Sunday, December 11, 2011

VFTROU 4 alphabet for lovers A-M

And now, just to see if you’re listening, I present a work in progress. A great thing about this frightening technology is that I’ll be able to update this entry at the click of a mouse; so, if you want, you can post suggestions and comments as we go along and we can run this together like Honey Badgers. Without further ado I present the answer to all romantic questions: The Alphabet For Lovers (A-M) Ahem. As a possible vehicle to your romantic education and awareness, I offer up a guide by alphabet, of all things. Of course you know that the basic ABC of love is Always Be Considerate; however, we are about to expand on that theme (hopefully together). Succinct will be the watchword that is, if I can achieve it; accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Perhaps we’ll get a book out of this and have it illustrated by Maira Kalman. Cheers. A. ATTRACTION: and you can take this as the Numero Uno Basic Axiom; if you want someone to be attracted TO YOU, you must be attractive TO THEM! Pretty simple idn’t it? Then comes ATTENTION: as with any endeavor the heart, the more attention you give; and I mean positive attention here, the more that person will be reassured of the validity of your AFFECTION. How you AFFECT them. ADVENTURE ADORATION AWARENESS B. BOUNDARIES: everybody’s got ‘em from ‘don’t interrupt when I’m reading’ to ‘when the bathroom door is closed it means that I want some privacy’ to ‘I don’t like it when you tickle me, mock me or touch me there’ to ‘that part of my life is not open to discussion’. You get my drift? No matter how intimate your relationships are, there are areas of privacy that need respected and that means not overstepping your boundaries. At the same time, it’s necessary to let your lover know that you also have places where no one should go… unless invited; you see, no one should in my opinion open the entire dam at one time; after COURTSHIP, after the floodgates of love have loosed that surge of alltogetherness, a little at a time comes the treasures that lie deeper in us, some tidbits of information that we don’t usually share on first dates, sleepovers and even going steady. Like this: I HATE the sound of a vacuum cleaner in the same room as me, I don’t like anyone sticking their fingers in my cooking and I don’t want to talk about the tattoo on my shoulder that is captioned ‘Mentirosa’. Also, do C. COURTESY, CONDIDERATION and CONCERN Consistency: Well how about that? Am I advocating ALRIGHT ALRIGHT!!!! Right about now someone is going to say “well what about MY personality? How about if the other person NEEDS to be subjected to my anger, angst and aggression? What if I like it a little rough? What if I can’t help losing my temper? Passion is not always polite, you’ve got to be cruel to be kind, right?” To that I say: “Kindness is NOT weakness; you can keep your violence and anger that you disguise as passion on the playing field where it belongs. If you want to be the pool bully, the sandbox tyrant, hockey enforcer, forward tackle and browbeater; observe how well that that works for you in your private life. Listen, WE ALL KNOW how hard the world is and what a struggle it is just to stay buoyant in our society; this DOES NOT mean that you have to bring your tough as nails attitude into your relationship with people that you should be cherishing and nurturing. This is a dictionary for lovers not for losers. It’s based on romance not on rudeness; and if it seems silly to you, your way of life, upbringing and/or role models… well… get your own dictionary.” D. Dancing: here’s a pretty concrete rule for you: couples who dance together-- stay together. Now, there ARE couples that don’t dance together that stay together and that itself may be all well and good. But dancing is better. And, I don’t know about you; but, I have yet to hear of a couple where one dances and the other does not that has a happy ending or a protracted ending, for that matter. Period. The same goes for Drinking, Dialog and Dependability. If half of the relationship has it and the other half doesn’t; how long do you think that they will put up with eachother? (Answer: only if and when there is something stronger to bind them, like sex; or in the old “for the good of the children” gambit which worked in the olden days, but I doubt there’s mileage in that except on sloth farms. E. Energy and Effort: I once knew a woman who, when she was younger (so she told me), had a boyfriend that would lay around the house all day strumming his guitar, smoking reefer and ignoring the cleaning products that she provided for him and their home. They slept on a mattress on the floor, she cooked for him and he let her. She worked as a waitress and would drive her old beat up car in to work in the morning leaving him lazing and pretty much, she would find him where she left him when she returned home. Dirty dishes and all. One day while driving to work, she was stopped at a light when a middle aged man in a Bentley pulled up beside her, turned to her and winked. Guess what happens when you don’t put energy (and effort) behind your relationship? True story. F. Faith, Fun and Fantasy: Having faith in a person to follow their natural inclinations as far as thoughts, speech and actions are the benchmark of any relationship; however, we trust that the person that you’re attracted to wouldn’t think harmful thoughts; speak ill of any noun (person, place, and thing) and would not be tempted to act in a counterproductive manner. That’s a lot to ask of anyone who is not from another planet or century; but, you do the best that you can. Ask your feline if they approve of your choices; ask your friends; ask your family and then make up your own mind. Do you want someone who makes fun of those less fortunate, who would willfully harm without reason or who would find humor in another being hurt, humiliated or harmed? Hopefully not. You want someone who is Fun and who can tell riddles and rhymes, is ready for adventures and who can make you laugh. Remember FUN is the best way of having a good time and if the person that you’re with doesn’t laugh with you (not AT YOU) then keep on looking; don’t mistake shallow and stupid for strong and silent. Questions here: should a person set a standard for a relationship and not settle for less? Is there a future in BTNs (better than nothings)? G. Gentleness Generosity Gratitude We’re all products of our environment , education and upbringing; add to that our inclinations, expectations and attitudes. We all need the comfort of someone who loves us; who appreciates us and who will put us before themselves willingly and without strain. Usually we have to have kissed many frogs before we realize that. H. Honesty Humility Hygiene Humor Hugs HORNY I. Integrity Intelligence Identity J. JOY (joi) n. 1. The emotion of great delight caused by something good or satisfying; keen pleasure. Cook it up, serve, share and enjoy. JUNGLE BOOGIE; yes indeed! K. Kindness L. Loyalty M. Music

alphabet for lovers N-Z

N-Z (if you’ve been reading so far, you know what I mean)
P. Passion Patience
U. Understanding

Sunday, December 4, 2011

VFTROU part 3

Part 3
And now into that quagmire we drop the other shoe:
the “what about ME and why is it that my past and current lovers don’t measure up to my fantasy lover, my ideal, MY perfect model?”
And it’s not enough to hear:
“Ya know Sweetie, sometimes you just get what you deserve; you’re no piece of cake yourself.”
Should we say: (?)
“tough noogies; that’s what’s out there and that’s what you’re gonna have to go with!”
Or maybe:
“hey, we’re all human and have human frailties; why should I be any different?!”
And possibly:
“Hang in there, you’ll get used to disappointment; that’s just the way things are.”
“It’s just not your time yet, have patience; good things comes to those who wait”
Does it seem like that there are more negative excuses as to why your love life goes through rough patches than optimistic positive reinforcement for better times? When someone says “Cheer up. Things could be worse!’ Are you suspicious that if, in fact, you DO cheer up; things will only get worse? Do you ponder the question--- that on promising to love someone ‘for better or for worse’ --- about just when, exactly when, the BETTER part starts? You shouldn’t have to, you say? Well, I for one, agree with you. Furthermore: when you’re ready, willing, able and available for love to enter your life; do you wonder where the hell it is? When you had it in your hand; how did it slip away? When you’re ready to go looking for it; where do you go?
I have many opinions and beliefs as you probably have noticed. One opinion that I have is that each one of us believes that they are perfect and that (A) it’s the other persons fault when things go awry; but, that we (B) have a tendency to blame ourselves when the shit really hits the fan. It’s like having a child misbehave and it’s their fault—when they run away from home it’s your fault. So, let’s not lose track of use the child as an illustration and metaphor here; for, aren’t we pretty much all children with, as they say, grownup pride? “Acting more like children than children”.
Here’s what we have so far: we’re not to blame for what goes wrong with love and our relationships but we all can take credit when things go well. If you listen to me: all love is temporary and doomed to failure; for when you capture it, something is sure to crop up to keep it from staying as in: “this IS NOT what I signed up or bargained for…WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT YOU WERE AN ALIEN???” If you listen to me: love comes from a temp agency and has to be paid for as you go and then never be trusted to show up for the next shift. And if you’re still listening to me, you’ll hear me say that all consensual non violent love is worth it; it’s worth the passion, time, energy, humility, patience, juice, understanding, dedication, honesty and hard work it takes to get it, keep it and make it stay. That goes for you, your children and your little dog too.
So, let’s get back to the children. One theory is that this behavioral morass goes back further than white bread and is passed down through generations; although there are pockets of sane couples trying to raise sane children, frankly, the odds are against a revolution in consideration, logic and understanding is kind of like a snowball’s chance… Here you’re welcome to eliminate taking responsibility for your love life’s dysfunction and blame all of your shortcomings on your parents parents parents. Although, that would mean that you are admitting that someone has or had a problem; that somebody somewhere is or was damaged and are or was capable of passing that damage on. Consider that a breakthrough.
Damaged adults (your parents) may pretty much be a lost cause, the patterns are formed, the die has been cast, the counterproductive habits are too ingrained... We need to start with the children. You. You know that little selfish, spiteful mimic of adult lack of common sense. If you don’t feel an epiphany coming on; fine, you’ll just have to fake it, if only for the next generation; to get them to believe that being kind, caring, loving and good is normal, which, of course it should be.
In that vein and furthermore, I truly believe that you, at birth, were born with the ability to sniff out the inaccurate, the foolish, the dishonest and the completely untrustworthy in the people that inhabited your immediate environment; and then, as you grew, in the endeavor for self preservation, you found out what worked to get you what you wanted, whether it was good for you or not. All children are darling and cute and that keeps adults from wanting to harm them. Children from birth, are cute, cuddly. egocentric, manipulative,a pain in the ass, demanding and that’s their mechanisms for keeping and staying alive, entertained, comfortable, nourished and …”wah!’ As they grow, they see what it takes to influence others to get what they want; they watch examples of how it works (or not) by others in their environment and imitate that behavior into their adulthood. In a word it’s called ‘pushing buttons’: can I get an “AMEN” from you parents?
Picture a perfectly ridiculous scenario: The boss’ wife yells at the boss for no good reason; the boss yells at the worker; the worker goes home and has a fight with his wife; the wife berates the child; the child kicks the dog. The dog bites the cat; the cat pees in the shoe and the cheese stands alone. Question: what could have possibly pissed off the boss’ wife? I’ll tell you.
Years and years ago the boss’ wife, Tiffany (or Heather or Angela; Shanika; Kelly; Mary Jane or Little Sue), was told a story about Cinderella; Snow White; Tiana or Princess Grace. Everything that she was told as a little girl assured her—being she was sharp, pretty and talented—that she could / would / should marry (of course) a Prince Charming. And (of course) she did. BUT. But, over the course of the last few years the Prince is looking more like The Biggest Loser in more ways than one. There are none of the amenities (and you could name a few) that a princess is entitled to. There’s a husband that has lost his sparkle and appeal, kids that need all the attention and money anyone can come up with, there’s the trials and tribulations of everyday life and a sink of dirty dishes that is never empty no matter how often they’re tackled. Get up early; go to bed late; lust after the pool man; have a glass of wine, an antidepressant, a hair appointment, go shopping, lunch with the girls, that Pilates class…. Nothing helps get rid of the feeling of being ripped off by life and then the tub of lard comes out of the shower waving an erection and giving it his best Burt Reynolds. I’d be pissed too!
But what about him, you might say as you jump to his defense? He’s the one busting his ass out there keeping her and those brats in Honey O’s and trips to Appleby’s. He pays the mortgage, tuition, school uniforms and the tennis club dues. It’s him that drives the older car, makes sure that the lawn is mowed, the dentist paid, money put aside for college, vacations and therapists. He’s the one who eats lunch at fast food joints; belongs to a club but never gets to go; worries about their nest eggs and future and hasn’t had sex with his wife in eight months (his last birthday). He is forced to look outside of his home for conversation, affection, attention and peace of mind. He goes home to dirty laundry, quarreling kids, bills in the mail and a spouse that will not shut the f—k up with complaints about everything in her spoiled lazy self centered existence.
Together they’re raising three point five children and he thinks that he might bump up his wife’s meds this Thanksgiving and invite the boys over to watch some football to get even with her for yelling at him just because he wanted a little nookie.
And so the cycle continues.
Well, that’s enough background filler; let’s get on to part 4 to find some solutions, shall we?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Valentines for the rest of us part 2

