Saturday, June 27, 2020

Time to Quit Whitey

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
La Pura Vida
Time To Go
            The headline would read “New Orleans Oldest Working Pot Dealer Turns Himself In!” and indeed he will. Whitey Jackson, age eighty-four, will take his walker into police headquarters and explain to the Desk Sergeant that he needs to make a statement to the narcotics officers, the DEA and especially to detective Bobby Phelps. The Sergeant would explain that detective Phelps had retired years ago and could he (the sergeant) help him (Whitey)?
            “I’m here to turn myself in, I’ve been dealing in New Orleans for almost seventy years and it’s time that you caught me; I figured I’d tell Bobby first as he’s the one that’s been trying to nail me. Here I am. Lock me up. What’s for dinner?”
            Two smiling plainclothes cops will escort Whitey to an interrogation room and have him sit down, get him a glass of water and “Now tell us… what’s this all about?”
            “Well”, Whitey says “I’ve been to the IRS to turn myself in for tax evasion and they said that until I prove I was actually making money that they couldn’t charge me with having not paid taxes; what I really want to do is go to a Federal facility, it’s much nicer than State, you know. I got names.”
            It’s true, Whitey had been ‘selling vegetables’ since High School, never filed taxes, made a good living, supported a couple of families and some of his friends through hard times; it was well known that if things got tough, you could always reach out to Whitey. He drank smooth gin and always tipped well, but was never flashy. He used to have an old four door white Crown Vic that he’d take trips to Texas border towns with, he said it looked so much like an undercover cop’s car that no one dared pull him over, he especially liked Laredo and across the border in Nuevo Laredo with its dirt streets, seedy bars and easy women. Sometimes he moved ‘freight’.
            But times had gotten tough in the last dozen years, old contacts had gotten older, suppliers became unreliable, some jailed or gone out of business, it was more difficult to get ‘product’ across the borders and prices increased with inflation; he could have diversified, but he was against ‘hard stuff’ and mind blowing substances were iffy in quality and result. No: ‘Mary Jane was her name and connecting her with people was his game’.
            He fell on hard times. His landlord had passed and the landlord’s kids had kicked him out of an apartment that he had for forty years, he had to sell his cameras (a dear but expensive hobby), downsize (a word he hated) and move to smaller quarters. He had no savings. He got a minimum from Social Security and qualified for Medicare and other forms of geezer ‘on the dole’ incomes. He had never had an occupation other than his dealings and had no marketable skills. His health was failing and he had just one plan ‘B’, turn himself in and become a ward of the state.
            Some friends got him into an ‘assisted living’ facility, which was a postage size room with an alcove kitchen and a bathroom the size of a foot locker, it was vermin infested and mildewed, but it was close to the French Quarter and fit his budget.
            He wasn’t used to being broke and he missed his old hangouts, he remembered the old days and sitting in coffee houses for hours espousing wit, witticisms and philosophy with high likeminded miscreants. He enjoyed opera and jazz and for the life of him couldn’t understand ‘woke’ music and he hated rock and roll. He was used to the easy life, strolling around New Orleans like a king, anticipating the arrival of ‘vegetables’ after he retired his car and taking his time leafing through his book of names to ascertain who had not scored for a reasonable period of time; he’d make a quick call on his burner phone and set up meets, pass a good time and a package and head out into the humidity toward another watering hole and possibly another exchange of goods and services.
            It all came to a head when he took a fall in the hallway of his facility, He had hit his head, limped back to his room and lay on the floor bleeding for almost two days until one of his friends got worried and came to check on him. He was in the hospital for about a week and had a lot of time to think, “Time for pan B”, he decided.
            Whitey made the headlines; it was a slow news week. It was a slow court week as well and he was charged, booked and let go on his own recognizance; he wasn’t considered a flight risk. He promised names, dates and places of half the city including society swells, bankers, politicos, real estate brokers and high priced Madams; it would never come to charges but it would make great gossip which was something New Orleans ate for breakfast.
