archive

email from NOLA


View current page
...more recent posts

Corner News
Now this might be taking the acclimation in the hood thing a bit far, but leaving Rocheblave a few minutes ago I approached the Bienville intersection with some cautious aggression, in front of the man getting ready to cross in front of me, and then nosed out with a little pump of acceleration (because sometimes at intersections the truck's transmission won't catch), and then did a hard brake in deference to the young man on the bicycle traveling in the left lane of Bienville at dusk--I'm the only white boy in this scene--and I nod vaguely to the kid on the bicycle while looking left up Bienville at the same time the kid says to the man who has now crossed behind me and is heading towards Broad on the easterly sidewalk--"whatsup m'nigger."

Now the movement of my nodding to the kid is timed so that me and the kid both know this ain't right: the white boy responding to the affectionate vernacular, so the kid, God bless him with the quickest mind, bails us out by raising up his head just so slightly and saying a quiet "whatsup" to me but for the benefit of us all.

It's been about a month, or a little less, since sixteen-year-old Shelton Jackson was thrown from this house on Dumaine out into the urban abyss of the New Orleans Sixth Ward. M made the arrangements for his relocation to a local chapter of Boys Town because even the allure of his SSI stipend was not enough, in the end, to entice any of his many blood relatives to take him in, and while he appeared to go with the flow of this, at the last minute when the social workers actually showed up, he flew. So in a sense he is a wanted man, or rather, young boy.

Those who grew up here on Dumaine cannot seem to leave the sense of home it gives them so I see Shelton on a pretty regular basis. He does makes a concerted effort to stay from the sight of M because it was she he disappointed the most with his frequent misguided attempts at manhood.

"Hey, Mr. Jim, " he yelled to me from across the street yesterday, as I was changing vehicles to go from the paying job to the Rocheblave job, "how you feeling?"

"I'm ok, hower you Shelton?" I said.

"I'm good," he said, and then I turned away from him and got into the car and started the engine. I did not know the older boy he was with.

As I'm looking right to merge from the curb to the corner of Broad which is only a hundred and fifty feet away but during certain times of the day can take a while to get to and Shelton is knocking on my window glass. I roll it down. He wants to shake hands.

"So how are you?" I said, again.

"I'm not doing anything illegal," he said.

"Good," I said. And then as afterthought, I instructed him. "You know, Shelton, if you're gonna tell stories like that you should write them down"

"Whatchu mean?"

"Like the one you told J's mom who told Miss S who told M, about how M has gone to the pipe and me pimping her out to Jermaine."

Shelton tried to explain to me how illogical that story was by saying how Jermaine hardly even hangs around this porch no more.

"Neither one of us are too worried about people thinking the stories are true, but it's bad business telling lies about people, or even about yourself."

"Whaddaya mean?"

"I mean you getting kicked out of here and trying to make it sound like you just had to leave a bad situation. You know I made it no secret I wasn't all that crazy about you staying here, but M was only trying to give you a safe place to hang out, you shouldn't disrespect her with lies that help you gain sympathy and favor from others. There's no shame or blame to any of this, a thing doesn't work out, and then you try something else. There's nothing wrong with the truth of who you are, where you come from, and where you're at. If you need to tell a story, the truth is the easiest one to tell, and the easiest one to defend," I directed into his glazed expression.

"All right, Mr. Jim." He shook my hand again and headed for the hoop and the company of those gathered in that small parking lot/transaction area which extends behind the Magnolia corner store, and the Impressive Designs haircutting establishment.
- jimlouis 3-15-2001 9:00 pm [link] [4 comments]

How Far To His Next Life?
I accepted the invitation of an avowed racist yesterday. When he said, "wanna burn one before you leave," I pantomined my arm behind my back.

Sure as the population of English Turn residents who are having houses built on man made (pond) "Bonita Bay" grows, so are we workers destined to smoke 'em when we got 'em.

So me and this guy, I'm not going to name him this time but I've named him before, if it matters, which I don't think it does, unless you value the recorded literal over interpretion, which is your prerogative, I got nothing to say about it, but me and him are sitting on buckets looking out over the pond, me staring at the reference point of the hard core hip hop rapper Cash Money residence, who for all his money will soon be not personally but specifically, if such a thing is possible, reduced to a term that won't leave us alone or leave our conciousness because 1) its a hateful term, and 2) because of who uses it and in what context, which is the more complicated issue, and therefore set aside for the dissecting by someone less simple than me, which is to say more smarter.

All I want to say is me and this guy are smoking marijuana, for which we will go straight to hell, kids, don't do it, it leads to degradation, and...TV watching, and he's a straight in your face racist, which is to say he just does not like non-white, but the "niggers," if truth be told, are his pet group. Me, I hate a lot of people but have "evolved" to a state where I don't delineate simply by race. I hate people of all creeds, colors, and affiliations. I guess the thing is, I have to meet the people first, or be otherwise presented with evidence which would cast a person into a mold worthy of hatred. But hatred is bad, kids, don't do it, it leads to degradation, and...TV watching.

