Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Emperor's Naked

 

It seems that these days are some of the darkest that we’ve seen; that wherever we turn, things are not turning out righteous and still we hope. We pray that “Whenever one person stands up and says ‘wait a minute, this is wrong’ it will help other people to do the same” (Anon). And yet no one will admit the Emperor has no clothes.

 

Po Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Dreamer

Or

What’s Goin’ On?

        How old am I? I was old when groups like the Raspberries, Strawberry Alarm Clock and The 1910 Fruitgum Company were making money with bad beats and childish lyrics. I was old when The Doors, Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin) made my head explode; and, I was still older when Industrial, Heavy Metal, Electronic, Hip Hop, Rap and Woke music snuck their way into my aural aura. I digested folk music at an early age; I swooned over progressive jazz in my formative years and I get misty on classical and symphonic music. I am at peace with that Eastern Raga; and I jump up and kiss Reggae tunes. Country and Western music and Rhythm and Blues really can get me going and I can sing along with Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke ‘til the train rolls in. All of which makes me a well rounded and dedicated revolutionary; who better equipped to rail against the machine?

        Add to that that I am an insatiable reader of just as many genres as the music that I listen to; I disappeared into books when I was young like someone running into the woods and have not returned yet. I was born old and have only gotten younger and more energetic with each trip around the sun and my getting younger does not mean that I’ve gotten naive (quite the opposite). I have seen and have an aversion to cruelty, injustice and the self serving hypocrisy, misogyny and the mendacity of people who, through no consent of mine, believe themselves fit and in charge of the health and well being of more than themselves; bastards all.

        You see, basically you cannot have all that stuff running around in your veins and gray cells without thinking that there should be something done to end this madness and insanity in the day to day living on this planet that only gets weirder and more hurtful as months and years pass. I can give you so many examples; however, good taste has my avoiding topics in my rants that include sex, politics and religion. You, as astute as you are, can read between the lines and put context with my content to your hearts delight.

        The average age of our readership is well below my half lifetime and I wonder if not experience and exposure hath not made my little outlook less rosy and/or sanguine. Youngsters might consider that I, as well as other geezers have been witness to events and condition that are possibly unimaginable to a younger generation: abject racism, sexism, fires, floods, storms, wars, assassinations, civil liberties fought for and won (or lost), earthquakes, devastations and defeats of all stripes; and that that might tend to drizzle a bit on an oldster’s current outlook, but know that under it all, I maintain a Quixotic sense that good will triumph over evil no matter the scars that we must carry forth for our efforts, no matter how many times “heaven calls in sick on me and let hell’s claws bust through these doors. Love still lives here” (Robert J. Sherrah). Amen.

        So, this month will be full of storms and as I live and breathe I can assure you that at times it will seem like “cheer up things could be worse” is only an assurance that even when you cheer up, things get worse. If you’ve been paying attention at all and not so busy trying to keep your life from falling apart physically, mentally and emotionally you’ll have seen the clouds on the horizon looking like the storm of your existence is about to blow this house to the Kingdom of L. Frank Baum where your spirit will be risked at great expense. There will be times when someone will tell you “you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet” and have it sound like an omen; and, of course it is, but they only say that because their memory has not let go of their experiences, good or not good.

        The only challenge with that is they are not you; you are the warrior, no matter your age. In essence we’re all living with our own battle of good versus evil and it’s up to us to keep up the fight; the powers that have taken it upon themselves to make decisions about our health and welfare need to be kept challenged on a constant basis no matter how tiring and frustrating it may be. The bastards need that power taken away from them.

        I say, pay attention to that person behind the curtain; would you have tea, buy a car, take a pill, or vote with confidence for them? Would you invite them into your house, share a meal or a bed with them; trust your children or your money with them; trust and let them tell you what’s best for you and not what they can benefit from?