            Then Whitey disappeared. Theories and conjectures flew. The Mob? Some guilty big shot? All anyone knew is that one night a long black limousine pulled up outside his building and Whitey was whisked away.
            Six months later, Slick Willie showed me a copy of a photo of some old dude on a beach (skinny legs and all) with a hand written message; finally, news of Whitey was circulating. Slick said he got his copy from The Dodger who got it from Princess Diana via Lady Blue, Sonny Duprey, Raspberry Mahogany, and a few dozen others. It read:
            “Dear Folks, On the lam in the Papaya Republic with old friends, the grass certainly is greener and free. Love W. 
P.S. If the phone’s not ringing, that’s me not calling.”

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Father's Day 2020 vision

Po-boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Users Manual
Dad’s Dilemma
            To paraphrase Shakespeare: “Some are born Fathers, some achieve Fatherhood and some have Fatherhood thrust upon them”, and when some of us find ourselves in the role of fatherhood, some of us (although cute, smart, witty and pretty) haven’t a blessed clue as to what baseball bat just blindsided us with a blow of intimidation, impotence, insecurity and total ignorance to how to deal with a biped that we’re gonna be responsible to/for, perhaps for the remainder of one of our lives. It can be a lot of water to carry.
            Sure it’s fun to be with someone who you knocked up and go through the nine months of chaos that the carrier of this little-miracle-to-be experiences; you’ll run the gamut of emotions and physical upheavals that accompany that little angel on its trip from innocent zygote to uterine ripping Howler monkey and then, it’s yours… forever. Red faced, breast sucking, crying and orifice expelling little bundle of joy. You didn’t realize that it’s gonna take months before the little cherub can even look you in the eye, hopefully by that time they turn cute; mine, at birth, looked like a cross between the inside of a boxing glove and Edward G. Robinson.
            Sure, everyone around you says they’re cute and precious but they’re not woken up every two hours until Babykins is able to sleep the night through. Forget about a sex life, that’s way down the road; your ballroom days are over. At first I thought my bundles of joy were willful, spiteful and selfish until I got hip to that behavior being inherently a human rite of passage from uterine to university, self examination taught me that in fatherhood all bets are off. Have more than one child and your confusion expands exponentially. Three or more will drive you sober.  
            You see, nobody explains to you how to be a Dad, I got my clues from television shows, movies and the confusion of fathers around me who were making mistakes on a daily if not hourly basis. What I imagined was that somewhere Dads were cowboys, office workers, shopkeepers, cops and firemen, who never went to the bathroom or smoked unfiltered cigarettes, never smelled like booze or had the body odor of a gorilla and the worst thing that could happen was they would look sad and say “son, I’m very disappointed in you”.
            The Dads around my way would knock you into next week for looking cross-eyed at them. Where was I headed? All the kids around me were little monsters that were sly, crafty, cunning and out to get away with mayhem, mischief and if possible murder; was I going to fit that ‘Dad as Storm Trooper’ mold and would my kids turn into the Brady Bunch or a chapter of Hells Angels?
            Well, I threw all the balls up in the air, I threw caution to the wind, I sailed the spaghetti at the wall and watched what stuck and what hit the floor, in short I tried everything. I was an authoritarian, best friend, mentor, gang leader, wise guy and sage; it didn’t make any difference, they loved me anyway and I came to find them precious and unconditionally ensconced in my heart. We were good, we were bad, we had fun, we cried and yelled and threw things; got dressed up and dressed down--I’m certain that their mother thought that she was raising me as well. I used to say “I can’t help it; nobody issued me The Dad Manual!”
            These days there is rarely a thing called a ‘stay at home’ parent so we all have to do our part; you have to keep those Coke suckers busy; ballet; soccer; music lessons; arts and crafts. There are trips to the zoo; the beach; the park and that awful thing that they call a ‘play date’ until they get old enough to get to school on their own, be sent to camp or let them have a sleep over at some unsuspecting and less seasoned parent’s house.