So this guy is still working with us but has recently moved to the country (of central Louisiana), where, he had previously bragged, "they don't allow no niggers." What he's basically going on about is something I don't like either, so I'm sympathizing with him because I like him enough to do that. He moves to a small town where God is good and Good is god, and lo and behold this white nigger kid moves in next door and brings with him a full blown black nigger. And they listen to loud rap music, which goddamn it the town has an ordinance against, and besides, these kids are surely the ones broke into the store, everyone knows this and agrees, and as he describes this knowledge to me I can see how easy that rope was/is thrown over that tree limb.

I'm high on his weed though, yet frankly have better things to be doing, off early on a Monday with a new home to finish, but sitting on an unfinished back porch overlooking a pond in an exclusive gated community is ok, and contrasts my deep in the New Orleans 'hood lifestyle in such a way that I can go with this flow, and besides it is my position I fear he treasures, the one who won't agree with him, and say, "yeah, fuckin' niggers," but still can find a way to verbally pat him on his thick little skull and say, 'now, now, there, there, everything's gonna be all right.'"

Still, I gotta laugh when I think of him thinking he can hide from himself by traveling those few 150 miles every weekend.
- jimlouis 3-13-2001 9:13 pm [link] [add a comment]

Bon Appetit
I'm the guy standing those awkward minutes in front of ten and twelve dollar belts at WalMart or Kmart trying to make a decision I know I'm never going to make, not if you look at it like today is the last day of the rest of your life. I'm not in love with any of those belts and for a guy who doesn't wear belts nothing short of love will suffice. I need something to hold up my work pants though, so everyday, for months now (I think I accidently threw away that one belt I own, the same way I threw away my keys I guess, but I retrieved those from the trash can out front a Dumaine), I pull a section of tape from any available roll, duct, or masking, and folding it into thirds into itself I run it through the two loops on either side of the fly and tie a knot. If there is some reason during the day I need to pull my pants down I slice the tape with the ubiquitous razor knife and after walking around pulling my pants up every few minutes I realize I really must make a new belt. It is a necessary Steppenwolf kind of moment getting in touch with that white trash part of yourself. And I feel even now a better piece of a man for it.

I am moved nightly at Rocheblave by the Louise Erdrich New Yorker story which chronicles hard life beautifully, and who am I to critique the ending (?). A short short story, it takes me several nights of reading two paragraphs before my sleep mistress seduces me with her sexily whispered promise of cessation and peace. But last night I stood her up and finished the story. While I write this the sun has set and Rocheblave has two windows unboarded and floors full of tools, which is a step in a direction I have chosen. There's a fresh New Yorker and a chicken sandwich on bun over there on the bed to my left just waiting for me to finish whatever it is I think so important that it would cause me to ignore them this long. "Come on, finish up your bullshit and let's go on over to that house you've been working on for two centuries," the two pieces of nourishment kid me.

"You guys are crazy, ha, 'two centuries,' I get it loud and clear. If that isn't a knee slapper, what is?"

I've been depressed. I saw too much in a blink. No way around it, payments come due. And if that's not ending, what is?

Yayah, bon appetit slim.
- jimlouis 3-10-2001 8:33 pm [link] [2 comments]

Shut Up
He comes around like a guy lost without his streetcorner, and talks loudly, belligerently, and profanely, projecting himself into my living room. I've called him the golden toothed gangster, Stink, and Eric McCormick, son of Nettie, brother to Glynn, and KaKa. His nomiker, spelled Stank, is etched up down the river side of Broad, between Esplanade and Orleans. I will have to move away from the nonfiction which includes too many named people other than me. I think I will. Its never seemed right. Sometimes it was justified as protection against going down darkly without leaving clues. Other times I considered it payment for services rendered. Mostly I know it just itsn't done, for legal and ethical reasons. But being too discreet kept me from writing for a lot of years. There's a journalistic gene going on with me that I'm trying to deal with. But I ramble. I only wanted to say this:

Eric McCormick, despite occasional appearances to the contrary, you are from good stock, and you are intelligent, and those are two things that can work for you. You don't need to be a blowhard. Just be what you are quietly. In short, shut the fuck (and grow) up.
- jimlouis 3-07-2001 8:57 pm [link] [add a comment]

Riding With Smokey
Finally I got picked up by Smokey in a beat Chevy and we headed southwest out of Los Angeles into the desert. At his trailer in the middle of that desert I didn't even get out of the car because Smokey just needed to stop briefly to get his gun, before taking us to Yuma, where he would search the jungle there and I would--at his recommendation--catch a Southern Pacific boxcar back to Texas.

