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Ashley Morris: 1963-2008 April 2, 2012

Posted by The Typist in FYYFF, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street.
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By Dylan Thomas
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

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Carry Me Home April 10, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, Debrisville, Federal Flood, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Since I’m getting all this traffic courtesy of David Simon and Ashley Morris, no reason not to remind visitors that some of the essay originally posted on Wet Bank Guide are collected as Carry Me Home, A Journey Back to New Orleans, available direct at Lulu.com, the usual online locations, and the best New Orleans Independent bookstores. It’s a journal of the time that frames the Treme story and one man’s journey back to the town nicknamed Debrisville. In the end it is an odd genre of my own inventing–the geo-memoir–because it is not really a journal. As I did on the original Katrina blog, I serve mostly as narrator. It is ultimately about the city and it’s people and our long journey to make once again a place recognizably New Orleans.

“Mark’s writing is about skill and heart. A blend of reporting, memoir and analysis, [the book] is as immediate as it is reflective. It’s more than a love letter to New Orleans—it’s a survival guide for post-Katrina America. Mark shows how to go through a disaster with your soul intact”
• Michael Tisserand, author of Sugar Cane Academy and The Kingdom of Zydeco.

So if Treme leaves you wanting to crawl into the heart of New Orleans, here’s another chance to get you some.

“It belongs on the bookshelf alongside the other worthy
post-Katrina works”
• Chin Music Press

Back Of Town March 19, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Brought to you my Maitri’s new Back of Town blog on David Simon and HOB’s Treme:

“You hate the food. You hate the music. You hate the city. What the fuck are you doin’ down here?”
— John Goodman as Ashley. Near the end. Wait for it.

I think he might need another Gloria de Cubana January 25, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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after last night. And maybe a wee tot of Jameson’s. OK, not a wee tot. I think a bottle. And po-bo. And another smoke as well, all before that date the rest of the world confuses with Super Sunday.

Yes. January 16, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Find someone or something to cling to May 9, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Bloggers, cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Purloined from today’s Poetry Daily (see the RSS feed down the gutter at right), something in this piece at the bottom of this post seems to speak to this day in New Orleans like an especially apt horoscope. The news that another one of us is leaving, torn away by the whirlwind of a bitter child custody dispute, reminds us that we defy the gods to be here and risk the price they can extract.

When I first moved here and through some contacts in the media was interviewed as a willing transplant to a disaster zone, I was asked if I knew of any other post-Federal Flood arrivals. I always recommended Ashley Morris and Ray Shea.

Ashley died last April. In the afterword to Carry Me Home, I recalled something from his funeral:

Three of us were written up by the Los Angeles Times: Ray Shea, Ashley Morris and I. Ashley died April 2, 2008 at the age of forty-four of a heart attack. As we listened to the Hot 8 Brass Band playing at the cemetery after wards, someone came up to me and said, “Now it’s just you and Ray.” It sounded not precisely like a curse, but certainly an unlucky thing to say in a cemetery in New Orleans….

Does that make me the last man standing? By no measure. NOLA is full of people who love this place madly, who by words or paint or music or food or costume or dance live out that madness in a very public way. Its not only false, its a vain conceit, and if one is even a bit superstitious perhaps a dangerous one. Not precisely a curse is what I wrote last year, but Ray’s departure still seems a reminder of the potential price of our defiant stance here on this uncertain ground.

May he, like Odysseus, return home.

Storm Catechism

The gods are rinsing their just-boiled pasta
in a colander, which is why
it is humid and fitfully raining
down here in the steel sink of mortal life.
Sometimes you can smell the truffle oil
and hear the ambrosia being knocked back,
sometimes you catch a drift
of laughter in that thunder crack: Zeus
knocking over his glass, spilling lightning
into a tree. The tree shears away from itself
and falls on a car, killing a high school girl.
Or maybe it just crashes down
on a few trash cans, and the next day
gets cut up and hauled away by the city.
Either way, hilarity. The gods are infinitely perfect
as is their divine mac and cheese.
Where does macaroni come from? Where does matter?
Why does the cat act autistic when you call her,
then bat a moth around for an hour, watching intently
as it drags its wings over the area rug?
The gods were here first, and they’re bigger.
They always were, and always will be
living it up in their father’s mansion.
You only crawled from the drain
a few millennia ago,
after inventing legs for yourself
so you could stand, inventing fists
in order to raise them and curse the heavens.
Do the gods see us?
Will the waters be rising soon?
The waters will be rising soon.
Find someone or something to cling to.

