Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Day I Get Home

Fantastic Landscape (Volcano Erupting) by David Alfaro Siquerios.

Our visit to Virginia was a quickie. One of the highlights came on the return trip when we met longtime First Draft readers Lex and Carroll Alexander for lunch. We rendezvoused at Stamey’s in Greensboro, NC and ate the food of their people: barbecue. The meal included perhaps the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had. A good time was had by all but I’m afraid Carroll and I did most of the talking. She has family roots in the Gret Stet of Louisiana and I was eager to untangle them. Nosy might be a better word, but it’s always fun to learn someone has Momus/Comus/Proteus old line krewe types in the family. You never know what happens when you give someone’s family tree a shake. All sorts of oddities are likely to fall out.

On a weird note, I got into a twitter slagging match last week with a Gret Stet legislator’s wife. My crime was criticizing her hubby’s voting record. She was not amused and he contacted me by DM. “Perfection” is a terrible burden and they don’t carry it well. #sarcasm. I wound up inviting them to a “block party” so the fight would end. I’m not sure why they think fighting with citizens is a good move but they do.  I’m not the first person to have this experience and won’t be the last. Weird, weird, weird.

This week’s theme song wedged itself in my head on our trip home. The title is a minor misnomer  as we got home last Sunday. The very Beatlesque The Day I Get Home was written by Difford and Tilbrook for 1991’s Play album. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a swell live performance.

Now that we’ve trekked home, it’s time to jump to the break without crash landing. Knock on wood or some such superstitious shit.

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Hostages To Misfortune

Every time we think Trumpism cannot get worse, they exceed our already low expectations. The family separation policy makes sucking up to dictators and fighting with allies look positively tame. Angela Merkel is a tough woman who can take care of herself. Children torn from their parents cannot. Let the children go, Mr. Trump.

Team Trump’s chaotic messaging has made matters even worse. The very white lady at Homeland Security cannot keep her story straight, Jeff Bo is quoting the Bible, and the president* started blaming Democrats the minute the story blew up in the administration’s face. Democrats are supposed to repeal a non-existent law so the kids can go free and/or be deported. It’s the clusterfuck of clusterfucks. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

What’s really going on is a hostage crisis. Team Trump are the kidnappers. They’re making unreasonable demands: FUND THE WALL or else. The hostages are children torn from their parents and placed in cages, cells whatever you want to call them. What’s important is that this outrage stop. Pronto.

Trump has no problem using immigrant children as hostages. There’s a long history in this country of demonizing non-white children as Rebecca Onion pointed out at Slate:

Like so many cruelties that have intensified under Trumpism, the idea that only white American children are truly “innocent” and worthy of protection isn’t his invention—it’s just subtext, made text. As historian Tera Hunter wrote in the New York Times, “child-snatching” has a long history in the United States. Black parents in slavery and Native American parents facing white colonialism had children sold, killed, or put into boarding schools and re-educated out of their culture. “Nits make lice,” Col. John Chivington is supposed to have said before the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado in 1864, when his soldiers killed a group of Cheyenne and Arapaho, women, children, and all. Part of the rationale for these atrocities was that these children are not really children, in the way white people understand it—those families were not really families, and those people were not really people.

It’s horrifying that Trump *is* capable of saying something as deplorable (there’s that word again) as “nits make lice.” In this instance, it’s probably good that his ignorance of history is as profound as his malice for everyone who does not look like him. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such raw, naked, overt racism in the White House. It should curdle the blood of all decent Americans. It was too much for Laura Bush. Let the children go, Mr. Trump.

Adding to the horror of the situation is that the New Yorker is reporting that the government does not have a plan or protocol to reunite the families they’ve torn apart.  They think of them as pawns in this president’s* game of low brow chess with Congress. It’s because the families consist of “nits and lice” as far as the Trump regime is concerned. They do not give a damn.

I thought of Francis Bacon’s words when I sat down to write this post:

He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.

There’s no fortune to be made in this situation. Donald Trump’s goal is to wreak as much havoc and destruction as possible while he’s in office. They say that misery loves company and the Insult Comedian is one miserable, angry son-of-a-bitch. His election made us all hostages to misfortune.

We should resist in whatever way available and, more importantly, get out and vote this November. Only a Democratic Congress can reign in this cruel, racist, and evil government. I’m tired of being a hostage to misfortune.

