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One Upon A Bayou January 23, 2015

Posted by The Typist in History, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Once upon a bayou an old man and woman came down Esplanade almost daily to the shore. Under the watchful eyes of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard (C.S.A) the man sat beneath an unravelling straw hat with a cane pole, fishing. The woman in an apron bent and picked dandelion greens in the ancient posture of the plantation. She placed them in an old, plastic ice cream bucket on which the plastic handle had been replaced by a string of twine.

Once upon a time there were such people? There are no lard-fried bream and dandelion green dinners preserved in the freezer aisle at Winn-Dixie. On my way home, turning north at the General’s statue–the direction of his resentful gaze–on the bank a small tractor pulls a spray tank, scarecrow arms extended. Dandelions no longer mar the view of park lawns from the high-rise apartment building on the opposite shore.

Once upon a time there were such people.

Introduction to a longer poem, and a parable for New Orleans. If you chose someday not to publish the poem because of this post, fine. Return to munching leaves or carrion, after your scaly fashion. Your time will come, too.

Odd Words January 21, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Book Stores, book-signing, books, bookstores, History, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, spoken word, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& This Thurday at 7 pm Antenna Gallery: THE WAVES presents the New Orleans launch of the anthology The Queer South (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014). The dream-child of editor Douglas Ray, The Queer South includes poetry and prose by LGBTQ writers who live in or have strong ties to the South. Our stellar lineup of readers includes Sibling Rivalry Press publishers Bryan Borland and Seth Pennington; Louisiana native and nationally celebrated poet Jericho Brown; and many others, including Ken Pobo, Laurence Ross, Foster Noone, Eddie Outlaw, Ellen Goldstein, D. Gilson, Lydia Roux, and Hannah Riddle. THE WAVES founders, Elizabeth Gross and Brad Richard, will host this multifarious extravaganza of queer talent. Maple Street Book Shop will be on-site as the bookseller for the event. For more information visit: http://thewavesreadingseries.wordpress.com/

& AT 6 pm at the Maple Leaf Book Shop features Arthur Hardy will discuss Mardi Gras in New Orleans: An Illustrated History. Written for the casual Carnival observer as well as the veteran Mardi Gras fan, Mardi Gras in New Orleans: An Illustrated History is a concise and comprehensive pictorial account of the celebration. With 325 vintage and contemporary illustrations and 60,000 words of text, the hardbound volume is the ultimate resource on the celebration, past and present. This updated fourth edition features an expanded reference section that provides details on nearly 600 Carnival organizations, including the identities of 5,000 kings and queens.

& Thursday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts the SciFi, Fantasy and Horror Writer’s Group. The purpose of the group is to encourage local writers to create works of fiction based on science fiction, fantasy and horror themes. Participants submit manuscripts to be critiqued by others in the group. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& 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.

& Friday the FREEDOM WRITING for WOMEN OF COLOR (NEW ORLEANS) group meets at a movable location from 7 pm to 10 p.m. Contact poetryprocess@gmail.com for more information.

& Most Saturdays at 11:30 am it is Storytime with Miss Maureen at the Maple Street Book Shop. This week she’ll read Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Mr. Rabbit helps a little girl find a lovely present for her mother, who is especially fond of red, yellow, green, and blue.

& Every Saturday at 2 pm two-time national champions Slam New Orleans (SNO) multi-part workshop for youth and teens will engage participants with poetry both through hearing it and creating their own.. Team SNO is a community-based organization and home of Team SNO. The team, established in 2008, promotes literacy, creativity and self-expression by urging youth and adults alike to become vocal about what matters to them. This The workshops are supported by Poets & Writers, Inc.

& Sunday at 1 pm Garden District Book Shop hosts From Newton, Einstein, to GOD, Dr.Leong Ying’s family memoir written uniquely in rhyming poetic verses following his history in six chronological parts from his birth in 1961 up to 2012. The book will have readers laughing at his antics when childhood pranks were his specialty in his birthplace of Singapore, and feeling compassion toward his challenges as the only non-white student in Liverpool (UK) where his family emigrated and his struggles with dyslexia and the language-barriers but excelling in numbers and evolving into his groundbreaking scientific research. But it is his writing and scientific research that takes center stage in Dr. Ying’s life, mostly focusing on his exploration of the Twin Universe theory, which combines science and religion to prove the existence of God and answer many of the formerly unknown answers about the world such as Dark Matter and Dark Energy. He developed the Universal Laws of Thermodynamics to prove God’s existence in 2002. A poetic memoir of amazing skill and proportion, From Newton, Einstein, to GOD explores Dr. Ying’s life and journey to utilize science –which he’d formerly applied to deny God’s existence–to reveal the “ultimate godly secrets.” In doing so, he discovers the Twin Universe, a grand cosmic cycle that will have dramatic influence for evolution and humanity to come.

