Allen Toussaint Circle November 11, 2015Posted by The Typist in 504ever, je me souviens, Memory, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Allen Toussaint, Allen Toussaint Circle
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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 email@example.com 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.
In The Zone August 28, 2015Posted by The Typist in Federal Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Memory, New Orleans, postdiluvian, Remember, Sinn Fein, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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The reconstruction of the city around me will last at least as long as WWII. There will be long periods of boredom and routine punctuated by times of great excitement, much of that of the unpleasant kind. Yes, we will have shore leave for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest but most of our time will be spent scrapping rust and paint knowing all the while that just over the ocean’s horizon there is something threatening.
In this peculiar armada the officers are as useless as the French nobility. They look fine high up there in their crosswise hats and give marvelous speeches, but we know from hard experience that they are worthless. People mutter all around the city about mutiny of one form or another, but mutiny is a lot of damn work and it is awfully hot. I like to think we could yet rise up and have our storming of the Bastille moment but every passing day it seems more unlikely. No Fletcher Christian or Maximilien Robespierre has stepped forward to lead us, and every angry mob needs a leader.
Perhaps I ask for too much. If history and the city consumes us all one-by-one but the city lives on, that perhaps what was always intended, why were were all lured home. In the end, perhaps Pynchon has given us the model to surviving It’s After the End of the World. If history has gone too wrong for any one of us to stop what is happening around us, maybe it is better to amble down a shady street in New Orleans without a particular thought in my head except the distant sound of what might be Slothrop’s harmonica, to disappear into the random noise in the signal.
And death shall have no dominion August 27, 2015Posted by The Typist in Federal Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Memory, New Orleans, postdiluvian, Remember, Sinn Fein, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Postdiluvian August 26, 2015Posted by The Typist in Federal Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Memory, New Orleans, postdiluvian, Remember, Sinn Fein, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“It is no longer I, but another whose life is just beginning.”
Madrid, Espana 18 Junio 2014 June 20, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Memory, The Narrative, The Typist.
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I can’t help think of Washington, D.C. as I traverse Madrid on the N3 night bus back to my hotel, set in Ciudad Lineal, a quiet apartment block suburb much like Arlington, VA just outide the ring road. Both are great capital cities, but one was built by bureaucrats and acountants and one by kings and their artists. The meandering path from where the N3 night bus drops me requires I ask for directions three times before I manage to traverse the three blocks back to my hotel, via a rounabout intended to gather up and redirect the traffic directed by the radial imperatives of a monumental city . ¿Qual izquirda when five street meet? I am not sure it helped that the bus stopped across from an all night gas station where I picked up a tall boy of Mahou to combat the jet lag confusion of seven time zones and my first two sets of direrctions in Spanish.
My first mistake was setting my phone (which does not work in Spain) and my tablet an hour slow. I was up from my jet lag sieta an hour late, and took 40 minutes to realie it. I decided to take the autobus anyway to save money, and managed to find the Cafe Bogui Jazz in time to grab a hasty tortilla patatas and two cup of strong coffee before the show in a clearly local cafe. The second small cup of black dynamite was a bad idea, but I was still in my jet lag haze, trying to converse in my collegio Spanish with the waitress in what was clearly a neighborhood joint. Three beers at Bogui Jazz did not help much, nor did the adverture of discovering my 53 bus did not run at night, figuring out that I needed to take the N3, followed by a amble through the neighborhood, tall boy from an all night store in hand and half understood directions, in search of my hotel. Now I know the way, and that I can grab a beer if I think sleep wil be slow coming and find my way back all in 10 minutes.
The “free jazz” night of Bogui Jazz was more of a straight-ahead modern set with a few moments of transcedently improvizational glory. The saxophonist told me on break they had played with Donald Harrison, Jr. at a festival In their hometown of Leon, so I was clearly in the right spot. I was thrilled enough to write a poem on scraps of paper inspied by a duet beteen the singer and the drummer, and pressed it in her hands while thanking her in village idiot Spanish and then English for making a perfect first night in Madrid. I was clearly in The Zone.
