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).