The man I met in the yard at Yuma took me under his wing after first recommending that I get back on the highway because I was young and clean like the kind people wouldn't mind too much picking up and trainyards were for the old and dirty, or like in his case, the black.

We waited two days and nights in that Yuma train yard, which was famous for its friendly bulls, until a proper hotshot longhauler came through and then against his earlier teaching ("you don't jump a moving train, wait for them to stop, and then pick your car") we did jump a slow moving flatcar, and climbed onto the next car which was a tiered automobile carrier, three levels high with Camaros.

This was January, and even so far south it was bitter cold at night so the scrap piece of rigid wire was nothing less than a gift from gods as it let us unlock a door, and as he knew their would be, retrieve from the glovebox the ignition key which cranked an engine and gave us heat, and, I'm complaining now, a rather cramped sleeping space.

In El Paso the man said it would be a felony to get caught in one of these cars so he said we had to jump, and catch something else out of the yard, which was patrolled by less than friendly, but not altogether unreasonable, bulls. He hadn't told me anything about jumping, and the train was moving faster than I care to remember, except it is one of the elapsed time periods of my life--the movement, the sound of metal clacking against metal, the two days in the El Paso train yard, dinner and sermon at the mission, the January cold, the mild concussion, the found and dispensed with bottle of tequila, the oranges, and the sardines--which I can transport to with an almost unreasonable clarity.

My feet hit first and then I was skidding along the side of my face along side a train track outside of a train yard in El Paso, Texas in January in what I guess would be the year 1980.

The two day waited for boxcar out of El Paso was boarded still, at night, with glowing cigarette butts the beacons of invitation by grisly greying bearded gentlemen.

In San Antonio sixteen hours of unaligned rocking later, the train began to slow, and I saw the Interstate, either 10, or 35, and it was my time to go. "Let yourself down slow, and get your feet running before you touch down," he told me, and I did what he said, and I was standing tall to receive his parting gesture, the upward thumb.

I was late for school by a couple of days, and as luck would have it so was this guy Dave, who had been a next door neighbor during summer school, and had scared me good n' plenty with a ride on the back of his Kawasaki 900, but was now in the more docile Volkswagen Beetle, heading north to Austin on I-35, when he saw me standing on the side of the road.

"Hey Dave."

"Hey Jim, what happened to your face?"

"Fell off a train, Dave." At the time everyone thought I was speaking euphemistically, and I did not insist otherwise.

It was nice that my roommates were gone away from the apartment on ninth street so I cleaned myself leisurely and I'm not sure why headed for the UT campus.

The flourescent glare and the studious multitudes reflected in glass at the undergraduate library were the last things I remember from that other world, from which, I did on that evening in January duly depart.
- jimlouis 3-05-2001 10:39 pm [link] [add a comment]

Not Yuma
Me and this guy Billy hitchhiked from Austin to Telluride for the Jazz Festival in August of 79. We had both attended summer school at the University hoping to shorten the amount of years actually spent in classrooms. It was a few months later that it came to me there was a better way to go about this but at the time I was only considering the way which had been laid out for me.

Telluride, Colorado, which is off the beaten track, and even then was being overrun by capitalistic hippies, was a destination well worth the effort getting there (The Tall Texan smoked Merits and issued many a "comeback" on that CB radio), and as if to underscore that we had arrived in a place different from what we knew Billy and I immediately found ourselves beckoned into the living room of a lovely and earthly young woman who hoped we could assist in her time of need, but for me it was more like a self guided tour, Billy behind or in front, who can remember?, but neither one of us were able to change the fact that the naked man in the bathtub was having a seizure, so we just noted whatever it was we each noted, and moved on, until we found ourselves outside, and back in motion, the smell of patchouli a sensory reference point.

Pat Metheney may have been the musical highlight, and I'm not clear who was on the afternoon blues stage but I'm thinking it was John Lee Hooker and/or Lightnin' Hopkins.

The trip changed both Billy and I, in ways we may ponder at length, and come early December he was talking about dropping out of school. I encouraged him to stay the course because it seemed like the thing to do, but I was restless too, and after a week in Dallas for Christmas break I lied to my parents saying I had a job to get back to in Austin. I then hitchhiked to Los Angeles and visited friend Mark Fitzpatrick on the USC campus. On the first night in town, or on the way out, I slept in the Rose Garden next to the Coliseum under a bed of yellow roses which I dedicated to my unrequited love. Must have been the way out because I was alone and I'm remembering now that I met a French Canadian raised in Georgia by the name of Rodney Gimberling on 290 West just outside of Austin after he had stolen some snacks from that roadside store, and we had made the trip west together. Some months later, back in Texas, Rodney would come back to haunt me and I would spend my first night in jail, for trying to beat a cab fare, in Dallas, which would then a couple of years later be the second to last jail I visited before becoming good, and honest, and wholesome, like I am now.

