dimarts, d’agost 28, 2007

Une pensée furtive avant de me coucher (French)

Ce soir, si je meurs, mon seuel regret: je n'ai pas été aimé par un bon garçon. Oui, mes dieux, j'ai essayé, et ça mainte fois, mais je fais quelque chose de mauvais, de très mauvais evidemment, car aucun ne vient me regarder comme quelqu'un de sérieux, où en même temps des exemplaires plus pauvres, plus gros, plus laids, moins intelligents, et toute sorte de combinaison de ces belles qualités peuvent bien trouver pas seulement un amour mais plusieurs! Est-ce que je suis vraiment maudit, alors? Est-ce qu'il faut passer le reste de mes jours ainsi? Si oui, mon seul soulagement est que cette pauvre situation présente la vraie possibilité que vous existez et que vous me détestez. Comme on dirait, un indice sérieux. J'espère bien que ça vous rend contents, de me voir souffrir, de me voir faillir seul, la fin de mes journées prise en mourant seule à mes logements, mes restes pourris trouvés par des inconnus, ou bien par des voisins agités par l'odeur de mon chagrin. Autrement je pourrais bien partir de ce monde parmi les étangers dans un hôpital avec personne pour entendre mes dernières paroles. Ah oui, c'est vrai ces deux scénarios peuvent bien se passer même si j'avais un bel amant de longue durée. Mais au moins, avec lui dans mon passé, mes dernières pensées seraient beaucoup plus douces.

Et si vous existez, je vais certainement demander ce que j'ai fait pour mériter cette condamnation. La seule chose que je veux depuis mon adolescence, la seule chose que je voulais plus que ma carrière, que mes biens, m'a évitée, et mon coeur devient un pauvre mendiant, sans solaz, certainement condamné à mourir plus pauvre qu'il est né. Tout ce que j'ai fait, tout ce que j'ai accomplis, je vais toujours demander si je n'aurais pas fait plus avec un autre à mes côtés...

divendres, d’agost 24, 2007

Last Song (English)

When they sing my last song
when they scatter my dust atop the clay of the Earth
when they hang my memory with the others upon the Great Question Mark
let them say of me: he drank deep
let them say of me: he ate well
let them say of me: he strove for goodness
let them say of me: he tried to make the world a better place
but let them not say of me: in matters of love he did not try....

More Good Eats in the City Where Sin Never Sleeps (English)

More fine treats for the finicky palate..

Last night Barbara and I went to Iris in uptown New Orleans at Riverbend. It was a small, albeit midly pretentious bistro, but they could make a great Grey Goose Martini and the had a Cantaloupe Mojito as aspecial that was to die for. For my opener, I ordered foie gras, prepared closely to the old world style. It was very pleasant, but I think they could have stuffed that goose for a bit longer! Then I had a mixed greens salad with shitake mushrooms and a house dressing that was very nice. Then for my main course I had sea scallops with Bak Choi and grapefruit wedges; all in all the meal was very light, but very pleasant. Finally for dessert I had honeydew melon sorbet, a very nice foil to the light summery dishes I'd had for my meal, especially considering the 97 degree temperature outside!

Tonight we went to a place not far from Irish, in fact in the same building as Lebanon's Cafe (which is in front of Iris) called the Fiesta Bistro. At first, neither Barbara nor I thought the place would be all the good, but we figured we would try it on a whim, figuring that we had been to so many nice places, we were bound to hit a bad one sooner or later. We were both wrong! In fact the menu was relaly wonderful, a nice combination of Spanish and Mexican (although the waiter, a young swain from Syracuse of all places, informed us that all the Mexican elements would be vanishing in due course and the menu would be just Spanish.). I ordered a couple tapas and some tacos for my meal, accompanied by two lovely frozen margaritas (you can get lovely daiquris and margaritas all over New Orleans, and many places have incredible early bird specials on these, although nothing as grand as those 50 cent martinis at La Petite Grocery). For my first tapa I had stuffed mushrooms, filled with olives, pinenuts, garlic and tomatoes sitting in a lovely drizzle of balsamico. Next I had a manchego cheese and red pepper empanada, followed by m main course, two tacos, one steak one chicken, both of which I topped with some lovely spicey salsa. Finally for dessert, I had a flan and espresso. The flan was a little over the top, and therefore disappointing; I would have prefered a more traditional flan. However, over all the meal was very good, and very inexpensive: 52$ for both of us. In fact with the excpetion of Iris, all the meals we have had this week were rather inexpensive. As I am wont to do, I tend to add things on to my meal and make it more expensives, but really, it would have been possible to eat for around 25$ at five of the six restaurants and still get a fabulous meal. New Orleans has so many restaurants, and with the reduced tourist trade after Katrina, and now even moreso due to the hot weather, many have spectacular offers.

dimecres, d’agost 22, 2007

Food in the Big Easy (English)

As damaged as she is, as so totally dysfyunctional as she is, New Orleans can still serve up awesome food.