Part 2
As I see it, the insanity all starts with conflicting signals when we’re growing up and here’s one example: a child is told that it’s only right to share their toys. “Sharing Is Caring” they’re told. THEN, they see their Pops and his buddies drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, watching the game on the telly, where two teams of grown men are fighting over a ball, one ball, and their Pops and his buddies are screaming “KILL THE BASTARD!!! HURT HIM!!! KNOCK HIM DOWN!!!! TAKE THE BALL AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.
Of course Little Johnny will (not) take that ‘Sharing Is Caring’ crap back to the schoolyard, will he? Ya think? Nope; he’s ready to “kill the bastard!” But, with any luck LJ will be sent into a kiddy sports arena where he’ll be told to maim and kill other kids; as long as he plays fair. (?) Do you see the logic in that? I don’t. And consider that LJ is most likely going to carry that ‘sport’ ethic into his personal relationships and into his adult life.
Let’s take a moment and talk about role models, in Spanish: ejemplo; example. Back to the football game: say that it’s Thanksgiving and you’re one of the 3.5 children born into a dual parent relationship (married or not), and more than likely both of your parents have jobs; but, only one is sitting with his friends and watching the game; the other one is the ‘Edith’ as in: “get me another beer, willya Edith?”. One kid will be in the teevee room trying to figure out what makes the boys so loud, crude and rowdy; one kid will be in the kitchen because to them Edith is really Mom; one kid will be in their room reading Jane Eyre, being grateful that they can be left alone and the point five kid will be playing a video game that includes mayhem, murder and misogyny; all will be forming role model attachments Role models are the people that you look up to because whatever they are doing is cooler than anything that you can come up with. What you relate to you tend to become; what you become is who you (and others) will have to live with and will ultimately be reflected in your behavior. Your actions will have to come with some consequential responsibility; or not.
Kids will be told by their life coaches that “it’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play” and then they will be shown by life itself that it certainly is NOT okay to lose. They will be told by life that if someone else has a ball… smash them in the face, knock them down, kick them and take the friggin ball and run away with it. As a result, their adult conflict resolution is usually: SACK THE QUARTERBACK!! (mentally, emotionally, verbally and in worse case scenarios… physically). Say it isn’t so.
On the other hand, some kids raised are being told that they are prettier, smarter and more talented than anyone else walking god’s green acres; they’re given things freely, with a sort of reverence that’s usually reserved for iconic deities and this should net positive results, right? Not necessarily; not if the child is going to find out that there are a lot more prettier and talented kids out there and that the competition to stand out is fearsome. At best they’re going to believe that their parents don’t know shit about how the real world works. At worst they will be the brunt of teasing and bullying by, curiously enough, those less pretty and talented than they are. Either that or THEY WILL BE prettier, smarter etc. and will use those talents egoistically to inflict mischief and manipulate others who are not. (?)
Remember that cheerleader that had her own clique that you were excluded from and how that hurt? Sure you do; you had a Voodoo doll at home in her image and stuck pins in her eyes (and elsewhere). Remember that brainiac that always knew just the right thing to say to make you feel small, insecure and stupid? Sure you do; you beat him up and took his lunch money.
Now, this may seem like all the trouble starts with the adult role model’s duplicitous behavior in a child’s life and how that leads to disaster when that kid grows up and has to relate to another child that has grown up just as damaged as they are and both are employing their role model’s tactics. Well it does and it’s up to any self respecting -- and that’s the pivot phrase: self respecting—person to break that mold by not putting up with that mentality in their world, in their life, in themselves, in their relationships and in other people; AND certainly not in their children.
Then again, you point out, some kids are born bad, wild and mean; some kids are born sensitive, artistic and insecure. Ya think? The bashful and the bully; the con artist and the one who works in oils; the beauty and the beast; the registered nurse and the rapist; they all started out on the exact same sperm and egg blind date. They turned out fat and skinny, high strung and indolent, ballerina and butcher and all of those aspects that make the world such a diverse and wonderful place to live. That sperm and egg combination gave us hairdressers and harlots, Hindus and homemakers and handymen and heroes and Hitlers and homosexuals and hogcallers in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire (where hurricanes hardly happen). All are born without an instruction manual, looking for guidance; a sign post; a rudder; a port for the storms.
They spend their childhood through adolescence and into sexual maturity just trying to get along in their world until they can figure it all out and then… they fall in love; realizing that you’re falling in love for the first time I refer to as THE ‘holy shit’ experience. When, and if, it happens more than the first time (it generally does) I call it the ‘holy shit, here I go again’ confusion. It’s a flummox; a baffle; a flabbergast; a dumbfound. It’s rarely easy and we rarely know how to pull it off much less make it stay and work out. Sex helps a lot. So does friendship, common interests and patience; plenty of patience. And even that is a lot of times not enough to make love stay.
As a side note: we all know the horrors of our hormones when that age hits us for the longest time when that itch and scratch routine get us into every kind of imaginable trouble, the push and shove the moaning groaning panting heart thumping mind reeling electric astonishment confusing enlightening dizzying portals to pleasure that leave us exhausted, but none the wiser and we’ll stop here to regroup and continue into part three. Send me your thoughts.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Valentines for the rest of us part 1

