Curiosity Killed May 29, 2016Posted by The Typist in The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
If you are curious why this blog is so quiet, I’m jealous. Curiosity is an active state, incompatible with a depressive cycle of Manic Depression II. I’ll be back. I always come back, or at least that is my history. I just got tired of posting up a Rothko black painting or some whiny tidbit of the “oh, woe is me” sort. Those sort of posts pretty much killed this as an actively read blog, although people still appreciate Odd Words judging from the number of Likes and Subscriptions those posts trigger. So after missing two weeks then getting a friend to assemble an Odd Words, it’s back. One small step for [a] man. No giant leaps. Not yet. Soon perhaps, but not today.
Mystery in a Tree March 13, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Journey, The Mystery, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I set out as soon as the rain stopped, two solid days of drenching rain, to return to my urban forest. What began as purely physical exercise has morphed into something else. My GPS tracker tells me my pace has slowed from a brisk three-plus miles an hour closer to two, more of an amble than a power walk. Power walkers, dog walkers, oblivious runners are all around me but I think they miss the fine details of the place, fail to notice the mystery in the trees. Even people I have seen stop and climb up on the massive root boles of the Grandfather Oak likely never look down to see His face looking up at them. (I name everything around me, transforming the space, making it a personal Eden and I its Adam).
Do they ever notice the tree I call The Sisters, the slender trunk of another species I have yet to identify somehow grafted onto a pine tree? One can tell from the bark that there are clearly two trees here, one symbiotically rooted into the other. I can imagine a seed landing in the interruptions of the bark of the pine and sprouting, roots somehow intertwining with the trunk of the mother tree, providing the water and nourishment for both. This is not something one is going to notice if all of your attention is on the song on your iThing as you pass with the distant stare of the jogger, or if you are primarily paying attention to your dog, pulling it to heel if people or another dog approach, bending to tend to its droppings. One must walk with intent to notice things like this and that has become the nature of my daily exercise, one as much spiritual and psychological and it is simply of the body. Walking slowly allows me to both flex and exercise just enough (I continue to lose weight) while simultaneously my urban forest nourishes my soul just as the pine nourishes its sister tree.
What looks like sweepings or something blown together by the wind suddenly looks mysteriously intentional, a cryptic message left on the sidewalk by some other spirit of the place, human or of some other agency it really doesn’t matter. What matters is seeing it, being slow and open and ready to partake of the magic.
Friday after the rain I had to relearn the childhood skill of navigating what we called “the mushies,” threading the driest path through the flooded park lawn when the sidewalk was the center of a spontaneous pond. Again, it is a matter of slowness and attention, to pick out which of the crooked lines of tree drift washed up on slightly higher ground or grass beneath, and which are just collections floating on the water. I didn’t take a picture then. I was too intent on finding the driest path around the flooded walk, and I did. Where the path was drier and I was free to look up and around, the resurrection fern which had been grey with drought was bright green on all the oak limbs.
I have come to trust this forest as a living thing, believe that the spirits which reside in certain of these trees guide my feet around tripping roots and fire ant piles and this leaves me free to notice the fresh green on the trees in the quiet, dripping space in the hour after two days of rain have ended. There are few other people to distract, and a gaggle of geese foraging in the puddles pays me little attention, continues barely interruptedd by a glance my way, and I feel in their acceptance that I am one with the space, am as much of as in a liminal space between a public park and something deeper and older. It no longer matters to me to go for three and three, at least three miles at a speed of at least three miles an hour. My journey is of a different sort, not a distance crossed but a path into, a crossing of another sort, into that space where the wild creatures do not flee at my approach but accept me as one of their own. It is a journey in which I find gateways in a receding set of arches leading to a space where a particular tree has grown down and enclosed a chapel of branches. The tracks and lamp, the works of man, are not a distraction but simply a high, dry path deeper into mystery.
Pedestrian I: The Old Man in the Oaks February 29, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Pedestrian I, The Journey, The Mystery, The Narrative, The Typist, The Vision, Toulouse Street.
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Walking with intent, without the distraction of an iThing and ear buds and with attention to my environment, I find the most interesting things in the grove of oaks and other trees along the south side of Bayou Metairie. Among yesterday’s discoveries was The Old Man in the Oak. No, I’m not going to tell you where to find him. You will have to join me in walking with intent through what I have come to think of as the Sacred Grove.
Of course, when intent and attentive, one also notices certain vistas of great beauty. I make a habit of leaving the sidewalk and going cross-country as it were through the grove of live oaks, stepping over and through what I think of as gates made by the pendulant branches that come down and touch the ground only to ascend again. Below is a view I found particularly striking on Sunday. I call it the Lady in the Grove.
Finally, while wending my way through the gates (think walking straight ahead above toward the fountain, although the particular path I thread usually involves a much smaller passage), I found a rose stuck in the ground, framed by (and appearing to glare at) a green bottle cap with a bit of gold twist tie you can’t easily make out laying nearby.
Walking with Intent. It’s the only way to travel.
Wyrd Synchronicity February 5, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Imbolc, New Orleans, The Journey, The Mystery, The Narrative, The Typist, The Vision, Toulouse Street.
