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Odd Words March 4, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Book Stores, book-signing, books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street, Writing Workshops.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 6 pm Jyl Benson and Sam Hanna bring their book FUN, FUNKY, AND FABULOUS: New Orleans’ Casual Restaurant Recipes to Octavia Books. Filled with folksy art and creative recipes from affordable restaurants captured in tantalizing photographs—with tidbits of history thrown in as lagniappe—author Jyl Benson serves up just the right taste of this fascinating and ever-evolving city. Included are neighborhood favorites such as MoPho, Purtoo, Toup’s Meatery, Lola, Bhava, and Juan’s Flying Burrito: A Creole Taqueria.

& Thursday at 7 pm the SciFi, Fantasy and Horror Writer’s Group meets at the East Jefferson Regional Library.

& IT’S THURSDAY NIGHT & THE GIRAFFES ARE ON FIRE…That means it’s time to call the New Orleans Poetry Brothel for a personal poetry reading! Call 504-264-1336 between 8-Midnight CST. [This copy taken directly from the Poetry Brothel Facebook page. To the best of Odd Word’s knowledge, no giraffes were harmed in the hosting of this event.]

& Friday the FREEDOM WRITING for WOMEN OF COLOR (NEW ORLEANS) group meets at a movable location from 7 pm to 10 p.m. Contact poetryprocess@gmail.com for more information.

& Friday at 9 pm brings Slam Up to The New Movement, 2706 St Claude Ave. In case you didn’t know Slam Up is kinda like “underground speakeasy meets bubblegum pop. It’s dirty, jubilant, tender and inspiring. Not exactly a comedy music set, not exactly a poetry slam, not exactly a lesbian folk duo- Slam Up is something all to itself.” -William Glen, Fringe Review.

& This Saturday brings Story Time with Miss Maureen 11:30 am at Maple Street Book Shop.

& Every Saturday at 2 pm two-time national champions Slam New Orleans (SNO) multi-part workshop for youth and teens will engage participants with poetry both through hearing it and creating their own.. Team SNO is a community-based organization and home of Team SNO. The team, established in 2008, promotes literacy, creativity and self-expression by urging youth and adults alike to become vocal about what matters to them. This The workshops are supported by Poets & Writers, Inc.

& Also at 2 pm Saturday The Poetry Buffet returns to the Latter Memorial Library from his carnival break. Poets Stacey Balkun. Elizabeth Gross, Geoff Munsterman, and Daniel Reinhold read from their work.

& Also on Saturday The Dickens Fellowship of New Orleans hosts its March meeting at the Metairie Park Country Day School’s Bright Library from 2:00-4:00 p.m. BLEAK HOUSE, Chapters 43-49 will be discussed. The New Orleans Branch of the Dickens Fellowship holds meetings September through May, reading one of the works of Charles Dickens each year. The meetings include book discussions, movie versions of the novel, and lectures by Dickens scholars. This year’s book is BLEAK HOUSE. Dues
are $25/person (couples $40) payable in September.

& This Sunday at 3 pm The Maple Leaf Reading Series celebrates the life of Sara Beth Wildflower, presented by Lisa A. Hix and Brad Ott. Bring any poems, photos or memories!followed by an open mic. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, founded by poet Everette Maddox, is the oldest continuous poetry reading series in the south.

& Monday at 5:30 pm the Robert E. Smith branch library will host its biweekly creative writing workshop.

& Monday at 6 pm Octavia Books will host a Middle School Book Event, Peter Lerangis and SEVEN WONDERS #4: The Curse of the King. The adventure unfolds in this fourth book in the New York Times bestselling Seven Wonders series!

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 7 pm the Westbank Fiction Writers’ Group meets at The Edith S. Lawson Library in Westwego. Writing exercises or discussions of points of fiction and/or critique sessions of members’ submissions. Meets the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. Moderator: Gary Bourgeois. Held in the meeting Room

& Wednesday The Blood Jet returns too B.J.’s Lounge at 8 pm with poets Jonathan Penton and Bernd Sauermann. Penton founded the literary electronic magazine Unlikely Stories. Since then, UnlikelyStories.org has grown into a contemporary multimedia journal of sociopolitical and cultural essays, reviews, interviews, criticism, poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, movies, visual art, music, cross-media work, and first-hand tales of political and cultural activism, now known as Unlikely Stories: Episode IV. It has spawned a print and e-book subsidiary, Unlikely Books, which has published, among other things, the 418-page anthology (CD and DVD attached) Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind. Jonathan currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Unlikely Stories: Episode IV and Unlikely Books, Managing Editor for both Fulcrum and MadHat Press, and a co-ordinator for Acadiana Wordlab, a weekly literary drafting workshop in Lafayette, Louisiana. Born in Hof, Germany, Sauermann graduated in 1993 from McNeese State University with an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry). Since then, Sauermann has taught at colleges in Illinois and Vermont and currently teaches composition, literature, creative writing, and film in the Division of Fine Arts and Humanities at Hopkinsville Community College in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Sauermann was also the poetry editor at Whole Beast Rag, a now-retired online (and sometimes print) journal of art, ideas, and literature. He has a chapbook entitled Diesel Generator out from Horse Less Press (2013), and his first full-length collection, Seven Notes of a Dead Man’s Song, was released by MadHat Press at the Brooklyn Book Festival, September, 2014

& Wednesday at 6 pm The New Orleans Youth Open Mic invites all 7th-12th grade poets to come out and share their work OR support their friends as they share at Tulane University’s Lavin-Bernick Center, downstairs in Der Rathskeller Cafe. This month, we have partnered with the Tulane Black Arts Fest for a double whammy of a feature with 2 New Orleans born and now internationally renowned poets! First we have 2014 National Poetry Slam Champion, award winning educator and top tier TED Talker Clint Smith! He accompanies the legendary queen of New Orleans poetry, HBO Def Poet Sunni Patterson! This is a line up any poetry fan would swoon over! And we’re bringing it straight to the youth! Don’t miss it!

& Wednesday night from 8-9 pm, come drink some coffee and make your voice heard at the Neutral Ground Poetry Hour, 5110 Danneel Street.

Odd Words August 28, 2014

Posted by The Typist in books, LGBT, LGBTIQ, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This week in literary New Orleans:

Tonight kicks off The Waves,a new LGBTIQ reading series presenting student voices, local writers, and visiting writers side by side. Our kickoff reading, coinciding with Antenna Gallery’s 2nd Annual True Colors LGBTQ Art Exhibition, will feature an all local line-up: Chanel Clarke, Tyler Gillespie, Elizabeth Gross, Megan Ann Mchugh, Kay Murphy, Brad Richard, Anne Marie Rooney, Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, Spencer Silverthorne, Madeleine LeCesne and perhaps even more.

About the Readers:

  • Anne Marie Rooney is the author of Spitshine, as well as two chapbooks.
  • Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers was born in a hailstorm, is the author of the poetry collection Chord Box, and lives on a street named Desire.
  • Tyler Gillespie is a pale Floridian whose writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Rolling Stone, Salon, NPR, and PANK, among other places.
  • Madeleine LeCesne is a senior at Lusher School and a writer in the Certificate of Artistry Program, directed by Brad Richard.
  • Elizabeth Gross throws her poems around and recently some have landed in LEVELER, Painted Bride Quarterly, B O D Y, and the upcoming Queer South anthology from Sibling Rivalry Press.
  • Spencer Silverthorne is a MFA candidate in poetry at the University of New Orleans.
  • Chanel Clarke is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and has had poems published in Anti-, Flag and Void, Smoking Glue Gun, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.
  • Brad Richard directs the creative writing program at Lusher Charter School, has published three books and two chapbooks, and is working on, among other things, a manuscript titled Reconstructions.
  • Megan Mchugh, who recently completed her MFA at UNO, is a garden teacher with the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, and also grows/designs flowers at the flower farm and design studio, Pistil and Stamen.
  • Kay Murphy is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Orleans. Her poetry and essays have been published far and wide.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Thursday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts an Author Event! featuring two new books by Sally Michelle Jackson. In A Darker Side of the Light (The Heilsing Cases) (Volume 1) the central character is a paranormal investigator (a friend refers to him as a con man) who played at investigating his caseload. He admits that he takes cases, does minimal legwork to solve them, and does little more than reassure the client that “everything is all right.” And then one night, he finds himself investigating a real case and it changes his life. In Never Stop Dreaming the main character dreams of one woman night after night – and he doesn’t seem to have control over them. In fact, it seems as if someone else is running the show in his dreams. This is no longer acceptable, so he turns the tables in his search for the woman and he does it in the only way that he knows how – through dreams. Jackson also will discuss Poems from a Transgendered Heart, a collection of poems published in 2011 that serve as attempt to convey the emotional part of a transsexual’s journey of self-discovery and transitioning.

& James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors at the East Jefferson Regional Library. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Friday at 6 pm author Michael Pitre’s presents Fives and Twenty-Fives at the Garden District Book Shop. Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine’s life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where every pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger. Lieutenant Donavan leads the platoon, painfully aware of his shortcomings and isolated by his rank. Doc Pleasant, the medic, joined for opportunity, but finds his pride undone as he watches friends die. And there’s Kateb, known to the Americans as Dodge, an Iraqi interpreter whose love of American culture—from hip-hop to the dog-eared copy of Huck Finn he carries—is matched only by his disdain for what Americans are doing to his country. Returning home, they exchange one set of decisions and repercussions for another, struggling to find a place in a world that no longer knows them.

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& It’s Story Time with Miss Maureen Saturdays at 11:30am at Maple Street Book Shop. This week features My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown. A young boy named Bobby has the worst teacher. She’s loud, she yells, and if you throw paper airplanes, she won’t allow you to enjoy recess. She is a monster! Luckily, Bobby can go to his favorite spot in the park on weekends to play. Until one day… he finds his teacher there! Over the course of one day, Bobby learns that monsters are not always what they seem. Each page is filled with “monstrous” details that will have kids reading the story again and again. Peter Brown takes a universal and timeless theme, and adds his own humorous spin to create another winner of a picture book.

