And so it goes. January 30, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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There are a million stories in the crooked city and this is one of them.
While I was out working on our Krewe du Vieux float someone jimmied a window on the back side and broke into my apartment. Waiting with the initial police responding for the Crime Scene unit, I found out they wouldn’t be coming because they had been called out to a homicide uptown.
And so it goes.
Run Like a Jimson-poisoned Buffalo January 27, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
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“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
– Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
The quote was originally a reference to the Oakland Raiders, as I recall either a part of or following the interview with Richard M. Nixon in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in which the two discussed nothing but football.
I find a strange analogy between the pro quote and Caros Casteneda’s character Don Juan’s statement that “a warrior is impeccable”, but then I find strange analogies everywhere. All I know is when life gets weird, get down in three-point stance, take the ball life hands you, put your head down and crash through the hole like a jimson-poisoned buffalo run amok. Don’t let the bats distract you.
Odd Words January 26, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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&Lacking any clever lead in this week: 17 Poets! returns in Feburary, and here is the lineup for the spring:
- February 9: Bill Lavender signs and reads from his new book Memory Wing (Black Widow Press, 2011)
- February 16th: Musical and Performance tribute for flautist and New Orleans music historian Eluard Burt celebrating his life and continued legacy with performances and readings by Kichea Burt, Lee Grue, Dave Brinks, Felice Guimont, Eric Burt, and more.
- February 23: John Sinclair performs with his Blues Scholars, Performance by Albany poets Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte
- March 1: Poet Rodger Kamenetz
- March 8: Poets Arturo Pfister and Valentine Pierce
- March 15th: NYC Poet Bill Zavatsky and Poet Dr. Jerry Ward, Jr.
- March 22: TBA
- March 29: Fiction Writer Moira Crone reads and signs her new book from UNO Press, The Not Yet
- April 5: Jazz Beat poet Ruth Weiss
- April 12: Bruce Andrews
- April 19th: Baton Rouge Poet Chris Shipman reads and signs his new book
- April 26: Maxine Cassin Tribute
& On Thursday, Jan. 26 Octavia Books will host Ellen Weiss – ROBERT R. TAYLOR AND TUSKEGEE: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington. Architectural Historian Weiss interweaves the life of the first academically trained African American architect with his life’s work—the campus of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
& SIFT—which stands for “Sequence, Image, Form, Text—–is an organization rooted in the intersection of book arts and fine arts, of image and text. Book arts have traditionally been marginalized in both the publishing and art worlds. . SIFT’s inaugural event, “Bound in Japan,” will take place at the Antenna Gallery on January 26 from 6 – 8 p.m. Part of the Antenna Gallery’s Happy Hour Salon series, “Bound in Japan” is a presentation by artist Thien-Kieu Lam, a Louisiana native who lived in Japan for many years.
& Friday nights the No Love Lost Poetry Reading continues at the Love Lost Lounge, starting at 5:30 p.m. during the bar’s jazz happy hour hosted by Joseph Bienvenue.
& Also on Friday the Red Star Gallery hosts its weekly spoken word event. Doors at 9, admission $5 with a college ID, $7 without.
& Sunday, Jan. 30 is an open mike at the Maple Leaf Poetry Series, in the back patio (weather permitting) at 3ish.
& On Monday, Jan 30. Octavia features Nevada Barr and the fifth book in her series on park ranger Anna Pigeon, THE ROPE. Pigeon has crossed America facing down the vicious predators, animal and human, that haunt the country’s wild places in what sounds from the announcement rather like Tony Hillerman, one of the few mystery writers I have gotten around to reading. (So many books, so little time).
& Also on Monday The Writer’s Block meets on the steps of the amphitheater across from Jackson Square open to all writers and performers in any art. Once I get my Chaucerian pronunciation down, I’ll be there juggle chain saws and reciting. OK, maybe not juggling. Maybe I could manage to stand on one foot. For a while.
& On Tuesday, Jan. 30 River Writers presents poets DAVE BRINKS and MEGAN BURNS of 17 Poets! at 8pm on Tuesday January 31st at Boudreaux and Thibodeaux’s downtown Baton Rouge. Poetry, children, it’s just an hour away, it’s just an hour away…
& On Wednesday, Feb. 1 Octavia books presents New York Times bestseller Joshilyn Jackson’s and her new novel A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY, a generational women’s saga.
Garden District Books and Maple Street books don’t kick off their featured author spring season for a few weeks yet.
Oh Say Can You Sleep January 24, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: insomnia, morning, sleep
Four. Thirty. Seven. The dim green numerals are relentless. I stare at them in the dark until seven becomes eight, then nine. I think about lighting a cigarette and my brain starts to make its ascent up the crackity ratcheting track of another Wild Maus morning. Soon schedules, worries, forgotten responsibilities, ideas, doubts, excitements will start whirring past, jumping from one to the next, each sharp turn punctuated by that moment when the inside wheels feel like they are leaving the tracks. Coffee is never a good idea when your mind works this way, especially at fuck:dawn-thirty. Coffee it is then, starting with warming yesterday’s dregs in the microwave while measuring and pouring.
I went to sleep last night around 9:30, practically passed out really and that’s the last time I remember seeing on the clock. I was about to do the same at 8:30 but the phone chimed and instead of ignoring it (I’m almost asleep, aren’t I?) I check it. The cable is out in the front room of the house. Just the front room? Yes. Call Cox, I finally answer and they’ll reset the box. I put down the phone and start to roll over but after a moment reach for the lamp next to my bed and pick up my book instead. Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, a bit of light reading I must prop on a small pillow on my chest to keep it at eye level. School has started and if I’m going to read the books of my choosing I have to grab some time when I can.
I am up at just before five because my diurnal rhythms are not. There is a clock in my body that is relentlessly, rigorously Swiss, dutifully waking me six or seven hours after I go to sleep. Lately I wonder if it has something to do with the racetrack, the proximity to an entire community of handlers, trainers and jockeys who are up by four at the latest. No matter how tight I twist the mini-blinds, by five there is a bar on my far wall from their glaring halogen morning. In reality I have been well trained by dogs and children to rise up much to early, compounded by a mind that blasts into alertness like the arc of some great spark, the monster groaning into life. If my children can mange on a teenager’s habitual five hours a night, who am I to complain about six or seven on a good night? The difference is they make up their sleep deficit when they can, lying in until noon on the weekend or collapsing for a nap, get up week days like a bucket of gravel groaning under the arm of a crane. I wake up quickly almost every day, by fits and starts like an old fluorescent tube, buzzing and flickering into a relentless and unnatural light.
Morning. Again. Not light out yet but approaching astronomical twilight, that dim glimmer of the sun that sent Galileo and all his descendents not to sleep but to lay awake excitedly pondering the relentless clockwork of the stars. An hour west from now a bleary graduate student will push the button that closes the telescope doors. He will drag himself sleepily toward his car and bed. I will step outside for a cigarette and watch the stars blink out one-by-one.
Tangled Up In Screws January 22, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: furnitue assembly
I spent yesterday assembling a second desk for myself (my son’s room holds the other one) the capping moment of another adventure in hex wrenches, twist locks and don’t you dare use a power diver warnings, finishing just in time for a call to tell me the cube unit my daughter and her mother had set out to buy was waiting on the porch of the house for me. Not my daughter’s apartment, but the house.
Apparently, they sent a text over an hour earlier but the phone was in the next room and I was in that contortionist hell that comes with ignoring the pages clearly marked This Step Requires Two Persons. I still haven’t quite recovered from moving week before last and every part of my body hurts (moderately) and that is of course why I am on the floor of the front room at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning picking up bits of plastic and foam off the front room floor. Why? Because I spent another hour yesterday with a wire hanger trying to get exactly that sort of stuff out (and all the dust it had trapped) of the elbow joint between the suction hose and carpet beater (carpet beater? what is this, 1912?) of my Big Lots vacuum cleaner (basically a Dirt Devil dust buster deluxe). It was then that the damn vacuum decided to shut down from overheating (even though I had just run it a few times to try to help dislodge the nasty blockage).
Did I mention standing on my tiptoes on the stoop while holding the iron grate for leverage while trying to mount a cheap flagpole bracket well over my head, using an undercharged toy six-volt power driver? I didn’t? That was entirely more fun than the This Step Requires Two Persons exercise in anti-yoga, but I won’t feel at home without a New Orleans flag flying out front.
If I was cross with my daughter for a bit on the phone (sorry sweetie, even though you don’t read this) it was because it took them four hours to pick out and return with the bit of furniture for her apartment, and she promptly collapsed onto the couch for a nap and no one called for over an hour. I had to run uptown and assemble yet another piece of the crap that gives our Chinese financial masters something to laugh about over lunch. And because I knew the lateness was going to turn my relaxing cook out with my son turned into a race against time to get us fed before we went to a concert at NOCCA. It was not just that but the idea that someone, somewhere got a nap and I did not, turning me briefly into the Cranky Child Who Has Not Napped. Lunch might have helped. Likewise breakfast, but I got up too early once again, got busy to quickly (once again) and forgot to eat. Once again. Coffee and a Jetson’s breakfast of a handful of supplements clearly do not supply the sort of energy required to assemble cheap particleboard furniture carefully and cheerfully.
I managed to get both things assembled with a minimal amount of redo, and running the wrong screw through the thin veneer in only a few mostly inconspicuous places. (Yes, I was following the instructions, but you reach a point at which you have measured so many screws against the scale illustrations that you are certain you can tell them apart. If this thought ever enters your head, you are wrong.) At least I have a desk now where I can spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon trying to master Middle English pronunciation. Supposedly no one knows the precise cause of the Great Vowel Shift and that’s probably a good thing or I would waste the afternoon Googling “time travel” so I could go back and strangle the person responsible. I just hope that the extra screws and other parts don’t result in the desk collapsing on top of me, because I’m not sure my body could take the extra abuse.