It is Imbolc, typically thought of as Brigid’s feast day. Somehow, I found myself at Yule falling into the myth of Frau Holle. Instead of simple decorations, I used the shelf that hosts the Shrine of Jazz and Heritage to erect a small altar to her. At Carnival, I stumbled through a link that took me past the usual matter on the pagan roots of Carnival and into the realm of the goddess Nerthus, one of the Vanir of Germanic (Heathen, if you will and as most prefer) goddesses. It seem as if at a point in my life when it is most necessary, my Germanic ancestors are calling me to a path of responsibility and righteousness. In spite of my acquired, indolent Carribean ways (perhaps because of them, the need to overcome them at this moment, to tend to what is necessary, to my kith and kin), the pull is in fact a specifically Wyrd synchronicity.
As I last posted, the parallels between Nerthus drawn on a cart by white oxen and our own, modern Carnival traditions struck a chord with me. So instead of twisting up a Brigid’s Cross as my friend Bart did today, over the last several days I have assemble on my public altar (born one long Jazz Fest ago as The Shrine of Jazz and Heritage) to Nerthus, who is like Brigid a goddess of fertility honored at this eighth-point of the earth’s orbital compass, the winter cross corner.
If it seems strange to honor a goddess of fertility when in much of North America the ground is frozen hard as a rock, consider the lighting of bonfires (a tradition still well honored here) at the dark of Yule and New Year’s, calling back the light. it is not so strange to call upon a goddess of the earth and fertility to return. Am I ignoring the old Biblical injunction about praying in public by putting this on the Shrine of Jazz and Heritage shelf? I don’t think so. I’m not a biblical person, anyway, and why not start a discussion with someone about alternate ways to honor our ruling and guiding spirits? My new neighbor up the street from Germany was much impressed by my small altar to Frau Holle this past holiday season.
Ay any account, that strange January of blooming tulip trees is behind us and we are back into our New Orleans winter just as we reach the winter cross corner. The pot of daffodils I found at the home center store seem to like this current weather just fine, and I hope to walk out of my girlfriend’s front door one day soon greeted by my favorite flower, long before the snow drops burst through in the higher latitudes. I love daffodils (and tulips, and all the bulb-borne flowers) because there is something so damned right about them in spring, the perennial bulb sleeping through the long winter in the earth, and then as the earth itself is awakening the daffodil emerges as Her messenger of the brightly painted tulip days to come.
Hail & Farewell, Commander Kantner January 30, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, je me souviens, Remember, The Dead, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Blows Against the Empire, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Paul Kanter
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“…and we commend his body to travel forever in the depths of space. Farewell and Hail, Commander Kanter.” The thin, silver death vessel is launched to voyage forever among the family of stars.
Requiescat in Astrorum Paul Lorin Kantner: March 17, 1941 – January 28, 2016
Asperity in the Cosmos January 29, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, science, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: asperity, Cosmos, neildegrassetyson, wabi-sabi
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In episode five of Cosmos, at 15:30, Neil Degrasse Tyson gets it wrong. He is not communicating with us as the speed of light. Every device in the production and distribution of electronic media from the time of the telegraph, be it analog or digital and including television, radio, internet, our telephone calls phone calls relies on circuits constructed from copper wire. The signals that arrive in our homes traverse the “last mile” which is almost universally still copper wire, not glass fibers transmitting light. Electrons travel through copper at normal temperatures at 2/3 C.
I think this is wonderful, evidence of what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, the imperfection integral to any great work of art. It enhances Tyson’s message of the inevitability of mistakes, of the need to question everything, the very bones and tissue of the scientific process. It is not a mistake so much as a badge of his own humility as a frail human standing before the greatness of the Cosmos, the moment at which the series most closely approaches perfection. It illuminates Tyson’s own wonder at the ability of humanity to strive through all our limitations, to learn to learn from out mistakes, and so arise to the level of understanding we have today, to be–as the Grateful Dead song has it–the Eyes of the World.
Floating January 26, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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“I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.”
Author: Khaled Hosseini
S’no Thank You January 24, 2016Posted by The Typist in Fargo, literature, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist.
Tags: Blizzard, D.C., Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, winter
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I was in DC in January ’87 and remember the wonder of my first sled ride a few weeks after my arrival just after New Year’s. I left New Orleans New Year’s eve for the three day drive, knowing an early start New Year’s morning not very likely. The first city-closing snow a fellow roomie and I stole our hostesses clothes moving boxes for rude sleds and trudged to the other Washington Monument, the Masonic one, and tried to slide. Children took pity on us to learn we had grown well into our twenties without ever having sledded down a hill, and cheerfully lent us sleds and disks for turn or two. As we trudged home we watched a lone police car struggling along, and first heard the sound of snow chains.
My only prior experience of winter was a trip to Western Massachusetts with my girlfriend one year, driving the turnpike through a fresh snow wonderland, rural houses back up toward the low mountains along the road with their great stacks of wood and smoke threading up from their chimneys, that turnpike verse of James Taylor’ Sweet Baby James ringing in my head, the idealized winter of nonsectarian holiday cards. Somehow in the years between then and my arrival in D.C. I had forgotten the lesson of being blown off my feet on an steep and icy Boston sidewalk.
