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Allen Toussaint Circle November 11, 2015

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, je me souviens, Memory, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
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They may think it’s a MOVEMENT, and that’s what it is. . . and all you gotta do to join is to Sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

— Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant”

The single most important figure in music to emerge from New Orleans since Louis “Pops” Armstrong passed away Tuesday in Madrid while in tour. Think of your favorite New Orleans song. Google it. Look at the author credit. Yeah, it’s like that. As the city struggles with the “Confederate monument issue” a simple solution emerges out of the tragedy of Allen Toussaint’s passing for the most contentious of all the monuments in the city. And the answer is so simple. Allen Toussaint Circle, with an appropriate memorial.

Join the Movement today. Like the page if you’re a Facebook sort. Share it widely. Most importantly,  write Mitch Landrieu at mayor@nola.gov and tell him it is the right thing to do, the least contentious, most universally appealing and most fitting possible decision he could make. Rechristen Lee Circle as Allen Toussaint Circle and start casting around for an appropriate memorial.

Come on. You know that we can, can.

https://www.facebook.com/AllenToussaintCircle/

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Ten. August 28, 2015

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, ghosts, je me souviens, New Orleans, postdiluvian, Shield of Beauty, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Again.

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

~ Fini ~

Songs of Freedom March 17, 2012

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Now at the annual collision of our African, Celtic and Sicilian culture, in this town where the African’s ripped from their villages and put into bondage were too valuable a property to waste risk so the hungry Irish were set to work and die digging the New Basin Canal, the spoil banks littered with their bones, the Mardi Gras Indians will come out even as the Irish and Italians stage their parades and the green beer and red wine will flow, and the streets will be line with pork chop sandwiches and loose feathers, a celebration in the way only our entirely Creolized culture knows how to do best. Free from slavery, free from hunger and poverty, and in this one place God set aside like Nod for the rejects of Anglo culture and in which we have established (with a wink and a blind eye from God) all that the propaganda of the north promised in their lies, the true melting pot. It is time to to sing Redemption Songs.

Word. January 2, 2012

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, Bloggers, music, New Orleans, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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Of the Lord (Lord David, that is) from The Truth and Other Lies. If you don’t read his blog, consider yourself woefully under-informed and your opinions beneath notice.

I find myself closer to a Stepford/Mayberry in Hell reality than I ever thought possible for the City of New Orleans…

Join me in the following year, if you dare, in going out to see music that MATTERS; from the Soul Rebels to Ratty Scurvics & the Black Market Butchers, or Dr John sitting in with JD Hill at the St Roch Tavern.

Patronize amazing local theater at out-of-the-way places like Allways Lounge & Marigny Theater, the Shadow Box theater or Otter’s Backyard Ballroom, rather than more commercial endeavors, like Professional Douche Bag, Pres Kabacoff’s, ugly little orange mall..

Gird your loins appropriately, folks, and head on out.
Life in this city is dangerous.
Its complicated.
It’s amazing & it’s beautiful.
In the final measure, for me, it’s the only way to go.

A Long Winter’s Nap December 24, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, A Fiction, Dancing Bear, NOLA, peace, Shield of Beauty, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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Toulouse Street is now on holiday autopilot until the eggnog is gone. I’ve posted a few of these before but we all have our own old chestnuts to roast and the one original story is rewritten and I think improved.

The sun has closed it’s circle and is born again. As we gather around the fire with our circle of family and friends to tell the old stories may it’s waxing light warm the hearts of believers and nonbelievers alike.

Remember August 29, 2011

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

We Shall Gather by the River July 4, 2011

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

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

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

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

On Odd Fellow’s Memorial Day May 30, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Between the post op pain and the Vicodin I don’t think I can manage words better than these for Memorial Day, so I’ll just repost this from 2009.

I was born in 1957 and so I am reckoned one of the last of the baby boomers, that generation borne by the parents who went through World War II. I grew up in a neighborhood full of fathers who had served in World War II, some later in Korea, and frankly I do not remember anyone making much of Memorial Day.

It was the sort of day when the grownups would sit outside, cocktails in hand and laughing; one of the last days before the heat became unbearable, when they could reenact the ritual they knew from the days before air conditioning of sitting out and visiting with the neighbors; a day when the children would run wild up and down the lawn-flanked, oak-shared lanes that ran behind all our houses, as tipsy as our parents on the first days of summer freedom. The fog man might come by in his war surplus jeep pumping God only knows what sort of poison out in a bright, white cloud to keep down the mosquitoes, and the kids would run after him and into the cloud yelling, “the fog man, the fog man”, our small bodies sucking up the DDT while our parents drank bourbon and branch and let us run wild.

