The Broken Road July 1, 2015Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, 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.
All The Way June 12, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Pointless, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I’ve had enough. I’m going to
pull myself up over the side, and get
all the way out of my mind.
From “JUST NORMAL” by Everette Maddox
Another long week at Moloch stuffing screaming debtors into the flames, and it’s time to just get fucking weird again. Just another Friday night at the Fortress of Squalitude…
Smile, my mother whisper-hissed, as I tread up the aisle many years ago..
Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) May 31, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The End, The Narrative, The Odd, The Pointness, The Spectrum, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Out of my brain on the five fifteen.
— “5:15”, Quadraphenia
Train songs for the cigarette apocalypse, at the hour of the conjunction of the Third Klonopin and the Second Beer, your jittery teeth the tight shot black-and-white of the piston and the driving wheels.
Fallin’ Ditch May 27, 2015Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Pointless, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet, Don Van Vliet Poetry Reading
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When I get lonesome the wind begin t’ moan
When I trip fallin’ ditch
Somebody wanna’ throw the dirt right down
When I feel like dyin’ the sun come out
‘n stole m’ fear ‘n gone
Who’s afraid of the spirit with the bluesferbones
Who’s afraid of the fallin’ ditch
Fallin’ ditch ain’t gonna get my bones
How’s that for the spirit
How’s that for the things
Ain’t my fault the thing’s gone wrong
‘n when I’m smilin’ my face wrinkles up real warm
‘n when um frownin’ things just turn t’ stone
Fallin’ ditch ain’t gonna get my bones
‘n when I get lonesome the wind begin t’ moan
Fallin’ ditch ain’t gonna get my bone
— Don Van Vliet
Through a prism, darkly May 23, 2015Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Odd, The Spectrum, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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King Kong Mother Fucking Superman
in his Fortress of
Hey, Mister May 22, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Odd, The Pointness, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Bob Dylan, MLA, Modern Language Association, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
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Another week booked and billed, another chapter lived but unwritten, another beer opened on Eastern Time and I want a fucking cigarette. How else, then, smoke rings?
Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you
— Bob Dylan, “Mr. Tamborine Man”
This completely unnecessary attribution is dedicated to the handful of patient professors–Gery, Marti, Hazlett–who tolerated (just) my rambling sentences of intricate internal logic unbound from the shackles of Latin and Aristotle, and my irregular conjugations of the MLA handbook, which was no larger than Strunk and White when I started out on that road. Why does English in any usage or situation adhere to something like the MLA? Rules? In a knife fight?
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
∆ t April 26, 2015Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Thomas Pynchon Day
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‘Personal density,’ Kurt Mondaugen in his Peenemünde office not too many steps away from here, enunciating the Law which will one day bear his name, “is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth…
‘Temporal bandwidth,’ is the width of your present, your now. It is the familiar “∆ t” considered as a dependent variable. The more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.
The History of Poetry: 2 April 14, 2015Posted by The Typist in Poetry, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
A year of Circe and then
The Phaeacians dance under the island sun.
Odysseus broods in the shade over his untouched sunburger and Elpenor. The Last-To-Go-ians snatch it out of his hands and conga line out the door singing “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah.”
Roll another lotus, won’t you?
Fucking Cyclops, (fuck you Poseidon), voracious hole Charybdis and that man-eating bitch Scylla. Sometimes a guy can’t catch a break. But, wow, those Sirens.
Ever try. Ever sail. Sail again. Sail better.
Blood, blood is the answer, the universal language of men. (He dug the ell-square pitkin, dug the slashing of the animals, dug the flowing of their blood.)
Not now, mother, I’m talking to Tiresias.
Son gone off adventuring after his father. A woman patient to a fault, the faithful guardian of the patrimony, weaving and unweaving lies. Of course. It’s expected (c.f. Eden). In the end the ever seen, never heard servants. Those who remembered.
The rest? Off with their heads, the Bed King said, and they fell like axe heads, those who only labored for their daily bowl of porridge in lieu of a potentially disemboweling loyalty to No Man, the one who wasn’t there, who had no Hero’s part.
In the end, was Penny worth a pound, after all those goddesses? On this the Epic Poet is silent.
The silence of a blind man is perfect.
Daylight Slaving Time March 8, 2015Posted by The Typist in Moloch, New Orleans, The Odd, The Typist.
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Oh, by all means, let us schedule four days of meetings at 7:00 am my time, half an hour beyond the sacred hours of “protected time” that allows for the interaction of New York and their overseas developers and testers all on China Standard Time. What better week than the first of Daylight Slaving Time. Monday will run from 7 am to 6 pm. I will be reduced at day’s end to a sack of gibering idiocy, remote in hand and a book no where to hand.
Moloch is just in his mortifications. I have spent beyond my means to finish school and visit Europe, pointless exercises which added nothing to the Gross National Product or the annual earnings growth of my particular sect. I converted dollars to Euros, among my other sins. Mea culpa, and pass the babes in finance down the long line leading to the furnace.
Radio Free Toulouse February 15, 2015Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptical envelopment, Leon Russell, New Orleans, NOLA, pirates, Shield of Beauty, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Resumes its broadcast schedue from our pirate tramp freighter located somewhere in the radar clutter of The Gulf.
We are prepared to repel boarders from BP’s Coast Guard and the forces of any other nation which does not recognize our right to Be. Watch out for the transdermally pychotropic water cannons, motherfuckers One blast and you’ll be Ours
If 6 Turned Out To Be 9 February 15, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Somwehere between the last half-slice of citalopram and the allegedly-theraeutic onset of amitriptilyne is something like a lunar void, a period of uncertainty. The clinically inclined would consider this the expression of depression as the citaoprm washes out before the amitriptilyne kicks in. I consider it something akin to the social readjutment I experienced after forty days and forty nights in Europe, a combination of jet lag and culture shock.
I am rediscovering what it means to be me. In the first few days of the washout I felt an almost exuberant sense of myself, as if I had been mounted by the loa of Walt Whitman. Things then began to grow dark and uncertain, but that I realized is as any path in a journey through the underword should be.
I think the clonazepam has also about run its course, or what the fuck am i doing up at ten of six, and writing my second post in two days on my mostly quiescent blog after two cigarettes and half a cup of coffee. Cigarettes and coffee are two things the new therapist I did a mostly uncomfortable intake with the other day suggests we will have to address. She spoke of a box, in which cigarettes, caffine and alcohol have no place for the chonically anxious. I described myself as a statistical outlier in any battery of tests she may wish to administer, a point well outside the box of the consensually acceptable.
