View current page
...more recent posts
Bayonets And Books
Laura Bush is in New Orleans today trying to instill a little umph factor into a program that will attempt to bring 125 accredited teachers into the most troubled schools in New Orleans, which is the most troubled public school system in the state of Louisiana. Louisiana as a whole educates its public school students almost as bad as it can be done. On a national scale the 60,000 or so public school students in Orleans Parish are getting the worst of the worst. So I applaud Laura Bush and I certainly do not hold her husband against her. I mean he is a perfect example of the danger of a poorly educated soul wandering around without a sense of anger management. Here each year the kids born into this educational wasteland kill each other at a rate of about 200 a year (over the last thirty years), with an occasional spike like the 420 murdered in '94 and the 360 murdered the year after that. Numbers that will seem small and inconsequential if our questionably elected leader is allowed to carry out his plan for controlling the oil fields of the Middle East. A thing he proposes to do for the security of this great country and ostensibly for the betterment of the country(ies) we will be blowing up. I think we are too far from home. I think Laura has the right idea. I think we should bring our toys and warriors back home and into our inner cities. We could deploy troops around our worst schools, battleships in our gulfs and lakes, and we could use our nifty pin-point accurate missles to blow up entire prison populations. It could be called Operation Learn or Die. I'm just brainstorming here. Navy Seals sitting in the back rows of junior and senior high schools, cleaning their fingernails with their bayonets, challenging the challenged, "if there are forty pounds of plastic explosive in a crate and I've got seven crates, how many total pounds of explosive do I have!?" I'm really not trying to save Iraqi babies, I would just like to see someone in power try to save our own. There is in this single small USA town a thirty year pile of young ill-educated murdered bodies 6,000 large. If it is violence our war cabinet craves, it is here. If it is domination of evil regimes, that is here too. I would like to see a sum like the 37 billion dollars we have spent thus far "liberating" Afghanistan given to Laura Bush and her ilk, and let them give it a go. That's what I'd like to see. I am implying that a serious attempt to educate our least educated would pay dividends a thousand fold. That's what I believe.
I'm just laying around reading this old Richard Price novel, The Breaks, and I pause like you do when you read a great writer and think about things the writer makes you think about. It may not be anything the writer actually said that makes you think, it may just be the mood the writer creates that helps you get somewhere you really had no intention of going when you reclined on your couch, propped up by pillows, you lazy bastard.
Since I got the TV this pause time created by great writers, or even mediocre writers, it doesn't matter and let's not be snobbish, would occasionally lead me not to deep contemplation but to the exact opposite, that is--watching TV.
In the past I have written things here that were inspired by stressful times and I think people may occasionally think this boy needs help, but no, thank you so much anyway, the writing pretty much helps me all I need to be helped in order not to be a detriment to society.
However, last night I found myself in deep doo-doo and I yearned for outside help. I wanted to cry out--help me, help me, help me, but my voice doesn't carry so well and so who's gonna hear it? what's the use? I am referring to the fact that I was for two hours flipping back and forth between two two hour TV specials detailing the somewhat remarkably bizarre world of Michael Jackson. I was convinced that somehow I was being drugged into submission by the Networks, who themselves had been drugged into submission by George W. Bush, I mean Lucifer, no, I don't know what I mean. I was witless. I was non-plussed. And some other things.
It is not like I eschew all things mindless. Mindless activities are good for the soul. But the Jackson story is superficially disturbing, disturbing. I don't need to watch TV to get that. No one can say for sure that I am exaggerating when I say we may be on the brink of nuclear war. I think that is disturbing, and not superficially. So in these times, when I want to be disturbed, I can simply think about current events. I do not need to think about Michael Jackson and the regrettable cirmcumstances of his life.
Thursday night (2/20) on Public TV is an advertised show I am actually looking forward to. It is a taped jazz concert featuring the entire Marsalis family which occurred here in New Orleans several months or almost a year ago. The ticket prices were way out of my league and as far as I can tell the concert sold out before the tickets even went on sale. I don't know that it will play that well on TV (I don't know if you will get how great is the youngest and shyest one, Jason on drums) but no matter, it will be the best thing going. The problem is, there is ANOTHER two hour Michael Jackson special airing Thursday night. I am weak. I have already learned this. I may need help. I may call out to you.
Thank You Mr. Byrd
By US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Speech
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.
Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.
We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.
And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of
many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.
Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less
than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.
This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.
In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding
scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly.
This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.
In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like
the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders,
and which will have consequences for years to come.
Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support
of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.
The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land.
Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace?
And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of
power after Saddam Hussein?
Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq?
Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?
In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years.
One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly
impossible to exact retribution.
But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.
Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and
biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.
We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.
To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.
Seventh Ward Gargoyles 7.26.99
Sitting there in another movie (thirteenth floor) which suggests man is nothing more than electric impulses created not by an all-wonderful god but rather by another computer genius, who himself has been created by a computer genius; the trick being not to let any of the inhabitants of your simulated worlds find out they are all plugged in, and I'm thinking, well, maybe I am a moron.