        Listen, there’s a story going around about a small country that has been invaded by and is at war with a power far superior in assets and weaponry than they and yet they fight for their land, freedom and dignity. The world watches and tries to support their efforts and still they’re getting their asses kicked royally. And still they fight. How could you let complacency allow you to be less than them in your personal life? And yes, I said that this piece would avoid discourse on sex, politics and religion; I lied, he is naked.

       

               

 

 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Old and in The Way

 

Po Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

The Silenced Minority

Or

Who Needs Me?

Look at the poor Sad Sack on the corner standing in traffic with a cardboard sign:

Old And In The Way”.

Help Feed Me, I Fed You”.

“God Bless”.

See that guy? He used to be a famous chef, now nobody wants him; I guess they think he’s too old to cut the mustard. Give him a buck.

In 2016, 23% of adults in this country were older than 60; that percentage is estimated to grow by 28% by next year (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published in 2018).  From 2006-2016 the percentage went up 36%. That means today there are over 68,700,000 geezers lurking about; almost one in four American citizens and the numbers are going up. I am in that number and sooner or later (Lord willing and if the virus don’t gitcha) you will be too. Note: this age group is growing because we’re taking better care of ourselves, being healthy equals a longer life. There are almost 50,000,000 officially ‘retired’ Americans out there (dgydj.com)  taking up valuable oxygen, real estate and bathroom facilities and giving back bupkis.

One in three Americans are under 19 years old, which figures out, if you’ve follow my math, that 45% of Americans are doing 100% of the work not done by migrants, and the rest of us are dead weight.  We could round up all the kids and geezers send them to a third world country, build a wall… (wait, didn’t somebody already think of that?) Until that time you’re stuck with us, so why not put us to work? I’m not advocating child labor (although it wouldn’t hurt some of these miscreants), but I’m sure for seeing more gray hair in the work force.

One of the things most retirees have in common is that we feel we’re relegated out to pasture, unemployed, underutilized, retired, and wasted. Most of us miss having a job, we’d like to work, get that paycheck and spend disposable income contributing to our sense of self worth, dignity and the economy; however --- and here’s a big however --- there is age discrimination when it comes to hiring processes, and even though we have more experience and wisdom (hopefully), we’re passed over without pause for someone young, dumb and full of flowing body fluids. Do employers think we’re gonna stroke out on their watch?

Perhaps subconsciously they realize that us older folks know from experience how much of a screwing inexperienced younger employees are apt to get when it comes to making a fair wage, working a reasonable schedule.  Also we know the value that comes when the person that you answer to relates to you from logic and not from their ego/libido; ergo: when it comes to laboring in wacko circumstances we’re more likely to leave than suck it up or stick it out. We’ve been there and done that, know that there’s no future in abuse and, as opposed to our younger counterparts, we don’t come cheap or easy.

Well, sure you might say that unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades and there just might not be room for older folks to take jobs that the young need to get a jump start on the future as they see it; yet, the majority of jobs out there being filled are for low wage poor or no benefit temporary or part time positions and a person having two or three jobs does not mean three jobs, it means one person working three times as hard. The amount of people that have stopped looking for jobs and are off the rolls of the unemployed also brings down the unemployment statistics. I’ve researched and it appears to me that wages have not increased in the last couple of decades to match the rising cost of living and neither has workers equality or benefits. Yes, unemployment is down; but, the same numbers of people are working. Get it? 45%? We have created a culture of massive amounts of underpaid overworked bees and a few rich bitch queens.

 In America, food service and drinking place jobs were up over two and a half times in 2019. Louisiana has the third highest unemployment rate in the country at 4.9% (USA Today), yet there is a shortage of skilled labor jobs being filled; we’re busy taking that second job slinging hash and beer.

 5,600,000 people are either working part time jobs or are just marginally attached to employment, average weekly hours is 34.4 hours (U.S. Department of Labor 11/19).

