". . . 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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

His Nness's October Schedule, So Far

10 a.m. (!), Capital Bookfest, Largo, Maryland.

Borders Largo, 931-A Capital Centre Blvd., Largo. Free. (301) 499-2173
Capital Bookfest is presently in three cities. I was at their bookfest in handsome downtown Harrisburg -- the city is an architectural marvel -- two weeks ago, and had a lovely time. I'll be at their third fair this fall as well (Charleston, SC, November 6).

There's a pick for this Largo reading (!) by Steve Kiviat in this week's Washington City Paper:

I'll be giving a talk at the University of New Orleans this coming Monday afternoon (October 4). It's open to the public . . . they made a nice poster.
Monday, October 4, 2010 • 4:30 p.m.
The University of New Orleans—Engineering 101
(corner of Founders Road/Leon C. Simon Blvd.)

And I'll be speaking at the University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) on Tuesday (5) at 6:30 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium . . . Haven't seen the poster yet . . .

Other dates, these musical:
October 15 in Baltimore, at Joe Squared (on a program with Madison Bell and the Forgetters)

October 21 in NYC, a solo evening-with-ned at the David Rubenstein Atrium, and it's free.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Of Sun, None, Today, But Saturday Was Bright

Too bad I can no long post out of my flickr account without making it public to all and sundry.  Photobucket leaches out brightness and contrast.  O well, you get the idea.

David Simon Got a MacArthur / *Treme* Soundtrack CD Out

DAVID SIMON, who has produced and written “The Wire” and “Treme” for HBO, is among the 23 new MacArthur Grant winners.

The "Treme" soundtrack song list for season 1:

1. “Treme Song” (main title version) -- John Boutté
2. “Feel Like Funkin' it Up” (live street mix) -- Rebirth Brass Band
3. “I Hope You're Comin' Back to New Orleans” -- The New Orleans Jazz Vipers
4. “Skokiaan” -- Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
5. “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” – Trombone Shorty & James Andrews
6. “Drinka Little Poison (4 U Die)” -- Soul Rebels Brass Band & John Mooney
7. “We Made it Through That Water” -- Free Agents Brass Band
8. “Shame, Shame, Shame” – Steve Zahn and Friends
9. “My Indian Red” – Dr. John
10. “At the Foot of Canal Street” – John Boutte, Paul Sanchez, Glen David Andrews & New Birth Brass Band
11. “Buona Sera” – Louis Prima
12. “New Orleans Blues” – Tom McDermott & Lucia Micarelli
13. “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance” Michiel Huisman, Lucia Micarelli & Wendell Pierce
14. “Indian Red” (Wild Man memorial) – Mardi Gras Indians
15. “Indian Red” – Donald Harrison
16. “Time is on My Side” – Irma Thomas & Allen Toussaint
17. “This City” – Steve Earle
18. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” – Treme Brass Band19. “My Darlin’ New Orleans” – Li’l Queenie & the Percolators

Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Night Wonderful, Beyond Description

I had looked at the pdf of the Toad Hall residence earlier. But that pdf cannot convey what a brilliant creation it is, out of the remnants of so many racked and ruined houses of the period, spied and saved over many decades by Mr. TH (who came from da Bronx right after WWII to the Eastern Shore. He made a great deal of money, or at least acquired a great deal of property in the region.)

I've avoided architecture as part of history, though I know better. For instance, where did the Italian castle architects and contractors go when artillery made their old forms obsolete? The Atlantic African coast, where they constructed the slave entrepôt castles. Those edifices weren't called castles for no reason. It's because that too is a lifetime's study and I only have this one lifetime at this time.

But the thoughts that kept coming in that low slung, two-story, winged, candle-lit house on Still Point Creek built out of wood, surrounded by vast rolling fields and creeks draining into the Chesapeake and stands of wood (horse country!) -- these 18th century Big Houses built out of English architectual traditions but were not built to also be military fortresses -- what this meant in terms of the New World and the people who were living here in the periods out of which this home is constructed -- it was exciting. Something entered for da Project tonight that couldn't have happened for us without being in a house like this.