Driving on Esplanade toward City Park with Hunter in the front seat, Michael, Shelton, and Lance in the back seat, and I make a right turn roll through the red light at Broad, thinking, for just that fraction of a second, that I may be able to make a most challenging U-turn, and in doing so make it to Lake Placid (not NY) by 12:30, but I see the big-headed white woman in the left lane barrelling down Broad in her Dodge Ram, so I pull harder to the right, keeping myself inside the confines of the right lane, posing no threat whatsoever to the old grey-headed black man crawling along in the right lane of Broad in his '69 Chevy, and although I can really sense that I have caused the big-headed white woman to have that exhilarating sinking-right-down-to-your-sphincter feeling, for me, and I dare say, for everyone else, including the police cruiser right on the big-headed woman's tail, this was a very ordinary traffic maneuver for this vicinity, crossing as we were, the line separating the sixth and seventh wards of New Orleans.
Committed to the cause of acquiring new bad habits to fill the huge gap left from giving up cigarettes, I have been talking to people at stop lights, and sometimes while moving, if there seems to be an urgency to the message. If you just let them, people will often tell you how they really feel, ie., "mthrfkr, you almost ran into me," that sort of thing, so when I arrived at the next intersection I knew the big-headed white woman in her Dodge Ram would want to discuss that most harrowing experience she just went through, and I wanted to be there for her.
The old man in the Chevy was still behind me, and the cop was still behind the big headed woman. I looked over and up into the cab of her Dodge Ram, took a deep breath, and rolled down my window. Her passenger-side window was coming down at the same time.
"You moron," she said, "you ran that red light." I would say it was more a right on red California roll, but I'm not getting into technicalities in this situation. I responded in a tone of voice that could almost be mistaken for genuine caring, and said, "Did I hit you?" She said, "No, but you almost did." I gave her a smirk and barked, "Almost!!!" What a worthless concept, don't get me started. At the same time she appears to be getting out of her truck, possibly to come over and kick my skinny ass, or possibly to get assistance from the cops (smirk), I looked up and saw the light turn green and pulled away normal as could be, but everyone else just stayed there. When I made the first right turn, into the heart of the Seventh Ward, I looked into my rear view mirror and saw the big-headed lady, and the police cruiser, cruise on by.
At the stop sign at Dorgenois Lance made me turn around and look at him. "Look Mr. Jim, look, while you was talking, I was doing this to her," and he screws up his face into that of a hideous gargoyle and sticks his tongue out. Always travel with backup.
Hootie Hoo, The Confessor 6.24.99
It wasn't like I was reading to her or anything, she was just lounging on the corner of the bed, taking a break from being a Spice Girl Super Model, Dominique was.
Perky look over the left shoulder, perky look over the right shoulder, and proceed across the room with exaggerated hip movement is the way it's done. With Super High Heeled Boots two sizes too large.
It was a lesson learned walking in without knocking, catching Dominque I guess you could say literally in bed with me. Upon entering, Erica locked eyes with me first thing because I can be seen in bed first thing walking into this house. I smiled pitifully as a greeting and Erica responded same.
Its not like I was reading to her though. Because I wasn't. I was reading to myself I'm not ashamed to say. Dominique was just resting; however unfortunate a picture was framed because of this I cannot express from my end. Even though it appears to be just what I'm trying to do.
In related news: you gotta like Peter Norton buying those Salinger love letters; not that I blame Joyce Maynard for selling them; after all she was minding her own eighteen-year-old self ( 27 years ago) when the master seduced her. Of course, he was seduced by her writing. Anyway, no shock to the faithful reader, you could see it coming--For Esme' With Love and Squalor.
Who can figure why people want to be writers, they're such a pitiful lot, so easy to vilify, like personal injury lawyers, and insurance salesmen.
Professional Wrestling is the only laudable career choice for the discriminating seeker. Master P say Hootie Hoo.
As an aside and in closing--although I may refer to you as Brother Paul, and you do indeed receive paycheck from St. Edward the Confessor, your claim to "a ministry" is about as valid as my claim to a "sex life." But let us not let that stop the delusions from taking root.
Finally, consider this. Who is Massive Don?, Sixth Ward, New Orleans, La.
We'll Have No Bananas 6.6.99
There seems to be this temporary lull in the calamity of my budget so when Lance and Shelton asked for ice cream I didn't plead the poverty line but simply made a U-turn into the parking lot of Baskin-Robbins, where a banana split can be had for five dollars.
But I'll be kiss my ass if I'm gonna spend five dollars on a couple of scoops of ice cream and a banana sliced in half long ways. I don't care how far uptown I am. And this, more or less, is what I told Lance when he requested the pricey dessert. I told him he could have the two scoop sundae for three dollars twenty-five cents.
Earlier, at the house, where the three of us men pitifully attempted to plot a course of decisive action, Shelton asked me would I change a five dollar bill into nickels, because that was his preferred denomination for gambling; cards and craps. As luck would have it I had almost exactly five dollars of nickels in my change cup, and I gave him a ziplock bag in which to carry the one hundred nickels. Lance was at the computer playing one of the game demos I had recently downloaded, not the one called Postal which is a top down perspective game in which you control a heavily armed, trench coat wearing, disgruntled employee on a contruction site, and people you shoot bleed, or if merely wounded, pant, very realistically--"I can't...breathe, I can't... breathe."
Miss Liddie, who ran the little store at Rocheblave and Dumaine, and put upon me the curse of children, died awhile back.
A and B 's mom, C, who stabbed cousin D, and then turned herself in to police, has apparently been forgiven, and is out of jail, but frankly, doesn't seem all that happy about it, or anything.
Back at the Baskin-Robbins Shelton has selected a strawberry soda from the cooler and appears to be contemplating payment as he stares at the ziplock baggie full of nickels on the counter, but a youthful, strapping, frattish, young man who seems to be in a hurry assures Shelton he will take care of it. Shelton looks back at me quizzically, uncertain, but with the beginning of a smile, which I finish for him.
