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On Odd Fellow’s Memorial Day May 30, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Between the post op pain and the Vicodin I don’t think I can manage words better than these for Memorial Day, so I’ll just repost this from 2009.

I was born in 1957 and so I am reckoned one of the last of the baby boomers, that generation borne by the parents who went through World War II. I grew up in a neighborhood full of fathers who had served in World War II, some later in Korea, and frankly I do not remember anyone making much of Memorial Day.

It was the sort of day when the grownups would sit outside, cocktails in hand and laughing; one of the last days before the heat became unbearable, when they could reenact the ritual they knew from the days before air conditioning of sitting out and visiting with the neighbors; a day when the children would run wild up and down the lawn-flanked, oak-shared lanes that ran behind all our houses, as tipsy as our parents on the first days of summer freedom. The fog man might come by in his war surplus jeep pumping God only knows what sort of poison out in a bright, white cloud to keep down the mosquitoes, and the kids would run after him and into the cloud yelling, “the fog man, the fog man”, our small bodies sucking up the DDT while our parents drank bourbon and branch and let us run wild.

Most people’s childhoods must seem an idyllic time looking back from the age of fifty-something but ours seems particularly so as I watch my children grow up without a pack of children on the block and among neighbors who mostly don’t socialize as our parents did. The place we grew up, the upper-middle class suburb of Lake Vista with its cul de sac streets and the shaded sidewalks called lanes that ran behind the houses and up to broad parkways that bisected the neighborhood, was certainly Edenic compared to most every other place I’ve lived.

By the early 1960s it was full of families whose fathers had made something of themselves after the war, professionals and small business men who had done well. These were not people who came home and joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion, the ones who kept their old uniforms and decorations to pull out on Memorial Day to parade down the street. Those were not our fathers: men who after the war were busy trying to finish school or start careers with small children and wives they married so young, who were busily trying to sort out and make something of their life. No one in our neighborhood joined those groups or marched in those parades.

Our father’s did not talk much about the war to us even as we ran through the neighborhood armed with plastic replicas of the very weapons they had carried, acting out the hundreds of old war movies that were a staple of television of the time. We did not much go in for Cowboys and Indians, but preferred to play act the battles of the TV show Combat! For my own father perhaps it was the one experience he told me of, huddled in a beet furrow somewhere in France pinned down by machine gun fire and raked by mortars. He huddled in that furrow, dug small shelves into the mud and lined them with tissue and tore down his Browning Automatic Rifle which had landed in the mud.

He was one of the few survivors of that event, and while he never spoke of it except in outline (and to proudly recount how he cleaned his BAR) I can readily imagine laying there in the dark and the rain, cleaning his weapon while around him most of the young men he had trained with for this day lay dead or dying, some of them perhaps crying out, others fingering the rosaries like the one I still have, the one my mother made for my father to take with him. If to these men Memorial Day was not a time to remember what they went through but to celebrate their survival, to relish friends and family over cocktails on a buggy, summery afternoon I can find no fault in that.

I grew up in an era when the little cardboard bank calendars, the ones with the bank’s name in faux gold leaf and a mercury thermometer in the frame, still listed Confederate Memorial Day (observed on Jefferson Davis’ birthday on June 3rd in most of the South, so soon after the current observance). Perhaps that is a small part of the lack of enthusiasm for the official Memorial Day. And this far toward the equator a Monday in late May is not the first day warm enough for the beach or a big picnic in the park, not by a long shot. If anything, Memorial Day is likely as not to be the first truly miserable day of summer, when the mercury in those little calendar thermometers would first climb above ninety and the breeze in from the lake was as full of water as the pitcher that sat on the patio table and we were just as sweaty.

So come Memorial Day down in New Orleans we might catch the President laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns on the 10 o’clock news as we crawl into bed, stuffed with grilled steak and itchy with bug bites and sleepy from too much beer in the sun, but the reason for the day will largely escape our notice. As the air conditioning whistles us to sleep it might occur to us that summer, at last, has truly arrived, as wet and heavy and ominous as a blizzard turned inside out.

Memorial Day has a new and special significance for me: this is the day I arrived home. In May 2006 I left the children with their grandparents in Fargo, N.D. to be put on a plane later, hitched the boat to the back of the car and started south. Three days later on Memorial Day, 2006 I parked the boat in a marina yard in Mandeville, and made my way across the lake to the small house on Toulouse Street that is now our home. When I sat down to write about it this time last year the real significance of the date finally began to sink in. The first years it was, “oh, this was the week the kids and I got to New Orleans”, but not a day fraught with meaning.

I ead those old words (trying to recall how many beers in the sun proceeded that post) and I once again recall that drive as if it were yesterday. It occurs to me that taking a short cut down Polk in Lakeview–over broken streets that already looked like Patton’s Third Army had rolled over them 20 years before the flood, lined three years ago with houses that looked like the combat-broken landscape of the war movies of my childhood–I had missed passing all of the large monuments of the cemeteries.

I can’t quite name them all unless I jump in the car or on the bike and ride up and down City Park Avenue but a few some to mind, the firefighter’s memorial from the days of the old volunteer fire companies and the mounded hill that covers the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks mausoleum in Greenwood, the tall Grecian column just across the street that memorializes I don’t know what (but will have to wander over later and find out), the pharaonic family tomb that squats in a corner of Metairie Cemetery just off of the interstate.

