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Odd Words May 28, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in art, books, Creative Non-Fiction, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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&Thursday at 5:30 pm Author Deborah Burst will discuss, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans: Churches, Cathedrals & Sanctuaries, herhistory and architecture of churches in the New Orleans area, and their place in the local community at the Nix Library .

&Garden District Book Shop hosts Amy Conner’s The Right Thing Thursday at 6 pm. In her compassionate and lyrical debut novel, Amy Conner explores female friendship, loyalty, and the realities of class and race in a small Southern town. Through chapters alternating between 1963 and 1990, The Right Thing follows two little girls whose lifetime commitment to each other bonds them into adulthood despite their differences: money and the lack of it, the hard realities of class and race in a small Southern town, and how those factors worked to shape their lives. The Right Thing is also a midnight road trip to the New Orleans’ Fairgrounds Race Track, a dog-napping, a one-night stand and an evening spent in the trailer of a transsexual. It’s a southern country lane with potholes, twists and turns on the way to an inevitable yet satisfying ending. It’s a story about one woman’s coming of age at 35, what we owe the people we love and how to navigate compromise and principle.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out #wordconnections spoken word event at the Juju Bag Cafe.
& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& The New Orleans Public Library Summer Reading Program Fizz Boom Read kicks off Friday and Satuday with events at branches all across the city. You can get all the details here. Here’s the list: ALGIERS REGIONAL LIBRARY – Noon-2pm – 3014 Holiday Dr. – 596-2641 Science experiments, crafts, and cool snacks. ALVAR LIBRARY – 2pm-3:30p – 913 Alvar St. – 596-2667 Crafts, make-your-own ice cream sundaes, and a Mentos fountain. CHILDREN’S RESOURCE CENTER LIBRARY – 11am-3pm – 913 Napoleon Ave. – 596-2628 Storytimes, crafts, cake and snacks, and a super special science experiment. Children and teens can draw their version of the Summer Reading Program themes, Children’s “Fizz, Boom, Read!” or Teen “Spark a Reaction.” EAST NEW ORLEANS REGIONAL LIBRARY – 10am-4pm – 5641 Read Blvd. – 596-0200 10:am – Noon Sign Up for Summer Reading Program online in the Tech Lab – All ages welcome Noon – 1:30pm Zumba for Teens in the Teen Room – Healthy Snacks 1pm – 2pm Futter-by Butterflies Story Time & Footprint Painting of Butterflies Craft on the Front Lawn—Ages 2-8 2pm – 4pm Serving Cake – All ages welcome HUBBELL LIBRARY – 2pm-4pm – 725 Pelican Ave. – 596-3113 Snacks, crafts, and a Summer Reading Robot building project. ROSA F. KELLER LIBRARY & COMMUNITY CENTER – 10am-2pm – 4300 S. Broad – 596-2660 Crafts, stories, and treats. LATTER LIBRARY – 1pm-3pm – 5120 St. Charles Ave. – 596-2625 Summer reading program sign-up and book giveaways, face painting, yard games, crafts and storytime on demand. MAIN LIBRARY – 1pm-3pm – 219 Loyola Ave. – 596-2588 Loud entertainment by the Noisician Coalition. Crafts, fun snacks, Summer Reading Program Sign-ups, giveaways, and a science experiment. MID-CITY LIBRARY – 1pm-3pm – 3700 Orleans Ave. – 596-2654 Refreshments, experiments, and giveaways. NORMAN MAYER LIBRARY – Noon-2pm – 3001 Gentilly Blvd. – 596-3100 Crafts, treats, and giveaways. Philip Melancon will be singing silly songs and telling silly stories at 1 pm. NIX LIBRARY – 11am-3pm – 1401 S. Carrollton Ave. – 596-2630 Local storyteller Mama Saba. Science experiments, crafts, face painting, chalk art, and the Roman Candy cart. SMITH LIBRARY – 10am-4pm – 6301 Canal Blvd. – 596-263

&Friday at 8 pm author, poet and satirist Chris Champagne presents a stage show about his father, Ed Champagne’s football career. At LSU with Y A Tittle and Steve Van Buren and in the NFL’s LA Rams where he played alongside Norm Van Brocklin, Tom Fears, Bob Waterfield, Tank Younger and others. Multi media-video, photos, audio and a human. At the Mid City Theater. By admission.

& Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm Librarypalooza, two kick-off events for the Jefferson Parish Library’s Summer Reading Program, will occur on Saturday, May 31, at the Eastbank Regional Library, 4747 West Napoleon Blvd, Metairie, and the Jane O’Brien Chatelain Westbank Regional Library, 2751 Manhattan, Harvey. Librarypalooza is free of charge and is open to the public. Registration is not required. Teens have their own event at the East Jefferson Regional Library at 1 pm titled “We Are Sparking a Reaction – Ice Cream Sundae Experiment.” Teens are invited to “experiment” with a variety of toppings at the sundae bar and they will be encouraged to sign up for summer reading. Anyone who signs up during the party will win a free book. The teen center also will have crafts, gaming, a photo booth and more. For full details on all the activities, visit the Jefferson Parish Regional Library calendar of events.

