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I Read The News Today, Oh Boy November 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Words fail me sometimes. One night’s worth of sleep in the last two days courtesy of the Counting House. Some days I am not sure if a better use of the newspaper is to read, or to wrap a lead pipe and beat my head with. The latter would sometimes be less painful. Maybe I should get a job with one of the city’s sanitation vendors, and let the robotic arms do all the heavy work.

Thankfully others have words for me when I have none. If this poem doesn’t cheer you up, I recommend sitting on the porch reading Bukowski and drinking absinthe until you can just make it in to set the alarm and collapse into bed. Sadly, I’ll probably be shepherding another technical conference call from hell tonight instead. We can all rest in the grave.

Dry Loaf
By Wallace Stevens

It is equal to living in a tragic land
To live in a tragic time.
Regard now the sloping, mountainous rocks
And the river that batters its way over stones,
Regard the hovels of those that live in this land.

That was what I painted behind the loaf,
The rocks not even touched by snow,
The pines along the river, and the dry men blown
Brown as the bread, thinking of birds
Flying from burning countries and brown sand shores

Birds that came like dirty water in waves
Flowing over the rocks, flowing over the sky,
As if the sky was a current that bore then along,
Spreading them as waves spread flat on the shore,
One after another washing the mountains bare.

It was the battering of drums I heard
It was hunger, it was the hungry that cried
And the waves, the waves were soldiers moving
Marching and marching in a tragic time
Below me, on the asphalt, under the trees.

It was solders went marching over the rocks
And still the birds came, came in watery flocks,
Because it was spring and the birds had to come.
No doubt that solders had to be marching
and that drums had to be rolling, rolling, rolling.

Tiny Demons October 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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The New Orleans blogosphere is quiet about the news that that Chris Rose was arrested in some sort of alcohol-fueled domestic dispute. Rose is a frequent target of blogger jibes (the term “douchebag” and “Rose” being nearly synonymous), and he is annually brought up as a possible guest speaker at the NOLA Bloggers’ annual Rising Tide conference, and the suggestion is routinely and ritualistically hooted down.

We tend to pick on Rose because New Orleans’ blogosphere is full of people who think they could do Chris’ Rose job better than he does. I’ll admit there are days I read his column and I am one of those. Frankly, there are reporters and writers in the blog list at the side of this page I would hold up any day against anyone at the Picayune. Still, most of the bloggers have never written for a newspaper, have never had space to fill without an idea in their head, with a deadline bearing down on them. Sometimes you pound out some crap and if you have half a talent and more than a little luck, everybody is happy and gets to go home to dinner. Forced to fill the columns of a newspaper Living section, Rose does his 60 Second Interviews and slavers over Brittany Spears in a distasteful way most middle age men secretly understand.

He is certainly full of himself in spite of the crap he sometimes passes over to the copy desk, and so an easy target. Still, I tend not to pick at him in my own little space here. I’ve lived that life where the line a good editor can file any hole isn’t just a lewd jibe over after deadline drinks but a daily fact of life, so I give him some slack for the nonsense. Being the Angus Lind of the X-and-Y generation probably isn’t as great a gig as we all think it is.

I did write one slightly snarky piece when Rose discovered his fellow writers on New Orleans in the blog space after Ashley Morris’ untimely death. I suggested we were more like Rose than many of my colleagues in the NOLA Bloggers group would happily admit. The first time I gave Rose some notice was something I wrote long ago, when the weight of survivor guilt watching It all unfold in my city was almost unbearable. It was a letter to Rose, posted on Wet Bank Guide but also sent as an email. I never got a response, but I didn’t expect one. If you can find your way back to the original Rose column I referenced in Shadow of the Elephant, I think it explains in part at least why I find myself writing this today when something tells me I should just leave it alone.

Back in his post-K hey day, Rose often wrote about his family, in particular about taking his children out to experience everything New Orleans. My children were not raised here, and I have great sympathy for that experience. In fact he wrote so often about his family I was surprised to find that this weekend’s incident took place at an ex-girlfriend’s. It’s hard to feel complete empathy for Rose. If you live here long enough you’ll know enough stupid drunks or worse, and you start to lose patience for that sort of behavior. Maybe it’s just my age. But then I think of those kids.

Rose also wrote about his battle with depression. Down here where people pop Xanax like breath mints it wasn’t as important a story for us as it was for the rest of the world. They need to know that Living in a post-disaster landscape is not anyone’s idea of easy, much less Big and Easy. Of course people go though Zoloft like they’re Chee-Wees. At least the pills are better than the alternative: for example, finding yourself dead drunk at an ex-girlfriends trying to explain how fucked up your life is when she (and her new beau) don’t want to hear it.

It’s been three years since Rose sat on that stoop he wrote about in late 2005, in the middle of the post-Flood bedlam, trying to figure out what happened to his world. Back them I felt an immediate empathy for him which time and his own goofiness have not completely erased. He set himself up to be the poster child for New Orleans post-K but to do that he had to stay through it all, had to continue to find new ways to tell a story we all sometimes wish had an end.

I was immediately reminded when I read the Rose story of Picayune photog John McCusker’s own confrontation with the police. It has taken them a while to catch up, but the demons that chased McCusker like the police have finally caught up with Rose.

Somewhere deep inside my own demon is chuckling as I read about Rose’s mishap, but I shove him back down and tell him to be quiet. We’ve all seen the demons down here get the upper hand. McCusker’s story has always stood out in my memory, as did the story about the elderly gentleman who couldn’t hold on any longer waiting for his Road Home money and walked into the river to drown. We all know of the marriages ruined, the children still afraid of thunderstorms.

It’s best we all just let it go. We don’t want all of the demons let loose down here by the flood and its aftermath to think they’re getting the upper hand. Pay no attention to that guy perched on the edge of your night table in the checkered pants. Demons are like that crazy lady down the street. If you start to pay them too much attention, you’ll never be rid of them. Best we all mix a strong drink and flip on Rob Zombie’s Halloween horror movie festival on cable TV, pretend that demons are only in movies and always meet their well deserved end about the time the popcorn runs out.

The streets are too quiet September 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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An old story now, but powerful and worth remembering about poet and pre-medical student Trenise Robinson When this story was published in the Washington Post in two years ago August, she and her mother were living in Baton Rouge.

Selected to attend the Hurston/Wright Writers’ Week, a prestigious summer workshop in Washington, D.C. named after the African American writers Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival folks picked up part of the tab. While there she wrote and presented this poem (a title is not given):

The streets are too quiet, no longer flashing hypnotic lights
And beckoning with its rum-soaked, flirtatious breath.
Even the horns of men who made cocktails out of rhythm
And drugs now lay rusted on my doorstep,
Their notes a mere gargle.

I sent the person I think is the author a message to her Facebook and asked her to email me and let me know where she landed, but I never got a response.

If the streets are too quiet, perhaps it is because young writers like her remain displaced.

Achtung Baby! August 26, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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A few days ago I was singing the Fred Flintstone “Happy Annivesary” song (as quietly as possible, since I work in a beigeworld, the cube hell that haunts Dilbert’s nightmares.) to my wife’s voicemail. Nineteen years, thanks.

Now it is that Other annivesary. And a Happy Fucking Anniversary present is Gustave.

What You Don’t Know About Katrina August 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Those of you who are regular readers of New Orleans blogs will find few surprises in John Barry’s campaign to educate Americans about the truths of Katrina, New Orleans and the Federal Flood (our term as NOLA bloggers, not Barry’s).

If you find you way to this blog or this post because you are searching on Katrina on the anniversary, then you need to click this link right now and go read what Barry–author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Change America–has to say.


What You Need to Know About Katrina– and Don’t–
Why It Makes Economic Sense to Protect and Rebuild New Orleans

Come On Now We’re Marching To the Sea August 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I have no set theory to go by. I have not worked out the science of satyagraha in its entirety. I am still groping. You can join me in my quest if it appeals to you and you feel the call.
— Gandhi

What will another crime march do?

A better question: What will happen if we do not march?

Nothing.

I’m with ReX and UNITED FOR PEACE.

