Thursday, February 26, 2009
Pre-Mardi Gras Weekend (Sat, Sun, Mon, Fat Tues), there were a handful of parades I attended. Krewe de Vieux in the French Quarter on Saturday, February 7, in throwback style with lots of costumed paraders on foot, smaller floats, and raunchy satire ("Stimulus Package," "Stocks and Bondage"), celebrated by me and Betsy and Ellis, as we indulged in our own shout-out to the past (passing around a flask of Taaka vodka and orange juice, sick, wandering the quarter feeling like we were stumbling around the set of a play); a couple laid-back uptown day parades on Sunday, February 15, lots of little kids and middle-aged ladies; Wednesday, February 18, my first uptown night parade, quiet but foreboding with the chilly breeze and sound of drums in the darkness; and finally, the highlight, Thursday, February 19's Muses! I left work early because we had no business and walked briskly from Prytania and Robert down to St. Charles and Jackson Ave.
From Jackson Ave. to Lee Circle, nine streets are named after each of the nine Greek Muses. My dad taught me an acryonym to remember them by: CUTECTEMP. Calliope, Urania, Terpsichore, Erato, Clio, Thalia, Euterpe, Melpomene, and Polymnia. In New Orleans, they're pronounced in goofy local versions, like CL10, Terp-si-chore, Call-i-ope, and Mel-po-mene. Muses the parade has an almost all-female crew, some of the most aesthetically-pleasing floats, extravagant throws, and eclectic array of entertainment. The Pussy-Footers, the Bearded Oysters, and the Camel-Toe Steppers were among the alternatives to high school dance teams. I really want to be a Camel-Toe Stepper, but apparently they are very elite and exclusive. Apparently they think they have better camel-toe than anybody else. Betsy and Jude were in the 9th Ward Marching Band; Betsy held the mallet to Jude's gong. Jude hit the gong once a fifteen minute song-cycle. Elvises on motor-scooters soliciting kisses on the cheek cracked me up. People on stilts, little boys on unicycles, and random walkers with butterfly wings made up the inter-float entertainment. The Hot Eight Brass Band and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes performed, the former on foot, the latter on a float. Antoinette K-Doe rode in a giant red sparkly shoe, with her Ernie K-Doe doll; and she died the night before Mardi Gras Day, to spend an eternity in the Elysian Fields of Carnival. The Muses throws are girly and fantastic; they throw sparkly spangled life-size high-heeled shoes, necklaces with mini shoes, martini glasses, and lip-gloss. We were all reduced to little kids, whining for throws and getting pouty and competitive (Mel caught two shoes! That's so unfair! And she indiscriminately gave one away, meaning, she didn't give to me.) Muses is definitely one of my favorite parades, certainly one of the most dazzling and creative.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I want all the music. Maybe I won't even listen to all of it. There will be duds but I will know they are duds. For the record, I'll have all the records. In an age when you can have it all, why suffer from anxiety about missing spaces in your Itunes library?
It's a masculine trait, really, the need to know all the stuff, boast the repertoire, whip out the goods, in case you were doubting. So as a female, maybe I feel the need even more, to compensate for my fickle, errant ways. Which aren't necessarily gendered, it's just that we are better at turning them into charming. Whimsical, and randomly-beckoned, I dream of Van Morrison but won't give Neil Young the time of day; Bjork is a goddess to me but I'd rather skip over Regina Specktor. The Band is my favorite four-some.
I like music the way I like people. Individuals who move me. I don't trust a "scene," and i don't like all the people at the party. This is why Pandora actually ruins music for me...
So who cares? I ain't no monkey but I know what i like. This music sounds like the way I want to be, and that doesn't.
The moral question for every woman or man: why encumber yourself with knowledge when you can more easily endear your freewheeling self? Is that choosing wisdom over knowledge, or the superficial over the real; or is it about knowing yourself, strengths and limitations? Being an artist over a scholar? So many dichotomies.
