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Poetry and Blood September 21, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in FYYFF, Louisiana, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, second line, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Yes, there is poetry in the ground, as the famous 19th century Creole poet said, and there is blood on the streets. If you look at the sagging shotgun shacks at the edge of the fashionable neighborhoods, the ones with the paint peeling from their gingerbread, and see opportunity and not poverty, you are part of the problem of the new New Orleans exceptionalism.

I am a New Orleans exceptionalist with every chauvinist drop of Gallic blood in my veins, but it is tempered by my nearly 300-year old Cote des Allemans heritage, the practically of finding enough to eat in this city, a problem solved three centuries ago by the arrival of my people who came with no glint of gold in their eye but with strong backs and a willingness to make it work, to feed the foolish Frenchman seeking Spanish riches in a land of mud.

The joy that manifests itself in the brass band on the corner or at the head of a second line, the flavor of every forkful of real New Orleans food seasoned with the cast off bits of the pig, is born out of the ecstatic Black church, the fanciful celebration of slaves dreaming of the land of milk and honey in their weekly escape from the Exodus of the hustle, the daily struggle.

law1The newcomers are as ignorant as my own ancestors, who fell for John Law’s flyers with imaginary palm trees promising tropical indolence and mountains in the background no doubt filed with gold and silver. What the newcomers lack is the experience of the toil of serfdom and a willingness to work hard to build a city. They are not fleeing religious persecution and war but arrive with the uniquely American dream of a quick buck with as little work as possible, with the mark of Wall Street and Silicon Valley stamped on their heads as clearly as the mark of Cain. They come not to build, for all their modern talk of entrepreneurship, but to destroy. They come like the famous swindler and gambler Law to remake an alien land in their own image. They come to a city 300 years old not to build but to destroy.

Orleanians know about entrepreneurship but are more likely to call it the hustle. Grilling pork chop sandwiches in the street without a license or selling ice cups out your window in the summer is entrepreneurship, but it is an entrepreneurship of people looking to make next month’s rent, who have never had enough money in the bank to dream big. There are big dreamers standing on corners selling crack, who are ethically and economically no different from real estate flippers. They see a need and fill it because it’s all about the Benjamins, not the consequences.

The real entrepreneurs are those pushing the pork chop sandwiches, the people who get up in the dark to catch the Michoud bus for the long ride in from the East to a low-paying job. What the newcomers don’t understand is that the people here dream different dreams. They dream of Indian and Second Line suits that will set them back month’s of wages. They dream of a midnight brass band on Saturday night in the club up the street, and a ghetto burger on the break from the back of a pick up truck; not of a vacation in the Caymans. They dream and hope that their eldest child will get the rest out of bed and off to a second-rate school in the dearly bought uniforms of our new exercise in segregation: the charter school. They dream the same dream their parents did at the start of desegregation: a less laborious life, and more time for joy.

New Orleans and much of South Louisiana live by a different standard that the rest of America. They live for the joie de vivre that brings the tourists and the newcomers. A hard way of life has trained them to live not for money but for the joy wherever they can find it. Yes, they dream of nice clothes for church and Saturday night, that tricked out car, that big-ass pickup, the way the generation of the Great Depression dreamed of those things, and when the money is good they will get them. They will dress up and drive that car or truck to a house full of friends where the grill is burning and the drink is flowing and the music a bit too loud. The house may be a small but righteous brick ranch–each a perfect mirror of the post-WWII white Lakeview of my youth before the McMansions builders moved in–or a tumbledown in the city, because so many don’t understand investment. They understand rent. The closest they ever came to investment was the opportunity to buy a Schwegmann’s bond as they stood in line to cash their paycheck and pay the NOPSI bil. The house does not matter. They will go in search of the joy.

The newcomers don’t understand this but they are the joy-killers. Every lease or mortgage they sign at exorbitant rents drives the joy away. They destroy the neighborhood that supported that corner store with the magnificent po-boys at the counter in the back. They will find the corner bar where each generation of musicians learned their trade a noisy nuisance. They will loiter over their free trade coffee, mocking our own chicory as the drink of people who don’t understand coffee although the coffee shop was the center of social and business life in this city centuries ago. They will wax excited when the sketchy store with its square-bottled wine and mouth-watering po-boys turns into some fusion cooking monstrosity.

What will happen when the speculators drive everyone out of the neighborhood at the center of which stands the Indian-practice bar, when some of the newcomers complain of the noise on the street and the odd go-cup abandoned on the hood of their car. When the people who assembled their on Sunday to practice the ancient chants are driven into diaspora, how long will they persist? One hopes they will, just as so many city churches survived a generation or two after their parishioners fled to Metairie, Chalmette or the East. Even if their sacred meeting place of faded bar signs survives, will they bring their children in (sorry, not allowed) or to just stand on the street outside listening and learning? And how long before the NOPD drives by to scatter those children for loitering while Black in the neighborhood of houses their grandparents built?

New Orleans must market its exceptionalism to survive. It brings the tourists, and maintains the remaining jobs in the city. The wealthy men reluctant to admit newcomers to the clubs that were the center of their inner circle drove away the oil men and let the port go to ruin. There are no other jobs. Their narrow-minded stupidity and Southern comfort in the ways of segregation built the city we have today. Is out only choice to mimic them–to try to drive the newcomers and their money away in an effort to preserve our dream, our joy, and yes our exclusivity, our exceptionalism–as they did to preserve their’s? Do we let the newcomers come, and place out hope in the city’s incredible power of assimilation, of Creolization, that our own exceptional melting pot will convert them not into Anglo-Saxon Yankees but blend them into our Pan-Caribbean gumbo?

More importantly, what should we do, what should we expect them to do unless we model it for them and make it a part of that gumbo to care about the dissolution of public education, the generational poverty, the busy Second Line’s worth of bodies that fall each year in a pool of blood? If I knew the answers I would tell you, and I have pondered these questions since the days of the Wet Bank Guide, since that moment a decade ago when we confronted absolute hopelessness and met it with resolution. What should the people who cashed out their IRAs and maxed out their credit cards to rebuild a city with their own sweat and blood say to those arrive with a down payment in hand looking to buy a piece of the dream? That your hustle is nothing unless you understand the roots of the joy you seek to have stamped on your hand Saturday night. That unless you understand this city and are ready to bleed for it, the dream you are buying will ultimately prove as empty as John Law’s promises of three centuries ago.

Ghosts of the Flood August 29, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in A Fiction, Corps of Engineers, Fargo, Federal Flood, Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, memoir, postdiluvian, Shield of Beauty, the dead, The Narrative, The Typist, We Are Not OK.
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” . . . so many, / I had not thought death had undone so many . . . “
The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot

Sometimes I feel them, my wife told me, their spirits, as I’m driving down the street. All that suffering, she explains, all those people. As if 300 years of yellow fever and the lash, the lynchings and gansta gun battles weren’t enough to populate a parallel city of spirits in this place where tombs are mansions and burials a celebration, the Flood came.