I say we march. A march for all the victims. Not just for Helen Hill or Dinerral Shavers or Jessica Hawk or Nia Robertson. For No. 37. For George Hankton. For Chanel. For all the others people come to this blog every day to search for some trace of. For the famously remembered and the almost forgotten.

For ourselves.

(For some background on the picture above, see Child of Desire on Wet Bank Guide from December, 2005.)

Profiles in Courage, Excellence & Garbage August 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Blogger Bayou St. John David once again takes apart the city’s fabulously inflated garbage contracts, raising the question: why isn’t Sidney Torres of SDLC on the the Excellence in Recovery Host Committee. I would think he would find Nagin, like, most excellent, dude.

And in light of my own recent question about Black politicians who use racial code and open racial attacks to protect themselves from questioning over palpably questionable behavior, David doesn’t hesitate to ask “Perhaps we should ask the [Southern Christian Leadership Council] why Richards Disposal is offering predominantly white Jefferson Parish a significantly lower price today than it negotiated with predominantly black Orleans Parish two years ago?” You may recall that the SCLC was not afraid to taunt the New Orleans City Council and threaten an economic boycott of New Orleans, suggesting that any challenge to these smelly garbage contracts was racist.

These garbage contracts are anything but “lemony fresh-smelling“.

Three Years August 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“I never thought I’d need so many people.”
–David Bowie, Five Years

Every day I drive slowly down rough and littered streets beneath sooty overpasses, through neighborhoods lined with hollow houses, the empty windows watching over the slow collapse of the roads into rubble, the rampant lawns and the vines claiming the roofs. Familiar landmarks are vanished into weed-choked lots even as new buildings rise up here and there. I tell myself this is not a disaster area, it is the New Orleans of memory, the postdiluvian city of shabby gentility slowly settling back into itself. It is the place I remember not transformed but instead amplified by the flood, the decay accelerated by the casual incompetence and common corruption of a government that would shame Haiti.

The streets and sidewalks still sag and heave as they did before, as if something beneath them were trying to break through and reclaim its place. There are more of these upheavals now, as if the flood had woken something that once moved slowly as in a dream, as if what lay below has grown hungry and anxious to completely crack the thin veneer of concrete we call civilization and begin to consume us in ernest. I can no longer be certain whether the roots that tear up the sidewalks run down from the trees, or if they are something clawing up from below, tossing up oaks and cypress to reclaim us for the swamp primeaval.

That is my city: not the delicate traceries of iron balconies or mossy-bricked patios at the end of a gas-lit carriageway in the Quarter–a postcard place for tourists–or the clean and quiet, manse-lined streets in the better parts of Uptown untouched by the flood. I live in the heart of the place, a section named Mid-City but called Back of Town by the cab dispatchers, rows of small houses crowded up to streets drapped in a tangle of overhead black wires, an early 20th century working class neighborhood made good (just), clinging desperately to gentility just a block from the railroad tracks.

Things mostly look good on our stretch of Toulouse Street three years after the levees failed and the city was drowned. Our biggest problem is that all of the rentals are full and its getting hard to park. I can drive to work up Orleans and tell myself it doesn’t look that different, until I get to the fields of sand and debris that were once the Lafitte Housing projects. Or I can take my son to school first, taking a part of my own boyhood route to school up Jefferson Davis and Nashville, and convince myself that things looks much the same as they did three years ago today, or twenty years ago when I left for the east coast.

I can make a point of not venturing into the heart of Gentilly Woods or New Orleans East. I can leave my newspaper folded on the porch, not reading of peoples homes demolished by mistake, or a building badly in need of demolition but ignored collapsing onto someone’s nearly restored house. I can pay no attention to the latest recovery scandal, the diversion of funds to help the elderly and poor into the pockets of the mayor’s brother-in-law. Instead I can make head out to any of a dozen of world’s finest restaurants in the country, then wander out into the night to listen to music you won’t find anywherre else in America, and tell myself everything is going to be alright.

Instead, I find myself getting up most mornings or coming home at night not to the daily paper but to a computer. I login and after vainly checking for comments and counts here, I pull up the writings of dozens of New Orleans bloggers who will not let us forget, who will not let you forget wherever you may be. They are a daily reminder of the ground truth of this place, that our recovery still struggles after three years and will continue for years to come. They remind me as well that I no longer have the time or energy to crusade as I did on Wet Bank Guide for the first two years after the flood, but that the battle goes on.

We are an odd bunch, the NOLA bloggers. I wrote not long ago:

“We are people who write about this city and the people in it… as one of the tethers for our sanity in this crazy place where It’s After the End of the World…part an underground resistance to the poor, lost fuckmooks [in City Hall] on Perdido Street and everywhere you can find them, here and away; to the “shootings happen to someone else, to bad people but not to me” mind set; to the “charter schools are wonderful, just like Catholic school without the tuition or the knee patches and let the rest rot” view of the world; a resistance against anyone who would profit from our pain or settle for less than something better for New Orleans.

“[w]e’re not paragons, of virtue or anything else. We’re as dysfunctional a band as any mid-career high school class, mad as bats as often as not, cranky as an Ash Wednesday hangover and drunk 24-7 on the elixir of New Orleans.”

Our community is an on-line analog of the movement that blossomed two years ago when the government failed to step in to rebuild the city. Organizations rose up in the neighborhoods among those who came home first, and became a movement of civic engagement. Among the leaders that movement cast up were bloggers: Karen Gadbois and Bart Everson most prominently, with dozens of others in the ranks. When it became clear that the government would not save us, the people of New Orleans moved to save themselves and blogging became an important part of that movement.

What we all blog is important because we will not let the government write our story, or the out-of-town journalists with their own angle or even our local newspaper, beholden as it is to the lot of carpetbaggers and scaliwags who are swarming like flies around the recovery money that dribbles down like. We tell our own story, the real story of the drowning and slow rebirth of New Orleans, sometimes from the fly-over view of what might be called the big picture, but more often in the stories of our own neighborhood, our block, ourselves. The people who would write our history for their own ends must contend with us. They have their own reasons, their own agendas. We have only one purpose: the salvation of the city and our own post-traumitized selves in the bargain.

Who do I read? If I start to name names, I know I will leave someone out, but on the odd chance you have just stumbled in here from elsewhere, I have to call out at least a few. Karen’s Squandered Heritage, Eli’s We Could Be Famous, the anonymous bloggers David’s Moldy City and Dambala’s American Zombie do not just take apart yesterday’s news; they are a at least a day (if not months) ahead at least. Karen and Eli can take credit for breaking the most recent City Hall Scandal. For a taste of life in the postdiluvian city you should be reading Micheal Homan, Kim’s Dangerblond, Mominem’s Tin Can Trailer Trash, Gentilly Girl, Cliff’s Crib, author Poppy Brite’s Dispatches from Tanganyika or Ray in New Orleans (currently on a blogging sabatical, but read back through his story of working on gutting houses in New Orleans). If you want to see people get their snark on and find a way to laugh through the veil of tears, then visit Peter’s Adrastos or Jeffery’s Library Chronicles.

Ah, what a slippery slope this is. See, I’ve gone and left out Leigh, Derek, Deidre, Glen, Bart, Lisa, Greg and Oyster and bog only knows who else. If you come away from this list hurt, hit me up for a drink at Rising Tide III, the bloggers conference on the recovery of New Orleans. You see, we are not just a lot of computer-equipped malingerers and malcontents. Many individuals (Ray, Bart, Karen, and others) have gone great things for the city. As a group, we have mounted Rising Tide, an annual conference on the city’s slow reconstruction. We have been able to attract national authors for featured speakers and active locals to our panels because they too have learned that there is a force moving in the world called blogging. It is not just a spin-off phenomena of politics or the ugly murmurring of the mob you read below the stories on NOLA.COM. It is as powerful and as democratic as Tom Paine setting type and as powerful and as ethereal as William Blake carving visionary plates.

Three years is too soon to know if we will succeed or fail, whether we are writing small pieces of the history of a great beginning or a tragic ending. It is a tremendous task, not merely to rebuild a city but at the same time to try to correct a century of past mistakes that had led to the city I described when I began, the city already full of broken streets and broken dreams before the flood came. Will we collapse of our own internal contraditions like the revolutions of the 20th century, or be drowned beyond recovery by yet another storm? All I know for certain is that unless the Internet collapses or is suppressed you can watch it play out here. Or even play your own part. Blogging alone, we have learned, is not enough, but it is a start: a public declaration that you care about New Orleans, and will not let is fade away.