Most people’s childhoods must seem an idyllic time looking back from the age of fifty-something but ours seems particularly so as I watch my children grow up without a pack of children on the block and among neighbors who mostly don’t socialize as our parents did. The place we grew up, the upper-middle class suburb of Lake Vista with its cul de sac streets and the shaded sidewalks called lanes that ran behind the houses and up to broad parkways that bisected the neighborhood, was certainly Edenic compared to most every other place I’ve lived.

By the early 1960s it was full of families whose fathers had made something of themselves after the war, professionals and small business men who had done well. These were not people who came home and joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion, the ones who kept their old uniforms and decorations to pull out on Memorial Day to parade down the street. Those were not our fathers: men who after the war were busy trying to finish school or start careers with small children and wives they married so young, who were busily trying to sort out and make something of their life. No one in our neighborhood joined those groups or marched in those parades.

Our father’s did not talk much about the war to us even as we ran through the neighborhood armed with plastic replicas of the very weapons they had carried, acting out the hundreds of old war movies that were a staple of television of the time. We did not much go in for Cowboys and Indians, but preferred to play act the battles of the TV show Combat! For my own father perhaps it was the one experience he told me of, huddled in a beet furrow somewhere in France pinned down by machine gun fire and raked by mortars. He huddled in that furrow, dug small shelves into the mud and lined them with tissue and tore down his Browning Automatic Rifle which had landed in the mud.

He was one of the few survivors of that event, and while he never spoke of it except in outline (and to proudly recount how he cleaned his BAR) I can readily imagine laying there in the dark and the rain, cleaning his weapon while around him most of the young men he had trained with for this day lay dead or dying, some of them perhaps crying out, others fingering the rosaries like the one I still have, the one my mother made for my father to take with him. If to these men Memorial Day was not a time to remember what they went through but to celebrate their survival, to relish friends and family over cocktails on a buggy, summery afternoon I can find no fault in that.

I grew up in an era when the little cardboard bank calendars, the ones with the bank’s name in faux gold leaf and a mercury thermometer in the frame, still listed Confederate Memorial Day (observed on Jefferson Davis’ birthday on June 3rd in most of the South, so soon after the current observance). Perhaps that is a small part of the lack of enthusiasm for the official Memorial Day. And this far toward the equator a Monday in late May is not the first day warm enough for the beach or a big picnic in the park, not by a long shot. If anything, Memorial Day is likely as not to be the first truly miserable day of summer, when the mercury in those little calendar thermometers would first climb above ninety and the breeze in from the lake was as full of water as the pitcher that sat on the patio table and we were just as sweaty.

So come Memorial Day down in New Orleans we might catch the President laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns on the 10 o’clock news as we crawl into bed, stuffed with grilled steak and itchy with bug bites and sleepy from too much beer in the sun, but the reason for the day will largely escape our notice. As the air conditioning whistles us to sleep it might occur to us that summer, at last, has truly arrived, as wet and heavy and ominous as a blizzard turned inside out.

Memorial Day has a new and special significance for me: this is the day I arrived home. In May 2006 I left the children with their grandparents in Fargo, N.D. to be put on a plane later, hitched the boat to the back of the car and started south. Three days later on Memorial Day, 2006 I parked the boat in a marina yard in Mandeville, and made my way across the lake to the small house on Toulouse Street that is now our home. When I sat down to write about it this time last year the real significance of the date finally began to sink in. The first years it was, “oh, this was the week the kids and I got to New Orleans”, but not a day fraught with meaning.

I ead those old words (trying to recall how many beers in the sun proceeded that post) and I once again recall that drive as if it were yesterday. It occurs to me that taking a short cut down Polk in Lakeview–over broken streets that already looked like Patton’s Third Army had rolled over them 20 years before the flood, lined three years ago with houses that looked like the combat-broken landscape of the war movies of my childhood–I had missed passing all of the large monuments of the cemeteries.

I can’t quite name them all unless I jump in the car or on the bike and ride up and down City Park Avenue but a few some to mind, the firefighter’s memorial from the days of the old volunteer fire companies and the mounded hill that covers the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks mausoleum in Greenwood, the tall Grecian column just across the street that memorializes I don’t know what (but will have to wander over later and find out), the pharaonic family tomb that squats in a corner of Metairie Cemetery just off of the interstate.

