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An Imaginary City August 25, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, New Orleans, Odd Words, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
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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.

Can’t find my way home June 17, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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The true light awaits.
Come out of your hermit’s cave
Detached from the past

If you cannot fathom the relationship between the poem and the song it is not the true light that you see. Return to your cave and consider that the next time I climb this mountain my aging form may become as the fallen leaves. The trees will grow taller, stronger and more beautiful. Meditate on this until you hear and smell and taste the light.

Who am us, anyway? May 31, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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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 (1906-1989)

I first posted this quote 8/31/06 without any comment, when this blog was lurking in a dark and lonely corner of the internets and only seen by spiders.

Who are we that write out our lives on these blogs? Some of us play out the Social Media or Citizen Journalist role, but what about those of us doing something at once much more personal and still very public? I once tossed out the term “narcissistic blogger” on a mailing list and recoiled in horror at the familiarity of the face in that mirror. Some treat these little stages we erect on the Internet as the set of the one person show of our fascinating lives (so we think, or why else would we be here?), while others take on a mask and become someone else, hiding behind the possibility of anonymity. In either event the act of public writing transforms us.

As actors of a sort who we are deep inside informs whoever we try to project on this stage–a public Self or a fabulous Character. (And our public Selves are certainly contrived Characters, keeping Mr. ID corralled and Dr. Ego’s social relationships in good trim, else the world would be littered with the bodies of murdered co-workers and a long trail of casually ravished lovers). Whoever we think we are in our blogs, the act of performing in words makes us someone new, something more than the simple sum of actor and character. “It is no longer I, but another who’s life is just beginning.”

As I said, I had posted this quote before without much comment almost two years ago. I found it online the other day while looking for something else, and chose to unearth and repost it. Do we repeat ourselves because we’ve exhausted other subjects, or because repetition is an irresistible part of life; not a circle necessarily but a spiral that clocks around an imperceptible center? I like to think the latter rather than consider myself a broken record, a tiresome bore sitting on the same stool day after day drinking the same stale beer and endlessly recycling the same stories.

I think Yeats had it wrong, at least in general. If the spiral gyre runs out from the center it is not a failure of gravity but instead the trajectory of something that has reached escape velocity, acting out a driving impulse but anchored by the mathematical center without which the curve becomes a line. Our personal trajectory through time and space is certain to be governed by some center as surely as the moon controls the tides. Toulouse Street itself is the center here, seems fairly fixed in space and time: an island in this stream we think we are admiring from the deck even as the current sweeps us away, the unseen captain spinning the unresponsive wheel and shouting frantic orders lost down the tube in the diabolical noise of engines run amok.

This is an adventure.

Cherry Blossoms March 29, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, art, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, flowers, garden, home, Japan, New Orleans, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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Sleeping under the trees on Yoshino mountain
The spring breeze wearing Cherry blossom petals
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ~ Saigyo

[deep sigh-h-h-h-h-h]

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I deeply love New Orleans and live to see my first azalea or crepe myrtle in bloom, even if it getting too warm too soon by then. When I felt compelled to leave by personal and professional circumstance, I came to live for eight years in Washington, D. C. or thereabouts. The first real community of friends met online (out of the BBS world) was there, some of the finest people I’ve ever met. I spent some years walking the marble corridors of power until my feet gave out and I decided I had the wrong attitude for Washington: I work for my boss, but you other 534 assholes work for me. That is not the path to K Street.

I met my wife Rebecca there at the Warner Theater. I had come stag to see the Neville Brothers, she and her roommate to see the Nighthawks who shared the bill. We met in the smokers lobby buying a beer. Two years later we were married (in North Dakota, not Washington) and our first house together was on 4th Street N.E. Our daughter Killian was born in Washington and spent her first two years of life there.

Some of my fondest memories from that time are of Rebecca and I taking a bottle of wine down to the tidal basin (before the road on the city side was closed by the memorial FDR never wanted), where we could “crank Frank” (Sinatra) on the car stereo behind us, and sit on the grass under the cherry trees and watch the lights come on in the city over the water.