Somewhere behind the perpetually uncared for broken clock that stands at the head of Canal Street in Greenwood Cemetery lies the Hilbert family tomb where my father and brother lay with my mother’s family. Someday when my mother and her sister are not around to question me I will put up a stone that says Folse atop the one that reads Hilbert, but I don’t want to be buried there among the Hilberts. I have no idea what anyone reading this should do with my remains, but that tomb is not the place. It will not be my own tiny monument in that field of raised tombs.

I often spoke of building a raised tomb when I lived in Fargo, anxious that I might just be tossed into the ground like the rest of them, wanting my far off branch of the family to have a proper memorial of the sort someone from New Orleans expects. Now I think: better to be cremated and hope I have friends who survive me who will know what to do with those ashes, the places that were significant enough to me to be fitting. The thought that those friends will know what to do is probably memorial enough, to know I will be remembered.

For now the only personal monuments I care about are the ones I have built here, the Wet Bank Guide and this one, Toulouse Street, and the pieces out of the Wet Bank Guide that make up Carry Me Home. I don’t want to be remembered for myself but rather as just another of the people who came home, that one cross you see in some pictures with a flag planted, or a spray of flowers in the endless fields of green and white that are military cemeteries. I want to be remembered as one of them all, as someone who helped to tell their story.

As we planned for the [2009] Rising Tide conference the other night, the talk turned to how New Orleans has changed, and its people with it. Someone madet he comparison that occurs to me over and over again: that of the people of the Federal Flood to those of the Greatest Generation. Orleanians are thought indolent and silly with our devotion to festival and food above all else but all around me are people who have been through a profound trauma most Americans can barely imagine. They survived the biggest displacement Americans seen since the Civil War, returned to a city more like Europe after the bombardment and battles of WWII than anything ever seen on this continent, have struggled for years (still struggle today) to live here and rebuild.

These are a people who have seen death and devastation, known loss and disappointment that is painful to catalog, suffer from a traumatic stress that is not post traumatic stress because it is not yet over, may never be over for people of the generation of the flood, and still they get up on certain days and march down to the appointed place and eat and drink and dance and are happy. They are at once not that different from my parents sitting out on Memorial Day and at some deep level they are profoundly transformed. As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood they are people who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and made the case for why we should be here. Few people since the days of the pioneers have a stronger claim to a place.

Some will think it irreverent and disrespectful to say this on Memorial Day, even as soldiers patrol in far off lands and on this day sacred to soldiers some may die, but I have said it before and I will say it again. I look at the people around me and all they have been through and all they have accomplished to remake their home and I think: there is no finer place to be an American today than in their company, here in New Orleans.

A thousand silos aimed at what? May 29, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Jazz, literature, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Gil Scott-Heron died the other day.

I had been thinking of him lately, partly born out of a conversation I had during Jazz Fest. I spent most those two weekends sitting on my stoop on one of the plastic chairs I set out front, watching the crowds pass in and out the Sauvage Street gate, seeing who would pick up a sheet or three from the Free Jazz Poetry box I had placed atop of five gallon bucket on Fortin Street. Any number of people stopped by and asked if they could sit for a minute, and I always said yes.

One afternoon a young black man who had been handing out Where Y’at asked to sit.He had come by earlier and picked up a sheaf of the poems I had printed up and laid out, not true jazz poems in the technical sense but poems written about musicians I admire. He still had the poems in his hands when he sat down. I asked him about handing out newspapers, if he was getting a free ticket to Jazz Fest like the hawkers of free copies of Off Beat. No, he was just getting paid to do it.

I’m also a poet, he said after we sat silently for a bit, smoking. I asked him where he read or performed. He wasn’t doing much of that here in New Orleans, he said. He wasn’t a New York style slam performer. He preferred the words, and apparently NOLA is all about the performance. And everywhere is a clique in spoken word circles, he said. I told him the mostly white mainstream poetry scene was pretty much the same. Uptown at the Leaf, downtown at the Goldmine, the universities: everywhere people were huddled in their little groups and only a few people regularly crossed those lines. Even outside of poetry, there are groups of writers clustered together who rarely talk to each other. We’re all in our little silos.

I told him I had been looking into checking out some of the spoken word events, even though I can’t hold anything in memory long enough to ever get up to the mike, and I’m certainly no performer. A handful of Black poets come to traditional poetry readings, but almost no one from my world ventures into the spoken word circle. I told him about visiting a spoken word event when I was in D.C. on business, at the historic Cavern night club on U Street, the only white person there, sitting alone against the wall sipping whiskey. They asked me when I came in if I was going to read, but I never did. I sat there soaking up the beautiful words and thinking about the people who occasionally visit the Goldmine or the Maple Leaf, wondering if they felt as alien as I did that night.

Artists like Gil Scott-Heron and Sun Ra (also much on my mind of late) spoke from a Black experience but did not intend their art to be only for people just like them. Sun Ra is often pigeon holed in the Afro-futurist movement he is credited with creating, is often thought to be Afrocentic in the exclusionary sense of the the men selling The Final Call who will not meet your eye. But Sun Ran himself spoke in his poetry of “niggers of all colors” and in the opening of his flim Space is the Place he first speaks of bringing the Black people of Earth to a new planet of their own, but quickly suggests that they bring the whole planet to a new world to start over.

Gil Scott-Heron certainly spoke from his Black experience but not all of his work is Afrocentric. Pieces like We Beg Your Pardon (about the Nixon pardon) and Winter in America spoke for all Americans, to all Americans who were ready to listen. He collaborated with rap and hip hop artists but declined the title of father of rap, saying he preferred Jazz. In spite of works like Whitey on the Moon there is not feeling he fell into the seperatist trap. Heron and Ra understood the universal power of music, to speak to all people, to get people to listen, to make a transformation in the world.