Po boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Valentines For The Rest Of Us
Take Your Best Shot
Okay Cats and Hats, over the last dozen years I’ve done adviserial columns, in February, for Valentine’s Day and I’ve loosed buckets of hints and allegations for behavioral modification for the purpose of promoting happy, healthy love lives. And still, yes, and still I see that there are nefarious discrepancies pertaining to harmonious amalgamations concerning matters of the heart; in short, obviously either you’re just not paying attention or you consider my counsel unworthy of merit because I’m just a big bag of wind. In any case, let me start off by assuring you that I’ve been around the block enough times to be able to speak on the subject from catastrophic experiences and exhaustive self examinations ad nauseum. AND, in the interests of full disclosure, this will not be my usual short (1,000 words) rant; so if you’re still interested in this subject matter: man up and soldier on.
To begin with, I know, yes I know, that when people believe that they’re in love and they try to get along together it’s no champagne and hors d’oeuvres outing; and, it’s especially frustrating for them, when they -- thinking that love is the be all and end all of everything-- can’t figure out why it ain’t at least a box of Ritz Crackers with Cheese Whiz and Boones Farm… despite their best intentions and efforts. (?) How do I know? I know because for decades and from countless romantic affiliations--- from temporary liaisons to “in love forever”—I have managed to screw up in every conceivable form and fashion my and someone else’s love lives. In my day, I could even screw up a wet dream. Seriously. So, I know from whence I speak and I’ve thought long and hard about the errors of my ways; making as one might say, an independent study. A survey of sorts into the insanity of romance, for as anyone knows who has been to that rodeo, when you’re on the roller coaster of love, it’s a thrilling ride but… CRAZY!
Survey says: people are different from one another; boys and girls are different from one another; love is defined differently by different people; survey says one of you (?) is a wanker. Being from Venus and Mars doesn’t turn you into Tristan and Isolde without you striking a balance within yourself and the other person. You can bet Uranus on that one.
Relationships, especially those of the canoodling and sheet shaking types, are victims of several pratfalls that start with preconceived notions; or more precisely, the way that YOU think that things should be and are going to happen.
Getting specific now, one of the biggest mistakes that anyone can possibly make in matters of the heart is believing that someone who you’re instantly attracted to is almost certainly the perfect mate for you! And, that furthermore, they have the innate ability to ‘complete’ you. Big mistake. Another is the assumption that those teensy weensy things that are in your lover’s repertoire of annoying habits; you know, the ones that you find mildly irritating now(?), aren’t going to drive you full blown bat shit crazy later. Bad assumption.
While we’re at it, a couple more of the most relationship dooming mindsets is the horrible mistake that you could make in believing, for one second, that you can change another person and added to that the blunder of succumbing to the myth that you don’t really have to be completely honest with eachother. Doom, doom.
Q: So what do we have as a composite recipe for disaster?
A: A hot body, intelligent but clueless banjo picker with sleep apnea that never learned to pick up after themselves, who drinks milk from the container while standing in front of the opened door refrigerator scratching their butts, telling you that you should lose weight, that the reason that they don’t have a job is that the unenlightened bosses won’t allow them to practice yoga or text their BFFs during the work day and insist on them getting to work exactly on time. And by the way they’ll add,
“did you know that your best friend, you know, the one that eats meat, is hitting on me”, or,
“sorry I didn’t return your call yesterday; I went out to get some cigarettes and saw these cool cufflinks so I decided to get my wrists pierced.”
“You did know I’m allergic to cats, didn’t you?”
“Can you give me a ride to Skipper’s house; we’re gonna chill until dinner’s ready, okay?”
“Ya got twenty bucks until Benji gives me back the money he owes you”;
“well, you’d probably have more money if you took a second job!”
“You’re not mad are you?” etc etc etc.
Oh, and in the case you think that maybe I’m advocating that loving relationships be based upon nothing less than reciprocal adoration, integrity and respect, you’re probably correct.
“So what”, you say, “I’m immune, I’m not falling for that love crap that blinds me to another’s faults and sets me looking in the mirror wondering how I got into this mess and wondering what I have to do to get out of it.”.
“Not me” you say “I don’t have time to kiss frogs to find the Prince(ess). I’m worth more, I’m a catch, I don’t bring no baggage. I’m special.” Survey says: check yourself, it just might be YOU that’s the wanker; and then where will you be? You see, we all have this pre-misconception that it’s the other person that leaves their dirty dishes; tub ring; body odor; inconsideration and scooper bag on OUR doorsteps. Survey says: a little introspection goes a long way.
Okay. Back in the day, a workable relationship between two people was like the butt ends of an electric appliance; namely, that there’s a plug and a socket, you know, what they call the male and female receptors; the catcher and the pitcher; the giver and the taker; the floor lamp and the incandescent bulb. That one turned out to be, in your grandparent’s generation, two separate conflicting strangers with separate and unequal (albeit loving) roles that made households run smoothly and function to their (or one of their) standards and by their (or one of their) rules; sometimes like the rug and the person who wiped their feet on it. Everyone knew their place and those who questioned protocol were informed firmly (albeit lovingly) to be aware that “I run this house and if you know what’s good for you, as long as you live here, you will do as I say!” For anyone who thinks that, in this day and age, that is an admirable model of a good and healthy relationship and wants to buy into it, I would advise you to get your head examined. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, is hardwired for that scenario for any length of time today.
Survey says that this missive is getting longer and loooooonnnnggggerrrr; so I’d better put thus far on the blog and annoy you with more parts later………..hmmm.

Valentines in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
The Art Of Baking
She leaned across the bar and said: "Tell me a story... tell me a love story." So I did.
"Once upon a time there was a chef, younger than I am; a hard working, hard drinking, philanderer of a chef. He worked in a restaurant; a very busy restaurant; on Bourbon Street; in the French Quarter; in New Orleans named Houlihan’s Old Place. They averaged 1,500 meals a day; that’s how busy they were. The chef worked with a full crew of miscreant kitchen workers. Also working was a bevy of energetic young women who delivered service in the form of food and drink to the plethora of customers in addition to providing more than ample exotic inspirations to the male workers romantic fantasies. The young crew was energetically enthusiastic while working, playing and availing themselves to their promiscuous natures. It was a time when Innocence was married to Exuberance; and, as it turns out, Exuberance was two timing Innocence with that scamp Excess.
One day while the Chef was working on the line he saw a sight that crossed his eyes and dotted his tees. A tall beauty of a waitress (named Isabelle) raised her arms above her head and took from her hair a pen that was holding up her dark tresses, allowing them to literally cascade down to the small of her back. This action, and I’m sure that you’ve seen it (or done it), did its best to accentuate a figure that was nothing short of astounding. The chef very literally dropped what he was doing, stared like a rube at a peep show and their eyes met.
Well, the long and the short of it was that a night or so later she found him in a bar doing his usual after work ‘drink til you drop’ routine and successfully lured him into her bed. He was, as you might have guessed, a very willing victim to her charms and, getting along so well together, they began seeing a lot of eachother. Once, when they hadn’t seen eachother for some days she found him again and queried his absence of attention. He confessed to the knowledge that his relationship with her was not exclusive (on either side) and that he was mulling over a quandary; to wit: he was falling in love and if the relationship were to not be exclusive (on both sides) that perhaps he should have no part of a relationship with her at all. That divergence was resolved in congress that night and they became ‘an item’ in the eyes of all around them. In fact, when the upper management of the restaurant caught wind and informed the chef of a rule barring the dating between chefs and waitresses (random casual screwing was exempted), the chef promptly fired himself.
One day, as the couple was walking in their neighborhood they spied an abandoned laundry and dry cleaning plant that was for rent (626 Frenchmen Street), and hatched a plan to build their own restaurant to live and work together… forever; and, working outside jobs, they did just that. It took fourteen months of living in that construction zone to empty out the old and install the new, buying an old bread delivery truck and naming it ‘Step-van Fetch-it’ to do necessary hauling. They brought back discarded restaurant equipment, building materials and furnishings from the landfill and incorporated the castoffs to into their vision. With the help of friends they put in an atrium and a glass windowed foyer; they cleaned up a huge brick wall and created an outside porch and bathing area; they built tables, walls, benches, panels, a stage and a stairway up to the mezzanine; they ran water, gas, ventilation systems and electricity without supervision or approval; they installed and used a wood burning pot belly for heat. They lived on the mezzanine upstairs from the restaurant (as later did some of the staff), and they named their restaurant Valentines.
Valentines became a destination for expats, orphans, musicians, tradesmen, runaway princesses, jewel smugglers, existentialists and idealists. Those were the days when you could take a dream into your hands, breathe life into it and make into your own reality; I have pictures to prove it.
Soon, as these things will go, someone got pregnant; and it wasn’t him …it was Isabelle. At that point they had a 1950 Chevy pick-up truck named Lazarus; so called because of its ability to quit running and somehow rise again from the dead. It was a time when poor folks had their babies at Charity Hospital; in 1977 they were birthing two hundred babies a day and that was not an option that they cared for. As birthing time grew nearer, they found out about a midwife in Eureka Springs, Arkansas named Beulah who was available. Lazarus was given a new coat of silver paint and entrusted to make the trip.
Beulah was eighty years old; had been birthing babies for forty years and preaching the gospel for thirty. Her parishioners were of the counter culture and she played lead electric guitar at the services where they sometimes spoke in tongues. The birthing was done on Beulah’s farm. Beulah explained that she had never had to perform an episiotomy, and I was instructed to supply fragrant oils (to keep Isabelle “greased up”) for a smooth event.
To make a long story longer, the ‘event’ lasted twenty-two hours with contractions, dilations, pushing hard and breathing deep; the mother was panting; the midwife/preacher was praying, massaging, measuring; the father was keeping everything oiled up and Christ Almighty was leading cheers from on high. We tried squatting; we tried warm baths; we wound up with a sheet tied to the bedposts and young Isabelle puffing like a steam engine and Beulah in the bed and me in the bed and Jesus in the bed and weeping and singing and sighing and moaning. We were a congregation; we were the flock; we were the gateway to the universe. We were there when, with a cry and a shit and a big old SPLORT!, the fabric of known life parted to make room for another child. An exhausted mother looked down lovingly at her slippery accomplishment and exhaled……….. “Hosanna!”
and that’s what we named the baby."
These days a lot of water has passed under the bridge; Hosanna now has three daughters of her own, the vagaries of life have separated us all by miles but not by spirit and the lessons remain: life is an adventure; anything is possible and love is the one essential ingredient to baking beautiful and delicious cakes (and everything else).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Short Story 11 1/2