I Gave Up Sex, Again
Today I took a break from one of myriad sexual fantasies that make up an average day, and contemplated the fantasy of world peace.
I thought it was just going to be a short break and then I would get back to the routine strokes of my day but it turned out to be an all day thing this break I took.
I started out thinking what fun it would be to be a superhero but I couldn't come up with a good name so I put that thinking away. I then got into the idea of being myself, Mr. Joe Average American, as a promoter of world peace and what a great thing it would be if I could sit down with George W. Bush and talk about the state of the world and eventually convince him to stop his war monger posturing because its really starting to freak out pretty much the entire civilized world.
None of the conjured meetings seemed too plausible but I guess you can only expect so much from fantasy. I went from one imaginary meeting to another, becoming so frustrated and dizzy at one point I thought I might have to give up and go back to having imaginary sex.
In not the first one but the one I happen to be thinking about right this minute I was GW's old pal from highschool checking in with him after years of separate lifestyles. He was president of the United States and I was pretty much just me. He was cool with that though and we were goofing around like old days. We were spoofing hard on those anti-marijuana commercials that are all over the TV. George was pretending to suck on a blunt and then he would pass it my way. We were like stoned teenagers giggling about how impossibly funny is every damn thing in the world. At one point he accidently started World War III and we laughed until we cried, rolling around on the floor out of control. "I just started WWIII," he would guffaw, and I would laugh, "I know man, I know, that's so totally fucked up," and he would laugh back like the devil himself. I got serious then and said to him, you know, old buddy to old buddy, "GW, you really gonna do this thing with Iraq?" He just snorted and gave me that wry homeboy look, locking me seriously eye to eye. He pursed his lips and began nodding slowly, first with just his head and then the movement overtook his whole upper body. I had a sinking feeling and right then he burst out laughing again, pointing at me accusingly, "I had you Slim, I had you man. I'ayn gonna do that Slim. It is true, I"m just posturing, but it's for a reason. I got a few agendas going on and for the benefit of all things going, I gotta appear somewhat whacked. But I'ayn gonna hurt nobody." I looked back at him feeling uncertain, with a grimace of a smile. "So you're not going to kill babies, or advocate a situation that will certainly lead to the death of many babies, because man, those babies ain't done nobody no harm yet and..." He interrupted to inform me that it is not a small number of people worldwide who given the opportunity would not hestitate at killing multitudes of Americans, old, young, black and white. I told him I knew that and that for myself, under dire circumstances, would also kill in order to stay alive, but this Iraq thing seems too far out there, too contrived. It feels like such a certain defying of logic that even the most simple of us simpletons can't line up behind it." "I have my supporters now," he reminded me. "I know brah, I'm not saying you don't, but worldwide now, you got to look around, the numbers against you are becoming so overwhelming. I mean you might go on TV tonite and try to make a moral case for this war but its going to be hard for you. You've strayed too far from that anti-terrorist agenda which as a goal a great many more people world-wide would be behind. You are now becoming that which doesn't even need to be spun that hard to appear evil. You are starting to look like that which you pretend to despise. That's what it looks like brah, I mean to Joe Average American..." He ended this scenario by telling me he would give me a sign in tonite's speech by saying the words "nobody wants to go to war," and that that would be how I knew everything was gonna be ok. Its my fantasy.
In another one we were yup buddies out on the ranch. We didn't really know each other but we knew some of the same people and had hunted and fished the same places. He told a story about his dogs which reminded me of a dog story. I said, "yeah, out on my place near Bastrop there was this Border Collie we called Girlie. Girlie moved around freely among the area ranches and we all considered her our friend. She was a good dog. She was top dog. Through rape or just poor planning Girlie became pregnant once and then over the years pregnant again and again, possibly inbreeding at times, and after several years of this there was a small mongrel pack which followed her around. They were like a small nation unto themselves and although they were not without fault, their faults were by and large, forgivable.
One day a pit bull named Judy, who had been banned from the city for some anti-social behaviour, was introduced into the community. From the get-go they were enemies, their breeds too far apart to find common ground. One day I found Girlie l lying in the tall grass by the pond with part of her throat ripped out and I thought she would surely die, but she didn't. She disappeared for a week and when she came back there was a new order. Judy was top dog and Girlie was second, even though Girlie had been around much longer. For awhile it looked like this would work out ok because afterall, Judy would not venture far from master's home and this left Girlie with her many acres of territory. Months later I was down at the pond again when I saw Girlie running full speed from master's house, Judy right behind her, literally nipping at her heels. When they reached the pond and were out of running room, Girlie turned and faced her aggressor with teeth bared. All of a sudden four more from her pack lifted up from where they sat in the grass and joined the fight, always one biting into Judy's hamstring while the others traded off on the frontal assault. Except for Girlie, they were a motley crue, the one's nobody'd take at the pound. In the end there was blood all around but it was Judy who limped away in retreat that day. Over the years the cast stayed pretty much the same until Judy started having babies, and then, with some regularity and no big hoopla, the pack would capture a puppy, take it to the pond, and torture it to death. Thusly, order was maintained." GW looked at me hard after I finished that story and appeared to be thinking of so many things at once he found himself rendered speechless. But after a few moments he belched loudly, giggled almost girlishly, and asked me was I ready for beer and barbecue. I was.