I think Rodney headed for San Francisco while I headed back to Texas to start my fifth semester at the University. It's hard to hitchhike out of Los Angeles. I have so far never been harmed by another in my travels but I can't help but remember the candor of what I consider the representative Los Angelian in regards to hitchhiking--after waiting four hours in one spot for a ride and a car stops and I get in and the driver accelerates onto the highway while casually inquiring "do you mind if I jack you off while I drive?" Under reacting to such a situation is a safe way to go and so a reponse like "you can let me off at the next exit" was all the defense I ever needed. I've told this story a hundred times and it bores me now to rewrite it, but I keep hoping there's some gratifying truth I can make use of by the remembering, the recounting, the recitation of it all. I have to move on now, this here as good a place as any, although I thought I'd stick it out tonight until I memoired the Yuma to San Antonio leg of this trip, but I''ve been wrong before and the experience of being wrong is maybe as good as a person gets.
- jimlouis 3-04-2001 8:54 pm [link] [add a comment]

Batons And Flashlights
During part of that period I wasn't scripting I ran with a Rasta from Trinidad. He was showing me some ropes of lifestyle that for all the diversity of the university's curriculum, were not offered in any of its classrooms. This was in Austin, TX during those late seventies into early eighties when disco was getting pummeled by punk, and middle class kids from wholesome families were creating a thing coined later as slackerdom.

I'm going to skip that period again except to refer to an old times sake job we did together. I was his chauffeur, and I can't really say what he did as I wasn't paying attention, except to my own business which was to drive us around in his two door Maverick, not to be confused with my four door Maverick which sits under a shed not really out of the weather, in Bushy Fork, North Carolina.

This piece is about revolution, inspired by the dismantling of Napster, which is an evil anti-capitalistic device which must be smothered, or reconfigured so that it can make millions and millions for millions. Disagreeing makes you a pinko fag, so think carefully before you think out loud. Once branded, only long sleeve shirts can hide your secret.

My Rasta friend and mentor was being uncharacteristically generous this day we met by chance after a year's separation, on that busy lane across from the UT campus known as the Drag which was an artery for deviates and academics. He was offering me tickets and a sum of money to drive him to a cow pasture north of Austin where the Police and UB-40 were performing. "No other obligations, bigtimer, " he assured me. Except for the very real threat of a hard prison term, which had in effect ended our partnership, we'd had some good times together, so my playing hard to get was really more just to extend the marvelous thing which was Rastaman almost begging me to do this thing for him. I don't enjoy being begged, but I am a little queer for the uncharacteristic behavior, and I guess it was just nice to see that Rasta was missing me.

Here's the thing. At this concert I drank beers and therefore subsequently had to pee, and badly you know. We are in a friggin cow pasture with acres and acres of border between the barbed wire fence and the mass of people oogling Sting, but they actually had security enforcing the no free pee rule (you had to walk a quarter mile and stand in a line behind fifty other weak bladders). The security forces were like the Ninth District Court, not to be trifled with, serious business and no joke.

I can't abide. I'm standing on this little mohill looking around without appearing to look around, trying to do the 180 as if I'd read all the Casteneda's, and it happens in a way, that I do "see" what it is there is to see. And that is that to my left and to my right there are a good many of us men with bulging bladders looking for a break, and so it is I, somewhat uncharacteristically, who looks to the man on my left some twenty feet away, and said, or in truth yelled, "let's charge the fence," and we did, me and this guy still twenty feet apart on the fence line, to hell with the Court, we peed freely, and luxuriously.

The thing is, if it had just been me and this other dude the security forces would have come over with their batons and flashlights, and after making fun of our penises, would have punished us for this crime against fence posts. But here's the beauty of it: by the time I was jiggling the last drops away, there were no less than one hundred men, shoulder to shoulder, watering the fence line, and what had moments before been something that couldn't be done was now a done deal.

I'm pressed for time, camping at Rocheblave tonite, forget the analogy, long live Napster.
- jimlouis 3-03-2001 8:47 pm [link] [add a comment]

Speckled Trout In River Ridge
Mandy didn't like using the plural pronoun "we" even when she and I were a couple but overhearing her occasional use of the singular "I" to refer to things that we undoubtedly did together, and also the possessive "my" when talking about things we legally own together ( the Bushy Fork, North Carolina house, and this Dumaine, New Orleans house), kind of makes me wonder how many versions of reality might actually exist at the same time, and how wording may make all the difference in the world.

