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Little Miracles December 25, 2015

Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Typist, Xmas, Yule.
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This is an excerpt of a long ago blog post on Wet Bank Guide.
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… [b]ut I believe in Christmas miracles. A decade ago, my three-year old daughter fell in love with a character called Rugby Tiger, from an obscure [Jim Henson production]  called The Christmas Toy. Having Rugby Tiger was her only Christmas wish, the only secret she had for Santa.

Finding Rugby Tiger proved to be impossible. The Christmas Toy is a wonderful show, but not a spectacular of the sort that generates tie-in marketing. The stores at Christmas are full of great piles of stuffed animals, but none came close to looking like Rugby. We scoured the smallish town we lived in at the time, and all the stores of Fargo, N.D. as well. I dredged through catalogs of online stores back in the early days of e-commerce, and called every major toy store I could think of. It became increasingly clear there would be no miracle, that the first Christmas my first child really understood would be a failure, a disappointment that would haunt her the rest of her life.

There’s a happy holiday thought.

Then one day, perhaps a week before Christmas, I went into a little mom-and-pop drug store in little Detroit Lakes, MN, and walked past the big pile of stuffed animals I had twice before torn apart. As I came back from the pharmacist with my little bag, I decided to have one last desperate dig. And that’s when I found him.

His tag didn’t say Rugby Tiger, but he was a perfect replica, the very image of the television tiger. Christmas was saved.

I’ve told this story to my children, when they finally asked me about Santa Claus. Yes, I can tell them with a straight face, I do believe in Santa Claus, because once when I truly needed a mieraculous Christmas present for someone I loved, it happened.

Perhaps I’ve used up my quotient of miracles. But I know that belief is more than just a bit of sustaining psychology. I am a poor excuse for a Christian, probably not one at all at this point in my life. But I know there is a power within us and without us that, sustained by belief, can work miracles in this world.

Most miracles are small and personal things: two people meeting and falling in love, a child’s face on Christmas morning when they find a dream come true, the birth on a winter’s night of a child entirely ordinary and no less miraculous. My Christmas wishes for myself and for my city may seem as improbable as the sentiments of a beauty contestant, but they’re not. My wish is for the thousand tiny and entirely human miracles I know are possible.

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A Child’s Christmas in Wales December 25, 2015

Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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Blue Lights on a White Tree December 25, 2013

Posted by The Typist in blues, cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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The promised clouds have not appeared, an unexpected Xmas gift. It is brisk but not frigid, and I half-hope someone sees me step out in my snowflake boxers to unplug the lights but the streets are quiet in south Lakeview. No one it seems has gotten a bicycle or a skateboard from Santa, or perhaps the children are too busy commandering the television to connect the new PS/4 just at the moment that somewhere out in the ether the dog attacks the family turkey for the umpteenth time. Probably no BB guns under the tree either but it is neither a 1940s fantasy nor Egret Street 1963. In a few hours I will see my beautiful grown children and among their gifts with be a Razr DeathAdder gaming mouse which is as close to a BB gun as it gets in 2013. My own gifts are few but precious: to see two practically perfect children grown into the grace of cocktails and conversation with the other adults and the love of a woman her friends christened Patrice Navidad for her love of Xmas.

The night I promised to help her haul out her tree she instead rushed her brother to the hospital for a detached retina, and I sat alone in her house while my son hosted movie night for his friends at my house. What the hell, I thought, and set about deconstructing her cluttered front closet in search of the pieces of the tree. Blue Grinch that I think I am I thought I might as well get it done. Miraculously I got the pieces together on the second try and set about untangling the still-attached lights, a fire hazard rat’s nest with the carbon footprint of occupied Bethlehem. Miraculously they all still worked. Cheered by a second beer and success, I set about digging out the three Christmas piggies and some lights salvaged from Toulouse Street. A quick trip to Walgreens for an extension cord and voila. I stood next to the bare crepe myrtles sipping another beer while the loose black cat I call Beezelbub rubbed against my leg. I recalled 20 degrees in the afternoon, a 24-foot extension ladder planted precariously in the lumpy, crusted snow hanging my own vast collection of lights against the December darkness of 45º North and somewhere in my blue heart all the Whos down in Whoville sung around their barren tree.

Not a day has passed since when she hasn’t told me how it made her cry.

Last night we watched The Polar Express and I told her the story of The Christmas Toy, an obscure Muppets film that enchanted my daughter when she was three or four, and spawned an ask to Santa for Rugby Tiger, perhaps the only Jim Henson creation to not make it out of marketing and onto the holiday shelves. The Internet offered nothing, and calls to every toy store in Minneapolis and Chicago were fruitless. The thought that your tiny daughter’s dearest Xmas wish might go unfilled is the bluest of Xmas possibilities. And then one snow grey day I searched the stuffed animal pile at the local drugstore in the small town where we lived and found not just a passable facsimile but a dead ringer for Rugby Tiger. My ticket was punched Believer by the gloves of a contender.

As I sit here listening to the Chieftain’s Bells of Dublin–a beautiful combination of ancient tradition and whiskey-too-early Ceili–contemplating whiskey in the coffee, with the presents here unopened and two stops to make before we are certainly late to my sister’s, I feel compelled like Ebenezer to share these few bits of Xmas joy with anyone out there watching a movie while contemplating a Chinese menu.

Xmas morning spelling errors in the first post courtesy of Google Android and Samsung.

Happy Holidays December 24, 2013

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Fortin Street, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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from The Typist and Mr. Burroughs. My second favorite holiday tale after The Little Match Girl, which my mother loathed and my grandmother insisted she always read us.

Happy Chrismas December 25, 2011

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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This Day a Child Is Born December 25, 2011

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, Shield of Beauty, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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For, Lo! today a child is born in the East and her name is Rebecca and her name is Azra. His name is Mohamed and his name is David. His name is Kripalu and her name is Yasmin. His name is Kibwe and her name is Ngozi. Her name is Lian and his name is Chao.

And farther East, across the Pacific which means peace, where East meets West and the circle is closed, her name is Maria and his name is Jesús .

Wise men honor them all.

May the peace of the gods of their names be upon them.

The Junkie’s Christmas December 24, 2011

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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Burroughs does Xmas stripped of all the pretense. I love this story but then I was raised on The Little Match Girl. If you don’t understand why Jesus of Nazareth would love this story go back to wrapping presents. Better yet,  burn your tree. Leave the angel on top so she can fly up to the heavens in the smoke and ash and ask whatever gods may be lurking behind the entirely ordinary stars of a mythical winter’s night to have mercy on your soul.

A Long Winter’s Nap December 24, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, A Fiction, Dancing Bear, NOLA, peace, Shield of Beauty, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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Toulouse Street is now on holiday autopilot until the eggnog is gone. I’ve posted a few of these before but we all have our own old chestnuts to roast and the one original story is rewritten and I think improved.

The sun has closed it’s circle and is born again. As we gather around the fire with our circle of family and friends to tell the old stories may it’s waxing light warm the hearts of believers and nonbelievers alike.

Xmas Adam December 23, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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Its Christmas Adam, I used to tell the children. They would roll their eyes. Because Adam came before Eve, I added. Whatever.

It may be my favorite made up holiday, better than Festivus, but I am the busiest unemployed person I know: call back two recruiters and the man about the apartment up the street (which means it’s mine if I want it). Then I’m off to pick up a turkey ordered from Whole Foods in Metairie, just across from Lakeside, on the Friday before Christmas. What was I thinking? Then Rouse’s for the making of Indian corn. Does Whole Foods even sell creamed corn? Even if they do, Rouse’s will be cheaper, but the idea of doubling up on check-out lines this close to Christmas is daunting.

