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A Cry in and for Central City March 30, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Central City, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Here is another way our local media fail us, as all of our so-called leaders fail us. Poppy Z. Brite offers this glimpse into and plea for her new neighborhood in what a real estate agent might euphemistically call the “Upper Irish Channel”, but which she calls by its true name: Central City.

The Times-Picayune had its own name for this area a while back: the Triangle of Death. As Brite points out, that is all it is to most Orleanians, a cringe over morning copy or a route to Magazine Street we once might have taken but most no longer dare. It is as remote for us as “darkest Africa” to the nineteenth-century British newspaper reader.

Brite is one of New Orleans most eloquent defenders. For a while the local blogging community took up her cry of We Are Not OK, but that seems to have dwindled to just a few of us She offers us another perspective on Central City, and a plea that the place and it’s people not be swept under the rug. Since her blog does not allow for direct links, I’m going to copy her entire open letter to Jarvis DeBerry here, in case you stumble onto this long after the cited article falls off the first page of her website.

She writes: I just sent the following e-mail to one of my favorite Times-Picayune editorial writers, Jarvis DeBerry.

Dear Jarvis,

You may remember me — I sent you a Barnes & Noble gift card a while back. At that time, I was living in a temporary apartment on Prytania Street after we lost our Broadmoor home to the failure of the federal levees. I’ve since bought a house in Central City.

Man, I had a lot to learn when I moved here. I do not regret it, but the learning curve has been steep. We are the only white people within about three blocks in any direction. There are a few older homeowners around, but most of our neighbors are desperately poor renters, squatters, and semi-homeless people. They are mostly kind-hearted and even protective of us. They are also junkies and crackheads. When a white, middle-class person hears the word “crackhead,” he tends to automatically think “criminal” and then “bad person.” Many of us have known someone who had a pill problem or even heroin, or have had these problems ourselves, but I’ve met virtually no white people who had any contact with crack or its effects. It has an evil mystique that transfers itself to its users. Most if not all of my neighbors have indeed been to jail, but they are not bad people — they are only hurting and desperate. In many cases they are hungry and living without electricity or water. I give them sandwiches and cold drinks and help them out a little when I can. If they choose to spend it on drugs, I don’t begrudge that; I am not one to criticize anyone else’s high, and I am hardly pure in that respect myself (but that’s another story).

The system has failed these folks, and past a certain point, they have also failed themselves. It makes me sad, but sometimes it also makes me angry — not on behalf of myself and certainly not on behalf of white people, but on behalf of all the people who endured horrors in Selma and Birmingham and Neshoba County and so many other places so that everyone could live more freely, and also on behalf of those of us who want to help drag New Orleans back from the abyss. None of my more transient neighbors has ever exercised his or her right to vote. Only one of them, a sweet, badly abused lady in her mid-forties named Sharline, can read on more than a rudimentary level. Some of them are very smart and have skills like electric work, landscaping, professional cooking, etc., but their drug habits prevent them from using these skills to help themselves. Everyone is hustling and/or jonesing all the time. Having lived here just under a year, we have already known two people who died drug-related deaths — one a shotgun murder, one a 32-year-old OD whose funeral and second line we attended earlier this week — and seen a young man wounded by gunfire right in front of our house. I have never felt afraid for myself; they are the ones in great danger, not us. I will never leave New Orleans, but I often despair for it.

I asked [the editorial page editor] if I could do a semi-regular column called “The View from Central City,” because I truly don’t think most T-P readers have any idea what goes on in Central City. To them we are just a series of violent squibs, head-shakes, and turning the page over their morning coffee. There is no knowledge and no outrage. However, there wasn’t room on the editorial page. I guess I am writing to see if you would consider turning your attention to this neighborhood on occasion. I know I’ve never liked it when people tried to tell me what I should write or even made suggestions, so please feel free to ignore me or tell me to mind my own business, but I sure wish someone would do it. I am just coming out of a long morass of physical pain and severe depression, and I hope I will be able to write about this myself eventually, but as of now I’ve written almost nothing for 18 months — perhaps it is good that I didn’t get to do the column, because I might have been unable to live up to my commitment, and having made my living as a writer since 1991, I would have been deeply ashamed of that.

Anyway, I hope I haven’t bugged you. I realize I may be spouting cliches that you, as a black writer who often addresses race, will have heard a million times. At any rate, I think you have a valuable voice and I hope one day you will consider using it on behalf of Central City. I would be happy to speak more about this at any time.


Poppy Z. Brite

A challenge to my fellow New Orleans bloggers: do not let this post of Brite’s slip into the Internet memory hole unlinked and unnoted.

Cherry Blossoms March 29, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, art, cryptical 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]


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.


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.