& Garden District Books hosts Greg Iles’s Natchez Burning Saturday at 1 pm . Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage. Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies waiting to tear their family apart. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only a single thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez’s oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles’ cross-hairs. With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?

& Saturday join Press Street at 6 pm for the FEAST yer eyes Comix/ Illustration Anthology release party and Cirkus Optikus Live Comix Reading! See some of your favorite local comic artists reading live on stage.

& Kenny Harrison will be signing his books Hide and Seek Harry at the Beach and Hide and Seek Harry Around the House Sunday at 11 am at Maple Street Book Shop. Harry likes to play hide-and-seek, but it’s hard to hide a hippo! Little readers will love being in on the joke as they spot the formidable Harry. Kenny Harrison worked for thirty-two years as an award-winning artist for his local newspaper before pursuing his passion: writing and illustrating children’s books. He now works in both traditional and digital techniques. Raised in New York City, he now lives in New Orleans with his wife, two children, and a menagerie of rescue pets.

& Sunday at 1 pm Garden District Book Shop features Nathan Deuel’s Friday Was the Bomb. In 2008, Nathan Deuel, the former editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and his wife, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent, moved to the deeply Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to see for themselves what was happening in the Middle East. There they had a daughter, and later, while his wife filed reports from Baghdad and Syria, car bombs erupted and one night a firefight raged outside the family’s apartment in Beirut. Their marriage strained, and they struggled with the decision to stay or go home. At once a meditation on fatherhood, an unusual memoir of a war correspondent’s spouse, and a first-hand account from the front lines of the most historic events of recent days—the Arab Spring, the end of the Iraq war, and the unrest in Syria—Friday Was The Bomb is a searing collection of timely and absorbing essays.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features poet Danny Kerwick.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

Sunday at 7 pm join Slam New Orleans for their second monthly open mic and slam of the new season at the The Shadowbox Theatre. Admission $5

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& Monday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts one of a 12-part series of seminars based on the classic book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity, by American author Julia Cameron, with Mark Bryan. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. Correlation and emphasis is used by the author to show a connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection. Cherie Cazanavette is the group moderator. Free of charge and open to the public.

&Tuesday at 2 pm Making the Nix Library features Comics with Happy Presented by Harriet Burbeck Children will explore visual narrative by making small comic books and creating their own visual stories

& On Tuesday at 6 pm, just in time for the opening of the new hurricane season, Nicholas Meis comes to Octavia Books to present and sign the new book he has co-authored, NEW ORLEANS HURRICANES FROM THE START. While hurricanes of various sizes and strengths have impacted the Crescent City since its earliest settlement in 1718, there is little record of the magnitude and regularity of these storms. In this work, authors David F. Bastian and Nicholas J. Meis delve into a wealth of historical documents, journals, newspaper articles, and expert analyses in order to characterize and analyze the storms that have affected our region since the first colonizers set foot on the Mississippi delta in the late seventeenth century. Using letters, personal diaries, official records, newspaper articles, and expert analyses, Bastian and Meis delve into the effects of the monstrous storms that have irreparably impacted south Louisiana, including what went awry during Katrina in 2005. Also examined is the evolution of New Orleans’s protection systems as well as what the city can do to avoid another catastrophe.

& Tuesday at 7 pm the Westbank Fiction Writers’ Group meets at the The Edith S. Lawson Library in Westwego: Writing exercises or discussions of points of fiction and/or critique sessions of members’ submissions. Meets the second Tuesday of every month. Moderator: Gary Bourgeois. Held in the meeting Room.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at 6:30 pm Fleur de Lit’s June Reading Between the Wines will feature Greg Herren (Lake Thirteen is his newest), Bill Loehfelm (The Devil in Her Way is his newest), Chris Wiltz (Shoot the Money & The Last Madam are her most recent), Jean Redmann (Ill Will is her newest), N.S. Patrick (Murder of Wednesday’s Children & Jack the Ripper), and Erica Spindler (Justice for Sara). At the American Can Company, 3700 Orleans Ave.

& 8 p.m. every Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns happens at BJ’s in the Bywater. This week’s features are Brett Evans & Christopher Shipman.