Today I was working alone doing some repainting in the home of one of the general contractors my boss and I work for, very nice home, richly appointed, River Ridge neighborhood (the ring of that should tell you all you need to know about the desirability of the area). This man, the contractor, and his wife, who sells drugs in the projects, literally, but not in the way the words imply, are good folk with busy lives and an even tempered three year old boy, named after the father, and deceased grandfather. I enjoy my conversations with the boy at seven a.m.--his sincere declaration to me that he has to pee I meet with sincere enthusiam and encouragement, "hey, that's great, why don't you go and do that," and I am proud as a father when I hear the three-year-old sized cascading echo of streaming piss into a toilet bowl a few seconds later. I'm painting a color called "leather leaf" on the beaded board surrounding the bar. When he comes back and calls me "man" I am not put out by this as I might be if a suit wearing professional used the same term, trying to be "simpatico" with the long hair. The boy probably meant it literally, probably brought the issue up with his parents the night before, wondering just what is it with that "person" who is coming to our house everyday. He seems like a man, and you all tell me to call him "Mister Jim," but his hair is long like mommy's. His mom and dad may have instructed him to see me, and refer to me as a man, so he did.

This contractor (we can call him Paul because that is his name) is an avid fisherman and had the day before taken off with his older brother, and fellow building contractor, (whom we can call G, because a lot of people do) to go fishing in this here "the Sportsman's Paradise," and came back with an astounding, or for them possibly average catch, of speckled trout. A couple of seven pounders he was duly proud of.

"I'll make you a plate before I go and you can heat it in the microwave for lunch," he said to me before leaving, and then a few minutes later while I was touching up a ceiling with "summer dew" it was his wife ( at this point I would be wrong for reducing her to four lower case letters and therefore must proclaim as Julie, and hope that being inside the parenthetical is not some sort of slight, or perhaps being outed by name without permission would be the slight, and at one time was the point being driven towards but I can see now that I'll never get there from here) who asked me did I like green beans, which of course I do, and then she came to find me caulking in her son's room, and here I would like to add she is not only a strong independent woman, but strong looking, and by that I mean the opposite of masculine strength, which is to say, she is quite pretty. She had come to recommend the best setting for the microwave, and I thanked her. She left and I was alone.

Not long after this my break time arrived and I went out to my car to retrieve my bag of salted in shell peanuts. To these I added from the pantry a great good many Famous Amos cookies and a half dozen olives from that dwindling supply in the fridge. I turned the small TV in the kitchen on and felt that guilty pleasure surging through my inexplicably disciplined non TV watching self. The day before I had looked at a seductively wrapped Marlboro cigarette with a similar sensation, except there was no guilt, and no pleasure, only a frightening burst of weak willed longing.

I recognized immediatedly the middle of You've Got Mail with Hanks and you know, whatshername (Meg Ryan, it came to me), she's way cute, even if you have to sell your soul to the devil to think so, and after about twenty minutes I know I'm at a crossroads of trouble which is fueled by my need for a drug, any drug, and in this case it's sentimentality in the easy to swallow coated caplet. I had tripped on this prescription before and the comfortability of previous experience had me looking forward to this Big Mac love story even at the sacrifice of real nourishment.

I was into touching up the white enameled woodwork at this point so I just concentrated on the areas surrounding the kitchen, and its 13 inch version of edited love. I let myself cry a little when she said "I really hoped it would be you," because I'm a drug addict and Meg Ryan had just showed up at the door with a kilo, and checking for purity is mostly an illusion. Afterwards I felt kind of dirty, but how you gonna avoid that?

For lunch I had speckled trout, green beans, and mashed potatoes with chives, and watched the last half of King of Comedy.
- jimlouis 2-22-2001 9:18 pm [link] [14 comments]

What He Said
He could be cheerful at will if that's what he chose to be but the simplicity of that joy was too much like cheating the retarded child at a board game.

A brother had insisted that he not make everything so hard but he chose to ignore (while remembering) that advice.

Then there was the time so early in the game when he had crawled across three lanes of potential traffic to get to a median, only to be returned to his proper place by a do-gooding teamster.

Two or three years later he was coloring a picture of a snowman with perpendicular, crucified like Christ arms, and under each he had built (drawn) campfires which were meant to melt his creation. This is what he was doing when the president was assassinated in Dallas. His mother would perhaps say she was watching him do this or she could have her own story but he would catch her in a lie if she said she didn't cry at the news as it was broadcast over the brown, square, plastic, lidded, box that was both a 45 rpm record player, and radio. It was a curious day for the kid.

Two years later he would meet and become friends with the kid in red who stood next to his mom and dad as across the way Zapruder captured (and later sold to Life magazine) the 8mm images of presidential grey matter spraying into the air. The kid in red thought the Manlicher reports were firecrackers, and the shredded upward thrusting brain of John Kennedy, confetti.

Jackie did instinctively run for it but the early spin doctors told us she was hightailing on her knees across the trunk of that convertible for help. Too many lies are told and they become better than the truth; truth then becomes better, at best, than doing laundry.

