Monday, January 21, 2008

Yes, It's Carnival Tiiiiiime!

It looks like I'll be moving my blog over from myspace to here.

Yes, it's carnival tiiiiime:

And just in time, there's a new album by the "Blind Boys of Alabama" coming out on January 28, one recorded in New Orleans and featuring New Orleans musicians. Check out the video:

Chris Rose has been busy the past ten days or so. He tells us about being "Clueless in Seattle" and then tells us about "Party Time on Tiger Mountain" when LSU won their big game:

Cruising down St. Charles Avenue, we passed streetcar stops packed with ready revelers. You could feel it in the air, a strange brew of humidity and history.

In the Garden District, we passed a middle-aged couple decked out in Ohio State colors. They were walking the long walk. "Let's offer them a ride," I told my friend. It seemed like the right thing to do. So we pulled over.

They got in the back seat. Before making introductions, I admonished them: "Are y'all crazy?" I said. "Haven't you heard about crime in New Orleans? How could you just jump in the back seat of a stranger's car?"

They had no answer at hand. They hadn't thought through all the things that could go wrong. Truth is, they just wanted a ride. It seemed like the right thing to do.

They were Amy and Allen Glass from Columbus. First timers to New Orleans unless you count Allen's three hours here many, many years ago and by all accounts, it was a very long three hours.

I asked how their visit was going this time around. It was going very well, Amy said. "What we have noticed," she said, "is that everyone here seems to be so in love with this town."

I reckon so, I told her. We've all had ample time, opportunity and reason to move on, I said. If you're still here, well, yeah . . . it must be love. Crazy love....

But first: I heard drumbeats down Poydras. Then horns, a glorious echo from the heavens. There, to greet my arrival downtown for this hallowed occasion, was the St. Aug Marching 100. God's own band, the way I see it. I don't know whose idea it was to have these guys march down the street before the game, but it was a good one.

It began to rain. A good rain. Louisiana rain. The tower of the Hibernia Bank building was lit in purple and gold. Through the mist, it was perhaps the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

The band played on. The crowds swelled behind the Marching 100. A motorcycle cop played his siren in rhythm with the band, and I wondered how he did that. There was so much noise, so much commotion. I fell in with the second line. It seemed like the right thing to do.

We marched to the Dome, a legion of strangers in the night. The group disbanded. Most headed for the Dome. I turned to head back down Poydras, toward my perch on Tiger Mountain. A guy said to me -- yelled to me, really -- "ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?"

Football, I thought? Who gives a dang about football? Let's do life.

I saw Sean Payton dancing with a police officer on the neutral ground and . . .

OK, that didn't really happen, but you got the sense that it could, that you just might see or hear anything on this night. It was like Mardi Gras, except it was just us. Just us, and a few thousand friends from Ohio.

I started thanking people dressed in red, doing my Love Potion No. 9 routine, thanking strangers for being here, for coming here, and it is a very annoying habit I have. Many folks shook my hand and said "You bet!" and "Thanks for having us!" and many averted their eyes.

My favorite, however, is this story about a New Jersey man who read about the murders in New Orleans and came here to start a peace project as well as to memorialize and humanize the dead. Until I read this, I hadn't thought about my stepbrother in many years. I didn't know him particularly well, as my mother married his father when I was seventeen, and he lived with his mother. One night back in 1989, when he was seventeen, he was in a car with some friends underneath the Earheart Expressway. As a gunman aimed at my stepbrother's face, he put his hand up and was shot three times - once each in his hand, his wrist, and his neck. At dawn, a truck driver reported the scene to police. As our recent New Jersey transplant understands, over time only a handful of people remember each murder victim. Their stories soon fade from public memory - if they were ever even there, as most of the murdered children of New Orleans, like my stepbrother, merit only a brief paragraph in the Metro section of the Times Picayune. It's nice that someone is keeping their stories, their very individuality, alive - here in a city where murders are the most mundane of statistics. Rest in peace, R.B.