I have to run my daughter to work, wrap presents, pick her up again later, and somewhere in there pick up the apartment before my son comes Monday, vacuum at least the front room where he spends all his time on the sleeper sofa (unless, of course, I take that two bedroom apartment). Moving even my few sticks of furniture is not on the list of holiday worries. Don’t think about it.

Tomorrow I will go with my mother and sister to Revillion dinner at ‘, at 3:30 pm, the best reservation I could manage because I always think about doing this two weeks before Christmas. Next year, I resolve, I will call at Thanksgiving. And quit smoking. And lose 30 pounds. Yeah, right.

If I survive all this I can look forward to a quiet holiday night, maybe drive around and look at some of the holiday lights, a coffee traveler of hot buttered rum in the cup holder, except that Rouse’s is sold out of allspice since Thanksgiving and never restocks before Christmas. (Add to resolutions: buy allspice before Thanksgiving). Then I can finally settle down for a long winter’s nap.

Or I could look up who’s playing on Frenchman tonight (add to resolutions: drink less coffee), imagine some trumpeter’s singing is the gravel-gargling voice of Pops doing Christmas Time in New Orleans because, well, it is.

The Anthill Madness of Veterans at Xmas December 21, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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Veterans Boulevard is chaos this near to Xmas, crowded with cars moving like doodle bugs, a slow and determined crawl. A woman tries to exit a parking lot and insists on reaching the far turn lane, clenched fists furiously pounding the horn, face set like a lineman in the moments before contact. Why they position these u-turn lanes at intersections, precisely the point where a wall of cars will block the manic driver attempting to force her way across three lanes of stalled cards, is a mystery known only to the traffic engineers. Perhaps it is because the refuse to culvert and cover the canal west of Causeway, conserving their dollars to erect metal statues to give the appearance of culture. Metairie at the holidays is not culture. It is the primal panic of a crowd confronted with Godzilla. Walled in on all side by big box stores on all sides, they cannot escape.

This is the creeping edge of America pushing closer to New Orleans, every one defending their position on the road or the tax bracket, demanding everything the television promises them regardless of the danger. There is none of the patience of Orleanians creeping up Carrollton Avenue or waiting at Louisiana where St. Charles narrows to one lane. I prefer to sit and wait my turn where the clattering streetcars pass, marveling at the craftsmanship of a vehicle where every replacement part is built by hand, There is time to think, impossible when locked in a life-or-death struggle to make the Causeway entrance ramp.

So many people clamor for the convenience of big box stores in the city. When they wanted to build a Target or some other store where Bayou St. John ends at Jefferson Davis Parkway, those of us closest recoiled at the thought of all that traffic channeled down Moss Street; Bienville Street become West Esplanade Avenue, impossible to cross from the Orleans side to the Canal side as all of Lakeview speeds past on their way to shop. It would spare me occasional trips to Metairie but instead bring Metairie to my doorstep, the choice a snarl of traffic that would make Veterans like a country lane or the conversion of quiet, neighborhood streets into frantic avenues of commerce.

I foolishly ordered a turkey from Whole Foods in Metairie just across from Lakeside Mall, and will find myself on Veterans on December 23rd; worse a Friday, the day when it appears no one is Jefferson Parish goes to work but instead out to shop. I think there is no better definition of insanity, but I have made my bed and must sleep in it. Arabella wouldn’t be much better with last minute holiday dinner shoppers trying to wedge themselves into the tiny parking area.

Once committed to the Metairie option my only avenue of escape is patience as I crawl back down Veterans, the construction on Causeway Boulevard allowing perhaps one car every two or three minutes to make it to the interchange. That way madness lies. I will have to console myself that once I make it past Causeway, escape onto the 610 at West End Boulevard and make my exit at St. Bernard, I can admire the way everyone gracefully navigates the complex intersection of St. Bernard, Gentilly, Paris and DeSaix.

Now is the Winter of our Discomfort December 18, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Carnival, Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, The Odd, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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The cranky gas wall furnace is so old I sometimes think it is here by order of the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the committees we have set up to preserve New Orleans historic character by regulating with the fickleness of ancient gods such critical items as the appropriate style of doorknobs allowed. The ugly grey panel inset on my wall is inefficient, unreliable and expensive: the very model of histrionic preservation, but I believe it mostly remains through the inertia of a typical New Orleans landlord. It still works, after a fashion, so it stays. Its cousin the floor furnace is largely extinct as a result of the flood, and the wall furnace lacks the charm of stepping on a metal grate barefoot or the portal to hell sensation of passing over one in operation, but it’s what I have.

The instructions of operation on my wall furnace are so faded that with an eight-cell flashlight and my readers on it still requires the skills of a document historian experienced in the decoding of ancient and marginally legible texts to make them out. Fortunately, it is not my first, and even after 30 years I remember how to turn the regulator just so and to warm the temperature sender for a bit to get the pilot lit. Thank the gods for the invention of stick lighters, as this was once an operation requiring a pile of kitchen matches that brought back memories of reading Jack London’s To Build A Fire.

Once the faint pilot is flickering, after an extended period prone on the cold floor holding down the starter and counting slowly to sixty by Mississippis while the sensor warms up enough to keep it going, you can at last turn on the heat. I know never to turn the gas up past the point it just starts to flow, and to keep my face and arm out of the immediate vicinity of the works. Crank it up too high because the house is cold, the floor is colder and you are desperate for some heat and the explosive blow-back of ignition will belch out of the access panel like a dragon with indigestion.

Winter this far south is not the cozy Rockwell fantasy of the paintings of Thomas Kinkade. (Yes, there is a link. Follow it at your own peril unless you have a large collection of cherubic porcelain children). Our vistas are not snowy landscapes of farmhouses set against a backdrop of evergreens with a skating stream or pond in the foreground and perhaps a horse drawn sleigh in there somewhere. It is brown lawns and winter killed uncut lots, the latter revealing a year’s collection of litter, which is one of New Orleans’ major local products after cheesy t-shirts and tourist vomit.

Our winter season is a confusing mix of Indian summer days and a cold damp so penetrating we must swath ourselves in animal skins like Neolithic primitives. You can keep your expensive, technical mountaineering shell and layers of fleece that work so well for Nordic skiing. Nothing but a thick layer of wool or a shell of leather can keep out the wet chill. The pea coat will never go out of fashion in New Orleans because it is not a matter of fashion but survival. I spent my time up north decked out in Cabella’s most modern fabrics learning to navigate a pair of beaver tail show shoes, awkward constructions of bent wood and tanned animal sinew. with a design dating back to the flint knife. Originally a gift that spent a few years crossed on the wall, my friend who gave them to me insisted they were fully functional and he was right. It was good to get out of the house for some reason other than shoveling, scraping and chipping away winter to a standard acceptable to finicky Nordic neighbors fond of an orderly neatness that does not come naturally to a born Orleanian. Give me a good pea coat for a trip through the French Quarter any day.

Forget a roaring fire. The bricked in hearths below the lovely mantels that rob you of a functional wall were designed for shallow coal fireplaces. I had one still open for use when I lived on Carrollton Avenue that I determined would still draft by lighting a small torch of newspaper. I confirmed it was not terribly obstructed by getting my eyes and a flashlight up the flue by a contortion usually only attempted by advanced students of yoga. Still, it could just manage the smallest of commercial press-wood and paraffin fire logs. I’m sure it had not been properly serviced by a chimney sweep since the last ice man sold his mule to the tourist carriage companies, but somehow we managed not to burn the building down. The first Christmas Marianne and I had the family over for Christmas dinner I fired it up, hoping the most festive part of the afternoon would not be the arrival of the fire department but the damn thing worked and I miss it.

We are simply not built for winter in New Orleans: not our homes, not ourselves. Every few years the city gets the idea to line Canal Street with palms to amuse the tourists but one good, hard freeze (the local equivalent of a howling blizzard) and they are gone again. City government is a dumb and lumbering beast that survives because is just to big to kill, and then what would your Delgado drop-out cousin do if not supervise the mowing of the neutral grounds? If we had real snow down here, we would all die after burning up the last stick of furniture before they would get the plows out.

§

Other than the icicle winds there are few signs of winter in New Orleans. The feral green parrots still favor the neighbor’s tree, some weedy thing that has managed 30 feet but is so covered in cats claw it is impossible to determine the species. There is an odd dissonance in sitting out for a cigarette in a sweater, thick flannel pajama pants, and my L.L. Bean slipper socks (indispensable for uninsulated hardwood floors) listing to their raucous tropical chatter.

Few trees change color down here to warn of winter’s approach. Only the cypress and some species of birch favored by northern transplants reliably show some Fall color and the fickle things wait until just before the solstice to change. I remember brilliant October afternoons driving the winding roads and low hills of western Minnesota, stopping along the way for pumpkins and apple butter. Here the display of bright orange and red leaves is a catch as catch can affair, and must be viewed between the blustery cold front that triggers the brief display of color and the next which blows the leaves away. Before you know it, industrious homeowners and city workers are out blowing all the leaves into the gutters, ensuring we will all enjoy the occasional use of our pirogues and canoes in the flooded streets.

Winter does have it charms. There is the arrival at your holiday party of a fabulously drunk contingent just out of some other booze-fueled party, intent on making hot-buttered rum, spilling liquor and sugar and melted butter all over the newly installed granite counters. This drives the lady of the house to distraction–convinced they will be ruined–in spite of all of your attempts to explain that the damn things are rocks forged over geological time and not likely to be dissolved by hot dairy products.. There are the fiery hogshead cheese and pickled okra, the Pickapepper sauce over cream cheese and the oceans of alcohol to warm everyone with festive cheer.

Winter is racing season at the Fairgrounds. While bundling up to drink the best Bloody Marys in the city while gambling lacks the rustic charm of snow-shoeing or a sleigh ride through the park, it does get you out of the house and all of the frantic jumping up and down and hollering does get the blood flowing. There are the festive lights that the city’s residents take to a level only a place trained by the gaudy display of carnival would attempt. An inflatable Santa astride a Harley-Davidson may be a universal American icon of Christmas, but there is a Chalmette-aptness to them down here.

And while the rest of America settles in to watch the bowl games, sipping non-alcoholic cider next to their roaring fireplaces, we are busy pulling out hot glue guns and feathers, spilling sequins all over the kitchen floor, because Mardi Gras is just around the corner. Come Twelfth Night, when the true believers in the spirit of Creole Christmas will haul out their tinder-dry trees to the curb, we will all bundle up in our animal skins and pea coats to observe the ancient ritual of a mob of happy drunks boarding a streetcar to inaugurate Carnival. You can keep your ice-skating outings and sleigh rides. Me, I’m ready for the real pleasure of winter: the first parade of the season.

A Star in the Beast December 7, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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The rain falls in a dismal Oregon mist, a drizzle so fine my Fargo-raised son says it feels like snow. It is not. It is only in the low fifties out, and it is raining, the steady, penetrating damp of New Orleans winter.

It drives Northerners nuts. Before moving here she said: I’ll never get to where my sweaters, looking at that hope chest full of good Norwegian wool. Yes, you will, I answered. They come from the north expecting palms and balmy breezes and instead get a cold so bleak I wonder if this is how Ernest Shackelton’s men felt marooned on Elephant Island. I expect to pass a restaurant chalkboard and see Booby Soup featured.

When I lived up North the great moment of vernal excitement was when “the ice was off the lakes.” It then commenced to rain instead of snow, the icy rain of clouds off the North Pacific riding polar air masses south, on days cold enough to wear a sweater even if the sun were shining. This they called Spring. For someone from New Orleans, it was a second winter, more depressing than six months in an igloo, a winter without the pristine joy of fresh snow still a wonder to a Southern boy after a decade.

Granted that here in New Orleans we all might be swimming in Grandma’s pool come Christmas Day, but December is one of the city’s cloudiest months, and near the top for rainfall. This is the month when I remember and wonder: we almost moved to Portland, attracted by an guaranteed job with the company I worked for. My Portland-based boss and co-workers would have been pleased if we had come. I had looked at houses on the Internet, studied the tide tables of the Columbia River thinking of sailing on strongly tidal waters. Then I thought of endless drizzle and clouds. Then the Flood came, and all other plans were off. I was coming home.

I stood in a bar last Saturday, and fell into conversation with a group of Canadians. The day’s high had reached into the fifties but begun to fall outside. They all wore light fleece, the sort of thing one wears in “Spring” or in the warming house in the north. I have had this conversation two dozen times before: would we trade 50 and drizzle for a clear and windless 10 degree day, the sound of snow shows biting through the crust, the swoosh of cross-country skis?

###

Tuesday was another gloomy evening of drizzle. As I turned to take my shortcut through City Park along Roosevelt Mall to get to Esplanade–car heater blasting like Satan’s chimney, blessed seat warmers up on high–I was greeted with the sight of a new set of Christmas lights in the park: an avenue of blue stars with white comet tails hanging from the oaks. I took my foot off the gas and let the car slowly roll beneath them. I was struck with the wonder I felt as a child visiting the Centanni House on Canal Street, oblivious to the weather, crunching into a candy apple from the several vendors who gathered there. When Salvador “Sam” Centanni died, king of over-the-top Christmas lights Al Copeland sent a lighted Christmas wreath instead of flowers, addressed to “The real King of Christmas.”

Once the children abandon Santa the way you left the church behind years ago, Christmas is a strange season: dinner at the in-laws stretched from hours to days, an obligatory Mass where you hope no one notices that you don’t even bother to mumble anymore to the Apostles Creed. Catholics are rotten singers but there was still something about midnight mass, waiting impatiently to bellow at the end Gloria in Ecelsis Deo over the woebegon Catholic pioneers around you. There was a ballooning joy in seeing the children’s faces when they opened their presents on Chritsmas Eve but I never quite got over the idea that presents belonged to Christmas morning. For half my life Christmas Eve was a time for parties and visiting neighbors, my father and my uncle drunkenly assembling a bicycle after midnight. But the great pleasure of the season wherever I lived was the mid-winter carnival of lights.

When I first got home to Mid-City, I would drive down City Park Avenue and look at the tangle of torn wires in the oak trees, all that remained of the Celebration in the Oaks. Over the years it has slowly recovered, and the site of the chase-light candy cane tunnel over the miniature train tracks no longer leads to my slamming on the breaks at Marconi. I am sad they moved the dragon far back into the lagoons and replaced it with the swans at Wisner and City Park. That dragon blown akimbo by the storm and left in the lagoon for seasons was for me not just a a memory but a promise, that mythical creatures still have meaning, manifest themselves in our lives if only by the magic of lights strung on a wire frame.

I don’t believe in a star in the east, but I do believe in the power of a hundred thousand glowing bulbs–the CO2 soaked atmosphere be damned for a month or so–to lift the cold-soaked soul toward the heavens.

Bah-ha-ha Humbug November 24, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Humor, Poetry, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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Looks like McVisamas is safe for another thanks to the weather gods. Still:

A Blisterous Carol

The damn rains’ irregular
splattoo on the window unit,
this plucked turkey sweltering
in Gulf Coast November—
One more day past 80
& that’s it: I’m
cancelling Christmas.
Let those poor Scotch fir
& all those blue spruce
rest just this one winter.
Let the chestnuts
scatter their progeny
on the ground,
make a holiday banquet
for some poor squirrel.
Roasting: forbidden.
One more jingle bell &
all holly jolly hell
may break loose.
I’ll bing your crosby
with a crowbar & then:
Oh, silent night!

Why spin up the light bill
with all those plastic icicles?
(Oh, coal in your stockings,
you ho-ho global warmers!)
Lay back & flail your arms
& make lawn angels
in the St. Augustine.
Admire the night lights.
Find one special star.
Give it to someone you love.
No you don’t need a bow.
No wrapping paper, either.
Remember all those trees
mowed down in their thickets
like Pickett’s confederates
to litter your carpet?
(op. cit. up top, you nitwit)

Peace on earth: yes. Good will
toward forests. For an angel came
to Santa at the mall &
stole his camera & hat.
He was so damned happy
to lose that nylon beard
he ripped off all that rented red
& in his sweaty drawers went &
tossed the loopy Muzak box
in the Chik-Fil-A fryer, then
smashed all the cash registers &
everyone got lots of presents.
Except the Visa MasterCard bankers
(those Ebenezer bastards)
& we’ve all seen that movie.
so many times we’re likely
to put our own eyes out.
I’m off to the liquor store.
Call me when it’s New Year’s.
We’ll deal out a holiday bender
to beat anybody’s three kings,
flush with holiday spirits
straight through to Twelfth Night.

Then, well, Carnival.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales December 25, 2009

Posted by The Typist in poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Audio of Thomas’ Reading: Part 1 Part 2

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero’s garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows – eternal, ever since Wednesday – that we never heard Mrs. Prothero’s first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor’s polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.
“Fire!” cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, “A fine Christmas!” and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

“Call the fire brigade,” cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.
“There won’t be there,” said Mr. Prothero, “it’s Christmas.”
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting.
“Do something,” he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke – I think we missed Mr. Prothero – and ran out of the house to the telephone box.
“Let’s call the police as well,” Jim said. “And the ambulance.” “And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires.”

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, “Would you like anything to read?”

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: “It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.”

“But that was not the same snow,” I say. “Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards.”

“Were there postmen then, too?”
“With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells.”
“You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?”
“I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them.”
“I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells.”
“There were church bells, too.”
“Inside them?”
“No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence.”

“Get back to the postmen”
“They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ….”
“Ours has got a black knocker….”
“And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out.”
“And then the presents?”
“And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger’s slabs. “He wagged his bag like a frozen camel’s hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone.”

“Get back to the Presents.”
“There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o’-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o’-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles’ pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why.”

“Go on the Useless Presents.”
“Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor’s cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons.”

“Were there Uncles like in our house?”
“There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms’ length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers.”

Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of a black eye, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face of Christmas when suddenly he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high, so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinsled windows, the whole length of the white echoing street. For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o’-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.
“I bet people will think there’s been hippos.”
“What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?”
“I’d go like this, bang! I’d throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I’d tickle him under the ear and he’d wag his tail.”
“What would you do if you saw two hippos?”

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel’s house.
“Let’s post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box.”
“Let’s write things in the snow.”
“Let’s write, ‘Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel’ all over his lawn.”
Or we walked on the white shore. “Can the fishes see it’s snowing?”

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying “Excelsior.” We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn’t the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. “What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?”
“No,” Jack said, “Good King Wencelas. I’ll count three.” One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen … And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.
“Perhaps it was a ghost,” Jim said.
“Perhaps it was trolls,” Dan said, who was always reading.
“Let’s go in and see if there’s any jelly left,” Jack said. And we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang “Cherry Ripe,” and another uncle sang “Drake’s Drum.” It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

Dylan Thomas

The Ghost of Christmas Future December 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, food, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK, Xmas, Yule.
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I wrote this little penny dreadful in one furious draft on Monday night, and I have been plinking at it since. I think it probably needs a serious once over with a blue pencil by someone else but Christmas is almost here and I’m not a patient person. Criticisms by comment or email welcome.

This is a work of fiction. Any perceived resemblance to persons living or dead should be discussed with your therapist at your next session.

Finally, this is the sort of thing that happens when you read the early short fiction of P.K. Dick around Christmas, something I don’t recommend. I have since switched to Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and feel entirely better.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

“Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.”
–Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”

Maria settled into the hard, wooden seat as the antique red streetcar jumped to a start and slowly whirred up to speed, clutching a shopping bag close to her chest. A few rolls of half-used foil wrapping paper stuck out of the package, the odd cut ends flapping a bit in the breeze as the car slowly got up to speed. These cars had once been air conditioned, or so Maria was told, but it had not worked any time she could remember. At least the windows opened, unlike the even older buses that carried her for the last part of her long trip home, those windows long fused shut by neglect and humidity. The December air was a lukewarm bath, not hot like August but not the cool that might come by Carnival if the city was lucky.

As she settled down for her long ride home she glanced out at the brightly-lit high rise buildings that lined the river, then turned her head away. She had spent the day in one of those, scrubbing out toilets and kitchen floors. From a distance at night they looked glamorous, like a city in an old movie. The insides she knew well enough after a dozen years working there as a maid, the apartments did not look so glamorous from down on hands and knees scrubbing.

She peered instead into her package, trying to decide if there was enough paper on the rolls to wrap the cast-offs she had gotten from Mrs. Lafont: toys her employer’s children had outgrown, a beautiful silk scarf in a slightly out of fashion pattern for herself. It would be better than last Christmas, the first after her husband died; coughing up the last of his life with the black mold and stucco dust he had breathed ten and twelve hours a day as a young man demolishing homes after the flood.

Better than last Christmas. She tried to convince herself the children were still so distraught over the loss of their father that the lack of presents that Christmas was a small thing, but she could see it in their eyes as she dressed them for mass on Christmas morning as they stared at the empty corner where her husband had always managed a small, leftover tree on Christmas Eve.. It was just another measure their loss, the first of many days when they would miss his presence.

She lifted up her shoulders and straightened her back as she took in a deep breath, then let it out in a long sigh to settle her mind, looking straight ahead as the car rattled toward the last of the high rises and the first checkpoint. A man in a black uniform with a small automatic pistol hanging at his waist from a shoulder strap stepped into the car, and Maria fished out her papers. It was the first of several times she would need them that evening, and she kept them in the little pocket of her bag ready to hand.

A pair of guards from Bywater Security stood laughing over a cigarette just outside the window at Maria’s seat, but the guard from the Downtown Security District who entered the car was not smiling. He walked slowly down the aisle, glancing casually at everyone’s proffered passes and ID cards. He passed Maria with just a desultory glance, but yanked the papers out of the hands of the young man sitting just behind her. Maria looked straight ahead but could see in her mind the scene unfolding as she had seen it a hundred times before: the guard staring intently at the card, then at the young man, then back at the card; his hand sliding back from its position resting atop the gun and toward the grip, his fingers stroking the metal as if the gun were a small lapdog. She heard him grunt and then shuffle on toward the back of the car. He pulled the stop cord, and the driver released the rear door to let him out.

It was the same at each of the neighborhood security boundaries on her long ride home to the back of town, the private police in their black uniforms manning their check points to see who was coming into their zone. Her grandmother had told her stories about growing up in Chiapas in the days of the rebels, of the soldiers with their machine guns patrolling the streets. Here in New Orleans, her grandmother told her, they mostly left you alone if your papers were OK. Back in Mexico it was not so good. Many young men were killed by the soldiers there, their wives abused. It was so much better, she was so, so lucky to be growing up in America.