This went on all day, these little skits with the most powerful man in the world. One time I was reasoning with him, other times pleading, offering votes, or supporting hateful programs in exchange for a no-war promise. In the end I don't think he got me, and I never really felt like I got him either. But we were talking, for what that's worth, and we had a few laughs. I hope we are all wrong about him. I hope the things we say and think about him turn out to be so much hyperbole. I hope the puppies don't suffer.
One More Saved 6.29.99
There are many ways to minister to the at risk inner city youth. Walking around money can turn into dollars of the devil if we are not diligent in our efforts to shape and mold the spending habits of those less fortunate than ourselves.
"That a side bet."
And with four flips of the coin I take the young Shelton's last five dollars.
"You cleaned me out Mr. Jim."
"Don't you feel better, lighter, more free, without all that money tempting you towards the way of the devil?"
"I don't really know what you mean, but I wouldn't say I feel better, no."
"I have unshackled you from the burden that money causes in each of our lives."
"Mama D give me that money to buy lunch with."
"And now you've lost it gambling, a hard earned lesson, but one I'm sure you will carry to your last days. Thanks is not necessary. Just to be a part of your enlightenment is enough for me."
"Can I have those burritos in the fridge?"
"You may have them all my son, feed yourself and your friends with the bountiful burritos which I happen to find nasty."
"Thank you, Mr. Jim."
"Thanks is not necessary"
Itís Like Art 5.19.99
Sat out with a beer, drank half of it and then started raking up the trash in the street. Terrioues crossed over and ask me if I wanted help. I gave him a rake and he began sweeping cups, candy and condom wrappers, potato chip bags, beer and soft drink cans, and bottles, and chicken bones, and crawfish heads, and cigarette butts, and fast food sacks, and the occasional dirty diaper, into small piles.
Monk called out for me from across the street and I waved at him before he disappeared inside the Magnolia. He came back out and crossed in front of a gold Lexus while popping the top on his budweiser and said he thought I only cleaned up on Sundays. I told him "and Tuesdays now, and tomorrow into the next block, and the day after that--the world." Monk wasn't drunk enough to think I was funny and I wasn't funny enough to generate the laugh without help. After shaking his head he said, "all right Slim, I'll talk at you later."
Fermin called across from Mama D's steps and asked did I want some help. I just looked at him so he came over and ask me face to face. I told him he could use the two rakes like claws and I would hold the trash bag.
Shelton came over and leaned against the wrought iron fence and watched.
Erica showed up and began marching up and down the sidewalk, stabbing the air with an imaginary glittery red baton.
Bryan Henry is bent down in front of his bicycle examining the aluminum foil wrapped around his spokes, that is, his custom rims. "They look shop (sharp)," Erica thinks.
In front of Esnard Villa I tell Fermin its worth five bucks to me if he pulls the weeds growing from the cracks in the curb, and gives one of the dollars to Terrioues. Fermin begins vigorously pulling weeds and when he gets to telephone pole I caution him to be careful of the stickers growing at its base. Shelton, sitting on the porch now, said, "they can't hurt him," a wise crack in reference to the hard cracked calluses that entirely cover Fermin's palms.
Bryan Henry drives his bike around the corner to the snowball stand and returns with a foil wrapped paper plate holding two chili dogs. Bryan spills chili on his school shirt and Shelton remarks, "oooh, that won't come out."
I sit back down on the porch and finish my beer and then go inside and get a bottle of Gatorade. When I come out with it Erica wants to know--"what that is?"
Terrioues points to the letters on the bottle and spells, "G-A-T-O-R-A-D-E."
"Did you say "D," or "B?" Erica asks.
Terrioues is not sure.
"You have to watch out for those b's cuz they can look like d's."
"This is true," I said.
"You have to watch out for the b," Erica repeats, seriously.
"Because it can look like the d," Terrioues finishes for her.
"And this e can sometimes look like the y, " Erica said.
Terrioues and I both look at the bottle at the same time and he is the more gracious as he begins explaining, "if you take this part and bend it, and then open this part up, and turn it all around, you see how it can look like the y Mr. Jim?"
Shelton asks if he can borrow the grip pliers and when I return with them he begins emergency repairs on Bryan Henry's bicycle. They have the bike turned upside down on the sidewalk, the chain is hanging loose. Shelton begins loosening nuts as Bryan Henry worriedly strokes the back tire. Terrioues is on one side of the bike, Erica the other, both of them quietly attentive. Occasionally Shelton has to yell at Erica to move back, she too close. The chain is back on and Bryan Henry fingers it for tightness. "It too loose, Shelton?" "Nah, you want it like that, with some play." Bryan Henry pulls out into the street, pops a wheelie, and does a couple of quick figure 8's in front of an oncoming Toyota Camry.
Shelton picks up one of the pennies from the pile of money that Erica left near me for safekeeping, and inserts it so that it is standing up between the jaws of the pliers. "I don't know if that can be done, Shelton, I've never seen anyone bend a penny before." Shelton moves off to the side of the porch where he disappears after bending down to perform some secret maneuvers. After much grunting and scraping, and clanking, Shelton stands tall and hands me a thoroughly mangled but unmistakably bent penny. I raid the penny drawer inside and bring him back a pile of pennies. He perfects a method and quickly has ten pennies bent in various fashions.
"Its like art now. You can sell them for ten cents a piece."
"You wanna buy one for ten cents, Mr. Jim?"
