Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gentra Wars draft

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Gentra Wars
Heah Dey Come!
            “Good evening and welcome to the sicks-a-clock mews, I’m your host Wyran Milliams bringing you the latest breaking stories from New Orleans neighborhoods; tonight our field correspondent Itchard Mengels is reporting on the Gentra Wars being waged across the city: Itchard?”   

            “Good evening Wyran, reporting tonight from the Bywater in lower New Orleans, it looks like we have a skirmish at Franklin and Dauphine streets where a family of Gentras has taken over another double shotgun house and converted it into a single dwelling, as you know, other properties have been reported seized and turned into AirBnB’s and bed and breakfast enclaves; we’ve seen Oobers pulling up and disgorging northerners with carryon luggage and wearing Chicago Cubs sweatshirts. After the take overs in the French Quarters and the Marigny these forces seem to be unstoppable. Back to you Wyran:”  

Upyer Bucket List draft

PO Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Upyer Bucket List
I’ll Pass
            Okay, you’ve passed your thirty-something birthday and are about to decide on what you’re gonna be when you grow up. As any intelligent, aware and alert adult (you are, aren’t you), you’ve noticed a bunch of occupations that you are not inclined to pursue, among these are some non skilled, low paying dead end jobs that those of us with less resources growing up have been forced into; I swear, sometimes I believe ‘The Man’ keeps portions of us at a disadvantage just to keep the country supplied with cheap demeaning labor, the kind where you make enough dough to eek by but not enough time or money to take that night class to become a qualified professional  (like a vet tech, CPA or dental assistant), which would at least give our kids a leg up. Think about it.
Be that as it may, I’ve compiled a list of jobs that I’ve never wanted  

Love's Labor Lost

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Love’s Labor Lost
                Once upon a time there is a woman of a certain age, smart and sensible, that, while munching pralines, considered it time to (maybe) get married, settle down, buy a car, write a book; you know, a renovated house, double wide stroller, rescue puppy, organic shopping future. What can you say? It happens. Her name: Valerie.
            She was deeply in love with a man named Will; he made her laugh, they danced in the moonlight, made sweet love under the stars. But, Will couldn’t be predicted or corralled; with so many directions to choose from, his attention couldn’t fully focus on one. He couldn’t keep a job for very long; not that he was ever lazy or disliked, it was just that he would get distracted and decide to do something else, like help a friend build a boat or volunteer at a shelter. He excelled in academia yet completed few courses-- when class was in session-- he was more than likely off watching the river or listening to crickets.  He was the eternal child, a young Pan, and she wanted to hold him fast, settle him down, be his Wendy; but that would have meant that Will would have to grow up; she knew that if he did mature she would lose the man/child that she loved by him becoming someone that he was not -- at the cost of his happiness and freedom.
            She met Robert at a company picnic. He was the opposite of Will; he worked as a finance broker, had a great education and bright future. He was politically correct and active in community affairs. He wanted a wife, children and everything that came with it; security, responsibility and hard work. He brought her to meet his parents who fell in love with her and accepted her into the family circle without reservations. Robert took her to theater, society gatherings and restaurants of high regard. They spent weekends at his parent’s country cabin. He adored her and told her so often.  He wanted to plan a spring wedding and a honeymoon abroad floating down the Seine, sipping champagne and making love. He called her his Goddess and soul mate. She was ever reminding herself that he was financially stable, serious and practical; he was also good looking and fit.  He was as different from Will as night and day, and she was at odds as to whom she would rather spend the rest of her life with.
            And then there was Jill. Street smart, wise cracking, gum chewing, baseball slugging, platinum hued crew cut Jill. Tall, slender, take charge persona with a ‘don’t f*ck with me’ attitude and smooth caramel colored skin; she was also head over heels in love with Val. Jill worked in real estate, she made beaucoup bucks selling houses and condos to fools who had too much money and would soon be parted from it. Together they went out at night to clubs, slammed shots, smoked cigarettes and dissed male bipeds with abandon.  They dressed eachother, danced together and had even kissed once. Jill had told her that they could make a perfect permanent couple if Val could only ‘loosen up’ and let things happen between them. Valerie was conflicted but flattered.
            In fact, being the center of attraction to three, yes THREE, special people made her feel like a princess in a fairy tale; she felt conspicuous in her attractiveness, graceful, luminous… alive.  “Unfortunately”, she mused “they all like spinach and artichoke dip”; Valerie had been to a drunken high school party in her early teens where after a point the only thing that she remembered was throwing up huge quantities of bits and pieces of spinach and artichoke dip. Ever after, just the mention of the stuff was enough to turn her off. AND, they (all three) were “forever ordering the friggin’ sh*t wherever they went!”
            Even so, on Valentines when all three proposed marriage, it wasn’t easy to decide. First of all Will wanted them to hop freighter to Amsterdam, buy a mini-bus and go hook up with gypsies, pick grapes in France, figs in Spain, run weed to GIs in Kabul. He told her how he pictured her in peasant dresses by some forest firelight dancing barefoot while breastfeeding their children.
            Robert told her that they would marry at Grace Episcopal, he had chosen the bridesmaid’s dresses; they’d move into a high-rise condo in the city and build their little getaway place in the ‘woods’ right next to “Mum’s and Da’s”. Robert had already picked out their children’s names, sexes and schools. He was going to make sure that everything in their lives would be nothing less than perfect.
            Jill’s offer was the most tempting: buy some property in South Beach, open a gay night club and spend the rest of their lives “like them dudes from Birdcage!” Val was tempted, she was sorely tempted; thoughts of children, sanctuary and security fled.  So did the gypsy lifestyle, gallivanting and roughing it, “I’m not attracted to living with dirty feet and bathing outdoors; I’m also not cut out for life in a gilded cage”. However-- she decided-- a permanent decadent lifestyle was something that could surely float her boat.
            She mused into the night and into the wee hours, got a few hours sleep, packed a bag and left a note for her roommate “Dear Sal, --- been great--- sell, keep, or give my stuff away; rent’s paid until the first. I’m outa here!”  And that she was.

