Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sgt Pepper in New Orleans

Lonely Hearts Club Valentine
You’d think that after coming here for years he would be on at least a nodding acquaintance with some of the regulars; but no, no one pays him any mind and I doubt if he’s about to become anybody’s buddy any time soon.
He comes in quietly around 6:15 or so and takes a seat in her station. You would think for a guy his size that you’d notice him more; but no, it’s almost like he materializes at the table. He quietly orders his dinner, never asking for anything special, usually drinks ice tea, eats slowly, pays with cash and leaves. There’s no evidence how he gets to or from our little restaurant haunt and his manners and tips are always… gentlemanly. No one at The Top Hat Diner knows his name or where he lives. He’s just some guy that comes in and doesn’t bother anyone; that’s good enough for everybody. When the staff refer to him at all it’s just to get his order and get him taken care of, they call him “Sergeant Pepper”
She works part time and sees him on her days there. She treats him with the respect deserving of a customer who knows what he wants, causes no waves and is respectful of her and the duties that she has to perform. He doesn’t waste her time with idle conversation and isn’t glued to the stupid television watching dumb sports like the rest of the guys who frequent the place or hang out at the bar; whoopin’ and hollerin’ when some fool catches a ball or knocks somebody down. Not at all like her husband (ex-husband now) does; did.
And, so he’s overweight, wears glasses and his hair is thin. So he has a silly mustache and doesn’t smile much; who is she to judge? He’s nice enough in his own way and who would she be to talk anyway; she’s no homecoming queen herself, right?
Sure, she tries to cover up her gray hair and wear smart saucy dresses like the other waitresses but, if truth be told, she’s past the knowing how. It took her a while before she understood what the other waitresses were talking about when they said to ‘let the girls out’ for bigger tips from men customers. Then Lucille, the server that had been there the longest, showed her how if you show just a wee bit of cleavage that men will give you more money. At first she was taken aback, but soon saw the truth about it when the other girls told her how much money they made by doing that. Not that she needed a lot of money; after all, she had gotten the house after the divorce and her two almost grown boys had gone to live with their father. She had taken her mother in and they lived quietly in the suburbs and had few expenses; however, she would like to feel attractive to somebody sometime, maybe even a little sexy. But, she had been out of that kind of circulation for so long, she kinda didn’t know how to… or even how to know if or when she was. She thinks she kinda knows how he feels. Alone.
Actually, Sergeant Pepper’s name is Gene and he lives just up the street from the diner and is, in fact, alone. He lives in the garage apartment of the house that his parents left him when they passed and he rents out the main house to cover just about all the bills that he is likely to incur. He works at the library in the reference department and pretty much keeps to himself.   His apartment has all he needs for his solitary existence, bedroom, bath, kitchenette, and a sitting area for his reading. He takes most of his meals out and has an old one eyed tom cat named Mr. Whiskers. He learned at an early age that he was not good looking, strong, agile or charming. He was, he thought, from birth, clumsy, fat and unattractive to any but his mother. He was not invited to parties or outings and was not good at any sport. He lacked the ability to be glib or quick witted and couldn’t tell a joke to save his life. At an early age he resigned himself to go through life unaccompanied (except for Mr. Whiskers) and to die alone. He figured that if he didn’t expect much from life that he would never be disappointed. He liked the waitress that served him sometimes and was glad that she didn’t wear low blouses like some of the others; it embarrassed him when he looked up to request dinner and found himself staring into a woman’s cleavage. He had gathered that her name was Loretta.
The Top Hat, as well as other places is closed on holidays; and so, here we have Gene and Loretta who will, unless something out of their ordinary existence and relationship happens, spend the holidays alone except with their ordinary companions; and older parent and a one eyed cat named Mr. Whiskers. Nothing special will happen to these two seemingly ordinary people unless something out of the ordinary occurs to disrupt their ordinary lives.
It’s as if they’re shadow dwellers; the last people that you would think of inviting over or out; however Gene and Loretta have a lot to say, if someone would take the time to listen. Perhaps one day they’ll start by talking to eachother. They might go out for a walk, maybe they’ll like the same movies, the same flavor of ice cream, the smell of the fresh cut grass after the rain. Maybe, if you wish it for them, they’ll spend the holidays with eachother.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Simian Sez Redux