Now there is a brooding presence even in the bright of day, looming over us all like a storm-bent house on the verge of collapse. These empty shells of former lives that line so many streets are a daily reminder of the vast catastrophe; the windows staring lifelessly at broken sidewalks, the facades washed pale and colorless. Each still bears the esoteric marks of the searchers that mimic the scratching on tombs in the old cemeteries, some the dreaded number at the bottom that totals up the lost.

The tally marked beneath the cross now rises to 1577, a crowed like that described by Eliot. I imagine not a host but solitary figures, the ghosts we know from childhood stories. In their newness to death, I picture them wandering as curious as children in the house of an aged aunt, getting underfoot and touching what they should not, interrupting and making unwelcome mischief. The brush of their passing is still strong enough to reach out and touch a good Catholic girl from North Dakota, one as innocent of the spiritualist shadows cast by every flickering candle flame before a New Orleans saint’s statue as a Midwesterner could possibly be.

Even the most rationale and disinclined among us imagine ghosts in a city this old, where the steamy air is a tangible presence on the skin and lights flash erratically in the night through the stirrings of the thick, tangled foliage, where the old houses creak and groan as they settle into the soft earth like old men lowering themselves into a chair. Once I wished to experience that touch of the other, a product of reading too much fantastic fiction. One of the signature scenes in film for me is John Cassavettes as a modern Prospero in The Tempest, standing in his urban tower and saying, “Show me the magic.” For him, the sky erupts in lightening. I would sometime catch myself whispering those words, but they were simply blown away by the night wind.

Then one bright August afternoon I was sitting in my idling car in my driveway in Fargo, North Dakota. At just before five o’clock that 29th of August a string of Carnival beads which hung from my rearview mirror–black and gold beads interspersed with black voodoo figures­–suddenly burst. It seemed strange at the time that they would break as the car sat still, would break at the bottom and not at the top where they routinely rubbed against the mirror post, where the string was tied off, the knot weakening the line. It was not the way that I, as a sailor with some idea of how a line will wear, would expect them to break.

Perhaps the beads slid about at the end of the string as I drove around, causing the string to wear through at the bottom, so that it was inevitable that is where they would break first, given enough corners turned, sufficient applications of the accelerator and brake. The timing of just before five o’clock on that Monday in August of 2005 was just a coincidence, the inevitable laws of physics unfolding without regard for the observer and his sense of time.

Be careful what you wish for is the lesson we learned in a dozen fairy tales. The longed for touch of the other, and the tide that washed me up on the shores of my personal Ithaca, into this house on Toulouse Street in the only place I have ever thought of as home, came with a terrible price: both are tainted with graveyard dust. I would undo it all in instant, if I only knew how.

I’ve written this post before–or ones very like it, that tell this story of the broken beads–and then deleted them. It seems just too strange and personal a tale to share with just any aimless visitor wandering the Internet. What will people think? I ask myself in a voice that sounds vaguely like my mother’s. What if some future employer Googles up this article? worries the husband with a mortgage and two children to raise. I don’t expect them to understand.

Unless you learned from the maid that cleaned your family home that crossing two matchsticks in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary and sprinkling them with salt would bring rain, unless you believed that a piece of candy found on the ground could be made safe to eat by making the sign of the cross over it, if people did not come in the night and scratch odd marks on certain tombs on the grounds where your family is buried; if these were not part of your earliest experience, then my tale of the broken beads sounds like the product of an overworked imagination, something like Scrooge’s undigested bit of beef, a spot of mustard.

There is a spectre over New Orleans. As the August anniversary slipped away, I thought the grim, invisible cloud that hung over the city would begin to drift away. Instead, as the weeks passed, I was increasingly convinced: everyone in New Orleans was haunted. You could see it in people’s eyes, in the way they walked, hear it in the words they spoke, or the ones they wrote online as they spoke about their lingering pain. It was a spirit as much inside as out, the ghost in the machine that haunted our every step.

Then came the Monday Night Football game. I thought about the curse of the Superdome, the one that suggests destruction of the Girod Street Cemetery has cursed the ground and all who play there. Was the spirit of the people in the Dome that night just the charm needed to lay that particular haunting to rest, to break that curse? The morning after the strut in people’s step, the lilt of their voices told me that perhaps, just perhaps a healing had begun. We were not a city in need of an exorcism: we were the exorcism.

The ghost of the Flood is now a part of who we are. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if it is ectoplasm or the synchronized firing of a million neurons in ways science does not yet understand. In the end we have to come to term with it. This is something that we as Orleanians, the people who live next to our dead in their exclusive farbourgs of marble and white-washed stone, should be able to do.

We need to honor these dead and respect them, not with the weight of Confucian ancestor worship but in the simple spirit of the pre-Confucian Japanese who venerated odd stones, in the ways inherent in our own Latin roots mingled with the traditions of Africa, where the community of saints and the loa of Africa intersect. We don’t need an exorcism. We need a conjuration, a ritual that calls up the ghosts and honors them, that welcomes them in the way the way the devotees of Vodoun welcome the possession of the loa.

Perhaps next August 29, we should all tie a brown cord on some pillar or post of the house at just the point where we have carefully painted over the water stain. Just above that, we should mark in dust of ground gypsum the rescue symbol that is now as much a part of our selves and our city as the sign of the cross. We will do this to tell whoever is listening—Our Father, Oshun, Mother of God, ghosts of the Flood—we remember. We have suffered, and we will never forget the Flood and those who did not come through. We are the people who came through and came back. We remember the lost. We remember you. Je me souviens.

When we accept and embrace this spirit, perhaps the haunting will end once and for all, will not be a permanent pall over the city, a fearful sound in the night like a howling in the wires, or an unpleasant knotting in the stomach as we pass an abandoned house. It will cease when it becomes instead like the glinting of the sun on white-washed stone above the neat green grass of the cemeteries, just another comfortable part of who we are.

First posted Oct. 5, 2006 on Wet Bank Guide.

The Fourth Battle of New Orleans May 9, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in assholes, Federal Flood, FYYFF, New Orleans, Ninth Ward, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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My father Sidney J. Folse, Jr, A.I.A, was a professional contemporary of the August Perez family, Sr. and Jr. Forty-five years ago my father risked everything to stop construction of the Riverfront Expressway. He was senior vice president of Curtis & Davis, a firm highly dependent on government contracting. (They built, among other landmarks, the Rivergate and the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library). Every arm of big local money and government wanted that expressway built, the very people who controlled his livelihood, that of his employers and every man under him. He did not care. He stepped up, as president of the local A.I.A chapter that was vehemently opposed to its construction. He challenged the head of downtown business association to a debate on WWL-TV, which that gentleman declined. When he tried to drop off my oldest sister’s wedding portrait at the Times-Picayune, he was told “that bitch’s picture will never run in this newspaper.” (It was, thanks to my mother’s intervention with Nell Nolan). Nathaniel Curtis and Arthur Davis could have told my father to back off. They did not. For this the city owes these gentleman a great debt.

