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The Fortin Street Stage April 30, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, fuckmook, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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They came early and the line stretched down Fortin Street even though it was only Friday, all in their straw hats spreading lotion, men in their ball caps and concert shirts, women in short-shorts and in cool summer whites, with parasols and backpacks and collapsible chairs, the barkers of sunglasses and hats and coozies that hang from your neck working the line until I was ready to kill the one who set up in front of my door incessantly shouting. I saw with my coffee and a cigarette watching them file past into the first day of Jazz Fest 2011.

I couldn’t tell you the line up. I’m working from home today and my joke post about being a stone’s throw from the gospel tent was “Jesus on the conference call, Tell him what you want” but first it was time for a mid-morning break, coffee and a cigarette in a dirty white resin chair next to my stoop to watch the crowd assemble then pass, perhaps to catch a bit of the excitement I’m wasn’t feeling looking at the line up. Today’s big act is Bon Jovi, and there’s a sign advertising the Shrine of Bon Jovi at 2992 Maurepas. The first fans are already at the gate two hours before it opens to stake their place.

This is why I was not that excited about what is still called the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in the weeks leading up to this.

Yesterday I opened the door to sit on the stoop and smoke a cigarette and watch the crowd a man stood with camera gear slung around his neck, trying to make a cell call away from the chatter of the barkers and the anxious crowd. He didn’t get an answer and stood there a moment staring at his cell phone before he looked over my way and said nice seat.

It’s the Fortin Street Stage, I told him. Turns out the guy, who will remain nameless, with credits and credentials for a half-dozen jazz magazines, can’t get a press pass. He has hustled comps and even a press pass one year. Apparently someone at the festival hands them out to friends with tenuous credentials by the handful, and he managed to get one from a local lawyer one year. I didn’t go through the list with him, but let’s just say if you’re here from the Off Beat of L.A. you should get a press pass. Then again, this is not your grandfather’s jazz fest. I told him that back in the 1970s I could get a fistful of tickets for the University of New Orleans newspaper and went every day. I think you have to be from a rock magazine now, he said.

I see you have Rahsaan up on your wall he said, noticing a painting I have. He spoke of the other jazz fests he has attended elsewhere, ones where jazz in the name still means something. I told him about my visit to The Cavern in D.C. and looking at the marquee of coming acts, all the current touring big names and in jazz, none of whom every visit New Orleans. We spoke of Kenny G in the Jazz Tent, and talked about catching Ahmad Jamal and Sonny Rollins. He is debating staying for Rollins and having to buy another ticket out of his own pocket hoping to get some saleable shots. I said I planned to just walk up the street and plant as close as I can get to the Jazz Tent Saturday afternoon for Jamal, and was going in for Rollins because my son’s music program (sponsored by the Heritage Foundation) plays that morning.

I had never been a tremendous fan of the Gospel Tent, although I have friends who swear by it, always thinking I had too much else to see and do when inside. Today its a pleasant relief from work, to step outside with my coffee cup and listen to the choirs riffing on James Brown themes, to hear the sisters moan in a blessed tone as the John Boutte song goes, picking apart the music to find the roots of so much else I love in the pounding rhythm sections and soaring organ. I wonder how many Bon Jovi fans will pause outside the gospel tent today and recognize that much of modern popular music would not be possible without Southern gospel.

After Friday’s shows were over, a crowd who had rented the lot next door and erected tents cranks up their music right outside my window: the Charlie Daniels Band. As The Souths Gonna Do It Again replaced the sounds of gospel. What the hell are these people doing at Jazz Fest, I wonder? I step outside for a moment at glower around the corner them. I step back inside, and they crank it up a bit louder. Time to go all McAlary on them. I browse through my I-Tunes and decide on Miles Davis Bitches’ Brew. I turn my new Bose speakers outward, and turn it up, then wander into the back to stick my soaking red beans in the fridge for the night.

Forget the Acura Stage and Bon Jovi. Saturday’s lineup on the Fortin Street Stage includes Robert Cray in the Blues Tent and Ahmad Jamal in the Jazz tent (at the same time alas), just a short stroll up the street for me to listen over the fence. I’m going to cook up some red beans against any unexpected guests at the end of the day. I’ve got beer and water in the fridge and the bathroom’s clean. I’m ready to spend the day at my own private Jazz Fest. I just hope the stories aren’t true about the Bon Jovi fans booing Dr. John one year, anxious to hear their band, because if I hear the fuckmooks boo Irma Thomas who plays just before their band the Shrine of Bon Jovi is going to be in serious danger.

Odd Words April 27, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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If you’re going to see Eileen Myles at 17 Poets! tonite (Thursday) here’s something to consider from her excellent blog. I will certainly ask her about it at the private chat (it may not be too late to RSVP).

Like Baltimore Boston is a particular city and has been allowed to rot and fester in its own particular way and that’s probably vanishing now in the mow down of gentrification but something in it wants to be seen as its gone baby gone. Bostonians reflect the hardness of being lied to for so long about the significance of history. A criminal Boston face is doing much behind a rock while pulling on a tennis sweater or something tweed in order to do a job. The nightmare of class is Boston’s trick or treat all year long. It’s like everyone’s a counterfeiter but some of the money is real. The dark pleasure is trying to know. I love that Ben Affleck unlike his luckier counterpart Matt Damon did all the wrong things – drug problem, dating J-Lo, taking lousy parts. And then he went home. I think both of these guys are from the right side of the river (Cambridge) not the wrong (Boston) but once you find yourself on the wrong street as maybe Ben Affleck did you begin to understand the wrong side is the more interesting story and it’s always there to be experienced and read. Ben understands noir which should be abundant in these times. Everywhere I go and everyone I meet seems ruined. It’s time to tell it dark.

