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We Shall Not Be Moved April 30, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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As the BP well spills an endless river of oil and we all relive 2005 through Treme, I think we all need to hear this. I went looking for something by reed and flute player Hart McNee and found We Shall Not Be Moved, a recording including 100 New Orleans musicians, made in 2008. Not sure how I missed this when it came out. All I can say is:

Yeah. You. Right.

Act II:

Odd Words April 29, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, Jazz Fest, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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I’m just back from my national tour of Marriott properties funded by The Counting House, with a brief interruption last Saturday for laundry, chores, a poetry reading at the Alvar Library and Patti Smith at Tipitina’s with The Usual Suspects. (That is not the name of her new band. You know who you are). I’ve waited 35 years to see Smith and she did not disappoint. Her voice was perfect, and she carries the intervening years since Horses was released in 1975 with the grace of an angel, her voice undimished. She tried out a new song about Roberto Belaño and if you were there, that was me shouting “viva la anti-poesia” somewhere in back. Yeah, well, I was having fun. So what. I have nothing more lively or clever to report, so we’ll get right into what’s coming up.

§ It’s not too late to to donate to any of the participants in theNeighborhood Story Project Write-A-Thon featuring their own authors and anyone else willing to step up and ask for sponsors. You can donate here to any of the participants here and if you’re reading this blog and this post in particular, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to.

§ Valentine Pierce presents “Stand Up, Look Up, Speak Up”, a seminar in how to present your poetry in public. Particpants will read a poem and she will offer coaching in public reading. It’s limited to twelve participants and was half full when I heard her and others read at the Alvar last Saturday so if you want to participate call now: (504) 596-2667. This event (and last Saturday’s reading) are funded by Poets & Writers, Inc. Which means some cookies and crackers and drinks and such that they actually let you eat and drink in the library. How much more exciting than that can it get?

§ Yes, it’s Jazz Fest time again and The New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association (NOGSBA) sponsors the Book Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where authors will sign books during the fest. Friday-Sunday and April 29-May 1. Here’s the first weekend’s lineup:

April 29th – Thursday

Ashley Merlin 12 – 1:00PM
Statuesque New Orleans

Cecelia Dartez 1 – 2:00PM
Jenny Giraffe Books

Michael Patrick Welch 2 – 3:00PM
New Orleans: The Underground Guide

Richard Campanella 3 – 4:00PM
Beinville’s Dilemma

Arthur Hardy 4 – 5:00PM
Mardi Gras in New Orleans – 4th edition

Stacey Meyer & Troy Gilbert 5 – 6:00PM
New Orleans Kitchens

April 30th– Friday

Denise McConduit 12 – 1:00PM
DJ Books

Barb Johnson 1 – 2:00PM
More of This World or Maybe Another

Kenneth Phillips 2 – 3:00PM
Signed, the President

Daron Crawford & Pernell Russell 3 – 4:00PM
Beyond the Bricks

Kareem Kennedy 4 – 5:00PM
Aunt Alice Vs Bob Marley

Susan Henry 5 – 6:00PM
From My Mother’s House of Beauty

May 1st – Saturday

Ruby Bridges 12-1:00PM
Through My Eyes

Cornell Landry 1 – 2:00PM
Happy Jazz Fest & Goodnight NOLA

Alex Beard 2 – 3:00PM
Jungle Grapevine

John Radanovich 3 – 4:00PM
Wildman of Rhythm

Al Kennedy 4 – 5:00PM
Big Chief Harrison and the Mardi Gras Indians

Pam Lyles 5 – 6:00PM
Da Cajn Critter

May 2nd – Sunday

Lorraine Gendron 12 – 1:00PM
Lorraine Gendron

Jason Berry 1 – 2:00PM
Up From the Cradle of Jazz

Sal Sunseri 2 – 3:00PM
P & J Oyster Cookbook

Dean Shapiro 3 – 4:00PM
Historic Photos of Louisiana & Historic Photos of Steamboats of the Mississippi

*Tom Morgan 5 – 6:00PM
Historic Photos of New Orleans Jazz

§ 17 Poets! Literary & Performance series presents a reading/performance featuring poets RODGER KAMENETZ and DARA WIER on Thursday, April 29, 2010, 8:00pm @ The Gold Mine Saloon.

§ Paul Benton was among the fine poets reading at the Alvar library last Saturday, and he seconded Thaddeus Conti’s endorsement of the Wednesday night readings at the Yellow Moon Bar, 800 France St. I am going to have to find time to check this place out. He also confirmed there is usually some food, snacks and drinks being one of the few physical renumerations of poetry.