I know the unintended consequences of that battle. I drive down Claiborne and see it all the time. Still, imagine where Woldenberg Park and the Moon Walk now stand a six-lane elevated expressway. That is not the issue here. (Imagine, for that matter, the giant framework of a sound-and-light show in Jackson Square in front of the Cathedral. It was planned. The wiring to support it exists today under the flag stones surrounding Jackson Square).

The issue is: where do we draw a line in the sand? New Orleans is undergoing an ugly, greed-fueled transformation I predicted almost ten years ago on my blog Wet Bank Guide. Many things have been proposed since the storm in the name of redevelopment. Sean Cummings’ Elisio Lofts, another high-rise abomination at the foot of Elysian Fields, was stopped. The redevelopment of the old Holy Cross School site with another inappropriately sited high-rise proposed by Perez APC, has just won approval from the New Orleans City Council.

Enough.

I want to walk up to August Perez III and say, “I am the son of Sid Folse, and I am here to fuck with you.” I can’t determine if Perez Jr. is still around. Certainly papa Perez Sr would understand what that meant. I don’t hold my father’s lofty position. No one will consider that I debate Pres on WWL-TV for 30 minutes after the news. It does not matter. I am my father’s son. I gave up much to come home after the storm: my job, my financial security, my marriage. I stood in front of the Mid-City Planning Group after the storm and fought for an endorsement of the Crystal Apartments while some of my neighbors hurled the words “Section 8″ at me with the same vehemence as the mothers who spit on and shouted “nigger” and “monkey” at Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, Gaile Etienne entering McDonough 19 and Ruby Bridges entering William Frantz.

I won.

I will choose my battles and I will win again. Perez’s abomination combines the worst of the Riverfront Expressway and the Claiborne Expressway. It is an attempt to usurp the historic riverfront in the name of commerce: not an expressway for the convenience of suburban drivers and trucks bound for the (then dying) wharves, but the usurpation of the Ninth Ward for the wealthy in search of a view. The final outcome will impact the 89% Black Lower Ninth Ward as the Claiborne Expressway did the people of Treme. It will destroy the rapidly recovering neighborhood to “save” it, as people rush in to convert its quaint homes into valuable properties leveraged by Perez’s development.

This, I propose, is where we draw the line in the sand. This is where the subjects of the people who have ruled this city since the Civil War from their comfortable Uptown (and now their Warehouse District condos: thanks Lester Kabacoff, father of Pres) should rise up. Except for a brief shining era during the terms of Moon Landrieu and “Dutch” “Little Caeser” Morial, the wealthy have sculpted this community to fit their wants and desires with no regard for the people who once labored on the decrepit wharves and now staff the tourism monster.

Enough.

I will choose my battles and I will win again.

This is where the dollar-eyed dreams of the post-Federal Flood elite come to their end, or the city we all came home to save dies. If this stands, the high-rises will march the length of the park Mr. Cummings helped engineer with recovery dollars to make his property more valuable. This is how redevelopment is done today, how the Anacostia Projects were torn down in D.C., the working class Blacks banished to the counties, in the name of redevelopment. This is how historic Charleston, S.C. became a part-time ghost town after Hurricane Hugo.

Enough.

I have paid in blood and tears for the privilege of coming home. I will pay again and again until the work is done, or I have drawn my last breath.

Mr. Perez, I am the son of Sidney Folse, Jr. A.I.A, and I remember. I am here to fuck with you. I am burning with the spirit of my ancestor.

I will do everything in my power to make you regret this confrontation.

Fuck You You Fucking Fucks.

Correction: This is directed to Angela O’Byrne, who is the new principal of the firm operating under the Perez name. If it’s just a name on the door, my apologies to August III.

This changes nothing.

Twenty Two (& 1/2): Catch, Caught, Not February 8, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, FYYFF, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I applied for a job online at about 5 p.m. Saturday evening. I am a perfect fit. I included my salary requirements which make most people in New Orleans laugh even though I was a New Orleans hire by Moloch. I made it clear I was not willing to relocate. I noted I do not have my bachelors and would appreciate any accommodation in finishing it this semester.

I got a call back, and a prompt follow up email from a technical recruiter. Within two hours. On Saturday night. I used to work with these people, the ones who check their Blackberry on Saturday night.

The area code was 804, the same area code as the main campus of Moloch Capitol One Bank.

Yossarian

I have decided to insist I be able to work remotely when I get the interview call. When he asks why, I’m going to tell him I am naked. Because I will be naked. I will offer to switch the Skype call to video if he doesn’t believe me.

“Mother, his name is Yossarian.”

The Glory That Was Home September 23, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Federal Flood, Fortin Street, FYYFF, Memory, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Rebirth, Recovery, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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I thought I would share an email reply I wrote this morning, to answer anyone who asked after me yesterday at Rising Tide VII:

Thank you for the pictures and write-up. My absence from Rising Tide 7 is sadly more than a case of overbooking, but I won’t spread troubles except to wish them bon voyage. The NOLA Bloggers Movement, born out of a mailing list started by some guy in North Dakota of all places, baptized on an Ash Wednesday evening at a bar in the French Quarter, and which birthed the first Rising Tide was one of those bright shining moments of solidarity like the crime march or the first anniversary (who were those two young Black women at the 17th Street Canal bridge between Bucktown and lily-white Lakeview? I dared not ask that day) that is behind us. The rag-tag assemblage has, like so many things down here postdiluvian, reverted to form: the latent conflicts of purpose and personality reasserting themselves, paths parting, new projects taking precedence.

It is a parade I no longer ride, but sometimes finger the old doubloons thoughtfully when I come across them

Odd Words September 20, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in books, FYYFF, Gallatin & Toulouse Press, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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My mind is wandering away from books as I crash through a week’s school work in order to blaze through Season Two of Treme, which is not to say that watching Treme is drifting away from literature. I don’t think the world will ever see another Emile Zola or Upton Sinclair except through the lens of television. The Great Google turns up no recent trace of Salman Rushdie’s announced intent to author and produce a science fiction television series, but I still think David Simon has started something that is not likely to die but flourish in the future.

(Insight into the middle-aged mind: Sit on stoop and think, “Google Rushdie’s project”. Walk inside. Suddenly become unable to remember Rushdie’s name. Google “novelist jihad” and get a list of every novel with Jihad in the title or subject. Google “jihad against novelist” and read all about the recent events in the middle east, including Rushdie’s on television talking about it. Mission accomplished. Go take another whats-the-name-of-that-supplement-again.)