& Wednesday at 8 pm Esoterotica: Original Erotic Readings by Local Writers presents Esoterotica is Unthemed, So Anything Goes-Summer Edition! at the Allways.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

& Enrollment is now open for The Loyola Writing Institute summer classes. Register now to get into the class you want. To receive email notification and complete schedules of upcoming classes, email chambers@loyno.edu. The Loyola Writing Institute has been offering writing courses to the New Orleans community since 1993. These eight-week evening non-credit classes are open to all (adults 21 and up), to aspiring writers and writers of all levels. Classes meet uptown on the Loyola University campus. All classes, taught by experienced published writers, are small and supportive. Classes capped at twelve participants. $250.* Deadline for enrollment June 14. Details on the courses on their website: http://www.loyno.edu/wpc/loyola-writing-institute.

& The New Orleans Museum of Art Book Club’s June Selections are Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino and/or Stealing Athena: A Novel by Karen Essex. Join the NOMA Book Club! Each month we read art-related fiction and non-fiction, and engage in discussion groups and programs. Book Club members may buy their reading selections at the NOMA Museum Shop at a 20% discount. Call the Shop at (504) 658-4133 for more information.
Looking ahead to a busy next week:

& Peeking ahead, on Sunday, June 8 is a special evening with Khaled Hosseini – #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE KITE RUNNER – celebrating the paperback release of AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED. The author will be interviewed before a live audience by Louisiana Cultural Vistas editor David Johnson. Octavia Books is holding the event at Temple Sinai, 6227 St. Charles Avenue (at Calhoun), New Orleans, LA. Doors open at 4:300PM and the program will start promptly at 5:30. Tickets are required! The cost per ticket is the same as the price of the book. You will get to meet Khaled Hosseini in person while he signs your copy. Call or visit Octavia Books (or their website) to order tickets in advance.

& Also looking ahead to the following week there will be a Walker Percy Festival, A Literary Festival Celebrating the Writer and His Works June 6—8 in St. Francisville, Louisiana. Good food and drink, live music, and a great time talking about books and Southern culture under the live oaks: That’s what the inaugural Walker Percy Weekend has to offer when it celebrates the acclaimed novelist’s life and work in St. Francisville, June 6—8. * Tickets are limited and selling fast. You can get tickets here.

& Also in the near future: Ignatius’ Escape from Baton Rouge Tour!Lovers of A Confederacy of Dunces can feast on two exceptional events both guaranteed to deepen their love of the novel and increase their understanding of the author’s life and death. On Saturday, June 7, Ignatius’ Escape from Baton Rouge Bus Tour will retrace the steps of Confederacy protagonist, Igtnatius Reilly’s bus trip back to New Orleans after a disastrous job interview in Baton Rouge. Butterfly Toole biographer Cory MacLauchlin, author of Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces will guide participants through John K Toole’s New Orleans from the Toole Collection at Tulane University Library, to several of Toole’s favorite watering holes in the French Quarter, Toole’s gravesite and finally for a private tour of The Lucky Dog Warehouse and a chance to feast on the iconic Lucky Dog, a Confederacy “character” itself. Along the way, MacLauchlin will regale you with little know facts and tales about Toole, his life and his literary masterpiece. The cost of the Tour is $100 (plus processing fees) per person and includes all transportation, meals, tours and presentations at the JKT Collection and Lucky Dog Warehouse. Seating is limited. Tickets may be purchase from The Manship Theatre Ticket Office. The Ignatius Escape Tour on Saturday will be followed on Sunday, June 8 with a 3 PM Matinee screening of The Omega Point documentary which will include a presentation by filmmaker, Joe Sanford and by Butterfly author, Cory MacLauchlin. There will also be the opportunity to purchase Butterfly in the Typewriter and have it signed by the author. Tickets for The Omega Point are$10 per person and also available at the Manship Theatre Ticket Office.

Sacred and Fatal February 1, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in art, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, quotes, Toulouse Street.
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Annie Leibovitz portrait of Bourgeois.

Annie Leibovitz portrait of Bourgeois.

“Self-expression is sacred and fatal. It’s a necessity.”
Louise Bourgeois

Odd Words Update January 13, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, literature, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, publishing.
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A correction & an addition: Special Tea at 4337 Banks Street is now the home of Spoken Word New Orleans’ Sunday event. They also host another event on Wednesdays:

& Wednesday nights from 7-10 Lyrics and Laughs bridges comedy and poetry featurig performers from both genres at Special Tea, 4337 Banks St.

& The new Sunday show from Spoken Word New Orleans is  Poetry and Paint Brushes. Poets perform as our resident artists paints the crowd and performers. Also at Special Tea, 4337 Banks Street. No longer at the Bayou Road location.

If you host events be sure to keep odd.words.nola@gmail.com in he loop.

Please Don’t Call Me Ishmael September 11, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in art, cryptic envelopment, Toulouse Street.
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Or, How I Came to Encounter the Great White Fail Whale on a Voyage to the Wind-Swept Concrete Seas of Richmond, VA.