The last word goes to the good people at the New York Daily News. A tabloid headline speaks louder than a thousand words;

Saturday Odds & Sods: Life On The Road

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Dr. A and I are on the road today after a whirlwind trip to Virginia for our nephew Ryan’s high school graduation. His graduation ceremony was a bit *too* exciting as there was a threatening phone call that led to the hall being cleared. It turned out to be a crank call, but in 2018 one has to take these things seriously. So much for my plan to embarrass the nephew. So it goes.

This post is a place holder but I do have a theme song: Life On The Road from the 1977 Kinks album, Sleepwalker. It’s the opening track of that record and it rocks like crazy:

The closing track of the album has the word life in the title as well. It’s the story of a guy who tries to commit suicide on an impulse but decides to live instead. A subject that’s both timely and timeless.

How about one more Kinks tune for the road.

That’s it for this week’s weak edition of Saturday Odds & Sods. I wrote this before hitting the road so I’m using a two-year old picture of the nephews doing what they call the Twin Towers. Kids today.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Saturday Sun

Cafetiere et Carafe by Jean Dubuffet.

It feels like August outside as I write this with the ceiling fan whirring up above my head. It’s time to dispense with the weather report lest I sound whinier than I am. And I’m pretty damn whiny even though, unlike Della and Paul, I don’t have a fur coat to contend with. Paul Drake deals with his by shedding copiously. Della Street rages against the elements in her own way. She is one mouthy cat, y’all.

I may have cats on my mind but the rest of the city is obsessed with rats in a French Quarter eatery. There’s a viral video and everything. Oh wait, there’s always a viral video in 2018. As someone who worked in the Quarter for many years, the thought of rats near the Big Muddy is not shocking. I’m not planning to go to that restaurant but even good places with clean kitchens have the odd rat. Repeat after me: to live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough. She-doo-be.

The new Mayor is “being intentional” by launching a PR campaign dubbing New Orleans the City of Yes. In the immortal words of movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, include me out, unless it involves the veteran prog rock band. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell “being intentional” means. So it goes.

When I started this regular feature in 2015, I used songs about Saturday as theme songs for the first few weeks. Saturday Sun is one I somehow missed but I’ve had Neil Finn on my mind and in my ear of late. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the promo video and a live performance on the BBC.

Now that we’ve basked in the Saturday Sun, it’s time to put on some sun screen and jump to the break.

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Anthony Bourdain & Tee Eva Perry, R.I.P.

Depression is a horrible thing. From the outside, Anthony Bourdain was on the top of the world with a job he loved and more adventures on the horizon. The hoary aphorism “never judge a book by its cover” rings true today: Anthony Bourdain committed suicide at the age of 61 in France.

His body was discovered by his friend, the world-class chef, Eric Ripert who Tony called the Ripper. I call him Tony not because I ever met him in person but because of his style. It was intimate and confidential thereby living up to the title of his first book, Kitchen Confidential.  Most of his viewers feel as if they’ve lost a friend. A friend of mine who’s in the restaurant business described him as her Pope. The loss is shocking and deep. It was a helluva thing to wake up to this morning. Imagine being in the Ripper’s shoes. Mon dieu.

Bourdain took us many places in the world to which we’re unlikely to travel. Despite his renegade/bad boy image, Bourdain treated other cultures with the sensitivity and respect that they deserve. He always looked like he was having a great time but looks can be deceptive His demons finally caught up with him. He will be missed.

I never ran into Anthony Bourdain, but Tee Eva Perry was a New Orleans legend who I met on many occasions. She was an amazing character: baker, back-up singer to brother-in-law Ernie K-Doe, and a baby doll on Mardi Gras day. She died this week at the age of 83.

Everyone called her Tee for auntie so when she opened up her first place on Magazine Street she called it Tee-Eva’s. It was an eclectic hole-in-the-wall located around the corner from Adrastos World HQ:

I’m not a snow ball guy but I loved her pies and pralines. After Katrina, she relocated to a bigger location on Magazine but I’ll always have a special feeling for the original space. It was as charming and eccentric as Tee Eva herself.

I hate to use a term out of the dictionary of journalistic clichés, but Tee Eva Perry was a New Orleans original. She will be missed.

UPDATE: it turns out that Bourdain ate Tee Eva’s jambalya on an episode of his first teev show A Cook’s Tour. I haven’t seen that series but it’s on Amazon so I will soon.

Separations

Kick has had the same caregiver since she was eight weeks old.

