Sunday, September 02, 2007

For a moment back to 'The Life'

For a brief moment I go back to the life I blissfully created and lived for 2.5 months. Here on Labor Day weekend I am once again waking up and writing. Waking up and imagining, waking up and hiding for three hours behind a cup of coffee. It makes me happy that I have not become totally separate from that bliss, totally alien to that habit of non-habit- the only chore a bit of resting. Yes, a day where all of time is measured by either what am I going to eat for lunch, or the afternoon nap. It will only last 3 days, so I hope I can make the most out of it. Like a man on parole from a life sentence. and in that time he wants to taste, smell, hear, see, and touch everything that he will be denied for the whole sentence. Ah the sentence of work, how much does it keep us from what we have to do?

But not forever, for we have these little times. These small times in the middle of the night, when all are asleep and the house is quiet. Perhaps that is why so many write during moonlight.
Then after that whole night has been filled with one satisfying the imagination, there is one prize.

The morning. Within those first moments of opening your eyes, your brain tells you. 'I have nothing to do'

The Bliss of 'The Life'.

Friday, August 24, 2007

1992 Exile

They were not days of wine and roses
But afternoons of rum and platains.
Where Victorian gingerbread raveled
around plantation style wicker.

Often facing the Bayou- waves gleaming in the sun
the siestas turned to carefree nights
Conversations swelling to tales
Bottle after bottle

The seasonal calendar of the Crescent
Allowed times with the muses
as they passed on on the Canal- floating
Flinging plastic treasures to the adoring mass.

Time was measured not by clocks
But by meals and the contrast of light
upon the porch slats
As it moved across our blurred vision.

Like the exiles of a faded island
we try and recreate that sunny orb
In dozens of cafes, tiny porches, and concrete patios.
We drink the same sugar
We ravel the same tales.
Yet the laziness of that time is gone.

For so many of us, muse not for muse's sake
But muse of work and payments
We refuse another sip for its influence,
or skip another round of fried plantains
Because of the excess of carbs.

And thus we are exiles....
From our own lives.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trying to Hide

I just had to, this is the hour of the most productive words that I have in the day. With coffee, with the sun barely out of its western conch shell, its coral rays spreading across the day. Yet at this time the sun is not hot, it is inviting. Perhaps for that reason is why I can write fully at this time. It is the hour of the porch of possibilities. This is the time that we can honorably hide behind a cup of coffee, filling the cup until the demands provoke us into movement. It is a better time done in the house, there invulnerable from the day.

But now sitting at work, waiting for the clock to strike the hour of movement, the hour of momentum. Where I will roll until I find that impenetrable object called quitting time. I know by that time the sun will be out, and my eyes will return to normal. No longer able to see beyond what is there. My mind will no longer be able to float, and glide and be free. The humidity will be up and ready, crashing upon us in that August Vacuum called Summer in the South. By 3 o clock, I will dented, soiled, bullet-ridden by the day. It is at that time that I retreat once again to that cup of coffee, it becoming my respiratory, bringing me back to life.

The problem is, just when I am living like a human being again, it is time to return to the Thunderdome. The experience similar to taking attendance before a barbarian horde.
With the crash of the bell, its rim of iron cascading across campus, seizing all dreams and hopes.

The world stops the imagination, pushing the day forward, like a clock without a snooze button.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Distilling Spirits

Are we so different from those alchemists
that turn sugar into rum, potato into vodka,
rye into whiskey or water into wine?

The stylus, the engine of spirits,
from which we give and we drink,
ferments and turns our thoughts into phrases.

Do we not become intoxicated in that rich trickle of the keys?
We taste and we change,
we add and we subtract,
measuring the weight of every syllable against the ideal.

Our patience allows the reaction to wait,
to ferment…
and age in its own time and distinct bouquet.

Folding the material into a drawer,
or oak barrel,
we wait until the yeast eats away at the pages.

With the passage of time, the script can fill with imagery,
caramelize and sweeten to the mind.
Then and only then, is when we open that cask,
pull that creation from its dark cell,
and taste.

For what can reading be,
other than sipping the mind of another?

Purity and potency are the maxims
of both the distillers of elements and language.

For when we believe we are done,
it when we are to begin;
perhaps even again.

While alchemists attempt to turn lead into gold,
distillers turn nature into spirit,
we turn gold into graphite and ink.