She put her ID and pass back into her purse, checking to see that the envelope of cash Mrs. Lafont had given her as a Christmas tip was still safe in the bottom of her bag. Satisfied, she took out a small compact and looked into it instead of at the passing high rises or the river front parks her maid’s pass would never admit her to. In the mirror she saw two men she didn’t notice when she boarded the car, or remember seeing come down the aisle.

One was an older Anglo in a faded t-shirt, some design with a skull and a gun that said Defend, perhaps a retired soldado negro from one of the security districts. . Next to him was another man in a dark hoodie with the top pulled so far up and over his head that she could not see his face. It was so dark under the hood she thought he must be a Black, but she could not be sure. She was amazed the guard had not stopped this odd pair and hauled them off the car for further questioning. Even if the hooded one wasn’t a Black, and you never saw them inside the river front security districts, even if he were also an Anglo, wearing his face covered like that would be all the excuse they would need.

The hooded one turned toward her as she watched them in the mirror, and still she could not see his face in the mirror. She snapped it shut and shuddered as she crossed herself and kissed her thumb, murmuring the last phrases of a Hail Mary under her breath. As she did so the last of the high rises passed them by, and the Old Quarter began. Her grandmother had taken her down to the cathedral when she was a child, before the security districts replaced the old police and instituted the passes. They would sit among the pigeons and tourists and grandmother would tell her of her own girlhood in Mexico, of the cathedral on a square where the boys walked one way and the girls another on a Sunday afternoon, where she had met her grandfather, back in the years before he came to the city to work after the first flood.

She crossed herself again, feeling safer as the three towers of the church passed. She turned her head to watch them go by. In the corner of her eye she saw the seats where the hooded one and his companion had been were empty. The car had not stopped, and no one had gotten off. Her head snapped back to the front. Without looking down her hands fished deep into her bag and she dug out her rosary.

***

Scrouge did a walk through survey of the house. The dishwasher was whirring away in the dark kitchen, and all of the food put away. He took away the last shreds of wrapping paper from the cat, and tucked away the important looking bits of paper or odd bits of gifts. The Santa presents for the kids were laid out by the dining room fireplace. The cookies were out for the Big Guy (his teenage children had rolled their eyes), and he snagged one off the plate as he passed. His wife and children were all asleep. Christmas Eve was almost done.

He slipped quietly into the room they called the walk through closet, the one closest to their back bedroom on that side of the shotgun house, and took off his dressy Christmas Eve clothes. He pulled on some comfortable jeans and a Defend New Orleans t-shirt, one of almost a dozen he owned emblazoned with some emblem or slogan about saving the city. It was time for one last Christmas tradition.

He would slip out as he had every Christmas Eve since he returned to New Orleans for a late drink with friends at the Holiday Lounge deep in the Bywater. The place was a year-round tribute to Christmas, lit inside entirely by the fat colored bulbs he remembered from the trees of his youth, the walls hung with every sort of imaginable cheap holiday decoration: jolly plastic Santas and snowmen in top hats, rainbow-hued wire reindeer and candy canes, and a large Styrofoam figure of New Orleans holiday icon Mr. Bingle, the little snow man with the ice cream cone hat.

The Holiday was a New Orleans icon, and Scrouge was all about the icons. In the years since the hurricane and flood he had worn his love of New Orleans like a forearm tattoo, prominent and indelible. Since his return to New Orleans his life had been part pilgrimage, making a point of visiting all of the city’s notable spots at least once and his favorites whenever he could. He wrote about these places on an Internet site he had founded dedicated to preserving a small bit of each: an anecdote, a photograph, some scrap like a coaster scanned and saved for ever. That was not tonight’s agenda, but he knew he would likely write something out of tonight’s visit.

He sometimes wondered, sitting at the computer late at night, why he felt compelled to do this. It was more than just the web site, although it made him something of a notable character about town, something like always wearing a hat (which he did), and he relished the attention. Some times when the words would not come and he knew he should go to bed, he would instead sit on his porch smoking wondering: was there something more personal driving this constant comparison of the city he had left in his rear view mirror New Year’s Eve 1986 with the one that was slowly rebuilding itself all around him, the compulsion to stuff as much of the city as he could into his head. He told himself it was research, preparation for doing what he most wanted to do: to write something important about the city, a book immortalizing it against the slow erosion of time or worse the final flood, the one that would erase it for ever.

He peeked in one last time on his wife and then his son before leaving. Tonight shouldn’t be about the damned blog, he thought. He was going to see some of his oldest friends, people he had known since they were in kindergarten, the people after his wife and children he most cared about. Tonight should be about a different kind of remembering. He took the pen and small pad out of his back pocket, and laid it on the kitchen counter, and left.

He set the alarm, locked the door and stepped out on the porch. As he double checked the latch by pulling on the door he heard a “pop-pop-pop” in the distance. It could be fireworks, he told himself. They were illegal in the city, but people started buying them across the river as soon as the stands open and shooting them off at all hours of the day and night.

Or it could be something else: gunshots. The city had been in the middle of some level of crime wave—going from bad to horrible to back to simply bad—for years. He felt safe in his immediate neighborhood but there were vast stretches of the city that were simply dangerous, just as there were enormous areas that looked not much different three years after the hurricane and flood than they did three months after.

He often wondered if it was enough just to be here, to just write about the city, if that would really make a difference for a place at once so wonderful and so wounded. He had tried to do more the first year he was home, but the cross-currents of planning meetings and volunteer projects, and of family and his new job, had nearly drowned him. He had spent almost three and a half years writing almost every night about New Orleans, sharing it with the world. That had to count for something.

***

As he left the Holiday and walked back to his car up by the river levee something drew him up to the top of the levee to see the city strung out along the river, the lights of downtown in the distance. He lit a cigarette and looked at the city twinkling in the humid air, then up at the clear sky. A middle-aged man had no business being out looking for magic in the Christmas Eve sky at 1 a.m. in a sketchy part of town, but nothing moved except a tow boat. All was calm, and city was bright.

When the figure in the black jeans and hoodie pulled up over its head suddenly appeared next to him, he froze in place. He could not discern a face inside the hood, as if it were covered with a black stocking. He was certainly about to be robbed, and he hoped it would stop with that. But the figure did not pull a gun, or say a word for what was probably a minute but seemed in his adrenaline rush to be an hour.

The figure pointed at first without speaking, the long sleeve of the over sized hooded sweatshirt hiding its hand, in the direction over his shoulder. He turned and saw the city transformed. The low buildings of the Bywater were gone, replaced by what he was sure were a row of high rise apartment buildings of the sort he remembered from his years in Washington, D.C. A red street car like those that ran up and down the riverfront closer to downtown was slowly crawling up Chartres Street.

It had been a typical, warm Christmas night in New Orleans but he was suddenly soaked in sweat under his clothes and shivering as if he were coming down with the flu. The figure just stood there, pointing at the street car stop down the levee. He tried to speak to it but when he opened his mouth only confused bits of words would come out. Finally the figure spoke. “We’re going to ride the car downtown. There is something I need to show you.” Confused and feeling ill, he pulled his jean jacket closed in front and hunched his shoulders and walked unsteadily down the levee.

***

“How did it happen, Spirit, all of those ugly glass high rises, the private police? Why didn’t we stop them?” Scrouge asked. The empty black hood was silent, its sleeves buried deep in the pullover’s pockets like a robed monk. Scrouge was not sure he had ever seen hands at the end of those overly long sleeves. It set a brisk pace as they walked through the French Quarter. Little had changed here, Scrouge thought, as they passed by knots of laughing people roaming the streets, past restaurants with lines waiting outside, and crowded bars with music blaring.