We are unendingly blessed to have, in our life-with-newborn state of dazed terror, stumbled upon a woman who has spent the past four years filling our daughter’s life with joy and adventure. I fully believe this person puts my child’s happiness above her own on a daily basis and would stop at nothing to keep Kick from harm. She has keys to my house and we’ve borrowed each other’s cars and I trust her completely.

Yet at least once a day I freak out at my desk because Kick is beyond both earshot and arm’s reach of me at that exact moment and I want nothing more than to call up and be like, “So whatcha doin’?” like a fucking psychopath. I was once stranded an extra day on a work trip due to weather and Kick was so happy WITH MY OWN ACTUAL PARENTS she didn’t even want to talk on the phone, and I still nearly tore LaGuardia apart with my bare hands trying to get a flight back in a blizzard because I needed to see my baby.

Growing a human being inside you makes you insane. You all know me, I don’t think women have magical powers and “mommy instinct” isn’t really a thing, but what is a thing? Is having carried a person curled up under your rib cage next to your heart, inside your pulse, feeling them twist and roll and settle into your bones. You never get to be that close to them again and that loss? Is incomprehensible.

In my case it flipped an anxiety switch that obliterated pretty much MY ENTIRE PERSONALITY. Kick was 8 miles away from me as I wrote this, digging in the sandbox a block from our house, with a caregiver who I think sometimes is better for her than I am, and I know objectively that’s where she should be.

But I also know people shoot heroin at that park and every few weeks the city has to comb all the used condoms out of that sandbox and humans are filth pigs and if some creepy old asshole told Kick he had a kitten in his panel van she would totally go with him to see it and she eats anything an adult will put in front of her and is insanely confident about finding her own way places and it only takes ten seconds for a normal day to turn into an episode of SVU.

(Of course none of this will happen. My therapist calls this “catastrophizing.” I was astonished to learn we had a name for what, previously, I had thought of as “being alive.”)

My point is that I can’t be away from my kid, even when she is driving me crazy, for more than 5 minutes without my whole body screaming at me that SOMETHING IS WRONG NOW. Right now at this moment I know exactly where Kick is, and who she is with, and that she is well, and the urge to flip my desk and cab it home and hold her is so powerful it gives me the shakes.

Which is all to say that if you did this to me I would lose my fucking mind:

When we woke up the next morning, immigration officers brought us outside where there were two government cars waiting. They said that I would be going to one place, and my son would go to another. I asked why repeatedly, but they didn’t give me a reason.

The officers forced me to strap my son into a car seat. As I looked for the buckles, my hands shook, and my son started to cry. Without giving me even a moment to comfort him, the officer shut the door. I could see my son through the window, looking back at me — waiting for me to get in the car with him — but I wasn’t allowed to. He was screaming as the car drove away.

A few things about this story that have arisen in the past week: No, MAGA-troids, this is not necessary to deter anyone who is being threatened politically from seeking asylum in the U.S. because nobody thinks about packing up their toddlers and crawling across half a damn continent unless shit is really, really real. So stop with the “maybe they just shouldn’t come here then” crap. The mother in the story above was being teargassed in her home. Most of you red-hatted barcalounging segregationists would shit yourselves if you heard a bottle rocket in the alley.

You are the demographic that calls the cops on black people golfing. If the 82nd Airborne threw down in your cul-de-sac you’d flee to Canada faster than a flock of geese.

Additionally, yes, we can let these people in and give them asylum, them and their families. We can house them, feed them, give them health care and papers and jobs, for roughly what Jeff Bezos blows on lunch. That we have decided not to, and have given it to Jeff B. instead, is a decision we have made and not a reflection on what is physically possible. So just save your “this is what happens in the Great Battle for the Soul of White America” or whatever you are on about in the U.S. comments sections.

Last but not least, STOP THROWING OBAMA AROUND TO JUSTIFY THIS. If this happened under Obama it was bullshit and should stop. It is happening under Trump, and it is bullshit, and it should stop. Both those things can be true. I have zero interest here in being morally superior so if I congratulate you on your superior OWNZING of the neolibs with your “this is an Obama policy” crack, can we give these mothers their babies back please? Can we do the job in front of us, right now today?

Because it’s monstrous. It’s incomprehensible. There is no reason for it and there’s no possible justification that fits within the bounds of human decency. The ONLY justification for doing it to other parents is that our society sincerely considers that perhaps parents of color do not love their children as much as we virtuous honkies do. That they wouldn’t tear the world open with their teeth to get their children back.

I don’t believe that of anyone.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

The Memory by Rene Magritte.

