Saturday, February 20, 2010

Discernment: What, if anything, does it mean, Dr. Morris?

Many of us remember Dr. Ashley Morris's role in the 2006 Krewe du Vieux parade. He called himself Mime-boy. The image made it all over the place, including CNN. Here's how it looked in 2006:

Then, of course, we lost Ashley prematurely, in April 2008. I still feel the loss.

Fast forward (abruptly) to a few nights ago, Friday evening, February 19, 2010. My friend Kongo Johnny was visiting from Miami for a conference. He had told me earlier in the day he wanted to hear some blues. I asked my friend Grandmaster Michael (who knows a lot about music) for some recommendations about where to go to hear some good blues. At first he suggested Mississippi or Chicago, but then, settling down, he checked the T-P's Lagniappe section. After some discussion, we agreed that going to dba to see Joe Krown, Walter Wolfman Washington, and their gang play just might fit the bill; they at least would be in the bluesy sector of local music.

Without knowing that Mr. Krown is my favorite New Orleans keyboard guy, Grandmaster Michael made this recommendation. I should have known then that it was going to be a special evening.

I got to Frenchman Street around 9:45 (the show was to start at 10, and it actually did start on time). Kongo Johnny and his friend Stefan the Swede arrived a bit after 10, and we went into dba.

Kongo Johnny LOVED the music, as did Stefan the Swede. They were totally into it (as was I), and I felt happy that I had picked well tonight, with Grandmaster Michael's able help.

My friend Scholarly Nabil also joined us for the concert, and it was a good scene all around.

I stood near the entrance of dba, beer in hand and feeling satisfied with myself, enjoying the first minutes of the concert. Then the corner of my eye caught something large and well-lit moving in the street, approaching the front of dba. Through the open door of the bar, I saw this:
I grabbed Kongo Johnny's arm, blabbered something to him and Scholarly Nabil, and ran out of dba, stunned.

I snapped the picture you see, and just stood there. A chill went through me, and not from the cold.

Then I remembered what Peter had mentioned on Facebook. The new HBO series "Treme" is filming in town, and for an episode they were recreating the 2006 Krewe du Vieux parade. This was in my head somewhere, but to see what they had actually done was just. . . well, I don't know what it was. It was a punch in the gut and a joy at the same time. I didn't even really get tears. I was too stunned.

I saw Peter and Grace marching in the parade, so I went up and talked with them. They were tired and had been filming for at least 7 hours. It's a lot of work to recreate a Mardi Gras parade.

I went back into dba. The parade ended up passing the bar four more times--reshooting again and again, I guess.

After midnight, I think, I noticed that the krewe members then came in to get drinks. I saw Ashley Mark Two standing near the bar, so I walked up to him and told him how Ashley was a good friend of mine. Of course, Ashley Mark Two knew Ashley as well, as I guess he is a krewe member too. (In my stunned state, silly me assumed that "Treme" had hired some actor to do the part.)

I bought Ashley Mark Two and his companion beers, and then I asked him his name. "Chris," he said.

Wow. That stunned me again. That name has some significance for Mr. Clio.

Anyway, that's my story from Friday night. I don't know what it all means. I really have trouble with discernment, reading the signs (if they are signs) that the universe/the Infinite may be sending.

It might mean nothing. It might be (as some would call it) a kiss on the cheek from the cosmos. Or a brush on the wrist. Or a kick in the butt.

The one thing I'm sure about in the art of discernment is that a good guide for the validity and goodness of a sign is its real-life effects. Judge something by its fruits.

So far, the fruits for me have been gratitude and a feeling of connectedness to my friend Ashley. Not bad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Mardi Gras Day, Praise for Mr. Paul Tagliabue

Happy Mardi Gras!

I have been remiss in doing a post on this topic, and then the New York Times did it for me.

Instead of remembering some of the unfortunate dealings of a certain team owner in the fall of 2005, I want to focus on how Paul Tagliabue ensured that our city would retain a source of of civic pride and racial unity.

I'm all for James Carville's idea:
“The city fathers,” Carville said at the time, “should take down the statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle in New Orleans and put up a statue of Paul Tagliabue.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dear Mitch

Four years ago, you ran a Mom-and-apple-pie, just-trust-me-I'm-competent-and-sane campaign against Ray Nagin, Mayor Curly.

And you lost. I'm still a little mad at you for that, because the last four years have been awful politically--four squandered years.

This year, you ran a Mom-and-apple-pit, just-trust-me-I'm-competent-and-sane campaign against a bunch of minor candidates.

And you won big. Historically big.

I ask you this: Please don't BE mayor in the same way you ran for mayor. This city needs major re-engineering. We don't need a mayor who just tries to tinker with what is there. A competent guy running this system will get us nowhere. If you do that, you will be eaten alive, and the city will continued to be mired in a mess, artificially sustained by massive federal aid dollars. We will slouch on, wearing our black and gold clothes but knowing we could do better.

If the latter happens, then the Saints' Super Bowl win is nothing more than bread and circuses.