No Hunting, Fishing, Trapping March 28, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, CBD, Dancing Bear, Flood, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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How odd to find a Posted sign in the middle of downtown, on a building on the corner of South Rampart and Perdido Streets. No hunting, fishing or trapping? Once not too long ago fishing might have been an issue, when this building sat at the southernmost advance of the lake waters if someone had perhaps broken in and set themselves up for a nap with a cane pole on the balcony, but not now, not today.

I am not even sure how many people who live in town know what to make of a Posted sign. It put me in mind of the 10 years I spent in the upper Midwest, part of if in the small town of Detroit Lakes (the Waveland of the North, as I used to call it: a sleepy town of 3,000 that exploded to as many as 30,000 people at the peak of the summer lake season). Perhaps the owner is an avid sportsman, who knows what it means to find such a sign on a fence line on a country road: No Trespassing. Here in New Orleans, we tend to favor the simpler and more direct message: Keep Out, Bad Dog.

On this day it was served as a reminder that at about this place in August of 2005, the water stopped and went no further, that this was the edge of the watery wild.



Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Everette Maddox, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Cheer up, @skooks. it’s always darkest just before the 16 ton weight drops from Terry Gilliam’s drawing table onto one’s head.

By Everette Maddox

Rutledge has made up his mind
this is the last day he will lie
at length in his glinting hair
his eye fixed on a fig
his toes alive in the permissive mud.

Out beyond these roots in a pool
clear by day dark by night
purple eels jiggle:
that is another universe of course
but that is not where Rutledge lives
and neither is this.

Though the air is thick with bells
bizarre with flutes
Rutledge lies on his belly now
billowing like a child’s balloon
and it means nothing to him
that ultimates and ultimates buoy him up.

He will leave in the morning
by the ordinary door
and walk in the shrill gray streets
in the old soot and sunshine.
He has learned all he needed to know,
what he already knew, that he is happy.

Visit 13 Possums.

Al Copeland: Another giant little man passes into Louisiana history March 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, postdiluvian, Remember, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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Al Copeland was New Orleans through-and-through, a character who could as easily come from the pen of John Kennedy Toole as out of old Arabi. He was one with the rogues’ pantheon that would have to include Dudley LeBlanc and perhaps John Schwegmann, men with enough ego to stand up and make perfect fools of themselves while laughing all the way to the bank. Like LeBlanc and Schwegmann, he has passed into history and myth.

From a little chicken-shack on St. Claude to the manse on Folse Drive, Copeland bestrode his city like a paper-maché Carnival colossus rocking down Veterans Boulevard atop a flashing triple-decker float. He raced world class offshore speedboats, flitted about in his “chicken copter” and his Maserati, and caught and released trophy wives like a tournament fisherman.

The closest I ever got to Al was watching him and his lieutenants go over customer comment cards after the monthly Popeytes manager’s breakfast, held at the hotel where I did banquet work in college. He would shush and chase us off if we tried to clear tables once that intense meeting started, so we would not disturb their pursuit of chicken perfection. I saw him close up again at the lakefront when a connection to my girlfriend’s family came to town with their own offshore racing boat (Still Crazy was it’s name, and I still have a grease-stained t-shirt somewhere). We could not, however, manage to finagle our way into the racing teams party out on Copeland compound on Folse Drive.

Al brought us the sort of spice we like, whether it was in a bucket with two sides and biscuits or on the six o’clock news. We all like to chatter about the older musicians passing on, but a big piece of New Orleans just checked out with Al. How many more little guys like him will the homogenized, box-box economy of the nation to north let rise up among us? We may never see his likes again.

Instead the comfortably milquetoast, Perlis-attired, revenant anti-Long sorts that fill the pages of Gambit with their advertisements are what remains to us, people out-of-state investment bankers are comfortable having lunch with at Galatoires, thinking they are slumming in wicked old New Orleans. They will bring Borders to St. Charles and Nike Factory Stores to Mid-City; Moloch will roll out the big Targets and little Starbucks like a stinking volcanic mudslide, obliterating everything in its path.

A little bit of us all died with Al, and if we aren’t careful soon all that will remain to differentiate us from Atlanta will be our broken and littered roads rolling beneath the faded beads dangling in the branches of the winter trees.

Kudos to KamaAina for catching my O’typo on Toole’s name. Oh, for an editor!

What more can I add about Al Copeland’s passing March 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, food, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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except, perhaps, this addy for Popeyes in Korea?

I think the giant yellow chicken is contemplating invading Japan and using his Fiery Cajun Breath to take on Godzilla while leveling half of Tokyo (The Model, 1:400 scale with child safe “no-sniff” cement)

Actually, I have a few things to say but that will have to wait for later.