Whether shot glass or script,
tale or tankard, bottle or book-
we follow the same brewer's rules
for creating the uncommon from the common.

Collect, mix, distil, pour, and drink.

Grading vs. Writing

Alright here is the ultimate challenge, do I correct papers or write? I have heard on a number of occasions, and I have experienced it, that a writer will do anything not to write.

Procrastination is our fuel. Avoiding an assignment, or my daily quota, I will do the dishes, do the floors, catch up with friends, call my mom, clean the gutters, pick up dog-poop, paint the house, learn to play the accordion, pick up the harmonica, even do bills (considering I have no money- that is quite the task). I think it is the only way that a writer's house does not fall in on itself is because he is procrastinating. Which brings me to another point.

They say that, afterall, a writer writes. But I wonder how much work do we get done by not writing. Is there a certain formula for not-writing. Is there value in throwing a piece into a drawer and letting ferment (I have found that cypress works particularly well in aging a fine poem). Yes sir, a writer will do anything not to write.

Well I found that thing. It is correcting papers and writing lesson plans. Nothing in the world can be worse. Go ahead try it. Even Stephen King said he could not write when he was teaching, and he writes! Go ahead become a teacher, let it happen. Do the United States a favor, it needs it, and become a teacher. Nothing will pull you from ordinary life. And at least twice a year, you are guarantee a surreal moment. But oh does it pull at your writing.

Until you start grading papers!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Algernon Effect

Alright lets look at my summer report card. I would give myself a C-, but then again I am one tough grader. My biggest problem is that it takes me about a month, if not more, to detox, to de-pressurize. Just when I am getting used to living like a human being again, like we all should live- it is time to go back. The last 7 weeks have been unbelievably productive. I completed a short story that has been rattling around my head like a heavy marble. Finally got it into the mail. I plan to frame my rejection slip. Along with that I have written poetry about New Orleans which I would like to send to local players. Though the New Yorker whispers deep in my brain. Plus I have three short story ideas and a sci-fi world based on alchemy. It is a glorious time.

Yet it all feels late very late. Perhaps it is a midlife crisis, but my writing seems to be about ten years too late. Reminding myself that age is just a number, it only feels that I have lost ten years. Worse than that is I feel an Algernon effect coming on. The year will eat my free time, my writing time. The best time I write, the morning, is gone, and I am no longer able to hide from the day behind a cup of coffee. Realizing it is the way to get published, I envy those people that have the psychological stamina to either stay up late, get up early, and write for hours.
I pray the Algernon Effect does not eat away my inspiration, disintegrate my imagination, and eat away at my will to write. Then, ten months from today, it will take me a whole month just to become human.

Then again, other people, with normal jobs, never become human at all.

The Dawn is my Cathedral

The Dawn is my cathedral
With buttresses not of stone
but of light, cascading over me.

A cup of coffee my sacred communion
Fermented in green plantations of the holy lands.
Warming my consciousness,
with milk and bean.

my congregation are dogs
And they do parade up and down the aisles,
Vaulting into the dew swept cloister-
Interpreting their version of Morning Glory.

I do dress in Sunday best, for that is pajamas.
True formal wear
My pew is my couch sitting there softer than any wood.
When I enter my morning I do not take holy water
I make water- blessed by dreams.

Mine is a religion of one, without bishops or priests,
No aisles to separate, no big hats or jackets
And in my church, no chorus dare sing-
For there is no greater sin in the morning
than any human voice.

Thus my sermon is mute.
Without moral or physical obligation
No one telling me how to live,
Relishing in the Cathedral's daily blessing.

'I am alive'

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tough Days

I cannot believe that there on the radar to the east, is another. Here In New Orleans people are panicking a bit, nervous in their doubt. I do not think that it will hit here at all. But meetings are starting and I am sure that supermarkets are getting backed left and right. Lines going back and swirling, with handfuls of bottled water and worrying way too much about what I think of nothing.

Yes, here comes another hurricane, now a category two just around the lesser Antilles. Its name is Dean, slamming into those little islands. Cannot imagine living in those little paradises, every year a whamo storm slams into you, hurricane after hurricane. It would be fine for primitive cultures, owning nothing, but we have too much stuff.

There it lies, its winds swirling counter clockwise. Yet nothing could be more natural. For the earth is only trying to cool itself off. The hotter it gets the more we are going to get them swooping in as if they were on parade. Dancing and mixing the Caribbean and Gulf until they arrive on our shores. The rains will continue.

But we have no choice, we must live here. There is no where else in these States that I would live. But there I go again about the city, always reminiscing about the iron and streets of this town.

Even though a strange thing is going on here. It is City-gouging. Now everyone knows about the tax assessor's scandal of suddenly raising the value of houses to grab taxes. But there is more, much more. Cops are giving more tickets, Insurance companies want more (as always), and the Crescent City Connection Bridge is charging a strange "administrator fee" for people that go through the tag line without it registering. I hate it. All of this is just discouraging people from coming back, which is sad.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Modern Day View from the Porch

One of those days watching the street early in the morning with a spiked coffee. Nothing much to say and less to do as the dawn turns to noon and volleyed to dusk. Today's goals are to never change from pajamas, never put on socks or shoes. Allow, from the moment you pour the first cup, the drinks to become more severe from morning to midnight.

We keep time on this porch by the progression of gingerbread shadow falling on the planks. The multitude rush off to work, carrying coffee, their minds riddled by the meetings and affairs of the day, a sure sign of 8am. Stomachs grumble, lips become wet, the po-boy man on his cart comes with his roast-beef and shrimp, ham and sausage, fried oyster and catfish. Alas we have noon. The mail hits the slot, a sign of afternoon. Siesta becomes a punch bowl of conversation with others that have managed to evade the responsibilities of the world. Children rush out of school buses, a sign of 3pm. The sun continuing its arch toward the west. The madness of 9-5 returns home, the only difference in their tension, is a loosened color or an askew hair-do.

Cheers to all we say, lifting our staffs of rum, to whatever gods have allowed us to be spared of this day, this pilgrimage to the work-force. Perhaps one day it will cost us, but for now, we have enough for another bottle.

Now who is going to the store?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Creole Tomato Bliss

"This is not a recipe, this is ritual" - Carmelo Aponte

Historically, New Orleanians do two things. One is keep cool, the architecture, social life, and dress of the city mirrors what going on outside. Best example, nothing gets done in the summer because it is h-o-t. Two since its first settling in the early part of the 18th century, people in New Orleans have made due with what they had or what the land gave them? Example? Really look at a crawfish and tell me it doesn't look like a cockroach on Barry Bonds steroids. Furthermore, years ago there was a program to try and turn the nutria (nothing but a big swamp rat) into a commercial source of food. The very base of a Gumbo, the staple of this area, is flour and water. In a land filled with lemons, we have been enjoying the best lemonade in the United States.

Summer and improvisation in New Orleans gives us the creole tomato. A tomato so unlike any other in the world, it has become synonymous with Louisiana. Back in the days before 9/11, when you could have luggage, my mother went back home with twenty stuffed into her luggage. There zing, or zang, a sweetness, a tartness that you cannot explain or dismiss. The red deeper, bloodier, and when cut into a creole tomato its like slicing into a heart with seeds. And there is no better way on the planet to enjoy than a...

New Orleans Creole Tomato Po-boy
(for those that live out of the state of Louisiana, don't try this at home)

3 small to medium truly ripe creole tomatoes (don't even try regular tomatoes)
1 loaf of dry French bread
1/2 cup of Blue Plate Mayonnaise
Konriko or Tony Chachere's Spice Mix
One roll of paper towels ( you will need need them)

Slice the bread in half. Slice tomatoes to the desired thickness, as patties.
Slather (is that a word?) the insides of the bread liberally with mayonnaise
Place tomatoes in a row, perhaps two layers thick, showering each layer with spice mix.
If you wish you can add always add more Mayonnaise.

The salt of the spice mix, decomposes the tomato, its juices flowing into and out of the bread.So two pieces of advice, if you are going to eat this in front of someone (I never do), don't let them watch. Also, if you didn't use a full half of the paper towel roll, the tomatoes were not ripe enough.

Enjoy with Barq's or Abita
And like always

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

End of Summer

Just when I am living my life the way I want to, the way I should really; I have to go back? As a teacher I follow the instinctual calendar of the student that we all have inside of us. Since the age of 5 we are given this schedule, you get off in the summer. For alot of people that keeps going well into their 20's. That is 20 years of conditioning! Then all of a sudden we have to go out and get real job, and what happens to the summer? The summer is reduced to marketing ploys, obscure references to being off and enjoying it. But you really are not anymore.