Short Story Part 11 1/2
Note: You’ll soon see that part twelve has been pushed back to make way for the eleventh and a half and just so’s you know; the entire piece is just about finished and thanks for your patience, I’m not sure that this (the story) will ever make it anywhere near physical print, so we’re kind of like a small and intimate band of secret sharers…ain’t we. Or am I the only one that’s engrossed in this tale?
And by the way, I am aware that the short story has not only grown longer, but to be a viable contender for the consideration of being a piece of stand-up literature it needs to be fleshed out even more with the descriptions of silly stuff like “the evening breezes caressing the tree-ses and the moonlight on her Sonata adhering to her martini glass menagerie as the luscious autumn leaves of red and gold drifted by my window on a summerset maughn” type of flushables that, to my mind only gets away from a good story with useless crap that I don’t want to know about and contributes nothing but more pages to read before getting back to the meat of the matter. This type of filler is essential to most readers and all editors, critics and Clint Eastwood or Robert Redford who might want to make it into a film. It might seem like the first drafts of the story are more like journalism because, frankly, they are. Cheers.
“Ah, his eyes how they twinkled, his dimples so merry, his cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry…” Ah, shut up and give me the toys already!
Needless to say I’ll have to add that stuff prior to completion; however, not at this point. You’re lucky; you’re getting it straight from the horse’s typewriter (before we put the lipstick on the pig).
So; to make a short story longer, I just wanted to share some insight into Pearl’s thinking process and the mechanics of her Machiavellian mentality. On the night before the heist, as we were gathered around the dinner table having a last supper which spotlighted (yet again) Hinch’s phenomenal culinary skills, (menu to follow) Pearl chose that time to give us a pep talk. Incidentally, Hinch is working on a cookbook from this experience, start to finish, including the recipes he has stolen from The Three Greasy Bastards and it’s called “Crooked Caper Cooking OR Giving the Bird the Finger”.
Anyway, be that as it may, as we’re all sitting around the table for possibly the last time, Pearl, (whose hand was lightly draped around Sylvinia’s small but perfect bottom) as was her wont, came directly to the point:
“Okay, listen up.” She said as she poured herself three fingers of Red Eye into a dirty glass (definitely a ‘Pearl touch’) “I’ve been watching you guys over the last couple of weeks and how you’re adapting to this, uh, enterprise. I’ve noticed that while you are all into this thing you’re not all into this thing if you get my drift; so, I’m gonna tell you a little story.
“After Petey went into the Marines and left home I set fire to it and ran off with some meth-making hard riding bikers. Oh, and since you’re thinking the worst; no, nobody was home and no-one got hurt. I was just, let us say, burning my bridges behind me. I had been working the corner down by Bonart playground for a couple of years selling what I had previously given away and had gotten chummy with a group called The White Werewolves. We hung out, partied and dealt crank and concern to the local citizenry. They stayed by an abandoned laundry and dry cleaning plant and nobody but nobody fucked with them. When summer started to get repressively oppressive and they decided to cruise to the hills of East Texas, I grabbed a rider’s crotch and was invited to join them; and I did. Well, we were some sight. What started as a dozen and a half riders from New Orleans got bigger and bigger until we were sixty or eighty strong coming across the plains, burning rubber by day and Acapulco gold by night; and oh, oh, oh, ohhhhh, we had a TIME!!!. I could tell you stories, but that’s not what this is about.
“We blew through Texas and into New Mexico to a small town named Ruidoso where we camped in the hills around Eagle Creek and there I met the mean-est, badass-est, most low down tough-as-nails, evil mother of all mothers; his name was ‘Ol’ Greasy’, and he had a camp up the mountain. He shared a cabin with his old lady, ‘Big Mamma’, who had ridden with The Evil Inlaws until she met him; and they held court, settled disputes and performed biker marriages and baptisms; and sometimes funerals, there in the hills. Big Mamma was also a midwife and all around lady healer; Ol’ Greasy was a bone setter, tooth puller and Cracker Jack tattoo artist. Every time a new chick came into the fold and made the trip west she was set up to meet Mamma and get wised up; sometimes that meant an obligatory roll in the blankets with Ol’ Greasy. When a new dude came west he was usually gone over by Ol’ Greasy and a couple of ‘Chiefs’ which meant some kind of ritual ass whuppin’. In the hills, it is what it is.
Anyway, seein’s how I was young and smart as well as cute, Mamma and Greasy decided to take me in as a live-in house girl and wound up teaching me a thing or two about being bad as well as evil. I’ll never forget the time they sat me down and explained the concept of being bad. And this is what they told me:
“The difference between good and bad is that bad kicks a lot more ass” was how Ol’ Greasy started before Mamma interrupted. Mamma had been to school and had even taught some; in fact, she was some kind of a philosophizer and I appreciated that.
“Listen Honey” she told me after sending Greasy out to fetch some PBRs and reefer, “there are forces of good and evil and they are constantly at odds with each other. The bullshit occurs when you’re told at an impressionable age that good will triumph over evil; the fact is that it never has, never is and never will. Evil has been kicking the shit out of good since the beginning of time. Now, there’s something that you need to learn whether you chose one side or the other; and that is that there is a third force at work on this plane and it is called ennui. You see as different as good and evil are, they have one thing in common and that is that they are forces of energy that are constantly on the move, strong, active, and sometimes things get rough, down and dirty but the main thing is that things happen around them! The force of ennui, on the other hand, is inactive and puny and sits on the sidelines and waits and prays and trusts that things will turn out in their favor; this includes folks that we know who are wishers, dreamers, hopers and those who have faith. They’re losers, and get this straight; the meek shall never inherit the Earth.
“The people who get things done, the people who make things happen, the people who shake things up; these are the people who will, after the dust settles, inherit the whole shebang. The main difference between good and evil is that evil pays better and is ultimately more satisfying. Evil takes what it wants because it wants it and good wants to make things fair and right. Right? What’s right is that you are able to eat, sleep and enjoy your life doing whatever makes you happy and fuck everyone else. You got me?”
“She then instructed me to go to the sweat lodge and mull it over and to decide what I wanted to be in this life as if I already did not know and just as Ol’ Grease was coming back in”.
“You chicks been have a good jaw?” He asked
“Yeah, Grease, I been schoolin’ her”.
“Whadja learn, Littlebit?”
“Just like you said, Grease, bad kicks ass.”
“That’s my girl…,have a beer.”
“Amen” concluded Pearl with her bit of wisdom, or so we thought.
Pearl pushed back her chair from the table and wound up for the moral to the tale. “Kids,” she said, “what we’re about to do is wrong on every level; selfish, illegal, immoral and downright unchristian. We’re going to bullshit the bullshitters, snow the snowmen and pull wool over the eyes of the shepherds. BUT! It’s gonna be fun; it’s gonna be dangerous and it’s gonna PAY! We may not get away with it but it’s a damn sight better than sitting on our asses waiting to get the winning lottery number without it being fixed for OUR benefit!
“Now, let’s have some great food, some fine booze, get to bed early, maybe share some body fluids and wake up tomorrow ready to KICK ASS!!” So we did, or at least tried to.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recession in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Period Piece
I AM the Recession
Do you want to know how this recession really started? I’ll take that as a yes.
Well, it all began with me; when I was living in the French Quarter in a lovely spacious flat that I was prepared to spend the rest of my life in; the rent was good, the address convenient and the neighbors friendly. My landladies had been raised in and on the property and were in their eighties and were just a joy to be around. One of their children decided to take an active hand in the management of her elders and their property and, to make a long story longer, the feisty octogenarians wound up in nursing facilities (where they died) and their personal belongings got put into trash bags and kicked to the curb. This was right before, during and right after Katrina. This is the condensed version.
July 10th I received a phone call. “As of August 1st your rent will double and you have a choice of either paying or leaving.” Period. There turned out to be no reasoning, recourse or compromising in the situation that I and my faithful canine companion found ourselves in. We moved into a much smaller and more expensive unit downstairs from our flat, stayed unpacked until we found other accommodations (a month) and moved.
Our new digs were more expensive but we were compensated and gratified because we were able to watch our former home stay empty for six months and even after that the turnover in tenants was frequent and (to us) satisfying. However, we now had extra expenses to contend with; so, here’s what we did, in a word. Without. Period.
I ate out, drank out less often; although my tipping never lessened. I took to reading the flyers for grocery shopping and bought what was on sale. I started buying multiples and in quantity to save money. I went to cheap gas stations, inexpensive shoe stores, thrift stores, yard sales, dollar stores. When my hair got longer; I tied it up. When something I could fix (but never wanted to) broke; I rolled up my sleeves. Instead of coffee and pastries out; I made coffee at home and took any leftover to work; I brought a toaster to work; I brought my lunch with me. If I needed a table… I built it; if I wanted a shelf… I hung it. I even check out stuff that’s been left by the side of the road in case there’s something that I can use and not buy. I stopped using my credit cards; I cancelled my newspaper subscriptions, bought my underwear and socks at Walgreens, used toothpaste, soap and deodorant down to the last nub. I cut the bottoms off of detergent containers to get out the last drop. I prepare more of my food at home. And I’ve kept that up behavior until this very day and now it is my life style. Period. Part of this is being very practical; I mean, as prices go up on everything else, paychecks rarely keep pace and pretty much remain constant because employer’s costs have gone up just like ours have. If we’re lucky (like I am) we have fulfilling employment since this is not the time to change horses, if you get my drift.
And now my country is in trouble. Yep, my bad. We’re going to hell in a hand basket because I got ticked off that my rent was raised; but you know what Pilgrim? I ain’t the Lone Ranger.
I am part of an army of citizens who are shy on disposable income, are weak on consumer confidence and strong on squeezing that dollar until the eagle screams in pain. I am part of the large lower lower middle class that could be classified as the deserving, working poor. I have no disposable income. I hold no mortgages, I’m raising no children, I’m an asset to my community; however, I have no investments and nothing saved. I’m not contributing to the economy. I have steady and secure employment; but in short, my prospects are such that I will never be rich (unless I hit the lottery) and always be one check away from becoming a ward of the state. I deserve better but it don’t look like it’s gonna happen. Period. Not in this lifetime.
Oh, I’m not bitter; quite the contrary, I have everything that I need: The love of a good woman, food in my stomach, a roof over my head and critters that love to wake me up in the morning by licking my face. I write, I paint and I’m learning to play the piano. Except. Except. Except my infrastructure has been damaged, my faith in the ability of someone to watch over me has been shattered and as I struggle forward, my past seems to disintegrate behind me. I’m more apt to believe anything negative that’s told to me than something positive. To put it mildly; I’ve lost my optimism in and about life. I’m frustrated. Period.
For example: I drive the two miles to work where I have to pay for parking because it’s not free and the streets of New Orleans are so crappy because the city is so underfunded that I’m going to need new shocks, again, probably by next month and that’s hundreds of dollars; but, I need a car in case we have to evacuate. I park and realize that I’ll be getting out of work after dark and check to confirm the safeness of the street. I see that the light post is broken and I remember that the lighting department only inspects the lights in the daytime so they’ll probably not learn of that for some time. The block looks a little sketchy and I wonder why the city still wants me to put money in a meter except I know I’ll get a $20.00 ticket if I don’t. I’ll be lucky if I’m not broken into or mugged later on. The tire has a slow leak, the back windows won’t roll up all the way and have blue tape on them and with any luck at all no one will relieve themselves (in one form or another) on my vehicle before I get back to it. And that’s just for starters!
The county’s economy is in the toilet, people are out of work, businesses are closing, homes are going into foreclosure, the government is stuck in stupid and the mail train don’t stop here anymore; all because I got my rent increased. Any wonder why I have to keep my game face in a jar by the door? Period.