& Monday at 5 pm the Robert E. Smith Library presents a Writing Workshop. “Do you think in verse that could become poetry? Do you imagine characters, dialogue, and scenes? If so, join the Smith Library’s free Creative Writing Workshop. ”

& This Sunday at 3 pm The Maple Leaf Reading Series features an Open Mic.

& Andy Young will read from All Night It is Morning Monday at 7:30 PM at Tulane’s Freeman auditorium. Reception to follow. Free and open to public. Andy Young’s debut poetry collection cuts across geography, politics, language, and culture. Raised in Appalachia, rooted in New Orleans, and now part of an Egyptian/American family with whom she spent the last two years in Cairo, hers is an American perspective that is refreshingly outward-looking. The poems reflect on living life with a foot in both Arabic and Western cultures but reach beyond the personal to inhabit other realms: from a saucy Cleopatra to a coal miner emerging from a mine collapse, from the ruins of post-Katrina New Orleans to the tumultuous events of the Egyptian revolution. Using the aubade, the traditional form of lovers parting at dawn, to anchor the book, Young examines destruction in the wake of storms, wars and revolution, but also at the ways in which we connect within these disasters. These poems exhibit what Daniel Tobin calls “astonishing formal variety,” embracing the lyric, narrative, fragmentary, as well as traditional forms such as the sonnet.

& 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 4:30 pm Octavia Books hosts a Middle Grade Children’s Book event: Dan Gutman’s GENIUS FILES. The wackiest road trip in history comes to an action-packed conclusion in book five of the New York Times bestselling Genius Files series. When we last left our heroes, twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald were in Roswell, New Mexico, and they had just seen a strange beam of light. Now their cross-country road trip is about to take a detour that’s out of this world–literally Once the twins get their feet back on the ground, they embark on the final leg of their trip, which will take them from the Hoover Dam all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Chased by nefarious villains, the twins will be trapped with a venomous snake, pushed through a deadly turbine, and thrown into a volcano. And craziest of all, their parents might finally believe them.

& Tuesday at 6 pm the People Say Project launch a new book about New Orleans, Brian Boyles New Orleans Boom & Blackout: One Hundred Days in America’s Coolest Hotspot, published 1/12 by The History Press. The book examines a raucous period in the city’s recent history. From consent decrees to cabbie protests, Carville to Carnival, the run up to Super Bowl XLVII saw New Orleans hustle to meet the approaching national spotlight. The event is at Handsome Willy’s. Things kick off at 6pm. Boyles will read from the book, sign copies and maybe even play some music.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shop hosts Barry Gifford and The Up-Down, a novel of violence, of love, and introspection, The Up-Down follows a man who leaves home and all that’s familiar, finds true love, loses it, and finds it again. Pace’s voyage is outward, among strangers, and inward into the fifth direction that is the up-down, in a sweeping, voracious human tale that takes no prisoners, witnesses extreme brutalities and expresses a childlike amazement. Here the route goes from New Orleans, to Chicago to Wyoming to Bay St. Clement, North Carolina, but the geography he is charting is always first and foremost unchartable.

& 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 6 pm Maple Street Book Shop will host both Morgan McCall Molthrop & Ronald Drezto read from and sign their respective books, Andrew Jackson’s Playbook: 15 Strategies for Success and The War of 1812.

  • In Andrew Jackson’s Playbook: 15 Strategies for Success, author Morgan McCall Molthrop examines surprising tactics and innovations that have contributed to the city’s rapid recovery, suggesting that contemporary civic leaders have much in common with U.S. Gen. Andrew Jackson who soundly defeated the “invincible” British Army at the Battle of New Orleans 200 years ago.
  • According to author Ronald J. Drez, the British strategy and the successful defense of New Orleans through the leadership of General Andrew Jackson affirm the serious implications of the battle of New Orleans. Far from being simply an unnecessary epilogue to the War of 1812, this climactic-battle firmly secured for the United States the territory acquired through the Louisiana Purchase.