It’s been a long, hot pre-summer so far, which has me feeling languid and ennui laden. We went to an anniversary/hurricane season opening day party yesterday at Chez Homan. Long time readers might recall Michael as my blog nemesis. The feud is over and I won.

I’m still suffering withdrawal symptoms from the end of The Americans. A bit of Moscow summer weather sounds rather appealing at this point. Of course, they make you drink vodka so I’ll pass. I guess that makes me as stubborn as a Moscow Mule…

It’s too hot to be wordy so I’ll keep this snappy. I know, famous last words and all that shit.

This week’s theme song was written by the brilliant Motown songwriting team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1966. It was originally recorded by Gladys Knight & the Pips but Marvin Gaye’s rendition was the bigger radio hit. It’s a foolproof song, which has been recorded many times over the years. We’re featuring Gladys, Marvin, and CCR today.

Now that we’ve shared some juicy gossip. lets find some shade and jump to the break.

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How to Rise

Screw Rudy and George and the pile of burning metal they rode into myth on:

The problem with this movie isn’t so much that Rudy was shitty and then wasn’t. It’s that anyone on earth can show up in a crisis and we think that proves anything at all.

Think about it. Think about an actual crisis. Yes, shit is on fire, but you have something discrete to do. Your job is to stand in front of the cameras and calm everybody down. Approve things someone else has thought of. Say yes and no. You can be calm in that, when everybody’s watching.

But the next day? And the next? And the next? The days after, or before, all eyes are on you? When there’s no galvanizing event, when there’s no movie playing in your head complete with inspiring soundtrack? Can you show up then?

Can you do it when nobody’s watching? When nobody’s taking pictures? Can you do it when you know nobody’s ever gonna throw you a parade?

It’s not even about “in adversity,” because adversity, too, is grounding and centering and motivating. When they’re throwing rotten fruit at you you can laugh and duck and give them the finger. Can you work for others when your work is ignored? When the response to your almost killing yourself is, at most, a shrug?

That’s the test. The hard, grinding, everyday bullshit of working for the common good, that’s the prize.

W. stood on the debris pile and yelled into a microphone and the whole country listened. Rudy held everyone in his hands and said the death toll may be more than we can bear. It’s hard to remember those moments honestly now because shortly thereafter everybody lost their whole entire minds, but in those moments they were needed, these two clown princes of public life, and they did a job.

They did a job and did it well. But it wasn’t THE job, and the problem with a redemption story is that it ends, redeemed. We get so angry and disappointed with our leaders and our lives because nothing is like that, nothing at all.

What is the story if it’s just getting up every single day and making the coffee? Where’s the soundtrack for that? For the long walk home after you cross the finish line, for the stretch and the laundry and the dinner the next night? What if you were judged by the public not on how high you rise in the moment but on where you settle down, at the close of the day, when you’re bone tired and all you want to do is sleep?

What if we judged based on what you did then? What would that look like? Just you, alone in the dark, working on something that nobody cares about, sanding it down and making it fine and true. No one will ever see it. No one will properly appreciate it. No one will even know.

Do you do the job then?

That’s your fucking Capra film.

A.

Memorial Day: Who I Remember

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post was written in 2010 and is making its ninth annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone and confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

Saturday Odds & Sods: One Week

Asheville by Willem de Kooning

I’ve mentioned the celestial switch that heralds summer heat in New Orleans. It switched on this week. Yowza. We’ve had record heat almost every day, followed by torrential rain yesterday.  Yowza. We’ve even had the odd afternoon brown-out as the utility company struggles to keep up with demand or so they say. Entergy doesn’t have a lot of credibility after they astroturfed a meeting at which the city council voted on a new power plant for the company. In short, they padded the room with paid actors. They blamed a sub-contractor but nobody’s buying it.

In other local news, two of my friends, Will Samuels, and blog pun consultant, James Karst, had parts on the season finale of NCIS: New Orleans. In honor of their appearance on this fakakta show, we have pictures.

Will is the gent in the shades. He usually wears Hawaiian shirts so I almost didn’t recognize him.

They actually let Karst hold a prop gun. I gotta say he looks like a proper Feeb, skinny tie and all. He’s even in a scene with series regular CCH Pounder best known to me as Claudette on The Shield.

This week’s theme song, One Week, was a monster hit for Barenaked Ladies  in 1998. We have two versions for your consideration. The original video followed by a clip wherein the band reunited with former co-lead singer, Steven Page earlier this year. BNL performed a medley of One Week and If I Had A Million Dollars.