Please, get some advisers who are more creative than you are, who have a little more of a crazy spark than you do. I admire your competence and your love for this city. Please make a team who will take radical steps to lead us to greatness. Do something about all the vacant buildings downtown (tear some of them down). Do something about New Orleans East, a low-lying former wetland with miles of slab-on-grade housing, filled with people who really care about this city and who want to make a life here. Do something about NORD; make it world class again.

Do it.

Mr. Clio

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why have I cried so many times about the Saints over the past couple of weeks?

Ever since the Saints beat the Vikings to advance to the Super Bowl, it's been common to see tears from New Orleanians and people who care about New Orleans. I've cried multiple times since then. It's ranged in me and others from simply misty eyes to gentle crying to staggered-breath, sudden-release bawling. For me, it usually only lasts about a minute or two.

It happened to me first in the Superdome, a few minutes after Hartley made his kick. It continued to happen during the following two weeks, when I would hear replays of Jim Henderson's radio description of the winning moment, or when I would see TV or Internet highlights of the kick. Sometimes even just video of fellow Saints fans being emotional would set me off a little. It's continued since the Super Bowl win.

[NOTE: I'm not making this up. It just happened again. It's 5:30 a.m. My dog started barking because the newspaper arrived. I went out to get the paper. I read a subtitle under the Times-Picayune's "Dat Tuesday" headline today: "'We have endured the American nightmare. It's our time to live the American dream.'" Tears again. Cheesh.]

Why? How? How can the play of a football team cause such an emotional response? I just wanted to reflect a little on the outburst of tears in New Orleans over the past couple of weeks.

1. All those years of basic sports fan emotionalism. It's a release, the kind of release that a sports fan might have after many years of hope and frustration. Did the same kind of thing happen in Boston in 2004--grown men and women of all ages crying after the Red Sox beat the Yankees and then won the World Series in 2004?

My first Saints game was at Tulane Stadium when I was 8 years old or so. I think it was against the Redskins, and the Saints lost. My dad didn't really want to take me--he preferred playing sports to watching sports--but I think my mom prevailed upon him to do so. I appreciate that he endured a hot, sunny day in that stadium watching a bad team lose. That day was part of the process that hooked me, and I was hooked not on the football, but on the people there and the smells of the stadium and the spectacle of the colors.

I moved overseas a couple of years later, and the distance only increased my love for the Saints. My grandmother would mail entire T-P Sports sections to us, and I would devour them even though it took 10 days or more to reach us.

In high school, I would buy my own tickets for a couple of games per year, and I would take the ferry from the Westbank and walk up Canal Street to get to the Superdome. More love, more losses.

My love for the Saints--and what I was willing to do for that love and as a result of that love--has caused many arguments in my marriage. That's a lot of stress for my poor spouse, but also for me.

So maybe the tears are a release of all of those times. So many varied emotions over the years. So much time and money spent. So much time questioning deeply why the hell I have this near-obsession, when I could be doing more productive things for my family and society.

2. The loved ones who aren't here to see this with us. I know this has been heavy with me, and other people have talked about it too. The Times-Picayune even did a story about it. We remember the people who suffered with us through bad seasons and near-misses and ridiculous referee calls. For me, it's Ashley Morris and Brian Bordelon. It's my Nana, who pretended to scoff at the Saints and would make fun of my brothers and me for even being interested. Underneath, though, I knew it made her happy, and I know she would be dancing her funny little sway right now. That makes me cry.

How could one not cry about this stuff? Ashley Morris was our Moses, the guy who helped us ALMOST get to the Promised Land. However, the Infinite--who/which always retains a sense of humor--had to take Ash away before the Saints could do it for us. I'm glad Dr. Morris got to glimpse Drew Brees and the gang in the NFC Championship loss to the Bears, but I cried with Hana and shared big hugs with her after the win over the Vikes and the Super Bowl win over the Colts.

My tears disappear when I think that Ashley and Brian and Buddy D. and so many others helped push the Saints through this year.

3. A deeper release after what's happened in New Orleans since August 29, 2005. Scenes from New Orleans have been making people all over the world cry for the past four and a half years. This could be part of that continuum, except that this time it's tears of release and joy after so many months of hurt and desolation. I really do have a feeling of hope right now, and I guess others share that.

And there's this, too: I spent many months being angry about governmental failure and the people who bashed New Orleans and wanted to give up on us; I was also relentlessly angry about people who ditched New Orleans, such as the people who run Ruth's Chris. These days, all I'm thinking about are the thousands of volunteers who have come here to help and the millions of people around the U.S. and world who were cheering for the Saints BECAUSE THEY ARE FROM NEW ORLEANS. I'm also thinking about Paul Tagliabue, who made sure the Saints stayed in New Orleans even though things looked bleak in 2005 and early 2006. That all gives me strength. That causes me some tears, but it also makes them go away quickly.

There may be more to say about this, but this is my first stab. And that's what a blog is for, yes?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Today Much of the World is Thinking about New Orleans

People in this city have worked hard to get to this day.

It's a step, one of many that we need to take, toward New Orleanians affirming fully its place as a world class city.

We can compete with anybody, and we can win big.

Thank you, Saints, for helping to pull us through the past four and a half years.

Who Dat! Let's go win us a world championship.