What happened to Val? She moved (by herself) to New Orleans and lived happily ever after. Happy Valentines y’all! 

Ball of Confusion

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Ball of Confusion
            We hitchhiked into New Orleans on the tails of a hurricane, the gun-metal gray sky limpid on the land along a gulf coast moonscape.  Our driver let us out on neon electric Bourbon St. at an Orange Julius stand where I had my first ‘California Burger’. “Hey Hippie”, he yelled to a passing freak “Y’all always talkin’ ‘bout brotherly lovethese fokkers need a place to stay!” Just like that, New Orleans was offered and we let her take us in.
            In those days poor boys like me could score copies of the underground newspaper --such as it was-- at 1212 Royal St. (seven for a buck) and sold them to inebriated  tourists on Bourbon St for whatever we could get, you could get the first seven fronted to you if you were broke. We’d get beans and rice at Buster’s on Burgundy for twenty-seven cents. Picture it: public phones a nickel, take the bus for a dime. Eventually we got a studio on Dauphine—with pool-- for ninety a month.
            I got a job waiting on tables at the Andrew Jackson Restaurant on Royal St. across from the Monteleone Hotel. Six months later another waiter, my wife and I opened a small cafĂ© on Conti and Exchange Alley. The licensing was twenty bucks, the rent was two-hundred. We built the tables and benches and slapped together a concept; when the health inspector came, we left a twenty dollar bill on the counter and walked away. We got approved, no questions asked (the twenty had vanished).
            Six months later the restaurant belonged to everyone that worked there and we all moved in together, the restaurant moved to Barracks St. to a four story warehouse; ground floor: theater, second floor: restaurant, third and fourth floor: living quarters (twelve to twenty of us) the rent for the entire building was five hundred a month. There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air. Bands, on their way to the big time, came and played for free in the park, we had spiritual leaders, celebrated life, became a ‘family’, made love, had babies.
            Times were tough and the guys took jobs at demolition or sweeping the streets for the French Market Corporation, one afternoon the restaurant burned down (the landlord later was charged with arson). The family was split up and went separate ways.
            I took a job as a one man kitchen at Johnny White’s restaurant on St. Peter St. there was a flamenco club across the street, a bar where Jackson Square artists hung out and on the corner and a place called Crazy Shirley’s where Papa French’s band-- Bob and Henry French and Ellis Marsalis among others—played until the wee hours. I took massage classes and studied shiatsu.
            I cooked at Hullihan’s on Bourbon St, at Commanders palace with Paul Prudhomme. We rented an abandoned dry cleaning plant on Frenchmen St. when it was virtually empty of businesses and built it into a restaurant named Valentines (where Snug Harbor is today), again the rent was only two hundred bucks. We lived upstairs on the mezzanine, we bought a pick-up truck for a hundred bucks and named it Lazarus. A thousand words could be made out of each of the above sentences, and, relatively speaking this was not that long ago!
            The points of the story, two points really, are these:
1. A lot of us elder folks are not envious of the younger generation and the prospects that they have for their future and to them we say: the game is rigged; you will have to work for everything that you get and there will always be someone ready to take it all away at less than a moment’s notice. Wherever you are, whatever you do, there will always be someone in power above you and for the most part, they cannot be trusted to be fair. Try not to let it get you down.
 2. We’re essentially ashamed of our governments and the slipshod way that they are taking-- or not taking-- care of our citizens. The main difference between the then and now, as we geezers will tell you is that we (pretty much everybody) knew where we stood in the scheme of American dream of life and living. Now candidates and elected (so called) leaders alike will tell us that they know what’s best of us and that they have a ‘plan’, an ‘answer’, a ‘solution’ to what ails us, they’ll give us ‘transparency’. This is bull dung.
What we know is that all people just want enough, not a lot. . We want the basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter. We want security in our living conditions for us and our children. We want to pursue and a make a living wage for what we can achieve using the talents that we have. We don’t want to be lied to by people that we put faith and trust in by word or inference.  We want to be able to expect those things.
Would I go back to the sixties and seventies? Like a friggin’ shot! Even at the age that I am now, I’m pretty certain that I’d get a fairer shake than in the 21st century. The mood was better, the food was better, the music was better, there were more outlaws and fewer criminals. We went on a grand adventure. We knew what to expect.
And to that gang of mine, wherever you are, I have two questions: when did you get so conservative and greedy? And…why?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rinse and Repeat

