Fandom: Not the Right to Be a Jerk

As is readily apparent to anyone reading this blog, I am an avid fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fandom: Not the Right to Be a JerkAs a kid, I kept a scrapbook of every Leaf game. I remember exactly where I was when Wendel Clark was traded for Mats Sundin – looking down at a sad-looking plant on a small wooden table in a tiny Roman hotel. My mood shifts from win to loss and win. Fandom: Not the Right to Be a JerkI look forward to absolutely every game and get anxious for the season to start over the summer months. However one thing I never miss in July – in fact abhor – is the way so many of the Leaf followers use the Leafs to vent and criticize. Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 8.28.36 AMIt’s one thing to have to listen to moronic sports reporters dribble and spew – after all they get paid to write stupid things – but entirely another to hear supposed supporters spout their vitriol.

As much as these people claim to be fans of their teams, the truth is they’re not. Their anger has nothing to do with support, but instead reflects their pathetic isolation and bitter self-reflection on lives ill-led. Nothing more.Fandom: Not the Right to Be a JerkAs frustrated as I might get with the Toronto Maple Leafs, I always support them, yes, through the six-game losing streaks, the disappointing seasons and the 47-year Stanley Cup drought. While I can be critical, the Leafs are my team. It’s not a complicated thing. Fandom: Not the Right to Be a JerkGo Leafs Go. (And to you fickle fans, I say “Go away.”)

Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana Plantation

The property at Oak Alley Plantation is something to behold. One of dozens of Louisiana plantations along the Mississippi River that once oversaw the farming of sugar cane, this house features 300-year-old oaks lining the walk. Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana PlantationThe history of the Creole family who owned the home is also intriguing; ice was imported, at a cost of thousands of dollars per week, for their regular dinner parties. Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana PlantationAnd the fact that you can drink a mint julep throughout the tour is hard to resist.Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana PlantationBut no matter how hard they might try, and how sweet the drink, none of it works. Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana PlantationHistory gets in the way.Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana PlantationAnd then the mint julep isn’t so sweet; none of it it is.

Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana Plantation

A partial list of slaves who lived and died at the Oak Alley Plantation

It becomes a dark place with a dark past, and nothing, not even the lovely avenue of trees, can change any of that.Oak Alley: History on a Louisiana Plantation

New Orleans’ Other Parades: The Second Line

The people of New Orleans love to parade, but not only on Mardi Gras. Image: RexThere are actually 40 different Sundays booked throughout the year for clubs to parade behind marching bands, as the famed Second Line, dancing to celebrate the spirit of the music. Ladies_&_Men_of_Unity_Secondline_Stooges_Brass_Band_2Today’s parade was represented by five clubs: Ladies & Men of Unity, Brother’s of Change, Sophisticated Ladies with Class, KOK King of Kings and Men of Integrity. 20150125_125238The people gathered at the parade’s starting point, Second Street and Danneel in Central New Orleans…and then the police arrived to announce the parade was cancelled because a permit had not been dated. 20150125_124743There was a lot of milling around and talking after that, one man directing people to clear the streets as he served shots of bourbon form the back of his pickup truck.

The police repeated their message. There was more milling and talking. 20150125_131332A band appeared and started to play. And the parade began. Another band followed, the marching band for Brothers of Change, from out of the bar, their second line running after them.20150125_131843The parade was suddenly in full bloom. 20150125_131852A lone NOPD car following at a distance.20150125_132412

New Orleans’ Ninth Ward: Nine Years After Hurricane Katrina

Images of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans dominated the news after Hurricane Katrina hit in September 2005. hurricane katrina ninth wardKatrina detritusMany people fled the area and never came back and it was feared that the Ninth Ward might become an abandoned neighborhood.

Ninth Ward, New Orleans, January 2015

Ninth Ward, New Orleans, January 2015

The area no longer is awash in detritus, although the jungle of tall grass and debris remain.

Ninth Ward, New Orleans, January 2015

Ninth Ward, New Orleans, January 2015

Ninth Ward, New Orleans20150124_122518There are signs of a renewal, and not just in the much-publicized Make it Right enclave where prominent architects and builders helped rebuild on Brad Pitt’s investment.

New houses in New Orleans Ninth Ward

Make it Right homes in New Orleans Ninth Ward

20150124_121507The construction at Martin Luther King Charter School nears completion. 20150124_120102As does the work at the Andrew Sanchez Community Center. 20150124_123127Once these open, the hope is people will really begin to return, the roads be fixed and the empty lots transformed. 20150124_122524And come the next hurricane, the new retaining wall just might hold.20150124_123915

New Orleans’ Prospect 3: “Guns in the Hands of Artists”

This is the final weekend for the New Orleans Art Show: Prospect 3, and one of the most interesting exhibitions would have to be Guns in the Hands of Artists at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery. The images and texts speak for themselves.20150122_12513520150122_12485320150122_124328Jonathan Ferrara’s statement regarding his own work Excalibur No More is most telling: “I have never owned a gun and thought it would be a difficult and cumbersome process. It actually took about five minutes.”  Jonathan_Ferrara_Excalibur_No_More_8827_395“After finding the gun online, the seller brought it to the gallery and I gave him the money and he gave me the gun. That was it, no paperwork, no receipt, no record, totally legal. It blew my mind. Of course, I had to engage in a fifteen minute conversation about the 2nd Amendment with the seller.”

