Daily Ritual

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Five, Friday, July 14, 2017

“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
Everywhere else is Cleveland.”
—-Tennessee Williams

Fish on the sidewalk,
Governor Nichols Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

Every day I have to select what I will be handwriting for the day. I carry a burlap zippered bag that used to hold five pounds of Basmati Rice that I bought from the local Indian market (a great bag, by the way) and into this bag I put one, two or three journals. I also select a couple of fountain pens, usually of contrasting ink colors, which I put into an Otterbox armored cigar case (two cigars) for protection.

Pens – I usually have about 5 in rotation – I may put a new one into or take one out (clean it of old ink, place it back in storage) rotation.

Things to think about:

  • Value – Don’t want to carry an expensive pen someplace risky.
  • Age – The older pens are fragile and won’t carry one if I’m going somewhere active (like on a bike)
  • Line Width – If I am going to write a lot I’ll want a pen with a narrow line – wider lines are fun for short writing
  • Ink Color – I like to vary this – for the heck of it
  • Reliability – how long will I be gone? If more than a short time, I need a reliable pen.
  • Amount of ink held – again, how much writing?

Journals:

  • Bullet Journal – go to, usually carry
  • Idea Journal
  • Goals Journal
  • Straightening Journal
  • Fiction snippets journal
  • … several others

This has to be done every morning before I leave the house. The rice bag will fit in my work backpack if I’m going to work.
I don’t know how to carry extra ink (bottle, cartridges, syringe?) – need to work on that.

Walking Along Governor Nichols Street

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Four, Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ancient tree growing through the sidewalk, Governor NIchols Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Walking in the morning is too hard. My feet ache from all the walking the day before, my leg muscles are stiff and weak from sleeping all night. The morning humidity is difficult to breathe as if the moisture is displacing all the oxygen.

Time oppresses this morning. I can feel the burden of centuries in the teetering live oaks growing out of the sidewalks – their ancient roots beginning to slip and rise, pushing the bricks and slabs of concrete up and aside like they are packing peanuts.

I have seen these trees lying on their sides after a violent storm. Enormous root ball exposed to the air – an obscene display of the oak’s private parts.

How many storms, named and ancient anonymous, have these giant trees endured.

Some of them… I don’t think they will make it through the next one.

I have been through too many storms – some quiet, some loud, and they have left be bent. How many more do I have left?

Not too many, maybe not enough.

In the Cathedral

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Three, Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Walking around the French Quarter we decided to stop off at the iconic (and beautiful) St. Louis Cathedral as a peaceful respite from the heat and a nice place to write for a bit. This is some of what I wrote there.

Saint Louis Cathedral from across the Mississippi River

The Devotion Machine

The Cathedral was designed – as all were – to draw the eyes upward, the attention and ultimately, the soul, toward heaven.

At first the peasants felt their rough clothes, callused hands, and freshly scrubbed skin acutely – feeling out of place, uneasy, and embarrassed at their poverty and the effects of a difficult and dangerous life. But the calm and quiet reverence would wear away their feelings of unease and they would accept the fact the opulent gilt statuary, soaring columns, and ceiling frescoes of Saints and the Christ peering down, magnanimous, as if through gaps in the clouds, were all intended for them. Each individual worker feeling as if this vast impressive building – this Machine for Devotion – was designed, constructed, and decorated for him and him alone. A personal miracle that helped him forget the world and dream of a higher place.

At least for a few precious seconds.

Children in the Cathedral

Down the center aisle two children – a small boy and his younger sister, almost a toddler – hopped along, playing a game of leaping contrasting floor tiles in a complicated very personal and mysterious children’s pattern. Their feet clomped and echoed through the vast silent space. All the supplicants stared in vexation.

“They think they own the place,” everyone thought to themselves – some daring to mumble out loud.

And that’s the horror of growing up, isn’t it. At that young age everyone owns the world. Over the next years those kids will come the slow horrifying realization that they own nothing.

The First Time

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Two, Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One snippet of what I wrote that day.

The first time Jambalaya Joe cooked for us he made – of course – jambalaya. A great black cast iron kettle, suspended over a ring of roaring blue gas jets fed by a rusty steel bottle mounted on his trailer, bubbled furiously and steamed like a witch’s cauldron into the humid Louisiana air.

Rice, mysterious lumps of meat, and bags of vegetables went in – to roil and cook.

Then Jambalaya Joe looked around as if to make sure nobody was watching (though we all were – ravenous after a long, hard working day) extracted a large tin box from a stained canvas bag, lifted it over the boiling pot, and opened the lid with the creak of old hinges.

