Sunday, November 29, 2009

Living alone in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Chicken Pox Pie
Before They Make Me Run

Don’t be surprised if your phone calls for my comments are not returned by my agent, lawyer or publicist. Don’t get alarmed if my people don’t get back to your people. Or if I don’t show up for that power lunch, photo op, rehearsal or arraignment. No longer will I be seen at testimonials, depositions or sub-committees. Fund raisers will have to go on without me. I weary of public life. I want to be alone.
So, you may ask, do I lead some kind of hotshot existence? Nope. Am I being stalked or pursued by paparazzi? Nah. Am I avoiding creditors, loan sharks or star struck groupies? Fat chance. What exactly do I have going on? Not much.
Let me ask you this; how much time do you, or any of us, actually spend alone? No television, no music, no conversation, reading material or outside stimulation? No smoke, beverage, dog on a chain, mall to go to or mail to go through? Not at your place of employment, the grocery store, gas station or in the line at the post office?
No, this is what probably happens: you wake up in the morning to the alarm (!) clock’s warning, get out of bread and think about caffeine, brush teeth, hair, shower, Shinola and shave. Get to work, go to lunch, yabba dabba dabba and get home and fed, get out and commiserate, blah, blah, blah. Watch a little tube action, talk on the phone, text someone, go on Facebook, plan an outing or a trip and have a little bit too much to drink, brush your teeth set the alarm, yawn, yawn, yawn and back to bed. Pick up the pace, it’s the days of wine and roses. Let’s see if we can do it again-- tomorrow --a bit faster… this time with feeling.
The weekends are no better: sleep late (maybe 9:00 AM?), go for a run or much needed work out, breakfast out for a change, then there’s laundry, groceries, straighten up the house, call your mother (tell her why you missed church), get together with a few friends, watch the game, yadda yadda, yadda, smart cocktails and some yuks, go to a show, hear some ‘live, local music (!)’, a few more drinks and stumble into bed…somewhere in there you might even have gotten laid, good luck.
You do not have time to get a cold, a toothache or menstrual cramps it’s enough to do squeezing time in to see a doctor, tax consultant or even get to the bank. It takes forever to pay your bills by regular post. Time, time time; where does it go? There are not enough hours in the day, right? You’re up a creek if something goes wrong with your ride, especially on the weekend. If your cat swallows something weird (and they do) on a Sunday, you are screwed. And, as you well know, you can’t get bleep done on a holiday.
Take a class? A hike? A break? A meeting? Remember to send a card? You’ve got to be kidding!
Throw a mate or a critter or a garden or kids or a vice into the mix and you can be stretched thinner than creek water. “Pay attention to me, take me out, let’s go do something, humor me, work with me…. enough about you, pay attention to me, me me”. Do you realize how much time you spend paying attention to a cigarette? Cleaning the litter box? Mowing that !@#$$%&* lawn or watering that ungrateful refuse to flower gardenia bush and ignoring yourself? Booze and pills and powders; you can choose your medicine.
There are variations to this theme, but, when was the last time all you needed was the air that you breathed? I know, I know… it’s called life and love and laughter and it’s all about taking it to the limit. Press the pedal to the metal, pay your dues, concern yourself, live up to responsibilities, pull your weight, tote that barge, lift that bale. Take care of business. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do and nobody does it better than you. We’re counting on you.
Listen, the success, meaning, quality, purpose, goal, value, significance and importance of your life is worthy of your utmost consideration; it is not everything. How you interact in your world as a positive force is the only hope that we have for our collective sanity; it has to come from a calm space; cognizant, aware, mindful, again, it is not everything. It is not the be all and end all of living.
It takes a bit of age and tooth, and a wee bit of wisdom, to reach the point where you can just sit down and breathe, quiet your rampaging mind and, as we used to say… be still. It takes and amount of maturity to know that you cannot go on at the pace of life without recharging your batteries. I need to take time off and do that. Why? Because I miss me. I’m wearing myself out and that’s no way to treat a friend; and, at one time I was a great friend of mine.
So what do I do? Sit in the dark, come down with the flu, put my nose in a corner or lock myself in the bathroom? Pack it in and get a pick up? Not logical, practical or feasible.
What I really need to do is, being that I’m on stage more than Frankie The Dog Faced Boy, is steal ‘time outs’ for myself. Short walks and long showers, space outs and cookies and milk, cat naps that begin with staring at the ceiling and wandering the aisles of book shops and thrift stores with no intent on purchase, driving (for lack of a better word) with no destination as meditation. Getting lost, not looking to be found and other simple pleasures selfishly consumed and digested. Mindless meanderings and temporary amnesia, that’s the ticket.
Let’s see; where am I, who am I, and, what am I doing? I think I’ll take a meander out of doors and get busy doing nothing. I think I’ll go try to find lots of things not to do. You know what they say, loose your mind and gain your senses. Amen to that..

