Sunday, August 5, 2018

Not Today Seitan

Not Today Seitan
Waltzing Wheat Free  
            Back in the mid 1800s, Madams Begue and Tujaque cooked for New Orleanians of every stature and circumstance. Their specialty was five course meals that you could have one of two ways: take it or leave it; that’s mainly because, back in the day, we were Roman Catholic Glutarians (semi-religious people who ate whatever was put in front  them). We had no dietary restrictions and we would eat virtually anything that was available. No vegans, paleos, vegetarians, ketos, pescetarians, non pork and/or beef, gluten intolerant or food allergy sensitive persons survived; back then it was ‘eat anything (edible) or die’.
            As usual, I got to thinking, since the majority of the above dietary concerns would be a hardship to me, I thought of trying out the only one of those diets that I would have a challenge with maintaining: gluten free. I decided to give up gluten in my diet for two weeks and see what would happen to me. I’m not gluten intolerant, quite the opposite, I have a gluten addiction; so this experiment is the only diet discipline that will cause me any discomfort (unless I went on a chocolate free diet—then I would probably throw myself into a well).
            Gluten addiction? Yeppers. I read a book called Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD that explained how it’s the way that we have genetically manipulated the grain that gives us the reaction from a person’s bodily revulsion of gluten to an actual dependence on it and I pondered that I may exhibit all the signs of addiction on gluten products (and possibly to yeast as well). On a daily basis I want bread, pasta, cereal, cake; I prefer beer to wine; cookies to ice cream; malted milk to ice cream sodas. I adore thickened soups, sauces and lick my lips at a fragrant roux in gumbo. I crave Couscous, flour tortillas, crackers, barley, brewer’s yeast, donuts, beignets, stuffing of all kinds, breaded and fried anything and pastries in general. I judge a sandwich by the bread; a pie by its crust; a hot dog by its bun.
            Naturally, for this exercise, I take the most immature tack: I substitute non-gluten ‘alternative’ products that imitate gluten products instead of just religiously not eating gluten; but… I have to start somewhere. I also ease myself into this thing by eliminating wheat first just until I get the hang of it and then eliminate the world of foods that still have gluten in them. Naturally, I drag Debbie into this experiment, misery, can and will accept all the company it can get. Non-gluten bread, pasta and pastries (waffles) are a no-brainer and whatever I can’t purchase outright I can make. Mostly make because if you think that Vegans have a hard time eating out or buying prepared foods, being gluten intolerant with a fistful of dollars to spend will get you precious little on the open market. Plus, when you do find gluten free products, either they are so mundane that they’ll drive you to distraction or they taste like caca, plus they are more expensive than their glutinous counterparts.
Eating as a gluten free vegetarian or vegan? Quit your day job because it will take your entire waking hours not to starve to death; hunched over, muttering to yourself on the side of the road munching dandelion weeds and thistles.
            Some say that there are a lot of non-gluten foods already out there and basically it’s only a matter of eating what you normally eat and just eliminating the gluten stuff; e.g. meatballs and spaghetti: use a different binder for the meatballs and sub non-gluten spaghetti which tastes nothing like pasta.  You could opt for a Mexican diet: rice, beans, corn tortillas, carne asada;  Asian dishes that use rice and rice noodles; or, avail yourself to the myriad of products that now proclaim their non-gluten status: Cheerios, potato chips, canned vegetables, wine, salmon, broccoli and I just bought a liquid dish soap that proclaims itself  “Non Gluten” (go figure).
            Basically, I can eat non-gluten all I want; however, if I carry my gluten heart to the dinner table, I will never be satisfied, let alone satiated, with what I’m eating. It’s a whole new mind set. It is healthier, and it’s also healthier if you watch your cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium intake; get plenty of exercise, cook at home and drink distilled hooch, but who (aside from the ‘drinking hooch’ part) does that? Eating out takes being ready to give the waiter the third degree and wind up with boiled vegetables and a baked potato; other people will not share their dinners with you and they want none of what you’re having. You will continuously be explaining your ‘affliction’.
