Saturday, October 30, 2010

Possible Short Story from New Orleans

Casual Encounters
Phil LaMancusa
It all started when I organized a chicken dismemberment party; another in a long line of my culinary travesties and here’s how that fiasco occurred: news was out that the local super market had whole chickens on sale for sixty-nine cents a pound, meaning that I could purchase some at couple of dollars each. Such a deal; I decided to call seven of my pals to show up at my house for a lesson par excellence in the art and science of bird dissecting, bidding them to bring themselves, implements of destruction (knives) and adult beverages of their choice. The evening promised to be one of blood, sweat and beers;
I replenished the first aid kit. I cleared the dining room of debris and furniture except for the dinner table, which I added leaves to, stretching it to its eight foot maximum length. I laid floor tarpaulins and removed artwork from the walls. Little did I know that I would be laid low because of a two buck cluck.
Did I listen to my instincts? No. Did I stop to the read signs and portents suggesting the day’s occupation would be one of endemic, ominous and prophetic significance? No. I was the man, I had a plan; the man with a plan, that was me. Oh, was I to be brought up short; and oh, how the mighty did fall.
The plan was to deliver naked shivering dead birds (one per guest) and perform avian surgery together, laughing and scratching and imbibing and generally just have a hell of a grand evening. The plan was sever the wings first to get started, disjointing them as South East Asians do for appetizers: deep fried and served Buffalo style with ranch dressing and celery sticks. Next we would filet out the breasts and pound them savagely for cutlets sautéed in Madeira wine and mushrooms, bone the legs after breaking them at the hip joint and cut them small for a Bolognese sauce, a la cacciatore, over homemade fresh basil rigatoni and lastly make a scrumptious stock from the skeletal remains and vegetable peelings to be served as a veloute diffused in Russian vodka laid over coddled eggs (mother and child reunion) with a mousse prepared from their delicate livers and a confit of giblets and neck bone renderings. Red, white and amber colored drinks, with high alcohol content would incite the mood and excitement like a goosed locomotive belching steam until all would be madness unchained and culinary lunacy unleashed. I was to be aided and abetted by my faithful cohort, Hinch the hunchback henchman, and that was the plan in a nutshell.
On the morning in question I walked the six blocks to the store with a song in my heart and gluttony in my soul, imagining the pullets served eight ways from Sunday; a gourmands dream come true. I bought the birds, celery, vodka, wine, French bread, ranch dressing and several other items and cursed myself for not driving, for dubious were the chances for a public conveyance at the ungodly hour of the morning that I had chosen to deal with my consumer issues.
The market was crowded at dawn’s crack with cretins, insomniacs and dazed unquiet minds on weekend passes. The pace remained dreamlike and frenetic throughout the experience with scattered flurries of cosmic debris falling and uniformed, obviously over-caffeinated, stock clerks rushing at erratic frenzied paces to complete sinister and mysterious errands. I was caught up in the maelstrom and weighed down a capacious shopping vehicle in record time.
As you all know, the grocery stores seem to possess an unlimited supply of plastic bags to burden one with. Evidently the persons chosen to do the bagging have been told to limit items placed in these petroleum based abominations to two per bag, at most; and, before I could say ‘pheasant under glass’ I was homeward bound as oppressively encumbered as an overzealous Sherpa, and looking, as I pictured it, as encumbered as a wandering Albanian refugee. I sensed that everything was packaged individually for the express purposes of humiliating me and insuring that any taxi driver in their right mind would speed up rather than stop for me; if you ask me, the super market service industry human resource department is rife with moonlighting comedians. Naturally, I took this affront on a visceral and personal level. Bravely I was determined to maintain, what my Indian chums call, ‘a high vibration’ and keeping a stiff upper lip, I soldiered my way back to my digs.
And so it was that I managed, bravely, to stagger and struggle home with every muscle wracked, every bone aching and every last nerve worked. To my dismay, Hinch had already been hitting the Herbsaint as a chaser for his prescripted antibiotics and antidepressants, a ghastly combination I ventured to surmise. I unloaded the bags and cursed the eight chickens one by one as I unbagged them, gulped four aspirin and a juice glass of absinthe and went to lie down with spasms in my sacroiliac. It was ten in the morning and the gang was due at six. I had decided on an early night so that they would be relatively sober, arriving and departing (who was I kidding?). A nice quiet nap would be just the thing. I left Hinch in charge of putting the kitchen in order; he was dressed in his cute little cowboy outfit. I asked myself: ‘what could happen’?