I know I am going to love this city. I think I am going to find my way back to that cafe with its rack of dry cured hams one man was carving the whole time I was there to try the boqurenones rellenos con jambon before I wander off to another night of jazz flamenco, even if it takes me an hour to navigate the narrow and convoluted Europen streets from Salamanca to El Centro and the Cafe Central.
If it weren’t for the prepaid tuition I might consider abandoning a month in the Ezra Pound castle and spend 40 days here recovering my forgotten Spanish, and finding those one or two things each day that demand a poem, spend my siestas in the Bibliotque National or the Cervantes Center with pen and notebook, or early mornings in a plaza soothed into concentration by a baroque fountain. I think I may have found my haven when Atlantis comes to pass.
Fortin Street Stage April 30, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, Memory, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
by the time I stop drinking and start thinking about sleep
by the time we’ve eaten the last of next-door jimmy’s hot meat
by the time my feet have shuffled their last hussle
on the public blacktop ballroom of Fortin Street
and the hustle has all gone downtown to Bourbon
and the bustle has all gone downtown to Frenchman
and the last of the one-song, school-kid bands
and the last of the weary ice-cold water men
have carried themselves home weary to the bone
and one sad bicycle hangs abandoned on the fence
and the can picking man passes on his sad, last round
i will stand on Fortin Street and glisten to the sound
the last frantic arpeggios vibrating in the silence
attenuated into memory, a faint flow of the distant glory
like the milky way backdrop to the asterism’s story–
then, yes, then and only then will I go to bed
with tempered brass angels at foot and at head
Five January 19, 2014Posted by The Typist in je me souviens, memoir, Memory, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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There was no time to stop or drop. Three-quarter throttle up Jackson Avenue, Honda Passport in the right lane (no, not Uptown you fool) when that long Detroit hood pulled out of the side street. The impact and somersault over the hood are mostly a matter of recollection after the fact of the possible mechanics, wondering how I’d come to land on my feet in the middle of the Avenue. My first clear recollection were the corner forty boys hooting and applauding. “Hey, man, if we call Eyewitness News can you do that again?”
It took the heavy, middle-aged man a minute or more to come to his senses and makes his way around the car. I slowly removed my helmet, waved to the corner guys and told him I thought I was OK. My feet wouldn’t start to hurt until the adrenaline wore off. I wave off his apologies with a smile, lost in a reverie of appreciation for my lucky stunt. The tiny 70cc bike, however, was clearly done. The front wheel survived, looking true if flat. When I stood the bike up, it was clear the frame was not, just enough of a bend to render it unrideable.
Marianne had a car, had bravely ridden the Passport to work in her Eighties office skirt suit when I’d broken my arm in the bar stool-vaulting contest at the Abbey. (Some other time; a story in its own right) but the little bike was my ride, the only way I had to get from Carrollton to work in Gretna and out to my newspaper assignments. It was a fixture on the West Bank, the man in the land of Harleys and Goldwings gassing up his tiny bike in a suit. It had carried me across all three ferries and against all sense across the Huey P. Long and Greater New Orelans Bridge, survived the time it dropped out from under me on the slick deck of the GNO just in front of an 18-wheeler. My head hit hard but god bless helmets; I rolled out from under the wheels and the bike passed under the truck between the wheels.
Now its was done and I was stranded. It would be for weeks until my brother-in-law gave me his father’s old Ford Custom 500 with 300 plus on the odometer. I don’t remember the driver’s name. I wish I did. We loaded loaded the bike with room to spare in the trunk of his beat Detroit wheels, and he drove me home, apologizing profusely the entire time as shock slowly set in and I kept moaning over and over again, “how am I going to get to work?” He promised to make it good, and asked how much the bike was worth. I had learned on the way to my house he was on his way back from a no-luck day at the labor pool. I really had no idea, and understood he was broker than I was with my $280 a week suburban newspaper job. Two hundred, I muttered. OK, he said. He gave me his phone number and took mine, but I never really expected to hear from him again
It was a few weeks later when the call came, and I fired up the blown muffler Custom 500 in a cloud of bad gasket smoke like a ghetto James Bond, and drove to somewhere on the Uptown side of Jackson between Magazine and the river. I sat on the spfung couch drinking sweet tea and politely refusing his wife’s cookies while he peeled of the wrinkled tens and twenties, a lot of money for a man with a car almost as gone as mine who spent his days sipping coffee outside of labor pool. At this point in my life Schwegman’s was my bank: cash the check, pay the NOPSI bill, get a money order for the landlord. I knew thar I was barely one rung up the ladder. I was wearing a Haspel wash-and-wear suit when he hit me. For all he knew the bike was a hobby and not a necessity. And he made it good.
We are all suspicious of each other, especially across color lines, but I’ve learned from experience there are times when color only matters when you make your coffee, that honesty is more common than you think. I’ve forgotten the man’s name but I hope through the miracle of the Internet that perhaps a grandchild or someone else who’s heard the other side of this story will know that he was a good man and he is remembered for it.
The victim was never publicly identified December 27, 2013Posted by The Typist in Crime, Memory, Murder, New Orleans, NOLA, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: nola.com, Times Picayune
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I don’t know how many times I have typed those words in the last 24 hours, but it is far too often. After neglecting my memorial lists for murder victims, I set out to complete the 2012 list and the 2013 list before New Years, resolved to start up again fresh come January. I get my information from the NOLA.COM murder map which ties back to stories on NOLA.COM tagged “new-orleans-murders”. When I started the list in 2010 the victims were almost always later identified by the coroner and reported by NOLA.COM. That continue through 2011. But as I began to catch up from mid-year 2012, I increasingly found no corresponding story of the unidentified victims, and then often much later when a suspect was identified or arrested. I fear when I count up my entries for 2013 I will find that the stories on NOLA.COM do not tally to the number in the sidebar of the Crime page. My memorial has become as much a catalog of murders as a memorial to victims, and says as much about the death of the Times-Picayune as it does about the people who fall on the streets of New Orleans.
Hypnotic Progression Therapy April 7, 2013Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, je me souviens, Memory, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: helical stairs, John Clarence Laughlin, spiral staircase
2 comments An icon of childhood memory, I cannot describe that spiral staircase in the gallery behind my great-aunts’ Royal Street apartment with any certainly. Is it as grand as I think it was, or simply amplified by the dimensions of my own smallness and the fog of memory? What remains is an ideal of the spiral or helical staircase; really the latter, with an opening instead of a newel pole. It is the view up that central shaft that gives such staircases the dizzying illusion of a gateway into the third dimension, neither the limit of a ceiling nor the infinite distance of the sky; not the abstract geometry of a tree for climbing but the precise spiral diminishing in perspective that lends a sense of motion toward a destination usually reserved for loose balloons.
Falling November 27, 2012Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptical envelopment, Memory, New Orelans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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It was not the burr oak across the street, the only tree I know of that reliably turns gold and red come November. It was not the ridiculously sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner, or sitting with my oldest friend the next evening on a screened porch feeling the shift in the wind that brought the first real cold snap. It was the sight of them, squirrelly in the first cool afternoon, each knot of Catholic plaid or khakis energetic as particles of a textbook atom but drifting home as slow as dust motes. Those are the days cemented in memory as the first of Fall, the irresistible urge to be outside in the cool air, an hour to cover the dozen blocks home, goofing and never breaking a sweat, the blanket of summer lifted and the holidays ahead not quite a conscious thought but somehow simply present like the warming patches of afternoon sun between the trees.
Railroad Tales October 8, 2012Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, geo-memoir, Memory, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Alabama, Amtrak, Birmingham, Lincoln Beach, Shelby County, Southern Crescent
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12:06 p.m. Train 19 is waiting for a freight. Ballast, ties and razor wire, the statue of Vulcan in the distance gazing distractedly at a idle rail car salvage yard, capsized tankers and broken rust-brown boxcars like some hobo graveyard. The New South is just visible over the brickwork lofts where cotton factors and coke brokers once counted prosperity in locomotives: So long, Birmingham.
12:52 p.m. Where the line crosses the highway it’s crew-cut America, not a brick out-of-place, Golden Arches by Walgreen’s by Winn-Dixie, Advance Auto Parts and Pawn America, not a button missing but down a drive beside the tracks and just out of sight of Hardee’s there’s Harold’s Auto, dirty white stucco on the railroad side, a customer in front.