And then there is this:

& so to the listings…

& Tonight at 9 p.m. 17 Poets! features an Open Mic Host Jimmy Ross Birthday Roast with a reading from our celebrity host together with fellow poets Jenna Mae and Chris Toll. Ross is a poet, playwright and fiction writer. He has been long recognized as one of New Orleans’ finest satirists. Ross’ collection If Bricks Were Books was published by Think Tank press in 2003. He has been moderating the 17 Poets! Open Mic since 192007. His next collection is forthcoming from Lavender Ink. We all think we would like to be Jimmy when we grow up, but we’re waiting for Jimmy to get there first. Did I mention this is a Roast? There will be cupcakes. And frivolity. And drinking. And cupcakes.

& Thursday at 6 p.m. Octavia Books hosts T. Geronimo Johnson featuring his riveting debut novel, Hold It ‘Til It Hurts.
Johnson is from New Orleans originally and although he now makes his home in Berkeley, he maintains a strong connection to his hometown – and New Orleans figures prominently in the novel. Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is one of the few literary takes on the war in Afghanistan and the veterans who served there. “The magnificence of Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is not only in the prose and the story but also in the book’s great big beating heart. These complex and compelling characters and the wizardry of Johnson’s storytelling will dazzle and move you from first page to last.” — Anthony Swofford, , author of JARHEAD.

& Also tonight at 6:30 p.m., Vicki Salloum will be signing her novella, A Prayer to Saint Jude, at the Maple Street Book Empire Shop Healing Center location.

& One more Thursday event: Richard Sexton, Randy Harelson and Brian Costello will be signing New Roads and Old Rivers at 5:30 p.m at Garden District Book Shop. The book captures the natural and cultural vitality of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, as seen in the stunning photographs of Richard Sexton, with text by Randy Harelson and Brian Costello. Pointe Coupee is one of the oldest settlements in the Mississippi Valley, dating to the 1720s. French for a place cut off, the name refers to the area s three oxbow lakes, separated from the Mississippi over centuries. A peninsula edged by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, Pointe Coupee remains a land rich in Creole heritage, distinct in geographical beauty, and abounding in historic homes and farms.

“Which,” he asks in his best imitation of the maniacal voice of folk singer Theodore Bikel as the Rance Muhammitz in Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels, “do you choose?”

& Friday night at Octavia at 6 p.m. Stone Barrington is back in Severe Clear, a thrilling new addition to the series by perennial New York Times–bestselling author Stuart Woods—the fiftieth novel of his stellar career. Woods’ long list of titles include the New York Times–bestselling Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series.

& Also on Friday at 6 p.m. The Maple Leaf Book Store Bayou St. John locations kicks off the new The Diane Tapes Reading Series at 6 p.m., the first in a monthly reading series hosted by Ben Kopel and Anne Marie Rooney. Readers will include Ben Pelhan, a Pittsburghist living in New Orleans. He makes poems, screenplays, videos, and combinations of poems, screenplays, and videos. His work is available or forthcoming at OH NO, Spork, Fairy Tale Review, Diagram and YouTube. He likes most rivers, most movies, and most of the people he knows; Lara Glenum, Fullbright Fellow and NEA Translation Fellow, is the author of “The Hounds of No” and “Maximum Gaga”. Lara’s writing pushes the boundaries of gender politics and poetics through the use of the sublime and the grotesque. She is also the co-editor (with Arielle Greenberg) of the anthology Gurlesque, which promotes a re-imagined feminist aesthetic, which blurs the boundaries between femininity, burlesque, and the grotesque; Kristin Sanders is the author of the chapbook “Orthorexia” (dancing girl press). Her writing has appeared in places like Octopus, elimae, Strange Machine, HTMLGIANT, and Airplane Reading. Originally from California, she currently teaches at Loyola University, New Orleans, where she is the associate poetry editor at the New Orleans Review.

& Saturday at Xavier will mark the seventh annual Rising Tide Conference on the Future of New Orleans, with key note speakers including Lawrence Powell, author of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans at 9:15 am and Lolis , author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country and coproducer and author of the PBS documentary, Faubourg Treme: the Untold Story of Black New Orleans at 2 p.m. Lolis is also a member of the writing team of the HBO series Treme. Tickets are $28 in advance, $38 at the door, $18 students and include lunch and a day-long series of panels on subjects of interest to New Orleans. Octavia Books will be on hand so you can pick yourself up a copy of the author’s works, or maybe a copy of A Howling in the Wires, a collection of essays from the year after The Event including many of the founding members of Rising Tide. You know you always wanted a hard copy of Fuck You You Fucking Fucks by Ashley Morris.

& Sunday at 3 p.m. fiction writer Vicki Salloum visits the Maple Leaf Bar reading series with her novella, A Prayer to St. Jude (Mint Hill Books, 2012) Followed by an open mic.

& On Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Spoken Word New Orleans presents Speak Easy Sundays Poetry at the Club Caribbean 2441 Bayou Road. Cover. Visit their website for updates on other spoken words and visiting artists all around town.

& On Tuesday the 25th the Lunch ‘n’ Lit group will be meeting at the Keller Library Community Center Loft at 12pm with Richard Ford’s Canada. Participants should bring their lunch. If you’re interested in joining a bookclub and you’ve got some daytime availability in your schedule, mark down the fourth Tuesday of the month.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. repeating Sundays at Noon. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest.

& A week from today you should mark your calendar for what sounds like a fascinating book, John Shelton Reed’s Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920’s. In the years following World War I, the New Orleans’s French Quarter attracted artists and writers with its low rents, faded charm, and colorful street life. By the 1920s Jackson Square had become the center of a vibrant if short-lived Bohemia. A young William Faulkner and his roommate William Spratling, an artist who taught at Tulane, were among the “artful and crafty ones of the French Quarter,” as they styled themselves. In Dixie Bohemia Reed introduces Faulkner s circle of friends ranging from the distinguished writer Sherwood Anderson to a gender-bending Mardi Gras costume designer, from Tulane s president to one of its cheerleaders and brings to life the people and places of New Orleans in the jazz age.

& Also next Thursday (more details then) Room 220 presents the first installation of this fall’s LIVE PROSE reading series with T. Geronimo Johnson, Khaled al-Berry, and Lucy Fricke at 7 p.m. at Melvin’s.

& Also down the road (included here so I don’t forget to include it next week), on Oct. 4 the 1718 Reading Series hosted by students in the English departments of Loyola, UNO and Tulane will feature poet Andy Stallings on Oct. 2 at their usual venue, The Columns. I’ve got nothing bad to say about the Goldmine or the Maple Leaf, but there are only certain places you can relish a proper Sazerac with your poetry. Hopefully this does not disqualify me from any future Pirate Shots at You Know Where.