It began with a telephone call to my replacement. He was late into his second week of day-long huddles in a tiny room at Moloch’s in-name-only tower in downtown New Orleans, and LT–he goes by LT, and is every bit a small-town boy from a little place just outside Richmond–was catching on quick and enjoying himself thoroughly. Having found a good thing on his first night out to dinner, I believe he has now his own waiter at the Palace Cafe and a cocktail waiting for him by the time he is seated.. His wife called on Thursday of that second week and informed him that he would have sole custody of his two young sons for the coming weekend, because she was running away with her girlfriends to places unspecified. Perhaps an island in the tropical reaches of the vast Southern Ocean. Or Ocean City, which is for some people the next best thing.

It was clearly my turn to go to Richmond. And I had an ulterior motive. On returning from my last trip to Richmond I arrived too early at the airport and found myself first in the gift shop, and ultimately in Applebees. You might not be sure which is worse, killing time in an airport gift shop or eating a blackened chicken salad at Applebees (which was more than tolerable), but in truth I left the gift shop with an illustrated Poe for my son and a tin of Absinthe-flavored mints but not with a tee-shirt I had hesitated over for half an hour. In the long run, my salad and rum-and-tonic with a Vicodin (I was just over some surgery) turned out to be the better half of the deal, for I ended up not purchasing the shirt and regretting that decision almost from the moment they closed the cabin doors.

I didn’t purchase the shirt, placed in the gift shop by the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, because I did not much care for the quote on the back (I have nothing against Rilke, mind you) but it seemed completely unrelated to the art on the front. Ah, but the art on the front. It haunted me the entire flight back, spoiling my Vicodin happiness at ending a week of business travel and returning home.

The front piece was a screen reproduction of artist iona rozeal brown’s “a3 blackface #59″ (yes she writes her name in all lower case, and titles her paintings in the same manner). According to the small catalog book I purchased today, brown “unites[s] African-American and East Asian cultures. Her paintings resemble nineteenth century Japanese ukiyo-e wookdblock prints, but they present contemporary urban characters included by hip-hop.” I think they neglect to mention that there is a hint of manga and anime about the paintings as well.

This is the painting (or rather, tee-shirt) I fell in love with but failed to purchase on my last trip, reproduced as best I can from a small catalog book with my cell phone.

You can view and zoom into the VMFA’s web version here. Notice the legend at the bottom right of image on that web page for there in lies my tale.

I not only agreed to go to Richmond to spare LT’s another week of eating in New Orleans while his wife dished out the mac-and-cheese to the boys, I booked an early Sunday flight for the express purpose of arriving in time and going to the VMFA to sit before this picture for a long time, and collect not just a tee-shirt but any other image I could find: catalog, poster, post card, the whole lot.

I am very fond of Asian art and culture. I’m trying to time a trip to the Birmingham, Ala. Botanical Garden’s Japanese Garden just in time for the maples to turn. I found the juxtaposition of urban American characters in an Asian setting compelling. The fact that one of the subjects was smoking a cigar added a bit. Last, I have begun to grow my hair out into a queue, and the image of the character having his hair braided drove home the last nail. My own is nothing quite like Queequeg’s or the painting’s subject, mind you, but I haven’t ruled out the idea of a few small skull beads of the sort Dr. John favors. (Blame Piano Dave for this last idea. I haven’t gotten that far yet, and I am pretty sure that a braid with skull beads would not go over well at Moloch World Headquarters. I catch enough so far good-natured ribbing for having my hair that long as it is).

I was, frankly, completely smitten by this picture on several levels.

So I arose at 0:my-god-fifteen this morning, a quarter hour ahead of my alarm clock and almost three hours prior to my 7:00 am flight via Philadelphia to Richmond. There were later flights available, the sort that would have been more direct and landed me around 5 p.m. local time, ideal for grabbing the car, getting to the hotel and walking across to the hundreds of beers, quite good food and satellite radio New Orleans music of the Capital Ale House. Instead I chose the 7:00 am because I was obsessed with this image, was determined if necessary to relocate one of the viewing benches and plop myself in front of it for a good hour, then run up as big a bill as necessary in the gift shop.

When I arrived there was a gentleman in a blazer who promptly asked if he could help direct me. I told him what I was looking for, but he was clearly just a docent and had no idea. He led me to the front desk, where everyone was busy ringing up tickets to the big Faberge exhibit but the young man on the end stationed at a computer volunteered to help me. It took him a while to find it, but finally he spun around his monitor and asked, this one?

Yes, I said. Where is that hanging?

He paused for a minute and then told me. It normally hangs in the 21st Century Art gallery on the second floor. However, that space had been cleared to make room for an installation titled Mocha Dick by artist Tristan Lowe. It is in fact a giant, near-life size whale made from industrial felt and an inflatable armature. A whirring fan of the sort that powers inflatable children;’s amusements can be heard keeping the whole thing upright.