Santa Clause and effect in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Santa Claus and Effect
Citron, Caouane, Sauerkraut and Beer
Goldonna (Goldie) Baudelaire Henderson Litchfield Boudreaux entered into eternal rest in the middle of December; she stepped out of time and into eternity and was the cause of this year’s Christmas chaos; although she never would have guessed it. Goldie was 94 years old, had lived a long and eventful life and didn’t give a rat’s ass what time of year it was. She had decided that being dead was preferable to spending another miserable day in that nursing home; and if god had a problem with that then he could just give her back her youth and her strength and let her walk away from the sheer boredom of old age. God didn’t respond, even after Goldie had given him plenty of chances; so she just decided that it was time to stop breathing; and she did. She was unaware that God had been in the loo.
The phone call had come at breakfast time, as her son. Saul, and his grown twin children (and their two children) were sitting down to French toast, scrambled eggs and Smithfield ham served up by their Hispanic maid Semolina at their home in the Broadmoor section of New Orleans. It was a big house, at least until the twins had almost simultaneously each divorced their loser spouses and brought their own children to roost with ‘Daddy’ and his third wife Madison the Mad Woman. Goldie’s grandkids (the twins) each insisted on talking to Paw Paw Boudreaux on the phone about the unfortunate event, tying up the line, delaying breakfast and causing Semolina to get the two children, Emma and Aiden, off late to their preschool which was located in Algiers, across the river. The Christmas pageant was coming up soon and rehearsals were in full swing; Emma was playing Joseph and Aiden Mary.
In turn, Goldie’s daughter in law, that delicate flower, missed her hair appointment by a delay at getting her expensively imported car serviced after it had refused to start due to a malfunctioning ‘dumafragit’ or ‘frigatroid’ or some such silly thing that the mechanics out on the I-10 service road had diagnosed and tried to explain to her. This caused her to have to take her husband’s car, after he picked her up from that awful smelly garage. Then, she dropped him off at his job where the boss once again chastised him for being late and asked him for the hundredth time when he was going to fire the salesman who was showing the lowest number of sales in the department. He promptly and with an amount of unnecessary gusto sacked the bum.
The underperforming salesman, Sal, was in his fifties with three small children and a manic depressive overworked unemployed non-motherly wife who was named Gruoch after Lady Macbeth by her agoraphobic, but literate parents.
Sal chose to break the news of his dismissal until dinnertime, half drunk. The kids were fighting as usual and Gruoch, to garner some degree of silence and peace, had reached across the table and whacked Sal Junior on the head with the wooden spoon that she was serving mashed potatoes with; Junior took this opportunity to kick his younger sister under the table, and when little five year old Wendy screamed, it gave Junior an opportunity to pinch the baby in the highchair whom was feisty enough to throw her dinner bowl at him, missing of course. The bowl crashed to the floor where the dog promptly volunteered to help clean up. Sal got up and stormed out of the house, Junior (the brat and bully) threw his chair to the floor, announced that he hated everyone and stalked off to his room to make random and obscene phone calls on a cell phone that he had taken (by force) from one of his school chums. His mother sat on the kitchen floor and sobbed.
Meanwhile, Semolina was late getting dinner because it had been raining and the old car that she drove had faulty windshield wipers; the twins were watching Wheel of Fortune both wishing that they were Vanna White and Goldie’s son was drunk and dialing his mistress, locked in the guest bathroom.
Sal drove down to his favorite French Quarter watering hole, speeding and narrowly avoiding being part of a collision with a beer truck, a young driver on an iphone and a texting bicyclist who was riding against traffic on Saint Charles Avenue.
The driver of the beer truck, Sammy, who’s girlfriend had just dumped him for her personal trainer, double parked on the streetcar tracks and cursing the holidays confronted the pair of miscreants responsible; one of which was just back from two tours in Afghanistan and the other was hopped up on crystal methamphetamines. Horns started honking the traffic backed up; the streetcar drivers started yelling and tourists hid behind each other; mounted police arrived and then, as they say, all hell broke loose.
The driver of the streetcar that was being blocked slipped on some freshly manufactured police horse manure, yelled something negative to the officer who immediately called for backup as an Iranian taxi driver with a bursting bladder and a cab full of Commanders Palace ten cent martini drinkers took to the street yelling for everyone to shut the @#&*!#$$ up and move along. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. The meter maids fled en masse to Hattiesburg and formed a religious order; a black Santa who was tired of being profiled hooked up with a Lucky Dog salesman who was down on his luck and the public servant who was glad to give people a hard time left his post and went home and turned on the soaps to take his mind off his weight, complexion and love life. The melee spread across town and around the world like a rash.
Meantime, God came out of the rest room and took a look at the closed circuit television screens that kept an eye on the planet before reseating himself at the card table with his archangels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Lucifer; who turned to him and inquired: “So, this homo sapiens thing that you’ve been playing with… how’s that workin’ out for ya?”
God leaned back in his chair, lit up a Lucky Strike and pondered the term ‘screwing up a wet dream’. He then put on his poker face and turned his steel blue eyes on Lucifer and said “Happy Holidays to you too; now shut up and deal.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thanksgiving in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
A Thanksgiving Carol
Pecuniary Comforts

Robert Duprey didn’t pay his rent that month; instead he separated himself from his family in Tacoma, Washington in July of 1995 and took a Greyhound Bus to Livingston, Montana. He spent his forty second birthday there and left in the beginning of September, taking another Greyhound to Baton Rouge and then another to New Orleans relying on the kindness of strangers along the way. Bob is a brave man; you see, he’s all alone in the world in his motorized wheelchair living with Cerebral Palsy; stubbornly independent. He’s more of and a better man than I am.
Sixteen years later Bob has a neatly kept efficiency apartment, a part time helper that aids him in going to the toilet in the morning, a stipend from Social Security and his motorized wheelchair. In the mornings Bob makes his way to the French Quarter sometimes stopping off for an inexpensive breakfast at a convenience store along his route. He ‘drives’ the mile up Saint Charles Avenue against all odds and traffic and makes his rounds visiting folks that he knows and that care about him; an ice tea at Café Maspero; a visit to the Louisiana Music Factory (Bob LOVES music!); Beckam’s Bookstore and also to our shop. Those are only the places that I know about; there’s probably more. I know that he goes to Rouse’s for the daily lunch specials, I know that he goes to Walgreens and he’s not averse to going anywhere else that his chair can get in and out of easily.
A lot of times people look the other way when they see Bob; there are things that are basic to you and I that are beyond Bob’s ability and capabilities, one of them is grooming. Someone has to wash Bob, and it isn’t done often; someone has to lift him onto the toilet and that only happens five times a week; someone gives Bob his infrequent shaves and haircuts; someone else has to make phone calls for him, trim his nails, make appointments, get him a cushion, a blanket, listen to him when he speaks about his needs and wants.
A lot of young adults make fun of Robert Duprey; they call him “Push Me Bob” a name left over from the time that he had a chair with a faulty battery and once again had him relying on the kindness of strangers to get him back home. They seem to enjoy mocking the way he speaks and doesn’t have the same motor skills that we take for granted. Some of them are disgusted by Bob’s appearance and everything he stands for.
Sometimes the tap dancing kids on Decatur Street will snatch the cap from his head and tease him like an animal, tossing it to eachother in a mean game for their amusement before throwing it to the ground and scampering out of reach; getting their jollies from taunting someone who cannot stand up for himself… the fact is, Bob cannot stand up at all. I’ve seen them bring him almost to tears before an adult steps in and stops the humiliation.
Bob doesn’t want pity; in his words “sometimes you just need a little help from somebody”. He never asks for money; he takes care of himself, as well as he can. He could use a lot of help but rarely asks for it, usually only in an emergency, and, in case you’re wondering, he doesn’t want to be in a care facility, he enjoys his freedom, such as it is. He’d like to get the PBS station on his TV though.
Bob reads the daily newspaper through that little window in the vending machine, he’d like to have a computer so he could keep up to date on things, maybe record some of his adventurers, follow what’s going on in the world and someday be able to vote; imagine that, in a city where less than half of eligible voters turned out for the last presidential election …..
When Bob was young, his father moved the family 3,000 miles for a better school for him; imagine that, in a city where teachers cannot get a conference with a parent about their failing child short of a court order…..
His helper is trying to get him a recliner to alleviate the swelling in Bob’s legs, maybe stretch him out, because he lives in his chair, he eats in his chair, he sleeps in his chair and, I’m sure, Bob dreams in his chair.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself what Bob’s dreams are made of.
For that matter, what are any of our dreams made of and why should Bob’s be different? Why should any of the dreams of the flotsam and jetsam of the human condition be any different from anyone else’s? Around us we see collateral damage caused by the vagaries of fortune; damaged minds in otherwise good bodies and conversely, able minds trapped in faulty bodies possibly dreaming of dancing, flying or making love.
There are little things that we may take for granted that are not granted to those flawed by misfortune: and I’m not talking about the Bush tax cuts here. I submit to you items that I enjoy and do not take enough time to be thankful for: close family and friends; gainful employment; the ability to have and care for pets; physical and mental aptitude for performing specific tasks and the capability of being responsible enough to take charge in the case of an emergency. I also have the freedom to explore new worlds: I can submit the written word to you; I can decide that it’s time for me to take up artful projects like painting or playing a musical instrument; I can decide what, where and when I want to eat. Sure, you say, I can do that too.
Bob can’t. Bob doesn’t go to movies; Bob has never been to Jazz Fest; He doesn’t have a kitty, a car or a girlfriend; He hasn’t and never will play sports, cook his own food, tie his own shoes, pop a pimple or whistle. Bob has a motorized wheelchair and he’s thankful for that.
One thing that you can be pretty well sure of as you sit around your dinner table this Thanksgiving, tucking in to the turkey and stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes, candied yams and pecan pie: the closest that Bob will come to that might be a turkey wrap from the store. What does it take for someone to quit bitching and be thankful for what they have? Bob says: “if I can do it, then they can do it”. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Aussies in New Orleans OMG