On my first night here, Barbara and I went to a local Lebanese restaurant, Lebanon's Cafe. In fact the cafe is owned by an Iraqi, but the food seems to keep with the Lebanese theme. I ordered their bake kibbe platter which came with a mixed greens salad, hummus, tahini sauce and two large kibbes. It was excellent, but only the beginning of what we would have so far this week.

Monday night we went to a small, rather newly opened restuarant on the corner of Magazine and Milan called Ignatius, which serves a lot of traditional New Orleans dishes. I had the special of the night, red beans and rice with sausage, accompanied by a ceasar salad. For dessert I had their bourbon bread pudding, really a super meal.

Tuesday we went to a reastaurant located near Ignatius, called La Petite Grocery. They had a fantastic prix fixe menu for 20$, with choice of appetizer, entree and dessert. They also had 50cent martinis! I chose a 50cent martini, which was made with Skyy vodka, not the best, but for 50 cents..., and I chose a celery heart and apple salad with walnuts, blue cheese and a white wine dressing as my appetizer. For my main course I had a filet mignon with stilton on a bed of asparagus and fingerling potatoes. For dessert I had an apple tart with creole creme cheese icecream on top. Over all it was a ravishing meal.

Tonight we went to the Upperline, on the corner of Upperline and Prytania. For openers I had their watercress salad followed by New Orleans veal grillades on cheddar grits, absolutely fantastic! For dessert I had their version of bread pudding complete with pralines, again excellent. Hopefully we'll get a few more excellent meals before I leave New Orleans for this trip.

Further Reflections on New Orleans (English)

New Orleans may indeed be beset by a dinge that's darker and deeper than the one with which she was bemantled before Katrina, but at her heart, she is still New Orleans. It ocurred to me this afternoon as I stood in the Audubon Aquarium looking out over the Big Muddy from the relative comfort of wheezing air condensers that New Orleans was pretty much being ignored by much of America. She has fallen from whatever little grace she clung to before the Hurricane, but that may not be a bad thing. For many years, the city lived on the edge of the American conscience, and it was only in the latter half of the twentieth century that she entered into a zone closer to the center of American identity. Clearly, while many Americans as individuals rushed to help save her citizens and her culture, among them the many millions who have been touched by her unique spirit, the government of her country has not done nearly enough to stabilize her, despite the fact that she is the only city of note between Florida and the giant metropolis of Texas.

Again, that may not be a bad thing, for in the past she has been battered, and on her own she has come back, even more unique than before. I suspect that she is rallying her internal strength for another century or two, and perhaps when America is ready, she will be able to take her place near the center of our minds again.

dilluns, d’agost 20, 2007

Post Card from New Orleans: The Old Grey Mare (English)

Today was my first full day in New Orleans, and I decided to see how the old girl was faring, now nearly two years after Katrina. My orginal plan for the afternoon was to spend it in the cool halls of the New Orleans Museum of Art, since with the deep humidity and 92 degree temperature, a contemplative day felt more appealing to me than sauntering about in the blazing heat.

I was sadly disappointed when I arrived at the museum and discovered that it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I decided to use my new found free time to begin wandering around the city in my hired car, a metallic blue PT Cruiser, complete with very efficient air conditioning. I began my survey of the city in City Park, where the museum is located. A great deal of work has been done along the once beautiful oak allee to bring it back to something like its former glory. Sadly, its former glory now seems lost for ever, since all the of oaks along the allee were destroyed by the flooding the winds. To look at the museum from afar now is odd; it seems stark and cold, even in the deep Southern Louisiana heat. The rest of City Park is still a shambles; the swampy jungle from which it and the rest of the city were carved over the last three centuries is quickly gaining control of sidewalks, roads, parklands, and the city itself is essentially bankrupt, unable to keep on top of rebuilding and maintenance at the same time.