I engaged a half-dozen docents in conversation about my disappointment but they appeared to be mostly local college students working out their service requirements. The chances of running into a curator on a Sunday who would hear my tale and be struck by the industry and dedication of getting up at an ungodly hour just to see this one painting and who would take my privately into the back to view it were a hopeless fantasy.

All I could think of was: Fail Whale. My entire plan to book an early flight to spend some quality time ogling this gorgeous painting was spoiled by a Fail Whale. And not just any whale, but a white whale. A white whale great enough to fill the entire 21st Century Art gallery. (I have no idea where the artist gets the title, unless he meant the foam that sits atop his mocha latte).

I would gladly share my queen bed with a scarified stranger performing dark rituals before bedtime that set off the smoke detector for the chance to see the iona rozel brown painting, but instead I got what you see above, and a gorgeous but small (5×5) catalog of the modern art collection, which will end up permanently creased to page 100 on my bookshelf on a plate stand, to display the painting as best I can. because there is not a print, a poster or even a postcard. I’m glad I picked up the tee-shirt at the airport on my way in because they didn’t even have that at the gift shop.

Great White Fail Whale indeed.

I consoled myself with visiting the late 20th Century exhibit, spending entirely too much time in front of their sole Rothko, his rich blacks an antidote to my disappointment in white found where my painting should have been hanging. It’s not a bad collection for a mid-sized city, almost all of it donated by the Sidney and Frances Lewis Foundation. The one Warhol in the collection is based on the series Warhol did of a strip of portraits (Marilyn Monroe being perhaps the most famous example), but this one was from a set of camera booth photographs of Frances Lewis titled something like Sidney’s Harem. It is (thankfully) not in the catalog and I didn’t make a note of the title but I’m pretty sure that’s it.

Not an unpleasant way to spend an afternoon, but like the obsessive Ahab my own fixation was brought to an unhappy end by a great white whale. Nothing to be done, except to put on the tee-shirt and head over to the Capital Ale House to console myself with a few of their hundreds of beers, Belgian frittes and a black-bean burger (think a crab cake made from black beans). I contemplated a bit of absinthe after my visit to the mostly disappointing Edgar Allen Poe museum, but I think a tankard or three of ale is the right remedy for a long voyage come to a disappointing end.

Indians, Cajuns and Cowboys July 4, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in art, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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Toss some bamboo on that fire, chere, its Independence Day.

Read Wendy Rodrigue’s The American Cajun on her blog Musings of an Artist’s Wife, a fine wander through patriotic themed pieces of George Rodrique’s Acadian period.

The Edge of Friday Night January 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, blues, French Quarter, music, Toulouse Street.
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The Kerry Irish Pub is the first bar with music pouring out the door the tourists reach as they enter the quarter from the Casino and the downtown hotels nearest the river. The regulars are crowded up toward the door but the tourists gravitate toward the band for a few songs, as obvious and routine in their appearance as the homeless. A couple wearing feather boas; the three men in odd hats, one in a ten gallon wool hat with a Burger King child’s crown over the crown of the hat, another perhaps in a Carnival-colored jester hat or one of those tall Cat In The Hat numbers: it doesn’t matter. I really don’t remember, just their motleynes, announcing to the world that they are in New Orleans and not at home in Alabama or Arkansas or east Texas in a corporate office park or a construction site, not tonight. They are playing dress up with drinks, a combination of the innocence of childishness and the fervor of youth, the way my daughters guy friends might act when they smuggle beer into the backyard and got into my hats.

You sit in front, listening to the band but you ask the transients between songs where they are from, what they plan to do in New Orleans. They never stay long; all our bound for Bourbon Street: Disneyland Sodom where the only thing real is life of the barkers, the bartenders, the musicians playing endless covers of Lynard Skynard when they pack up for the night and and leave it behind. I live next door to a Bourbon Street guitar player in this dismal shack of a shotgun, so pathetic looking from the outside that when the landlord was doing some work and took off back to Mississippi leaving my door ajar for hours no one came in and cleaned me out. No one was looking for a place to light a crack pipe I guess, or perhaps there is still some honor among the poor. I live on the edge of a gentrified neighborhood and the pickings are better a few blocks over. Taking my bargain basement TV and laptop might strike a little too close to home–who might be robbing their own house of their few ill-gotten things–and the shopping is better up the block. That’s reality, where my neighbor the musician and I live, not the roaring noise of Bourbon.

But the tourists coming in, drawn by the first live band they hear, don’t care. The New Orleans of their dreams is calling, the exotic drinks, the beads and boobs and Big Ass Beers, the daily festival of public drunkenness reserved in their hometowns for a season of Saturdays tailgating before The Big Game, reliving the memory of drunken college parties acted out every night on Bourbon for their entertainment and themselves the star of the production.