That memory came back to me in the terror of the Washington, D.C. Super Bowl Day storm that first year. We rode the train in from Arlington and walked and slid on the prior storms melt ice slick from Union Station to the park at the far end of East Capitol in our Southerners’ idea of winter coats (a lined London Fog is not a winter coat) and regular shoes, sneakers chosen for traction, but without so much as rubber mucklucks to put over them. We preceeded to drink much beer throughout the hours of the Super Bowl party as the storm rolled through, dumping a massive slush of most unfluffy wet snow. We proceeded to try to walk back to the station in the howling dark, wading through the wet cold stuff which quickly soaked our shoes and everything exposed below the knee. There was not another soul or a moving vehicle in sight. As we began to lose all feeling in our feet and consider whether we would actually make it to the station alive and if pounding on doors begging admittance might be our only hope of survival, a heaven-sent DC Metro bus came slip sliding sometimes side to side but mostly forward down East Capitol, struggling to get back to the garage, which picked us up and took us to the station.
By the time I arrived in NW Minnesota for the horrific winter that in melting drowned Grand Forks (whose officials rushed to New Orleans’ aid with their experience in ’05) I had learned winter’s lesson well. “Been in the ditch yet?” was a common question, but I could always answer, “nope.” Detroit Lakes was small enough I could have snow-shoed to work in a pinch, and I remembered my first nerve wracking drive back to the airport from my future in-laws small North Dakota town through a ground blizzard. A ground blizzard is something like what we southerners know as a ground fog, if that ground fog were being run to ground by the hounds of hell. The invisible road was a matter of long pratice, muscle memory and the steel posts with reflectors that marked the shoulders. I had no intention of going that native, although later I was required by the local work ethic to venture out and wind up in fear of my life more than once. When in Nome…but here is a fine line between dogged and stupid, as deadly hazardous as driffing over the highway’s center line, as a few proud and hardy northerners learn every year in spite of the winter survival kits in their cars. Thankfully I survived my few crossings over that boundary into white-blind peril.
When people asked why I would take my family to a disaster zone and risk future hurricanes, I reminded them that people went back and lived Grand Forks, where the Red River of the North–not much of river to the eyes of anyone from south of the Delta–is bound behind dikes as massive as those that front the Mississippi in New Orleans to contain Spring floods. And that in North Dakota the weather can (and routinely does) kill folk–most often for stupidity–six months out of the year, not once in a generation.
I have fond memories of that idyllic drive through the wedding cake Berkshires, of snow shoeing in old fashioned beavertails the woods along the Red River on a perfectly windless and sunny ten degree Dakota day , mastering the yogic art of turning around in the brush in those beautiful, clumsy things and discovering the mystic beauty of an ice whorl on the river, and taking my children sledding down those massive river dikes along The Red of the North. Still, from now on I’ll take my Blizzards far out on Airline Highway in one of New Orleans’ few Dairy Queens. With lots of crushed Oreos, putting out of my mind the resemblance of that muddy gray treat to the exhaust-blasted sides of a suburban D.C. street in February.
What Rough Beast? January 23, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, The Vision, Toulouse Street, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Tags: Bob Dylan, William Butler Yeats
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Say OK, I’ve had enough. What else can you show me?
I do not wish, Doc, to be healed
lose everything that is revealed
to those who turned away and kneeled
their backs turned to where bells are pealed
& chose to keep their eyes wide-peeled
to witness the world burning.
Tumblr is the new opium January 16, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, The Journey, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist.
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Facebook is a flourscent-lit formica bar, with sports televisions on three different events while the juke box blares and everyone is approaching that state of drunken, irreproachable brilliance of opinion while the cruisers check out each others profile photos.
To wander through Tumblr is to drift in and out of other’s dreams, through scenes of beauty natural and bizarre, ideas both silly and serious, an unlimited hallucinogenic pass into the collective unconscious through a strange synchronicity of connections.
Black Star Man January 12, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Shield of Beauty, The Dead, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: David Bowie
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“. . . I am going to put a shield of beauty
over the face of the earth to protect us.”
— Sun Ra
They are the gods we the godless have invented to replace the old inventions, the godly models we follow and when they die a piece of our souls leaves with them. We are that much closer to the darkness and our sadness for the great ones is not abstract and remote, an ancient crucifixion or a one-shot starlet’s moment. It is a priceless fragment of our Adamic world the god clock has ticked off the list.
Damn the darkness. We must burn brighter.
Furthur January 1, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Shield of Beauty, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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The faster we go the rounder we get.
Anywhere, anywhere December 31, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, quotes, The Journey, The Narrative, The Pointless, The Typist.
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Have you sunk into so deep a stupor that only your own torment gives you pleasure? If that be so, let us flee to those lands constituted in the likeness of Death. I know just the place for us, poor soul! We will leave for Torneo. Or let us go even farther, to the last limits of the Baltic; and if possible, still farther from life. Let us go to the Pole. There the sun obliquely grazes the earth, and the slow alternations of light and obscurity make variety impossible, and increase that monotony which is almost death. There we shall be able to take baths of darkness, and for our diversion, from time to time the Aurora Borealis shall scatter its rosy sheaves before us, like reflections of the fireworks of Hell!