Somewhere behind the perpetually uncared for broken clock that stands at the head of Canal Street in Greenwood Cemetery lies the Hilbert family tomb where my father and brother lay with my mother’s family. Someday when my mother and her sister are not around to question me I will put up a stone that says Folse atop the one that reads Hilbert, but I don’t want to be buried there among the Hilberts. I have no idea what anyone reading this should do with my remains, but that tomb is not the place. It will not be my own tiny monument in that field of raised tombs.

I often spoke of building a raised tomb when I lived in Fargo, anxious that I might just be tossed into the ground like the rest of them, wanting my far off branch of the family to have a proper memorial of the sort someone from New Orleans expects. Now I think: better to be cremated and hope I have friends who survive me who will know what to do with those ashes, the places that were significant enough to me to be fitting. The thought that those friends will know what to do is probably memorial enough, to know I will be remembered.

For now the only personal monuments I care about are the ones I have built here, the Wet Bank Guide and this one, Toulouse Street, and the pieces out of the Wet Bank Guide that make up Carry Me Home. I don’t want to be remembered for myself but rather as just another of the people who came home, that one cross you see in some pictures with a flag planted, or a spray of flowers in the endless fields of green and white that are military cemeteries. I want to be remembered as one of them all, as someone who helped to tell their story.

As we planned for the [2009] Rising Tide conference the other night, the talk turned to how New Orleans has changed, and its people with it. Someone madet he comparison that occurs to me over and over again: that of the people of the Federal Flood to those of the Greatest Generation. Orleanians are thought indolent and silly with our devotion to festival and food above all else but all around me are people who have been through a profound trauma most Americans can barely imagine. They survived the biggest displacement Americans seen since the Civil War, returned to a city more like Europe after the bombardment and battles of WWII than anything ever seen on this continent, have struggled for years (still struggle today) to live here and rebuild.

These are a people who have seen death and devastation, known loss and disappointment that is painful to catalog, suffer from a traumatic stress that is not post traumatic stress because it is not yet over, may never be over for people of the generation of the flood, and still they get up on certain days and march down to the appointed place and eat and drink and dance and are happy. They are at once not that different from my parents sitting out on Memorial Day and at some deep level they are profoundly transformed. As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood they are people who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and made the case for why we should be here. Few people since the days of the pioneers have a stronger claim to a place.

Some will think it irreverent and disrespectful to say this on Memorial Day, even as soldiers patrol in far off lands and on this day sacred to soldiers some may die, but I have said it before and I will say it again. I look at the people around me and all they have been through and all they have accomplished to remake their home and I think: there is no finer place to be an American today than in their company, here in New Orleans.

Odd Words May 5, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, books, literature, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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I am looking to organize a Bloomsday event in New Orleans on June 16. If you’re interested in participating join the group on Facebook Bloomsday NOLA or drop me an email. If you can’t manage to attend a Bloomsday event, you can always visit this project and get your fill of hearing the book read aloud at James Joyce intended it. And if I don’t get enough people, look for me on a corner in Frenchman Street the evening of June 16, reading to the crowd. If it comes to that, beer and relief readers will be most welcome.

Thomas Beller edited the esteemed New York literary magazine Open City for 20 years and 30 issues. It recently ceased publication, and Beller, now an assistant professor at Tulane, spoke about the magazine’s life and death, among other things, with a new local literary website started by the Press Street press, Room 220.

And so, the listings:

& I’m not a big fan of mysteries but former Times Picayune report Julie Smith has always come highly recommended to me, and she joins fellow New Orleans mysterian Greg Herren in celebrating the release of their new Young Adult novels at Octavia Books Thursday, May 5 at 6 p.m.

& Starting May 5, a free staging of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus will be held here. OK, not exactly on the FB page but at 612 Piety. It sounds, um, fun: “In a warehouse in the Bywater, a small ensemble of actors will unfold Shakespeare’s earliest, goriest and most absurd tragedy with lighthearted savagery.” Get you some epically dead people. You know you want some. Through May 14th.

