In the South October 30, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in Flood, ghosts, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
Tags: ghosts, Halloween, Salmon Rushdie, Samain, Samhain, what is remembered lives
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A tale of old men and the sea, of old men and the south, of old men everywhere from Salmon Rushdie courtesy of The New Yorker online. To share the last lines is not really a spoiler, when the opening lines clearly prefigure the end. And it is the getting there from the first to the last that is the joy of this.
The observance of Halloween, that has become just another excuse to turn over the season aisles for new merchandise masks the deeper, darker meanings of the date our pagan friends call Samhain and which is tied to what our Mexican neighbors call the Day of the Dead. I have no fun plans for this weekend so I find myself contemplating the more serious associations of All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day. I don’t intend to be a killjoy because you have a costume and are bound for Frenchman Street and I am not. I probably spend more time than most people thinking about these issues, more time Remembering, so maybe its a good thing to grasp this spoke of the wheel a bit more firmly and with purpose.
So, to share the true spirit of this weekend here is brief excerpt of a wonderful story on Floods, Death and Ghosts, things which people in New Orleans know like no others. It is the tale of two old men that culminates in the Tsunami of 2004. What is remembered lives.
Senior did not like the Japanese word everyone used to name the waters of death. To him the waves were Death itself and needed no other name. Death had come to his city, had come a-harvesting and had taken Junior and many strangers away. In the aftermath of the waves, there grew up all around him, like a forest, the noises and actions that inevitably follow on calamity—the good behavior of the kind, the bad behavior of the desperate and the powerful, the surging aimless crowds. He was lost in the forest of the aftermath and saw nothing except the empty veranda next to his own and, in the lane below, the girls with the lowered heads. News came that D’Mello was among the lost. D’Mello, too, was gone. Perhaps he was not dead. Perhaps he had simply gone home, at last, to his storied city of Mumbai, on the country’s other coast, that city which was neither of the north nor of the south but a frontierville, the greatest, most wondrous, and most dreadful of all such places, the megalopolis of the borderlands, the place of in-between. Or, on the other hand, perhaps D’Mello had drowned and Death, swallowing him, had denied his body the Christian dignity of a grave.
He, Senior, was the one who had asked for death. Yet Death had left him alive, had taken so many others, had taken even Junior and D’Mello, but left him untouched. The world was meaningless. There was no meaning to be found in it, he thought. The texts were empty and his eyes were blind. Perhaps he said some of this aloud. He may even have shouted it out. The girls in the lane below were looking up at him, and the green birds in the golden-shower tree were disturbed. Then, all of a sudden, he imagined that across the way, on the empty adjacent veranda, he saw a shadow move. He had cried out, “Why not me?,” and in response a shadow had flickered where Junior used to stand. Death and life were just adjacent verandas. Senior stood on one of them as he always had, and on the other, continuing their tradition of many years, was Junior, his shadow, his namesake, arguing.
Odd Words October 29, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Odd Words
It looks like another quiet week for Odd Words but then Halloween is a busy time in New Orleans. Just a few notes on things mostly for the future, some regular events to call out and a couple of blog linkeroos.
§ First lets start with the New Orleans Bookfair on Saturday Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Book sellers, readings and such all over the 500 and 600 blocks of Frenchman Street on Saturday. The featured guest will be John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, who I saw at last year’s Tennessee Williams Festival (a report from that event here). There is a kick-off party and reading Friday at the Sound Cafe, 2700 Chartres St at the corner of Port from 6-9 p.m. featuring Ethan Brown, author of Shake the Devil Off and Louis Maistros, author of The Sound of Building Coffins.
Here’s a bit of their press release: “Besides boatloads of beautiful books to peruse, ponder & purchase, there will be live music & other entertainment, interactive activities, ‘zines-a-plenty, and readings from authors local and otherwise…The Bookfair is also hosting the TENTH annual outing of BABYLON LEXICON, an exhibition of avant-artists who use the bound book or printed narrative as a medium of artistic expression. This will blow your circuits, folks, and it’s bigger and stranger than ever! Books made of metal, a bowl full of tiny, bite-sized comics, books comprised of squished pastries, books made of pieces of other books, books deconstructed and re-jiggered in ways so creative as to defy press-release copy. You must see it to believe it!”
I’ll be selling Carry Me Home A Journey Back to New Orleans at Cafe’ Negril, and reading at sometime between noon and three at the Apple Barrel Bar. This will be my first year at this event so I can’t tell you much more, but here’s a photostream of last year’s festivities. If you’re reading this I’m sure I’ll see you there at some point.
§ I paid my first visit to Antenna Gallery last week to hear Stephen Elliott’s reading and was wowed looking at the books published by Press Street, “a New Orleans-based non-profit which promotes art and literature in the community through events, publications and arts education” as their web site says. I forgot to get cash and that’s the only reason I didn’t leave with one of each of the titles they have published. Each book is uniquely designed with different textures of paper, cover styles, bindings, etc. They were simply beautiful things that wanted to jump off the shelf into your hands and demand to be read. I’ll be back to clean out of of each off their shelves soon. In addition to the press, they host work space for writers, offer writing workshops all at the Antenna Gallery, an art space in front. Keep an eye on their website for future events, and by all means buy one of their books.
§ Don’t forget that Octavia Books is hosting a Halloween Party themed around Neil Gaimain’s The Graveyard Book Friday starting at 5 p.m. as part of a national contest. Best and biggest party gets a future visit from the author. I’m not sure I can get there but desperately want to do my part to get Gaiman to visit. If you go and get a wee bit drunk and your mask is good, you can claim to be me and I get credit for showing up because it looks like I may not be able to. Unless you manage to burn the place down. Then it was definitely not me.
§ As promised, since it’s a slow week here’s a few regular events.
- The Maple Leaf Bar Poetry Series meets most Sundays 3ish (but starting later, I find), usually with a featured reader followed by an open mike. This is a charming set of folks I mostly met for the first time two weeks ago (my bad), but the series has been running since it was founded by poet Everette Maddox and is the longest running poetry reading series in the U.S. (or so I’m told).
- Extraordinary poet, barkeep and editor of the YAWP! Journal Dave Brinks hosts a weekly reading series 17 Poets! Thursday at his Goldmine Saloon, 701 Dauphine St., corner of Dauphine and St. Peter. This event has been featured on NPR and Jim Leher’s PBS show and routinely brings in national talent as featured readers. Check it out.