Kim Addonizio

Five Points
Vol. 12, No. 3

Black and Gold Forever July 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Updated with many more details Sunday evening.

The Ashley Morris benefit seemed a great success from out in the crowd, which was easily a hundred. It was a mix of bloggers, roller girls and some familiar faces from neither group I think run in the Defend New Orleans/Dirty Coast crowd. People dressed in Saints’ black and gold, or in Defend New Orleans or FYYFF t-shirts from Dirty Coast were clutching fistfuls of raffle tickets and prizes won at auction, including clothes modeled by burleque girls. I took home a Trinidad cigar ashtray of Ashley’s.

Much drink was taken, and there was a cloud of cigar smoke from a few of us at the blogger tables, as it should be. I picked up a couple of nice maduras from the Cuban exile’s shop just up Toulouse Street from One Eyed Jacks. Don’t ask the brand as I lost the band from the one I smoked. The second I laid across a glass of Jameson’s and left on the foot of the stage. I took a sip and sprayed a bit on the stage in the fashion of voodoo, and blew a large waft of smoke over the glass and the stage.

That bit of gris-gris did not prevent the first band from playing. An odd sounding improvisational group of cello, keyboard and drum I think must have been the Other Planets sometimes sounded like bad outtakes from Bitches Brew. Someone wondered aloud if Ashley spirit was hovering over the scene asking in a loud voice that only he could here, “what the fuck is this?” Still, they donated of their time so I shouldn’t be so harsh. In another setting I would have listened closely and perhaps been more interested, but most people don’t listen to Sun Ran or Pharoah Sanders or Miles Davis wild Bitches Brew.

Andrew “The Reverand Psych” Ward, the emcee for the evening, had an excellent cabaret shtick and watching him work with the two burlesque girls from Fluer de Tease during the auction and raffle was highly entertaining. The guest appearance by the mysterious Supa Saint, playing a wild and weirdly melodramatic, Phantom of the Paradise-styled eyboard riff over New Orleans Saints videos while the two Fleur girls danced at either end of the stage let the evening it’s critical Saints football component.

Ray Shea read his eulogy again, which I particularly appreciated as I had to leave the service in April early to meet the band at the cemetery and so missed it. Oyster was on stage as well, but had to run to the men’s room and missed what he said (but I dear hear his eulogy in April). I got back in time to her Hana speak, introducing herself as “I’m Soviet Block, and I will kick your ass,” to uprorious hooting from the Roller Girls and the rest of the crowd. I somehow missed that author John Barry, who will be our keynote speaker at the third annual Rising Tide Conference was there, and Lisa brought over Huey Lewis after his his local show at HoB.

Most of us started to drift off just as the second band (which sounded excellent) started but by that point must of us were wrung out by drink and the evenings excitement. All credit and Hail to Loki of Humid City who got the Ashley Morris Foundation benefit rolling, and to everyone else who helped: Blake from Dirty Coast, the musicians who played and the artists who donated to the auction and raffle, the Big Easy Roller Girls and One Eyed Jacks for hosting us.

As I sit here bleary from drink and too little sleep, it seems following Maitri and Derrick to Fahys for drinks after midnight was a mistake, a beer too far. Still, I felt a compulsion to go. We sat in the same narrow space at the back where the first of the post-Katrina NOLA Blogger meet-ups occurred, the nucleus from which Geek Dinners and the Rising Tide conference eventually came. Back in early ’06 I put out the word on the Yahoo mailing list I started that I would stand drinks for any of the NOLA bloggers who could drag themselves to a French Quarter bar on Ash Wednesday.

