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Songs of Innocence August 31, 2014

Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I could not publish until Anya was gone from fear of upsetting my daughter. We put Anya to sleep Aug. 29, very close to what would hvave been her 19th birthday.

My daughter’s cat is clearly dying. She has stopped eating–again–and spends her days laying in her chosen spot on the linoleum just outside the bathroom. She gets up to use the cat box and drink water but that’s it. She has become a bag of skin and bones. Her name is Anastasia: Anya for short. That should give you some idea of her age. I won’t send you off to the imdb database to look up the release date of the Disney film. Suffice it to say the cat is pushing eighteen.

I think I will take this just as hard as my daughter, or my son (who loves the cat). I was the person who gave her the most sustained attention before my separation (she was always a little afraid of my son, who was too young when we adopted her to fully understand the difference between a plush toy and a livinv animal.) As my daughtef grew older she was less and less around the house, and was I believe somewhat allergic fo her cat. Matt persisted in his more tender attentions until she relented and his bed became a favotite place to sleep. I offered her a warm chest to nap on while I lay on the couch. When she came home to me, after a period of adjustment she returned to nudge her head against my book anytime I lay on the couch to read.

What I am afraid of losing is not my animal companion but one of the last cherished icons of innocence. Anya was my daughter’s fifth birthday present. She represents for me both innocence, and those nights I intentionally fell asleep on the couch reading instead of in bed with my ex-, a symptom of the loss of innocence. Innocence, that cherished belief that the world is not out to recycle you to better purposes the minute you stop looking over your shoulder, is one of more difficult pathologies of the romantic. It is usually extinguished early in life, but the romantic carries at least a kernel of it with them indefinitely. Yes, I have my dark side. Consider William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience as a good example of the balance of both in the pathological romantic. Then consider that I can recreate Allen Ginsburg’s recording of “Oh, Rose, Thou Art Sick!” (minus harmonium), note for flat note.

Children exacerbate that pathological extension of innocence into adulthood, particularly in the romantic. One continually sees an expression, a gesture, a turn of phrase that wooshes one back to a more innocent time, before the terrible twos turned into the twenties, before the credit card was over limit again. Even looking last night at the cat’s whiskers called up a memory of how my daughter had cut the whiskers of her favorite stuffed animal–Rugby Tiger–when she was small. I was probably wallowing at that point, stroking the cat beside me in the bed. (Wallowing is another romantic pathology we shall discuss another time).

I don’t want to take up and find innocence dead on the floor, but she does not seem to be suffering and we both take comfort in the time my son and I spend sitting on the floor stroking her. She will even attempt to climb into my lap, although her hindquarters are getting weaker by the day. I feel that innocence is dying all around me, and with it trust and love. There is trust that is earned, and the practical love of adults, and the tangle of obligations taken on for love. I understand that. Unconditional love and trust: those are another matter. I am not the sort to give myself up to a blue or bloody avatar. To do so is to lose too much of one’s humanity. For now, I want to keep Anya with us as long as I can, and tie Pollyanna and Pangloss in a burlap sack with rocks and toss them into a river.

Ghosts of the Flood August 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odd Words August 28, 2014

Posted by The Typist in books, LGBT, LGBTIQ, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This week in literary New Orleans:

Tonight kicks off The Waves,a new LGBTIQ reading series presenting student voices, local writers, and visiting writers side by side. Our kickoff reading, coinciding with Antenna Gallery’s 2nd Annual True Colors LGBTQ Art Exhibition, will feature an all local line-up: Chanel Clarke, Tyler Gillespie, Elizabeth Gross, Megan Ann Mchugh, Kay Murphy, Brad Richard, Anne Marie Rooney, Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, Spencer Silverthorne, Madeleine LeCesne and perhaps even more.