            Then they start to grow up. From the terrible twos to the terrorist teens; by this time you’ve become a workaholic and let their mother raise them. You become the chauffer, the money bags and that guy that burns things on an outside grill while they play in the kiddy pool or Slip-And-Slide. You become the “Wait ‘til I tell your Father!” father.
            All the while you have given up your privacy, and your relationship with Mom can really become strained. There may be spats when that glass of wine at dinner turns into a bottle; you take up jogging just to get out of the house; you stay later and later at work and Mom is left holding the bag and now she is heading for a nervous breakdown. Face it, kids can drive you crazy and being a Dad is not like you see on television where nobody seems to have money problems and dinner appears miraculously as you sit around and wisecrack waiting for the laugh track and another character to barge through the door and amuse everyone.
            Then they learn to drive and then they drive away from home to start their own lives and families. You reminisce about the good old days and frame old photographs in which everyone is smiling. Then you become friends and when they have a little bundle of joy of their very own, they’ll ask you for advice and tell you that they don’t know how you ‘did it’; and if you’re really really honest, you’ll give them a big hug and say “Listen Kid, don’t ask me, I never had a clue. Ask your Mother.”

Why we march

Of the People
Phil LaMancusa
The night of April 4th, 1968 I was working as a bartender at The Village Gate in Greenwich Village, NYC at a show called “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”. It was a stunning performance and the audience was rapt with attention and appreciation. At the end of the show one of the performers (I think it was Mort Shuman) came out to announce that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and had died in Memphis. At that point the cast came out holding hands and sang Brel’s “If We Only Have Love”.
That night, in the back bar area, I heard some waiters joking about how they were going to go out that night and ‘go looting’; I was surprised because these were grown men and not a word of grief was spoken by them, they seemed more like giddy children going off on a lark. The next day I went on my first protest march along Fifth Avenue along with thousands of other mourners; fights broke out, the police broke up skirmishes but by and large it was mostly peaceful. We marched because we believed in MLK Jr’s message and mourned the blatant mentality of racism in America. We were against that and war and inequality and hunger; we wanted peace and prosperity; we had President Lyndon Johnson who would be defeated by Richard Nixon in the fall. We wanted peace and quiet, they gave us law and order. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
In the next decades I’ve marched and protested bombings and killings and inequities from My Lai and Kent State to the offense of having a homophobic misogynist voted into our highest office, for the rights of women and the persons of fluid sexual identities and now, once again, I express outrage at another unjustified killing of yet another black man by a white police officer.
In recent years I would go to rallies not because I thought that anything was really going to change but jokingly I would tell people that I’d go to get my photo updated by the government photographers that surely have been recording me through the years. I’ve never gotten combative or violent, never taken anything that wasn’t mine or freely given, not even after Katrina when the whole city of New Orleans was being raped by, it seemed, everyone but myself and my peer group.
 I and my peer group, comprised of young, old, and across all ethnic and sexual backgrounds, understand frustration, rage, helplessness, impotence, anger and the very real sadness that horrible things continue to happen to good and innocent people, we’ve lived with it these past fifty-something years since waking up to it, likeminded people have been protesting over inequities for centuries. We fume that there is no Bureau of Happy Endings able to answer prayers and somewhere in the years of protesting, our optimism concerning change for the better had waned; nevertheless, we kept showing up, seeking a just God, seeking closure. 2020; maybe this time a change will come, it’s been a long time coming. Centuries.
From Emmett Till to Michael Brown; from lynchings to bombings and shootings all across the country, systemic bias, prejudice and racism is and has been alive, well and real against all hues of color and genders, but especially when it comes to minorities, women and the poor and educationally deprived. Here in New Orleans for example, we go to great lengths to epitomize the nobility of our hospitality workers when in fact, the restaurant industry is a blatant example of plantation mentality that has flourished, been perpetuated and continues into the twenty-first century.