1:07 p.m.–We stop to let the northbound Crescent pass just up from the Tuscaloosa depot. Na-hah, no time for a smoke, the conductor says and by the time I’m back in my seat I’ve missed the chance at a snapshot of the station sign. When I pick up the phone again the little weather man says I’m in Green Pond. I look up and there it is outside, more blue than green except where the cypress are flooded just below my window.
1:54 The plastic compartment at the end of the car is not the gentlemen’s smoking compartment of the Southern Crescent I rode 35 years ago. I wash my hands and find the Formica “club car”. A fiftyish couple sit alone sipping Miller Lights. He’s in his Saints jersey. She is, I will later learn, bat-shit crazy drunk and hungry for company. He is just back from three months in rural Alabama. “A whole lotta nothing and cows. And they’ll steal anything right out your yard while you’re asleep: tractors, 18-wheelers.” No one on the platform wants to hear your story. It washes over them like a puff of smoke. They all want to talk, to tell you their’s.
2:05 p.m. You no longer slide past the blast furnace kitchen with its smoking stove to a table served by Black men in white jackets juggling the travel bottle liquor before they pour your drink. Refrigerated sandwiches, mostly gone. I’ve had too much good pulled pork to risk the cellphane version. I buy a water bottle at a stadium-seat price to carry back to my airline first-class coach seat. I need to study biology I remind myself, but look up at every flashing box car siding and am captured by the landscape as it rolls by in its monotony searching for that glimpse of variety. Every now and then a tar paper and trailer family compound is a creek and some trees away from a big brick ranch with horses in the back. Biology is hopeless.
2:15 p.m. We cross a river lined with chalk bluffs Google does not bother to name, somewhere just north of Livingston and west of Demopolis.
Active transport across the phospholipid bilayer is via locomotives and requires the expenditure of energy in the form of diesel.
2:35 p.m. I am ready for a cigarette. Every time we slow down for curve or a bit of bad track I touch the Zippo in my pocket as if it were a saint’s medallion but so far no luck. I am entirely at the mercy of a conductor who does not wear a pocket watch and manages his passengers via iPhone. I finish my Crystal Geyser and wish I’d packed a sandwich.
2:50 p.m. Gravel loading to a row of short hopper Southern cars, rusted lines of iron pipe, stacks of lumber, the utility co-op, pulling into Meridian. I will kill for a cigarette and a vending machine with a grander ambience than the club car.
3:07 Time for a smoke and a half, as the train stops to take on fresh water. There’s a boil order in New Orleans. Meridian has a pretty little station, all brand new that puts Birmingham’s dingy under-the-tracks kiosk to shame but there’s not enough time to step inside to look for anything to eat before they “board!” us back inside. We move 20 feet and stop. Look’s like it’s the club car microwave fare or nothing. I had hoped for a wrapped egg salad sandwich as I learned a long time ago that’s the safest bet under such circumstances. If it gives no indication of color, smell or taste it’s usually safe to eat. “Smell up the cars, it would,” the British-inflected attendant says.
A parade of graffiti
One chalk mark flower
Love in the railroad ruins
3:55 Somewhere in the deep south of Shelby County, Alabama a Scots-Irish mechanic with a misspelled French name utters an ancient German expletive while lowering a Japanese transmission.
Somewhere between Meridian and Picayune the landscape’s blur looses its relation to the speed of the train. Invasive vines strangle the stunted native pines, farmstead follows no ‘count town, all in endless repetition regular as freckles, an embryonic recapitulation of the South.
The tale falls off. Coffee. Biology. Pine trees.
5:18 p.m. Two hours out of New Orleans and they’ve put the coffee cups away so I get a crew cup free and must not tip. “I know. That’s the rules. I’ve got too many years to break them.” I take my little coffee and peanut M&Ms back to my car.
Past Hattiesburg the trees get twiggy, the bottom lands more often flooded. What once were rippling little rivers take on the somnambulant character of bayous. I am getting close to home.