In Louisiana we have only an 82% high school graduation rate and 20% illiteracy rate (worldatlas.com).  I suspect there are many skilled workers that have retired or been sent to pasture who are needed in our work force, heaven knows, we’re not skilling our children, we’re graduating dishwashers. I want to re-enter the job market as a retired skilled worker, I’ll leave the unskilled job market alone, god knows there are people desperate enough to take those jobs; And if I’m as old as the person who’ll be your President (and you elect them for four years), I should be more than viable!

So, the answer to my dilemma is simple: raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, insure income equality and freeze housing prices. From the bottom in this country Louisiana is third in poverty, fourth in income inequality and seventh in medium household income; blacks average half the income whites earn (labudget.org).

By doing those things more people will quit their second jobs, moms will stay home with the kids, the economy will realistically boom. Greedy bosses will have to live with a fair profit and I’ll get back to work; believe me, finding a lucrative corner to work is not as easy as you might think, although with the current health crisis it might be the only safe place to be.

 

 

 

ESOP

 

Po Boy views

By

Phil LaMancusa

ESOP

Or

Restaurant Re-think

        You DID know that some of the more successful companies in America are owned by the workers themselves (investopedia.com)? Some of these companies have multiple locations, with many employees, raking in beaucoup dollars and not hurting for staff that is willing and able to work for themselves for themselves. Some are food service and restaurant companies. What would it take for New Orleans local restaurants and businesses to think outside the box and applying this strategy for success and survival? Perhaps no one has thought of it? Not necessarily; multiple examples were set here over a half century ago, nowadays it could be chalked up to intransigence that keeps our economy and industries near comatose. Or maybe it’s the ‘I-Me-Me-Mine’ mentality that dissuades a company owned business from realizing that without workers that are dedicated selfishly to success, they have to ride herd on less than enthusiastic workers every day that they are operational.

        There are companies (including restaurant companies) that have given workers a say cooperatively in the running of THEIR business; giving them a pony in the race, you might say. There are a couple of places in New Orleans that are trying this philosophy out using a couple of different methods from the twentieth century that seemed radical then by simply realizing that it IS the Twenty-first century and it’s worth it to give it a shot. Let’s face it, at times survival depends on innovation; the willingness to take an existing strategy and bump it up. Why not try?

        Let’s put some lipstick on this pig. Say you have a small business, your staff adores you and your democratic/empathetic attitude toward them and their welfare; you don’t have staff, you have disciples. How many companies can say that? They see your vision and have made it a priority in their life for you to succeed; they have strived with you in hard times and now the light at the end of the tunnel is stability and not an oncoming train. You really want them to share in what you (with their help) have achieved. Do you give them a raise? Health benefits? A gym membership? A picture of Ben Franklin on a three by six piece of green paper? A big old sloppy kiss?

        Nah, you gather them together, maybe over dinner and drinks, and you say: “You know what kids? I could not have done this without you; without your dedication and loyalty! Would any of you mind if we formed an LLC in all of our names and went into business together? Yay, team!!

        Seem farfetched? Hard to imagine? It is, and no one in their right mind would dare think of doing something as crazy stupid as that, right? Heard of Bob’s Red Mill products? King Arthur flour products? It’s called ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). There’s Publix Super Markets; Brookshire Brothers Grocery Stores; Acadian Ambulance; examples from poultry processing to manufacturing to engineering firms; healthcare; supermarkets and construction companies all employee owned. Didn’t register on your radar? There are hundreds and hundreds, from who you buy your beer from (craftbeer.com) to where you dine out (jamesbeard.org), the numbers are rising. Obviously their workers believe that it’s better than just punching a heartless clock.

        Okay, look, you don’t just GIVE your company away; in some cases a worker has to show up a certain number of shifts a month to qualify; also a period of employment (say six months to a year) might be a requirement. It’s not like some Yayhoo can walk in off the street and become a stockholder, plus peer pressure would insure that only the right person would fit your/their owner attitude image. The Democracy At Work Institute defines a worker owned co-op as a “value driven business that puts worker and community at the core of its purpose”.