About the Readers:

  • Anne Marie Rooney is the author of Spitshine, as well as two chapbooks.
  • Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers was born in a hailstorm, is the author of the poetry collection Chord Box, and lives on a street named Desire.
  • Tyler Gillespie is a pale Floridian whose writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Rolling Stone, Salon, NPR, and PANK, among other places.
  • Madeleine LeCesne is a senior at Lusher School and a writer in the Certificate of Artistry Program, directed by Brad Richard.
  • Elizabeth Gross throws her poems around and recently some have landed in LEVELER, Painted Bride Quarterly, B O D Y, and the upcoming Queer South anthology from Sibling Rivalry Press.
  • Spencer Silverthorne is a MFA candidate in poetry at the University of New Orleans.
  • Chanel Clarke is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and has had poems published in Anti-, Flag and Void, Smoking Glue Gun, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.
  • Brad Richard directs the creative writing program at Lusher Charter School, has published three books and two chapbooks, and is working on, among other things, a manuscript titled Reconstructions.
  • Megan Mchugh, who recently completed her MFA at UNO, is a garden teacher with the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, and also grows/designs flowers at the flower farm and design studio, Pistil and Stamen.
  • Kay Murphy is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Orleans. Her poetry and essays have been published far and wide.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Thursday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts an Author Event! featuring two new books by Sally Michelle Jackson. In A Darker Side of the Light (The Heilsing Cases) (Volume 1) the central character is a paranormal investigator (a friend refers to him as a con man) who played at investigating his caseload. He admits that he takes cases, does minimal legwork to solve them, and does little more than reassure the client that “everything is all right.” And then one night, he finds himself investigating a real case and it changes his life. In Never Stop Dreaming the main character dreams of one woman night after night – and he doesn’t seem to have control over them. In fact, it seems as if someone else is running the show in his dreams. This is no longer acceptable, so he turns the tables in his search for the woman and he does it in the only way that he knows how – through dreams. Jackson also will discuss Poems from a Transgendered Heart, a collection of poems published in 2011 that serve as attempt to convey the emotional part of a transsexual’s journey of self-discovery and transitioning.

& James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors at the East Jefferson Regional Library. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Friday at 6 pm author Michael Pitre’s presents Fives and Twenty-Fives at the Garden District Book Shop. Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine’s life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where every pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger. Lieutenant Donavan leads the platoon, painfully aware of his shortcomings and isolated by his rank. Doc Pleasant, the medic, joined for opportunity, but finds his pride undone as he watches friends die. And there’s Kateb, known to the Americans as Dodge, an Iraqi interpreter whose love of American culture—from hip-hop to the dog-eared copy of Huck Finn he carries—is matched only by his disdain for what Americans are doing to his country. Returning home, they exchange one set of decisions and repercussions for another, struggling to find a place in a world that no longer knows them.

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& It’s Story Time with Miss Maureen Saturdays at 11:30am at Maple Street Book Shop. This week features My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown. A young boy named Bobby has the worst teacher. She’s loud, she yells, and if you throw paper airplanes, she won’t allow you to enjoy recess. She is a monster! Luckily, Bobby can go to his favorite spot in the park on weekends to play. Until one day… he finds his teacher there! Over the course of one day, Bobby learns that monsters are not always what they seem. Each page is filled with “monstrous” details that will have kids reading the story again and again. Peter Brown takes a universal and timeless theme, and adds his own humorous spin to create another winner of a picture book.

& Saturday at 1 pm Bob Rogers discusses and signs his book The Laced Chameleon at Garden District Book Shop. Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon (one-quarter African American) and concubine of a New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson. Courted by moneyed white men, she leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns and lavish balls until a bullet shatters her dream world. While awaiting the arrival of the Union Navy among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead by her side. Rain soaked and blood-stained Francesca vows revenge. The grieving Francesca is evicted from Joachim’s house by his family who refuses to honor the lovers’ plaçage (concubinage) contract. Francesca’s life becomes intertwined with a homeless hungry white woman and her children when she shares her last Confederate dollars to buy food for them. Her investigation of the woman’s plight lands her work as a spy for Major General Benjamin Butler’s army occupying New Orleans. As Francesca struggles with her identity to make principled choices between another plaçage arrangement and independence, an acquaintance is murdered and her best friend, Emily, is kidnapped.