That’s all until I get out from under everything that doesn’t belong in this column that’s going on right now. Until next week, some thing by Roberto Belaño. If it were a wine, I would detect notes of Hart Crane and the Beats as well as his compatriot Neruda as much as I would his hero of anti-poetry Nicanor Parra.

On the dogs’ path, my soul came upon
my heart. Shattered, but alive,
dirty, poorly dressed, and filled with love.
On the dogs’ path, there where no one wants to go.
A path that only poets travel
when they have nothing left to do.
But I still had so many things to do!
And nevertheless, there I was: sentencing myself to death
by red ants and also
by black ants, traveling through the empty villages:
fear that grew
until it touched the stars.
A Chilean educated in Mexico can withstand everything,
I thought, but it wasn’t true.
At night, my heart cried. The river of being, chanted
some feverish lips I later discovered to be my own,
the river of being, the river of being, the ecstasy
that folds itself into the bank of these abandoned villages.
Mathematicians and theologians, diviners
and bandits emerged
like aquatic realities in the midst of a metallic reality.
Only fever and poetry provoke visions.
Only love and memory.
Not these paths or these plains.
Not these labyrinths.
Until at last my soul came upon my heart.
It was sick, it’s true, but it was alive.

Beatlevania April 28, 2010

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Toulouse Street.
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I woke at 4:30 this morning (3:30 central river time) in yet another Marriott, groggy from the ale I drank last night to overwhelm the coffee I foolishly drank out of distracted boredom at the 3 o’clock training break. Now I’m sitting in the Richmond airport at 6 am after a dark drive past the exits marking the last days of the Confederacy, reading a blog post on Cliff”s Crib about the storm tourist bus stopping as he and his brother took a break from clearing the house where the flood took his grandmother. Now that I’m in a perfectly bleak early airport funk I check late emails from work and realize that everyday I fall a little further behind and eventually the last man gets eaten so I snap the Blackberry backs into its holster and just sit and stare.

And who is this young woman in the row across, facing the same way, craning to hard to catch a glimpse of? It couldn’t possibly be me: over fifty, over weight, with hair frizzled like the raggedy remains of something that’s been through the wash one time too many and she would need the eyes of a hawk if it were me but there is something hawkish about her, thin with angular features. Boarding Zone Three and we all file into the chute to the slaughter of another flight, another expense report, another meeting when I finally get home.

The woman from the terminal is my neighbor across the aisle and we glance at each other as we try to get seated. She’s wearing a frilly front blouse under her blue jacket and slacks, dressed for success in a way that seems a bit dated but she’s not that young and we all fall into habits of dress but the is something about the flounce of her blouse and her lean features that makes me think there is something Virginia country, something of the mountain hollow about her, something we indolent low-landers think of as hard until as we all spin and circle settling into our seats and getting bags packed away like bees dancing out directions to the Atlanta airport and suddenly she laughs like the peal of bells in a country church and all the edges of her face soften.

Once we’re all seated, she eyes suspiciously my copy of Gulf Coast open to a page of poetry and pulls out her I-Pod and Blackberry. So much for conversation (and I’m the bashful, bookish one who pulled out the journal) so I pull out my I-Pod and spin the wheel until I finally settle on The Beatles and suddenly the coffee edge of a 6 am flight softens and I don’t give a fuck in the most wonderful way, as if I were 17 again driving to high school with a joint going around and I don’t care about where I’m going or what I have to do. I only care about the sea green Spring leaves of the live oaks glistening in the morning dew, everything sitar yellow and cello warm, care only about the way “I’m Only Sleeping” flows into “Your Bird Can Sing” and for a moment innocence is something I can breathe in, hold for a moment and release. My neighbor is now in earnest conversation with her row mate so I turn up the volume and while our flight is pulling back to the terminal–an indefinite delay–the next song comes on and I am “Flying”.

Maggie’s Farm April 23, 2010

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Toulouse Street.

There are no crows in Laurel, nothing but the scratchy laughter of blackbirds for four days in the trees across from another template perfect Marriott and when I go out for a bedraggled morning smoke the blackbirds all cackle because I forgot my hairbrush and didn’t pack a hat and my hair is all Grow A Magic Crystal Tree and these popcorn fat, mall parking lot blackbirds aren’t afraid of scarecrows.

The Oklahoma travelers in patent nostrums for all your business problems, the ones I saw sitting in the vacant breakfast bar drinking coffee and laughing at 11:30 last night just stare or look away quickly because it’s clear I’m not really one of them. So I go refill my coffee and go back out for another smoke because frankly I prefer the company of the blackbirds.