Not a spring has passed since leaving in 1994 when I don’t think wistfully of the cherry blossoms in bloom in Washington.

I nearly bought this next one online (and it wasn’t cheap) but it was already sold. Holiday Innpressionism is not really my style, but the scene was almost irresistible.

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I think when the crepe myrtles bloom, I will take Rebecca into the park with a bottle of wine and we will crank Frank until the stars and mosquitoes come out.

We now return you to the unending Twilight Zone marathon that is New Orleans.

No Hunting, Fishing, Trapping March 28, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, CBD, Dancing Bear, Flood, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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How odd to find a Posted sign in the middle of downtown, on a building on the corner of South Rampart and Perdido Streets. No hunting, fishing or trapping? Once not too long ago fishing might have been an issue, when this building sat at the southernmost advance of the lake waters if someone had perhaps broken in and set themselves up for a nap with a cane pole on the balcony, but not now, not today.

I am not even sure how many people who live in town know what to make of a Posted sign. It put me in mind of the 10 years I spent in the upper Midwest, part of if in the small town of Detroit Lakes (the Waveland of the North, as I used to call it: a sleepy town of 3,000 that exploded to as many as 30,000 people at the peak of the summer lake season). Perhaps the owner is an avid sportsman, who knows what it means to find such a sign on a fence line on a country road: No Trespassing. Here in New Orleans, we tend to favor the simpler and more direct message: Keep Out, Bad Dog.

On this day it was served as a reminder that at about this place in August of 2005, the water stopped and went no further, that this was the edge of the watery wild.

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Al Copeland: Another giant little man passes into Louisiana history March 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, postdiluvian, Remember, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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Al Copeland was New Orleans through-and-through, a character who could as easily come from the pen of John Kennedy Toole as out of old Arabi. He was one with the rogues’ pantheon that would have to include Dudley LeBlanc and perhaps John Schwegmann, men with enough ego to stand up and make perfect fools of themselves while laughing all the way to the bank. Like LeBlanc and Schwegmann, he has passed into history and myth.

From a little chicken-shack on St. Claude to the manse on Folse Drive, Copeland bestrode his city like a paper-maché Carnival colossus rocking down Veterans Boulevard atop a flashing triple-decker float. He raced world class offshore speedboats, flitted about in his “chicken copter” and his Maserati, and caught and released trophy wives like a tournament fisherman.

The closest I ever got to Al was watching him and his lieutenants go over customer comment cards after the monthly Popeytes manager’s breakfast, held at the hotel where I did banquet work in college. He would shush and chase us off if we tried to clear tables once that intense meeting started, so we would not disturb their pursuit of chicken perfection. I saw him close up again at the lakefront when a connection to my girlfriend’s family came to town with their own offshore racing boat (Still Crazy was it’s name, and I still have a grease-stained t-shirt somewhere). We could not, however, manage to finagle our way into the racing teams party out on Copeland compound on Folse Drive.

Al brought us the sort of spice we like, whether it was in a bucket with two sides and biscuits or on the six o’clock news. We all like to chatter about the older musicians passing on, but a big piece of New Orleans just checked out with Al. How many more little guys like him will the homogenized, box-box economy of the nation to north let rise up among us? We may never see his likes again.

Instead the comfortably milquetoast, Perlis-attired, revenant anti-Long sorts that fill the pages of Gambit with their advertisements are what remains to us, people out-of-state investment bankers are comfortable having lunch with at Galatoires, thinking they are slumming in wicked old New Orleans. They will bring Borders to St. Charles and Nike Factory Stores to Mid-City; Moloch will roll out the big Targets and little Starbucks like a stinking volcanic mudslide, obliterating everything in its path.

A little bit of us all died with Al, and if we aren’t careful soon all that will remain to differentiate us from Atlanta will be our broken and littered roads rolling beneath the faded beads dangling in the branches of the winter trees.

Kudos to KamaAina for catching my O’typo on Toole’s name. Oh, for an editor!

What more can I add about Al Copeland’s passing March 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, food, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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except, perhaps, this addy for Popeyes in Korea?