& Because you can never have too much Shakespeare, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is the idyllic setting for the NOLA Project’s dusktime performances of Shakespeare’s whimsical A Midsummer Night’s Dream Tickets $10, $8 seniors/students, $6 children, free for NOMA members and students from many local universities with student ID. 7 p.m. Friday May 6 through May 27. That sounds like tonic relief from Titus Andronicus indeed.

& The Ebony Center at 4215 Magazine Street hosts a weekly spoken-word, music and open-mic event. Tickets $7 general admission, $5 students. 11 p.m. Friday.

& Also on Friday, May 5 Maple Street Book Shop will host a reading with Eve Abrams and Thomas W. Jacobsen on Thursday, May 5, 2011, 6:00 P.M. Ms. Abrams conducted the interviews the Preservation Hall Band Members for the new book, Preservation Hall. Mr. Jacobsen is the author of Traditional Orleans Jazz: Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music. Gather with us for a night of music, culture and food!

& On Saturday, Poet Gian “G-Persepect” Smith and Alphonse “Bobby” Smith host Pass It On, a weekly spoken-word and music event at the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, 2003 Carondelet St. Admission $6. 9 p.m G-Persepect is the poet featured in the Treme trailer.

& On Sunday, May 8 the Maple Leaf Bar hosts the Everette Maddox-founded poetry reading at 3 pm (ish) with an Open Mike.

& Don’t forget every Wednesday at 9 pm be sure to check out the open poetry forum hosted by Kate Smash in the amphitheater on Decatur across from Jackson Square. No list, no mic, just anyone who shows up free to read what they like. Musicians encouraged to join. Organizer Kate Smash said the first one was, well, smashing.

& Also every Wednesday Thaddeus Conti will revive the Dinky Tao poetry meeting (reading, discussion, drinking–coffee in this case) at 8 pm 5110 Daneel at The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse.

The Fortin Street Stage April 30, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, fuckmook, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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They came early and the line stretched down Fortin Street even though it was only Friday, all in their straw hats spreading lotion, men in their ball caps and concert shirts, women in short-shorts and in cool summer whites, with parasols and backpacks and collapsible chairs, the barkers of sunglasses and hats and coozies that hang from your neck working the line until I was ready to kill the one who set up in front of my door incessantly shouting. I saw with my coffee and a cigarette watching them file past into the first day of Jazz Fest 2011.

I couldn’t tell you the line up. I’m working from home today and my joke post about being a stone’s throw from the gospel tent was “Jesus on the conference call, Tell him what you want” but first it was time for a mid-morning break, coffee and a cigarette in a dirty white resin chair next to my stoop to watch the crowd assemble then pass, perhaps to catch a bit of the excitement I’m wasn’t feeling looking at the line up. Today’s big act is Bon Jovi, and there’s a sign advertising the Shrine of Bon Jovi at 2992 Maurepas. The first fans are already at the gate two hours before it opens to stake their place.

This is why I was not that excited about what is still called the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in the weeks leading up to this.

Yesterday I opened the door to sit on the stoop and smoke a cigarette and watch the crowd a man stood with camera gear slung around his neck, trying to make a cell call away from the chatter of the barkers and the anxious crowd. He didn’t get an answer and stood there a moment staring at his cell phone before he looked over my way and said nice seat.

It’s the Fortin Street Stage, I told him. Turns out the guy, who will remain nameless, with credits and credentials for a half-dozen jazz magazines, can’t get a press pass. He has hustled comps and even a press pass one year. Apparently someone at the festival hands them out to friends with tenuous credentials by the handful, and he managed to get one from a local lawyer one year. I didn’t go through the list with him, but let’s just say if you’re here from the Off Beat of L.A. you should get a press pass. Then again, this is not your grandfather’s jazz fest. I told him that back in the 1970s I could get a fistful of tickets for the University of New Orleans newspaper and went every day. I think you have to be from a rock magazine now, he said.

I see you have Rahsaan up on your wall he said, noticing a painting I have. He spoke of the other jazz fests he has attended elsewhere, ones where jazz in the name still means something. I told him about my visit to The Cavern in D.C. and looking at the marquee of coming acts, all the current touring big names and in jazz, none of whom every visit New Orleans. We spoke of Kenny G in the Jazz Tent, and talked about catching Ahmad Jamal and Sonny Rollins. He is debating staying for Rollins and having to buy another ticket out of his own pocket hoping to get some saleable shots. I said I planned to just walk up the street and plant as close as I can get to the Jazz Tent Saturday afternoon for Jamal, and was going in for Rollins because my son’s music program (sponsored by the Heritage Foundation) plays that morning.