This plantation business model is not new in America or the world nor is it exclusive to restaurants. It crosses all employment and business demographics and stems from the marriage of the twin miscreants of unbridled greed and the addictive nature of power, who stroll hand in hand down paths of righteousness and privilege; they control those that are kept below a higher standard of living by keeping a lid on opportunity---for what constitutes the majority of the earth’s population. There are still slave holders and there are still slaves. The lower classes are kept down by systemically having to make do with less, and by way of insufficient education, substandard health care, wage inequality, overzealous incarcerations, financial bias and poor living conditions perpetuate that situation for their children’s children. Lower standards of living, which lead to cultural genocide, civil disobedience and an honest disrespect (and suspicion) of the authority that is placed to keep poorer people in their place under the guise of ‘protection and service’. It is nothing more than a subliminal form of modern day slavery. Those oppressed in these manners are indeed referred to as ‘those people’.
Religion is another way of promising the good, conforming and accepting parishioner to a reward after death; God’s mysterious system of punishment and reward. Prisons are in place to punish here on earth. In life, the persons in charge are allowed the godlike privilege of oppressing men, women and children by treating them as one would a lesser animal, allowed life but not a future. God promises redemption and reward; pie in the sky, and to hell you’ll go if you don’t turn the other cheek.
November 19th 1863  Lincoln gave what is called the Gettysburg Address and told us that this country was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…” he told us that we have “unfinished work” to dedicate ourselves to. When was the last time that you read those words, those words that are being echoed today? Those words are the glue that holds us together and those that do not, have not listened to them AND taken those words to heart are enemies of those words. Do I really have to tell you this? That’s why we marched on April 5, 1968 and that’s why we’re still marching.       

Cookbook Junkie

Phil LaMancusa
Food Fixes
Cookbook Junkie Po Boy Views

            When Moses came down from the mountain with those Ten Commandments to give us, he also brought other instructions: How to Parallel Park a Feisty Camel; Festive Robes for Every Occasion; Getting the Best Seats at the Coliseum; and How to Cook in Desert Climates. I admit it: I made a deal with him and bought the cookbook (first edition), naturally it took some negotiating, and it was the beginning of my cookbook addiction.     
Over the years my addiction has not abated; Red Sea: Fish Fry’s All Time Hits; Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper Recipes; Attila the Hun’s Cooking on Horseback; What to Eat After the Mayflower Docks by John Alden and my favorite The Witches Book of Brews by A. Salem Coven.
            In 1999 in New Orleans, my daughters and I opened a cookbook shop with five thousand books, manuals, ephemeris and tomes that I had collected. You may remember, it was called The Kitchen Witch; it grew in twenty years to 10,000 books and no daughters (they both left me for younger men), I did gain a partner, lover and eventual wife (Debbie).
            There have been a gazillion cookbooks printed in the last centuries, the earliest (besides Moses’ tablets) written by a Sicilian (YAY!) around 350 BC. I never did get a copy of that one, although I have gotten some terrific, wonderful and sometimes scary ones. I’ve had everything from cannibalism, insect cuisine, canine cooking, drag queer brunches, aphrodisiacal, historical, futuristic and my favorite, Billi Gordon’s You’ve Had Worse Things In Your Mouth. I’ve had copies by Salvador Dali, Dinah Shore, Vincent Price, Liberace, Minnie Pearl and Paul Newman. With my experience I’ve been ready with discourse on authors such as Alice Waters, James Beard, Julia Child, Charlie Trotter, Jacques Pepin, Elizabeth David, M. F. K. Fisher, Charles Baker, Irma Rombauer, Leah Chase, Paul Prudhomme, Apicius, Darra Goldstein, Yotam Ottolenghi, Edna Lewis, Jessica B. Harris, John Folse and Austin Leslie, to name a few.
            Cookbook authors range from prostitutes and poets to philosophers and prima donnas; you name it, someone has written it and someone has written about it. Vegan, vegetarian, slaughterhouse, hunting exotic animals, Keto, high carb, low carb, martini diets, church supers, and dumpster diving; in my years, nothing has surprised me.