Soon enough we’ll all disperse to our various office parks and by then I’ll look just like them. I’ve perfected my disguise so that it is undetectable in broad daylight. Unless, of course, this notebook falls out of my bag and you pick it up and discover that while I’m dressed in the chinos and logo polos of my fellow travelers, laptop slung over my back, inside these pages I’m not taking any orders.

Odd Words April 22, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.

Telling stories about New Orleans. That is what got me started writing again after a long quiet period, prompted in part by my reaction to the Federal Flood. The Neighborhood Story Project is an organization in New Orleans dedicated to helping the people of New Orleans tell their own stories. It started as a book making project at John McDonough Senior High School, nurturing young writers from the city and publishing their work.

There are now a dozen titles and a raft of related projects. One of their major fund raising efforts is an annual Write-A-Thon featuring their own authors and anyone else willing to step up and ask for sponsors who will spend the afternoon writing together.

One thing I see missing from this year’s event are local celebrity writers stepping up to participate, which is a bit of a shame. Props to Tom Piazza and Eric Lois Elie for participating in the 2009 event.

You can donate here to any of the participants here and if you’re reading this blog and this post in particular, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to.

§ Yes, it’s Jazz Fest time again and The New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association (NOGSBA) sponsors the Book Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where authors will sign books during the fest. Friday-Sunday and April 29-May 1. Here’s the first weekend’s lineup:

April 23th – Friday
Tom Fitzmorris 12-1:00PM Hungry Town
Abby Sallenger 2 –3:00PM Island in a Storm
Cornell Landry 3 – 4:00PM Happy Jazz Fest & Goodnight NOLA
*Tom Sancton 5 – 6:00PM Songs for My Father

April 24th – Saturday
Jennifer Zdon 12-1PM New Orleans A-Z
John Besh 1 – 2:00PM My New Orleans Cookbook
*Johnette Downing 2 – 3:00PM Why the Crawfish Lives in the Mud
Jason Berry 3 – 4:00PM Up From the Cradle of Jazz
Bill Loehfelm 4 – 5:00PM Bloodroot
Aubrey Bart 5 – 6:00PM Bluesiana Snake Festival

April 25th – Sunday
Ethan Brown 12 – 1:00PM Shake the Devil Off
Tom Aswell 1 – 2:00PM Louisiana Rocks
Meri Sunseri 2 – 3:00PM P & J Oyster Cookbook
Karen Ocker 3 – 4:00PM Ray Nagin Coloring Book
Earl Hampton 4 – 5:00PM Streetcars of New Orleans: 1964 to Present
Stacey Meyer & Troy Gilbert 5 – 6:00PM New Orleans Kitchens

§ Since I’m passing on Jazz Fest this weekend due to business travel, I may have to catch Valentine Pierce, Paul Benton, Asia Rainey and Chuck Perkins reading their poetry Noon Saturday April 24 at the Alvar Library, 913 Alvar St. in the Bywater.

§ The Maple Leaf will have a Jazz Fest Open Mike on this Sunday with no featured reader.

§ Dave Brinks told me who his featured reader(s) were going to be last Thursday, and I didn’t write it down and so I’ll just hold this space until I get his email during the week. If all you see is this, it means I got too tied up by work to update it, but 17 Poets at the Goldmine Saloon is my favorite local poetry venue. Thursdays, eightish, on Dauphine Street.

That’s probably it for this week, but hey it’s Jazz Fest and people’s minds are on music, but there’s nothing stopping you from dropping by the Book Tent now is there?

Pondering character at BOT April 20, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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On the road for the Counting House, so things are quiet here. Not so at Back of Town, where I just posted Unquiet on the Battlefront. I think the title sucks. Suggest a new one I like and win a beer.

I did not mention how damn pleased I was to see Joe Braun at the Spotted Cat on Treme singing “Hope You’re Coming Back to New Orleans” in the BOT post, but damn pleased I was.

We who have nothing to lose April 18, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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It’s National Poetry Month (you did know that, right?) and I have signed up again for Knopf’s Poem-A-Day email. I had just finished putting up a post on the Back Of Town Treme blog about the first second line after the Federal Flood, comparing a video of the actual event to David Simon’s portrayal. Then I opened the poem a day email and there were two short poems by Langston Hughes, including the one below.

Some things are just meant to happen a certain way. Or at least that’s the story the crow told me.

Black Dancers

Who have nothing to lose
Must sing and dance
Before the riches
Of the world

Who have nothing to lose
Must laugh and dance
Lest our laughter
Goes from

Yeah, you right.