Cross-posted from Humid City, where this first went up as part of Loki’s Carnival of Blogging for the anniversary and Rising Tide.

TS Fay: Sponsored by Bacardi and State Farm August 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Why the hell is it that a few thousand Cubans and their allies) can force us to maintain a state of cold war with Cuba that prevents Hurricane Hunters from reaching a storm that threatens the United States? We learn this from today’s tropical storm discussion from the National Hurricane Center:

…the center of Fay is too close to the coast of Cuba to be accessible to the Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft…so there are no direct measurements of central pressure or precise positioning of the surface center…

That is as insane.

And for fun, go check out the five-day forecast map on Weather Underground, brought to you by State-Farm, the company that used doctored engineering reports to lower payouts to Mississippi policy holders. (A helpful federal judge explained to us last April that while this constituted bad faith, it was not fraud. I plan to keep that in mind as I prepare my next year’s tax return using multiple, doctored W-4s. I mean, if it’s OK for State-Farm it should be OK for me, right?)

I’d go on, but I’m off to check around the neighborhood for rabbits with pocketwatches…

Nagin Award Drives Me To Drink August 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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This Nagin award thing is going to drive me to drink. I say we honor the Survivors of Katrina that are being used to promote this sham award. I say we drink to the Salt of the Earth.

Christ, did Keith Ridchards every really look that young?

How long can the Excellence in Recovery Host Committee hold a bong hit before laughing hysterically? August 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Headline blatantly stolen from Schroeder at People Get Ready because its so damn funny.

If you want to answer that rhetorical question, you can contact some of the people on the invitation sponsor list below. Click the image to view it full size and legible. (h/t to Eli of We Could Be Famous). Better yet, I’ve just found that Howie Luvzus has typed up the list of sponsors, and provided the email addresses for some of them. Be sure to join me in dropping them a line.

You should also follow Kevin Allman’s developing story on Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans. Loki of Humid City has also been on top of this, tracking down Jackie Clarkson who has started scuttling away from it like a crab.

I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry over the idea of honoring Nagin with The Award of Distinction for Recovery, Courage and Leadership. What a crock. I want to suggest again, if you haven’t blogged this or called someone in outrage yet, please do so. This sham needs to go the way of the ill-advised “celebration” of the anniversary in August 2006.

I Can’t Get It Started August 9, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I can’t find any supporting evidence for this bit of web noise from something called Toxic-Web’s today in history page, but it intrigued me enough to pull up this excellent video of our own Al Hirt with Maynard Ferguson:

“1937, Bunny Berigan and his orchestra record the jazz standard “I Can’t Get Started”… the chord changes from this oft-covered tune become a staple for bebop musicians a decade later … “

A bit of searching on Bunny Berigan also credits his solos with Benny Goodman’s Orchestra as helping to launch the Swing era. If any serious musicologists out there can educate me on the merit of those two claims (which taken together are mightly impressive) I’d appreciate it.

Just looking at You Tube, a hell of a lot of players have covered this tune (which is a great one). And New Orleans’ own Al Hirt is someone I completely dismissed in my youth, back when my musical tastes ran closer to my son’s. (A little Uriah Heap or Bloodrock, anyone?). I’m not sure I’ve closely listend to him since my appreciation for jazz swung 180 decades ago in my late teens. This might be the first time I’ve heard him really play. Wow.

And here is Berigan’s original.

Hot Time August 8, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Is it the heat that leaves me as mindless as a humming monk when August finally settles in, the hot, damp air thick and clinging? I ask others and they answer with shrugs as they reach for their iced drink: the zen perfect non-answer. So much to be done and so little energy. Work rolls in at the counting house as relentlessly as waves off the ocean, and I have to catch up from a week at Destin in Florida and another few days in Miami. Summer is ending for the children. My daughter has already started at NOCCA, and I need to finish laying in school supplies. The period called summer vacation on the school calendars may be drawing to a close, but we are deep in the middle of the scorching season.

I try to wrap my brain around work as I trudge up the sweltering canyon of Common Street in the morning, but some days the long, sweaty slog is like Everest without oxygen. I stare off at no fixed point and mechanically plant one foot ahead of the other. In spite of the city’s fabulously expensive sanitation contracts, the lemony-fresh smell is long gone. Most days it smells of sun-roasted garbage, and one morning it was the cloying aroma of all-the-rats-in-the-sewer-have-died.

Days working at home are almost as bad. If I dare to step out onto the porch to sit and have a cigarette I am like my laptop suddenly unplugged: my eyes go dim just as the computer screen does, and little warning messages pop up–something internal has been disabled. I have to retreat quickly back into the house. Nights we sit out endlessly–it is near to our favorite spot in the house in all weathers–and as I try to organize what was accomplished today and what must be done tomorrow my thoughts simply evaporate even as the sweat does not, and I stare for a long time at the tricolored ginger plant potted on the porch.

My wife suffers from the heat even more than I do as she bravely sits beneath the porch fan, her feet bathed in a basin of cool water. She was not raised to this climate but a childhood spent in blizzard country, where they say forty below keeps the riff-raff out, has produced a person not easily intimated by simple weather. In spite of her complaints she manages to keep as busy as a farm wife, sitting with her notebook of endless lists of things to be done, adding and subtracting activities as industriously as the fabled ant. She asks me questions or reminds me of this or that and I find myself slowly peeling my gaze away from the ginger plant and asking, “what?” all too often. A distant, vaguely Asian voice in my head prompts me: focus, grasshopper.

When we came back from Destin in the Florida panhandle, we had resolved go to back in June next year. It was not so much the heat as the swarming jellyfish that kept us mostly out of the ocean that prompted this discussion. I recall from my childhood that jellyfish were an August phenomena, and the chair attendants are too young to remember when they didn’t come in mid-July. As I sit at home and thoughtlessly scratch at the sun burn itch under my shirt I have to wonder if perhaps July is not the perfect time to go, ideal for collapsing into a canvas chair and becoming just another bit of flotsam slowly baking on the beach. I was fairly active in Miami, venturing into the bug-cursed Everglades of August, shopping Little Havana for cigars and wandering for several sun-delirious hours along Ocean and Collins Avenues in South Beach. Still, I spent an awful lot of time at the Biltmore Hotel beside its enormous pool, wagging my empty mohito glass at the strolling waiters as the hovering pool boys brought glistening cups of ice water.

Now those trips are behind us and I must somehow catch up at work and at home even as the temperatures consistently climb into the nineties. Today is a relief as a large front has passed, stirring up storms all night and leaving a breeze from the north behind it. The wind cools a bit as it passes over Lake Pontchartrain, and between that change of weather, the clouds and the fan the porch seems positively pleasant. It won’t last. In a day or two, August will roll back in and over us as it always does.

I was talking to a neighbor yesterday and they said something that reminded me of the line I mentioned above from North Dakota: forty below keeps the riff-raff out. We spoke of the weather and he said that if it weren’t for the heat and the humidity, everyone would want to live here. I haven’t heard that one in a while, but it holds a world of truth: the idea that New Orleans is worth the suffering of summer and the subtle dread of the start of the real hurricane season. While the rest of the world trudges across sun-backed acres of shimmering shopping mall blacktop to escape into the A/C, we chose instead to wander art galleries on White Linen and Dirty Linen night, to taste new drinks at Tales of the Cocktail and listen to hot music at Satchmo Fest. It sounds stupid as I say it in my head but I can’t resist: even in the swelter of August New Orleans is cool, cool in every way the word has been used since the first hipster spoke it as a way of being and not a temperature.

These may be the dog days, but you’re as likely to find us out baying at the moon as curled up beneath the porch fan. If you love New Orleans, you’ll tolerate the weather and even drag yourself out into it. (My wife tolerates it because she loves me, an even more mysterious phenomena). For us it is not just a matter of coping, but also of learning to live through the swelter. I lamented long ago that we’d forgotten how, but the longer I’m home the less I think so. You’ll have to excuse me now but lunch hour is over and I need to crawl back into the air conditioning of my office. But first I need to check and make sure there are limes. A mohito is sounding very good right now and, in the absence of pool boys, come five o’clock I will need to be ready. If you pass by later you may not see us behind all the plants, but we’ll be on the porch. Stop by and join us under the fan at the coolest place on Toulouse Street.