        Listen, I once had a restaurant with a partner that wasn’t compatible and sold my half to him. He ran the place into the ground, before he could manage to pay me and I stepped back in, to retrieve my money and found that his mismanagement of staff was at the core of up and coming failure. The staff and I worked our asses off to right the sinking venture and we did; to make a long story short, after six months we bought my partner’s share (for me) and I was so moved that I GAVE the restaurant to THEM. In fact, we had grown, through our collective efforts, to value and appreciate each other so much that we rented a big enough space so that we could all move in together. Had it not been for the landlord burning down the building we might still be together. And that was here in New Orleans! (albeit 50 years ago)

         Should you do it? I don’t recommend it. It takes a lot of work to be altruistic and self-effacing to that degree; it’s much easier to be a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ owner. You get to boss people around; hire and fire; give workers weird schedules that may conflict with their life and do it with aplomb. Drink up the profits if you want to; flirt with the staff; have someone else clean up after you; suspect everyone of stealing and give favors to whoever is best at kissing your ass and living up to YOUR standards and decisions no matter how inane they may be. It’s rough to be called to task by someone that is washing dishes, waiting on tables or writing checks to purveyors just because you reserved the right to “change plans at any time you deem appropriate” (Elon Musk). It’s difficult to be told by the janitor that your attitude and actions are counterproductive.

        Better to be a boss, I say. Why share? You’re no messiah; besides, who likes you that much anyway?  

Ball of confusion

 

Ball of Confusion

Or

Kiss My Assets

        “I wanna learn patience, and I wanna learn it RIGHT NOW!!!” That’s right, that’s my friggin’ mantra: “Patience: RIGHT NOW!”

        I mean, how many things in my/your/our everyday life conspire, yes conspire, to keep us from obtaining spiritual growth, peace, harmony and all the other crap that it will take for us to be able to settle damn down and be simply… happy? It’s like a conspiracy: from your phone alarm thinking that it’s tomorrow (or yesterday)to spell-check thinking you said f**k instead of flock, or your phone fielding a call from someone who wants to give your car “one more chance to renew its service warranty” or the password that you’ve been using for six years being deemed invalid so you need a new one with twelve or more letters including, but not limited to: “one upper case, one lower case, one numerical symbol, one weird at the top of the keyboard symbol, one of your pet’s names, the numerical equivalent of the last blood pressure that you had taken, and your mother’s maiden name” (now, “prove that you’re not a robot by picking out the telephone poles in this photo”)?

        You misplace your car keys; your Amazon package is porch lifted; you get a notice for jury duty; your favorite place to get coffee is closed (suddenly) on Mondays and your new route to work includes three School Zones and two construction detours. Is the Universe really TRYING to piss you off? Yes, it is. 

        Listen, the entire universe is locked in a battle of good against evil; it’s besides the point that evil is kicking our asses, we, as heroes, are being distracted from joining the struggle by forces that continue to distract us from participating in the conflict.  Your landlord is selling the house that you’ve been renting; the air conditioning in the car just quit; your co-worker just came down with covid and/or your actions at work have now been considered “micro-aggressive” because you called someone an ‘A-hole’ (because they ARE!) and you’ve been sent by HR to a ‘sensitivity training’ seminar.

        In the normal, dysfunctional world, the way things work is that the boss gives the man a bad time; man comes home and gives the wife grief; she takes it out on the kid; the kid kicks the dog and the dog bites a neighbor (me): the universe works the same way; but, you’re above that, you’ve found a ‘Happy Place’ that helps you to reconnect with your center, your spirit, your calm, your patience.

        There’s conflict in the world, there’s war and real people are dying and displaced; there’s hunger; disease; disruption and despair. People are hurting, evil rides rampant; children are being gunned down; government (doesn’t care to or) is impotent to act; hunger; injustice; civil liberties and so-called rights are being trampled on; and, unnatural disasters that are mowing down people’s lives and property have become commonplace. Global frikkin’ warming! Name it, we got it.

