Archive for May, 2011

I am a dinosaur.

May 30, 2011

I fear I am a dinosaur. Approaching sixtieth year next month, I was raised in an a text-intense era of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic. See Jane run. See Dick run.

But the atmosphere of my 1950s world was being occupied, slowly but surely, with invisible electromagnetic waves. The television networks were programming my airspace with images of Lucy and Desi and Howdy Doody. Electronic images were claiming vast regions of my grey matter. By the time I Dream of Jeanie came along, I was a captive. But I rebelled, like James Dean or Easy Rider, or Dylan. Pat and I got rid of the TV in 1983. But the DVD player has sucked us back in, and the evidence is more abundant every day that I am a text-obsessed dinosaur.

So nowadays, while the grey matter exposes its feeble fragility as greying hair, I can see that the world is being converted from  text-driven communications to video impressions.
You’ve heard of French impressionism; this is 21st century version: video impressionism. What you see as what you get, everywhere you go, all the time.

Ideas are obsolete; it’s all about images now. My children thrive in this brave new world, for the next thirty or so years, because it is their native territory, as mine was Ozzie and Harriet. Thirty or so years from now they’ll become dinosaurs like me.
As the blue-eyed dinosaur of my parents’ generation used to sing: That’s life; that’s what all the people say–ridin high in the ’60s, shot down today.(my revised version)

Meanwhile I write little ditties like this, or even long treatises, while everybody else posts videos on Facebook, until the medicare panels come and take me to the old folks home where I’ll dither in TV heaven for a few years;  then  I fly to the real heaven. That should be an improvement; maybe folks there will be sitting around reading the Bible instead of watching UTube.

with new novel, Smoke, in progress

A Louisiana flood tale

May 18, 2011

Maybe you’ve heard of urban legends; this true story is something like that, except it involves a hurricane and the great state of Louisiana, so it is more appropriately categorized as a “storm legend.”

Louisiana has a long history of them, such as Betsy in 1965, which dropped, in the middle of memorably terrible night,  a large oak tree on our house in Baton Rouge.  I remember waking up in my bed and wondering why there was a large hole in the  floor with some alien object thrusting through it in the darkness, and then my father’s faint calling, through the howl of wind and rain from the other side of that sudden chasm, But that’s, as they say in legend lore, “another story.”

What I’m thinking of now is a Katrina tale, but it relates, you see, to what is happening now down on the mighty muddy Mississipp, which is Louisiana’s–yeah, I say unto thee, heartland America’s– waterway aorta lifeline of trade, culture and jazz, not to mention crabs, shrimp and oil.

When Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005, the storm’s onshore strike point was about as bad as it could possibly be for the rickety ole city of New Orleans. Counter-clockwise furies of wind and rain had worked up a megasurge of water from Lake Ponchartrain that descended upon the Crescent City like a duck on a june bug, blowing right over the Lake levee as if the Corps of Engineers were just an afterthought in Huey Long’s mind.

A few weeks later, I accompanied my wife and some other nurses down to the storm-stressed area. We drove down there from our home in North Carolina, on a Red Cross expedition to provide some medical services for storm-tossed folks who were  in shelters. I just went along for the ride, and to offer a little help now and then in whatever way seemed appropriate. The expedition also allowed what was to be one of the last visits with my dear mother in Baton Rouge, before she passed to that great River of Life on the other side.

During that two-week tour of duty in Louisiana, Pat and I spent nights at my mother’s house, while spending our days at several Red Cross shelters so that the nurses could provide medical services to those displaced persons whose unfortunate circumstances had landed them there. The Red Cross facilities  were generally  set up in gymnasiums, populated with hundreds of folk and the cots where they slept at night while waiting for an all-clear from FEMA or whomever to return to New Orleans.

One day we worked in Alexandria, a small city in central Louisiana. About nightfall, we left the shelter there, for the hour-and-a-half drive back to Baton Rouge. We had three passengers with us. One was another volunteer nurse. The other two were a mother and her son.

The young mother was a Muslim woman; her boy was quite young, maybe five or six years old, as I recall. She was dressed in hijab. I had begun talking to her earlier in the day, when she explained that she was from Chalmette, a town southeast of New Orleans. Since our evening’s journey would take us to Baton Rouge, and hence toward her home, she decided to hitch a ride with us.

I will not forget driving through that  misty Louisiana darkness, windshield wipers clappin’ time, from Alexandria back to Baton Rouge, that night back in ’05 somewhere between the River and the cane fields and the muddy bayous. The young woman told us of a harrowing encounter  she and her son had had  with Katrina’s furious maelstrom. The storm had flooded her hometown, Chalmette.

So now I’m getting to the storm legend part, or it is for me anyway because that night’s memory is so vivid. She said that the folk down there in St. Bernard parish had figured that the powers-that-be in New Orleans had made a decision to dynamite a certain levee so that  St. Bernhard and Chalmette would catch the worst of the flood instead of N’awlins.

Now, me, I dunno. But this I remember–what she said. And she reinforced her tale of inflicted levee destruction with storm legend hearsay evidence that went all the way back to 1927, when folks  down in St. Bernard say the same damn thing had happened, if you can believe it–that the folks in charge of levees in N’awlins would do such  a thing.

Now me, I dunno.  But I can tell you this. Down on the bayou, levees is serious business. Now I hear tell that they’re doing it again, for the flood of 2011.  Cuttin’ the Mississipp loose through Morganza and ‘tchafalaya, cha, so’s it won’t hit Baton Rouge and N’awlins. But its all above-board now.

‘Specially now that they got the federal guv’ment to sort out all the mud and mess, since Huey Long dun put the hurt on Roosevelt back in the day. And I told him that.

Glass Chimera

The Mississippi River Flood 1927, beginning of a novel

May 11, 2011

‘T’wasn’t  a good situation, there in 1927.
To hear the story from ole Wash (Great-Grampa Beau had said) the captain had ordered the boat to be steered too close to a breach in the levee.  And so, while the pilot spun the wheel in frantic dismay, the Leda Mae gradually got sucked out of the main channel, and then suddenly found herself sliding on a torrent of river water right through a flood-forced levee crevasse.
“She quivered like a bridesmaid in a Yazoo wedding, then slid on down, twirling and rockin’ like a sycamore leaf through a sluice gate, until Ole Miss finally dropped her on Beau Rivage ridge,” ole Wash had said.
It had happened on this very spot seventy-three years ago.
The “ridge,” by Louisiana standards constituted a mere rise of a few feet in several hundred of distance. And this is where William was now sitting,  recalling  the story that had been told to him of the demise of the Leda Mae.  He was eating a pastrami sandwich, while taking a break from his work in the microbiology lab.
But even before that unfortunate incident, William’s great grandfather, Beauregard Theseus, had quite possibly sat in this same spot back in, oh, 1907 or so, as he took a break from running one of the largest cotton plantations this side of New Orleans.

from page 1 of Glass Chimera

This is Psalm 19:

May 6, 2011

(Blatant childlike, anthropomorphic faith, and lovin’ it)

The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Day to day they pour forth the message, and night reveals knowledge. Yet there is no speech; nor are there words. No voice is heard.

The vibrations of the heavens have gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world.

In them he has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, who rejoices like a strong man to run his course. The sun’s rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes!, more desirable than fine gold, sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. What man can discern his own errors? Oh God! Acquit me of my hidden faults, and keep me–your servant–from presumptuous sins. Let them not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless before you, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditaion of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer!