Voice (22)

REQUIEM

So,
when the strong unholy high winds
whiplashed over the sold-off marshlands
eaten back to a sigh of saltwater,
the Crescent City was already shook down to her pilings,
her floating ribs, her spleen & backbone,
left trembling in her Old World facades
& postmodern lethargy, lost to waterlogged
memories & quitclaim deeds,
exposed for all eyes, damnable
gaze & lamentation—plumb line
& heartthrob, ballast & watertable—
already the last ghost song
of the Choctaw & the Chickasaw
was long gone, no more than a drunken curse
among the oak & sweet gum leaves, a tally
of broken treaties & absences echoing
cries of birds over the barrier islands
inherited by the remittance man, scalawag,
& King Cotton, & already the sky was falling in on itself,
calling like a cloud of seagulls
gone ravenous as the Gulf
reclaiming its ebb & flowchart
while the wind banged on shutters
& unhinged doors from their frames
& unshingled the low-ridged roofs
while the believers hummed
“Precious Lord” & “Deep River”
as the horse-hair plaster walls
galloped along with the surge,
already folklore began to rise up
from the buried lallygag & sluice
pulsing beneath the Big Easy
rolling between & through itself,
caught in some downward tug
& turn, like a world of love affairs
backed up in a stalled inlet,
a knelt-down army of cypress,
a testament to how men dreamt land
out of water, where bedrock
was only the heart’s bump
& grind, its deep, dark churn
& acceleration, blowzy down
to those unmoored timbers,
already nothing but water
mumbling as the great turbulent eye
lingered on a primordial question,
then turned—the gauzy genitalia of Bacchus
& Zulu left dangling from magnolias & raintrees,
already…

– BY YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA

remembering: nine years ago today, landfall

Take Our Picture, Gary Leonard

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Vivid and far-reaching interview with photographer Gary moderated by LA Observed’a Kevin Roderick at DTLA’s Central Library yesterday afternoon.

Old-home week for me as well. I saw folks I haven’t seen for, honestly, I don’t know how long. Many of them from all corners of my journalism career. It was great to hear Leonard’s stories from his UCLA days and alt-press work which featured his punk club images (I first encountered him and his work at the LA Weekly) and now his “Take my picture Gary Leonard” body of work.
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And as promised in the press info, he did indeed from the stage turn the camera on all those assembled.

Can’t wait to see that moment.

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Lagniappe

SERIOUSLY though … I think I may have found a close-by place to get my proper beans, hot sauce and smoked meats. Also, the promise is that they will be carrying Leidenheimer bread for the po’boys … praise be.

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The Little Jewel of New Orleans – a New Orleans market and deli situated at the edge of L.A.’s Chinatown — had its soft opening last weekend. I picked up quite few staples I’d been running low on — mustard, peppers, seasoning, hot sauce.

The deli portion won’t be open for another couple of weeks but I had a great talk with folks who are heading this project — a chat that was  paired with Community Coffee and some time paging through all manner of cookbooks. All of a sudden my quick “pit stop” had turned into a “pull a chair up” sit-down.

It was so well worth it.

Stay tuned here and I’ll be posting more as they get everything up and running.
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Sunday Drive: Remembering #42

JUST AS I finished snapping the photo,  a man standing at the threshold of his home just across the street began talking.

 

He spoke as if we had already been in conversation. In other words his statement sounded like a mid-sentence recitation ” . . . from China, from Mexico, from Europe. They come looking. Black people too.”

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Such a quiet street, Pepper Street, a cul-de-sac that’s a hodgepodge of structures, some single-family residences still standing alongside multifamily-dwelings. I had come knowing that Jackie Robinson’s house no longer stood but I wanted to find the plaque — I had walked by it the first time. It’s set in the sidewalk — flush– like a headstone.

Looking down, I wondered why it took me so long to come here to size up what was left. As Sunday Drives go, this was a blink.

Pasadena has named parks and baseball fields, post offices after Robinson. (I just dropped off a package to a friend there last week in fact.) Just across from Pasadena City Hall there is striking piece of public art by Ralph Helmick, Stu Schecter and John Outterbridge of Robinson and his brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson. (see below).

But I have to say there was something even more humbling about that simple plaque on a sort of afterthought of a street. I paused  to talk a little more to the gentleman who had come out of his house so early on a Sunday morning to share what he has seen over the years. New structures, new people, even since he’d been there, long long after the Robinsons had left the scene.

The only constant were the people who come, and continue to. They pause and just stand before that easy-to-miss plaque in silence. Paying respects.

“Not any man could have done with he did.”

 

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