            Many food companies are currently getting on board now that they’ve realized that gluten intolerance is not a fad and that market shares are to be had by getting out ahead of the pack.  As it stands now, at a ball game, your once frank (hot dog) and stein (beer) is now replaced with you only being able to have, with certainty, the yellow mustard on the back of your hand, as paper napkins may contain traces of gluten and even some toilet tissues are suspect  (I kid you not).
            For sure there are a number of GF cookery books, but sadly most focus on desserts; what we need are books that tell us how to put GF meals together, some pretty pictures and a hundred and one ways to make quinoa and millet not taste like birdseed.
            At the close of two weeks I can tell you: I can’t do it! I’m addicted to gluten and I LIKE IT! Gluten intolerants… I salute you, yours is a hard (buckwheat) row to hoe. Good luck.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Moving in New Orleans

Po Boy views
Phil LaMancusa
Moving In New Orleans
            I’ve had a series of ten personal moving experiences in New Orleans in the last twenty years, I’m not talking about dancing steps, psychic breakthroughs or intestinal functions; I’m talking about the whole relocating ‘pilot experience’: “pick it up here, pile it there”. Granted the moves were from not only my living quarters, but my brick and mortar shops as well; in both cases, in a word, it sucks. Angrily I threatened with this last move, that if there is a next time, in another insultingly short stretch of inhabitational tenure, I’m gonna pack the wife and critters in the car and drive out of town, leaving everything that we own for the termites and the trash men. I am tired of being pushed around by the Fates and Furies; I’ll move to Gretna and begin life over as a virgin.
            No matter how good a relationship you have as a tenant with your landlord it’s still a tenuous situation at best; only one move was made voluntarily, the rest have been a case of me being forced out against my will, either by monetary demands or uninhabitable living conditions. Moving in, moving out, moving in, moving out, moving in; it’s enough to drive a person sober.
            Money situations in general occur when the landlord believes they can get more rent than you’ve contracted with them, and the conversation goes: Landlord: “either pay the increase or move”. Generally these increases are structured to get you out or misuse you financially like a redheaded stepchild (am I allowed to say that?).
The living conditions that may force you out is generally the landlord who is more concerned with taking your money without reciprocating by performing logical necessary maintenance of their property. That can include everything from inadequate protection from the elements (leaking ceilings, faulty plumbing) to lack of protection from other invasive life forms (roaches, frogs, rodents); and all that falls under the expansive category of ‘demolition by neglect’.  It boggles the mind how landlords can rent out property then turn their backs on it; conversely, it’s a darn shame that tenants have been conditioned to the mind set of ‘if I complain about needing something fixed, they’ll either raise my rent or throw me out’ which is very warranted. My personal philosophy is to pay the rent on time and contact the landlord as little as possible (like never). 
            All of these moves come at most inconvenient times, cost money, time and mental/emotional upsets; it’s unsettling and psychologically demoralizing to wake up in the middle of the night to take a leak and have to re-acclimate, recalibrate and remember in which direction the bathroom of reality and not memory lay.  Yes, we’ve recently moved again.
            What has become tradition in New Orleans for folks relocating within the parish is that you’re ousted from what has become home (10 years) by forces beyond your control (termite infestation); what you do is find someplace smaller and more expensive. In our case we found a lovely place with a terrific landlord (who lives in the other half of the double) in the same neighborhood that we’ve been living in. So, we’ve lost our house but not our neighbors. Win win?
            So we ‘downsized’ five rooms into four; five bigger rooms with taller ceilings in to four smaller wonderfully well maintained rooms. Central air and heat, washer/dryer of our own (new for us), great place. The first months the cats went from bewildered stares to feline ‘stink eye’ glares. The dog kept wanting to go back to our old place; the feral cat that we’d been feeding was/is discombobulated by our departure, as well the possum that used to visit our porch for evening feedings. Our mail has not come through; our water bill is somewhere in limbo; somebody stole our recycling container.