& Saturday at 1 pm Bob Rogers discusses and signs his book The Laced Chameleon at Garden District Book Shop. Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon (one-quarter African American) and concubine of a New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson. Courted by moneyed white men, she leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns and lavish balls until a bullet shatters her dream world. While awaiting the arrival of the Union Navy among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead by her side. Rain soaked and blood-stained Francesca vows revenge. The grieving Francesca is evicted from Joachim’s house by his family who refuses to honor the lovers’ plaçage (concubinage) contract. Francesca’s life becomes intertwined with a homeless hungry white woman and her children when she shares her last Confederate dollars to buy food for them. Her investigation of the woman’s plight lands her work as a spy for Major General Benjamin Butler’s army occupying New Orleans. As Francesca struggles with her identity to make principled choices between another plaçage arrangement and independence, an acquaintance is murdered and her best friend, Emily, is kidnapped.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features an open mic.

& All area libraries will be closed for Labor Day on Monday.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 7 pm The East Jefferson Regional Library hosts Three New Authors who have brand new books: Tanisca Wilson, author of “Proclivity”; Cynthia Addison, author of “Mamma Said” and “The Devil Hates Marriages”; and Rhea Mayfield Berkeris, author of “Born Special.” Free of charge and open to the public.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at the Latter Memorial Library A Book Club Named Desire meets. Adults meet to discuss a local classic every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. For more information, contact Toni at tlmccourt@hotmail.com.

& Wednesday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts an event in its Culinary Legacies series, an interview with Sam Irwin, author of Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History. Sam Irwin is the guest interviewee of this event sponsored by the Southern Food and Beverage museum. The hunt for red crawfish is the thing, the raison d’être, of Acadian spring. Introduced to Louisiana by the swamp dwellers of the Atchafalaya Basin, the crawfish is a regional favorite that has spurred a $210 million industry. Whole families work at the same fisheries, and annual crawfish festivals dominate the social calendar. More importantly, no matter the occasion, folks take their boils seriously: they’ll endure line cutters, heat and humidity, mosquitoes and high gas prices to procure crawfish for their families’ annual backyard boils or their corporate picnics. Join author Sam Irwin as he tells the story–complete with recipes and tall tales–of Louisiana’s favorite crustacean: the crawfish.

& Wednesday The Maple Street Book Shop will host the launch party for Katy Simpson Smith’s novel, The Story of Land and Sea, at 7pm Sat The Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Avenue). Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!).

Odd Words July 31, 2014

Posted by The Typist in Book Stores, books, Indie Book Shops, Internet Publishing, literature, memoir, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, spoken word, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 6 pm check out Team Slam New Orleans at the #wordconnections spoken word event at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& On Thursday at 5 p.m. Octavia Books culminates their Find Waldo in New Orleans program with fun, games and the drawing of The Grand Prize (and lots of other prizes) for everyone who found Waldo in New Orleans this July. Regardless of your age, you are encouraged to come in costume. The event is being recorded by MSNBC for national broadcast. And if you haven’t found Waldo yet, there is still time – but hurry!!!

& On Friday at 6 p.m. Garden District Book Shops hosts Rolland Golden’s Rolland Golden: Life, Love, and Art in the French Quarter at the Garden District Gallery, 1332 Washington, New Orleans 70130. In the early twentieth century, the French Quarter had become home to a vibrant community of working artists attracted to the atmosphere, architecture, and colorful individuals who populated the scene (and who also became some of its first preservationists). Louisiana native Rolland Golden was one of these artists to live, work, and raise a family in this most storied corner of New Orleans. With 94 black-and-white and 54 color photographs and illustrations, his memoir of that life focuses on the period of 1955 to 1976. Golden, a painter, discusses the particular challenges of making a living from art, and his story becomes a family affair involving his daughters and his beloved wife, Stella.

& Saturday at 11:30 am Maple Street Book Shop hosts Connie Collins Morgan reading and signing The Runaway Beignet. In the heart of New Orleans lived an old baker named Marcel who made the most delicious beignets in the entire city. While his heart is filled with kindness, his home is cold and lonely. To repay some gratitude, a mysterious stranger grants Marcel a wish with his magic bag of sugar in this Louisiana-flavored retelling of a classic tale. Out of the sugared pastry pops the beignet boy with a penchant for trouble, who zips from Canal Street through Jackson Square and the French Market. His hilarious antics, a smattering of French phrases, and New Orleans cultural icons scattered like powdered sugar on the deliciously re-spun story will delight readers of all ages. Illustrator Herb Leonhard brings this little beignet to life with a mischievous grin and a sprinkle of sugar. His images of New Orleans dance across the pages, bringing a true taste of the city to the story. Author Connie Collins Morgan draws upon her memories of life in Louisiana—and her favorite treats—to make this retelling stand apart from the rest with an infectious jazz beat and the sweet aroma of magic sugar in its wake.

&Saturday at 2 p.m. the Latter Memorial Library hosts the monthly Poetry Buffet hosted by Gina Ferrara. This month features poets Asia Rainey, M.e. Riley, and Jordan Soyka .

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday is T.B.A as of Thursday.

& Join Team Slam New Orleans Sunday evening at 7 p.m at the Shadow Box Theater for their August Open Mic + Slam and help send Team SNO off to the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, CA. $5 Admission. Free to slam.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Later Tuesday Maple Street Book Shop’s The First Tuesday Book Club will meet at 5:45 p.m. Their August selection is Midnight in Peking. Newcomers are always welcome! Winner of the both the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger Chronicling an incredible unsolved murder, Midnight in Peking captures the aftermath of the brutal killing of a British schoolgirl in January 1937. The mutilated body of Pamela Werner was found at the base of the Fox Tower, which, according to local superstition, is home to the maliciously seductive fox spirits. As British detective Dennis and Chinese detective Han investigate, the mystery only deepens and, in a city on the verge of invasion, rumor and superstition run rampant. Based on seven years of research by historian and China expert Paul French, this true-crime thriller presents readers with a rare and unique portrait of the last days of colonial Peking.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday night at 6:30 Fleur de Lit and the Pearl Wine Co. present Reading Between the Wines. This month’s featured readers are Sally Asher , Sherry Lee Alexander and Stephanie Grace who will discuss their careers in journalism, how it affects their writing, and shared their interesting stories about New Orleans.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!) 

While I’m still recovering from jet lag, for events at your local library please visit Nutrias.org for the New Orleans Public Library and http://www.jefferson.lib.la.us for Jefferson Parish.

Odd Words June 4, 2014

Posted by The Typist in books, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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& Thursday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts Edward J. Branley presents and signs his new book, NEW ORLEANS JAZZ, including more than 200 vintage images documenting the birth and development of jazz in New Orleans. Branley is the author of several historical books on New Orleans, including New Orleans: The Canal Street Car Line, Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, and Maison Blanche Department Stores.

& Thursday at 7 pm the New Orleans Public Library and Prospect New Orleans feature the first P.3 Reads, a conversation between Zarouhie Abdalian and Jerry Ward exploring Brenda Marie Osbey’s All Saints: New and Selected Poems. P.3 Reads, a Prospect New Orleans Public Program, is inspired by Artistic Director Franklin Sirmans’ vision for the at Alvar Branch, 913 Alvar Street. Prospect.3 (P.3). The program takes place monthly in different NOPL branches. Artists who will be featured in the upcoming P.3 Biennial will discuss with members of the New Orleans community the books that have been important in their lives and work.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out #wordconnections spoken word event at the Juju Bag Cafe.
& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Thursday the Jefferson Parish Library SciFi, Fantasy and Horror Writers’ Circle meets at 7 pm at the Lakeshore Library. James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& Starting Friday catch Pressure Cooker for the Soul new play by Moose Jackson. Jackson also authored Loup Garoup and is a notable local poet. Doors and Pre-show 6:00PM. Show @ 6:45PM Shows 6/6, 7, 8, 2014

& Starting Friday St. Francisville, La. will host the Walker Percy Festival, A Literary Festival Celebrating the Writer and His Works June 6—8. Good food and drink, live music, and a great time talking about books and Southern culture under the live oaks: That’s what the inaugural Walker Percy Weekend has to offer when it celebrates the acclaimed novelist’s life and work in St. Francisville, June 6—8. * Tickets are limited and selling fast. You can get tickets here

& Saturday starting at 4 p.m. author and award-winning playwright Louie Crowder will sign his new novella In Irons from Gallatin & Toulouse Press at Faubourgh Marigny Art & Books, 600 Frenchman Street.

& At 3 pm Saturday in Aclee Fortier Park (Esplanade Avenue at Mystery Street) 100,000 Poets for Change hosts World Word Against Police Brutality. “Poetry vigil for Peace against police brutality stop the killing stop the WAR… Poets are invited to read, recite, sing or spit poems to raise consciousness about police brutality and to change hearts, the only way to achieve justice.”

& Saturday the Latter Memorial Library features the monthly Poetry Buffet hosted by Gina Ferrara. Reading this month are poets Peter Cooley, J Bruce Fuller, and Lee Grue.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features poet Delia Nakayama reads from her work followed by an open mic

& Sunday is a special evening with Khaled Hosseini – #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE KITE RUNNER – celebrating the paperback release of AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED. The author will be interviewed before a live audience by Louisiana Cultural Vistas editor David Johnson. Octavia Books is holding the event at Temple Sinai, 6227 St. Charles Avenue (at Calhoun), New Orleans, LA. Doors open at 4:300PM and the program will start promptly at 5:30. Tickets are required! The cost per ticket is the same as the price of the book. You will get to meet Khaled Hosseini in person while he signs your copy. Call or visit Octavia Books (or their website) to order tickets in advance.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& On Monday the Jefferson Parish Library continues hosting The Artists’ Way Seminar, a 12-part series of seminars based on the classic book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity, by American author Julia Cameron, with Mark Bryan. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. Correlation and emphasis is used by the author to show a connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection. Cherie Cazanavette is the group moderator

& On Tuesday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shop presents Jeanette Walls’ The Silver Star. It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations. An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, and the sisters start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Liz is whip-smart—an inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz in the car with Maddox.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia Books and the Jewish Community Center invite you to a presentation and signing with outgoing Tulane University President Scott Cowen celebrating the launch of his new book, THE INEVITABLE CITY: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America. This is the story of the resurgence and reinvention of one of America’s greatest cities. Ordinary citizens, empowered to actively rescue their own city after politicians and government officials failed them, have succeeded in rebuilding their world.

