". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Halloween -- It Must Be Vampires

Kevin Jackson, author of Bite: A Vampire Handbook: A Vampire Miscellany, lists the top 10 vampire novels.

He intelligently leaves out Rice and Meyers:  "(Anne Rice needs no plugging here; nor does Stephenie Meyer, nor Charlaine Harris ...)"

Last Night in San Francisco

Received from Vaquero this AM below.

a 3-hour event which featured a full set of reading -- which has gotten much more dramatic and in more character voices, with about 70 people in attendance, because it was the bookstore's anniverary party, and it was as good a party as i've ever been at in a bookstore. my set of reading was followed by about an hour of drinking (not by me, though i did eat a few alcoholic orange thinslices). There was a celebrity bartender, the owner's sister, who set up a punchbowl next to me, about on a level with my head but a little behind me and just off to the side. then everyone sat back down and i did a full set of singing, the second one i did today.

it was a whole new level of performance for this stuff. i did:

piety and desire
gangster roots
babydoll (with audience singing the coro)
battle call
kiss you down south
her point of view

He was very pleased. Also he met a physician at an earlier event in the day, who offered to give him a steroid shot today, before he gets on the plane to come home.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We've Been Sold Down the River by Obama and the dems

It's official.

Forced purchase of health insurance.

They call that a public option?  AND nothing to be done until 2013.  All these bozos will be gone by then and the shithead liebermans and the rethugz will be back.


In the meantime though The Recession Is Over (tm) and They Keep Saying There's No Inflation (tm), and right here at home in New York the price of milk has fallen, at my supermarket this week milk prices increased 10%.

One term Obama.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

California, THE YEAR BEFORE THE FLOOD & The New York Times

It's another beautiful day in California, my boy says.  Here?  Not so much.  Pouring buckets as it has for most of the time lately.  Sigh.

Despite the continuing shoulder and arm pain (the neck and back stuff seems gone, thank goodness), he's enjoying himself.  He played and sang 5 of his songs last night in Santa Barbara.

He's currently on his way to San Francisco.

In the meantime the AP article about The Year Before the Flood published yesterday.  Here's a link to it from the New York Times.

Though there are a couple of errors and mis-quote, it's very good; I really like this part:

Tom Lowenburg, co-owner of Octavia Books in New Orleans, said readers appreciate Sublette's perspective and gift for storytelling.

''He has a very interesting mind,'' he said. ''He's able to draw from all different directions and process it all in a way that is unique. He is one of those people who takes in a lot, has a very broad sense of things and is able to see things differently, but is not pedantic."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Third Day of Bank Protests In Chicago

According to the HuffPo this is the third day of these protests, and this is the first I've heard about it. Not even Ed Schultz is talking bout it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

THE RHETORIC OF PLEASURE: Prose Style & Today's Composition Classroom

If you haven't heard about this, the information for the National Day of Writing, sponsored by the National Gallery of Writing is here.  Today, October 20, 2009, is the the Opening Day.  In celebration everyone may contribute something of your own to the site.

In my case, I've decided to talk here about a book that not only deals with writing, but about teaching writing, written by our friend (2003; Boynton/Cork Publishers, Portsmouth, New Hampshire).  Among his extensive, hands-on experience with teaching and writing is what he's learned as Director of the Writing Program at Tulane University.  Moreover, he's a very good writer himself, as I can vouch for, having read work of his that is neither academic nor pedagogical.  At the same time, I can also vouch from personal observation the energy and enthusiasm with which he approaches writing and with which he teaches his students to effectively communicate as writers.  His classes are his number one priority.  You know this is true because of  the very many hours he spends on them every week: planning, preparation, reading and critiquing his students' papers, following up on their work, answering their questions, providing advice and assistance that is directed to their individual writing challenges. (There's a reason he's received  numerous teaching awards; he's also passionately involved in the music communities of New Orleans and gives a great deal of time to them, including his own broadcast jazz program, Jazz From the Market, on WWOZ.  He goes to the gymn -- definitely gets away from the desk and out of the office.)

His students have to work equally hard. They write, critique, revise, re-write, constantly. The class isn't about your personal traumas and problems, it isn't about 'self-expression' and it is not journaling.  The class is about your writing problems.  TR's methodology is fairly based on classically tested, effective methodology, i.e. what the Greek Rhetoricians studied, taught and practiced, provides joy, rather than punishment.

A premise of The Rhetoric of Pleasure is that the 60's*** were about "pleasure and the quest for the infinite." As part of the greater dismemberment backlash of everything the "60's" seems to represent for those who prefer a controlled, confined order, our culture was manipulated to value instead, an empty, anxious  super-consumerism. Along the way, shopping and buying replaced "Rhapsode" as the social objective of activity and of discourse.

The foundation of TR's methodology, then, is the long list of the Rhetorcians' pre-Socratic stylistic devices, which his students need to learn. They learn by, first, assigned engagement with 3 - 5 of these devices in their papers, then later in the term, with their own choices of the devices in their papers. He teaches rhetoric as its ancient, original objective: powerful medicine, i.e. magic, healing magic. As illustration he cites Chrysippus, a Stoic, who wrote The Therapeutikon, also known as The Ethikon. This heals the student of her writing incapacity, which leads to effective communication in other modes. In simpler words, the students learn how to say what they want to say so others can understand what they want to say.

From now on this is me speaking, what I thought about while reading TR's book, not necessarily what TR writes or advocates in terms of the classroom. The review linked to above describes TR's methodology and what he advocates with greater expertise, wider experience, than I can.

Most programs designed to teach students the basic competencies employ an industrial methodological approach: a rigid construction of dry concepts without context (raw materials) are drummed into the students (the industrial machinery) to turn out the repetitive, contextless 5 paragraph essay (the product). These students are generally the most unpopular to teach, who have the least contact with their school's English Department's most experienced and passionate lovers of literature and writing, as these students' lack of competencies are judged unworthy, meaning incapable, of such pleasures. Often they are shunted off to the adjuncts and teaching assistants, who in turn, are often the least experienced and skilled in teaching anything, much less what they have been students of so recently themselves.

The Rhetoric of Pleasure advocates a methodology that employs the most elegant, sophisticated thinking and writing devices with the students who have the fewest competencies in writing. Instead of being punished for their lack of perceived compentency, by denial of writing and literary pleasure, they are provided personal, (generative) hands-on experience of the joy, the pleasure of communicating effectively, with writing.  TR gives his students the intellectual respect of expectation that they can learn what he is teaching, and the results of their end-of-term papers show that they do learn it.

Across our national culture, vitality of social discourse has been displaced by ignorant outrage, debasement of language and meanness. This makes communication among diverse groups impossible. The healing magic of language has been leached out by our anxious fixation upon a social status ranked in spiritually valueless buying of things, and that we are falling from our rank on the consumption ladder. There is no pleasure, much less 'there' there.