            We moved two bedrooms, desk, piano, armoire, the entire kitchen and living room and 125 banana boxes of ‘stuff’. We look like a mobile garage sale. Our old furniture looks like a herd of mastodons trying to elbow their way through a Salvation Army shop. Even our car looks like it feels out of place. After four months of us vacating the old place, virtually no work has been done on it; we could have stayed and enjoyed Jazz Fest and Fourth of July as we had done for ten years; but nooooo. Our neighbor on the other side likewise was thrown out.
All of our yard plantings had to be uprooted or abandoned as well as the three cats that are buried in the back yard.
            I am in fear that I’m going to be moving for the rest of my life. Floods, fires and the destruction of the city have all come with moves already; what’s next? Plagues, the overthrow of the government, free tickets to Paris? “Sorry, I have to wait for the cable guy”.           A cure for what ails me; a kidnapping; scholarship; dinner for two in a fine bistro?  “Can’t tonight, I have to get up early to rent my U-Haul”. Let’s go fishing, to a ball game, I’ve got tickets to see Beyonce!  I’d really like to but, I need to catch the produce guy at Rouse’s and beg for some banana boxes so I can pack”.
            Yeah, it’s gonna go on forever; I’m gonna miss the Zombie Apocalypse, Alien invasion, winning lottery payoff and the epiphany of our elected officials; I’ll be at the bank getting a loan for my first down/security deposit. Years from now it’ll be summer by the beach, an evacuation, tornadoes, and the second coming that I’ll be missing; I’ll be hauling boxes and making out changes of address for the mail that will never reach me. At least one thing I know for now: come hell or high water, there’s nothing that’s gonna chase me out of my city. New Orleans: you’re stuck with me!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dirty Old Man (unfinished)

Shall We Dance
Sitting here, he looked at her. He looked at her, sitting there. Betrayed by his body, he could not speak; would that he could, he again practiced his speech: “huggrumpf” (he would first clear his throat) “I beg your pardon, I couldn’t help but notice you there and wondered if I could have the pleasure of this dance, a foxtrot if I’m not mistaken. My name is Charmichael, Joseph Charmichael”. And that would be that.
But he would not be getting up, he would not be walking across the small space that separated them, he would not speak, could not speak. He would sit in his wheelchair, dumb as a mute. He would look at her.
The days dragged on like the walking wounded except for the time when he could look at her and practice his speech. Every morning he was roused from his bed and changed and shaved and fed something both vile and tasteless. He would be talked to like an imbecile. Every morning. “Good morning Mr. Charmichael, my we’re looking chipper today, ready for a big day? Music in the rec room after lunch…your favorite! Now, lets see what you have for me this morning”.
His night shirt would be lifted to his chest, his diaper would be changed as if he were no more than a rag doll and he would be lifted into his wheel chair like a sack of potatoes. Him, Joe Charmichael --The Dancing Caballero—star of stage and screen; and now being shaved and fed pap by a bubbly, disgustingly cheerful young thing that he could’ve had spread eagled on her back in forty seconds in the old days. Moaning, purring, breath coming fast through bared animal teeth, head thrown back, scarlet painted nails raking his back. It would serve her right if she lifted his night shirt and found a woody the size of Rhode Island winking at her; 'let's see what you have for me this morning' indeed!
She held him from behind as she shaved him, his head between her soft breasts, the smell of soap, perfume and sweet young sweat reminding him of a song. “The very thought of you…and I forget to do…the little ordinary things that everyone ought to do…” He smiled at the thought of her legs wrapped around him.
“Why Mister Charmichael, I do believe you enjoy being shaved, don’t you?” she whispered in his ear. “Here, let’s see what we have for breakfast. Yum yum; oatmeal, buttermilk and look, applesauce!” She drew the words out slowly as if she were describing candy in a candy store. “Here take the straw in your mouth… good”
‘Yeah, take the straw in your mouth’, he thought, ‘yum, yum suck on that, girly’.