I think the giant yellow chicken is contemplating invading Japan and using his Fiery Cajun Breath to take on Godzilla while leveling half of Tokyo (The Model, 1:400 scale with child safe “no-sniff” cement)

Actually, I have a few things to say but that will have to wait for later.

St. Joseph the Worker March 7, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, CBD, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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It looks like I’m going to be hunkered in the bunker down here at the sketchy end of the CBD all weekend, making the large financial institution that employs me that much larger. If you’ve never integrated two company’s complex business and IT systems all in a weekend, lucky you. I’ve been down this road before and it is more fun than running a gauntlet of drunken, club-wielding Cossacks while singing hava nagila, but not by much.

Part of the fun of this exercise is that large organizations which have embraced Modern Project Management are full of people for whom what should be (and is for me) a practical discipline has become a sort of obscure religion with more and no less onerous rules than Leviticus and a daily program of ritual meetings that rivals monastic life, governed by that dysfunctional Book of Hours, Microsoft Project.

One good thing about being at the end, aside from a year-long slog being nearly over, is that the early program of setting entirely unreasonable deadlines without even consulting the people who have to meet then, and then suggesting that we will never know if we can meet then until we try, is behind us. At one time I was near the point of hog-tying some of the main office’s PMs and dragging them up to the roof and informing them that we’re were going to determine if they could fly. You never know for sure, I wanted to tell them, until you try.

One benefit of this event is that I get to book a room for catnaps at a nearby hotel where there are, I am told, frequently a lot of other working people. Unfortunately, most of them do not work for large financial institutions; well, maybe their customers do, but I’d rather not know. I just hope they keep it down in the next room.

The short version is: I guess I’m going to miss out on all the St. Josephs’ Altars this weekend. If you get by one, snag me a fava bean. Oh, and St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us.

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N.B. St. Joseph the Worker’s feast is actually not until May 1, and is probably intended to give good Catholics something to do on May 1 other than march in parades secretly orchestrated by some neo-Trotskyists with a clever front name. I think Trotskyists would be a lot more fun if they dressed like the Knights of Columbus or lawyers going to the Red Mass. Maybe then we could get in an extra parade weekend, if Mayday weren’t smack in the middle of Jazz Fest.

Old No. 745 March 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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I last saw the steam engine Southern Pacific No. 745 out the window of my wife’s hospital room at Ochsner Hospital, parked on a siding just across Jefferson Highway. At the time, I did not make a connection between the locomotive and cars I saw there and the black behemoth I used to clamber on as a child at Audubon Park, but I learned that it is one and the same.

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While I lived away, the steam engine was purchased from the park by a group and restored to working order. Now a thief has stolen the engine’s steam whistle and it will not roll again until a replacement can be found.

Tales of Grave Ulysses February 28, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, quotes, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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….O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gilbraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

— James Joyce’s Ulysses

Soon it will be June and where then shall we meet, and who shall read? I have never done a Bloomsday and have always wanted to. The last hereabouts looks to have been June 2005 and then, well, you know. So, who’s in?

.

P.S.–It’s hard to see online, but this has a NoLa Rising tag painted down the left side.

Sweet 16 February 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, kids, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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Tonight is my daughter Killian’s Sweet 16 Party, an affair organized by parents of sophomores at her elite public high school. All of the girls have Beatles on the brain (which doesn’t prevent them from listening to Kane West or Lupe Fiasco) and the theme is All You Need Is Love.

The highlight (for me) will be The Presentation, when we dads get to walk our daughter down the stairs. Killian and her friends thought the presentation part was a terrible idea, so I had suggested that — given the theme — if we didn’t have a presentation that some of the other dads and I would get ourselves up in white tails and do this, their mother’s swirling around us in long skirts.

We won out in the end, and I will be presenting her to society as it were in proper New Orleans fashion. I still think the Magical Mystery Tour bit would have been fun.