I awoke to shots being fired, the smell of burning pungent foreign substances and the sound of the smoke detector clanging like a prison break. Clouds of haze wove through the room like giant cuttlefish tendrils, and the acrid aroma of bloody, battling rodents in a convenience store Dempsey dumpster assaulted my senses. The gaseous miasma of werewraiths unleashed from hell assaulted my senses; My vision refused to focus, I was supremely disoriented and I struggled to assert myself master of the situation. Oh, woe.
“What mischief is afoot?” I shouted, trying to rise, and swatted at a scuttling, shrieking, delirious midge that was bouncing on my half prone unfocused carcass, clawing the air and raining spittle upon me.
“Hold, Sir!” I cried, for I recognized the form of Hinch (an obviously hallucinating, Herbsainted, hypochondriac hunchback henchman) who slathered and railed, as against the coming of a lubricious and apocalyptical catastrophe. Hinch was inconsolable and raved in his native language (Hungarian or Hawaiian or some such heathen twaddle), flourishing his little arms and slinging his stilted legs as if caught in some advanced form of Sydenham’s Chorea (St. Vitus Dance).
I managed to get Hinch into his straight jacket, usually reserved for his naptime and strapped him into his custom constructed cushioned highchair to query him further; hopefully he would explain in a language that I would be able to understand. Placing a raving stunted hunchback into a highchair is difficult enough, but when you’re seeing them in twos and threes… it is a challenge. I was indeed attempting to thread moving needles with undulating threads.
It’s important to note that Hinch is, most times, a docile little fellow (except when he’s sleeping); one of our most simple and uncomplicated of thinkers; to wit, he raises plush toy unicorns as in a family atmosphere and not as a playful past time or hobby. He actually wonders why they never seem to grow and only to age. He tries to feed them, worries that they might be catching something debilitating and sings little unicorn songs to them. It is heart rendering; the burden and curse of too much parental devotion cannot be overstated.
I jumped as the phones rang and my collection of cuckoo clocks chimed the noon hour. I have five land based telephones and they ring in tandem, letting me know, in whichever room I happen to be in, that a verbal communication is at hand; also, I have fourteen chiming wall clocks that I have lovingly synchronized to ring in scatological sequence. What with the phones and the clocks and the smoke alarms and Hinch shrieking, cacophony reared its ugly head and prepared its assassination.
It started to thunder outside, the dog began a primitive howling and just as I started up, I stepped on the cat’s tail who reacted with slashing claws and razor sharp fangs. This state, from a rapid eye movement slumber, zonked on absinthe, without my eyeglasses, was further exacerbated by what I thought was a pounding in my head. It turned out to be the local gendarmes that some concerned citizen had called hammering on the door, rounding out my experience with blue and red lights pulsing into every cranny of my house and fiber of my being. I roundly cursed the chickens again and told Hinch to shut the fuck up. I needed to think. Just then the electricity went out, taking all available light with it.
My matched pair of Peruvian cockatiels were screeching at my fainted canaries and my head was pounding like a Grateful Dead drum solo. The only cool head in the situation was the giant land turtle that had befriended me on one of my desert retreats; unfortunately he/she/it had chosen to withdraw into itself (all 300 pounds) center stage and quite par for the course, I tripped again, banged my shins and getting a nasty gash on my temple thanks to the placement of my imported teak Maru tea table.
To make a long story longer, what had happened was that Hinch (the hallucinating, Herbsainted, hypochondriac hunchback henchman), upon my departure, called an acquaintance of his: a Honduran named Hermes. Hermes and his brother Hector have a cottage industry business selling Humboldt Hemp; they have a process in which they transmuted the hemp into a heavenly hashish. Hermes and Hector paid a visit to Hinch. Hermes had brought Hector along because, although he spoke enough American to get by, Hermes had a harelip. So, Hector had self-appointed himself as helpmate in matters of translation and high finances. They had been at my place when I had returned from shopping but were in the back yard baiting my hound Hercules; the self same hound that was now howling as the Hispanics hid from the heat in the hedges, who were hammering on the door of my house. It is safe to assume that Hinch had partaken Hermes’ and Hector’s Hispanic Humbolt hemp heavenly hashish as well as my Herbsaint! I’ll halt here and let you imagine the other possible repercussions of what I found when my rest was so rudely interrupted with the (I can’t help myself)… havoc.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Years in New Orleans 2010

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
New Jeers Leave
Never Too Late
It seems incongruous by rhythm or rhyme for us to chose to label our days with numbers on pieces of paper, catalog them into some nebulous kind of order and give meaning to their sequences and individual merit.
Likewise strange is our inclination to separate life into camps of ‘my ways’ and ‘your ways’, of boundaries and borders, of mendacities and integrities? How is it, at the beginning of (what we’ve decided is) our periodic calendar, we can become inspired and intimidated into asking ourselves if we are good enough for ourselves and exact from ourselves vows to become the person that we would rather be or become? Well, Cats and Hats, fools that we are, we can and we do. We call those absurdities New Years Resolutions; and, like it or not, we hold those truths to be self-evident that not all of us are created in god’s image until we shape up or are shipped out.