“It’s quicker this way,” a voice from inside the hood said, clipped and business like, the voice of a policeman urging the crowd to move on.. Nothing to see here, it seemed to announce. “The back-of-town buses don’t run all the way up Canal anymore. They’re not allowed past the checkpoints.” “Checkpoints,” Scrouge repeated as if tasting a new word from a foreign language as he stumbled on a broken bit of sidewalk, trying at once to look around and keep up with his guide.

As they came up to Bourbon Street the crowds were heavier and more boisterous, the sort of scene Scrouge had witnessed on a hundred other weekend or holiday nights. He could hear someone picking Christmas carols on a guitar and singing in a nasal, mid-South accent. The hooded spirit stopped for a moment in front of the busker just as he finished a song, turning his dark hood toward Scrouge. “Merry Christmas, y’all,” the busker said to no one in particular, as if Scrouge and the hoodie were not there. “Giving is the reason for the season,” he shouted to the crowd, nudging his guitar case with the toe of a western boot.

The spirit just stood there, the faceless hole seeming to glower at Scrouge, who dug into his pocket and pulled out a rumpled bill and tossed it in the case. “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas to you, sir,” the busker bellowed. Scrouge looked at the Spirit, who said nothing, then turned to ask the singer where he was from. “Tennessee. I’m just down here working for the holidays,” he said. “The French Quarter Corporation doesn’t pay as well as Disney, but they’re a lot looser about how you look or what you do with your off hours. And who doesn’t want to come to New Orleans, at least once?”

Scrouge started to answer but the hoodie pushed through the crowd to cross Bourbon and Scrouge hurried to follow. He looked up and down Bourbon and it was the same strip of neon lit drinking joints it had always been, crowded with people wearing beads they had bought in t-shirt shops that alternated with the bars for blocks in either direction. Scrouge thought it odd that they all wore badges around their necks. Conventions usually didn’t come in town at Christmas. “They’re tourists, but not conventioneers,” the hooded voice said. “Those are passes from the security district. When the city voted to dissolve the police and let the private security districts take over, the Quarter was closed off to the rest of town, to keep it safe for the visitors.”

“But what about locals who want to come down here? Can’t they come to eat at Galatoire’s or Acme or Oliviers?” Scrouge asked. “Those places closed after the second flood,” the hoodie said and marched on. Scrouge stopped walking “Gone?” he said, his gaze sinking down at the sidewalk. “Second flood?” Everything felt like a dream in which he had shown up in a classroom prepared for the wrong exam. He looked at his hands, as if there was something written there that would explain what was happening, but there were no crib notes. He looked up as if to follow up his question and noticed his guide was almost half a block ahead. He hurried to catch up.

The streets were quieter on the Rampart side of Bourbon, just as Scrouge remembered them, but something was missing. There were no cars lining the curb. There were just a handful of gaudy colored little toy things that looked like a cross between a golf cart and the car George Jetson drove, each plugged into an outlet on a small post with a horses head at the top. The carts were painted on the side like cabs: Condo Conti, Vacance en Dauphine, Burgundy Street Guest Houses. The scene made Scrouge think of exclusive beach resorts of the sort that did not allow cars but gave each guest a buggy to use to get to the beach or the golf course. “Precisely,” the hooded voice said, as if once again reading Scrouge’s mind.

As they passed Burgundy headed toward Rampart Scrouge noticed the wall. At first he thought it was just the commercial building that had once stood between Rampart and Basin, but as they came out onto Rampart he saw it was a high wall that ran up and down where the neutral ground once stood. The river side of Rampart inside the wall was filled with men, but it was not the crowd Scrouge would expect to see on mid-Bourbon around the epicenter of the gay bars. These men looked like the spillover from a lobby of a hotel booked solid with visiting dentists, mixed with packs of boys wearing shirts with fraternity letters on them The women stood apart, on the steps of the houses or hanging out of windows, bare-chested in tiny miniskirts , or in burlesque lingerie, or in nothing more than body paint.

The black uniforms of the security district strolled up and down the street in pairs, stopping to eye the knots of drunken men as they approached the women. The men would stop, made hesitant by the guards’ stare, then the girls would grab them by the arm and lead them laughing down the alleys and into the doorways, and the guards would pass on. The sign on the corner did not read Rampart. It said Storyville. “Got to give the tourists what they want,” the hoodie said, pausing a moment while Scrouge took in the tableaux. Then it grabbed his arm, and started to frog march him toward the wall. “Hey, wait, where are we go… ”. Scrouge’s voice was cut off as they passed through the wall.

They were standing on the lake side of Rampart. The street was brightly lit by high street lamps but deserted. “How the hell did that happen?” Scrouge asked, but the hood just turned briefly toward him then started again to walk toward Basin Street. Scrouge just shook his head like a dog shaking off water, and hurried to catch up. “Are we going to the cemetery?” he asked the dark hood. “Not this one,” the voice inside the hood answered. “There is another. We have to catch a bus first.” It turned left at Basin and started to walk toward Canal Street.

The old housing project still stood on Basin, but it was dark. “Where are the people?” Scrouge asked. “Gone,” the hood answered. “Most could not to come back after the second flood. A lot were drafted into the Army after the riots.” “What riots?” “The government announced after the second flood that any return would be limited by lottery, and that the lottery tickets would be sold,” the hood said. “Most couldn’t afford tickets, and they wanted to come home. When they burned all the trailers in the New Treme resettlement park up by New Roads and rioted in the streets in Houston, a lot of the men were swept up and sent off to fight in the Chindopak.”

“Chindopak?” Scrouge asked, his voice cracking as he stopped dead in the sidewalk. His breathing grew heavy and his chest heaved as his body wrestled somewhere deep inside between anger and panic. “What. Second. Flood. You have to tell me. What the hell happened?” Scrouge labored to speak between gasping breaths, and finally bent over and put his hands on his knees and tried to get his breathing under control. “You have to tell me. Damn you.” The spirit had walked ahead a dozen steps. It stopped and turned. Laughter came out of the dark shell of a hood. “Damn me”. More laughter. “Too late,” it said, something like a chuckle in its voice, if you put a chuckle down the garbage disposal. “You need to worry about your own damnation. I’ll take care of myself.” It held out its sleeve toward Canal. There was a hand, Scrouge noticed this time, black and gaunt like an overcooked turkey wing, a thing of skin and bone. “Come on. We have a bus to catch. I’ll explain while we ride.”

***

“Yes, they built up the levees,” the spirit explained as it stared out the window , the ancient bus rumbling down a dark and lamp less Canal Street. “In the last big storm they mostly held but the East and St. Bernard were drowned again, and abandoned. One of the new pump stations was overwhelmed and the lakefront was inundated. The core city was saved by the second line levee they built over the old railroad embankment through Mid-City. That’s when they started to build the high-rises, to pull everyone into the high land in the old city’s footprint. No one argued this time.

The bus slowly rumbled down Canal Street empty and surrounded by darkness. “No one knows where the fire started, but it was a dry storm with very little rain, and with several feet of water in the streets of Mid-City this section mostly burned,” the spirit said. Scrouge measured their progress through the dark by noting the intersections where the car stopped, although there was no cross traffic and no one got on or off: first narrow Galvez, then wider Broad and finally the open expanse of Jeff Davis. Here and there in the dark were bright islands of light, illuminating rows of identical white trailers on city blocks covered with white clam shell and surrounded by metal fences. “They built these parks for the workers they need to keep the tourist industry going.”