6:22 Across the Pearl and Bogue Chitto, briefly leaving the spindly pines behind for cypress swamps and houseboats, then passing beneath I-10 and into Slidell. My Louisiana begins south of I-10, but we won’t be truly south of South, deeper south than any bit of Dixie in our own peculiar territory, until we cross the Lake and it becomes a cardinal direction unto itself.
6:39 What’s left of sunset over Lake Pontchartrain. Highway 11 has cut across and left us for the first time since we started. After the bridge the high embankment of New Orleans East, rip rap replacing ballast, and I watch for the sad skeletal pilings of the camps that once ran from Little Woods into town. I spot an intact gazebo and I’m suddenly surprised to find a half-dozen reconstructed camps. A little spit of scrub covered land behind a low chain link fence is all I guess remains of the ruins of Mayor Maestri’s “gently” segregationist Lincoln Beach, reminding me of where I’ve just come from. Across the Seabrook Bridge, bits of weather-worn wooden platforms are all that are left of the old, single-car lane with its wait-your-turn stop lights once tacked to its side like the old Huey P. Long and we are in the city.
I’m hungry. After that gazebo against the dying sky, the remains of the old Seabrook crossing to Haynes and it’s almost forgotten, gone-to-Kenner promise of fried oyster “boats”, it must be freshly caught and fried. Nothing else will do.
The Glory That Was Home September 23, 2012Posted by The Typist in Federal Flood, Fortin Street, FYYFF, Memory, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Rebirth, Recovery, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Rising Tide 7, Rising Tide NOLA, Rising Tide VII
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I thought I would share an email reply I wrote this morning, to answer anyone who asked after me yesterday at Rising Tide VII:
Thank you for the pictures and write-up. My absence from Rising Tide 7 is sadly more than a case of overbooking, but I won’t spread troubles except to wish them bon voyage. The NOLA Bloggers Movement, born out of a mailing list started by some guy in North Dakota of all places, baptized on an Ash Wednesday evening at a bar in the French Quarter, and which birthed the first Rising Tide was one of those bright shining moments of solidarity like the crime march or the first anniversary (who were those two young Black women at the 17th Street Canal bridge between Bucktown and lily-white Lakeview? I dared not ask that day) that is behind us. The rag-tag assemblage has, like so many things down here postdiluvian, reverted to form: the latent conflicts of purpose and personality reasserting themselves, paths parting, new projects taking precedence.
It is a parade I no longer ride, but sometimes finger the old doubloons thoughtfully when I come across them
Welcome to Cambodia January 21, 2012Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptical envelopment, Memory, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
This is The Panic Office. This post has been relocated to alternate location Tango, I say again Tango. Please reassemble there for murkier instructions.
I write about myself with the same pencil and in the same exercise book as about him. It is no longer I, but another whose life is just beginning.
— Samuel Beckett
A sad farewell December 5, 2011Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Memory, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Coco Robicheaux, Marie's Bar
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The crowd was small at first, a few dozen in the bar , half watching the LSU game and seemingly unaware of the memorial to come, less than that milling about outside Marie’s Bar on Burgundy, another favorite haunt of Coco Robicheaux. The promised second line never quite materialized as the crowd built to fill the streets around the bar. One peck horn player, a guy with a set of bongo’s strung over his shoulder and a fellow (familiar, but I don’t know his name) with a hubcap hung from a stick. Someone later told me he was the owner of the old Dream Palace.
A woman stood in the middle of Burgundy and made a shouted announcement that there would be a parade around the block, a few more odd musicians having arrived by this time, but no one made a move to start. There was no snare in site to call us all to attention, no trumpet to issue a call to post. Since we seemed to be going no where fast I slipped back inside to try and get us another couple of beers. I understand they managed a parade around the block while I was inside, the sort of impromptu collection of amateur musicians you are liable to encounter wandering the Quarter on Mardi Gras. From the size of the crowd when I came outside, it seemed most people had stayed put, drinking and talking about Coco or LSU.