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

& All area libraries will be closed for Labor Day on Monday.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 7 pm The East Jefferson Regional Library hosts Three New Authors who have brand new books: Tanisca Wilson, author of “Proclivity”; Cynthia Addison, author of “Mamma Said” and “The Devil Hates Marriages”; and Rhea Mayfield Berkeris, author of “Born Special.” Free of charge and open to the public.

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

& Wednesday at the Latter Memorial Library A Book Club Named Desire meets. Adults meet to discuss a local classic every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. For more information, contact Toni at tlmccourt@hotmail.com.

& Wednesday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts an event in its Culinary Legacies series, an interview with Sam Irwin, author of Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History. Sam Irwin is the guest interviewee of this event sponsored by the Southern Food and Beverage museum. The hunt for red crawfish is the thing, the raison d’être, of Acadian spring. Introduced to Louisiana by the swamp dwellers of the Atchafalaya Basin, the crawfish is a regional favorite that has spurred a $210 million industry. Whole families work at the same fisheries, and annual crawfish festivals dominate the social calendar. More importantly, no matter the occasion, folks take their boils seriously: they’ll endure line cutters, heat and humidity, mosquitoes and high gas prices to procure crawfish for their families’ annual backyard boils or their corporate picnics. Join author Sam Irwin as he tells the story–complete with recipes and tall tales–of Louisiana’s favorite crustacean: the crawfish.

& Wednesday The Maple Street Book Shop will host the launch party for Katy Simpson Smith’s novel, The Story of Land and Sea, at 7pm Sat The Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Avenue). Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

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

An Imaginary City August 25, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, New Orleans, Odd Words, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
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I live in an imaginary city. Its borders on one side are indistinct, the gradual erosion from solid land through marsh to water. These boundaries shift daily with the tide, and monthly with the moon, and every day grow a little closer, the city a little smaller. On the other sides there are walls built to keep back the sea, to contain the river. These are not ours to command. All we have with certainty is our imaginary city, its rituals of uncertain origin, its people of many colors and languages. They walk and dance on streets that ripple like the water, fracture like ice on a river breaking up in the spring, and crumble from neglect. These are the only streets we have ever known. Only the names are important: Pleasure, Desire, Humanity, Music. The names are part of the dream of the imaginary city. Martin Luther King Boulevard and Jefferson Davis Parkway intersect and end where Earhart Boulevard flies toward the Potemkin America of the imaginary suburbs.

There are in fact many imaginary cities I inhabit, all in the same place. There is the city of the tourists, the ones who buy Carnival beads in August and wear them drinking in the streets. This is a city of imaginative drunkenness and lewdness, mostly confined to a few blocks of one street, where people buy Big Ass Beers and drinks the size of goldfish bowls or shaped like hand grenades, as if they wish to immerse themselves in liquor or explode into outrageous behavior. They holler at women on party balconies to “show their tits.” Some drunkenly comply. They behave, in short, like drunken louts released from all restraint. This is encouraged. Virtually every doorway in these few blocks leads to a bar, the rest to t-shirt and trinket shops where they can buy their beads and shirts only someone completely inebriated would consider wearing. They show these shirts to friends at home, snicker, and put them in a bottom drawer. I occasionally inhabit this city if only for a moment, to cross the street of the endless Carnival, to escape to another imaginary city. A few people I know work there. Some love it. Some hate it. It either is or is not a particular person’s imaginary city. For the visitors, it is the only city.

