jump to navigation

The ragged hem of Ocean October 4, 2013

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

A reprint while I am at the beach quite intentionally without the laptop.

February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.

February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.

— Two log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way.

This is not the ocean, these mild ripples washing the crowded shore. It is merely the edge of the thing, a ragged hem. The loud, brown devotees of sun and surf who assemble each morning at the water’s edge do not really understand the depth and breadth of what lies past the dim gray line that is the horizon.

I have never voyaged out onto the true ocean, the place where land is mostly memory, but one of my compulsions is reading the literature of adventure, particularly that involving long, solo voyages into the rolling blueness. Here on the shore we are barely acolytes of the sea, mere poseurs compared to men and women like Moitessier, the ones who sail out far and alone into the very depths of the Southern Ocean.

There is no Poseidon lurking off the shores of the Redneck Riviera. The young women basking in the sun substitute weakly for sea nymphs, sandy-diapered children chasing the sea birds and the rolling breakers are our only water sprites. The ocean of the water gods, the ocean of Moitessier lies far beyond anything the beer sipping sunbathers can even begin to conceive.

I think my neighbors in the sand would find the epigram above confusing. To me it is one of the best descriptions of Oceanness, of the true nature of the great rolling thing at my feet that I have ever found. I know that Ocean is out there, and I am as humbled as a Haji standing in the sand just gazing out towards it.

Advertisements

The ragged hem of Ocean August 6, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.

February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.

— Two log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way.

This is not the ocean, these mild ripples washing the crowded shore. It is merely the edge of the thing, a ragged hem. The loud, brown devotees of sun and surf who assemble each morning at the water’s edge do not really understand the depth and breadth of what lies past the dim gray line that is the horizon.

I have never voyaged out onto the true ocean, the place where land is mostly memory, but one of my compulsions is reading the literature of adventure, particularly that involving long, solo voyages into the rolling blueness. Here on the shore we are barely acolytes of the sea, mere poseurs compared to men and women like Moitessier, the ones who sail out far and alone into the very depths of the Southern Ocean.

There is no Poseiden lurking off the shores of the Redneck Riviera. The young women basking in the sun substitute weakly for sea nymphs, sandy-diapered children chasing the sea birds and the rolling breakers are our only water sprites. The ocean of the water gods, the ocean of Moitessier lies far beyond anything the beer sipping sunbathers can even begin to conceive.

I think my neighbors in the sand would find the epigram above confusing. To me it is one of the best descriptions of Oceanness, of the true nature of the great rolling thing at my feet that I have ever found. I know that Ocean is out there, and I am as humbled as a Haji standing in the sand just gazing out towards it.

Looking for the Ocean July 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.

February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.

— Two log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way.

This is not the ocean, these rolling waves crashing into the sand just below my balcony. It is merely the edge of the thing, a ragged hem. The ragged band of devotees to sun and surf who assemble each morning at the water’s edge do not really understand the depth and breadth of what lies past the dim gray line that is the horizon.

I have never voyaged out onto the true ocean, the place where land is mostly memory, but one of my compulsions is reading the literature of adventure, particularly that involving long, solo voyages into the heart of blueness. Here on the shore we are barely acolytes of the sea, mere poseurs compared to men and women like Moitessier, the ones who sail out far and alone into the very depths of the Southern Ocean.

There is no Poseiden lurking off the shores of the Florida panhandle. The young women basking in the sun substitute weakly for sea nymphs, sandy-diapered children chasing the sea birds and the rolling breakers are our only water sprites. The ocean of the water gods, the ocean of Moitessier lies far beyond anything the beer sipping sunbathers can even begin to conceive.

I think my neighbors in the sand would find the epigram above confusing. To me it is one of the best descriptions of Oceanness, of the true nature of the great rolling thing at my feet that I have ever found. I know that Ocean is out there, and I am as humbled as a Haji standing in the sand just gazing out towards it.

Falling off the edge July 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

I’m off to the edge of the world for a while to watch the waves roll in and out. Might be quiet around here for a while.

See you at the Ashley Benefit: tanned, rested and unsteady.

Atlantis July 9, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
4 comments

The rocket stands on its launch pad like mythical Babel, a pointer and a reaching out towards the heavens. A triumph of modern technology, it lifts itself by an alchemy of the ancient elements, the composite pieces of water and air joined to make fire, to lift men above the earth. A trembling in the ground and a roaring in the ears and it is away.

We watch its arc, the contrail cloud left by as it climbs into the sky. Men in white shirts sit nearby and below ground staring into computer screens, reading out their ship’s progress in numbers. Some figures climb as does the rocket–altitude, speed, the g-forces of acceleration, tracing their own mathematical curves that mirror the rocket’s. These men have built this marvel and monitor the operation of it hundreds of thousands of tiny composite parts, willing it to defy gravity and rise into the sky.