Our inability to communicate with others pits us all against everyone else. Instead of coming together to practice joy, as in dance, music, language, art, we prefer to come together in hatred directed to some Other – howling at the other candidates in an election campaign, at sports events, chasing down a woman from another 'race,' beating and raping her as a group activity. We have become a nation of two year olds, perpetually frustrated into tantrums because we lack language skills – the very capacity that so many insist is the great divide between souless animals and ourselves, divinely ensouled by god -- that we cannot communicate effectively even with ourselves. We lack the words, the grammar, the devices that basic literacy provides to evaluate or think effectively.  This has been fostered at least since the days of Reagan when the words for offices and jobs officially changed, allowing then, governance by Big Lie effectively to turn government into an oppressive, exploitive force that exists only for the corporations' benefit

Thus students arrive at the university sadly lacking in capacity, and then are punished for not possessing what they've been denied, by college courses designed to make them miserable in course of supposedly being taught 'to write.' Kind of like Lou Dobbs theory of parenting: beat the child until the child submits, i.e. until the student produces a 5 paragraph essay repetitively signifying nothing but an arbitrary minimum of spelling and grammar errors, with a thesis sentence and concluding sentence. Anyone (like me) who has had to read and grade these end of term essays knows this means punishing the reader equally with the student.

Beyond this, professional writers, with fiction or non-fiction, will find from TR's book useful and fresh ways of thinking about their own work.  Though the book deals seriously with the many theoretical designs popular among teachers of literature and writing, the author knows these theories so well that he can play with them, and we play with him. The parts of it that deal with language as healing medicine will be particularly interesting for writers whose mode invokes that transcendent, the Romantic, the Fantastic.

Words in intentional form can create two different kinds of language magic, generative or arrested magic. These two forms of language magic are in oppositional and complementary relationship.  At this time we as a national people have lost both forms of language magic.

Arrested magic is static and rote learned; it is not of the person, but from outside. Arrested magics are of the community; within them reside cultural identity, its persistence and transmission through a community's generations.  Examples of arrested healing language are community verbal charms, prayers, incantations, scriptual snippits worn as amulets and charms, eaten, hung on doorways.

Generative magic comes from within the individual, is controlled and directed by the individual purpose. It creates, it moves both the practicioner and the world around her.  These are what enrich the great trove of a community's language and culture, which keep it vital, growing and changing in a healthy manner.  Examples of generative healing magic are sacred songs and chants created by the individual healer or patient.

Anyone who has experienced a healing from a long illness knows there is no joy like this, a return from our exile as a member of the large community of friends, family, work, the world. Someone who has not been able to write effectively, and has now proven to herself that when she needs to she can do this experiences a joy quite like this. The more members of our community that have this capacity, the more joyous our polis becomes, the more pleasure each of us finds a capacity to experience.

*** TR is rather too young to have been in the thick of what we think of these dys as the 60's.  What he's contrasting, among other things, is the energy of exhuberant joy that prompted and infuses Louis Armstrong's writing -- he carried a typewriter with him everywhere -- which so influenced Kerouac and later, others, like Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe, who became iconic 60's writers. So many (particularly masculine) aging writers and their more contemporary colleagues look back at this era with passionate nostalgia, as so many of the same writers look back to Hemingway with passionate nostalgia -- despite their diametrical opposition in technique and even objective.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Items of Interest For Those With New Orleans Interests

They both come from the Times-Picayune.

The first is a write up about the Zócolo Conference by Lolis E Elie.  Vaquero's invoked in the closing.

The tension between Latin immigrants and native born Americans can be predicted, Suro said. In places like New York and Los Angeles, where there have traditionally been high numbers of immigrants, new arrivals tend to blend in with relatively little friction.

But in a place like New Orleans, where the number of Latin immigrants is unprecedented in recent history, tension can be expected to grow. "It tends to be quite high in places where the Latin population is quite small and has grown rapidly...."

The other is about the plans of a local group, Mondo Bizarro, to bring more tourism and recognition to New Orleans Central City district, long known as poor ghetto, with all that implies to so many white tourists from middle America.

Central City is huge. On a map, it is the massive midsection of the city -- hard to miss, really -- yet reasons and opportunities for locals or tourists to go there are scant and, indeed, most folks do make a point of missing it.

Yet the area -- that huge blank canvas bordered by St. Charles and Claiborne avenues, running from the CBD to Napoleon Avenue -- is home to myriad architectural gems and curiosities, historic landmarks, and a massive, often invisible population.

Longtime Central City residents know a lot of stories that are not about gang warfare, police brutality and bad schools. Like everyone in New Orleans -- and most people everywhere -- they are ordinary people living extraordinary lives, and the fresh, passionate and nostalgic experiences they have to share offer a profoundly different view of the area that so many locals associate mostly with images of yellow police tape.
The name of the group, for this purpose though, seems from over here, a bit unfortunate, but that may just be me.  I do applaud their intention and energy and effort, for they are, of course, right.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dispatches From Baton Rouge and Tipitina's

The Louisiana Book Fair in Baton Rouge reading went better than Vaquero expected:

-- His was the last one scheduled for the day;
-- It was late;
-- There were so many authors reading that many of the readings were barely attended.;
-- He'd brought a guitar, which he'd had to carry with him all day; he felt like an idiot, because he knew there'd be no reason to play it.

However he had an enthusiastic audience present, with a central cadre of African American women, who really like both his New Orleans books. Some of them, were now reading the Cuban music book. He read the parts he's settled on for readings, including the surreal night in Charity Hospital's emergency room at the start of our time in New Orleans (Charity Hospital no longer exists). The 25 people or so there laughed all the way through. He concluded with playing his "Between Piety and Desire," and that went over well too. Books were sold and signed. So it turned out to be perfectly lovely when he expected it to be otherwise (he's not feeling well either -- the cold wind down there, like the cold wind up here, has made us both fairly ill from the junk that it is blowing around).

Situations like this don't always turn out so positively, but you have to do this anyway. Whoever thinks touring to support your book is an easy gig has never done it.

He rode back to New Orleans with the head of Reference for the State Library, so that was an interesting ride.

Later he hooked up with friends and went to Tipitina's, where there were other friends. Heard the Brasilian group, Os Mutantes, who were included in an AfroPop program that he did back in the day on Brasil Tropicalia Movement, with amigo CD, who was chair of the Spanish-Portuguese Dept.