Rising Tide III August 7, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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The Rising Tide organizers have been busy as hell while I was lazing in Destin and Miami. The schedule is finalized and it’s time to start banging pans together to build so momentum for this year’s conference.

If you are not familiar with this event, the NOLA Bloggers are organizing their third annual conference on the recovery of New Orleans. This year’s featured speaker is John Barry, author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America and commissioner for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East.

Last year’s feature speaker, author and blogger David Zirin, told me at lunch in all of his travels for work and book promotion, he has never seen as organized and integrated a blogging community as he found in New Orleans. The success of the last two Rising Tide conferences reflect that clearly. The organizing group has put together a fantastic array of speakers. So far, the only thing missing is you.

So why haven’t you registered yet? You can get more details and sign up at www.risingtidenola.net or on the Rising Tide Blog.

The Lad Searches the Night for His Newts July 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, art, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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We interrupt whatever the hell it was you meant to do when you stumbled in here to present this Important Public Service Announcement on the subject of Dental Hygiene.

But first, Motorhead must find his Newts…

Remember: as Theodore Bikel reminds us within the conceptual framework of this filmic event nothing really matters…

Be Nice or Leave July 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I wasn’t going to write about anything except the beach this week, giving myself as much of a rest on all fronts as possible. This morning I could not resist dropping into Google Reader, where I found this news:

a sign Dr. Bob made, welcoming visitors to the Bywater. It sits on private property, owned by NOCCA, a bastion of the arts, next to X/O Gallery, another bastion of the arts. The sign itself was hand painted by local legend, Dr. Bob, who has his work displayed in the Smithsonian Museum, and on Oprah Winfrey’s wall, for crissake.

And there it is. A two by three foot sign, beautifully trimmed in bottle caps, as Bob’s pieces are…Except for the gray paint. Battleship ugly fucking gray paint, rolled sloppily over the face of the sign, leaving obvious roller patterns and see-through spatter. That Asshole From Hell, Fred Radtke, has been here.

Here is an example of Dr. Bob’s art. He was featured in the New Orleans Magazine as one of the 97 Quirky New Orleans Discoveries recently, and as Lord David points out he is a nationally recognized folk artist. He is not some tagger spraying his nickname all over a railroad car.

Be Nice or Leave: excellent advice for Fred Radtke.

Radtke, you are a fuckmook. We don’t want you here in our city, anymore than we want the Klan-nostalgic commenters on the NOLA.Com stories. Why don’t you just to spray paint crap out in Metairie, where all the kiddie-taggers from from anyway. Oh, they might shoot your ass?

I’m still waiting for Shelly Midura to send me the Official List list of police-sanctioned forms of armed vigilantism. I mean, if they condone this fuckmook walking around with a pistol in his belt I would like to know what other sort of armed vigilantism we might be able to avail ourselves of to help with other crime problems.

Fuckmook.

I personally look forward to picking up a pice of art donated from NoLaRising’s paint party Saturday at the FYYFF Ashley Morris benefit Saturday night. I’m going to nail it to the front of my house.

Update: Before and after pictures.
http://drunah.livejournal.com/1049540.html

Falling off the edge July 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I’m off to the edge of the world for a while to watch the waves roll in and out. Might be quiet around here for a while.

See you at the Ashley Benefit: tanned, rested and unsteady.

Angels Sustaining and Triumphant July 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Like everything here in postdiluvian New Orleans the movement towards a Katrina Memorial drags slowly on. Everything down here moves by fits and start, like an old man pushing a scrap cart up the street.

We are not building the New Jerusalem here, for all of the bright and optimistic noise made back in the heady days of the recovery planning process. Thousands of citizens came together, night after night, to draft the plans for their shining city behind the small hills called levees. So many plans, drawings, maps and renderings, reduced in the end to pickings for that scrap man.

In spite of the monumental failure of the city’s leaders to produce any large projects people all over town are hammering their lives back together. Those who are here are busy and more than a bit worn down by it all, as might be expected. Rebuilding a city is hard work, especially as we are going by the well-established shanty town method of everyone for his or herself because the government and their consultants have only managed to erect promising looking signs (Coming Soon!) after three years. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the memorial will be delayed. I have to wonder if it will ever be built.

Few expect the monument to be built by the target date of Aug. 29, Katrina’s third anniversary. “Maybe by the fourth anniversary, maybe the fifth,” said Gwendolyn Davis Brown, 53, the niece of the Rev. Lonnie Garrison, a longtime pastor at Pilgrim Progress Missionary Baptist Church in New Orleans who died in the aftermath of the storm. “There’s so much stuff going on in the city, people still have to get back into their homes,” added Patsy Dupart, 58, Garrison’s daughter.

The memorial itself looks quite nice online, although the rendering of two angels rescuing a fleur de lis looks off in the promised bright bronze. Here in the back of town (as the cab maps still refer to our section), down by the cemeteries, we are used to the more ethereal look of angels in pale marble. The expression on the picture I found here seems a bit off as well. The top most angel looks a little too coquettish and pleased with herself. We prefer our funereal angels to find the matter a bit more dolorosa. Since we seem unable to locate any construction cranes to erect in the city, perhaps we could manage something more triumphant like Sadako proudly holding her paper crane in Hiroshima; an angel sustaining in the heraldic sense (think of the Columbia Pictures woman bearing a torch), holding a fleur de lis up to the sky.

The sense of rescue the current angels convey seems wrong as well. The lists of the dead and the adjoining ovens to hold the unclaimed will give us enough of a sense of what is past and done. What is needed at the center of the hurricane swirl shaped ground is something that will speak to us on the day it is unveiled, that will tell the story of the New Orleans rising out of the floodwaters.

The city itself is its own best memorial. No one can fault Frank Minyard’s insistence that we have some fitting place to bury the unclaimed dead, somewhere better than the current potter’s field he describes as “a swamp”. If we are to have a memorial to the flood (I haven’t even begun to address whether we need a Katrina or a Flood memorial; some other time), and if it must be on the open piece of ground at Cemeteries and be itself a cemetery, then I would hope there is something about it that rises above that frozen moment of 2005 and carries the visitor into our future.

If the statuary won’t give you the rest of the story, then let the city tell its own story. I would suggest to a visitor that as they leave the memorial site (should we in fact ever manage to build it), then stroll up Canal Street back towards the river, and consider that once ten feet of water stood there. As you reach Carrollton, turn and pick a busy restaurant, any restaurant. As you stand in that bustling neighborhood consider the pictures most shops have somewhere on the wall, showing their business ten feet under or after. Then look at the place and the people around you, the old made new and full of life.

Those people in line with you and the ones behind the counter are our angels sustaining and triumphant.

FYYFF: Black and Gold Forever July 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Don’t forget about this event. The Wets will be back from the beach just in time.

I just had to add this stylin’ poster.

FYYFF

It’s Black and Gold Forever: A Fundraiser for the Ashley Morris Memorial

Saturday, July 26 @ One Eyed Jacks
615 Toulouse Street
Cover: $10

www.rememberashleymorris.com

Dirty Coast Press, The Rising Tide and the Big Easy Roller Girls Present:

FYYFF It’s Black and Gold Forever: A Fundraiser for the Ashley Morris Memorial.

Featuring: Fleur de Tease, The Other Planets, and emcee Andrew Ward – The Reverend Pysch Ward + Simon Lott, Helen Gillet.

To The Reader July 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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“I am tired. I am weary
I could sleep
for a thousand years.”
— Velvet Underground

I am so tired lately. I’m just crawling out from under some respiratory illness but could not miss work last week, so all you see around here on Toulouse Street are some lazy You Tubes, a perfect analog of my situation: collapsed on the porch, listening to music and trying to read. Words rattle around in my head, but I’m too tired to make them come out here. I slouch in my plant hidden chair watching the fan whir like a helicopter turbine. Still, we go no where. The ice water glass drips cool condensation into my hand and I wipe my forehead with the icy balm, but I just can’t seem to drag myself out of that first heat wave lethargy. At the same time, I seem to be spending more effort at PBB, which is something for me but perhaps not for you, mon sembable — mon frere. And the subject of my last effort there, No. 14, is a poem about, well, boredom. At least my brain has not completely shut down. We seem to have a theme going, after a fashion.

