Brilliantly Literate Occasional Gewgaws February 26, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”
— Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac
Therapist: “What sort of writing do you do. I mean: long form, short form…”
Me: “Well, I primarily write poetry. And I have had these two blogs. The one called Wet Bank Guide…”
Therapist: “What was that?”
Me: ” WET Bank Guide. I used to work for a newspaper call the West Bank Guide and it seemed an apt title for a Katrina-focused blog…
[Pause to allow for brief scribbling. Therapist changes subject].
[Long, distracted, non-ADD pause by me to consider changing therapists after 1.5 meetings.
Nah, everybody does that].
I think I may refer to my therapist in this space henceforth as my “psychologer.” Not to be demeaning or anything. Just because I can. Because I am The Typist.
Any resemblance to psychologers real or imagined by others is orthoganally tangential and in the Particular & Peculiar Public Domain which I, The Typist, create here.
Time Out of Mind February 22, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, Haiku, Poetry, The Narrative, The Typist.
Tags: Ikkyu, time
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I didn’t see one thing on my trip but I breathed and whatever I breathed was time
Find X February 21, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, FYYFF, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I AM PICKT UP AND SORTED TO A PIP. MY IMAGINATION IS A MONASTERY AND I AM ITS MONK.
— Keats to Shelley, taken from the epigraph page of John Berryman’s His Toy, His Dream, His Rest
Riddle me this, oh Minnesota Multiphasic: If ghosts or spirits do not influence people to do good or bad, how then to explain the history of mankind? Get back to me on that one when you have decoded the mystery of Consciousness
A. A violent order is a disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These
Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)
— Wallace Stevens, “A Connesieur of Chaos”
“I am a statistical outlier,” said I to the therapist on my initial intake visit. [Much scribbling] I recovered enough statistics from the vast cold storage of my idiosyncratic memory while studying for a Six Sigma Green Belt to understand Standard Deviation. I am, then, a deviant, and so potentially pathological. It is interesting that the application of these ideas to systems containing living breathing thinking feeling human beings comes from the Japanese, who value a Confucian conformity above all else.
To what extent does a lifetime’s training to “do well” on anything involving a scantron render something like the MMP, which relies on an honest rather than a best answer, a quaint anachronism?
The 10 Clinical Subscales
The older MMPI-2 is made up 10 clinical subscales, which are a result of answering certain questions on the test in a specific manner:
Psychopathic Deviate (Pd) – The Psychopathic Deviate scale measures general social maladjustment and the absence of strongly pleasant experiences. The items on this scale tap into complaints about family and authority figures in general, self alienation, social alienation and boredom. The scale contains 50 items.
It is not strongly pleasant experiences that concern us here, but rather the absence in society at large of entirely rational and pervasive fits of rage and depression, that absence symptomatic of a society suffering a disturbing level of delusion about the culture and economic systems under which it lives.
I am a valuable but dangerous commodity, something like uranium, in the work-a-day world: Exceptionally bright and good at what I do when inclined to do so (emphasis mine, and therein lies what might be considered the pathology), and militantly resistant to the subtle neo-facism of Corporate Culture. I am a time thief in service of other interests, and understand that the old ways of loyalty in service in return for reliable employment no longer apply: the social and employment contract (the latter at once subtly stipulated and explicitly repudiated) reduced to a grease can to oil the wheels of capitalism. I am by no choice of my own a contractor. I am Surplus Labor personified. In a world in which theft and commerce are one and the same I dare to place myself on an equal footing with the 1% in service of my own agendas. I carry away a tiny bit of Surplus Value in my pocket everyday from which I construct dangerous weapons of mass disillusionment: poetry, this blog and other forms of thought crime.
As I said above: I am, then, a deviant, and so potentially pathological but only to the extent I am subvervise (contagious in a pathological sense, a danger to The Others or, more importantly, to Them). This has always been a powerful undercurrent here on Toulouse Street. Careful if you wade in too deep. You may never find your way back. You have not washed up on Paradise Island. This is samidzat, a basement bivouac in the defense of Stalingrad haunted by a peasant folksong, a mine in the classical military sense beneath the prison labor camp we have built with our own hands.
Sixth months ain’t no sentence February 20, 2015Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Six months I have wandered and sought, excavated closets, scoured books, and read the crazed fragments of once familiar streets ( heaving in gentle tectonics, from dust to dust) & not even the iridescent scatter of glitter is enough.
Somebody, somebody must hold the key.
Henry’s Confession February 20, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, The Typist.
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—You is from hunger, Mr Bones, I offers you this handkerchief, now set your left foot by my right foot, shoulder to shoulder, all that jazz, arm in arm, by the beautiful sea, hum a little, Mr Bones.
—I saw nobody coming, so I went instead.
Radio Free Toulouse February 15, 2015Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic 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 cryptic 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
Mendacity February 14, 2015Posted by The Typist in Carnival, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Bacchus, Endymion, mendacity
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Somewhere out There (not here) Endymion leans on his shepard’s staff and contemplates the moon. This is so distant from what will erupt a few blocks away this evening as to be almost out of reach, but I would choose to be there however long the walk.
Somewhere along the canals of Venice, or climbing the Albaicín in the midday hallucinatory alleys of the past I lost Carnival and I’m not sure where to find it. The Bacchanal of of this weekend holds no appeal, hasn’t for years, really. The endless parade of megafloats is a Zero, not a point but a hollow as big as infinity, god’s bottomless junk drawer. I have abandoned MoM’s, filed it away as memories of Arabi long ago.
Tuesday they promise rain.
What is missing is me, the old Dionysian me. I looked in my costume trunks (smelling a bit of midew; all must go in the wash), but did not find it there. I know it’s in here somewhere, likes to sneak off to the Holy Ground and play the chatty barfly. I start to wonder if I can find it Here, in this city of my birth. It is drowning again and too few seem to notice, our Lord Mayor the Krewe Captain of the final Americanization, an apocalype as large as Katrina and similarly invited by those who refused to see the faults were not in the stars but in themselves.
Today my neighborhood is Kenner, just another big box strip mall boulevard just off the exit marked America 1/4 mile. (America 1/8th mile. America 1/16th mile. American 1/32nd mile…), a paradox I have no interest in teting. My friend the Pill Doctor would call this depression but it is not. It is a sadness as infinute as zero, a nostalgia for all that was almost lost in apocalypse and a sadness that those who did not drown are being sold into the galleys to pull their oars like Real Americans.
I am not a real American. I think the last vestiges of anything ike patriotism were burned away when the last Apollo climbed into the morning sky. I simply didn’t realize it until the Federal Flood washed away all illusions, a catastrophc baptism into what? Something like a promised salvation, a clean slate in the aftermath that proved itself the medicine bottle of a thousand Cousin Dudley’s who’s only interest is to cash in on mendacity.
BIG DADDY: I’ve lived with mendacity!—Why can’t you live with it? Hell, you got to live with it, there’s nothing else to live with except mendacity, is there?
New Orleans as Big Daddy, dying of cancer that has spread to murder, greed, conformity, and the lot of them–the mayor, the uptown money, the downtown carpetbagers–all circling, eyeing each other, trying to get their hands on 28,000 of the finest acres this side of the Nile.
That is what Endymion and Bacchus are to me: mendacity, the Lexus and American Express suburbanites slumming in the city tossing trinkets to the pick up truck port-o-let crowd come downriver from Kenner pretending this is Carnival.