Here in 21st Century New Orleans writers divide themselves up by race, by ward, by style, by where’d-you-go-to-school, just like everyone else. I sat around with a dozen people who would seem to understand the power of words during the visit of New York writer Eileen Miles and who told jokes about why there are no Republican poets: they’re all speech writers. The laughter was uneasy. We understand the power of words but don’t do enough to use them as a weapon or a spell to change the world, leaving that to others. We sit in our comfortable groups and read to or perform for each other each in our chosen denomination of the church of the word, never thinking to step over the threshold into another experience. We think ourselves wiser, more hip but are we that much better off than everyone else living in the speed-dial, cable-package, friends list silos the masters have wrought to keep us penned like factory farm animals?

The young poet was trained as a journalist and had worked in that field out west, but everywhere in New Orleans he found door closed against him. One publisher went so far as to tell him they already had their black writer. I went into the house and pulled out my copy of Atlantis Now, a new magazine of culture and arts in the city founding young Black men at UNO. Given them a try, I suggested, and he said he would.

We already have our Black writer? Really? I wish I had asked him who that was. Even as our corporate fathers realign my job to another state and I was thinking of trying to make a go of free-lancing and to out that person would seriously fuck up my own prospects I would gladly call them out. One thing we learn from the great artists is the need to be fearless. For a long time on my blog and emails I had a signature taken from a poem by Audre Lorde: “and when we speak we are afraid/our words will not be heard/nor welcomed/but when we are silent/we are still afraid/So it/is better to speak/remembering/we were never meant to survive.” I watched the PBS special on the Freedom Riders two weeks ago and can’t shake the idea of twenty-year olds making their last will and testament then boarding the buses. Where are those people now?

So much that troubled Henry Blount in his youth in the 40s and 50s and gave birth to the persona Sun Ra, all the issues that fueled Scott-Heron’s work in the 60s and 70s are still with us, issues of class and race compounded in New Orleans by our rigid system of caste and ward, where the universal question of a stranger “where’d you go to school” is a password challenge: are you one of us? This is particularly sad in New Orleans, the place where the uniquely African-American forms of jazz and R&B that are the basis of America’s mainstream culture we all embrace were born. And a city given the same clean slate as Noah, a city where for one bright shining moment we were not Black or white, Uptown or Downtown, Catholic or Baptist but all children of the flood, a chance at transformation that we promptly squandered.

I know Scott-Heron’s music but haven’t read much about his thoughts of the world he just left, a world still under the seventh-generation curse of slavery. I wonder if art can really transform the world. If we don’t open our hearts and really listen it it can just be emotional heroin, a withdrawal into the soothing numbness of familiarity and our fractional identities, a habit hard to break. Yes the world has changed. We have a Black president presiding over the antiquated atomic silos that dot the Dakotas but our worries today are not The Bomb. Our worry is the silos we have built for ourselves that make the new Vietnams of the east possible, that leave us paralyzed to act as the right froths over Obama with the same vitriol as Alabamians meeting the Freedom Riders, in cities rings\ed with a wall of big box malls while the center withers in apathy, a world where Whitey’s On The Moon still resonates as the last space shuttles fly over a planet full of hunger and pain.

And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or been betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It’s winter, Lord knows
It’s winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America

– Gil Scott-Heron

N.B. — Read the comment just below the video.

Odd Words May 26, 2011

Posted by The Typist in literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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I had what the insurance industry has deemed minor, day surgery on what friends in their medical school rotations told me they called The Big Eye. The nurse who called yesterday was pleased that I was up and around a bit, and insisted that I not hesitate to avail myself of the big bottle of pain killers I was given, which raises the question of just how minor it was. Between staring mindlessly at some stuff on Netflix Instant View I will have to check the queue to remember and futile attempts to read and catch up at work, I haven’t given this column much thought.

Worse, I’ve been laying in a bed full of books but haven’t gotten very far with any of them. I picked up a copy of a Murakami book I hadn’t run across before, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but I haven’t gotten very far. The same goes for the latest book in The Rumpus Poetry Book Club, or the new Gulf Coast. I’m glad I picked up Laurence Ferlinghetti’s Poetry as Insurgent Art book at Domy, because its collection of short aphorisms on writing seems perfectly suited to my current attention span.

Its been hectic has hell leading up to this, with a business trip sandwiched between two readings/signings for Chin Music Press’ Where We Know New Orleans As Home, first in Austin and last Thursday in Houston, both at the amazing Domy Books. Before I suggest again that Houston is in fact the Biggest Eye of them all I may have to reconsider if it can manage to sustain a store like that, full of beautiful books–not just art books, but books as art, and an eclectic but wonderful set of literary choices. and walls full of art and odd tchothckes, some literary and some just too strange to try to explain. If you’re ever in Houston or Austin, you’ll just have to visit.

There’s almost nothing to list, so before I drift off to sleep from boredom contemplating the coming week, I better get to the listings such as they are.

& Thursday at the Goldmine the grande dame of New Orleans literary scene LEE MEITZEN GRUE celebrates the launch of her latest book of poetry, DOWNTOWN (Trembling Pillow Press 2011) with food & desserts from Angelo Brocato’s. Grue has been at the forefront of the New Orleans poetry scene since the 1960s and edits the long running journal New Laurel Review. Her previous books include Trains and other Intrusions, French Quarter Poems, In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh, and Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud (short fiction).

& I really need to get over to the The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse on Daneel Street one Thursday for the new incarnation of Thaddeus Conti’s Dinky Tao poetry group, but I know it won’t be this week. Sorry, Thadeus.