I remember a quiet night when a couple and their children stopped outside a bar while the band played a song the parents remembered from their youth, the father explaining to the ‘tweens how they loved that song when they were young and all of them–parents and children alike–staring into the bar over the banister railing that closed off the french doors, the parents lost in a reverie of youth and the children imagining their parents as people young and wild, living out what seems to a twelve-year-old the dream of what life might be if they were only free. I stopped and lit a cigarette that night and watched them until they passed on, imagining the thoughts running through their heads.

You sit at the Kerry with just a few companions in front, the regulars of the bar sitting in the back and the band is just juke box to them, the soundtrack recorded music has taught us to expect of life. The band is a pick up gig. One of your companions is the sister of the drummer and band leader and you know that the regular players were unavailable and the two guitarists are just sitting in for the night. One is an older black blues musician you have hoped to see since a friend gave you an old CD to copy, Mem Shannon, the reason why you came. As the band is unfamiliar it takes them a song or two to fall into the practicality of the blues, a form as stylized as the baroque and and well known to them all so the players quickly pull it together. Shannon plays a red lacquered guitar covered with the dials and switches of the days before every player had a row of effect boxes at this feet, plays with the easy facility of long experience, and you think of B.B. King. The other guitarist is a guy named Danny Dugan, and on his jet black guitar with the whammy bar handing loose and broken he plays in the familiar rock-flavored tenor with occasional metal slide of a llife long fan of Dickie Betts.

They are two men of the same age but different in race, experience, the musicians they emulated. And yet as they play in an unfamiliar combo they follow each other from the corner of their eyes. With an occasional eyebrow arched like inverted slurs they support each other’s solos with perfect rhythm work, two practiced disciples of the blues each in their own style. The band leader gives directions between songs, sings with a voice pure and inspired as gospel for the love of the music. The tourists come and go and none leave anything in the tip jar. The regulars chatter in the back but fill the jar with cash when it is passed, understanding the price of their chosen ambiance. No one except the few of us in front is really paying attention. I sit rapt and follow the the way these two musicians settle into an unfamiliar gig and find a way to make incredible music with the grace of toreadors practicing without a crowd.

I mostly watch Mem Shanon, the fast and delicate finger work, the wrist flicking vibrato, as concert house perfect as any violinist but learned over decades playing to disinterested bars for the pure joy of the music, eyes sometimes closed with a slight smile of delight and other times looking up to the sky as if to search for approval from the God his elders told him hated the devil’s blues, the gospel tempos of the church stolen by scoundrels. I watch him eye the other guitarist as they trade licks just for the pure pleasure of it and the hope of enough in the tip jar and the bar cut to buy them dinner after and a cab home, playing not for the disinterested tourists who drift off to Bourbon or even for the regulars who make offerings to the tip jar the way the jaded fill the collection plate but for the pure love of the music, playing for themselves, for each other as the sort of men who play an edge of the quarter club on a Friday night for tips and drinks because they only want to play, would bring their own beer and find a room and play because they can’t imagine another way to live.

This is how art is born and tradition lives, not because of but in spite of the crowd, because these unfamiliar players share just enough of the vocabulary and are long practiced to make a pick up gig into something wonderful, because they can’t imagine a better way to spend the evening. An audience of two or three is almost irrelevant, but I like to think we add something to the moment, the smoke of our cigarettes rising up to heaven like josh stick offerings to the real heart of why New Orleans is, people who play and live and make an art of life because they can’t imagine another way to be.

Embrace your demons, learn their names January 28, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in art, books, literature.
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Art is expression, art is laziness. Art is a rejection of capitalism. Lay on the couch, reflect on your experience, your feelings about the world, wait for a flicker of emotion, a ripple along the surface. Reproduce your inner life on a canvas, in a poem, a looping narrative. Redirect your angst into a play. It fails when you don’t go deep enough, when you think what you’re saying is inherently interesting, when you think your audience is your mom. But it’s still art. Art is intent. Art is narcissistic, you have to believe you have something to say, though we’re all so similar. I remember a story of two boys determined to drink a beer with Bukowski, staring through the window to his crappy apartment as he tossed and turned for days without writing a line. Art is the opposite of going to work, [you] have to embrace your demons, learn their names. If you’re absurdly lucky you can make a living off it, which is like winning the lottery, which is like being paid for being alive.

– Stephen Elliott from today’s Rumpus Email.

Pedestrian I: 310 May 10, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Jazz, Pedestrian I, Toulouse Street.
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“Oh the streets of Rome/Are filled with rubble.
Ancient footprints/Are everywhere.”
–Bob Dylan, “When I Paint My Master Piece”

310

Mondrian ruins on the hard luck side of Rampart, the pawn shop gone, the facades unredeemed, avoided by spooked rail-pass tourists walking past the remains of the Eagle Saloon wondering where the picturesque history and jazz are hidden.