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
No Worries, Mate
Misstra Know-It-All
Since my last article on bicycles (you did read it, didn’t you?) I’ve become a bit of a Go-To Guy when it comes to passing along information on little or notatall considered subjects. Now, sometimes you’ll hear a very authoritative voice coming from god knows where informing you of: “BREAKING NEWS!!... Sources… whom asked to remain anonymous… tell me that apparently an independent study is rumored to confirm the possibility of the truth behind blah blah and blah”.
Let me say this about that; certainly, there are questions that everybody should be asking themselves, especially about blah, blah and blah; but ask yourself this: has anyone thought to ask ‘who are these Australians, where do they come from and what do they want”? No? I didn’t think so. That’s why you have me.
Australians are people that live in a land far far away; a place called, oddly enough, Australia. Most of Australia is inhabited by non-human things that would like to kill you and primarily they live in places that humans do not, which is most of the country. Australia has a buncha buncha deadly animals, insects, plants, spiders and snakes that are only found in that country; and in a greater variety than say… the entire North American hemisphere. This is why Australians mostly live urbanely (or in populated areas). There are only two human beings for every square kilometer in Australia but because most of the country is uninhabitable, by living in what’s left after that’s taken out of the equation, Australia is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The 50th to be exact. Australia is three quarters the size of the USA with a little over six and a half percent of our population. When you fly from Australia to the good old U. S. of A. you’ll arrive before you’ve departed; when you fly from here to there you lose a whole day from your life: gone forever. Does that make any sense? No? Well, neither does most of that country.
For instance; their indigenous peoples, called Aborigines, have been carbon dated to 60,000 years ago and nobody can explain where the heck they came from because Australia has been an island for a lot longer than that. Incidentally, Australia has no apes for the Abo’s to evolve from; ergo, God created man in his image in what would become the land Terra Australis (a name that means “someplace down under”). Either that or they sailed there before boats and Vegemite were invented. No one talks about Aborigines much; I think that it’s because they’re embarrassed by that whole ‘in his image’ thing or else they’re real sorry that white folks used to treat ‘em like they was, shall we say, less than human.
Anyway, in the 1600s the Dutch came, called the place New Holland and then quickly left, wanting nothing to do with it; in 1770 Sir Jos Banks discovered it as New South Wales, recommended that the Brits should colonize the place and then he came to New Orleans and opened a clothing store, supplying our colonists with much needed seer sucker suits. The Brits promptly emptied their gaols (that’s what they called their slammers) and sent about a thousand petty crooks to the Great Down Under in 1788, many of whom died because they could steal but they could not forage very well. Yes, and Australia missed being a French colony by this * much.
Onward: what do they want? Simple: they want to have fun; and if you’re an Aussie in America you’re having nothing but fun. That and they want us to love Vegemite as much as they hate peanut butter. Why do we see numbers of Aussies in New Orleans? Simple: they love to drink and they’re good at it. That plus they’re just all around the most upbeat, polite, and friendly of folks that you’ll ever meet unless you try to give them a peanut butter sandwich. Mention Vegemite… and watch them light up. Aussies avoid conflict and arguments I think because they know that they are always right and they know that they can kick our asses; that attitude comes with the belief that eating Vegemite makes you tough, smart, easy going, good looking and healthy.
We’re also seeing more and more visitors from Down Under because it’s affordable for them now and they’re happy to be somewhere where there’s not a crocodile stalking them or a giant spider or small snake ready to kill them with deadly venom just for the fun of it. Plus we have plenty of beer.
I’m reading In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson which is instrumental in my knowledge of Australia, supplemented by addendums from the Aussies that I work with. e.g. Bill Bryson tells me that the city of Adelaide is called the ‘City of Churches’ and why. Kristin (whom I work with), on the other hand, explains to me why the city of Adelaide is called the ‘City of Corpses’ and why. A nice balance if you ask me.
When visitors from Australia visit my shop I tell them that I’m reading Bill Bryson’s book they invariably look at me and nod politely as if I had just told them that I was reading the back of a cereal box. When I ask them where in Australia they’re from… their ears perk up They mention that they’re from Australia as if they were saying that they live in Gentilly… not like they happen to come from the sixth largest country in the whole frigging world. Then I mention Vegemite and tell them that I love the stuff. Bingo!, we’re now BFF.
I tell Yanks, that inquire, that Vegemite is an acquired taste; most Americans can’t even get past the smell. I’ve been told that it smells like gorilla butt breath and tastes like decomposing gym shorts. Sometimes I wonder where some people spend their time.
In closing, know that Aussies use slang words like Bluger, fair dinkum, squzz, bluey, figjam, pash, bogan and coo-ee. And here’s a word of advi: if you’re sinking piss with some Sheila and get off your face or rotten and decide to sound like a broken record with the “G’day Mate; toss a shrimp on the Barbie!” routine she might go Aussie on you, do a frog in the sock or get mad as a cut snake and knock you arse over tits. If you don’t believe me, give it a burl, ya nong.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Social Aid and Pleasure in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Social Aid and Pleasure
Of Yats and Who Dats and Dem
When I’m asked if I’m from New Orleans I sometimes reply “no, but I got here as quick as I could”. If I’m asked if I’ve lived here all my life, I generally answer “not yet”.
That’s the way it is with people who ‘get’ New Orleans; we are here, we know that we’re here and we wouldn’t be anywhere else; believe me, we know that we’re supposed to be here. So here we are. And we don’t listen to anyone else’s take on the subject; I mean, if we were supposed to be somewhere else, why would we be here? Why would we be back?
We’re here from the Esplanade Ridge to Saint Roch; from Faubourg Marigny to Central City; from the Garden District to the French Quarter; from the Ninth Ward to Lakeview; from Holy Cross to Broadmoor, Fountainbleau, Gert Town, Buck Town, Back of Town, Bywater, Black Pearl, Saint Bernard and Bayou Saint John. We wander in and out of the fabric of the city; Oak Street, Carrollton, Tchoupitoulas, Desire and Ponchartrain Park.
We gather at coffee shops, second lines, barber shops, bars, festivals, churches and the steps leading to our front doors; we love our sports teams, Mamas, food, music, pets and children (in that order). We either are or know musicians, tipplers, chefs, artists, writers, hustlers and people in various bizarre states of economic flux. We say hello to eachother on sidewalks. We are a tribe. We’re here for better or for worse.
We don’t participate in anything that we are confused about or not good at; hence our low voter turnouts and high Saints game followings. We are the murder (per capita) capitol of the country; lead in teen unwed pregnancies; incarcerations and graduate a mere 53.7% of our children. We are described as a third world country not an American city; rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief; we’re a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, taking every wrong direction on our lonely way back home. We’re sassy, flirtatious, opinionated and, most of the time, witty (the rest of the time we’re half witty).
We litter where we stand, we park where we want to, dress as we like, stay out as late as we like, say whatever we like to whomever we like. We cannot for the life of ourselves manage to drive down a street with any degree of safety, simultaneously making a phone call, turning the music up, checking out a hottie by the side of the road AND work a turn signal, but that doesn’t stop us from going for a best three out of five. We live our lives on auto pilot like some confederacy of petulant adolescents; or, as one pundit described our particular way of doing things: “it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity”.
Would I call us stupid? No. Would I call us a lot of other things (contradictory, illogical, unmotivated, inconsiderate, and insensitive)? Ignorant? Hmmmmm. Defensive? Me?
Would I say that we are the greatest city in the world? I dunno, I haven’t been to all the great cities…yet; but, you have to admit, we’re up there. However, we’re like spoiled children with a rare book that we neglect, mistreat, disregard the value of (and at times wipe our asses with the pages) that cannot be reasoned with.
Who knows why? It’s easy to say “This is the twenty-first century, can’t we act a little more advanced than we have been?” Can we really expect more of ourselves? Can we not? Can we not expect the parents of yesterday to have raised the children of today to be somewhat more evolved? Of course the answer is here, and the answer is no. We, by and large (imprecisely generally speaking), cannot.
Of course, as evidence shows, we are not so much worse than other places; but consider this: we are not better than other places, and we could be. We have a rich fertile environment here that could be the poster child of the progress that the twenty-first century can hold; and what do we show the rest of the world? A bucket of sludge.
And sure, there are bright, advanced and enlightened elements here; but they’re just drops in the bucket. The forces for good are trumped by the forces of inertia, ennui and complacency. The ways that we fall short and the ways that we can improve as a city are easy, easy to see; only, evidently, no one is looking. It’s more like we’re wedged in Forest Gump stupid gear where we think that New Orleans is a box of candy and we never know what we’ll get at any one pick; Politics, police, health, education, ethics, crime, economy, jobs, etc. None are as appetizing as they appear; and any discussions about the value of life, economic opportunities, liberty, personal safety and the pursuit of happiness are rife with definitive qualifiers. We’re stuck in Gumpville when we should be in Will Shortz land or even the realm of Alfred Mosher Butts.
You see, Alfred Mosher Butts invented a board game where the participants are given letters and make words out of them (Scrabble), Will Shortz takes those words and makes crossword puzzles out of them for the New York Times newspaper. How much easier to solve and excel in city infrastructure challenges than to have clues to those challenge’s solutions and to just plug the answer in to where they fit with all the other answers, figure everything out, complete the puzzle, and BAM! Triple Word Score!
The trouble is that to anyone who plays those word games and puzzles, it is that easy! And it drives us nucking futz that them candy pickers cannot see it for the glitter of the wrappers and the coating of the sugar; on the pieces of candy that they juggle and then work with sound and fury to keep all their balls in the air and accomplish nothing at all. It is that easy to find that all of the answers that we need to all of our challenges can be worked on together so that they fit with other answers to correct this dysfunctional dilemma that we are in. Does that make any sense to you? It does to me.
To have a superior city everyone needs to participate in making it happen and if you cannot participate then possibly you’re not part of the solution…