I can cross Canal Street, the famous divide between two of the largest imaginary cities, to the skyscrapers and renovated 19th century office blocks of Uptown. (Don’t call the skyscraper village Downtown, or you will quickly become lost. Downtown is Another City). This is where the wealthy sit in air-conditioned comfort–over lunches that would cost the waiter a week’s wages–and wonder at the indolence of so many of the people of their imaginary city. They are the God-fearing Protestants from the north who came after the war and built that side of Canal Street into a landscape of mansions and shotgun shacks for their servants. An antique streetcar, long out of manufacturer and kept running entirely with hand built parts, rumbles under great oaks down the avenue. On this avenue the wealthy and those who would be wealthy enact the ritual of Uptown Carnival, in which these people ride atop massive papier-mâché barges tossing imaginary jewels of Chinese plastic to the grateful (if indolent) throngs that line the street. This has been my imaginary city, at times, looking out from the nineteenth floor contemplating what fine restaurant a salesman might take us to. I too have stood where the streetcars run and fought for my share of worthless plastic.

Downtown is not where the business of the city is done. This seems appropriate to an imaginary city. Downtown begins with the blocks of the Old Quarter where drunken tourists reign and slowly gives way to the city downriver. Things run down quickly going toward the sea but that is to be expected. The certainty of the land beneath this imaginary city dissolves with each block further down toward the delta. The clocks on abandoned bank buildings stand forever at some o’clock. Here it is Central River Time. Paint peels more slowly in this imaginary city, and so is left as it is. I can think of a half-dozen facades in this imaginary city with faded advertisements for beers out of style longer than I can remember. The sidewalks here are not fractured by the stately oaks of Uptown but more likely by a weedy camphor or blackberry. People do not call the city to complain. They crush a camphor leaf in their hand and inhale, or stop to pick a handful of berries. They step over the heaves and holes on their way to more important business. There is cooking to be done, music to be sung, cold beer and friends to attend to. I live far in the back of this imaginary city, off the portage that once ran from the Bayou to the River. There was a clerk at a drug store not four block away I had not visited in 20 years who took a long look at my driver’s license, and remarked I looked just like my father (20 years dead). No doubt there are dwindling towns scattered in the rural landscape where such things might happen, but only one imaginary city where it could happen to you today.

The imaginary city is old by the standards of the New World. Only the pyramids of the displaced Natives are older. Yet nothing here is as old as the imaginary city. Over the centuries, fire and flood have erased everything but the names of the streets in the French Quarter, lined with Spanish colonial buildings. Kings, founders, a street called Barracks that explains the curious grid streets of the French Quarter, a fortress built in a conquered land. Elsewhere the streets run perpendicular to the river, slowing pulling away from each other or colliding as the river dictates: new streets appear, others disappear. The cross streets follow the bends of the river or simply begin and disappear in a geometry that defies simple formulae. It is a fractal city, chaotic order out of chaos. You can spend an entire lifetime here and still discover new streets and wonder: was this always here? Or is it simply a symptom of an imaginary city? Were the houses a Carnival façade, something erected for some private entertainment, or has another imaginary city intersected ours like two bubbles colliding?

It would be impossible to live here if it were not an imaginary city.

In the concrete world of rotting sideboards that hides beneath the imaginary city, things can be too awful to imagine. The bloodstained streets are the killing fields of a constant, random war. The newspaper of the imaginary city counts the daily dead and wounded, but it is easier not to take the paper if you wish to live in the imaginary city. You can live in your own imaginary city and cluck and shrug and say: not in my imaginary city. These things don’t happen Uptown. These things don’t happen in the blocky, post-War suburbs of the Lakefront. And how about them Saints? Football season is upon us and in the imaginary city football crosses all boundaries, melds the imaginary cities into one imaginary city, if only for a Sunday afternoon, a Monday morning. Football and Carnival are the pillars of the imaginary city, the many imaginary cities that make up this imaginary city. We imagine ourselves one city.