Not to mention the company, which was splendid. The numbers of people here who are brilliant creators, artists, musicians, historians is boggling.

Or the food, which was splendid. It's all local, most of it grown at Toad Hall. Mrs. TH is a blacksmith, as well Arts Council Director and singer in a gospel choir that's going to Memphis at Christmas to sing with Al Green's choir in his tabernacle there -- and so many other things. They have looms and wheels. There are nine fireplaces in TH -- they all work. As Mr. TH puts it, if the hammer comes down, we're ready and able to survive. But they aren't survivalists and don't want to be. They are highly creative people who love art and music and history. You could even call them, particularly Mrs. TH, old hippies, and they're proud to be so.

It's driving me crazy that the history of this place, this county, this region, in the 20th century is as fascinating and deep as the history that came before. Because of the mission I can't drown in it like am in the earlier periods.

Could I settle here? Well, despite everything, this is the most segregated place I've ever lived.

In the meantime the furnace maintenance man is here. The furnace has been turned on. Ay-up. It works. Whew, it's hot. Last night it poured. Like New York, we desperately need rain down here too.

Crisis: His Nness's computer is either fataling failing or already failed. We'd hoped it would last for another month.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Being Maryland, Not Virginia, Guess What You Can Do Here, With Impunity

Tell the truth about Thomas Jefferson and criticize him. Particularly here at Washington C. This is Washington's territory; he and Jefferson were deeply estranged when Washington died.

The estrangement didn't come out of anything petty, but over popular pushback to Jay's treaty, the first case of partisan obstructionism in the United States, directed largely by the politically ambitious Jefferson (Martha Washington thought Jefferson's election as president in 1800 the greatest misfortune ever to befall the country). Washington was adamently opposed to partisonship in government, deeming political parties the broad paved path to the destruction of national unity. Jefferson created party politics here and Washington could not forgive him for that.

Besides, in Maryland you can say all the negatives about Virginia you want. They love it, for in Maryland Virginia is perceived as Jefferson country.

Trivia: we're going to dinner at Toad Hall tonight. (The link's a pdf.)

The property cobbled out of three plantations is now being run by the sister (director of the Kent County Council for the Arts) of this guy.

No sun today. Definitely not hot. Perhaps rain for the next three days? I'm looking forward to my 7 - 8 days in NYC coming right on up -- just in time for the seasonal wardrobe changeover.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Isaac Franklin: Slave Trader and Planter of the Old South (With Plantation Records)

Isaac Franklin wasn't just a major player in the Trade up here in Maryland and Virginia, he was a game changer in the Trade, an early trade speculator.

Then he sold out and moved to Louisiana. Where he bought six (6) plantations. He lived very well and prosperously. In fact, one of those plantations is where the ceremonies and dinner for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities were held in which V received the award for best history of Louisiana last year.

When he died there was a great deal of attention paid. But none of that attention in the long obits of the newspapers mentioned that he had been a speculator (which, believe it or not is a different category of slave trade than slave trader).

He died very wealthy, but he died young. Very young for someone of his kind. One might hope that was some sort of retribution -- his plantations in Louisiana were, of course, sugar plantations, and those bought to work sugar had short lives -- for the speculation slave trade that allowed Isaac to buy 6 sugar plantations in Louisiana.  His company scoured the Eastern Shore  of Maryland empty of likely stock (mostly male, mostly between 14 - 25, trained farm workers) to be sold in New Orleans for these sugar plantations.  He and his partner shipped them via their own slave ships.

I have Isaac's biography here (1938). It is not in print. If one were to try and purchase it used, the lowest price is $500. Thank goodness for interlibrary loan. However, because this volume is priced at $500, I can have it only for two weeks.

New Novel -- *Some Sing, Some Cry*

Some Sing, Some Cry is a long, multi-generational novel by two sisters, Ntozake Shange, author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, and playwright, Ifa Bayeza.

Two pulls from the NY Times Sunday Book Review:

"A rich mix of storytelling and African-American history, it follows seven generations of black women who, largely through music, are able to survive the violence of their national and personal histories even as they find themselves too battle-scarred to mother their children with real joy."