& Tuesday at 6:30 bring Author Night at the Hubbell Branch of the New Orleans Public Library, featuring Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans by Susan Pfefferle. The East meets the Westbank and more! With recipes by local Vietnamese cooks and world-renowned chefs, this cookbook provides the reader with a detailed offering of Vietnamese cuisine in the New Orleans area. Join us for a discussion and book signing.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Room 220 and The N.O. Loving Festival host NATIVE. HOMELAND. EXILE. featuring five New Orleans writers will explore the theme native, homeland, exile through readings and a Q&A from 6 – 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Press Street HQ, 3718 St. Claude Ave. Readers include: ADDIE CITCHENS, a Mississippi native and New Orleans-based writer of literary fiction. She has been featured in the Oxford American‘s “Best of the South” edition, in Calloloo journal, and others; JERI HILT is a Louisiana native with roots in New Orleans, Avoyelles Parish, and Shreveport. She writes fiction and teaches literacy in the Lower Ninth Ward; AMBATA KAZI-NANCE is a writer and teacher living in her hometown New Orleans with her husband and son. She writes for Azizah magazine and Grow Mama Grow, a blog for Muslim mothers; and, J.R. RAMAKRISHNAN whose journalism has appeared in Style.com, Harper’s Bazaar, Chicago Tribune, and Grazia, amongst other publications. Her fiction has appeared in [PANK]. She arrived in New Orleans by way of Brooklyn, London, and Kuala Lumpur, her original hometown. She is director of literary programs for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. They will provide attendees a concert of voices from women writers of color that unflinchingly captures the coming of age in America’s New South. This event is part of the New Orleans Loving Festival, a multiracial community celebration and film festival that challenges racial discrimination through outreach and education.

& On Wednesday at 6 pm Maple Street Book Shop features the Plume Anthology of Poetry Reading. lume (http://plumepoetry.com/) has become one of the most respected and influential on-line poetry journals. Its contributors are a veritable Who’s Who of contemporary American Poetry. Readers will include Carrie Causey, Peter Cooley, Benjamin Lowenkron, Brad Richard and Christopher Shipman.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

Odd Words January 15, 2014

Posted by The Typist in books, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 9 p.m. Bayou Magazine will launch Issue No. 60 of the literary journal at The Saturn, 3067 St. Claude Ave. ” Readers, writers, editors, contributors, music-lovers and party-goers, come join us for [REDACTED], dancing, singing, literature-dispersing, or any subset of these activities! Games will be played, prizes will be won, joy will be spread.”

& Thursday at 5:30 pm the Norman Mayer Library continues its Writing Workshops led by Youths. Upstairs in the teen area. Encouraging creative arts exploration through reading, engaging discussions, and group activities. Youth ages 12-17 are invited! Group limited to 15 participants. Call the branch to reserve your spot: 596-3100.

&  Also on Thursday the East Jefferson Regional Library’s Great Books Discussion Group will take up Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov at 7 pm in the A/V Conference Room – 2nd Floor. Awe and exhilaration–along with heartbreak and mordant wit–abound in Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love–love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

& Saturday at 1 pm Garden District Book Shop features Katie Wainwright’s The Azaleas. Dumped by her lover, no money, no credit, no job, facing eviction…Karla Whitmore hits rock bottom. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she has reached a dead end, nowhere to turn, no place to go. Then a chance encounter at Café du Monde—Albert Monsant, a suave, sophisticated uptown lawyer, offers Karla a job selling real estate, dangling the prospect of big money under her nose. Suspicious, but lacking options, Karla accepts the challenge. Arriving at The Azaleas, Karla is pitted against a roaming ghost, a good-old-boy network and a past culture that hangs on and won’t let go. She soon realizes that the impediment to a sale is not the real estate, but the owner’s conflicts.

& At 2 pm Saturday the Dickens Fellowship of New Orleans meets to continue their discussion of David Copperfield. They will discuss Chapter XXIX “I Visit Steerforth at his Home, again” through Chapter XXXV “Depression. The Fellowship holds meetings September through May, reading one of the works of Charles Dickens each year. The meetings include book discussions, movie versions of the novel, and lectures by Dickens scholars. This year’s book is DAVID COPPERFIELD. Dues are $20/person (couples $30) payable in September.

& Also at 2 pm Saturday author Victoria Cosner Love will be signing her book Mad Madame Lalaurie: New Orleans’s Most Famous Murderess Revealed at the 1850 House, 523 St. Ann St in the lower Pontalba. What really happened in the Lalaurie home? Who was “Mad Madame Lalaurie,” and what motivated her to commit such ghastly atrocities, if she indeed did? Mad Madame Lalaurie is one of New Orleans’ most infamous villains, even being portrayed by Kathy Bates in the 2013 season of American Horror Story. Historian Victoria Cosner Love and author Lorelei Shannon uncover the truth behind one of New Orleans’s most famous stories and one of America’s most haunted houses.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. January is a series of open mics.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Monday, January 20 is Martin Luther King Day and both Jefferson parish and New Orleans public library will be closed. There will be no GLBTQ book club or student’s Creative Writing Workshop this week.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday evenings the Old Metairie Library branch Great Books Discussion Group meets at 7 pm. No title is announced for this meeting. Contact the library at 889-8143 for more information.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Mark Rothko. Horse racing and cockfighting. Exotic New Orleans. On Wednesday the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities celebrates the new issue of Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine with another publication party featuring several of the issue’s contributors. Doors open at 5:45 at 938 Lafayette Street and the event is open to the public. A $5 donation is suggested. Scheduled to discuss their articles in the Winter 13-14 issue are: Cybele Gontar, who unearths the details of artist Mark Rothko’s time in New Orleans; S. Derby Gisclair, who looks back at the golden age of Big Easy sports, when boxing, horse racing, cockfighting and baseball reigned; and, John Lawrence, who explores the exotic style in local architecture.

Villages in the Midst January 3, 2011

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Our friends over at THE RUMPUS kindly accepted this, along with pieces from several other New Orleans writers (none of whose pieces are about New Orleans but hey, I’m obsessed) for an online collection of very short pieces on Neighborhood. Thanks Susan Clements and the whole Rumpus team.

Start from the division of the city along Canal Street by a median strip called the neutral ground, one side Creole and the other American, the no man’s land where the old New Orleans of the French and Spanish reluctantly mingled with the Yankee new comers of two hundred years ago. Walk either direction from Canal more than a dozen blocks, downtown past the French Quarter or uptown through the Central Business District and things begin to blur. The grand avenues of St. Charles and Esplanade are both lined with the grand old houses of the wealthy, built when the city could call itself Queen of the South, but a few blocks behind either stand the same square cottages and long shotguns of the working class.

This is where conventional demography breaks down and neighborhood begins: where you got that po-boy or snowball, where you went to school, which church’s bells wake you at six in the morning, the store your parents sent you to as a child for liquor or cigarettes because the owner knew you. There are more than two cities here, not just the division of the old city into Creole and American but also the historic city and the post-war suburbs. Whether your boulevard is lined with grand mansions or strip malls, the back streets share an architectural homogeneity that makes the name of your corner store–not the Piggly Wiggly but the one with a family name–that much more important. This is neighborhood.

There is pride in neighborhood. Is there another city in America where a ten year old can tell you which civil ward he lives in, might even break into a sing-song chant of “1st Ward, 2nd Ward, 3rd Ward: that’s Uptown! 7th Ward 8th Ward, 9th Ward, that’s Downtown!”? The Mardi Gras Indians of either side sew in different styles, one geometrically abstract and feather-heavy, the other defined by detailed patchwork of primitive realism. These streets are where New Orleans’ iconic music is born, played not for the door but for pride; where the food is best not for Fodor’s but because your grandmother’s name is on the sign; where parades are not the lumbering floats of well-to-do Carnival but the high stepping second lines of century-old Social Aid and Pleasure clubs.

These neighborhoods are the villages we create to tame a place in the wild subtropical jungle that surrounds us.

Yes. January 16, 2010

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Rising Tide IV August 14, 2009

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shearer
Rising Tide IV, the annual bloggers conference on the recovery and future of New Orleans, will be “Sinking to New Heights” on Aug. 22 at the Zeitgeist Multi Disciplinary Arts Center in New Orleans. Our featured speaker: the multi-talented Harry Shearer, a great champion of New Orleans on Huffington Post and elsewhere, along with panels on the status and future of New Orleans music, food and parading culture; the state of New Orleans health care, a look at politics and the city going into the 2010 elections and more.

Registration is open at http://www.risingtidenola.net and is only $25 until August 20th and includes lunch from Cafe Reconcile. There will be a social Friday evening Aug. 21 at The Avenue Pub. Additional details will be posted to the Rising Tide blog at http://risingtide.blogspot.com/ and the Rising Tide IV Facebook page.

Poteen March 14, 2009

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We’re off to the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade with a cooler full of Smithwicks and a bottle of Jameson’s, bound for the fine before and after party hosted by Celcus and Christy. I’m only 1/16th Irish (mother’s side, by Bridget Maggie An Hennessy, born 1833 Roscrea, Tipperary, Ire.) but if you haven’t detected it before I’m an incorrigible Eirephile, and married to one of those irrepresible Irish-Americans, so this is one of the High Holidays here on Toulouse Street.

It’s probably too warm to wear the Co. Offaly jersey I bought during our honeymoon in Ireland (did I mention the inveterate Irish-American spouse?). I grabbed the shirt in a sporting goods store off a rack of jerseys because I liked the look of it and I didn’t know whose colors I was wearing until a guard at Shannon Airport offered an “Up Offaly” to me and set me straight. Rebecca will probably where something from Notre Dame. (c.f. I-A spouse).

Killian (did I mention my incurably I-A wife?) is off to her SAT, but Matthew and his pal will join us for the big parade. Matt escaped being christened Patrick only because Rebecca couldn’t hold onto him until the 17th. Oh and if I refer in public to Killian as “our little souvenir of Ireland” I’m in big trouble.

Here is today’s program. We’ll be sticking to ales and stouts early and moving quickly to whiskey once we have a full sack of the makings of a decent pot of cabbage and potatoes.

Granda Elliot’s Nutcracker December 14, 2008

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One-time recording artist Elliot Small, better known to visitors to the New Orleans French Quarter as Grandpa Elliot, displays some serious harmonica chops for us on this mixup of a Nutcracker Suite and the William Tell Overture.