Here on Toulouse Street we try to write it bright. And then just when everything in my life seems to be taking a turn toward the light someone comes along to remind you that gravity always wins (unless of course it’s the near perfect darkness of heat death). Either way, you don’t have to be a fan of the Mayan’s to realize the universe is ending all around you consantly in little pops and sizzles, and to be alive is to be aware of that and to rage against it. Make poems, children, home-grown vegetable soup: whatever, anything but war. I just saw the excellent Marisol put on by Cripple Creek Theater and the only war I support is the war of the angels against a failing creator.

Which is a rather hot-headed lead in to the listings:

& Poet, publisher and novelist Eileen Myles of New York will appear at 17 Poets! at the Goldmine saloon tonite (Thursday), with a private chat preeding the usual 8ish performance. It may not be too late to register for the chat. Ask Megan Burns.

& Also this Thursday at Octavia Books Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Irvin Mayfield as he performs some music and discusses and signs his new book, A LOVE LETTER TO NEW ORLEANS. This beautiful coffee table book of photos and short essays that includes a selection of ten recordings from his Basin Street Records catalog, I’m going to have to think about plopping down $30 for this one.

& The Ebony Center at 4215 Magazine Street hosts a weekly spoken-word, music and open-mic event. Tickets $7 general admission, $5 students. 11 p.m. Friday.

& On Saturday, Poet Gian “G-Persepect” Smith and Alphonse “Bobby” Smith host Pass It On, a weekly spoken-word and music event at the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, 2003 Carondelet St. Admission $6. 9 p.m G-Persepect is the poet featured in the Treme trailer.

& Moose Jackson’s musical poetry project UDDU will appear on a double bill with Bodhi3 at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center Tuesday May 3 at 8PM. Cover is $5, and the Center is at 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. If yoiu haven’t caught UDDU yet, don’t miss it.

& Don’t forget every Wednesday at 9 pm be sure to check out the open poetry forum hosted by Kate Smash in the amphitheater on Decatur across from Jackson Square. No list, no mic, just anyone who shows up free to read what they like. Musicians encouraged to join. Organizer Kate Smash said the first one was, well, smashing.

The Shipping List April 26, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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Monteleone, Marriot, Sheraton: perhaps it’s working more from home, less frequent trips down Orleans and Basin but the hotel-top signs keeping jumping into the foreground of my mornings lately. These are the smokestacks of our industry, channel markers for the rivers of tourists and conventioneers bearing away a stevedore’s load of hangover and t-shirts.

Our docks are converting into riverfront park, the better for investors in second homes to see the vanishing smokestacks of the distant, passing ships from their new Bywater condos. Already we do not bow under coffee and bananas to scrape by but learn to step and fetch more coffee for the visitors, wearing animatronic Disney smiles. It’s au lait, m’am, like in a bullfight. Ole!

I pull into my parking lot between the decrepit remains of the Eagle Saloon and the giant painting of a Selmer clarinet that adornes the side of the Holiday Inn and sit listening to WWOZ on the radio, the daily Live Wire list of dozens of music venues and I remind myself that this is not a dying city, just one trying to find its way down from Ararat, a parable of survival for a country on the wrong side of the History Channel.

***

This is what I think about as I drive toward a job that in some months will be gone, relocated by Moloch to another city. I was offered a position there, but for months no one pressed me for an answer.

I think they knew.

***

We’ll survive if we must on tourist scraps, sandwiched between Vegas and Atlanta on the conventioneer’s itinerary. The port may go the way of indigo and cotton but we’ve outlasted three hundred years. We wear the smell of creosote like armor. Like plaster we outlast any flood; just air us out and we’re good for another century. We’ve swallowed boatloads of French and Spanish and Yankees, Haitians planters and enslaved Africans, dark Sicilians and pale Irish like so many beans, all cooked down in our subtropical pot to a smooth, creamy consistency the color of home. Come on down and let us feed you some. You’ll want an Abita with that.

Sure you can take our picture.

We love it when you do that, because we’ve turned that trick inside out a long time ago.

We’ll steal your soul.

And when you’ve gone back home we can invade your dreams and make you want to come back–all those songs from Pops to the Doobies playing in your head, the moss covered vines, the tall sugar pines–until you can’t imagine a world without New Orleans.

Because neither can we.

It’s A Living Tradition April 25, 2011

Posted by The Typist in music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Treme.
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Back of Town, you one stop shop for everything you need to know about Treme, is back in business with Episode 11. Cross-posting my first Season Two pieces here.

As I asked a year ago when the Chief appeared out of the darkness I wonder how many people outside the city caught the signature feature of this episode: the young boy with a horn who bookends the episode, the one the Chief observes with signature arched eyebrow walking past St. Louis No. 2 struggling to learn to play. That and Delmond’s jazz version of Second Line, so significant after his conversation with Donald Harrison, Jr. at the fundraiser in Season One, were for me the defining moments of Episode 11.

In the weeks just before All Saints Day 2006 I asked the same question the Chief asks all through Season One: what will it take to bring people home, and what might be lost if they do not return:

Until we solve the problems of bringing people home, it remains a critical question: if the overwhelmingly African-American working class of New Orleans cannot come home, will the culture be transmitted? Or will it merely be preserved by well-meaning fans as a thing under glass, taken out and paraded once a year around the Fairgrounds at Jazz Fest like the relics of a saint. What will happen to the children of New Orleans in Houston and Atlanta when there is no role model up the street to make them want to learn trombone, or the intricate rhythms of New Orleans funk? Will all the future Nevilles and Trombone Shorties be left to aspire to be, instead, 50 Cent?

The boy with the trumpet and Delmond’s impassioned answer are Treme’s response to that question. The unintentional irony of the Katrina morgue at St. Gabriel comes back to me, the archangel with the trumpet hosting our ghosts. When the crowd was cheering and aw-ing over Davis and Annie and the show was busying arranging the characters for the second act, I was thinking: blow that horn, son. Blow it for the memory of the ancestors at St. Gabriel. Blow it for the now. Blow it for the future, boy, blow it for that mother-fuckin’ future.