Restaurant Droppings from New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Carpe Diem
Fish Of The Day
Eddie begins his workday at quarter ‘til seven every day; well, he considers it the beginning because every day he’s outside the restaurant at that time, every day; sipping on his coffee and waiting for the day manager to show up and let him in. The manager doesn’t get there until seven and it gives Eddie time to catch one last smoke before he hits the ground running. Eddie is the backbone of the restaurant and he knows it; he works seven days a week and hasn’t had a day off in six years. He only works until noon thirty because they discourage overtime and that’s fine with him; he’s got better things to do, like, a life. Whatever. The manager is on time today (for once) and Eddie’s day can begin. The manager is fresh out of hotel management school; he thinks Eddie is trash. Eddie has worked in restaurants since he was twelve; he thinks the manager is a pussy.
Hose out the trash cans, bring them in. Take out the kitchen mats and hose them off. Next, hose down the kitchen floors, squeegee them dry, take in the mats and hose off the sidewalk; check the windows to see if they need cleaning and hose off the walls outside the restaurant just in case someone has peed on ‘em and on to the bathrooms to clean ‘em up before sweeping and mopping the dining room. Eddie is a water sign. A soap and water sign.
The kitchen manager and prep cook get there at seven thirty (they ride in together), start a pot of coffee and check in the food deliveries and linen. Only the kitchen manager is allowed to check in the seafood and meats. The prep cook checks in the veggies for weight, freshness and quality, and stores the new stock in with the old keeping in mind proper rotation and the avoidance of cross contamination. The kitchen manager checks the schedules and reads any notes left from the night before. After putting up the deliveries and rotating stock, the prep cook gets started on the prep list left from the night cooks and lets the first dishwasher in just before eight o’clock who, sets up his station, fills his machine and pot sinks, sweeps out the walk-in refrigerator and then starts peeling onions and potatoes.
Eight O’clock, and the lunch cooks show up (hung over) turn on the overhead fans, ovens, fryers and start setting up the line, prepping their mis en place and changing the radio station, which has been on NPR, to the classic rock station that will keep pace with the rhythm of their slinging of pots and pans, slicing, dicing, lies and tall tales about the wenches that got away last night at Pal’s Bar.
The waitresses (and the second dishwasher) come in for nine and start setting up the dining room; slicing lemons, topping off the condiments, salt and peppers, rolling silverware, positioning and wiping down tables, chairs and making the first of many batches of ice tea. By ten o’clock the hostess, busboy and bartender show up just in time for a staff meal of leftovers and kitchen rejects; followed by a staff lineup and meeting to discuss the specials of the day and service points to be worked on. Fifteen minutes to grab a smoke, straighten aprons, fill up ice bins, finish some gossip or a page in the book that they’re reading and crank up the espresso machine. Places everyone; the first customers are at the door. Show time.
To the uninitiated, restaurants are staffed by invisible servants. We rarely are aware of back of the house goings on, we follow a swinging butt to our table or belly up to a bartender who could be working naked from the waist down for all we know; we face our servers and bussers at crotch level. It has been called the last vestige of pseudo-nobility; we arrive, we eat, someone else cooks, serves and cleans up and we have the right, if not the duty, to complain if things are not precisely to our satisfaction. If we’re feeling flush, we can pump up the gratuity and feel like Bill Gates. If we’re having a bad day, we become Vlad the Impaler; we can take it out on the waiter, busboy, hostess, manager or all of the above. The rules are simple: If we’re happy, we tip. If not, we withhold our love in the form of money, even to the point of leaving nothing at all. I mean, screw ‘em; tips are only the employers way of justifying low wages, right?
Conversely, anyone who has worked in the industry knows that customers might just as well be butt-ass-naked the moment that they walk in. To restaurant workers, the antics of customers are the theater that helps to pass the shift time in an ever changing fluid diorama that ranges from dark tragedy to absurd comedy and all points in between. From the front door entrance to the tooth picking exit, the diners and drinkers of the world are the meat and bones of discourse and edification to service staff; as if their inner selves cannot help but be bared for all to witness and wonder upon.
I’ve been in the service industry for over a half of a century and not a shift goes by without a ‘guest’ exhibiting behavior so amazingly unique and contrary to any rules of basic sanity and civility that in the least, I am given pause and at most I’m taken aback and primordially aghast; no shit, you guys can be weirder than dirt! I’ve seen ‘em drunk, blind, crippled, crazy, underage and old enough to know better doing stupid stuff that your mama would snatch you bald headed for.
Philosophically speaking, when you put people in an environment where they only need to consider the price of a meal and you turn them loose in a public forum, it seems that they cannot help but make fools of themselves. Maybe it’s the lack of outside stimulation that encourages them to come up with outlandish somethings to say or do; and since they are at a loss, fabrications, flirtations, inebriations, faux pas, pretentions, passions and prevarications become the rules of play. Of course the staff plays along, just as they play along with each other.
But, come hell or high water, with delayed deliveries, lunch and dinner rushes, equipment malfunctions, menstruation cycles, crying babies, grouchy oldsters, petulant teenagers, uptight queens, slips, spills, miscommunications, the ringing of cell phones, personal tragedies and nicotine starved cooks with sharp knives, the show perpetuates until closing; and until, with a big sigh, the restaurant is put to bed by the closing managers. Another day. History.
Everything will be fine; Eddie will be here in the morning.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bike riding in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Friend or Foe
Who Goes There?
Recently on an idyllic retreat to Fairhope, Alabama a local news story caught my attention. A young man riding his bicycle to work at 6:40 in the morning had his customary commute interrupted by a three hundred pound bear that came out from the woods that the man was pedaling past and slapped him for no apparent reason. Slapped him for no apparent reason, tore off his back tire and lumbered back into the woods (note: bears ‘lumber’; it means to move clumsily). The cyclist’s injury was reported as minor and his quote was “well, I’ve been hit a couple of times by cars but this was the first time that I’ve ever been hit by a bear!”
I wondered aloud that if something happened to me of that magnitude; (excuse me, but getting slapped by three hundred pounds of bad breath brings the word magnitude to mind) that wouldn’t it be prudent of me to rethink my transportation choices. Especially if I had already been hit more than once by automobiles. Girlfriend’s quip in response was: “ya think?”
Since then I have looked up the different run-ins that bicyclists have with wildlife. Bears, deer, dingoes, coyotes, skunks, snakes, moose, squirrel, owls and bats to name a few. Survey shows that once you hoist that leg over that cross bar… you open yourself to a world of weirdness. The Bicycle Zone.
Here in the city we are not without bike nemeses: car doors opening on us, taxis without turn signals doing NASCARs, trucks stopping short in front of us, random idiot pedestrians thinking that they’re indestructible and the lady with the bomb in the baby carriage. We have drunks on bikes, petty thieves and riders that are either discourteous or ignorant of the rules of the road as well. We also have a culture of bicycle stealing here that is unexcelled in other places; I do believe that since their inception bicycles have been nothing short of harbingers of heartbreak, hurt and havoc.
Be that as it may, consider the possibility that animals might be jealous of riders. After all, when Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus gave the animals their attributes and talents they had nothing left to give the poor naked humans but fire… and bicycles. Put fire and bicycles together and what do you get? Civilization. And pizza delivery.
Another consideration is that historians would like us to believe that mayhem mischief and marauding were accomplished by conveyances other than bikes. Nothing could be further from truth; Attila, Alexander, Napoleon, Caesar, Tamerlane and Charlemagne all conquered on two wheels. Bicycle wars are as common as ticks on a hound; how do you think the Crusades were fought? That’s right, it’s a fact; ask anyone.
Bicycles begin their life cycles as paper clips, cute little things, aren’t they? Then in adolescence become wire coat hangers, all gangly and stuff, hanging out before they mature into full fledged bikes. Retarded bikes invariably get training wheels; everyone knows that normal bikes wouldn’t hurt a child who is just learning to ride. Manhattan Island was purchased from the Indians for $24.00 worth of paper clips which led to the great western migration that was only stopped by Bicycle Bill and his Wild West Riders who decimated whole herds for their tires which were made into chewing gum traded to the Indians for cigarettes, popcorn and tickets to the local drive in movie.
Indecently, the settlers at Plymouth Rock traded coat hangers to the Indians for turkey sandwiches and pepper jelly (what do heathens know from coat hangers?); and even as far back as the early 1800’s merchants in California were trading bicycles to the Chinese for sweet tea and fortune cookies. The Mescalero Apache, from their safe havens in Mexico, raided Arizona and New Mexico for bikes that they traded for tequila and tacos. Especially prized was the ‘bicycle built for two’ which anyone can see is a genetic mutation much akin to Siamese twins. You didn’t know that stuff, did you? See the knowledge that you can get from the written word? Here’s some more:
Recently in France cave paintings were found depicting cave people killing wild animals from the backs of (you guessed it) bicycles and then off to the side of the rendering (in axle grease, of course) the first evidence of a bicycle rack with crude locks to keep away thieves. This was confirmed by my archeologist friend Amanda who told me that similar drawings were found in caves in the Black Hills of Dakota.
Now, I’m no creationist but did you happen to read that in some Dead Sea Scrolls the mention of God creating bicycles on that first Friday night was discovered and suppressed? I guess those scientist would have us believe that bicycles evolved from prehistoric wheelbarrows; they must think that I’m stupid or something.
Bikes came to Louisiana as currency 400 years ago by Ponce de Leon who was on his way to Florida to discover the Redneck Riviera. He was actually laughed out of the state because at the time we were using bottle caps and go cups for money. We had not yet set up a foreign exchange, especially for the big money that was in Styrofoam that was being strip mined from what is now Audubon Park. By the way, old Ponce was killed by surfers at Destin when he tried to cash a counterfeit Schwinn.
Nowadays in New Orleans there are rumors of bicycle vampires and werewolves; it came to my attention when I spotted a bike locked up on Dauphine Street with the back tire gone and in its place was some Spanish moss. The poor thing didn’t have a chance, locked up with one of those Kryptonite locks. The vampires will just suck the air from the tires; the bicycle werewolves will tear bikes apart.
Bike thieving here goes back generations also, with folks at family reunions, cook-outs or stoop-sits bragging to the younger generation on how cool it is to steal bikes and then sell them to other suckers and then steal them again. It’s even sanctioned by the church, no one speaks out against it or even questions where little Johnny got his new ride or why you see two guys riding (fast) with three bikes. It’s like “Thou Shall Not Steal (except bicycles)”.
In the meantime, once a month bicycles take over our roadways in an attempt to “Take Back The Streets!!” to which I say: “you can have ’em; just watch out for Fiats, ferrets and felons.

