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Love & Loathing May 30, 2015

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, The Narrative, The Spectrum, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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La Dolce Vita 7

“The day that you understand you love Marcello more than he does, you’ll be happy.”
— Steiner, La Dolce Vita

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Baudelaire’s Ear December 10, 2011

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, film, movie, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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“Its the same story the crow told me/Its the only one you know” — Robert Hunter for the Grateful Dead’s Uncle John’s Band

It is not the eyes that read “monsters” instead of “mothers” in the email subject line but some part of the brain that takes over at moments, the subconscious peeking into the light of day. You’ve opened a door somewhere you do not know how to close, or rather out of that door that hasn’t closed quite right since childhood—an ill-fitted cabinet that opens every time you close another—something darker sometimes comes.

Often the misreadings or mishearings arecomic. You still play them for laughs with your son. In the case of hearing you often understood what was said; the creature inside just chose to play its tricks for laughs. Lately it is a different sort of comedy team: ladies and gentlemen, appearing for the first time at The Brain, the stage sensation of The Other Side Coyote and Crow, trickster and messenger, the greatest practitioners of the art of pointed and painful message comedy since Penn and Teller.

You would not close this door if you could. The words that tumble out are something like a muse: “something like” because it is not the mythic Greek creature of the Romantics, the whisper of birds in Wordsworth’s ear, but closer to the taloned thing perched on Baudelaire’s shoulder, murmuring darkly in his ear. You would not make Van Gogh’s mistake. You wish to listen. You want the mad sun of Arles, to turn your twisted ear to hear the words so you might assemble them into some form, a scaffolding in search of teleological order like the sets of Synechdoche, N.Y.

To return to a recurring character here, Federico Fellini (because of his willingness to perceive and listen and ultimately confront the madness of the world), you would build the mad gantry from 8½ (to which Synechdoche is clearly an homage), the director character attempting to assemble some sense in his confused life, to pay any price to reach for the heavens. Guido Anselmi does not fail but discovers in the ending that the only escape is into the mad Bacchanal carnival of the final dance, not out of but into life, like Marcello Rubini leaving both monster and innocence behind on the beach. Somewhere in that act is the promise of his novel realized: out of the senselessness bordering on madness of life not an answer but a story.

La Dolce Vita May 6, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative.
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Sometimes at night the darkness and silence weighs on me. Peace frightens me. Perhaps I fear it most of all. I feel it’s only a facade, hiding the face of hell. I think of what’s in store for my children tomorrow; “The world will be wonderful”, they say; but from whose viewpoint? We need to live in a state of suspended animation, like a work of art; in a state of enchantment… detached. Detached.
— Divine Comedy The Certainty of Chance Lyrics
as a speech by Steiner in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita

No, I am not about to violently snap like Steiner in La Dolce Vita. The speech always struck my differently, perhaps the way it struck Marcello in the film before the tragic murder-suicide, not as advice but as a framing for a life in a seemingly pointless universe. Isn’t that the way Marcello chooses to live in the end, almost in a state of suspended animation?

I have always found a strange sort of solace in what others might find depressing. I do not seek the peace which passeth understanding, except perhaps in despair as one might seek solace in drink or in death. I understand the attraction of satori but it strikes me as ultimately dehumanizing. I am not ready to surrender up my self and my suffering for an empty bliss. Instead I need to learn to survive in this world where the first noble truth is inscribed like scar tissue somewhere deep beneath the skin.

Here in the original land of misfit toys we call New Orleans we need to find the truth hidden in Dante’s speech as filtered through Fellini’s Steiner, not as Marcello did by embracing the emptiness but in our own way; not in a state of suspended animation but instead isolated from the sterility of late American culture; by defining our own space, “like a work of art; in a state of enchantment…. detached”; defining our own fourth noble truth, our own Way of celebrating through the darkness that leads us to the light; leads us not to Fellini’s monster on the beach, but to the innocence of the girl on the strand.