Carnival is not Blaine Kern and a movie star grand marshall. Carnival is a Spirit and I’m looking for a preacher who knows that Holy Ghost. Perhaps if it’s warm and rainy Mardi Gras, I will walk naked as Ezekial through a mostly empty Quarter with eyes like wheels of fire, one saved in the desert by ravens while looking for my place in the story I seemed to have laid aside and lost track of, a prophet of the wrathful god of water, preaching sin and sin again in perfect innocence while we still have time, before one flood or another washes the slate so clean Noah cannot find the mount.
Crow’ Theology January 25, 2015Posted by The Typist in poem, Poetry, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Crow, Ted Hughes
By Ted Hughes
Crow realized God loved him —
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.
And he realized that God spoke Crow —
Just existing was His revelation.
Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?
And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?
Crow realized there were two Gods —
One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.
One Upon A Bayou January 23, 2015Posted by The Typist in History, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Bayou St. John
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Once upon a bayou an old man and woman came down Esplanade almost daily to the shore. Under the watchful eyes of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard (C.S.A) the man sat beneath an unravelling straw hat with a cane pole, fishing. The woman in an apron bent and picked dandelion greens in the ancient posture of the plantation. She placed them in an old, plastic ice cream bucket on which the plastic handle had been replaced by a string of twine.
Once upon a time there were such people? There are no lard-fried bream and dandelion green dinners preserved in the freezer aisle at Winn-Dixie. On my way home, turning north at the General’s statue–the direction of his resentful gaze–on the bank a small tractor pulls a spray tank, scarecrow arms extended. Dandelions no longer mar the view of park lawns from the high-rise apartment building on the opposite shore.
Once upon a time there were such people.
Introduction to a longer poem, and a parable for New Orleans. If you chose someday not to publish the poem because of this post, fine. Return to munching leaves or carrion, after your scaly fashion. Your time will come, too.
Diary of a Hermit Crab Home Worker January 20, 2015Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.
February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.
– Log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way
[Loop: Marlboro Theme Song Performed by the Incredible String Band} January 15, 2015Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic 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 cryptic 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.
Knife Switch December 31, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Or, The ritualistic use of tobacco and whiskey in modulating irregularities in pharmacologically induced states of a socially integrated and productive equilibrium perceived by the subject as happiness.
One whiskey, two whiskeys, three whiskeys, snore. The addition of Buproprion to an SSRI regimen to combat a lethargy born of a crisis in the ability to give a fuck is not indicated if significant sleep disturbances occur. Such disturbances lead to a reliance on coffee (praised be its name) to overcome the loss of sleep resulting in an aggravation in sleep disturbances. Don’t drink so much coffee is not included in the detailed, agate-type instructions and cautions.
Socially integrated. Forget Integration of the Self, the once Holy Grail attainable by psychotherapy or a whispered, $300 personal mantra.
‘Selfhood’ or complete autonomy is a common Western approach to psychology and models of self are employed constantly in areas such as psychotherapy and self-help. Edward E. Sampson (1989) argues that the preoccupation with independence is harmful in that it creates racial, sexual and national divides and does not allow for observation of the self-in-other and other-in-self.
The very notion of selfhood has been attacked on the grounds that it is seen as necessary for the mechanisms of advanced capitalism to function. In Inventing our selves: Psychology, power, and personhood, Nikolas Rose (1998) proposes that psychology is now employed as a technology that allows humans to buy into an invented and arguably false sense of self. In this way, ‘Foucault’s theories of self have been extensively developed by Rose to explore techniques of governance via self-formation…the self has to become an enterprising subject, acquiring cultural capital in order to gain employment’, thus contributing to self-exploitation.
Integration, then, into what? My current state of disintegration–indicated by the inability to give a fuck, by anti-social tendencies bordering on agoraphobia relieved only by occasional atavistic, narcissistic forays into barflyism–is unlikely to be relieved by anything short of a trip to Room 101. Some breakthrough is required but in my current state of disinsurance it will have to be a breakthrough of my own making.
There are a million doors in the naked city, exterior and interior, almost all of them painted in a uniform palette of whites . How then to find the one that may be opened by the application of the correct bottle (larger or smaller), by incantation (Speak, Friend) or by kicking the fucker down? What lies beyond it, in the magical land where old dogs learn new tricks? (Everybody’s going to be happy/That means you and me, my love). Or is consideration of this possibility simply another trap set by society to keep us moving along (nothing to see here; you’ll be late for work), a new flavor of savior on a stick?
In the event of an emergency, are you able to fill in the blank seat-back card in the pocket in front of you and execute what you have written?
Enter Title Here December 27, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Some days demand nothing, not a vacuum but an absence of structure. At the holidays in particular there comes a point where a day of aimless amble, perhaps a ramble through Cansecos for a few necessities; all the chores stored up for this expensive long weekend started but left unfinished, at least for today. It is raining. There is a hangover involved, and out too late mesmerized past sense by music. I slept until one, my careful attention to keeping myself on a reasonable schedule when I must get up at 6:30 a.m. most days but have no office where I must appear except as an icon on a screen; that’s shot all to hell. That is where the nothing began: nothing as tangible as the sink of dirty dishes or stepping over the scattered winter clothes on my floor but an abstraction, a one not a zero or a two. A nice, round number, admimiting no possibility of the computation of an endless irrationality. I debated coffee versus pillow, a day of black emptiness but decided I ought to try to get back on something like Corporate Standard Time. The house cleaning I began to late yesterday (as I lingered over a book I wanted to finish) can wait. I might file a few of the carefully stacked papers, clean off the kitchen table, pass a Swiffer over the freshly mopped floor where I spilled coffee grinds this morning. Or I might not. I have other books to linger over. The grey overcast is a lullaby of listlessness, relieved only by the pool of lamplight at the couch. A new book, the Kinks anthology I received for Xmas, grown children who do not demand to be taken out into the snow or to the theater for some Xmas release, no demand to make Barbie talk or battle to conquer the Pokemon universe. Those days are long behind me. Nothing ventured, nothing gained: nothing true about that statement. A careful review of the mix of “See My Friends” by headphones, the new book of poetry from the book club I just rejoined. Nothing ventured, something gained: composure, an easing of the infernal spring inside my head, yesterday’s escape from Beckett’s The Unamable, my own compelling or distracting voices stilled by the overwhelming presence of the narrator’s voices. The only voice today is recognizably my own, relaxed enough for the first time in uncountable time to simply share my thoughts here, the pinnacle of the day. That and perhaps a piece of pie.
The Unnamable December 26, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, literature, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Malloy, Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett, The Unamable
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Malloy? By all means yes. Malone Dies? Unquestionably. Read it soon. The Unnamable, well, unless you recognize that voice, unless that voice of imagination and uncertainty, curiosity and fear is unceasing in your head, that voice springs out of your dreams and into full stream the moment you awake, then proceed with caution. This way madness lies. If the narrator stills your own voice, replaces you own neurotic fantasy dystopia with The Unnameable, bringing with it the calm of insomniac familiarity, strengthens your resolve to not surrender to the utter certainty of despair, this last book may, perhaps, but not certainly (one can never be certain) be suitable for you.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales December 25, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: A Child's Christmas in Wales, Dyland Thomas, Xmas
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Matthew 25:40 December 24, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Merry Fucking Xmas, William Burroughs, Xmas
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The old version of A Junkie’s Christmas has been taken down from YouTube due to multiple copyright violations by the poster, and the new one cannot be embedded here because there is no commercial partnership between WordPress and YouTube.
