Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Orleans Jazz ansd Heritage Festival

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
To Jazz Fest
Welcome, welcome, welcome laydeees and gent-a-men and chirrin of all ages to the Forty-first New’Awlins Jazzzzzzz and Heritage Festival. And as you enter the gates this year, the recorded voice will tell you of all the items you should not bring inside (guns, drugs, food, umbrellas, small farm animals, drinks of any kind and Vinny the Gimp ‘cause he can’t get along good wit nobody an’ don’t like crowds neither).
I took Vinny last year to his first Jazz Fest and he was a pain in the ass from minute one and I can’t fault him ‘cause he hadn’t been there before because it was his first time… but still. And yeah Vinny, I’m talkin’ about you heah and so what?
Vinny is my sister’s ex-boyfriend and we were close at one time so when he called me and said he had some days off and could he come stay by me I said sure. I live over by the track and when he came to visit I thought it would be perfect for him to go get a slice of life at the Fest. I didn’t know he was a gimp until he showed up at my door with a United Cab driver waiting for the fare from the Trailways bus station. I didn’t realize that he would show up broke, but I shoulda known. I didn’t know neither that he was gonna bring his dog (named “Whodat”), but I shoulda figured.
He came in on a Thursday and I had already made groceries, had some PBR on ice and some LPs we had in common (Traffic, AWB, Tower of Power, Isley Brothers, Earth Wind and Fire etc.). He wanted to go to Bourbon Street and “see skin”; I told him that when you got a parking space during the Fest, in my neighborhood, you stayed parked and I wasn’t gonna walk in or take the bus but that he was welcome to if he wanted. He asked if I had any porn; I told him that dinner was in twenty minutes. I was already hoping that I wouldn’t have to kill him before the weekend was over.
Crock pots are wonderful things for cooking beans of any kind, but Camellia brand Butter Beans slow cooked with alligator sausage are the best-est and after cracking a couple of cold ones we sat down and I ‘splained the layout of the Fest; when I told him the price of the ticket he about spewed his beer across the table. He kind of recovered when I told him that I had scored a couple of free passes
“First thing” I told him, “the weather: it’s gonna be hot, cold, windy, sunny and muddy from the rain, so dress accordingly; the beer’s gonna be expensive and if you want to see any of the world class acts you’ll have to secure a spot early on and expect it to get crowded.”
“Tell me why I want to subject myself and my dog to this abuse?” he countered, his mouth full of Leidenhiemer’s crusty French bread. “We hate whatever kind of weather that that is and we don’t like being crowded.”
“It’s about the music and the food and Whodat can’t come.”
Now, Whodat is a little guy, not much to look at, and one thing that I’ve learned not to do is to disrespect a man’s best friend. I did not know that even insinuating that these two chums were not accepted, nay welcome anywhere on the planet, as a couple, so to speak, would have about the same effect as me telling Jesus that he had to be separated from that Magdalene dame. I finally convinced him that the little tyke would get confused with all those people, some of which were capable of shouting “WHO DAT?!!” without reason or provocation. I got him sufficiently greased and to bed early, up early, caffeinated, ‘egg and gritted’, outfitted and observed in patient silence the tearful separation of man and beast. I was sure that the cur would reek havoc while we were gone but what can you do?
Oh, Vinny didn’t mind having a couple at Liuzza’s By the Track beforehand but that was the last I saw him anywhere near happy for the whole day. Over bloody Mary’s he filled me in on the gimp story of how he had been ‘talkin’ when he shoulda been listenin’ woe is me and can you believe I didn’t see that coming blah blah blah. I thought he looked good as a gimp; it reconciled his body with his personality. But I ain’t saying nothing about cripples in general, you know? Just that I came to realize that on Vinny… the gimp suited him.
I told him that if you can’t have fun at the Jazz Festival, you can’t have fun anywhere, got him in the gate and ditched him after letting him know where the spare key was.
I saw him a few times that day not having any fun and although I couldn’t grok that, I let it slide. There’s only one thing worse than someone who is trying too hard to have fun and that’s someone who is not letting themselves have any fun at all. Period.
Me? I always have fun at the Fest I’m in, I’m out, I’m movin’ and groovin’ and down like James Brown. It’s ALL fun! From the food booths to the long lines and the people and the freedom to get up and go or stay as I choose, it is the antithesis of restriction or Claustrophobia. I must be getting flashbacks of earlier times at music venues when I was young, dumb and full of whatever. The air is thick with the harmonic conversion of music to matter in the highest order. And hey, they even give you this paper free! Jazz, Gospel, Blues, R&B, Zyteco, Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands, crawfish, crab, oysters and alligator the Fest has it all and more, more, more!