Not a good start.
“Nicotine is a drug, you know,” she said at one point. And what, I was tempted to ask, are clonazepam, amitriptilyne, citlopram and the whole cryptic galaxy of SSRIs the medical profession has perscibed to me in the ĺast several years, along with a course of lamotrigine at a higher dose than a friend’s husband–a full-blown manic-depressive–was perscribed by the former head of the Tulane Medical School pychiatry department?
I am up early, writing. I have a private blog that I hide online from all but invited friends called Poems Before Breakfast, named for the quiet time which I found to write in the tense last years of a disolving marriage inhabited by two teenageers. What role does the deminishing effectiveness of the clonazepam and the absence of an effective pharma cocktail for depression play in this place in space time, in which my fingers find the keyboard and I am unafraid to express my deepest feelings in a highy public way?
What then is the problem we are trying to solve? Caffeine and alcohol are also drugs, but if I calm an anxiety attack with two fingers of Buffalo Trace and the the strange place I am in is one where the amitriptilyne lets me get a decent night’s sleep without fucking with my brain what, for all its transient discomfort, is this place in which I am driven to write, to see myself with a clarity long obscured by over-mdication? What if it is Home, my Axis around which I orbit? What is the purpose of submitting myself to the drug-driven clinicians of phsychology and psychiatry?
The new therapist didn’t answer my question when I asked if the negatively charged phrase “wash out” was a clinnical term. She only scribbled some notes. I deduce it means the period during which the cumulative effects of pharmacology flush themelves out of my system.
It is an unsettling place, but so was my beloved New Orleans when I first returned from Europe.
I just want to talk to you.
I won’t do you no harm.
I just want to now about your different lives
On this here people farm.”
Lately I have found more therapeutic value in Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love than I think I will get from any $200 an hour clinician with her DSM, the box-like book of consensual normality from which I declare myself an outlier, a six sigma enigma no re-engineering can or should correct.
Sorry, doctor, but I have had a problem with boxes since I failed in art in the first grade for refusing to color within the lines. I am not sure my comfortable zone is found in the rigid, rectngular pages of the DSM. I am not sure any empathetic and intelligent person should feel comfortble in the world They* are building around us, unless integration is simply another word for cheerful ignorange and compliance.
If the sun refused to shine.
I don’t mind. Idon’t mine.
If the mountains fell in the sea,
Let it be. It ain’t me.
I got my own world to live through
And I ain’t going to copy you….
If the mountains fall
Just don’t let them fall on me…
I think the untriggered anxiety attacks I have had lately whoch wwre well-controlled in medical parlancet rhat led me to visit the pill doctor and schedule myself into the therapist are simply a call to withdraw for a bit into the bariatric chamber of myself, to emerge ready to lift the face plate and announce this planet habitable by the likes of me.
If I cycle through all of the colors of emotion in patterns unpredictable by the mathematics of wave form oscilloscope EEG, well, there are other branches of mathematics and acience that posit alternative universes. Perhaps I am just a visitor in this world, who’s purpose is to take extensive notes such as this–not a catalogue of anthopological field notes but a travelogue–and sometimes sculpt them into poetry. We each have our own path through this planet of forms I find at once alien and interesting.
Perhaps I should just ask the Axis. He knows Everything.
* For more information on Them, I recommend a careful reading of Amiri Baraka’s “Somebody Bombed America” supplemented by the more personal and localized blog post on Wet Bank Guide “In the Zone.”. Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow should be considered an essential supplementary text
[Loop: Marlboro Theme Song Performed by the Incredible String Band} January 15, 2015Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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After a long day, toss all those hours of staring at cryptic test cases written by people with marginal English language skills who are clearly feasting on brownies they are not sharing with you into the back of your pickup, spit on your hands, and crawl behind the wheel with a Frosty 40 of Tree Frog. Peel out, spreading gravel and greenhouse gasses everywhere, Adolph’s mountains spewing spring water in the background while the swine soar on the katabatic drafts and the eagles squeal as the winds flatten their pens. It’s Syd Barrett Time.
Googlizing Chaucer January 11, 2015Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Chaucher, Google Voice, The Prologue
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When the top thrill is with his shores shoot the drop of march have to use it to the roots and bad it everyday in the inspection cool down a with the 2 engine dude is the new were windsor forest with his sweet degrees inspired houston every houghton he’s the tender crap is in the youngest son the house in the damages have a seat on the small follows making melody that sleep with all the night with open ye so cricket him nature is courage is that long getting folk to go on pilgrimage is and the polymers for 2 seconds strangest on the phone all screwed in sundry longs and specially from every cheers end of England to come to Daddy they will and the holy blissful market for to seek for them have opened. One that they were sick just fill that in the season on the day in South look at the tall bottle as I lay ready to wind in on my pilgrimage to Canterbury with full devote caraj at night was comin into that Austin very well nine and twenty in a company year of somebody folk buy a venture follow in fellowship and pilgrims were they all that towards Canterbury woods and ride the tram but as in the stables what it in wide and well aware wedding exit off the Beast and shortly when the Sun was the to rest so how do I spoken with him ever return that I was out of here federal ship on on and made forward early for to rise to take our way there as it all divisor,
The Taste of Carnations January 9, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Flamenco, Gypsy, Roma, Spain, wine
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Tonight of all nights I would hear the saddest songs.
This wine of the Alicante,
dark as blood spilt by night,
sharp as flint, a spark
in the sparkle with the savor
of must fresh from dusty feet
walked hard and long buried.
I would taste carnations
fed with the blood of bulls.
Tonight I would hear the saddest songs
because joy is a wind
that blows hot and cold
but sadness outlasts empires.
If this is the corner I’ve painted myself into November 22, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Everette Maddox, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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…think only this of me
That one more cheap camera
against the world’s beauty.
— Everette Maddox
Spill That Wine Dig That Girl November 21, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist.
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Morning will come before you know it pouring through the door like the boiling oil of hash browns on the side. It is not time yet time for breakfast. Another rum? I could think of a hundred good reasons why not but none of them is rum, the liquor of the loa, the universal Pan-Caribbean elixir of frantic ecstasy, the shuffle and the dub, the wiggle of the skiffle, the because of Carnival.