Dead Dogs Wag No Tails August 14, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in art, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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As I sat in a coffee shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea in California last week, perusing the visitor guide map, I noticed that the Rodrigue and Thomas Kinkade galleries were adjacent to one another and I thought: where else could a single firebomb do so much good? In that vein, I offer you this interesting new grafitti that’s popping up around New Orleans. This example is courtesy of infrogmation.

BlueDogroadKill

Important Note: I love George Rodgrigue’s older work, and would like to own one or more. It’s just the insipid Blue Dogs I can’t stand.

The Daughters of the Moon February 16, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in art, books, literature.
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If you are a regular visitor here, there is at least a chance you would enjoy subscribing to the RSS Feed of Fiction and Poetry from the New Yorker. Today’s fiction installment from Italo Calvino was particularly good–if you like that Odd sort of thing as much as we do–a perfect fable for our own time.

So what are you waiting for? Go check out The Daughters of the Moon.

The Lad Searches the Night for His Newts July 27, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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We interrupt whatever the hell it was you meant to do when you stumbled in here to present this Important Public Service Announcement on the subject of Dental Hygiene.

But first, Motorhead must find his Newts…

Remember: as Theodore Bikel reminds us within the conceptual framework of this filmic event nothing really matters…

Misanthrope Freeway, One Mile… May 23, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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“What do you mean, ‘That was nice?’ That was art. Art isn’t nice.”
— Macheath (Mack the Knife) in the Threepenny Opera

I’m in a mood. Humor me. If you can’t come and buy me a drink somewhere, at least sit back and vid this while I consider the consequences of pouring out a tumbler of the amber rambler. Just be glad I spared you the Marilyn Manson version.

On second thought, don’t come buy me a drink tonight. Buy me one tomorrow at the Rock N Bowl for Renard Poche’s show at 11.

Cherry Blossoms March 29, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, flowers, garden, home, Japan, New Orleans, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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Sleeping under the trees on Yoshino mountain
The spring breeze wearing Cherry blossom petals
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ~ Saigyo

[deep sigh-h-h-h-h-h]

cherryblossomspic.jpg

I deeply love New Orleans and live to see my first azalea or crepe myrtle in bloom, even if it getting too warm too soon by then. When I felt compelled to leave by personal and professional circumstance, I came to live for eight years in Washington, D. C. or thereabouts. The first real community of friends met online (out of the BBS world) was there, some of the finest people I’ve ever met. I spent some years walking the marble corridors of power until my feet gave out and I decided I had the wrong attitude for Washington: I work for my boss, but you other 534 assholes work for me. That is not the path to K Street.

I met my wife Rebecca there at the Warner Theater. I had come stag to see the Neville Brothers, she and her roommate to see the Nighthawks who shared the bill. We met in the smokers lobby buying a beer. Two years later we were married (in North Dakota, not Washington) and our first house together was on 4th Street N.E. Our daughter Killian was born in Washington and spent her first two years of life there.

Some of my fondest memories from that time are of Rebecca and I taking a bottle of wine down to the tidal basin (before the road on the city side was closed by the memorial FDR never wanted), where we could “crank Frank” (Sinatra) on the car stereo behind us, and sit on the grass under the cherry trees and watch the lights come on in the city over the water.

Not a spring has passed since leaving in 1994 when I don’t think wistfully of the cherry blossoms in bloom in Washington.

I nearly bought this next one online (and it wasn’t cheap) but it was already sold. Holiday Innpressionism is not really my style, but the scene was almost irresistible.

cherryblossomspnt.jpg

I think when the crepe myrtles bloom, I will take Rebecca into the park with a bottle of wine and we will crank Frank until the stars and mosquitoes come out.

We now return you to the unending Twilight Zone marathon that is New Orleans.

The Great Wave March 4, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Hurricane Katrina, Japan, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Hosuki The Wave
Hokusai’s The Great Wave of the Coast of Kanagawa

I found this postcard of a picture by Hokusai while in Washington, prompting the following caption-cum-fable for New Orleans..

The foamy fringe is a nest of threatening fingers reaching out to swamp the boats. The mountain is distant, cold capped, oblivious as the gods. The men’s backs are turned to the wave, and bent to the task of rowing. They did not choose the sea; the sea chose them. It is the world they were granted by their ancestors, a way as deeply ingrained in their souls as the salt in their sea-glare furrowed brows. The sea is a mirror of the sky, sometimes placid and other times fierce with wind, and where else shall men live except between the sky and the sea, those promising and pitiless fields of blue? They have heard the tale of tsunami, whole villages swallowed by the sea, places where people no longer beach their boats, coasts given over to ghosts. Still, they rise up with the sun and go down to their own nets. When confronted with the Great Wave, there is nothing to do but row.