At last my soul bursts into speech, and wisely cries to me: Anywhere, anywhere, as long as it be out of this world!
— Charles Baudelaire
Such a Beautiful Day December 23, 2015Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptical envelopment, The End, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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This is the movie that will destroy your comfortable American life. It is on Netflix. What are you waiting for?
Cognitive Disobedience December 4, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, FYYFF, New Orleans, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Yesterday I walked away from the prospect of a job, a job job with health benefits for all the fun stuff that comes with growing old, life insurance to replace the policy I just lost (again, like my COBRA over and over) because, well, Aetna. Back to Moloch, with banker’s hours and all the usual holidays paid. Back to the racket, automating ways to shake you by the ankles until all the money falls out. A job job, in an office full of clones who wear a full undershirt beneath a polo shirt, with razor sharp faces and clean shaven hair. Razor cut. Razor. Cut. The blood of the lambs on my hands.
But I might die tonight.
Poetry Is Not November 17, 2015Posted by The Typist in Poetry, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Nicanor Parra, PoetryIsNot
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In poetry everything is permitted.
With only this condition of course,
You have to improve the blank page.
— Nicanor Parra
The Magnolia Gate November 9, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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If I do not leave as I entered, between the two trees I call the Magnolia Gate (careful of the fallen fruit), have I really returned? Or is some small bit of me still circling the Bayou Metairie lagoon? Such a small haunting would not a bad thing in this ghost-peopled town. If you think you catch sight me of walking that path in the park late at night or in some inclement weather, then perhaps I am forever a bit of that part of the Back of Town.
A Single Step November 8, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Carolos Casteneda, xochicalco
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Twelve more days, and then…
“You have everything needed for the extravagant journey that is your life.”
― Carlos Castaneda
Image by xochicalco.
The voice, it is not madness October 24, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
A melody, a rhythm, the solo that lives inside them. Words as melody and rhythm, the solo that makes a poem. The voice of god in the bell of a mad saxophone. The poem as illuminated gospel. The artist in the corner frantically keeping time, the signature of pencil or charcoal capturing in her imagination the melody of colors to follow from the notes.
Listen. Listen to his tune. Calls it his duty-free gift for the Traveler.
— Rahsaan Roland Kirk, “Theme for the Eulipions”
Pedestrian I: Lost Flamingo October 18, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Pedestrian I, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Its bright pink eroded by so many suns, nearly hidden in the shrubbery, faded to something like the waterbirds in the nearby park who also hide themselves along the marge, it is reduced to a muted respectability appropriate to a neighborhood which takes its name from that park, and is entered between two pillars.
Furthur September 22, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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“The further in you go, the bigger it gets.”
― John Crowley,
Agape September 12, 2015Posted by The Typist in Poetry, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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By César Vallejo
Today no one has come to inquire;
nor have they asked me for anything this afternoon.
I’ve not seen a single cemetery flower
in such a happy procession of lights.
Forgive me, Lord: how little I have died!
On this afternoon everybody, everybody passes by
without inquiring or asking me for anything.
And I don’t know what they forget and remains
strangely in my hands, like something that’s not mine.
I’ve gone to the door,
and feel like shouting at everybody:
If you’re missing something, here it remains!
Because in all the afternoons of this life,
I don’t know what doors they slam in a face,
and my soul is seized by someone else’s thing.
Today no one has come;
and today how little I have died this afternoon!
Unremembering August 29, 2015Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, postdiluvian, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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You are a young soul, I think, he said, and not much troubled by ghosts.
Ghosts, she said, without the inflection of a question, but as if he had said pixies or unicorns, and with a just perceptible wrinkling of the features as if sniffing a carton of milk and pronouncing it spoiled.
You believe in ghosts? Have you seen one? And what exactly do you mean?
You have watched too much bad television, he replied. You don’t need to see them. He took another large swallow of his drink. It was a party, a deliberate unremembering party, and he was venturing into topics forbidden to the guests. They are just a sense of the age of a place, like the dust somewhere neglected but not quit as corporeal, not even as dust to dust. You sense them in things, such as the sagging of these old houses, and the noises they make settling into the earth, like old men sinking into their rocking chairs.
Uh, huh, she said, taking an ironic sip from her Stella Artois to punctuate her response. I thought ghosts were the spirits of the dead, some lingering part of a person’s consciousness, someone with unfinished business or some neurotic compulsion.
There is much unfinished business here, or rather there is finished business of an unpleasant sort. This is an old place, built by slaves and poor immigrants set to unpleasant tasks such as digging the old canal that is now a freeway and a long park. They buried the poor Irishmen who dug it in the spoil bank as they fell, you know. It’s like the old saying about an unlucky place: built on an Indian graveyard,. And then there are all those who died of the fevers, settling at the edge of a mosquito infested swamp. All this before the flood, and the guns.
That was all long ago, old man, she said, and has nothing to do with me. I look at these old houses, all gutted and rebuilt, the way they have been painted to highlight the oldwork of the facades. It’s as pretty as some corner of Europe. Everything is being rebuilt so beautifully.That is why we come here. From what I’m told, the flood was the best thing that could have happened here, washing away your old ghosts but leaving these houses ready for fixing up. They probably were never as beautiful as they are today.