Rampart Street Blues April 23, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Crime, French Quarter, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Late night is quiet on Rampart Street, unlike its distant cousin Bourbon with its drunken river of tourists, barkers and throbbing cover bands. The street has a half abandoned air, with as many dark facades and For Lease signs as there are bars. There is a subtle thrum of dance music from The Ninth Circle but with a name like that I suspect business hasn’t really started at eleven. The talk and laughter from the Voodoo Lounge just barely carries across the street , unintelligible as birdsong and just as comforting, a reminder that you’re not alone on the dark side of the Quarter.

I walk cautiously out of long habit learned when I lived in Treme in the 1300 block of Esplanade and would amble home late at night down the well beaten neutral ground path we all called the DMZ. That was BC—before crack—when walking head up and mostly sober was usually protection enough, before the Clockwork Orange horror of 21st century midnight city streets. I park on Rampart almost every Thursday night and feel more comfortable each time, less likely to bristle like a cat at the sight of a lone Black man approaching on the sidewalk on the lake side of the street but the old New Orleans habits die hard. I remember the genteel way my grandmother said “nigrah”, warning me that if she put too much coffee in my child’s café au lait I would turn dark and wonder if its ever possible to escape completely something bound so tightly in the limbic brain however good one’s intentions.

The gap-toothed marquee arch over the padlocked Armstrong Park merely amplifies the darkness of the abandonment behind the gates, adds a graveyard sense of menace to the lake side where I park but at the same time I am reminded that centuries past the African slaves gathered in what was once Congo Square the place became sacred to the ancestors and the loa and suddenly the darkness is not threatening but a presence watching over me with no particular intent. I murmur my own ancestors’ names like telling the beads of the rosary and feel a bit safer.

Two young women are coming up the sidewalk and their conversation quiets as we pass, looking at me askance as if to ask: do I belong here? Am I a lost tourist? Most white pedestrians keep to the river side of Rampart, but my car is just up the block. Behind them comes a young man alone, walking slowly up toward Canal or perhaps Iberville. Reflexively I cut between two cars and walk up the street toward my own car, parked a half-dozen spots ahead, pressing the remote to unlock the car and turn on the interior and headlights.. I keep an eye on him until I would have to turn my head, then wait a beat for him to pass before I turn my head. He is still walking, paying me no real attention.

I don’t feel especially nervous. My caution is ingrained, part the training of decades living here and in Washington, D.C. at the height of the crack wars, in a block where three people died late at night just coming and going as I am. I think of my grandmother again, of her maid Sylvia shared with my mother—one of the only black people I knew growing up along with Jo Jo my father’s handyman, a perfect match for the character in The Green Mile who I revered like a Hindu demon in overalls. Sylvia was invited to my sister’s weddings, but not the receptions.

I think of the friends I still know from the lakefront, the one’s who harassed me when my sister enlisted me as a young boy to drop literature and hammer signs for Moon “The Coon” Landrieu as he was known for being the first white politician to reach out for the Black vote, friends who still wear the casual racism of the lakefront like a comfortable old Saint’s jersey. Do I belong here, on this bock of Rampart halfway between Treme and Iberville? I believe I do, envying the comfort with which the Treme character Davis McCalary carries himself through the Treme, wishing some bit of the innocence of youth with which I would search for lost cats in the blocks behind my house on Esplanade, an innocence lost in part on the streets of D.C. where police helicopters would hover over the house lighting the alleys in back, the small yard from which I would occasionally hear the crescendo and diminuendo pop pop pop of gun battles.

I remember the young boy who walked in front of my car at the suburban shopping center at Elmwood one day, forcing me to stand on my breaks. He stepped into road mindless of the cross walk a short ways up and stopped, turned and glared at me as his mother and sisters passed. His body was tensed as if to spring, his eyes not angry or hateful but dead, with no discernible light in them. He was perhaps ten. And I wonder if innocence is something we have all lost.

As I sit in my car lighting a cigarette with all these thoughts passing through my mind I think again about the spirits of Congo Square, wonder which of the sainted loa I should beseech to purge me of the dark past of my own ancestors, the French planter refugees from the Haitian slave revolt, the German farmer who with two enslaved was probably thought a prosperous man by his neighbors, the great-great uncle who once owned a plantation in Plaquemines and lorded over his fields on a black stallion my mother was forbidden to ride and so took particular delight when taken up to the front of his saddle, the living memory of white women screaming at young black children in the ninth ward and all the baggage of desegregation, the palpable racism of my own youth in the early Nineteen Sixties.

What will it take, I ask, to finally cast off the last threads of white sheets of my own ancestors for something like the white robes of baptism? In which river must I immerse myself to step out born again as nothing but a child of God, a child of New Orleans? The street, the answer comes from somewhere. That river is this sidewalk, its people the living waters. Next time, I tell myself, I will not cross into the street but stay on the sidewalk and whoever comes and I will pass as two children of God in a new covenant that breaks the seventh generation curse, just two men passing each other on the streets of New Orleans, the place we both belong.

Simon and Goliath April 23, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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David Simon takes on the NOLA.com troglodytes and I get a link from Slate. Double plus good.

Odd Words April 21, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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It’s been quite a week. I read my runner-up creative non-fiction piece at the NolaVie event at Octavia Books and got a lot of nice remarks from the crowd afterward. Then I got a notice that Sam Jasper and I’s pieces in the Chin Music Press Book Where We Know:New Orleans as Home were the two mentioned in a Publisher’s Weekly brief on the book. Even more happened behind the scenes out of all this but I’ll save that for another time.

Whew.

I’m also told that the Neighborhood Story Project and Cripple Creek Theater Company presentation of Home is Where the (_____) Is: New Orleans through Seven Stories of Migration will be mounted again for people who missed it (like me). The product of nine months of workshops by seven women writers, Home is Where the Blank Is tells the stories of the city as it currently sits—home to long-time residents and arrivistes. Let’s hope it’s soon.