The crowd outside had started small, with knots of people talking in quiet voices, but had grown by this time into the sort of crowd you will find outside any crowded club on a Saturday night with the band on break, out to escape the steerage conditions inside, laughing and drinking and having a cigarette. There were a handful of familiar faces I couldn’t quite place with names, my friend Dave and over across the street novelist and photographer Louis Maistros, poet and playwright Moose Jackson. Dave introduced me to a few people he knew and I went over to talk to Louis and his son Booker, who was roaming with a camera.
Inside Don “Blue Max” Ryan set up and played a weak species of blues on Coco’s own guitar, reminding the crowd to toss some money in a bin in front of the state for Coco’s widow Danielle. Ryan announced himself as “Coco’s brother” but I have to assume he meant that metaphorically as he is not listed in the obituary. I understand he was Coco and his wife Danielle’s landlord, and one of the notice’s “host of cousins,” a few of whom dropped by the Apple Barrel after the family’s private memorial service last week and regaled us with stories of young Curtis. Ryan wore a feather bedecked gambler hat that might well have come out of Coco’s own wardrobe but even with Coco’s guitar in hand and his best attempt at Coco’s look he was a poor substitute
I tossed a five in the bucket and took my beers back outside, and so thankfully missed this, Ryan dropping one of Coco’s guitars in front of Coco’s wife Danielle while she “watch[ed] in horror.” according to Dylan James Stansbury, an amateur videographer who can be found at just about any music event worth catching, posting up performance on YouTube. The video is dark (almost thankfully), and the ending truly sad as he balances the guitar on one hand and it crashes to the ground. It’s hard to make out the cacophony of voices after he drops it. There is a clear “oh, God” right after it falls, another voice saying “Coco didn’t want it played any more” and toward the very end, very clearly: “asshole.”
I missed the moment on video, Dylan told me later. because it happened later in the night, probably after I had already left for another obligation, a Krewe du Vieux event up on Architect street. The memory I took away was a happier one, of a street full of people drinking and laughing, just another bar overflow street party, as if Coco himself had just finished a set inside. The failure of the promised second line was of no consequence on this Saturday night in New Orleans. Coco was sent off by the neighborhood with drinking, conversation and laughter, which in his case is probably better than a second line.
Odd Words December 1, 2011Posted by The Typist in books, literature, Memory, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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This is the 1,000th post on Toulouse Street — Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans. I did not win at Pick 3 on 999 last night. And so it goes.
If Odd Words seems obsessed with ideas of truth, reality, memory and fiction that is because ToulouseStreet.net is none and all of those things, the items closest to vanity blog posts (oh, isn’t my life interesting?) walking a fine line between fact and fiction, mediated by an idiosyncratic memory and by the motivation to tell a story. It is, as the tag on the most recent posts of that sort is The Narrative. It is not about who I am but someone else, the person described in the Samuel Beckett quote on the right (scroll down a bit). Memory and agenda transform everything, something that came to the fore for me this week.
I had a newspaper assignment, and needed to remember to set aside any agenda (so-called journalistic objectivity) and a clear agenda: do right by Coco, and his second family at the Apple Barrel. It was also a story about memory, about anecdote, about speculation: none of these hard and firm subjects like what happened in Occupy or the Obama White House yesterday. In the course of the story, someone sent me this video of Coco Robicheaux recounting a story from his youth.
Coco was the very model of a character in New Orleans, a beloved eccentric in the last place in America where a person can come and re-invent themselves. You should watch the video to understand this but in brief: he tells a fishing story, what might easily be taken as a fish tale about catching a Louisiana-record jack crevalle he put in the freezer and his plans to mount it. This could easily be taken as a fish story, a tall tale by a man noted for his tall tales.
Until I talked to his cousin, and later his sister. It seems that as a very young boy he had sent off for a pamphlet on taxidermy, and had a bird he was working on but abandoned in the garage. And his sister in fact recalled some fish his father had kept for quite a while. It is certainly easy to imagine a boy living in Slidell with no boat fishing the trestle, which I’m told is a great spot. There were kernels of truth in this story, and whether he Coco set out to tell a fish tale or believed he was recounting facts mediated by memory and time, was perhaps the most interesting thing I learned in the exercise.
The video also led me to this book, which I had not previously seen around town: New Orleans Walls: Still Standing is a collection of double-exposed photographs, and stories celebrating the people of New Orleans, coming from all walks of life, and bound together by a common passion for the city. The book is available at the local indies, and its website is here.