I think this perfectly embodies the entwined spirits of modern Capitalism and Xianism.
The video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6kHN92Yv48
If you wish to keep X in your Xmas, there are still shopping hours left to get yourself a whip and drive the cashiers out of the nearest department store.
30 Century Man December 11, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
The video is a complete waste of your time: full of sound and worry, signifying nothing. I created it a few years ago Christmas after spending an entire day watching a House marathon, an activity for me that is not far removed from standing on a ledge throwing pigeons at the fire department while shouting gibberish.
Perhaps it’s not a complete waste of time. Not of mine, at least. Despite any desire to vanish into Africa or the South Pacific, I am not that likely to jump the next freight west to search for the ghost of Charles Bukowski in the sun-shocked underworld that is L.A. Maybe it’s just something I needed to get out of my system, a swollen psychological boil painfully anticipating the sitz bath of annihilation.
If this video speaks to you in some way, it may not be too late to get help. I find the drug stores in New Orleans among the finest in the world. You traverse the liquor aisle to reach the pharmacist.
Its Black Absence November 27, 2014Posted by The Typist in Poetry, Shield of Beauty, The Narrative, The Typist.
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Notice the crow
the artist’s calligraphy
“Crow is flown”)
is not pictured
in his kakejiku
its black absence
from the spray
of violet oleander,
a single petal falls
like a farewell tear
Do Horses Named Satan Go to Heaven? November 25, 2014Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
The hospice nurse, a Carmelite nun, asks me if I am Catholic (she asks if my mother is Catholic, as if that were not a rosary around her neck). Apostate, I say. Surely you were raised Catholic she asks. Well enough to know the difference between apostate and lapsed, I reply. She gives my shoulder a wrestler’s squeeze. If her god had caller her to lift and break rocks and she had obeyed, she would have been brilliant, a saint.
Talk to her, she said. I read some Psalms to your mother. I sure she can hear, are her parting words, reminding not to sit there like some adjunct to the oxygen machine but to talk to her. She was unresponsive to my name when I came in. I continue to sit and watch and think, not long after the nun has left, this is how the crucified die. The way she flairs her arms, tries to lift herself a bit off the pillow to suck a little more air into her contracting lungs, much like a typical crucifiction, the men hung by their arms so that they had to lift themselves up to breath. The Romans, out of kindness, boredom or an aversion to overtime, would break their arms if they lingered too long, so that the victim could no longer pull themselves up to catch a breath.
So much for the comforts of Mother Church. (At least one of the sinners was saved. Not a bad percentage).
My mother was wearing the rosary my daughter Killian brought her back from Europe.
Pleural effusion of fluid around her lungs, related to congestive hear failure. Effusion I thought a property of gasses but apparently the pre-meds weren’t paying attention in that part of chemistry. My mother’s lungs are drowning from the outside, the buildup of fluid between the chest cavity and the lungs leaves less and less room for each breath. It can cause chest pains: pleurisy, now there’s a word you probably have used in casual conversation in a long time. We won’t know if the event last Sunday was a heart attack or pleurisy. All she said was it felt like an elephant sitting on her chest. As of Friday she is officially a hospice patient, and so was simply given morphine to dull the pain. I was surprised it came in a little dropper bottle, like something for the ears or eyes. Then I thought: hospice. This means no more trips to the hospitals. No more trying to find an uncollapsed vein to put in one shunt too many.
Ninety-three and the battle over. She survived chemo at 87, including spinal injections. I sat and watch her suffer through that until the technician gave up and called for the Special Man. He looked a bit like Cat Stevens in the 70s, and I told him so. He got her on the second try. If you are giving spinal chemo injections to an 87 year old woman why would you not call for the needle ninja in the first place? She went into remission, and got to ring the bell in the chemo ward at Ochsner. They took another cancer out of her in 2005, after my sister rolled the car in the ditch driving exhausted, trying to reach sanctuary in Kansas. At my mother’s age the E.R. though at CAT scan in order, and they found it. If my sister had not rolled the car, what happens then? God works in mysterious ways, I told the kindly nun-backer after relating that story, as if to apologize for my unrepentant teasing of her.
The regular chugging of the ancient oxygen machine is an hissy, high pitched pneumatic counterpoint to my mother’s irregular struggle to breath, the rattles deep in her throat, her vocalized exhaulations deep as long vowels and sharp as glottal stops.
The suffering on the cross, the physical struggle to breath, not just wheezing and rattling but a pushing up as if toward the surface, began after the nun left. I had been there maybe an hour and a half of mostly just listening to her battle for breath. Sometimes she would open her eyes while pushing out and down with her arms, trying to lift her head. I stood up and put the hand that wasn’t holding hers on her forehead and stroked it. I leaned in and told her, you don’t have to stay and fight. I know it hurts. We love you and will miss you but Sidney (my father) and Paul (my brother) and your father and your Uncle Cy and everyone will be waiting for you.
She loved her Uncle Cy Mathe’ dearly. He was legally a Creole by post-Plessy law but hundreds of rich acres and a plantation home trumped that. He was probably brighter than all the Italian truck farmers and Slavic fisherman settled around the plantations of St. Bernard and Plaquemine. He was riding the boat up from his father’s plantation and saw the woman we very young children ignorantly called Aunt Taunte, a teenager, convalescing in a wheel chair under a parasol on the levee at the foot of Delaronde Street. He was so smitten, he hired a horse when the boat landed at the French Market and rode back to the Ninth Ward to find her.
He built two plantations of his own, Stella for Taunte, and Mary, named after his mother. My mother would go visit Cy and Stella, under strict orders from her father that she was not to go out riding in the front of Cy’s saddle on his huge black stallion, Satan. This was, of course, the favorite part of her visit.
Uncle Cy will have a new horse, I told her, all pure white as an angel. I’m sure they wouldn’t let him bring Satan into heaven.
I’m sure he’ll take your riding, I said.
I had to stop there.
I have to stop here.
Everything eventually stops.
Fires of the Season November 22, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: death, solstice, Xmas
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Walking out for a forbidden cigarette I take a turn around the lot and notice the neighbor’s overgrown oleanders are in full fall bloom, while the seed pods of the adjacent Chinese lanterns have withered to a color somewhere between grocery bag and old parchment (and just as fragile could I reach them): the same old story–the one the crow knows–of the turning of the wheel. I am so engrossed in my new job I did not notice the odd oaks across the street and just outside my window had turned, but walking to Canseco’s Grocery I did see one of the deciduous cypress dressed in scarlet and yellow, the color of the fires we light against the cold and dark, the bonfires to guide Papa Noel and the ones once lit on Orleans avenue, dressed in the colors of the diminishing sun.
Having lost the thread of Xianity long ago, I dread the holidays. I miss the orgiastic liquor and fireworks around the bonfire on Orleans, a proper New Year’s display to call back the sun. Run around it three times, close enough for a mild, one-sided sunburn, for good luck in the New Year. Sadly, two city administrations have thought otherwise, even after we raised the money to get a welding cloth to put under it and agreed the NOPD could fence it off. The fire department was often held up as the scapegoat for the ban, but as a small crowd of us who helped make the last bonfire happen left a meeting with the police and fire chief, a high official of the firefighter’s union pulled us aside and said, “we are with you,” the men of Engine 35 thought lucky to watch over the festivities every year.