            What makes a good cookbook, one worth buying, reading, using, putting on your overcrowded bookshelf and/or gifting someone? Depends, depends on you, that’s why I opened a cookbook store; that and an excuse to buy, read, and use yet another one. It’s not their price, which can range from pittance to plenty (first editions can run into thousands of dollars). It’s not fads, which can range from How to Crochet a Cauliflower Casserole to Gutting a Tarpon and Eating Its Still Quivering Liver; Alice B. Toklas has a great hashish brownie recipe. It’s about you and what you want to cook and keep cooking.
            There are people that will buy a cookbook, use it once or twice, shelve it and give to charity the next spring. There are those that buy cookbooks and shelve them and never cook from them, reading them like novels in bed with their hair in curlers and a box of bonbons on the bedside table. There are serious collectors that will not flinch at laying down hundreds for first edition, first printing of The Gastronomical Me (1943. used $400.00-$600.00) a signed copy going for around $5,000.00.
            The Modernist Cuisine weighing in at 46 pounds and selling for half a grand to start is one that you wouldn’t purchase on a whim, but who can pass up that Fondue Magic for half a buck at a garage sale? I’ve pretty much had them all and I still have a bucket list.
            My advantage is that I cook every day and mostly for a living wage (sometimes a little less than a living wage); the point is that I read and use cookbooks and I will buy cookbooks that are on subjects that may be of interest to me: Baking formulas, cheese making instructions, plant-based methods, spice studies and local Creole and Cajun cooking line my shelves today at home. I have since left the retail sales cookbook business. Selling books of any kind from a brick and mortar location is not a way to make a living and here’s why.
            First of all, if someone wants to buy a book these days, where do they go? Directly to their computer. If someone wants a recipe for pickled pig lips, where do they go? Same answer. If someone wants a cheap copy of How To Cook a Wolf? Guess.
However; who can resist passing a book shop and not dropping in to browse? Maybe some fool that’s in a silly hurry, but not your average Joe, Jane, Jim or Jacqueline.
            What the browsers don’t see is the expense of having a brick and mortar located in their path; the rent, the lights, the staffing, etc. I’ve actually had a chef come into the shop, pick up a cookbook and say to me “I can get this cheaper on Amazon.” Oh, my heart. I felt like saying “yeah, and I can pick up lettuce at the store and make my own damn salad” but I didn’t.
            Rent is another thing, and rents are not going down, neither is the insurance, upkeep and maintenance of properties that the landlord wants to include in your lease. Those days are behind me and I can’t say that I don’t miss the struggle, pride and exhaustion of owning a cookbook shop. A wonderful shop spanning two decades, three landlords and locations and a hell of a lot of work; some people actually miss The Kitchen Witch.
Me? I’m on the trail of making vegan croissants, Indian Samosas and a Korean spice mixture called yangnyeomjang (it’s in a book I just bought). Bon App├ętit.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Home alone (together)

Relatively speaking, we are not all in this together, in the same boat or up the same creek, and brother, if you think that, you may want to reconsider that actually we’re all in the same barrel, like a barrel of fish that covid19 is getting set to shoot into, knocking us off one at a time.  As our esteemed experts have told us, it’s time to duck and cover because, it’s not as if we’re all gonna catch this virus, it’s just a question of when. We will all get it to some degree and as we read and hear, some of us will get it so bad that we wind up as a smiling photo on the obit page. We’ve been hit below the waterline. “Mortality is now the wallpaper in the room” as Tom Piazza would say.
So what do we do? We self quarantine to ‘flatten the curve’; we do this so that we give our overworked healthcare system a chance to get those most immediate cases taken care of so that they’re not overcrowded when our time comes should we get that bad, Lord knows, there’s others in that line ahead of us that need care. If we’re lucky at all we will only experience a mild smack down, a mere medical mugging. If we’re lucky.