Welcome to Cambodia January 21, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, Memory, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
This is The Panic Office. This post has been relocated to alternate location Tango, I say again Tango. Please reassemble there for murkier instructions.
I write about myself with the same pencil and in the same exercise book as about him. It is no longer I, but another whose life is just beginning.
— Samuel Beckett
Odd Words January 18, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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“And he bigan with right a mytire cheer/His tale anon, and sey as ye may heere.”
So wryte this weeke’s colum or rede Chaucer. (Onley ete pages and namo).
You do the math. In Middle English. (Who knows how Chaucer spells numbers. I’m not that far in.) Such is the life of a 54 year old returning English Major.
I guess I owe everyone a listing column, so lets bigyn. At least its qyeet with namuch goyng on. And Chaucer is in the public domain, so the SOPA ninjas won’t be crashing thorugh my roof like that scene in Brazil when they take poor Buttle.
& On Friday Octavia hosts a reading and signing to celebrate Andrea Cremer’s, BLOODROSE, the new and final book in her international bestselling Nightshade Trilogy. Are wolves going to displace vampires atop the best seller list? Stop by and find out.
Um, and that’s about it at the bookstores although all have busy schedules ahead.
“But natheless, wil I hve tyme and space,/er that I ferther in this tale pace…”
& Friday’s The Redstar Gallery hosts its weekly spoken word event. Doors at 9, admission $5 with a college ID, $7 without.
& On Sunday at the Maple Leaf Bar (“and wel to drink us leste”) features Poet Radomir Luza reads from his work followed by an open mic.
& This and every Monday the Writer’s Block meets on the amphitheater steps across from Jackson Square for poetry and any other performance you choose. Well, maybe not juggling chain saws, unless you recite a villanelle on the subject while you do. It’s cold out, so check the Facebook page to make sure everyone hasn’t decided to stay in where it warm or just bring their warmth with then in cup.
“Now preye I to hem alle that herkne this litel tretys or rede…if ther be any thyng that displese hem, I preye hem also that they arrette it to the defaute of my unkonnynge and nat to my wyl, tha wold ful faynehavfe seyd bettre if I hadde had koonynge.”
Uh, Clem, you’re making not making Dr. Spellchecker unhappy happy.
Live Free or Die January 18, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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Say no to SOPA!
Water Lilies January 17, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in Everette Maddox, New Orleans, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
Tags: University of New Orleans, UNO
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What are all these buildings and tall green trees on the barren landscape haunted I remember haunted with the ghosts of barracks? Does the mad bag piper still practice on a fire escape of some building as we walk through the ground fog back to Wadsworth street? Where are the matronly black ladies in cafeteria white who once worked the hot line in what is now a food court? Who’s playing Luigi’s Wednesday?
Who are these children? What future have we built for them in the last 30 years? If I knew, I would tell them but they are too busy hustling from class to class, texting that girl they met in CHEM 1069 for coffee later. A few more years of innocence left and I should not trouble them with my grey worries, but walk with them in the bustling sunshine toward some life as yet unimagined.
By Everette Maddox
The window of my half-
ass job frames a group
of students dripping
across a small yard’s
green gloom. No more
rain! Because a noose
of sunlight snares them—
skirts & hats
& army jackets–& pulls
them tight, like
a yellow slicker,
retarding their academic
progress. Fixing them
(such a lovely mess!),
making an old man’s
day immortal. Water-lilies.
Loose Horse Running the Wrong Way January 15, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
“Head up! Horse going the wrong way at the half mile pole. The rider’s OK. Loose horse going the wrong way at the 1/4 pole along the fence. Gentlemen please hold up your horses and stay off the fence.Loose horse going the wrong way at the 5/8s pole. Loose horse going the wrong way at the half-mile pole.”
As the horse comes up on the grandstand I can hear its hooves on the dirt through the cold air. It has thrown its rider and is going the wrong way but the pole numbers keep going up. It doesn’t make sense.
Waking up at 5:30 am every day this week makes no sense, but I go to bed pretty early. Moving even a one bedroom apartment turns out to be a lot of work, especially if your primary non-furniture possessions are books (books are heavy) and the place is smaller and the closet is smaller. You have to take inventory of your life in things and make accommodations.
I drag the 93 pound box of a dresser back two rooms and discover the third piece of laminated particle board is cracked and I have to somehow get those pieces back in the box with their packing and you are happy at least that it wasn’t one of the last pieces or an entire afternoon might have been lost to the puzzle or repacking. I have to somehow get it back in the car and haul it to the nearest store. I call my friend up the street and ask him to help to get it down the stoop and into the hatch back. When I arrive and get a cart jockey to help me unload it, the receipt stuffed half in my pocket blows away in the stiff breeze of a cold front.
Two dressers, a bed, two desks, an air conditioner, a hot plate and a rice cooker as I have no stove, and would rather keep the 48″ round with two chairs someone gave me a while back. A shower ring and associated hardware to rig up a shower. I am spending too much money but if I want to spend more time with my son he needs his own bedroom even if it’s a walk through.