Bring it dawn. I’m steady, and ready to roll. Sunny side up.
The Android Speaks in the Seance of my Pocket August 12, 2014Posted by The Typist in The Odd, The Typist, WTF.
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OW Hello Soyuz Yd Dizzy zy Tzu ZZZ T<Z df€RESTART RzFSeT F ZzzzyD sea was asRe SEER! ArresTed Ere Essay re See We pqqjf
55: Manna from a Raven April 20, 2014Posted by The Typist in 365, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Easter, Sublime
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I can never quite figure out what to do about Easter now the children are grown, except to stay out of the aisle filled with candy. I am a true apostate in the Church of my baptism, cannot in good conscience recite the Apostles Creed and swear fidelity to a single name among the hundreds for the Spirit that inhabits us all. I’ve kicked the dust of that crabby old bastard of the Old Testament off my sandals. Apologies to those who live by those books, but the catechism version is all woman is the root of all evil and drowning His mistakes and if there’s love in all that well blame the sisters and brothers who preferred we walk in fear and guilt.
The Easter story still resonates because it speaks of mystery, and mystery is at the heart of the Spirit. You can’t touch it but sometimes you’re pretty sure it has touched you, if only through a sunset you can explain in perfectly secular terms but which still found you gasping for breath remembering to breath, and in that breath is the Spirit. We have a capacity in us to succumb to the Subime, a word I used hundred times I’m sure after forgetting about Edmund Burke. I took a class in American Nature Writing since going back to school and early on we ploughed through A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful and in all this rush to convert our universities into advanced technically and business schools, I don’t think you can call yourself an educated person unless someone makes you sit down and some point and read that.
Taking some basic anthropology to finish up my degree I understand the evolutionary purpose of altruism but the sublime, the combined feeling of wonder and terror in the face of what is larger than us (at its simplest) seems at first to serve no purpose. Mystery and wonder all in one word, and in that word, taty primal logos, is the capacity to recognize that there are forces larger than us at work in the universe, so many of which we struggle to explain in spite of our big-brained, self-important selves. Emerson and Thoreau and all that crowd understood the sublime, found scripture in mountains and river, the same ancient impulse that gave this mountain or that rock its sacred space, a mountain you might climb and in a blinding light find the logos in a handful of words. Better than a set of rules however is simply to be open to the Sublime. To do so is to walk the Tao, to walk in beauty, to cry in horror at those who top mountains and clear cut forests, to realize that desertification is not just a condition of the land but of what we usually call soul.
On your way to church or to gorge on ham in honor of a no-doubt observant Jewish teacher, don’t forget to look round you :at the sky, at the park as you pass, at your beautifully dressed children. Pause a moment in awe of it all. Gasp at it, and in the breath let spirit enter into you. Easter comes but once a year. Let every day be a Pentecost.
Happy Holidays December 24, 2013Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Fortin Street, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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from The Typist and Mr. Burroughs. My second favorite holiday tale after The Little Match Girl, which my mother loathed and my grandmother insisted she always read us.
Unhappy Hour October 29, 2013Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, Counting House, Dancing Bear, Moloch, New Orleans, Rebirth, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist.
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That hour when you realize you have lost the connection with the people you work with and wander off to another bar to drink alone. Some sadness is natural, after seven years together. Some anxiety at what comes next. Beneath it all is the realization that this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. At 56 and on your fourth “career” you remember that somewhere inside you is the spirit of Odysseus. You have lingered too long at the money tit of Circe. It is time to visit Tiresias.
Mr. Bubble October 23, 2013Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: bubbles, god, Solaris
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Studying the behavior of soap bubbles in a pan filling with water is not writing or working the day job but neither is it an excuse. When you live in the middle of the hurricane coast anything that creates a visible vortex immediately captures your eye. It is a lopsided storm, with bubble formation off to one side but you can see the soap and grease swirling around the falling water and watch the spawned mass moved toward the center and grow and you think of Solaris, watching the bubble island form in the middle, its center rising up as if volcanic but really a complex of bubble structures to transient to really study.
What is sentience? Why do the crew in Solaris think the planet a living thing? Perhaps they have gone mad from obsession and isolation, a possibility you must maintain until the very last moments of the film. We look in wonder at mystery and some will try to disassemble it like a clock, give names to quarks and postulate an unknowable constant to solve the equation and name the mystery. Others look at the mystery and see the working of an invisible hand, an indecipherable mind, and give it a name; bow down before it lighting josh sticks. The mystery of our own sentience lies somewhere in the middle, the ability to recognize mystery and bow our heads before it if only for a moment in unqualified wonder. Where you go from there is up to you.
Interrupted by Hummingbirds July 29, 2013Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, Poetry, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Compose your life like a prose poem suddenly interrupted by hummingbirds mistaking a woman’s perfume for wildflowers in Arles, a Scorpio moon the only excuse necessary for hallucinatory episodes at Starbucks’ counter, visualizing Cthulu in your latte foam and paralyzing the commerce of graven tablets. When confronted with a Don’t Walk sign, improvise. Sing. Tear up the book in your pocket and stuff a poem into each mail mailbox you pass. This is not chaos. This is the Coriolis force reordering helpless pedestrians into your chorus, storefronts into episodes, sparrows into characters.(Pages of illustrations). Don’t be pigeonholed into a notebook occupying a park bench. Don’t let your day be the litter of butts around an outside table. Don’t spend your nights lonely and mooning over your poetry. This is not how sonnets work. Follow a dark woman with a fistful of violets in your hand. When she confronts you, pass her the flowers, tell her she has mistaken you for a villanelle. Smile. Anything could happen, the moment you have been fomenting all day.
