Archives for posts with tag: New Orleans

Alejandro Escude New Orleans
Before You Enter New Orleans
by Alejandro Escudé

Even now, a year later, people are shocked I took a train
from Los Angeles to New Orleans and back again
by myself. No eyes behind me. No verse to speak of.
Absolutely alone, alone and desolate sometimes
crossing West Texas, or speaking to the recent ex-con
who hit me up for money the whole ride back home.
What people don’t know is that a passenger train stops
at the stops, but your mind spreads over the Arizona sky,
into the saddle-colored desert, the Louisiana bayous
where before you enter New Orleans you have to halt
at midnight at the Mississippi River Bridge and all you hear
is a galaxy of treefrogs, then there’s the lurch of the train
like a gold hook unlatching, a swinging ring, my sound,
as I claim it. My life, intricate as the iron balconies on
the French Quarter, a rich, humid harmony of meaning,
shoebox-sized corridors inching along toward St. Louis,
where I stood, and wiped my wet brow, and was free.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author in New Orleans.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is factual. I did make this trip, which was more pilgrimage than vacation. I would never do it again. But I can say that the joy I experienced was pure, as were my feelings of loneliness and fear.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Alejandro Escudé’s first book of poems, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. Find more at alejandroescude.com.

mibbs_nola
Lucky Dogs on Bourbon Street
by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda

“New Orleans was just a wreck: I was totally depressed, and there’s only two things to do in New Orleans — drink and die.”
— Ryan Adams (Q, Dec 2003)

New Orleans crawls along like Nuitra rats
near Lake Pontchartrain,
fishing with shrimp boats
along the mighty Mississippi,
and we can’t forget those street cars,
don’t you dare call ’em trolleys,
Ryan Adams, these slow moving machines keep us grounded
while sweating bricks, on Garden District’s islands
and counting the jingling change in the Quarters.
Although sometimes sad,
drenched with a smashed heart,
I was never depressed living in New Orleans—

but I found myself in my balcony apartment,
overlooking giant oak trees
branching with Mardi Gras beads hanging,
remembrance of carnival parades
floating past my second floor near St. Charles.
I loved porch sitting when it rained,
watching the streets flooding with my flowery neighbor
as we made up play-by-play commentary,
witnessing front doors, abandoned bottles without messages,
stop signs so essential
because in New Orleans no one ever hurries.
You have to use your feet, become one with your sweat,
take in each dirty exhausted breath,
exhale southern comfort burp clouds while stumbling home

under these glorious southern skies.
Ryan, there are only two things you can do in New Orleans,
think while you’re sipping hand grenades from plastic cups
and waiting for your insides to explode
while watching your insides fry.
All the foods you swallow are treasure troves of delicacies
for your aching stomach.
You probably stayed in your hotel passing out
before sunset like a tourist;
the last sound you hear before passing out
that’s the only last call in New Orleans.
But you survived, you didn’t drink and die,
you didn’t eat gumbo and Étouffée, honey—
why oh why, Ryan Adams?
While regurgitating Lucky Dogs on Bourbon Street,
you missed polishing off the best part of our greasiest city!
I can still taste caramel-glazed rice pudding,
there are no subs in New Orleans—

we eat never-ending All That Jazz,
Verti Mart, Po Boys
while diving our mouths inside
Juan’s Flying Burritos.
Forget the forks—Mr. Adams,
desserts are whip creamy smooth
like a Preservation Jazz Hall symphony;
all the frosted layers carnival cake
parading flavors inside my mouth,
salivating hunger all the sounds,
marching horns, tossing beads
and smiles from flashing strangers
while tasting naked midnight New Orleans
and each & every one of her spooning bites.
Ordering my burgers like I love my women—
undressed, savoring NOLA’s sweatiest curves
melting her sweetness like Southern Decadence
with those Abita lips; my favorite dish
loves keeping me up with her most carnal appetites.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Lucky Dogs on Bourbon Street” is my love letter to New Orleans. The first city I ever lived alone, and one of my favorite places in the world. It’s also a response poem to the Ryan Adams quote. I am the biggest Ryan Adams fan and know that when he recorded “Love Is Hell in New Orleans” he wasn’t in the best moods, but I saw his quote and this poem came out. This represents everything I love about the city I left behind. Until you’ve lived there, wandered the streets, inhaled the aura, you could never understand as Louis Armstrong said it best, what it means to miss New Orleans.

IMAGE: “Evening on Bourbon Street” (New Orleans, Louisiana) by Greg and Chrystal Mimbs. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

cepeda

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adrian Ernesto Cepeda is a Los Angeles poet whose work appears in the new True Romance Poems collection, 1000 Tankas for Michael Brown, The Lake Poetry, Edgar Allen Poet Journal # 2, Fukushima Poetry Anthology, The New Verse News, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Spilt Ink Poetry, Luna Luna Magazine’s Latino Poetry Project, Love Poetry Lovers, ZO Magazine, Oddball Magazine, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Men’s Heartbreak Anthology, Purrfect Poetry Anthology, and other publications. He is currently enrolled in the MFA Graduate program at Antioch University in Los Angeles.

Image“Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air–moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh–felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing. Honeysuckle, swamp flowers, magnolia, and the mystery smell of the river scented the atmosphere, amplifying the intrusion of organic sleaze. It was aphrodisiac and repressive, soft and violent at the same time. In New Orleans, in the French Quarter, miles from the barking lungs of alligators, the air maintained this quality of breath, although here it acquired a tinge of metallic halitosis, due to fumes expelled by tourist buses, trucks delivering Dixie beer, and, on Decatur Street, a mass-transit motor coach named Desire.”  