Next: a ride to the day room (with Sentimental Journey playing in his mind), past cubicles of unmade beds and smells of stale urine, medicine and defeat. His brain was playing a Strauss waltz as he perused the usual suspects assembled, wheel chairs circled like wagons around a blaring television watching a dandy with dandruff making nice nice with a peroxide blond bimbo in living color. He preferred to stare out the window, plotting his escape. There, in the clock on the wall over the TV it’s just past nine, he thought. The staff is busy doing anything but watching a bunch of old farts around the boob tube tied into their chairs to shake mutter and drool through another morning piece of crap that they call entertainment. Just once couldn’t they show something with class like Fred Astaire (with or without Ginger) or Gene Kelly? Hell, he’d even be glad to see Sinatra and Crosby schticking like the morons that they were.
Just past nine and the doctors don’t show their asses until ten, he mused. Lunch at eleven and it’s downhill from there. Yeah, right about now is the perfect time, before medication. Quietly to the side door, furtive look over the shoulder, open the door only enough to slip out, exit stage left. A confederate in a black limo waiting, motor running and off we roll back to the Hills of Beverly. Dom Perignon and maybe a light pate for the drive back home with some young starlet riding him like Dale Evans on her horse Buttermilk.
But not today. Today was music in the rec room (wreck room, as he thought of it) and, if he was lucky it would be Bob Bentley and The Swinging Six. She would be there.
He had always had the music in him even as a kid. Growing up, it was if he could complete lyrics before hearing them sung, could fully hear the tune completed even upon a first listening, had composed the soundtrack of his life even as he was growing and eventually prospering.
Rough and tumble from dirty streets, he had won a couple of dance contests with his sister in his early teens, had followed his older brother into the service of his country during the great war and had been mustered out in Los Angeles after Japan’s surrender only to find himself behind a lunch counter at Manny’s down the hill from Hollywood.
He was young, tall, strong and good looking when he got his first break in movies

Waitering in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Turpentine and Dandelion Wine
I had another restaurant dream last night, I usually get one when pulling double shifts or training new recruits, which I did last week. For those out there that have never had a waiter’s job, it goes like this: it’s a super un-naturally busy restaurant night, the place is packed, the kitchen is three miles away, your station is full and everybody wants something. You’re racing full tilt to get things done and nothing is what it should be, food is coming out wrong, customers are asking for strange things, have strange questions and identical faces. You can’t tell where you are except that you’re balls to the wall busy and running your ass off and nothing is getting done.
It’s really loud, by the time you make the distance to the kitchen, other waiters are rushing everywhere, you’ve forgotten what you came for and the cooks are screaming in a language unintelligible to you.
I imagine if someone was to look at me in the midst of this nightmare, I would appear like my dog Ginger does when she has her dreams: whimpering and jerking like she’s hooked up to an electrode. Perhaps dogs are reincarnated waiters. Things that make you go hmmmm.
I did not waken refreshed. Pensive and not refreshed. I went on a wonder and this I wondered:
What is this thing about waiter’s nametags or introductions? The “Hello, my name is Jeremy and I’ll be your waiter tonight” type of action. Personally, I go with the guy who doesn’t want to know a waiter’s name unless the waiter is going out with his daughter and maybe not even then. Specifically, I don’t go out to eat to make friends; that’s what I go to bars for. I go out to eat to be with good company, have someone cook me something yummy to eat and then have somebody else do the dishes. That’s what I’m in a restaurant to do, and unless the waiter (male or female) treats me like either one of us has the intelligence of a box of rocks, that’s what I’m here to tip well for. Customers should be like me.
Let’s start with this, what’s with these parties of eight, ten or more that think they can get a table with no reservation on a busy night and who are the boneheads that move heaven and earth, and the chair that my date has her purse on, to seat them? Those people are gonna get loud, they’re gonna throw the kitchen out of synch, with my food, and, they’ll never get the good service smaller parties do. AND, a word to parents; your two, four, six, eight, ten or twelve-year-old does NOT want to come fine dining on a Saturday night. They want to go to Burger King, Don’t get me started on split checks, cell phones or hot tea.