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Miss American Pie
Ape Talk
               Simian sez: the madness can be stopped. Counterproductive things that do you today (yes, ‘that do you’) may be the result of past inequities. Attitudes and prejudices that people exhibit are not present at their birth; counterproductive tendencies are a result of training that is strengthened by losing sight of the fact that, collectively, we all have nothing in this form but our futures and that it’s pointless not to be making the most of the short time that we have.
Okay, you’re sitting down in your favorite chair, bone tired, after (another) full day of working your ass off for enough dough to keep your head above water, a roof over your noggin and the bill collectors away from your door and you say to yourself :“I guess this is just about as good as it’s gonna get.” Question: Is it time to quit your job, join a cult, hit the road and surrender to the futility of your existence?
Suppose you’re on your favorite barstool, watching Jeopardy with the gang and trying to figure out what dinner ‘s going to be, what DVD you’re gonna pop in the player before you settle in to reruns of Frazier or Golden Girls, taking Fido out and flossing another day away. And on that sultry, sweet smelling, siren wailing evening you asked yourself: “When I’m frigging eighty-five and walking some fleabag, will I wonder where my life went and what function I served?” Question: Should you order another double, find out if the circus is hiring or consider doing a ‘flying novena’ to Saint Expedite?
Or, say that you’re on your morning run, after a skinny latte and bran muffin at Starbucks; looking forward to a long shower and then off to university to earn that MBA, pull down some serious bucks in the work place and after purchasing a cute condo, meeting the right person and having two point six children who you’ll send to your alma mater and blah blah blah (you know how your mind works when you lay one Nike sole down after another on the St. Charles streetcar tracks). Except today you’re thinking that, actually, all you are is a randomly constructed piece of protoplasm with no apparent purpose on the planet, destined to last X amount of time, to perish and be thrown away like that plastic Alpine Spring Water bottle that you just threw into the garbage receptacle; you, your loved ones and the horse that you rode in on…so much molecular landfill.
Perhaps you’re the youngest kid from a Seventh Ward brood walking to school in unpleasant weather trying to forget the recurring dream of the nothingness of death; of trying to scream when no sounds come out, of trying to run and your feet stuck in mud. Your headphones yelling hip hop lyrics, homework undone, lunch money tight and indifferently observing as a young girl offer herself to a man in a pickup truck. It occurs to you that you didn’t ask to be born; and no amount of encouragement, prescience of possibilities or glimmers of greatness will dispel the pessimism of your ghetto gloom. You figure your tombstone will read:”Three ways out: music; sports or dealing drugs; he weren’t no good at none of ‘em. He’d a run away but t’weren’t no place to go…”
How about a hundred million people on earth that feel that life’s pleasures are fleeting and it’s miseries pervasive; the bus driver who’ll be going to a funeral when he gets off; your waitress raising her children on her own; the bank teller whose hours have just been cut; the shopkeeper whose Small Business loan is defaulting; the musician whose van was just stolen; the shop girl who just found a lump; the guy in clown makeup who didn’t know that growing up would be like this or the veteran school teacher that lost her savings in a bad investment. Salt in wounds that God is supposed to be healing.
It’s “LIFE” that wakes you to a sunny day and then proceeds to mug you with circumstances beyond your control, leaving you praying for a good case of amnesia.   It’s called non-clinical depression when your mental levees crumble and, “Cryin’ won’t help you; prayer won’t do you no good”.
The theory is that the cause of non-clinical depression is basically the witness of our own mortality; our glimpse of death; the proof of our insignificance. We get it from experiences of life that show us how powerless we really are: a physical beating; debilitating illness; sexual abuse; bullying, teasing; hunger for food and nurturing; unrequited love; death of someone close. Something that…     kills    our    spirit    (even for a brief time). A dashing of our hopes for divine intervention or happy ending that we bury and cover with a protective layer of personality or futile diversion. 
What results (?): a tendency to become introverted; angry; aggressive, goal oriented and/or complacent? A dependency on a higher power, sarcasm, self medication, cynicism or a philosophy of existentialism?  Insatiable appetites, a mania for exercising, nervousness, anorexia or cruelty towards small animals and weaker people? Doesn’t that all sound like a laundry list of the ‘human condition’?
      Question: Who gives solace to the tired, comfort to the weak, strength to the poor; hope to the disillusioned; stature to someone with low self esteem? Who provides poultices for life’s bruises; lifts up the downtrodden; swings low the sweet chariot? Answer: Nobody.
Heaven, hell, reincarnation and life after death are all hearsay. You have from this moment forward to make your life sane and enjoyable if only you can forgive your past and put it to bed. And then it’s just one foot in front of the other onto a better path.  The monkey speaks. 