I had never been a tremendous fan of the Gospel Tent, although I have friends who swear by it, always thinking I had too much else to see and do when inside. Today its a pleasant relief from work, to step outside with my coffee cup and listen to the choirs riffing on James Brown themes, to hear the sisters moan in a blessed tone as the John Boutte song goes, picking apart the music to find the roots of so much else I love in the pounding rhythm sections and soaring organ. I wonder how many Bon Jovi fans will pause outside the gospel tent today and recognize that much of modern popular music would not be possible without Southern gospel.

After Friday’s shows were over, a crowd who had rented the lot next door and erected tents cranks up their music right outside my window: the Charlie Daniels Band. As The Souths Gonna Do It Again replaced the sounds of gospel. What the hell are these people doing at Jazz Fest, I wonder? I step outside for a moment at glower around the corner them. I step back inside, and they crank it up a bit louder. Time to go all McAlary on them. I browse through my I-Tunes and decide on Miles Davis Bitches’ Brew. I turn my new Bose speakers outward, and turn it up, then wander into the back to stick my soaking red beans in the fridge for the night.

Forget the Acura Stage and Bon Jovi. Saturday’s lineup on the Fortin Street Stage includes Robert Cray in the Blues Tent and Ahmad Jamal in the Jazz tent (at the same time alas), just a short stroll up the street for me to listen over the fence. I’m going to cook up some red beans against any unexpected guests at the end of the day. I’ve got beer and water in the fridge and the bathroom’s clean. I’m ready to spend the day at my own private Jazz Fest. I just hope the stories aren’t true about the Bon Jovi fans booing Dr. John one year, anxious to hear their band, because if I hear the fuckmooks boo Irma Thomas who plays just before their band the Shrine of Bon Jovi is going to be in serious danger.

The Travesty of the Commons March 3, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, Carnival, fuckmook, FYYFF, parade, Toulouse Street.
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This is a repost from last year, but bears repeating. I’ll probably be missing Endymion this year but will venture out to my first parade tonight, and expect to find the usual suspects appropriating private space for their own enjoyment while the police look on unconcerned.

Photo courtesy of that Yellow Blog guy

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

This is nuts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Villages in the Midst January 3, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever.
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Our friends over at THE RUMPUS kindly accepted this, along with pieces from several other New Orleans writers (none of whose pieces are about New Orleans but hey, I’m obsessed) for an online collection of very short pieces on Neighborhood. Thanks Susan Clements and the whole Rumpus team.

Start from the division of the city along Canal Street by a median strip called the neutral ground, one side Creole and the other American, the no man’s land where the old New Orleans of the French and Spanish reluctantly mingled with the Yankee new comers of two hundred years ago. Walk either direction from Canal more than a dozen blocks, downtown past the French Quarter or uptown through the Central Business District and things begin to blur. The grand avenues of St. Charles and Esplanade are both lined with the grand old houses of the wealthy, built when the city could call itself Queen of the South, but a few blocks behind either stand the same square cottages and long shotguns of the working class.

This is where conventional demography breaks down and neighborhood begins: where you got that po-boy or snowball, where you went to school, which church’s bells wake you at six in the morning, the store your parents sent you to as a child for liquor or cigarettes because the owner knew you. There are more than two cities here, not just the division of the old city into Creole and American but also the historic city and the post-war suburbs. Whether your boulevard is lined with grand mansions or strip malls, the back streets share an architectural homogeneity that makes the name of your corner store–not the Piggly Wiggly but the one with a family name–that much more important. This is neighborhood.

There is pride in neighborhood. Is there another city in America where a ten year old can tell you which civil ward he lives in, might even break into a sing-song chant of “1st Ward, 2nd Ward, 3rd Ward: that’s Uptown! 7th Ward 8th Ward, 9th Ward, that’s Downtown!”? The Mardi Gras Indians of either side sew in different styles, one geometrically abstract and feather-heavy, the other defined by detailed patchwork of primitive realism. These streets are where New Orleans’ iconic music is born, played not for the door but for pride; where the food is best not for Fodor’s but because your grandmother’s name is on the sign; where parades are not the lumbering floats of well-to-do Carnival but the high stepping second lines of century-old Social Aid and Pleasure clubs.

These neighborhoods are the villages we create to tame a place in the wild subtropical jungle that surrounds us.