Pizza's in the oven, man's gotta eat, truth does wait.
- jimlouis 2-15-2001 9:27 pm [link] [add a comment]

In Deference
Speaking of paranoia I have felt a weight akin to it these last few days and nights (my dreams are cumbersome knots of frustration where I bark orders of reprimand at the boy driving at reckless speed as I see and hear the fence posts whizz by), and I've made my own mistakes in driving judgement which on the road have translated into women cussing me from one intersection to the next, down Broad Street, Treme and the River to my right, me on my way home from days that seem very long, but I'm not looking for shorter days so don't clock me as a complainer.

It's warm and muggy here, but cloudy and sunless, in mid February, and that is my witless guess as to why some of us are feeling a little restless, not to mention an awkwardness towards Valentine's Day that may pierce our hearts, and on the individual basis who can say exactly why many of us are out of sync but we are, and this is not just a misery loves company wishful thought but more a wild guess based on high probabiltity.

And the ghetto, here in New Orleans, seems so much its lesser, more downtrodden self.

On this Sunday next my former lover and I are throwing away a human being, and the golden toothed gangster across the street tirades loudly (punctuating every sentence with Ya hoid me, you heard me?), and how can I not, as a careful but haphazard listener, hear it all, so that when he says to his hapless audience of fellow gangsters "come Monday we may have to go into that building," how am I not to give a moment's consideration that he may mean this building, and therein lies the seed of paranoia, and therein lies a seed of truth, in deference to which I will make or imagine I will make, some preparations.
- jimlouis 2-13-2001 8:20 pm [link] [add a comment]

Concurrent Fantasies
I did not acknowledge the nod from the woman pretending to be vampire novelist Anne Rice any more than I gave much credence to the resemblance of her companion as the poet Stan Rice. All three of us were imposters, as I was pretending to be a person who could be at the Clearview Palace theatre around noon on a Friday to see the Sean Penn flick, and they were guilty as sin in their hokey famous people incognito getups.

I meant no disrepect to the woman pretending to be novelist Anne Rice any more than this morning I thought there was magic related to my daytime wearing of a Goodwill bought Cranston, Rhode Island sweatshirt which previously had only been worn at night under the covers, but today was being worn as I waited in the neutral ground crossover at Dorgenois and Canal in New Orleans, La. behind a truck with Rhode Island license plates, which outside of RI is not a license plate you see all that often.

And all this of course had nothing to do with my morning fixation on the Creole chick at Betsy's Pancake house at which I arrived after moving straight forward across that intersection as the Rhode Island truck turned left, on Canal, toward the River. I say "Creole" really only to describe the color of her skin which was coffee colored with four creamers, and those approximately green eyes. Her golden red straightened hair flipping up coquetishly at the level of her graceful neck was a look that seemed to work well for her. And her voice which had first asked for a menu, and later for more syrup (although demurred at the suggestion of whip cream), was from somewhere allluringly foreign to this locale, and I did not rule out Rhode Island.

Later, well into the Sean Penn movie, with the imitation Rices nearby, I could only sympathize with the uncomfortability of Jack Nicholson's possibly delusional character as he was out of the blue asked--"are you sexually active." I answered for him, "no, but I've got several full blown fantasies running concurrently."

The great thing about being Sean Penn would be that you could get guys like Nicholson, and Harry Dean Stanton, and that great wife of yours, and all those other pretty fine actors to be in your flick, and you could have enough clout and balls to end a movie in such a way that is more like real life than any of us imposters hiding out in the theatres really care for.
- jimlouis 2-02-2001 7:04 pm [link] [add a comment]

I'm Just Saying
Come to think of it her name may have been Mrs. Jackson, my 7th grade teacher that is. She was like a military personnel, harder than we middle class baby booming Dallasites were raised to expect, but she always said former students came back to praise her which is better than coming back to haunt, or may be the same.

Now it's clear to me, her name was Mrs. Jackson, which I don't think I realized when a few years ago I made 13-year-old New Orleans inner city miscreant Shelton Jackson memorize the poem "If" by Kipling for the priviledge(?) of spending one night over here at 2646. Now he lives here, but is about to move on, having learned all the dysfunction we can teach him.

I've had to medicate against pain and would like to imply some sort of apology for the slothfulness of my thinking, writing, arithmetic, spelling, cadence.

Real men don't complain or mention their discomfort.

I hurt all over. If I began with the swollen left index finger and strayed nary a bit from only the left side I could go on and on, but when you think about it, who couldn't? I don't think there is anything wrong with whining but that's only because I'm the one doing it. If it were you, I'd be mighty tempted to tell you just to shut the hell up.