The credit cards go up and up, these new expenses on top of the co-pays for surgery and a car repair and my daughter’s tuition and the money goes out faster than it comes in even while I was still working. A mortgage and my rent and my daughter’s rent and I can’t keep up. Anything i want besides rent and my daily bread ends up on the cards. An expensive sleeper sofa for my son’s weekends that is actually comfortable to sit and sleep on. Meals and drinks, an attempt at normalcy in a city where meals and drinks and cover charges are not luxuries but the as much the bread of life as the po-boy loaf from the grocery up the street. The company IRAs won’t allow loans unless you still work at there. I consider the ruinous interest of minimum payments versus the loss of IRA, the equally ruinous penalties, but so many people in New Orleans cashed out their IRAs to rebuild when their lives. I am in good company.
The heaviest thing I haul up the street is my old work laptop bag now full of books: a complete works of Chaucer with commentaries in hardback strains the tennis elbow I have from using computers. Two books on the history of New Orleans and a few more on America as a Foreign Culture in Anthropology. A book for a freshman level biology class all liberal arts majors must now take. It is not the weight of paper and cover boards but the prospect of going back to school, taking Moloch’s severance and retraining allowance and biting off at least one semester’s worth of the degree I abandoned 30 years ago. I will be older than my classmates by over 30 years. I will probably be older than my professors.
I thought I could do it in one semester and maybe the summer if I can stick to the budget I worked out, but the graduation requirements have changed. Some of the 2000-level sophmore courses that would have counted as required electives now must be upper class courses. Philosophy is no longer considered an acceptable required liberal arts elective, and I had most of an undeclared minor in Philosophy. The required hours climb up and up but I’m going back anyway. The job market is slow. Resumes vanish into silence, or I get an interview but no a call back. Companies no longer send notes if they don’t hire you. Politeness is reserved for customers, doesn’t otherwise contribute to the bottom line, the only measure of Moloch’s approximation of Grace and I am no longer part of the equation. I am not going to miss that life for the next six months.
Another horse is loose and as it makes the rounds of the track the wrong way I wonder for a moment why they always go the wrong way but a horse that throws its rider is a contrary horse. This one ends in the call for a horse ambulance. The first loose horse ends with the rider OK, everything under control the man in the box watching the track says. This one doesn’t mention the rider and calls for an ambulance. The crows call as they do every morning, indifferent to catastrophe, interested only in what the horses may stir up up the track to eat.
Horse running the wrong way. I know I am going the right way but it is against the traffic of convention. My own run may end with “its OK. All clear” or the call for an ambulance but I am become one on of those horses that refuse to enter the gate gracefully under the control of their jockey but the packing and dragging of boxes, the struggle to assemble the cheap furniture step by step is a return to a sort of normality: the first step toward getting my son up for school, cooking and laundry for two instead of one, making sure he practices his saxophone and does his homework. I miss him dearly and he will be an anchor in my life. My other anchor dragged for years as we drifted toward the rocks, cutting it loose and beating against the wind and current the only possible course.
Hooves across Fortin Street have been the steadiest part of my routine for a year now, even when I was still dragging into a job I had grown to hate and knew was going away. There is comfort in the sound of their running, in the bells of Holy Rosary announcing eight o’clock mass if I’m home and outside smoking. Routine, chopping wood and carrying water as important as the sutras or matins. I won’t hear the church bells this morning as I must finish this letter to no one in particular. The call to the faithful will be lost in the roar of a borrowed Hoover as I finish cleaning the old place, then off to the hardware store to find the right piece to make the shower head work, getting someone to give me a third hand as I hang the shower rod. The boy no more understands the mechanics of a sit-down bath than the arranging of a rabbit ears on a television set. Then an afternoon of more unpacking, fitting my life into a new place, getting ready for a new routine that begins this week when I park the car instead of dropping off my son and we both walk up St. Anthony Street toward school.
By the end of today the boy will have his own room. I will not need to squeeze past the sleeper sofa and try to quietly open the contrary door if I want to sit out front with my coffee and listen to the business of the track, the pounding of the horses, the Odd ones that run the wrong way, but I will not hear the bells. I will be off and running the right way. Like the best horses I must run own race as I navigate the pack, oblivious to the roar of the crowd, running only for myself.
Odd Words January 12, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
Long time readers of my blogs e know I am fond of long sentences. Hemingway led one generation of writers toward the telegraphic imperative, John Carver another. I was schooled as a journalist in which the desire for a broad audience required we write in the religiously strict structure of inverted triangle and the eighth grade sentence. Somewhere along the way I became an apostate, succumbing to the Comma Heresy, preferring something approximating the rhythms of speech and not just any speech but the breathless accumulation of detail of a good story teller well into the whiskey, his porch audience rapt and respectfully silent as detail is piled upon detail, characters drawn and narratives slowly woven. This can all be done in simple, declarative sentences but you lose the sense of the speaker and the setting, the comfortable chair that puts the teller at the center of the room as if lit by an Old Master surrounded by an audience leaning in attentively, the sense that breaths the only real stops, the only other punctuation a pause for another drink.