- Sweet Lorraine’s hosts a Jazz and Poetry series but I don’t have the schedule. By the time you read this we will have missed the last one but I have host M.C. Shakespeare’s email somewhere and will try to get a schedule and post it here. You may remember Shelton “Shakespeare” Alexandeer for his moving spoken word performance in front of the St. Roch Cemetery in Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke. I used a line from it as the epigram of my book. (The speech used to be up on YouTube but got pulled by someone for copyright reasons).
- Open Mic Poetry & Spoken Word – Loren Murrell hosts a weekly poetry and spoken-word night with free food. Free admission. 8:30 p.m. at Yellow Moon Bar, 800 France St., in Bywater (I cribbed this from another site. If you’ve been (or get there before I do), post up some info about it.
I know there are more comprehensive lists of literary events, but if you like the one’s I’m collecting here and want to clue me in to something people might otherwise might miss leave me a note here. See you at a locally owned, independent bookstore soon, I’m sure.
The Little Way October 26, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: BNOB, green dot, Jack O'Latern development, Lambert Plan, Walker Percy
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The peculiar virtue of New Orleans, like St. Theresa, may be that of the Little Way, a talent for everyday life rather than the heroic deed.”
— Walker Percy
This quote from a 1968 Harper’s Magazine article by noted local author Walker Perc7y is one that New Orleans writers keep coming back to. I last saw it in the book of essays My New Orleans edited by Rosemary James, and it just popped up again in a Conde’ Nast Traveler article on bars of New Orleans. Reading it again today tied together any number of things that have popped up in the newspapers and online in the last few days.
The first trigger and the fulcrum of this post was a column by an old colleague from West (not Wet) Bank Guide days Dennis Persica on living with Jack O’Lantern development in his Vista Park neighborhood, the same part of town where Tim of Tim’s Nameless Blog once lived, and was defeated trying to rebuild an elevated house on the site of his pre-flood home.
Jack O’Lantern development is not a nod to the season but the name some wit came up with the describe the problem of some people coming home and rebuilding while other around them did not. I think the general idea is that houses along a street would look like the intermittent teeth of your typical Halloween pumpkin. Fair enough. You have to describe it somehow. In many badly damaged places like Vista Park that is precisely what has happened. There were attempts to stop it, but most of them were bungled through political ineptitude.
In the early days after the flood, a panel put together by Mayor Ray Nagin called the Bring New Orleans Back committee spearheaded a first draft recovery plan that suggested condemning entire neighborhoods that were particularly flood prone to concentrate population is more sustainable areas. The first maps that came out put big green dots over areas devastated communities like Broadmoor, Gentilly Woods and the Ninth Ward. Many of these neighborhoods were also full of the working class poor who could afford to live no where else; no one suggested converting the low lying and upper middle class Lakeview to park space. (Except maybe me, who also once suggested that the city retreat behind the Industrial Canal and focus on saving its core. But that was a long time ago. No one listened to me then and reminding people of this will probably just piss them off again now. But I still think I was right).
The BNOB plan was roundly (and rightly) rejected by outraged citizens, helped in fact to spawn a wave of civic engagement and resident led planning. The Broadmoor Civic Association became the model for a self-organized recovery long before it was apparent that government was going to botch the job as badly as it has done. In every neighborhood including my own citizen planning groups sprung up or got themselves reorganized with new residents and members and began the Lambert planning process. I was myself housing chair of the Mid-City Recovery Planning Group (I think we finally called it, to keep it separate from the established neighborhood group).
This was all assembled under something called The Lambert Plan, the most democratic of the long alphabet soup of plans for the future of New Orleans. The Lambert Plan was then subsumed into the Unified New Orleans Plan, which attempted to squish the wishes of the residents into boxes carefully constructed by their political minders, including the state’s Louisiana Recovery Authority which was charged with signing off on the disbursement of recovery funds to the satisfaction of FEMA and Congress.
And now we are confronted with the latest challenge, the New Orleans Master Plan, which will attempt to cobble together from the long string of post-flood plans an over-arching plan that will guide all future zoning and development decision. I don’t know whether to yawn or scream.
Are you bored to tears yet? Are you still here? I’m amazed. If you visit this blog you probably know most of this at least in outline, and you know I don’t write about crap this like anymore like I used to on my old Wet Bank Guide blog. I don’t write about it because it is painful to think about. It is painful not because of its complexity, but because for one bright shinning moment in 2006 we all believed that the citizens would band together and build a better New Orleans, a utopia of level streets and buses than run on schedule.
Watching the unfolding of everything that came after uprising against BNOB, all the subsequent plans that tried to quash down the citizen drafted version, and my own planning fatigue reminds me for some reason of the scene at the end of the film 1900 when the U.S. Army asks the Italian Communist partisans to give up their weapons. I almost got tossed out of the Prytania Theatre once in my young, radical days for hollering at the screen, “don’t do it. Don’t let them take them!”
In the end planning fatigue finally overwhelmed all but the most resolute of warriors and the rest of us went home. Reading about the new Master Plan in the paper is like running into your ex-wife. Everyone is trying to be charming but either it had best be over quickly or it might get ugly. I voted against the master plan because we were asked to vote for the idea of a plan, that would have the force of law, before it was written.
Requiring us to vote to give the plan force of law was supposed to keep things in the hands of the Professional sand protect us from Corrupt Political Influences, but I am afraid in the end it will allow those precise and persistent influences, the people who over a cup of coffee and a handshake have managed to make zoning in the city near meaningless, to triumph over the weary populace.
After following this depressing train of thought all day, stopping to Google up a chronology of it all so I would not mangle my acronyms, the Percy quote landed in my lap to save me from despair. What happened to all of the energy and idealism of 2006 is this: it was swallowed by the city itself and put to other uses. In the end we spent our time patronizing re-opened restaurants and bars, reviving our carnival krewes and going out to second lines. We didn’t give up entirely on our civic duties, but our own Mid-City group turned inward and focused on the immediate and local concerns of the neighborhood. Rather than worry about reforming the NOPD we hired off duty cops to form a security district, and became more concerned with what the new Walgreens would look like instead of how the downtown medical complex will be rebuilt.
Perhaps Percy had us nailed back in 1968 and the sort of great struggle that appeared to be getting started in 2006 (think blocky socialist realistic figures doing heroic planning things) is beyond our capacity. We were not bred in the bone to that. Percy wrote over 40 years ago that New Orleans “has nurtured a great many people who live tolerably, like to talk and eat, laugh a good deal, manage generally to be civil and at the same time mind their own business. Such virtues may have their use nowadays.”