"Well no, I have the original, which after you make a name for yourself will be worth big money. I'll hold onto it until the art lovers can stand it no longer, and then I will perform what is known in the business world as 'price gouging,' and I will reap the huge rewards that this afternoon we are sowing."
"You wanna buy one Erica?"
"What that is, Shelton?"
Yo No Quiero Skywalker 5.13.99
"I just don't see why we should drive so far to be around people like that," I was explaining to Shelton on Saturday as he pleaded his case for going back to the beach in Waveland, Mississippi.
"I don't want to go back around all them racists neither, " Lance said.
"Me neither," Glynn said.
"I just want to go swimming," Shelton said.
"And its not even a very good beach, I mean you don't start seeing quality beach until Gulf Shores, or Pensacola, but Mississippi ain't got no beaches..."
"We can go to them places?" Shelton said.
"No, they're too far away."
I was feeling pretty good about my progress with the yo-yo, got that rock the cradle down pat, and some other tricks too have me seeming pretty damn slick with a string, but Lance just did me a little instructive exhibition, not rubbing it in or anything, more just an underlining with pencil the fact he was explaining the other day--"you'll never be good as me, Mr. Jim."
And talk about gifts that keep on giving--that stuffed rat my brother Paul sent me has been quietly guarding my right flank for the past several days, waiting for the moment that came minutes ago when Erica, who, like Glynn, thinks it is a dog, picked it up and squeezed under its belly causing that clever rat to pipe--yo quiero Taco Bell.
It is nothing more than coincidence that has me sneaking out of here twenty minutes later for a burrito and taco supreme. The dining room was frigid, and the muzac was humming a teeth gritting rendition of the Star Wars theme.
Southwest Winds 5.9.99
I have this soft bristled scrub brush attached to an extension pole which I have been using to clean the mildew growing on the side of the house and as I prepare to finish the last long side Jermaine yells from across the street, where he has been washing cars since eight in the morning. "I do that too now Mr. Jim." I just nod, but suddenly I have to know, "how much would you charge?" Jermaine starts scratching his chin and we all know he's never washed a house before so I give him the easy out and say, "you could watch me finish this side, get an idea of how I like it done and then maybe you could bid on the job next time." He nods, and says, "yeah, I'd have to walk around the house, get a better idea of what's up and all." I will say the work ethic he displays washing cars across the street is none too shabby. Contrary to many around him he does not appear to be afraid of hard work.
Erica comes over to help me wash the house. Glynn is right behind her, says,
"Happy late birthday, Mr. Jim."
"Thank you, Glynn."
"If you could have anything you wanted for your birthday, what would it be?"
"Well, I already got the stuffed rat I was longing for."
"Stuff'd rat? Who give you a stuff rat?"
"Where he get it?"
"That a little dog, Mr. Jim, that ain't no rat."
"So you say."
"Well, if you could have anything else."
"Glynn, I would just like for all the little children of the world to hold hands in a field of harmony, and for there to be no fighting amongst them, and joy, let there be joy in Mudville and every other place too..."
"For real, Mr. Jim."
"I'd like a yo-yo."
"I can do that, I'll be right back," and he runs off across the street.
Erica says, "How old you is, Mr. Jim?"
"I'm still just five, but I be six..."
"...in September, I know when your birthday is. What do you want for your birthday this year."
Erica smiles a smile still missing those two front teeth and says, "I can't tell you, and I can't tell Miss Amanda either."
"Why is that?"
"Because ya'll just gonna know."
Fermin shows up. "You had a birthday?"
"Past, or coming up?"
Fermin frowns. "You want a milky way?"
"Yes," I say.
He was probably banking on the other answer because he responds, "I don't have any money."
Glynn comes back from the Magnolia with a yo-yo, presents it to me and says proudly, "Happy birthday Mr. Jim."
"I was gonna get him a milky way but I didn't have no money," Fermin says defensively.
"Ima helpin' him wash the house," Erica says.
Lance shows up doing the latest yo-yo tricks.
"I have my yo-yo now buster, I'm gonna show you something later on, how to yo-yo like you never seen," I say.
"You'll never be good as me, Mr. Jim."
"We'll see about that Mister Buster."
"Mister Buster," Fermin laughs.
Its true though, I'll never be as good as Lance. I give Glynn a twenty and ask him to get me the boneless chicken plate over at the China Inn. "And get yourself something but bring me back the change."
I retire to the porch with my lunch, surrounded by Erica, Glynn, Lance, Fermin, Terrioues, and Dominique; Shelton shows up and apologizes for misusing the water spigot last night. Robert comes barreling up the steps but is held back by the other kids who know I don't like to be crowded. Kojak walks by carrying baby Jeanine; little Clifford dawdling behind.
The car wash boys are taking a break, drinking heineken, and smoking a fat blunt.
The dumpster is overflowing.
Winds are out of the southwest at ten miles per hour.
"I like to take something that's known and add a little to it," Shelton said, after stepping out of the car at the Wendy's drive through where I had just ordered four medium frosties.
"Do that thing with your head," I said, wondering if the police car in front of us was paying attention to us behind him. "What do you call that? Rock the cradle with your head? How about cradlehead?"
"Cradlehead," Hunter laughed.
"And what do you call that?" A horizontal loop pinched off with the remaining string acting as a shortened yo-yo.
Hunter said, "that's the fishing pole."
"And that rock the cradle you do with that little flip out at the end, what's that?"
Hunter said, "that's a remix."