This Playing for Change video is now the leading driver of visitors to this site. Grandpa Eilliot is apparently quite an internet celebrity. But internet hits don’t pay the bills, and until he sets up a paypal donation button all I ask is this: if you find yourself Christmas shopping downtown, spare a buck for this street legend. Imagine what the quarter would be like without street musicians (particularly the talented ones).

The Ghost of Christmas Past December 13, 2008

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The last Christmas with real snow and frost on the windows that did not come from a can. A place where you could cut your own northern pine if you had enough hair on your balls to haul yourself out into the woodlot at twilight as the temperature plunged toward the wrong side of zero. The last Christmas with a real fireplace crackling not some video loop on the CW with bad Christmas carols.

It was a good life, one that helped make my children the fine people they are today. It was a good place full of good people, and my wife who brought me there the best of the lot. And still I would sit late at night, perched on the bricks in front of the fireplace sneaking an inside cigarette as the draft sucked away the smoke and I sipped a midnight whisky, hearing this song and dreaming of trees draped not with lights and tin balls but faded beads.

Sneaux December 11, 2008

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It’s snowing. In New Orleans. And it is starting to stick to cars and roofs and by one report to the grass Uptown.

I tried to steal the Times-Picayune’s picture but the damned Counting House firewall won’t let me complete “insert into post”. Scrooges. At least they let me put another lump of coal in the grate.

It was snowing about this heavily (and wetly; the roads were attrocious) on the Friday evening in Februray ’06 when the kids and I left Fargo to bring my wife’s car to New Orleans. How convenient that the Ben Franklin High School entrance exam right after Mardi Gras, so we spent that week here.

I will no longer kid the Mrs. about still having a scraper in her car from it’s days in Fargo, N.D. You never know when you may need one.

Local Bookstores December 5, 2008

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Two quick notes on local bookstores. With the opening of the new Borders on St. Charles Avenue, its more important than ever to remember the local stores that have continued to serve the city when all chain bookstores chose to locate exclusively in the suburbs.

First, there is this note from Stay Local, calling out this Saturday, Dec. 6 as a day to celebrate our local bookstores. It you haven’t finished holiday shopping yet, there is no better present than a book. (My Xmas list for this year was short, and my book is The Maximus Poems by Charles Olson.) (No dear, don’t buy it from Amazon. Have someone local order it. You can walk to deVille from work.) And if someone wants to get me that $225 copy of the Everette Maddox song book, you can find it on Amazon.

On a related note, one of my favorite local bookstores (because it’s just around the corner from work) is hosting some of my favorite local artists/activists. This just in from the deVille Bookstore mailing list:

We are pleased to invite you to the opening reception for Galerie deVille, located in the deVille Books store at 134 Carondelet Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., on Saturday, December 6, 2008.

The exhibit is entitled Inside Out/Outside In: A Celebration of New Orleans Street Art, featuring the work of Rex, Paint, Scott M., Ellipses, and Bullet-Tooth Maggie, among others.

In conjunction with this event, all “Art” books will be available at a 30% discount during the reception.

For additional information, you can go to http://devillebooks.blogspot.com.

Rex and company. Art books, 30% off. Sounds good. Did I mention that books make great gifts? (Did I mention “Carry Me Home“? Oh, my. I meant to).

Yeah, jewelry and power tools are nice (perhaps not in the same way to the same people, but still nice), but it’s just not a holiday break without a big new gifted book to dig into.

So what are you waiting for?

Another giant passes December 4, 2008

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Folk music and civil/human rights icon Odetta, the woman Dr. Martin Luther King annointed “The Queen of American Folk Music”, has passed.

I have a suspicion that so many social media readers are Gen X and Y, people whose memories stretch back not much further than the late 1970s. Do they know who Odetta is and what’s just happened I wonder?

I had to explain to my son the other day the concept of a variety show, but he’s just thirteen. I wonder how many 30-somethings or younger have any concept of who the Smothers Brothers were or have heard of the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour, much less any knowledge of the prominence of folk signers in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Odetta was a major influence on more familiar names: Bob Dylan, Janice Joplin and and Joan Baez. (Y’all youngsters at least recognize Dylan, right?) And she moved through the mid-century with other giants like Pete Seeger

One of the last of the Baby Boomers, I grew up in a household where there were New Christy Minstrels and Weavers records and strange LPs of African drumming with jackets that could pass directly onto a kerchief at the Congo Square Stage at Jazz Fest. It was not possible to grow up in the 1960s (or 1950s) and not know the landmark singers of the Folk Era. Every time an older musician passes I am reminded of the nights I spent listening to Roosevelt Sykes at the Maple Leaf, of the people who used to play the small gazebo stages at Jazz Fest long ago. So many are gone, and as my generation ages I wonder if these memories will pass as well.

It’s not just the linear, horizontal loss of what we think of as memory. Growing up in an era without the micro-segmentation of cable television and internet content, on any given, random day in 1965 I could just as easily be whistling a song by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Frank Sinatra or the Walker Brothers. Ihad a friend who loved to do his imitation of Louis Armstrong while the rest of us argued over whether we were Beatles or Stones men. Most people my age would know exactly who I mean if I say Caruso, an artist who died in 1921. Is What’s Opera, Doc? as funny if Caruso means nothing? I wonder if the following generations will have anything like the same breadth of exposure unless MTV runs out of programming and starts producing “Ken Burn’s Presents I [Heart] 1960”.

Enough. Here’s Odetta teaming up with Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack on a perfect song for these times, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime”. It’s a damn shame Odetta won’t make her date to sing to Obama at innaguration.

Glory at Sea December 3, 2008

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Vid this me droogies: a film titled “Glory at Sea”, courtesy of Court 13 and NOLA Slate, who has some background on her blog. Go over to the You Tube Screening Room and catch the high resolution version.

“Everybody had their thing, that thing that made it through the storm that had some luck in it, that may help find the person just by its own magic.”

Feel Free to Cry Along At Home December 1, 2008

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There were a handful of songs that sustained me over the last several years, tracing in crescendo and diminuendo curves the path of grief and recovery. First was Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem which I first heard driving through snow-bound Fargo after dropping my child at school. When she and her daughter sang the line “Mother Mary lead us to a higher place” I had to pull the car over. Then there was “Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)”, especially this version that so touched my wife we started down the road to Toulouse Street. After I was settled in New Orleans, I picked up the New Orleans Musicians Relief C.D. via on-line download, and I first heard Susan Cowsill’s “Crescent City Snow”.

Some time after the slow cowboy-Celtic lament of the song’s beginning, between the part where the drummer starts into a Jacobean march then segues into a second line parade, one steps out of the sheath of memory and into today, sashaying down a street where grief is transformed into the steps of a shuffle in the shadow of a parasol, the old ritual unfolded again in the new day. And it’s all good.

That water without sound November 30, 2008

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She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

Has the War on Christmas already begun, and no one told me? The holidays are a difficult time for the unchurched or those of no particular dogma, confronted by those who try (in the best American commercial fashion) to establish an exclusive franchise for their church. Their efforts to make of us A Christian Nation are at least a part of the problem I have with organized religion.

I was raised Catholic, like so many in New Orleans, just old enough to be the among the last who made First Communion in Latin. Outside of a brief episode resulting from watching The Robe with a high fever, which lead to a week of attending daily 6 a.m. Mass and my mother’s fervent hope that she had spawned a priest, I started drifting away in my teens. It was not just the idle rebellion of the young, who preferred to spend an hour Sunday morning lounging about with cigarettes while our parents thought us at Mass. The literature I read in the 1970s was at least partly to blame: a Baghivad Gita from a begging Krishna, all of Carlos Castaneda, the Zen and Buddhist obsessions of the Beats, Joseph Campbell: it seemed a thousand doors opened into the same space. How could only one be right?

Decades later the Catholic Church shows the same conservative face that banished the Liberation Theologists decades ago and claims a prominent place at the head of the homophobic parade running campaigns to Ban Gay Marriage. Those effort’s sole purpose is to advance the election of factions I oppose with my entire heart and soul, and the Church’s embrace of the proto-fascist edge of conservative America was just another nail driven in.

Just last week the Church announced it was dropping funding of Acorn, and the loud boors on NOLA.Com hooted and stamped their feet in agreement. I found myself researching once again the grounds for excommunication. It seems only appropriate that if I wish to formally sever any ties to such a large, persistent organization with a thousand years of closely-kept records, I should have an embossed piece of paper to file with my baptism and confirmation certificates to close the deal, once and for all.

But it’s too much damned trouble, and as one rational commenter on NOLA.Com pointed out on the discussions of the Acorn funding decision, if you’re as far down the road as researching the rules on excommunication, you’re already there. (There are some rational people on NOLA.Com, and I like to think WetBankGuy is one of them. Why are we there? Someone has to stand against the darkness). Instead of reading up on excommunication, I go read Wallace Stevens epic celebration of the question of unbelief, Sunday Morning.

In truth I can never completely sever my Catholic identify (even if I cannot recite the Nicene Creed with a straight face and an honest heart) unless I am willing to sever my head in the bargain. I was married in the Church, and carried the day with the monsignor who interviewed us for our pre-Cannan conference. With twelve years of Catholic school under my belt (stop snickering, Peter), I quickly knew the answers to all the right questions. It helped immensely when he learned I was from New Orleans. He had shared a room for a while at seminary with former Archbishop Phillip Hannan, and our interview quickly turned into old home week.

To be raised Catholic in this city is to be deeply imprinted not only with a faith but by a complex culture that goes with it. The idea of a secular Jew, someone raised in the faith and its observances who no longer follows them, is well accepted. This city is full of people like me who are indelibly marked by our faith if no longer observant: secular Catholics.

Even as I struggle with how to handle the holidays from now through Christmas–I must go to Mass, of course, for my wife is still a Good Catholic in so many ways even if only a Holy Day of Obligation–it is a time of year when my Catholic identify is reinforced not by the Church but by my family. My visiting father-in-law wanted Mass on Thanksgiving, so I got on the phone and found one not too early, then charged my daughter (who seems to be traveling the same path I did at her age, and does not go happily to church) to take him to St. Anthony of Padua on Canal Street.