And so I retreat into quoting, the refuge of the lazy blogger.

Among the vermin, jackals, panthers, lice,
gorillas and tarantulas that suck
and snatch and scratch and defecate and fuck
in the disorderly circus of our vice,

there’s one more ugly and abortive birth.
It makes no gestures, never beats its breast,
yet it would murder for a moment’s rest,
and willingly annihilate the earth.

It’s ENNUI! Tears have glued its eyes together.
You know it well, my Reader. This obscene
beast chain-smokes yawning for the guillotine —
you — hypocrite Reader — my double — my brother!

— Charles Baudelaire’s Au Lecteur (To the Reader) translated by Robert Lowell, from Marthiel & Jackson Matthews, eds., The Flowers of Evil (NY: New Directions, 1963) [and I changed boredom back to ENNUI. So shoot me. I was going to put the hookah back in but stopped myself.]

Independence Day July 4, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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If you remember nothing else about history on this day, remember the American city of New Orleans “dodged the bullet” until the Federal levees failed and the combined might of the United States of America stood by and watched them drown. We will never forget.

So have a Happy Independence Day from Toulouse Street as we Go 4th on the River and celebrate, an activity we have pretty much perfected for all occasions even in the face of death.

Independence is a grand thing to contemplate..

You may grill your weenies. We will boil our shrimps. Eh la bas.

Fish Head Music June 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Ok, time to lighten up. It’s been a long day. While we’re on the subject of fish heads zig zagging through the dead zone, sort of, how about some Fish Head Music from New Orleans own Radiators.

Sometimes A Great Notion June 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Sometimes I lives in the country.
Sometimes I lives in town.
Sometimes I has a great notion
to jump in the river and drown.
Leadbelly

An Odd Fellow’s Memorial Day May 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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“Now, I have come again
to the land of the fair, and the strong, and the wise.
Brothers and sisters of the pale forest,
children of night,
who among you will run with the hunt?
Now night arrives with her purple legion.
Retire now to your tents and to your dreams
Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth.
I want to be ready.”
— Jim Morrison

It is two years Memorial Day since I saw the city’s towers and the white arc of the Superdome rising out of the vast, flat waterscape, my car hurtling southbound on the Causeway at 80 after days of towing my boat at 55 or 60 the entire breadth of the country, ‘OZ pouring in from the radio like a beacon and the lake flashing in the late afternoon sun like the runway lights of some great airport as I prepared to touch down–the white lines hurtling past–at the Final Destination.

And then I am rolling down Causeway Boulevard in the perfectly American stripmallandia of Metairie, past the old Lakeside Shopping Center and the corner where Harry Lee’s family Chinese restaurant, the House of Lee, once stood. Thinking I will stop to buy some Abita I opt to go down Veterans Boulevard rather than take the I-10 into town. Instead I am too absorbed by the landscape to remember to stop, too smitten by how little has changed on the mostly dry side of the levees. The familiar landmarks march past–the building once a Shakey’s Pizza but now a sushi place, a convenience store at the Bonnabel Boulevard corner where I bought cigarettes so many years ago that I should not have been allowed. The closer to town the more reassuring it becomes: the Lamplighter lounge, Dorignacs: so little has changed in 20 years. And then I am across the 17th Street Canal and rolling down into the lumpy, camp-pottery bowl that is home.

My wife is sitting on the porch of our new home waiting, the wife I have lived apart from for almost half a year is waiting to show me all she has suffered through to make the shotgun double we bought at Mardi Gras a familiar home, painted in many of the colors we first chose in Fargo and now furnished with our things. And still I go the long way down Polk and pass through Lakeview, crawling down the bad streets past the hollow cottages of old south end. I turn up Canal and point myself toward home, past the drowned sunken gardens on the neutral ground and toward Cemeteries, toward Toulouse Street and the house where the children will join us in another day and make it home in full.

As I passed the assembled Saints and Angels that stand watch over the tombs of Greenwood and St. Patrick–wondering who watches over Odd Fellows behind its high walls–this came to me: like Jesus on his ass I knew I had reached the end of my road, the Golden Gate; I knew that some great fulfillment was at hand. What now, I asked aloud, starting up through the sun roof at a sky wholly blue and empty, and pitilessly hot? What next?

I have come to the appointed place.

Renard Poche–The new P in Funk May 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Watch out George Clinton, there’s a new P in Funk and its coming not from space but up from the streets of New Orleans, the city that birthed Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Professor Longhair, the Meters and the various subsequent Nevillations and a full P-antheon of funk royalty (Bo, K-Doe, y’all know). Renard Poche’s new disc 4U 4 Me is the 21st century mix up of the sounds of funky New Orleans that will dance us into the next 300 years of the City.

Like the renowned Toussaint, Poche is a multi-instrumentalist, song writer, engineer and producer with a long string of sideman and production credits. His first record is bound to take a place in that hallowed short stack of NOLA disks we all wore out the grooves or danced to scratches back in the day. This recording will put him where he belongs, front and center.

You can get his disk online here. Check him out tonight (Saturday, May 24) at 11 p.m. at the Rock N Bowl on Carrollton.

Summertime May 20, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Soon it will come: an invisible tsunami rising out of the Gulf and overwhelming our every defense, leaving us ruined and awash each in our own sweat. For some, it is a time and a weather both to be escaped, as everyone in the far north dreamed of a winter vacation to the islands or the couple from whom we bought our house who now summer in Maine. (Ah tiempo, time and weather all in one, such an exquisite bit of Romance vocabulary).

And in spite of it all, as I sit on my porch beneath my fan in the least amount of clothes decency will allow (and why did you think Stanley wore “wife-beater” undershirts?) and sip an Abita as densely beaded by condensation as my own skin is drenched with sweat, my heart will sing like a host of cicadas: a aboriginal drone which will eventually call forth this song–if only in my mind–and only as sung by Janis.

FYYFF May 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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Have your got yours yet? Online at Dirty Coast and at the Dirty Coast store on Magazine.

What, you don’t know what FYYFF is?

Ashley Morris reads his famous FYYFF post.

Which Lucky Child? May 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Which lucky child deserves to have their home rebuilt or restored?

That’s the question the construction company EPCO is asking as part of a contest to spend $100,000 toward renovation or construction of a new home for the winner of an essay contest.

EPCO Construction, Inc. will restore or build a house for the winner of the “House for a Child” Essay Contest. The essay must be written in English and submitted by an active, full-time student between eight and eighteen years of age. Essays will be accepted from November 26, 2007 until midnight May 31, 2008 for review by EPCO. The essay must describe why the student and their immediate family deserve to have their home rebuilt/restored.

Here’s a simple answer: All of them. I think I should have both my children submit that essay and see what happens.

What set me off on this was my daughter’s high school promoting this crass bit of company promotion on the school’s email list and in the homerooms this morning. How could people charged with education a building full of children suggest that only one of them (and not even necessarily one of their own students) “deserves to have their home rebuilt”?

As another blogger with a child in the same school explained in an email, what sort of person would tell a building full of children suffering from post-traumatic disaster disorder, at final exam time in a highly competitive, college-prep environment where these kids are already stressed to the max, that if they just write this essay then perhaps they can be that lucky child who can get a home for their family that there parents have not been able to provide. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded by the direct negligence of the central government. Every child who lost their home (including the places their parents rented in our local, low-wage economy) deserves to have their homes replaced by the people who destroyed them, not as part of a contest by a scalliwag company that has probably grown wealthy off of the disaster.

Thank you, Wendy and Keyonna May 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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A while back I posted up a list of all of the people listed by m.d. filter as having died by criminal violence in New Orleans in 2007. I invited anyone who came to the sight to leave their own memorials to those who died.