“I don’t understand. After the flood….” “The first flood,” the spirit corrected him. Scrouge stared straight ahead and through the empty bus for a moment, then down at his hands again and resumed. “After the flood, we all came back. We worked so hard. How could it they let it all happen again?” Scrouge looked not at the hooded spirit but up at the roof of the bus. “How could it happen again? How could it all turn out so wrong? ” sounding like a child who had just been told there would be no Christmas. The hoodie continued to contemplate the dark windows, ignoring Scrouge’s question. The bus rumbled on and Scrouge turned the other way and likewise stared into the darkness that surrounded him.

The bus pulled up to Carrollton, and the driver announced, “Cemeteries. End of the line,” as he set the brake, opened the door and stepped out and lit a cigarette. He headed off toward a portable toilet set on the neutral ground. The hoodie stood up and waited for Scrouge to do the same. He rose up and walked unsteadily down the aisle toward the door, grasping the railings at the stairs until his hands turned white, unwilling to step out. “Out,” the voice behind him said, and its bony hand gave him a push.

He stepped out into the single bright street light that stood over the driver’s toilet and looked into the darkness. Moonlight glinted off the rows of white metal boxes that marched off into the distance on the lakeside of Carrollton. “Why isn’t this trailer park lit up?” Scrouge turned toward the hoodie and asked. “Because it’s not a trailer park,” it answered. “It’s what the driver said: Cemeteries.”

Scrouge walked slowly away from the light and toward the field of white boxes. The play of the darkness and the street lamp had confused his sense of proportion and perspective. The boxes were too small to be trailers. They could only be one thing. “Tombs,” hoodie said. “Government-issue ovens, the trailers they used after the first flood, just scaled down for their new occupants. When this section burned, they turned it into a cemetery.”

Scrouge’s slumped like a cheap suit jacket on a wire hanger.

“When the new pumping stations and the high levees were finished everyone started to feel safe. They grew tired of evacuating for every storm. The first flood faded into a story their parents told, something they never thought could happen to them. All of it faded: all the work their parents did to rebuild the city, the constant battles over decades it took to build the levees and try to put things back. They forgot what it was like when the city flooded the first time.

“They grew complacent, stopped paying attention to what the government did. Or rather, what it didn’t do. Part of it was exhaustion. There parents had fought for decades and were just worn out. They stopped trying. The children didn’t remember because their parents were tired of talking about it, and the memories grew distant and vague, just history but not their history. Like their parents before them everyone just assumed all the work was behind them, that the levees would protect them.

“After the second flood, this is where they put the dead,” the hoodie said, “the people who stayed, the ones who didn’t remember.”

Scrouge turned away from the tombs and looked up dark Carrollton Avenue toward the park. This was his old neighborhood, the last of many he had called home in this city. Everything he remembered, all the old storefronts on the river side: gone. Venezia’s and Brocato’s, the old bar with the red door and the new Spanish place that opened after Katrina, the whole river side of the street was wiped clean. . The old Reuters building was a hulk in the distance. And on the other side the white tombs marched away into the distance until he could not see but only imagine them enveloping his house on Toulouse Street, flowing on until they merged with the old cemeteries he knew: St. Patrick’s, the Mason’s, Odd Fellows, Greenwood.

Scrouge fell on his knees and wept. The bus driver ignored them and climbed back into his bus and drove off. He had seen it before. The spirit stood there watching, silent. Finally, Scrouge looked up. There was a faint shimmer of zodiacal light in the east. Soon the sun would come up. He rose unsteadily to his feet and turned toward the hooded spirit.

“If you are the spirit of a Future Christmas, then it’s not too late, is it?” Scrouge asked, his voice still cracked from his tears. “Isn’t that how this works, just like the old Dickens’ tale? If we don’t stop fighting, and always remember, it doesn’t have to be like this? Isn’t that it? Isn’t that how this works?”

The hooded figure was growing transparent as the sky grew lighter. Scrouge could see the driver’s toilet through the sweatshirt and black jeans. As it slowly faded it echoed his words back to him not as a question: as a statement. It raised its bony hand one last time and pointed at Scrouge. “Don’t stop fighting,” it said, the voice growing fainter as the figure slowly vanished. “Remember…”

***

Scrouge sprang up in bed, knocking over a tumbler half full of water and the bed side lamp. The back door of the bedroom in the shotgun house was open, and he heard his wife asking, “What was that?” He could smell coffee. He jumped out of the covers and ran around the bed to the back door and stuck his head out. “What’s today?”

His wife gave him a puzzled look. “Merry Christmas?” she said as much a question as a greeting? “Are you okay?”

“It’s not too late!” he whooped as he took three steps in two hops. He ran over and knelt beside his wife and gave her a bear hug. “Not too late for what,” she asked, “to make coffee? I took care of that.” “Mmmmmmm, never mind, Merry Christmas.” He held her silently for a moment. “I’m sorry, I just had a really weird dream.” He let her go, stood up and stretched. “Do I smell coffee?” “Uh, yeah, that’s what we were just talking about. You forgot to make any last night, goofball. I think you had a bit too much Christmas Eve cheer.”

“Yeah, coffee sounds really good right now. Are the kids up?

“No, so try to be quiet.” His children were teenagers, and as likely to sleep in Christmas morning as any other holiday of the year. They had opened their best presents on Christmas Eve, a habit his wife had brought down from the Midwest.

“OK.” He climbed up the steps to the house and tried to walk as quietly as he could over the hardwood floors. Living in these houses was like living in a boat. You could hear everything. He wondered again how entire families had managed to live in half of the double he’s made into a single home. He grabbed some coffee in the kitchen and went out to the front porch, leaving his wife alone in back with her to-do list and her coffee. He slid the latch as silently as he could, and stepped out onto his porch and looked up and down his street. The mostly shotgun houses ran off in both direction as far as he could see, from City Park Avenue up toward Carrollton Avenue, and in his minds eye he could follow the street all the way through the city to the French Quarter.

It’s not too late, he thought as he sat on the stoop and sipped his coffee and took in the warm Christmas morning in New Orleans. “It’s not too late,” he said out loud to a passing cat, one of the dozen semi-feral cats that lived on their street. It came up and he scratched its head. “We just have to remember, and never give up.” Two children from the house on the corner, just moved home from evacuation and who barely remembered this city, rode by on shiny new bicycles, laughing. A neighbor ducked out in her robe for the newspaper, and waved and shouted a Merry Christmas. As he echoed “Merry Christmas” with a broad smile and a wave, over on Canal Street the bells of St. Anthony of Padua began to ring.

sta

Call in the USO December 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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The annual NOLA Bloggers War of Bad Holiday Videos is starting to get out of hand. Time to call in the USO and raise the troops morale. Here’s some Pops holiday cheer piped through an old Philco radio console.

E.L.F. December 7, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Chieftans, Christmas, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas, Yule.
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Or how to keep your Electric Light Fanatic’s head warm while putting up the icicle lights, and give a smirk of silly joy to every passing dog walker.

Silly Xmas Carols help the job go faster.

Silly Elf Hat

And so onto some seasonal sedition to make the moment complete.

The dew upon their feet shall manifest. December 24, 2007

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Xmas.
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Not everyone in this nation is a Christian, and so many struggle with this season. For those who’s own world view does not tend toward the religious, I offer this gift of a favorite poem that has carried me through many a churchly holiday and more than one family funeral.

If this seems too solemn, then let all of the gods and spirits and sons of men join together and dance. The faster we go, the rounder we get.

Sunday Morning

1

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.

2

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.

3

Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

4

She says, ‘I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?’
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.

5

She says, ‘But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.’
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.

6

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

7

Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feel shall manifest.