Ashley Morris: 1963-2008 April 2, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in FYYFF, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street.
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morris.jpg

By Dylan Thomas
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Occupy Wall Street library destroyed by NYC November 27, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in books, fuckmook, FYYFF, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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1 comment so far

I’m not going to start comparing the corporate right to any particular historical political movements, but when you add the destruction of books to the violent, thuggish White Shirts of the NYPD*, well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Is this a great country? Or what?

Destruction of Occupy Wall Street ‘People’s Library’ draws ire
Mayor Bloomberg accused of waging ‘crusade to destroy a conversation’ as nearly 3,000 books lost in Zuccotti Park raid
.

I hardly know what to say, but Fuck You You Fucking Fucks seems about right.

*New York Privilege Defense

Days of Disobligation October 24, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, fuckmook, FYYFF, Moloch, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
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5 comments

Now with spell checking (no IE Spell on the work PC) and less hungover proofing of other sorts at the same low price! –mf

It is the last Monday in my last week of service to Moloch, the financial institution where I have given good and faithful server for over five years. My reward is a pot-metal, gold-tone Five Year pin and the relocation of my job to Richmond.

I am not going to Richmond. We all pretended for a while that might happen but I don’t think anyone directly concerned believed for a moment I would.

I walk out to the car, dressed in chinos and socks and a collared shirt. The air is that state of damp just this side of drizzle and the air is rendolent of excrement and wet hay, the stable smell drifting across from the race track. Horse shit and fodder of docile, stabled animals are the perfect bas notes for a perfume bottled just for the event of my last week, my final trips into the office.

Over the next four days I will sit in what Moloch calls a huddle room, tastefully indicated by the skeletal outlines of tee-pees (I wonder if we are allowed to smoke here, if only ceremonially; I could use a cigarette in honor of the occasion). I will confer with two associates I am trying to train up to take over parts of my function, and spend too many hours on a Polycom, those conference telephones designed to fit into the decor of everyone who owns an English-Klingon dictionary, with those who will assume my other function.

There is a certain satisfaction that my job will be divided across multiple people, making up a substantial portion of the day of several. I like to think I will be missed, but better not to think of it as all.

At least I am starting the day out right, with a Revive vitamin water and now my third tall cup of coffee. Last night the Saints played the late game, a blow-out against the Baltimore Indianapolis Colts minus Peyton Manning, petulant scion of the Saint fan’s own hero of the early days Archie Manning. The game was so one-sided the only real pleasure was in the cutaways to Manning on the sidelines in a Colts ball cap, looking every bit the student of Newman and annointed future NFL star denied, through some cruelty of fate, the homecoming crown.

Saints fans are long-suffering and as such a people, we have long memories. Peyton’s insulting tantrum at the end of superbowl XLIV and the failure of Archie out of some misplaced consideration for his brat, to say one kind word about the triumph of the franchise he helped establish are not forgotten, and will likely never bed. Watching Peyton sulk was better than any touchdown or suggestive shot of a cheerleader.

When the game is a blowout, the world divides itself into two sorts of people: those who take their leave early and so to bed, and those who drift into the kitchen, game ignored on the radio, speaking of other things, in dangerous proximity to the beer the others left behind. I fall into the latter category, and so have a wondrous hangover to amaze the druidly Druids to carry me through the first of my final hours of Moloch.

It is a week of disobligation, a set of rituals of the sort favored by the Catholic Church. Not an excomunication exactly but in the end my boss (whom I dearly like, a great fellow) will arrive to collect my badge, laptop, Blackberry, sword, cassock, &c. and take us all out to dinner on the company’s dime somewhere I will suggest. He has never been to Jaques Imos, has long desired to go, and may never have an excuse to come to New Orleans again so that seems settled. After that, Frenchman I think, d.b.a. and that glass of Johnny Walker Blue we were discussing. (Neither of us scotch drinkers, preferring our Jameson’s but we are curious and hope to pass the expense off as another travel meal).

As we drfit deeper into what our children will call the Great Something (everyone agreeing that Depression is formally retired like the names of particularly terrible hurricanes), I should be more concerned. I am not. They are giving my a decent severance and a retraining bonus, enough without other emergencies to get me through a semester at the University of New Orleans, which will kindly accept every last credit hour off my thirty year old transcript and plug them into the current graduation requirements and in as little as six months: voila’, I will be promenading through the sterile mothership cavern of the U.N.O. Assembly Center, in Privateer blue with a bachelor’s white hood.

I rather like that the color of the Liberal Arts in general is baptismal white, as getting my long-defered degree will not be so much an ending as a beginning, the start of yet another reinvention of my life. I left the university both to take a job in journalism at a local newspaper, and to evidence my displeasure at the place denying me the editor-in-chief’s post. It was not so much personal pique but rather that in the late 1970s the U.N.O. Driftwood was a broadsheet that frequently ran to 24 or more pages a week, and sold enough advertising to turn a small but tidy profit, some of which we were allowed to spend to pay staff and throw a fabulously drunken end of year party that culminated in depositing the crawfish shell bags outside the private entrance of the Chancellor (one Homer Hitt, a very nice man who did not deserve it, but it was his Office we were honoring, not the man).

At some point we began to take ourselves seriously as a newspaper and took sides with the Faculty Senate against a particularly odious Vice Chancellor of Administration, and so when it was my turn to assume the top position the newspaper was reduced to a typically hollow college student tabloid, and my job was given to someone from a respectable fraternity who had never before crossed the threshold of the paper’s office.

From college I managed to make my way through journalism with an award or two along the way, a stint on Capitol Hill as press secretary and speechwriter, then a jump into the lower echelons of IT through a general knack with computers and a program of self-study, when I had determined DC was not for me and I needed to arrange some more portable skill than public relations. When I was first hired by another bank, I managed to quickly get myself plucked out of the ranks of bit plumbers and tool pushers and made a project manager, which is where I find myself today. Or rather, where I find myself at the end of in the last days of Moloch.

What happens after that I am not sure. I look forward to another stint in a corporate world that bears a frightening resemblance to the world of Dilbert with all the relish of a felon at-large contemplating his appointed noose. I am much in need of what the academic world calls a sabbatical. After that, we shall see.

In an hour or two the Richmond contingent will arrive and we will get down to work. Until then, I think another Vitamin water for my dry mouth to wash down some Ibuprofen and a cigarette or two are in order. We will get busy once they arrive, and we have only four days to transact all our business. I will be off on Friday to the Louisiana Book Festival both as workshop student and correspondent for NolaVie, the arts and culture adjunct of NOLA.com, and so escape the last bit of the ritual of this week of disobligation, the tossing of the apostate into the jaws of Moloch. I hope instead to carry away a few more unwanted pounds and a Biblical hangover to rival Noah’s from Thursday night’s parting dinner as my fitting punishment.