Not a day goes by that I don’t have visitors coming in from Google or somewhere else to that page, a constant reminder on those days when the newspaper is free of reports of another shooting. Not many people leave comments, but I got two in one day and thought I should call them out. Please go read Wendy and Keyonna’s comments on the post Silence is Violence Remembers.

I get almost daily visits for George Hankton. I don’t know who he was, but a lot of people are looking for somone by that name, and I can’t find any famous person who matches up

When Life Just Gets Too Weird May 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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there’s David Byrne being mounted by the loa.

Damn, I feel positively normal now. Except for that voice in my head that keeps asking: Why Be Normal?

I love this damn video in spite of its dreadful lack of close ups of Tina Weymouth.

The Old South May 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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“The Old South was simply intolerable: it required generations of neurotic artists, often alcoholic, to paste all of its myth’s together and then peer into its black heart. Its political and social realities are long gone, its eloquence and nuance vague to the point of disappearing.What remains are its literature.”
— Richard Kilbourne, “Poems Represent Bare Essentials of [Everette] Maddox’s Life, Art”

I stumbled across this particular carpetbagger while reading Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum Critical and Creative Responses to Everette Maddox, and was inclined to ask him:

From what ivy tower In the dour and snow white North did this particular clap trap issue from? The South’s political and social realities long gone? Just ask the chuckling seersuckers and blue blood blazers brunching in their cups at Galatoire’s some Sunday.

“How is it going? Straight down, I tell you–to the bank, that is–what with all of this nearly free real estate and oil over a hundred and billions in federal dollars floating around. We’re going to build the city the way is always was and should have remained, the Queen of the South. The new opera house will go up on the riverfront and the right sort of people will be able to walk down to it from luxurious condos with sweeping views of the Mississippi. We’ll build it with all these Mexicans, every one as hard working and subserviently afraid of the White Man’s Law as that surely busboy’s great grandfather. It might squeeze out some of the weirdos down in the Bywater but they always seem to land on their feet somewhere, and where would the show be for the tourists at Mardi Gras without them? They’ll all find a place to live in their charming artist’s squalor and not too far from a four dollar free trade cafe au lait grande, I’m sure.

“Our Blanches and Stellas are still with us, with their fine educations and their boyfriends with more tattoos then the sailors on old Decatur used to have. Of course they will have to find some new place to live, or finally figure it all out: either go back and finish that MBA or find some fellow with more head on his shoulders than hair and move back Uptown to respectability because, frankly, we’re running out of cottages to flip and the Bywater is next. Between the crack heads and Katrina there’s hardly anything left Uptown worth its weight in termites.

“Everette Maddox? Never head of him. Was he related to that cracker governor from Georgia? Poet? Well, I don’t go for that sort of thing much, but I do sit on the board at NOMA and the CAC and you have to admit that whole artist bunch are an important part of our charm, don’t you think? I love that Rodrigue fellow’s Blue Dogs, myself, much nicer than those old, dark Cajun things he used to do. My wife goes in for the literary sort of thing. She’s in a book club with her circle from Newcomb but I think they mostly read whatever Oprah tells ’em to. I think they did Maya Angelou once. The artists and yes even our eccentrics are all part of our charm, of the brand that fills up the downtown hotels and by God we need them. Yes, we’re going to build a New South City here with all the old charm preserved, I tell you, once we get rid of all those troublemakers in the projects. We’re going to put Charleston and Savannah to shame. We haven’t lost our old ways. We’re just updating them for the 21st century.”

And I only am escaped alone to tell thee, what with all our neurotic artists having drunk themselves to death.

Ed’s Note: Forgot to tag it. Republished.

The Hard Questions May 8, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.”
— Audie Lorde

Cliff of Cliff’s Crib blog asks some hard questions about crime and how people deal with it:

“Last week, when I read the story of those guys that kicked in that door on Laharpe St. and shot those three people, the first thing I thought about was “well, at least they didn’t shoot the baby. Had they shot the baby too, we would have been outraged because the baby is not part of the game. Since they let the baby live, there is part of us that considers that kind of event part of the life those folks choose to live. The question is how can that be ok when the folks in question are our family, friends, classmates, and neighbors.”

Maybe it’s not my place to jump into this discussion, since his blog post directly addresses the local African-American community and bloggers of color in particular. (Not in that quote but in the longer piece). Me, I’m as white as a truck load of of Bunny Bread. But I live here, too, and not enough people of any sort are asking the hard question: how can we just let this go one because it’s “them”, whether that’s a class them (we’re not in the ‘hood, that’s not us) or a race question (they’re black, I’m white; that’s not us).

It’s the hard question everyone in every community in this town regardless of race or section needs to be asking themselves.

I think about this every day. Earlier this year, I posted up a list of all of the people who died violently in New Orleans on this site. And not a day goes by but someone comes by searching for one of those who died. I don’t know who George Hankton was, but there seem to be a lot of people with access to the internet who cared. Someone Googling that name shows up almost every day. Still, no one who knew him leaves a comment on that page. I’ve looked out on the net myself for any more info, but there are only a couple of cryptic “my cousin died” posts on My Space pages that are marked private. The Book wrote a post about his cousin Chanell Sanchell which prompted a post of my own, but most of those who die vanish into obscurity, forgotten by all but those who knew them personally.

What happened to George Hankton (age 40, not some punk kid) and Chanell Schanell should be the concern of everyone who choses to live here, who insists on making New Orleans home. The death of every person here by violence is your concern. If you think it’s not your concern, you’re probably reading the wrong web page. This blog is primarily about New Orleans, and if you think you care about New Orleans and don’t care about the young black men (and women) dying in the streets, well, then you don’t care about New Orleans as deeply as you think you do.

The problem is none of us know what to do about it. I don’t. Cliff admits he doesn’t. Our so-called leaders sure as hell don’t have a clue. But before we get to answers, at least we ought to be able to start with some questions. We’ll take the easy ones first. How did this come about? And what can I do today that will make it stop, someday? I don’t have the answer for the 13-year olds who were just busted for sticking people up in my neighborhood. They’re the age of my own son, and may be lost already. But they probably have little brother’s and sisters going to Recovery District schools. Will they even have a chance at something better, something other than what their brothers found? Are these siblings their only role models? What about the culture these kids pick up on TV and the radio glorifying what their “big” brothers did? What about the people who profit by recording and broadcasting that?

Who are these kids’ role models? What about everyone who fled certain parts of the city but stayed “in New Orleans” (if you tell people when you’re out of town that “I’m from New Orleans, then yes that’s you regardless of where you actually live). It doesn’t matter if you fled into the suburbs and Catholic school in the early ’60s or into the East and the magnet schools in the 70s and 80s: all the people who could make a difference–white and black–seem to have turned their back on the weakest among us. This city is ringed by churches full of Good Christians who seemed to have slept through all of the homilies they ever heard.

The kids who are killing and dying, and the families they come from, were left behind like too many animals in a too small a cage with not enough to eat, and you don’t need a degree in sociology to figure out how that plays out. And now many of the best and brightest of the people who grew up in the hard neighborhoods aren’t coming back from The Evacuation. They’ve discovered a place where jobs pay decently and the schools work. They’re the next wave of the middle-class out-of-poverty story, and how many of them are staying in Atlanta or Texas or Nashville?

I think only the hand of a loving god could reach down and pluck some teenager with a pistol in his waste band off the streets and save him. I’m pretty sure I can’t, and I doubt the rest of you could either. But we have to start somewhere. The first step is to decide to give a damn. The next step is to figure out the next step. If I knew what it was I’d be charging you $1,500 for the advice and trying to sell you the companion books and tapes. I don’t have the answers, but I have an inkling of what the questions are. And thanks to Cliff (and The Book and m.d. filter) the impulse to start to ask them. That’s a beginning.

A Tale of God’s Will May 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Today Terence Blanchard led his quintet, with faces as solemn as morticians’, in a joyful noise together with a backing orchestral group selections of his A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). It was an Odd moment for Jazz Fest (and so perhaps our favorite here on Toulouse Street). I saw two tributes so far, one for Willie “Tee” and Earl Turbington and a show featuring young students of Alvin Batiste. Both were joyful celebrations of the musicians honored, music interspersed with stories and spoken word tributes. They were perfectly in the tradition of a city where, once we have buried the deceased, the parade begins.