Vinny? He spent the rest of the weekend sitting on my porch watching the Festers come and go and drinking my beer while Whodat dug up my flowers and soiled my lawn. He did me a favor by not doin’ me any favors, if you get my drift. Happy Jazz Fest Y’all!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Growing up in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Almost Home
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste and know what peace there may be in silence.”
If we’re lucky to live long enough we’ll get old. We’ll sit be the door of the nursing home, at 95, and wait for relatives to take us out for the day. They will, more often than not, disappoint us by not showing up. Or perhaps we’ll just put down our heads and go to sleep one day and not wake up. The rest of the time we will spend in feigned transparency, stealing kisses in our dreams and wishing that we could remember thus and such so that we could change the outcomes of memories, placing us more firmly in the spotlight; our lives written, produced, directed and starring (who else?) us. After all, we’ll have the right… right? Well, Thank Gawd we’re not there yet, right?
Right now we’re just trying to grow up, right? And that brings us to today’s topic: growing up right.
It’s occurred to me that being grown up goes far beyond just being an adult, it doesn’t come at a certain age and is on no timetable of it’s own. It also has no attraction for me. Being grown up has nothing to do with responsibility, respect, ideology or image; although those all do have significance in the aspect. And, having had no choice in the matter, I can assure you, being grown up sucks.
“As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly…”
Being grown up means that you are no longer allowed to be selfish. Not even in your actions, your dreams or your spare time. There’s no vacation from selfless-ness and you are never off duty, and indeed it is a duty, ask any mother, caregiver or bartender; it’s pretty much a yawner.
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
It’s not that I hadn’t been warned in the past about the necessity of my being more grown up; it’s like being politically correct. It’s the sign of a fully formed person and a pain in the ass. It’s the only right way to live around other people and it’s kind of like being cool: you either are or… you’re not.
There is no faking it; any fabrication, however innocent, will come with complete and utter future distrust and suspicion. You’ll be labeled (and libeled) a loser a poser and a bore. Of course, being a ‘grown up’ usually doesn’t win any Miss Congeniality contests either. It wears on your sense of patience.
What you really want to do is to send the baby to the grandparents until it reaches drinking age. What you really want to do is give the dog something to constipate him so that you don’t have to go for a walk with the hangover that you invested good money in. What you really want to do is throw a fit, stamp your feet, set you hair on fire, curse and tell the person who’s telling you something that’s none of their business (or yours) to shut the !@#$%^&* up. But you don’t because it’s against your better nature. What you do is take a deep breath and you do what’s right. You suck it up (just like you’d like to tell that whiner in your life).
“Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.”
You’re asking a lot of yourself. You’re asking a lot from your gods. You’re asking for divine frigging intervention between your instincts and your ideals. You’re asking theurgy. The faith that you have in the people that you love gets tested on a regular basis, as does the love that you have for people that you have faith in. Too regular a basis for my taste. I’ve found that unconditional love works best, qualified by a deep seated knowledge that it’s for the best that you don’t hang around, talk to or move in with a lot of people that you love. Getting my heart broken puts me in such a disappointed mood… I want to physically kill something, and that’s a not very grown up attitude.
“take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”
It’s the difference between child-like and childish. One is cute and sexy and the other is “yeah, yeah, don’t let the door hit ya where the dog bit ya!”. Being cute and sexy doesn’t mean that you’ve got to be stupid or unconcerned. Thus speaks the Desiderata.
The Desiderata (desired things), of which you have suffered through a few quotation snippets thus far, was written just after Prohibition and right at the beginning of the Great Depression and that about says it all to me. Think about it. The work contains other sage advice such as:
“Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”
. “Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.”
“… in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.”
“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
And certainly my favorite: You are a child of the universe… you have a right to be here.”
These are not new thoughts, they’re the wisdom of the ages and they are the hardest to remember when things around you are falling apart, when you’ve taken shyte up to your chin or when someone reminds you that Frank Sinatra is dead. THEN it feels like a load of crap.
I don’t know about you, but me (?) I hate being broke, I hate being cold and I hate when things go wrong. I want happy endings; and, I’m going to have to read this again to see if I’ll ever grow up.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tennessee Williams in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Left Write Left
What Did Tennessee?