W.A.S.T.E May 8, 2013Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Sorting Out The Horrors April 16, 2013Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
don’t come round but if you do . . .
yeah, sure, I’ll be in unless I’m out
don’t know if the lights are out
or you hear voices or then
I might be reading Proust
if someone slips Proust under my door
or one of his bones for my stew,
and I can’t loan money
or the phone
or what’s left of my car
though you can have yesterday’s newspaper
an older shirt or a bologna sandwich
or sleep on the couch
if you don’t scream at night
and you can talk about yourself
that’s only normal;
only I am not trying to raise a family
to send through Harvard
or buy hunting land,
I am not aiming high
I am only trying to keep myself alive
just a little longer,
so if you sometimes knock
and I don’t answer
and there isn’t a woman in here
maybe i have broken my jaw
and am looking for wire
or I am chasing the butterflies in
I mean if I don’t answer
I don’t answer, and the reason is
that I am not yet ready to kill you
or love you, or even accept you,
it means I don’t want to talk
i am busy, i am mad, i am glad
or maybe I am stringing up a rope;
so even if the lights are on
and you hear sound
like breathing or praying or singing
a radio or the roll of dice
or typing —
go away, it is not the day
the night, the hour;
it is not the ignorance of impoliteness,
I wish to hurt nothing, not even a bug
but sometimes I gather evidence of a kind
that takes some sorting,
and your blue eyes, be they blue
and your hair, if you have some
or your mind — they cannot enter
until the rope is cut or knotted
or until I have shaven into
new mirrors, until the world is
stopped or opened
— Charles Bukowski
Ghostly January 24, 2013Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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It’s 8:45. With the blackout curtains drawn you are not sure if it is anti- or post-meridian and you are not too sure you brain is clear on the matter after it shocked you awake with a dream meant for that purpose. You dream you are urinating and it has happened before, you were taking some medication that left you so dopey you were doing just that. You ask your doctor if you should see the urologist but you have just been discussing the problem with the medication another doctor has given you and she–who is younger than you–confesses to doing exactly the same thing when taking a similar medication, too knocked-out to answer the call of nature)
You are dead knocked out when the dream empties into your full body like an electric shock, bolting upright and every muscle at attention. You begin to wonder if your unconscious is just as confused as the waking brain after a 14 hour day starting at 3:a.m., up at 1 a.m. to have time for cigarettes, coffee and food in that rigorous, monastic order of addiction. Lunch at 3:30 in the afternoon with beers you hope will take off the coffee adrenaline edge of the day and lead to you what you plan as a nap which you now realize clearly is going all night with this interruption. You turn on the light, decide to ice your sprained wrist and read but realize you can’t smoke, elevate and read at the same time.
You look at the hotel window with the blackout curtains drawn for some hint of light and notice what looks like a pale leak of daylight above the curtain top but then the valence is hung from something clearly attached to the ceiling that would block any such light, and the glow is only on one end and ghostly blue. It is the reflection of the screen of your laptop. Ghostly is such a diaphanous adjective, weak tea any decent teacher of writing would strike right out but until you have studied that light, its faint gray-blue, the way it appears to hover just below the ceiling like a cloud of smoke and faintly pulse with the cycling of a screen saver you don’t know ghostly
The witching hour is only by the clock if you blow out a candle before you go to bed. Jump a time zone then get up with five hours sleep for a long day of coffee and tension in a meeting room with a handful of dreadfully intent people, two phones going and the walls covered with lists and charts, other people coming and going with urgent rumors or looking for news, then a late lunch with beer until you finally pass out at 5 p.m. and it might as well be the stroke of twelve in a cemetery. You have your own ghosts, the texts from your ex-wife asking if you’re free to talk and no you are not, not in the middle of all this, are just the incantation to call them up.
Exhaustion and Belgian ale put you to sleep but don’t unwind the spring work has wrapped around your chest. The dream is just a warning from your lizard brain which doesn’t know if it is time to eat or shit, run or hide in the dark. By the time you have padded to the bathroom and back, found your water bottle and the ice pack for your wrist you are groggy again. You lie on your back examining that light in the corner and you begin to understand what a little moonlight could do to someone awake at the wrong time with the burdens of the world like a lead stole filled with the world’s sins, at an hour when one’s own haunts creep just beneath the skin and suddenly you are sure that light is floating just under the ceiling.
Ghostly is a fine word, just the one you are looking for. It is the reason you got up to write this. You decide to keep it, it’s perfectly rational cause a talisman against the others that rattle their chains in your skull at the most inconvenient times.
Little Miracles December 31, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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It is raining starling shit on the sidewalk in front of my house as I sit and smoke a cigarette.
At first I have no idea what these black berry-like things are raining from the sky. I pick one up. It is a little smaller than a coffee bean but about the same shape a color. I look up, and see birds ranged along the overhead wires. I step out into the street to be sure of the bird and the ones above me take flight to the right in a widershins spiral, and their brethren in the tree just up the street lift off to my left in a clockwise helix until they merge into two intersecting whorls of chattering birds. I watch them until the hypnotic black kaleidoscopic shrinks into a vanishing point.
I sit down to finish my cigarette.
I love my block.
See No Weevils October 26, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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It might well be an heretofore undiscovered coffee weevil, a clever adaptation capable of carefully retracting itself back into the appearance of dark roast grounds. The bottom of the can had returned to its customary repose after a protracted second glance, but he dug in his finger and stirred the fragrant grains just to be certain. He closed his eyes briefly to bask in the aroma, then checked again. Nothing moving down there. Not now, at least. When the sun glanced alarmingly off the microwave, he realized he had been standing there quite a while poised between coffee and afternoon. He decided not to make a second pot but to settle for a Bialetti of espresso, just too small cups, hardly worth counting, to help him settle down and determine how to complete the rest of today before tomorrow. His to-do list and calendar were a nightmare of gooey atmosphere and cement feet. He was falling irretrievably behind and something he would have to see to name—and he would rather not—was gaining. There could be no waking to safety without sleep.
Yakumo Fee Nah Ney October 21, 2012Posted by The Typist in City Park, cryptical envelopment, Mardi Gras Indians, music, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Bon Koizumi, Iko Iko, Japan Fest, Lafcadio Hearn, NOMA, Sugar Boy Crawford, Three Mountains of Dewa, Yakumo Japanese Garden, Yakumo Loizumi, Yakumo Nihon Teien
We go in the Wisteria Gate because the crowd is so large and the Japanese Garden in New Orleans is so small. We end up at the back of the crowd as the tour guide makes his spiel, and as everyone finally moves into the garden my friend pulls me back toward the plaque in front so she can read it.