CD's currently stepped down as chairperson for a sabbatical he's spending doing research in Brasil. CD is among the Tulane friends written about in The Year Before the Flood. It turns out a Times-Picayune writer was at Tipitina's too, who is writing an article about the Tropicalia movement. She'd read TYBTF, so she got in touch with CD down in Rio, to ask him some questions. TYBTF has put a lot of people in touch with each other, who otherwise might not have been. That is so cool!

So my baby's coming home later today, yay! He's got so much to do though, it probably will feel almost as though he's not here -- and then he's off again, for California.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Before Men Wore Earrings -- "The Harder They Come" (1972)

At the end of the 1960's Jamaican reggae was about to take over the world as the music of revolution. At the same time in the Bronx, uptown baby, where the people are fresh baby, what was going to soon be called hiphop was just reaching out to ska and socca and the many techniques the Kingston yardie dj's had recently devised to play music without the big, expensive, heavy equipment that the millionaire white rock bands took for granted. The pioneer beat makers in the Bronx didn't have it much better than the yardies in Kingston.  The Age of Bling, with diamonds in the ears and grill, gold hanging heavy as lead from the neck had not yet arrived, but it was on its way.

In 1972, from this Jamaican music revolution out of the necessity of the poor, came Perry Henzell, producer (and Chris Blackwell as sleeper producer), and Jimmy Cliff, with the first Jamaican movie, The Harder They Come. Earlier this week by chance I had listened to the album after a very long time, which made me want to see the movie again. Like the album, this film hasn't aged a minute either.

On the other hand, I have changed tremendously in the meantime, meaning what I know and bring to this film vs what I didn't know the first time I saw it (and loved it though) is a life chasm that can barely be comprehended. One way of bridging that chasm is that the, to me, now, short, recording session scenes in The Harder They Come aren't as boring to me now as they were then -- though if I had a dollar in a savings account for every hour I have spent bored in the recording studio since 1972, that would be a respectable savings account. (And now, recording studios per se, for pop music, are just about irrelevant dinosaurs.)

The story of The Harder They Come is set in the music industry and the ganja trade; the theme is the capitalism that screws the little guy. In the 70's and 80's, and now too, this is is what the hiphop that spawned gangster rap dramatizes and reflects: the drug trade is a predatory, evil trade; it is capitalism distilled into its purest, unmasked energy. The oppressed mirror the oppressor.

No matter how talented, no matter how hard s/he works, the little guy can't evade the monopoly hold on means, production and distribution kept in a stranglehold by the Big Guys. All these parts collude to keep it that way: music industry, church, police, media. Though the recent change in technology has allowed some to escape in terms of music production and distribution -- the Big Guys are spending millions a day figuring out how to put a stop to that. Even your fun, your resistance, your spiritual nourishment exist to enrich us, the Big Guys.

One clue as the story's connection to capitalism is that Our Protagonist's name is kept on the downlow until about the middle of the movie. Then we hear it only as "Ivan" (i.e. a common way of referring to the Soviet Union), though in the script he's known as Ivanhoe, i.e. a knight in shining armor, taking on the Bad Big Guys. Underlining this is the rescue plan for Ivan when all parts of the establishment are chasing him. The plan is to smuggle him out to -- Cuba. "That's revolutionary," Ivan says. "And they can fix my arm." He's been shot up pretty badly. It's a reference to the universal free health care that Cuba is already famous for in 1972 throughout the Caribbean and South America. The hunger of poor Jamaican children, and that they can't afford even the means to get to a doctor, is present throughout the movie. These facts also help drive the story.

The Harder They Come also commnets on movies' influence in creating a criminal resistence to the system's stranglehold on productivity and creativity. Ivan, like his peers all over the developing world, is enthralled by the violent resistence of the Hero of U.S. westerns and crime films. They know all the moves of Hollywood's glamorous dance with guns. Like the criminal primary characters of Hollywood's 'new glamour' hit of 1967, Bonnie and Clyde, Ivan knows the choreography of violence. He has himself photographed with his guns, in his pretty clothes, by a professional photographer. He sends the photos to the newspapers.

The movies and television have not only gotten him and his peers desperate to possess all the things that are the markers of the Big Guy life, but also to possess fame -- which then allows them the wealth to acquire those things. Capitalism creates a need in those it exploits, which can turn and bite capitalists on the ass. Sometimes. For a while.

The adulation that Ivan's violent resistance has brought him is the double-edged sword with which the colonized can cut himself even more badly than s/he hurts the oppressor. Perhaps only Fidel was able to dance that into a successful end-game in our history ....

Cutting down Ivan is handled by the system via divide and conquer. Mr. Hilton, who lives large on Kingston's music holds back Ivan's hit to punish him for wanting more than $20. Ivan's girlfriend tells her revered minister about Ivan in order to get help for a sick child. The preacher tells the cops. The Jamaican police, who live large off the ganja trade punish the little criminal guy, from the growers to the dealers when they want more than the $15 a week so they can feed their children and given them health care, by shutting down the trade. When the Ras growers and dealers protect Ivan the cops keep the ganja trade shut down until they turn Ivan in. "Business is business," even the Ras agree. Their babies are hungry. The police order Hilton (who also owns the radio stations) to stop playing Ivan's hit, which Hilton''s doing now that Ivan's a folk hero for taking on the system -- the record's selling so well and making him richer -- and Ivan's going down, so he doesn't have to split the money. "The police tellin' us what music we play now?" asks Hilton's dj. "When it glorifies crime, yes," says the cop who has gotten filthy rich supplying the ganja to the Super Big Guy distributors in the States. The police also order the newspapers to stop running the photos and stories about Ivan.

All the parts of oppression lock seamlessly into place to put an end to the Resistence embodied in one emaciated, wounded body. At the end, in the traditional movie dance of gun death that we all know so well, Ivan's black face is half white from the white sand, as with the Congo kaolin clay white line, signifying the line that divides the underworld, the world of death, from this one. On the run, Ivan's been half dead for days already, maybe for his whole life in this system that is rigged to keep him from getting ahead.

Along the way we see much of Jamaica that surely hasn't changed in 37 years, the yards of the poor of Kingston. We also see much that surely has changed -- pristine, unsullied beaches, which now have been developed for the sake of the tourist trade, or ruined by the mining corporations. Jamaica's Great Resister, John Maxwell, was writing about this 37 years ago. He's writing about this still.

Women and men today can wear an earring or four, and piercings ,and tats, and be socially acceptable. White folks of any gender try out the Ras's dreads. Reggae took over the world as the music of Resistence. It has now been taken into latin salsa and timba, morphed into the less threatening, non-resistence reggaetón. Women are still treated as disposable, interchangable prey, almost less than human by the men of whatever color line. The Anglo-Saxon protestant church created a Black Church in Jamaica and the U.S. unlike anywhere else in the African-Atlantic diapora, producing a black powerhouse of musical influence found nowhere else in that diaspora. – those churches and unique musical traditions are still alive and vital in Jamaica as in the U.S.