Perhaps they do, as we contemplate another bite at building a better New Orleans with all of the gruesome meetings run by insulting junior contractors with out of town architecture firms. it will take a whole lot of civility to survive another round of this. What is important is that in spite of a city government so dysfunctional it would shame the bureaucrats of Mogadishu, a new governor who doesn’t hide his contempt for the city, three years of the complete disregard of the last central government and a current regime too busy with other things to care, we have managed to make again a city we all recognize as home: long standing problems and all.
That doesn’t mean we will cheerfully live forever with our problems. Crime is out of control, basic infrastructure like drinking water is at the edge of collapse, and city government has saddled itself with obligations we will have no way to pay for once the federal disaster loans are played out. If we want to keep this city and it’s particular if not peculiar ambiance and charm, at some point that early uprising against the green dot plan will have to prove our Easter Rising, and we will have to be ready to settle down about the business of the real revolution to come. Until then, however, we have managed to settle back in comfortably to this unique place and get most of the pieces back where they belong, especially the ones that involve talking (read drinking) and eating. I just hope we can get ourselves up from the table when push comes to shove.
Doin’ That Maple Leaf Rag October 25, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry.
Tags: Maple Leaf Rag, Portals Press
John Travis of Portals Press kindly encouraged me to submit some work for the next Maple Leaf Rag after I read at the Sunday poetry serires, which I did and he promptly and kindly turned right around and accepted three poems.
So three more poems I had posted at poemsbeforebreakfast.wordpress.com go poof off the Internets until such time as they are published. (I don’t know the date for the fourth edition of the collection of poems by writers who have read at the Maple Leaf Bar Sunday poetry series. Sorry).
The three accepted poems were “Blinded By Sunrise”, “Red Against Blue” and “Lucky Harrahan” and until they come out in print you won’t find them on PBB. (If you’re really curious and you’re reading a blog I suspect you know you can find them on Google archives). Pretty soon all the good stuff will be gone from the my poetry site but that’s not such a bad thing.
Odd Words October 22, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Loup Garou, Neil Gaiman, NOLA Bookfair, Odd Words, Rex Dingler, Stephen Elliott, Tennessee Williams Festival
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It looks like a quiet week for Odd Words, but there’s a few things to call out and some events down the road I want to mention.
§ It’s the last week to catch Mondo Bizarro’s production of Moose Jackon’s play Loup Garou in City Park. I’m going Friday (and maybe again Sunday). By the time you read this, expect Friday to be sold out, or so they tell me.
§ I will probably not make it to the Tennessee Williams Festival Literary Legends Hollywood Bash. That’s probably the night I will see Loup Garou, and I don’t have a costume ready, but if you’re the sort who keeps your Darcy duds or Samuel Clemens get up pressed and ready in the closet its 8 p.m. Friday at the Gazebo Cafe. It’s a benefit for the festival so go help and support their programs.
§ Halloween is right around the corner and I think I’ve found what I want to do. Octavia Books is hosting a party to try to lure Neil Gaiman to a future event at the store as part of a contest Gaiman is having sponsoring. Whoever throws the best Halloween party using ideas from his novel, The Graveyard Book, is going to receive a visit from the author. The party is Oct. 31 (‘natch) and starts at 5 p.m.
I am a tremendous fan of Gaiman so I’m going to have to do my bit to get him to come. When I have nothing at hand to read I often pick up and reread his collection Fragile Things. Gainman is up there in my personal pantheon with Borges, de Lint, Cortazar and Crowley as a master of the fantastic.
§ Looking further ahead there is the NOLA Bookfair on Frenchman Street Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Reading by authors will run from noon and 3 p.m. at the Apple Barrel Bar. Books will be for sale at tables in a couple of Frenchman Street bars all day.
I will be reading something, either from Carry Me Home or possibly something else from this blog in the vein of memoir and “the genie soul of place.” but I haven’t figured it out yet. And I’ll be at a table the rest of the day hawking copies of Carry Me Home. Stop by and at least say hello. And watch the table while I get a beer and go to the bathroom. I trust you.
§ That evening I’ll be heading straight uptown to The Dinglerization of America, an art opening featuring Rex Dingler along with a video installation by Christa Rock, performance by Bella Blue and music by DJ Stress. This invite came along with a copy of ReX’s latest chapbook, which I’ll post about at more length later. If your favored haunt seems a little quiet that night, well its because all of the cool people in New Orleans will be at the Coup d’Oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine Street for this soiree’.
§ Speaking of the Tennesee Williams festival, just a reminder that the deadline to enter their fiction writing contest is Nov. 16. So get busy. And if you’re not busy get back to me with comments on that manuscript I sent you to look over.
§ Also on my calendar for November, poet C.D. Wright will read as the 11th Florie Gale Arons Poet at The Newcomb College Center for Research on Women on Monday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Freeman Auditorium. I had not read her until someone affiliated with NCCROW called this out to me, and after looking at some samples in the Internet I will certainly be there.
§ So I made it over to Antenna Gallery to here Stephen Elliott Tuesday night and he was in fact all that. He had a full house in the small space, and read partially in response to the questions he was asked. If you missed it, have a look at his TheRumpus.net piece Why I Write (where I largely found the answer to the question I reference in an earlier post before the reading).
The most interesting story for this space is how his book tour is organized. Before publication, he asked readers of his online space who wanted a pre-publication copy of the book. All they had to do was ask, and they got added to a sort of chain letter in which one person got the book and the list of people to forward it to. He went to this same 400 people who signed up for this exercise to ask them to find a place to host a reading (their home, a place, preferably anything but a bookstore).
His publisher is no longer paying for his flights, and he usually stays at the home of the person who organized the local event. I didn’t have enough cash (oversight, not poverty) to buy another book but brought the copy I have of The Adderall Diaries to get signed. The man needs to tell the story of the self-organizing book tour on his website and stick up a PayPal. I’d gladly wire him a few bucks for the pleasure of meeting him, getting to ask him a few questions about how he writes and hearing him read.
Notes from a Dancing Bear October 19, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Everette Maddox, Maple Leaf poetry series, Stephen Elliott, The Adderall Diaries
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As I noted last week, author Stephen Elliott of The Adderall Diaries and Happy Baby will be in New Orleans tomorrow night talking about about work and signing his book. The Adderall diaries is a fascinating work of biography not quite masquerading as crime fiction so much as merging with it. If you visit here much you probably understand my interest in anyone who explores (and tests the boundaries of) memoir as creative non-fiction.