Rise Up Singing August 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Federal Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
2 comments

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Dancing on this day because we must.

Here on Toulouse Street, We Remember with all the joy that is New Orleans.

Remember August 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 504ever, 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Federal Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Katrina, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Remember.
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This image is (c) 2006 by Mark A.Folse and free for all non-commercial use and posting on all blogs. Please circulate widely.

We Shall Gather by the River July 4, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 504ever, Federal Flood, FYYFF, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose

It is another July Fourth here in New Orleans, the largest of the United States’ Minor Outlying Island. I am not sure what to say on these national holidays of the Central Government. I have long ago publicly declared my sole allegiance to the City of New Orleans, forsaking all other. I shall live out the rest of my days here and die here, and any who care to dispute that had best come prepared to join me.

I won’t rehearse the litany of woes behind that statement. Today I shall concern myself with the doneness of the steaks, the sweetness of the corn and the icy chill of the beer as the temperature climbs toward 100. I will ride over to Gretna and buy some fireworks, not so much in celebration but as the Chinese use them, because as Jorma Kaukonen observed in the liner notes to the Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, the pentacles in their flag do not keep the evil spirits away. And when the dark comes I will find a place to gather at the river with the citizens of this city for the public fireworks, remembering there is no finer or more honorable place on this planet to stand than in their company.

Bon Mois de Messidor, Décade II, Jour de Quintidi.

The Travesty of the Commons March 3, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 504ever, Carnival, fuckmook, FYYFF, parade, Toulouse Street.
3 comments

This is a repost from last year, but bears repeating. I’ll probably be missing Endymion this year but will venture out to my first parade tonight, and expect to find the usual suspects appropriating private space for their own enjoyment while the police look on unconcerned.

Photo courtesy of that Yellow Blog guy

While reasonable people are safe in bed, visions of flashing Krewe d’Etat throws dancing in their head, there are other truly Odd people out in the dark doing strange things on the neutral ground: painting lines, stretching bits of yellow tape, and effecting odd geometric shapes from wire utility flags. They are out claiming the public neutral ground as their own private parade party spot.

This is nuts.

The ladders are bad enough. Now we never had a ladder that I remember growing up, but this isn’t long repressed ladder envy. I have fond memories of being hoisted on my father’s shoulders to watch the parades pass down Canal St. Ladders are a great way for small children to see the parade. That is how this all started out. Instead my beef is with the people who arrive in the dark of night (or sometimes midday, apparently unencumbered by inconvenient jobs) and plant rows of ladders along the curb on parade routes. The result: only these lucky few can actually see or catch any throws. The rest of us get to stand in back and watch them.

Technically, this is illegal. A ladder must be as far back from the curb as it is tall, and cannot be chained together with other ladders to make a wall. Sadly, the NOPD gave up enforcing these regulations after Katrina. Given that we live in one of the three most dangerous cities on Earth, I guess they have a point. This did not, however, prevent them from deploying the full force of the city to tone down Mid-City’s bonfire.

But on that same neutral ground every year, people (mostly not from our neighborhood) show up and spray paint themselves blocks of neutral ground larger than some homes in our neighborhood, and if you want to challenge their right to do so you had best be ready for fisticuffs. This is insane. Parades are supposed to be for everyone. That is why we allow them to roll down the city’s public streets, rather than having them circle the floor of the Superdome for ticket buyers. But try telling that to the neutral ground Nazi’s.

It is simply another example of the continued crumbling of the basic social contract, and the tendency of some in the greater world to privatize the commons for their own benefit to the greater society’s detriment. When Washington and Baton Rouge are run on this basis, why not grab your own piece of public property for your private party?

When people are ready to come to blows because you might want to stand on a piece of common ground they cleverly spray painted an imaginary box on, is it any wonder we roam around the city killing each other for slightly more egregious slights?

All I know is if the NOPD is too busy to care about this sort of thing, then maybe we should go back to having the bonfire we all enjoyed because, frankly, we’re not interested in being bothered with all the city’s troublesome regulations either.

Feel free to break into This Land Is Your Land at any time, especially that verse we never sang in school:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

A Howling in the Wires August 9, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Debrisville, Federal Flood, FYYFF, Gallatin & Toulouse Press, Hurricane Katrina, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Gallatin & Toulouse Press announces the publication of A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writings from Postdiluvian New Orleans. This collection combines the vivid post-Katrina experiences captured by internet-based “bloggers” from New Orleans–individuals who don’t think of themselves as writers but who were writing powerfully in the months after 8-29–with the work of traditional writers. Some of those, like novelist Dedra Johnson and poet Robin Kemp, share their most immediate reactions from their own blogs. The book deliberately blurs the line between formats and focuses on cataloging some of the best-written and most powerful reactions of the people who experienced Katrina.

Editors Sam Jasper and Mark Folse are writers who turned to the Internet to chronicle their own experiences and reactions to Katrina and found in the months after 8-29 they were part of a larger community sharing the public and very private events of the period. The book will be published late August, 2010. A launch party and reading is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. upstairs at Mimi’s in the Marigny.

Contributors include cookbook author and travel-and-sailing writer Troy Gilbert, poet Valentine Pierce, Professor Jerry Ward of Dillard University and poet/playwright Raymond “Moose” Jackson together with the work of bloggers who are by day engineers, teachers, geologists, computer programmers, bankers, and social workers but in their spare time writers of talent whose only prior outlet has been their Internet-based blogs. These works were edited minimally for basic spelling and grammar, mistakes easily made writing first hand accounts created under great duress, in an attempt to preserve the original “howl” of people who experienced these events first hand.

Editor Sam Jasper’s preface explains: “When we started this project, our goal was to find some of the best words that were howling in those wires once the wind stopped and the levees broke. We read through hundreds of thousands of words for weeks. Sometimes the pain in those words re-opened wounds we thought had healed. Sometimes the words gave us insight into another person’s experience and we were astonished by the nakedness, the vulnerability, the ferocity and often the defiance being expressed so soon after the event. Naked and raw and very, very public.”

“These voices, oblivious to each other and miles apart, sing in pitch perfect harmony—a phenomenon only possible where truth is absolute. Stunned courageous but always in motion, the Every Man and Every Woman of these Gulf Coast narrations and poems lean blindly towards recovery and redemption just as they struggle to comprehend the enormity of what has happened to them. Here you will find no analysis ad nauseum, no academic dissections, no punditry or pretension. Just ordinary folks caught up under extraordinary circumstances, telling their stories in real time, absolutely in the moment—in grief, in anger, and—most miraculously—in good humor. If you only ever read one post-Katrina related book, and if you think you can handle for that book to be an unapologetically unfiltered and dead honest journey back into those dark days and months after the storm, this thin volume is all you will need.”