Ticket Frenzy for Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary Shows

I’m a little worked up. I just entered the ticket lottery for the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary show in Chicago on July 4th…but I didn’t decorate my envelope.Ticket Frenzy for Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary ShowsYes, I realize that this thing is over-hyped and over-priced (and that the lead guitarist is Trey Anastasio of Phish and not Jerry Garcia), but the thing is I really like the music.

I’ve seen the various incarnations over the past 20 years, including Phil Lesh & Friends, Ratdog, Further and The Dead, and have always enjoyed it.

Ticket Frenzy for Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary Shows

Phil Lesh and Friends plays Forest Hills, 2014

In other words, as too many have already said, I’m thinking this thing just might be epic.

And so I followed all of the directions from Grateful Dead Ticket Srvices (GDTSTOO) exactly as scripted. I wrote how many tickets I wanted (2) and for which night (July 4) on the envelope. Ticket Frenzy for Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary ShowsI filled out the 3 x 5 index card with all of the required information. I inserted a neatly addressed SASE. I filled out three different money orders – for the lower priced ticket ($95.50), the price difference with the higher priced one ($120.00) and the fee for priority mail return ($9.00). (Not Fedex!!) I did all of that. And I posted it on the very first day, right behind another meticulous fan who scoffed. “We don’t have a chance.”

The only thing I failed to do was decorate my envelope, something that is stated as being “welcome”. This is where I think that I made a mistake. As one Deadhead mused on-line, “I don’t want my order thrown onto the scalper’s pile!” Ticket Frenzy for Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary ShowsAnd while that logic might makes sense, I still don’t see why I have to decorate my envelope. I mean, I’m not a toddler, nor am I ever stoned. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It actually seems a cult-ish, dare I say conformist, thing to demand. If you don’t decorate, we know you’re a greed-head capitalist! (Which I’m really not.)

Anyway, so I didn’t do it, and now I have second thoughts. ‘Cause, the truth is I want to be there. I have to be there! They could open with El Paso-Lazy Lightnin’-Supplication-Me & My Uncle-El Paso-Supplication-Smokestack Lightnin’-Mountains of the Moon-El Paso! I mean, Holy God, it’s possible! They really could do that! Ticket Frenzy for Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary ShowsBut what can I do now?

Maybe I should send an letter of apology and decorate that! What about a picture of Jerry dancing with those little bears and a steal-your-face sun above them all?Ticket Frenzy for Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary Shows I bet that no one’s thought of that!

Bullies on Both Sides

They were big men, both yelling at each other, being held apart. 1And then the bigger one got tired of being insulted and came around. The first guy suddenly shrank back and became tiny, his face full of a fear, saying he had to go to the airport as the second inflated his fist and choke-held him into pathetic submission.

It was just a show. We were all sitting there to be entertained, and the guy in front of me pulled out a camera to post it to his feed. A fan watches a gig through his mobile phoneI told him, in no uncertain terms, to put it away. He didn’t like that, offering a sarcastic apology, and we both missed the bows.

My Writing Process: At Last!

It has taken me 584 blog posts, all of which are supposed to focus on my writing process, to actually write about my writing process…which is now part of the process.20140828_160719In writing a novel, I often find it overwhelming to take on the book all at once, or even a chapter. It’s easier, and more enjoyable, to deal with the work in fragments – a piece of dialogue, a description, a concept – treating each as a cell, whole unto itself.

wo0KzAs I develop and read through each draft, instead of becoming weighed down by the tsunami of things that are not working, I take each one at a time and make notes:

a. Uumlak needs detail. What does this even look like?

b. Dialogue between Dee and Nico needs to be moved. Where?

c. Qoorog needs to be mentioned three-five times earlier in the text.

After compiling a list, I email it to myself and then flesh out a couple of items every few days and email those back until I have a set of four or five back-and-forth replies. Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.33.34 AMOnce most of the issues have been addressed, I format that and insert each section back into the text. I’ll give myself a day or two before reading through the chapter, trying to gain momentum, and compose a new list of issues to tackle as I go. And then it starts anew.

042011-sisyphus-at-gymIt’s an effective process because I don’t focus on where I am in the book, nor how many more words I need to compose to get to the end. It’s just the scene, the moment, the thing itself, and that is almost always a joy to do. (And even if none of it works, at least I received a few emails that I actually read.)

Your MLK Day Quiz: What Would You Do For Someone Else?

The Dardenne brothers latest film, Two Days, One Night posits a basic question for all of us to consider: Would you choose to receive a bonus if it meant that your colleague lost her job? twodaysonenightUnderstanding that your colleague does her job well but she is not a close friend, what would you choose to do?

Martin Luther King Jr. often asked such questions of us. His final speech in Memphis, Tennessee was no exception: “The question is not what might happen to me if I stop to help the sanitation workers. The question is what happens if I do not stop to help, what will happen to them? That is the question.” MLK memphisAre you willing to sacrifice for others? Or is it you above all else?

Sparks Fly from Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus

New York City’s PATH Transit Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is starting to look like something. Sparks Fly from Santiago Calatrava's OculusThe so-called Oculus, to be completed for an estimated $4 billion, is supposed to open December 17, 2015. In the meantime, the sparks continue to fly. 
Sparks Fly from Santiago Calatrava's OculusClick on the full two-minute video here, to see all the sparks:

Sparks Fly from Santiago Calatrava's Oculus