Well, this post sure went its own way...but I'm serious about them bit torrents...
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I don't want to argue about the eminence of Neil Young. I know I'm a blogger and all, but this doesn't mean I know everything (I'm sorry to break it to you this way); a lot of the time, all I have is my opinion and the means to spin it. But since I have the floor here, let me say, replacing Aretha with Neil Young is like ravaging the garden of delight to clear space for a scare-crow. You can't argue with Aretha. All one has to do is say her (first) name, and everybody gets quiet. She's the embodiment of strong, reaching womanhood to Young's frail, lonesome ingenuousness.
Aretha reneged on her plan to perform this Jazz Fest because she's tired. Sometimes a matriarch has to hold her place and call the children to gather round.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
I needed to buy this book, I realized, not because I'm really dying to hear these academics' perspectives, but because I need a dialogue about the show, whose heyday has long past. Last month I watched the last episode, rewinding about eight times to figure out what really happened to Tony, and then desperately searching on the Internet for commentary, even falling for Youtube videos titled "The Real Ending to the Sopranos," which reproduced the last six minutes or so of the series, but replaced the black-out with an image of Earth exploding in outer-space. The moral of the story is that I discovered criticism's real function: an extension of the joy of art itself, a way to postpone the end of the experience of reading or watching art.
And what of my catching on a little late to the phenomenon that is The Sopranos? In the age of Netflix, one wonders if there is any longer such a thing as a heyday, an event of its time, and if you can truly miss out. When I was eleven reading Jane Eyre, I was commended for my precocity; twenty-three, obsessing over The Sopranos nearly a decade after the show's pilot, am I viewed as someone who missed the boat? The reality is, nobody says nothing; instead, I am left alone in my room to watch the discs, one after the other as they arrive based on my contract with Netflix, the enabler.
I finally joined my fellow urban green youth and bought a bike. She's a cruiser, which I think means she has no gears, pedal brakes, and wide old-lady handle bars. I can ride slowly with a crazed look like in a horror movie set in the suburbs. Or I can speed away until my leg muscles ache, because my bike is set at just the right resistance.
This will be my first Mardi Gras with a bike, which means I will be flying through the city, dodging piles of fallen beads and snaking around people on the verge of tipping backwards from the weight of exclamation, arms outstretched. At night I will catch a chill as I ride through trash to the sound of sirens post-parade, on the way to somebody's house or Balcony Bar or Howlin' Wolf for a free show. (Mardi Gras nights!)
I will not become one of those bike-militants who preach to the non-bike-riding about the true way to get around; I will simply love my bike, and tell others that riding is fun. Already, she feels like an extension of me, the lower half of my centaur-self. When I ride in the streets, the cars are personified into hulking monsters. I can't help it, that's just the way they look to me.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Oyster, Ostra. Genus Ostrea. Of the House of Ostreidae. Ostracized? An academic father might muse aloud about origins, a far-away look in his eyes, before finishing his wine. There’s a book with a stately title, he would pursue later, licking thumb to better lift the pages, as the younger generation might peruse wikipedia, cautious not to learn too much. Now, overwhelmingly, we are taught to make our own associations.
You are bivalved; it means, you have two shells hinged together. One cupped, the other flat, like hands holding a garden creature. Gently opening for the little sister to look inside.
You’re rough on the outside, with a soft body inside. Like a fist, gnarly knuckle clenching its own tender, sweaty palm. Pick which hand? Wrench open the surprise.
There are ancient critters in your nooks. Barnacles. They know things. From a lifetime of creeping in the inter-tide, among the oysters piled like a junkyard of discarded moons. Imperfectly-shaped, they weren’t good enough for the sky.
There ought to have been a Just So Story about the oyster. Or folk-tales about a boy named Oyster, discovering the world.
What if your slits open when no one’s looking, revealing a delicate, cold ball of eye? “Did you see that!” A little boy would always remember the oyster that winked at him.