Not much changes. Nor has this film. It is still eye-opening and pulsing with a density of data. It moves fast. And, of course, the music is world-class.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Orleans, Fall 2009, Part 2, Updates

Big thunderstorms, very big thunderstorms, every day.

The Octavia Books reading and signing on Saturday (it was wet and overcast) went very well.  He read and read, and nobody left, he was told to keep on going.  An excellent q&a afterwards, and books were sold, which is what makes the bookseller (and the writer) happy.

Had a terrific Second Line Sunday with Prince of Wales -- again, second lines are terrific opportunities to Go Bang, i.e. to see all your friends at once.  He's also hearing great music.  Well, um. duh -- this IS New Orleans.

Working very hard on three projects at once for the week: the script and taping for the AfroPop Worldwide show on the Hogan Jazz Collection -- yesterday they listened to tapes of 19th century cajun music (obviously NOT recorded in the 19th century ...);  the keynote for Friday's Zócolo Foundation Conference; the Louisiana Book Festival appearances in Baton Rouge for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, of course, President Obama comes to town. Will his perceived snub of NO earlier be overcome with this visit?

And me, I'm living in 1972 - 1974 for the MIP, going through New Mexico newspaper archives.  What one can researcgh from one's home desktop these days, and more is possible nearly every day, as archive after archive gets digitized and put up on the web.

The building's heat came up about 5:30 AM, for the first time this year. It's still only in the 40's at 2 PM. Judging by the sounds of the building's plumbing at that time the heat woke all of us up too. Dayem.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The Russians called the period following the death of Ivan the Terrible the Time of Troubles, which seems to coincide to a degree with Poland's Deluge. But this is seen from the perspective of Russians, and the Poles are the villains without question (though the villain in the film appears to me to actually be Lithuanian). This is a Polish-Lithuanian war of territorial conquest at the expense of the Russias -- which in the following 300 year regime of the Romanovs certainly got their own back; by the end there literally was no Poland any longer. 

"The Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618) is often referred to by other names, such as the Polish–Russian War of 1605–1618. The war is also divided into the First Dymitriad (1605–1606) and Second Dymitriad (1607–1609) and the Polish-Muscovite (Russian) War (1609–1618), which can subsequently be divided into two wars of 1609–1611 and 1617–1618. In Polish historiography, the wars are usually referred to as the Dymitriady, and may or may not include the 1617–1618 campaign, which is sometimes referred to as Chodkiewicz [Muscovite] campaign. According to Russianhistoriography, the chaotic events of the war fall into the " Time of Troubles" (смутное время). The conflict with Poles is commonly called the Polish invasion, Polish intervention, or more specifically the Polish intervention of the early-17th century."

It's a 2008 film, from Russia, titled "1612", English subtitles. Without some background it's impossible to know what's going on. Additionally, there's a unicorn, and folk magic, and, most of all the spirit of a SPANIARD, who guides / inhabits our Russian serf hero. Not to mention the collision of Roman and Greek Catholicism, with the Roman Catholic Papa up against a Greek Orthodox priest mystic; not to mention the RC priest the Pope pulls from his mission to convert the Indians of presumably Canada. (I've been struck over and over how much the great regions of Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, the Russias, and the inhabitants have in common with the still new discoveries of the northern New World regions and their inhabitants.)

Though the Polish Husaria -- 'winged cavalary' -- gets smashed with great glee in this film, you wanna see feathers? and the 'angels' murdering the very children who see them as angels? you've got it.

It's a great movie to look at, though it doesn't necessarily make any sense, even when you possess some conception of the historical era which it supposedly depicts. A good companion film to the Jerzy Hoffman films of the Sienkiewicz trilogy.

Southern Latitudes

I read in a New Orleans' Sunday's afternoon peace and quiet.  Butterflies and dragon flies flutter by.  The train and birds call.  Puffy white clouds sail in the blue sky.  Here on TR's balcony, just above the treetops I can see the container ships' towers on their way to offload on the other side of the levee.

Gulf air is soft.  Gulf air is also presence.  Your body pushes through it, it yields.  Your body pays its toll for its presence within that presence -- sweat.

The words I just read startle me.  They seem to be distilled Scott Fitzgerald but they were written by another writer.

" . . . the hour of apparant grace and promised music . . ."

Author's name behind the cut.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Edna Pontellier's Esplanade House

Many consider this New Orleans house on Esplanade the model for Edna Pontellier's house in Kate Chopin's The Awakening. This is the view from across Esplanade.

Here is the view from the sidewalk in front of the house.

The side street view. From around the corner you can see how extensive this house really is. As is common in so many hot climates, from the front you don't always understand how large these homes can be. This photo doesn't show all it either.

Across this side street is what was an antebellum slave market (before Edna Pontellier's time, of course); these are the barracoons, where the slaves were 'stored.' After slavery these barracks were turned into housing for the house servants that cared for these magnificent homes. Now they're apartments, or vacant space. Note there's none of the sweet-smelling, shade-giving, ornamental gardens and vegetation that surrounds the Esplanade houses, which were built by the wealthy creole class.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Photo Entry #2 -- Race & Class in U.S. Via Katrina Catastrophes

Nor should we ever make the error of thinking the consequences of Katrina on the Gulf are over and finished with.  This is a catastrophe that keeps on creating more catastrophe.

From Christopher Lydon's Open Source blog on Race and Class in the U.S. (full disclosure -- Vaquero's been on CL's radio program several times).

We study these portraits and think about we think.

Vaquero happens to be reading and signing at Octavia Books today, in New Orleans, at 6 pm.

4 American Marines in Afghanistan

Photo -- Go here, and then think about what you think.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I Heard The News Today, O Boy

October 9, 2009 -- Today Mr. Obama's cabinet-level war council met for the 5th time since his inauguration. Subject of discussion was not limited to increasing troop levels throughout the region, meaning, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and the other elephant in the living room, Iran.

"Capitalism, A Love Story"

Not everyone likes Michael Moore's work, probably because the pedantic-polemical-political points of his films.  However, as well as those three P's informing is films, Moore brings  imaginative film-making techniques to bear upon his works.  Taking people to Guantánamo to get health care in Sicko for instance, was brilliant. There are many scenes equal to that brilliance in Capitalism, A Love Story. But maybe my favorite bit was Jesus speaking as representative of this so very xtian nation; Jesus is asked, "When will there be heaven on earth?" Jesus responds, "When the banking industry is de-regulated."