After City Park, I drove through some of neighborhoods along Lake Pontchatrain which were all but bourgeois ghost towns last year. Now it is clear that life is returning to them, albeit slowly. Nothing like the heart of New Orleans, it is reasonable that this area would be slower to recover from the devastation. Still, with blinking traffic lights and many fine, suburban homes still boarded up, you still get the impression of a Frankencity, with some parts alive and well, and other parts being drug along. I still have more of the affected areas to visit, but I decided to drive out into the suburbs themselves and see how life was carrying on there. I drove out into Jefferson Parish to see a place barely affected by the storm. Still, one shouldn't think of Jefferson Parish as a suburb like ones in the northeast. New Orleans is a little but more European and a lot more Carribean than the rest of the US. Its suburbs are a huge mix of affluent, working class and desperately poor; in this sense of the neighborhoods of Jefferson Parish had changed little since the pre-Katrina days. A lot of it is poor and working class, a tell-tale collection of sorry box stores, trailers and ticky-tacky one family homes clinging to the edge of oblivion, essentially mere feet above sea and river level, and sometimes below them.

Upon returning to Orleans Parish, I decided I would drive along St. Charles Avenue down into the French Quarter. Driving along St. Charles, one is reminded of the grand New Orleans that was. It was hardly affected by the storm, and if anything it has become grander in the days since Katrina. Almost everyone of it's grand homes is in excellent repair, most with fresh coats of paint and vibrant flowers in their gardens. However even driving along St. Charles, one is reminded of New Orleans' mixed heritage, and it's colorful past. In the best of times driving along the city's main thoroughfares was something like I imagine driving in Belize City or some other third world nation might be. There are always traffic jams, throngs of humanity clinging to street corners, often walking in front of cars, and invariably something stupid going on. Today, the traffic light one of the primary intersections at St. Charles and Napoleon wasn't working properly, perhaps due to the continued restoration of the St. Charles Streetcar line. Fortunately, New Orleans still has some of her old soul left, and thousands of cars were able to ford the four lanes of traffic on Napoleon and the two on St. Charles without any mishap, at least none that I could see. As I proceeded down the avenue, another light was out as well, but this was a less traversed intersesction.

As I approached Lee Cirlce, I was impressed to see that now only had the neighborhood managed to survive, it was thriving. Many new resturants and shops were open, all freshly painted and apparently doing well. Clearly, while only 60% (about 265,000 people) of the population has returned to the city, the tourists are back, since at no point could the city's population ever have supported its massive retail and dining infrastructure. Arriving in the Quarter I found the tourists, not in droves, but in sufficient numbers for August, traditionally one of the area's off-seasons. I drove in and out of the Qaurter's narrow streets noticing that, while the place still didn't have all its former verve, by large and far it had recovered.

One of the most notable differences in the city today is how the racial make up has changed. Current Mayor Nagin promised that it would be a chocolate city once more, but in fact it's more cafe au lait, much whiter than it was, less black, and certainky more Hispanic; indeed many of the new businesses near Lee Circle have an Hispanic theme, as do many along Magazine Street. My little auto-tour took a good two hours even so, and there's still more of the city to inspect between my own touristic endeavours.

dissabte, d’agost 18, 2007

The Penalty (English)

the dark night
the cold hibernal wind
the smell of frozen snow in my nostrils
the moments fall in icey flakes
the warm days of my youth curl as autmunal leaves
and yet I yearn
and long
that some justice might visit my lonely court
Rhiannon you have always been my guide
will you forsake me now
have I not carried enough visitors on my back
to lust
to others' arms
to self-fulfillment
to the grave
you toiled seven years in Arberth
now I enter my ninth in this place of servitude
and long and long so long have I waged war
do not warriors fight better when well-loved
with a fellow soldier at their sides
was this not the way of Southern Barbarians
would I not be richer still with a strong back to my own
however now the sun has set
and the dark half of my year clammers about my limbs
invading my entrails with wretched promises
somewhere in this darkness I shall meet Truth
yet I would still have a small coal alight in snowy moments
this quixotic desire envivifies me
and so I move zombie-like in blind hope
across deserted tundra
until the hammer falls
only once but decisively
and I greet Orpheus' muse
as I have nearly every bridge I have crossed
irreconcilibly on my own

diumenge, d’agost 12, 2007

Weight of the Past (English)

The weight of the past is heavy. It pulls me back to a world rich with stories and tall-tales, a childhood of privation and suffering, of illness and profound sadness, and still a tapestry far richer than the one I behold today.