The Patio on Royal April 17, 2010

Posted by The Typist in French Quarter, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
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The carriageway is not just a conduit from the street but a corridor in time, a passage into my past of Gert and Sadie’s apartment on Royal and the private patio behind, into childhood memories of the Sixties and visits to my father’s aunts. The mostly shaded plants are blooming but I recall aromas of liquor and Kent cigarettes and Jean Nate powder. I get down on my knees as if to pray and I could in this temple of memory but I only wish to capture for a moment the perspective of a child bored with the adults inside and entering the lair of imaginary pirates.

It seemed there were more maiden aunts in those days, and I frequently saw my mother’s cousin, a sweet woman who lived with my grandparents but there was something of the pressed leaf about her, a dry and rigid antiquity. She worked her whole life as a bank teller and read screen magazines and played a lot of solitaire or concentration with us children if we were around and would give us little stand up cardboard bank calenders with a mercury thermometer. She was a dear woman but my memories of her are those a woman might have taking out an old dress from a trunk in the attic, stiff and crackly.

There was something magical about Sadie and Gert, these women who moved into the quarter in its seedier and consciously bohemian days, Gert with her voice rich with a lifetime of cigarettes and experience, my father’s maiden aunts in the sense that neither was married but Sadie was once the very special assistant to “Coozin” Dudley Leblanc and the other had worked for the government and traveled the world. I once had the two halves of a torn soft cardboard ticket from the last Roosevelt inauguration its circus ink colors still bright, and I still have a rough wool blanket from Guatemala of antique white with a pattern of fantastic, caricature animals of red and blue Gert brought back from her travels. I still have a royal quarto abridged children’s Iliad and Odyssey beautifully illustrated in the flat manner of old Greek vases, something they kept around for bored children back before they came equipped with their own portable electronic entertainment and which I loved so much they gave to me.

When we went to visit I had that book, the stoop where I could watch Royal Street pass by and the patio. To get to the patio you passed out the back into a tall well containing a spiral staircase with a thick banister of dark wood. I did not get to see that staircase on this visit. It has been enclosed and is now the entrance to the owner’s residence above the shop–off-limits–and so I understand why the women in the shop in front would not let me in the back the few times I asked as I stood among the perfume bottles, pretending to sample scents while I studied every detail of molding and ceiling, looked for traces of the water stain on the ceiling that was a permanent fixture in Gert and Sadie’s day and confessed finally why I was really there.

I thought there was a fountain but found none, perhaps conflating Gargia-Lorca’s private Grenada (I am very fond of Lorca) with Gert and Sadie’s world but remember the French Quarter is largely Spanish in architecture and perhaps that is where we acquired our Andalusian patios tucked back from the dirty street. Looking at the hasty camera phone pictures I snapped it seems an ordinary French Quarter patio–no, not ordinary, there are no ordinary patios in the Quarter, I meant typical of those I know from the commercial front of the quarter, the larger houses with an L of slave quarters wrapped around the back.

It is long and narrow but spacious enough that there are two planters, a round one of cast concrete in the middle front and a larger rectangle of brick toward the back and several along each sidewall, and still room for an iron table and chairs and a scattering of stand alone pots. I recognize the elephant ear and African violets, the ferns and hostas but I’m no naturalist; there are a few spindly but healthy looking trees that I can’t identify. The plants are largely the deep green of specimens raised for the shade, and they deepen the dimness of the courtyard’s well, but the soft light is peaceful like the nave of an unlit church.

The stairs go up on the right to the narrow slave quarter balcony, and are painted a color so dark in the dim light I take it for black. All of the trim is this color against the antique white of the painted brick and plaster and there is a Germanic cast to the space, appropriate to the Folses of the Côte des Allemandes. In places the plaster has fallen away and exposed the brick but that’s not the sort of repair people bother with, preferring the character of such architectural liver spots. The window air conditioning units are inconspicuous but the one incongruous piece is a large air-conditioning compressor elevated on a platform along the far wall and away from the house.

I know there is another child visiting this same patio. There is a child’s height basketball goal, the sort you fill the base of with water, standing in the corner. I didn’t have any such entertainment and its a bit sad that video and I-pod are sucking their minds dry so that they do not know how to entertain themselves when left alone in such a place, something so radically different from the blocky suburban house they likely know that it is an immediate jump start to the imagination and I wonder what memories they will have of this place, if forty years from now they will stand next to the two men in Jazz Fest chairs enjoying the Spring weather on Royal Street to press their eyes to the barred windows of the carriageway doors until they explain themselves and one of the men smiles and kindly lets him or her in.

Odd Words April 15, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.