It’s time to count this week’s receipts while we jump to the break. They’re considerably less than a million dollars.

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I Do Not Want a Grateful Child Today

Happy Mommy Martyr Day!

Sunday is Mother’s Day.  I know this because I have been to the mall three times in the past few weeks (through no fault of my own).  You can’t walk past a single shiny window without being bombarded with the certain way to make your mother happy come this Sunday morning —  BUY THIS.  Mom needs that.  IF YOU LOVE HER, YOU WILL SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON HER.

I hate this stupid holiday. I hate the flower commercials and I hate the greeting cards and I hate the “spa day” thing and I hate the alcohol marketing, the you’re-why-Mommy-drinks little “jokes.” I hate all of it and it makes my skin crawl every year.

(I hate this holiday despite having a good mother, who cared for us and exhibited all the qualities lauded on greeting cards and in syrupy jewelry commercials: generosity, patience, kindness. I know for many of you, that’s not something that can be said, and it complicates the whole thing even more.)

Maybe it’s having lost my much-loved mother-in-law a few short weeks ago, a detonation in our lives around which the dust is still settling. More likely it’s my prickly relationship with my own motherhood, with the Mommy Wars that demand reflexive worship of childbearing without any recognition of the cost of mothering (or not mothering) in American society. I say worship because its implied adoration subtracts doubt and complication, replaces gratitude with supplicative guilt. It makes of a mother an object, to appease and to whom we atone. We direct feelings toward an implacable, unknowable, distant figure, and consider neither that figure’s motivations nor our own.

But what’s wrong with taking one day to say thank you? Nothing. Look, if your mom worked two jobs or gave you a kidney I ain’t telling you not to say thank you for that. If you were a screwup kid, and you want to apologize to your mom once a year for being an asshole, that’s one thing, as is simply wanting to say thank you and needing, I guess, a day other than every single one ending in Y to say it.

But the coercive, slavering Mother’s Day marketing — that implies children should feel ashamed of their weight in a family and try to make up for it — does nobody any honor, least of all mothers. There’s nothing wrong with taking a day to appreciate but there is something wrong with reducing motherhood to that day and nailing Mom to the cross on it.

I hear you already: You’ll understand when your daughter is older! Yeah, maybe, and then I hope you print this out and staple it to my forehead: I don’t want my child’s implied apology for the work I choose to do raising her.

It’s work. Of course it’s work. I play games when I’m tired and go to the park when I’m sick and read to her when her 5,000th request of Wheedle on the Needle bores me senseless, and I come home early for dinner when I could be out with friends. I cook endless pans of mac and cheese and cut her toast into quarters. I sign her up for soccer camp and make doctor’s appointments and ponder how she manages to rip holes in the knees of every pair of leggings she has. She’s the reason I function on six hours of sleep and eight cups of coffee and I swear to God the next time I have to remind her not to carry the cat around like he’s a feckin’ football I’m gonna lose it.

And I don’t ever even once want her to think that any of that was some noble sacrifice I made despite my heart’s desires, or think about how she was a bother or a chore or a piece of drudgery.

Because here’s the secret: We all are. Everything we do is in spite of our selfish instinct to lay on the couch and watch TV. I work hard for her and I work hard for Mr. A and for me and our friends and our families and for causes and causes and causes I care about. I work hard because I’m fecking breathing and that’s what you do. Parenting is hard work. Friendship is hard work. My two dumb cats are hard work. Love is hard work, and we do ourselves no favors by pretending it shouldn’t be.

Half of adult misery is waiting for a parade that isn’t coming or a rest that isn’t restful, thinking you’re due something you ain’t gonna get, and the problem with these days of special gratitude is that they end and then you go back to what you think is the grind. As if hard work can’t be deeply, deeply rewarding and not in an “it was all worth it, even the times you puked on me” grudging kind of mockingly resentful way.

I don’t want Kick to be grateful for a life we gave her, I want her to be a part of a life we’re all living every day, that we’re all working for, together. I want her to be kind and strong and unafraid, and I want her to love and be loved, and I want her to have joy in her work whatever that work is, and I want her to know that nothing is truly thankless unless you make it so.

Not even motherhood. Not for a minute. Not when every night there’s a pair of small arms around my neck and a whispered, “I love you, Mama” right before she pretends to fall asleep when we both know she’s gonna flop around in her bed for an hour talking to her stuffies and then whisper through the baby monitor, “Can I kiss the cats goodnight one more time?”

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Still Of The Night

Contrasting Sounds by Wasilly Kandinsky.