So of course I’m going to have to post up a link to the Los Angeles Times article The Writing Life: The point of the long and winding sentence:
“…many of us in the privileged world have access to more information than we know what to do with. What we crave is something that will free us from the overcrowded moment and allow us to see it in a larger light. No writer can compete, for speed and urgency, with texts or CNN news flashes or RSS feeds, but any writer can try to give us the depth, the nuances — the “gaps,” as Annie Dillard calls them — that don’t show up on many screens. Not everyone wants to be reduced to a sound bite or a bumper sticker.
Enter (I hope) the long sentence: the collection of clauses that is so many-chambered and lavish and abundant in tones and suggestions, that has so much room for near-contradiction and ambiguity and those places in memory or imagination that can’t be simplified, or put into easy words, that it allows the reader to keep many things in her head and heart at the same time, and to descend, as by a spiral staircase, deeper into herself and those things that won’t be squeezed into an either/or.
Pico Iyer does not mention Faulker, who mixed of the laconic waterfall of Southern oral storytelling with steam of consciousness but my beloved Thomas Pynchon is mentioned along with Phillip Roth. Writing in a long sentence form differs from popular styles of writing (if i might repeat myself) as Old Masters differ from Modern Art, say, Mondrian. The long sentence layers the paint on thickly, with the disregard for convention in the service of the image of a dozen men around a table, each one’s expression and detail of costume, the use of light and shadow not seen again until film moved out of the daylight and into the sound stage. Such sentences are cinematic, not in the dry geometry of Robbe-Grillet (through whom we have all suffered at one point because someone said it was Important) or in the quick cut jitter of MTV that foreshadows Twitter but rather in the manner of the Sergio Leone’s lengthy shots of Clint Eastwood in the street, closwing in from the establishing shot that places us in the iconic weathered western street to the closer clues of posture that establish the Man with no Name’s essential character, the slouch as tense as the runner at the blocks, the gun on his hip jutting out just a bit, the flexing of his hand until we close in on a shoulder shot, every drop of sweat an establishing shot of the desert, Eastwood’s shark eyes over the slow baseball chaw of a Wee Williams No. 2, all in contrast to his fidgety, squinting opponent whose every bead of sweat speaks not of the desert but of the desperation of a cornered criminal. Oddly enough, if you go to Wikipedia to make sure you remember shot, scene and sequence in the proper order you read this:
- A frame is a single still image. It is analogous to a letter.
- A shot is a single continuous recording made by a camera. It is analogous to a word.
- A scene is a series of related shots. It is analogous to a sentence. The study of transitions between scenes is described in film punctuation.
- A sequence is a series of scenes which together tell a major part of an entire story, such as that contained in a complete movie. It is analogous to a paragraph.
But I go on. Read the article. Here are the listings.
& The week opens at Garden District Books this Friday the 13th (!) when Kresley Cole arrives to discuss and sign her new book book, Lothaire. Paul Marron, the LOTHAIRE cover model, will be accompanying Kresley to all events. I’m not sure if Fabio ever went on tour with the mostly anonymous authors of romance novels, but as a former publicist I can’t fault the idea of bringing along your hunky cover boy given the young, female demographic of vampire fiction.
& On Sunday the Maple Leaf Bar Reading Series features Poet Ron Primack reads from his work followed by an open mic.
& Monday the 16th brings John Barry of Rising Tide fame to Octavia books at 6 p.m. with his latest ROGER WILLIAMS AND THE CREATION OF THE AMERICAN SOUL: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty, “A revelatory look at how Roger Williams shaped the nature of religion, political power, and individual rights in America.” I know if you live in New Orleans you have probably read Rising Tide. When you finish this new book (as you should) you really ought to go back to The Great Influenza, which is at once a fantastic detective story, a narrative of the foibles of human nature confronted with the unknown, and a real life tale of the near fascistic home front of World War I as chilling as Orwell. If you have read both (but in my opinion specifically Influenza), this is an author who is going to deliver history and philosophy with style and poise and compelling narrative.
There I go again. For extra points, please diagram that last sentence.
& Every Monday, you can join the hardy souls who gather on the steps com amphitheater across from Jackson Square for The Writer’s Block, an open reading and performance gathering with no microphone, no list, with long pauses of whispered conversations and occasional banter between each reader as the audience of performers waits for the next speaker to climb down and speak his piece. It is a different experience from any other reading you will find in town.
& Tuesday bring us Susan Larson’s The Reading Life at 6:30 pm on WWNO-FM, which some of us anticipate as we do Garrison Keillor’s morning antidote to too much coffee The Writer’s Almanac. We haven’t quite worked out getting her guests into this column on Thursdays so you may want to follow Susan on Facebook so you know who is coming, not that you should need a particular reason to listen.
& Tuesday night at 7 p.m. also opens the student-sponsored 1718 Reading Series at the Columns Hotel with poet Kristen Sanders recently completed an MFA at LSU. Her work has appeared in Octopus Magazine and the forthcoming in New York Quarterly.