Once again, Moore says what by consensus has been unsayable: that capitalism, a system nowhere mandated in the US Constitution, is intrinsically predatory.
It's not particularly Republican-bashing (well, there is a scene with darth vadar ....). One of the villains of Capitalism is Senator Christopher Dodd, who took sweet deals from Countrywide Financial, while Marcy Kaptur (the Ohio representative who urged people not to allow themselves to be evicted from their homes) comes off as a hero.

There are some scenes that that must have been shot around the period when enraged screwed-over people gathered at the New York Stock Exchange yelling, "Jump! Jump! Jump!" Moore has said in an interview, that while at the NYSE the NY cops came up to him and the crew. He told them “Hey guys, we’re just here to film a little comedy and we won’t be long,” thinking they were going to run him and crew off. The cops responded, “Mike, these bastards took a billion and a half dollars out of our police retirement fund so you just take your time.” Moore said it was priceless.

Where has that anger gone? It was as though Obama's election put everybody back to sleep. Not me, of course. But then I am famous for insomnia.

You surely have seen Sicko. That was the nail in the coffin for me -- as if I needed another one -- for Hillary Clinton running for POTUS. I thought that at least Obama wasn't in the health insurance racketeers' pocket$. But now he's in everyone's pocket$. As Moore points out in Capitalism, the biggest funders of his campaign are the people running the Treasury now. Wholly bought and paid for, he is.

The film's final declaration is "I refuse to live in a country like this, and I'm not leaving."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Time of Ghosts, The Time of Roasts, The Time of Orange, Red & Gold

Though I have no idea how this happened, it's the second week of October.  Night time temperatures have dropped so low that we need to close the windows and shut off the fans.  This means it's time for cooking with wine.

As Vaquero's off for NO again tomorrow, for nearly two weeks, I'm making the farewell dinner tonight, the first beef of the season, slow cooked with small red potatoes and portabellos, and  caramelized yellow onions with carrots.  In lots of wine.  Then we'll go see Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Affair.

While concocting the dish and getting some of V's packing together (he's so busy with so much he hasn't got time to breathe! -- while having breakfast he was interviewed by a German paper) I'll continue listening to the audio version of John Burdett's (2005) Bangkok Tattoo, Knopf, which has been my workout and domestic tasks book since coming back from New Orleans.  Thai police detective, Sonchai Jitpleecheep, is one of the most interesting of detective characters and voices to arrive this decade.  His Thai perspective on sex work and women may also be one of the most egregious male fantasies of all time.  Burdett is not Thai, though his character is at least half so -- Sonchai's father is an American farang. What I may like best about these books though is how the Vietnam war still haunts so many Americans in southeast Asia. For the Asians though, they, being Buddhists, have forgiven us. Islam takes a rather different way in these matters. This particular Sonchai novel is about these things.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Going Back to New Orleans -- Home of Red Rice and Beans!

October 10, 6 p.m. -- a Year Before the Flood reading at Octavia Books, New Orleans.

October 11, 1 p.m. -- Prince of Wales second line (I'll be there in the crowd, supporting my bud JD, who is now a fully dues-paying and suited member of the POW, and don't forget to check out his shoes) -- starts out at the Rock Bottom Lounge on Tchoupitoulas.

October 15, 7:30 p.m. -- signing at Faubourg Marigny Art and Books, 600 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans

October 16, 2 p.m. -- keynote address at Zócalo Public Square's conference "La Nueva Orleans?" Race and Immigration in Post-Katrina America at W New Orleans, 333 Poydras Street.

October 17, 3:45 -- Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge, book talk followed by signing.
Back home the 18th, then NYU the next day to address and class in interdiscipinary studies: Latin American Studies, African American Studies, Popular Culture & Music.

California the last week.

Then comes November -- and Texas and New Orleans again.

Damn! An AP story on The Year Before the Flood that profoundly mis-quoted, re the flood waters.

"It was clear something would happen. I just didn't know when or that it would be a 30-foot (9-meter) wall of water topping the city levees, and that after a catastrophic flood the survivors would be left to rot."
What he said, was that he had imagined, prior to the fact of the Katrina catastrophes, a 30 ft. wall of water.  It happened rather otherwise than that, of which we're profoundly aware.  Though this illustrates again how few people even now actually understand what happened to New Orleans, how and why, as a consequence of Katrina.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

O. You Are Still Here?

Meet Her Felineness, Mz Minneola Kitty-Kat Fluffy Tail Noir.

TR's long time feline companion had passed on, so in January of 2005, he went to the shelter and found her.  We had met each other on several occasions previous to staying so many days in her house.

After the Katrina hurricane and flood she spent 18 days alone in the house. Like so many New Orleanians, TR expected to be gone no longer than 3 days. Fortunately, some angel prompted him to turn back at the door, just as he was leaving, to tear off a corner of a bag of catfood, "just in case." When he got back, as soon as he was able, there wasn't a crumb left in that small bag. She'd even tried to eat some paper off the toilet roll. She drank the water in the toilet bowls -- fortunately there are two toilets in the house. She was skin and bones, and very happy to see TR. No playing the usual coquettish games of come-and-get-me, I'm hard to get. Not at all.

She's remarkably calm and non-skittish for having had such an experience. However, as August progresses and August 29th rolls down, she gets progressively anxious, and very clingy of TR. She can't stand to have him leave the house. She was coming out of that annual trauma recollection this last week that we stayed there. She even managed to sit on my lap for a minute, until my cell rang, which offended her Felineness muchly, so she wasn't going to make that mistake again.

She appears to have a rich inner life, as well as many inner resources. She's a self-centered being, even more than a coquette. She reminds us of quite a few people we know. We are off their radar, until they enter the space in which they expect and desire admiration. We, then, are expected and required to provide the admiration. Once their appetite has been duly sated, for now, we are dispensed with, until the need resurrects. This can be, as with Minneola, several times a day, or as with some others we know, only once or twice a year, when they have out new work -- yes, dear. review and admire it publicly, in public spaces, as many as possible, with interviews, reviews and articles praising the work's splendid qualities, the greater marvel that is the creator. Minneola, of course, wouldn't sully her paws with creating anything. She provides all we need merely by Being, that she allows us an occasional opportunity to admire her splendid fluffy flag of a high-pole tail. She amused me, and I provided her with moments of disdainful entertainment, such as working out. She indicated her intense superiority to such shenanigans -- she merely races up and down teh staircase several times a day.  However, she stayed and watched through the entire production.

In other words she and I suited very well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Special Saturday

All of us slept in,  until 9.   Off we go to the Quarter.  TR obligingly parks off Esplanade near the house in what was the neighborhood of the very wealthy free Creoles of color there, close to the house that is supposedly the model for the Pontellier's home in The Awakening.  It's right across to what prior to the Civil War was a slave market barracks (barracoon) on the side street, and which in Edna Pontellier's time would have been housing for the house servants -- of color, natch.  We take photos.  TR, however, believes this isn't really the house Kate Chopin used as model for Edna's house in The Awakening, because it isn't quite close enough to the Quarter, as described in the novel.  He shows us that one too.  At the end of the semester he'll be leading his students on a tour of all these places in the books they are studying in his course.

