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Redemption Songs March 12, 2016

Posted by The Typist in Irish, Irish Channel, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.

Now at the annual collision of our African, Celtic and Sicilian cultures, in this town where the African’s ripped from their villages and put into bondage were too valuable a property to risk so the hungry Irish were set to work and die digging the New Basin Canal, where the Sicilian residents of the French Quarter were lynched by practiced hands, the Mardi Gras Indians will come out even as the Irish and Italians stage their parades and the green beer and red wine will flow, and the streets will be lined with rotted cabbage heads, pork chop sandwiches and loose feathers, a celebration in the way only our entirely Creolized culture knows how to do best. In this one place God set aside like Nod for the rejects of Anglo culture and in which we have established (with a wink and a blind eye from God) all that the propaganda of the north promised in their lies, the true melting pot. It is time to to sing Redemption Songs.

Good Night. Safe Home. March 17, 2015

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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NO. I am NOT going to the Holy Ground. (Write on the blackboard 100 times). I’ve had a 12 hour day and more to come this week.

The last little bit of Jameson is gone, and I’ve got a few bottles of Guinness and Altan for company.

When I die, after you leave my marker or scatter my ashes, I don’t ask for a brass band and Didn’t He Ramble. I ask every friend I’ve known (and one I haven’t met yet who can play the fiddle, or at least the penny whistle), to lead everyone away from the sad moment to the party to follow playing this, the one song I’ve heard in fifty plus years that marries sorrow and joy perfectly, that echoes the music of the Acadians whom my German ancestors were assimilated into.

Long ago, halfway into my exile, the Scottish host of The Thistle and Shamrock Fiona Ritche had Micheal Doucet on her show, and pronounced the Acadians the Lost Tribe of the Celtic Race. I felt this on my one visit to Ireland, especially the nights spent in small town inns. And I’ve taken that as license to drink a bit on this day, as I am right now, even though I am but 1/32nd Irish (and thank my sister whose Mormon genealogy, if I can lay hands on it, can give me the name and the county.

(NO. I WILL NOT go &c.)

(Echoes of drunken Welshmen abound in that last statement. But dammit, I shall not go. NO)

If you can talk Doucet into playing my funeral, I’ll promise to arrange for someone to return the ankle bells I drunkenly stole off the stage at the Mardi Gras Party at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA one long-ago carnival season early in my long exile. If he preceeds me, I will make arrangements for return of the bells myself.

A penny whistle would be just fine. I hear it in my head that way. May this tune carry you safe home tonight is my prayer.

Tommy Bhetty’s Waltz by Altan:

Forty Six: One More Drop of Poison March 17, 2014

Posted by The Typist in 365, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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There’s devils on each side of you with bottles in their hands
You need one more drop of poison and you’ll dream of foreign lands
— Shane MacGowan of The Pogues

Someday I will learn to act my age, but at a particular friend’s St. Patrick’s Parade party there’s not a lot of positive encouragement or enough in the way of positive role models. It’s still only the 16th and I somehow have to recover from my Shane MacGowan imitation to get through an online test and quiz and be fresh enough to venture out tomorrow for the Downtown Irish Parade on the Big Day.

A fellow blogger lamented the leprechaun carnival that is St. Patrick’s Day in America, but by Christ’s nails this is New Orleans. Give us the opportunity of a party in nominal honor of a Catholic saint in mid-Lent and the outcome is predictable. I didn’t catch any beads yesterday but I managed a cabbage or two for the boil that followed the parade. And what is more suitable to a saint’s feast day than drunken float riders hurling large, heavy vegetables at the equally intoxicated parade watchers? They can dye the river green in Chicago and cover Fifth Avenue in a carpet of green vomit but I don’t think anyone quite takes is to the extreme of playing drunken cabbage dodge ball.

Honestly, I think New Orleans is more entitled to its St. Patrick’s Day and i’s St. Joseph festivals than most of the rest of America. Here where everyone is essentially Creolized into Orleanians, observing one’s roots takes on a special meaning. New Orleans is full of the Irish, who were brought to dig the New Basin Canal and whose bones litter the spoil banks that are now West End Boulevard. There were the waves of Sicilians who were lynched when convenient by practiced hands. There are all the Germans of course, whose culture was mostly eradicated by the quasi-fascist hysteria of WWI, but their descendants still bake all of our French bread. And Deutsches Haus manages its own festival of too much beer and food, Oktoberfest, every year. I think I brought my best German to yesterday’s celebration. I was once having dinner with an old colleague’s daughter and her Austrian husband in DC. He remarked after I downed a glass of beer (and not my first) with my first bowl of gumbo that I “drank like a German”, and I’ve always taken that as a compliment.