Soon I will have no one to share my ancient world with. My mother will fade into the Ultimate Question, surely dragging what little pride any of us has left down with her, and I will scatter her ashes with full knowledge that I'm likely to be next, perhaps even the last.

And when I do, no love will be there to calm my heavy sobs, no kin to tell stories to. There will be no one to witness my keening as I beg to know who will bury me. My fortune: to bury my father and my mother and face the abyss with cold hands.

It should be so. I know death well. We have walked many miles together in the host of hearses and coffins, of hospital gowns and ashen remains. My brother is ill formed to live in a world of emptiness and sorrow. His world is small and poor, but it's nearly as big now as it ever was.

I could not bear to leave him here alone. For his sake, I will take on the mantle of Last Leaf.

He doesn't have my past, our family's past, with houses and icons and reputations. He wasn't there to hear all the old stories, to be wrapped up in the self-agrandized myth of small-town Pennsylvania German bourgeoisie.

Even so, most of those wily old sons-of-a-bitch laughed all the way to grave, forsaking those few dregs of us left like empty coffee cups at the train station. How ashamed I am that I loved most of them as well as I did.

My mother's fondest quote: "I swore I would never sacrifice anything for my children, and I never have."

My own fondest: "What ever I've done, I've done inspite of you and without you. The best things you ever did for me were not kill me and not get in my way."

So many graves to spit on, and not nearly enough gin in all the world...

Meddwl wrthyt (English)

my mind dwells too much on you
still unsure what to think
what to feel

I'm ashamed to say I think I'm beginning to love you
you are so flawed
so typical

and yet, tonight I can smell you on my shirt
and all I can do is dream on you
your lust, your eyes, your sadness

the ancient motherwit inside me
is longing to care for you
hold you tight and make you well

inspite of "superior" knowledge
I still believe in myths
somehow my love could cure you

and yet I know, in my heart of hearts
you will not come to love me
today, tomorrow or a thousand moons from now

yet you placate my weariness
and fill some days and nights with hope
in vain tho it may be, it's better than the long, empty night before the final dawn

Peth Od (Welsh)

Mae cloc y stafell fwyta yn gweithio ac yn canu heddiw, a fi heb ei gychwyn ers meityn hir. Naeth o ddechrau p'nawn'ma, ac rwan, yn hwyr yn y nos, mae'r cloc yn canu o hyd!

divendres, d’agost 10, 2007

Out, Out, Damn Maybe's (English)

life will be sweeter
when the "'just maybe's" are gone
when I no longer dream of youthful pursuits
when I accept my fate
and dream not of love, but merely of a valiant death

life will be sweeter
when "just maybe" is a distant memory
when I remember my attemtps at love
as no more than painful memories
when love has no soil in which to grow

life will be sweeter
when my longing for what never was
is stronger
than what will never be

dimecres, d’agost 08, 2007

A letter to M. (English)

Hi M,

I spend my life wondering about the question you pose. As I look around my world, I have to conclude what happens to the broken hearted is that we retire, generally, to a comfortable world of experiences that that we share with generally casual friends, since, try as we might, love eludes us like water eludes the thirsty in a desert. Only, the thirsty eventually die, the lovelorn just continue to suffer as we watch others find something in life which, for us, as the sand in the hour glass, diminishes and seems less and less likely to be ours.

I have concluded, therefore, that love is a nasty, cruel hoax, and that life, absurd as it surely is, is better with relatively little. At some point in our lives we have loved, and here I mean romantically. For, 'tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved all, says St. Augustine. Thus we have experienced a part of it, but we are not fortunate enough to experience all of it.

Few are. I have observed that most people experience a life in the throes of the wicked double helix of co-dependence, a wicked bugaboo who travels in the guise of love. This leads me to the conclusion that, by large and far, those of us in our 30's who are not partnered have learned to live alone, independently, and that is how we shall grow old and die, always wondering if there hadn't been something better. Alas, because of our experience of surviving alone, we have actually dispensed with the need for love.

Of course, for some people there was something better. Alas, for very few. Most relationships are shallow, vacuous fantoms of love. For those few for whom it is not, they will live and die in a life of true love, what we call in Welsh, cariad cywir. For some others still, greater in number than those who knew true love, but still fewer than the majority, they will have learned to love their partners in spite of them, not because of them. So many times I have watched life come to an end over the years, and realized that the one left behind stayed not because of an undying love, but because there was no one better to go to.

