Sunday, March 15, 2009

June Preview From New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Retropression Regression
How About You?
I suffer to say that I’m getting weary trying to keep up with my recession depression sessions. Too true—I have to give myself pep talks just about every four hours to keep from blowing my cool.
I abide by my cool like Little David abides by his sheep; but, like Killer D, (his rapper name) I get called out to smite the giant. The giant in this case is the gathered collective details of my life that are tending to overwhelm me.
I know that it’s June and I should be thinking moon, spoon, croon and bloom like the song lyrics from another life; except that my attention is more than likely focused on the bills that need paying, the storm that is brewing and the responsibilities that I’ve been neglecting. The devil is in the details, they say, and I am bedeviled, bewitched, bothered and bewildered by life’s daily devilish details. Some things go away if you don’t pay attention and some things don’t.
It’s the simplicity of things that gives immediate and lasting joy. Stopping only to taste and not to analyze, enjoying a tender moment and not being self-conscious, sitting a spell and not being tempted to accomplish a task; is for me like the dream of strolling through the Bois de Boulogne’s lush sylvan hush composing poetry. The need to feel invisible, if you get my drift. A yearning. Are you yearning yet? For a good time call… and hang up… nobody’s home.
A placid, idyllic meadow with the quietude of a pause in the day’s occupation; better known as…. fat chance. I usually pass a day in the mental equivalent of ‘steppin’ and fetchin’ like yer pants are on fire and yer ass is ketchin’ mania.
No kidding, I get up early just so that I can go back to bed and get some rest. I work hard even in my dreams, dammit (Janet)! Last night I dreamed that I was learning to play the piano; do you have any idea how hard that is at my age?
Thank god that girlfriend remembers to set up the coffee at night. And for the alarm clock we have Little Rosie (The Wonder Dog! — retired) who wakes up faithfully at 6:45, coughs a few times (allergies) and ‘scrabbles’ (no other word for it) on the floor and if nobody budges barks with the sound like a concentrated version of nails on a chalkboard. And if still nobody budges, she has trained herself to pee on the rug… pretty smart, huh?
Needless to say that Rosie has us trained. If you ignore her, she will not go away. Financial responsibilities will not go away if you ignore them; love will go away if you ignore it. See how that works? The details of life fall into those two categories. Your drinking problem, that ‘little sound’ your car engine makes, that tooth that the filling fell out of and those words that you spoke in haste? Those few extra pounds that you decided to take care of by switching to Jack and diet? Yep, aint goin’ nowhere.
However, that ache in your shoulder where you worked out, the friend that you keep putting off calling, the ice in your drink and your change on the bar should you take too long in the John? Bye.
My friend Scrounge took too many hits of acid one time and thought that a parked ambulance was, as he put it, “a giant ert woim”. It took a while for that one to go away.
With the economy like it is (the OHMYGOD! economy), if you don’t hit the ground running with pedal to the metal where the rubber hits the road hitting on all eight cylinders and every other metaphor that you can think of: shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone and driving it like you stole it with a lot on your plate toward the glass ceiling, at the end of the day you’ll be out of the loop, your ass will be grass and, Bud, life as you know it, will be the lawnmower.
What do you do? What can you do? You can only chop wood and carry water for so long. You can only run on faith for so long. I say that it’s time for God to kick in. How about it Big Guy?
This is your June prayer since you never had the nerve to ask.
Dear God, whomever you may be. Don’t you think that as your creations that have been groveling before you for millennia asking for justice and mercy and the smiting of our enemies, that it is far past time that you stop the ass kicking that you’ve been giving us and let us catch a !@#$%%^&* BREAK?
Yes Lord, it does seem that you’ve been having us hard and dry up against a tree for centuries; how about starting by reopening the Department of Happy Endings? How about putting some peace, love and understanding on this physical plane? I realize that, by all accounts, I am supposed to wait until I’m DEAD to get my reward… but… consider me a trifle impatient. It’s not like we’ve been receiving word from the afterlife. How about working with me, say… NOW? Throw me something Mister Big Stuff!
And hey, if we are really made in your image: why the defects? Why do you make it attractive for people to do stupid and hurtful stuff? Have you considered counseling? Do you have issues?
I admit that you are good at some things, I’ve seen some of your sunsets, your work on cute bunnies and the way you gave us barbecue… those are keepers; but tell me, are you really that pissed at humans that you gotta screw with them the way that you do? How come you do us like you do, do, do? We really do think that it is time for you to let up on the busting of our--- expectations. Amen.