"And yet, despite such soap-operatic indulgences, this story of lifesaving music and heartbroken maternity is engaging from start to finish. The Mayfield women are hilarious and sexy, gorgeous and strong. They all work the same refrain: “Never go backward. Always be movin’, movin’ forward. Life is in front of me, not behind.” After every near defeat, these women pick themselves up, sometimes literally off the ground, and take the next impossible step. And while they all take that step differently — choosing to run or to work, to curse or, yes, to sing — not one of them spends much time crying."

Few novels published this year have sounded in the least appealing to my tastes. This one, however, seems right my little historical fiction preference alley. We're going back to NYC next weekend and I'm going to be there at least a week while his Nness gallivants around to New Orleans and assorted places, so I can pick it up then.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tonight's Vaquero's Official Washington College & C'Town Debut

Reception, with drinks and nibbles at 6 PM.
6:30 PM, Center Stage, Hodson Hall Commons (a/k/a 'da egg,' the students call the theater) at Washington College. 45 minutes of Mr. Sublette's lecture/performance "Kiss You Down South: An Evening of Music and History."

Then the hard part, dinner at the Hyson-Ringgold House, residence of the WC president. Sigh. However, it is another beautiful day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Three Weeks Completed in MD

And it still feels like I'm in a dream, not quite real Inside the House I'm living in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The reading and writing and thinking. The house itself ... I feel so at home here, which I think comes from having 'lived' so long, so to speak, in another structure from this era, very much like this one, the Fraunces Tavern Museum. I just instinctively know how buildings like this are arranged. That was interesting. And then, when I venture out, it's still the past.

His Vaqueroness should be close to Harrisburg, PA by now, for his reading and signing at the book festival (he's doing several of these Capitol Books, which is an African American book festival series held in the region around D.C., which includes as far down as Charleston.  We're going to fly in for that quickly in November as there's also another event associated with it that he's been asked to do.  We were up at 6 and he left a little before 9.  He'll be back Monday night.  Why yes, from Harrisburg he is going up to NYC.

I've been to the Farmer's Market.  Twice ....  Also to the public library.

Now I'm listening to Celtic music on WWOZ streaming, via my new external speakers.  The sun is also streaming, into my study, where I'm eating some of the Pineapple-Carrot bread brought back from the market.  It goes as well with my coffee, as I expected.

ETA: Phone com with the V. Though not well attended (meaning the festival as a whole -- it's kind of new to Harrisburg), things went very well, and he enjoyed himself. How could he not? A tech came to fiddle with his microphone, did a double take -- "I saw you on Spike Lee's HBO thing last week!" V goes, "I haven't seen it. How'd I do?" "Awesome, man, you were great!" Now he's just about in NYC.

He'd never been in Harrisburg before and thought it was just gorgeous. The architecture, constructed out of that stone -- beautiful and graceful. He liked what he saw a lot. Not to mention the drive there, through all that wonderful landscape. PA is, let us not forget, one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  (I've been to Harrisburg.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Orleans is NOT Charm City

Baltimore is "Charm City."  There's a specific history as to how Baltimore came to be called Charm City, which I know, because I have right here, the book, Charm City (2007), by our friend, Madison Smartt Bell, who tells us the history of that appellation in that book.

So why in hell did the author of a very long article in the current New York Review of Books about Simon's HBO New Orleans's Treme series, title that article "Charm City, U.S.A?"  He claims to belong by generational birth to New Orleans's aristocratic circles that began intermarrying with the old Creole families back in 1836.  So one would think he knows better.

My response to Lemann's article is cranky.  Decidedly cranky.  I don't like it, or the author, who seems to not quite get it, in spite of his Garden District aristocratic family and upbringing.

Example:  "Batiste’s ex-wife, LaDonna, played (overplayed, actually) by Khandi Alexander, owns a neighborhood bar."  LaDonna is overplayed? 

Another example: "Albert is the most saintly, and so perhaps the least plausible, character in Treme, a courageous political resister, rebuilder, and bearer of cultural tradition."   Yes. Saints always beat the living bejesus out of someone who steals their tools.

He thinks that the harangues by Davis and Creighton are overwrought. "What they say is always in character, but it seems to express some of what Simon thinks too. "  No, dude.  These harangues are what particularly white New Orleans was thinking then -- and not a few weeks post the Flood Failure, but three months later.  Out of touch, dude.

What universe does this dickhead inhabit?  Oh, yes, the universe of the wealthy aristocrat  personally unaffected by the hells of the Failure and the aftermath -- the universe that HBO Treme is NOT concerned with, except, on occasion to make fun of it, which he noticed.  Oh yes, did he ever notice. And resents the hell out of it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Sultana

Hopefully we can squeeze in one of the last sails she makes before closing down for the winter.

This is our backyard, so to speak.  There are always ducks, and almost always geese, and somebody fishing for catfish.

Looking toward the Fish Whistle, which serves excellent food and drink, and where many a craft is anchored.

A 17th C estate across the Chester from the dock.

The Customs House, our office base, from our corner.  Below is the dock and the river.

The wrong side of the town's tracks.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Keeps Giving

This period of the year, in which so many years ago V and I had our first meetings and fell immediately, wildly in love, for what turned out to be life, used to be buoyant, filled with those silly little personal acts of couplehood that are entirely ridiculous to any unfortunate beholder.

However, now and forever, this period has become sandwiched between two events that altered not only our own lives, but those of millions, and changed the profiles of not only of this nation, but many others: The Failure of the Levees, and the Fall of the Towers.
The Fall happened so close to us. Like the Failure, it kept on happening, with ever more ramifications that had personal impact while exploding across the stages of the world.
This is the first anniversary of the Fall in which I'm not in the place where I was when it happened. Yet the images of that morning are playing as vividly as ever across my memory screens. How very different our lives would be right now, if the Towers hadn't fallen. I do believe our lives would be better if 9/11 hadn't happened, or even if subsequent national actions had taken a different course. I say this even though, if the Towers hadn't fallen, if the nation hadn't gone to war in Iraq, it may well have been then, that this morning I wouldn't be drinking coffee in this wonderful study in this lovely little historic town, looking forward to the Farmer's Market and seeing JJ.  I might well instead be getting ready to go with my Cuban madre and hermanas to the Farmer's Market in Havana.

This is also the week in which my baby sister was killed / killed herself.


A dear poet friend, who nearly died early in August from a diverticulitis attack, with two separate surgeries to save his life, posted this on the other blog:

"September 1, 1939"
by W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Regarding Reviews, Phones, Library Cards, Foods & Concerts

Review of, and excerpts from:

New Orleans: What Can't Be Lost: 88 Stories and Traditions from the Sacred City

Lee Barclay, Editor; Photographs by Christopher Porché West

Yesterday got a card for the public library, which took about 2 seconds.  It's a lovely facility.

Today we got the Verizon phone service switch over accomplished finally. It took over an hour for that to get in place, plus the new phones. Of course they were not able to import the contacts from the old Nokia phone to this, the simplest phone Verizon offers (no iPhones or SmartPhones for the likes of us, particularly since we have no plans in the near future for twitting).
I had finally kind of figured out how the old one worked, and now I have this to do all over again. And then, if we decided to go back to T-Mobile next year, it will have to done all over yet another time. This is even worse than getting a new camera. Plus, this phone haz camera o noes!  I hate this phone.  I hate all these phones. I was born without phone genes.  I also hate it that I can't get my camera's software to download to this computer.  What is the problem?

After visiting the post office this AM, I stopped at the Dollar Store to pick up a few items like a whisk, place mats, cutting boards and so on. I had to get more storage containers. A big dinner was held at the Customs House last evening, with enormous amounts of very good food. We were all encouraged to take as much of it home as we could. So we did, including the most delicious key lime pie. Evidently there are many events of this nature held there, so we are now prepared to glean.

