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Nonplussing In America
I was never keen on the word "nonplussed." For years I would just read around it; didn't even want to know what it meant. I figured if I ignored it long enough it would just go away and be replaced by a more pleasant-looking word. Now though, in view of current events, I feel that to be in a constant state of nonplus is perhaps the only sane way of being. I think it could become a national trend. I think one day soon this gape-jawed condition may even infect our youth and that it will be a common thing around neighborhoods to hear mothers calling to their children, "Billy, Susy, ya'll quit all that nonplussing around and come in for dinner."
I've been listening to an oldies radio station at work and today was prepared for the worst when the hosts solicited for listeners to call in and give their opinion on the start of this war, baiting the question with the idea of "have we done enough or should we unleash the heavy guns?" These guys are towing the incumbent party line and from past experience with this show and others like it I was prepared for some heavy duty flag waving jingoism. But no one called in. The hosts chummed the waters some more by playing the more awful bits from Jr's speech last night, and then waited for those calls to come pouring in. But no one called in. They played Whitney Houston's Star Spangled Banner, and Ray Charles' God Bless America. Finally someone called--a woman, with apparent time on her hands, and that Southern twang in her voice that one might unfairly associate with conservative politics, or worse, and I was like, oh boy, here we go, the floodgates of nationalism are now open. She said, "I've got a son over in the Middle East, I'm not allowed to say where..."
Last week I was working out of town, north of here, up in Hammond, and Tickfaw, and I had listened to a local country station that had people calling in, waving flags. They were all mostly loaded with the undeniable fact that that bastard Saddam had started all this what with that 9/11 thing, and payback is a mther***ker, so get back Loretta. Maybe nonplussed is too light of a word to describe my bewilderment.
Jesus, I can't even imagine what a true liberal must be feeling. I can't really claim to be a true liberal, as I am on record as backing Bush in his war on terrorism, to the extent that meant capturing (or killing, I wasn't going to quibble) all those responsible for the WTC attack. I was even willing to go so far as to back his blowing up of a country which harbored al Qaeda fugitives (and Afghanistan was a freebie). But Bush doesn't seem to have any interest in blowing up Saudi Arabia, or Syria, or Pakistan, or Lebanon.
Strangely, there is a kind of perverse pleasure in backing the policy of someone whose policies you generally do not respect at all. And I was willing to indulge in perverse pleasure for my country. But this shit with Iraq, excuse me, this shit with Iraq, I'm sorry, this bullshit with Iraq is setting precedent I cannot get behind, even if I do not totally disagree with the ousting of Hussein as a thing that could possibly benefit the greatest number of people.
Mr. Bush, Maureen Dowd today points out that your boy Cheney tries to build you up by saying you're like Reagan, and Reagan said "you've got to be revered and feared," to which Dowd responds--"This crowd [your crowd Mr. Bush] has the fear part down cold. They have a long way to go on the other." Thank you Maureen.
I cringed a little waiting for what the woman on the radio was going to say. The hosts interrupted her with congratulations and prayerful wishes regarding her son and then the woman went on to say that she thinks we got no business being there and this is a big mistake and how she can't make any sense of why we are invading Iraq and that she can only imagine it will make our country less safe and when the one host interrupted and said--but your son must feel differently, she responded that she could not speak for her son but implied no son of hers is a goddamned fool so figure it out for yourself. The host slung a jingoistic fastball at her but she didn't flinch not a little bit and said right back to him that she thought current foreign policy was a path to WWIII. She seemed genuinely fearful.
These morning discussions are a regular part of the station's format and often run for 6 or 10 calls and maybe a real gem of a caller will be replayed throughout the day. But on a day one might have predicted a flood of patriotic response the switchboard was not taxed. If there was one other caller it would have occurred while I briefly worked out of hearing range. Shortly after that though I was near the radio again and nobody else called to refute the words of the mother, all morning. And the hosts dropped the question, played music instead of talking, and jingoism died for a day.
Somebody In Boots
I was getting in a little weed eating before it rains again. The other day the Pentecostals cut the weeds on the part of the L that is visible from their church but not the part that runs next to me. I sometimes let their slovenly behavior influence me to be messy too, as it seems silly to cut my few little weeds when they've got this veritable jungle growing up next to me. If I called and complained they'd probably come mow things down but then I wouldn't have anything to write about.