I hope to go but I think I have to find someone to go with so I won’t be the only person there who doesn’t look like R. Crumb’s Speed Kills caricature or who isn’t there hoping to score outré sex with the author. If I don’t make it for some reason (namely safe escort for my sorry, chino-and-polo-shirted self), I hope someone who reads this will ask him this question and get back to me with the answer:
I understand the natural intersection of the true crime story with Elliott’s own, but why does be believe that occurred to him (even if it was initially unconscious) as the logical narrative engine for his own story and why does he think it works? Did the two threads just overlap as he wrote spontaneously and somehow interleave themselves successfully? Or was it something he stitched together from two narrative threads as he re-wrote and why? I think I know the answer but I am curious to hear Elliott’s version. (Should I write it at the bottom upside down so we can compare my guess with Elliott’s answer?).
If I don’t make it but you do, hypocrite lecteur, and ask my question and share his response, well then I’ll have to find someway to repay you. I can buy you a drink (or many as the discussion of his answer, my guess, and the rest plays out) so long as what you drink isn’t kept in a locked cabinet the bartender has to ask for the key to open.
This will probably sound like boring crowing but I finally broke down and read some things at the Maple Street Bar’s longstanding poetry series on Sunday. It was awkward when I first walked into a small group of people who clearly knew each other (and knew the quiet people sitting alone in the corners). I think it helped to be greeted so kindly (and loudly) by the featured reader, Dave Brinks, who I learned visits here often and rather liked what I wrote about his recent book The Caveat Onus. In the end they proved a very charming and very talented group of people people. Open mike can be a gamble to listen to but what I heard ranged from the entertaining to the stunning, and I felt quite at home by the time I left.
I probably wouldn’t have stood up to read (or started submitting things until I finally got an acceptance) without some encouragement from a few people I should thank. First Robin, who put a link to my old Poems Before Breakfast site under her listing of New Orleans Poets long before I deserved it. Second is Sam who reads much of what I write and gushes far too much (which is valuable as rejection slips start to pile up) but who I trust implicitly will tell me if I show her crap.
Finally I should thank Everette Maddox. The first time I stood up at the Maple Leaf’s microphone was two weeks ago at the book launch for the UNO Press selected works I Hope Its Not Over, And Goodbye. Reading his revered words to the audience was an exhilarating experience, and got me hooked on the idea of finally breaking down and reading my own. The long departed Maddox, who founded the Maple Leaf poetry reading series, was famous for his encouragement of young (or, um, inexperienced) poets. For his little nudge from beyond the grave, my eternal thanks.
I felt guilty at first sticking these bits of nothing from my life up here, but I spent far too much time today thinking about a problem I struggle with here on Toulouse Street: the temptation to look at Toulouse Street as a place where I can only post long, thoughtful pieces like the recent Rain Street or something like The Slow Noon Burn of June 16, the problem I used to refer to as More Lewis Lapham Than Thou when I struggled with it over essays about New Orleans on Wet Bank Guide.
I think this is a mistake, as the universe of online writing we call blogging is more akin to early television than anything else. There is room for the thoughtful dramas of Golden Age Television but an equal demand for men spinning plates atop sticks while the Flight of the Bumble Bee plays frantically.
When I wasn’t afraid to jot down short thoughts and musings as I did more frequently in the early days of this blog, more people tended to stop by. Maybe I am as entertaining as I think I am when I’m drinking. It’s entirely possible. Or perhaps the more crap you throw at the wall, the more will stick. Either way, I think it’s time for the Dancing Bear to dust off his metaphorical unicycle and stop worrying so damn much.
So Lonesome I Could Yodel October 16, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: country music, country-and-western, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review, Hank Williams
“I don’t care what he did with his women.
I don’t care what he did when he drank.
I want to hear just one note
From his lonesome old throat.
Has anybody here seen Hank?”
New Orleans is swimming in music of every imaginable genre, but old time country-and-western gets short shrift. It’s just not a part of who we think we are. We tell ourselves this is the music of the piney wood crackers that surround us, like that justice of the peace who just this week refused to marry an interracial couple.
I never cared for the stuff growing up (“we got both kinds, country and western”) and only fell into it sort of left handed, via the Grateful Dead and the studio side of The Byrds Untitled with Gene Parsons and Nanci Griffth’s collaboration with The Chieftains. Later, friends of Texas introduced me to the Texas Outlaws and their folk singer friends, people like Jerry Jeff Walker and Guy Clark, people for whom a song is a story or it’s no damn song at all.
Part of the attraction is the connection of old country music, what was called hillbilly music in the early recording industry, to Celtic music. If you’ve been around here before you know I’m an irredeemable Eirephile. So much of what we take for granted in American music today results from the collision of the Celtic (which produced country-and-western and a good bit of what we call folk music) and the African jazz and gospel and R&B. Those are the footings of what we listen to today. Anytime I see a World Music record labeled “Afro-Celtic” I can barely resist buying it.
I have no use for the stuff you can see on Country Music Television lately. Lord knows I heard plenty of it during the explosion of bad pop country in the late nineties and early oughts living in Fargo, N.D. Hell, one of the biggest country music festivals in the country arrived every August in the little town of Detroit Lakes, MN where I lived for a few years. I would get offers of free tickets to this redneck Woodstock through the newspaper, but usually turned them down.
Its the old stuff that resonates, and the music of the people who picked up on it and carried that tradition forward, mostly in Texas in the seventies, or borrowed heavily from it at times, like the Rolling Stones. The trick of the thing is without old country music, there is no rockabilly. Without rockabilly, there is no Elvis or Jerry Lee Lewis, and quite possibly no Fats Domino or Little Richard, at least not as we knew them. The whole damn thing falls apart and the next thing you know we’re all sitting around the pool in our parents clothes listening to Paul Anka and Celine Dion and its the 1950s big record company nightmare forever.
You can find plenty of schmaltzy pop country yodeling on You Tube, and it’s quite possibly the idea of the thing you picked up from variety shows on television long ago. That’s not what Hank Williams does. Listen to the heart broken mountain hollow echos in his chorus yodel, a ululation of lament as old as man. I can never hear the word lonesome without hearing this man’s sweet, rough voice.
Note: There is one country-and-western act that does play around town all the time and you should catch them sometime: Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review. She’s a great singer with a tight, hot band but even more she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music. Listening to her introduce songs is like hearing a set of tiny Ken Burns documentaries on the history of classic country music. Check them out sometime.