We're there to sign stock at the 1850 House, which is the museum store on Jackson Square for the Cabildo.  This is a thrill, to walk in and see the books displayed at the front.  I visited the 1850 House every historical, photo shooting jaunt I took on my own, and used to fantasize seeing Vaquero's works there, just like I keep fantasizing being published by Viking.  Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January books are in the store, and I took photos of them back then.  So I had to take photos of Vaquero in the 1850 House, with da new book.  Got a couple of good ones, I think, if he'll ever send them to my hard drive.

Then it was Faulkner House to sign stock there.  So I snapped a couple of photos of the FH people too.  FH was very busy with customers who needed help, in spite of it being so early on a Saturday -- for the French Quarter, anyway.  Faulkner House is densely shelved and stocked, so it was crowded.  So we got in and out as quickly as we could.

We meet up with TR to have brunch at the Gumbo Coffeehouse.  The staff  is all "We love you.  Go away.  Come back and eat."  They were turning over for the afternoon crowd, so you can understand their attitude.  As usual I am astounded at how the architecture of these buildings in the Quarter mirror the architecture of Habana Vieja, as I climb the open to the air stairs in the courtyard to the facilities.  I've climbed these very stairs, with these very same colors, this very same layout many times in Havana.  Since the original architect of Jackson Square and much of the Quarter was that of Cuba's Governor O'Reilly, well, yes, it would be like this.  Havana and New Orleans are sisters.  May the trade that they shared until the embargo return!

TR takes us to Holt Cemetery, then, the potters' field for New Orleans.  We've all been there before.  It's very different from the other cemeteries which tour buses and many tour guides visit.  (At least two of the best New Orleanian tour guides have incorporated The World That Made New Orleans into their tours -- they show us their 'tour' copies, all marked up with highlighters and post its.  It's weird, in a way, seeing copies of these books used, and used so hard, whether by students, by someone like RC from the Community Book Center encounter, and with tour guides.)  We have photos from previous visits.

With so much rain all summer, Holt is mucky.  It isn't cared for.  You walk on layers and layers and layers of bones and human remains.  You see them everywhere, some recent.  At least half of it was bulldozed a few years ago to make a parking lot.

Deep, deep culture, reaching back hundreds of years now, into slavery, into the past before slavery, particularly Kongo.  Bob Thompson has to come here when the Congo Square conference meets in November.  Though this is the potters field, it is vital -- it is used, filled with African traces and memories.  It is an intense experience walking this ground.  So many soldiers' graves, from every war after the Civil War. For all the lost and forgotten in this cemetery, the number of those that haven't been forgotten or neglected is remarkable.  I called these the 'living graves.'  So much love and creativity is written upon this field.   Unlike so many paupers' grave yards there is charm and loveliness here -- scattered venerable live oaks, as well as what those who are remembering their beloved dead have created here. Head stone, many more than you might think more than a century old.  Birds call as they do in all cemeteries' quiet.  There are benches now, scattered under the live oaks that weren't there on the previous visit less than a year ago. These benches are from deconsecrated churches or churches that were so damaged that they couldn't be 'redeemed.'  One of the benches says, "Lean on me."  My significantly painful extremities are grateful for this bench.  The sky is thickly clouded over.  The first drops fall as we return to the car.  By the time we're back at TR's the sky is clear, the temperature has dropped some and the humidity is less.

We stop at Bingham's Piety Street studio to pick up a guitar (on a previous trip JetBlue smashed Vaquero's travel guitar -- he's not about to trust the Ramirez to planes these days -- or any day).  As well as doing a presentation and reading at Beth's Books and Audio Cafe, Vaquero will premiere himself in New Orleans as a singer and songwriter-- perform in public, which he's never done here.  He will also provide a sneak preview of some the repetoire of "Kiss You Down South," which will have the official premiere at the concert he'll have at the New Orleans Museum of Art November 11th.  TR is particularly anticipatory, because though he knows Vaquero's music, and has heard the recordings Vaquero's made of the songs on "Kiss You Down South," he's never been at a Vaquero music performance.  One of his observations post the performance is how interesting to him it was see a whole other persona emerge when Ned is on stage, with music, one very different from his presentor or historian personas.

This is a computer cafe.  The books part, in a separate space, in the back, is less significant.  The cafe, the coffee and the food, and the local bands performances are what the space is really about.  It's a community center for mostly white kids, students and not.  Neighborhood kids' bands rehearse here.  However, a group of older people are there, residents of the community ,who had already read The Year Before the Flood, and couldn't wait to see all us 'historical figures' in person and ask us questions.  They declared how much happier I would be if I lived in the Marigny, and yes, they are right about that!  A woman who traveled on the same plane and buses to Nancy for a festival back in 1980 is present with her husband -- she brought a Mardi Gras Indian troupe, and Vaquero brought the Southwesterners from Portales, a group of elderly amateur musicians, who happen to be very good, the fiddle contest winners and so on.  The Nancy festival that year was sponsoring indigenous U.S. folk musics, you see.  She and her husband gave us a gift of local hot sauce.  Other friends were present too, like HR, who probably knows more about the Indians and Second Lines than white person around -- she's an anthropologist who has been doing this work for many years -- and she's so young (and also lovely)!

This was a long one.  Vaquero gave a presentation, then read, then -- finally, he performed.  It was successful.  There were people taking notes, and they'd come prepared to do it.  There were attendees who'd already read all three books. Stock signed, ready to leave, a fellow rides up on a bicycle carrying an hc of The World That Made New Orleans.  He's a lawyer who recently moved here with his wife.  But on their trip for Jazz Fest last year, when they decided they wanted to live in NO, they acquired TWTMNO. They read to each other all the way back to Chicago, taking turns driving.  He bought a copy of TYBTF, and got them both autographed.

I've never seen New Orleans so beautiful as it is right now.  My first trip here was in winter, in March.  When we lived here, was relatively dry, for a swamp.  Then it was the ugly, horrible damage of the hurricane and the floods.  Enormous progress has been made in repair, renovation and rebuilding in the last two and a half years. So much is bright and new, even buildings that were dilapidated prior to the hurricane and the flood. Two and a half years of faith, work and love have accomplished miracles -- without very much help from the Fed or state of Louisiana for most people. With all the rain this summer, the foliage is beyond lush.  Oh, yes, breathing again, the Japanese Tea Jasimine -- the very scent of New Orleans!  The light is always spectacular here, in the mornings and late afternoons, evenings.