Things got a bit out of hand by mid-afternoon Saturday. Biscuits for breakfast were no match for whiskey and strong ale for lunch and I’m not as young as I used to be. There was a stumble-and-tumble and the Shirtless Nipple Sticker Incident but mostly we’ve learned how to role with it down here. The root-heaved and muck-cracked sidewalks have sent us all ass-over-Evil-Kenievel on our bicycles more than once and we’ve learned to roll and post like a small boat breasting an Irish wake. At St. Patrick’s Day Lent is the penance of an early riser who ought to be sleeping it off rising up groggy and foggy to make breakfast and coffee. There were the listings to post, a manuscript promised to read and a test to be taken later. Somewhere on Sunday was a brilliant Irish stew with the last can of Irish Channel Stout to give strength because really Saturday’s parade is just a rehearsal for the 17th.

Forty Five: The Lost Tribe of the Celtic Race March 15, 2014

Posted by The Typist in 365, Acadian, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I am 1/32 Irish as best I can tell. Having an LDS sibling with the obsessive geneoligizing helps one to know these things). I have, however, always been an Hibernophile. I fell in love in Yeats at an early age, helped restart Bloomsday in New Orleans, and actually started Finnegan’s Wake before this semester, then laid it aside. Too much for class work. My delayed honeymoon with No. 2, an incorrigible Irish-American of the went-to-Notre-Dame sort, was to Ireland. And I love the music perhaps most of all. There are two main threads that inform American popular music: the Celtic and the African/Caribbean.

So shall I wear green and head out in the rain (again) to the parade today? The Uptown Irish parade drives me mad in a way. I am in Krewe du Vieux, and I would love to see all those drunks frogged march through the Quarter the way the NOPD drives us like cattle through the streets. Then again there is always the chance that I will manage to catch an old friend who is legally blind but still goes out on his own on Carnival Day, and marches in the parade today. (That, my friends, is a dedication to celebration few of us can match).

I imagine I will dig out one of my rugby shirts, either the wool County Offaly one I bought in a sports shop because I like the look of it, or the cheap green one with the shamrocks. I prefer the more authentic one, which I only learned were the colors of County Offaly when a guard at Shannon Airport greeted me with an Up Offaly! and explained it to me.

I may not be Irish, but I am in good part Acadian along with German and French via Haiti. My paternal German ancestors were long ago creolized into the Acadian way of life. As a fan of the music, I was listening to Fiona Richie’s Thistle and Shamrock national broadcast the day she was interviewing Micheal Doucet of Beausoleil. Somewhere toward the end of the conversation, they were discussing the similarities of Celtic and Acadian music, and Richie pronounced the Acadians “the lost tribe of the Celtic race.” I know what she meant. My trip to Ireland often felt like a trip to a hilly version of South Louisiana: the ease of the people, the music I heard in pubs, the craic.

That’s always been a good enough reason for me to join the drunken throngs in their tacky t-shirts and other things green. See you at Magazine and Louisiana.

In the spirit of “everyone is Irish” here are the Chieftains with the Rolling Stones and Ry Cooder.

Songs of Freedom March 17, 2012

Posted by The Typist in 504ever, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Now at the annual collision of our African, Celtic and Sicilian culture, in this town where the African’s ripped from their villages and put into bondage were too valuable a property to waste risk so the hungry Irish were set to work and die digging the New Basin Canal, the spoil banks littered with their bones, the Mardi Gras Indians will come out even as the Irish and Italians stage their parades and the green beer and red wine will flow, and the streets will be line with pork chop sandwiches and loose feathers, a celebration in the way only our entirely Creolized culture knows how to do best. Free from slavery, free from hunger and poverty, and in this one place God set aside like Nod for the rejects of Anglo culture and in which we have established (with a wink and a blind eye from God) all that the propaganda of the north promised in their lies, the true melting pot. It is time to to sing Redemption Songs.

Ourselves Alone March 17, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA.
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At this crazy collision of our Irish, Italian and African roots on the streets of this Franco-Hispanic city, our individual identities melding into something greater than it parts, we must remember: All we have is ourselves, and redemption songs.