8

She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, ‘The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.’
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

I am so going to hell. December 20, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, parody, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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I wonder what they do down there on Xmas eve? Roasting chestnuts? I do miss having a roaring fire at the holidays and those little pine cones covered with heavy metals that make the pretty colors…

The Rebel Jesus December 19, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Chieftans, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK, Xmas.
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I tried to answer Bart’s question about how to deal with Xmas when one is not an Xian as best I could. I think, however, that Jackson Browne kicks my ass.

So here, Bart, is at least part of the answer you are looking for:

So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

The Rebel Jesus
Jackson Browne
The streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

They call him by the “Prince of Peace”
And they call him by “The Saviour”
And they pray to him upon the sea
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worshiped in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgment
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Tunnel of Love December 16, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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I took my wife and son down to Fulton Street to see the Xmas spectacle Harrah’s Casino and Hotel have put up there, in part from my own foggy memories of the snow tunnel at the Fairmont Hotel, the place old-timer’s still think of as the Roosevelt.
ShowTunnel
The tunnel of light was dark when we arrived around six, even though the published times are 4-8, so we wandered around and found the bar, where the pours were generous enough to keep the evenings encroaching chill at bay. At the far end of that block of Fulton right off Poydras, Big Al Carlson and the Bluesmasters were set up on stage and getting ready, so we settled in. Rebecca has been interested in seeing him, although I have an aversion to all bars in the busy strip of Bourbon except the Absinthe House, and always make a point of entering from the Conti Street side. I remarked walking up that I hoped to pass the rest of my life in New Orleans without darkening the door of Harrah’s Casino, and I tend to feel the same way about the tourist bars on Bourbon. The last time I had a drink on Bourbon was at the Famous Door and more than 20 years ago, when it was perhaps the last venue for trad Jazz, before it had become a karaoke bar (shudder).

Big Al is a consummate showman who works the drunks and out of towners the way his tight, Chicago-style blue band works the familiar repertoire. Given the setting (and that, like any working band in their circumstance they have a set of Xmas songs at the ready), they traded off a Robert Johnston for a Rudolph, a Muddy Waters for a Silent Night.

At one point in the show, Big Al sent the band off, and said there was one song he wanted to do on his own. He spoke about his band being a local band, and about the people of New Orleans, those who were home and those who were not, in whatever circumstance. He dedicated the song to the latter, those who have not made it back. He then launched into a throaty “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, his normally strong vocals cracking a bit as I had to rub away the hint of tears behind my own glasses.

Thanks for that, Big Al.

During the breaks, the tunnel was lit and the bubble “show” began to fall and my wife had her own, slightly teary “home moment”. After ten years (for me) and much of a life for her in the north, seeing even something that looked sort of like snow was enough to pluck at the heartstrings.

Xmas in Hell (aka You Tube) December 13, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Bloggers, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, parody, Xmas.
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I didn’t want to have to do this. They made me do it. It’s all their fault.

There, you’ve gone and ruined Xmas for all the little kiddies. I hope you’re satisfied.

We tree king in orient car December 10, 2007

Posted by The Typist in New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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“We tree king in orient car
smoking a Jamaican cigar.
Make you lazy and so crazy:
Man dig that crazy star, -ar…”

Ah, the sounds of a man hanging his Xmas lights, singing stupid lyrics as a defense against the deathless earworms of traditional Xmas Muzak. There’s just something about dripping sweat on a chilly day while untangling icicle lights up on tippy toe on the porch railing right where the power lines enter the house that brings out the stupid in all of us.

“We wish for some figgy pudding.
We wish for some figgy pudding.
We wish for some figgy pudding and a cold glass of beer.
Good tidings to you, so what’s here to eat.
Some nice figgy pudding and a piece of cold meat.”

My wife comes to the door and glares at me in jest (I hope), then turns up the Charlie Brown Xmas album and closes the door. The lamps on my beloved plastic ivy that decorates the door go out. I leave off filing the orientation tabs off of grounded plugs by rubbing them on the cement steps and starting wiggling bulbs.

“Jingle Bells, Rudolph smells.
Santa broke the sleigh.
Mrs. Claus is a mean old broad
who drinks a quart a day, -ay”.

“If you need something productive to do, you can come inside and help,” my wife suggests. Have to remember the unplug everything before I water the plants, I remind myself. Never had that problem in Fargo, but can’t say I miss climbing that 24 foot extension ladder on a windy, 10-degree day to string up the giant triangular arrangement that made a tree. I left half a kilowatt of lights behind with friends up north, where battling the darkness seemed even more important when twilight is at 4 pm and it’s dark when you get to work at 7:30 in the morning.

“Im’a mimute,” I mumble, cord clamped firmly in my teeth (uh, is this thing plugged in?), as I stretch around the triple columns at the corners of my Craftsman porch, reaching to stretch the last string of icicle lights to the last nail. I must have left these strings up last year while the neighbor was having his roof redone, as there’s a certain Dickensian black grit covering the white wires of the icycles.

Ah, done at last, my own little Folse Drive in Mid-City.

Help Is Coming January 21, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Hurricane Katrina, Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK, Xmas.
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Vid this:

Bit ol’ hat tip to Danger Blonde.

A Redneck Night Before Xmas December 17, 2006

Posted by The Typist in Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, parody, Xmas.
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Was the night before Xmas in our trailer park,
An’ the street light was shot out, an’ boy was it dark.
The wind was a howlin’, the trailer was old,
So I drank me a beer so I wouldn’t feel cold.

The children was snuggled on their sleeper sofa,
And Momma was a snorin’ in front of her Oprah.
The tree had blown out all the fuses again,
So I dug out some pennies and jammed ’em right in.

I snuck in the kitchen to get me a beer
And some of that deer jerk I put up last year.
And me with my NASCAR Race Week in my lap,
I settled me down for a long winter’s crap.

When out by the door, I heard such a noise.
Sounds like Billy Bob coming home late with the boys.
I ran out the head with my pants still pulled down
And tripped over myself and Wham! I fell down.

Outside in the yard was a big F350
With all kinda’ lights that looked really nifty.
And tied to the hood of that beautiful truck
Was a fine lookin’ 24-point reindeer buck.

I hopped to the the kitchen, and what should appear
But some white haired old hobo a drinkin’ my beer.
Before I could say ‘What the hell are you doin’?’
He jumped like a flea right into the front room.

His suit was as red as the end of his nose,
And he had lots of black stains all on his clothes.
From the look of the guy and that flea hoppin’ trick
I knew right away that it must be St. Nick.

He didn’t say shit but just picked up his his sack
(An’ old Wal Mart bag with a big duct tape strap),
Dumped it out on the table and made a big pile
While guzzlin’ down my last beer with a smile.

For Becky Lou he had a great big surprise.
A doll beauty parlor built in a garage.
For Junior a NASCAR electric race track,
With a real workin’ pit crew around in the back.

Mama got matching housecoat, curlers and slippers
And a leopardskin outfit with all kinds a zippers.
And he gave me a wink as he slowly revealed
For me was a brand new Shakespeare spinnin’ reel!

He tossed back my last beer and belched with great glee
And hung up the pull tab right there on the tree.
He grabbed up his sack and slammed out the screen door,
So that half a the ornaments fell on the floor.

He jumped in his truck and he gave her the gun,
And with nary a word that old hobo was gone.
I went back in the trailer; didn’t know what to think.
There was no more beer left in the place now to drink.

But there in the trailer atop the TV
He had left me a whole case of Old Milwaukee,
With a note on the top that he wrote all hisself.
“Merry Xmas to all from that Old Redneck Elf!”

–MF Xmas ’00–