Behind all this, the uncivil war goes on, cousins killing cousins, neighbors killing neighbors. You can try to ignore it but every now and then, you step outside for a cigarette at night and hear in the distance not the horns of the ships making the tight bend in the river but the crackle of small-arms fire, and then the sirens. In your heart, you pray that a stray bullet has not taken another child. You step back inside, suddenly distracted by a song on the imaginary city’s radio station where they do not play the top hits of an imaginary nation but the music of the imaginary city. You return to the collective imaginary normal until the sound of a snare drum or a trumpet calls for forth a slow spiritual, or vibrant gospel song you know will be played somewhere in this imaginary city to walk and wake those who have just died.

It would be impossible to live here if it were not an imaginary city.

Odd Words August 21, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Book Stores, books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This week in literary New Orleans, the libraries are where it’s at:

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& At 7 pm Prospect New Orleans & NOPL present Keith Calhoun & Chandra McCormick in conversation with Kalamu ya Salaam The artists will share how Kalamu ya Salaam has inspired their practice. All three will discuss their collaborative unpublished work Banana Republic: Black Street Life and Culture in New Orleans at the Keller Branch of the New Orleans Public Library.

& In Jefferson at 7 pm the Great Books Discussion Group meets to discuss The Red Badge of Courage at the East Jefferson Regional Library. This small masterpiece set the pattern for the treatment of war in modern fiction. Amid the nightmarish chaos of a Civil War battle, a young soldier discovers courage, humility, and, perhaps, wisdom. Widely praised for uncanny re-creation of the sights, sounds, and sense of actual combat. An enduring landmark of American fiction.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& Saturday at 2 pm it is Poetry for Teens,Michael Quess? Moore, Sam Gordon, & Mwende Katwiwa, New Orleans slam poets and educators, will present a poetry reading and workshop for teens.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features writer Ed Ruzicka reads from his book, Engines of Belief – Engagement with Modern Art.

Monday the Robert E. Smith Branch of the NOPL offers a writing workshop open to all comers at 5:30 pm.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts a reading and signing celebrating the launch of New Orleans writer Michael Pitre’s FIVES and TWENTY-FIVES, a truly stunning work of art, and a debut novel that Kirkus called “a book in which everything rings so unshakably true. A war novel with a voice all its own, this will stand as one of the definitive renderings of the Iraq experience.” A heart-stopping debut novel about war and its aftermath by an Iraq War veteran—and an essential examination of the United States’ role in the world.

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

& Wednesday at the Latter Memorial Library A Book Club Named Desire meets. Adults meet to discuss a local classic every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. For more information, contact Toni at tlmccourt@hotmail.com

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

Death will tremble to take us August 16, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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“We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
Charles Bukowski

Odd Words August 13, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Book Stores, books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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Another quiet week in literary New Orleans until we celebrate Charles Bukowski’s birthday Saturday at the Loa Bar starting at 8 pm. Then things might living up just a bit. (Details below). Until then, don’t wake the librarians.

Last spring, Press Street unveiled in a soft opening the new Reading Room 220 on the first floor of our headquarters on St. Claude Avenue. The community space—which hosts events, adult writing workshops, Big Class activities, and more—includes a collection of quality books and periodicals that span subject, format, and genre. Many are from independent publishers and are not readily available in bookstores and libraries around town. As we continue to acquire books and catalog and organize our collection (which will soon be available for your perusal on Goodreads), we will feature some of the noteworthy publications that you can find at the Reading Room 220. Press Street/Room 220 is located at 3718 Saint Claude Avenue. Press Street is open from 12-5 pm Saturday and Sunday. Call for additional hours: 504-298-3161.

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

& Thursday at 7 pm James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration. Location: Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& George Gurtner will be signing his book, Cast of Characters, Saturday at 11 am – 1 pm at Maple Street Book Shop. Cast of Characters comprises colorful true stories of life in and around the Big Easy. Selected from the column of the same name written for 35 years by George Gurtner in New Orleans Magazine, this collection of unusual people— from creative loners to lovable freaks and many gradations between— is testimony to why New Orleans continues to be the most interesting city in the country. Foreword by Erroll Laborde, photos accompanying most characters by Frank Methe.