In a perfect world, resolutions (the process of re-solving) is merely our way of raising the bar for ourselves with a firmness of mind and purpose. Of course, you live in a perfect world; unfortunately, I do not.
My resolutions now are not to make any resolutions because my past resolves were selfish, harebrained or so far out of my reach and attainability that they were simply self-indulgent horseshit. Lessons in the futility of ego and ability; it’s almost like me asking myself what I want to be when I grow up, never admitting to myself that I will never grow up. I don’t have the ability or the inclination to mature, it’s enough just to be able to be responsible; I’m afraid that that’s as good as it gets for me. Of course, you’re different.
So, what’s it gonna be for your New Years resolutions? What do you want to change in your life? Your home, your partner, your job, your family, yourself or all of the above? Diet? Exercise? Quit smoking, go back to school, join a club, get a fleur-de-lis tattoo, go traveling or get a phone booth?
To want to change is a dissatisfaction with who you are and what your behavior is, right? Right. So, what you do one day out of the year is to sit down and give yourself a report card with those god-damning words scribbled at the bottom: “needs improvement”? Good move for you, I say, but not for me. You see, I make all of those resolutions…every day! Along with immortality, intelligence, integrity and the ability to make a butt load of money! In short New Years resolutions have got nothing on me. Every blessed day I want to hit the lottery, lose fifteen pounds, have twenty-twenty eyesight, and have… a phone booth!
But wait, to illustrate that illusive elucidation; here’s ‘the Superman myth’ that I/we was/were fed as kids: Take Clark Kent (please). Clark Kent is a wuss; he wears glasses, is unsure of himself in conversation and behavior and Lois Lane treats him like the lint on her impeccably tailored jacket. What’s his cosmic retaliation? His phone booth. He’s got a friggin phone booth!
He ducks inside (after doffing his fedora, loosening his cheapass tie and taking his glasses off so we can see his finely chiseled features) and comes out: “ Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. !!!!!!!” music crescendo, “LOOK, up in the sky; it’s a bird… it’s a plane… It’s SUPERMAN!!!!!!!!!”
Yes it’s Superman-strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands and WHO (disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper) fights a never-ending battle for Truth! Justice! AND The American Way!!!
{oh, by the way, I was able to write that Superman stuff from a memory etched into my brain of a television series that was on from 1951 to 1958. What are the chances?}. Question: What was the difference between Supermen and young mild mannered me? [Already I had girls treating me like lint, but that’s another story.] Answer: The phone booth!
NOW what do I have? Do we have phone booths any more? No, we hardly can find a public phone anywhere. So what would happen if I achieved my old New Years resolutions of stronger/faster/harder? I’ll tell you what: nowhere to change! Not that that would make a difference to me, I wouldn’t change out of that suit; it never stays dirty, it has great boots and a cape that I’m sure is hard to hide under your cheap mild mannered suit and tie. I’d probably look like “hey, look at that mild mannered guy with a hunchback!” It has that flashy S right in the middle of my now muscular chest. Nah, I’d stay in the suit, sleep in it, swim in it, walk on the beach with Lois (in her Victoria’s Secret bikini) and even go out for super cocktails in it; for, if anyone smarted off at me or stepped on my cape or distressed some damsel… boy, I’d give them a super ‘what for’! That’s what I’d do!
Every year I made the same resolution, the same wish on a star, the same birthday ‘blow out the candle and make a wish’ wish. The four-leaf clover, the golden ticket, the lottery ticket and that bet on the nag that never crossed the finish line. I even read a book titled The Phantom Toll Booth, thinking that it would give me clues to that phantom phone booth that I wanted and was looking for.
I even thought for one second that, maybe, in the movie The Birds, Tippi Hedren was gonna rip off her clothes, shake her hair out, reveal chiseled features and emerge from the phone booth to give those damn pesky birds a what for. She could have, but, she didn’t. Wrong phone booth, I guess. Gee, she would have looked great in a cape and tights, sigh.
Okay, okay; I’ll give it one more try. Ahem: this year, once again I make my New Years resolution to only use my x-ray vision properly, fight for truth, justice and the American way, and to find that damn phone booth!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Early Xmas in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Sweet Baby Jesus
Fools and Mortals
Okay, this is not a holiday article about Joe and Mary on a Harley looking for a room or three fat men on a bicycle with gifts of Frankenstein and Mirth. What do you think I am, an antidisestablishmentarianista? Not me. It don’t pay to make no fun of peoples fates or faiths; if I did that, the Pope would have a hit put out on me quicker than Salome can shed a veil.