&On Sunday May 29 the New Orleans Haiku Society will be featured at the Maple Leaf Bar at 3 p.m. Its a short listing. Read it twice.

Because of all my travels I didn’t get by last week’s big events,“Martin Behrman Charter School Presents The 1st Annual Poetry on the Avenue or any of the Haiku Society’s annual conference, and now there’s not much going on. I do want to say thanks again to Rachel of Dangermond.org for writing up something from the Tennessee Williams Festival’s annual Saints & Sinners GLBT literary festival. And I do plan to kick off my promised series of interviews with local writers, starting with Lee Grue in the next couple of weeks to liven up the slow summer season. Until then, pick up that book under your bed your forgot about and keep cool inside by making some time to read.

Reverse Hibernation May 22, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Last week was all shrieks of backing vehicles and the clang of metal skeletons disassembled. The last vestiges of Jazz Fest lie on the ground, bundles of tent cover line up as neat as duffels of a unit shipping out. The circus has left town, taking its rock-star trapeze and trumpeting elephants elsewhere, leaving us to settle in to our own tropical extravagance, our early blossoming sub-tropical summer. It has been unseasonably cool a few days, as if to remind us that somewhere the last shady remnants of dirty snow have only just vanished and back-yard tomatoes are still seen only on seed packets impaled on stakes.

Other days we stood on the levees as the temperature crested ninety, the water lapping at our feet as we watched the winter melt and the spring thunderstorms rushing past, tugs struggling upriver at barely a baby’s crawl while bellowing diesel exhaust, rooster rails pluming up behind the madly spinning propellers. They opened the Morganza Spillway and drowned a dozen small towns nestled on the flood banks of Atchafalaya bayous and I imagine somewhere people living on the fertile bottoms of prehistoric lakes again wonder why we live here, forgetting the fertile bottom land and easy seafood of a life on the tenuous edge of the continent.

The calendar and almanac say Spring but already the flower crowns are wilting on the Virgin’s head in parochial school yards in the early swelter. Soon the last of the seasonal crawfish and oysters will be gone, leaving us to months of catfish dressed on french while dreaming of spearmint snowballs, My oldest friend Eric, who I remember splashing with in vinyl pools on brown lawns when we were four or five, has left for the mountains as he always does. In spite of a life spent in New Orleans, he can’t stand the heat and has structured his life to hike the high meadows in search of mountain wildflowers, wrapped up evenings in fleece against the alpine chill. The couple who sold us the house on Toulouse are probably off to Maine. The rest of us hose off the condensers and clean the filters, anxious to be readywhen humid Gulf air inundates us and leaves us dripping wet. While the lucky few slip into the pine-scented dream of far coasts and mountains, the rest of us will be left to scrape the sticky sap off our flip-flops, wishing the wasps in our yard would consider summering in Minnesota.

There are compensations. As our northern cousins longingly study the first yellow flowers on their vines we will bite into fat Creole tomatoes like apples, with a sprinkle of salt and a sweating Abita, listening to the trumpeter up the street rehearsing and dreaming of Satchmo Fest. While somewhere people start their weekends on Lake Mow The Lawn sweating for hours over a growling Briggs and Stratton, we will let the grass that went to seed a month ago take a summer afternoon nap underneath our hammocks. We will burn foul incense coils to appease Brother Mosquito and relish the lukewarm breeze of twilight with friends over cold drinks, enter into the reverse hibernation of Gulf Coast summer. Yes, we will schlepp into work sweating out coffee into our oxford cloth shirts, the car’s air conditioning howling like a jet at takeoff but we will take the nights and weekends easy, a life as still and as lush as an August bayou,

The Porch and the Neutral Ground May 21, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Thanks to Rachel at Dangermond.org for accepting my request to cover any event at the Saints & Sinner’s Festival, the GLBT literary weekend sponsored by the Tennessee Williams Festival. I wanted something for the blog after our extensive write ups of TWF, but since I know doodly squat about GBLT Lit I had to reach out to another literary blogger to help.

By Rachel Dangermond

Here in New Orleans all things are learned on the front porch and so it was on the second weekend of Jazz Fest after too many glass of rosé wine that I exclaimed to four female and two male guests the resounding declaration that if anyone wanted to know what becoming a lesbian was like it was like this – relentless incessant talking, which was what the five women (me included) were doing. And so it was that I came to write about a gay poet at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival because in Googling the attendees I accidentally came across a poem by Michael Montalk that struck a nerve with me, The Hummus Sexual, where he writes:

The first time he felt he didn’t fit in

was in an all-male bar—so amazed

and disturbed by the artifice

of a completely womanless world.

After coming out as I approached 50, I was not prepared for the manless world that emerged from the lesbian community that surrounded me. It was so disconcerting I became more enamored by men than I had when I married and slept with them.

So on this gorgeous afternoon where the Mississippi is threatening to crest our levees, and news of some barges having struck the old Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge has caused massive traffic jams, and too many art exhibits are occurring simultaneously throughout the city, the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival is under way and 11 people went to hear five gay poets read from their current work at the Bourbon Pub.

I sat next an author who was on panel that followed, Merri Lisa Johnson, who said as I sat down that she had browsed the books at the Bourbon Orleans and Michael Montalk’s looked like one she had to have, his hot off the press, Cool Limbo, and she also said Montalk was a stylish dresser as indeed I had noticed – his awesome brown plaid pants.