I’ve been so busy between work and blogging Treme that I don’t have a clever lead in this week, so here’s a suggestion. Go read some of the websites I do where I find some of this stuff. My recommendations:

  • The Rumpus.net, a crazy romp through literary culture by people who might be mistaken for hipsters, except that they are actually creative. And snarky. If Jeffrey reads this blog the combination of clever snark and hip may cause his head to explode. Just warning you, brother.
  • LitDrift, where the banner at the top offers Zombie Romeo waxing hungry over Juliet’s brains. They really do a lot of my heavy lifting in terms of finding stuff to put at the top here. And there’s Free Book Fridays.
  • And then there is the slightly more Manhattan classy Maud Newtown</li
  • Finally, there is fascinating HTMLGIANT, prefect for all you visual thinkers as they post a lot of interesting literary videos and graphics. Example. God, I love maps.

§ This is the last weekend for Cripple Creek Theatre’s production of Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders, April 16, 17 (Friday and Saturday) at 8pm
At the Marigny Theatre / AllWays Lounge and Theatre 2240 St. Claude. To rip-and-read their excellent email notice: ” Think of Neil Simon in his Barefoot in the Park/The Prisoner of Second Avenue period on mescaline. Or Edward Albee crossed with a Warner Brothers cartoon.” I love the film version so well when I tried to watch it with my son he had to shush me from reciting along, which is (I know) a terribly annoying habit and I promise I won’t do that in the theatre.

§ I mentioned Treme and I think something of this epic scope and quality this qualifies as a literary event, so get yourself over to Back of Town blog where I and a half dozen other partisans of New Orleans and video auteur David Simon are sharing our thoughts. (I’m under my old blog name, “wet bank guy”.

§ The feature at 17 Poets will be Moose Jackson, whom I just wrote up the other day about one or two posts down. He is one of New Orleans’ premiere spoken word poets and the author of the play Loup Garou, which I hope you did not miss this past summer. Also feature, and fiction writer JENNIFER STEWART. At the Goldmine Saloon on Dauphine, eightish. And the birthday tribute to New Orleans born Beat Bob Kaufman has been moved from next week to May which pleases me immensely, as the Counting House will be sending me off to Wild Goose Chase, MD on business next week.

§ I’ll be at 17 Poets on Thursday, but I have to confess a certain interest in the subject of Matthew Randazzo; sMr. New Orleans: The Life of a Big Easy Underworld Legend. 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Garden District Book Shop, The Rink, 2727 Prytania St.

§ Best of LSU Fiction – Editors read from the publication. 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Cabildo, 701 Chartres St., New Orleans (French Quarter), 523-3939, http://www.lsm.crt.state.la.us.

§ There is no feature at the Maple Leaf this Sunday or next, just Open Mike. So screw your courage to the sticking place and come down and read something. It’s spring on the patio.

§ I find it Odd that next Wednesday there will be a reading of Plato’s Symposium hosted by the New Orleans Lyceum at the Latter Library, and the same night the Socrates Cafe philosophical group holds a monthly discussion. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. St. Tammany Parish Library, Folsom Branch. I find it even Odder that Folsom is a hot bed of Socratic thought but that’s probably not being nice.

§ I lost my library card, and while getting a new one I discovered 1) I owed them $2.25 and 2) During National Library Week, April 11-17th, pay your outstanding library account balance, including all overdue fines, lost book and processing fees, by donating food items to the New Orleans Public Library. The library will donate the food to Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans, a United Way Agency. One can, item, equals one dollar from your fines! Acceptable items include: rice, pasta, dry cereal, beans, canned meat, juice, peanut butter, tuna fish, dry milk, boxed dinners or any other high protein none-perishable food item.

I Am Upright April 13, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Shield of Beauty.
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Somewhere at the confluence of Treme, wage slavery and poetry this popped into my head as I struggle through my typically dysfuntional morning. I can’t get a link on here because the Counting House fails to understand the business necessity of dialing out to MySpace for quick dip in the pool of sanity, prefering I go get more coffee. I made green tea instead, and popped Sanctuary: Music from a Zen Garden into the laptop, and turned it on over the speakers (workspace etiquette rules? in a knife fight?) to try to drown out the movers wrapping two dozen computers and monitors in brown paper and strapping tape in the walkway right outside my cube while I try to stuff 10 hours of work into an eight hour day without violating Generally Accepted Accounting Rules.

I used this quote to open my panel on the State of New Orleans Culture at last year’s Rising Tide, and it seems to belong in the cloud diagram of thoughts Treme is drawing on the inside of my skull. I need to get them out of my copy of Visio, as I need it for work.

I am not all right but I am upright. I am here, a warm body, clinking glasses with the dead.”
–O’Neil’s Lament, by NOLA Performance Poet Moose Jackson

P.S. Yes I managed to figure out how to get a link in here. Now back to work before someone comes down to supervise the packers and notices what I’m typing.