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Rinse and repeat
Borax Brotherhood
Few sights can inspire thoughts more demoralizing than your pile of laundry waiting to be done. There it sits, in salacious solidarity and communal sang froid; there you are, semi-mesmerized, in conflicted contemplation, confronting a lump of sweaty fabric friends as they repose in that hamper, closet, drawer or laundry bag purloined from your summer restaurant gig. Face fear, ya gotta do the wash.
The bed linen that has comforted your midnight thrashings; the pillow cases that have held your dreams; the socks and stockings that have seen your wanderings (and perhaps do some wandering of their own); the silks, satins and nylons that have witnessed your flirting; handkerchiefs and washcloths that wiped your tears and running nose; towels that know their way around your body like a lover; your  skirts and slacks that have been your trusted vehicles as you roam from pillar to post;  ‘fun to wear’ underwear that know all your dirty little secrets; your work clothes, play clothes and the ones with a bloodstain you’d sooner forget about . Yours, all yours, almost living in sin themselves as they stew, awaiting the pleasure of your cleaning them, the holy washing, folding and sorting; a John the Baptist christening, resurrected and ready for  new adventures. You stare, you sigh, you speak: “it’s time.”
The more blessed of us live with access to washer/dryer combos in our abodes. The rest of us know the true meaning of the word shlep, since not many laundromats, washaterias or coin washes have adequate, if any, parking spaces. We also learn the meaning of the word (in)dignity; for our laundry is evidence—in full view-- of how we live and what we live in. A confessional where we must all come clean before we leave this place, this temple of wash and dry.
To my way of thinking, a ‘soap and suds’ joint is proof of universal regeneration. We bring in our soiled, exploited lives and come away… purified. Of course-- as in all cleansings-- it all must start with change.
Quarters mostly, that we’ve saved or will procure from the change machine. Unlike George Carlin, when we put a dollar in the change machine, something is going to change. The evil spirits of soil will depart (permanent stains excepted); smart money will wash once a week, whether they need to or not, I don’t know too many of those people. Usually the rest of us have our ‘bottom of the closet’ outfit where, we know, that when this particular garment has to be worn, it is damn sure time to bite the bullet.
Some people will take their time and sort the laundry before washing (colors, whites, darks), others-- and everyone at some time-- will just throw the lot in the biggest washer and let God be the judge on who comes out appropriately clean. At times we all have thrown that new red bathrobe in with everything and as a result have worn one shade or another of the color pink for the rest of the social season. It happens.
If you perchance would say that “it all comes out in the wash”…well, you’re right; and, who amongst us has not had the experience of ‘finding something’ from a pocket that wasn’t checked before wash day; money; gum; a ballpoint pen; that phone number (beyond recognition) of the cutie that you met at Vaughn’s last week?
I’m one of the people who like to take my time doing laundry and I bring a book, snacks and my ever evolving patience; however, sometimes I do the wash on the fly and multi-task my buns off with the clothes getting short shrift.  In a perfect world, here I am relaxing in the sun with a copy of War and Peace while my whites have a party in one machine, my colors are reenacting the musical Oklahoma in another and the darks are doing whatever darks do when they’re left to their own devices. All are looking forward to that last rinse and spin before the tumble dry sauna… happy happy fabrics all. I admit, sometimes I’ll catch myself staring into the dryer while the colors, darks and whites dance in an orgy of patterns and traces, their juxtaposition of shapes and hues like a flashback to the sixties; when, alas, I DID inhale. Then: “Time’s up, pencils down! Everybody out of the pool and into the basket for sorting and folding, c’mon guys, let’s take it to the bridge!”
And so, to the folding. Okay, I used to be the guy who threw everything together and got the hell on out, folding, shmolding. Now, in a state of near Buddhist compassion all gets settled and honored; I become one with my cleanliness. No, of course I don’t pair socks or fold my dainties. I wouldn’t dream of eliminating the search and rescue mission every time I grope those drawers. The socks rarely match, I hate wearing them and they’re always losing themselves, knickers are always ‘grab and go’. Period.
Ah. but the perfectly folded piles of towels, hankies, tees, and trousers. Folding a fitted sheet is a lesson in humility….can’t do it.  Getting it all back in my shopping basket (the ones that most geezers use) and laundry bag (also freshly washed) is an engineering feat, just as extracting them from those vehicles of conveyance, with any semblance of skill or organization, a miracle.
But the job is done, I trundle home, careful not to spill, proud of myself and my clean stuff. I’ve watched a section of humanity go through the same cleansing ritual, the dirty dancing ebb and flow of fabrical states of consciousness. All is right with the world.