How about those people that drink bottled water? Don’t they know that every food they eat and every cocktail they drink is made with our local sludge? I want to say: “would you like local water, bottled water or a margarita? because you’re gonna pay as much for foreign water, with or without carbonation, as for some first rate tequila: get a clue .
And while we’re at it, what is it with the lemon with water? to me, it’s like kissing your sister, and what waiter has not spied a customer slipping some Sweet and Lo into it (or into their pocket, I might add).
Allergies? I don’t understand them. I once avoided going out with a stunning woman after she volunteered the fact that she was allergic to garlic! What kind of future could you have with someone like that? Diets? Listen, if you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise or be comfortable with who you are. Period. Especially when you go out to eat: Going out is either a sensual experience or a forage, and hopefully you know the difference. In either case, and above all, you should know why you’re there. Attention shoppers: it’s only dinner! Rule number one: the Chef knows what they’re doing. Chef know that smoked pork chops go with greens and mashed potatoes, and that Adkins was a culinary misanthropic sexually repressed pervert and the Pastry Chef considers Sugar Busters an abomination to nature. Deal with it, like I said: it’s only dinner!
You’ll be hard pressed to find a waiter that will sing the praises of most of their client’s cognizant reality concepts in and of real time. Mostly, it’s like they’ve been dropped from outer space into an eating establishment with no clue as to how they got there. Example: “Hello, (with a flourish of napkin) welcome to Chez Nez, I’m your waiter Anthony and I’ll be serving you tonight (and kissing your ass for money); can I get you a wine list or a cocktail before dinner?” Blank stare. You’re who? I’m what? We’re what? And do I want a huh? How do I work this?… You get this very very very often.
I’m of the school of “I don’t care who you are, I’m here with someone and I want strong drink right now!”
And here’s the big one: tipping. They (whoever they are) should pass out this information at our borders: waiters are paid less than half our minimum living wage by owners who insinuate that gratuities will make up for that inequity and are taxed by a government on that assumption. Simply put, I, as a server, depend on you, as a customer, to supplement my meager wage with money based on my knowledge and expertise of service. Tips (To Insure Promptness) is how I make my living. It’s a sick concept; but, it’s in place and a reality to me and the people that I am financially responsible to. To stay afloat, unless I’m a complete bonehead, you need to consider, as a client, that my service is worth a reasonable compensation, at least fifteen to twenty percent above your tab. That’s the reality of it. If you think that this is easy you’re welcome to try it. Me? I’m gonna go soak my feet and wonder why, if that overweight turkey with the cigar minded me looking down his trophy wife’s cleavage, he didn’t think to dress her better.

2018 Hurricane Season

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Fire and Rain
Hell and High Water
            Ready to beat a dead horse? Yes? Well, you’re now in hurricane season and you can either be prepared to go, stay or ignore it all until all you have left, when/if one hits, is to assume the position and kiss your assets goodbye. How do I know that we should talk about this? Consider me a ‘been there, done that’ kind of guy that got caught in a whopper of a blow (Katrina) for six days because I was virtually asleep at the wheel when it came to storm preparedness; me, two other bipeds and seven critters that I became responsible for.
            A couple of things to note, first off: 1. The people that predict the weather are no different than you and I; the only difference between them and us is that they get paid to get things wrong. Whatever they say is not only up for debate, but subject to change from day to day; they also get paid to keep us tuning back in for updates on the weather that they, having every conceivable electro-whatsis at their disposal (Viper, Radar, Storm-Tracker, Exact-cast and friggin’ spaghetti models for Chrissakes) have no specific clue as to what Mother Nature is actually going to do; BUT, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch.
            Second: Our blessed city has been flooding in mere rainstorms in the past year; what is gonna happen if a real storm comes our way? If we get sustained rain, wind, mini-tornadoes and quite possibly a hurricane (or even tropical depression)… we are screwed.
            So, what’re our options? We know that ‘Hurricane Season’ is going to be here, every year, for the foreseeable future, or, until New Orleans sinks into the Gulf of Mexico (which IS in our foreseeable future); what, given those guidelines, are my (your) contingency options? Move away from the area; spend summers elsewhere or continue to stay and be prepared? Remember, we will never know for sure when/if or what degree of nature’s wrath is in store for us.