& Saturday celebrate Charles Bukowski’s birthday with a special event at Loa Bar located on the corner of Camp and Gravier Streets from 8 – 11 PM. Specials will include ham on rye sandwiches, stiff spirits and a toast at 10 pm. Also salon style poetry readings by celebrity guess and an open mic. There will also be a silent film and music. Special Guests include publisher and book collector Edwin blair, Author jeff weddle, International Gold Medal winner and poet Sarah Gamard, author and journalist Steve Garbarino. Rare first editions from Bukowski’s work from Loujon Press and others will be on display.

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

& The monthly meeting of the New Orleans Haiku Society takes place at the Latter Memorial Library, That cool grey temple/Shaded by green oak trees on/St. Charles Avenue, at 6 p.m.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

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

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

The Android Speaks in the Seance of my Pocket August 12, 2014

Posted by The Typist in The Odd, The Typist, WTF.
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The Famous and The Dead August 12, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Robin Williams’ death has left me feeling uncomfortably numb. I am still processing Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and trying to reconnect to the bestial realities of life: finding a job, managing my son’s sophomore crisis of identify, managing my own crisis of identity after years of remunerative and soulless work. Williams made me laugh and also made me think. Hoffman made me cry and also made me think. (Synechdoche, N.Y. was just a little too close to home; someone had to tell me it was meant as a dark comedy and not a straight tragedy, with Hoffman as both Lear and fool. I am still not completely convinced).

As the ages of the famous and the dead begin to merge with our own there is a temptation to recoil in horror rather than to run to You Tube and watch Williams in his Mork costume talking to an egg. (Yes, I did this). In New Orleans we treasure our musicians. It is one thing to think “another old and great one gone” and to recall from no very great space of time the last time you saw someone who is also gone. Perhaps I have just buried too many people two young, about one a decade since I was ten, doubling up in the last. There was a great outpouring of grief recently over the loss of local actress and designer Veronica Russell. I did not know her, but saw Glenn Meche’s production of Battle of Angels in which she glowed even when the lights were dimmed. Such natural grace and beauty, such talent: dead at 44.

I don’t watch television as a rule, living off of Netflix. I haven’t seen Williams new sitcom, but perhaps that is the memory of a subdued Elliot Gould out of his element in the sitcom Friends. Some connection broke inside, and I’ve never seen the Ocean’s films. I have not watched a Robin Williams film in probably a decade, maybe longer. He is simply there, inside me somewhere, informing who I am much as do Gould and Donald Sutherland and other actors who represented in my youth the absurd comedy of life. I cannot watch The Priests Monologue in Synechdoche without thinking of Sutherland in Little Murders pronouncing Gould’s wedding “an abandonment of ritual in the search for truth.” Perhaps I am just too dark for much of Williams, but Sutherland’s line could serve as a definition of comedy, a central summation of one of the darkest comedies, perhaps the darkest comedy ever made into film. The best, most curative comedy is not the play upon our own insecurities that struts the stages of comedy clubs and fills the cable network. It steps outside of the expected, takes us out of ourselves into an absurd space where demons fear to tread. People nostalgically reach back for Mork and Mindy, or perhaps Mrs. Doubtfire. I am put in mind of Terry Gilliam’s brilliant The Fisher King, or The Dead Poets Society. The Fisher King is dark for all its comedic moments, but it ends on a note of hope: the Red Knight banished, the two couples united, all’s well that ends well. The oldest trope in the book: older than the camera, older that Shakespeare, Everyman redeemed.

I finally got around to watching Reaching for the Moon last night. I loved it, but was disappointed not to see the flying lanterns of “The Armadillo” rising up the hills of Rio de Janeiro. I understand it would have been a distraction from the film’s eponymous focus on the moon and the lights of the park, of the place of the moon in “Insomnia” and the poem itself in the story. Still, I wanted to see the flying lights: some ascending to heaven, some crashing in catastrophe. I like to remember that those which fail to scale the heavens begin as fire and light, an act of man reaching toward some greater glory, ascending the terrifying stage of night to shed their light.