    — Louis Maistros, author of The Sound of Building Coffins

“A powerful and immediate look at post-Katrina New Orleans. Sam Jasper and Mark Folse have done a great service to America by compiling these early writings from the storm.”

    — Stephen Elliot, editor of TheRumpus.Net and author of The Adderall Diaries and Happy Baby.

“There are no better guides to post flood New Orleans than the bloggers who emerged here during the immediate wake of the levee breaks. What’s particularly remarkable about these writers is that none hew to the snarky, cynical, superficial style found on most blogs–instead there is an enormous passion for New Orleans, real anger at its injustices and much needed rebukes to the received wisdom surrounding this moment of man made disaster.”

    — Ethan Brown, author of Shake the Devil Off and Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip Hop Hustle0072

“From Greg Peters’s prophetic warnings before the levees failures, to Jerry Ward’s abandonment of romance, to the rhythms of Sandra Grace Johnson’s arrest, to Mark Folse’s lifetime of Mardi Gras memories (pre- and post-dilluvian), the pieces in this book form a powerful chronicle of those terrible days when New Orleanians looked around and decided that, more painful than any of these things, would be the failure to move forward.” .

    — Lolis Eric Elie is is the producer for Faubourg Treme: the Untold Story of Black New Orleans and a staff writer for the HBO Series Treme

Gallatin & Toulouse Press is a new endeavor, publishing the work of emerging New Orleans writers to a wider audience. This is the first in a planned series collecting short, Internet-published works chronicling the storm and flood collectively known as Katrina and the recovery of the city of New Orleans.

A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writings from Postdiluvian New Orleans, Paperback: 160 Pages, Gallatin & Toulouse Press, ISBN 9780615388793. Inquiries to: gallatin.and.toulouse.press@gmail.com. (504) 324-6551 Available direct from the publisher Aug. 20, 2010.

You can pre-order here. Please shop local or direct. Amazon charges a ruinous discount to small publishers and we make only pennies on a sale there. Patronize your local bookstores or order directly from Gallatin & Toulouse Press.

Black Rage May 26, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, FYYFF, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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9 comments

Here, go read this by Sam. I have had the good sense to delete most of what I’ve written about the oil flood out of concern for what Fatherland Security might think.

America Norte’ (or it’s bought-and-paid-for political leadership) is letting us die, and it’s a conscious decision, part of the same one that sent Category Five hurricane protection into endless study land.

As I stood through the Pledge, Anthem and American the Beautiful at my daughter’s high school graduation last night, I realized my heart has already emigrated to wherever it is the land of the free and the home of the brave has decamped to.

Treme too authentic for the New York Times April 9, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Debrisville, Federal Flood, fuckmook, FYYFF, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
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11 comments

Cross-posted from Back Of Town.

I am struggling to figure out what precisely offended New York Times TV Reviewer Allessandra Stanley about Treme. The gist of it seems to be that it is not didactic or angry enough, that is “is more an act of love, and, odd as it sounds, that makes it harder to embrace…

“[Treme] is a tribute to the “real” New Orleans by filmmakers who have become connoisseurs of the city, depicting its sound and ravaged looks with rapt reverence and attention to detail…

“The effort to get New Orleans “right,” to do justice to the city’s charm, its jazz tradition, and now its post-Katrina martyrdom, is at times so palpable it is off-putting, a self-consciousness that teeters on the edge of righteousness.”

Let’s start with her use of the phrase “its post-Katrina martyrdom.” I want to know when New York plans to get over it’s post-9/11 martyrdom. If Allessandra gets back to me on that one, you will read it here first.

She is also disappointed that Treme is “an elliptically told tale, and it takes a few episodes for the plot and the characters to pick up steam.” I’m sure you’re quite busy up there in New York, but it is kind of hard to tell a story of this sweep and depth in a way that you can watch episodically on your I Pod while waiting on the platform for your train. MTV is shooting a Real World New Orleans episode. Maybe you should wait for that.

On balance, she manages a good job of retyping the material that came with her review copy, giving a basic idea of the plot outline and characters, sort of a TV Guide snapshot for people who would not be caught dead reading the TV Guide. With some tight editing, bits of it might make for decent jacket copy for the boxed set but I suspect most of it was written up the first time by Simon’s staff.

In the end, she casts the show (I presume she saw the first one or two episodes most reviewers got) as a reflection of the snobishness of some locals toward the outside world (keying in on the scene when the visitors ask to hear The Saints), that the film is taken with that attitude and is too reverential towards its subject.

One wonders what she expected. Perhaps she is a die hard Wire junkie and was just itchily waiting for that new package. As she points out, Treme ain’t that. If I went looking for analogies I wouldn’t think of Simon’s prior oeuvre, or Spike Lee’s move or even Trouble the Water. If I hope for anything, it is precisely achingly reverential treatments Ken Burns gave to subjects like the Civil War and Jazz, mingled with strong and representative characters (because at one level, New Orleans is all about the characters), characters who tell the story of one of the great cataclysms of American history, a story that attempts to convey what Ashley Morris and all the New Orleans bloggers have been talking about since 8-29: it’s not just about saving not just the real estate, but about saving something recognizably New Orleans.

I don’t expect everyone to love Treme, anymore than I expect everyone to love New Orleans. Some people are only happy in their own tightly constrained milieu and are never going to be happy outside of it. If they travel, they go to all inclusive resorts and tell every one they went to Jamaica when they really went to a fucking Marriott and never set foot outside the door. New Orleans is different, and not just in the way Idaho is different from New Jersey, but rather z a place with a unique local culture that has evolved over three centuries, longer than most of America has even been settled by Europeans. If you don’t like it, that’s OK. I’m not too fond of Phoenix, but then I haven’t heard anyone nominating Phoenix a world heritage site.

If Allessandra Stanley doesn’t understand what she calls our chauvinism, if she doesn’t understand why someone of Simon’s talent would want to reverentially recreate New Orleans, she’s entitled to her opinion. She’s a reviewer, that’s what she does, but a reviewer who approaches their subject with a closed mind or one that snaps shut like a trap at the first whiff of something that does not fit some preconceived notion, well that’s a waste of perfectly good trees.

I think most New Orleanians are like the people I met traveling to New York, people who would gladly stop and give us directions or swipe my wife into the subway with their own fare card when my wife couldn’t get her to work, people who were glad we came to share in one of the great cities of the world even as they carried deep inside a profoundly chauvinistic conviction that New York is one of the great cities of the world, and that it was perfectly natural we should want to be there.

– wet bank guy

Fuck You You Fucking Fucks April 2, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in FYYFF, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
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Once a man as generous as Jesus with half a loaf, who loved his wife and doted on his children, wrote these words because to fail to do so would have been a sin of omission with mortal consequences.

FYYFF.