One last thought before the listings: it’s almost amusement park season. Be careful which line you stand in.

& This Thursday at 6 p.m. Richard Campanella, Tulane geographer and author of Bienville’s Dilemma, continues the Coastal Conversation series at the Louisiana State Museum’s historic Presbytere with a slide presentation about “How New Orleans Handled Five Historical Disasters.” Our discussion will include the great fires of 1788 and 1794, yellow fever and hurricanes. Free to the public.Campanella is a fascinating fellow I once tried to recruit as a keynote speaker for Rising Tide.

& Also this Thursday at 17 Poets! at the Goldmine Saloon: Poets Nathan Hoks and Joseph Bienvenu. Bienvenu will be reading from his new poetry drinking game cards created by MakkosPress. 7:30pm till Joseph is carted out. I saw them read some of their bar napkin poetry-cum-exquisite corps a few weeks ago and I think I’m definitely going down in a cab for this one.

& Also this Thursday and just in time for the launch of the second season of the HBO show, Treme, you are invited to join Octavia Books at 6 pm for a presentation and book signing with Michael Crutcher featuring his new book, TREME, which explores the historical links between where the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood is located and its vibrant culture

& The Ebony Center at 4215 Magazine Street hosts a weekly spoken-word, music and open-mic event. Tickets $7 general admission, $5 students. 11 p.m. Friday.

& On Saturday, Poet Gian “G-Persepect” Smith and Alphonse “Bobby” Smith host Pass It On, a weekly spoken-word and music event at the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, 2003 Carondelet St. Admission $6. 9 p.m

& On Saturday, April 23 at 2 pm author and teacher Brad Richard will be at Maple Street Book Shop with members of Lusher Charter School’s Creative Writing Program for a reading and signing of Brad’s most recent book of poetry, Motion Studies, and selections from the just released issue of Street, Lusher’s Literary Magazine. Unfortunately NolaVie cut my interview with Brad from their version but you can read more about the Lusher Writing Program here.

& NYC poet, novelist & publisher Eileen Myles presents a (private) casual sit down & chat on her experiences as a writer and publisher in New York City over the past three decades. Thursday April 28, 2011 at 6 pm at the Gold Mine Saloon. $20 includes autographed copy of Myles’ novel, INFERNO) $15 student/teacher discount Please RSVP if you wish to attend. Hurry before the seats are all gone.

& On Saturday at Garden District Books at 6 pm and again next Thursday at Octavia Books Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Irvin Mayfield as he performs some music and discusses and signs his new book, A LOVE LETTER TO NEW ORLEANS. This beautiful coffee table book of photos and short essays that includes a selection of ten recordings from his Basin Street Records catalog, I’m going to have to think about plopping down $30 for this one.

& Don’t forget every Wednesday at 9 pm be sure to check out the open poetry forum hosted by Kate Smash in the amphitheater on Decatur across from Jackson Square. No list, no mic, just anyone who shows up free to read what they like. Musicians encouraged to join. Organizer Kate Smash said the first one was, well, smashing.

Meet Eileen Myles April 19, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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An Odd Words Special Event

NYC poet, novelist & publisher Eileen Myles presents a (private) casual sit down & chat on her experiences as a writer and publisher in New York City over the past three decades. Thur April 28, 2011 at 6 pm at the Gold Mine Saloon. $20 includes autographed copy of Myles’ novel, INFERNO) $15 student/teacher discount Please RSVP if you wish to attend.

Odd Words: New Orleans’ best weekly listing of literary events in the area. Follow us on Facebook or visit Toulouse Street every Thursday.

NOMA Celebrates Centennial with Poetry April 17, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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An Odd Words Sunday Special for NolaVie

Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque looks every part the poet and professor of literature emeritus with a swept back mane of gray hair and a loose square-cut shirt untucked, standing before a large projection of Ida Kohlmeyer’s Cluster # 39 lecturing the students of the Lusher Charter School Writing Program on ekphrastic poetry and his own unique sonnet form at the New Orleans Museum of Art on Saturday. The poem was commissioned by NOMA for it’s centennial, and the reading program involving Bourque and the students from Lusher was organized by the museum’s librarian, Sheila Cork, an enthusiast of both visual and literary arts.

Following the lecture and a break for lunch, the Lusher students read their own art-inspired poems before various works they selected at NOMA, which are collected with Bourque’s poem in a free booklet published by the library (all scooped up Saturday but Cork promises to see about printing more). The students chose works of all sorts, from the modern to a portrait of Marie Antoinette, a Fabrege paper weight and a Renaissance miniature portrait. Bourque follow along with the students, offering commentary on their poems.

Here are a quick interview with Bourque, who has just published Ordinary Light: New and Selected Poems from ULPress at the University of Lafayette, and one with Lusher Writing Program founder and poet Brad Richard.

TS: I heard your remarks at the Tennessee Williams Festival and here today about ekphrasic poetry, and this must be a natural commission or a particularly apt commission for you.

Bourque: “I think so. I seem to come very naturally to responding to works of art through poetry.”

TS: I see in your discussion of the Marie Antoinette painting that you spend a lot of time not just looking at paintings appreciatively but thinking them through and looking at the history of the artists. Is this a second artistic…

Bourque: “It’s my second professional interest, certainly. I think if I hadn’t been an English teacher I would have been an art historian.”

TS: As laureate have you been called on to do many commissions?

Bourque: “I think I have gotten probably ten poems in the two years that were commissioned poems. I received one from the Lake Charles Humanities Council to do a poem on a painting for Vision in Verse project. Then I received a commission to do five sonnets for an art book that Professor Linda Frieze is doing at UL. Then the Abraham Lincoln omission, the commission for the dedication poem for the Ernest Gaines Center. And then I received a personal commission from a marriage poem, from someone who got married at City Park at Christmas time and she wanted to give him a poem for a Christmas present. “

TS: What do you think of this program, asking the students to do something like this?