And much as I was liking Montalk more and more, especially after he read a poem inspired by his twin sister who he called a drag queen and later admitted that he had been called a hag fag when he first arrived in New York because of his penchant for gal pals, it was the collective voices of these poets that made me realize there should be more than 11 people sitting in the audience.

Bryan Borland, a poet and the editor of Sibling Rivalry Press, read Theresa Senato Edwards’ Touch: The Journal of Healing a poem called The Touch of the Notch:

She’d done absurd things as a child:
the counting of steps up stairways,
the repeating grip of the doorknob in her palm,
always the going back to the knob,
going back to the corner of the door,
it had a notch in one of its grooves,
a smooth wooden pool of calm.

And again my mind went back to my porch, where days ago, during Jazz Fest, my neighbor, a music therapist with OCD problems herself had stopped to sit a spell on the porch, always counting the stairs on the way up and down, and always fighting back the blues that she knew were approaching. Borland’s range from Editor to Publisher to Poet was impressive, and he read We Left Early, his own poem about the lost generation of gay men who came before him.

I was taken by how much Sally Bellerose’s frank verse sounded more like a shout out to my own middle agedness as she read from her Married Ladies Have Sex in the Bathroom, which made me wish that my coming out had occurred when I was much younger, but then I would have missed all the men in my life. As she compared nursing to the Bourbon Street nude who lay there with glazed over eyes, I heard the same plea I had heard for years from my own mother, a nurse, who wanted to reach out to every patient that crossed her path but reality sterilized her noble thoughts.

Brad Richard dissected Thomas Eakins’ painting entitled Swimming down to each symbol of desire he found there; while Jeff Mann’s Thor poetry fit his bear demeanor all the way down to his fur fetish and manly feast imagery. I went back again to Montalk, who I had come to hear, on learning he was adopted, and so was his twin sister and older sister, I rushed to him afterwards to show him a photo of my adopted son, Tin.

I had asked the panel, but pointed it at Montlack, that is now not the time to put aside all these references to other – the heteros, the woman or the men, the family as Borland had described his gay friends and to incline ourselves to inclusiveness? Isn’t that what I was feeling on the porch the other night, where two twenty something year old boys were in our company, bringing some maleness into the mix for a change. That diversity feels better than same?

Montlauk said he had gone to a LAMBDA literary retreat in Los Angeles where it was noted that the 50 to 60 year-old lesbians were hanging out with the 20 to 30 year-old gay boys, who commented in the 1970s that would have never happened. And recently in New York at a reading by David Trinidad who had published a collection of the late Tim Dlugos poems, a young lesbian asked if she could read one because yes, lesbians read what gay men write and vice versa.

And still I wonder why with five poetic voices such as these, this afternoon in the Parade dance club in the Bourbon Pub, only 11 people were there to hear them. Thankfully, you can still buy their books. I picked up Montlack’s on the way out and will look for the others online.

Odd Words May 19, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Ray Shea at Domy Books in Austin for a reading of Where We Know--New Orleans as Home

Ray Shea at Domy Books in Austin for a reading of Where We Know--New Orleans as Home

So in spite of my painful posterior (don’t ask) and with the assistance of Dr. Co-Co Vikodeen I managed to crawl over to Austin (thanks R for the flight coupon that made this possible) to join Ray Shea in a reading/singing of the Chin Music Press book WHERE WE KNOW–NEW ORLEANS AS HOME at the fabulous Domy Books in Austin. A specialty store featuring art books, books as art and an immense collection of ‘zines and other Odd things, I immediately fell in love with the place. The reading took place in their art space, and what you see behind Ray are a collection of Masonic and Odd Fellow banners that were displayed along with ceremonial robes and other accoutrement of the mystical orders that normally are never seen by the public.

Thanks, Austin.

The crowd was small but deeply interested, and we appreciate the hospitality of Domy Books and everyone who attended. We take our show on the road again tonight at Domy Books Houston, with fellow contributor Sam Jasper and editor/contributor Dave Rutledge joining us. I wonder if Houston can stand up to the high bar set by the crowd and the Tex-Mex of Austin. If anyone knows where to get a kick-ass breakfast taco before I get on the road home Friday morning, let me now.

Got plans for Friday night? If you do they are probably for later (this being New Orleans) so you should stop and check out this Featured event:

& On Friday May 20, 2011, Martin Behrman Charter School will present “Martin Behrman Charter School Presents The 1st Annual Poetry on the Avenue”, an evening of spoken word poetry and live music. The event will take place on the school’s front lawn from 5pm to 8pm. Hosted by NOLA poet sensation Chuck Perkins (you saw him on the Hornets commercial) and House Band Blackstar Bangaz featuring Mario Abney, the event will feature performances by student poets from Behrman, several local poets and musical artists including Truth Universal, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Franklin IV, iCon the Artist, Quest, and many others along side internationally renowned feature poets Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets and Jessica Care Moore. The event will provide a festive and safe environment with police tents and several vendors. The event will be free and open to the public and accept monetary donations from attendees as it is also a fundraiser for Behrman.