Election Speculation in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
The 99% Articulation Speculation
2012 Elocution Solution
March 25, 2012: “Less than 2% of eligible voters under the age of 30 turn out for primaries (Tufts University and that accounted for 8% of voters overall”.
            Here we go: In the polling place where I work, out of 2,298 names in my book, only108 registered voters turned out for the Presidential primary/City Councilperson-at-large elections this year; of that number only14 pulled a Republican lever. Citywide we goosed only 18% of registered voters. In the runoff for Councilperson-at-large we went up to 23%. Does your vote count? The winner took the race by less than 300 votes.
            However, let’s not feel like Lone Rangers in New Orleans; voter turnout in the state and, in fact the entire country, is pitiful at best. Only 61.6% of the registered voters turned out for the 2008 Presidential election ( That this country is the leader of the free world doesn’t say much for us as voting citizens, does it?
I’m not sure of the rest of America, but here in New Orleans, the same people turn up to vote regularly and I can pretty much count on seeing them coming to cast their votes. What that means is that the same people are making the decisions for all of us; especially for the complacent that don’t show up. Is voting important? Well, let’s just say that if you have any challenges with your environment in general (or specifically for that matter) there is someone in the infrastructure of government that you can call and get action. That person is probably elected and somebody voted them in; if not you…who?
          Less than 2/3 of registered voters cast ballots for the last president and his opponent.

 They made that decision for the other 1/3. They also made that choice for everyone else, 

including all the people that could’ve voted but didn’t register, so couldn’t cast a ballot. Does 

that say something to you? It should.
            Let’s be frank here; we live in an imperfect world whether we pay attention to its iniquities or not. I personally have not met anyone without some concern/ complaint. Obama took office with 53% of the vote; the Bush before him at 52%. Question: what would have happened if a larger percentage of voters had turned out? Question: what would happen in this country if, like Australia, it was illegal NOT to vote (yep, don’t vote in Australia and it’s gonna cost you!)? Would/should more citizens pay attention to the way their country is run and raise a voice to what happens? Think about it.
            The economy, cost of living, joblessness, street repair, gas prices, educational opportunities, health coverage and accessibility, rampant crime, drug addiction, racism, sexism, ageism, homelessness, reproductive rights, licensing, animal abuse, your electric bill, child welfare, zoning and property taxes (Christ, all them friggin’ taxes), the environment and climate change, the endless processions of armed conflicts, the  parking Nazis, domestic abuse, gun control, television content, noise pollution, litter, commercialism, immigration, bullying and that fool who almost ran you down because they were on their cell phone, blaring music and not using a turn signal or looking where they were going! There’s an APP for that! That APP starts with a phone call, email or letter that begins with the sentence: “As a concerned voter……”
            There’s someone in the government infrastructure that is supposed to be looking out for us; somebody voted them in and you and I can vote them out! 1% of the population controls 99% of the wealth and pay lobbyists to influence elected officials by donating to their election campaigns. That bites the big one especially because the 1%-ers still only get one vote each; so, who’s the fools?  We are (the we that doesn’t think that it’s important to take part in the process).
            The problem of not being able to affect/effect change occurs with a reluctance to stand up for what we believe in. Call it what you may: lethargy, indolence, apathy, weakness, powerlessness, a feeling of disenfranchisedness or just not giving a rat’s whisker until… until we run into a roadblock in our lives and realize that we have no control over the rules that have been set in place by other people who do not give a rat’s whisker about our lives, and the lives of our loved one’s; like your job being outsourced, your streets needing repaired, your kid’s school or your local clinic being closed. How about having your healthcare premium skyrocket, your neighborhood park being bulldozed to make way for a big box store, your choice of manufactured goods being limited to ones made in a third world country or your favorite fishing spot becoming polluted because that chemical plant upriver is allowed to dump waste in your waterways? Is this land really your land?
            Has it occurred to you when you watch on your television a country going on strike, marching in the streets and confronting governments that resist the power of the people that we have very little of that going on here? Is that because we have so much power as a people (?) or because we have nothing to complain about (?) or because we are basically the servants of the 1 %-ers and simply incapable of making our wishes vigorously known? Is it: “Pity please the ones who serve… they only get what they deserve.” (?)
            Surely, in every society there are sheep, there are wolves and there are shepherds who keep watch and defend against wolves because of what they do. I think we need more shepherds here; they see to what we are supposedly guaranteed in this country: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This is my August counsel: consider our future, debate it, get and stay informed, speak your mind, encourage voter registration and participation. Get involved.