P.S. Oh, that idea of using a waffle iron for grilling vegetables? Thanks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Nursing Home Blues in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
They say that age aint nothin’ but a number, but I’m not sure that I agree and possibly ‘They’ don’t know what the f**k ‘They’re’ talking about. I agree that age is something that becomes less apparent to a person when adult beverages are being consumed; that is, by the person consuming the adult beverages and of course by other adult beverage consumers in the vicinity. Nothing is more fun than being drunk around a bunch of other drunks, unless you’re not drinking. That's when it's no fun at all.
Recall, if you will, your tipsy Auntie Rose as she did the shimmy-shake (as she recalled it) and how embarrassed you were to be in the same room with her. She was experiencing a time warp and if you had been inside of her, you would have seen a young, very attractive, young girl and not the aging woman that was the product of years and years of hard domestic labor.
But, I digress. Let's start here: There is a certain temperament of person that reads obituaries and they’re usually preoccupied with death. There is also a certain temperament about the person who appears in the obituaries: they’re dead, and if they lived long enough they were old when they died and that in part is the fascination that obituary readers have. The subconscious question in an obit reader is: ‘how long do I have left?’
We ask: who were they? (the deceased) “How come he died so young, or was he very old? Is the body still warm? Is it already cold?”
Do you care what an older person sees when they look out from their eyes? Maybe not, but you’ve read this far.
I can truthfully tell you that they do not see themselves as others see them. The person inside the sixty-plus-year old body is usually no older than twenty-five, except to the person looking at them and if the person looking is a lot younger… that sixty-plus-year old looks more like Methuselah. And if; by the way, Methuselah has not been taking care of themselves their body does not feel, or work, like the twenty-five year old that they imagine themselves to be. There is the stigma of being Peter Pan in an old man’s body. If the stigmatism is worse for men than for women, I couldn’t tell you. All I CAN tell you is this: it sucks getting old.
There’s a song by John Prine that recommends that when you see an older person, look into their eyes and say “hello in there ”. When you get older, you'll find that very few young people will say “hello in there”. So, I say to the youth of today, ‘screw that!’ You’re gonna get old soon enough and if old people feel bad about you not connecting with them, then they just need to suck it up. And don’t feel bad about it, they were the same way about old people when they were young, with few exceptions. Besides, they probably know all the words to that song “Don’t ever hit your Granny with a shovel”, if you get my drift.
When you get older, you’ll find out some stuff about those 'younger persons', which is who you are now. Generally younger people will feel funny about you, and in truth they WILL periodically abide you and sometimes even suffer you. They will be attracted by you, but not to you. There are lessons about getting older that are only learned with age, if you should live that long. So I’ve put together the:
Ten Commandments for Geezers
1. You’re not getting any younger, don’t pretend to be and don’t be ashamed of it. Stop coloring your pubic hairs, it’s too late for that.
2. There are no do-overs, be wise about your everyday actions. Just try not to wear stained clothing, and to trim your nose hairs, it looks weird.
3. Be happy with who you are; you aint got much else, except the fact that you don’t have to work any more and they do.
4. You’d better take better care of yourself, if you haven’t done that good a job of it so far, it might not be too late. Then again it may be too late (but it can’t hurt).
5. Don’t dwell on your age or your past, dwell on how you’re going to go about feeling good about who you are at this moment, when you’re probably about to pass gas.
6. Keep busy, there’s still a lot to do and see, taste, feel and experience. It’s time to spend your retirement money. Eat cake and leave no crumbs
7. Try not to piss anybody off, and by all accounts, you’ve done enough of that already. Don’t judge: they’re just like you are/were.
8. Don’t expect sympathy, understanding or patience from anyone around you, especially from those young shits.
9. Get out more; volunteer to monitor a Happy Hour at the local VFW or some other seedy joint. It’s five o’clock somewhere.
10. Don’t take any more advice, especially from me. It’s all rot.
It does seem a crime that we should age; but, age we do, whether we like it or not. The days of James Dean’s “die young and leave a good looking corpse” have long ago proven to be simply.... lame. What we want now is to live longer, love better, run faster, jump higher, enjoy our bodies and eat/drink whatever the fuck we want!
As the country folk are fond of saying: “you’ll never get out of this world alive”. Which means: keep reading the obituaries, and when one day you find your picture in those pages… curse your friends for not letting you know sooner and catch the first flight outa here; you might cheat death yet.
One can only hope and let me know if you do. You’ve got my number.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Jazz Fest Fantasy New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
The Truffles I’ve Seen
The Fest Is In Venus
I stopped by Matassa’s for a paper on my way into the Quarter. I asked Louie how it was going and he replied that it was.
“Ya Mama an ‘em?”