The poster for el V's introduction gig to Washington College and the town got delivered today, along with the engraved invitations >!< Both are very handsome. The reading and playing part is followed by a dinner at the house of the College president. I really don't have anything to wear to that, and no way to procure anything either, as there is nowhere here to shop for such things. Well, well, well. My faithful, very large India silk shawl, with silver and gold woven into the silk, will have to play a very large role.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's the Anniversary of Our Second Date

Our Carna-verssary, as el V

It was my first semester of grad school; I was a TA. A mutual friend introduced us.
Our first date was a week before. This one took up all of the long Labor Day weekend. It began with driving from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, where we had dinner at a very nice restaurant (didn't know it yet, but that's el V for you -- always eating as well as he can). Then on to Carmen, at the Santa Fe Opera -- which I'd attended the weekend previously with a different suitor -- older, well-off, tenured professor in the UNM English Dept.

As you can tell from the first sentence of this paragraph, Professor Tenure went right out of the running because of how this Night After the Opera turned out.

Tonight el V took me to dinner at the Fish Whistle, the C'Town restaurant on the Chester River. Local ingredientys, wine and so on, nice jazz playing, and the up close view of the river running in full tide spate.

Here it is again, Labor Day. I'm not a grad student (though I became one again, more than once, after we married, which didn't happen for several years). I have published books. I have traveled to and lived in strange places. I know wonderful, talented, brilliant people. I spent the day working on a book I'm enthralled by, and getting compensated to do so, right here in C'Town. Who knew it would turn out like this? I, at least, have not a thing to complain about.
Damn, I wish I could the software for my Canon to download so I could show you some photos.

OTOH, this romantic album of Nat King Cole at the height of his powers is playing, and we can curl up and listen together in the candle light, and a glass or two of wine.  Did you know that Nat can purr????

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The End of Tomato Season Draws Nigh, So, What to Do ....

According to the NY Times, " ... here is the start of the poem “Roma,” by the Oregon poet Matthew Dickman ..."

It is splendid, what tomatoes have the ability to inspire!

Last night my neighbor was looking a little enlightened,

you know, the way bodies do
after spending the afternoon having sex
on an old couch while responsible people are suffering
with their clothes on in cubicles and libraries.
He had that look vegetables get
in really nice grocery stores where the tomatoes aren’t just red
they’re goddamn red!

What to do with the tomatoes can be found here.

The bursting bruised purple red of these tomatoes are such a contrast with this morning's sparkling blue sky, which carries not a hint of bruising from history or humanity, er, rather, perhaps, inhumanity?

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Lemay Collection

This is the man whose library has been bequeathed to the Starr Center, and which is being moved into the House, sometime this month.

Among his attributes, Lemay was a Benjamin Franklinologist.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Commentary, Annotation, Basil & Tomatoes

Began today with deadheading the rosebush by my south facing kitchen garden door (there's a matching garden door on the other side). Then I heartlessly snip the newly opened blossomes for the study.  They smell most agreeably.

I'd never read Woodrow Wilson's A History of the American People. What I had read, of course, was the Reconstruction Section of Volume 5.  He was an excellent writer, and a subtle one.  This is popular history -- with an agenda. The narrative is so engaging you don't even notice how quickly you turn the pages. The text is constantly broken by charming black and white vignette illustrations and glossy reproductions of portraits, signatures and other interesting images.  None of these illos and reproductions depict anything cruel, ugly or otherwise disturbing -- nor does the narrative, for that matter.

This week I've been pulling citations from various works of this nature, comparing and contrasting these triumphalist works of our national history with each other, following the revelatory strands of regional conflict among Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas.  There are a couple of other threads I'm teasing out also, equally interesting, and more useful to the Project than the triumphalist celebration of Virginia as the heart and motivator of all that is good and wonderful about the U.S.   But it's too soon to know that.  What matters is that the Project is started, and this beginning also includes writing, right away.  If you wait to start writing until you finish researching you will never write.  So it is better to write right away.

Later this afternoon I'm going to chop up this bouquet of basil.  Most of it will go into an airtight container with olive oil.  Some will go into the tomato sauce I'll make from all these tomatoes.

One way or another this house is going to keep smelling good.

Ah. The garden-yard man is here cutting the lawn. So now there's the smell of new-cut grass too.