We must not detach from our world, but from theirs, must insistently be ourselves at whatever cost.

Originally published in a slightly different format as Fellini’s Beached Monster in November, 2007 I revisit this often enough that it merits reposting, with some edits.

The Land of Creamy Beans February 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Rebirth, Toulouse Street.
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It is not necessarily the big moments, the arrival of the Krewe of St. Anne at Frenchman or the first steps onto the Fairgrounds at Jazz Fest, in which I find myself most perfectly at home in New Orleans. Rather it is in the little moments that make up life here, the odd bits of life in New Orleans that are the sub-title of this blog.

In the months that have passed since I rolled over the Causeway on Memorial Day 2006 some of the sense of wonder at being here after a 20-years’ absence has been replaced by the commonplace that I am, in fact, home in New Orleans. Most days I drive down the usual routes — Carrollton Avenue, say — and it is as if I had never left, had never walked out of one home and turned down the street to view the Capitol rising down Massachusetts Avenue North East, or bundled up in the foyer of a Fargo, N.D. home to go out and shovel snow off of my driveway.

There is a familiar parade of sights–Brocato’s and Venizia, Jesuit High School, the Rock ‘N Bowl in the mostly unchanged strip mall where my mother once purchased our school clothes at the D.H. Holmes discount store; crossing the Palmetto Canal, then past the seminary to the leonine pillars at Pritchard Place and the arches at Fountainbleau and then I’m in Carrollton: passing Palmer Park to where the restaurant names change but the buildings stay pretty much the same.

And them I’m rolling home like a small boat in a light swell, dodging potholes like a river pilot navigating sandbars. I might look up from the traffic and see on one hand the branches of a row of oak tree branches extended over the streets like the hand of a priest murmuring a blessing over a small child; on the other side, a procession of the bowed shapes of palm trees slouching on the neutral ground like women waiting to cross, the trunks in the arc of a body with a hand on one hip pushing the other out in a saucy pose, the crowning leaves like an elaborate Sunday crown. And then, the odd bit: something as simple and strange as a man standing like a saintly scarecrow, arms out and hands filled with breadcrumbs, his body covered with pigeons.

At that moment I almost expect to hear a shout of azione! and see Marcello Mastroianni stride into a scene suddenly reduced to black and white, raincoat draped over his shoulders and a cigarette hanging from his lip. He is watched intently by man with a high, furrowed brow and a full, combed-back haircut last seen in a faded photo on the wall of Brocato’s, who peers at the scene over a cameraman’s shoulder. The bird man in a fabulous landscape of trees receding into infinity is reduced to the backdrop of something more than the merely fantastic, becomes part of a pattern that is as comfortable with the irrational as any other state. It feels as if I have been tipped out of a cart, transported away from my routine commute between Carrollton and Mid-City and into a sound stage bounded only by the imagination, arriving suddenly and without warning in the New Orleans of dreamy dreams.

Some days the moments are not quite as mystical but are instead as perfectly New Orleans as any instant could be. Last Sunday as I was taking down the Mardi Gras beads I had wrapped the columns in front of the house with I hear a sound I at first feared might be gun shots. Then two children with drum heads and sticks marched side-by-side up Olympia Street to the corner of Toulouse, beating a march time. They were led by a third child in front with a whistle and, from the motions he made with his arm and the way he rocked his head first one way and then the other while tilted back on his shoulders, an imaginary drum major’s staff and feathered hat. He would blow a few notes on his whistle and the drummers would answer with a few beats of the drum, over and over in perfect parade order. They marched into the middle of the intersection, and with a wave of the imaginary staff and a long, shrill whistle burst, they stopped. The leader, after some pointing and prodding and appropriate huffing on the whistle, got them turned around and they marched off back up Olympia: tweet, tweet, tweet, DUM da dum dum; tweet tweet tweet, DUM da dum dum…

I looked at the beads in my hand after they had vanished, shaking my head slowly and smiling as I silently reminded myself: no where else, man, no where but .