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All those ships that never sailed August 30, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, FYYFF, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA.
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K-Date 4.1

I was reading through everyone’s anniversary posting, and mentally comparing those to the page I sort of ripped from my own mental notebook and stuck up, unfinished and a bit confused. I remind myself that down here August is the cruelest month, when we all often wish to be a pair of scuttling claws beneath the sea. And mines been a doozy. Take my job, for instance. Please. I’ll throw in the parking space.

Rex Dingler of NOLA Rising, a warrior for New Orleans of the stature of Ashley Morris, does as fine a job as any and ended his K 4.0 piece with these worlds that I am going to take away and spend part of today noodling on. One reason I stopped the Wet Bank Guide is I found I could not sustain the level of anger that sort of writing required, not both the anger and my sanity.

Ultimately, I will celebrate by offering forgiveness to those who I believe have slighted our city, who have stolen from her coffers, and have made irreverent gains from the suffering of her people. I forgive George W. Bush for the ineptitude of his leadership and those under him for their failings. I forgive the modern day carpet-baggers who have come to be known as disaster profiteers. I forgive those who squandered our opportunity to build a better New Orleans and failed to right the ailments of our city, deciding instead to return to business as usual.

While I forgive them, I will not forget them nor make excuses for their actions or behaviors. I forgive them not to ease their conscience, but to ease my own. I forgive them not to ease their way for greater plunder, but to allow me the clarity of vision to carry out my own dreams for a better city. I forgive so that I can let go of the past and move toward a better tomorrow, hopefully leaving behind the waterlines of misery that this storm had wrought.

I have had various epigrams for my blogs. Wet Bank Guide’s was from Sun Ra: “Its after the end of the world. Don’t you know that yet?: Living in a landscape and among a people that makes Waiting for Godot seem greeting card cheerful it was a good one, and I still carry that one engraved deep inside.

Here on Toulouse Street the closest we have to an epigram is the little box at right quoting Jim Morrison: “I love the friends I have gathered together here on this thin raft.” There are no better words for how I feel about New Orleans and the people I know here, and I have a rough painted sign in the backyard (my own attempt to emulate Rex’s movement) to remind me of this daily.

Perhaps it is time for a new epigram. I am thinking of the one below for now, one which jumped immediately into my mental scribble of a Katrina anniversary post Friday night. I think it encompasses so much of our experience, what is borne out of the alchemy of profound loss and a ruthless optimism, an insistence that there will be a city here if they must build it from our bones. No, that’s a bit too angry, too old fashioned Markus the Wet Bank Guy in his locusts and honey madness (but true none the less).

This epigram is a bit more detached, distant from the anger at the past, anger at the Federal Flood and all that represents; not forgetting the past but a step into the future informed by all that has happened; a rebirth (which is all we ever wanted). It is an experience not unlike Bob Kaufman’s who first spoke the poem the quote below is taken from the day he ended a decade long Buddhist vow of silence–taken after the Kennedy assassination which he kept until the end of the Vietnam War–stepping out of that quiet chrysalis into a world transformed in part by his words.

All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls…
Today I bring them back
Huge and transitory
And let them sail
Forever.
–Bob Kaufman

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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.

Farewell 2007 January 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in jim morrison, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Tomorrow is another year, or at least tomorrow morning is. Until then, this is Dancing Bear signing off for 2007, my first full year home, the year Godot did and did not come to New Orleans and it did not matter because we we clung to each other, happy to wait here until the end. Until our next regularly unscheduled transmission, remember this: Music is your only friend until the end:

Before I slip into the big sleep I want to hear the scream of the butterfly.

The other side December 1, 2007

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Doors, Jazz Vipers, jim morrison, Toulouse Street.
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Somewhere on the other side of the first set of the Jazz Vipers on Friday night is The Other Side. Once I knew the way there, the road to dawn, but now I’m just an observer. I see my self 20 or 30 years ago passing in front of me on my way to the bathroom or the fresh air outside. I wonder when I lost the key to that door.

Once I knew the way:

‘Twilight is the door between worlds.’
Who spoke those words?
I knew this once.
Now all my lore’s forgotten,
the incantations hidden in a pile of bills,
among the undone lists of mundane tasks,
the litter of responsibility.

Perhaps when I am old enough to not care anymore I will recover the secret key. Until then, I will be that old man in the corner who rejoices vicariously in dance of the young. Someday, I will remember how to break on through.