She thinks the name Yakumo Japanese Garden is funny. I’m trying to explain to a gentleman with foreign-accented English why the name Yakumo Nihon Teien (Yakumo Japanese Garden) is funny to a New Orleanian. There’s no quick way to explain Jocomo fee nah nay except to say it’s a Mardi Gras Indian chant rooted in Creole and leave it at that. While we are talking a Japanese gentleman comes up and begins to earnestly read the plaque at the entrance. “And Yakamein,” my friend reminds me, “don’t forget to tell him about yakamein.” The Japanese man bends neatly at the waist to read to the bottom with the practiced habit of bowing rather than hunching over as I did. He comes up from reading the bottom of the plaque and stands admiring it. A woman behind me says something in Japanese, and the man turns to pose beside the plaque. “That’s Yakumo’s great-grandson,” she says in English over her camera, and I frantically dig for the phone. He is Bon Koizumi, a professor at the University of Shimane, Junior College and Adviser to the Lafacadio Hearn Memorial Museum in Matsue, I learn when I exchange my embarrassingly cheap and a bit tattered business card for his elegant one, trying to bow just a bit deeper as much for the embarrassing card as the honor. without getting into a contest that leads me to tip over, feinting like a lineman trying to draw an offsides so that I bow just a bit lower and come up last without provoking a second bow. It is not just an exchange of cards. It is a special moment, Yakumo’s great-grandson in the garden named for him on the day of Japan Fest.
This is an above average Japan Fest for me. After an early set by Kaminari Taiko I manage to watch the entire tea ceremony. In the past it was done in a small room and the doors were closed once it began, but this year it has been moved to the atrium. Once I’m done snapping pictures, I try to sit on my heels with my feet folded under and realize if I want to be invited to participate, I’m going to need a year of stretching and practice before I could sit in that position for 30 minutes. I catch most of the Kendo demonstration, and decide to take their offer to go up on stage and give one of them a few good whacks on the helmet. I take a card. (Another thing to do? Really?). I find the Haiku Society and enter the one I wrote the night before. I don’t know the man behind the table but he recognizes my name as last year’s winner, and we make arrangements to get my book prize. Always nice to make an impression. I once again stump the women who will write your name in calligraphy on a book mark with my annual request for Dancing Bear in traditional characters. The younger woman who draws mine resorts to voice searching some site on her iPhone but manages to make me another temple bell pendant for this year. I wander through the Go room and pick up a pen made from recycled paper at the City of Matasue table. Matasue is a sister city to New Orleans, based in part on Hearn’s residence in their city and our’s. I grabbed some lunch from Ninja sushi, and manage to chop-stick up the last few grains of rice from my plate one by one.
I’m having a fantastic time, and I haven’t met Bon Koizumi yet.
My particular friend and my son text me within minutes of each other. Both have decided to come. Awkward, the little sing-song voice in my head telsl me but it turns out fine. Later they sat and chatted naturally as I went to buy us waters, another fortuitous moment in the day. I buy them wristbands and my son is off to the anime room upstairs but I notice the ikebana table is already torn down. It is four o’clock and I forgot that the times had been shifted to work around the 5k race this morning. It is all over except for the final taiko set. She and I wander back into the hall full of vending tables and I go back to see if the porcelain plate, a fluted rectangle with a high-gloss tropical ocean blue finish in one triangular patch, and the other rough clay with fine striations like the rakings of a karesansui garden. Miraculously it is still there. I’m dead broke and trying not to buy anything but I desperately want one of the miniature net floats, the glass balls bound in a net of rope that I have seen before in Quarter shops long ago. I had a long conversation with the couple behind the table when I first stopped there earlier in the day about the full-sized float, telling them they used to wash up on Grand Isle and such places. They didn’t know they were found in the Gulf. We discuss the wide-ranging Japanese fishing fleet and ocean currents while I occasionally pick up and admire the plate, then wander off empty-handed.
When I come back, they remember me. We’re about to close up, he says, I’ll make you a deal on anything on the table. I pick up the plate. Ten dollars, he says. I smile and reach for the last miniature float and my wallet. As we turn to go I notice something I did not see before, or which was not on the table. It’s a clearly used walking stick inscribed with three Kanji characters. I love walking sticks and can’t resist picking it up, holding it in two open hands and staring after hefting it. The characters mean I have walked the three mountains, he tells me, explaining that pilgrims who visit the Three Mountains and climb to the Shinto temple at the summit of each have their walking sticks stamped with these characters. I think I manage a wow while nodding in appreciation and stand holding the stick out before me at forearms length in my open palms like a an altar boy holding the cloth for the priest at the consecration.
I will never know why, perhaps something about the way and length of time I hold the stick that way, my head moving slightly to take it in from handle to foot, stopping each time to rest on the three characters. Take it, he says.
What? I answer. Take it, he says. It’s yours.
I hardly know what to say. The couple are American enthusiasts. This is not the stereotypical story of admiring an Asian man’s watch too long or too enthusiastically.
Seriously? I ask again, impolitely I realize. I’m just dumbstruck by his offer.
Absolutely, he says with no further explanation,smiling, arms folded to end the discussion.
I don’t know what else to do but return the stick to is customary stance resting on the ground, and shake his hand and thank him.
Earlier I spoke with the architect who designed the Japanese garden, offering my admiration and hearing about his two summers studying in Japan. I offer to volunteer, to pick litter from the dry stream bed that wanders through the garden, the nod of karesansui in the small space, anxious to learn some of the secrets. I feel an invisible poke in the ribs through the corner of the eye from my friend. (Another thing to do? Really? When do you plan to sleep?). I tell him of the gardens I have seen in the U.S., and my dream of a pilgrimage to Japan to visit the gardens. We exchange cards; no bowing this time.
I have always spoken of my hope to visit the Prefecture of Kyoto in Japan and see the gardens as a pilgrimage. Now I stand in my house holding a pilgrim’s stick with its unearned, at least by me, inscription. Yamagata Prefecture is not near to Kyoto. Perhaps I will never climb the Three Mountains of Dewa if I go to Japan, but holding this object I think about the relationship between this gift and geis, the ancient Celtic curse of obligation. I know visiting the gardens of Kyoto is not just a bucket list dream of a man working paycheck to paycheck with no prospect of retirement beyond Social Security. It has always been more than just that but as I place the stick against the wall next to the front room bookshelves I know that I will go, that I must go. There was a reason for the gift neither I nor the gentleman who gave it to me understood at the time, an unspoken communication between the stones of the Shinto temples of Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan and Mount Yudono and those of the gardens of Kyoto and the American gardens I have seen, the stones I have seen today, a reminder of a dreamy, romanticized desire straight from the pages of Yakumo Koizumi become now an obligation of pilgrimage, no longer a possible indulgence of a man with time and money to spare but an ordained act of grace.