That is because you are a young soul. You don’t see the beauty that was there before, even as the weatherboards weathered, and the porches sagged like a middle-aged stomach. They were beautiful when they were painted in plain white wash, when they were built by night by men who worked all day, to make a home of their own for their families. They were built simple but sturdy. Once the walls were plaster-and-lath, and the houses could breathe. Now that is all torn out and if they are not sealed up like coffins for the new air conditioning, the mildew creeps past the mill work and onto the walls. When they were plastered, carefully applied trowel by trowel across the delicate lathe work, that would not have happened. But so much of that was torn out, a bit of the soul of the house put out to the curb. The dust of it that lingers, that is a sort of ghost.
We still have plaster, and bargeboard floors. We bought our house because it was old, because it still had those things.
And you appreciate their beauty, or simply their potential appreciation?
What does that mean? Why do you talk in riddles?
They are only riddles to you because you are a young soul.
Again with souls and ghosts. Another sip of beer. We appreciate the house’s beauty. That’s why we bought it, cheap and rundown, and are putting it not just back together but back together better. And it is “it’s” appreciation. It is a thing, not a person. Sorry, I’m a teacher, and people here have laziest habits of speech. Now all the schools are new, and we can help lift the people up out of that laziness, make them ready for a brighter future. We just need to break their old habits and teach them proper speech, punctuality, and careful work. This will be a much better place for our coming, out contribution
What you call their lazy habits of speech are just another sort of ghost, the lingering gendering of things from the time when French was still spoken. We are not a lazy people. Who do you think built your beautiful house, its strong bones without which it would not be there for your to fix? Is it lazy to value time over money, and spend it freely? You may pile up all the money you might ever want, but it won’t buy you more time. I don’t mean what you, in your teacherly fashion, would call free time, but one’s own time, owned in a sense by yourself, time spent lingering over coffee mid-afternoon instead of running back to sell your time for money. What you might think laziness, a luxury you must steal away every now and then to enjoy, free time as in freedom to spend it with friends, or in a book, instead of watching time slip away on a cheap plastic clock on the wall waiting for your free time to begin.
That’s not the way the world works, old man. Time is money, and that money pays to fix up our house and all these others.
The world has its own notions of time, and we have ours. The two are not so far apart as your’s is.
More beer, buying time to think.
Whatever, was still all she could muster. People like you need to realize this is a different city now. Your ghosts and your excuses and your old notions were washed away. It will be a better city, keeping enough of the old to be charming, but not left behind the times as it was before.
Perhaps it was better to be left behind, he said, to amble along as we did than to march in lockstep to the ticking of a clock. I have lived in other places, you know, for many years. I have marched dutifully into work at the appointed time, mowed my lawn as required, and even chiseled the plow-melt snow on my corner lot up to the curb where the sidewalks crossed. I waged war on the dandelion and for what? So that someone could walk their dog along a perfect sidewalk past identical lawns undistracted from their podcast, or admiring the colorful repetition flats of annuals dutifully planted provides? I never did that, myself. I only planted perennials. Not as colorful except at their appointed bloom time, but themselves a sort of clock or calendar running on a time uninterrupted by the clangor of appointments on your smart watch.
Uh huh, again. I’m going to get another beer.
Enjoy the party, he said. She didn’t answer. He walked away from the crowd, none of whom smoked, out to the sidewalk and lit a cigarette, trading a bit of lifetime for the pleasure of it, mindless of the consequences. He watched as someone at the corner carried plastic sacks of groceries from their tiny, hybrid car into the door set at an angle to the corner, and wondered if they knew why it was built that way, framed by what they called two picture windows which did not look out onto any sort of vista as a proper picture window would because, he knew ( but suspected they did not), they were meant to be looked into and not out of. The blinds were drawn tight and his gaze wandered off down the street with no particular purpose in mind.
Resurrection Fern August 24, 2015Posted by The Typist in Back of Town, je me souviens, New Orleans, postdiluvian, Remember, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Grandfather Cypress, oaktrees, resurrection ferm, spanish moss, The Federal Flood
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How long their beards have grown in ten years, the oaks along Roosevelt Mall. The wind, such as it was and the coast got the worst of it, stripped away much of the Spanish Moss from the oaks that stood through it all. Ten years, and now it hangs in long, Confucian threads, the oaks like monks who have stood in long silence on the high ground on what was once the spoil bank of Bayou Metairie. The Great Depression, the men who came and built much of the old park around them, the hump bridges that gave a thrill to the stomach, the widely spaced row of chiseled concrete eagles along the Mall, were as the brief passage of a gnat.
The moss is back, the Resurrection fern that lines the branches–taking its name from its habit of drying brown during dry spells but coming back after a grain, and some small fan palm has rooted in the crooks of a few where the wide base trunk divides into the branches, the lowest of which tend back toward the ground as they lengthen, granting easy access for adventurous children to scramble into the trees. The oldest oaks, the ones with names and stories–Dueling Oak, Suicide Oak, and another name I heard the other day and have forgotten because it has not been repeated since childhood–are old, older than any building in the city, older than the arrival of Europeans.
