Friday, September 16, 2016

Gender and the Election (draft)

Gender and the Election
Democracy Inaction
Phil LaMancusa
  Who would you prefer to lead you into battle: Genghis Khan or Genghis Mom? This is going to be a classic type of question that you’ll be asked during this election cycle, make no mistake about it. Not whether you want to go into battle, who started the war or why it is being fought. It’s a typical tactical ploy called ‘smoke and mirrors’ used in any patriarchal society where struggles for power occur; to divert you from considering underlying issues; cloud the issue, who’s better at doing most anything at all, a man or a woman? Who gets your vote?
. Challenges like these will come completely out of left field, distractions to keep you from getting to the meat of any matter; and yes, we are in a patriarchal society (as is most of the rest of the word) and we’re mired in it. Patriarchal societies run the world whether we like it or not. Why ‘mired’? To be mired in something means to be stuck, jammed, caught, held.  The fact that patriarchal societies are based on fear, domination, oppression, sexism, specie-ism, age-ism and power is a form of mire. I’m against being mired in those things.
Politics have long been considered a man’s game and to go up against that a woman needs to buck that system. It’s all about masculinity being a leadership quality and prerequisite. In a patriarchal society men’s masculinity is regularly being challenged by bullies, and women are regarded as trophies at most and chattel at the least, to rise up in that system a woman has to face off to criticism that’s based on her gender.
Now, I’m not taking sides here regarding which candidate that you should vote for; I’m questioning simply: does gender play a part in political elections? That question cannot be answered without answering other questions first. Do any women besides Hillary Clinton and Claire Underwood want to hold public office?  Would bigger funding sources want to take a chance on a woman who’s running for office? Are women capable of holding office? Are women smart enough, focused enough, strong, decisive, grounded and able to make tough choices enough to serve the citizens of this great country and at the same time be representative of the most powerful nation on earth? Are they ruthless, trustworthy and courageous? I know, those are silly questions; and yet, you’re going to be asked them this fall to influence your vote.
Okay, here’s some numbers: 51% of the population are women but there’s only 17% in congress, 20% average across the board in politics nationally. When it comes to schooling, 33% are more likely to earn a degree and women are far more likely to graduate; however very few seek a career in politics. Is it possible that women have been shown that their way professionally, in a patriarchy, is preferably in the nurturing fields like healthcare, teaching and making homes for their families and their…men.
Men have it all over women. Men are born privileged, are raised to be ready for action and geared to win in everything that is competitive, and it’s part of their birthright to lead. Competition is great among men in big things like war, sports, politics, and women are relegated in a support capacity as nurses, secretaries and Girl Fridays. When a man exercises his sexual prowess he’s considered a stud; a woman doing the same dance is said to be a slut, when he fires someone, he’s tough; she’s a bitch. This is nothing new; these are called ‘gender (bashing) pronouns’, beware of them in election campaigns and debates.
I exercise my voting rights in every election that I can participate in; time was---when I couldn’t decide on a candidate that I wanted elected---I would merely vote in my party and for whatever woman was running, rationalizing that ‘men have screwed things up for so long that it was only fair to give a woman a shot’. A woman I know straightened me out by pointing out women that had been elected that were just as inept, unprofessional and dishonest as men in the same positions. Now if I don’t like any of the candidates, I don’t vote for any one, unless it’s to vote for the lesser of two evils or idiots. Am I going to vote in this election? Maybe not in every category; at this point I’m not jazzed about many of the choices.
The question is: will the American public (you) be swayed by a candidate’s gender? Voting for a woman simply because they are a woman is as wrong as voting for a man because of his gender; that’s stupid and that’s trouble. It is a fact that men get more credibility for their statements than women do--- even if they’re stating the same fact. So think about it, can you pick a candidate because of their qualifications alone? I know, I know, the whole process is rigged from the gate; leave that one at the door for a moment; the mature logic has it that as you decide on either of these two (or more) that are running this fall, you will (I should hope) want to make an intelligent, rational choice. Or will you be swayed by gender pronoun rhetoric?
Did you watch all of the debates, both parties? That would have been a great start. Did you watch the primaries? Does theater get any better than that? These are the scenarios that will occur, and you will witness, in the presidential race this fall in the year 2016: There’s Mr. T bullying his way to the front, belittling, scoffing, ridiculing and making up a whole lot of stuff; the gang leader, the pool bully, the sandbox lout and… it works! He’ll build a wall, deport the rapists, keep out the terrorists, bring back more wealth for the rich and let the poor have what they deserve…nothing! He’s the one for me!
And then there’s Mrs. C. with the whole political machine in her pocket, using all the skill and experience at rhetoric, debate and political savvy it takes to field questions like Serena Williams and dodge issues and topics like her attention span was Teflon and the subjects have no relevance to what her talking points happen to be. She showed the country that bucking the establishment and criticizing big banks and the wealthy doesn’t count for a hill of Bernies when the system that you want to change has and is in power. She’s one smart cookie! I want her for president!
The fact is that I don’t relish either one of them being the person that leads us into battle, and one of them certainly will. We will, once again, play the power game in the worldwide patriarchal system and arm our young people to go and fight wars that are for economic gain and power. Land areas will be decimated and collateral damage will include the young and the innocent, all in the name of peace and prosperity. Here’s the real question; when your child comes home in a flag covered box, who do you want to call them ‘heroic’ and give you a big old hug: an old letch with a comb over or a dowager in a pants suit?  If you answered Morgan Freeman… you missed the whole point.