We and TR have dinner, finally, at the Praline Connection, which is Southern cooking, rather than New Orleans cusine. Then we go on a night drive of beauty, beats and beer, (don't worry, TR drove and he doesn't drink alcohol) all over downtown and the lower ninth.

The soundtrack is the soundtrack from The Year Before the Flood.  Oh, the brilliance of Jay-Z!  We drive and drive.  We see the puzzling development in the dark lower ninth sponsored by Brad Pitt -- who in that area could have afforded these homes?  We spin down the new strip of black music clubs, oh, wow, on St. Bernard's. Tourists won't be going here.

It was a film unwinding of our past here, our many pasts, all the pasts of the many New Orleans.  It was old.  Time rolled past the open car windows, and we, inside, rolled through space.  It was a time of extreme beauty, in the seductive velvet night, under the huge half moon riding over the bowl of water within which the city floats.  A low rider city.

Smells: pockets of acrid cigarette smoke -- from where?  no one on the street, no other cars around us; night blooming flowers' perfume, lighter fluid, fried food, diesel fumes.  I'm like a dog, ears blowing in the car's slipstream -- really my hair, of course not my ears! -- nose quivering in the scent sort, in ecstasy, riding in the car with my loved people.

We're asleep by 12:30.  My ankles aren't swollen.  Still, no Second Line for me tomorrow.

Friday, Community Book Center

The day starts with a meeting of the Congo Square/Jazz Fest people.  The November conference is an official go, they say.  Master T -- Robert Farris Thompson -- among others Vaquero has contacted, had already said that if it happened they'd be there!  This is GOOD.  The objective is to make this annual.  Another meeting with the Hogan Jazz Center people to plan for the preliminary work on Monday for an AfroPop Worldwide HipDeep program on the Hogan.

"Steppin' Out" taping after that.

Then it is the Community Book Center reading and signing.  O, my.  Talk about feeling small.  Such an introduction given by JT.  She started with:  "How many of you have read The World That Made New Orleans?  OK!  Now how many of you have read The World Made New Orleans twice?"  No minister could have done it better.  She recounted how they had come to have Vaquero read there, which came about because the publisher sent the store the galleys, and they couldn't stop reading it.  The weather that day he came was awful, and she suggested that maybe he'd want to just cancel.  "But not him.  He said, if you're game to stay open I'm game to stay here.  And then the people started coming.  And then he read, and then he answered questions, and they all bought the book, and they KEEP buying the book.  And the new one  [she holds up The Year Before the Flood] is just as good but in a different way."

There was so much love in that store.  The home-made potato salad, rice and beans were love.  The amount of work and effort put into the store since that first reading Vaquero did there, how it has reached into the community to be a Center -- and how little assistence there was for them doing that.  Now there's even a computer center for the community in the back.  And since it anchored that area, now chic restaurants and other shiny businesses have opened.

When Vaquero began his presentation he informed the people that for the core audience there, that since some of which the first part of the book in particular included was Racism 101, he was aware that this wasn't anything they needed information about -- but so many other people do need it, because they don't know it, and it is history, and unfortunately it is still history in the making, as we're seeing so strongly with what is going on around Obama since he became POTUS.  He concluded reading from the book with the material about Bacchus and the Kong family and the pelting of these grotesques with beads from the street, in reversal from how Mardi Gras works, which is the float-riding aristos on high throw down largess of made-in-China acryllic shiny beads to the people along the streets.  All around the attendees of color nodded.  There was much lively discussion afterwards.

Meeting new friends, including the marvelous FE, who is doing invaluable work in the source documents with language in connection with the history of Congo Square.  When we introduced ourselves to each other, we chorused, "I've heard so much about you!"  Yet another meeting in which you just like each other on sight.  FE's another participant in this Congo Square - Tulane conference in November.

Then takes place this most amazing encounter.  The enormous amount of stock of all three books has been signed, we're in the process of leaving, when in comes this very thin, sweaty couple.  "Did I miss the reading?  Is it over?  O man, I just got off work."  RC tells us he bought the book only two days ago, that's how hard he's been reading it.   He pulls out a much thumbed and post-ited trade copy of The World That Made New Orleans -- that has just come out, with the release of The Year Before the Flood.  He saw the hc of TWTMNO at a friend's house a few days ago, and read the first 25 pp., and came back to read another 25, and another 25, and said to self, "RC, you have to have this book for yourself."  He's clearly not prosperous so that is about the highest compliment a writer can receive.

"I have so many questions I have to ask you."  He's a jazz singer and historian, who moved to New Orleans a year ago from New York.  He pointed to a section that just killed him -- "Man, you know music, that's why this section works so well.  You write about it like a musician, and you know what you're sayin', and you break it all down just as it is."  RC has gotten everything that Vaquero tried to accomplish in TWTMNO.  And then RC says he was so sure that the author of that book had to be an African American because nobody else could have gotten all this and gotten it so right.  How humbling is that?  "So, you're brother, under the skin."

With BT and AP we proceed to Bacchanal, a 'green' wine store - restaurant, with an outdoor space in which to eat, drink, hangout and hear music. It was one of the very first places to open in those terrible days post the Katrina levee failure catastrophe.  One of the few places you could go.  You can buy beer there too, to go, if you want.  Fortunately they have a selection of bug sprays set out by the door to the back yard.  We needed it desperately.  A small Brasilian music combo was playing -- one of the band members, then, showed up at the reading tomorrow night -- Saturday night, at Beth's Books and Audio Cafe.

Again, Vaquero provides the essential foot, ankle and calf massage for my screwed up lower extremities before we fall asleep.

Thursday, The Party

For The Year Before the Flood at the Mother-in-Law Lounge.  Much had to be accomplished before the doors opened (and after the party's officially over, i.e., the open bar closed, the food all eaten), and no way could it have been taken care of alone.  Fortunately, there are many friends on the ground who enthusiastically, generously helped.

Betty (Antoinette K-Doe's daughter -- Antoinette died on Mardi Gras Morning this year, as may be recalled) did an incredible job -- but she didn't have any help -- she organized the Mother-In-Law for the party by herself, including the outdoor space where the Stooges played; she acquired and prepared all the food, and kept the kettles and so on replenished until the food was all gone, kept the area clean and neat and supplied -- AND she did the open bar alone too!  She is wonderful.