The choice of church led by dinner time to a long conversation with my mother as well. St. Anthony was “her church” growing up in Mid-City, and I heard a new story, which is always a treat when sitting with older family members. The church was built by Spanish Dominican fathers, and she is a Dominican girl through and through–high school, college, the alumni association. To this day she is among the last of her circle of confirmed Dominican girls who several times a year break break with the remaining nuns of Dominican College, and if any opening to the subject comes up I will hear how this or that sister is doing. My daughter has a Dominican nun doll dressed in full habit, a gift of her grandmother, and I am sure my mom is disappointed that my daughter is at Ben Franklin and not at Dominican High School.

She told me of the young priests who staffed it in her girl hood were a handsome lot who made the hearts of young Catholic girls flutter. All those young men, she told me, were all sent to the Phillipines in the late 1930s, and were murdered by the Japanese. I don’t remember hearing of girls being enamored of priests when I was young, but perhaps that is a guilty secret they only share among themselves until it is a distant memory of youth and a story to tell the family so that it is remembered. Perhaps it is like our own adolescent discussions of whose mother was “hot”, a hermetic ritual of adolescent boys before our popular culture reached the point where MILF is a common word with no trace of indecency.

New Orleans is inseparable from its churches. Jackson Square is a typical colonial plaza, with St. Louis Cathedral central on one side, flanked by what were once official colonial which are now museums. St. Mary’s just a few blocks away was an 1845 addition to the Ursuline Convent in the French Quarter, the oldest building in the district. The Ursulines were the first women’s order to arrive in New Orleans, and their story is deeply entangled in the story of New Orleans. The tale of their prayers for victory before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor persist to to this day and a mass is still said yearly to commemorate the event.

Every wave of Immigrants from the Catholic countries of southern Europe built their church in their neighborhood, and people are still fiercely loyal to their local. When the current leadership announced the closure of the historically prominent St. Augustine in Treme, the first parish built by and serving African-Americans in the city, led to a raucous confrontation with the Church authorities after the Archbishop’s chief henchman, the unpopular Rev. William Maestri showed up with a police escort to confront the protesters. And the more recent announcement of the closure of several healthy, active parishes in the Uptown area has lead to members occupying the deconsecrated buildings and suing in the cannon courts of Rome to have the decision overturned.

I am not fond of Maestri (if the use of the term henchman did not give this away) for his role as the Archbishops right hand man after the storm, particularly his role in the destruction of Cabrini Catholic Church. Whenever his name comes up (and as the spokesman of the Archdiocese and it’s chief enforcer, it frequently did over the last several years) she would always tell me how wildly unpopular he was when Maestri was assigned to the parish I grew up in, St. Pius X on the Lakefront.

Scratch any Orleanian and you will quickly uncover their own stories of their church. We are not so different that anyone else in this regard, but I have a hard time imagining the members of churches I knew in Minnesota or North Dakota rising up against their own Bishop to save their parish. It’s been done in Boston, but there is something temperamental to the MidWest that would likely prevent it. And living in a place that was still frontier just over a century ago, they don’t have the deep ties to a particular parish and building of people whose family has attended the same church for 150 years or longer.

I remain unchurched for the first time since I met that good Catholic girl from North Dakota. St. Anthony would be my parish were we to present ourselves and sign the register, and I will set foot in it for the first time this week when I no doubt find myself accompanying father-in-law and family to Mass. Once again I will struggle with how to respond, and find myself falling into the ritual and its recitations, but will stand silent for the Nicene Creed. It is a far cry from my mother’s wish to have from her two sons a doctor and priest.

To be unchurched–“unsponsored, free” in the words of Stevens–is not to be militantly atheist or a non-committal agnostic. One old friend detects currents in my life that lead her to invite me to join her at Samhain. I still pick up the old texts of Tao, Buddhism and Zen. The words of Jesus still stir me as they did Thomas Jefferson. It is more complex than that.

And so I will go to communion because it is expected and not out of any sense of communion, and without fear that I commit some heinous sin by taking it. It is not for me the transubstantiated flesh and blood simply because I do not believe. Whatever about the Nicene Creed or the political foibles of bad bishops troubles my mind and soul, the familiar space of Mass is something as comfortable as my own skin, and as easily taken up as required as a spoonful of gumbo. The kind teacher of love with the Sacred Heart is an image as powerful today as when it was first imagined. I will just try to let myself surrender to the moment because it is–not simply as I almost said but in a complex way–an ineradicable part of who I am.

But first, a reading for the First Sunday of Advent in anticipation of the Yule.

Still Waiting, Still Dreaming November 28, 2008

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“Nothing to be done.”
–Estragon in Beckett’s
“Waiting for Godot”

Was it a year ago or more that I found something comforting in New Orleans’ embrace of Samuel Beckett’s dark play “Waiting for Godot”. There was certainly something apt about it, to be embraced by those so many who stand in a barren landscape and wait, our frantic debates simply filling the time while we wait for some abstract Redemption.

If we wait, we will find ourselves like Beckett’s characters, left despondent by the news that Godot will not come today, and may or may not come tomorrow, debating how we might go about hanging ourselves and in what order. At least that’s the cheerful feeling I take away from reading the paper this week.

First there was the CNN One Crime at a Time special on crime and corruption in New Orleans. It was a sloppy piece in many ways, giving a complete pass to Mayor C. Ray Nagin on corruption and focusing on excessive use of city cars as its best example of dysfunctional government. Blogger Mominem of Tin Can Trailer Trash offered this better list in an email discussion of the city’s dysfunction, and called us a Failed State.

I don’t know about “broken windows” but “broken government” is certainly an thread. As far as I can tell there is not a single process in City Government that works up to the level of incompetence.
It takes 4-6 months to correct an error in property taxes.
It takes 2 years to get a property tax refund and you can’t apply over payments to future taxes.
The Sanitation Department doesn’t know what houses to tear down
The Police can’t keep track of evidence.
The DA can’t file motions to seize cash from drug dealers.
The Sanitation Department doesn’t know how many houses it’s being billed for, so it just pays the same amount every month.
The City has no idea how many cars it owns, who has them or who uses city gas credit cards.
The IT department can’t get crime cameras installed.
The IT department can’t get crime camera’s repaired.
It takes the city a year to get computers for the [Inspector General].

Our Chief of Police, Warren Riley, was also given free reign to rehearse his stock hand-wringing speech about poverty and bad schools, while offering no hope or relief for either his beleaguered officers or the citizens. It was a speech I would get to hear twice this week, which I will get to in a minute.

Then came the announcement that our Betters have come to a decision on building a new hospital complex downtown. Rather than take the advice of the citizens to rehab the historic Charity complex (and some some loot to boot), or perhaps to take the idle ruin of old Lindy Boggs/Mercy Hospital in my own neighborhood of Mid-City, they will instead demolish an entire neighborhood of hundreds of homes in lower Mid-City to build their bio-science field of dreams.

One ignored side effect of this is that the area where I worked for the last year-and-a-half, the north side of the Central Business District, will remain mostly a ghost town of abandoned commercial buildings. All that is needed to complete the hair-brained scheme to convert downtown into some sort of condominium time-share hell is the other bright idea of our recovery leaders to move the civil district courts into the criminal justice complex down Tulane Avenue (adjacent to the new Hospital World), leaving the city’s commercial center a whistling ghost town.

I could go on, but I think Karen of Squandered Heritage has said it all.

Then there was the joyous holiday news that New Orleans is once again Queen of the South, and perhaps of all America and much of the world, a true leader in the field of crimes committed in our streets. Riley predictably attacked the statistics (as City Hall will do when they hear bad news about the city), and gave again his standing spiel on poverty, bad schools and crime, but offered no vision for how to get out of the hell whole the city has found itself in.

Again, I defer to Jarvis DeBerry, who pretty much sums up my own reaction here.

There is no hope under Louisiana law of recalling Nagin and booting Riley or the rest of the band of buffoons who make up his administration. (Still, go sign the petitions anyway). So many opportunities we have missed, from squashing the culture of crime as the city slowly repopulated to turnig a city full of aging and dilapidated homes into a vibrant place again, to perhaps “shrink the footprint” of the city into a space more easily defending against flooding not by government fiat but my making the city core an attractive place to live again.

Nothing to be done, Estragon says. I don’t want to sink into that sort of lyrical dog philosopher cynicism. There is so much to be done. If we cannot drive out Nagin and his crony’s short of a touch-and-pitchfork assault on their castle, then there is a life to be lived here, to day-by-day prove the naysayers wrong. There are letters to write, calls to be made and petitions to be signed. There is a band to see tonight with old friends on Frenchman Street, and a meal to be eaten with my visiting father-in-law in one of our favorite restaurants.

There is the day to day battle of New Orleans: not a glorious moment like the defeat of the British in 1815 or an ignominious one like the uprising of the Klan against Reconstruction. This is the long campaign to make this city livable again by the act of living here against all odds and saving what we can. When Nagin and his crew are memories we will still be here.

Carry Me Home November 23, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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So, after much messing with the manuscript and a thousand delays (I had hoped to do this before rising tide, and now it’s nearly the holidays), I’ve put together a collection of pieces originally from my Wet Bank Guide blog and compiled them into a book, “Carry Me Home — A Journey Back to New Orleans.”

cover_400

Many of the pieces were re-worked for a hard copy publication, and given the editing they needed. So many were originally written in the wee hours of the dark with on better proof than a spell check. I had the idea to collect these at about the same time I decided to close the Wet Bank Guide chapter.

I appreciate the advice I had from several NOLA Bloggers with experience in the publishing world. I decided (against their advice) to make this a self-published venture partly because of the amount of time it would have required to go down the traditional path. It would have been a very different project, and tied up my time looking back at the Web Bank Guide era instead of looking forward. Now that this is behind me I hope to have time to focus on other non-blog writing projects.

The book is available today at www.lulu.com. As part of the Lulu distribution system, it should hit Bowker’s Books in Print in about two to three weeks, and onlines retailers like Amazon and B&N.Com by January. I intended to hit the pavement to try to place it in independent local book stores as well.

Thanks again to all of the people who left kind comments or sent emails back in the days of Wet Bank Guide, and encouraged me to keep writing in that forum. A big thanks to author, blogger and Wet Bank Guide reader Michael Tisserand for the blurb and to Greg Peters, one of who’s kind links to WBG ended up as a blurb as well. If I left anyone off the blog list in back I’m sorry. At one point, I had to start culling names to keep the book at 160 pages after edits, as I already had an ISBN number assigned and could not change the page count.


buy this book on Lulu.