& so to the listings…
& Tonight at the 17 Poets! at the Goldmine Saloon poets Kelly Harris and Andrea Boll will read starting at 7:30 pm. Boll is best known for her chronicle of second line culture The Parade Goes On Without You, and Harris’ poems have appeared in: Say It Loud: Poems for James Brown, Yale University’s Caduceus, PLUCK Magazine, Reverie Journal, Poets for Living Water, and The Southern Women’s Review
& Maple Street Book Shop will expand its indie empire with a new store in the Faubourg St. John. While official details are sketchy, the neighborhood knows it will be on Ponce de Leon, and there is only one commercial building there unoccupied and under renovation so it will be right off Esplanade in the strip of shops anchored by Canseco’s Grocery and Fair Grinds Coffee Shop. The Facebook page promised as Dec. 10th opening, so watch here for more details.& Tonight at 17 Poets at the Goldmine
& Tonight at Garden District books Katherine Soniat will present her new poetry collection, The Swing Girl, which contemplates the present through the fragmented lens of history. She swings the reader out across time, to ancient Greece and China, and into the chaos of contemporary war in Serbia and Iraq. Her poems move between present culture and the ghosts of history, between modern metaphor and the rhetoric of myth.
& Also tonight and again Dec. 8th Poet, humorist and Orleanian to the bone Chris Champaigne and Larry Beron again present their trip to the track Win, Place and Show at The Steak Knife at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 advance $20 at the door.
& Downtown Friday night at the Love Lost Lounge, the No Love Lost Poetry Reading hosted by Joseph Bienvenu kicks of at 5:30 p.m., just in time for the bar’s Jazz Happy Hour and opening time for the excellent Vietnamese kitchen in the back.
& Later Friday New Orleans premiere spoken word event Acoustic Fridays the Red Star Gallery, 2513 Bayou Road, hosted every week by Charlie V-Uptowns Illest MC. $7 cover, $5 with college ID.
& On Saturday, Jose Torres-Tama, author of New Orleans Free People of Color & Their Legacy: The Artwork of Jose Torres-Tama, will be at Maple Leaf’s Healing Center store on Saturday, December 3, 2011, 3:00-4:30 P.M. Tama was able to produce this book chronicling the exhibit of the same name.Creole historian Keith Weldon Medley contributed the biographical notes and a time line of New Orleans colonial history, both written by Creole historian Keith Weldon Medley.
& Also this Saturday at 12 noon Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal will appear on Garden District Books to discuss his new memoir Shaq Uncut: My Story. I might need to recount for the Odd Words audience his background: a four-time NBA champion and a three-time NBA Finals MVP. After being an All-American at Louisiana State University, he was the overall number one draft pick in the NBA in 1992. In his 19-year career, Shaq racked up 28,596 career points (including 5,935 free throws!), 13,099 rebounds, 3,026 assists, 2,732 blocks, and 15 All-Star appearances. This is going to be an event as big as the man himself, so I suggest you get there early.
& At 2 pm on Saturday the Poetry Buffet hosted by Gina Ferrara at the Latter Library on St. Charles Ave. features Martha McFerren and Mark Yakich.
& Saturday evening at Garden District Grammy Award-nominated American humorist, writer, comedian, bestselling author, and radio contributor will be on hand at 6 p.m. to read and sign Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, which features Sedaris’s unique blend of hilarity and heart, this new collection of keen-eyed animal-themed tales is an utter delight. Though the characters may not be human, the situations in these stories bear an uncanny resemblance to the insanity of everyday life. This is a ticketed event, the price of admission a copy of the book, so if you want to meet Sedaris you had best hustle over their today or tomorrow to get your copy before they’re all gone.