This is a repost from long ago, back when visitors number in the high single figures, inspired by taking down the postcard off the wall where it had become buried by other things since summer of 2006. The mood seems apt to me at the moment and it is now my computer desktop and home and work. Tje idea it inspired in 2006 worth repeating for a larger audience now that this is my primary blog.

We Have Come For Your Children March 1, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Odds&Sods.
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We will set them free.

Dancing Bear February 10, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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Dancing Bear
A fellow New Orleans blogger left a comment asking about the Dancing Bear tag on my posts. It’s an old, old nickname, predating the adoption by the Grateful of the dancing teddy bear icon by several years, although I am almost enough of a fan to consider myself a head (notice “cryptic envelopment tag on some posts also usually tagged “Odds&Sodds”). While I am rather hirsute (except at the very top) I am straight, so it’s not about that kind of Bear either. It is instead a reference to Captain Kangaroo that I picked up in my early teens. (No, I am not about to tell that story, although it’s fairly harmless. No, Jeff, Bear will not dance.)

Strange how childhood nicknames stick. My mother-in-law used to be aghast when I called my son buddy. “That’s how people get those horrible nicknames,” she complained. Well, I rather liked the two Buddy’s I’ve known, so I wasn’t too worried about it. And it didn’t stick. Dancing Bear, however, has stuck for a certain circle of friends, and it’s usually shortened to Bear.

As to the picture above, if you’re thinking of getting me something extravagant for my birthday, I definitely can not afford one of these lovely Inuit Dancing Bear sculptures offered at Siverston Gallery, but after being Dancing Bear for a third of a century I’d love to have one.

I need New Orleans more than New Orleans needs me September 2, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in art, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Noted sculptor, Xavier professor and of course Orleanian John Scott, interviewed on June 29 from Houston as he struggled with the illness that took his life this week:

“That’s the only home I know. I want my bones to be buried there. I belong there. I need New Orleans more than New Orleans needs me.”

Amen.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps November 29, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in art, Dancing Bear, Odds&Sods, quotes, Toulouse Street.
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For certain is death for the born
And certain is birth for the dead;
Therefore over the inevitable
Thou shouldst not grieve.
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2

Thou shouldst not grieve. I suggest we dance.

Maple Leaf Rag October 4, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in art, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Rebirth.
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Yesterday I visited the Maple Leaf Bookstore for the first time in 20 years. Nothing has changed, I thought as I grabbed the center pull of the screen door and entered. There is something about a cramped bookstore that entices in a way the marketing and design teams of the big box stores simply haven’t comprehended. Perhaps it is just that I am not the twenty to forty something woman book buyer they all believe they are catering to.

Borders and Barnes and Nobles will do in a pinch. A bookstore is, at the end of the day, still to me what a candy store is to a child, a place of wonder and reward. Still, there is something about the neatness and organization of the boxes that is repulsively antiseptic, that fails to hook me and make the sale. I routinely walk into B&N or Borders and leave without a book. When I visit an independent book store, that is clearly run for the love of books, even the endlessly cavernous Powell’s in Portland, Ore. (the highlight of my trip there last year, ahead of even the Japanese Garden), and wander the pratical and untidy stacks, I am entranced. I could never leave such a store empty handed. Hell, I think I even still have the receipt from Powell’s, and a half-dozen their bookmarks.

The staff of the Maple Leaf solicitiously offered to order me the book my daughter needed, but I couldn’t wait. Instead, I just wandered the cramped space, finding the poetry shelf right where I left it two decades ago. I picked up a little chapbook, Katrina-ku, storm poems, from the New Orleans Haiku society. Must are senryu, the form without the rigid references to nature. The real high point are the pen-and-ink drawings that accompany each poem. And the renku “Only The Living/a renku”, written collaboratively by members of the society, is a gem.

I still haven’t gotten my cannoli yet at Brocato’s, but I have no one to blame but myself. Returning to the Maple Leaf was just as sweet.

The great wave near the coast of Kanagawa August 12, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in art, Japan, New Orleans.
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Hosuki The Wave

I found this postcard of a picture by Hokusai while in Washington. I put me in mind of my recent Wet Bank Guide post View from Under the Volcano. The foamy fringe is a nest of threatening fingers reaching out to swamp the boats. The moutain is distant, cold capped, oblivious as the gods. The men’s backs are turned to the wave, and bent to the task of rowing. They did not choose the sea; the sea chose them. It is the world they were granted by their ancestors, a way as deeply ingrained in their souls as the salt in their sea-glare furrowed brows. The sea is a mirror of the sky, sometimes placid and other times fierce with wind, and where else shall men live except beneath that broad and pitiless blue? They have heard the tale of tsunami, whole villages swallowed by the sea, places where people no longer beach their boats, coasts given over to ghosts. Still, they rise up with the sun and go down to their own nets. When confronted with the Great Wave, there is nothing to do but row.

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