        We’ve had a choice and we’ve taken it. We can take mud up to our chins and then either swallow it or spit it out and, we’ve chosen to spit it out. We speak out; we vote; we act out and we’re vocal in our views. We have values. Evil does not care. Peace, love and understanding are fodder to be mowed down like the idealists before us; to be worn down; to be tested and bested. What do we do? We recharge and move the needle forward.

        Everyone who believes in freedom and justice needs to recharge. To go to a Happy Place when feeling overwhelmed--my advice is to find it and visit as often as possible. Early on, my Happy Place was by wearing myself out with drugs, alcohol and rocking and rolling until I couldn’t see straight; one quiet night, in a strange place I looked up and saw a sky full of stars and found a real Happy Place. Now, when I feel unconnected to my patience and peace, I go to one of my Happy Places. I realize that I will never solve the world’s challenges and can only do my small part by being a good person; an example, a revolution/evolution of one.

        A Happy Place is not a place of distraction; it is a place where you find peace and strength within yourself returning to its normal high functioning level. Here’s a few examples.

        Take a long walk, or hike, by yourself; speak to no one. Read a book about some protagonist’s adventures that uses wit to overcome malice. Go sit under a tree. Go for a swim. Make a pot of spaghetti sauce (enough for twelve). Go to a big store and peruse the aisles and wonder at the things people buy. Put on some quiet music and listen or sit still, let the crazy horse band of thoughts gallop wildly until they’re exhausted. Get down on your hands and knees and visit the small flowers that grow unnoticed.  Watch bees and butterflies. Commune with your cat. Roam a museum and don’t analyze the works found there, just enjoy looking. Go to a coffee house where you know nobody and have a tasty pastry. Take a nap. Recharge.

        Sound simple? No, it’s not. Most times we’re being knocked about like a pin ball in an arcade game and it almost becomes reflex to keep thinking on our feet; nose to the grindstone; shoulder to the wheel; tacking into the wind; racing with the rats and runnin’ with the devil. Go easy on yourself and everything will get done eventually; concentrate your energy on the challenge of the moment. Namaste and all that nonsense and as Mister Natural says:”keep your sunny side up!”

Randall

 

Randall

Or

Paradise Lost

          Randy has gone into ‘Assisted Living’ which to me means into a purgatory between independence and invalidation. He’s at one of the better facilities, one with a high falutin religious moniker and we can go visit. He doesn’t get around much anymore so we will have to go to him, the word is that he’s “adjusting quite nicely”; that’s not the Randy that I met nearly twenty-five years ago. “And so it goes” (Kurt Vonnegut). But not quite.

          Randall Garland was a gin and tonic drinker; he was an artist/painter, had served in the Army overseas, raised a family, was on good terms with his former wife and was loved by his daughters and grandkids. His apartment is now empty; no longer will I walk by and hear the strains of classical music from his record player and I’m sure that his season tickets to the opera are no longer valid. He will no longer hold court on his porch during Jazz Fest and tell interesting and funny stories about the life he had lead, was leading and was also looking forward to pursuing.

          I met Randy at a time when we all were younger; when literary salons and raconteurs in the French Quarter were de rigueur; when drinking in bars was an adult occupation and conversation about life, the universe and everything was an art to be polished and pursued; and when patrons would rather commiserate than watch mind numbing HD screens. And Randall was a master.    

          At one time Randall had lived above the Napoleon House and painted, he had a bevy of women and men that adored him; he could be relied on to know local geographical history, current events and topics of art and literature. He wrote a published book. He was a member of the city museum and voted religiously.

          He was raised in the Ninth Ward; had a career; had owned property and could be relied on to have a shine on his shoes and a smile on his face. He was kind and it’s not like he’s passed away, only passed on to a place that will assist him in his everyday life and make sure that he’s comfortable and taken care of, which is something that he did quite well into his eighth decade on his own terms and in his own time. Randy never was “a walking shadow, a poor player who strutted and fretted his hour on the stage” (Shakespeare); to those of us that have known Randall Garland, his is a god.