Ashley was a large presence in that small crowd. It was the first time I met him in person, his traveling humidor tucked under his arm. Last night, I kept glancing over the shoulder of the person I was talking to, almost expecting to find him huddled in the corner with Troy Gilbert and John de Fraites as he was on that night. I think it was that evening over two years ago I first heard the phrase “armor the levee with their skulls” uttered, but I don’t recall if it was Troy (who latter blogged it) or Ashley who first said it. It could have come from either of them, but it surely sounds like something Ashley would have said.

It was a satisfying but eerie end to the evening, sitting in that spot where the NOLA Bloggers story began. About halfway through my second Smithwicks I had that feeling like a man on a sinking ship who knows that the water has passed some point, and the thing will soon head down. It was time to abandon ship, so I had the bartender call me a U-boat and left. Overall a very satisfying evening for a good cause.

Maitri has a few pictures and more details, and I know Dereck of bags, bugs, leaves and lizards was carrying his cameras. (You cancheck his excellent photos from Ashley’s funeral here). I’m off to check Google reader to see who else has posted anything else up.

Sinn Fein, New Orleans. We will never let the fire go out.

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.

Father’s Day 2008 June 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I browsed onto You Tube to watch this video with one particular father who is not with his children today in mind. I kept it looping in the backround as, after battling with right wing golem Big Dog and his stupid Iowa versus New Orleans nonsense, I found myself this morning finally assembling a lot of Federal Flood pictures I had collected from September 2005 over the audio of Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem, a small task I had long planned but never done. I will post it later. Going through those photographs is a painful experience. Remembering the dead is a geis I have placed on myself after the Flood, and shouldn’t needlessly impose on others. I was not going to share this video up today. But as I went through those photographs with this song playing in the background I decided I had to post it.

This is for all of the father’s who are among the 4,000 lost, who are not with their families today in New Orleans.

David Simon on Ashley Morris June 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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From the Chicago Tribune’s TV writer Maureen Ryan:

It’s not terribly unusual for television writers to form bonds with the people who watch their shows. What David Simon is doing for a “Wire” fan this weekend, however, may be a little unusual.

Simon, the creator of “The Wire,” will be in the Chicago area Sunday to receive an honorary degree and to deliver the commencement address for DePaul University. Simon’s appearance at the ceremony, which will take place at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena, sprang from his desire to pay tribute to Ashley Morris, a DePaul assistant professor and “Wire” fan. Morris recently passed away at the age of 44…

[Simon told the newspaper] “the last [e-mail] conversation I had with this gentlemen, he expressed great satisfaction and pride in having worked hard to get me invited to the DePaul commencement,” Simon wrote. “In fact, I was originally scheduled to be in London doing the final sound editing on Generation Kill this coming weekend and so I regretfully declined. He e-mailed me back saying he understand and was very disappointed, but understood the scheduling conflict. Next thing, I learn that Ashley has passed away suddenly.

“So the last thing this fella did was ask me to make a commencement appearance at the school where he taught and I said, sorry, no. And then he departs this vale. Naturally, for karmatic purposes, I had to call DePaul back and say if you still need me I’m there…

“I admired his sense of outrage; petulance and selfish rage are useless, but rightful and righteous anger has an essential place in our times. Ashley was angry on behalf of others, which in my mind makes all the difference. From what he wrote, I am convinced that Ashley loved his city and he loved the people of his city, and he was short and to the point with people who tried to [evade] the real questions using ad hominem and decorum and false civility. He spoke his mind.

“So I never got to know him. And that is my loss. And on some weird level, I owe him a trip to Chicago and a morning spent in a funny hat and gown.”

The rest here…

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.

St. Louis Infirmary-Jazz Fest From St. Louis No. 3 April 26, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Passed by Ashley walking into Jazz Fest this morning. The song that played when I got to the St. Leo’s Mausoleum was St. James Infirmary, one of the songs the Hot 8 played at the funeral (both in a slow, dirge version and as an up tempo number).