There is some, uh, urban-type activity in one of the houses across from me, and today while pausing in my weed massacre, one of the gentleman who is part of a newer crowd over there came up and offered to sell me a car battery for ten dollars. I said no thanks I really don't need one and then thought how funny it would be if this guy came in the night and stole my battery so that I would need one. And then I thought maybe this is the guy who did steal my battery many many months ago. So I thanked him for asking, real polite, as an effort to dissuade the gods of irony from making another funny thing happen to me. From across the street before going back inside, the fella said--seven dollars.
For unknown reasons I haven't lately been able to read much so I was happy to get through the New Yorker short story about the caterers with a kid named Pill who bakes magic bread. I then tried the Louise Erdrich in a previous issue but I couldn't make myself pay attention. So I moved on to the Nelson Algren I had started several weeks ago and had placed the bookmark sixty pages into, after what was possibly the beginning of my current long-running attention deficit. It's his first one, from 1935, Somebody in Boots. It is not an easy read. His working title for the novel had been Native Son, but he changed his mind about it and offered the title to his sometimes pal, fellow Chicagoan, Richard Wright. Wright used it and did pretty well.
Somebody in Boots is like a more hard-core, less political, slightly pornographic, less cheerful version of Grapes of Wrath. The protaganist is a nineteen-year old kid named Cass McKay who is learning the ropes of being a rail riding hobo during the depression, and is in and out of whore houses, soup kitchens, and jail for most of the hundred pages I have read so far. Last night in thirty pages he was witness/participant in the gang rape of a black woman, then jumping into a moving train at night he lands on the stomach of a pregnant white woman, causing her baby to be still-born; a little bit later, looking for food in a trash can his hand comes out covered in human excrement; and if none of that is bad enough, in a fit of hunger driven hallucinatory lust, he attempts on his own the rape of a young woman who turns out to be a ten-year old child. I can only guess that Algren knew the reader would not recover from that last scene and so Cass snaps out of it at the last moment, and let's the little girl escape. And there is jail rape and one awful thing after another. As I mentioned, it's not an easy read, but in a sense feels necessary. Like If I were paying attention I could learn something useful regarding the graphic horror story that is mankind.
Without The Harley
Maybe things aren't that bad I thought this morning at 7 a.m. on the back porch of a 5000 square foot home in the walled but not gated community of Southlake, in Kenner La. I have watched over the last several months while working on this and two other nearby homes the complete layout and infrastucture-building of a new neighborhood that is now nothing but hauled in river sand and two parallel streets. Nobody is buying the half-million dollar homes we have finished and so it is encouraging to see that someone with juevos grandes is banking on the future, developing the land behind this last street of finished or nearly finished homes as if we were in a Clinton-era heyday, instead of this Bush-is-a-failure doomsday.
I was acting like Peter Fonda at the campsite, except Jack and Dennis were missing and there were no stand-ins, which is to say I was alone in the treachery of my self- abuse. I use the past to predict the future so I was comfortable in my meager lawlessness. I try to respect the natural order of things even as I am pretty damn smug about being good at what I do. People like my work, and so who are they to question what it is I do in preparation? Of course, there is no future in getting caught so when I Iooked behind me into the house and saw the supervisor coming down the stairs I exhaled fully and dropped whatever it was and walked back into the house. He, yet another Jim in construction, met me just as I came back inside and said, "I slept here last night," which is a joke but one I briefly considered as literal truth because of the hour. It was early for Jim to be on the job. I pictured one after the other at rapid speed the possible scenarios that would account for a grown, moderately successful man to sleep on a construction site. I have a lot of sympathy for whatever it would be. My jugular was pounding visibly as I went through the motions of conversation several hours before I am generally capable of it. I was using too many words. He showed me something upstairs he thought was very important and I assured him the best I could that I would make it look better than it looked now. That's all he wanted. He left. I changed the radio station and went about doing what it is I do for a living.
After The Rainstorm
An ex-lover long ago told me this dream she had about her ex-lover, up on a balcony talking about me, saying--he doesn't talk anymore, as in permanently. As if it mattered, as if it matters. In the context that would be my ex-lover's I guess that dream would mean something more or less simple like I wasn't communicating all that well with her, which in the end, along with a couple of other mechanical issues, is what ended us. And please, not to imply there is anything simple about the ex-lover.