Bourque: “I think its remarkable. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

TS: You went through the entire episode where the state tried to eliminate the poet laureate. As government de-emphasizes art in the schools why do you think it’s important to have a poet laureate.

Bourque: “Well, because the poet laureate to a large extend is one more person in the state who can support the arts and talk about the importance of arts as an essential part of the education process. Education is not just about learning skills and readying oneself for the job market. Its about developing the imagination and developing the school, and the poets and the art teachers are the people most responsible for that. I’ve probably been to over a hundred sites since I’ve been poet laureate, so I write less because it’s dangerous to write and drive at the same time.”

TS: I remember finding an ekphrastic poem about a Dutch master when I was writing about the poet laureate controversy, a very different style of painting than you chose for the [NOMA comission]. Do you prefer one period or style of painting?

Bourque: “I don’t have that bias at all. I go to a painting without any preconceived notions. I do a lot of ekphrastic work with photography as well and I treat photography as serious art. One of the first of the poems I did like that is in the Selected Works, “Posing for Our First Commission Picture” and I treat that like a painting and approach that the same way.”

TS: Quickly, what’s the name of your new chapbook?

“Folding the Notes, coming out this month from Chicory Bloom Press from in Thibodeau. It’s a really small edition. The first edition is an edition of 40, and if there’s a demand for it they’ll be more published. But it’s an exclusive hand-sewn edition put together by this husband and wife team. They don’t do it as a marketing thing. They do it as a labor of love.”

Brad Richard is the founder of the Lusher Charter School’s creative writing program, established in the high and middle school when the expanded Lusher moved to the Fortier campus and expanded it’s art centric curriculum to include certifications in the arts for students concentrating on a disciple such as writing, visual arts, music or dance. A graduate and former teacher at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, who spoke to Toulouse Street about the Lusher writing program and his student’s assignment to write poems about selected works of art at NOMA.

TS: Tell me a little bit about the program.

Richard: “It started on the Fortier campus. Lusher had been a K-8 for a long time and had a very, very strong integrated arts curriculum. So the arts and the academics are very strongly connected. Then when they started the high school, instead of just elective options they wanted to have serious training options for students who needed more than you can just get in electives. So they hired a fantastic roster of faculty in all the arts and that’s when they wanted a writing program. And I learned about it and came on board.”

TS: What inspired this particular exercise?

Richard: “I’ve written a lot of ekphrastic poetry myself and I’ve included it in out curriculum but actually Sheila contacted us independently of that, trying to do more outreach to get more kids in the museum.”

TS: How did the students react to this assignment?

Richard: “They really like it. As with anything quite like this its interesting seeing the different types of responses. If you’ve looked at the little booklet, with the Dorothea Tanning painting there are three people who wrote responses to that and the Whisper of Love painting, two people wrote about that. Its fascinating seeing what totally different takes students will have to a single artwork. We did some some preparation for them, about ways to imaginatively approach this.”

TS: Are your students drawn to a particular form, do you have fiction authors or poets, or students who are

Richard: “It’s a whole gamut. That’s one of the great things about teaching this age group. I was at NOCCA for a long time and it was the same experience there. It’s wonderful to catch people when they are just discovering what they are really most interested in and are willing to do anything. They’re curious about all of it.”

TS: Next week your launching this year’s literary journal, Street. Is that a new thing?

Richard: “We’ve had that since the very first year. It’s student-edited. There is artwork in their by Lusher students, and there’s one for the middle school and the high school. We’ll be launching in Saturday, April 23 at 2 p.m. at Maple Street Bookshop.”

The Slow Noon Burn of June 16 April 17, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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My runner-up entry in the NolaVie Creative Writing Contest, selected from among 157 entries in poetry and creative non-fiction, is published now on the NolaVie page of NOLA.com.

NOMA Centennial Poem April 16, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque reads the ekphrastic poem “Reading Ida Kohlmeyer‘s Cluster # 39″ commissioned by the New Orleans Museum of Art for its centennial. The reading and discussion was part of a weekend of poetry events organized by museum librarian Sheila Cork ,which included poets writing Friday evening in the sculpture garden and a collection of similar poems written by the students of poet Brad Richard’s creative writing program at Lusher Charter School and collected with Bourque’s in a booklet.

Unfortunately this isn’t great video, as it was taken with my phone the Druid (as the Android OS insists I must mean to type when I type Droid, which is Odd), but crank up the volume and you can hear it well enough. Sadly, you can’t see the painting well and I can’t find it on the Internet.

I’ll have more on this event and on the poetry written by Richard’s students, and their readings in front of the NOMA paintings that inspired them, later here and on NolaVie on NOLA.COM.

Odd Words: NOMA Edition April 14, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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As I spread my tentacles out further looking for literary events to list, I discovered that the New Orleans Museum of Art his hosting a series of events this afternoon that didn’t make this week’s column. According to the young woman who gave me the flier tonight, the current librarian at NOMA is mad for poetry and we might look for more events like this.

& First: Poets for hire. From the flier, NOMA invites you to meet Poets in the Great Hall and Sculpture Garden Friday from 5:30-8:30 pm. From my informant this will include a few of the street poets who write on demand on Frenchman Street and elsewhere, parked strategically with their typewriters, writing about their surroundings and by visitors, who are invited to write their own poems.

& On Saturday at 10 a.m., Louisiana Poet Darrell Bourque will share the poem he wrote as part of the musem’s centennial, followed by a program in the auditorium about poetry and art. Bourque will also sign his most recent book In Ordinary Light, New and Selected Poems, 2010.

& After lunch, students of Brad Richard of the Lusher Charter School creative writing program will read ekphrastic poems inspired by artworks at the museum us old farts still think of as Delgado in front of those works of art. and Bourque will be on hand to discuss the student’s work. Bourque himself writes a fair amount of ekphrastic poetry, which is well represented in his new collection.

