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In the South October 30, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Flood, ghosts, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
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A tale of old men and the sea, of old men and the south, of old men everywhere from Salmon Rushdie courtesy of The New Yorker online. To share the last lines is not really a spoiler, when the opening lines clearly prefigure the end. And it is the getting there from the first to the last that is the joy of this.

The observance of Halloween, that has become just another excuse to turn over the season aisles for new merchandise masks the deeper, darker meanings of the date our pagan friends call Samhain and which is tied to what our Mexican neighbors call the Day of the Dead. I have no fun plans for this weekend so I find myself contemplating the more serious associations of All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day. I don’t intend to be a killjoy because you have a costume and are bound for Frenchman Street and I am not. I probably spend more time than most people thinking about these issues, more time Remembering, so maybe its a good thing to grasp this spoke of the wheel a bit more firmly and with purpose.

So, to share the true spirit of this weekend here is brief excerpt of a wonderful story on Floods, Death and Ghosts, things which people in New Orleans know like no others. It is the tale of two old men that culminates in the Tsunami of 2004. What is remembered lives.

Senior did not like the Japanese word everyone used to name the waters of death. To him the waves were Death itself and needed no other name. Death had come to his city, had come a-harvesting and had taken Junior and many strangers away. In the aftermath of the waves, there grew up all around him, like a forest, the noises and actions that inevitably follow on calamity—the good behavior of the kind, the bad behavior of the desperate and the powerful, the surging aimless crowds. He was lost in the forest of the aftermath and saw nothing except the empty veranda next to his own and, in the lane below, the girls with the lowered heads. News came that D’Mello was among the lost. D’Mello, too, was gone. Perhaps he was not dead. Perhaps he had simply gone home, at last, to his storied city of Mumbai, on the country’s other coast, that city which was neither of the north nor of the south but a frontierville, the greatest, most wondrous, and most dreadful of all such places, the megalopolis of the borderlands, the place of in-between. Or, on the other hand, perhaps D’Mello had drowned and Death, swallowing him, had denied his body the Christian dignity of a grave.

He, Senior, was the one who had asked for death. Yet Death had left him alive, had taken so many others, had taken even Junior and D’Mello, but left him untouched. The world was meaningless. There was no meaning to be found in it, he thought. The texts were empty and his eyes were blind. Perhaps he said some of this aloud. He may even have shouted it out. The girls in the lane below were looking up at him, and the green birds in the golden-shower tree were disturbed. Then, all of a sudden, he imagined that across the way, on the empty adjacent veranda, he saw a shadow move. He had cried out, “Why not me?,” and in response a shadow had flickered where Junior used to stand. Death and life were just adjacent verandas. Senior stood on one of them as he always had, and on the other, continuing their tradition of many years, was Junior, his shadow, his namesake, arguing.

Trust your story January 26, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, ghosts, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, poem, Poetry, quotes, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Remember your name.
Do not lose hope–what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have
helped to help you in return.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
— Neil Gaimain, “Instructions”

I can’t for the life of me imagine why Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things is remaindered at Borders. It’s a fantastic collection of stories and some oddments (a set of very short pieces titled “Strange Little Girls” that were the liner notes for a Tori Amos recording, some poetry including the one quoted above) and is otherwise chock-a-block with fabulous short stories.

I fell into the modern/urban fantasy world via Charles de Lint, but the more I read of Gainman the more he is my favorite. I think the attraction is the shorter works. He is clearly, in stories like “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch” or in “Diseasemaker’s Croup”, the clearest heir to Borges I have found, and I’m awfully fond of Borges.

Dylan on the Ghosts of New Orleans December 28, 2007

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, ghosts, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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This is an interesting thing I haven’t come across before, from Bob Dylan’s autobiographical Chronicles, Volume OneChronicles, Volume One.

The Ghosts of New Orleans
by Bob Dylan

The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds – the cemeteries – and they’re a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here. Going by, you try to be as quiet as possible, better to let them sleep. Greek, Roman, sepulchres- palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay – ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who’ve died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn’t pass away so quickly here. You could be for a long time.

The ghosts race towards the light, you can almost hear the heavy breathing spirits, all determined to get somewhere. New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There’s something ly joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands. A lazy rhythm looms in the dreamy air and the atmosphere pulsates with bygone duels, past-life romance, comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way. You can’t see it, but you know it’s here. Somebody is always sinking. Everyone seems to be from some very old Southern families. Either that or a foreigner. I like the way it is.

There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better. There’s a thousand different angles at any moment. At any time you could run into a ritual honoring some vaguely known queen. Bluebloods, titled persons like crazy drunks, lean weakly against the walls and drag themselves through the gutter. Even they seem to have insights you might want to listen to. No action seems inappropriate here. The city is one very long poem. Gardens full of pansies, pink petunias, opiates. Flower-bedecked shrines, white myrtles, bougainvillea and purple oleander stimulate your senses, make you feel cool and clear inside.

Everything in New Orleans is a good idea. Bijou temple-type cottages and lyric cathedrals side by side. Houses and mansions, structures of wild grace. Italianate, Gothic, Romanesque, Greek Revival standing in a long line in the rain. Roman Catholic art. Sweeping front porches, turrets, cast-iron balconies, colonnades- 30-foot columns, gloriously beautiful- double pitched roofs, all the architecture of the whole wide world and it doesn’t move. All that and a town square where public executions took place. In New Orleans you could almost see other dimensions. There’s only one day at a time here, then it’s tonight and then tomorrow will be today again. Chronic melancholia hanging from the trees. You never get tired of it. After a while you start to feel like a ghost from one of the tombs, like you’re in a wax museum below crimson clouds. Spirit empire. Wealthy empire. One of Napoleon’s generals, Lallemaud, was said to have come here to check it out, looking for a place for his commander to seek refuge after Waterloo. He scouted around and left, said that here the devil is damned, just like everybody else, only worse. The devil comes here and sighs. New Orleans. Exquisite, old-fashioned. A great place to live vicariously. Nothing makes any difference and you never feel hurt, a great place to really hit on things. Somebody puts something in front of you here and you might as well drink it. Great place to be intimate or do nothing. A place to come and hope you’ll get smart – to feed pigeons looking for handouts. A great place to record. It has to be – or so I thought.

Excerpted from ”Chronicles, Volume One” by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2004 by Bob Dylan.

Two Landscapes December 8, 2007

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Fargo, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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I have known both these places, have walked in emptiness and felt that which fills the emptiness like water rushing into a bowl. In some places we call this god, and in others we call this ghosts. At the dark of the year, I struggle to see the difference.

1) I have heard the inevitable noise in the signal called silence, the crisp, static rustle of snow falling upon itself in perfect stillness far below zero.

2) I have seen what some call ghosts, the emptiness that outlines the shapes that make a place in a landscape, the space without which there is no form. I have felt the haunting when there is nothing in the landscape but the shape of a place and its essential emptiness.