Postscript: Most readers will glance past the title and think it just a clever turn of phrase from a former headline writer, but there is something a bit deeper. The chants written down by Sugar Boy Crawford half a century ago and which became the song “Iko Iko” are phonetic appropriations from Creole, warped either by time or Sugar Boy’s phonetic transcription. Jocomo fi nou wa na né is one researchers assertion, meaning Jocomo caused our king to be born. Jocomo fi na né is approximately “Jocomo made it so”, and I think Yokamo did.
Endless Vacation’s Last Parade October 14, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Gentilly, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Endless Vacation, parade
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They came by twos and threes and fives by bicycle up Esplanade as I sat doing my laundry, everyone smiling like it’s a church picnic, the women all wearing something pink and gauzy in their hair, everyone dressed not quite in costume but like a circus on holiday. One guy had a horn case on his back. Something happening in the park, I tell myself as I crush my cigarette and go back into fold underwear.
I get home and toss the surplus dufflebag on the bed where it still lies. My son shows no enthusiasm for going to Blues Fest and frankly I have no stomach for crowds, beer and boogie today, a busy week behind me and another in front of me. I’m dead out on the couch when the sound wakes me coming up Fortin Street, a small band playing a slow, gay, vaguely European march, Nina Rota’s idea of a village band. I missed the banners in front, and call out to find they are Endless Vacation. “It’s their last parade,” I swear she said but in my half-awake, stuporous joy I might have heard them wrong. Most of them just walk wearing broad grins like masks, a few few high step and swing their arms high in time and others prace like parts of a carousel. They turn into the empty lot next door because it is there. The band stops in the middle and continues the same song, the same eight bars over and over again, and more of them break into a broad, skipping dance, a few by twos or threes join hands and do the same skip-dance in a circle.
I look for a camera, a microphone boom, a plump-faced man from off the wall of an Italian restaurant, hair pomaded high and back, to stand with a megaphone to shout directions but this is not Fellini, this is vérité, just another typically Odd bit of life in New Orleans, a reminder of why I am here. After perhaps five minutes, the banners move through the lot toward Maurepas and turn left against the one-way street. The parade slowly reforms, the solo dancers and circles aligning like filings to a magnet, and careens on toward downtown, the circus air fading in the distance, leaving the raucously quarrelsome feral parrots silent in the trees.
I stand on my stoop smoking, trying to reconcile Endless Vacation with a last parade and decide every parade must be the last until someone suggests the next, an inside joke informing their bright-eyed, psilocybin smiles. Perhaps they never mean to stop, the invincible certainly of youth, to march until they pass into that unrecorded ward where every day is sunny, Sunday and Carnival, leaving a puzzled city all humming the same song on Mondays as regular as red beans, with no idea where they heard it and unable to resist its lilting insistence.
Rhythm and Hooves October 11, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, New Orleans, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
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If you want to get women, forget the dog. Get a pygmy goat.
The owner moved through the crowd with the goat in his arms, his own tight Bacchic curls. He gladly offered the goat the moment you reached out to pet it then slid off to the side like a magician revealing the hidden woman inside the cabinet. The men always took the goat when offered. Each stroked it gently as a woman might a cat, cradled it like a baby with the broad grins of new fathers, the tiny horns suggesting a hundred sons. The women crowded around, oohed and took pictures and suddenly Socrates’ power was obvious, the wriggling virility beneath the curly pelt of petting-zoo cute. The blues act out of Tallahassee held center stage like a Ferris wheel but here in our corner under the oak the goat turned the tip away from the stage and into the promised sideshow mysteries.
Socrates never make a sound, even when he tried to gallop out of someone’s arms back to his owner, but I imagined him late, in the backyard beneath the bedroom window, bleating in time
Sea of Tranquility October 2, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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You lie in the tub reading the new book of poems and think: there is no ink black enough for this man’s words. This is not the tonic you require but you read on with the compulsive satisfaction of a cigarette, trading time for the the pleasurable release of smoke. You glance at the medicine cabinet and try to remember when the half becomes the whole, the moon white promised antidote to enveloping darkness. You lay the bleak but beautiful book aside and sink into the amniotic warmth, listen to the random minor notes of the solar lantern wind chime, a perhaps unwise impulse purchase of a man on the cusp of unemployment but the tones are soothing, the intermittence dissolving time in a minor key.
You wash, dry and dress and carry the book into the living room and contemplate: the yielding couch, the book of dark poems, the evaporation of the droplets left on the tile floor into an afternoon. Perhaps a nap, but no: the book commands your attention, the poems’ ability to turn darkness into light. There is magic in such pages and you would have it, more than a cigarette or your forgotten lunch. On the back patio the wind chimes count the time without regard for your presence, the infinite series of moments that constitute eternity, your own as insignificant as the higher iterations of pi.
When it grows dark you will retire to the patio, the book complete and consider the grammatical formula for the transmutation of darkness into light. The chimes will sound, and the frosted globe will glow—a personal moon—with its bit of stolen sunlight. You will search for the Sea of Tranquility in its soft illumination, imagine the boot tracks of your youth frozen there forever and your own transience will dissolve, the sum of your moments coalescing into something: these words perhaps. You think: I will forget these words before I can write them down, and will put the invisible manuscript where no one can see.
I Am Not Alright, But I Am Upright September 22, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, Poetry, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Illusion Fields, Moose Jackson, O'Neill's Lament, Raymond "Moose" Jackson, Treme, We are not alright but we are upright
Four people came to Toulouse Street looking for “new orleans upright tattoo” and all four clicked through to hear Raymond “Moose” Jackson’s “O’Neil’s Lament”. Some words have power beyond their simple human utterance, and Jackson’s words struck me so strongly as an epigraph for a place and time, an epigram for what others had already forgotten, that I will wear them on my right arm until the end. Bury me in a sleeveless shirt, right arm toward the room.