It is time to clean up my backyard, which the house painter turned into a white trash tableau of studied neglect. It looks like the still in the garage exploded, but most of my things are in a random pile in the center. I need to scrub the black mold off the chairs and spread the black plastic lawn rug I bought because the landlord’s man is slow to mow. I can flip over the rusting fire pit, give it a quick shot of Rustoleum for Grills and take my chances on the good will of the sparks that flit about like dangerous faeries with a will of their own. Behind the flames I will light a candle before the Green Man who watches over my little bit of weed-wild meadow..
There are spirits in need of propitiation if my own are not to remain mired in the dark. Yesterday my eldest and dearest sibling turned 69. My mother is now officially on Hospice Care, free to refused her dinner and medications, only oxygen and morphine as required. I went to see her the evening after what gave every indication of a heart attack. She picked a bit at her food because I was there. She tried to take her pills but the orderly forgot to raise the bed and almost chocked her. My sister knows she is not taking her medication or eating but she always puts on a good show for the boys. Or rather, for me. I am the only one she has left besides grand children. Someday the paper will read, “preceded in death by her loving husband Sidney Joseph and her son Paul Omer.”
Will she fulfill the holiday wishes of the statisticians and hang on until after the holidays? She is a Hilbert bone and sinew, built to last. Still, she will be the chair that is not there when my nephew takes us all out for Thanksgiving. Knowing our family, I am thinking of taking a cab, although Ralph’s on the Park is halfway between P’s house and mine and within staggering distance.. In these circumstances intimations of mortality are inevitable but not to be confused with inclinations. What I post on Facebook after a bit too much rum are not bits of morbidity but a few of the more beautiful expressions of death that I know.
If Coca Cola’s jolly red elf and the hanged god bring no solace, the trees remind me there is always comfort and color in a fire, to warm the hands and backside, and shed an uncertain light on an uncertain world. The firefly fairy sparks call to the things half seen in the flickering, just out of the corner of the eye, that delight in man and his fire, spirits of fire and earth drawn toward light. Perhaps a prayer is in order, starting with the green man who guards my house, that I not burn it or any of the neighbors’down. Or better yet, just sit as the fire burns itself down, leaving winking embers and the scent of the season ascending to the heaven the earthly flames reach for but cannot, the solstice incense that comforts men in the dark.
If this is the corner I’ve painted myself into November 22, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptic 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, cryptic 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.
Mr. Bones October 31, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Poetry, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Halloween, Mr. Bones
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is knit with
throat slit pig
hung one long night
over the slow fire.
is bound by
food for crows,
a buzzard’s buffet
for the worms.
come some tomorrow
is all what’s left
I speak these words
& you remember.
That Wound That Never Heals October 21, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Frederico Garcia-Lorga, La Luna, Luna
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When the Muse sees death appear she closes the door, or builds a plinth, or displays an urn and writes an epitaph with her waxen hand, but afterwards she returns to tending her laurel in a silence that shivers between two breezes. Beneath the broken arch of the ode, she binds, in funereal harmony, the precise flowers painted by fifteenth century Italians and calls up Lucretius’ faithful cockerel, by whom unforeseen shadows are dispelled.
When the angel sees death appear he flies in slow circles, and with tears of ice and narcissi weaves the elegy we see trembling in the hands of Keats, Villasandino, Herrera, Bécquer, and Juan Ramón Jiménez. But how it horrifies the angel if he feels a spider, however tiny, on his tender rosy foot!
The duende, by contrast, won’t appear if he can’t see the possibility of death, if he doesn’t know he can haunt death’s house, if he’s not certain to shake those branches we all carry, that do not bring, can never bring, consolation.
With idea, sound, gesture, the duende delights in struggling freely with the creator on the edge of the pit. Angel and Muse flee, with violin and compasses, and the duende wounds, and in trying to heal that wound that never heals, lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work.
— Garcia-Lorca, Theory and Play Of The Duende</blockquote>
Le mal du pays October 19, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, home, Murder, New Orleans, the dead, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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‘Le mal du pays.’ It’s French. Usually its translated as ‘homesickness’ or ‘melancholy.’ If you put a finer point on it, it’s more like ‘a groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape.’ It’s a hard expression to translate accurately. — Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukiru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgramage
Homesickness. Home sickness. Home. Sickness. “…they are the figures in the frame that make the landscape.” There is nothing pastoral about the Upper Ninth Ward. Taking the shortcut to Poland down Galvez to avoid the no left turn signs, the Musician’s Village is just a few blocks over but you don’t see the pretty stick-and-Tyvek houses. You see the aging wood-frame shotguns sagging with and into the ground, come to a stop at Poland across from a scrap yard filled with rusty anchors.
A man gunned down in the middle of a street in the Lower 9th Ward Friday night has been identified by the Orleans Parish coroner’s office. Malik Braddy, 18, of New Orleans was killed shortly after 10 p.m. in the 1600 block of Lizardi Street.
When I come to post here the dashboard shows statistics for most viewed posts and pages. The leaders are always the list of victims I started several years ago, and have semi-abandoned. (Somehow I have to find time to finish 2013 before 2014 is over). Melvin Labranch III.
Once upon a time downtown in the nine, what it don’t mind dyin’ Sworn to a life of crime, was a youngin’ standing only 5’5, big money on his mind Clothes ain’t wrinkled with his hand on the iron, shot six times Shot six times, ran in from of my mom (dear lord) — Downtown, Kidd Kidd
People come looking for Labranch, the subject of the R&B style hip hop elegy by his cousin, who elsewhere in the song sings “somebody done killed my brother, now I gotta get back/let ‘em know cause a nigga gotta feel that/Sitting shotgun with the shotgun: when you hear the shots come, nigga don’t run.” The song is a hit of sorts, which is I guess what drives the traffic: the celebration of a child “sworn to a life of crime” and someone “riddin on those niggas” looking for revenge.
Guess this is the game we chose to play Crazy how it’s always been the same.