Odd Words October 15, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
Tags: books, literature, Odd Words, reading
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Here is my second (now officially weekly) collection of bits of book and culture gossip from around New Orleans, essentially things that might attract me to attend, buy a book, or do something else interesting and specifically or exclusively about the alcohol, music or food. As I explained last week, this is not a comprehensive list; just the events where I’m likely to show up and some mention of books or whatnot I’m reading or about to read. If you show up at one of these events as well, I’m the old fart in a young man’s hat. Say hello. And buy me a drink.
§ Local poet and impresario Dave Brinks will be a man about town this week, signing or reading from his new poetry collection THE CAVEAT ONUS, starting with a kick off party tonight (Thursday) at 8 pm at 17 Poets, the poetry series he runs every Thursday at the Goldmine Saloon.
Here’s the announcement email: “This event is dedicated to the living memory of jazz flautist ELUARD BURT and poet PAUL CHASSE. The presentation will feature a reading and book signing by Dave Brinks; plus lots of tasty eats, including BROCATO’S famous cannolis. Special guest performances by New Orleans’ musicians include Peter Nu on steel drums (www.poetryprocess.com) and Matthew Shilling on bansuri, Indian bamboo flute (www.matthewschilling.com). Complimentary on-site Massage Therapist/Therapy provided by Spa by the Park. Followed by Open Mic emceed by poet JIMMY ROSS. “
Brinks will also appear in the coming week at Maple Street Bookstore from 1-2:30 on Oct. 17; at the Maple Street Bar poetry series on Oct. 18 at 3 pm; at Octavia Books Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. and somewhere in Metairie you can find on your own if you must. If you missed the interview in the Oct. 7 Picayune-Item by all means go have a look.
I’ve read the first book of the series; have in fact tried to study it closely. The Onus Opus (um, no don’t do that) is a complex poetry sequence including a unique stanza form based on the hexagrams of the I’Ching and and an over all structure tied to Mayan cosmology, a mix that produces a surrealist experience that does not merely erupt from the unconscious but is,in the context of the structure he has erected, as rational as fractals.
Unpeeling this onion all the way is not for the faint of heart but the lines are frequently taken directly from the streets of New Orleans, as familiar as the cracks and holes you instinctively step over on a street your frequently cross. You can take the poems as a pleasing pack of surrealist postcards from New Orleans, or as a puzzle to spend hours taking apart and marveling at the complexity of, and enjoy the experience in either case. You can find a sample from the first book with the invaluable Notes on the Text here.
§ Stephen Elliott, author of HAPPY BABY, is coming to New Orleans to promote his new book THE ADDERALL DIARIES, which is just out and kicking up a storm. He’ll will read and sign Tuesday, October 20th, at Antenna Gallery in Bywater at 7 pm
Elliott’s writing has been featured in Esquire, The New York Times, GQ, Best American Erotica and Best Sex Writing 2006. He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and is a member of the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. He is the editor of The Rumpus.
So of course I went out this weekend and bought the book (on the recommendation of two people who’s opinions I value who called him out to me). Like any good true crime book it is both disturbing and fascinating, a combination guaranteed to keep you reading to the end. And for someone who spends a good bit of my writing time here as a diarist or memoirist or whatever we can think to call this intersection of writing, my own life and the internet, I find it fascinating. His powerful first person presence in the story challenges the boundary between journalist and diarist in a way I haven’t encountered since Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe. This endorsement of the book should not be considered, however, an invitation to pinch my nipples until they bleed. (If this idea disturbs you, I suggest you skip this book, as among the author’s proclivities is sadomasochism. The book is not pornographically explicit, but honest enough to make your skin crawl every now and then.)
§ Another great link courtesy of Ray Shea, “Why Don’t Aspiring Writers Read More Literary Magazines?” from Bookish.Us. This piece shamed me into subscribing to a year of the journal Sentence rather than just ordering a sample copy. And frankly, if they published samples on the web, would I have really ordered a sample copy? Everyone cries Gutenberg is dead but if we don’t buy newspapers and we don’t subscribe to journals or magazines that publish fiction and poetry, can we entirely blame the corporate buccaneers?
§ I no longer remember how I stumbled into a UNO graduate thesis on poetry and the web (the author manages to not include their name), but it is worth the visit just for an interesting list of poetry blogs that nicely compliments the Poems and Poetics list (if you clicked that last link to read some of Caveat Onus. If you didn’t do that I’ll wait here until you’re done).
I disagree with a lot of what the author says about blogs and blogging (may in fact write up a post in response) but the list looks promising from my first pass through, and it led me to Loss Glazier’s DIGITAL POETICS: THE MAKING OF E-POETRIES. This book promises to explore “the relationship between web “pages” and book technology, and the way in which certain kinds of web constructions are in and of themselves a type of writing.” Damn, now I have to buy another book. I may have to start skipping lunch.
§ A reminder: Moose Jackson’s poem/play Loup Garou, which explores the deep interconnectedness between land and culture in Louisiana, continues it’s outdoor run in the abandoned fields of City Park’s old East Golf Course. Showings are Thursdays at sunrise (7am) and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5pm through October 25.
§ Another late add: Ned Sublett signs his memoir of New Orleans before the Federal Flood in ‘The Year Before the Flood, ‘ Thursday (tonight) , 7:30 p.m., Faubourg Marigny Art and Books.
§ This weekend is the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, which looks interesting, but I’m not headed up there. There’s just too much else going on, and I’m a little miffed that I submitted a copy of my book for consideration for their panel on self-published authors, and got back not so much as a post-card. You would think these people know how the rejection process works. This is one I’m skipping.
§ Fellow Mid-Citian Barb Johnson will be among those reading at the Louisiana Book Festival, but I plan to catch her at Garden District Books Oct. 21 Check out this excerpt from her novel in progress.
Rain Street October 13, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in Flood, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: monsoon, rain
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The first rule of driving in the rain, I taught my daughter, is never trust a puddle you don’t know. On the pothole-pocked topography of New Orleans’ streets, crevassed and treacherous as a summer glacier, that sheen of water may hide one of the tire swallowers, one of the axle breakers.
My children grew up in a dry climate, the upper plains of the Midwest, where ten inches might fall in a good year and half that as snow. Here we have built pumps to move an inch of rain the first hour and a half-inch an hour after that, and still its floods. And when the streets run like streams the gaping craters fill with water and look like simple puddles, suitable for innocent stomping and splashing. Drive through the wrong one and you will find yourself waiting in the rain for a tow truck, your car aft end in the air like a sinking ship.