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Technology in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Life For The Rest Of Us
Technology Gone Wild
I know that this is old news by now; but, the month before you are reading this, the business section of The New York Times told me about a wireless router+ home backup hard drive+ digital picture frame. It (D-link DIR-683) will broadcast your internet connection wirelessly and will, with it’s strong Wi-Fi signal, turn your entire house into a Wi-Fi hotspot and give you port forwarding, Application Rules. Individual website blocking, a sophisticated firewall, UpnP, Multicast Streams, Wake on LAN, users and groups, network access lists, scheduled lockouts, log security formats like WPA and WEP and much more including the ability to inspect your router’s settings and the display of dozens of internet informational widgets; weather, headlines, sports, stocks, Twitter posts and- delightfully- photos from your Flickr or Facebook accounts. Are you the brand of person who will now think: how did I ever get along without one?
If so, I say that someone needs to get a life. Someone needs to get back to Luckenbach, Texas.
Waylon Jennings once said “there’s only two things in life that make it worth livin’.”
So, in the spirit of old Waylon and Willie, I ask you: how many things in life does it take to make and keep you happy? What makes ‘life worth livin’?
Name two things.
That’s right, if you were stranded on a desert island, what two things would you absolutely need? If you said ‘a case of beer and that hot number up the street’ you’d be getting warm. If you said ‘my cat and a fuzzy blanket’ you’d be warmer. If you said ‘my Blackberry and my iPod’, or ‘my laptop and internet access’, my friend, you need to realize the difference between the first two and the last; and, how they are conflicting mind sets: the first two afford you the comfort of a tactile reciprocated relationship and the second two do not. Waylon says that his two are “guitars that tune good and firm feelin’ women”--- it’s hard to refute that.
I know what you geeks are thinking: There goes the geezer goon techno-loser self-righteous electronosaurus again. Yes, you’re right. However, to us that remember slow dancing to vinyl records, playing scrabble for laughs and making out in drive-in movies…techno-freaks with palm pilots look like kids in the corner playing with themselves. It’s easy for us to assume that you have nothing else going on in your otherwise non-eventful lives than the stimulus that you get from an inanimate object of communication that you hold in your hand. But it’s hard to talk to you with those plugs in your ears and your eyes on texting. I suspect what really worked for you when you were younger is that you made such a pain in the ass of yourself to your elders that they were glad when you put those things on your ears and shut the fuck up.
I know, I know: your Mama’s raggin’ on you to get the hell off the cell phone and drive your life with direction instead of distraction; in fact, take the Ipod off and live your life to distraction (actually your Mama wants you to do the dishes and clean up your room).
And so we progress… hand written letters give way to the typewriter and to the email and to the text message and to Facebook and Twitter? And now it’s lol, omg, bff and ;-). Books have given way to kindle and e-books and what do I know? I know how to make coffee in a percolator. I can change a ribbon in a manual typewriter. I can replace a needle on a turntable and I’m really close to the printed word on paper. All of those abilities have been made obsolete by newer and less personal gadgets, along with fools such as I. Bfd.
Okay, okay. I’ll roll over to the fact that, used in moderation, technology is a very useful and time saving addition to anybody’s lifestyle; but, when is enough enough? When can you be left alone without someone calling your cell or texting you whenever they pas gas or send you photos that you view on a two by three inch screen? When do you give up the blow by blows and get your news at eleven like a person?
Let me hip you to something that you may not be aware of. In City Park where there was a waste of space golf course, they have created a people pleasure area (read: no more golf course). In this area is a walking trail of about a mile, it is just as you enter the park so it’s not like you can miss it or anything. Take time away from what you consider your life and go there… bring somebody.
If you don’t have your ear in a plug or cell phone or if you’re not too busy texting, about a bit of the way down the path you may notice, a little ways in and to your left, there’s a big oak tree with several sets of wind chimes hanging.
Your instruction here is to go stand underneath that tree. What you will hear is several octaves of chimes set apart so that you are surrounded by a symphony of melodic occurrences that can only to be likened to being inside of an old fashioned music box. Needless to say; it is a very happy place and that’s what I’m talking about.
There was recently an article in The Week magazine entitled “Is technology making us stupid?” Of course I can’t find it right now, what with all this paper and junk around here but you get the gist. A little knowledge is a good thing but you can get lost into that knowledge deep enough to drown out the sounds of your life; except maybe that’s the point of it all.
To make a long story longer, let me say that I don’t personally covet or crave a lifestyle devoid of technology; I love the fact that we can “switch on summer from a slot machine”. I don’t want to live my life in a cave, under a rock or in a tree.