I was just gonna say, don’t get hung up about Easter March 20, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Leon Russell, music, Toulouse Street.
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Look, I’m just saying that somewhere between Jesus dying on the cross, and a giant bunny hiding eggs there seems to be a gap of information.
–Stan from South Park

Yes, Lisa, there’s Peter Cotton Tail la-la-la. I’m not sure how I managed to forget that after raising two children to 16 and 13. Perhaps its that same trick of memory that doesn’t exactly remember what it felt like to put your hand on the stove, but keeps you away from it.

Here’s a better candidate for an Easter Song by Leon Russell. If James Brown was the undisputed Godfather of Soul, Leon Russell is the indisputable Godfather of Rock-and-Roll piano, the Master of Space and Time. His music was a rock-and-rollicking good time built on the rock-solid foundation of southern music and all it roots. On top of that, he was a perfect electric Rorschach acid test of every far out space of the times, the perfect avatar for the long-haired children of the early 1970s.

It’s too bad I can’t find an on-line version of the Leon song I really wanted, “Prince of Peace” (quoted below), so I”ll have to settle for a video of “Roll Away the Stone”.

Try to judge me only by my time and changes
and not mistaken words, for I say many.
Listen only to my song and watch my eyes.
There’s not much time to spill, there’s hardly any.

Well, look at all the children living in the streets,
and they’re looking, not afraid to touch each other.
They’re not afraid to be themselves or someone else
or choose their friends with love and not by colors.

Never treat a brother like a passing stranger.
Always try to keep the love light burning.
Sing a song of love and open up your heart
for you might be the Prince of Peace returning.

Oh, love the blind and wounded as your love yourself
And the businessmen in cells collecting pennies.
Judge their wealth by the coins they give away
and not the ones they keep themselves for spending

Oh, never be impatient with the ones you love.
It might be yourself that you’re burning.
Sing a song of love and open up your heart
for you might be the Prince of Peace returning.

Easter Song March 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Ireland, Irish, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Why, someone once asked me, do all holidays seem to have songs except for Easter? (Yes, I’m sure there is a song out there somewhere about the Easter Bunny, but I managed to raise two children without it burrowing permanently into my brain like Frosty the Snowman).

The song below was my answer to that question. Suitably solemn to the tone of the occasion, and for those of us of a certain political and philosophical bent of mind, well you don’t have to worry about Leon Russell’s cryptic warning on Mad Dogs and Englishmen: “don’t get hung up about Easter”.

So, here’s to a happy St. Patrick’s Day to our cousins across the ocean, who have shown us how to be themselves and live well while succeeding in a globalized market economy. Read the linked post. It’s as relevant to New Orleans today as it was two years ago.

Anyway, here are the Chieftans and Sinead O’Conner from The Long Black Veil on “The Foggy Dew”

Sinn Fein, New Orleans.

Catching Cabbage March 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Irish Channel, New Orelans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
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I caught almost two sacks of cabbage (the fullest of which, also packed with potatoes, carrots and the odd onion, was stolen), but this was the real treasure of this year’s Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday.
All of my food went with my son’s friend, whose mother the social worker shares it with her clients. I figure there was nothing I was going to do useful with 10 head of cabbage, so that worked out well. As for the stolen one, well, if you’re going to steal someone’s parade-caught food you probably needed it more than I did, so best-of-luck go with it.

We were showered with beads and other throws but the two pair of these, handed down to usein a bag by a co-worker of my wife’s, may be the single best throw I’ve gotten from a parade bar-none. It is certainly the best imaginable catch of the day at a New Orleans St. Patrick’s weekend parade.

Thanks to Celcus for the wee bit of fine Irish whiskey and general hospitality. We ran into Adrastos and Dr. A, and liprap and her spouse there as well.

Sinn Fein, Baby March 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Chieftans, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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At this Super Sunday weekend collision of our Irish, Italian and African roots on the streets of this Franco-Hispanic city, our individual identities melding into something greater than it parts, we must remember: All we have is ourselves, and redemption songs.

Sinn Fein, baby.

The internets are a frightening place March 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Geek, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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No, not because of the people who daily search for “men gone wild” and end up here. No, rather it is that He has Followers. And He Who Shall Not Be Named Because He Uses a Goofy Screen Name. And, most frightening of all, so do I. Ah, the ways that the Geeknoscenti find to fritter (or should that be twitter) away time waiting for our Web 3.0 implants

Kenny G whizzes on the grave of Pops March 8, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Fargo, Jazz, music, New Orleans, NOLA, quotes.
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…when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis [Armstrong’s] tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician.
Pat Metheny on Kenny G

Tell us what you really think, Pat. I’m not a musician and as much as I love the music I certainly lack the depth of musical knowledge of a true jazz aficionado, but it’s pretty easy to recognize that Kenny G sucks. That he would have the audacity to mix himself over even something as syrupy as Its A Wonderful World, well, I think Pat Metheny said it all.