Halloween 2016

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Trick or Treat
Grim Reader
Oh you wide eyed innocents who have come to this place believing the myth that you’re entering that Nirvana called The Big Easy; woe unto you who have sipped from that goblet of illusion, that wine of delusion, and are now waking with the headache of confusion. Never fear, your Uncle Phil will give you the straight skinny about what you need to know about living here; and if you don’t need these words of wisdom, you can pass them on to friends that are deciding whether or not to make New Orleans their home.
First: I assume that you already have a job; now, get a good landlord. Fact one is that the majority of landlords here have gotten really really greedy in the last few years.  New Orleans is the seventh least affordable place to rent in the country (proportionate to income); and, most important to note: tenants have zero rights here. You may get a one year lease and then go month to month, that means nothing. Unless you register your lease at City Hall a landlord can evict you with five days notice, for any or no reason (just ask former tenants of current airbnb apartments). Point two: landlords are doubling and tripling rents here because they know that some fool will pay; don’t be that fool, be prepared to take your time choosing your home, space and neighborhood.  Also, if you’re a first time home buyer---New Orleans is the least friendly place for you to try to take root.
Okay, so now you’ve found your digs. Here’s what’s next: you have to register to vote and you have to get a library card. You have to know about politics here; thatt’s really very easy; New Orleans is a blue dot in a red state and as far as politics goes: not much gets done without somebody getting/giving some money. You have to learn to and how to recycle: break down your boxes, don’t try to recycle glass or plastic bags and no garbage in the recycle bin or it simply will not be picked up.
You also need to be aware that it is up to you to take your trashcans to the street (and tote them back).  Become aware of when pickup day is, pull up your big boy pants and take the garbage out; and don’t put too much extra stuff out all at once (foliage cuttings, old furniture, spare tires) unless you want to see it sit in front of your house. ‘Free at Five’ means pickers get the good stuff you’ve left by the curb. Metal pickers pick up anything that they can sell for scrap, including beer cans and bicycles.
Bicycles are a great way to get around and it’s almost like a rite of passage to have one or two stolen. A word about bike riding is, you take your life in your hands because of reckless feckless rubber necking drivers. The alternative is to rely upon a motorized transportation. Public transportation, known here as the ‘Shame Train’ is an exercise in patience, humility, frustration and fortitude, not for the faint of heart, but sometimes necessary.
Cars are a way to get around;  parking around town is a bitch, with meter maids and boots costing you money as well as paid parking that costs as much as your child’s tuition. Make sure that you have a good mechanic that knows other professionals in the business; set aside a thousand dollars a year for shock absorber replacement because of our street conditions. Your windshield, tires, insurance carrier, nearest junkyard facilities will all come by recommendation. You’ll need a vehicle to evacuate from storms and to get you anywhere outside of the city limits, like over to Jefferson Parish where you can catch a show, shop or recycle glass. And yes, the First Amendment guarantees a person’s right to beg at street intersections; get over it, they aren’t going away. 
Yes we have storms here, rain, thunder and lightning. The streets will flood because the storm drains rarely are cleaned out and are used by construction workers to flush paint, cement and lawn debris to our lake. Also there is a culture of litterbugging here, you’ll see everything from cigarette butts, beverage containers, crawfish shells, plastic bags and even soiled diapers, try not to become part of it.
Wildlife, oh yes, we’ve got more wildlife than just you out for drinks and music with your friends. Feral chickens and rabbits, possums, clowders of felines, lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, stray canines, bats, alligators and every imaginable insect to bite, scratch, sting and frighten you; please don’t try to pet the raccoons. And yes, those are gigantic cockroaches (called Palmetto Bugs) they fly and will nip you; caterpillars will drop from oak trees and sting the heck out of you, and wait until the season when termites swarm into your house looking to relocate in your undies. There are also plants that will hurt you and some that drop seedpods that will poison your pets.
We also use chemicals with abandon here, we’d rather spray our way out of weeds and bugs than guard our health.  Workers chip paint, grind sidewalks and blow leaves with a gasoline driven machine strapped to their back with aplomb and without facemasks. Our lake fluctuates between safe and unsafe for swimming; I would not recommend eating any seafood from our waterways or vegetation grown in any un- remediated yards.