& On Wednesday the 16th at 6 p.m. Octavia will host lease join us for an exciting evening with bestselling author John Green presenting his new novel, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. John will be accompanied by his well-known brother, Hank Green, and together they will give an interactive presentation including words and music followed by a book signing. The who affair takes place at Temple Sinai and advance tickets, which include a copy of the book, are required.
An Inside Run Up Poydas Street January 9, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Alabama, BCS Championship Bowl, football, LSU, Poydras Street
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Someone camped along Poydras Street in the vast stretches of tents and RVs for the BCS championship game has the most realistic portable stereo system ever devised, or somewhere in the distance a full marching band was playing. Orleanians are something of experts on judging the direction and distance of a marching band from their long experience, and I’m pretty sure a good size ensemble was playing somewhere in the distance.
Further up the Poydras on Fulton Street, a band covers the Ramones Bonzo goes to Bitzburg, the politics lost on this crowd but the sort of song certain to drive a drunken mob into a frenzy. I wonder as I pass if LSU’s Golden Band from Tiger Land has a stirring brass and drums arrangement of it. Not that this crowd needs anything further to drive them into a frenzy. They are with their team at the championship game and that game is in New Orleans.
Poydras is busy but not the center of action the day before the game, what with the attractions of the French Quarter not far away: beignet and hand grenade breakfasts, beads in team colors with mascots pendant, the bands of Bourbon Street playing the 70s country rock covers for which our city is justly famous; a chanting, hollering and vomiting horde, two opposing armies keeping a tense armistice as they pass in the street.
Still Poydras is full of people, awash in crimson and purple and gold. Even Auburn fans have come to down, pitching their team tents along the street to join in the party. If LSU were playing the Michigan Spartans it might be mistaken for Carnival. Smoke rises in a dozen columns from the cramped encampments on every parking lot like chow time in some 19th century army, the smell of meat heavy in the air. Enemy tents stand one next to the other but everyone seems in good spirits. Hawkers of Officially Licensed Team Merchandise and an enterprising fellow with team beads on both arms at Magazine vie for attention. Pedicaps are everywhere, slowing traffic like a parade of band buses. Everyone has a go cup.
I was once a moderately informed fan of Southeastern Conference college football but that was long ago. I have too many other things to occupy my mind than to be a statistic spouting fanatic, and among my tasks today is to look up San Francisco on ESPN today, as I don’t follow the NFL that closely either. I bleed black and gold, but that doesn’t mean I have time or inclination even to state the ranking of teams in the Saints own division much less the rest of the league. All I know is that the circus has come to town. No, two circuses days apart: Sugar Bowl and championship game with a Saint’s playoff game in the middle. I am old school enough to dislike the Bowl Championship System, concocted to upset a century of football tradition in order to produce another high revenue television broadcast, but that is about as involved as I can manage.
I have never been an LSU fan and have no dog in tonight’s fight–I am old enough to remember when LSU and Tulane were a local rivalry–but the spectacle is irresistible. I was downtown to watch the Saints’ game Saturday night and it was easy to tell the LSU fans. They were the ones in their Saint’s jersey. I joked with one crimson clad fellow waiting to cross a street that his accent, an obvious southern drawl, identified him as a leftover Michigan fan from the Sugar Bowl, I thought he was much to drunk to connect a punch, but we were instantly long lost friends for the span of two blocks in the manner of your better class of tipsy tourist.
I will probably succumb and watch tonight’s game. Everyone one I know is still surprised and a bit disappointed that I missed the regular season game. A clash of the titans, one called it. I only watch LSU football if I am at a friends house for an unrelated party, or if I’m sitting at a bar waiting for someone, but the BCS championship promises to be a gladiatorial contest destined for the highlight reels of history, the television pregame diversion that remind me of those those professional football shows that used to run Sunday mornings when I was a child with football cards and no interest in watching The Christophers or the spectacle of some monstrous Protestant church’s service.
In the end it won’t matter who wins if it is good football. The important thing is my daughter is not working the candy shop at Riverwalk tonight and wanting a ride home.
No Fountain of Youth January 5, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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The city swallows dreams as it does the cars of the morning commute. Approaching from the east barricaded exits to nowhere stand as monuments to the vanity of speculators imagining hydrologically impossible towns, an endless extension of the city’s fringes farther into the dissolving marsh. The closer you approach, the towers of downtown bathed in a damp haze, the city appears like Atlantis ascending to reveal itself to a new age but this is just another soluble delusion. The road collapsing into the soft earth rolls the car like a small boat or drums a rattling tattoo, a reminder that the waters are gradually reclaiming the black muck bottom of forgotten dinosaur oceans, washed down by continental rivers, returning itself to the sea.
Further west the exits empty into geometric streets of modern subdivisions on the last land men managed to fill and level, dredging canals and pumping in river sand, pushing back the water as far as was feasible. The smart money moved into those neighborhoods that pushed up against the boundaries of the possible, carrying their dreams away from the old city. A larger house, a lawn, two cars in the garage, concrete streets level and straight, a shopping mall at the center. Gleaming car dealerships and stores for the furnishing of homes popped up along the highway in a wall barricading 300 years of history just as the levees held back the water.