The last few weeks we have all been relieved that the hurricane season is evaporating into nothing but at the same time we have suffered through unseasonable heat waves, angry Comanche Indian Summer days of 104 degree heat indexes. The only relief has come from brief “cold” fronts that bring brief relief (my God, it’s 68 this morning!) but also monsoon volume rains, pouring for hours without interruption, the kind that floods and laps at the steps of houses (or worse, creeps into what we call “basements” down here) and sends everyone scurrying to move their cars to the neutral ground. No mater how capacious the pumps we build or how often we clean our storm drains of debris, we cannot escape the fact that much of the city is reclaimed marsh and sits at least a few inches if not a few feet below sea level.
(If anyone suggests the entire city is 10 or 15 feet below sea level, offer to take them out and show them the spot where that is true. Then push them down the bank into the bottom of the drainage canal. I have maps saved somewhere of these spots. I’ll come and help.)
Here on Toulouse Street we are at the intersection of a high point of the Metairie ridge and the end of the railroad bed that paralleled the old Carondelet Canal. Our streets are clear and glistening black with the rain, full of leaves and magnolia cones but free of running water outside of the gutters; not so our surrounding neighborhood. My sister was coming home the other night and could not get into her building (itself on the edge of Bayou St. John at Esplanade Avenue but not quite on the Esplanade Ridge. She tried to find a path along the bayou ridge that would lead us to our house or her son’s in the same general neighborhood but the streets were impassible.
Last week I dropped by daughter’s car at a neighborhood garage and walked back in the steady rain and stopped to marvel at a tiny urban wetland on Hennessey Street, a long narrow lagoon at one edge of the street edged with tall cattails and other water plants that must have migrated to this comfortable spot from the park a few blocks away. I expected to see ducks paddling out of the cover at any moment.
I still marvel at the rain here, especially after decades spent first on the East Coast during a long drought, and then on the edge of the land once called the Great American Desert, the High Plains that run from Texas and surrounding states straight up to the Dakotas. Now that I am back on the hurricane coast it seems Odd to me that in a place where the gray loads of rain roll in from the Gulf as regular as trains and discharge their wet cargo that there is no Rain Street, no Thunder Road or Cloud Boulevard to intersect with Flood Street.
After our long monsoon the ground is saturated and any rain will run into the streets and down to the canals, and if the canals fill and the pumps won’t keep up into cars and houses. I wonder at the ground beneath, so full of water. When I was a boy my father and his handy man built a fence. On the second set of a post hole digger they would hit water, a little dark mirror at the bottom of the black and gray tunnel. Into this they set four-by-four pieces of cypress. Those posts of wood from the tree that grows submerged in the swamps here rotted away by the time I was grown.
After the flood that followed Katrina water stood waist or head high over the streets for weeks and the ground turned to something not quite solid. Hidden beneath the waters the complex matrix of wires and pipes that make a city possible began to shift and collapse, the old iron main lines surrendering to rust. Now some fantastic fraction–a third or more–of the city’s purified water vanishes into the ground every day. And so the ground grows more waterlogged.
I remember the Loma Prieta earthquake, when the shaking turned the Marina District ground to liquid and a neighborhood found itself afloat on its footings and the buildings came crashing down. Here the ground is never dry or still, the entire city sliding in a slow tremor-less movement down into the sea. There is no rattling of dishes or shattering of windows, just the slow breakup of the blacktop like the crust of moving lava, the brightly mortared zigzags in the sides of old masonry buildings held together with metal rods, the wheel and ankle gobbling sink holes that appear overnight.
There is one of these holes just up from my house, where a divot of the lawn at the curb has collapsed into a hole that vanishes under the street. Neighbors steal traffic cones and stick them in the hole but over time they just vanish, as if something down at the bottom resented the interference. Whatever it is, perhaps its hopes to eat what it catches like a trap door spider.
There are several tremendous ones at the edge of downtown that I routinely step around going into and out of work, one a tiny hole the diameter of a water meter cover opening into a much larger cavity, another mysterious worm hole in the street at the corner of O’Keefe and Union that vanishes under the sidewalk like the one by my house. I step gingerly around these when I pass, never knowing when the unsupported concrete will suddenly give way. Today the pothole killer, the truck with the elephantine trunk that vomits tar and rocks into the potholes must have come and filled in the one on Union, but I know it will be back. They always come back. As persistent as guerrillas the water is slowly winning.
And now it is raining again. I warned my daughter by phone not to run off across town after school for fear she might not be able to get back or worse drive into an underpass with water as high as her car roof. A half dozen cars did that at Carrollton and I-10, and I now the other best route along Jeff Davis will fill with great sheets of water where the Palmetto Canal crosses. When the streets start to fill there’s no good way through the center of town, the old swamp where the ridges where we live and the high ground along the river once drained.
As I pull the garbage can out in the unremitting drizzle and listen to the water chuckling down the gutter I think again about Rain Street, and realize why there is none here. In New Orleans, some days every street is Rain Street, when the water comes in sheets from the sky and overflows the roads. I’m just glad I don’t live on Flood.
Conditions of Satisfaction October 9, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Howl
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“Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!”
— Howl, by Allen Ginsberg
I sit at my beige desk inside my beige cube, hands poised and motionless over the keyboard, co-workers voices murmuring over the low carpeted modular walls, trying to write something called Conditions of Satisfaction, staring at that title on the blank page, paralyzed [Conditions of Satisfaction] a startled animal frozen in the cold glare of the monitor [Conditions of Satisfaction] wondering what is this crisis hurtling bright-eyed and howling toward me [Conditions of Satisfaction] and suddenly I understand why the windows do not open and the doors are secured with electric locks.
30 Century Man October 8, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, odd, Odds&Sods, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 30 Century Man
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I first started working on this little diversion sometime right after the 2008 holidays, at a time when I found myself mindlessly resting on the couch in front of endless House marathons on the television, an activity that is for me comparable to standing on a windy building ledge tossing pigeons at the fire department. I made this little thing to cheer myself up, as I think I am too old to successfully hop a moving freight and head for L.A. to search for Bukowski’s ghost, too encumbered to follow Rimbaud and Gauguin into a tropical never land. I finished it the other night for much the same reason it began. It is full of sound and pictures, signifying nothing. If this video speaks to you in some way, it still may not be too late to get help.
Odd Words October 7, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
Tags: ArtSpot, Everette Maddox, I hope its not over and good-by, Illusion Fields, Loup Garou, Maple Leaf Bar, Mondo Bizarro, Raymond "Moose" Jackson, SmithMag.com, Stephen Elliot, The Deal Mule School of Southern Literature, UNO Press
I’m going to try something new. I plan to post something like this—listing upcoming book events or talking about what I’ve read in hard copy or online—as a weekly feature. It won’t be everything, so don’t quit scanning Susan Larson’s column on Wednesday or Gambit for what’s up. What you get here are those events where you might run into me. You’ll recognize me; I’m the guy in the sharp hat. (This works. Ask Barb Johnson).