The first of a couple of odd bits of synchronicity today. The next was a guy standing behind me at the Acura stage this morning. Either the ghost of Everette Maddox was at Jazz Fest, or someone relishes their resemblance to the dead poet, down to the pipe. I didn’t take his picture, not wanting to spoil the odd moment.

I’m still waiting for the third odd thing to make the set complete, but the day is not ended yet.

You were right, Ray. It sounds great (but you wouldn’t know it from this crappy camera video).

The Underground Man April 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Debrisville, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“So long live the underground. I already carried the underground in my soul.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground

New Orleans Times-Picayune pop-culture columnist Chris Rose discovered the city’s digital underground, as he puts it, when he stumbled into the occult and hermetic bloggerhood of New Orleans, “…a massive community of underground writers, cranks and misanthropes who are keeping it real around here.”

Hmmm. I think he gets curmudgeon in there at some point as well. I don’t think we’re quite as far underground as he finds us to be. Certainly there are a lot of people who would recognize bloggers Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage or Bart Everson of b.rox. Karen was written up in the Wall Street Journal (with a picture, no less). Bart was one of the leaders of our neighborhood’s recovery process and before his daughter was borne sat on more committees than most know exist. Both spoke at the 2007 crime march. Not precisely misanthropic. Now we certainly can be the cantankerous bunch, especially when confronted with the class of people Ashley Morris liberated the movie line “fuckmooks” to describe.

Later, Rose is a bit kinder (possibly after he recovers from being called a douchebag by one local blogger, although I have to wonder how easily offended a guy is who calls his standup comedy routine “the Asshole Monologues.”) We are, Rose continues in a more positive vein, “…members of the vibrant New Orleans blogosphere, virtual warriors who lock and load for hours over their computers at night, driving legions of opinions, complaints, vitriol and humor out onto the Information Superhighway, giving both locals and outsiders alternative, sometimes insightful and always uncensored accounts of life in the Big Uneasy. ”

Damn. Well, that was nice enough, although I often write early in the morning. After a long day in the Big Uneasy its often difficult to put words together that would make any more sense than the drunken and incomprehensible speech I gave (or should I say attempted to give) rather late at Ashley Morris’ wake. And it’s certainly a bit nicer than his opening gambit. Still, on balance he makes us sound like 21st century variants of Dostoyevsky’s unpleasant character, well versed enough in modern technology to make our mark but consumed, at least some of us, with complaints and vitriol.

The Big Uneasy. Most people down here actively hate that trite bit of marketing nonsense Big Easy. But this play on it I rather like. It summarizes us all and where we live with a minimum of fuss. It fits in well with the neologisms of the NOLA Bloggers: Debrisville, Federal Flood, We Are Not OK. Rose has taken on for himself the stage role of Mr. Big Uneasy, beginning with a fabulous column he wrote back in the Fall of 2006 and later when he first dropped from the paper’s columns, then returned to publicly recount his struggle with depression.

In case you are not from around here, and fall into that group of fu——–, uh, I mean people who think that 1) New Orleans was wiped from the face of the earth two years ago by a vengeful god and is no longer your problem, or 2) everything down here in just peachy after Mardi Gras, the bowl championship game and NBA All-Stars, let me set the record straight: We Are Not OK. I am one of the few people I know not taking some sort of psychoactive meds to combat a condition I think strongly resembles combat fatigue as much as anything else. Chris Rose became the poster child for this condition, but he is one among tens upon tens of thousands.

Almost 1,000 days after the failure of the Federal levees life down here is still a struggle most Americans can’t imagine. For people who have invested themselves beyond just their own house and circle of friends and family, the people who have taken on in some small or large way the rebirth of the entire city, it can be as bleak at times as the denuded WWI battlescapes I believe the stage directions for Waiting for Godot were meant to invoke.