As this is New Orleans, there must be drama, which I accordingly supplied.  Not long before we were to start out, collecting the books from Piety Street to bring over to the MIL, get a supply of change, etc.  I misjudged the bottom step of the stairs and nearly broke my head.  What I did do was come down hard on my heel that is often in pain due to the damaged cervical and sacral vertabrae blahblahblah.  For a scary time I couldn't walk.  The pain was more than severe.  I wasn't going to make the party.  Who would take the photos?   Eventually condition improved enough that I could hobble around, though I attempted to disguise the hobble as much as possible.  Still, the party for me was dominated by this painful hobble ... but hobble and photograph I did.  (All the photos are still in Vaquero's laptop -- there hasn't been time to send them to me; just what was sent to publisher for their own purposes.)  Nevertheless, the subsequent 8 hours, mostly on my feet, and then on that torture device called a stool at Marky's for the after-party party, screwed me seriously.

Someone who had gone on one of the Cuba trips flew in from Maine for this party.  She was at the Garden District event.  Agent was there, of course -- she flew in from, I think Chicago, took a cab directly to the MIL.  So did AP, a friend here in NYC.  A friend from Maryland, and some others had come for the party.  Wow!.  TR generously donated his bug spray, which I stashed under the signing table, for anyone who needed it.  Mosquitos.  And the doors were open, due to the band, and because this is New Orleans and it is a party.  Which made the party so great, because there was great circulation and flow.  With many tables and seating out in the patio-lawn, people could sit down, or they could dance; they could also sit in the room where the bar is.  In other words, though so well attended, it was comfortable.  The MIL is a terrific party space and we recommend it highly to anyone, without a single reservation.

Already mentioned was the Fats Domino - Elvis Presley autographed photo, but not mentioned so far is the attendence of Coco Robicheaux, who knows how to make women feel good.  He is a master of having a good time, despite the many tragedies in his life.  In other words, this is that heaven on earth, that "Go Bang" moment.

What is "I Wanna Go Bang" you may ask?  It's taken from an Arthur Russell disco hit (Arthur died so early, in that first wave of AIDS deaths in the 80's), "I Wanna Go Bang."  Other friends provided vocals and vocal effects.  There is a bit that goes something like this:  I want to be with all my friends at once. I wanna go bang."  Like Mardi Gras day, this party is a Go Bang.  We are with all our friends at once.  I tried to introduce everyone to each other, though mostly everyone already knew each other.  This is New Orleans.

This was also the one day in 3 months, TR says, that it didn't rain.

I managed to get a few decent photos.

Later some of us retired to Marky's -- It right by Bingham's Piety Street and TR's house.  Everyone was very happy.

The hardest thing was over.

But there was much, much more to do.

We were not getting much sleep, and we weren't eating hardly at all, because there just wasn't time.

We were moving into that state in which hysterical laughter got easier and easier to provoke.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How Much About New Orleans Can You All Stand?

I was determined to go to Sound:Print:Record:Symposium, well Vaquero was determined I go, up to the last moment. I even packed, though since it's only overnight, that wasn't much. But in the end, I just couldn't face the dry air and rotten seats, feeling like I do. My back and legs and heels are so messed up too, all I want is to rest (no rest yesterday, doing laundry and cleaning up the mess in here, getting groceries, etc., while Vaquero struggled with his keynote presentation for this evening at 5 -- he's just not the sort who finds a 35 minute limit natural, particularly with graphics and music too -- at which he'll be introduced by the Prez of the University of Delaware) and get down on my floor mat. I need to begin repairing myself. There are more conferences and symposia in the future, including a very cool one that got officially confirmed while we were in NO, Congo Square mini-conference, that will become an annual meeting, in conjunction with Tulane and the Jazz and Heritage Festival -- this was worked on all summer, and the funding was confirmed last week. This will happen in November too.

So Tuesday was "Jazz From the Market" and Dr. John's phone call. We all got such a thrill from that phone call.

Wednesday was a busy day, starting with the interview and reading taped for the October "Book Forum," at the Loyola radio station. We raced to meet TR's and get to his class re Kate Chopin's The Awakening. This was followed immediately by a reading and signing at the Garden District Bookshop, which was far off, then the oral history of the Dirty Dozen at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. We made new friends and / or met old ones at each event.

At the radio station, I saw many books edited by Ellen Datlow. They also subscribe to Asimov's, The SF & F Magazine and Analog.

TR said, after conferences with students re their papers on Monday, the women were particularly pleased with how The Awakening class went. They didn't want it to end. TR, Vaquero and I discussed this novel with enthusiasm the entire time -- who would have guessed?

Among the attendees, the Garden District event brought in Tulane people, including a friend who runs the George Mason University dance dept., down to do a Cuban dance workshop with our Tulane Dance Dept. chairperson amiga. There were a lot of Cuban connection people at the Garden District event. Susan Larson, the Times-Picayune book editor was also present. We had a fascinating conversation about her daughter's experience with bells (companas, or also, cow bells), percussion and rhythm in Ghana. Her daughter wanted to get as far away, to somewhere as different as possible, on the anniversary of her father's death. So she chose a dance seminar in Ghana. She called her mom to tell her of being spiritually transported via that compana, and healed of her grief. Susan was then, most particularly struck by the account of what happened with me in Cobre, at Madelina's Spiritism center, and the companas. Then, dancing the first weeks in NO in 2004, to The Wild Magnolias, and Bo Dollis Jr.'s playing of the compana (it's the Mardi Gras Indians who utilize the compana in their Indian music and calls). This was Susan's favorite part of The Year Before the Flood. I responded to Susan with, "I was prepared for the Indians and so much about New Orleans because of what I learned and experienced in Cuba." Susan said, "And for my daughter it was the reverse -- she was ready, she told me in that phone call, because of what she knew from being a New Orleanian. Africa made her love New Orleans even more."

The GD booksellers were pleased.  They had all three of the books (an advantage of a single publisher of your books), cartons of them, and they all had to be signed.  One of the booksellers said to me with quiet approval, "He's a very hard worker."  She meant all the publicity, and how much effort he puts into the presentations, readings and signings.  She was aware that this isn't about ego boost, or getting attention -- it is work, and it is hard work too.

Quite a few of the GD people were also at the Dirty Dozen oral history, several of the DD were present themselves, of course. In response to a question from the audience as to how they managed to stay together as a band, "It's like a marriage. A hard marriage -- with seven wives." One of the members observed that because of the Katrina levee catastrophe, New Orleans musicians can be found everywhere -- there's been a diaspora, where generally, before, most New Orleans musicians tended to stay locally. Also there are many New Orleanians dispersed everywhere, who turn out when New Orleans music is played. "New Orleanians are the most difficult audienc -- the best audience." I would add this is the Cuban experience since the early 90's. You find Cuban bands all over the world -- playing in a little hotel in Djarkta. Cubans are the toughest audiences. New Orleans musicians, playing for New Orleanians, in New Orleans, outside -- it's like Cuban musicians, playing for Cubans, in Cuba, outdoors -- you will be transported.