As a sophomore in high school exercising my right to teenage rebellion I would go entire single days determined not to express myself vocally. I thought so much of what was being said by all of us students and teachers was so much noise pollution and at the time I guess I was against it.
Then somewhere somehow shortly after or before I dropped out of The University of Texas, twice (it was too sweet to do just once), I got turned on to the relatively quiet pitter patter of the computer keyboard and I thought this could be me. I had never really loved the clacking typewriter. Then ten years passed and another ten and who cares because it's a long distance race life is, and to those of us who get nipped in the bud, pity, but not so consequential to the overall history of mankind.
Then came mass market Internet and quiet self-indulgence became a thing to embrace by all of us quiet self-indulgent types. We could express ourselves literally, theoretically, to the entire world. In anyway we wished. We don't anymore type or write on paper and send off in envelopes. Which for me is a good thing because the time it would take to lick and seal and address and stamp and physically handle and move a missive to a mailbox would be time I customarily used to reconsider how completely unnecessary it all was. Like water seeking its own level I would be verbosity seeking silence. All this I say and think before--clicking and sending. The regrets I suffer because of this sending I now deal with as expeditiously as possible, figuring, right or wrong, if it hurts, it can't be all bad.
I thought I saw a humpback whale in the vacant Pentecostal lot next door but it was just Shorty hunting for bugs and lizards and mice, only the curve of her spine showing above the ever growing weeds.
After the Pentecostals tore down the dancehall that fronted Iberville they brought in the heavy dozers and one construction dumpster after another to scrape up and haul away the residual foundation material and debris that filled the L shaped lot. One tip of the L fronts Iberville, the other tip fronts Rocheblave. It is a good bit of property, perhaps half an acre, and quite an eyesore when the weeds get to be man-height. Currently the clover-like weeds with small yellow and white flowers are only Shorty-height and provide the beginning of what could be a truly awsome cat jungle. I should begrudge Shorty that?
I saw Kitten shoot out from under my house the other day; she has filled out pretty nicely. Slumming over here I guess for old times sake, she is obviously a kept kitty, probably by Miss Lila Mae. K2, not so kept, was in the backyard today. Like Shorty, she's not afraid of me but...don't make any sudden movements. We talked awhile, or I did, she just looked at me like--hey, remember when? I sure do. That swinging dick The Yellow Bastard came sauntering out from under the house not even aware I was standing on the back steps and I scared him away with my pitifully inept superiority. I don't take to that Yellow Bastard. I haven't seen BigHead in ages, which is not uncommon, and I imagine the day I see him next I will be inexplicably happy, although I know that day may never come. I haven't seen Spinks lately either, although every other time I see Shorty I think I may be looking at Spinks, and am never so sure about anything except when I see them together.
If one was stripped of all temporal and geographical reference points I wonder would one be able to tell the difference between a sunrise and a sunset?
Thin Men On Rocheblave
There is a tall, thin, almost cadaverous-looking white man with sunglasses smoking a cigarette on the bomb cratered Rocheblave sidewalk out front. He is worrying over the Rolls Royce with Mississippi plates parked nearby. He hears the screaming of children let out for recess over at the Pentecostal parking lot/playground and worries himself closer and closer, until finally he finds himself behind the wheel, and backing into my driveway. He pauses there while two more thin white gentlemen, one short and the other tall, approach. The tall man is elderly, with sunken checks. Perhaps once tow-headed, now his mane is the pure white of old age, and pulled back in a ponytail. His jacket is loose fitting and of a heavy dark patterned fabric that doesn't blend all that smoothly with his also dark but thinly textured pants. He speaks to the driver in a voice dipped in plantation Mississippi. He has to bend at the waist and peer into the Rolls Royce interior through the passenger-side window, while trying to tell the driver how to unlock the door. In short time the doors are open. The short thin man gets into the front seat. The other thin man, the third one, the older one, the second tall one, the one with sunken cheeks and a white ponytail, crawls on his knees into the back seat. And they drive away.
Haven't worked yet this week; tomorrow may get in the traditionally shortened Friday.
I've been a junky of the bought VHS lately, meeting up with myself in Wal-Marts and K-Marts all over the greater New Orleans area. Watchu need? Watchu need baby? We got it all on a low down thrift. 2.99 to 9.99. What is it you wanna see? How you wanna feel baby? Yesterday I picked up Zoolander, Quiz Show, Nobody's Baby, She's the One, and Dogtown and Z-Boys.