& OK, I don’t normally do children’s books but I think if you have children and they aren’t ready for the bleak and beautiful Bayou Farewell, you should get them a copy of World Without Fish, “Mark Kurlansky’s…riveting new book for kids about the threat to fish, the oceans, and our environment — and what, armed with knowledge, kids can do about it. In this amazing book Kurlansky tells how the fish we most commonly eat could beome extinct in fifty years, and the domino effect that this would have, from the oceans turning pink to seabirds, then reptiles, then mammals disappearing. It explains the complicated effects of overfishing, global warming, and pollution and the dangers of fish farming. Not this Thursday but next Thursday, May 19 at 6 p.m. at Octavia Books

& On this Thursday 17 Poets! features the Dr. Jerry Ward, Jr., author of the acclaimed book: The Katrina Papers (UNO press, 2008) and winner of the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award, 2011 Followed as always by an open mic hosted by Master of the Universe Ceremonies Medusa-maned Jimmy Ross. Thursday at the Goldmine Saloon, eightish. (Alas, I’ll be in Houston at another Chin Music Press reading)

& Don’t forget the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden hosted NOLA Project’s dusk time performances of Shakespeare’s whimsical A Midsummer Night’s Dream Tickets $10, $8 seniors/students, $6 children, free for NOMA members and students from many local universities with student ID. 7 p.m. through May 27. (I missed Titus Andronicus. Damn)

& 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.

& Octavia Books hosts a novelist two-fer on Saturday afternoon featuring R. Zamora Linmark reading from his new book, LECHE, and Karen Tei Yamashita reading from her I HOTEL, 2010 National Book Award finalist. Go read the teaser. I’m in New Book Detox until I get the pile next to the bed down, but these both sound like great reads.

& 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.

& On Sunday, May 22 the Maple Leaf Bar celebrates the End Times with an Open Mic. Last time I talked to Nancy Harris, I was booked as feature on June 5. Watch this space for details.

& 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. Wednesdays at 9 p.m. in the amphitheater/steps across from Jackson Square.

& Also every Wednesday Thaddeus Conti will revive the Dinky Tao poetry meeting (reading, discussion, drinking–coffee in this case) at 8 pm 5110 Daneel at The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse. Every Wednesday. Click the link for the priceless Facebook page photograph of Conti and David Rowe.

Um, well, it’s like May 18, 2011

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I have 404 unread posts in GReader. Internet nerds will find that fascinating. I haven’t looked at the piece I asked someone to write for Odd Words on the Saints & Sinners festival (but I will tonite: promise) or made any headway on the off line writing projects I have going (well, I did last week and maybe that’s where my energy went) And of course I haven’t posted since last Thursday. That’s life. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May. But I know I’m gonna change that tune. When I’m back on top in June. Really. I don’t let it get me down.

Odd Words May 12, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Who says poetry doesn’t matter? This week Michelle Obama is being criticized by the Kool-Aid crowd, who’s idea of a poetry reading is a drunken Burns dinner, for inviting spoken word poet Common to this week’s White House poetry event. Circulating on the Internet is a video from New York Def Poetry of Common speaking a piece about young men on the street with guns. It’s a difficult line to walk, given the baggage of gansta rap. If Black poets talk about the street they risk being lumped together with the misogynist nightmares of urban format radio. The kook-aid crowd say its fair play to pile on the Obama’s for inviting Common because “left wing poets” forced the cancellation of a Bush-era event, but Laura Bush pulled the plug on that one herself when several of the guests announced they would read anti-war poetry. I guess poetry’s 15 minutes are up for this decade.

When I die I want Steve Early to play This City at my funeral. The song that ran under the credits of the last episode of Season One of Treme is incredibly powerful but it is just one song from a fantastic song writer’s latest album, I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive. Now Earle’s long anticipated debut novel, also named I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and will be in stores this Thursday, May 12th. The novel imagines the troubled life of Doc Ebersole as he is haunted by the ghost of his former patient and friend, Hank Williams. Patti Smith stated, “Steve Earle brings to his prose the same authenticity, poetic spirit and cinematic energy he projects in his music. I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive is like a dream you can’t shake, offering beauty and remorse, redemption in spades.” The damn book pile just keeps getting bigger.

And now yet another book I have to read. Glad I have a reason to take part of a week off (minor surgery; no worries) at the end of the month when I’m going to try to get caught up. From the smallpress.org mailing list:” Having devoured and loved most of his novels (all of which, with the exception of 2666 and The Savage Detectives, were published in English by New Directions and should be on the shelves of every library in America), I had huge expectations for Bolaño’s non-fiction. Many of his novels already act as thinly veiled tours of Central and South American poetry, and the handful of translated speech transcripts floating around the internet were a good warm-up. Whereas the far too brief book of interviews with Bolaño published by Melville House in 2009 was disappointing, this nearly complete collection of non-fiction work is stunning. The essays, speeches, and columns are opinionated and rowdy, and Natasha Wimmer’s translation is superb. If newspapers in this country ran articles like these, perhaps subscription rates wouldn’t look so dire. For lovers of Latin American literature.” From New Directions Publishing.

Local poetry broadside and chapbook publisher Verna Press is using the Kickstarter project funding tool to underwrite a West Coast tour by David Rowe in support of the recent release of Verna’s letterpress literary magazine, Dorado, and Rowe’s Unsolicited Poems, the press’ first full length collection of poem. You can toss something in the jar here.

One last note before the listings: I’m off to Austin to hang with Ray Shea and appear with him at Domby Books at 7 p.m. Friday reading and signing copies of the Chin Music Press anthology Where We Know: New Orleans as Home. If you’re in Tejas, come out and represent for New Orleans and hang with the cool kids. I’ll pack a stack of A Howling in the Wires as well. I get nothing from the sale of WWK so I can unreservedly say you want to own this beautiful example of the publisher’s art full of fine writing about the city past and present.