Monday, May 9, 2011

July in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Summer Fresh
Some Are Not
One way that you know that it’s summer in New Orleans is when your eyeballs sweat, or when you look at your watch and it resembles a terrarium, complete with moss growing on the northern side. Another is when you take your dog out to the lake and she just stands in the water and doesn’t want to move. Still another is when any outing that you plan must involve a place with arctic type air conditioning; e.g. Prytania Theater. In the summer here the smart investments are in talcum powder, sunscreen and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. Oh, and that awful stuff that you spray on your body to prevent you from becoming a mosquito buffet selection.
Wardrobes change drastically as well, as evidenced by the use of ‘no’ as a fashion descriptor. No socks; no long sleeves or pants; no drawers; no bras (how do I know that?). Personally, I don’t want much clothing on at all anyway and surely my only prerequisite signature fashion accessory is a traditional cool beverage, adult in nature. At home my diet involves cool salads (especially fruits in season) and pyrotechnics on my outdoor grill. Woe unto those without FWPs (Friends With Pools).
Another sign of summer here is the seemingly inordinate amount of time that I spend watching the weather; in the newspaper, on the television and over my shoulder. What am I interested in? I’ll bet that you can guess. I’m looking for any advanced warning that will keep me from the ass whupping that I took from that last big hurricane. Taking-into-account the weather beating that the rest of everywhere has been taking this past year-- floods; tsunamis; cyclones; earthquakes; tornados; fires; blizzards; sh-t storms and the like-- I figure we’re in for our own share of misery whether we’ve been pure of heart and said our prayers at night or not. It seems as if ‘disaster immunity’ has become an oxymoron due to the ubiquitous nature of our planets ire toward humans as a race. In other words: with the planet’s tendency to want to shake us off like a dog with blood sucking ticks, what less can I expect this storm season than to have a gale force tragedy flaunting her ‘hundreds of miles per hour windy titty burlesque’ ( with impunity) heading straight for my assets (and everything I love and hold dear)?
Chances are that no serious calamity will occur and we should look forward to a nice safe sweltering miserably hot and brutally humid summer and storm season. Chances are that there will be some storms in the gulf battering third world countries and those smug people on the east coast and we’ll blithely go about our crawfish boils, trips to the coast and plans for naked drunk monkey love. But an ounce of precaution is worth a pound of ‘shoulda/coulda/woulda/ain’titafrigginshame regret.
So, when I pick up this issue in the beginning of July, assuming that nothing too catastrophic has occurred beforehand, I will want to make sure that I took the following precautions for our very own storm season. Whether my preparedness is warranted or not, for me it’s a ‘once burnt- twice learnt’ scenario: I call it the
Katrina Inspired OCD Mambo.
Numero uno: when push comes to shove, the main item of importance is to have a way out of the area. What I learned on that last memorable summer evacation was that my blasé attitude toward owning a vehicle in New Orleans could have cost us our lives. Period.
Right now, I’m the proud guardian of a 1994 Lincoln Towncar, Cartier model; bigger than some apartments that I’ve lived in and more powerful than a locomotive. So, a trip to the mechanics; engine tuned up; tires examined; fluids topped off and backed up; spare checked; insurance and AAA paid up; battery updated; full tank of gas; basic tools packed and anything else that the law of unavoidable havoc can challenge will have attention paid to. Remember: before you have a destination you have to have a reliable way to get to it, reliably.
Which brings up the next point: where are you going to go besides ‘the hell out of town’? Suggestion: plan a place about a four to six hour (normal) drive away. Far enough to be out of harm’s way and close enough to make getting back semi-painless. This also helps when it comes to provisioning yourselves.
Speaking of which. Provisioning yourselves: two considerations: are you planning on leaving or are you planning on staying? Both alternatives call for having the stuff in your refrigerator at a minimum; basically only having what you can consume or carry: pate; wine; cheese; olives; cornichons and perhaps a cream puff or two. Same goes for freezer; clean it out, save the cubes for the cooler and eat the ice cream on your way out the door. Dry goods are also a consideration; remember, some people were in contraflow evacuation for twenty hours or more and not even a hundred miles away. So, snacks, water, ice chest with sandwich stuff, flashlight, paper products, battery operated fan and radio, food for the critter(s), entertainment for the rug rat and music for your mind. Also bring any important papers (including your pet’s), an amount of cash, medicines, can and wine openers, cell phone charger and photos that you might want safeguarded. I recall that some folks thought that they’d be home in a day or two and were gone a month and a half. Don’t forget yer toiletries; for god sake bring some deo for your B.O. and also consider your need for eating and drinking utensils and paraphernalia.
And lastly, there’s no putting lipstick on the pig when it comes to the matter of safety and protection for you and your loved ones.
In the wake of Katrina, the phrase was coined ‘civil disobedience’. Which is to say that, unlike the Japanese disaster where everyone is orderly and honest; in New Orleans (before the storm winds had died down) there were citizens in our streets taking things that were not being freely given to them (looting, robbing, breaking and entering). There were citizens in New Orleans that had weapons and used them to inflict bodily harm on other citizens. Whether you leave or stay, you need to have a contingency plan for safeguarding everything that you love and hold dear; from your main snugglebunny to your mama’s sapphire and your mutt Sophia.
Good luck and Goddess’ blessings.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Aging in New Oreleans

. This is not going to be a feel good piece because this is a subject that I do not feel good about. This is "The Pandora Punk OCD Sooner Or Later You’re Gonna Die So Let’s Hear It For Your Future Mambo Rag In Three Quarter Time Piece". This piece is about what a killer life is.
. First off: life is not for wussies; life is not for the faint of heart; life is not for the sensitive. Hope is a four letter word; résistance c’est futile; the meek shall not inherit the earth and all that you can expect from love is a broken heart.(it's important to note here that although it may have felt like it, we've rarely lost anyone human to a broken heart; it just feels like it.) If life doesn’t kill you in your prime (or before) it will whittle you down until sometimes you’ll wonder why it just doesn’t and get it over with. That’s the good news.
. Unlike love and war, in life all is not fair and only in ignorance is there bliss. If you live long enough you’ll get old enough to watch your loved ones and your friends die. If you live long enough, If life doesn’t kill you right off, sooner or sooner (there is no later) it is going to suck being you; whether you like it or not. And believe you me; you’re not going to like it.
Let’s mention here: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, heart disease, renal failure, asthma, osteoporosis, pneumonia, spontaneous aneurisms, deadly allergies and the seventy different terminal types of cancer. Add to that, things like getting hit by a car, bus or train; slipping on stairs, ice or the sidewalk and falling; physical encounters such as muggings, runaway bicycles, terrorist attacks, a stray bullet, skateboards or some random nut with a ball peen hammer. A natural disaster such as an earthquake,fire, flood, random lightning strikes, tsunami, hurricane or open manhole cover could really ruin your day of not your life. Mental illness is another grim reaper; depression, loneliness, thoughts of suicide, paranoia, schizophrenia, anger, grief and despair can be just as debilitating as anorexia, leukemia, diabetes or bulimia. There's just no way out of this life alive.
. As you live a longer and longer life, what you will get is …older and older; and you know what? Your body does not come with a parts warranty, just as your heart and mind did not come with an instruction booklet. Piece by piece you are going to fall apart like a ’53 Buick Roadmaster; once classic, once king of the highway and now junkyard relic. Your drive train is shot; your fuel pump is clogged. Your points and plugs are beyond replacing, there’s no adjusting your carburetor or flushing your radiator. Rotating your tires, wiping your windshield, tightening your brakes and adding oil or transmission fluid ain’t going to do you one bit of good. Your body will turn against you and mock the legend of your youth. You’ll drive that car as far, and in most cases as fast as you can and then, as they say, that’s a wrap. Lights out—nobody home.
So, why do we do this? Why do we participate in this fiasco, lottery, and crap shoot? Is it the job description? No, I’ll tell you what it is: we’re not willing participators; we didn’t have much of a choice and we didn’t ask to be here, isn’t that right? We’re just now getting a dose of the real meaning of the ‘Life Ain’t Fair’ blues and why didn’t anyone ever tell you what a ball breaker life was going to be? Your parents tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen, your grandparents didn’t tell you because they didn’t want to spoil it for you, they rathered to have let you find out for yourself, bless their cowardly, well meaning hearts. Them that knew wouldn’t tell and them that told were not listened to.
We were led into this world a blank canvass and we filled it with our dreams. “Dreamers live forever and dreams never die”, is what they told us. Rather they should have said: “You ain’t getting out of this world alive and all of your dreams will be dashed before this is over”; but, we probably wouldn’t have listened to that either.
Okay, so then what’s the point of being here? One guess is that the point is to make life a little easier for other people, the old Buddhist selfless dance, you know, karmic yoga, that old white magic and on to your next life; so what if it bites being you this time around, there’ll be pie in the sky when you die. Wanna buy some beach front property in Nevada?
So let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you are done with disappointment, over having your hopes hung out to dry and you’ve come to realize that all along you have been nothing but a spoiled child taking advantage wherever you could and pitching fits when you couldn’t have your way; that you’re you done with whining until someone holds you and tells you that everything will be alright. (It’s not going to be alright). What’s the next logical progression of your unenlightened life, you may ask, and how soon can it start? It all starts with patience and recognition of the grand illusion of life. That’s what the Guru said.
Or it started when you woke up in the middle of the night in a sweat realizing that this is as good as it gets -- that when the lights of your life are turned off that final time, it is… final; and you become afraid to die. It’s too nice here; you’re not near done here; you’re not ready for eternal darkness; you’ll never be ready! It starts when you realize that as little of a choice you had in being alive, you have even less of a choice about leaving this life. It’s not a matter of the if; it’s just a matter of the when and you have absolutely no control over the when. Death does not make a reservation or an appointment.
It starts when you find that this is all illusion and that you are caught in the birth, life, death syndrome that has no clear evidence of any other reward than for you, at the end of this grand endeavor, to believe that you have done the best job that you could. What’s your alternative? Die ignorant. Die anyway.
How about we die young and leave a good looking corpse complete with a full set of teeth, twenty-twenty vision and no physical flaws? For most of us it’s too late for that. How about existentialism? I mean, screw it; if it’s all for naught, let’s just party ‘til we puke; bop ‘til we drop; drink a little poison ‘fore we die? That’s nice empty bravado talking.
How about we dwell on it every waking minute of our lives until we make ourselves and everyone around us miserable; we could do that. Or we could find a way to just not think about it and get going doing all of the things that we should, would and could be doing as if we were going to live forever. Not putting life off until tomorrow
because there is no tomorrow.
Okay, I’ll do that. End of piece, beginning of peace (yeah, right).