P.P.S. Must turn up the Japanese flute music a little louder to get the words Must Stop Thinking About Tomorrow to the Fleetwood Mac tune out of my head. Yes, I know those aren’t the right words.

Tootie’s New Suit April 12, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, Debrisville, Federal Flood, je me souviens, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Last night America saw a ghost and they don’t even know it.

It spoke a language they did not understand, took a stand, gave a command: Won’t bow. Don’t know how.

When that spectral yellow figure stepped out of the darkness with that downtown sparkle and spoke, the spindly cemetery trees all across this town moved in the windless night and the hairs on the back of a ten thousand necks stood up like the feathers in its headdress.

Won’t bow. Don’t know how.

The last night Tootie Montana spoke he died at the microphone, defending his culture to tone deaf politicians and against a hostile local police force, demanding respect for a century old tradition with roots in in the bead work Yoruba and a strange and never clearly explained solidarity with the American Indian, something I think similar to the identification of the Black Christian church with the Isrealites in bondage.

Won’t bow. Don’t know how.

That ghost wasn’t speaking to me, or to any of the people in the room with me on Toulouse Street. It wasn’t even speaking to New Orleans. It spoke to all of America, to the entire planet. It stood amidst a desolation the American continent has not seen in a hundred years, one only those who came home with nothing to nothing, and the few privileged tens of thousands who came to volunteer, can understand. That ghost said all you need to know about the people of New Orleans.

Won’t bow. Don’t know how.

If that phrase still seems cryptic to you, try this: watch a repeat of Pacific that leads into a repeat of Treme.

Won’t bow. Don’t know how.

That’ll Work April 12, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, Treme.
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First thoughts on the first episode of Treme are up on Back of Town, from myself and the whole crew. While that tab opens and until next week, how about a little Louis Prima?

I have to wonder how well some of the subtlety will play in Peoria. Who in the room under 50 will understand the segue from talking about the Mafia to Louis Prima? How many will know who how big he was, that he was a New Orleans boy and the white Louis Armstrong in the profoundly segregated world of jazz music?

5 – 0 – Forever April 11, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Debrisville, Federal Flood, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, St. Bernard, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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The Tragedy of St. Bernard [excerpt]
Wet Bank Guide
September 01, 2005

….I want to show my children the beauty in a place they don’t understand, growing up in the Midwest. I want them to see people who live with the water the way people in Fargo live with air; people who shrimp and crew towboats and work on rigs in the Gulf and, when the refinery lets out for the day, go fishing; people who chose to live on an island in the middle of a swamp, and not in Kenner or Fargo, ND; people who worked hard and set aside a little and built a place for themselves out of a swamp, a place they would not willingly let go.

I want them to know why I am crying at my keyboard for people who’s views on issues of race I could never understand, and teach my children to abhor; people who took me into their homes and fed me sweet tea and told me stories until the stars and the mosquitoes came out; people who chose to live apart, surrounded by capricious waters, an island; people who would not willingly surrender their island back to the waters.

I want them to understand why some people stayed , and why they would come back and start over again


Carry Me Home April 10, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, Debrisville, Federal Flood, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Since I’m getting all this traffic courtesy of David Simon and Ashley Morris, no reason not to remind visitors that some of the essay originally posted on Wet Bank Guide are collected as Carry Me Home, A Journey Back to New Orleans, available direct at Lulu.com, the usual online locations, and the best New Orleans Independent bookstores. It’s a journal of the time that frames the Treme story and one man’s journey back to the town nicknamed Debrisville. In the end it is an odd genre of my own inventing–the geo-memoir–because it is not really a journal. As I did on the original Katrina blog, I serve mostly as narrator. It is ultimately about the city and it’s people and our long journey to make once again a place recognizably New Orleans.

“Mark’s writing is about skill and heart. A blend of reporting, memoir and analysis, [the book] is as immediate as it is reflective. It’s more than a love letter to New Orleans—it’s a survival guide for post-Katrina America. Mark shows how to go through a disaster with your soul intact”
• Michael Tisserand, author of Sugar Cane Academy and The Kingdom of Zydeco.

So if Treme leaves you wanting to crawl into the heart of New Orleans, here’s another chance to get you some.

“It belongs on the bookshelf alongside the other worthy
post-Katrina works”
• Chin Music Press

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

Posted by The Typist in Debrisville, Federal Flood, fuckmook, FYYFF, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
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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

Odd Words April 8, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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We seem to be wandering away from words and into the reaml of simple punctuation, but there are some symbols (spoken or unspoken) that are as important as any construct of letters in the Roman alphabet. We’ve all heard that commas save lives (Let’s eat Grandma; let’s eat, Grandma) and all try to remember to use our colons sparingly and carefully, especially as we get older. Some symbols, however, rise to a level that they become iconic, so iconic that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has “acquired” the “@” symbol. I am not entirely clear if this is a work of satire but it’s still March so we can rule out the obvious explanation: April Fools Day. Clearly some people have Too Much Time on Their Hands. I guess that includes me, as I sit her relating this to you.