The music of this film is perfect, an analogue in sound of the complex mechanical systems we are watching, Phillip Glass’ electronic transmutation of organic music into the electronic space: crescendo and diminuendo replaced by attack and fade, the symmetries of the baroque distilled into the circuitry of the sequencer, the natural sounds of voices and pipe organ channeled into the sequencer’s inexorable logic.

We have reached in this space faring ship the apex of man’s upward climb, have tried to realize that reaching into the heavens symbolized by Babel and the pyramids. We are God’s new Chosen People. He has willed that we will master not just this one continent but an entire world. Now we reach up into the space beyond this planet so that men might walk upon the moon, someday journey to the stars.

And then it happens, as if an invisible bolt of lightening was sent down from the heavens. The vessel of all our modern hopes and dreams disintegrates in a cloud of flame and shrapnel. It is the old story again, Babel confounded and the landscape littered with gruesomely dead Greeks who had set themselves up against Olympus.

As the rocket explodes and the burning remains of the rocket slowly tumble down, following gravity’s rainbow arc back to the earth, the voices take up the refrain again: Koyaanisqatsi, a Hopi Indian word meaning variously ‘crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living’.

Here in New Orleans we do not erect towers to the heavens. We build a city where men have always built, on the fertile flood plains of a convenient river, and close to the bountiful sea. The first temples were reared in places like this, inside those first cities on the flood plains of Tigris and Euphrates. If it is an act of hubris to be here then gods have made a terrible mistake in creating man as they did (or worse, have created him to fail for their entertainment).

Here instead of towers we build levees, low mounds of dirt and clay by which we would defy the flooding river and the ocean. Where hubris and engineering intersect we find politicians peering over the engineers’ shoulders and asking, can we do this cheaper? Faster? Better? There is a rule in projects such as these, called the iron triangle. Simply stated the rule is: better, faster, cheaper–pick two. We squabble with the government for levees that would withstand a 100 year flood, and dream of the 10,000 year protection of the British and Dutch, and hope for the best.

Time has shown we did not build well enough, or perhaps we built too well. Left untouched by man, this delta would eventually be abandoned by the river, and the land sink into the sea. We are victims of our own progress, of the channeling of the river for navigation and the containment of its nourishing floods, and of the extraction of the liquid mineral wealth beneath us. By doing so we have destroyed much of the buffering land around our levees, and so accelerated the time span of our drowning from the geological into generations. The levees we built were not enough to stand against an immense wall of water running downhill in time.

Atlantis is not a myth. It is a prophecy. Someday it will be our history.

At the beginning and end of Koyaanisqatsi are shots of pictograms left behind by the desert dwelling natives of the American southwest. These simple pictures made from materials at hand have lasted the better part of a millennium, stand as the mute testament of people who have come and gone. What will we, the people of New Orleans, leave behind as our testament? The computer that holds these words, made of plastic and glass, copper and steel, will last long enough to bump up against an archeologists trowel if it is not too far beneath the sea, but the words it contains will be lost forever. What you read here today will not stand up through time as those simple drawings go

For all of our foolishness of dredging channels and building levees, digging our city’s own grave with every shovelful, we have a good life here. In spite of all the problems we have made for ourselves, amplified times over by the inevitable flood, New Orleans is not Koyaanisqatsi, not in the sense the filmmaker intended with his endless scenes of ant-like Metropolis. We manage a life here measured not by the speed of our machines or the height of our towers but instead by the music and the food and the ritual, by the way we live with and inside of those things. While we cannot completely master time any more than we can the land or the river or the sea, we have managed to bend time to a different tempo, one more in balance. It is something worth sharing with the world, and will someday be worth remembering.

I am left to rely on the hope that the music and food and ritual have so imprinted themselves upon the world that they will not be forgotten, that the word Creole (and its close cousin Cajun) will be spoken in kitchens long after the city is gone; that as long as Carnival is celebrated somewhere New Orleans will be remembered as one of its great centers; that the sounds of jazz will someday be played not only on a reproduction coronet by scholars–the way early European music is remembered today–but as something as vital and as ineradicable as language: somewhere in the future in something like a nightclub people hear the music, and rise up and dance.

That is the image I would scratch on the wall by torchlight and leave behind us, if only such a thing would not be drowned: a man raising a trumpet to the heavens leading a parade of figures, some bearing heaped platters, who dance to his music.

Redneck Riviera May 29, 2007

Posted by The Typist in New Orelans.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

Yes, I know that’s Alabama and I’m in Destin, Florida. Still:

• In the south there are people with the accents we associate with Blance du Bois and the characters of Designing Women. They must all go to the beach in the Carolinas.

• Why does a man with a confederate flag tatooed on his back have a woman so tan she couldn’t pass the paper bag test?

• Why is all the crab at The Crab Shack overlooking the Gulf of Mexico Alaskan and Dungeness?

Really, I have no right to complain or to condescend, In spite of the building down the beach which looks barely boarded up since Ivan in 2004, it’s lovely to sit on my balcony staring at the moon’s track on the water nad listening to the constant rumble of the surf. I have b een away from the sea too long.

— posted via Blackberry