            Just suppose, for the sake of debate, we take door number three and decide to stay and be prepared for the worst and pray for the least; how do we do that? Well, first we decide whether we take one of two other options; be ready to stay through whatever is thrown at us, or be able to evacuate when we’ve decided that it’s gonna be rougher than we can/ have prepared for? How do we tell the difference between a game plan and a lame plan?
            Well, if you need to get ready to evacuate… you need to be ready to evacuate; remember, when the big one blew, traffic was backed up in hours that ranged into the double digits. Can your vehicle stand to stand in heat for hours and hours? Do you have nourishment, bladder control and patience to be on a roadway that’s moving so slow it’s lookin’ like a parking lot? The following words are the suffix of the situation as voiced by folks who have been there: “Contraflow my ass!”  The view from those roaming TV helicopters of the jam that everyone found themselves in is enough to make a sane person decide to tough it out at home. And don’t think that services provided to get you out (busses and such) will fare any better than your neighbors in their SUV; when you’re stuck… you’re stuck, if you didn’t bring water, you’ll be drinking your own saliva. My advice is that if you’ve a mind to get out of Dodge, get out a week prior to any occurrence if possible; however, my experience with that scenario is when WE evacuated for a storm that did not come, it cost a couple of thousand dollars and loss of employment time.
            So you’re staying?  I’m staying for a cat three or less; so, what would I do to get prepared? First off, clean out the fridge of all non essentials (stuff that will spoil before you can gobble them up; leave about three days of food in your freezer. Next, for Criminy sakes, do not put off supply shopping until the last minute, like, start shopping now! Batteries, flashlights, water, plastic garbage bags, duct tape and have some idea what windows and/or doors you’ll need to cover with hard stuff like plywood. It doesn’t hurt to be ready, remember it’s gonna be the ‘season’ until November. Next, try to figure out what you would eat and drink for three to five days, how you will take care of your hygiene needs and facilities will become an issue (be prepared to be able to have water for flushing, brushing and drinking)
            Got pets? See to their needs better than you do yours; that means being ready for feeding and any meds. Are your critters micro chipped? Do you have a first aid kit.
None of this is rocket surgery and most stuff you’ll use... eventually, so it doesn’t hurt to have stuff like that on hand.
            Consider a generator? Maybe if you’re really a survivalist--get a boat? C’mon!
My biggest concern, after all that other stuff is taken care of, is do I have enough adult beverages, can I keep them at a comfortable temperature and do I have enough to read; remember, there was no TV or even cell service during the last one (banks and post office will be closed).  
            The grand majority of us cannot afford to leave town for the summer; heck, most of us are only a few paychecks from homelessness as it stands and, dig this, your landlord is going to expect the rent and there is will be no utility forgiveness (consider your water bill’s excess when we had that pipe busting freeze last year).
            So, want to beat a dead horse? Welcome to the season of the witch.

Summertime Blues

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Coney baloney
Under the Big Top
            It’s summertime and to myself and others of a certain age, something is very missing in our immediate future; it entails having a summer without an amusement park. And no, not a Theme Park, I’m talking a park that’s like a hot, sweaty, walk on sawdust, warm water drinking fountains, girl watching, fast food smelling, permanent roller coaster, bumper cars, Kiddie Rides, throw darts at balloons, Tilt-a- whirl, Tunnel of Love, Fun House, cotton candy, corn on the cob, sloppy hot dogs and mind numbing slushy drink amusement park. Merry Go Rounds, calliopes, Tea Cup and Wild Mouse rides. They close in the winter and open in the summer and they’re run by folks who live a life that none of us have ever seen and wouldn’t understand, much less be able to survive in.