So in that respect, I am lucky, but an object at rest tends to stay at rest. So the summer of sitting on this porch drinking Pearl martinis is coming to a close. It tastes of bitter lemons I must say. At least I have this for a few months. Makes me think of the reason why I work:

I do the time for the time that I do not do the time.

Live with that and you should be alright- but poor.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dome & Crescent

Often I amazed how much I think of the Southwest. If not once a day, I think of it once a week. The cliche of the endless sky comes to mind, blue from one side of the mind to the other. A gorgeous cobalt cap covers one's life. Everything on the earth appears in homage to that dome, rock formations and canyons bow and form themselves into perfect temples to that overhead God. (I always felt sorry for the gods, that they do not get a capital 'G' in honor of them. There are as many cultural symbols for pagan gods as there are for Gods- if not moreso) The houses of man even succumb to that dogma of obeying the sky and earth. Man-made towns rise, literally from out of the earth rather than just from the earth's parts. Streets are layed out logically, flowing from a central plaza that I both miss and need in my life; that and the consistency of a federally-funded siesta. I am held in a constant suspended animation when I remember the balcony at the Best Western (yes, a Best Western that literally lives up to its name) and the celestial canvas that spread from that adobe plaza in the clouds- a horizon event in every direction.

Oh yes, if not for the people, I think I would move there in a heartbeat.

Yes, the people. For a culture supposedly descended from outlaws, desperados, hopeful miners, bold and death defying entrepeneurs (can you imagine creating a business in the old west?) and the iron testicle wielding pioneers (again allow me to express a situation, taking your family, your house, your dog, your babies, and putting them into a wagon and crossing the country!) people in the southwest surely are anal. Its as if they took Baptist and Protestant Americana and cooked it down to its disgusting essence.

Again my theme, who the hell would tell Wild Bill, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, or Doc Holiday ( as much American icons as the caped wonders in comic books) to not smoke in a saloon? But that is an old theme. The Southwest, overridden by Californicators (hard to believe my spellcheck couldn't get that one) is simply too civilized, too organized- like Houston.

Let's talk about Texas. Aside from the fact that I see the whole landcape of America, like most citizens of this country, like a fairy tale land of contrasting themes, rather than a gradual shift in culture; I thought it was going to be different. Yes, my friends laugh at (with?) me when I tell them that I thought I was going to see sand and armed horsemen THE SECOND we crossed the border into Texas. But nooo, not at all, Louisiana just kept going. So that made it even odder, stranger, that the geography of Louisiana (and wetter I must say) would be clashed with the righteous dogma of GOP Texas along with a repugnant dose of reluctant Hispanics that long ago relinquished the squiggly lines over the n's.

For me Houston had no center, no soul, at least none that I could see thrown into your face like New Orleans, New York, or even Miami (if you don't know Spanish your face gets even more exposed). Nothing but highways, strip malls, and people on cell phones. Business, business, business but how do you enjoy it?

So that is what I think of when I wake here, when I think about moving. Great places need great people. And the only place you find that in unison, in agreement, in a delicately balanced cocktail, is New Orleans.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pearl Vodka

At Casey Jones, the very local supermarket, today I discovered a new vodka. It has the four characteristics that you need for a good vodka. Smooth, little bite, cheap, and made in a country that is cold. In this case it Pearl Vodka, made in Canada, nice bottle, less bite than the great Belvedere. This stuff is smoother and thicker than Grey Goose (which to me tastes like perfume). Since I heard that all Grey Goose does is buy cheap Vodka and put it through a distilling process, I don't even buy it as a gift.

Took this wonderful Vodka, drinking it down as I made Gazpacho (little did I know that you had to seed the tomatoes and strain the goop- but its all a learning process anyway), and went to Gretna's greenspace and sat there drinking and grilling. Lovely day, good friends, lots of sun, and I entertained myself watching my friends try out an impossible boomerang. A little bit of olives and I was set. It feels so good to find something new, something that is made well and they do not charge too much for.

Ah, Vodka, the only liquor that is judged by how little of it you can taste!

Which brings me to another point and I invite anyone to comment on this. I heard various people say various things, but is it clear or dark liquor that is worse for you. Yes, I know they are both bad, but one of them, really wipes your guts (liver) out. Anyone have any idea, and since I am asking, anyone have a source?