Some linguists believe that @ dates back to the sixth or seventh century, a ligature meant to fuse the Latin preposition ad—meaning “at”, “to,” or “toward”—into a unique pen stroke. The symbol persisted in sixteenth-century Venetian trade, where it was used to mean amphora, a standard-size terracotta vessel employed by merchants, which had become a unit of measure. Interestingly, the current Spanish word for @, arroba, also indicates a unit of measure.

The @ symbol was known as the ‘”commercial ‘a’” when it appeared on the keyboard of the American Underwood typewriter in 1885, and it was defined as such, for the first time, in the American Dictionary of Printing & Bookmaking in 1894. From this point on the symbol itself was standardized both stylistically and in its application, and it appeared in the original 1963 ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) list of computer codes. At the time @ was explained as an abbreviation for the word “at” or for the phrase “at the rate of,” mainly used in accounting and commercial invoices.

§ This is where I put tonight’s feature at 17 Poets! at the Goldmine when Dave B. gets around to sending his email. If it auto-publishes before he gets it out, let this stand as a lesson in the importance of punctuality, which is an critical trait in poets. Um, or maybe that’s punctuation. An open mike follows, hosted by Jimmy Ross. Update: This week 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series hosts a reading highlighting the seventeenth century French verse of JEAN DE LA FOUNTAINE (1621-1695), whose legendary FABLES and TALES have earned praise world wide. Poets Raymond “Moose” Jackson and Dave Brinks will present selected English translations by Norman R. Shapiro from LA FONTAINE’S BAWDY: Of Libertines, Louts, and Lechers (Black Widow Press 2005); http://www.blackwidowpress.com .

§ Blogger Troy Gilbert (aka Gulf Sails) and Stacey Meyer (you may recall their restaurant review show during Thursday evening drive time on WWNO) will discuss and sign New Orleans kitchens at Garden District Books Saturday, April 10th at 1 p.m. Yeah, I’ll probably be at French Quarter Fest so I figure I best give the boy some ink. I will have to make some other book signing before he goes all Jimmy Buffett and sails off into the Gulf sunset.

§ Poets Joel Dailey and Matvei Yankelevich (Matvei Yankelevich is the author of Boris by the Sea(Octopus Books) and several chapbooks including The Present Work (Palm Press) will be featured at the Maple Leaf Bar poetry reading on Sunday at 3. Arrive promptly at 3 so you can get some drinking before they start. Possums optional. New Orleans’ own Joseph Bienvenue will be the following week. Open mike follows the feature.

§ This is just so Odd I have to list it here. Do not take that as a recommendation, unless you drive a used hearse and/or are dating your grandmother’s best friend: Alix Strauss reads from and signs Death Becomes Them: Unearthing the Suicides of the Brilliant, the Famous and the Notorious. 6 p.m. Wednesday. House of Broel, 2220 St. Charles Ave. The House of Broel and suicides? Really?

§ Sarah Palin will be featured at the Southern Republican Leadership Council, and I was contemplating setting up a table on the street with reproduced book jackets of the parody Going Rouge with a slightly different book inside, but it seems the market for hard-cover soft-porn died out so long ago its impossible to find remainders, even on the internet. Maybe I should just hollow out some random books and put a lizard or a spider inside. That could be fun.

Hating on Godot April 8, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative.
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The video on You Tube of this speech, which I linked to long ago on You Tube, is now gone. Sic Transit and all that. I would return to it and watch it regularly, found it most apt in the context I quoted it, the dead-tree ruined roads of New Orleans 2008. It spoke to the issue Ray raised when he re-posted “I Was Not At Bastogne”, a piece about what it meant to step into postdiluvian New Orleans when all one had lost was one’s mind.

Vladimir: Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be? (Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him.) He’ll know nothing. He’ll tell me about the blows he received and I’ll give him a carrot. (Pause.) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries.

Perhaps it is fitting the video is gone. Its absence is one less bollard I am tied to, one step away from the hollow temple of “A Country Road. A Tree. Evening.” and especially the production of that play in ruined Gentilly of 2007. If I am not waiting for Godot, I am free to go anywhere, to do anything. That I chose to be here is not inertia. It is an entering into, a door I choose as freely as Estragon and Vladimir chose the Eiffel tower. It leads, however, not to a suicide’s purgatory but into an infinite probability, not a actuarial entry–enter my age, my weight, my habits and guess my death for a dollar–but instead a matrix of possibilities–music, food, poetry, magic–so endless we will not live long enough to try them all.