We make some semblance of our life in lockdown, we limit our exposure, wear masks, wash our hands constantly, disinfect items that are going to be inside our sanctuaries and then we sit back and wait as if the ‘all clear’ sirens of the planet are going to wail. “Ollie Ollie oxen free!” “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
Good self shut-ins do many things similar. We stay up just a little bit later. We sleep in later with some degree of guilt. We make coffee, tea, smoothies, and feed the cat, walk the dog, shower, shave and put on clean underwear. We clean our domiciles to a fault and because there’s not much else we can get away doing early in the day, we sit on our porches with a cup of something, an old newspaper, book or magazine and wait for someone to pass by so that we can wave and say hello; people all over the neighborhood use their dogs as an excuse to get out of the house and walk about, some forget to take the dog.
We wash dishes, make the bed and wonder what we’re gonna do with that ten pound bag of potatoes that we panic shopped; every time we use the bathroom we check our supply of toilet paper, hand soap and no bath towel goes unlaundered. We care about other people and wonder how the less fortunate are making out now that the bills keep coming in. We panic and call the bank to make sure that at least we are still semi-solvent. We check our email, FaceBook and intsagram and wonder what will be on our menu today. Will we finally perfect that grilled cheese sandwich? We try again to get through to the unemployment folks. We wait for word that someone we know hasn’t bought the farm. We don’t use the word ‘Die’. We take naps, baths and disdainfully watch our muscle tone disappear.
Objectively, we’re happy as clams; think, all this time to do whatever we want to do, except what we’ve all been doing before this pandemic struck the world like a plague. Now, we can read, cook, catch up with mail and bills and learn the words to Funky Cold Medina. We can take pictures of inane subjects and post them for the world to see: our cat’s hairballs, our disastrous attempts at cooking, our selfies making funny faces and outdated photos of our families. At times we share a notice of another person’s passing. We’re essentially bored as sh*t. It helps if you’re quarantined with another biped or at the very least a critter, they act as a sounding board, someone to share meals, perspectives, chores and a warm blooded comfort with; it’s reassuring to see more movement in the place besides the desk top and/or the ceiling fan. There are those people that on a good day that professes not to be telly watchers, but I tell you this, without the one in our house we would be a couple of snapping turtles.
We tune in to our daily dose of evening news on three channels drinking coffee and having a homemade cookie or two. We have a ‘Happy Hour’ on the bed with the critters with cold beer and potato chips and we stream entertainment on the smart TV with dinner and drinks. Then it’s time to walk the cur, have a nightcap on the porch, make some hot tea and read until bedtime, we sleep (perchance to dream) wake up and do it all again. Sometimes we plan an outing for the early afternoon. Tomorrow we’re gonna clean under the refrigerator. We don’t mention our phantom symptoms.
At home, social distancing takes on a whole new meaning, double digit days self quarantined together can be exhausting; it’s a thin line between selflessness and selfishness and a fluctuation between hugging and hiding. Know when to seek solace and when to seek solitude. The need for understanding, patience and respect for personal space has never been greater. Do things in tandem but don’t forget to charge your own batteries.
Now here's your motivational mantra: This is a once in a lifetime experience, we’re up against the ropes; we can come out of this chumps or champs, there’s no such thing as “we’ll get ‘em next round” This is the telling round. Let’s collectively bring out the champs within us. Do the right thing.

The rule of roles

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Roll Over
Buttered Roles
In retrospect, one thing that I’ve learned from this whole covid19 pandemic quarantine isolation ‘stay home or die’ occurrence is the fluid shape shifting of my roles in life, this exercise aided my sanity pauses got/getting me through this debacle (de-ba-cle (noun): a sudden disaster, defeat, or humiliating failure); and, debacle is the word that best describes this experience that, by the way, I’m still going through, along with the rest of humanity. For me, that Rubenesque Diva’s (Debacle Aria) song will remain unsung for a long while to come, her role, not mine.
We all have roles that we play, we have the roles that define us to ourselves and they can be mostly complimentary. Or not. Also we have the roles in which other people see us and the roles that define us to the world, again, sometimes complimentary and sometimes not.  Nouns (people, places and things) also are assigned roles. There are labels for roles that we play or assign others to play for us. We define others as well by the relationship that we have with them and how we view their roles: from scumbag to starlet. And then there’s hot cross buns and buttered biscuits.