Elephants on Parade April 14, 2011

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Voices and whistles, the constant beeping of backing vehicles and the rattle of steel frames, all the noise of massive tents being erected: I almost expect the elephants to pass in parade but it’s not the circus come to town but the preparations for Jazz Fest. I admit the listings don’t inspire much excitement and I was thinking I would only go one day to see two of my favorite tenors, my son Matt and Sonny Rollins, but watching the jazz, blues and gospel tents assembling just across from my stoop on Fortin Street I have to admit I get the pleasantly anxious sensation of a child walking to school on Friday morning watching them erect the Ferris wheel.

I may still decide to go on only one day for a host of reasons including the lineup but I can still anticipate mornings on my stoop watching the crowds, sipping from a tall mug of coffee–black as the devil, hot as hell and strong as sin–listening to the sounds of the gospel tent wafting across Fortin Street. If you see an odd looking shirtless man dancing barefoot to Jesus on the Mainline as you walk in you will have found the temporary quarters of Toulouse Street.

P.S. While we’re on the subject of jazz and elephants…

Odd Words Oops April 14, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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I forgot to include Chris Champagne’s listing for Thursday and Friday in Odd Words but it is there now.

Odd Words April 13, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Thursday night at Octavia Books at 6 p.m. I will join the winners and other runners up in the NolaVie Creative Writing Contest reading. My creative non-fiction submission, “The Slow Noon Burn of June 16″ (which previously ran on this blog in 2009 but was taken down when I entered it for publication and in this contest). I’ll schedule it to re-post Thursday night sometime after the reading.

The winners are Erik Vande Stouwe, for his poetry piece “Hapax Legomena”, and “Son of a Nun,” a work of non-fiction by Christopher Thomas. The poetry runner up is Hurricane Alter / Altar” by Megan Burns. Stop by and buy a book why don’t you. I’ll be the guy waving copies of A Howling in the Wires around before and after my reading.

& For those of you who voted in this poll over the last week (it’s not too late to vote), most voters favored interviews with local authors, followed by book reviews. Remember to select as many answers as are relevant before you click See Results.

& I’m publishing early (on Wednesday) because I forgot to this this one last week: Neighborhood Story Project and Cripple Creek Theater Company present Home is Where the (_____) Is: New Orleans through Seven Stories of Migration. The product of nine months of workshops by seven women writers, Home is Where the Blank Is tells the stories of the city as it currently sits—home to long-time residents and arrivistes. Wednesday, April 13 at 7:00pm at the Allways Lounge theater. More details here.

& The Octavia events means I’ll be late for 17 Poets! tonight, but then so will a few other people who entered the contest. I’ll get up there at some point to hear Kelly Clayton. Ms. Clayton is a Louisiana Creole with roots on both sides of the family dating back to 1778. She recently moved home after twenty glorious years in New York City. Writing poetry full time, she has earned a living as an editor, waitress, line cook, publisher’s assistant, event producer and stripper; all this after dropping out of beauty school.

& I’ve decided I like ampersands better than the section mark hurricane symbol thing I’ve been using for bullets since the WordPress unordered list function works so poorly. As if you care or even noticed, but I spent long enough in and around printing to actually think about such things and who doesn’t love ampersands?

& Also on Wednesdays at 9.m. starting this week, be sure to check out the open poetry forum hosted by Kate Smash in the amphitheater on Decatur across from Jackson Square. No list, no mic, just anyone who shows up free to read what they like. Musicians encouraged to join.

& Also on Thursday, April 14 Cyril E. Vetter, long-time friend of singer/songwriter Charles “Butch” Hornsby, presents a fictionalized account of his friend’s life in Dirtdobber Blues from LSU Press at Maple Street Bookshop at 6 p.m. This book, just under 200 pages, includes sheet music and a CD with fourteen of Hornsby’s songs. “Much like Hornsby’s life, Dirtdobber Blues consists of short, fast-paced segments.”

& And another Thursday (and Friday) show I forgot (sorry Chris): One of New Orleans’ Best Satirists Chris Champagne performs “JINDALIWOOD SQUARES” April 15 and 16 @ 8PM at the Fair Grinds Coffee House. $10 Cheap.

& The Ebony Center at 4215 Magazine Street hosts a weekly spoken-word, music and open-mic event. Tickets $7 general admission, $5 students. 11 p.m. Friday.

& While I don’t normally do cookbooks, Troy Gilbert is a great writer (and a swell guy) and Cafe Degas is a family favorite restaurant. Troy will be at the Southern Food Museum gift shop on Saturday, April 16 from 2-4 p.m. signing copies of his cookbook, Café Degas. Samples from Chefs Jacques Soulas and Jerry Edgar of the restaurant will be available. Free admission to the museum will be offered with the purchase of any of Gilbert’s books.

&</ Also on Saturday, Poet Gian “G-Persepect” Smith and Alphonse “Bobby” Smith host Pass It On, a weekly spoken-word and music event at the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, 2003 Carondelet St. Admission $6. 9 p.m

&</ This Saturday’s reading by contributors to Where We Know: New Orleans as Home has been canceled. No reschedule date yet.

& On Wednesdays, be sure to check out the open poetry forum hosted by Kate Smash in the amphitheater on Decatur across from Jackson Square. No list, no mic, just anyone who shows up free to read what they like. Musicians encouraged to join.

& Next week on Thursday, April 21, University of Kentucky geographer Michael E. Crutcher Jr. will discuss and sign his new book Treme, which explores the historical links between where the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood is located and its vibrant culture. At Octavia Books, 6 p.m.

& Richard Webster’s serious twisted and wonderful Bubbles from Atlantis is now out in paperback. This idiosyncratic chronicle of a local journalist’s postdiluvian Coleridge-on-opium experioence of New Orleans is a refreshing change from the typical Katrina book and not all what you would expect from a business news writer. Trust me.

Interiority Complex April 12, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, literature, Odd Words, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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NetLit maven Scott McClannahan discusses the differences between him and many of his peers in “NetLit”, the young generation of writers closely tied to online literary communities they participate in, over at HTMLGiant. In this particular case, the question is as interesting than the answer.