The idea that the oldest grow on the spoil bank of Bayou Metairie, the last bit of which is the one natural lagoon in the park, the one south and parallel to City Park Avenue, came to me the other day walking out for cigarettes from my girlfriend’s house in south Metairie. The crazy job of which you have heard too much of late in these virtual pages, the one that keeps me trapped in the house rather than out noticing the oaks, has started me smoking again. It was Sunday morning, and I have developed the habit of going out for a really dark cup of coffee, not the weak store-brand Colombian she buys. I needed cigarettes and set out first down toward Dolly’s gas and cafe, taking the next cross street to Canal Boulevard and there I found a cypress of incredible girth, and a crown the size of a hot air balloon, which I immediately christened Grandfather Cypress. My arms (not the longest) stretched out encompassed a third a best, perhaps only a quarter of the trunk. This tree, I thought, was so much older than south Lakeview, older than the spur track just south that grew up along what was once the Lafitte Canal toward downtown, older than Metairie Road when it was a farm-and-cattle track before the bayou was filled in ,older than the cemeteries sited at the back of town to bury the yellow fever dead far out-of-town. I have never seen a cypress of such size but I am a city boy. This tree clearly predates the city.
On my way back from coffee (in the opposite direction, up the boulevard and back toward the L&N line), I went out of my way and passed the shortest cross-street home in spite of the early morning heat of a record-setting August to see this tree again. The current owner of the house was out watering her front garden, and we spoke for a bit. The crown was once even larger, and she had called an arborist to have it cut back a bit, to make sure it would weather any storm. She told me once she described the three she didn’t have to give her address. The man know it well, a tree familiar to those whose care for trees. I did not kneel as I had meant when I broke open a cigarette and sprinkled some tobacco as an offering and said a silent prayer, much as I had on my way out when I stood in silence several minutes, my hand against its trunk. I explained before I started how I had come back to do just that, and she just smiled. She had bought the house, she said, because of that three.
Ten years since the last Great Flood, what I once called the Federal Flood for the failure of the levees, but to Grandfather Cypress and the old oaks on the river end of the park it is simply the last great flood. They have weathered many, no doubt, and survived. The City survives as well, rebuilt by what I called the 200,000, those who came back in the first year and rebuilt it with their own hands and the help of a flood of immigrants from Latin America, the children of people who built even greater cities and saw them abandoned back to the forest, or destroyed by Spanish conquistadors, the bricks of their temples taken to build the new cathedral and palaces. i wonder if they think at all of the transformations their ancestors underwent, or if they just think of the beer and dinner at the end of the day, of a weekly remittance to family back home wired from the corner store now well stocked with familiar baked goods and tubs of iced, cold Modelo.
We have our own conquistadors in our own small way, the influx settling into and transforming the old neighborhoods in the sliver by the river, the high ground running down from downtown toward the mouth of the river, come to bring us Yankee ingenuity and industriousness while they take the pleasure of an entirely different culture which does not care so much of such things, and which may or may not survive their arrival, the resulting dispersal from their old neighborhoods of the people who made that culture. That is all the worry these days, in the bands of land from which the old trees were cleared hundreds of years ago.
I don’t live down there, and while I find it regrettable that they come as the Spanish came, greedy and bearing an alien religion in which the dollar sign supplants the cross of the Jesuits I live in the back of town, where the oldest trees survive, and now think more of them. The culture of the dollar at all costs has pushed nature too far, and I walk past grandfather oak in the warmest August since records began in the 1880s. Worse, the best minds tell us we have pushed the oceans themselves past the tipping point already. These will steadily warm, the distant arctic ices will melt and the water rise as sure as Noah’s flood. Other’s argue about whether the levees are really any better but I know that New Orleans is doomed, if not in my life time than in my children’s and their children’s. A greater flood is coming than the old oaks and cypress have ever seen, one that will not recede. Even the resilient cypress, accustomed to flooding, will not survive. Grandfather Cypress has seen his day in which the minutes are decades, in which we are less than the passing buzz of a mosquito.
Periplumb August 14, 2015Posted by The Typist in poem, Poetry, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Full-moon Venice preriplumb
Vaparetto No 2. S. Marco:
Campari soda at Harry’s Bar (2)
linen slacks, lime sherbet shirt
my best hat (American, called Milano)
new Italian loafers (no socks)
squandering Euros for a moment
of history, of artificial beauty–
better leather, tan-complimenting
French nails, Italian movie glamour.
The anarchists are out
in the dark like rats:
case por tutti
non si ama liberi
Sheila can you dance like Mussolini?
but the grave carabinieri
who shared my boat,
a blocky, Homeric man
with a square beard,
hefty Berretta on his hip,
keeps their paint bombs
away from S. Marco.
Abandon Harry’s mirrors,
women dressed for Venice
but not Venice, tawdry
among the marble.
Vaporetto No. 2. S. Marco,
round out the periplumb.
One woman alone: brown hair,
glasses, simple slacks and blouse,
natural, a primal Italian beauty,
a noble line of face
fit to strike in metal
the color of her skin.