            It’s summertime and to myself and others of a certain age, something worth waiting for may not occur that we still wait for: a state fair, a traveling circus/carnival, a circus and/or old fashioned carnival; they occur too infrequently are visited not enough by us but abide in our collective consciousnesses as the places we want to run away from home to. They feature tight rope walkers, clowns in tiny cars, a Master of Ceremony, trapeze artists, strong men lifting weights, and women in shiny bathing suits spinning from ropes clenched in their teeth. In my day there were freak shows with bearded ladies, Siamese twins and Jojo the dog faced Boy. These amusements came with obligatory obnoxious refreshment stands, souvenir outlets and tents visited only by adults. “Step right up and see Little Eva do the Dance of the Seven veils; she walks, she talks, she crawls on her belly like a reptile! One tenth of a dollar, one thin dime…”
            Carousels, Ferris Wheels, Fortune Tellers and water pistols that you shoot at a clown face that blows up a balloon and whoever bursts the balloon….. Kewpie dolls with painted faces awaited the guy that could take that hammer, hit that bell and “win something big for the little lady”
            And always somewhere not far off a group of trailers where the workers and performers camped; the carneys, riggers, prop hands and the roustabouts; the unshaved guys who sold you dimes to toss at plates that you could keep if your coin would just stay put, or handed you that rifle to shoot at sitting ducks and the tobacco chewing women who pyramided milk bottles for you to throw baseballs at: “Step right up!”
 Big Luke was one of these folks. I ran into him (literally) when I was part of a commune here in New Orleans; about six foot four with a bushy beard and a big grin, about three hundred pounds in faded overalls. He had worked off shore several times, been an oyster fisherman, a Carney, a pot salesman; he stayed up late, got up early and knew the names of all the bikers at the Seven Seas bar on St. Philip Street (just off Decatur). He know how to tie knots, tell jokes, fix nearly every damn thing ever made and could scare the heck out of anybody just by rising to his full height. He knew how to fish, how to cook and could drink any grown person under the table; he was also a born story teller. He rode freights, smoked and drank and caroused and died earlier than me, although we are the same age (and I’m still goin’ like the Energizer Bunny). He garnered permanent friends and temporary lovers and was in and out of many of our lives here. It would be hard to make up a character like Big Luke.
I dread the loss of characters here. I want to continue to see sword swallowers, mimes, flower sellers, magicians, musicians and that hapless, helpless homeless lovable guy that holds court on the corner of St. Peter and Royal St. I want to continue to see Clarence selling his Bananas; muttering Bill and little Johnny running errands for merchants keeping the wheels of commerce greased; also those ever smiling gaslight mechanics at Bevolo; Pedicab peddlers that singsong our visitors, ice cream hawkers selling cool and the honest men of a certain age that actually want to shine your shoes.
The shopkeepers in the Quarter and their staffs are at once funny, honest, cute, good humored, gregarious and a little bit nuts; I love them all. What we need is a Ferris Wheel. I mean it. And a roller coaster.
Picture it, we have the French Quarter that’s already almost an amusement park; we’ve got the weather, the shops, eating places and the fortune tellers and artists, right?
All day long and into the night we have mule and carriage rides, tour guides and mimes, pirates, zombies in old fashioned dresses, pickpockets, sharpies and the occasional huckster complete with Three-card Monte or the tricky shell game and disappearing pea.
Let’s just go for it. We have an aquarium, insectarium, shopping mall and all that room from the casino to Jackson Square; we already have an RV park back of the welcome center for the carneys. Or better yet….. Armstrong Park! The theater (which is underutilized) can be ….THE BIG TOP! With three rings and the whole works!
I’m telling you, we have a huge (a HUGE!) economic opportunity here; when I finish this paragraph, I’m going to write the mayor. Unemployment will drop to new lows; there will be second lines every night with fireworks; our schools will have a whole new curriculum; we could stay open year round with our weather; street vendors would have a field day; you could clean up being a sanitation worker. And a good time would be had by all.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Mothers Day

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Hearts and Flowers
Ya Mama and Dem
            My mother inspired me to graduate from High school early and join the navy; the inspiration was for me to get as far and as fast away from her as possible, I had started running away as a toddler and continued fleeing her presence throughout my childhood; this was my big break. Needless to say, my mother and I never got along.