& Wednesday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts an Author Event: New Orleans Historic Hotels by Paul Oswell. The hotels of New Orleans have welcomed countless visitors in a history stretching back to the eighteenth century. From humble boardinghouse beginnings to the grand hotels of the nineteenth century and through to the modern properties that stand today, hotel life in New Orleans has reflected the city’s own story. From political scandal and celebrity intrigue to events that shaped the landscape of the entire country, the story of New Orleans’s hotels is an endlessly engaging one. Travel writer Paul Oswell checks into the great hotels of the past and the present, telling the story of the properties that stood the test of time, as well as those that didn’t. Using city records, newspaper archives, vintage travel guides and anecdotal stories in the best New Orleans tradition, he brings each one to life and in the process fleshes out the story of the city’s hospitality industry and, by extension, its lively, fascinating history.

Walking in August August 18, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, History, je me souviens, Louisiana, memoir, Mid-City, New Orleans, Remember, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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By August we’re done like long basting turkeys in the oven, well-browned and in danger of drying out. The wasps proliferate in the back yard, nesting in the neighbors wild vines behind their shed. The mushroom cloud rising out of the line of cumulonimbus is all the weather forecast that you need, convection foretelling the afternoon’s thunderstorms which coax the grass into miraculous growth the landlord never tends to properly. The pigeons come up to my stoop like hobos although I never feed them. Still, my neighbors walk up toward the grocery on Gentilly or on Esplanade, a subtle racial divide on my quiet street. The feral parrots complete the tropical scene.

We still walk the sunny side up sidewalks not to prove a point but out of habit. Bicycles are almost as frequent as cars on my street not to make some fashionable statement like a car plastered in stickers but out of necessity. Pedestians converge from the fashionable bayou Faubourg and edge-of-Gentilly Fortin Street toward Cansecos and Terranovas groceries, Dr. Bob’s drug store–where you can put your prescription on account or have it delivered–to the democratic coffee shop and the fashionable wine bar and salon.

If I walk up at noon the pavement is brighter than the sky and a hat is advisable. Even the pigeons have sensibly retreated to the shade. I don’t pass as many people on their porches as I would in the evening but air conditioning has driven people inside in the Faubourg unlike black, working class Orleans Avenue ten blocks away where neighbors still gather on shady side stoops and old men drag kitchen chairs beneath the trees of neutral ground trees. Still I am almost certain to converge with or pass someone with a shopping bag when the only others out are tradesmen with their heads bound in bandanas working a saw table, pausing to wipe the sweat and sawdust from their brows with the crook of their elbows.

I sit writing this beneath a whirring air conditioner in South Lakeview. The nearest grocery is on Harrison Avenue a good 25 blocks away around the railroad tracks and a car is a necessity. Lakeview is where the city meets its suburbs, just over the 17th Street drainage canal from the typical American sprawl of Metairie. To the north is the lakefront: Lake Shore, Lake Vista, Lake Terrace and Lake Oaks, the desirable addresses of doctors, lawyers and other men and women of educated industry and the luck of the draw. I grew up in Lake Vista, designed as a paradise of cul-de-sac street divided not by alleys as in Lakeview but by pedestrian lanes named for flowers as the streets we named for birds, shaded paths converging on broad parkways that radiate from the center. Once there was Dudah’s Grocery and Miranti’s Drug Store with its nickle-plated conical cup cherry Cokes a nickle at the soda fountain, a cleaners and a post office. Some idealistic planner once hoped the residents would walk there but in the Fifties and Sixties the automobile ruled. Over time people found it just as convenient to drive up and down Robert E. Lee Boulevard to the new strip malls and the stores of the Center faded into memories.

Across City Park Avenue from South Lakeview in Mid City only stalwarts and holdouts walk to the stores of Carrolton Avenue. When I lived on Toulouse one couple always engagaed in caffinated morning conversation would walk down the street to make their daily groceries in the big greocery up on Carrollton Avenue. The corner doors in that neighborhood are all converted to houses, the shop windows drapped or shuttered. The houses of Mid City are narrow, nestled Craftsmen relics of another era, most with no parking, but even there its hop in the car for the identical aisles of Rouses Grocery and Walgreens, indistinguishable from the stores of Metairie.

