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All those ships that never sailed August 30, 2009

Posted by The Typist 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
–Bob Kaufman

Remember August 29, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Sinn Fein, We Are Not OK.
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Wheel to the storm and fly August 28, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.

I am reduced to speechlessness, dredging up old words as I cannot find any new for the fourth anniversary of The Event. Perhaps the old words were prophetic beyond any original intent. For some reason, Bob Kaufman’s famous quote “I want to be forgotten” keeps coming to mind, which I understand to be a Zen desire to vanish like Lao-Tzu into his words.

Perhaps I ask for too much. If history and the city consumes us all one-by-one but the city lives on, that perhaps is what was always intended, why were were all lured home. In the end, perhaps Pynchon[‘s character Tyrone Slothrop] has given us the model to surviving it’s after the end of the world. If history has gone too wrong for any one of us to stop what is happening around us, maybe it is better to amble down a shady street in New Orleans without a particular thought in my head except the distant sound of what might be Slothrop’s harmonica, to disappear into the random noise in the signal.”
In the Zone
Wet Bank Guide
August 5, 2007

Perhaps my writer’s block is just a symptom of a quiet desire to find the next path through the mountains, to stop a minute and study the horizon and look for the pass that leads to a place where what the country calls Katrina and what we call the Federal Flood is not the center of everything. That’s a hard task, but in place where this is no “post” in the traumatic stress, it’s probably a good idea.

Or perhaps my inclination to sit on the porch and sip a beer, to study the sky and try to recall the name of the slightly gray shade the haze gives to the blue and listen to a little music, is the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps tomorrow I will make some gumbo with the windows open so the whole neighborhood asks me when I step out on the porch with a cold one, “what ya got cooking in there smells so good?”

Home. What we all wanted was to come home. Perhaps tomorrow is a day to just quietly be: at home, in New Orleans.

Flight of the seabirds, scattered like lost words
Wheel to the storm and fly.

Faring thee well now.
Let your life proceed by its own design.
Nothing to tell now.
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine.

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
–Bob Kaufman

Four Years August August 28, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I think this piece, written last year about this time, bears repeating:

Three years August and the storms are being named like epic ships, a doom upon our shore, and I think of the levees still leaking and of the flood walls patched with paper mache, our Potemkin defenses are not ready and we are not ready and the Big One is out there, invisible, a mighty wind, waiting for us. Someone empties a pistol into the night and I think of Jessica and Chanel and Helen and Dinerral as I watch the MPs in their Humvees roll by like armored ghosts. I think of the streets running into blocks running into miles of houses houses houses houses houses empty eyed with plywood doors and ragged lawns. And I think I’ll have another drink and light another cigarette and then another drink and then–I stop thinking. That is when this comes into my head. It is a compulsion, like biting ones nails until they smart and bleed, this thought that what we write may not be our Genesis but an Apocalypse, prophetic of the end. And yet we stay because to live here is to walk through wrack and ruin counting the flowers in the weeds and discover: you are not alone, everywhere there are people smiling, people with crumpled souls and rough stomachs, suffering what you are suffering, worse than you are suffering, suffering beyond your imagining and all for the sake of this place, because they see this city as you do, because they are the figures in the frame that make the landscape. A terrible beauty spills out of their eyes like tears and bathes the city in light.

Requiem August 27, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, je me souviens, levee, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street.
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I remember where I was when I first heard this song, on an NPR broadcast. The NPR archive reminds me it was Sept. 14, 2005. I was driving through South Fargo to pick my daughter up at junior high school. I had to pull over. I was late.

This video contains disturbing images of the dead. Here on Toulouse Street, as on the Wet Bank Guide, above all we Remember them:

…”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.”

I got a nasty-gram from You Tube, noting that I have posted something with content owned by Koch Entertainment. I sent Eliza Gilkyson, who wrote and performed the song Requiem, via MySpace asking if she might call off the hounds for a few days, at least until the anniversary is past.

Update:I just heard back from Eliza Gilkyson via My Space mail. She says it is lovely, and not to worry about Koch. Thank you, m’am.

The Tsunami of St. Claude Avenue August 27, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.

It swallowed them whole, then spit them back out
like a snake’s breakfast, the unwanted bits
left to bloat and bleach and wash up at last
on the brown avenues in back of town.
Some hung from trees as their grandfathers did,
strange fruit that sprung up from a poisoned soil.

Separate but equal triumphed at last.
Indiscriminate and leveling death
made them one with the matrons of Lakeview
and left the men of St. Charles Avenue
unmasked at last: lords of misrule
over the ruins of a lost kingdom.

Harry Shearer at Rising Tide August 23, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I’m still collecting my thoughts so for now, here is quick picture of Harry framed by Rising Tide IV. The culture panel was acclaimed a success by everyone I spoke to after (although just about everyone else seems to tired to post much yet) so I came away very happy. And Shearer, who we have wanted for keynote for four years, did not disappoint.