Glances at my age are flattering,
returning them feels unbecoming but
alone in full-moon Venice
is temptation monumental.
By happy accident I take a seat
in the bow across an aisle
wide as the Grand Canal.
No words. No room. No hope.
Her glances continue, presuming
some intent in my choice of seat.
She removes one shoe, stretches red toes
suggesting the continuation
of lithe curves tending toward
a narrow alley in some quiet sestieri
but no. I watch the passing palazzo.
She turns assertively
to look the other way.
My Venice adventure passes by,
Ca’ Desdemona dark in the moonlight.
My periblumb ends as it began
Beckett August 6, 2015Posted by The Typist in books, literature, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Samuel Beckett
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How can you stand reading Beckett, she asked. I hate him.
I usually do not stand reading Beckett, as I do not frequently travel by city buses any more. More typically, I sit, although at times I recline, bolstered in the bed. And I do not read Beckett so much as enter into Beckett. I imagine myself in a chair in an empty room, as in a setting for End Game, or somewhere unidentifiable in the dark, as when I wake at an odd hour with my sleep mask on. At such times there is an unsettling silence and stillness, leaving one entirely alone with one’s thoughts which is the most mentally unhealthy thing which a thinking person can do, I mean someone who really thinks, not just worries although worry always enters into it, worries not in the abstract but in the concrete concerns of a thinking, vivid imagination contemplating what slumbers in the dark, the great rendering gears of the world waiting for the sound of a bell to begin to grind and compress us into statistically satisfying compliance or into a reject package, like cast-off metal suitable for export. Or it is day and there is light, grey light while outside the drawn curtains the world rumbles and lurches by, an unbalanced machine always at the edge of the tipping point, lurching and smoking past the gutters of poverty where the hungry search the cast-off packaging of the rich for scraps, along streets the lamps of which are perpetually dimmed by willful ignorance, past crowded sidewalks governed by traffic rules the preeminent of which is eyes should not meet, but may wander the bodies of the opposite sex and appraise them as one does cuts of meet for quality versus expense, between buildings the windows of which have curtains drawn to hide their secrets, or which open into the spacious offices of those who rule over the cubicles, each worker like a bee assigned his place in the comb, beneath a sky laced with contrails of others hurrying on the errands of plutocratic commerce or toward resorts that decorate the coasts of mestizo poverty like colorful tumors.
I read Beckett, I tell her, to escape, to imagine him a madman, and that his material was not the world.
39. El Nopal August 4, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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39. El Nopal (The Cactus) Al que todos van a ver cuando tiene que comer. To which all go to see when they have to eat.
Interpretations: You know what you have to do to get what you need. OR There is a source of help for you
Aging Children August 2, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, je me souviens, Remember, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist.
Tags: Joni Mitchell, Songs to Aging Children Come
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I don’t know what prompted this memory, perhaps the stillness of Sunday morning, the exhaustion of another 60 hour week working a young man’s job, and most of all an answered email to a friend mostly encountered online who had vanished from e-space.
Are you OK? I wrote.
I had begun to feel old and irrelevant and needed to adjust to that, he replied. It’s coming along. Thanks for thinking of me.
Why this song? That is from the quiet of a Sunday when I have chosen to blow off a promised bit of busy work for Moloch, Patrice still asleep, the blinds not yet opened. Exhaustion as an opening to stillness. A mind not quiet but wandering, back in time to Sunday’s long ago in Washington, D.C. when a folk music show on WAMU-FM I favored opened its Sunday afternoon broadcast with this. Even at 30, I struggled against the responsibilities of Capitol HIll and my intrinsic non-conformity. Saturday night’s were the pleasant irresponsibility of of the BBC Robin Hood series, which opened with a lovely song by Clannad, and then on to pleasantly silly irrelevance of Dr. WHO. (Tom Baker is my doctor, as Sean Connery is the only James Bond).
My obsessive ex- would see all errands done Saturday. Not rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow would keep us from those appointed rounds. Sundays were pleasant nothings, a field of wildflowers in the mind, a little tending of the tiny garden in the back of the equally tiny two story railroad house on Fourth Street North East. I remember carrying my then infant daughter to Hechinger’s garden department one Sunday, and having forgotten her bonnet or hat I had tied my handkerchief around her head. This a gaggle of older ladies found absolutely charming. Such a thoughtful and resourceful father.
Come mid-afternoon, all responsibilities dispensed with, the breakfast dishes done and put away, the Post the only real Responsibility given my position on the Hill. Withthe only exception cigarettes on the stoop, it was the futon couch and the radio, this show and this particular song. On certain Sunday’s it comes to mind, and G’s reply to my email immediately brought it forth.
“Songs to aging children come/Aging children I am one.”
(Close your eyes to the overly busy video and just let the song wash over you, my cohort. As we reach the age where the aches take over, we are only as old as we think we are.)
The Broken Road July 1, 2015Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, The Journey, The Narrative, The Odd, The Pointness, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
As the statistics dwindle and more and more followers of this blog are simply hoping for a reflexive return on my part, to build their numbers for whatever racket they are running–probably blogging hollow consumables for a penny a word–I wonder what I am doing here.