Has it? Has it always been this way when I was growing up on the Lakefront just off Robert E. Lee Boulevard, and the Times-Picayune and States-Item just didn’t bother with dead black me? I don’t think so. There is nothing pastoral about the Upper Ninth Ward, but there is a terrible sadness. There is as I suggested above, a home sickness, the old style proud of the working class–black and white–that was once settled with fists that has metastasized into a violence most Americans only read about in the paper, stories of some far away country, and then only the body count of the American soldiers, not the million and a half Arabs dead for what? Killing random people because they live in the wrong ward of the planet just for revenge. A friend went ballistic on Facebook after attending a memorial for the man everyone in her hood in the upper nine knew as Sappy. She was mostly going after the hipsters in the same bar looking for food but avoiding any contact with the largely black crowd at the memorial, black except for her and her partner. She grew up in San Diego in poverty to match any sad story from the Ninth Ward, but chooses New Orleans. She lives there, running a small business with her partner while both work part time, and make themselves a part of their stretch of St. Claude. What is sad about Sappy is not the hipsters gathered in a tight, white knot at the other end of the bar is that he was a country kid from Mississippi who also chose New Orleans, made a living as a minimum wage worker at Rally’s. When he was gunned down over some stupid argument in the parking lot of Church’s Chicken on St. Claude he asked the woman who drew the gun, “Are you going to shoot me?” She did. Was his tone of voice confrontational, the braggadocio that is part of a life in that part of town, or was he incredulous that some dumb argument could turn so quickly to a gun? I like to imagine the latter, but either way it doesn’t matter. The man born Derrick Christmas is cold in the ground. It was not his first brush with senseless violence. He was the victim of a vicious beatdown in a bathroom with Harrah’s for brushing a man’s shoulder. To chose to live in New Orleans is to chose to live with the body count, to walk back to your car in the relative safety of the Marigny like a soldier on patrol, every sense hyper-alert, suddenly sober as the adrenaline prepares you for the man passing on the street who might be a road side bomb waiting to go off. To chose to live in the Ninth Ward is to put your plastic piece down on the Monopoly block where many go directly to jail, do not pass home and collect $200. No real hope going in, less coming out. And too many do not pass home but go directly to the cemetery. How to live in this city when every morning I go to the blog to grab the day’s Odd Words to post and see my statistics, the numbers next to the list of the dead. Sometimes they leave comments, as I ask, the way people leave plastic flowers, bottles of a favorite rum, a faded picture in the spot where another one fell. I don’t need to open the newspaper to be reminded that I live in a city at war with itself. How to live in this city? When my daughter came back from a semester in Amsterdam there was a seminar they were all required to take on readjustment to one’s home culture. I only had a week of jet lag, and a second week frantically finishing a paper and a manuscript for the courses I took there. It was only then that the culture shock began to sink in. I met an old friend for drinks and after walking back to her house to sit on the patio on Conti Street. When I left, she insisted there was no way I was walking alone through the quarter the nine blocks to Buffa’s, or standing on the corner of Esplanade and Rampart waiting for the last 93 bus to take me home. She shoved money in my hands and walked me up to the corner for a cab. It wasn’t safe, she insisted, to walk nine blocks through my town, although I count myself a street-wise former quarter rat, keep to the well-lit, no-parking side of the street. Too many robberies, and the latest craze, senseless beatdowns. How many died while I was wandering Europe? I could consult my local newspaper’s helpful online Murders page. Does your hometown newspaper have a Murders page? How to live in this city? Those who know me know I have sworn a blood oath to New Orleans as serious and final as any gang initiation, and yet I find I can’t stop asking this question. I know a woman alone could not walk the dark streets of Rome or Barcelona as I did, but I wandered lost and enchanted in the Barri Gòtic looking for the familiar square that had become my landmark, from which I could easily find my way out of the maze and back to my hostel. Now I am home and am told I dare not walk Burgundy or Dauphine nine blocks to get a burger. “A groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape.” Were I to look back at my pictures, the view from the castle in the Tyrol of northern Italy, the vistas of Granada from atop the Alhambra, my memories of Lorca’s beloved vega (and that was le mal du pays, but not homesickness but rather the pain of leaving, of going home to the place I love); in those visions it is not a groundless sadness in the pastoral landscape. It is a sadness born not of homesickness but home sickness, a culture shock the two women returning from the castle to San Diego will never know. It is a deep sadness, born of blood, like the Deep Song of the gypsies of southern Spain, the black and terrible angel or familiar demon of Duende that lives deep in the gut, born of love and suffering. Le mal du pays.
Box Three, Spool Five October 3, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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How to live in this town when every saxophone is a glittering instrument of pain, its every note a howl of anguish?
I can’t tell you this story, not unless I am prepared to call in the final airstrike: the raging curtain of napalm on Kurtz’ temple over the mournful sound of the Doors.
“Calling PBR Street Gang, Calling PBR Street Gang. This is Almighty. Do you read me? Over.”
I have bared my soul here but there are limits. There are other souls I love more than the fitful god they say created them and I will not reveal their secrets, but how to live in this town when every saxophone comes in under what resounds like the final trumpet, wails painfully with the most human voice of any instrument built by man. There are songs I will never be able to listen to again.
I have walked the darkest streets of Barcelona at unreasonable hours and not heard a gunshot. I can manage enough Spanish to scan the headlines that still hang from kiosks in Europe, and no where did I read of the kill count. In Granada I stood in the Huerta de San Vincente and thought of Ezra Pound, and was ashamed. I live in the world Pound warned us of, when you subtract his predictable anti-Semitism, leaving only the banks and the war machine. I live in the world Garcia-Lorca died defying, the machine gun Inquisition with no questions, no promise of redemption through confession.
Suffering is. If I met the Buddha on the road I would kill him. If I happened upon Calvary I would weep at the brutal senselessness of it all. I would become, as in Gaudi’s masterpiece, the faceless person imprinted with suffering, his Veronica. Because suffering is is larger than any individual.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13, which I have quoted long ago
What do you do when the magic is gone? Once I bled for this city, gave friends up to the soft ground who shared my love and anger. Today I wonder why.
I think it is time to pull out the expensive BBC Collection of Samuel Beckett, to listen to Krapp’s Last Tape.
Box Three, Spool Five: the perfect absurdity of the banana peel, tragedy not comedy, the traps we set for ourselves.
…” clear to me at last that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality”…
Ambulatory at Best October 3, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I awoke this morning in in my tub in the remains of an ice bath swaddled in crudely-wrapped bandages, the apparent victim of an involuntary fuckectomy. I had already somewhat anesthetized myself with three pints and three shots in cross-wired celebration of my first paycheck in nine months and learning on the same day that my recruiter’s promised six month contract is in fact tied to a 12 week Statement of Work, and that my manifestly less productive predecessor burned a bunch of those weeks doing not much. There is no clarity on extension. So my new job will last about six weeks, maybe 10, but not six months. Better than Henry Chinaski in Factotum, which is absolutely the wrong book to be reading right now. I just finished Ham on Rye, but I’ve gone from the consolation that someone’s life is much worse than mine to the temptation to crawl into bed with a bottle.
Perhaps somewhere there is a network, a bounty system in which young IT contractors identify productive older contractors and have them taken out of the market to keep rates up by arranging these ambush fuckectomies. Now my ability to fully give a fuck is in an organ cooler passing as some construction worker’s lunch. The man in the truck bed is not a pick-up from the front of Home Depot but a sworn devotee of Santa Muerte. Under his shirt the haloed death’s head is tattooed in prison purple and the dull red of pilfered BIC pens and also underneath there is a submachine pistol. The bloody remains of my fuckectomy are off on its way to whomever doesn’t sufficiently give a fuck, but could afford to pay to steal someone else’s give-a-fuck-ability. Perhaps they are transplanted into burnt-out executives who can afford to have one to regain or even boost their ability to give a fuck, seven by 24 by 365 by the synced clock on the office smart phone, nine nines of ready to roll fuckability.
I Just Want To See His Face September 6, 2014Posted by The Typist in art, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Goya, The Black Paintings, The Dog
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“I don’t wan’t to walk and talk about Jesus. I just want to see his face.”
— Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
Can you see the face, the one with the long beard, and the left hand raised as if watching this scene through some impervious barrier of glass or time? Or is it simply an illusion, the wish to believe that some being is at least disturbed enough by this scene to press their face into it like Jesus into the veil of Veronica? You can see it in some reproductions but not others. It is hard to see here. I can see it in the card on my wall if I turn the desk lamp directly on it. It is not, however, anything holy. Perhaps it is just mad Jehovah reveling in his ability to destroy what he has made. There is no suggestion of redemption. Or perhaps it is simply a disturbance in the pigment, a bit of holy toast for the damned.
Songs of Innocence August 31, 2014Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
I could not publish until Anya was gone from fear of upsetting my daughter. We put Anya to sleep Aug. 29, very close to what would hvave been her 19th birthday.