I just finished watching Dogtown and Z-Boys. Superb. "...,a place where pyromaniacs, junkies, artists, and surfers did excel in symbiotic disharmony."
The woman who previously stole my few little bricks is lurking outside putting something back because I looked out and saw her on the sidewalk, where the first thin man was standing and smoking when I began this. I recognized those particular pieces of lumber in her grocery cart and so I went out to the front porch and said--Hey, nuh-uh, and she said oh you want these baby, and I said yeah I want everything under my house, and she said oh I'm sorry and I said ok please put them back, although really, concerning those two pieces of wood, I'm not sure I care if she takes them or not. And anyway, I am frankly amazed those two pieces of wood have lasted this long.
Email From Near Galvez
I am in the throes of a mild but certifiable panic attack based upon the most obvious fact that I did not buy anywhere near enough crawfish to suit my current needs. Please excuse the ageism/sexism but I bought like a little girl's portion or something. What was I thinking?
Now there's a live brass band jamming fierce on Galvez, even though its not much more than a whisper in this room four blocks away.
I've never had a TV during Mardi Gras before and not like its a desirable thing but they broadcast the parades on local TV and I switched on for a minute and got to see our new mayor, Ray Nagin, obviously very comfortable, if not drunk to the gills, dressed ever so nattily in a Buffalo Soldiers uniform and hat, perform the toast to King Rex (a different prominent local white male every year). But even better than his heartfelt, if slightly ill-timed and slurrily delivered toast was his comment over the PA system to US senator Mary Landrieu, who is riding in the King's court float preceding the king. She's dressed in that Carnival royalty costume that is associated with affluent white Carnival, the glittery gold smock? dress/mini-skirt over white tights, and she's kneeling down and looking as she is capable of looking, kinda if not overtly sexy, and Ray says lookit Mary Landrieu coming down the street lookins so fine. And then he tries to cover himself by adding--wearing that buffalo soldier suit but she ain't wearing it, he is. Anyway, he's very popular now, and they're both democrats, and he didn't do anything but make a drunken man's compliment on the last day set aside to overtly celebrate drunkeness. And I would like to add she did too look fine from my angle, and Red Stripe count.
It got quiet again. With car horns and motorcycle engines. And now the vocal protesations of a small throng, all muffled by my attention span.
After The Crawfish
There goes a proud guy walking up Iberville between Rocheblave and Dorgenios wearing the biggest damned beads Mardi Gras has to offer. Those beads are the size of tennis balls, but shiney like glass, in the traditional purple, green, and gold colors. They're kinda obscene those beads, but anybody'd be proud (and slightly embarrassed) to catch them. Looks like he's just dropping them in his car parked along Iberville between the Pentecostal church and school. That's the thing with those big beads, you can't really move around very comfortably while wearing them, or so I imagine.
It's gotten really quiet; sometimes the bands just march without playing. And sometimes the parades just break down and stop for long periods. Somebody just now pushed the envelope and parked technically in front of my driveway but still allowing me an ample diagonal escape route. That's why I got the day's provisions early. The only other place I would go today I can walk to, although it is unlikely I will choose to do so. I have barely dented the Red Stripe six pack, and half the crawfish are left.
Now some revelers, now some quiet, car door slamming. Brass band playing on passing tape, fades.
A panel van drives along Rocheblave with blaring verbal advertisement for its ownself--WWOZ, public radio, 90.7. Quiet until hip hop rides the doppler. Drums. Aretha. Under gray glaring skies. Watchdog barks a two beat, Killer grumbles, Sheba raises an eyebrow.
Is That Spike Lee?
People are starting to park on the street. The Zulu parade with this year's grand marshall, Spike Lee, is winding its way across town, and will officially end about four blocks from here at Galvez and Canal. Earlier I went out to my car to get an empty frappuccino bottle from the floorboard so I could check my spelling of frappuccino, and I could smell that unmistakable charcoal and lighter-fluid smell from barbecue grills all over the area.