The thing is, Chris, you’re not unique; not in the way Ashley was unique. Most of us who write as you do, as we all do, about the city and our lives here share a common stage and read from the same script, function not as characters but as members of a chorus. We act from the same flaws and echo each other’s lines, waiting to share that moment of carthasis with the audience. Now Ashley, there was a character. When he walked onto the stage it was: cue the lights and orchestra (snare and kettledrum, fortissimo please). We’re glad you found him, sorry you missed knowing him, and appreciate that you helped to share his story to the larger world of newspaper readers.

He struggled as we all struggled, but as with everything else in his life he did it with more gusto that most. If he seemed at time cantankerous or misanthropic and downright cranky, he was entitled. We’re all entitled: you, too, Chris. The NOLA bloggers are not, however, the caricature of the cantankerous blogger: that 21st Century, Web. 2.0 version of the crank with a typewriter and a mimeo machine, guys who write and mass mail letters to every member of Congress, who litter coffee shops with uncollected petitions.

We are, as you admit in one moment, a lot like yourself. We are people who write about this city and the people in it, not for a living as you do but as a very important part of our lives, as one of the tethers for our sanity in this crazy place where It’s After the End of the World. We are underground men (and women), but not in the Dostoyevskyan sense. We are in part an underground resistance to the poor, lost fuckmooks 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.

We’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.

Welcome to the underground.

Slaying the Mooks with Joy April 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Please read all of Celcus’ fine write up on the tourists stopping by St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 on Friday during Ashely Morris’ funeral:

…it was clear they understood that they were witnessing something extraordinary, something ancient and primal, and something wholly authentic. This (let’s face it) totally bizarre mix of people crying, dancing and celebrating in a cemetery, merging grief with the joy of living, is something they will take home to the land of beige boxes, or wherever it was they were from. A centerpiece of their travel stories will, no doubt, revolve around this remarkable thing that they witnessed. And somewhere, someone will understand, if only for a moment, why we live here.

And there will be one less mook in this world. Nice one, Ashley.

Oh, Didn’t He Ramble? April 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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There are lots of pictures up of yesterday’s jazz funeral for Ashley Morris, but I want to call you in particular those by dbs of bark, bugs, leaves and lizards which are simply fantastic. The black and white drop outs below are particularly fine. So many have written so well about Friday’s event, I’ll leave it at helping to share out what Ashley cared deepest about (after his family): the unique music and culture of New Orleans.


Ashley’s wife Hana–at left behind the band, with the the children and the pall bearers–follow the band back from St. Leo’s Mausoleum.


The band turns that final corner with the mourners close behind. The dancing is tentative at first. We we are mostly as white as a truckload of Bunny Bread, and for most of the crowd this is their first jazz funeral. By the time the band has climbed the mausoleum steps in the next picture, the joyous sounds had mounted the crowd like the loa.


This is the part that G-Bitch describes, “the important dance-and-sweat-until-the-tears-stop part of the ritual,” the band on the steps of the priest’s mausoleum and the crowd around the camera.

I missed Ray’s eulogy as I had to split and run over to meet the band. I’m glad he’s posted it on his blog.

Ashley, remember this: no one who ever knew you can pass in or our of Jazz Fest without you in their thoughts. Like the bone men, we will carry you in our hearts into the Fairgrounds. You are a part of this city forever.

I Know You Rider April 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Toulouse Street.
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Jesus the Jew jumped up in his pew and sang a simple song:
I Know Your Rider and then for an encore You Just Keep Me Hangin’ On
–Some Drunken Idiot

I’m tired about writing about the Other, about all of It, this crazy After the End of This World we live in. This is for me. It is my invocation for tomorrow morning, to carry me through the day. It is for all of you, my blessing on a sad day; but most of all for myself:

“I wish I was a headlight/On a north bound train.
I’d shine my light/Through the cool Colorado rain.”

Quotes From A Life April 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
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As we prepare to bury our friend Ashley Morris tomorrow, I want to share some quotes from an article I found in the break room todayi n USA Today. These are taken from the write up of a memorial for Norman Mailer, who passed away last year.