Well, throw all of us fish in a barrel and all bets are off now; a successful chef is in the bread line; talented musicians are on their front porch, crafty businessmen and investors are left holding the dirty end of the stick and the little guy is still taking it in the shorts. All people in charge are suspect, all official servants are crooked, and everyone we see is a carrier of a virus that not only will kill us but will, in fact, make us suffer without a shred of dignity before we croak. We’re all stuck indoors, trying to remain productive and wrapping our heads around how our previous roles are no longer working; either there is no one to reinforce them or we’ve become suspicious of who we really are.
Actors and actresses take on roles and work to make us believe that’s who they are. So do most of us; of course I’m not talking about you, no, not you. You’re the one who is so secure in their identity that they don’t even need another person, pet or performance to reinforce the role that you’re playing because, of course, you’re the lucky one who is not playing a role. Me? If I don’t wake up in the morning talking to myself and anyone else around me, like the wife or critters, I have to think hard as to who I am. The roles that I have, the identity that I’ve conjured needs prompting like flashcards for the dummy.
First words to Debbie: “good morning, how did you sleep?”  First words to Scout (canine): “Yep, we’re still here!”  First words to the felines that are crowding me: nothing, they don’t listen to me.  First thoughts to me: “okay, what day is it, who am I, where am I, and, what am I supposed to be doing?”  Next thought: “Screw it, I’m going back to sleep.”   Then, when I’ve frightened everyone else out of bed, I stretch out (my full length), grab all the covers and pillows and…I can’t get back to sleep. So I get up.  Morning ablutions are ritualistic, I still shave every day, wash, comb and put on clean clothes. Why? I don’t know, I’m certainly not going anywhere and I’m just as certain that I’m not expecting company; however, I need to get ready for today’s role, whatever that may be.
So tell me, what your role is and how it is going to change once this thing is under control; I say under control because I believe that’s the best we can hope for, this covib is like a sniper (hey nineteen….Steely Dan says we can’t dance together).
Will you change? Will you put on the same suit and tie and expect that there is a corner office in your future? Strap on that apron and get ready for the dinner rush? Call up your agent and see if you can be booked at that club downtown? Get the kids off to school and then off to your part time job telemarketing? I don’t think so.
You might ask your boss now if your job gives you sick and paternity leave; you may want to know if there’s wage equality; you may not retake a job if you are not given health insurance and maybe childcare incentives; you may even not go back to work unless you’re give a decent wage with a workable schedule. Your boss might ask themselves “well, how do I work this?”
There’s a lot of economics in play with these economic recoveries. Many employers are given forgivable, no interest loans on the condition that they will keep their payroll intact, which means keeping you on the job. They might be open to some constructive criticism. Many people on the unemployment dole are expected to get a further bonus check of $600.00 a week and that might be incentive to them NOT to go back to work for $2.13 an hour (waiters) or minimum wage (maintenance) or perhaps even not to be expected to be on call for work or be available for a call from the boss at 9:00 PM just because ‘that’s the way it is and this is what the job requires’. Some folks have even not wanted to work for the people that they’ve been forced by economic pressure to work for. Someone with an art degree might decide that’s the job they need to look for. You may be hearing a lot of “take this job and shove it”; that’s when you can make your move and “yes, I am applying as part time internal sanitation onslaught professional (dishwasher), I can start work at $15.00 an hour with health

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Quarantine 2020

Po-Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Free Hugs
Morale Exhaustion
            So, what did you do during quarantine, Maybelline? Did you have a good time, Clementine? Did you drink some fine wine, Caroline? Eat some salami, Tommy? Had a banana, Anna? Go crazy, Miss Daisy? Did you self isolate, medicate, immolate, masticate, insulate, meditate or just get fat? Did you fix lavish meals, use the Waterford, drink some Moet, listen to A Little Night Music or did you pour that can of Hormel chili into that bag of Fritos, pop a tall boy, put on some Little Feat and possibly make a baby?