My daughter’s cat is clearly dying. She has stopped eating–again–and spends her days laying in her chosen spot on the linoleum just outside the bathroom. She gets up to use the cat box and drink water but that’s it. She has become a bag of skin and bones. Her name is Anastasia: Anya for short. That should give you some idea of her age. I won’t send you off to the imdb database to look up the release date of the Disney film. Suffice it to say the cat is pushing eighteen.
I think I will take this just as hard as my daughter, or my son (who loves the cat). I was the person who gave her the most sustained attention before my separation (she was always a little afraid of my son, who was too young when we adopted her to fully understand the difference between a plush toy and a livinv animal.) As my daughtef grew older she was less and less around the house, and was I believe somewhat allergic fo her cat. Matt persisted in his more tender attentions until she relented and his bed became a favotite place to sleep. I offered her a warm chest to nap on while I lay on the couch. When she came home to me, after a period of adjustment she returned to nudge her head against my book anytime I lay on the couch to read.
What I am afraid of losing is not my animal companion but one of the last cherished icons of innocence. Anya was my daughter’s fifth birthday present. She represents for me both innocence, and those nights I intentionally fell asleep on the couch reading instead of in bed with my ex-, a symptom of the loss of innocence. Innocence, that cherished belief that the world is not out to recycle you to better purposes the minute you stop looking over your shoulder, is one of more difficult pathologies of the romantic. It is usually extinguished early in life, but the romantic carries at least a kernel of it with them indefinitely. Yes, I have my dark side. Consider William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience as a good example of the balance of both in the pathological romantic. Then consider that I can recreate Allen Ginsburg’s recording of “Oh, Rose, Thou Art Sick!” (minus harmonium), note for flat note.
Children exacerbate that pathological extension of innocence into adulthood, particularly in the romantic. One continually sees an expression, a gesture, a turn of phrase that wooshes one back to a more innocent time, before the terrible twos turned into the twenties, before the credit card was over limit again. Even looking last night at the cat’s whiskers called up a memory of how my daughter had cut the whiskers of her favorite stuffed animal–Rugby Tiger–when she was small. I was probably wallowing at that point, stroking the cat beside me in the bed. (Wallowing is another romantic pathology we shall discuss another time).
I don’t want to take up and find innocence dead on the floor, but she does not seem to be suffering and we both take comfort in the time my son and I spend sitting on the floor stroking her. She will even attempt to climb into my lap, although her hindquarters are getting weaker by the day. I feel that innocence is dying all around me, and with it trust and love. There is trust that is earned, and the practical love of adults, and the tangle of obligations taken on for love. I understand that. Unconditional love and trust: those are another matter. I am not the sort to give myself up to a blue or bloody avatar. To do so is to lose too much of one’s humanity. For now, I want to keep Anya with us as long as I can, and tie Pollyanna and Pangloss in a burlap sack with rocks and toss them into a river.
Ghosts of the Flood August 29, 2014Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, Corps of Engineers, Fargo, Federal Flood, Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, memoir, postdiluvian, Shield of Beauty, the dead, The Narrative, The Typist, We Are Not OK.
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” . . . so many, / I had not thought death had undone so many . . . ”
The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot
Sometimes I feel them, my wife told me, their spirits, as I’m driving down the street. All that suffering, she explains, all those people. As if 300 years of yellow fever and the lash, the lynchings and gansta gun battles weren’t enough to populate a parallel city of spirits in this place where tombs are mansions and burials a celebration, the Flood came.
Now there is a brooding presence even in the bright of day, looming over us all like a storm-bent house on the verge of collapse. These empty shells of former lives that line so many streets are a daily reminder of the vast catastrophe; the windows staring lifelessly at broken sidewalks, the facades washed pale and colorless. Each still bears the esoteric marks of the searchers that mimic the scratching on tombs in the old cemeteries, some the dreaded number at the bottom that totals up the lost.
The tally marked beneath the cross now rises to 1577, a crowed like that described by Eliot. I imagine not a host but solitary figures, the ghosts we know from childhood stories. In their newness to death, I picture them wandering as curious as children in the house of an aged aunt, getting underfoot and touching what they should not, interrupting and making unwelcome mischief. The brush of their passing is still strong enough to reach out and touch a good Catholic girl from North Dakota, one as innocent of the spiritualist shadows cast by every flickering candle flame before a New Orleans saint’s statue as a Midwesterner could possibly be.
Even the most rationale and disinclined among us imagine ghosts in a city this old, where the steamy air is a tangible presence on the skin and lights flash erratically in the night through the stirrings of the thick, tangled foliage, where the old houses creak and groan as they settle into the soft earth like old men lowering themselves into a chair. Once I wished to experience that touch of the other, a product of reading too much fantastic fiction. One of the signature scenes in film for me is John Cassavettes as a modern Prospero in The Tempest, standing in his urban tower and saying, “Show me the magic.” For him, the sky erupts in lightening. I would sometime catch myself whispering those words, but they were simply blown away by the night wind.
Then one bright August afternoon I was sitting in my idling car in my driveway in Fargo, North Dakota. At just before five o’clock that 29th of August a string of Carnival beads which hung from my rearview mirror–black and gold beads interspersed with black voodoo figures–suddenly burst. It seemed strange at the time that they would break as the car sat still, would break at the bottom and not at the top where they routinely rubbed against the mirror post, where the string was tied off, the knot weakening the line. It was not the way that I, as a sailor with some idea of how a line will wear, would expect them to break.
Perhaps the beads slid about at the end of the string as I drove around, causing the string to wear through at the bottom, so that it was inevitable that is where they would break first, given enough corners turned, sufficient applications of the accelerator and brake. The timing of just before five o’clock on that Monday in August of 2005 was just a coincidence, the inevitable laws of physics unfolding without regard for the observer and his sense of time.
Be careful what you wish for is the lesson we learned in a dozen fairy tales. The longed for touch of the other, and the tide that washed me up on the shores of my personal Ithaca, into this house on Toulouse Street in the only place I have ever thought of as home, came with a terrible price: both are tainted with graveyard dust. I would undo it all in instant, if I only knew how.
I’ve written this post before–or ones very like it, that tell this story of the broken beads–and then deleted them. It seems just too strange and personal a tale to share with just any aimless visitor wandering the Internet. What will people think? I ask myself in a voice that sounds vaguely like my mother’s. What if some future employer Googles up this article? worries the husband with a mortgage and two children to raise. I don’t expect them to understand.
Unless you learned from the maid that cleaned your family home that crossing two matchsticks in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary and sprinkling them with salt would bring rain, unless you believed that a piece of candy found on the ground could be made safe to eat by making the sign of the cross over it, if people did not come in the night and scratch odd marks on certain tombs on the grounds where your family is buried; if these were not part of your earliest experience, then my tale of the broken beads sounds like the product of an overworked imagination, something like Scrooge’s undigested bit of beef, a spot of mustard.
There is a spectre over New Orleans. As the August anniversary slipped away, I thought the grim, invisible cloud that hung over the city would begin to drift away. Instead, as the weeks passed, I was increasingly convinced: everyone in New Orleans was haunted. You could see it in people’s eyes, in the way they walked, hear it in the words they spoke, or the ones they wrote online as they spoke about their lingering pain. It was a spirit as much inside as out, the ghost in the machine that haunted our every step.
Then came the Monday Night Football game. I thought about the curse of the Superdome, the one that suggests destruction of the Girod Street Cemetery has cursed the ground and all who play there. Was the spirit of the people in the Dome that night just the charm needed to lay that particular haunting to rest, to break that curse? The morning after the strut in people’s step, the lilt of their voices told me that perhaps, just perhaps a healing had begun. We were not a city in need of an exorcism: we were the exorcism.