And so this is the Christmas season where good Christians everywhere proclaim ‘Peace on earth, good will towards men’ as if that has been a possibility since the riding of Tamerlane’s horde. Think about it.
Here’s a question: how come you can write the word ‘Xmas’ and not Jesus X? Is that what Malcolm X was thinking about when he took that surname? Work with me here; this may get fast paced and require a little more knowledge than your GoogleTexterPedia can keep up with. I hope that my editor doesn’t correct my spelling or my voice; I actually make both of them up as I go along… much to his chagrin.
How about A Christmas Carol a-la-New Orleans? Scrooge can be played by anyone you’d like him to be (played by); preferably someone that pisses you off because they have a power over you and misuses, abuses, or uses it without it with a shred of honor. Someone you would love to see an epiphany of biblical proportions come down on (him, her or them) like a can of WhupAss on an irritating drunk. Like white on rice. Like ugly on an ape. Like a cheap suit on a used car salesman.
So, here comes the Ghost of Holidays Past looking like John Goodman in biker gear saying: “back in the day, Dude, you were stand up! Remember hangin’ at the Seven Seas with Sonny Dupre and Lady Blue?” and he takes Scrooge back to the French Quarter that was, when it was genuine and there were no parking meters. There were phone booths on the street and vegetables at the French Market; you know, when dinosaurs and hippies ruled the world. On Christmas, the saloons and public houses would serve huge holiday meals; everyone was invited and no money was asked for or expected.
Jimi, Janis, Jim and Joni were on the jukes. There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air. The Quarter was a candy store and the kids were in charge, rent was cheap and the grass was greener and more plentiful (or was that: ‘the rent was greener and the grass was cheap’?).
“Hey,” sings John Goodman in leather and now lace as well, “remember how we rolled? Reelin’ and a rockin’, we was reelin’ and a rockin’ way ‘til the break of dawn.”
Exit, John, exit stage left, let sleeping dogs lie and leave the past to fade….
BAM! Then comes the Holy Friggin Ghost of the Future played by James Carville; the economy has flat lined, there’s nutria swimming in the Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel and all electronic devices have been rendered useless.
Other horrors and acts of depravity pervade the city on a scale that would make a category five storm seem like a walk in the park. Boats are sunk in the river, one on top of another and smoke and ashes cloud the sky. City Hall is housed in a FEMA trailer surrounded by razor wire; Chris Rose is now mayor and can you guess who is Chief of Police? Chris Owens? John Besh? Fats Domino? Some dude named Emiril?
“Don’t get me started!” yells James “you blew it, FEMA blew it, the Corps blew it, God blew it and even I blew it! The reason that you have drive by shootings is that there’s no place left to park! Kids have Ichips put in their heads at birth and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has declared New Orleans a hazardous teenage wasteland; AND, now you’ve brought down the wrath and curse of the Bloody Blue Blazing Ball Busters! Oh woe! Oh calamitous unharmonic convergences! I told you that you shouldn’t have been nicer to good old whatsername!” here old James takes a deep breath.
(This is James taking a deep breath: “whuuuuuuuyuup!”…) “What you see around you is desolation, loneliness, hunger, darkness, madness, frenzy and a weariness of the soul. Despair and desperation from the lack of love, and the pains of broken hearts litter the streets like go cups on Sunday morning after a Saints game. Right now, it would suck being you!”
Well, needless to say, Scrooge is taken aback, dumfounded, and flummoxed. “Nay, nay I say!” he screams: “show me no more, Great Spirit, for I am humbled and will surely change my wicked ways!”
“What the !@#$%^&* are you talking about, Ebenezer” says James, “this is what happens when you do change your ways! You see, the world needs rat bastards like you, and you are a rat bastard of an epic proportion. And, had you not been so bad… others would have not been so good, just to have the satisfaction of not being like you!” Fade to black.
Next, Scrooge wakes up in his own bed in a cold sweat; there is a knock at the door, a knock a little louder, and then a banging to beat the band. “Let me in Scrooge, I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!” (Brad Pitt)
“Screw you,” says Ebenezer, “go tell those worthless pricks that I’m raising their rents, their vet bills and their taxes, I’m lowering their wages and their expectations. I’m not going to repair their streets and roads and I’m going to feed their babies pickles! Bwahhahahahahahahaha!” And rolling over in his covers… smiling peacefully, Ebenezer Scrooge goes back to sleep.
Oh, by the way, that’s you, in the future, tied to a red ant mound on Monkey Hill while your best friend steals your Jazz Fest posters! Mend your ways now; there’s enough rat bastards in the world. Happy Happy and Joy, Joy in the holiday season.
Has anyone seen my life; I left it around here somewhere?