And crime? It happens. I’m not allowed to furnish you with the variety, frequency and degree of that insanity and still welcome you to our city. I personally wouldn’t live anywhere else, they just ain’t civilized out there. You’re now living in New Orleans, don’t call it the Big Easy.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bar Flights

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Last Call
Bar Flights
            “Sex, politics and religion; these are the three things that you should never discuss in a bar” Big Red told me, along with the importance of leaving a more than fair tip and to never piss off the bartender. Even as a young shaver I knew that saloon etiquette was an important part of my coming of age process and loomed large in legends, lessons and lore. Tales were told by my elders of mythical and larger than life personages and occurrences, woven like barbed wire gossamer, woven with silver tongue Eudory Welty eloquence and smooth as a Barrymore soliloquy delivered like brass knuckles in a velvet glove. “I remember one time…” would start the illustration of points and a hush would be felt for six barstools in radius..
            Pubs, bars, taverns, saloons with mythical names: The Cave, Hideout, Alibi, The Office and yes, The John. The Wrong Place, Lost and Found, Golden Note, Corner Pocket , Wit’s End and the likes of St. Joe’s, Ms Mae’s, Brothers 111, Bridge View, Circle View, Beach Bar, Top Hat and Liuzza’s By The Track.  Smitty’s, Molly’s, Cosimo’s, Snake’s, Fahy’s, Hank’s, Roosevelt’s,  Pal’s and those places of drinks past which are no longer with us (to which we will raise our glasses) and are missed but not forgotten.
They blanket our city and are not to be mistaken for those ubiquitous watering holes that feature live music, exotic dancers, bead trading, neon color drinks and/or blaring disco-pop rave rhythms (bless their hearts). We’re talking bars here, gin mills, joints, watering holes; havens of serious drinkers who want the commiseration of likeminded miscreants with names easy to remember and pronounce, names that fit and wear well. They drink common brand beers, shitty chardonnay and cheap red wine; mixed drinks with two ingredients (three at the most) and shots to celebrate or to sulk. The blender is always out of order, they may not have mint for your Julep or Mojito and if you want to watch something besides Jeopardy at six, you may be in the wrong spot.
Our bartenders who see hundreds of customers a week and possibly that many a day are quick to peg a regular and commit their names, mates and drinks to memory within a few visits; if you hope for them to know your dreams it may take a few more. The regulars regularly include a lawyer, one or two people that are into real estate, someone who is computer savvy as well as the person that knows the words to all the old songs, a movie buff, a young couple in the bloom of first love, a handy (wo)man, off duty civil servants, couples of all stripes and persuasions and service personnel going to or from their gigs.
In New Orleans there’ll also be musicians, ne’re do wells, miscreants, tattoo artists, runaway princesses, pirates and those in the arts. At typical hang outs will also wander in visitors, locals with out of town company, lost souls and those mending broken hearts; sometimes a wanderer on medication or already half in the bag (these are generally turned away from service) and/ or underage aspirants out on a tear, delivery persons between stops, an elected official and surely a couple of smokers holding up the walls outside conversing in quiet tones or raucous laughter. Only Mr. Greenjeans is missing and he may be along any minute.
Sharing your local bar is like a marriage, and should (Lord forbid) you break up with your once significant other it is understood that only one of you get to keep the bar; it’s also understood at the bar which one it is. Oh sure, you both might be welcome there separately, if the other patrons are liberal minded; but make no mistake, the gang has chosen sides. It’s a real down feeling (and I know firsthand) when you walk into what was once your hang out when you were together, she’s there---and when you walk in---all eyes are averted from your countenance. You’re nothing but chopped liver.
If only to experience close up other lives that run the gamut of the potential capacity of human thought, emotions and actions spend time at a gin mill it’s reason enough to. J.R. Moehringer writes in The Tender Bar (Hyperion 2005) that “Americans invest their bars with meaning and turn to them for everything from glamour to succor, and above all for the relief from that scourge of modern life---loneliness.” His protagonist (one of many) believes that the corner bar is the most egalitarian of all American gathering places and while I’m not that sophisticated in my adjectives I do know that when you assemble in a closed space with bipeds with the capacity for abstract thought patterns and you throw in food, drinks and the now-ness of their day, their particular frame of mind, things happen!

In celebration or in sorrow; for company or for solitude; for strength, courage or simply to gain reassurance that I have the ability to endure, I know that when I walk through those swinging doors I’ll be at home. My bartender will catch my eye and smile (remember NEVER piss off your bartender) and reach for that cold one for me. My eyes will  run down the line of stools for familiar faces and I’ll go and greet everyone I know, with a touch, handshake, a kiss on the cheek; I’ll gauge everyone’s mood and see where, if anywhere, I’ll fit in, big swallow of liquid audacity and I’ll launch into the Neverland of perfect strangeness. My big exhale from the day’s occupation; my un-reality where everything matters and nothing counts..