The police car pulled out onto Carrollton Street and Shelton got back in the car. "Mr. Jim, when we get near the river or a pond or something I'll show you walk the dog across the water," Shelton bragged.
The lady handed me four frosties all stuck in a gray recycled tray with four spoons individually wrapped in plastic and a bunch of yellow napkins. "I'll give these napkins to Erica because I'm sure she'll need them," Shelton said.
Erica did not pick up a lick of trash today and girls don't go on Sunday trips but she made her appeal anyway. From across the street she yelled, "Mr. Jim, I can come?" I just shook my head as I always do and she went into a pout as she always does and I assumed that was that. But a few minutes later Tesa, Shelton's sister and Erica's birth mother, just out of her teenage years, and only recently giving another stab at being the caregiver of five-year-old Erica, comes marching purposefully across the street and asks me will I take Erica "because she inside crying." I'm not
especially moved by that fact but more by Tesa's presence and this rare acknowledgement that Erica is in fact--her daughter. And I said, "yes of course I'll take her," at which point Tesa said, "thank you," and marched back across the street.
We had already been to City Park, where Shelton and Hunter played one on one basketball while I explained to Erica the functions of all the buttons and knobs in the car. "...and that one makes the dashboard light dimmer or brighter, and that one operates the ice cream maker, you push that panel and
then turn this knob over here on the radio and then slide this vent lever back and forth and the ice cream will usually come out through this hole right here." Erica's response was to stare at me blankly with raised eyebrows, which seems
vaguely, or overwhelmingly, familiar to me.
Cruising up Carrollton to its awkward beginning and then making that frightening left turn onto St. Charles where you don't have to stop for anybody but feel like you should, and I'm thinking--what a fine day this is--bright sun, clean air, the trees lining the streets around town are spring green, the spanish moss looks blue, not gray, the temp is right at
seventy, and the humidity is so gone chapstick is required. And a parking space long enough for a stretch limo right in front of Audubon Park. I brought the dented, battered, leaky Ford Festiva to a fluidly sudden stop. "Everyone out," I demanded. "Let's not be shy."
"You know that ain't my problem," Shelton said.
As we entered the park the distractions became instantly obvious. "All right fellas, now it's your God given duty to look but don't stare and don't make a lot of goofy comments," I said referring to the two sets of full and barely concealed breasts which were practically slapping us in our faces.
At the high-tech jungle-gym in the upscale Audubon Park, Hunter sat and ate the rest of his frosty, Erica did the slide, and Shelton discovered he could do a pretty nice Jackie Chan-like maneuver.
Taking the shortcut through the golf course I said, "Ya'll get off the green, some guys are waiting to tee-off over there."
After we crossed the bridge, looked at the fishies, noticed mutiple haloes around our reflections in the water, spit, threw rocks, and intimidated passersby, Shelton climbed a tree, Hunter studied flora by the creek bank, and Erica made known her need to pee. As she crab-walked at a leisurely pace with her fist down between her legs I explained the inappropriateness of her behavior.
By the bathrooms some people were having a crawfish boil and Erica and I stared at a large collander full of live ones awaiting their boiling fate. A five-year-old white kid wanting to act in charge was laying down multiple lines of crap. But for a fleeting glance Erica was not aware of his superfulously vociferous existence. Her eyes were glued to the hundreds of squirming, animated, crawfish claws.
We left Audubon and headed for the Riverwalk park by the zoo, appropriately located by the Mississippi River.
Hunter lamented his lack of fishing pole, Erica and I sat under a big tent and played this game where you toss a coin, close one eye, say the first word that comes to mind, and then sing a song about it, and Shelton stood along the edge of the tent watching a group of thirty-something black professionals
who apparently all owned mustangs--play football, drink beer, and barbeque sausage. Although not shy, I noticed him mustering up the courage to ask one of the guys if he could join in the tossing around of the football. A man said "sure" and Shelton came over grinning ear to ear and gave me his yo-yo to hold. He then went back and stood at the edge of the tent waiting for someone to acknowledge him by tossing him the ball, but no one did that, so after a while he came over and I tossed him his yo-yo.
On the way home, at every stoplight, Shelton would open his door and walk that dog down Magazine. He would make disparaging remarks about every Ford Mustang we would see, finally coming to the conclusion, "there's just to many
Musing With A BB Gun
One day I might look out and see four apparently healthy dogs sniffing around the house and think what a shame what a marvel the existence of these wild inner-city animals, if only they had somebody who loved them, and the next day I've chosen sides (to hell with Love or the lack of it) all uppity about my own personal losses and predators be damned I strategically plan a revenge which is mostly just me with a bb gun shooting at not exactly helpless animals. The sound they make when hit is "yelp." When I feel the need to or can justify the protection of Shorty these yelps are nothing but a noise to me. Other times these yelps make me feel--egocentric as it sounds--as if I've been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the very idea of which implies so much affluence of choice as to make me tend towards a guilt over the abuse of my power. Power. Ha. Run away doggy, run away.
Is All Good, Friday 4.3.99
Even well educated as you all are, you are probably not aware that it does not have to be raining for there to exist a measure of 100% humidity. The New Orleans air is fully saturated today; the skies are gray; the temp is 70; the season is called spring; the sparrows have fluttering sex on the power lines, and Jermaine waits patiently for Beulah to rise from her slumber and move her car away from the entrance to the parking lot, so he can begin his car washing business on this last Good Friday before the beginning of the
third millenium AD.