It’s been an eventful week in New Orleans. The city celebrated its 300th anniversary and inaugurated our first woman mayor. I expressed my reservations about Mayor LaToya Cantrell on ye olde tweeter tube:

The slogans included “We are woke” and “We will be intentional.” I’m uncertain if that’s intentional grounding or an intentional walk. I dislike the latter baseball tactic as much as exclamation points. I still wish the new mayor well. Her propensity to mangle the language is good for the satire business, and there’s no business like giving a politician the business. I believe in taking care of business, every day, every way.

This week’s theme song, In The Still Of The Night, was written by Cole Porter in 1937 for the MGM movie musical, Rosalie. It was first sung by Nelson Eddy who was in a shit ton of hokey costume movie operettas with Jeanette MacDonald. I am not a fan of the duo but I am a die-hard Cole Porter fan as evinced by the frequent appearance of his work as Odds & Sods theme songs. I considered counting them but I’m feeling as lazy as the president* today. Where did all my executive time go?

We have two versions of the Porter classic for your entertainment. First, the elegant jazz-pop baritone Billy Eckstine aka the Voice of God.

Second, the Neville Brothers featuring some gorgeous sax playing by Charles Neville. He was an acquaintance of mine. Charles died recently at the age of 79. He was a lovely man with a kind word for everyone he met.

It’s time for a journey to Disambiguation City. Fred Parris wrote *his* In The Still Of The Night for his doo-wop group The Five Satins in 1956.

Yeah, I know, Boyz II Men also had a hit with the Parrisian song but I’m not going there. Instead, let’s jump to the break. Now where the hell did I put my parachute?

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Trumpier Than Trump In West By Gosh Virginia

I’m old enough to remember when West Virginia was reliably Democratic in national politics unless it was a wave election such as the Nixon and Reagan re-election campaigns. Michael Fricking Dukakis won it for chrissake. We’re all old enough to remember when West Virginia had two outstanding liberal Senators in Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller. West Virginia turned decisively red nationally in 2000 and the current GOP senate primary involves 3 major candidates vying for the title of who is the Trumpiest Trumper of all.

Since negativity comes easy for him, the Insult Comedian knows who he’s against in West Virginia:

In response to that tweet, Don Blankenship said he was “Trumpier than Trump.” It’s hard to argue that point as the former coal mine baron was convicted for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety standards. His dereliction of duty led to the deaths of 29 miners. He has spun this as persecution by Obama, Hillary, Holder, Lynch, and every damn librul he can think of. Some people have bought it. It’s the age of the angry, gullible voter, after all.

Blankenship is a rich dude running against Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment. Sound familiar? Blankenship calls the Senate GOP leader Cocaine Mitch and denounces his ties to “China people” because he’s married to Elaine Chao. At least he hasn’t made any tasteless jokes about miners tunneling their way to China or used more venerable anti-Chinese slurs. He may be bat shit cray cray but he’s not *that* cray cray.

I’m still waiting for Blankenship to tie Chinless Mitch to Mr. Wu from Deadwood.

Maybe he’s saving that for the general election against Joe Manchin. He could tie it to the GOP’s Pelosi phobia because of Mr. Wu’s catchphrase, “San Francisco cocksucker.”

Blankenship is running third in most polls but has benefited from his equally Trumptastic foes firing shots at one another. It’s a classic scenario that only changed recently. I’m pulling for Blankenship to win the GOP nomination tomorrow. It will be as entertaining as hell and help the Democrats hold a seat. Joe Manchin isn’t my ideal Senator BUT I’ll take a blue dog who caucuses with the Dems to a Forever Trump Republican any day.

A quick note about the post title. There are dueling versions of the informal West Virginia slogan: By Gosh versus By God. I come down on the By Gosh side because that’s how Dr. A and her old friends Karen and Joe say it. Karen and Joe are from West Virginia so I trust their version By God. I mean By Gosh.

The Mr. Wu colloquy gave me an earworm. That’s why Steely Dan gets the last word By Gosh or By God:

You say Doctor Wu, I say Mr. Wu. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hanging Upside Down

Self Portrait with Halo by Paul Gaugin.

Early summer has arrived in New Orleans. This week featured temperatures in the 80’s as well as the return of Formosan termite swarms who are more annoying than the average tourist. I realize I write a lot about the weather in this space. I became weather obsessed after a certain event in August, 2005. Can you blame me?