Remember Them All November 21, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Remember Brian Thickstnan and Kendrick Thomas, murdered in front of a broken crime camera. (See the post on Humid City).

This Is The Way The World Bends November 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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“I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.”
–“Consummation of Grief”
Charles Bukowski

One of those bleak days when someone in an email thread starts quoting T.S. Eliot, and you look out of your office window to make sure the person spouting Old Possum is not standing out on a ledge staring off into space. Outside it is a beautiful Fall day in New Orleans: cool, sunny, no hint of humidity, the kind of day when you wished the fireplaces worked. Somewhere out there in the apple-crisp golden afternoon they are tearing down someone’s perfectly sound house. You can almost see the dust rising in the distance without knowing which way to look, because you know with some certainly that somewhere, out there it is happening.

It would be enough to drive one to drink, living in our wildly dysfunctional city, if drinking were an exceptional occasion down here. But we drink because it’s five o’clock somewhere and who says a Sazerac wouldn’t go with an Oyster Salad at the Palace Cafe at lunch? I think it would be just fucking lovely, much preferable to standing out on a windy precipice spouting Oxonian doom. In fact it’s probably the perfect way to cap a morning spent driving around admiring the homes and community buildings that will soon be a patina of stucco dust on an empty lot. Another sazerac? Absolutely.

The kind of day when you wished the fireplaces worked–that’s what I said, wasn’t it? That is what started this slow slide from a pumpkin-perfect November afternoon that became two drinks at lunch and the next thing you know you’re standing someplace you ought not be reciting The Hollow Men to the fire department. And all because someone suggested today that it was OK that New Orleans didn’t work, that this was part of the charm.

I have lived places where things work. And I have lived in places that are charming. While I can’t say I’ve lived in any place that was both at the same time, I know such places exist. New York is not charming, exactly, but it is a place that Orleanians are drawn to, and one of the few places from which they never return. Cajun Boys, too. And in comparison to New Orleans, it works. Hell, they just decided to let their mayor run for a third term, while we would be hard pressed to give ours a five minute running start before we loosed the dogs.

San Francisco is charming and the last time I checked it mostly worked. They weren’t randomly demolishing houses on Telegraph Hill or painting over the murals in the Castro with gray paint. The average Xcel customer pays $75 a month for electricity. Even if they have our ruinous fuel adjustment charges, that would still be a fraction of what we pay here. With the possible exception of Lombard Street the roads will not destroy a car in three years of use. Oh, and they have street cars. Not just two kinds, but three or four different models, plus cable cars.

Here the city demolishes houses in a way not quite random but almost like a puzzle in a mystery novel, a seemingly stochastic pattern like the rain of rockets on Pynchon’s London. You come away convinced their is some method to the madness, but you struggle to find one that will not drive you insane in the knowing of it.

The strange campaign to demolish wide swaths of the city is just one well-documented example of our spiraling dysfunction. Our mayor lashes out at a council member for racial slurs she never uttered, taking the word of a fabulously incompetent department head who spends her days visiting Whitney Houston web sites looking for fashion tips when she is not presiding over both the random home demolitions and a set of garbage contracts awarded to campaign contributors that would make Dick Cheney blush). Embarrassing? I guess you could say that, but it’s more maddening. If I start to tell you about the Sewerage & Water Board hiring a rabbit with a pocket watch to inspect the lines, stop me. It may not be true, but I would believe it in a second.

New Orleans is one of the great places in the world to live. It is also one of the most difficult, largely because of the sort of nonsense that passes for governance. When we talk about “what’s to eat” we mean which restaurant and not a strategy for survival. Then you read a story about a man three years after the Federal Flood speaking wistfully of what it would be like to have a refrigerator. And he’s not even Karen Gadbois, who has dedicated much of her life over the last three plus years to documenting and combating the slow destruction of the city not by wind or water but by a malicious incompetence. You would start quoting Eliot too, if you had taken up the burden she has carried all this time.

My own advice to her: don’t stop. We would trade the mayor, his extended family and everyone else on his floor of city hall just to keep you at it. The he charm of New Orleans isn’t just our food or our music or just our eccentric ways (bog bless ’em), and it certainly is not the inmates who have taken over the asylum the way they have at City Hall. The charm is in the neighborhoods, not in a single abandoned property that could not be saved but in the whole swath of houses around it where everyone remembers St. Timothy who taught first grade, which tree came down in Betsy and took out everyone’s power, and what the Tuesday lunch special is up at the corner. It’s not just about savings houses or a corner church or store. It’s about saving a way of life

And if you want despair stay away from the hyper-intellectual overkill of Eliot. Nothing better fits a distracted and melancholic have-another-drink funk than Bukowski: pure despair for the savor of it, like a cheap cigar. But I would recommend instead that next time you drive the ‘hoods don’t just see the house with No Gas spray painted on it. Look at the ones all around, at the people on the stoop and the corner store that just re-opened. As crazy as it all seems at some level we’re winning because as whacked as daily life here can be we keep coming home.

Drive-by Tagger Strikes the Gray Host November 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I have been tagged.

God, I hate this sort of thing. It takes me 30 minutes to figure out what to write on a birthday or retirement card, and now I have an obligation to write six random things about myself for all the world to read. I think that last sentence was No. 1 And then I have to visit this unhappy task on six other people, which at least allows a certain sense of shadenfruede.

Thanks a lot, Ms. Slate. But for you and Polimom, I will oblige.

OK: First The Rules.

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up

The first one is easy and already said: 1) as verbose as I may seem here, if you put a greeting card in front of me at work and I need a quick, trite phrase or sentence, I am stumped. That does not make this task any easier.

2) If my hair grew like my toenails, I’d look like Sidney Torres instead of a bald wookie.

3) Like most men I can’t help but look at women appraisingly. At my age, if they look back with anything like a hint of a smile I immediately check my fly, then my shirt for stains.

4) The most popular link on this blog is Middle Aged Men Gone Wild in the French Quarter. I think these visitors are terribly disappointed.

5) I have never been one of the cool kids, and I’m puppy-grateful that they let me hang around anyway.

6) I picked up the nickname Dancing Bear when I was a teenager (after Captain Kangaroo, not the Grateful Dead) because when we would get popped at Pinecone Forest at the lakefront I would do a fake soft shoe dance when the Beatles When I’m 64 came on. It got to be a routine where people would demand I do it. To this day I have friends who still call me Dancing Bear, or just Bear for short.

Four is a cop out. And I (or at least the I who lives on this block of Toulouse Street) is a non-conformist, so here’s another. Think of it as Lagniappe.

6 1/2 ) I tear up at the end of West Side Story. And Cool Runnings.

There. That wasn’t so bad. Now I have to tag six other people, for which I imagine they will forgive me if I avoid them long enough then buy a a lot of drinks when we do meet.

Let’s see: Peter; oh most definitely. Oh, and Skooks because the snark (if he does it) will be endlessly entertaining. Next, Le Mom Noir Pistolette. I think I’ll tag NOLA Notes since all I know about her I learned on Twitter, which is sort of like the relationship you might have with the priest you’ve only met from behind the confession screen. New Orleans Gypsy gets tagged because her blog is fascinating, she doesn’t post enough and her answer would be as interesting as her posts always are. Umm, and Tim just as good natured harassment.

Love Is All You Need November 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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So I finally crawl out of a weekend of work hell and settle down to catch up on the blogs and I read all of Morwen’s (righteously) angry Prop 8 rants and the Zombie is all over the Church of the Hateful Jesus.

And then I read this from Big EZ Bear and I think: who gives a fuck what they think in Bush or Barstow, here in city that care forgot we haven’t forgotten how to care for each other, whether partners of a lifetime or a lot of strangers in the blight.

I love this city more than they love their god or their country because here we remember what that god’s son said and why this country was founded. All you need is Love along with Liberty in the Pursuit of Happiness and you end up with a Life worth living.

New Orleans has more than its share of Philistines and Pharisees but like the guys in this video we can stand up in a world full of darkness and anger and envy and jealousy and just make our own joyful noise and beam it into the world. The rest of America can hang us all from their crosses like the army of Spartacus because they hate us for our freedom and their children will still flock here because we know how to live.

All together now:

Speak To Me, Frederico November 15, 2008

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

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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.

Doing Exactly What You Said November 12, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I started off the day reading this cheerful piece on the Times-Picayune/NOLA>com site about the New Orleans City Council’s efforts to extract someone’s head from their ass (the Mayor’s, the Recovery Czar’s, their own) so they could figure out when the pretty signboards announcing progress in recovery might be replaced by something like actual progress on city-controlled recovery projects. Typical happy reading down here in Year Three.

Thankfully, I got over to read what Cliff of Cliff’s Crib said on a similar subject. Cliff does a better job of summing up what’s going down and going wrong (and right) than anybody else in this town. I wanted to call out this from his last post:

Brad Pitt had a radical idea for hurricane recovery. He presented a plan, people gave him money to do it, and then he did what he said he was going to do. Sometimes great plans are very simplistic. I was wondering. Has the city council or the mayor recognized this man for this work? Has he gotten a key to the city? Does he get to ride in the Zulu parade? What about a good pot of red beans? Maybe we can give him and Angelina a second line in their honor when they are in town. I would like to nominate Mr. Pitt for a new position in the city. He should be the Director of Doing Exactly What You Said You Were Going to Do.

And I nominate Cliff for Director of the Ministry of Speaking Truth to Power, for at least the salary the mayor’s half-dozen press hacks are getting.

Midnight at the Movies November 6, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Ah to be say 16 and standing outside the Carrollton or some other small neighborhood theater at a quarter to twelve waiting to go into to see Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels, The Groove Tube or some other wholesome fare at the Midnight Movies. There was a certain je ne sais quoi in the air at those events. Or maybe it wasn’t something French but instead something Mexican. I really can’t recall. I’m not sure when or where I saw this except that it was as an opening short at one of the Midnight Movies.

I’m off to a wedding in Gulf Shores on the Redneck Riviera, second time for the 50 something fellow with whom I saw many of those Midnight Movies. Try not to let them demolish the house while we’re gone.