Krewe de Vieux rolled last night. I managed to miss it yet again, in bed with the flu this time. This year's theme was "The Magical Misery Tour." Call them raunchy or brilliant, love it or hate it, this is carnival, organic, home-grown. Someday soon when I finally get around to emailing Barbara Ehrenreich (whose blog I stumbled across last night and who dissed us a while back by refusing to include New Orleans' Mardi Gras in her recent book on partying in the streets because, the heretofore-brilliant-but-on-this-subject-ignorant Ehrenreich said, Mardi Gras is too commercialized to count as an organic street party), I'm going to send her the preceeding link. I'm going to tell her about the Cajun Mardi Gras (and here - le Courir de Mardi Gras a Cheval, riding on horseback and dancing, begging, and clowning for the chicken and other ingredients to make a communal gumbo feast; how commercial is THAT?) and New Orleans' Mardi Gras Indians and about second lining. Really, it's shocking that an academic of her caliber would demonstrate such ignorance. There is no corporate sponsorship of any sort for Mardi Gras, and the fact that lots of tourists come here to watch our home-grown holiday doesn't MAKE it commercial. It's still a party we throw for OURSELVES, young and old. It's still "dancing in the streets," Ms. Ehrenreich, and it's very much about "collective joy" (these terms come from her book title, which I'm not going to mention).

The New Orleans News Ladder has a great dedication (check down the left side, in purple).

Also check out great political satire at The New Orleans Levees (We Don't Hold Anything Back).

The Huffington Post suddenly joins the "earth is round" society and dares to ask, ""Did Oil Canals Worsen Katrina's Effects?"

Unfortunately, I won't be in town next weekend for the usual family gathering for the ALLA parade on the West Bank. I am very excited to be attending the "Stop Porn Culture" conference in Austin, Texas, although I'm amazed how after months of NOT having a life, suddenly three things I wanted to do all came up the same weekend (the third being a house party to watch the results come in from the South Carolina Democratic primary). Sigh.

Finally, in honor of the Martin Luther King holiday, some youtube gems.

King's last public speech (been to the mountaintop):

King on war (so relevant today, American is NOT the policeman of the world, he said):

King on the drum major instinct (if you want to be a drum major - meaning the star of the show - be a drum major for justice, for peace, for righteousness):

This sermon - about being a drum major for peace - was the last sermon Dr. King gave before his death. In it, he talked about what he hoped could be said about him at his funeral when the time came. Re-rediscovering it tonight, I was thinking about how some family and friends have been emailing about what our "bucket lists" would include (prompted by the new movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) and I realized that my bucket list needs to include having lived a lifetime of commitment and activism, or, as Dr. King said:

Every now and then I guess we all think realistically
(Yes, sir) about that day when we will be victimized
with what is life's final common denominator—that
something that we call death. We all think about it.
And every now and then I think about my own death and
I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it
in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask
myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I
leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I
don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to
deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long.
(Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them
to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel
Peace Prize
—that isn't important. Tell them not to
mention that I have three or four hundred other
awards—that's not important. Tell them not to mention
where I went to school. (Yes)

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin
Luther King, Jr
., tried to give his life serving
others. (Yes)

I'd like for somebody to say that day that
Luther King, Jr
., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on
the war question. (Amen)

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try
to feed the hungry. (Yes)

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did
try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my
life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve
humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say
that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I
was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major
for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things

will not matter. (Yes) I won't have any money to leave
behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of
life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a
committed life behind. (Amen) And that's all I want to

If I can help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,

If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the master taught,

Then my living will not be in vain.

Rest in peace, MLK (with a footnote to the Clintons: I'm just wondering, um, how many dark nights DID Lydon Johnson spend in a jail cell to get civil rights legislation passed??? P.S. Dear President Rape, please shut up, shut up, shut up.)

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