This end of the block provides overflow parking for The Barbershop, and there is no weekend of business for haircutters that exceeds Easter Weekend. Cars began parking at seven this morning, and with Cadillac Shelton parking his spare Buick on this end of Dumaine, that lost space only adds to the problem. Which is why Bryan Henry's mom's car is parked in front of Van and Beulah's house, and why Beulah's car is parked in front of the driveway.
Jermaine, who hopes to take advantage of the increased traffic flow, is waiting on Van and Beulah's steps, with Corey on one side of him, and a toddler in her Easter Weekend dress on the other side. Jermaine is wiping sticky donut crumbs from the little girl's hands with a paper napkin, being as thorough as if he were shining the chrome rims on a Lexus sedan. The little girl who turns out to be one of his children seems to appreciate the effort, but still wipes her hand along the crisp fabric of her dress, before eagerly accepting the carton of chocolate milk Jermaine offers.
The doorbell begins ringing a little before noon; it will ring, with a combination of secret knocks, and glass tapping, endlessly throughout the day, until such a time when I answer with--"What?! what?! what?!" This evening the unlucky recipient of my wrath, on his fourth visit of the day, is
Lance. He has won this unlucky lotto more than once recently so I try to be gentle, not wanting him to think my disatisfaction is singular to his being. I try math, hoping to convince Lance that if he will just do the math, multiply that is, all the kids who have been on this porch today by the
number of times he himself has been here, then surely he will see why, at eight o'clock this evening, I am done, fed up, tired of interruptions, and wish to see or hear no more children (my tone suggests, ever), this evening. Lance is cool about it, and goes away. I close the door, feeling like an asshole, and if omniscience is allowed here, Lance is stepping down from the porch muttering, "asshole."
Jesus And The Pine Cones 3.18.99
In local news, an eleven-year-old was held up at gunpoint and robbed of $1.35 a few blocks from here at Rocheblave and Lafitte. Jacque Lewis, who lives at Rocheblave and Orleans, a block away from the crime scene, was heard to exclaim, "I don't know jack."
In seemingly unrelated news, volunteers prepare pignolati, bits of fried dough held together with caramelized sugar that represent the pine cones Jesus played with as a child.
Kojack and 2-year old son, Peanut, were in the block yesterday. Peanut runs up the steps, plops himself down next to me and responds to my greeting with--"No."
In the bright sun across the street, newly released from jail, G's mom, Annie, holds Kojack's baby girl, Jeanine. Jeanine cries.
"I know this is our first meeting so let me just say what a pleasure it is to meet you."
"So much negativity, I think we should accentuate the positive."
"I can make you, on account of I am a grown up with superior brain power."
"Just watch me."
Kojack in his 626 with Texas plates practices the art of the deal. Jeanine cries. Peanut is about to be tricked.
Across the street, Hunter fakes left, reverse dribbles behind the back right, stutter steps, and drives left, stops short of the basket and sinks a ten foot jump shot.
On the hitman's steps, a kid from J 's posse rolls a joint using regular Zig Zags. Just as sure as blunt rolling became commercialized with honey-dipped leaf-like wrappers sold in stay fresh pouches, kids on the street revert to the more common cigarette papers.
"I am nothing, but you are the great Peanut."
Kojack instructs his associate, "Get the fuck away man, this got nothing to do with you. Go on, get your sorry ass up the sidewalk."
Annie shifts Jeanine to her right arm, Jeanine cries. Kojack yells across, telling Annie to bring the baby over. Kojack admonishes Annie for holding Jeanine face up in the bright sun. "Little babies don't like that, why you do that?, give her to me." Jeanine stops crying. Kojack, standing below the elevated porch, stands Jeanine up on the porch so that she is eye level with him. He coos and cuddles with her, and she drools on his head.
Shelton drives left, defended closely by Hunter. Shelton trips, falling, throws up a desperate fade away, scores.
J takes a small hit, passes it on. The exhaled smoke is a cloud obscuring the faces of boys with caps turned sideways and backwards on their heads. Boys who advertise Nike, and FuBu, and Tommy Hilfiger. Boys who know little or nothing about the Yankees, or the Angels.
Hallie approaches and I tell her again why I don't like her to use the phone. "About an hour after you use the phone yesterday I get a call from a man wanting to know what I want and who I am. Calling me and asking that. And I have to start sounding rude, talking like--I am the number you called, this is Dumaine, blah, blah, blah, so even if you didn't leave this number on a beeper, everybody's got Caller ID these days, it's a nightmare, I hate
"Man shouldn't call and ask who you are," Hallie agrees.
I look right and Kojack is gone, back in his car, which he moves up the block so his associate will stay out of his business. Jeanine is nowhere to be seen, but is probably inside Mama D's.
Six-year old Erica is approaching, home from Phillis Wheatly Elementary.
"I will never amount to spit."
Erica seems surprised. "You know Peanut, Mr. Jim?"
"Well, I've been knowing who he is, but this is the first time we have talked."
Erica hugs Peanut, says to him, "I love you."
Kojack appears out of nowhere and says, "Tell Erica you love her, Peanut."
Peanut says, "Ruv U Eca."
G comes over and asks to borrow the football. A detailed Ford Explorer pulls up to the curb and Annie pokes her head in, talks to an old boyfriend in dress clothes. G and I overhear about her failing of a drug test. The man agrees with her at some point--"Yes, nobody's perfect."
Looking across to the basketball court, I recognize none of the young adult players in a heated three on three. Shelton comes across with a tennis ball, gives it to Peanut. We play catch. Peanut can't catch but has a hell of an arm.