Sinn Fein, baby.*

*This is a repost and I’ve taken Sinn Fein out of the title as it causes so much damned confusion. My use of it follows Ashley Morris’ adoption of the phrase and it’s translation–Ourselves Alone–to the situation of New Orleans, and not an endorsement of any political movement outside of this country. I feel the same way about the struggle for Irish independence after the turn of the last century as Lord Byron felt about the Greeks, and if you catch me humming Jonsey’s Motor Car this is why. There was nothing romantic about The Troubles in the North, and its disconcerting to think how easily America might have gone down that path if President Rockefeller had sent Federal troops to support the segregationists at the bridge at Selma.

The End March 15, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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This story is my entry in the Finn McCool’s Pub St. Patrick’s Day writing contest. Constrained by 750 words and list of required words to use–Giant, Guinness, Harpoon, Mid-City, Finn McCool, Bonnie, Pint, Craic, Stout, Causeway–I came up with this rather dark piece. There’s nothing of the happy stock leprechaun dancing about the clover in it, so I don’t have high hopes for it to win me a keg of Guinness but I like it fine enough. I hope working in a bit of Celtic folklore compensates if they think it a bit Gothic for the middle of such a festive evening. It practically wrote itself, for the first time in months the words just came seemingly on their own when called, and that in itself is enough to please me.

The End

He tottered unsteadily atop the first column of the broken breakwater, the rock as off kilter as his own head from an afternoon of one too many Guinness drunk sad and solitary, alone at the end of the bar. Alone at the end: that sums it up, he thought. It would make a fine epitaph.

The water lapping gently below could not drown the memory of Bonnie’s last words, hissed through her teeth with face and fists clenched: “I’m looking for a man in my life, not a child. You’re a child in a man’s body with no more sense than a puppy. I’m done with you.” He’d stormed out right behind her, raging at her faithlessness, and straight to the Mid-City pub he favored, looking for a sympathetic barman and a bit of good craic to set his mood to rights.

Finn McCool’s was empty. The barman was a woman. Plans foiled, he sipped sullenly, hoping someone he knew would come in. He’d pull out his cell and stare when the barmaid hovered, but he was out of minutes and low on cash. He stood at the jukebox struggling to put words and music to his mood, mashing the buttons back and forth through the songs but could not settle on one. He pulled out the last cash in his pocket and realized he was done drinking for the day. He dropped it on the bar and left.

The towering stones listed forward into the lake as if to lure him out further, taunting him to leap boldly across to the next in the row that stood like the Giant’s Causeway. He leaned on a stick he’d picked up from the shore. He had no notion why he had taken it except to be at doing something, the same drive that had carried him out to the lakefront. Something about the heft of the wood in his hand soothed. Like a blackthorn or spear had for a thousand years of his race, the simple solidity of it in his hand bolstered his deflated manhood.

He hoisted it above his shoulder like a man about to hurl a harpoon and looked down into the lake. It was then he saw her, floating half above the water, her lower body hidden. Her kayak bobbed and dodged on the small waves, moving like dolphins along the shore. Her hair–spiky wild and dyed a bright green—was tucked up under a red cap and framed a porcelain white face. She wore a dry suit tight as a second skin, glistening with water. Her body and boat shifted in time like one living sea thing.

“Do you mean to spear me?” she hollered to him.

“Well, uh, no, I was just messing about with it, really,” he managed to stammer, his tongue tied as much by surprise as by drink.

“Uh, huh,” she replied, drawling the vowels out into a long slur full of suggestion. “Well, I’m not so easily caught.” With that she shot off along the standing stones, paddle flying, then spun neatly about in place to face him.

Without a thought he leaped to the next column, weaving like a charmed snake to keep his balance as he landed on the uneven top. He crouched to recover, then sprung to the next. The girl laughed and paddled herself in a circle. He jumped again, landing toes off the edge this time, arms flailing like a windmill, and fell smack on his backside.

“Careful,” she shouted up. He propped himself back up with the stick.

“Don’t you worry. I was a track and field whiz at school,” he replied stoutly. “Long and high jump and all that. You should’ve seen me at the hurdles.”

The girl in the lake smiled glamorously at that. As she moved to stuff a bit of hair back under her hat the wind caught and tossed it a dozen feet away. She screamed like a woman whose child has been snatched, and paddled frantically after it. Impelled by the urgency of her voice, he leaped to the last pillar.

He saw it floating in what looked like deep, dark water. “Got it,” he shouted, and dove straight toward the hat and head first into the last bit of the causeway, hidden beneath the water by the dark stain of kelp.

The girl paddled past the bloodied spot and coolly snatched the cap up, placed it back on her head and set off into the lake.

Published by permission of Finn McCool’s.