This week’s theme song comes from the David Byrne songbook. We saw him at Jazz Fest last Sunday. I’ll review it after the jump. He didn’t play Hanging Upside Down but it’s one of my favorite tunes from his salsa influenced period. It rocks with a jazzy Brazilian beat.

Now that I’ve hung you upside down to dry or some such shit, let’s jump to the break.

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The Americans Thread: Rififi

There are only 4 episodes left in the final season of The Americans. I’m excited to see the finish but will mourn the series when it concludes. Life will be empty without Elizabeth’s spy glower, Philip’s spy frown, and Paige’s hideous baby spy wallpaper.

I nearly called this the DVR edition because it’s coming a day late as I was under the weather yesterday. I’m sticking with the episode title Rififi because there’s an Adrastos-Zelig story attached to it. Elizabeth meets a young cinephile at a showing of Jules Dassin’s caper classic. It’s a honey trap operation meet cute as he works for Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn.

Here’s my story: I met the blacklisted American director in Athens at a party at a family friend’s flat. Unfortunately, it was *before* I’d seen Dassin’s great late Forties film noirs: Brute Force, The Naked City, Thieves Highway, and Night and the City. All I knew at the time was that he was married to the Greek actress Melina Mercouri and had directed her in Never On A Sunday.  A lost opportunity for an even better Adrastos-Zelig story. So it goes.

Instead of posting a period appropriate rock song before the spoiler break, here’s the trailer for Brute Force, one of the best prison movies ever made. It features a brilliant performance by Hume Cronyn as a sadistic albeit diminutive prison guard:

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Go Your Own Way

High Summer, World of Light by Gillian Ayres.

 The April weather in New Orleans has been so fabulous that I’m convinced we’ll pay for it this summer. It’s been cool, sunny, and not muggy. It’s something to hold on during the dog days of summer when it gets hot enough to melt your face and various extremities.

Jazz Fest started yesterday. I’ve gone from loving it to feeling conflicted. I rarely object to change but most of the changes they’ve made post-K have been, well, objectionable. The promoters and their apologists continue to tell us it’s a community oriented festival but they’ve priced most locals out. Oh well, enough bitching. Here’s a quick reminder of the Krewe of Spank’s 2017 theme, which says it all:

This week’s theme song was written by Lindsey Buckingham for Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 masterpiece Rumors. It subsequently became the closing number at most of their shows. We have three versions for your listening pleasure. First, the original studio track followed by a scorching 1997 live version. I believe it melted my face the first time I heard it. Finally, an orchestral interpretation by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Fleetwood Mac has been in the news of late with the announcement of their umpteenth lineup change. Lindsey is out for now. In a backhand compliment to his talent, they’re replacing him with two great musicians: Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers. If this were a baseball trade, it would be a good one. I’m a diehard fan of both Neil and Mike, so I’m fascinated to hear Fleetwood Mac Mach 4444.

Now that I’ve geeked out, let’s jump to the break. I hope First Draft doesn’t trade me for a blogger to be named later.

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The Americans Thread: The Great Patriotic War

We’re at the midway point of the final season and shit keeps getting realer and realer. Paige gets a history lesson but seems to need anger management training much more. I’m not sure if that was around in 1987 but she needs it like Janis Soprano needed it. Not that it worked with Tony’s older sister.

The history lesson comes from Claudia who tells Paige about what we call World War II and the Russians call the Great Patriotic War. It also gives this episode of The Americans its name.  Her lesson is largely true: the battle of Stalingrad *was* the turning point in the war and the Soviets played the leading role in victory. Of course, one reason for the massive casualties was Stalin’s callous indifference to human life. Claudia, who is an unrepentant Stalinist, neglected to mention that. No shocker there.

One reason I’m so fascinated with Russian history is that I had a great teacher at LSU, Tom Owen. He’s a very funny man and fabulous lecturer. I’m pleased to say that he’s now associated with the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard. It must be good to no longer be subject to the whims and caprices of the Gret Stet lege.

There were no rock songs deployed in the episode but this one came to mind in relation to Elizabeth. Let’s give it a spin before the spoiler break:

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Up Above My Head

Trout and Reflected Tree by Neil Welliver.

The weather rollercoaster continues unabated in New Orleans. We’ve gone from air dish weather to heater weather and back again. One day of the French Quarter Fest was rained out, which resulted in wet tourists whining about the wash-out. It was a day I was glad to no longer be a shopkeeper. Dealing with drowned Quarter rats was never any fun.