And the colored girls say: FFF FYYFingF January 20, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Federal Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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12 comments

“[The HBO show Treme', set in immediate post-Federal Flood New Orleans] wasn’t a bummer. It was more looking at (the setting) and having the same feeling that John Goodman’s character had. ‘There’s something wrong here and it needs to be fixed.’ It didn’t bum me out as much as it made me want to jump up and say, ‘We need to do something for New Orleans. Look at all this wonderful flavor. Look at all these great characters. And why are they still having these problems? I don’t want them having these problems.’”
– Susan Young, a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay area whose writing appears in People and Variety, following the critics premiere of the first two episodes.

The NOLA.Com summary of critical reactions by Dave Walker, both on his blog and for the Times-Picayune, gives a capsule on Goodman’s character: [he] plays an Uptown New Orleans college professor who struggles to contain his rage at media misconceptions about post-Katrina levee-failure flooding.”

Hmm. That sounds familiar.

One critic quoted by Walker, Joel Keller of the online TVSquad.com, doesn’t like Goodman’s character much. ““I guess it needed someone to defend New Orleans,” Keller said. “He just seemed kind of out-of-phase with the rest of the cast. I’d like to see what happens as he kind of integrates himself into the rest of what’s going on. Right now, he feels like a totally different story, as opposed to the other stories that are going on.” Others were more kind: “Goodman’s wonderful,” said Ellen Gray, critic for the Philadelphia Daily News

Simon told a small group of bloggers privately last year that his team was writing a character into the show based, at least in part, on Ashley Morris. (We have got to get that boy a Wikipedia page so I don’t have to recap it all here). I am very anxious to see Ashley’s Goodman’s character. Having a commenter outside of the main story line may seem a bit weird to someone who reviews cable television on the Internet for a site hosted by AOL, but it seemed to work for writers back in the day.

The question I have: does America really want to see a sympathetic portrait of an alternative to the mainstream American culture, that banal plate of airline food served where everyone sits in their tiny little assigned seat reading the same in-flight magazine or watching the same movie, wishing they were in first class? (You do remember airline food, don’t you?) Treme’ gives us “those people”–you remember, the ones from the Convention Center and the Superdome–living in a world just minutes from America where playing bass drum or tuba is honored career choice because the parade season is 40 weeks long, people who don’t just live for the weekend like most Americans anxious to escape their little cubes for the big boxes but a people who live for the parade and the po-boy and if that by chance happens on a Wednesday afternoon well they might be late back to work without a thought.

I am not so sure, but I admire the hell out of David Simon for trying.

All those ships that never sailed August 30, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, FYYFF, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA.
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K-Date 4.1

I was reading through everyone’s anniversary posting, and mentally comparing those to the page I sort of ripped from my own mental notebook and stuck up, unfinished and a bit confused. I remind myself that down here August is the cruelest month, when we all often wish to be a pair of scuttling claws beneath the sea. And mines been a doozy. Take my job, for instance. Please. I’ll throw in the parking space.

Rex Dingler of NOLA Rising, a warrior for New Orleans of the stature of Ashley Morris, does as fine a job as any and ended his K 4.0 piece with these worlds that I am going to take away and spend part of today noodling on. One reason I stopped the Wet Bank Guide is I found I could not sustain the level of anger that sort of writing required, not both the anger and my sanity.

Ultimately, I will celebrate by offering forgiveness to those who I believe have slighted our city, who have stolen from her coffers, and have made irreverent gains from the suffering of her people. I forgive George W. Bush for the ineptitude of his leadership and those under him for their failings. I forgive the modern day carpet-baggers who have come to be known as disaster profiteers. I forgive those who squandered our opportunity to build a better New Orleans and failed to right the ailments of our city, deciding instead to return to business as usual.

While I forgive them, I will not forget them nor make excuses for their actions or behaviors. I forgive them not to ease their conscience, but to ease my own. I forgive them not to ease their way for greater plunder, but to allow me the clarity of vision to carry out my own dreams for a better city. I forgive so that I can let go of the past and move toward a better tomorrow, hopefully leaving behind the waterlines of misery that this storm had wrought.

I have had various epigrams for my blogs. Wet Bank Guide’s was from Sun Ra: “Its after the end of the world. Don’t you know that yet?: Living in a landscape and among a people that makes Waiting for Godot seem greeting card cheerful it was a good one, and I still carry that one engraved deep inside.

Here on Toulouse Street the closest we have to an epigram is the little box at right quoting Jim Morrison: “I love the friends I have gathered together here on this thin raft.” There are no better words for how I feel about New Orleans and the people I know here, and I have a rough painted sign in the backyard (my own attempt to emulate Rex’s movement) to remind me of this daily.

Perhaps it is time for a new epigram. I am thinking of the one below for now, one which jumped immediately into my mental scribble of a Katrina anniversary post Friday night. I think it encompasses so much of our experience, what is borne out of the alchemy of profound loss and a ruthless optimism, an insistence that there will be a city here if they must build it from our bones. No, that’s a bit too angry, too old fashioned Markus the Wet Bank Guy in his locusts and honey madness (but true none the less).

This epigram is a bit more detached, distant from the anger at the past, anger at the Federal Flood and all that represents; not forgetting the past but a step into the future informed by all that has happened; a rebirth (which is all we ever wanted). It is an experience not unlike Bob Kaufman’s who first spoke the poem the quote below is taken from the day he ended a decade long Buddhist vow of silence–taken after the Kennedy assassination which he kept until the end of the Vietnam War–stepping out of that quiet chrysalis into a world transformed in part by his words.

All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls…
Today I bring them back
Huge and transitory
And let them sail
Forever.
–Bob Kaufman

Wet Bank Screed (Slight Return) July 22, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in assholes, Federal Flood, FYYFF, New Orleans, NOLA.
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Getting this post up on HumidCity.com, sort of took the blogging out of me for a couple of days, so go read that instead. It’s an old Wet Bank Guide style screed against the idea that New Orleans is going to be saved (largely from itself) by fashionable entrepreneurs (mostly from elsewhere).

I just finished a fawning article in The Atlantic touting the revitalization of New Orleans via the importation of young entrepreneurs, a self-styled new “creative class” for the city. The real subject of this glowing in-flight magazine puff piece is Sean Cummings, a young real estate developer and the appointed director of Reinventing the Crescent, the quasi-public program funded with public dollars to extend the landscaped an open riverfront from Poland Avenue to Jackson Avenue.

The piece starts on a bad note: “[a] city nearly destroyed by forces of nature nearly four years ago.” What struck New Orleans was no more a force of nature than the explosion of the Space Shuttle or the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. Referring to the Federal Flood as a natural disaster is a good indication that the author is clueless and comfortable to remain so. We are not disappointed by this assumption…

The rest is on HumidCity.com

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