            We all handle it in our own way. Or not. We stay up later, sleep in, grill meat outdoors, home school the kids, walk the dog, ride the bike, drink and dial, get tanked and text; how did you handle crazy? “Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus on your own”? Did you binge watch Will and Grace, the Golden Girls and/or rediscover that Everyone (not necessarily) Loves Raymond? Did you (tell the truth) stalk your ex on intsagram?
            Did you go nuts trying to get through to the unemployment office, realize that you’re running out of food and money, wondering if you still have a job, waking up to us all being in the same boat (sans paddle) and concerned that the check is NOT going to be in the mail hard, fast and big enough?  How will I pay rent, mortgage, utilities, child support?  Are my expenses going to become cumulative?  What happens to the poor, the homeless, the children?  Am I really gonna catch it?  Should I get tested? Did you hear about whatshisname? Will I die before this is over?
            Were you part of the panic shopping for water and toilet paper, bread, hand sanitizer and face masks? Did you stock up on dog food, Kitty litter, bottles of booze, disposable gloves and potato chips? Did you call your broker, your brother, your bartender, your banker, your bookie? When will this end?
Did you miss going to work, getting the kids off to school, the farmer’s market, the theater, movies, basketball pick-ups, bars, restaurants, and/or were you afraid to go out in public altogether? Did you become a news junkie? What did you miss while you were sociologically invisible? Did you, like me have a moral breakdown? Did you suffer from tactile withdrawals?  Let my people go!
In my spare time, and I’ve got plenty, I picture the folks that I used to have physical contact with: the hello/goodbye kisses and hugs; the hand shaking; the pat on the back; the chest bump and even being able to count change into a check out person’s hand. New Orleans, as we knew it, is a tactile city; we’re not compatible or comfortable living in a ‘Social Distancing’ environment, we’re just not cut from that cloth. I’m not. It’s just too damn Yankee.
For me, that’s the hardest part, living in what is now the new normal… a demonstrative desert.  Face it; waving at your friends just doesn’t cut the mustard. Do they really know what Social Distancing means to a New Orleanian? Torture.
I picture a dystopia where we’ll all be walking around in facemasks and surgical gloves six feet apart from each other while the shelves of the stores run out of food supplies. Smaller shops are boarded up while rubbish is blowing in the streets because there are no more trash pickups. No more fresh produce, we eat out of cans with government labels. Processed cheese and meat substitutes. Soylent Green and Funistrada; we return home with a bag of peanuts and a loaf of bread substitute. Buttered ermal and braised trake on the menu tonight. Neighbors have set up stills to produce high octane liquids that have caused blindness in some of our youths. Soma is sold in back alleys. Police cars now question groups of three or more. Helicopters whirl overhead and in the distance a lone wolf howls.
The telly is forever playing messages from the state while our Supreme Leader tells us how well we’re doing in black and white images. People disappear from their homes and feral animals prowl the night. The virus has shrunk the population. We retain our social distances; we lose the power of speech and language. Our armies are the greatest…. WAIT! What am I thinking? None of that is happening. Yet. You see how the mind tricks when isolation is the rule of the day?
I test the radio; yep, still on. I still get the news and weather; my computer is working and my phone has a dial tone. The electricity, gas and water flow.  My cats are not going to kill me so that the dog has something to eat. It’s all a dream, right? I rush to the kitchen to make tamales, my go to meditation therapy. The steam of the pots and my hands in the masa calm me.
My theory is that we’ve been bad custodians of the planet and now the Earth wants rid of us. The horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding. The question is this: what have we done, what are we doing that is so great that we deserve to be here?  To inherit this place and to pass it on to our children and grandchildren?
We have raped, pillaged and destroyed. We have polluted, gutted and ruined our habitat. Pestilence, war, famine and death riding their white, red, black and pale horses respectively. We have created gods and then wondered why they have forsaken us. The seeds of our destruction have taken root because we’ve done nothing to respect, honor and protect our mother. The conclusion is that somehow we deserve this.