Spirits in the Night November 4, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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It is not the specter of Bobby Seale but the spirit of Bobby Kennedy that walks in America tonight, not an angry radical reaction to the angry reactionary nightmare of the years just past but an eternal flame that burns not just on one lonely hill tonight but all across the land in the hearts of Americans.

It has been a long journey of forty years, wandering in the desert, since that night in 1968 when Kennedy told a crowd much like those we saw tonight–young, many African-American–that Dr. King was dead, and calmed their fear and anger with the words of Aeschylus. Neither man lived to see this day.

But I see the ghostly hands of King and Kennedy upon his shoulders as Barrack Hussein Obama leads this nation on our first step into the Promised Land.

Sad Baritone Saturday November 3, 2008

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A sad baritone blowing big round Jello-tremulous Os of the blues. That’s what started this ramble into a pleasant melancholia, a fizzing afternoon beer buzz sadness not quite cheerless, simply there like a color in the air, a sky so blue and clear you can hear it like a faint hum beneath your feet, a Fall afternoon so perfectly empty you just want to lay down in the arms of some big oak and root, thinking: well, if the world is going to caterwaul in a crashing train wreck, I guess I’m not busy today. Go ahead. I voted early.

And then you remember the Indians, stuffed into the lobby of the museum and so you go and the colors aren’t quite right, all that expanse of white marble flattening the chromatic costumes into something cartoonish, robbing the scene of all depth perspective like some VCR on endless loop alone in a neutral cream room of neatly labeled artifacts under glass instead of the slow approach up a street lined with low, sameish houses, long rows of shotguns and maybe a catacorner store, first just a spyboy peering around the colored chalkboard brightly proclaiming Hot Breakfast and Cold Beer, then a hollering of tambourines in the distance and then you spot them, turning a corner, creatures from a dream peopling an otherwise ordinary street, singing in a language they have made themselves.

That’s when you decide No Thank You. I want to slap the snooze button on that doom clock. Your time doesn’t apply to us down here we’re on Central River Time and things, things are just a bit slower and we’re not quite ready for all your rapturous end times of votes and riots, we’re all in pawn up to the brim of our sharp fur felt hats so here’s a dime, call in all your tall Wall Street stories to someone else. If you’re going to destroy your world try to keep it down to a manageable rumble in the distance, please, perhaps a smudge of smoke on the horizon like a marsh fire and leave us to ourselves, to the scat-o-logical chantings of Fi-Yi-Yi to mad tamborine time, the bright side of the poverty and sadness you turn into columns and hours of politics and we turn into a sad baritone blowing big round Jello-tremulous Os, measuring the girth of the blues just about city sized and right for us, thanks.

Vincent October 31, 2008

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Ah, Tim Burton meets Vincent Price. Does a Halloween vid get better than this? Nevermore!

Filth Licker v. Slash-mouth Woman October 31, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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We like our holidays here on Toulouse Street. My wife’s favorite is Christmas (and the decorations will be popping up around the house as soon as this weekend, I fear). Mine, however, is Halloween as the flood of short videos, etc. you’re about to suffer will testify.

Halloween has so many attractive aspects, not least of which is the Oddity of it all, American-style. None of this cowering around the hearth while the Wild Host passes noisily overhead. Instead we dress up our children in often ghoulish costumes, and send them out into the dark to collect candy from strangers. I will have no truck with people who think children should go out in daylight to be “safe”. Halloween is not about being safe, but rather the opposite. It is about handling our fear of the Other.

We’ve brought over most of our Others from the Old Country, where ever that may be. Ghosts, vampires, zombies, mummies: all of these as we recognize them have some root in the old fears of our ancestors. The Celts have a large part to do with this as Samhain, the original pagan holiday on this date, is a Celtic holiday absorbed into Roman (as in legions) Catholic culture, giving us Jack O’Lanterns and enough ghost stories to last us until dawn of All Saints. And as you might have noticed, we are also Eirephiles here on Toulouse Street.

It is fun to find some new ghoulies to think on come All Hallow’s Eve, and I have a new one now. The Filth Licker. The Japanese have swallowed Halloween whole like so much of American and European culture, but they’ve given in their own twist.

Monsters…are a more serious matter. They are indigenous [in Japan] and reputed to be everywhere. One is called Akaname, the Filth Licker, and he haunts dirty bathrooms. Using his long, lascivious tongue, he eats bathtub scum.

The Halloween season, then, is an opportunity to shine a festive light on the Filth Licker and his creepy kin. There are thousands of them, and collectively they are known as yokai, a word that is formed from the Japanese characters for “otherworldly” and “weird.”

I like these yokai. The Filth Licker is an easy headline grabber, but I also like the tales of Kuchisake Onna, the Slash-Mouth Woman. “This yokai is a shapely and well-dressed but violently insecure young woman who wears a mask over her monstrously disfigured mouth, which reaches from ear to ear and is bursting with teeth. First, she asks her victims if she is pretty. They, regardless of the answer, she slashes her young-girl victim’s mouth.

There there is the kappa: a short, green, flatulent monster with a tortoise shell on his back and a cup of water on his head, from which he draws his terrible powers. He likes to eat human entrails. Kappa are said to live in rivers, lakes, swamps and wetlands. To keep their offspring from playing in these dangerous places, parents over the years have told chilling tales of what an angry kappa can do. One can escape the kappa because they are unfailingly polite. If you bow to them, they will bow back and spill the cup of water than gives them there powers.

This is a fabulous bit of folklore, offering your basic Boogie Man warning about playing around water, and tossing in a lesson to be polite to boot. Strange how all of us kids behaved better with an appropriate dollop of fear in our lives. I’m not sure what message the Slash-Mouth woman is supposed to mpart, but she reputedly likes candy. If you run into one tonight the appropriate response is to toss a handful of candy as far as you can, and run like Hell.

Or she will Get You.

Happy Halloween. .

The Horror October 30, 2008

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This election in a nutshell October 30, 2008

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I don’t usually write about politics (except for the christianist zealots and their tomfoolery). Still, I think this neatly sums things up for me (courtesy of MSNBC.com):

“The average working family is $2,000 poorer now than when George Bush took office,” [Barrack Obama] said. “Bill [Clinton] and I were in Orlando last night. When Bill Clinton was president, the average wage and income went up $7,500. So, I’ve got an economic plan that’s similar to Bill Clinton’s. John McCain’s got an economic plan that’s similar to George Bush’s. So all you have to do is look and see what works and what doesn’t. This is not complicated. We’ve done the experiment.”

Of course, a lot of likely Republican voters aren’t too fond of experimental methodology. I mean, it’s not mentioned once in the Bible, now, is it. As for the rest who are not going to vote for That One for That Reason Which Shall Not Be Admitted, I just wanted to let you know that we have all the bridges wired to blow in case all you bat shit crazies just to our north lose it on Nov. 5th.

Grandpa Elliot and Friends: Stand By Me October 29, 2008

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Most of you probably know of Washboard Chaz, but unless you frequent the quarter you may have missed Grandpa Eliot. He is often found playing a mean harp on Toulouse Street and Royal (or is it Chartres?). Here he is with a few other fellow street performers from all over the world covering “Stand By Me”.

And don’t miss this short of One Love by the same Playing For Change: Peace Through Music folks.

Don’t forget: It’s time for Rising Tide, the annual bloggers conference on the future of New Orleans, with featured guest Harry Shearer!.

Tiny Demons October 27, 2008

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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.

Radtke cited by N.O.P.D. October 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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The infamous gray paint vandal Fred Radtke has been issued a criminal summons by the NOPD after a team from Radtke’s Clean Sweep defaced a commission mural on private property, New Orleans CitiBusiness reports online. The New Orleans Times-Picayune had earlier reported the police had declined to press charges in spite of the flagrant offense, telling the property owner that the Radtke team’s trespassing and criminal damage were “a civil matter”.

If he is charged under the state’s new anti-graffiti law, Radtke could face a minimum one-year in prison, based on the value of some of the art he has recently defaced. He was not charged, however, for defacing works by the stencil artist Banksy on private property, an act caught on videotape. (see the link)

Rather than retype the excellent work of Loki at Humid City, I suggest we jump over their immediately to follow this developing story. Over to you, Loki and the Humid City Team.

Gumbobama Yeah You Right October 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Eh, la bas.

Buddy, Can You Spare Some Bootstraps? October 21, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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America is worried. What it will be like to lose your home and all your possessions, to see your job shipped off to another town, to be forced to pay out the mortgage on a house no longer yours while you try to make the rent? Will the government help me, or will all those hundreds of billions in aid they voted just evaporate into people’s pockets before it gets reaches the average person?

How, they worry, will they survive such a catastrophe?

I suggest they have a parade. It worked for New Orleans.

In your parade, America, you can celebrate that even in bankruptcy you will not be forced to live for years in a 280 square foot travel trailer, being slowly poisoned by formaldehyde. Moving in with relatives–for a year, or two–will test your virtue and bring your family closer together than you can image. The bankruptcy judge may make you pay out the balance of your mortgage after the auction, but at least you will not be forced to pay the full note plus rent if you won’t live in the trailer, while you fork out trebled prices for materials to build a new home with your own hands.

You can celebrate that your children will still have schools. With books. With any luck, they need not be completely uprooted from the family and friends who give them stability. You will still have things like your wedding and family and children’s pictures, the treasured family items no bankruptcy court would care about but which mean the world to you.

You may have to work two jobs to pay off that bankruptcy judgment under the new rules (while the people who bilked you walk away rich), but it can be done. At least you will not be forced to labor in a squalid flooded house, forced to choose between wearing a Class III respirator in a airless heat index of 120 or breathing in visible black mold.

You can celebrate the inner strengths you never knew you had, the ones most Americans only read about in books like “The Greatest Generation”, the hard resolve you fear you are not equal to. You are. If a bunch of indolent and dependent Orleanians could do more than any bankruptcy judge could ever impose on you, imagine what a lot of resourceful and self-reliant folks like yourself can manage.

If you are like many Americans, the one’s who don’t belong to church or club, the people who famously “bowl alone” as the book says, now is the time to reach out to your neighbors and organize yourselves. Don’t think that an angry vote in this election year will be enough. It won’t. Face up to the hard facts we’ve learned: 90% of “government aid” vanishes before it gets anywhere near you. You might not think you live in that sort of country, but you do.