          His fishing camp on the gulf coast where he had sleepovers and fish fries for ‘the gang’ was blown away by Katrina; he took an apartment further down the road and drove there weekly; I wonder what they did with his car… obviously, he no longer drives. I wonder if the new place knows how much he likes his gumbo and fried shrimp po-boys. I wonder if there’s someone there to listen to his conversation; if he’s still on his computer; if he’s sleeping well. I wonder what he’s thinking.

          And now I wonder if you too have a Randall in a ‘facility’; if you too will go visiting; if you too know that someday you too, will be in Randall’s shoes, in Randall’s place, ‘assisted’ in your living.

          I think these places where people are housed, to me seem like book depositories where tomes are sent having been handicapped by age or infirmary, each with stories that have been written but never published; some are in libraries, some in warehouses depending on their value to others. They are cared for, in their fashion until some future expiration date finally closes them and their stories are lost or only remembered by someone who once was a part.

          Denmark instituted a Human Library Organization, which is now available in eighty countries. The idea is to check out a person and learn about and from them, it helps you and it helps them; it’s like reading a book… a book about them. What an idea, huh? Its mission is to builds spaces in the community for personal dialogue about issues that are often difficult, challenging or stigmatizing. They publish people like open books on a given subject and ‘readers’ ask questions and get answers from ‘their book’. It’s win win.

          Facilities for the elderly and less than mobile would be the perfect place to gain some insight to our outlooks, wouldn’t you say? These places are occupied by folks that have lived through good and bad times; teachers; poets; parents; the ordinary and the extraordinary people that have gone through hell, high water and high and low times. These are books that need to be read and understood: how to get along with a partner/mate; how to keep from lighting my hair on fire every time that I feel stressed; how the hell do you make tough choices and why does the meringue on my lemon pie not stand up?

          Listen, there are people in those places that are worth listening to and they also need perspective. As I get older and lemons that I’m used to throwing back at life no longer can be ignored, I want to reiterate to someone how I believe that my life was worth living still and how I have loved, lost, fought and overcome challenges that have made me a worthwhile person.

          At that stage of his life, I want Randall to have dialogue with someone who wants to know about the time he was fishing in Claremont Harbor and had to warn a swimmer that there was a six foot alligator heading their way and that maybe they should think about heading back to shore; and about how to hold a lantern above you head at night when you wade in the gulf in search of flounder and how high you need to roll your pants legs up.

          Consider Randall Garland worth considering.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Objective reality

 

Po Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Objective Reality

Or

Negative Capability

        Sitting outside Old Road Coffee Shop on a not too frequent visit, waiting for Deb, smiling as a woman at the next table snaps a photograph of my car with the mannequin in the back seat. I’ve already avoided a morning drunk that just wants to “ask me a question”, Deb arrives and who should emerge from another car to get a cup but the former mayor; conversation ensues. Wellman the artist arrives, down on his luck as usual (pieces in the Smithsonian and the Ogden); I slip him a fin and he asks for a ride but we’re going the opposite way. Meg the barista comes out to grab a smoke and we ask after her pup and remark how much better her eye looks after that bee sting.

        All morning I’d been contemplating life, the universe and everything, including the camera traffic ticket I received in the mail (that’ll cost a day’s wages); everything recently encourages a WTF conundrum in my psyche and I wonder if, in fact, I AM living in the end of days. Life is orphic, mysterious, entrancing and beyond my understanding. It seemed simpler when I was younger and the older generation was making all the mistakes; we swore we would never make them, and in fact we believed that we could correct them: war; hunger; inequality; prejudice and a disregard for the future of the planet, and then a cup of coffee rings the ‘get a clue’ phone: I still don’t know what’s going on and there is nothing that I can do to change the mindset of the idiots that are continually f**king EVERYTHING up. Meet the enemy: they are us; no longer the warrior, the most I can hope for is Negative Capability.