& I usually don’t cover children’s book events but this Saturday at Maple Street’s flag ship store on Maple Street (or course) they will feature Jean Cassels on December 3, 2011, 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. to sign her new book, The Cajun Nutcracker. This tale and music has a special place in my heart, as my daughter danced from her days as a three year old “pink girl” until she abandoned her studies at NOCCA, realizing that if she was not intended to audition for a company or study dance in college, the punishing routine of a pre-professional dance program was too much. I often dreamed when she was young of accompanying her to Moscow where the prima ballerina would be a guest artist of the Ballet Russe, of being patted heartily on the back over too many vodkas and told, “such a fine artist, such a fine dancer” (such are the dreams of daddy’s). I also supported her decision in the end. The industrial sized bottles of Ibuprofin and a freezer full of blue ice packs were too much for a girl who came home exhausted to a pile of Ben Franklin homework. Still, I tear up at the sound of Tchaikovsky’s ballet.
& Also on Saturday at 6 pm The Dirty Coast book release party for “Y’all’s Problem,” and “New Orleans: the Underground Guide,” is at the new Dirty Coast store, 329 Julia St.
& On Monday Crescent City Books will hist its Black Widow Salon #3. Noted photographer Josephine Sacabo will be our guest this coming Monday, December 5th. We will be discussing literature as a key kernel of her work. Readings included of Rilke, Huidobro, Mallarme, Sor Juana, Rulfo, etc. Upstairs at Crescent City Books @ 230 Chartres St. 7-9 p.m. (We will start promptly at 7:15 p.m.) Seating is limited. RSVP’s preferred.
& On Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 5:30 pm The Arts Council, 935 Gravier Street presents The Writing Institute of the Arts Council Group Booksigning featuring a list of local Katrina-themed books and authors including James Nolan’s Higher Ground, Richard Deichmann’s Code Blue, Carolyn Perry’s For Better, For Worse, and Sally Forman’s Eye of the Storm & How They Did It. It does not feature the one, indispensable Katrina book A Howling in the Wires (available at right and at your local indie bookstores) but all of these look interesting. I have just cracked Nolan’s higher ground, a book that will wind up on my shelf next to Confederacy of Dunces.
& Sunday Dec. 4 you have another chance to catch Poet Katharine (Bonnie) Soniat reading from and signing her new book from LSU Press, Swing Girl, at the Maple Leaf Bar reading series at 3 p.m., or whenever the Saint’s crowd in front quiets down enough to hear.
& Every Monday at 9 pm Kate Smash hosts The Writer’s Block, an open air performance by poets and any other performers who care to stop by. They meet on the amphitheater steps across from Jackson Square. No list, not mic, all performers welcome, so if you can juggle the collected works of Shakespeare in small duodecimo editions, do stop by.
& A week from today Maple Street’s uptown store will host several storytellers from Something in the Water on Thursday, December 8, 2011, 6:00 P.M. This book contains twenty stories about Louisiana, capturing the soul of the state. Meet or reconnect with authors James Nolan, Tim Gautreaux, and John Biguenet.
And so, with my return to the role of ink-stained wretch of newspapering, I’ll end this weeks column with a simple:
Memory & Imagination October 22, 2011Posted by The Typist in books, Memory, New Orleans, NOLA, novel, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Julian Barnes, Maud Newton
1 comment so far
One of my favorite topics. This is entirely cribbed from the blog of Maud Newton [sigh] of Oct 8.
“For the young — and especially the young writer — memory and imagination are quite distinct, and of different categories. In a typical first novel, there will be moments of unmediated memory (typically, that unforgettable sexual embarrassment), moments where the imagination has worked to transfigure a memory (perhaps that chapter in which the protagonist learns some lesson about life, whereas in the original the novelist-to-be failed to learn anything), and moments when, to the writer’s astonishment, the imagination catches a sudden upcurrent and the weightless, wonderful soaring that is the basis for the fiction delightingly happens.
These different kinds of truthfulness will be fully apparent to the young writer, and their joining together a matter of anxiety. For the older writer, memory and the imagination begin to seem less and less distinguishable. This is not because the imagined world is really much closer to the writer’s world than he or she cares to admit (a common error among those who anatomize fiction) but for exactly the opposite reason: that memory itself comes to seem much closer to an act of imagination than ever before. My brother distrusts most memories. I do not mistrust them, rather I trust them as workings of the imagination, as containing imaginative as opposed to naturalistic truth.”
– Julian Barnes, Nothing to Be Frightened Of