Damn I'd like to tell you a thing or two about today but I can't. Not even about parking over on the side of Armstrong Park after a hellacious morning in Madisonville on the North Shore (that's across the 26 mile Lake Ponchartrain Causeway Bridge), with fifteen hundred cash dollars stuffed behind a paper napkin in the cab of my truck like I was positioning myself for a drug deal, only I wasn't. I was eating Popeye's chicken and listening to the blues show broadcast from the Park 2-4 pm weekdays on WWOZ. I was only a hundred yards or so from the origin of the broadcast and when I left out of there, with that transmission which catches enough to take me anywhere I care to go, I could not help but notice the poet John Sinclair discussing God only knows what with God only knows who, on that path away from the radio building.

God (again)--I wish I could tell you about that ethereal young brunette with the white skin and the pretty smile and the meandering up the entire length of one arm tattooed stitches bicycling confindently through the heart of Treme while her awsomely and beautifully confident cookie colored pitbull ran the sidewalk as her protector, and like a swimmer turning his head to the side for air, checking his master with a regularity of stroke, excepting when he would pass the predominately male stoop sitters whereat he would in full moving stride with no apparent malice but no bullshit whatsoever lean into the crowd and cock his head their way--but I can't.
- jimlouis 1-30-2001 9:56 pm [link] [add a comment]

Good As Any
The piece I lost last night was the greatest piece in the history of mankind, and yet my disappointment at the loss, as I stared at the frozen screen, and jiggled the mouse maniacally, was less than phenomenal. What was I going to do? Blame my reliance on new fangled technology? Of course not. It could have just as well been written on a shovel blade with coal and my kind hearted wife might have let the neighbor borrow that shovel to deepen the pit for his outhouse, my inspired thoughts smeared away in deference to a higher purpose.

I believe I was attempting to offer an opinion on The Beat Generation, or that's what it sounded like before the crash. Starting out my point was only going to bring up that I never realized the number of suspicious deaths related to that group: Lucien Carr killing that dude in NY and dumping him in the river; Kerouac helping him get rid of the guy's eyeglasses; and although I had heard the "Burroughs in Mexico shooting the glass off wife Joan's head, and missing," story many times I did not know until recently that she had initiated a love affair with this Lucien Carr character shortly before. Well, Burroughs was gay so it couldn't have been jealously that made him a less than crack shot that night, or why couldn't it have been? And the "suicide" of one of Neal Cassady's many wives made my eyebrows rise, but that's besides the point. Yesterday I never really got to the suspicious deaths part which in my mind was somehow going to eloquently segue into my own On the Road experience in '60 or '61 as a toddler in South Oak Cliff hell bent for the highway, or East Kiest Blvd. But I didn't get to tell it before the crash and I'm not telling it now. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Lee Harvey Oswald would have had bit parts in the story as if you needed more reasons to beg me to tell the story, but no, I order you, like you a dog, to quit that begging, and I mean no disrespect oh dear audience but discipline is freedom and you will all do well to remember that.

Anyway, it was an inspired piece, unlike this, which is me grinding to the tune "discipline is freedom," if you hum a few bars I'll be annoyed.

I am almost finished insulating over at Rocheblave and will probably order the sheetrock this weekend. I was going to hire out the hanging and finishing but now I think I prefer to do most of it myself and just hire out the hanging of the ceiling because I'm too tired and arthritic to do that even with a decent helper which is hard to find sometimes. I think I'm going to have to buy that small lot next to me for an exaggerated price so doing instead of hiring out the sheetrock work will save me a few bucks towards that eventuality.

Shelton will be moving out soon to go live with his sister, Tesa (Erica's mom), and her new husband, and family (he has some other kids), but not Erica, she's living with Aunt Gwynn in the Seventh Ward. They will attempt to restart the SSI payments of five bills a month, which Mandy had discontinued to underscore her platform that Shelton was not a commodity to her but a human being she cared about and wanted to see do well in this difficult world into which he was born. But whereas she may have coddled him at times (by hugging him and buying him Nikes?) in the years previous to his living here, there were a few standards she set for him as a resident of 2646 that probably got a good guffaw from father destiny. She was not pretending to be an unconditionally loving mother. There were one or two cardinal rules, he broke them, he's gone.

And despite the fact I was not strictly in favor of his living here, I wish him well and hope his super charged spirit, and temper, and ability to see the world clearly, will not lead him to see that the ruinous alternative is as good as any.