As I see it (although the poet Keats said it better), Negative Capability is nothing more than admitting that it’s okay with not knowing or understanding what is going on but having the ability to function within those parameters nonetheless – welcome to -- life in New Orleans.

        Anyone living here will rightfully tell you that it takes a level of genius to actually enjoy New Orleans on a deeper than superficial level; to be able to dive deep and not worry about coming up for air, experiencing her like a lover that you want to wake up with and not just a tramp that you picked up in a bar on a weekend pass. More than merely falling in love, being willing to call yourself a New Orleanian is more like having egg on your face and not minding who sees it; wanting a third helping of Thanksgiving dinner; smiling as you take a pie in the kisser and/or taking a warm bubble bath with a martini, a snake and the radio perched on the side of the tub as your new BFF appears and wants to join you.

        Demographics are a gray and mysterious concept here. We call it the ‘Checkerboard System’: white folks living next door to black folks next to brown folk, yellow folk and white folks; we do know that the ‘haves’ live in a different area than the ‘have-nots’ and across the board, everyone pays too much rent. Some of us believe that there’s ‘different strokes for different folks’ and others opine that ‘there’s different ways on different days’ and it’s pretty much all right with all of us; savoir faire is everywhere.

        But New Orleans is not the world and just as I’m getting complacent in my New Orleans state of mind some yahoo decides to remind me of the fires, floods, tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes wrecking the earth; the riots around the globe that are proof of universal indignities that occur regularly; the wars that annihilate populations; the religious persecution, misogyny, intolerance, sickness, pollution and famine that are commonplace in the world we live in. If I hear another: “a gunman opened fire on a crowd in downtown killing…” It’s gonna drive me bats.

        The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse have come down with a case of Seven Deadly Sins and are taking them on a world tour, as a group, calling themselves The Objective Realities, spreading greed and power to the ruthless; the world is the audience and tickets are free. It’s a given that the weather is predicted to rain on your parade.

        Around my neighborhood there’re guys of all stripes that gather in parks, neutral grounds and sidewalks in the afternoon and evenings for libations and commiseration. There may be dominoes to be played; some horseshoes to be pitched; a game of Cornhole and some beverages in brown bags. Old R&B music is their soundtrack and they have a time every day, I’m sure, not listening to the cacophonies of worldwide gloom and doom-- maybe I should be more like them—but, as everyone knows, there’s no such thing as objective reality because all reality is subjective. Theirs is a subjective reality that I admire.

        I love New Orleans mostly because I can handle her dysfunction; I rejoice in her music; I’m sated by her cooking and I take comfort in the celebration of life that is a constant. We may be a lot of things here; and one morning at a coffee shop with my old lady, running into a photographer, a drunk, an ex-mayor and an artist gives me reason to feel a level of optimistic clarity. Back at it biaches; we can still change the world!

   

American Pie

 

Po Boy views

By

Phil LaMancusa

American Pie

Or

Beginner’s Luck

        Chutzpah: a Yiddish term for ‘audacity for good or for bad’ as in “Imagine the chutzpah he had to make that kind of journey.” For me that word describes anyone who would pack up their family and belongings leave a possible generational homeland and travel to a strange country (likely not even knowing the language and/or customs) for a better life. The words that come to mind are: immigrant, refugee, expatriate and, they come in two tiers: the first are the ones that come without knowing anything; they settle, take the bad with the good and are literally pioneers. The second are the ones that follow, those sent for: wives, family, betrothed or necessarily abandoned.

        There are also those that come indentured: Asians, Europeans and most notably Africans. They come; they’re brought; they’re sent for; they endure. I’m second generation American, so this seed has not fallen far from the tree; all four of my grandparents were not born here. They came for a better life, they came to escape poverty, violence and oppressive politics. One of my grandmothers was sent for as a child bride. They brought their stories, customs, food and languages; they had children and their children had children.