How one could explain to her child, that inside, the oyster is still alive: “He’s just sleeping, curled up like a baby. Look, they’re all sleeping together in the oyster bed.” And later, maybe read her Thumbelina.
Uncomfortable pieces sometimes get caught inside, chafing against your supple skin, so that you toss and turn all night. But all that friction can make something precious. The oyster and the pearl; the princess and the pea.
I would like to fall asleep at night to the sound of the oyster. A rush of ocean in, then a seeping back out, like the tides.
Friends from high school--still friends, no longer in high school--at somebody’s plantation house in rural Luling, Louisiana for the weekend. Two boys, one straight, one gay; four girls. We girls rode in the back of Paul’s pick-up truck down to “the pond,” where he parked the truck, spread out towels along the truck-bed and laid down each oyster, one by one. We shucked dozens out the back and slurped them down, our own private tail-gait.
Each one is a challenge. We’re giddy, giving it the good-ole college try. Paul, the only scientist among us, and the historic go-(keg)-getter of the group, who rose early to buy these oysters at the Westwego Fish Market, teaches us how: “Find the hinge at the rear of the shell, and pry it open. But you’ve got to wiggle the knife around a little ‘til you hear it pop.”
We’re all quiet, mouths just parted, eyes fixed on the task at hand. Then the commentary floods out:
“I don’t understand. Some are so much easier than others,” says Molly.
“Some, you really got to wiggle around in there before you can find the right spot,” clarifies Paul.
Scrape, hack, jimmy.
“Oooh! Got ‘im. I am so good at this,” Betsy delights. She’s the handy-woman, the sculptor, the chef.
Molly and I are still struggling, riled up by Betsy’s easy success.
“Some are difficult. You’ve got to figure each one out.”
Melissa is the first to make the woman-as-oyster connection. We spatter out laughter, kids gathered round for a dirty joke on the schoolyard. Another opens up, and we look differently at its jiggly insides. This one is layered, like a multi-oyster. “Ooh, look at those folds,” says Ellis, always ready to make cracks about vaginas.
“Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,” goes Betsy, doing a little dance as she works her knife in.
We pause over our work, our fingers a little bloody, hot sauce stinging.
“Eating these is pretty sustainable, huh?” asks Molly.
“I’m so relieved, I’ve been trying so hard to reduce my carbon footprint,” says Ellis.
Shells come off, one after the other. We’re all grinning, drinking High Lifes in the slightly-chilled air. Each one of us aware of being in the Southern country, though we’re city kids, happy to get back to our supposed roots. The pick-up truck, the plantation, inappropriate cracks as we pass “the slave graveyard”; to keep myself quiet, I tell myself to just imagine Chris Rock saying it. We’re sooo meta, I think. One of those Southern literary journals would love this scene, captured. Oh, the tension between the Old South and the New South. Oh, the oyster, cultural nugget unearthed and explicated. Oh, the nuances.
One might meditate about these rituals we carry out with a steady hand. And why they please us so, why we yearn to master them. Like Rolling a joint, Preparing an espresso, Dicing an avocado.
“Peel all of your layers off, I want to eat your artichoke heart.” From Thom Yorke’s solo album.
Once you’ve emptied, I wonder, what could you hold? You make a good ashtray.
Forget pearls; I want shells to adorn each ear!
I want to wear you around my neck, my locket of the sea. I have an oyster fetish.
I want to wind you open like a music box, and “It’s a small world, after all” would be playing. I want to shuck you, eat you, and then chuck you back, with a message inside.
Forget the fleur-de-lis; let the oyster embody what it means.
I’ve always thought, if we ever had a baseball team: the New Orleans Oysters.
I want a pet oyster, in a tank by my bed. I wonder if I could pollute the water enough to keep it alive. You could eat up the entire ocean, like that story about the five Chinese brothers, and one can hold, in his belly, the whole sea.