The sun's too hot across the street, more people are crossing over.
Hallie is on the payphone at the corner.
I yell to a child I barely know and tell him to keep a toddler I've never seen before from walking out into the street.
Erica asks to borrow a jump rope.
Jesus plays with his pine cones.
Redneck Reunion 2.9.99
Gelti sold a spec on Bonita Bay, English Turn, and the new owners are adding built in bookcases, and some other shit they gotta have. So we're back over there. The beautiful woman next door had her baby girl yesterday, this I heard the husband yell across to lady neighbor at seven a.m., as he departed in mercedes.
Went to a parade tonight, low key, the weather is perfect.
On the way to English Turn this morning I see Don Lemonwhite's green GMC with camper turn onto Gen. DeGaulle. I slow down some and wait for him to catch up. He pulls even and with windows down we yell nonsense at each other at 6:30 a.m. He doesn't know enough goofy people, and neither do I, so we treasure each other. Even though I'm a nigger lovin' hippie, and he's a Mississippi Redneck. We haven't worked together in months, and since Bossman is giving up Terrell's work, we will now see each other infrequently. We are stopped at the intersection right before the Intracoastal Waterway bridge. We are two of about eight or ten cars at the stoplight. Don reverses into my bumper, as he has done numerous times before, but this time jumps outta his truck and starts waving his arms over his head like he just can't believe some idiot bumped into him, and I'm lolling out the window of the beat to shit little red Festiva, laughing, at 6:30 a.m. on my way to work. The light is respectful of our reunion and we talk the weather, me sitting in my car, and Don standing in the street. The green light says our goodbye, and as Don gets back into his truck he says, "thanks, you made my day."
Likewise I'm sure.
Brother, Please Be Quiet 2.8.99
I have no idea from where I was coming but at the corner of Orleans and Carrollton I was almost all alone. Three boys, not really gangsters, but stoned out of their minds and carelessly carefree, are sitting on the broken down parade barricades just to the left of a car (me) sitting at the light in the left lane, riverbound. I am not completely oblivious to the spectacle that is me driving the beat to shit Festiva, a car of a size perfectly at home and somewhat respected in a place like Mexico City or some other developed third world, but pretty much an embarrassment anywhere in the USA. The ego unfettered is a dangerous thing, so the little red car is really this thing I got going for me. And me and the three boys are the only inhabitants of planet Earth. There is no traffic, of any kind.
"Look at that little car, brah, heh, heh," middle boy announces to left and right end.
Okay, so I'm not really completely dope free, and driving around town early Sunday morning with a self-concious weed high is a thing I still try to enjoy now and again. But I'm wearing cheap sunglasses so my condition is not as obvious as that of the three boys.
"Yeah its little," I say, obviously tired of being quietly self-concious, and also remembering the gangbanger who on Friday said "look at the white boy," as Van and I left Dumaine to fish the river. I rolled the window down and turned to look slightly behind and to the left at the dred-headed bitch who would not return eye contact, and said something lame like, "you ain't color blind, what else you got going?" Van was quietly occupying the 6' 3," two hundred pound space to my right and I can only imagine that he lamented his proximity to a white boy who talked so freely, and stupidly. I should be more prudent.
Like I was telling PVA after we parked on Rampart near the Iberville projects so she could see one of the cemetaries she had read about in her travel guide. The one for which the guide suggests caution and warns of modern day outlaws. And one of two which claim to be the burial site of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
In trying to figure why I obsess on the crime angle of this city when describing it to visitors I can only count off in my mind the number off intersections to which are tied horrendous crimes. Bloody crimes that ended with death(s). Perhaps most visitors would rather smell the smells and see the sites without my crime scene editorials, but I rarely offer that
Impossible to give even a short tour of this city without passing ten such intersections. And this is just the last few years. Who could give accurate testimony to the life of a New Orleans street corner over a hundred or more years? Horrendous acts and off the meter depravity are inextricable from what makes this city alive, and interesting enough to capture an imagination.
The study of life and death, up close and personal. The historical events emedded in the asphalt covered cobblestone of this city are staggering to consider.
Who spit, shit, shot, (who) on this corner in 1923? 1790? 1897?
Anyway, what I'm telling PVA is that she's been watching the wrong movie if she thinks there are any hero's when it comes to having a loaded gun pointed at your head so, "for the record, if we're jacked, give up all worldly goods with good humor and don't speak unless spoken to. More than a few victims have been unnecessarily shot just because they tried to run away or spoke out of place. My goal will be to live through it, and if necessary, in the event you are not as lucky, I will speak kindly about you to your survivors."
Which all sounds even more like a crock of doodoo when you consider that one, the vast majority of us survives the New Orleans experience, and two, for the second time in three days I am talking stupid shit to members of a rather volatile age group. That 15-25-year old group. And I think I'm getting plain weird with this one because I'm rolling down the window, hanging my arm out, getting conversational. The middle guy is freaking, and goofing, on me; the right end is seeing some merit in my mode of transportation; and the left end is
theatrically nodded out, mouth hanging open, eyes closed, which upon noticing, causes middle guy to break out laughing again, and stuttering a little.
I could have been sympathizing with the middle guy when I asked, "you're too stoned to talk aren't you?" But I wasn't, I was fuckin' with him, and felt like doing it some more but the light changed and I was forced to awkwardly glide away, leaving behind the words of a white cop, "have a nice day, fellas."