You will need to organize as people down here did, in neighborhood associations and new groups to fight with the government, your bank, whoever. If you don’t, don’t expect the government or anyone else to reach out and help you. Those days are over. When the houses in your neighborhood are left empty for months or years, you’re going to have to get up and go mow that lawn if you don’t want to look at it (not to mention the snakes and rats).

Your neighbors–you know, the people you just wave to as you drive from home to wherever–will help you more than you can imagine. Tens of thousands of them have come to New Orleans to help people out of no other motive than pure altruism, some deeply Christian and some just plain goodness of heart. Until something happens to you and yours, you’ll probably never realize this. They’re not just your neighbors; they are people who share every aspect of your life, good and bad, and are willing to step up to help you when you’re down.

New Orleans has rehearsed the complete collapse of the American Dream for the last three years, and yet every day you can find us at the neighborhood bar sipping a cold one while discussing the Saints and the venality of politicians, or at that restaurant around the corner getting a po-boy. Life goes on. Come the Fourth of July, you’ll find Going Fourth on the River, a bit choked up as we watch the bright red, white and blue bombs bursting in air. No, we don’t believe in that old American Dream anymore, at least not in the way you still do, America. We have a clear-eyed take on what government has become, what insurance companies (for us) or banks (for the rest of you) are really about.

The campaign to subtly sabotage government in the name of lower taxes and less regulation has left an empty shell that cannot help you, not in the way it helped your grandparents out of the Great Depression, or your parents in the transition from WWII to the prosperous 1950s and 1960s. That government is gone. And the businesses you grew up learning to trust: don’t. With the end of regulation went any sense of civic responsibility. But then, the current criss has taught you that, hasn’t it?

Here’s what you do. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start going again. It will be hard. There will be tears, and there will be anger. Just remember that your spouse and kids didn’t do this to you. Neither did your best friend since grade school. There will be blank days when nothing much gets done, work or personal. You won’t remember what you did or why. And there will be days and nights when perhaps a bit too much drink is taken. The next day, pick up the empties, make yourself a big pot of very dark, strong coffee, and start over starting over. It’s the only way to make it.

You can and will get through this, even if it plays out in the worst way you can image, but you are going to have to help yourselves. Forget all that nonsense you’ve heard about New Orleans. They people who are home (and we are far more than the 200,000 I often wrote of in the past) did it themselves, with the help of friends and sometimes complete strangers, out of their own pockets.

The way the economy plays out may be the last straw for some–the ones with empty 401ks and maxed out credit cards and a house still not finished, but not for most. We’ve been tested and in spite of all the lies you’ve heard about shiftless Orleanians waiting for their government handout, it’s all bullshit: they’ve done it on their own. There is nobody in America alive today under the age of 80 who understands hard times better than New Orleans.

If you want a lesson on how to survive the next few years, I suggest you hop on a plane or gas up the car and come on down to New Orleans–before someone cuts up those credit-cards–and we’ll show you how it’s done, and throw in a good time to boot.

Hell, you might even decide to stay. We have lots of cheap, fixer-upper houses down here, if you don’t mind a little hard work. And as we’ve been reminded again and again and again since the levees failed, you’re all about hard work and self-reliance, America. At least that’s what you keep telling us. And we understand. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Well, here’s your chance. Show us Orleanians aren’t the only ones who can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

(Hat tip to Veda for this idea)

A heckler’s veto October 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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That was the best line in a Thibodeaux, La. Daily Comet article on the decision by Central Lafourche High School to ban reading of the book “Black Hawk Down”, citing profanity. Tenth grade teacher Jared Foreman assigned the book to “spur student interest in reading.” The decision was handed down by Principal Jimmy Ledet on Oct. 3, the last day of the 27th Annual Banned Book Week.

Foreman said the students were a little shocked when the principal asked that they return their copies to the school library. He said students were half way through the book and many had told him it “was really getting good.”

Apparently, a single parent complained after the students were halfway through to book, even through the teacher sent a disclaimer letter to parents and posted a notice on the school’s parent information website.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the office for intellectual freedom for the American Library Association, told the Daily Comet, “…one parent has made the decision for the entire community that this book should not be read in class. It is like a heckler’s veto.”

The Comet story concludes with:

Just before the students returned the books, Foreman said his class marched to the school’s flagpole and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as a group.

“I wanted them to remember they had to return a book due to censorship,” he said.

I wonder how many of these delicate children waltzed into the R-Rated film based on the book unchallenged, or brought it home from the video store? At least the school system is prepared, on the word of one parent, to protectthem from the sort of speech they might otherwise be exposed to by, say, watching cable television.

I can’t tell you how proud I feel that Louisiana did not disappoint in finding an opportunity to ban a book during Banned Books Week. It’s good to keep the brand out there, as our mayor well knows.

I set out to find a copy of Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War
to read that week. I’ve never read it, and as a Catholic School survivor I thought I might find it interesting, but I struck out in the first two book stores I checked. I had to settle for reading Judge John Woolsey’s decision in the obscenity case against James Joyce “Ulysses”, since it’s been laying by my bedside reminding me I did not manage to get through it last June.

Perhaps Louisiana’s Poet Laureate may be willing to speak out against this sort of thing. Oh, wait, we still don’t have one. Never mind.

h/t to His Yellowness Jeffery for calling this one out.

In the Zone October 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Inspired by today’s article on the return of the Roosevelt, and a mood not far off from the likes that inspired the piece originally, I offer this repeat from my old, Katrina-themed blog Wet Bank Guide. [Lazy, yes, I know.]

Sunday, August 05, 2007
In the Zone
Today I walked past the Fairmont Hotel on University Place and the back door was ajar. I stopped and leaned over the police barricades that still block the entrance and peered over the once red carpet on the steps–now a burnt umber–down the long lobby hallway into the dark. There was enough light to admire the first ornate arch in the long procession that divides the lobby, and I was fascinated at the lizardish dragon rampant on the gold colored span. The hallway was strung with a chain of work lamps that together with the receding arches gave the impression of looking into a mine works. It was difficult to see much past that first arch in the dim tunnel. A distant chandelier that still hangs between the arches winked faintly with refracted light.

I can’t tell you the last time or reason I had to walk down the hallway of the hotel we all know as the Roosevelt, but I do have an almost visceral memory, like the recollection we have of dreams, of walking down through that lobby, stopping in at Bailey’s on the Baronne Street side for a cocktail after whatever event it was that drew me there. Still, I can’t remember the occasion. That glimpse into the past of Sazerac and the Blue Room (a venue I peered into once but never visited for a concert) sent me rummaging in long forgotten corridors of my own mind, dimly lit and little visited themselves, trying to recall the reason for my last visit without success.

In New Orleans we tend to live in our cherished past a lot of the time. For us history is not a marker on the side of the road, one notable building or a small district full of quaint shops to which we take visitors. Our past stands all around us, bears down on us like the towers of Manhattan on a first time visitor. It reaches up like a hand from the grave and tries to trip our ever step forward, the smoky ghosts of slavery blinding us and the afterbirth of the civil rights movement twisting every turn of public policy in ways we can not seem to stop. It is not just the momentous events of the past we must contend with, but a thousand small things from the past that inform the way we live in the present moment the way water cups a swimming fish or the breezes lift a coasting bird. Our past may is as ever present as the humidity, a very part of who we are and how we live.

In spite of that awful moniker Big Easy New Orleans has never been an easy place to live. Just ask my wife, who traded the Nordic efficiency of the upper Midwest for a turn in the south, a place where mañana and baksheesh are not just scores in Scrabble but instead the way we govern the machinery of our life. I won’t rehearse the entire litany of woe involved in rebuilding a city from scratch. Suffice it to say that every few steps forward, as we watch the ground carefully for roofing nails or bits of nail-studded plaster lath, we walk forehead first into something hard.

In spite of the weight of history and the difficulty of the moment, I am not living in the past. Increasingly, I am living in a Richard Alpert Right Now, a locus in time informed by the landscape around me and my sense of its age, its rightness for the place, the uneven and green-occluded site lines of a city settling into the earth as perfectly as a Mayan ruin rising out of the jungle. The monumentality of the city informs the moment as you perceive it. To truly live here is to walk through a series of present moments like cells in a film, the action is in front of you or inside of you and the great pillared oaks and moss-draped homes are just backdrop.

I think it is in part that very difficulty, as well as something in the climate, that leads me to find myself increasingly living in a present moment. More worrying is the feeling that here where it’s after the end of the world, I am becoming like Thomas Pynchon’s anti-hero Tyrone Slothrop in Gravity’s Rainbow: inexplicably entangled with the ugly juggernaut of history as it unfolded in World War II until he disconnected from it altogether, withdrawing into himself, his “temporal bandwidth” approaching zero.

There is also the story about Tyrone Slothrop, who was sent into the Zone to be present at his own assembly perhaps, heavily paranoid voices have whispered, his time’s assembly and there ought to be a punch line to it, but there isn’t. The plan went wrong. He is being broken down instead, and scattered. His cards have been laid down… laid out and read, but they are the cards of a tanker and feeb: they point only to a long and scuffling future, to mediocrity not only in his life but also, heh, heh, in his chroniclers too…” (737-38)

The reconstruction of the city around me will last at least as long as WWII. There will be long periods of boredom and routine punctuated by times of great excitement, much of that of the unpleasant kind. Yes, we will have shore leave for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest but most of our time will be spent scrapping rust and paint knowing all the while that just over the ocean’s horizon there is something threatening.

In this peculiar armada the officers are as useless as the French nobility. They look fine high up there in their crosswise hats and give marvelous speeches, but we know from hard experience that they are worthless. People mutter all around the city about mutiny of one form or another, but mutiny is a lot of damn work and it is awfully hot. I like to think we could yet rise up and have our storming of the Bastille moment but every passing day it seems more unlikely. No Fletcher Christian or Maximilien Robespierre has stepped forward to lead us, and every angry mob needs a leader.

Perhaps I ask for too much. If history and the city consumes us all one-by-one but the city lives on, that perhaps what was always intended, why were were all lured home. In the end, perhaps Pynchon has given us the model to surviving it’s after the end of the world. If history has gone too wrong for any one of us to stop what is happening around us, maybe it is better to amble down a shady street in New Orleans without a particular thought in my head except the distant sound of what might be Slothrop’s harmonica, to disappear into the random noise in the signal.