I don’t intend this to be a book blog or a (pretentious) “literary” blog. Maud Newton’s job is safe. Trust me. I intend Toulouse Street to remain primarily a place about Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans as they happen or occur to me, with the occasional, random bit of Radio Free Toulouse tossed in. That said, some of those Odd Bits of the greatest interest to me are in fact literary, in some sense. Given that Toulouse Street is basically a textbook example of the Dreaded Vanity Blog, I can do whatever the hell I want here.
So, here goes:
- ArtSpot Productions and Mondo Bizarro present Loup Garou, a new environmental performance featuring performance poet Raymond “Moose” Jackson in a poem/play that explores the deep interconnectedness between land and culture in Louisiana. The outdoor performance opens at sunrise on October 8 in the abandoned fields of City Park’s old East Golf Course. Showings are Thursdays at sunrise (7am) and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5pm through October 25.
Written by Raymond “Moose” Jackson, directed by Kathy Randels, and designed by Jeff Becker, Loup Garou features Nick Slie in a reprise of his tour de force portrayal of the mythical werewolf in ArtSpot’s 2006 piece Beneath the Strata/Disappearing. Part performance, part ritual, part howl to the world about southeast Louisiana’s plight, Loup Garou sings a song of love and hope for our precarious homeland.
I caught Jackson’s reading a few months back at SoundCafe and picked up his Illusion Fields CD that evening and based on that I highly recommend this. It has got to be interesting. Visit him on MySpace for a taste of his work.
- As you likely know what I write not precisely memoir but is unabashedly first-person and (I think) creative non-fiction, here and on Wet Bank Guide (and in Carry Me Home). There is an interesting piece by Stephen Elliot, author of the Adderall Diaries, on SmithMag.com on the subject of writing in the first person. Hat tip to Ray Shea for finding this.
- Then there’s the release of “I hope it’s not over, and good-by”, Selected Poems of Everette Maddox by UNO Press this Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Maple Leaf (see the post below).
- And apropos of nothing except crowing (c.f. reference above on Dreaded Vanity Blogs), I had three poems accepted by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature online journal. Cock-a-doodle-do-dah-do-dah. They will appear in February, 2010.
- Dialing back in to add one: Go read the story on New Orleans poet and poetry impressario Dave Brinks in today’s TP. (I think I’m going to do this feature on Thursdays, so I can call out anything on the Wednesday TP book page you might miss if you don’t normally read it, but which is worth a special trip).
- Missed another one: Darrell Bourque Room 205, University Center, Xavier University. Louisiana’s Poet Laureate will present a poetry reading, at 7. Free. Call 520.5155. (Also noticed the TP misspelled “peotry: in the listing when I pasted it in. Like I should criticize. Anyway, another reason to run this on Thursdays after I check all the local listings to make sure I haven’t missed something choice. I’ll be at the Radiators at the Square, so let me know how it goes if you make it to his reading.
If you have a literary event (reading, performance, signing) you would like me to list in this weekly post, please drop me a line via email or in the comments below. If you have a book coming out as a local author or with a local setting or other strong tie to New Orleans, let me know. Extra points for anything Odd. I’m not asking for comps yet or committing to reviews but I’ll at least get your name and your book’s title out in this space if it catches my interest.
Note: I hate the way list items lines display in WordPress, especially for multiple paragraphs, and can’t figure out how to fix the leading on following paragraphs. CSS, yeah, yeah, yeah: I don’t have time for that sort of thing any more, but then it’s been a long time since I bought me an animal book. Eh, la bas.
I hope its not over, and good-bye October 6, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Everette Maddox, I hope its not over and good-by, Maple Leaf poetry series, Selected Poems of Everette Maddox, UNO Press
Everette Maddox: He was a mess, by everyone’s assessment including his own and so reads his memorial, a plaque in the patio of the Maple Street Bar where he hosted the long running poetry reading series he founded. He is a bit of an obsession here on Toulouse Street, where we frequently take him down from the shelf and longingly look at that copy of The Everette Maddox Songbook on Amazon for only $215.
Now the University of New Orleans Press is releasing I hope its not over, and good-by Selected Poems of Everette Maddox with a kick off party at the continuing poetry venue, 3 p.m. this Sunday at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans.
Even if you don’t read poetry (and you’re probably not that sort, given that your here and the amount of other people’s work I post up here when I’m tongue-tied or bored), I can highly recommend this site unseen because Maddox’s work is, among other things, highly accessible. In his own poem “GIFT” he describes his writing as “whimsical little gifts” and I can’t think of a better description. It is by turns wry and dark and I think you will come away from reading it thinking as I do: damn, this is someone I wish I’d had a chance to have a drink and a long talk with.
Editor Ralph Adamo promises his selection from Maddox’s four books provides a “novel organization [which] also suggests new and surprising readings for those who know the work, or thought they did.” Now there’s an irresistible teaser, at least for the likes of me and maybe you, too since you’re here.
I never met the man. I was too busying trying to help my first wife drink herself to death at Betz Brown’s Abbey on Decatur Street when Maddox was at the top of his form and the bottom of his run to the end of the row of bottles the gods had allotted him. Maddox was something I discovered looking for every last word I could find to read on the subject of New Orleans to escape the bright lights, big city madness of Fargo, N.D. and I’ve been reading and rereading him every since.
In honor of the occasion of this book launch (that’s 3 p.m. Sunday at the Maple Leaf) here’s a poem that’s been rejected by some of the best regional journals in the south. If I get drunk enough mid-afternoon and there’s open mike, I might attempt to read it there but don’t count on it. I still don’t like the way the lines are laid out, and I’ve just cut out a middle section. If I can ever get the lines breaks just right, I’ll have to have another run at the reviews.
Blinded by Sunrise
For Everette Maddox
it’s not like we ever met
or anything, but
I think we’ve both been
blinded by sunrise
refracted in a bar glass.
It’s like this:
I’ve had just enough
of a taste of your words
that I’m haunted
like a man in love
who’s suddenly not sure where
his next drink’s coming from,
except–it’s not from her.
She’s up and left.
You being dead and all
I’m sorry to bother but
if you scare up a copy
of the Songbook in
some discount street-side box
I might happen to pass by,
I promise I’ll have them
bury me with a bottle so
I can repay the favor.