I've seen a lot of death. In another sense of love, the love for kindred, I live each breath with a deep and profound sense of loss and longing. That love is real, and when our hearts break from those losses, it is just, since we have lost a love that is forged only in the bonds of family, and so rarely with friends, a bond that is forged in the fires of adversity and struggle amidst people who would never have chosen to be with one another, but who are with one another because of fate, culture and belief, and who find love by happenstance, and sometimes duty. It is among these type of people that love can flourish in the existential sense, for nearly everyone. Romantic love is, as I have said before, more difficult to come by, so much more ephemeral.

And even romantic love, as we conceive of it today is not an ancient thing. Our ancestors rarely knew of it. It is a wretched invention of the Victorians, who lived too long and too well for all our good! They created this concept of romantic love, based on the ancient "romans" of France where courtly love played out its course. However, courtly love was by large and far adulterous and only sexual (and rarely accomplished)! They chose to reinterpret this sense of love given their longer lives, as something spiritual. The Victorians were so dreadfully confused...

People in the 20th century came to embrace the chicanery of the the 19th century whole-heartedly, thus embuing those of us born in the 20th century with a fatalistic, though wholly unreasonable expectation of romantic love. It's a hard act to follow on the best of days.
As to your question, what becomes of the broken hearted... Me, counting myself in their midst, what I do to soften the sharp edges of a disappointing love-life is sit back with another lovely cocktail and smile. My life isn't perfect, but it does have its pleasures. I can't find true love, but I do find fun-time friends who come around for months or years at a time. No, it ain't perfect, and it's certainly absurd, but it's better than dying of thirst, and it's better than being a romantic Victorian and just dying!

Unigrwydd (English)

piercing chill of January
ice upon the spring's threshold
I, I slide along
making paths through the frozen snow
creating worlds that cannot exist

December near freezing
I help carry the thin body of a kindred
down into the brown grass
where she will lay forever
melting into her sarcophogus

in the frozen earth of March
I laid another dear soul down
I carried her to her dying place
an thence I laid her down
I alone will whisper her name on tear soaked nights

any given trip to the land of my birth
I journey across many miles, from beyound the Endless Mountains
to the place of lost love
and there I place roses
upon your hallowed ground, I alone - no one knows

in my home I erect a musuem
to who I was with you
alone now to face what you already have embraced
alone, alone I weep I alone for you
an image of pity and disgust

visitors are bemused at my icons
they rarely inquire
in my home the love that lives is a ghost
a whisper on the wind
from a land where streets were bricked

now slowly with each year
I begin to close these others out
hide my treasures of the past for me and me alone
they will never love me as I loved you
and I will fade alone

perhaps on some January day
when springs have frozen over
and some small boy somewhere dreams
of worlds that cannot be
I, I shall watch from a distant pane, alone...

dissabte, d’agost 04, 2007

Song in the Throat (English)

Tonight, should I die, let it be with song in my throat

but if not tonight
when I die
let them say of me
"he was eccentric"
and mean it

that the theme of my life was
"My Way"
and that I lived every line of it

and should cruel brother love bestow his wicked gift upon me
before I enter immortality
may my song be the Sparrow's
"Je ne regrette rien"

Though to no one shall I ever croak such chords

love's theme is unheard in my country
it was a cruel land where I was born
harsh and cold
albeit picture perfect from without
the bad in the cheese was well concealed within

Old Bertha's pink and white cottage
a fitting epithet to my youth
the half blind one-breasted Wesleyan that she was
kept her house's outsides like a pin in paper
while indoors potatoe eyes yearned for freedom
along meter long trails of desperation
finding fodder in the ruins of an ancient Christmas tree
the fragile balls of which had long since broken on the dusty floor boards

from such a land I hail
but when sister death comes to call on me
it will be in some other place
warmer perhaps
altho I will bring the stone cold grey of my youth with me
for that was the land that raised me
and those were the hapless people who formed me
made me incapable of being loved I fear

and so let them also say of me that I died for love
for want of love
for the sake of love
for the attempts at love
surely they will scar my soul
(lest I have one)
and perhaps my body before I crawl into the dirt

Not unlike Madame Engletyne
I declare
"Amors vincit omnia"
believing no more in it than she in God
so were are brethren
heathens prostrated
shamefully and pointlessly
at the altar of Venus