Its a new day January 21, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Bloggers, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Flood, home, New Orleans, NOLA, NOLA Blogroll, Odds&Sods, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
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Just a note if you’ve wandered in from Wet Bank Guide, as I transition out of that project and on to others, to welcome you to Toulouse Street — Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans. This is a different space, one I originally started as a place to put odd things that didn’t seem to fit on the high tone I had set at WBG. If you scroll down, you’ll find plenty of odd bits of life in NOLA here, and some just plain odd things that just pleased me as I sit here typing on Toulouse Street.

I have updated the once brief blogroll here to incorporate everyone (I think) who is still publishing that was listed at WBG. I’ve I’ve left you off, sorry. I often steal time away to blog late at night or early in the morning when the faculties have sometimes sent themselves to sleep early even as I bask in the glow of the monitor and thoroughly screw up my circadian rhythms, or else are still lying tangled in the mind’s sheets even as the body stands upright and stares intently at the dripping coffee.

New Orleans remains my theme, my obsession almost. That deep connection was always there in me during the 20 years I lived away, in the manner Catholicism is imprinted upon me by growing up in New Orleans and twelve years of Catholic school regardless of professed or practiced faith. New Orleans will still predominate here, but since this is more a blogger’s blog–what I once called (no insult intended) a vanity blog–I feel freer to drop in bits of favorite music, poetry and the just plain weird.

If you’re looking for something more like what Wet Bank Guide had become over time, keep coming. I am not going to stop writing about New Orleans and I will continue to find joy and sorrow worthy of note and a special effort on my part, and will post some of that here. You can also drop by Poems Before Breakfast and find where some of my creative energy has been going lately.

And here, as at Wet Bank Guide, we will always Remember. The events that drove WBG are as imprinted on us as the necessity that any dish in a pot worth having should begin with celery, bell pepper and onion in a sizzling roux. It is still After the End of the World. Don’t you know that yet? My touch stones remain: Je me souviens Remember 8-2; We will never forget. Still, Toulouse Street is more a celebration than a lament. Jim Morrison’s lyric “I love the friends I have gathered together here on this thin raft” is our slogan, even if we are still huddled together here because it is after the end of the world. For us it’s a new day every day, a continual act of will and creation to make again one of the great cities on this earth.

Ok, that’s enough cheerful stuff this early in the morning. We now return you to your regularly unscheduled coverage of my view from Toulouse Street — Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans.

Space is the Place January 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, home, Hurricane Katrina, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, quotes, Rebirth, Remember, Sinn Fein, Sun Ra, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
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Space is the Place

“The first thing to do
is to consider time
officially as ended.
We work on the other side
of time”
— Sun Ra

I want to march like Sun-Ra
in glittering alien threads
into an Oakland pool-hall
and declare our intention to embark.

New Orleans, as ruined as the pyramids,
rising up majestic in the air
on howling trombone notes of joy
to launch another crescent in the sky.

The sun will strike us colorblind
once we’re beyond the atmosphere.
We’ll cast the last debris off over Kansas
and shower them a carnival of stars.

Together like stranded astronauts
who’ve exhausted the last of our air,
we’ll lift off the mask at last
and dare to breath together.

We’ll claim our place at last
in the ancient parade of zodiac
where Bayou Andromeda
brushes up against the Milky Way

Cross-posted from Poems Before Breakfast.

Stringing up dozens January 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Carnival, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, French Quarter, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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In a world where all of our holidays come cleverly packaged on the shelves–Christmas trees with embedded lights decked and holiday cookies ready-made at the local grocery’s bakery–most people no longer have the simple traditions long ago. I once cut my own tree, wading through a foot of Minnesota snow at 20 degrees to do it, but I can’t say I’ve ever strung up popcorn. Holidays like Halloween are much the same. Our children’s costumes come in plastic bags and no one dares put out a homemade treat since we now another parents will just dump it in the garbage.

Mardi Gras is one place where the handmade is still valued. Yes, the parade floats are largely mass-produced and much recycled by a handful of shops, the stores are full of kitschy decorations and of course there will be lots of people roaming St. Charles Avenue and the French Quarter in costumes from some store named The Party Pit. That is part of Carnival, but not the heart of Carnival.