I’m not comparing Ashley’s blogging to Mailer’s writing (although at times, on a personal preference level, I’d probably have clicked his blog rather than pick up Mailer. That’s just a matter of taste). It is more the striking synchronicity of the person these eulogists are describing. And there was something of Mailer as well as H.S. Thompson about Ashley. He and Mailer certainly shared a taste for the scatological imperative.

Tina Brown, the British-born writer and former editor of the New Yorker, said Mailer was “everything I came to America for: a large-scale, flamboyant risk taker who refused to be defined by anyone other than himself.”

Write Kate Mailer recalled a family mountain climb led by her father during a thunder storm. She saw a warning sign and told her father, “We’ll all die.” To which he answered, “You have to learn to question authority. We should all be lucky enough to die on a mountaintop.”

And finally author Don DeLillio, praised Mailer as someone “figuring out the world, sentence by sentence.”

If you knew Ashley, this needs no explanation. If you didn’t and you know something of Mailer’s life, the perhaps it will help you to understand the Ashley we have all been memorializing this past week and will bid farewell tomorrow.

And don’t forget to click the link at right to help Hana and the three small children Ashley’s untimely death leaves behind.

Remember Ashley Morris April 6, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Loki of Humid City has put together a web memorial page for Ashley Morris with a direct link to the Pay Pal account to help out Hana and the kids.

Funeral arrangements are set. Visitation will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the service will be at 1 p.m. this Friday, April 11 at Schoen Funeral home on 3827 Canal Street, with internment at St. Louis #3 cemetery, 3421 Esplanade Avenue, to follow.

Please visit www.RememberAshleyMorris.com and give generously to help his family (he leaves three pre-school children behind). There’s a Pay Pal account so it couldn’t be easier. There’s a direct link to the Pay Pal at right under Ashley’s picture.

Loki and others are also working on a benefit for Ashley’s family;details to follow.

Thanks not only to the NOLA Bloggers who’ve done so much for Ashley (not the least of which are their memorials on-line), but also to Gambit Weekly writers for the memorials at their blog by Micheal Tisserand and this anonymous one.

Tisserand nailed Ashley to the page with this:

“Ashley Morris was emblematic of the new wave of post-Katrina bloggers in New Orleans: fiercely local and quick to take to the guard tower against those who might malign or even misunderstand his beloved home. He was more volatile — and more entertaining — than most writers who cover the city in any media. He lived on the rough draft, which made him invaluable during rough times.”

Never Let The Fire Go Out April 4, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Some of us make small marks on paper or simple bits of dark on a light screen. It is not much, these words, but it is something; perhaps to be read by a stranger who discovers a different New Orleans than that gleaned from the television news or some bad film, or by someone who finds a kindred spirit or who discovers in one of us something they did not know about themselves.

Words on the internet are more transient than bar room banter or check-out line chit-chat. In a few years, without some special effort, much of what we all write about New Orleans may be lost forever, stored on some disk or tape for which all of the readers have been lost. Most of us will be happy if we can leave something our children can remember, like the ribbon-tied bundle of letters from my father to my mother from World War II I have stashed away; something they can sometimes touch thoughtfully, can show to their children and say: “this was your grandfather’s; he did this.”

A very few of us rise above that personal level of history, make a larger mark in this life, like elephants passing on the savanna: something monumental moving through the world, a rumbling in the earth and a trumpeting cry, a trail of marks left behind which other men will find in some dim future and say: that is what it was like in that place and time.

Ashley Morris, was one of those few.

There are a scores of us who write passionately about New Orleans. What we do is little enough but it is something. Just to live here in what one wag called Debrisville is more than a little. It takes a commitment most Americans couldn’t begin to muster. The ones who most likely could manage it have all volunteered for Iraq, and we seem to be running out of them.

Above the simple bloggers and patriots of New Orleans like a hierarchy of angels are the people who don’t just live here and count that enough, who not only make the time to write about New Orleans but who do so much beyond, who give so much of their life to the city–Karen Gadois, Ray Shea, and Bart Everson come first to mind from among the ranks of bloggers.

And then there was Ashley.