This is an adventure.

Irony Puked All Over the Back of My Car April 6, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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While we are discussing Irony’s slow demise let us consider Scott Cowen, President of Tulane University, who was awarded the Times-Picayune Loving Cup for outstanding community service by the Times-Picayune newspaper this past Sunday.

Then let us contemplate Cowen, strapped into a chair with his eyelids pried open in the manner of Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, forced to watch the loop that starts at 8:12, over and over and over again. I will, in Ashley’s memory, volunteer to apply the eye drops.

Alfred E. Neuman for Governor April 6, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Is this his official portrait? Tom Leher had it wrong when he announced irony dead after Henry Kissenger received the Nobel Peace Prize. Irony instead took to the bottle and became an ugly drunk. We can only hope its liver gives out sooner than later.

Fuck You You Fucking Fucks April 2, 2010

Posted by The Typist 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.


Odd Words April 1, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.

Courtesy of LitDrift, a website with a banner in which Zombie Rodeo pines thus: “Oh that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might reach inside her head and chew her scrumptious brain” but which actually is full of interesting stuff, such as a link to Lewis Lapham’s Quarterly in which Kurt Vonnegut explains literature via some nifty diagrams. The Internet is a wonderful thing, especially if you have work to do and it has nothing to do with writing.

§ It’s National Poetry Month in April. Even if you’re just reading this because you know me or because you’re bored at lunch, I know you were exposed to poetry at some point in high school or college, and filed the experience away with brussels sprouts, you know: the ones you mother cracked out of that Bird’s Eye box in the freezer and made you eat. Not everyone was lucky enough to have a teacher like Mr. Burns at De La Salle, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the English teacher character in Mystic Pig, someone who by the end of the year had you truly listening to and thinking about poetry.

It doesn’t have to be like those brussels sprouts. First, brussels sprouts in season and well prepared are delicious. So is poetry, if you read the right stuff. I can’t tell you what the right stuff is, any more than I can convince Greg that the Grateful Dead is the acme of American Popular Music. Still, there must have been something you liked, from some period or genre. Sometime this month, stop in the bookstore or the library and just cruise the spines until something pops out at you. Then take it down and read it. Now, take it to check out and find yourself a tree somewhere and get yourself back to that high school space of mind and just sit there and read away the afternoon. You might just be able to get over that metallic Bird’s Eye memory.

§ Susan Stouse, who’s taken over intermittent book reviewing duties for the Picayune Item, opens her Sunday column with this: “in the rest of the country, people will celebrate books next month by taking in National Library Week, Support Teen Literacy Week and National Drop Everything and Read Day. Don’t read us wrong; these are really, really good things, all these “observances.” It’s just that, um … where’s the music? Where’s the food?”

§ Stolen from her column are a couple of poetry notes: Dennis Formento publisher of “Mesechabe: The Journal of Surregionalism,” but best known by some as the founder of the Frank Zappatistas free jazz/free verse band will publish (Looking for an Out Place” (FootHills Press, $15) this spring. And also this: Already out, from Chicory Bloom Press, the small Thibodaux imprint started by noted poets Glenn Bergeron and David Middleton that publishes but two handsome, handmade poetry chapbooks each year, is a limited edition of “Trees in a Park” ($15), a chapbook of works by distinguished poet and Tulane University professor emerita Catharine Savage Brosman. Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque is smitten, calling the author “an impeccable artist” and “one of the great metaphysicians of our time and place.”

§ She also reports the paper release of “Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White” by musician/Time editor/Tulane professor/bestselling author Tom Sancton who will play Tulane’s Dixon Hall April 19 to celebrate the new version. Sancton will play (clarinet) at the April 20 re-launch party at Octavia Books, with his Classic Jazz Trio mates John Rankin and Tom Fischer.

§ Featured tonight 17 poets tonite New Orleans poet, editor and publisher KYSHA BROWN (author of Spherical Woman, Runagate Press 2010), and New Orleans poet, editor and publisher JOSEPH BIENVENU (author of Atom Parlor, BlazeVox Books 2010). Also, host and noted poet Dave Brinks mentioned the other night there will be a celebration of Bob Kaufman’s birthday on Thursday, April 15 (Kaufman’s birthday is the 18th) so have something of Kaufman’s ready to read (and you’d best have it by memory, and be ready to jump up on the bar or a car parked outside to proclaim it. Just don’t jump on the blue Vue if it’s in front. The hood won’t take the weight.

§ At the Maple Leaf this Sunday the poet Sulla, laureate of the dour, will read followed by an open mike.