Here is not even here. I have not lived on Toulouse Street for most of five years. I cling to the tenuous position of having once, long ago, beat out the Doobie Brothers on Google. Toulouse Street is broken with the marriage, the beautiful Craftsman house sold, and all that remains is the banner picture above these words and a street sign my daughter’s kleptomaniac friend once brought to the house, which once graced my office and now hangs in the kitchen on Fortin Street. The ex- is now No. 2, intended as the least emotionally charged term I could come up with, no scatological pun intended. The children are grown. Others walk the halls of Toulouse Street. All I have are ghosts, Dickensian visitations of Christmas Past.
Perhaps the statistics dwindle because Toulouse Street has lost its way, lost it purpose to capture Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans. Now it is the Odd journal of The Typist (and so long since I used a capitalized Odd). Perhaps I am just become a whinny old man, and no one cares about the sidebar description: “the life of a man of late middle age racing frantically towards and away from death.”
Perhaps my words have lost their power
Perhaps all words have lost their power.
I don’t believe that.
“You got to be a spirit! You can’t be no ghost.” Words of power, from a movie most people have forgotten, a cautionary tale from a decade or more ago of where America is today. Bulworth was ready to kill himself until he discovered what it means to speak truth to power.
“and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive”
― Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems
Words are powerful. What is lost is the audience for words, even words spoken on a screen, particularly uncomfortable words. And Toulouse Street has become an uncomfortable place, a reflection of the uncomfortable world I (we) live in. Oh, there is discourse civil and uncivil enough on places like Facebook, which has largely supplanted general purpose blogs, but the discussions there occur in the echo chambers we have built for ourselves. We talk to each other when we agree, past each other when we do not, and admire the kittens and the side show characters. One can spend hours on Facebook drowning in words and learn a few things. You can hear a thoughtful explanation of the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement and the death of human democracy, or the news that America’s trillion-dollar fighter being built in as many Congressional districts as possible to ensure its survival is a piece of junk. You can also learn by the simply arithmetic of counting Likes and Comments that most people do not care for such things. They care about the Confederate flag, as if the flag itself matters to Black lives. Flags, like guns, do not kill people. People kill people, often because of the power of words amplified by the echo chambers. What is more important: removing a single statue, or removing a single sociopath (be they an isolated hater or a commissioned police officer) from the streets? Which will save more lives?
If I have grown weary and turned inward it is in part that the external, public world of words makes less sense, seems to serve no good purpose, more and more so every day. I believe my ramblings here have their purpose, even if you think me narcissistic and a bit unhinged. I am Surplus Labor Incarnate, and I rant against my job because my service to Moloch is to facilitate our enslavement. Hey, I tell myself: I am only in it for the Benjamins. A daughter in New York at Columbia, well launched in life, is a considerable expense. I have bills to pay, the cost of stepping away from Moloch for nine months to finish a generally useless degree in English Literature. I hoped to be an example to my son. He is doing exactly what I did at his age, stepping away from college to figure out what he wants from life. My return to school, and my voyage to Europe are not so different from the decision he has made. I abandoned my degree thirty years ago, and so did his grandfather, and we managed to push our way through life to comfortable middle class positions. Still, both my father and I received considerable education before we walked away. I want him to understand that college is not a stupid recapitulation of everything he learned in high school. That’s just the freshman year price of admission to the real learning.
The price of admission. That’s what I am working for, the descendant in one branch of slavers from Haiti, slaving for Moloch to enslave us all in hopes my well- and liberal (arts)-educated children can escape enslavement, to equip them to have a chance to be a little more free, to give them choices.
Irony is an immutable law of the universe.
If there is a purpose to my navel-gazing ramblings here it is to make a record for posterity, even though I know how transient and impermanent electronic words are. The Typist struggles against Irony with it’s own sword with the diligence of Prometheus, and if you find that boring I am sorry, I can’t help you. You have lost touch with the power of words, traded that magic for the magic of toaster Jesus or imaginary vampires. It is OK if you do not care to hear about my Fridays or Mondays, the book ends of a very minor tragicomedy, the struggle against ancient humors and modern entries in the Diagnostic Manual that are like pervasive allergies: reflectively symptomatic of a diseased society. If I have lost the power to enchant you, perhaps another’s words in the very same vein might.
“They say there is no Fate but there is. It’s what you create.” I will go on creating, chronicling the consequences of my own choices good and bad, and the occasional moment of joy, in the hope that someone out there is listening. “No one wants to hear about my misery, because they have their own.” Of course they do. I just want them to know they are not alone.
The Perils of Memory June 14, 2015Posted by The Typist in je me souviens, The Journey, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Flowers of Ruin, Patrick Modiano, Suspended Sentences
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The man with the silver hair and blue suit led the way. They climbed into the bus that was waiting at the sidewalk. The man counted the Japanese as they passed in front of him. He climbed on in turn and sat next to the driver. He was holding a microphone. The Jardins du Luxembourg was just one stop and they had all of Paris to visit. I wanted to follow them on that glorious morning, harbinger of spring, and be just a simple tourist. No doubt I would have rediscovered a city I had lost and, through its avenues, the feeling I’d once had of being light and carefree.
— Flowers of Ruin, Patrick Modiano