Harry Shearer addresses Rising Tide IV at the Zeitgeist in New Orleans.

Dead Dogs Wag No Tails August 14, 2009

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


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

Rising Tide IV August 14, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Rising Tide IV, the annual bloggers conference on the recovery and future of New Orleans, will be “Sinking to New Heights” on Aug. 22 at the Zeitgeist Multi Disciplinary Arts Center in New Orleans. Our featured speaker: the multi-talented Harry Shearer, a great champion of New Orleans on Huffington Post and elsewhere, along with panels on the status and future of New Orleans music, food and parading culture; the state of New Orleans health care, a look at politics and the city going into the 2010 elections and more.

Registration is open at http://www.risingtidenola.net and is only $25 until August 20th and includes lunch from Cafe Reconcile. There will be a social Friday evening Aug. 21 at The Avenue Pub. Additional details will be posted to the Rising Tide blog at http://risingtide.blogspot.com/ and the Rising Tide IV Facebook page.

Come home to New Orleans, Bob Kaufman August 12, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I just finished Beat poet Bob Kaufman’s Ancient Rain and Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, two books of his I picked up at City Light’s bookstore when I was in San Francisco. I have had his anthology Cranial Guitar for a while but haven’t owned any of his full books. (His first, Golden Sardine, is out of print and new copies go for $150). Kaufman was a leading light of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance of the 1950s and coined the term “beatnik”, and is considered America’s true Surrealist master.

A son of New Orleans the son of a German-Jewish father who was a railroad porter on the Chicago train and a Roman Catholic Black mother from Martinique who filled the home with books from estate sales), he lived elsewhere all of his grown life: on the ocean as a merchant seaman, in the port cities of the east coast where he was a merchant marine union rep and political organizer, and ultimately in and around San Francisco where he was a central figure of the emerging Beat generation

Kaufman wrote frequently about race, and his poem THE NIGHT LORCA COMES is one that has stuck with me since I first encountered it. In it he offers a vision of all Blacks leaving the south, liberated from its he geography of that dark history at last.

I understand the poem as the vision of an African-American political activist and poet living through the 1950s, but hope that in spite of the racial insanity that still prevails in the south today that many of us here in New Orleans are moving past that, that we have at least a core of people who want to build a city Kaufman would not recognize, one he would embrace as he did San Francisco. If he were alive today I would hope he would find life in the Bywater or 7th Ward as much to his liking as he once did life in North Beach.

I had meant to write something about my visit to San Francisco (and may yet get to that before I get swept away by the current) but for now, this is what something inside that would not let me drag my tired self to bed last night insisted I write this first.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And hear Leah Chase
Sing Mahalia Jackson
In the synagogue of the oaks
As magnolias brown and fall.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And see the old white south
Gathered at preservation hall
Where old Negro Bodhisattvas
Blow their Creole love songs.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
See the White Citizens Councils
Huddle in their Potemkin Americas
At the swampy back of town
In terror of their children’s radios.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see pale northern tourists
Hungry for that Black jazz
Wolf down bad okra gumbo
At Maspero’s slave exchange.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
To see Lorca’s sons openly
Embracing in the red carnations
Mirrored in the dark windows
Of the sad, historic cathedral.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And the ghosts of Congo Square
Will second line behind
Your broken poet’s bones
With an African brass band

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And Indians from all wards
Will carry you on their shoulders
The length of Basin Street
And sing that Indian Red.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And we will bury you in honor
bring flowers and pound cake
your hallow tomb with Marie Laveau
Homer Plessy and Eluard Burke.

Come home to New Orleans
Bob Kaufman
And enter here, eternally
Into that crackling blueness
Of towering Gulf storms
Pouring out the ancient rain.

San Francisco Journal August 8, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.

I brought a notebook on my week long trip to San Francisco, but this visit was full on family tourism (hurry up, or we’ll miss the boat to Alcatraz) so I hardly wrote a word. I will spend some time working from memory later this weekend, but for now here is what I did write down. I’ve always admired the aristocratic Japanese ethic that a gentleman should be able to manage a few decent lines of poetry on demand on a regular basis and that is what I found myself doing as I sent along.

San Francisco Journal

Foggy morning
Homeless bleary and
Too cold to beg:
I pass out smokes,
Saint Marlboro
Of Jones St.

At the Tea Garden
An old couple
Shinto souled &
Boulder solemn
Quiet amidst the
hollering tourists.

Sleep vs. cigarettes:
Fire is winning
But I really need
To dissolve into
Smoke and drift
Off to sleep.


The coast road south
erupts from the surf

A sinuous black ribbon

Threads strawberry fields
& low clouded mountains..

Cali ocean mother
of young continents

devours time & leaves me

Here Now. On the road
Hurtling toward Big Sur.

Home, I water the
Bougainvillea, remember
Fog on the cool heights.