TOM ROBBINS, Jitterbug Perfume

Find Tom Robbins‘ 1990 novel Jitterbug Perfume at Amazon.com.

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“Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air–moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh–felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing. Honeysuckle, swamp flowers, magnolia, and the mystery smell of the river scented the atmosphere, amplifying the intrusion of organic sleaze. It was aphrodisiac and repressive, soft and violent at the same time. In New Orleans, in the French Quarter, miles from the barking lungs of alligators, the air maintained this quality of breath, although here it acquired a tinge of metallic halitosis, due to fumes expelled by tourist buses, trucks delivering Dixie beer, and, on Decatur Street, a mass-transit motor coach named Desire.”

…from Jitterbug Perfume, a novel by TOM ROBBINS

Find Tom Robbins‘ 1990 novel Jitterbug Perfume at Amazon.com.

Jitterbug Perfume has a large and exotic cast of characters, all of whom are interested in immortality and/or perfume… Go see for yourself; you’ll have a good time.” The Washington Post

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Summer in NOLA

Story by Jason Kerzinski

“Hey Sweetie,” a girl in a red cruiser saunters by acknowledging the Mardi Gras Indian who stands with a Home Depot tip jar inches from his flowering Indian garb. His pink feathers illuminate the streets streaked with reminders of last night’s debauchery. His bloodshot eyes bulge.

The few tourists walking by glance with unsure looks at the man dressed in such odd attire. The yellow-and-blue beaded design on his breast reflects pink dusk brushstrokes that fill the sky. I never noticed the pink dusk until I moved to New Orleans. It took me until my thirty-third year to notice the dusk. The things we miss. How could I have missed the pink dusk all these years? The pink dusk is fast approaching. Does anyone else smell a bouquet of star glazers? Can you smell it? I can smell it.

The Mardi Gras Indian picks up his empty fluorescent orange tip jar and waddles farther down to Bourbon Street. The well has run dry. Summer in NOLA. The only way for performers to pick up some cash these days is to migrate to Bourbon. My poor, poor street performers. No one should be subjected to all the vile things that stare up from that street. Tough times in NOLA during the summertime. A gooeyness. A stillness. Days to reflect.  

Photo: Kim Welsh, Offbeat Magazine, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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TOAD SYMPHONY, 5 DAYS AFTER HURRICANE ISAAC

Story by Jason Kerzinski

Another day at the office. My apron is soiled in coffee and splatterings of food particles. My mind is exhausted from another double. My feet ache. My calluses are starting to engulf both my feet. I should really get myself to a foot doctor. That or go to the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas and buy myself a pair of new shoes. I would have but I haven’t felt like riding public transportation the last few days.

It’s strange. I’m always gung-ho about riding public transportation. The symphony of voices puts me at ease. It’s my time to sit back, relax, and observe the comings and goings of the ever-eclectic bunch of passengers. I’m just not into riding. I’m hoping the joy of riding comes back soon. It’s my place of refuge. It’s my first wonder of the world.

“The streetcar is coming,” the man standing next to me says. He’s 5 feet 8 inches tall with gruff sideburns and the yellowest teeth that I have ever seen. I see he has a smoking addiction, too.

I enter the streetcar hesitantly. I’m not ready to ride public transportation again. Where is this sudden fear of riding public transportation coming from? I exit the streetcar cautiously. I decide that I’m not quite ready. Thankfully, I did, or I would have never heard such an electrifying musical accompaniment in my life.

Halfway home, in the distance, I hear toads. It’s symphonic in its beauty. I know I’ve heard this piece before. Was it symphony Number 4 by Bach? What was the song? It sounds so familiar. How do toads know about Bach?   Who knew toads were musical geniuses?

My head hits the pillow. The toad symphony lulls me to sleep. Thanks to the toad symphony, my mind is at ease. The storm blues are fading away. Tomorrow I’m going to ride public transportation again. United Cab Company isn’t going to get any more of my hard-earned dollars. Looks like things are looking up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Kerzinski is a playwright, short story writer, poet, and artist who lives in New Orleans.

PHOTO: Edson Matthews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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The comic masterpiece A Confederacy of Dunces was published in 1980 — eleven years after author John Kennedy Toole‘s tragic death. The author’s mother Thelma doggedly tried to get A Confederacy of Dunces published and finally managed to place the manuscript into the hands of novelist Walker Percy, who recognized the book as a work of genius. Toole’s novel — which had been rejected repeatedly before it was finally published by Louisiana State University Press — won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.

The documentary film John Kennedy Toole: The Omega Point — available online for free at jktoole.com —  offers a fascinating look into the life of John Kennedy Toole and his masterwork. I’m a huge fan of A Confederacy of Dunces and was riveted to the screen every second of this 56-minute documentary. Highly recommended! 

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I love New Orleans physically. I love the trees and the balmy air and the beautiful days.” ANNE RICE

Photo: Druszaj

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The air — moist, sultry, secretive…felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing. Honeysuckle, swamp flowers, magnolia, and the mystery smell of the river scented the atmosphere, amplifying the intrusion of organic sleaze. It was aphrodisiac and repressive, soft and violent at the same time. In New Orleans, in the French Quarter, miles from the barking lungs of alligators, the air maintained this quality of breath…”

TOM ROBBINS, Jitterbug  Perfume

Photo: Infrogmation

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“Madame Lily Devalier always asked ‘Where are you?’ in a way that insinuated that there were only two places on earth one could be: New Orleans and somewhere ridiculous.”

TOM ROBBINS, Jitterbug Perfume

Photo: Bart aka b.rox (Sweetgum buds, New Orleans). Check out Bart’s website here.