One of Grace’s colleagues gave us fancy club seats to the Saenger Theatre’s Broadway series complete with free food and valet parking. Thanks, Ritu. We saw Rent, which I liked a lot. The best part of the evening was a bossy African-American woman usher who combined sternness and politeness.  One patron was confused about how they ordered the rows and the usher said, “You’re in row H. It’s the alphabet, m’am. It’s the alphabet.” Fuckin’ A.

You’re probably wondering why an agnostic is posting a gospel tune as this week’s theme song. It’s because Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an amazing singer, songwriter, and character.  Up Above My Head is also a real toe-tapper. What’s not to love about a church lady with an electric guitar? We have three versions: Sister Rosetta, Rhiannon Giddens, and the Jayhawks.

Now that we’re imbued with the spirit, let’s jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Shoot Out The Lights

Deux Fois du Noir by Yves Tanguy

We resume our regularly scheduled programming after my Wag The Dog Incoherently post. Somebody’s gotta be normal in these abnormal times.

It’s been an interesting week in New Orleans. A 4,200 gallon oil spill isn’t huge by oil industry standards but it’s stinky enough that residents are raising a stink about it. A good thing: minor oil spills are way of life on the Big Muddy, which could be re-nicknamed the Big Oily or Big Greasy. Either way it’s not good. It’s actually diesel fuel. Vin Diesel was unavailable for comment…

The big local story this week was the sale of Gambit Weekly to the Advocate. Because of savvy management by owners Margot and Clancy DuBos, Gambit is one of the few alt-weeklies that has thrived in the internet era. The deal includes retention of Gambit’s crack editorial team including my friend Kevin Allman as editor. (In the interests of full disclosure, Clancy is also a friend.) Kevin helped bring the publication into online era, which made it an attractive proposition to the Advocate. One reason for the staff retention is that Advocate publisher Dan Shea was purged by the Picayune and has some empathy for other journalists. Imagine that. Besides, the Gambit staff is as talented as all get out. As far as I’m concerned, this is good news as it will allow Gambit to survive in a tough environment for alt-weeklies. Here’s hoping that the Advocate people will keep their word about letting Gambit be Gambit. So far, the signs are good.

This week’s theme song is the title track of one of the greatest break-up albums of all-time. It’s eerie to hear Linda Thompson sing sad songs written by her soon-to-be ex-husband. Shoot Out The Lights has developed into one of the signature songs of Richard Thompson’s live set. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original and a swell cover by Los Lobos.

Now we’ve shot out the lights, let’s take a shot at jumping to the break.

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Never Again

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a movable commemoration so perhaps I should post this explanatory passage from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. When the actual date of Yom Hashoah falls on a Friday, the state of Israel observes Yom Hashoah on the preceding Thursday. When it falls on a Sunday, Yom Hashoah is observed on the following Monday.

In 2018, today is the day. I take this solemn event personally because one of my mother’s closest friends was a Holocaust survivor. She was always Mrs. Rosenberg or Mrs. R to me. I don’t think I ever knew her first name. That’s okay, I don’t need to know that to honor her memory and that of those who were murdered by the Nazis.

I wrote about Mrs. R twice in 2016. The first passage was written after a series of horrors. I was trying to make sense of things that do not make sense.

July 17, 2016:

In searching for an antidote for this palpable fear and paranoia, I thought of the Holocaust survivors I’ve met. One of whom was one of my mother’s best friends, Mrs. Rosenberg. She was a plump and cheerful woman who lived down the street from us when I was a small child. One day I noticed the tattooed numbers on her arm and asked her about them. I was about 8 years old and my mom gave me a stern look but her friend waved her off and told me what they signified. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the Shoah. I was horrified and asked how she could be so cheerful after so much loss and suffering. Mrs. Rosenberg smiled, patted me on the head, and said: “When you’ve been to hell and back, nothing else ever seems so bad.”

My first post 2016 election post, Sitting Political Shiva, also mentioned Mrs. R.

November 10, 2016:

I’m an agnostic who was raised Greek-Orthodox but most of my mother’s bridge playing and real estate cronies were Jewish, so I learned about sitting shiva as a child.  I remember going with her to Mrs. Rosenberg’s house when her husband died.  Mrs. Rosenberg was the Holocaust survivor I’ve written about before.  I didn’t even complain about going because Mrs. R and I had a mutual admiration society. She remains one of my heroes. She was also as funny as hell. I’m convinced that I learned the essence of black comedy from her. It’s the Shoah survivor’s ethos: nothing will ever be as bad as what they went through, in her case at Treblinka.

Never Again.