I better get to the listings before I run out of bits:

& OK, I don’t normally do children’s books but I think if you have children and they aren’t ready for the bleak and beautiful Bayou Farewell, you should get them a copy of World Without Fish, “Mark Kurlansky’s…riveting new book for kids about the threat to fish, the oceans, and our environment — and what, armed with knowledge, kids can do about it. In this amazing book Kurlansky tells how the fish we most commonly eat could beome extinct in fifty years, and the domino effect that this would have, from the oceans turning pink to seabirds, then reptiles, then mammals disappearing. It explains the complicated effects of overfishing, global warming, and pollution and the dangers of fish farming. Not this Thursday but next Thursday, May 19 at 6 p.m. at Octavia Books

& On this Thursday 17 Poets! features the dynamic Kataalyst Alcindor, a slamming New York-style spoken word poet you really shouldn’t miss. I grabbed his CD the minute I saw him during the spoken word event hosted last year around the Frenchman Book Fair. Highly recommended. Followed as always by an open mic hosted by the dreaded Jimmy Ross and his crack team of sergeants at arms (and legs if necessary) to help poets overcome with emotion or, say, drink off the stage. Thursday at the Goldmine Saloon, eightish.

& Don’t forget the Shakespeare double header doing on in town this month. First the free staging of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus will be held here. OK, not exactly on the FB page but at 612 Piety. Through May 14th. And by all reports you won’t want to miss the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden hosted NOLA Project’s dusk time performances of Shakespeare’s whimsical A Midsummer Night’s Dream Tickets $10, $8 seniors/students, $6 children, free for NOMA members and students from many local universities with student ID. 7 p.m. May 27.

& I’m going to break my cookbook rule again because this one sounds delectable. Octavia Books will host Martha Hall Foose for her story and cookbook A Southerly Course. The Octavia site calls her “a unique storyteller, with traces of Eudora Welty and Willy Morris in her style.” OK, you’ve got my attention. And I’m hungry. I should never look at cookbooks right before dinner. Friday, May 13 at Octavia Books

& 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.

& The Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA) announces a new spin on the annual Home and Garden Tour called “Artists in Residence” on May 15th noon to 4:00 p. m. The participating artists live in the historic Faubourg Marigny Rectangle will open their homes, studios, and gardens. Among those in attendance and signing books will be authors Troy Gilbert (Dinner with Tennessee Williams), Jerry Edgar (The Café Degas Cookbook), and David Lummis (The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans), as well as Kristin Fouquet, Michael Allen Zell, Stephanie Bruno, and Tristan Thompson., Allso renowned painters George Rodrigue and James Michalopoulos; award-winning filmmaker Jim Gabour, producer/director of the Grammy-nominated film Flow with Terence Blanchard, and of the worldwide No. 1 music DVD, “Norah Jones: Live in New Orleans”; Glen Pitre, veteran author, director, playwright, and screenwriter (Belizaire the Cajun, Hurricane on the Bayou, Cigarettes & Nylons), who continues to collaborate with wife Michele Benoit in a variety of media. Sunday, May 15.

& On Sunday, May 8 the Maple Leaf Bar hosts the Everette Maddox-founded poetry reading at 3 pm (ish) with a second helping of Kataalyst Alcindor. If you missed him at the Goldmine, don’t miss him here. You’ll regret not being able to say you saw him when after he’s invited to the White House.

& And in the vein of World Without Fish, Octavia will host Donald Muir Bradburn with his book of photographs of the wilderness area Horn Island Last Barriers: Photographs of Wilderness in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. As we watch are barrier islands and other coastal features slowly wash away, such records will someday be all we have left. Tuesday, May 17 at Octavia Books.

& 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. Wednesdays at 9 p.m. in the amphitheater/steps across from Jackson Square.

& Also every Wednesday Thaddeus Conti will revive the Dinky Tao poetry meeting (reading, discussion, drinking–coffee in this case) at 8 pm 5110 Daneel at The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse. Every Wednesday. Click the link for the priceless Facebook page photograph of Conti and David Rowe.

Sun Ra on Fortin Street May 7, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Sun Ra, Toulouse Street.
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“Its After the End of the World. Don’t You Know That Yet?”

Too busy watching the world go by and trying to hawk books to get together a Jazz Fest post today but stop by the Shrine of Sun Ra at the Fortin Street Stage on your way in or out and light a josh stick. I just had to respond to the very nice woman I met the other morning who put up the Jon Bon Jovi shrine, and the Cyndi Lauper shrine that went up in answer a few days later. I think a jazz artist and a man of such spiritual truth deserves a shrine.

For years, the tagline on my Wet Bank Guide blog was the signature chant from the Space is the Place film, “It’s After the End of the World. Don’t You Know That Yet?”, a perfect statement for the Alice in Underland situation of New Orleans. The flood was a baptism that washed away the original sin of conventional Anglo-Saxon America and left me a pure son of New Orleans. When I got my tattoo I went for Moose Jackson’s equally apt line “I’m not alright but I am upright” but it was a hard choice. I may yet have Sun’s words permanently inked on my body, marked forever with the sacred chant of the postdiluvian elect.

So stop by and get you some Cosmic Vibrations at the Shrine (and a beer, a bathroom and some beans). You know you want some.

Odd Words May 5, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, books, literature, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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I am looking to organize a Bloomsday event in New Orleans on June 16. If you’re interested in participating join the group on Facebook Bloomsday NOLA or drop me an email. If you can’t manage to attend a Bloomsday event, you can always visit this project and get your fill of hearing the book read aloud at James Joyce intended it. And if I don’t get enough people, look for me on a corner in Frenchman Street the evening of June 16, reading to the crowd. If it comes to that, beer and relief readers will be most welcome.