Blanchard’s recital this afternoon was of another character altogether. It was more like the full funeral package, with all of the the sadness and solemnity of the service and the recession from the church and march to the cemetery. The Reverend-esque Blanchard spoke of the deceased and offered an excellent homily.There was his tale of boat rescuers, of people being taken out told to be quiet so the people left behind that trip might not hear them, told to cover their children’s eyes as they passed through an area full of dead bodies, introduced the piece “Funeral Dirge”.

His homily was on the importance of Lee’s film, When The Levees Broke. He told the tale of his mother asked by Spike Lee to let him film her first return to her ruined home, of how he warned her what having a full film crew following her might mean at such a difficult and delicate moment, of how proud he was that she insisted. People, his mother told him, need to know what happened down here. This led into the piece “Dear Mom”.

When they were not playing, Blanchard and his group were as serious as their subject, and as the music they composed. It seemed fitting for the piece of music a friend of mine told me before the show was the one he would put on when he felt compelled to escape his home on the sliver by the river to drive around Gentilly, sometimes checking on homes he had gutted to see if any have made progress. When he does this, he said, he will sometimes bawl like a baby.

At the first orchestral passage, Blanchard reached up to his face and wiped with his fingers just beneath his glasses as if to wipe away tears, a motion I last saw on a jazz stage at a Red Cross benefit in Fargo, N.D., after New Orleans trumpeter Marc Braud spoke of recovering his instrument as the rest of that band played “Do You Know What It Means”.

The audience I could see (and I was rapt and could not turn my head away from the stage) were just as transported. The WWOZ DJ who sat in front of me was not the outgoing, crowd-working celebrity I had seen in the tent and up on stage announcing the rest of the day, but sat solemn as a sphinx. The other stage announcer, a man in a red t-shirt and dreadlocks, sat at the foot of the stage looking not at the musicians but stared straight ahead into some private place. A woman came and sat beside him and put her arm around him.

As Blanchard spoke and the musicians played, the rain that had held off all day finally broke in torrents, as if the music had moved not just a few thousands in this tent on this day but had seized the hearts of the heavenly host and moved them to tears as well as they considered the Odd mix of pain and beauty that is God’s Will.

It was also, as I promised Friday, a time of joy. As the band wailed through the beautiful Ashe and the straight ahead jazz numbers that ended the concert, the orchestra musicians who had sat at attention in their best, serious concert poses, began to be transported by the music as well. The first violin began to show a shy smile, and to bob her head in time as members of the audience around me did. An incredulous cello in a John Brown beard divided his attention between an incredible bass solo and watching the drummer. When Blanchard called on the audience to help him by taking of the chant “This is a tale of God’s will” from the album’s opening cut, we were all transported without moving to the Gospel Tent and the moment of redemption many of us had come for arrived at last.

As I had hoped, Blanchard’s quintet had drowned the bitch in beauty and flooded the streets with tears of joy.


Also, don’t miss the podcast interview which Blanchard’s team (he mentioned bringing in his personal sound man and tour manager to run the boards) had put up the very same evening.

N.B. Fixed numerous typos. Must not try to post when dead tired and trying to rush out the door to the Fairgrounds. Thanks G.P.

Last update: here’s another camera video of an excerpt of Ashe’.

Update 5-12-09 Based on a notice from You Tube that the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra objected to these small, low-fidelity excerpts I shot with my $100 Cannon from 100 feet away, I’m removing the video. In fact, I’m going to go back and edit out references crediting the LPO with participation in this performance and will simply refer to them as “the orchestra”.

Oh, What A Lucky Blog May 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Not to brag but mostly to show off the cool artwork, this picture (and the priviledge to display it) are the prize in NOLA Notes and Pete’s best Jazz Fest blog contest. Its kind of them to think so where there are so many fine writers and photographers in the NOLA bloggers community. Also you should get over to NOLA Notes and Pontchartrain Pete to check out the category winners.

We Will Drown the Bitch in Beauty May 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Dancing Bear, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, Jazz, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“I told you I would be here.
It was important that I came.
I’m leaving but I’ll be back again.
Will you be here?”
Shelton Alexander


Terrence Blanchard.
Requiem for Katrina. Tomorrow at Jazz Fest

We will drown the bitch in beauty and flood the city with tears of joy.

Will you be there?

Update: Replacing generic Terence Blanchard YouTube with a camera video shot May 2, 2008 at Jazz Fest, an excerpt from Funeral Dirge from Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), featuring Blanchard’s Quintet and the —————- —————— Orchestra.

Update 5-12-09 Based on an objection from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, I have removed this brief, low-fidelity excerpt which I had posted pursuant to fair usage for comment and criticism. Apparently they don’t appreciate free promotion. I will also remove any references to the LPO from this piece as well.

Stacy Head: Ambassador for New Orleans April 29, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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What is it about Uptown that causes some people to be so congenitally unpleasant? (I’m struggling to compose this in my head without reference to any offensive body part or function; we’ll see). You know the ones, the kids who grew up hanging out at the Valencia or by the Southern Yacht Club pool, the kids from certain high schools who ran in circles as exclusive as (and preparatory to) Rex or Comus. Yeah, them.

Perhaps it’s living in such grand houses in a city otherwise tightly squeezed onto the small slivers of high land hereabouts, the narrow streets and crowded rows of houses that confront Them when They venture out the door and off Their own block. Maybe it is the tangles of traffic in parts of town with no wide boulevards, streets crowded with people who don’t know who They are, hourlies and layabouts passing their day without the sort of important appointments They keep. Perhaps it was the pre-gentrification habit of keeping one’s servants close by in those claustrophobic little houses, and the uncomfortable situation as the master-servant relationship changed over the decades in ways visually expressed by the replacement of lawn jockeys and faux carriage posts with discrete private police patrol warning signs.

They are (at least in part) the people of Women of the Storm, our self-appointed ambassadors to the outside world–people who still know when to wear hat and gloves, people who own their own evening clothes and periodically cast them off so that slobs like us can have cheap tuxes as needed in their fine Uptown thrift shops. They travel to Washington and New York to let the Right Sort of People know that They have things down here under control, that its safe to invest in our recovery. I am glad these people do what they do whatever their motives I am not ready to condemn an honest evangelist for New Orleans until they transgress simple decency and fairness.

Then there are people like Stacey Head: evangelists only for their own advancement, for the opportunity to profit by the flood and to flush out what they might deem “undesirables” from their idealized city, who would love to carry us back to old Virginny bayou style. They aren’t terribly fond of anyone coming home who can’t afford a proper and tasteful house in spite of the tremendous escalation of prices after the storm and the collapse of the private insurance market. They are people who resent all those low-rent types and their dependents; you know, the ones who mix Their drinks, bus Their tables and make Their beds. Stacy is noted recently for blowing kisses (presumably in farewell) to the noisy public housing demonstrators, symbolically dismissing the people who make the local t-shirt-and-tits, beads-and-beer economy work. And then there was her clever remark about people so déclassé that they would rent poisonous FEMA trailers to live in because they have no other homes to come back to.

Stacey represents the Young Turk wing of the people who gave us a generation of economic stagnation and sat idly by as public education imploded after desegregation; the ones who quietly applauded as their hirelings in Washington diverted hurricane protection funds to the Inner Harbor Navigation Lock and who were convinced the MRGO would bring us a future of prosperity; they are the people who had themselves gerrymandered into suburban Congressional districts so they could at least have a Congressman they could call on when needed. They are the people who helped engineer the election and then the re-election of Clarence Ray Nagin. Heck of a job, guys, heck of a job.

They are the people who no doubt applaud the $50 Jazz Fest ticket and sourly wish they were just a bit higher, given some of the people you might encounter at the Fair Grounds. As they used to say when I lived in North Dakota, 40 Below Keeps the Riff-Raff Out: a principle someone like Stacy would no doubt admire. Too bad I can no longer bring her back a t-shirt from the Fargo International Airport like the one I saw on my first trip there. Those now retired “40 Below” shirts featured a shadow caricature of a man with an afro and a pimp hat. Very classy.