        The pioneer that crosses the plains in a covered wagon is not much different than the refugee who travels in the bowels of a tramp steamer, crosses from the Caribbean in an inflatable raft, or trudges through the southern dessert to Laredo, Texas. They ‘pays their money and they takes their chances’. They endure; they endure because they have to or they’ll perish. The generational endurance of the people that were kidnapped and enslaved is legendary and ongoing. The pioneers and the persecuted endure hardship, hunger, haranguing, hatred and exploitation; they’re cat-called with racial and ethnic slurs: Kikes, Rag Heads, Beaners, Greasers, Chinks, Slope heads, Spics and that N-word that we’re not allowed to say or print. My own people were called Micks, Krauts and Wops (Without Papers).

        Those that have been here for a few generations forget the fact their people once were immigrants and discourage this country from taking in ‘foreigners’ (many ‘foreigners’ want to come here); from places like Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, China, Nigeria, Cuba, Somalia and parts of Eastern Europe; the big one these days is Latinos from South and Central America and, of course, those pesky Mexicans. They all want a piece of the American Pie; a shot at redemption; a photo opportunity.

         We hear: “The nerve of these people! They’ll take our jobs, our women, our language and our way of life. Our last president called them “murderers and rapists”. Look out! They’re coming across the border from the Middle East, Asia, Guatemala, and hey, I hear that there are even some Canadians that want in; well not on my watch! I’ll build a wall, a physical, social and cultural wall. I’ll build an economic wall against hiring in any but the lowest forms of employment: fruit pickers, factory workers, domestic workers, sweat shop workers. What(?) we’ve already done that? Whew, good, I’m safe now. I can sleep easier knowing that if those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse from those teaming shores, tries to get into Little Tommy’s play school or get a job in my local bank as anything but a janitor……”

         In 1868, Africans that were brought here as slaves were granted citizenship; June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed into law the Indian Citizen Act which gave the people that had been here for millennium the right of American Citizenship; 1935, my grandparents became American citizens. Did that make their lives any easier? Ask them. The walls we built still stand.

        It tears our hearts to see ragged malnourished kids, maimed puppies or beaten horses. We cry for missing children, abandoned kittens, abused women or those trafficked for pleasure or gain. As long as they don’t move into our back yard. Tendency wants us to say: “I don’t want a homeless shelter built in my neighborhood. I don’t want anyone panhandling in front of that restaurant that I frequent. Make them all just go away. I’ll feel sorry from a distance; I’ll even donate. I know that we’re all brothers, but I don’t want my brother sleeping in that doorway, it’s gross to look at; what will the children think?”

        The secure have a tendency to get smug; not withstanding my White Privilege, my people pulled themselves up by their bootstraps (we say), not realizing that some of our ‘Brothers’ have no bootstraps with which to pull.  They’re sitting at the border waiting for a shot at asylum eating donated food and dirt.

        I say: let them all in; borders are imaginary lines in a global sandbox and it’s usually the biggest bully that gets the best corner. I say we adopt the world and let all those that have less share our abundances. Put them to work, give them educations, healthcare and fair housing (you know, stuff that we are not making available to all of our own citizens).

        The argument against that is “we’ll go into debt; our children will go into debt; our grandchildren will have to pay this off.” That is the argument that comes from the financially secure politicians that already have comprehensive healthcare, paid holiday vacations and free tuition for their children.

        If you adopted a person or even a critter and they needed care and assistance, wouldn’t you, out of love, go into debt? I would, and because of those types of Golden Rule values, I would pass that debt as well as that value to my children and my grandchildren. I would.

        After all, if we happen to accrue debt helping those less fortunate, by letting them in to the American Dreamland, wouldn’t we be passing that shared debt to their children and grandchildren? Think about that when you stop by that taco truck for a Carne Asada Burrito and ice cold Fanta; prepared by a future fellow citizen.