You have to journey further into the city or across the bayou to my neighborhood off Esplanade to find where the folk and the houses still match, where the corner store still prevails, and in the evening the closer you get to Mystery Street the walkers proliferate on their evening errands. At six o’clock the sun is hidden by the trees along Esplanade but in August the 90s don’t abate until much later and still they come slowly up the shady side or coast on their bicycles in their after work tanks and shorts and sandals, old habits persistent or forgotten ways rediscovered, a neighborhood that lives in its history like a worn and comfortable pair of shoes.

The Baroness Rampant November 19, 2011

Posted by The Typist in History, New Orleans, Odd Words, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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How do you collapse the fantastic and tragic story of the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba into a one woman show of less than 30 minutes? Why, with a corset, of course.

For the first several minutes of The Baroness Undressed, after Diana E.H. Shortes’ entrance onto the Allways Lounge’s small stage we witness a silent and powerful physical performance of operatic violence, a marionette possessed, as she laces her corset and buttons her bodice with the tenacity of a lioness, twisting and bending and contorting her body with and her face with pain and frustration with every yank of the laces and every recalcitrant button wrestled into place she has assumed both the costume and the persona of her tortured aristocratic character. What is laid naked in this show is the interior of the Baroness’s character.

In this very short one-woman show Shortes gives us the essentials of the Baronesss’story. one
“no woman living today could understand”: a privileged Creole child named for St. Micheal the Archangeal “who cast Satan himself into hell”; a wealthy young “heiress from both ends” subjected to an arranged marriage to her cousin Xavier Celestin Delfau de Pontalba; how the Pontabalas took her away from New Orleans to a prison-like castle outside Parish; bitterly spits out that she “conceived six times” but does not otherwise mention her children; the attempts by her father-in-law to steal her fortune that ends with his attempt to murder her; how he failed and ultimately took his own life; how she ultimately returned to New Orleans and recovered her fortune, finally escapes from the clutches of the Pontablas.

Until the last minutes of the play, when she begins to unbind herself from her constrictive feminine costume and relates her ultimate triumph and monument–the buildings that still bear her name–she struggles through her corset to find the breath to tell her story. She collapses not only to the feinting couch that is the stage’s only dressing, but frequently onto the floor. Her attempts to speak with a masculine ferocity frustrated by the tightly laced female costume of that period which leaves her frequently a gasping heap, a perfect symbol for the societal strictures she struggles against. From the couch she rises wielding her fan, once again–if only for a moment–the charming Creole aristocrat. From the floor she struggles to her knees and to her feet like someone just shot, determined to catalog at any cost the injustice and injury she suffers.

In one of the shows most dramatic moments, as she describes the attempt on her life, she slowly pulls a long red scarf out of her bodice as if she were in fact bleeding out on the stage. Later, as she recounts the parallel troubles her native city suffered she brilliantly ruffles the same scarf over the floor as she describes the fires that twice destroyed the eighteenth century Vieux Carre. As toward the end she reverses the process of dressing and pulls off her dress gloves she prominently displays the left hand as if hooding a particularly striking ring up to the light, the fingers of the hand shattered by her in-laws bullet clad in a solitary black under glove.

Shortes uses her thin body, Veronica Russell’s costumes (the constraining corset, the perfect sense once dressed of an eighteenth century lady in a Franco-Spanish city, the darkly sexy garments underneath it all) and the consequences of those costumes to stunning physical effect, but it is ultimately her face flashing with lizard quickness from coquettish smile to contortions of pain and of rage that allow us into the soul of the Baroness.

As Shortes recounts her struggles not only with her powerful voice but with every thread of her costume and every muscle and sinew in her slim frame, she plays not for sympathy but for respect, decrying the patriarchal feudalism the Baroness struggles against. Shortes captures the emblematic Pontabla perfectly, becomes New Orleans’ anti-Joan of Arc who takes up her fan like her name saint’s sword and ultimately triumphs over every man and tragedy life places in her way, her monument the graceful apartments upon which her emblematic P is still emblazoned on every gallery in iron as hard as Shortes’ Baroness herself.