Odd Words August 7, 2014

Posted by The Typist in books, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Saturday at 1 pm Garden District Book Shop hosts Bob Rogers and his new book The Laced Chameleon. Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon (one-quarter African American) and concubine of a New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson. Courted by moneyed white men, she leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns and lavish balls until a bullet shatters her dream world. While awaiting the arrival of the Union Navy among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead by her side. Rain soaked and blood-stained Francesca vows revenge.

& Saturday at 7 pm T E N D E R L O I N Magazine returns with Cold Cuts: The Third Weird Thing reading series at Kajun’s Pub featuring opening jam by Jenn & Mel, Andrew Ketcham, Peter Twal and Alec Vanthoumout. Cold Cuts is a poetry reading interested in performance and a performance interested in reading poetry. Each reading will consist of 3 – often on the theme of 2 poets and a 3rd weird thing: the performative. But we encourage all our poets to perform and all our performances to poet. We like to showcase our TENDER LOIN writers, and we like to showcase local artists.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday is the launch of the Maple Leaf Rag V anthology of poetry, published by Portal’s Press. MLRV is a selection of poems from readers who have been featured or are regular participants in open mike at the reading.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts historian Michael S. Martin presenting and signing his new biography, RUSSELL LONG: A Life in Politics. Russell Long (1918-2003) occupies a unique niche in twentieth-century US history. Born into Louisiana’s most influential political family, and son of perhaps the most famous Louisianian of all time, Long extended the political power generated by other members of his family and attained heights of power unknown to his predecessors, including his faV ither Huey.

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

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

For events at your local library please visit Nutrias.org for the New Orleans Public Library and http://www.jefferson.lib.la.us for Jefferson Parish.

Wood and Water: The Working Boats of Venice August 3, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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While everyone else went camera-mad for gondolas, I found myself drawn to the working boats of Venice. To live in a city of canals and narrow streets interrupted by bridges of steps, everything travels by water and courier, men hustling push carts full of the goods a city requires. Look at the bottom of any photo of Venice along the canals and there at the bottom, you will find boats. Here is a picture meant to be of the Doge’s Palace, the domes of the Basilaci di San Marco and the towers of the building that house the museum of Venice, there are boats: a Vaporetto, the ubiquitous mass transit on the left, a yellow tour boat pulling into S. Marco, a water taxi rushing up the middle of the Grand Canal, and one of the polished wooden runabouts of those who can afford 12 Euro to drink a Campari and soda at Harry’s Bar.

Doge's Palace (& Boats)

I was drawn less to the gleaming wood or the bright fiberglass of those who could afford them. Rather, it was the working wood boats that nestled up alongside the quays of the smaller canals that caught my interest. Frequently painted in the bright, Mediterranean colors seen throughout the archipelago city, they serve both as family car and truck do in cities where the streets are of pavement and not water.

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In this series, I watched a working man loading his boat for the day ahead while sitting in the cafe just down from our hotel.

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Any picture of a side canal will be filled with moored boats. The first two are the views up and down Rio Marin, the canal outside our hotel. The others are miscellaneous shots filled with boats. I wasn’t keeping a photo journal so I can’t give the other locations, except to place the last on the island of Burano.

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One nod to the gondola: the boat yard at Squero di San Travaso:

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Fleur de Lis in Ancient Rome August 3, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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What as the fleur de lis to the ancient Romans? Curious to find them in a fountain niche decorated with nymphs. Are they a late addition from the Christian era? Is there meaning more ancient, traceable as some web pages suggest to the three sacred lotus of ancient Egypt? There is no easy answer from The Google, and I have lost my library privileges at UNO, but I will somehow find out.

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