In addition to making the world safe for mohitos and driving the trailer trash into the land of Nod, Stacy has found a new job as Goodwill Ambassador for New Orleans.

This comment from Humid Haney’s Rant blog was confirmed as legitimate in an email by the woman who posted it, and her husband has in fact sent a nasty letter to the Times-Picayune. She wondered in her reply email if Ms. Head didn’t in fact have friends at the T-P who might make sure it never sees the light of day. I think there’s a good chance Ashton the Second might keep such a letter under wraps. (Ashton. Wow. Where do they get these names for their children, from lines of clothing they saw at Perlis?)

Here’s the entire post from Humid Haney’s, confirmed by the author via email.

Please let me share a story that my fiance sent to the editor of the local paper. It tells about a recent encounter we had with Stacy Head:

My family and I just returned from a wonderful visit to 2008 New Orleans and Jazz Fest. I have attended every Jazz Fest since 1983. My 11 and 9 year old daughters have attended every Jazz Fest since their respective births. My fiancé has enjoyed the region and its offerings on no less than five separate occasions since we met a year and a half ago. Despite the rainy weather we loved the first weekend, as always, and will be back for weekend 2. While we have not lived the post-Katrina challenges directly, we certainly empathize with the challenges. It has been encouraging to see the improvement during our many post-Katrina visits. We joined the Audubon Zoo last year knowing it was unlikely we would get a chance to visit regularly, but hoping the funds would be put to good use. I have lived and worked in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge for years and someday we hope to be able to return to the area to live. I guess I know enough about the area’s culture to realize that the foregoing “credentials” are helpful to what I am now going to say.

Unfortunately, our Jazz Fest experience was marred by a dispute over seating in the blues tent on Friday. I left to take my daughters to the porta-potties. My fiancé held our three seats. When we returned 15 minutes later, she was in deep discussion with several women. It turns out that they asked if our seats were available. The response, “no, but you can sit in them until the rest of the party returns”. As we returned, the women refused to get up, demanded we move down to use an open seat—not a bad idea, but we were still short a seat–etc. Our group, including young children, had to witness a less than kind interaction which included my fiancé being called a “Yankee bitch”–she from Kentucky with as strong a Southern heritage (and accent) as it comes. When the group of aggressors finally left, one of the women came behind my fiancé and proceeded to verbally dress her down at length. While perturbed by the incident, we attempted to enjoy the rest of the set. Of note, several seats opened up around us within two or three minutes (it was early in the day).

What happened next amazed us. A pleasant middle aged gentleman came up and apologized to us noting that he was embarrassed because the “leader of the pack” was Councilwoman Stacy S. Head. He indicated that he had introduced himself to her a few minutes before the altercation as she represented his district. He “couldn’t believe” how she and her group had acted. Sure enough when we checked the internet that evening it was Ms. Head who led the altercation. While her web-site boasts, stated credentials, church membership, etc. are all very interesting; I would submit that New Orleans deserves to be represented by better. As long as interactions are led with hostility and followed by put-downs such as that chosen by Ms. Head (Yankee bitch) New Orleans will not move forward. I have always been bemused by endless editorials about “outsiders who do not understand, have proper appreciation, etc.” The fact is the region has rich cultural and tourist offerings-perhaps better than any other in the nation. That said attitudes like those displayed by Ms. Head can deter all but the most committed from wanting to visit. We will be back because of our love for the area, but had Ms. Head randomly abused a first time visitor I can imagine a different result. A city that prides itself on tourism and is reliant upon tourist trade needs to rethink its approach beginning with what its elected leaders convey. Something is fundamentally wrong when people who visit have to do so “in spite of…”

Fuckmook.

N.B. Any hint of class resentment in this post is entirely intended and historically accurate. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Thomas Agnew and his parents for the boorish behavior of all those nouveau-riches Lakefront types from C.B.S. who came to your lovely home St. Charles Avenue home for that eighth-grade party many years ago, who proceeded to get fabulously drunk on liquor looted from their parents and then introduce your delicate future debutantes to “poppin’ the gator” to The Guess Who’s “American Woman”. Not that I regret it. It was, in that Odd way we relish here on Toulouse Street, as perfect a moment of ritualized class conflict as anyone could imagine. The Agnews may take some comfort that at least one of us turned out better than might have been expected, mounting a creditable recent campaign for Congress in the near suburbs. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want your trailer folk either, Stacey, so you can forget busing them in from the North Shore.

Forget Jazzland and Six Flags. I’m Going To Debrisville! April 23, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Debrisville, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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A $70 million plan proposed to resurrect the twice-failed Six Flags (formerly Jazz Land) amusement park in New Orleans East! Finally, an idea that could actually produce cranes, if only to drive them into the air to fly away from all the racket.

If this falls through, I think I want to put together a package for a Katrina/Flood themed attraction. I mean, why should the bus and van tour companies be the only ones making money off misery?

Announcing: Debrisville! After your solemn ride through Gentilly and New Orleans East, you’ll be ready for a hurricane of fun living the post-Flood lifestyle! Experience the genuine exhilaration of the frightening Road Home Roller coaster! Hold on to your lunch as you experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Down Annunciation! Don’t miss the thrill-of-a-lifetime ride to the top of the Helicopter Hoist! And dare to live dangerously as you play Red Light Bumper Cars!

Don’t forget to visit our water attraction Lakeview Lagoon and thrill to the latest in wave pools technology in the When The Levees Break flood pool! When that big wave come be sure to watch out for those cars and houses! Or take a leisurely tube ride down our careful fiberglass reconstruction of St. Claude Avenue in Escape from the Ninth Ward!. While you’re there, be sure to experience the ultimate in Roof Top Dining in Lakeview’s MRE Cafe!

And just because it’s not Six Flags doesn’t mean you have to miss some old-time excitement. Be sure to visit Gangsta Town, where we will revive the old Six Flag tradition of cowboy shoot outs updated for the 21st century. In Gangsta Town you can not only visit the Rock Candy Store and see the girls do the booty shake while sipping a 40 oz Barq’s at the all-ages, family-friendly Hip-Hop House Party, you can thrill to a realistic gangta gun battle right there in the street. They’ll be poppin’ and droppin’ like nobody’s business!

Anybody else in on this?

Same As It Ever Was April 22, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Same as it ever was…

h/t to dsb of bark, bugs, leaves and lizards.

A New Dance Craze Sweeps The Nation April 22, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Today, I have never been prouder to be an …


… Orleanian.

What, did you think I was going to say American? Bwahahahaha! Hell, I’m not sure Il Dufe and I are the same species, much less willing to admit to being part of any country that would have this dolt as its leader. There seems to be something vaguely Neanderthal about him, some suggestion of an evolutionary wrong turn. Sure, he has a certain cunning strength, but he can’t seem to strike two rocks together in quite the right way. It’s like trying to move furniture through a tight spot with my in-laws certain people. At some point you begin to see in them a not very promising line of hominid confronting a coconut and a rock, perplexed as to what to do next. You can’t quite figure out how their lineage survived the stone age.

Oh, and George: FYYFF.

Like I said before: Tell him to send his wife instead. At least she has the grace to bring something when she shows up uninvited

Up from the Underground April 20, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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Good evening, this is reel three of the Underground Weekend. See the Underground Man below as to what has prompted this. These posting may make more sense starting with Underground Man and reading up in order. Or they may not make sense at all.

Sunday Mornings long ago, back from a night in the underground of quarter rats who peopled Decatur Street after dark (a time I once described in a poem with the line: “we lived as we read and gladly would have died of it”, thinking of Bukowski); a morning listening to the music at the Episcopal Church next door on Esplanade (now grown famous for it’s dedication to local musicians); coffee dark as tar and an early morning cigarette listening to the French horn solo from the open windows not 10 feet from my patio seat, dreaming of all tomorrow’s parties.

The Underground does not live exclusively in the dark. It is all around you, even if you think you’ve grown old and lost the thread. Going for your Sunday paper tomorrow you may pass someone just back from The Underground (his flashing eyes! his floating hair!) just bursting with a story to tell, if only you had the match they asked for, had a reason to linger and listen.

This concludes reel three and the Underground weekend. Tomorrow we return to the counting house.