Wishing you could make a difference is not enough, and the attempt itself might be only so much vainglory, but to just sit on your blanket and watch and be confounded by those damn ants, ocassionally squishing a generation or two because of your dominion, is probably inexcusable. But as all of us are on the exact same path towards dust we the most of us can probably get by quite well with our indifference and ineffectuality. That's what I'm hoping.
- jimlouis 1-25-2001 6:57 pm [link] [add a comment]

Shine
Somewhere in the writing it became dark, and I had to wonder where went the children outside who lifted my spirit with their cacophony, which had greatfully come to replace the obscenity laced tirade of a golden toothed gangster who earlier in the day had threatened one weaker than he with a toy rifle to the head and the admonition, "don't you shine me motherfucker..." (and so on, the threat and noise of it a painfully eloquent thing that has no end, has no remorse, yet somehow, inexplicably, has no depth.), and it became quiet so that here I am now with nothing but the after images burnt into my... what?
- jimlouis 1-20-2001 7:08 pm [link] [add a comment]

Surfing Poorly
I don't surf but I think of the loss of the writing habit when measured in more than a few days to be similar to missing the wave; I'm just not paddling fast enough or I have picked the wrong wave to go after or I'm not one with the water or lets face it I shouldn't be on a surfboard in the first place.

It is never a loss of subject matter or ideas that causes the pause. Sometimes it is embarrassment and extreme self-consciousness, the consciousness which is me seeing me on the surfboard.
- jimlouis 1-17-2001 7:29 pm [link] [2 comments]

Advice
Advice to self: I think its better to have an idea before you start because if you don't have an idea you might find yourself spouting off just to make noise which is not only pointless, but noisy.
- jimlouis 1-08-2001 7:43 pm [link] [add a comment]

Back To School
For most of a year I'm a real dandy of a worker; the housepainter of your dreams; a super employee. Once a year though there opens a window of opportunity for me to express that undeniably less than stellar part of me that best expresses itself bluntly thusly--fuckit. I see those portals, the one in southwestern Virginia, and that one in Utah, and I can see myself walking towards them as those that trusted me shake their heads sadly and reduce me verbally to "a flake" of a man. I wish I knew what they meant. Its so true the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

What a hand I've been dealt, I don't know what to do with all my jokers.

Now I remember why I sat down here. I wanted to tell a story. It was going to be a story submitted to mrbellarsneighborhood.com, a site accepting non-fiction stories with a NY theme, and I only have a few, although Edgar Oliver swears I picked up a rat and threw it out his window on E. 10th (or Psilocybin ) and that's not even one I remember so who can say how many stories exist. But what's to be gained really by becoming a dot on the bellar map, or the many others, no disrepect, but the telling is all that matters, and where it ends up is truly secondary.

This story contains no sex whatsoever and I'm not protecting the lady's name I simply cannot remember it. She was pretty though, and kissing her on a bench at The World on Ave D (?). was heavenly, which is an adjective or adverb meant to make this more a spiritual piece because like I said, there is no sex in it. Before that we were somewhere else which is where we began to show an interest in each other, but there was another guy playing too and although he was the loser, in the end I did have to wonder if maybe he would have been better off as the winner, and it is my impression he might have played my part better than I played my part. Plus he was a New Yorker and perhaps more familiar with local customs, and I was, I don't know, probably a Texan.

Pausing after some more real fine kissing in the cab on the way to her place somewhere in the forties, she said, "I hope you're not one of those guys who's gonna come to my apartment and hassle me for sex."

I'm a real naive guy even to this day so its no real surprise that this was my first clue that me and this young woman were not on the same page. Which at the time in the back of that cab I tried to see as a sunny side and responded simply, "I won't hassle you."

But that query in the cab did me in I think because once up the many elevator-ed stories to her less than modest apartment I only wanted to be non-threatening and polite. Which I was, sitting by myself on her plush couch as she excused herself with seductive implication to the boudoir. She came back once, it seems, just to make sure I was still there and then she quickly disappeared again and came back with a deck of tarot cards. I did what she instructed as non-threateningly as possible--picked a card, any card--and the card I picked was a doozy according to her and she quickly disappeared again. When she returned she was in a nightie. Not the image of pure seduction but she did have my polite attention. I gazed noncommittally at her waiting for a more direct clue as to how I might meet her needs. She answered my polite patience with an obscurely seductive gesture--she curtsied and then lifted her short nightgown to show to me that perfectly desirable and well groomed enigma which earlier I had been admonished not to hassle her for.

I followed her to the bedroom and gleefully accepted her suggestion that I give her a back rub. Every positive suggestion, however, had a stop sign on the other side and she was right when she said "you seem tenative," for I surely was, and the both of us knew that was unlikely to change. It was the other guy (the so-called "loser") that would have appreciated her rape fantasty, or whatever syncopated love symphony she was trying to orchestrate that night, and while I paused supinely pondering where went the simplicity of mutual passion, she fell asleep, or pretended to, and I went back to my couch and slept for the few hours into morning. By a long shot she wasn't the best piece of ass I never had but she was so very sweet in her own way and making that long walk back to the east village, or tribeca, on a winter morning that required little more of me than putting one foot in front of the other, I couldn't help but wonder if I should start attending classes, or something, you know, to get in touch with my bad self.
- jimlouis 1-02-2001 10:21 pm [link] [add a comment]