A cloud of red spice tumbled out to disappear into the boil below. It changed the color of the stew from a flat brown to a fiery red.

“That’s his famous secret spice mix,” said some random stranger next to me, complete with a wink and a subtle elbow to the ribs.

Jambalaya Joe cooked the evening meal for us every night, hired by The Company to feed the work crew until the job was finished.

He made something different each night. Jambalaya became gumbo, then red beans and rice, Irish stew, chili, then spaghetti and meatballs… on and on – visiting every cuisine of the world. I never imagined a cast-iron kettle could be so versatile.

But every meal he dumped the exact same tin box filled with the same secret spice mix into the pot.

A Fight on Royal Street

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day One, Monday, July 10, 2017

As we sit in a group listening to speakers outline the upcoming week – I find myself sitting next to a big window looking out across Royal Street. It is the usual narrow French Quarter lane – two stories – balconies above. I should pay better attention to the speakers but my eyes are drawn by the parade of sweating tourists moving by on the sidewalks. Some of them look into the window at all of us sitting there – confused looks, “What are these people doing in there?”

As I glance across the street I see an old man struggling to lean a bicycle against the wrought iron post supporting an overhead balcony. He had a red milk carton full of crap strapped to his bike – a sign of a serious bicycling homeless person. After he managed to lean the bike, he turned, stretched out, curled up, and went to asleep on the sidewalk. The tourist parade continued unabated. They would point at him as they passed.

It is almost like his location is marked on their tourist maps – “Unconscious Drunken Man with Bicycle.”

A few minutes later another odd man with another bike walks up and starts talking to him, “Hey! You’re sleeping on Royal Street! Do you need an ambulance?”

In a split second this disintegrated into shouted curses, “Fuck you!”, “No! Fuck YOU!” – over and over. I didn’t look up because I was writing the start of this thing here. But I heard a clattering and crashing – the two were now fighting.

(This all happened after I had already started on this subject or I would have written about something else.)

When I write I feel a need to explore the thin membrane between the comfortable everyday world we move in and the unimaginable terror of the chaos that rules on the other side.

This drunken bicycle guy lives right on the membrane, stretching it thin – crucified on the border between the tourists of the French Quarter and the trackless void beyond.

When I looked up, everyone had moved on.

I guess now they will have to change all the tourist maps.

What I learned this week, July 9, 2017

The imposing facade of the St. Vincent’s Guest House, facing Magazine Street in New Orleans. I had to move around a bunch of film crews and trucks to get this – they were shooting scenes for Treme. The St. Vincent must be a popular location – they did scenes for Red (the Bruce Willis film) there – now I’ll have to watch the damn thing.

Lower Garden District landmark St. Vincent’s Guest House to be renovated, converted into luxury hotel

This is very sad to me – St. Vincent’s is one of my favorite places – I wrote about it here.

Now I won’t be able to afford to stay there. But at least it will survive (and thrive). Time marches on.

Here’s a closeup of the sculpture on the clock on the carriage house. Pretty cool, huh. You’re not going to see stuff like this hanging off the Hilton.

I hope they keep the gargoyle.


Napflix

Napflix is a video platform where you can find the most silent and sleepy content selection to relax your brain and easily fall asleep.

Taking siesta to the next level.

While viewing Napflix I discovered a game of Pétanque.  It wasn’t very exciting, but I found it interesting. Now, I find there is a Dallas Pétanque Club. Now I feel an urge to visit them someday and see a game.

These rabbit holes are so easy to fall into.


And now that we have Napflix – in Spain there is a bar dedicated to the art of the nap.

Spain’s First ‘Nap Bar’ Just Opened in Madrid


Send a Text to SFMOMA and They’ll Text You Back an Artwork


50 (Big and Little) Things It’s Finally Time to Get Rid of

Your new decluttering motto: #ruthless.


Texas liquor agency rebuked after investigation of Spec’s

The special evil of a regulatory bureaucracy.


The Universe Itself May Be Unnatural


KAFKA’S JOKE BOOK

Why did the chicken cross the road?

It had been crossing so long it could not remember. As it stopped in the middle to look back, a car sped by, spinning it around. Disoriented, the chicken realized it could no longer tell which way it was going. It stands there still.


Oh the irony of driving cars to ride bikes


10 Bike Lanes So Depressingly Crappy They’re Almost Funny

I’ve seen some that could make this list.

This photo, however, is a pretty nice pair of lanes, though they tend to get covered with broken glass.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

The city I live in has done a good job of putting in useful, dedicated lanes.

Bike Lanes on Custer Road

Bike lane on Yale, near my house.