            My mother was called ‘Big Red’. She was a child of the Great depression and she raised five children in the Projects (on public assistance) of lower Manhattan in the 1940s-1950s on her own; no easy feat, especially through three disastrous marriages, but, there you have it. Big Red was a hard drinking, brash talking, fist fighting, Pall Mall (unfiltered) smoker raised virtually on the streets or with the kindness of relatives, she and her siblings were literally abandoned by the early death of their mother and an alcoholic father; each have their own stories.
            It was no stretch that Big Red drank a case of beer a day, I know, I was the one who went to the store for her, I also went out for cigarettes and an occasional trip to Harry the druggist for ‘a little something’ for when she was “late”.
            When I left home, at the ripe age of seventeen years and three months I weighed one hundred thirty seven pounds and was five foot nine inches tall; at that time Big Red was five foot eleven and weighed one hundred and eighty pounds and she kicked my ass on a regular basis for any infraction real or imagined. I grew up in a matriarchy with three sisters and a kid brother five years my junior, I come from a time where to spare the rod was ‘to spoil the child’ (the rod was not spared); I was more than eager to go to war; it seemed physically safer than staying. I was sure that one day her ‘love’ was going to be my death.
            Years later, carrying the weight of Big Red with me, the physical, emotional and psychic abuse that I was raised under, I examined my feelings, emotions and my scars; I came to the conclusion that my mother was a product of her times; of an intelligence and instinct for survival and the well being of her brood. The only way she could do that was by having complete control over her environment.
            Fast forward into the twenty-first century where five grown adults live with their own versions of their childhood, their relationships with their siblings, the experience of living under the umbrella of Big Red and are each still haunted. Each and in their own way carry the ghost of their captor, and that’s what our childhoods were, living in close quarters in captivity; and now, like animals grappling with freedom, inhibited by living unfettered, search for answers quantifying our past influences. Unfortunately, we, as adults in your society, are not anomalies.
            The things that my siblings have found out reduces my mother’s stature: she was not a virgin when she married for the first time, unlike what she told us; her tales of naiveté were lies. My brother through DNA testing has found out that there was another father involved in her life, one that she was not married to; his father. Everything that we were told regarding her world now is suspect; our memories of our given histories of family, friends and circumstances are now suspect. My blanket forgiveness of childhood abuses do not give absolution, and given leeway can only lead to condemnation. If  I allow it.
            Yes, my older sisters know more than what they’re telling, they saw the ugly early days; my younger sister and brother were witnesses of the collateral damage created by Big Red and her life and I, the middle child, was caught in the ‘middle’.  Luckily for me, I am not restricted by logic and sanity; I have the ability to think for myself and outside of my opinions. I also possess the ability not to create a person to blame for my inequities; creating blame has got to have the equal creation of a victim; I am not a victim, I am my own person whose life choices and consequences are of my own making.
            Sure, Mother’s Day is upon us, and I’m not going to rain in your Cheerios with my unfortunate upbringing; I have been so blessed with knowing the other mothers that have come through my life and consciousness, the evolution of motherhood if you will. The mothers that I know of and see around me, by in large, are as foreign to my experience as to have me being raised on another planet; and I celebrate them. My daughters have  amazed me at how far we, as a species,  have come; however, I still see throwback behavior in parents less evolved in every day New Orleans attitudes toward our most vulnerable and impressionable children, our precious resources, our future.
            Where do I see Big Red now? I see her as a person, nothing more, nothing less. How do I view the people that I know and interact with? They are people, enigmas, coming from places and circumstances that not one of us can imagine from a casual viewing and can only be judged by their actions because, I believe, we are not controlled in our actions based on our pasts, we are, collectively, better than that; we are creatures with the ability of not being defined by others, even our parents.
            Happily celebrate Mother’s Day with the mothers in your life; and from Big Red’s point of view, you know, “it ain’t easy dealing with you bastards on a daily basis”. Give mothers a break, they’re doing the best that they can with the tools that they’ve been given to work with. Happy Mother’s day to all you mothers.