It was not possible to grow up in the 1960s (or 1950s) and not know the landmark singers of the Folk Era. Every time an older musician passes I am reminded of the nights I spent listening to Roosevelt Sykes at the Maple Leaf, of the people who used to play the small gazebo stages at Jazz Fest long ago. So many are gone, and as my generation ages I wonder if these memories will pass as well.
It’s not just the linear, horizontal loss of what we think of as memory. Growing up in an era without the micro-segmentation of cable television and internet content, on any given, random day in 1965 I could just as easily be whistling a song by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Frank Sinatra or the Walker Brothers. Ihad a friend who loved to do his imitation of Louis Armstrong while the rest of us argued over whether we were Beatles or Stones men. Most people my age would know exactly who I mean if I say Caruso, an artist who died in 1921. Is What’s Opera, Doc? as funny if Caruso means nothing? I wonder if the following generations will have anything like the same breadth of exposure unless MTV runs out of programming and starts producing “Ken Burn’s Presents I [Heart] 1960″.
Enough. Here’s Odetta teaming up with Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack on a perfect song for these times, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime”. It’s a damn shame Odetta won’t make her date to sing to Obama at innaguration.
Glory at Sea December 3, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504ever, Court 13, film, Glory at Sea, Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, video
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Vid this me droogies: a film titled “Glory at Sea”, courtesy of Court 13 and NOLA Slate, who has some background on her blog. Go over to the You Tube Screening Room and catch the high resolution version.
“Everybody had their thing, that thing that made it through the storm that had some luck in it, that may help find the person just by its own magic.”
Feel Free to Cry Along At Home December 1, 2008Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504ever, Crescent City Snow, New Or, New Orleans, NOLA, Susan Cowsill, video
There were a handful of songs that sustained me over the last several years, tracing in crescendo and diminuendo curves the path of grief and recovery. First was Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem which I first heard driving through snow-bound Fargo after dropping my child at school. When she and her daughter sang the line “Mother Mary lead us to a higher place” I had to pull the car over. Then there was “Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)”, especially this version that so touched my wife we started down the road to Toulouse Street. After I was settled in New Orleans, I picked up the New Orleans Musicians Relief C.D. via on-line download, and I first heard Susan Cowsill’s “Crescent City Snow”.
Some time after the slow cowboy-Celtic lament of the song’s beginning, between the part where the drummer starts into a Jacobean march then segues into a second line parade, one steps out of the sheath of memory and into today, sashaying down a street where grief is transformed into the steps of a shuffle in the shadow of a parasol, the old ritual unfolded again in the new day. And it’s all good.