The ghost of the Flood is now a part of who we are. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if it is ectoplasm or the synchronized firing of a million neurons in ways science does not yet understand. In the end we have to come to term with it. This is something that we as Orleanians, the people who live next to our dead in their exclusive farbourgs of marble and white-washed stone, should be able to do.
We need to honor these dead and respect them, not with the weight of Confucian ancestor worship but in the simple spirit of the pre-Confucian Japanese who venerated odd stones, in the ways inherent in our own Latin roots mingled with the traditions of Africa, where the community of saints and the loa of Africa intersect. We don’t need an exorcism. We need a conjuration, a ritual that calls up the ghosts and honors them, that welcomes them in the way the way the devotees of Vodoun welcome the possession of the loa.
Perhaps next August 29, we should all tie a brown cord on some pillar or post of the house at just the point where we have carefully painted over the water stain. Just above that, we should mark in dust of ground gypsum the rescue symbol that is now as much a part of our selves and our city as the sign of the cross. We will do this to tell whoever is listening—Our Father, Oshun, Mother of God, ghosts of the Flood—we remember. We have suffered, and we will never forget the Flood and those who did not come through. We are the people who came through and came back. We remember the lost. We remember you. Je me souviens.
When we accept and embrace this spirit, perhaps the haunting will end once and for all, will not be a permanent pall over the city, a fearful sound in the night like a howling in the wires, or an unpleasant knotting in the stomach as we pass an abandoned house. It will cease when it becomes instead like the glinting of the sun on white-washed stone above the neat green grass of the cemeteries, just another comfortable part of who we are.
First posted Oct. 5, 2006 on Wet Bank Guide.
An Imaginary City August 25, 2014Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, New Orleans, Odd Words, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
I live in an imaginary city. Its borders on one side are indistinct, the gradual erosion from solid land through marsh to water. These boundaries shift daily with the tide, and monthly with the moon, and every day grow a little closer, the city a little smaller. On the other sides there are walls built to keep back the sea, to contain the river. These are not ours to command. All we have with certainty is our imaginary city, its rituals of uncertain origin, its people of many colors and languages. They walk and dance on streets that ripple like the water, fracture like ice on a river breaking up in the spring, and crumble from neglect. These are the only streets we have ever known. Only the names are important: Pleasure, Desire, Humanity, Music. The names are part of the dream of the imaginary city. Martin Luther King Boulevard and Jefferson Davis Parkway intersect and end where Earhart Boulevard flies toward the Potemkin America of the imaginary suburbs.
There are in fact many imaginary cities I inhabit, all in the same place. There is the city of the tourists, the ones who buy Carnival beads in August and wear them drinking in the streets. This is a city of imaginative drunkenness and lewdness, mostly confined to a few blocks of one street, where people buy Big Ass Beers and drinks the size of goldfish bowls or shaped like hand grenades, as if they wish to immerse themselves in liquor or explode into outrageous behavior. They holler at women on party balconies to “show their tits.” Some drunkenly comply. They behave, in short, like drunken louts released from all restraint. This is encouraged. Virtually every doorway in these few blocks leads to a bar, the rest to t-shirt and trinket shops where they can buy their beads and shirts only someone completely inebriated would consider wearing. They show these shirts to friends at home, snicker, and put them in a bottom drawer. I occasionally inhabit this city if only for a moment, to cross the street of the endless Carnival, to escape to another imaginary city. A few people I know work there. Some love it. Some hate it. It either is or is not a particular person’s imaginary city. For the visitors, it is the only city.
I can cross Canal Street, the famous divide between two of the largest imaginary cities, to the skyscrapers and renovated 19th century office blocks of Uptown. (Don’t call the skyscraper village Downtown, or you will quickly become lost. Downtown is Another City). This is where the wealthy sit in air-conditioned comfort–over lunches that would cost the waiter a week’s wages–and wonder at the indolence of so many of the people of their imaginary city. They are the God-fearing Protestants from the north who came after the war and built that side of Canal Street into a landscape of mansions and shotgun shacks for their servants. An antique streetcar, long out of manufacturer and kept running entirely with hand built parts, rumbles under great oaks down the avenue. On this avenue the wealthy and those who would be wealthy enact the ritual of Uptown Carnival, in which these people ride atop massive papier-mâché barges tossing imaginary jewels of Chinese plastic to the grateful (if indolent) throngs that line the street. This has been my imaginary city, at times, looking out from the nineteenth floor contemplating what fine restaurant a salesman might take us to. I too have stood where the streetcars run and fought for my share of worthless plastic.
Downtown is not where the business of the city is done. This seems appropriate to an imaginary city. Downtown begins with the blocks of the Old Quarter where drunken tourists reign and slowly gives way to the city downriver. Things run down quickly going toward the sea but that is to be expected. The certainty of the land beneath this imaginary city dissolves with each block further down toward the delta. The clocks on abandoned bank buildings stand forever at some o’clock. Here it is Central River Time. Paint peels more slowly in this imaginary city, and so is left as it is. I can think of a half-dozen facades in this imaginary city with faded advertisements for beers out of style longer than I can remember. The sidewalks here are not fractured by the stately oaks of Uptown but more likely by a weedy camphor or blackberry. People do not call the city to complain. They crush a camphor leaf in their hand and inhale, or stop to pick a handful of berries. They step over the heaves and holes on their way to more important business. There is cooking to be done, music to be sung, cold beer and friends to attend to. I live far in the back of this imaginary city, off the portage that once ran from the Bayou to the River. There was a clerk at a drug store not four block away I had not visited in 20 years who took a long look at my driver’s license, and remarked I looked just like my father (20 years dead). No doubt there are dwindling towns scattered in the rural landscape where such things might happen, but only one imaginary city where it could happen to you today.
The imaginary city is old by the standards of the New World. Only the pyramids of the displaced Natives are older. Yet nothing here is as old as the imaginary city. Over the centuries, fire and flood have erased everything but the names of the streets in the French Quarter, lined with Spanish colonial buildings. Kings, founders, a street called Barracks that explains the curious grid streets of the French Quarter, a fortress built in a conquered land. Elsewhere the streets run perpendicular to the river, slowing pulling away from each other or colliding as the river dictates: new streets appear, others disappear. The cross streets follow the bends of the river or simply begin and disappear in a geometry that defies simple formulae. It is a fractal city, chaotic order out of chaos. You can spend an entire lifetime here and still discover new streets and wonder: was this always here? Or is it simply a symptom of an imaginary city? Were the houses a Carnival façade, something erected for some private entertainment, or has another imaginary city intersected ours like two bubbles colliding?
It would be impossible to live here if it were not an imaginary city.
In the concrete world of rotting sideboards that hides beneath the imaginary city, things can be too awful to imagine. The bloodstained streets are the killing fields of a constant, random war. The newspaper of the imaginary city counts the daily dead and wounded, but it is easier not to take the paper if you wish to live in the imaginary city. You can live in your own imaginary city and cluck and shrug and say: not in my imaginary city. These things don’t happen Uptown. These things don’t happen in the blocky, post-War suburbs of the Lakefront. And how about them Saints? Football season is upon us and in the imaginary city football crosses all boundaries, melds the imaginary cities into one imaginary city, if only for a Sunday afternoon, a Monday morning. Football and Carnival are the pillars of the imaginary city, the many imaginary cities that make up this imaginary city. We imagine ourselves one city.