Over the new, tall span that made the drawbridges obsolete lies the rickety the old city, the jumble of streets which fan out each perpendicular to the bends of the river, the old neighborhoods lined with narrow, clapboard affairs sagging under the weight of too many coats of paint, punctuated by the odd brick box and the last corner stores, divided by avenues lined with the grand houses of another century. Groaning trolleys with wooden seats, so old new parts must be built by hand, rumble along the neutral ground. The eldest oaks bow under the weight of age, their branches reaching back down to touch the ground.
Here people live in the powerful nostalgia of the city’s devoured and communal dreams, drifting from Carnival to Carnival, moving slowly in the humidity, sleep walkers on a journey the rest of the wide-awake world cannot fathom. They have found the fountain not of youth but of a graceful age, a freedom and ease flavored by the communal dreams, far from the frantic Yankee hustle that long ago passed us by, headed west.
Odd Words January 5, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
Once again it is quiet in the bookstores, but its still holiday madness in New Orleans between Sugar Bowl, the BCS championship game and Twelfth Night tomorrow. Octavia will host a children’s picture book event Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2:00 pm with Dianne de Las Casas and Marita Gentry for Dinosaur Mardi Grass (of course) and Garden District Books hosts Cornell Landry to read and sign Happy Mardi Gras (natch) at 1:30 pm at the Uptown location.
On a sad note, Ed Sanders has penned a poem about Helen Hill, which reminds me I should be well into my annual catalog of the murdered but moving house has kept me away from it.
& Downtown Friday night at the Love Lost Lounge, the No Love Lost Poetry Reading hosted by Joseph Bienvenu kicks of at 5:30 p.m., just in time for the bar’s happy hour and opening time for the excellent Vietnamese kitchen in the back.
& Later Friday New Orleans premiere spoken word event Acoustic Fridays the Red Star Gallery, 2513 Bayou Road, hosted every week by Charlie V-Uptowns Illest MC. $7 cover, $5 with college ID
& Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2:00 pm the Latter Library poetry series resumes with Jonathan Kline, Geoff Munsterman, Jerry Ward, Dave Brinks and Steve Beisner.
& On Sunday, Jan. 8 the Maple Leaf Bar Reading Series will feature Poet Harry DelaHoussaye and fiction writer Jeanne Soileau reading from their work, and you won’t have to fight the Saints game crowd to get a drink at the bar.
& On Monday, Jan. 9 the Black Widow Press Salon continues featuring Playwright Andrew Vaught from Cripple Creek Theatre Co. 7 p.m., and RSVP’s are encouraged as the space upstairs for these events is quite small.
& While organizer Kate Smash is still out of town, she reminds everyone via Facebook that the Writers Block reading and performance on the amphitheater steps across from Jackson Square goes on every Monday night at 9 p.m.
& On Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. don’t forget to tune into The Reading Life with Susan Larson at WWNO, 89.9 FM. If you miss it (slaggard) don’t forget the Saturday rebroadcast at 12:30 p.m. Don’t forget you can listen to podcasts of past shows online if you were too busy with holiday mania to hear Charles Brown, the new director of the New Orleans Public Library, and city archivist Irene Wainwright last week.
And since the listing are so sparse, we leave you with this cheerful quote. John Berryman’s Dream Songs was one of the books lost in my various relocations last year and was my Christmas present to myself, because it’s just not the holidays with a book
“I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business: Beethoven’s deafness, Goya’s deafness, Milton’s blindness, that kind of thing.”
― John Berryman
Quatrantid Madness January 4, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: cold, meteor shower, Quatrantids, stars
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It was so cold the night before all the palm fronds in town had bowed down to the ground, as if to acknowledge they were too far north, trespassing in the land of Boreas, planted affectations of a people believing themselves tropical. Tonight was worse.
I overslept my cell phone alarm at 3 a.m., carelessly hitting off instead of snooze in my confusion, then started awake at 4:39. I decided I would go out anyway. I pulled on left over Dakota clothing: flannel lined jeans and my snowshoeing fleece top, and then my new L.L. Bean knit slipper socks. I had a decent jacket and gloves but no proper hat. My daughter had given away by Andean cap with its warm ear covers to a friend going skiing years ago.
I didn’t stop to look at the computer and orient myself to the center of the meteor shower. I just plopped down in the world’s most useless Jazz Fest chair, a recliner so titled you would never be able to see the stage or get up if you drank too much. It is, however, perfect for gazing up 60 degrees or so. I had my phone compass set to night, and by its red glow made sure I was pointed precisely northeast. I lit a cigarette (gloves still in my pocket) and settled into wait. I couldn’t tell if the glow over the roof next door was astronomical twilight or the glare of the city.