This is the writer’s column. Of sorts. Who am I to talk about writers, especially in times like these? I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.
But before that, this: I think that maybe the French Quarter is made up entirely of service industry personnel, musicians, writers/poets, artists, panhandlers, drunks, fortune tellers and wine reps. Also, real estate salespeople, street performers, shop workers, baristas, pick pockets, tap dancers, loose women and chumps playing video poker. Miscreants all. Who knows where mail carriers, roofers, landlords, bus drivers, politicians and/or garbage collectors live? The homeless live everywhere. I cover the French Quarter. I am The Po Boy Views. I are a writer.
In fact, as a writer, I would rather be read than paid; (we’ll pass quickly over that resemblance before my editor gives it the once over twice, if you get my drift.) and I’ll tell you what.
In New Orleans you can’t swing a cat without hitting a musician or a writer/poet and we all wants to fulfill our destinies of iconic fame and we wants the rest of youse to appreciate us for that endeavor, see?
To be a writer, or any of the above listed activations, you have to live within your medium. A writer must see things in literary terms, view things in words and improve their vocabulary to say as much as possible in as few words as can be used. To be succinct is paramount unless, like Faulkner, you get paid by the word.
Columnists like me have only a thousand words (give or take) until Beulah The Buzzer says that my time is up. Sometimes I make up words, sometimes I embellish and sometimes I plagiarize. That’s called being creative. That’s called reaching your audience.
To be any type of writer (no pun intended) is to be a storyteller. From the Pythagorean Theorem to the wooden leg being stolen from the girl by the jilting bible salesman, it’s tales, all tales, and some are taller than others. A good literary narrator, in a decent forum is in hog heaven, a nova in the magma of the universe. Can I get a witness?
Me, I can spin a good yarn and I have a propensity for imagining the absurd and considering it normal. I hear voices. I see ghosts. I cannot tell a joke to save my assets; however, when it comes to wry humor, one liners and snappy comebacks, I take a spanking from no-one. Also, I have a lousy memory and my thoughts have to be written down while they are fresh or they are lost to the ethers. To further sweeten the pot, I was raised opinionated if not outspoken and I admire wordsmiths and people that can talk intelligently without being long winded. In short ---I’m a natural--- with a little work, I may someday become better than good.
Say, call me crazy, but I think someone should have put a turnip in Allen Ginsberg’s mouth before he learned to howl.
And now consider this: just as a painter must know his brushes, a chef must know her knives, a dancer must know the steps and a weaver the thread; a writer must know words and how to use them. The best way to know words and how to use them is to read, parallel advice can be given to those other guys I just mentioned but we aint got room to elaborate.
Right now you might be saying “blah, blah, blah” and big woops and letting your mind wander and wonder and ‘why am I reading this and what’s the message here?’
I want to tell you something; there is something that I want you to know. I want you to know that sometimes I think that, in the scheme of things, maybe I am wasting my life and shouldn’t I be doing something of substance and import and am I being all that I can be and a lot of shyte like that and such and don’t we all think that from one time to another? And then I tell myself to shut the fuck up and examine how much I am doing! Then I think that there are not enough hours in the day and how I am growing in several mediums as an artist and as an artist will. The rest, as I practice patience, will have to wait until I gather the other necessary ingredients for fulfillment: looks and a whole lot of money. And that is what an artist must do from one time to another.
I believe in my heart that we all, every one of us, are artists. There is something in us all that we can do and do well and it’s up to each one of us to recognize what that art is and our responsibility to develop and elevate that art.
And, not only that. It is our duty as artists to reach an audience with our art and connect with positive results; form a symbiotic relationship, reciprocative and mutually flattering in nature. After all, what good is a song, a painting, a slice of pie, a car tune up, a perfect martini, a breast enhancement or a wittily turned phrase if there is nobody there to appreciate it?
As a writer, I write, I read, I blog and I go to conferences and literary festivals (like the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival March 24-28) and I seek to elevate my writing as an art. I love considering myself, against all odds, a writer and an artist. A trait that an artist has that sets them apart is that they believe in themselves.
Another characteristic of an artist is the pursuit of perfection, by their own definition, and all artists seek it. In the making of our morning coffee, in our relationships, in a perfectly put together outfit, in the way that we communicate and in our mediums. Once, I saw a young girl named Lizard make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The medium is the message.