For me, the gold standard of a jazz aficionado is Leigh Kamman of The Jazz Image, who warmed up many a cold Fargo Saturday night with some of the coolest jazz around. When I die I want to come back as a night jazz DJ with his voice. The world is not the same place since his show ended. He would be on right now if he were still on the air and I were in the cold North. I can hear his theme (Gerry Mulligan: Manoir De Mes Reves (Django’s Castle) and his voice in my head right now as clearly as my other mother’s.

Kenny G, there’s a special place in hell for the likes of you. When Leigh Kamman departs this world, there will be a place for him at a first rate table in the jazz joint at the end of the universe, and the entire Cortege of the Cool will be on the bill.

HT to Dr. Morris for this one. Oh, and Ashley, all of us who read Anima Mundi want to know when we can stop by for Limoncello. I’ll bring the Brocato’s.

St. Joseph the Worker March 7, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, CBD, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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It looks like I’m going to be hunkered in the bunker down here at the sketchy end of the CBD all weekend, making the large financial institution that employs me that much larger. If you’ve never integrated two company’s complex business and IT systems all in a weekend, lucky you. I’ve been down this road before and it is more fun than running a gauntlet of drunken, club-wielding Cossacks while singing hava nagila, but not by much.

Part of the fun of this exercise is that large organizations which have embraced Modern Project Management are full of people for whom what should be (and is for me) a practical discipline has become a sort of obscure religion with more and no less onerous rules than Leviticus and a daily program of ritual meetings that rivals monastic life, governed by that dysfunctional Book of Hours, Microsoft Project.

One good thing about being at the end, aside from a year-long slog being nearly over, is that the early program of setting entirely unreasonable deadlines without even consulting the people who have to meet then, and then suggesting that we will never know if we can meet then until we try, is behind us. At one time I was near the point of hog-tying some of the main office’s PMs and dragging them up to the roof and informing them that we’re were going to determine if they could fly. You never know for sure, I wanted to tell them, until you try.

One benefit of this event is that I get to book a room for catnaps at a nearby hotel where there are, I am told, frequently a lot of other working people. Unfortunately, most of them do not work for large financial institutions; well, maybe their customers do, but I’d rather not know. I just hope they keep it down in the next room.

The short version is: I guess I’m going to miss out on all the St. Josephs’ Altars this weekend. If you get by one, snag me a fava bean. Oh, and St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us.


N.B. St. Joseph the Worker’s feast is actually not until May 1, and is probably intended to give good Catholics something to do on May 1 other than march in parades secretly orchestrated by some neo-Trotskyists with a clever front name. I think Trotskyists would be a lot more fun if they dressed like the Knights of Columbus or lawyers going to the Red Mass. Maybe then we could get in an extra parade weekend, if Mayday weren’t smack in the middle of Jazz Fest.

The Great Wave March 4, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, art, cryptical 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.

Young in New Orleans March 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, quotes.
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By Charles Bukowski

starving there, sitting around the bars,
and at night walking the streets for
the moonlight always seemed fake
to me, maybe it was,
and in the French Quarter I watched
the horses and buggies going by,
everybody sitting high in the open
carriages, the black driver, and in
back the man and the woman,
usually young and always white.
and I was always white.
and hardly charmed by the
New Orleans was a place to
I could piss away my life,
except for the rats.
the rats in my dark small room
very much resented sharing it
with me.
they were large and fearless
and stared at me with eyes
that spoke
an unblinking

women were beyond me.
they saw something
there was one waitress
a little older than
I, she rather smiled,
lingered when she
brought my

that was plenty for
me, that was

there was something about
that city, though
it didn’t let me feel guilty
that I had no feeling for the
things so many others
it let me alone.

sitting up in my bed
the llights out,
hearing the outside
lifting my cheap
bottle of wine,
letting the warmth of
the grape
as I heard the rats
moving about the
I preferred them

being lost,
being crazy maybe
is not so bad
if you can be
that way

New Orleans gave me
nobody ever called
my name.

no telephone,
no car,
no job,

me and the
and my youth,
one time,
that time
I knew
even through the
it was a
of something not to
but only

from: Last Night on Earth Poems, 1992
Copyright by Charles Bukowski.
It’s pretty widely distributed on the inter-tubes
but remains the properly of C Bukowski. I’m
just borrowing it.

Old No. 745 March 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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I last saw the steam engine Southern Pacific No. 745 out the window of my wife’s hospital room at Ochsner Hospital, parked on a siding just across Jefferson Highway. At the time, I did not make a connection between the locomotive and cars I saw there and the black behemoth I used to clamber on as a child at Audubon Park, but I learned that it is one and the same.


While I lived away, the steam engine was purchased from the park by a group and restored to working order. Now a thief has stolen the engine’s steam whistle and it will not roll again until a replacement can be found.

We Have Come For Your Children March 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, art, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Odds&Sods.
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We will set them free.