Behind all this, the uncivil war goes on, cousins killing cousins, neighbors killing neighbors. You can try to ignore it but every now and then, you step outside for a cigarette at night and hear in the distance not the horns of the ships making the tight bend in the river but the crackle of small-arms fire, and then the sirens. In your heart, you pray that a stray bullet has not taken another child. You step back inside, suddenly distracted by a song on the imaginary city’s radio station where they do not play the top hits of an imaginary nation but the music of the imaginary city. You return to the collective imaginary normal until the sound of a snare drum or a trumpet calls for forth a slow spiritual, or vibrant gospel song you know will be played somewhere in this imaginary city to walk and wake those who have just died.
It would be impossible to live here if it were not an imaginary city.
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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Forty Days & Forty Nights:Dos June 21, 2014Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Typist.
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First floor, first room: the Vorticists, as if the directors of The Museo Thysen-Borneimisza knew my next stop was Brunnenburg, Italy to study Ezra Pound. So much for my flighty idea to simply stay in Spain.
I am trying not to dress like a tourist, but apparently I am the only man under 70 in Madrid wearing a hat, except the jovenes in their embroidered-bill gansta caps. And I need to get a bag mas tipico, the narrow vertical sort instead of my purse-shaped Pategonia. My high school Spanish comes and goes. Sometimes I can make myself understood, and others must sound like the village idiot after a visit to the cervescaria. I catch answers better than I thought I would, enough fragments to find my bus stop home yesterday afternoon. (I took the night bus back the first night). The men in the ETA kiosk (t as in transito, not terrorist) are complete idiots. Two different guys sent me to two different places to catch el autobús 53 por Ciudad Lineal and both were wrong. (Google says I should say hacia not por but they understood me well enough to send me to the wrong stop for 53. I’ve learned to find a driver having a cigarette at the busy transit terminal at the Plaza de Artistes if I need directions.
I have another long day planned–Parque del Retiro, Museo Prado, jazz again at ten–but I clearly need to take some time to just wander and take pictures. There are enough modern buildings for a modern capital city but there are so many baroque facades, the Moorish Plaza des Torros I pass on my return bus (I must get off today or tomorrow for pictures, then catch the next bus), the Mexican Embassy which looks like a miniature Worlds Fair. There are so any things I did not think to do: visit the Naval Museum, the Centro des Cervantes, perhaps the Biblioteque Nationale . Still, I think tomorrow I will avoid the busy flea market with its pickpockets and faux designer goods, and simply wander El Centro and let myself get lost in the narrow streets, wait for the synchronicity that placed the Vorticists as the first paintings in the museo yesterday, that landed me in the cafe with the marvelous anchovies before my first night of jazz.
Planeta sin Soledad: 2 June 20, 2014Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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1. The guys in the ETA booth (T as in transito, not terrorists) are complete fucking idiots. If you want to find your stop, ask a bus driver in your best high school Spanish.
2. The Pop Art exhibit at the Thyssen-Bornemisza was a comlete waste of 7 Euro. The only worth while thing was a small collage of James Dean and Rimbaud in grey-scale and pink by Ray Johnson. And of course the special exhibit was the only part of the museum that didn’t allow photography.
3. OK, I haven’t been to the Prado but it is going to have to be exceptional to match the breadth and taste of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
4. I pass the Plaza de Toros on my homeward bus, and tomorrow I’ getting off to take pictures. It is a Moorish wonder.
5. As I am off to the Gezuversity to study Ezra Pound, I was amazed to walk into the first room at the Thyssen-Bornemisza and find a small selection of Vorticist paintings. I think the universe was correcting me for suggesting I toss off several thousand and tuition and just stay in Madrid. Still a tempting thought.
Planeta sin Soledad: 1 June 20, 2014Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Typist.
Tags: Madrid, planeta sin soledad, tourist
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1. I am dressing conservtively to avoid screaming tourist, but I am apparently the only man in Madrid who wears a hat (as opposed to a gansta-embroidered ball cap).
2. The bus drivers speak better English than their supervisors at central locations and the men in the tourist kiosk at the plaza near the Biblioteque National.
3. I think I need to get a bag mas tipico and vertical than the sling bag I have.
4. Try to remember the way home from the N3 bus for tonight. My stop: Condesa Venadito. More importantly, veer left and not turn left at the roundabout.
5. Also, thank you TSA for cutting my TSA-approved lock (TSA 2). Remember to pack a second lock for use after arrival.
Forty Days & Forty Nights: Uno June 19, 2014Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, The Narrative, The Typist.
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Madrid, Espana 18 Junio 2014
I can’t help think of Washington, D.C. as I traverse Madrid on the N3 night bus back to my hotel, set in Ciudad Lineal, a quiet apartment block suburb much like Arlington, VA just outide the ring road. Both are great capital cities, but one was built by bureaucrats and acountants and one by kings and their artists. The meandering path from where the N3 night bus drops me requires I ask for directions three times before I manage to traverse the three blocks back to my hotel, via a rounabout intended to gather up and redirect the traffic directed by the radial imperatives of a monumental city . ¿Qual izquirda when five street meet? I am not sure it helped that the bus stopped across from an all night gas station where I picked up a tall boy of Malhou to combat the jet lag confusion of seven time zones and my first two sets of direrctions in Spanish.
My first mistake was setting my phone (which does not work in Spain) and my tablet an hour slow. I was up from my jet lag sieta an hour late, and took 40 minutes to realie it. I decided to take the autobus anyway to save money, and managed to find the Cafe Bogui Jazz in time to grb a hasty tortilla patatas and two cup of strong coffee before the show in a clearly local cafe. The second small cup of black dynamite was a bad idea, but I was still in my jet lag haze, trying to converse in my collegio Spanish with the waitress in what a learly a neighborhood joint. Three beers at Bogui Jazz did not help much, nor did the adverture of discovering my 53 bus did not run at night, figuring out that I needed to take the N3, followed by a amble through the neighborhood, tall boy in hand, in search of my hotel. Now know the way, and that I can grab a beer if Ithink sleep wil be slow coming and find my way back all in 10 minutes.
The “free jazz” night of Bogui Jazz was more of a straight-ahead modern set with a few moment of transcedently improvizational glory. The saxophonist told me on break they had played with Donald Harrison, Jr. In their hometown of Leon, so I was clearly in the right spot. I was thrilled enough to write a poem on scraps of paper inspied by one duet beteen the singer and the drummer, and pressed it in her hands while thanking her in village idiot Spanish and then English for making a perfect first night in Madrid. I was clearly in The Zone.
I know I am going to love this city. I think I am going to find my way back to that cafe with its rack of dry cured hams one man was carving the whole time I was there to try the boqurenones rellenos con jambon before I wander off to another night of jazz flamenco, even if it takes me an hour to navigate the narrow and convoluted Europen streets from Salamanca to El Centro to the Cafe Central.
If it weren’t for the prepaid tuition I might consider abandoning a month in the Ezra Pound castle and spend 40 days here recovering my forgotten Spanish, and finding those one or two things each day that demand a poem,spend my siestas in the Bibliotque National or the Cervantes Center with pen and notebook, or early mornings in a plaza soothed into concentration by a baroque fountain. I think I may have found my haven when Atlantis comes to pass.
P.S. It’s 3:19 am here and sleep is hopeless, and I hope to be in the Prado by morning. Thank the Powers for strong Spanish coffee. It ay have to do in lieu of sleep.