His was not simply a life ardently dedicated to New Orleans. His life was inseparable from the city whose fleur de lis symbol he had tattooed upon his arm. He was not just spirited in his love of this city, he was in some sense a spirit of this city, a sort of deva or force of nature, the dedication so many people feel for New Orleans concentrated and made incarnate in living flesh.

I think Greg at Suspect Device may have said it best yesterday: “Ashley was fire. Ashley was the furnace where the rage was forged, where the steam pressure built, where raw anger began its conversion to power and motion. He was not a one-sided man, by any stretch of the imagination. He was intolerably funny. Talented. A father. All of that. Not an angry person except when driven to it. I feel tonight as if the fire has gone out and the boilers have begun to cool and the whole beastly thing is slowing to a crawl.”

Ashley burned with an angry flame that made something holy of the word fuck and gave names and faces to a throw away movie line–fuckmook–and made it a part of our everyday vocabulary. . But he also burned with a consuming fire for New Orleans’ food, the high and the low, and the more of it the better; for the New Orleans Saints, heroes and bums, winning or losing; and finally for the musicians of the city. Ashley was the one who stepped up to challenge venerated icons like Habitat for Humanity and Harry Connick, Jr. when it became clear that the “Musicians Village” would not be reserved for musicians.

He certainly lived large. A born raconteur (and don’t we love them more than any other people in North America), we all listened breathlessly to his tale of trying to hunt down Hunter S. Thompson while doped up and hampered by injuries from a motor cycle accident. He loved the aura of people with a bad boy shtick of their own, most of all Warren Zevon. He took a line from Zevon, “Excitable boy, they all said” and made it the signature of his blog.

His energy was borne in part of contradictions. For all of his incendiary bravura, around his three small children he was a model of tenderness and fatherly energy, his fire banked to the glow of a warm hearth on a cold winter’s night or the crackling fun of a fire for roasting wienies and s’mores. He didn’t post pictures of his kids up in his internet persona. They lived in a separate world, carefully guarded and at the same time taken out to experience all of New Orleans they could from the very first. They were , kept away from the man with the burning brand in his hand as they were initiated by him into the ways of the city.

It was the mix that made Ashley the person he was, the person we all loved. His anger, his humor and the palpable aura of love and pride when around his wife and kids: all of these made him more than just an angry, ranting blogger or another fan with his team inked on his arm. He seemed the complete package and then some, an edgy something extra like painted flames on a car visibly built to exceed not just the speed limit but all common sense. He seemed to signify some thing or other we all perhaps felt we lacked because he seemed to have it all going, plus that bit of Thompson-esque crazy most of us don’t dare try. If you know a little of his life story, you know he was not the complete package, that living large was perhaps a compensation for his past, for the demons that likely stalked him right up to his last day in Florida as he tried to put his deceased mother’s affairs in order.

Now is seems the fire is all out and the demons are all fled. Perhaps.

I was not as close to Ashley as some other bloggers became. He was for me one of our crowd, our krewe of bloggers, and I mostly saw him at blogger functions: our parties, the planning meetings leading up to our Rising Tide conferences, times like this. I would run into him on the street, and he would almost always offer me a cigar, and they were always the best damned cigars I ever smoked. But I can’t say we were close. Instead I knew him as I knew so many of the other bloggers through our constant exchange of blog comments and emails, because we talked as constantly as the people of a small farm town.

And so when I woke up this week and wrote a quick blog post to excuse myself from not posting much because my own life seemed to be spiraling out of control. I then opened my email and found out Ashley was dead. I was devastated. It was as if someone had ripped a huge hole in my chest, carving out that piece of ourselves unrelated to circulation that we still call our heart.

I remembered that feeling. The last time I had it was a Monday night in August two-and-a-half years ago when I came home from my son’s football practice to find that my city had not “dodged the bullet” but instead was drowning, that the Big One–the flood we all knew could come–had happened at last. This week I was once again the hollow man. Something was taken from me, a place left empty that I was left to my own devices to fill.