You often tour and read with good writers whose project is a kind of willful avoiding of interiority, and which seems rather self-protective in its unwillingness to take positions on things. There is a flatness to that kind of now-very-popular prose which seems in many ways to be the opposite of the aesthetic you’re chasing here, which seems to take up the side of utmost vulnerability. When you think of your work, do you think of it on these terms? What is it that you are trying to accomplish with your stories? Do you mean to offer the reader a particular type of experience, or do you think of the reader at all? You must, is what I think, since you even address the reader directly in the book.

McCLANAHAN: Yeah, I think there’s something really phony about saying you don’t want to create something within the reader or you could care less about issues of politics, Frisbees, whatever. I’m from a state where people die every week so that you can check your e-mail. The outside world exists.

I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with people over the past couple of weeks going on about the dangers of nuclear power. I want to say, “Do you know how many coal miners across the globe have died in the past sixty years?”

Now, do I want to write about that? Of course not, but is it part of my world? Of course it is.

I’m just saying that people are alive. I’m just saying, “I exist. Do you exist? Isn’t life fucking miserable sometimes, but isn’t it fucking great to be alive sometimes too?”

I know existing doesn’t create a sense of obligation in anyone, but I’m just afraid we’re going to lose our capacity for joy if we’re not careful. We are the Pill Generation. Who wants to be against JOY? I don’t. Some folks just want to talk you to death.

Emphasis mine. Which I guess is to say if you like Tao Lin you really won’t like this blog, but it’s not too late to escape. Come back and talk to me about Lin after you’ve slogged through some Robbe-Grillet. Or at least some Raymond Carver, where if nothing else happens the sun moves beautifully across the kitchen as the characters drink themsevles into a stupor, and do not answer “Whaddya wanna do?” with “I dunno, whadda you wanna do?”

Maybe it was that class on Logical Positivism that messed me up (look what a serious philosophy jones did to David Foster Wallace) but I tend to reject a self-consciously (meta-) ironic superficiality as an aesthetic. To me interiority is the only place of authority from which to look out at the world, to publish the passwords to your soul as the one certain way to connect for good or ill with your reader, or any other living soul.

The N.O. Jazz and Some Other Stuff Festival April 11, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans.
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I was talking to a friend the other day about how we had both fallen into like bluegrass music (Jerry Garcia recording Old and in the Way and the New Riders of the Purple Haze had a lot to do with it), and it put me in mind of the times I saw Doc and Merle Watson as a featured name artist at Jazz Fest.

Once upon a time the big Spring festival was the Jazz and Heritage Festival in earnest. I found a website, Swag’s Jazzfest Cube Rescue, which tries to capture old “cubes” showing the artists performing in years passed, and looking at cubes from say 2000 and a handful of earlier vintage reminded me how much the festival has transformed, and not necessarily for the better. Anyone remember the last time a blue grass band played the Gentilly Stage on a weekend? Me either. Neither does the Festival, as searching for Doc or Merle Watson on their official list of past performers turns up nada.

Looking at the old cubes was like a trip back in time to a schedule heavy with R&B, Blues and Jazz greats, along with a heaping helping of major local artists. As recently as the last Sunday in 2000, the closing acts were The Radiators, John Mooney, The Neville Brothers, Sonny Landreth, Joe Sample and King Sunny Ade and his African Beats. The closest the Festival got to pop acts that year were Lenny Kravitz and Lyle Lovette. Now the Festival seem to be in competition for the Voodoo Festival crowd, and I think anyone with a long history of attending the Festival will admit it is not just the same. I don’t know if the apocryphal story of a certain pop band’s fans booing Dr. John is true or not, but it feels about right.

If you don’t remember those days at the Fairgrounds, consider this. The lineup at this years French Quarter Festival is about what the lineup used to look like at Jazz Fest, minus the few big touring names. And it doesn’t cost $50 to go. Now if you’re a fan of Wheezer (whatever that is) or whoever else, $50 isn’t a bad price for access to the band whose stage you will camp in front of all day, with an entire afternoon of opening acts that might open your eyes to some new and different music and a all you can afford buffet of some of the best food and crafts you’ll see anywhere. Go for it. Have a blast. Stop by my stoop on Fortin Street and buy a water bottle. We’re glad you came to see your band and are here spending lots of money. Come back real soon. Or come for French Quarter Fest next year and see what you missed when your parents were coming to the Fairgrounds: a true festival of our heritage.

Odd Words Again April 10, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Two new items have come to my attention since last Thursday:

& Poet Brad Richards who just published the collection Motion Studies will read at 7 p.m. in Tulane’s Chubb Hall.

& A new open poetry reading will be held in the amphitheater o Decatur Street Wednesdays at 9 p.m. No list, no mic, all welcome. Organizer Kate Smash hopes to replicate a successful reading series held at a subway station in San Frisco. 

Cochon Delayed April 8, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, literature, Toulouse Street.
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So my “Last Book I Loved” piece on Mystic Pig;Mystic Pig finally ran at The Rumpus and I couldn’t be more pleased. It took me almost year after The Rumpus started the feature to get around to writing it and when I finally did, I had to go back and forth with the editor explaining that starting a Fan Page on Facebook didn’t amount to a relationship withe author or the publisher. I put up the Facebook page for the same reason I wrote the piece: I love this book, and want the world to read it.

Someone please get that 1970s Coke jingle out of my head.

Seriously, this book belongs in the New Orleans Canon alongside Confederacy, The Moviegoer and Streetcar Names Desire. If you take issue with that in the comments be warned I’m liable to show up at your doorstep with my loaner copy because it’s so damned obscure I’m sure you haven’t read it. It vanished pretty quickly after its first publication, although Richard Katrovas went on to publish other books of autobiography and poetry.