I tried to get into Carnival this year. I walked down Canal to the French Quarter on Saturday, had a dozen oysters and a beer on Iberville, tried my damnedest to embrace the drunken humanity all around me, tried to be happy about the few bare breasts I saw, slipped into Harrah's Casino and like an unhappy rat in a maze tried to find my way out again, went into Canal Place and tried not to look at myself in the mirrored elevator, had some sweet and sour shrimp, went back out, stood in the middle of Canal Blvd., lit up what appeared to be a cigarette right in front of but downwind from the police van, caught two or three floats and a couple of marching bands of the all female Iris parade, elbowed a guy in the head in self-defense, took a few pictures, became discouraged, and went back to Canal Place to see the 3:30 showing of Polanski's Pianist. I was really thirsty and so instead of paying three dollars for a bottle of Cinema water, I went back to the Chinese place at the food court and got a 10 cent cup of water. Before I bought my ticket I asked the guy taking tickets if he was going to let me bring my water in. He said he really wasn't supposed to encourage that but...maybe if I hid it. He watched me buy a ticket and slide the cup down to my side and pretended to be befuddled when I misdirected his attention by saying, look, there goes Denzel Washington.
Now I can hear the marching bands for Zulu on Galvez. Today it's better if I just stay here and imagine that I'm missing all the fun. I'm not making the greatest use of this space, really. On Friday I had even done a little Travelocity searching for low last minute fares to someplace other than this, set up an account and asked for email reminders when fares to such and such got below such and such. Next year maybe I'll leave town and somebody else can stay here for Mardi Gras. Free New Orleans Mardi Gras lodging. Eat that Googlebot.
Twenty years ago or so I was going through a phase, or so people hoped, where I found myself in trouble with the law more than ocassionally. Even before that, by a few years, say like when I was seventeen, a cop in suburbia N. Dallas, while looking at my driver's license, asked me my name and address, and I responded, "isn't it on my license?" The cop did not beat me up but he gave me a pretty good verbal reaming. So, no matter how daft a cop may appear, just answer the question. Over the next ten years though I made many mistakes, and learned something about police, even coming to respect them in some measure, you know, for the small things--the loose cuffing, the placing of a lit cigarette between my lips, or the bit of conversation about nothing in particular. Inside of jails I saw cops beat up citizens who acted out. To my way of thinking, by the time you end up in jail, the game is over, you are a loser, shut up, learn from mistakes, try to do better next time. Do not EVER disrespect a cop inside of his own jail. Gee, this is sounding like a manual. What am I--anticipating the breakdown of society? Do I think there is some scenario looming where rank and file citizens are going to need this advice? No, that's not it. I'm just thinking out loud.
I was at a grocery store this morning at 8 buying beer and vodka, a few crawfish, some hamburger, some cheese, some orange juice, and some ruby red grapefruit juice. The sheriff's deputy who provides security for the store and sees me almost every morning at 6:15 buying bottled vanilla frappuccino, a banana, and the almond joy candy bar, recognized me out of my work clothes and said, "not working today?" I expressed some grumpiness towards Mardi Gras, he concurred, said, "yeah, I hope it rains." Before this guy came to provide security, me and the early morning cashier used to watch guys come in off the street, b-line for the liquor shelves, grab a half gallon of Jack Daniels, and maybe ten or twelve of those faux baseball jerseys, and just walk right on out cool as can be, or cool as one can be winding down from up all night on crack cocaine.
That's mostly it then. I was happy to see the sheriff this morning.
There is so much I don't get. Was the American Revolution a one time thing or is it proper that we all revolt all the time? How much should we revolt? Or should we just sit back and enjoy? Are there degrees of revolt which are more acceptable than others? Where do you draw the line separating extremism from concerned citizenship? How do we know on which side of a dichotomy to stand and is it a good thing for us to choose a position black over white, white over black? I think we can all agree that killing babies is not good, but how many of us who believe that also believe in a woman's right to abortion?
It's the last big hurrah of Carnival this weekend through Tuesday in New Orleans and there is an influx of of people from all around the world. As a sign of the times helicopters fly over as a crowd control aide to a small police force who are fairly expert at it to begin with. Minor sins are forgiven here this weekend, extremism is not. So where fits those out of towners who come to Sin Central USA to promote pro-life issues? Ideally, they fit or don't fit anywhere they want. There's is a cause worthy of serious consideration by anyone with a smidgen of heart or mind. Whether we agree with each other or not is besides the point. Free speech must endure all challenges against it. But how do we address those who would willfully and knowingly incite riot, or those who would yell "fire" in the crowded theatre?