The Wetting of the Green March 15, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, food, Irish Channel, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
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It was a perfect day for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade: grey and drizzly with showers just strong enough to get you well wet but not to soak and chill to the bone. It was as if God smiled down on the parade, in that Odd way we like here abouts on Toulouse Street, and blessed the day with a little bit of Irish weather.

This was no discouragement to hardy New Orleans parade goers, wether died in the wool Irish or just the sort who will not miss a single party in the calendar, the ones who are dragging their hung-over selves out of the house right now looking for the Mardi Gras Indians on this Super Sunday. If anything the atmosphere is most frenzied when only the absolutely maddest of the mad for parades are out in the steady rain, rushing down beers before they can get watered down.

The damp streets were littered with beads and paper flowers, the gutters full of soggy boxes of Lucky Charms and melting bars of Irish Spring. In addition to the usual beads, the marchers and riders toss some Odd things at the Irish Channel parade, and–judging from the thick litter of unbroken beads that made the footing treacherous–it is throws that speak somehow of the Irish (even if it is something as tacky as a bar of green soap) that excite the parade goers.

Most of the afternoon not taken up with drinking is spent catching cabbage. To have a proper Irish Channel St. Patrick’s party, it is important to start the brisket (and the drinking) early and then catch and cook enough vegetebles to lay a proper foundation for the house before the guests get too far into the whiskey.

We did ourselves proud once again, hauling away two full sacks of cabbage. I credit my son’s best friend, a tall thin kid on a vegan diet with the look of a hungry waif about him. He was a cabbage magnet and a cabbage madman. By the time we were well into filling the second sack (and starting to think about who would want to carry 100 pounds of cabbage a half mile back to the house), we tried to get him to slow down but he would have none of it.

Our real problem was this: potatoes. Typically the riders mix in carrots, onions and potatoes with all the cabbage so that it’s possible to go home and have a proper dinner boiled up with just what’s been caught. By halfway through the parade we were begging for potatoes as if they were prized dobloons. Any thrower who waved one about was suddenly surrounded by a potato crazy mob, and they often retreated into the inner part of the float for their own safety as they tossed a lone potato into the air.

By the end of the parade we had a grand total of three potatoes to show for all our effort, and a dozen little snack-sized bags of those mini-carrots people put out on buffets. Unless Jesus showed up at the house later we had no where near enough. I had caught one large plastic bag in which a thoughtful woman had places a quarter cabbage, a potato, an oninion and a couple of proper carrots. Whoever you are, thank you. We had a couple other onions and a few full sized carrots, which would probaby do, but it was an absolute potato famine no where near enough to fill dozens of proper St. Patrick’s day plates.

Being the sort who drag themselves out in the rain for what is truly one of the best parades New Orleans has to offer, we cracked open the Micheal Collins Single Malt and carried on. By the time the cabbage (and the lonely potatoes) were ready we were all famished and ready to gobble down the cabbage-heavy boil along with the steak-and-Guinness pie and the excellent soda bread our host had made from scratch. When I finally fought my way to the front the potatoes were gone but I did manage a bit of a carrot so I had some color on the plate.

Having slept in on New Year’s Day and so missed out on the resolution thing, and having long ago forgone abstinence for Lent, I had a few resolutions this morning. Next year we bring the old kid’s wagon. I am not humping a hundred pounds of cabbage over my shoulders ever again.

Second, the Irish half of the family and I are going to whip up a big batch of our one of our favorites, Colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage(, to bring to the O’Hackenbergs. If the riders aren’t going to throw a proper mix of vegetables, we are not going to let Greg and Christy’s friend Ian or the rest of us Irish-for-a-day go without spuds.

Catching Cabbage March 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Irish Channel, New Orelans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
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I caught almost two sacks of cabbage (the fullest of which, also packed with potatoes, carrots and the odd onion, was stolen), but this was the real treasure of this year’s Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday.
All of my food went with my son’s friend, whose mother the social worker shares it with her clients. I figure there was nothing I was going to do useful with 10 head of cabbage, so that worked out well. As for the stolen one, well, if you’re going to steal someone’s parade-caught food you probably needed it more than I did, so best-of-luck go with it.

We were showered with beads and other throws but the two pair of these, handed down to usein a bag by a co-worker of my wife’s, may be the single best throw I’ve gotten from a parade bar-none. It is certainly the best imaginable catch of the day at a New Orleans St. Patrick’s weekend parade.

Thanks to Celcus for the wee bit of fine Irish whiskey and general hospitality. We ran into Adrastos and Dr. A, and liprap and her spouse there as well.