As I finish re-watching Season Two and prepare to read a year’s worth of Wet Bank Guide in preparation for Sunday’s premiere and the conversations to come on Back of Town I recall last season’s Treme teaser poem by Gian Smith, “Oh Beautiful Storm.” I think the refrain from “O’Neill’s Lament” on Jackson’s Illusion Fields disk gets as close to the wound inside the characters of Treme, a hidden stigmata that haunts them like a waft of church door incense on a lapsed Catholic, as an outsider can possibly get.
New Orleans or New Haven, first-time viewer or Treme Sunday devotee, give “O’Neill’s Lament” a listen before Sunday’s show.
We are not alright, but we are upright.
Malfaubourlgia September 22, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Faubourg St. John, Fortin Street, Gentilly, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Detroit Lakes, Hell, houses
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There is a discount outlet of Hell in my attic. I’m convinced. The rule is never to turn off the ceilings fans in my son’s room and the back kitchen, and more importantly not to turn them on late afternoon if you’ve forgotten and turned them off. Switching on the kitchen fan at three, even when the window unit is set to 72 degrees and you don’t break a sweat doing two sinks of dishes, is like turning on the oven.
There are more reasonable explanations for this if you insist. The house is old. I think the landlord said sometime in the 1920s, and I wasn’t sure if that was pride in its sturdiness or an excuse for its shortcomings. It seems solid enough in the main, and shook no more in the worst gusts of Hurricane Issaac than it does for a next-door, kettle-drum peal of thunder. The claw footed tub is charming, but the lack of a shower is not. The floor beneath the bathroom is giving way, the bathroom tiles fracturing for a second time in a year, and I moved the refrigerator from the small back room into the small kitchen when it began to list dangerously to port. The fourteen foot ceilings are a blessing when it’s warm, at least until you forgetfully turn on the fan you should not have turned off in the first place. Thespiders are quite safe in their high corners, although the flies from the track prefer to keep company with the groundlings and never venture up to spider height. Behind those 14 foot ceilings is an attic only accessible by the small vents at each end, and I am quite sure that what ever material once passed for insulation, horsehair perhaps, has turned to dust. The house faces north-south and as the long run of the roof captures the afternoon heat it’s attention Hell-Mart shoppers, special on boiling pitch just over the kitchen.
The flies are another clue to the Beezelbublian nature of the place. It could be the race track: all that horseflesh digesting all that fodder into horseshit that draws the crows in great droves when the tractor rakes the dirt, but there’s no point in letting rational explanations get in the way of those that go best with cold beer on dark, warm nights. It’s an old habit of mine. Long ago I told my children’s mother that the thunk she heard every night around 10 pm in my basement apartment on Massachusetts Avenue N.E. in Washington, D.C. was the ghost of the tenant who hung himself upstairs at just that time. Don’t tell me about the settling of an old row house as the last of the afternoon Potomac heat escapes. Give me a good ghost story instead. I never got much more out of that story than a look I found charming 20 years ago, but then she was raised from German-Irish stock in North Dakota where over the generations imagination became reserved for private worry over whether the corn and potatoes would last until spring, and suspension of disbelief was reserved for church.
I lived in a house of similar vintage in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, a beautiful old Craftsman style that would look right at home in New Orleans. It was The Norby House, once the family home of the owners of the local department store. I used to tell the children that the fertility of that shady place in back where plants grew rampant was because old Mr. Norby was buried there, even if I knew it had probably once been the privy. The windows in that houes were original, handmade glass with the ripples and bubbles of their forging. Everything was original including the cloth wiring, which hung from glass insulators attached to the floor rafters in the basement. One run ran up a pipe to a wall sconce my my daughter’s room, a line that I think was not conduit but perhaps had once been a gas line. seller’s The fresh coat of paint on that house peeled the first winter, as the heat leaching out of the house met the below-zero air outside. You could feel it along the walls: whatever had once insulated them floor to ceiling had crumbled to dust in the bottom third of the wall. The house came with not one but two oil tanks in the basement which together would make a proper locomotive boiler, and I still wonder how we managed to afford to fill them. I would do nothing about the gorgeous original windows except to drag out a 24-foot extension ladder twice a year, and haul up and down the original wood-frame storm windows, each about 20 pounds of wood and glass. They hung from hooks at the top, and I had to lean back away from the house with feet and knees interlocked to the ladder to get them on the hooks, realizing that the best I could hope for is that the ladder would follow me down and knock me unconscious so I wouldn’t feel the pain of my other injuries.
You have to have at thing about old houses approaching the clinically disturbing to stand at the top of a fully extended ladder and do that.
This is not a bad old house. There’s that stain on the kitchen floor that is traceable either to human sacrifice or someone rebuilding a motorcycle engine on the linoleum. The brown carpet would do any U.S. route motel proud, and the color hides most stains pretty well except coffee, the thing I spill the most. The windows are cheap aluminum which I discovered in my first week here can be jimmied with a screw driver using less effort than opening a jar of pickles. (I though I had perhaps left it unlocked, until I went to close it after the police left and noticed the latch was closed, and the small dimple in the frame.) Then again there are fans beneath those high ceilings in every room, and that claw foot tub I can actually submerge myself in. I passed on several places with the brutally-industrial, wall-mounted gas space heaters but when I heard the rent for something here on the Gentilly frontier of the fashionable Faubourgh St. John, I resigned myself to them. I have lived in enough old New Orleans houses to find the singing of the gas on a winter’s night soothing, even if I’d rather have the tremendously less efficient and more dangerous ceramic and iron grate sitting inside the bricked up fireplace. The flies are a bother but I would rather sit on my stoop and watch the horses at their morning exercise than than sit in a sterile granite kitchen staring out the window at a holiday-swallowing lawn. The mantles may just be mantles but the scrap of Krewe du Vieux-salvaged plywood hell fire that sits under the one in front is as much of a fire place as needed in New Orleans and goes well with the infernal commerce upstairs, where I like to imagine there are demonic bats in their hundreds waiting for evening, mosquitoes and a chance to get tangled in your hair.
Odd Words July 14, 2012Posted by The Typist in books, literature, memoir, Odd Words, Poetry, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I promise, we’ll get to Odd Words in a moment, but first a word from our sponsor” The Typist.
I think you have the right to tell your story and like I said I think you should do what you can to protect the privacy of those you write about . . . ultimately, what you’re really trying to do is tell the story of who you are. Sometimes you have to include other people, but mostly it needs to be about you.”
— Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the pseudonymous column Dear Sugar on The Rumpus.