Remembering Carmen October 2, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Carmen Leona Reese, Crime, murder
The latest shootings were almost a week ago, last Saturday. In the quiet days since the newspaper is full of stories of the person who tossed some kittens out of the window of their car on the Causeway bridge. Today there is mention of a reward for information on who did this. There is no reward mentioned in the paper for the killers of last Saturday’s three dead.
When it’s quiet like this its easy to forget that we live in a city where more people died by murder in 2008 than there were casualties in Afghanistan that year. Easy to forget for most, but not for me: every time I check my blog stats I see the number of people who have visited the posts in which I list all of the victims of the last two years.
Just yesterday I had 26 visits searching for Carmen Leona Reese, who died of two bullets to her chest last October 15. A bit of the story of the crime is told in New Orleans Magazine in a story titled Violent Night.* It’s more a tale of the frustrations of the homicide detectives than of the victims but it gives a thumbnail sketch of Carmen’s life shortly before she died. It doesn’t tell the story of how she came to New Orleans, or lost contact with her mother and step-father in Houston.
There are hints in the magazine piece and a few other odd places of a falling out, of some stress related to her mother and step-father’s deployments to Iraq. We do not learn what happened to her natural father. One immediately thinks of the tales we have heard of the rootless lives of Army brats. All we learn from the magazine is that somehow she arrived in New Orleans, fell into stripping and possibly prostitution in the French Quarter, and that her life ended in sex and death. She was only 18 at the time, just a year older than my daughter.
There is a picture of Carmon on the Internet, a pretty girl with curly hair and carefully plucked brows. She has a smile I might describe as wry if I saw it in my daughter’s year book, her head cocked with a you-must-be-kidding-me expression, her eyes coquettishly half closed. Or as if she were high. Looking at her face, she was certainly attractive enough to find work in the strip clubs that pander to the tourists who come to the Quarter for the casual sleaze of big ass beers and nearly naked young women.
The magazine piece tells of the detectives’ search to learn her identity, how they took pictures of her face and of her tattoos. As they search tattoo parlors and sleazy Quarter bars they find nothing. A guy at the first tattoo parlor they call on says her tattoos are homemade crap. They finally get an ID on Leona, and begin to look into her background for evidence that might help convict their suspect, who tossed Carmen into the weeds behind his trailer and left a bloody mattress cover and t-shirt in the trash can right outside his door.
They locate the club where she worked and talk to one of the girls there. She tells them Carmen was a good girl but was in some kind of trouble. ““She bounced around real bad. She was in a bad predicament”. They are trying to find the hotel where she was living, after learning from a friend in Nebraska who spoke with her a day before she died that she always kept a journal
The magazine story just sort of peters out there without resolving Carmen’s story, moving onto instead another murder, another day in the life of the homicide squad. You can almost her the Law & Order chime. The piece is meant as a verite’ snapshot staring the detectives. The victims and perpetrators are just bit players. Perhaps the free-lance true crime writer credited with the story figured out how to meet his word quota without the rest of the tale.
Maybe Carmen was not a part of the assignment. She wouldn’t interest the subscribers to New Orleans Magazine, who would rather read about a new restaurant or browse the ads for the boutiques of Magazine Street. She is just a stock character in this tale. There is just enough in the story to make it interesting, to titillate and satisfy their readers just as the club girls are just naked enough to satisfy the drunks. If those readers, hurrying to dinner in the quarter, ever notice the girls huddled around a club door trying to lure in customers it is just another part of scene, a distraction just barely more tolerable than the smell of rotten garbage and stale beer.
I don’t know how Carmen’s mother deals with this story, the one the detectives said telling her was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” the story of the fall before her daughter’s death. I only know that her mother grieves publicly on a blog with a handful of messages written to her daughter [all errors in the quote sic].
I know you were being a rebellious teen, but I know I also bear some responsibility for you actions. Telling you I am sorry that I failed in some respects will do nothing. You can’t hear me and now you are gone… Today, I’m supposed to go “talk” to someone about what’s been going on with me. What no one understands is that nothing seems to be going. My life seems to be stalled without you. I have a basic I don’t give a crap attitude. I hate it but it seems sometimes to take it a life of its own. Your brother will be here soon. I sure hope I can get my crap together before he arrives. He don’t know how much I need him. I don’t want to smother him. I think he already tries to make up for you not benig here. I’m sorry I have made him feel that way.
I will write more later. I can’t wait to see you and hear your voice. I know I will have to wait………how long? I don’t know. No matter the length of time, it has already been too long. My life is just going on, basically without me…without you. I still cannot understand how life can continue without you. Well in truth it’s time going on not life… I love you Carmen. My Carmen, I dreamed of you before you existed. Love mom.
What concern of mine is Carmen? Why do I publish the lists of the dead, the mostly low-life victims? Why do check the blog stats page for links into those posts and the Internet searches that bring them in? I wonder why I plucked the story of another young girl named Chanel Sanchell? The local newspaper story doesn’t tell us much about Chanel either, what lead her out of her house that night with someone her family didnt’ know who came to the door looking for her. All I know is here in New Orleans there are too many golems with guns, soulless shells who will take a life without much more thought than to take out and light a cigarette, and they move through the life of the streets like sharks through schools of fish, predators and prey trapped together in the currents of only place they know to live.
I remember what I wrote about Chanel and it applies to Carmen as well. Whatever lead them out into the night with a stranger, a night that ended with a gunshot, both were once small children not much different than my own, as innocent as lambs in the lap of Sunday school Jesus. If their deaths cease to matter to you, matters no more than the condition of the bad schools your children didn’t attend or the trouble on streets you never cross; if the broken families of people who pulled two or three tours in Iraq don’t bother you then consider this:
The next time you see some kid on the corner eyeballing you at the stoplight, the one in the chee-wee haircut with the long white t-shirt, don’t avoid his gaze. Look straight back at him. If that bulge at his waist looks like it might be a gun don’t turn away or run the light. Look hard, as if into a mirror at your own cold and soulless reflection in his eyes.
* New Orleans Magazine does not allow links to their online publication, which raises the question why someone who so little understands the fundamental premise of what the w-w-w in a url stands for, the world wide web of links. So I guess you will just have to type all of this into your browser so that I can avoid violating their requirement by including a working link. If this translates into a link in your browser, that’s not my fault: http://www.myneworleans.com/New-Orleans-Magazine/December-2007/Violent-Night/
Minor Update: Fixed a few tipos. Someday I will have an editor, who will fix my tipos and buy me lunch every now and then. Apply within.