And so I read what all of Ashley’s friends had posted on line. I only left a short comment on Hana’s message on Ashley’s blog telling us the news, and a short post of my own here. The word Fuck in my post that day appears not because I was angry. It was too soon for anger. It was instead an invocation of the spirit that Ashley carried, that Ashley was. It was like Eliot’s final Shantih Shantih Shantih at the end of the bleak “The Wasteland“. It was the yell tens of thousands of southern boys hollored running up hill to their death in battle long ago. Ashley had fallen, and I wanted to pick up his damned flag–the white field with three gold fleur de lis–and carry it charging against all of the fuckmooks of the universe. It was the whispered invocation of the Bone Men, an invitation to Ashley not to leave but to stay and be carried through the city once again.

As the day of the announcement of his death wore on and became the day after, the strange communities we have built for ourselves in this dystopic, postdiluvian world – the NOLA bloggers, Hana’s fellow Roller Girls – rallied to help Ashley’s family. I realized that while Greg Peters had nailed Ashley to the canvas perfectly he had gotten one important part wrong. The fire was not going out. It was spreading like a Pentecost. Like the equally tragic loss of Helen Hill the year before, I know his death will become a galvanizing moment that will ultimately feed the bigger fire of all of the people Ashley represented: the partisans of New Orleans.

That is not to excuse the fuckmook god that would take Ashley from his widow and young children and leave all the in-his-craven-image fuckmooks to live, this callous mechanical universe that randomly takes the best and the innocent and the beautiful and leaves the rest of us with the wreckage, that seems to laugh in its trickster sleeve as it silently mocks us: figure it out. Well, we have figured it out, with Ashley’s help: Sinn Fein, Ourselves Alone. We get it, god. So as Randy Newman, another partisan of New Orleans, once said long ago: “Lord, if you won’t take care of us/Won’t you please, please let us be.”

The world is a smaller and colder place without Ashley Morris. And that’s easy for his friends to say. We are not his family robbed of husband and father. But still I know that Suspect Device got it wrong (for once, Greg: it happens to us all). Ashley’s fire has not gone out. It has moved on. It has spread itself through his friends in their hundreds and will unleash itself first to help Ashley’s family and ultimately to save the city that was as inseparable from his identity as his head was from his body.

We will never let that the fire go out.

  • IMPORTANT UPDATE: Please visit www.RememberAshleyMorris.com and give generously to help his family (he leaves three pre-school children behind). There’s a Pay Pal account so it couldn’t be easier. There’s a direct link to the Pay Pal at right under Ashley’s picture.

And death shall have no dominion April 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Bloggers, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, NOLA, Odds&Sods, We Are Not OK.
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6 comments

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For Ashley Morris 1963-2008
All New Orleans mourns for you.

By Dylan Thomas
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Ashley Morris April 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Odds&Sods, We Are Not OK.
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7 comments

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UPDATE: Click here to donate to the Ashley Morris Memorial Fund to help out Hanna and the kids.

Update 03-21-10: This post seems to be getting a lot of hits, so when you’re done reading the links eulogizing Ashley Morris, stop by this post to read about the character based on Ashley, played by John Goodman, who will be featured in David Simon’s Treme.

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Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

It is not right that the fuckmooks should live and Ashley should not. There is no person alive who loved this city more than he. No one.

He leaves behind his wife Hana and three small children: Katerina, Anabel, and Rey d’Orleans.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

More later. here and here and here and here and here.

Ray was one of Ashley’s closest friends here. By all means read his memorial.

And this:

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Another update: Ashley, you glorious mofo, you have two-and-a-half times the hits Al Copeland got when I wrote about his passing.

More Here: Never Let The Fire Go Out


Update 6-14-10:
Interesting. “Fuck, fuck, fuck” was the text message I sent two people last night just as the Treme charcter Creighton parks his car down by the river. Just for the record: Creighton Burnette is a composite of several people who were the basis for creating a fictional character. While FYYFF and the series opening rant were pure Ashley Morris, it would be a mistake to conflate the man with the fictional character. For more on the Creighton character, visit the Back of Town blog.