The questions that I have are: at what point does a convenience become an interference, at which juncture does a person’s stubbornness to change act as a limitation to progress and am I that insecure in my lifestyle that I need to criticize yours to make me feel validated? Or, are you yayhoos with your latest gizmos and gadgets really Willie Wonka wannabees?
Self righteousness is such an ugly thing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Spring is coming to New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
One Sweet Dream
Sweet Olive Cocktails
Okay, as promised, here’s one for the Gipper; a sweet soul serenade, a rub down with a velvet glove/put your head on my shoulder, love of New Orleans discourse.
As we all know, The Ides of March bode Spring; it’s in the air and in my heart and it’s as fine of a time as any to be of good cheer. Spring. Good day sunshine daydream, take a walk outside and ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky. Spring. Okay, this is me being…cheerful:
The season that we know as Spring brings a very special feeling and meaning to life for people everywhere; but, Spring as poignant as it can be elsewhere, is especially special to those of us in New Orleans who find that it is a space between breaths. The space between floor furnace and air conditioner, the space between the exhale and the inhale. This Spring it’ll be the space between the old political gang and the new one (yippee flippin’ do), the space between betweens.
In other places Spring is the end of frigid winter and the prelude to the heat of Summer. In romance languages the word for Spring is Primavera (first truth). In New Orleans it is more a condition of stasis: a moving forward and a moving back, a coming into existence and quickly returning, originating from a primal source of energy descended from a world-family of lovers kissing on the street corners of time itself. Spring is the time of year that makes itself known by picking up the tab and paying ransom to the Winter, releasing almost by detonation that which was held in check and imprisoned: our Turkish bath of the Summer to come. Spring exists as a supple season, bringing forward, as a source from a pool—motivation. A time of new growth and regeneration; part of an internal clockwork orange for which there are no synonyms. Hell, it’s Spring for Christ sakes, cheer up or I’ll knock you out!
You say you’re not satisfied? You want more for your money? I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do! This particular Spring I’m throwing in not one, not two, not three, but four, count ‘em four festivals! Yes, four festivals and twenty different flowering and scented plants! I’m adding Chic Spring wardrobes that flatter and stimulate, rosy forecasts for a calm hurricane season and I will personally, yes, I said personally, guarantee that this spring you will be in love, make butt loads of money and succeed, like never before, to win friends and influence people.
Sure, I’m sure that someone out there does not have a perfect life, but who does? Your bankroll is thin and silence is your only friend because all the rest turned out to be insurance salesmen? A bowl of oatmeal tried to stare you down… and won? And it’s twelve o’clock and you realize that you’re having… no fun? (If those words are familiar, you know what to do.) Spring is when you get back in touch with your inner sense of wonder and humor; so what if your toast is cold and your orange juice is hot and you burned your fingers on the coffee pot, there are songs for situations like that. Spring is the time for beginnings, it’s nature’s own clean slate; if you don’t like the news… make some of your own. Grab a cliché and run with it! Latch on to the affirmative! Blah, blah, blah.
So you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas. So you suspect that Valentine’s Day is going to be the swan song for your romance. So PETA says that you’ve been brushing your teeth all these years with real kitten whiskers and FEMA says that you need to send them money and your income tax is due. This is no time to hang crepe. This is Spring, and Spring hopes eternal, there’s music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air. There’s the DOW hitting ten thousand and unemployment hitting ten percent. There’s the dichotomy of truth and beauty versus the suspicion that in reality life blows goat. This is me running out of cheerful.
No, no. I am not going to go to my negative-land, where our recovery strategy is as flat as my income. It’s time to start thinking about putting up the sweaters and getting out the bathing suits and shorts. It’s time to do those extra sit-ups and get that six-pack back (as if). Time to cut back on the trans fats and lay off the high fructose corn syrup. It’s time for Spring cleaning… body and soul.
Think spring chicken on a spring break with spring fever eating a spring roll with spring onions going to a concert featuring Bruce……….(groan). Yep, sorry, this is me again, groaning about Spring.
In Spring I’m groaning about being tired of winter vegetables like turnips, potatoes and rutabagas and wishing for Summer fruit to hit the stands. I adore crawfish season, King Cakes, the first of the creole tomatoes and fresh file powder from the File Man. I live for the day when they turn on the chiller in the pool at the Omni Hotel and the critters decide to shed their winter coats all over the house.
And remember, as I was just reminded, life on this planet is not a private party. It takes two to tango, three to get ready and four to go. Try a do-si-do and an allemande and get a shot of optimism or Rhythm and Blues with just a little Rock n Roll on the side. Cheer up, I know sometimes it doesn’t feel like it but, things could be worse (it could be raining).
And if nothing else, follow the Old Philosopher’s advice and “Lift your head up high and take a walk in the sun with dignity and stick-to-it-ness and ya show the world, ya show the world where to get off. You’ll never give up, you'll never give up, you'll never give up that… ship."