Or how do we address those pro-lifers who are in town this weekend driving around in panel vans with four by five foot glossy photo-murals pasted to the side depicting actual late-term aborted babies in all that reality's grisly detail? A woman wrote in to the local paper to complain that she had been stuck in traffic on Earhart Blvd. as a whole group of revolutionaries with large aborted baby placards paraded up and down the neutral ground. The woman's point was why should someone else get to dictate at what age her children are subjected to this material? Her four-year old and eight-year old were in the car with her. As an adult I believe I can come to grips with the point behind their message--look at what you believe in you pro-choice ninny. A couple of years ago a neighbor and I on Rocheblave confronted one of these vans on the last Sunday of Carnival as it made it's third pass down our block. We told the driver not to come back and he didn't. So they are not without reason, these extremists, or at least understand the concept of enough is enough, the van won't drive back to CA with a broken windshield and four slashed tires. Which is a thing, this altering of a person's vehicle, that I felt truly capable of at that moment. Who are we, really?
Alligator In Chain
My boss's wife thought my vehicle parked in front of their house was a car bomb, or something.
Me and him were carpooling in his truck over swamp at six-thirty this morning on the elevated I-55 towards Ponchatoula. His cell phone rang just as he plugged it into the cigarette lighter. He said "shit," then, "what," and then, "Jim's." He didn't say anything else so I assumed he had hung up. I was looking at swamp, engrossed inside the blankness of my morning-head, but I knew who had called him, and who Jim was, so I wasn't totally checked out.
I knew that later, on the way home, he would imagine how feasible it would be to discard of a body in the swamp, and that I would offer my opinions on the subject. That's the kind of thing swamp makes you think about; we're not bad guys either one of us.
As we approached his brother's five acre tract he pointed to a cool little ramshackle house set back deep in the piney woods, maybe a hundred yards from the road, and told me about some guys who got caught cooking metha-amphetamines in the woods between their house and the brother's house. I looked at the woods and thought that makes perfect sense.
On the brother's property is a free standing garage which has been converted into a really nice guest house, inside of which we drank a little coffee, talked about the merits of space heaters versus central heating, and eventually left out of on our way to a housepainter's workday in Hammond, Louisiana. This was a good bit more of a distance from my Mid-City New Orleans home than I usually like to travel for work but the country's economy is in a shambles, the chief executive officer, a loser. I'm taking what I can get. And mostly because I find myself totally wasting any free time I receive, not because I am personally in economic dire straits, yet.
We followed the brother through downtown Ponchatoula on our way to Hammond. I have been through there several times but stopped at a light I was stumped as to the purpose of that chain-link enclosure on the corner, right in the middle of town. "What's with that?" I asked my boss. He said, "that's where they keep the alligator, I think the big one died though." I'm not bragging but I get depressed really easily. I had to talk myself up, exhorting me to cheer up, it's just a fucking alligator or two, keep it real, focus on the larger perspective. Focusing on the larger perspective was a mistake, very gloomy indeed, so I double clutched, hoping for the best, and ended up back inside the blankness of my morning-head. We're going back that direction tomorrow, but we'll be bypassing downtown Ponchatoula.
It seems to defeat the purpose of leaving work early on a rainy day if you are only going to end up in bumper to bumper traffic on the I-10 into New Orleans. Bummer, bummer, bummer, poor me, poor me. Who else could be the center of the universe besides me? At the 610 split I can go either way, exiting St. Bernard if I take the left split or Superdome/Claiborne if I take the right split. I vered right. I took the wrong split.
At the S-curve by the railroad trestle bridge I panicked that maybe it's flooding again under the bridge. On a highway built through reclaimed swamp who was in charge of dipping the road down several feet to accommodate a railroad overpass? Several times in my ten years here, usually during hurricane evacuations, that dip has flooded, holding four to six feet of water, trapping both incoming and outgoing traffic.
Heading down into it I'm sure that's the problem--that under the trestle is holding water, and my little car sits way low in the front and I'm going to hit deep water and stall out. All the SUV driving SOBs are smiling.
There's no deep water though, its only a single car crash-up blocking the left lane just beyond the dip. We all pass by, checking for blood, and sigh deeply in appreciation of the fact that our luck is holding. It's lunchtime on a rainy day, cops'll be awhile, hang in there buddy.