Thomas Beller edited the esteemed New York literary magazine Open City for 20 years and 30 issues. It recently ceased publication, and Beller, now an assistant professor at Tulane, spoke about the magazine’s life and death, among other things, with a new local literary website started by the Press Street press, Room 220.

And so, the listings:

& I’m not a big fan of mysteries but former Times Picayune report Julie Smith has always come highly recommended to me, and she joins fellow New Orleans mysterian Greg Herren in celebrating the release of their new Young Adult novels at Octavia Books Thursday, May 5 at 6 p.m.

& Starting May 5, a free staging of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus will be held here. OK, not exactly on the FB page but at 612 Piety. It sounds, um, fun: “In a warehouse in the Bywater, a small ensemble of actors will unfold Shakespeare’s earliest, goriest and most absurd tragedy with lighthearted savagery.” Get you some epically dead people. You know you want some. Through May 14th.

& Because you can never have too much Shakespeare, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is the idyllic setting for the NOLA Project’s dusktime performances of Shakespeare’s whimsical A Midsummer Night’s Dream Tickets $10, $8 seniors/students, $6 children, free for NOMA members and students from many local universities with student ID. 7 p.m. Friday May 6 through May 27. That sounds like tonic relief from Titus Andronicus indeed.

& 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.

& Also on Friday, May 5 Maple Street Book Shop will host a reading with Eve Abrams and Thomas W. Jacobsen on Thursday, May 5, 2011, 6:00 P.M. Ms. Abrams conducted the interviews the Preservation Hall Band Members for the new book, Preservation Hall. Mr. Jacobsen is the author of Traditional Orleans Jazz: Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music. Gather with us for a night of music, culture and food!

& 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.

& On Sunday, May 8 the Maple Leaf Bar hosts the Everette Maddox-founded poetry reading at 3 pm (ish) with an Open Mike.

& 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.

& Also every Wednesday Thaddeus Conti will revive the Dinky Tao poetry meeting (reading, discussion, drinking–coffee in this case) at 8 pm 5110 Daneel at The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse.

Odd Words: Fish Head Emergency Edition May 4, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, literature, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Ah crap, I’m supposed to go see Marcia Ball tonight and I’m going to miss this. I was there at the public beginning in Luigi’s and I desperately need a copy of this book autographed by the entire band.

GOT THE FISH IN THE HEAD: A RADIATORS RETROSPECTIVE

May 4th, 2011

On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, Jay Mazza, fan and friend of The Radiators and author of I Got the Fish in the Head: A Radiators Retrospective, will be at Maple Street Book Shop at 6:00 P.M. He will read from, discuss, and sign his book. Mr. Mazza has announced there will be musical entertainment: Chris Mule, the guitarist for Honey Island Swamp Band, Phil deGruy, and Stephen Smith also on guitar.

“Intended for fans of New Orleans music and culture, the book is as much a cultural commentary on the city and its music scene as it is a musical tribute. Filled with distinctive characters that passed through the bars and clubs where the Radiators played, the book is a retrospective of the New Orleans scene as told by someone who was there at almost every important juncture of the last 30 years.

This post requires emergency audio overdrive.

If this had been an actual fish head emergency, you would have been instructed to burn your t-shirt.

Sanctifying Place May 1, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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It was Odd to sit on my stoop on Fortin Street, a literal stone’s throw from the Gospel Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and hear the WWOZ announcer inside the festival talking about a gospel group riffing on James Brown. Isn’t it really more a matter of James Brown having riffed on the music of his childhood church? As I sit directly across the street from that stage and spent most of the last two days listening to the mighty choirs and soaring organs over the pounding drums and bass of Black southern gospel, it is an easy insight to understand.

Recall the controversy when Ray Charles took the sound of gospel and turned it into I Got A Woman in 1956, or think whether the entire R&B sound those of us in the Baby Boom grew up with would be the same without Sam Cooke. It was not only Black artists who mined this vein but many of the idols of our own youth. One of my favorite artists, Leon Russell, was a one man revival show in his own rock-and-roll piano recordings of the early 1970s (when he wasn’t producing/arranging Bonnie and Delaney or Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman tour). Anyone who has walked past the gospel tent will recognize the influence in his signature song Delta Lady or the dark gospel cover by the Rolling Stones of I Just Want to See His Face.

As Jazz Fest approached and the tents went up, I thought about how wonderful it would be to sit right across from the Jazz Tent where I’ve spent many an afternoon, or even right behind the Blues Tent, both of which back right up to the fence on Fortin, but after the last two days I’m glad I landed where I did. Friday’s how ended with a long and rousing reverse cover of the Isley Brother’s Shout, spoiled in part by the arrival of the water vendors hawking in front of my house but I didn’t care. I just cake walked my irresistibly wiggling hips across the street the better to hear. If you’ve missed the Gospel Tent in the past as I have, don’t make the mistake a habit. Or stop by the VIP Seating Area of the Fortin Street Stage on your way out if you leave early and take in the closing set. In the ending as in the beginning was the choir, and the choir was good.

Odd Words Addendum May 1, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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I don’t know how I missed this writing the column, but you shouldn’t miss it:

& You are invited to join us for a reading & book signing featuring Freddi Evans celebrating the release of CONGO SQUARE: African Roots in New Orleans ( ), the first comprehensive study of one of the New World’s most sacred sites of African American memory and community. Octavia Books on Tuesday, May 3 at 6 p.m.

& Also, an early heads up since I’m posting again: 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series Features Andrei Codrescu and Dave Brinks this Thursday at 8 p.m. Codrescu will read from his new book Whatever Gets You Through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments. Brinks will read from his forthcoming book The Secret Brain: New &
Selected Poems.

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