The explosion of auto-biographical writing and creative non-fiction (and the line between the two is not at all clear unless autobiography appears somewhere in the cover, making the other people in the writer’s life just fuzzy enough to not be easily identifiable), may be the last gasp of the Me-X-Y generation. The seminar leaders take up the line as old as Hemingway: write what you know. That is what so many writers are doing, except they are not concerned with fictionalizing their material but with creatively structuring real lives, real people. If they do not do it well it will not be compelling and will fall by the wayside. Joan Didion has not fallen by the wayside. Tom Wolfe has not fallen into obscu1rity. Grab the reader by the short hairs and drag them into a compelling story and the lines between autobiography, creative non-fiction, roman de clef, and first-person New Journalism become matter for academics.
It would take more time than I have to find the point at which Toulouse Street began to become something other that just Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans. It begins with the first person nature of the vignettes that filled the early blog and I don’t think it happened all at once. First Moloch entered the picture, the large national bank I work for. I was not writing about the bank. I was writing about my own descent into burn out working for a corporate monolith. I don’t have time to scan through 1,150 posts to find the real tipping point but I jetted all the way to the back of the list and on Sept. 21, 2007 I posted up a You Tube video of Radiohead’s “Fitter, Happier” not just as another “I have nothing to say today bit of music I like but as a clue, no not a clue because I didn’t consciously know where I was going at the time, where it would lead. By October 2010 it has progressed to this:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin
the that appeared Oct. 17, 2010, just a few weeks after I left the house on Toulouse Street, grabbing what I though most important and fleeing to the St. Vincent Home for Wayward Boys, the hotel on Magazine noted for its low rates, interesting clientele and bed bugs. I have not mentioned the world divorce in the first person until this moment. I searched and checked. If you are still hear not just for Odd Words (and yes we will get to that in a minute) you may or may not have found The Narrative hidden among the other posts. Perhaps you had to know me already. I hope not as that would mean I have failed in some sense, been too cryptic or simply failed to tell a compelling story. No, this is not a swan song. I am not about to stop now. Some things bear repeating, a technique known at tautology when it is used in writers as sparse as Raymond Carver. I am not half to clever. I am simply going to repeat the quote that has probably appeared too often in the main column in recent months, and cannot be repeated often enough: “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.
& If I were a timely person I would not be telling you about an event that starts in less than an hour, but I’ll stick it in here anyway as we are in the summer doldrums at the bookstores. Garden District Book Shop features novelist Pamela Binnings Ewen and her book Chasing The Wind starting at 1 p.m. and running until 3 p.m., although by the time you see this the reading will probably be past and she’ll just be signing books. Shame on me.
& Today is Bastille Day and there will be all sorts of festivities just up the block and the Bayou (Faubourg St. John) location of Maple Street Books will be having 20%$ off sale. In fact all of the shops will be having a sale but I’m trying to lure you down to Esplanade. The party starts at 5 but the bookstore is already open. All day July 14.
& On July 18th the Healing Center location of the Maple Street
Empire Bookshop will host Kim Vodicka and her first full length book of poetry AESTHESIA BALDERDASH, published by New Orleans’s own Trembling Pillow Press. July 18th, at 6:00 P.M. Aesthesia Balderdash is Kim Vodicka’s first, full-length book of poems which “both mock and exalt femininity and feminine “types”. The text is drunk most of the time on seduction and repulsion. It satirizes the American girl’s desire to be an elle—a woman worthy of the belles and whistles of the French feminin suffixes (-ette, -euse, -enne). In short, Aesthesia Balderdash is “whispery, pink-packaged poesie signed by Elizabeth Arden and sealed with an adulteress.”
And that’s it for bookstore events, which I knew before I started and lapse into my rambling thoughts above. Open mic at the Maple Leaf on Sunday, and the weekly Spoken Word New Orleans Speak Easy Sundays Poetry at the Club Caribbean 2441 Bayou Road at 7 p.m. Cover. Visit their website for updates on other spoken words and visiting artists all around town.
An event I missed entirely until I was led their last night was the Southern Comfort Tour reading at the Mudlark Theater last night. The most memorable was local author Utahna Faith’s piece featuring Exile on Main Street. Somehow Sam Jasper and I managed to avoid rehashing, except for a raised eyebrow reminding me of our disagreement, the long standing argument over the place of Keith Richard’s triumphant monument’s place in the Stones’ discography. If I’d had Piano Dave there to back me up we might still be there disputing this point. We all got dinner at the St. Roch instead and grabbed cabs home.
“It doesn’t matter if I get a little tired” July 12, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Someone said to me the other day “If you don’t slow and and catch up on your sleep deficit, you’re shortening your life,” to which I replied:
I don’t think 12-hour conference calls or 12 hours of school work a week for one lousy credit is exactly what Zevon had in mind, but the rest of it’s pretty apt. (I do not own a .38 Special, so no worries).
Warren Zevnon died at 56.
I didn’t ever become a writer, or only by accident June 25, 2012Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, Fortin Street, literature, New Orleans, quotes, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Writing.
If I really appreciated literature I would have become a writer for that reason. But that’s not why I became a writer. In fact, maybe I didn’t ever become a writer, or only by accident . . . maybe I’ve only ever written to understand why I was so afraid. I never wrote to participate in a noble tradition. I wrote to communicate, to explore my own feelings and work through various interpretations of the world. You know, the search for meaning, stuff like that. It wasn’t until I was at Stanford, much later, twenty-nine years old on a creative writing fellowship, when I finally met all these other writers. They all seemed to write for exactly the opposite reason of why I wrote.
That’s not even true. But many of them loved literature and wrote for that reason. How would I know why anybody wrote? Where does the poetry in this come in? Sometimes a sentence is just beautiful, but how can I learn to appreciate a painting? Do I have to learn how to paint? I’ll never be able to tell you the difference between a very good painting and a great painting. I loved the Van Gogh museum. There you just immerse in the mind of this man. It’s not required to understand which of the paintings are minor and which are major. You’re just there, taking it in.
— Stephen Elliot
His Dream. His Toy. His Rest. May 18, 2012Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, poem, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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mumble grumble mumble work mumble tired grumble mumble drink, Yes? mumble YES mumble hmmmmm… thwssk!shhhh . . .
. . . There ought to be a law against Henry.
—Mr. Bones: there is.