I watched on TV last night back to back NOVAs on PBS. The first NOVA was on dirty bombs and the second was on chemical warfare in the terrorist age. I'm not going to waste a single breath blaming either this first world country or the former Soviet Republic for the amount of man-made chemical agents that exist around the globe for the sole purpose of bringing debilitating misery and slow agonizing death into a world already full of it. I am however going to stare at the blinking cursor for as long as it takes to think of something positive...
The Sheriff And Gay Elvis
I parked on St. Philip by the park. Getting out of the car I shook the hand of a stranger with paper money pinned to his shirt and wished him happy birthday. In Congo Square I immediately bought ten dollars worth of the blue tickets and reversed myself to the beer tent. The beers looked really small for some reason so I bought two and quickly drained one. I carried my sipping beer back to a perimeter bench and began gazing at the crowd. Sitting on the bench next to me were two pug dogs in prison outfits and a Chihuahua with the perfectly proportioned accessories of a little gun in a shoulder holster and a miniature sheriffs badge and handcuffs. I began smiling of and on until I settled on a bemused grin with ocassional toothy puncuations. The latter were usually inspired whenever I glanced over at the Chihuahua. It was the annual Barkus pre-parade gala in Armstrong Park on a perfect clear warm sunny day in February. There was a campy gay Elvis MC for the doggy fashion show and he provided some decent laughs but I didn't wanna press my luck with too much fun so I only hung long enough to drink another beer and eat a quarter muffaletta and then I zigg-zagged out to St. Philip. I politely told the guy on my shoulder who was now my best chum that I was in a bit of a hurry, although I wasn't, and that I really appreciated him checking on my needs but there was nothing he had that I wanted. And this despite or because of the fact that I really did not understand one word of his jargon, although I got the gist of it. I had something inside my jacket pocket that wasn't lint and I just gave it to the guy quickly, smiling. He was beside himself with gratitude and wished God's blessing on me and with no irony I did the same for him and then as I was opening my car door and he was half way back to his buddies he yelled out I love you man, and I just had to pause and think before responding to that. In the end I said nothing, giving the guy an anemic Toyota beep from my thousand dollar car as I drove up St. Philip towards Rampart
I haven't been filling up my days as usefully as I could. Choices, always so many choices. Today I had set my sights on a 3pm televised college basketball game between Big 12 rivals Oklahoma and Kansas. Huge game and the first Network televising that lets New Orleanians cheer on its two homeboys, starting Oklahoma guards Hollis Price and Quannas White, who were teammates at St. Augustine High School. Browsing through my non-existent day planner I was seeing no impediment to my watching of this game today except for that one very real impediment--the game is actually tomorrow, Sunday, at 3pm.
Okay, so now I really got some time on my hands. Hmm, Irene Sage tonite at Le Bon Temps on Magazine. She who inspires romantic thinking...an issue I'll have to come to grips with eventually. Ten p.m. Hmm, that's a ways off. Boy oh boy how large is this day?
Parades over on St. Charles but winds are gusting at 40 mph, that's enough to blow me on my ass. The first night's parades got rained out last night, are being made up Monday night. The last weekend (next weekend) is the most intense parade going. I was almost psyching myself up for the a week from Monday Orpheus parade, which is a Harry Connick Jr, and Co. startup--in '93--and has grown in ten years to be one of the best, and my personal favorite, because one year I caught a string of beads from his wife, and if you're to get into Mardi Gras parades at all you have to suspend your jaded aloofness and become inspired by that brief eye contact and the connection made by way of a pretty smile and a cheap string of plastic beads. Or that same year wearing the same lucky NY Mets baseball cap a guy keyed on the cap and waved me away from the crowd and I ended up behind everybody, running along the sidewalk as the float moved down Canal, and the guy waited till I was open and threw me a nice toss, a whole bag of beads. But I don't do a lot of that running lately. Anyway, the letdown to this story is that this year's Orpheus grand marshalls, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, have backed out and are being replaced by Travis Tritt. Now maybe I do or maybe I don't have to tell you what a letdown that is because my most vivid fantasy for next Monday was that daughter Liv Tyler would be in town, on float, or just being seen around, and I'd get a little juice from that. She really is perfect for the float riding quasi-royalty I down below am your loyal subject fantasy. But alas, not to be.
So where am I? Basketball game not until tomorrow. Liv Tyler just vanished.
I'm at midday, staring out...at nothing. Hmm.
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.