From The Rumpus:

It is a novel, not a cookbook, but my sister the full-on foodie insists that the recipes all look workable, and what could be more perfect than a story about New Orleans that incidentally teaches you how to make white chocolate bread pudding and jambalaya?

It’s difficult to improve on the original publisher’s description– “This is a novel about sex and sexuality and race and madness and violence and fine dining. Not necessarily in that order”—but I’ll try.

It’s not in local bookstores because it has no U.S. distributor, but it is on Mystic Pig Amazon. When I got mine I had to by it from the publisher in England and pay the exchange rate plus extra shipping. You can get yours for $15 bucks and the usual freight, so don’t wait.

More Odds Words for This Week April 7, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Two quick things, a correction and something I just learned about today for next Wednesday.

§ First, the correction. Tonight on April 7 poet and comedian Chris Champagne will do a one night performance of his show Race Track Tales , at 8 p.m at The Steak Knife Restaurant on Harrison Avenue in Lakeview. Sorry about the wrong time in the original post, Chris.

§ The Neighborhood Story Project and Cripple Creek Theater Company present Home is Where the (_____) Is: New Orleans through Seven Stories of Migration. The product of nine months of workshops by seven women writers, Home is Where the Blank Is tells the stories of the city as it currently sits—home to long-time residents and arrivistes. Wednesday, April 13 at 7:00pm at the Allways Lounge theater. More details here.

More Odd Words? April 7, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, literature, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Odd Words April 6, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write
— W.S. Merwin, “Berryman”

Another Wednesday without a thought in my head worth putting down here, so go read Blake’s dark-night-of-the-writer’s-block piece on HTMLGiant.

I’m going to post a poll about the future of Odd Words and Toulouse Street in general. The idea that floated through my head as I was drifting off to sleep last night is to expand into interviews with local authors, editors, booksellers, poets, etc., and to possibly add reviews of local-interest books. Let me know what you think.

I’m halfway through my stack of books from the past weeks so of course while I was out in the cultural tundra of suburban Metairie last night on errands I went and bought Roberto Belaño’s 2666 because, really: isn’t sleep sort of a waste of time?

§ The 17 Poets! page on Facebook offers the following inducement to attend Thursday, April 7 at 8 p.m: “Poet Sunday Angleton will wow us with lyrical circus acrobatics and hypothetical epithet origami.” Why would you not want to go see this?

§ Also on April 7, author Jason Berry will give a dramatic reading of his recently published play Earl Long in Purgatory at Octavia Books at 6 p.m. I’m going to seriously have to consider how to do a two-fer Thursday night.

§ Also on Thursday night (damn), poet and comedian Chris Champagne will do a one night performance of his show Race Track Tales , at CORRECTION 8 p.m. at The Steak Knife Restaurant on Harrison Avenue in Lakeview.

§ The Ebony Center at 4215 Magazine Street hosts a weekly spoken-word, music and open-mic event. Tickets $7 general admission, $5 students. 11 p.m. Friday.

§ On noon on Saturday, Andre Perry signs, discusses and reads from The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City. Noon. signs, discusses and reads from his UNO Press book on New Orleans education The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.

§ The Latter Library will host a Memoir Writing Workshop with Linda Yasnyi and David O’Donaghue sponsored by The New Orleans Lyceum on Saturday at 2 p.m. (I’ll be at FQF or I think I would definitely do this).

§ Also on Saturday, Poet Gian “G-Persepect” Smith and Alphonse “Bobby” Smith host Pass It On, a weekly spoken-word and music event at the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, 2003 Carondelet St. Admission $6. 9 p.m

§ On Sunday, April 10 APRIL 10 – Lafayette poet Toby Daspit reads from his work followed by an open mike at the Maple Street Bar, 3-ish. This event was forced inside by a private party last Sunday, and with the jukebox off Thaddeus Conti actually had half the visible bar crowd paying attention. Given Thaddeus work is so far from accessible you have to follow blazes cut into barstools to reach it, you have to think the problem with poetry is poets. If you want an audience, make it loud with a band and do it in the front of the bar.

§ The Fair Grinds no longer hosts a poetry reading on Sunday afternoons (contrary to the badly updated listings in the local newspapers), but there is a small poetry discussion circle that meets most Sundays at 7 p.m. there, organized by Malcolm Willison and Delia Nakayama. If you drop by, bring copies of a poem you would like the others to read and discuss, or a favorite book.

§ Also on Sunday, the Craige Cultural Center on 1800 Newton in Algiers hosts UniVERSES, a weekly spoken-word, music and open-mic event. Tickets $5. 8 p.m. Sunday.

§ Author of the novel-cum-movie Water for Elephants will discuss her novel Ape House at Octavia Books Monday at 6 pm.

§ Author Barb Johnson will be at the Columns Hotel for the 1718 Reading Series. It’s FREE, but if you donate $10 toward an AROHO Fellowship, she wll put your name in whatever story she reads. $50, and she’ll read in the accent of your choosing. April 12, 7 pm. I have confirmed that she can do Boris and Natasha. Chose the LAM Fellowship if you choose to give. I can’t afford fifty but really: you could spend $10 at Popeyes. OK, I could spend $10 at Popeyes and I show it. You gonna eat that wing?

I haven’t posted my disclaimer in a while. This isn’t a comprehensive listing of events in New Orleans. Such a beast doesn’t yet exist, but it could if you find this and take a moment to email me about your upcoming events. Generally, I post things I think I might like to attend (but may amend that per the note above about expanding this aspect of the blog). If I’m there, I’m the old fart in a young man’s hat. Say hello Email: markfolse AT rocketmail DOT com.

Taking It To The Street April 5, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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It seems that we’ve beaten out the Doobie Brothers for the top of the list for Google queries of “Toulouse Street.” It makes me, I don’t know, want to hear some funky Dixieland or something.

Today’s Reading Assignment April 1, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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You do frequently check out the excellent group blog barks, bugs, leaves & lizards, don’t you? Really? Why not?

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