On the big day, hundreds of African-American men and women will step out of their houses in costumes like these. The Societé de Sainte Anne and all of the other small marching groups will step out in elaborate costumes made by hand, either by themselves or by seamstresses. My own costume for Krewe du Vieux is still forming up, but it’s fairly simply and mostly conceptual. I may find it easier in a busy life to dress my son store-bought, but I’ve always tried to assemble my own costumes. I don’t got to the lengths of Danger Blonde, who yearly makes custom beaded-object throws and fabulous bustiers for the Divine Protectors of Endangered Pleasures, but if you’re going to dress you might as well be do it right. Every year around this time, I head in my head the admonishment of one of the Mardi Gras Indian chiefs being interviewed on WWOZ sometime back in the 1980s: Don’t be fallin’ out of your house with no needle an’ thread in your hand. I wish to hell I knew who had said that, but it’s stuck with me forever.

One thing we must do every year at our house is collect all of the caught beads we’ve saved up (and my son and I are dogged parade goers, working the neutral ground from morning to night all the week-ends before Carnival), and begin the slow process of untangling, matching up by size, and making up new dozens to toss back out when we march through Marigny and the Quarter.

Stringing up dozens is one of those tasks like cleaning out the attic that is often is slowed down by “remember when” moments (wasn’t Chaos funny last year? Remember the guy we saw….), as well as interrupted by comedy: finding that whoopee cushion, or the little foam rockets you can launch with a rubber band on the tip that turns our bead stringing party into a temporary war zone.

My son groaned this year when I told him it was time to string up the beads into dozens. He would rather hang out with a friend and play his WII. For him, Carnival is mostly new. I am a native with thirty years of Carnival under my belt before we came back to New Orleans in 2006, but this is really only his third year and his second as an Orleanian. It was not, for him, a tradition but a chore like cleaning up his room: until we got started, and found the whoopie cushions and rockets.

As long as I have legs to march I will look forward to stringing up the dozens, especially the few years I have left before my 12-year old boy is either too damn busy to help (like his socially swirling 15 year old sister) or gone from the house. For me, it is not the arrival of King Cakes in the stores (and most places were putting them out with red and green sugar in December), or the first time I open the paper and it falls open to the débutante pictures of Krewe’s ball, or even taking down the Christmas decorations with Mardi Gras Vol. 1 blaring on Twelfth Night. Carnival begins at the Folse house when I start to haul in and down the bags of tangled baubles and dump them out onto the table, and we closed the circle that connects the last Mardi Gras to this year’s Carnival, one string at a time.

Believe January 20, 2007

Posted by The Typist in football, New Orleans, NOLA, Saints, Uncategorized.
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faith.jpg

Morgus October 20, 2006

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Uncategorized.
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morguscard.jpg

The Voice of Genius, from 1959

It ain’t over… September 24, 2006

Posted by The Typist in Hurricane Katrina, Jazz, New Orleans, NOLA, Uncategorized.
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“It ain’t over. We’re going to try to make it better. It might not be today or tomorrow, but we’ll be back. We took New Orleans with us anyway, so everywhere we go, we’ve got it.”

– Tanio Hingle, New Birth Brass Band, from the article New Birth For New Orleans Brass Bands published September 10, 2005 in AllAboutJazz.com. Yeah, you right.

The 100 Ways September 14, 2006

Posted by The Typist in Citizen Journalism, Corps of Engineers, Hurricane Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
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Times are not good here September 7, 2006

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“Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”

— Lafcadio Hearn, nineteenth century author and observer of Creole culture.

A sign as flimsy as the Corps’ levees August 16, 2006

Posted by The Typist in Citizen Journalism, Corps of Engineers, flooding, New Orleans, NOLA, Uncategorized.
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Sign at Corps of Engineers 17th Street Canal Site
Courtesy of
Habitat for Urbanity I posted about this at Wet Bank Guide already, but not the actual photo. I’m dumbstruck.

The Recovery Process Explained July 25, 2006

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Uncategorized.
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Maitri on VatulNET asks if someone can explain the convoluted recovery process for her. Here is my first shot. Let me know if this helps.

recoveryprocessflowchart3.gif

 (c) 2006 Mark A. Folse