“Another perfect day”.
Lump was on the corner holding down his first Bushe in a bag (it was only nine thirty) breakfast. He told me that Q’s Annie had told him that A.J. had taken one in his back at a crap game over by St. Peter’s and that he figured that it might be in today’s paper or as he said ‘Not’.
“How’d he catch one in the back?” I asked. “Tryin’ to run” says Lump.
The Lump is one of the leftovers from an older and more colorful French Quarter that you usually only see at Mass, the Polls or outside at the grocery store. They slip by you in the street un-noticed mostly unless you are also in that category yourself. They’re the ones without cameras, beads or funny colored drinks. I’m also one of the leftovers, urbane we are not and damn proud not to be. We remember things about the Quarter that can only be told as ghost stories at social occasions involving adult beverages because, once you start remembering the old Quarter, spirits rise from the pavement like Macbeth’s wraiths and old souls and scalawags wink from shadows.
“I owe’m five bucks and I thought I’d go and put it on a pony for him” says Lump. “You’ve gone mush” says I, “it’s Jazz Fest this weekend”. Lump nods his head solemnly and says “Yeah, yeah, it slipped my mind; I hope they buy something this year”.
“Them rich folks from up North, they’re the only ones that got that money to go, ‘cept they don’t buy nuttin’ from Ronnie or Clarice”. With that, Lump does his best lower lip and pulls his drawers out of his behind.
I start to tell him about all the locals that attend, spend money around town and patronize local shops, realize that I’ve had this conversation many times before and decide to steer the conversation toward my speedy departure from our chance encounter. I ask about the circumstances of A.J.’s latest dilemma. That turns out to be a bad move and I know that I’m gonna be late. Again.
“He’s shootin’ craps upstairs at that place across from Pat O’s and you know what a smart mouth he’s got; well, Spider is up and A.J. says something to him and Spider’s been workin’ all those doubles and is in no mood so Spider tells A.J. to shut his pie hole and A.J. is like ‘yeah, yer sister liked it’ and you know how Spider’s sister was busted just last week and he’s kinda sensitive so Spider pulls his piece and it gets real quiet and A.J. (who’s not all up there anyway) says like he’s Dirty Harry: ‘you aint got the balls’.
Anyway, you know how Spider’s got that wall eye and aint been right since his old man hit him with the tire iron and he lets a couple of caps go and they go wide and A.J. pulls that lamp down on Spider--- that one with the nice shade from Manny’s mama--- and Q’s Annie is comin up to see what’s goin’ on and she’s hittin’ the door goin’ in just as A.J.’s tryin’ to get out, A.J. bounces and Spider’s next cap gets him right above his money belt and he goes down and get this: Spider’s piece jams and he goes for A.J. but you know how A.J. carries that straight razor and he’s got it out of his shoe when Fast Eddie steps on A.J.’s hand and pimp slaps Spider and tells Q’s Annie to call a ambalance ‘cause A.J.’s startin’ to bleed pretty good and they take’m to Touro and he’s pissed ‘cause theys ‘sposed to go to his Parain’s for little Rosie’s Communion on Sunday and say, you aint goin’ to the Fest are ya?”
Right now if I don’t get to work, my balls will be bookends I tell him and he nods again and takes a pull from the straw in his beer; I’m thinking that I’m supposed to notice and ask about the straw so I do and the Lump tells me that the straw is so that he doesn’t have to tip his head back as he drinks. Lump logic.
So, I’m on my way in to work, thinking this and that and how we got people in for Jazz Fest and where I’m going to tell them to go eat. I figure that I’ll just keep it to three since they’ll probably stuff themselves at the event.
1. Willie Mae’s Scotch House (restaurant) for fried chicken
2. Yo Mama’s for crawfish boil and
3. Austin’s for the deep fried roast beef and gravy po-boy
All three have other stuff on their menus worthy of the trips and, Lord knows, I’ve put on the pounds to prove it; but, if I start recommending more places I’ll drive them and myself nuts.
I hope this year that I don’t have to reiterate my cautions on street smarts and receive the pity from another outsider on the tribulations of living here. I know all that and chose to live here and they chose to visit and that should be that. I also know that for all of it’s foibles, fallacies and facts of life that wound me, I live in the greatest city that there is; and once again, I only need express that the only thing worse than living here, for me, would be living anywhere else.
Oh, Ronnie and Clarice work in shops in the French Quarter and Lump says that they’re depending on you to buy stuff from them so’s they can keep their jobs and make their rent. Lump says he don’t need no money ‘cause he’s got asbestos in his lungs from working at the insulation plant and he’s on disability. I told him I’d mention it.