In the distance, some madman shouted what sounded like “yeah” every minute or so, but after about five minutes I clearly heard him holler “come in,” as if calling some dumb cat which had bolted out the door earlier into the cold. If that was his business, I was surprised it would take any sensible animal that long to come in. Perhaps he had a darker yard than I do, no neighbor’s sodium lamp two doors down to ruin his vision, and could see more than I could, those faint streaks I couldn’t be sure were imagination and expectation, letting out a whoop with each one until someone else called him in for making such a racket at 5 a.m.
It was a few minutes before I saw my first bright one grazing the tail of Ursa Minor, probably 30 degrees away from where I thought the center should be. I switched the cigarette in my hands, stuffing the other one deep in it’s pocket for warmth It was so cold my eyes watered. I could feel the tears running down my cheeks, and I wondered if my vision would blur and miss the faint ones. My nose started to run profusely in the cold but I sat and sniffled and waited. I thought I saw a few but I could not tell if they were wishes without shooting stars. Then then I saw another, this one also 30 degrees off course toward Arcturus in Bootes. (I am no armchair astronomer, but everyone knows Ursa Minor and I can glance at the star map as I write this. Right thinking people are not up in January at an hour when you can see Arcturus.
I was afraid to look away to put out the cigarette but my hands were getting cold. Smoking reduces the circulation to the extremities, and my fingers were brittle icicles, so cold I finally dropped the cigarette from numbness and had to pop up to find it and put it out. I pulled on my gloves, stuffed both hands deep in my pocket, and went back to watching.
One more, I thought, give me just one more good one and I’ll be satisfied and go back inside. I had not eaten my black eyed peas and cabbage until yesterday due to an upset stomach on New Years Day. I didn’t drink much the night before but a couple of glasses of Belgian ale, a few shots of good tequila and a flute of champagne were a risky mix even in moderation and I wasn’t ready to eat anything but toast and cheese grits on Sunday, so the beans and cabbage sat in the fridge for two days, forgotten until lunch yesterday.
Clearly I needed an extra shot of luck, believed I needed it so bad I would sit out for half an hour when the deck thermometer read exactly freezing. Just one more, I thought, come on. Give me a lucky set of three. There were more faint flashes I couldn’t be sure of. The hollering had stopped, and it was quiet for a while until a distant siren wailed. Then it came, a short but brilliant stroke of light headed straight toward the zenith. I had gotten my second wish for just one more, and I got up to go back inside, surprised at what felt like a blast of warmth from the chilly back of my apartment
My first wish would have to wait for time to prove it out.
Word. January 2, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in 504ever, Bloggers, music, New Orleans, Theater, Toulouse Street.
Of the Lord (Lord David, that is) from The Truth and Other Lies. If you don’t read his blog, consider yourself woefully under-informed and your opinions beneath notice.
I find myself closer to a Stepford/Mayberry in Hell reality than I ever thought possible for the City of New Orleans…
Join me in the following year, if you dare, in going out to see music that MATTERS; from the Soul Rebels to Ratty Scurvics & the Black Market Butchers, or Dr John sitting in with JD Hill at the St Roch Tavern.
Patronize amazing local theater at out-of-the-way places like Allways Lounge & Marigny Theater, the Shadow Box theater or Otter’s Backyard Ballroom, rather than more commercial endeavors, like Professional Douche Bag, Pres Kabacoff’s, ugly little orange mall..
Gird your loins appropriately, folks, and head on out.
Life in this city is dangerous.
It’s amazing & it’s beautiful.
In the final measure, for me, it’s the only way to go.
The Blooming New January 1, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Shield of Beauty, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
Tags: fireworks, Lakeview, New Years
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The highest of the downtown fireworks were just barely visible through the trees, but that hardly mattered. Lakeview resounded with something like the sounds of battle, a steady crackling like rifle fire and the wump and burst of artillery and the sky was alive with rockets and star shells, the bang whoosh snap pop hiss of burning metallic blossoms in the dark, dissolving into columns of smoke hanging hesitant in the sky then rushing past like a crowd of ghosts fleeing the ecstatic mayhem.
Lakeview announces to the mob that they have no need to crush themselves into Jackson Square but can drive to Gretna and peel off the hundreds to load their car with all the fireworks they need. I suspect they do not know the history of fireworks but as I stand in the street and watch the ancient Chinese art of lifting fiery flowers into heavens, inadvertently hoisting Sun Ra’s shield of beauty, and with these exuberant explosions of Li Tian’s gung pow simultaneously driving away the smoky ghosts and lingering demons of the old year, clearing the air for the new just as last night’s rain washed the new day clean of the last remnants of the old. I sit on the stoop of the backyard smoking and listen to the bells of Holy Rosary and they seem to ring with a clarity not explained by simple tricks of atmospherics. After last night’s purgative pyrotechnics the bells sound not to drive away but to draw together their faithful for the celebration of the old magic, the rite of transubstantiation.
Two crows fly over at a diagonal of the line between the church and their crossing severs ties to the past. The spell is reversed: flesh into bread, blood into wine, the labor and reward of a life moving forward, outdistancing the past. I feel like Scrooge reformed, want to rush into the streets wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
Thank you Lakeview and to everyone, without reservation or exemptions, a Happy New Year.