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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.
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.