nine lives-dan baum

i reserve the right to be comforted by the fact that i can always pack my life into one suitcase and relocate, even if i won’t act upon it. over the last couple months, a new destination has emerged as my oasis-new orleans. i believe i got this title as a recommendation from one of the libraries that i stalk on the tweeter-yea libraries!

this is provoking:

“New Orleanians are hard to offend. Stop thinking of New Orleans as the worst-organized city in the United States, they often say. Start thinking of it as the best-organized city in the Caribbean.” (xi)

this made me think of waiting for superman:

“They wanted to be back,” Big Mike went on. “They wanted to go to school in New Orleans. Maybe their mama in Texas couldn’t come back. Maybe she didn’t want to. So you got children staying by relatives or friends, but most are on their own, roommating with each other. Some got a little apartment; some got FEMA trailers. Some are in abandoned houses. A lot of our kids leave school and go straight to work. They work till two, three o’clock in the morning and come to school at seven. I got fifteen I call every morning to wake them up.” He held up his cell phone.

“So, who’s cooking their meals and washing their clothes?”

“We got about seven or eight that washes their clothes upstairs.”

“What about food?”

“Food, hmm.” Mike shrugged. “Sometimes they have money. I give them money, Miss Laurie gives them money. Sometimes they’ll eat by other people’s houses. Our football coach, he’s got about nine boys living with him.” (300)

“At least they’d stayed in the Nine. Other people’s children went off to college, which for years Ronald had interpreted as a positive thing. Lately, though, he wasn’t so sure. The children who went off to college hardly ever came back. It was as though the hard work of getting that college degree bent them out of shape, focused them too much on their own personal achievement. Once you got that degree, it was all about getting ahead in the monetized struggle, and they forgot the community that raised them. Ooh, live in the Lower Nine; not me. Ooh, do a day’s work with your hands; I won’t touch that. The neighborhood gained something when one of its children went off to become a doctor or an engineer, but it lost something, too. Ronald was glad that everyone in his clan still lived within fifteen blocks of one another. That’s how they stayed strong.” (118-9)

we only learn how to love by loving. even when we think we’re not ready for it. if the good people of NOLA have taught us nothing else, it’s that people are often capable of more than they think.

7 thoughts on “nine lives-dan baum

  1. belinda’s got a baby:

    “Belinda lay on her narrow bed, reading /Nancy’s Mysterious Letter/. It was Friday, and a weekend’s worth of third-grade homework from Lawless Elementary School had taken her all of about two minutes to complete. Her little brother Alvin was watching cartoons in the living room. He’d asked for a snack, but all the fridge held was a half-eaten package of baloney. Belinda was free to lose herself in Nancy Drew’s world, where children came home to freshly baked cookies, the chief of police was your pal, and nobody’s dad ever walked out.” (51)

    “Belinda shrugged. In truth, she didn’t really know what college was, other than something for shirt-and-tie people on television. That was good enough for her. Eight years old, and she wanted out of this life so bad she could taste it.” (53)

    “Belinda put a hand on the bookshelf and ran her eye over the severe furniture, the bare walls. She knew what the smell was:nothing. No smell. No cooking smell, no river smell, no mildew-from-old-furniture smell. She was hermetically sealed, individually wrapped, a unit of one, vacuum-packed.” (271)

  2. reading rainbow:

    “He’d never been much of a reader, but he consumed /Variations/ every month. It was a window on a hidden world where quirks like his were not only normal but celebrated. It had taught him a useful word: “fetish.” A fetish wasn’t something dirty or abnormal or wrong-it was creative and liberating. The magazine’s credo, printed on the back cover of every issue, summed it up: ‘Tapping the exciting heartbeat of contemporary American eroticism with provocative sexstyle exposes.’ /Variations/ made John feel like a member of a secret, worldwide confederation of sexual sophisticates. Anyone without a fetish was square, uptight, pitiable.” (81)

    “He took John by the arm and introduced him to a real woman, one of the wives-the naked swell of her breasts, above the plunging neckline, gave her away-and a man-woman so perfectly done up that only her Adam’s apple and slightly lumpy falsies gave her away. They fell on him like bridesmaids, pushing him into a chair before a big lit mirror and going to work on his face. They showed him how to apply the pancake with upward strokes, to better fill in the trace of beard. They dialed back the intensity of his eyeliner and suggested a gauzy scarf to complement the dress and hide the Adam’s apple. Little by little, his reflection in the mirror became more naturally feminine. They worked with his size instead of against it, changing his look from that of a husky guy trying to look like a flouncy sexpot to that of a thirty-nine-year-old woman. They were taking him more seriously as a woman than he’d ever taken himself. He’d been forcing himself into a cartoon caricature. They were applying a woman’s finesse.” (105)

  3. no comment:

    “He took a deep breath and thrust his chin forward. And this is where we decide what our future’s going to be, he said. Look at the Jews. Almost totally wiped out sixty years ago and now they’re about the wealthiest, best-educated people anywhere. They even got their own country, their own Army, their own atomic bomb. Sixty years ago you wouldn’t have given two cents for the future of the Jews, and look now. Where are we going to be in sixty years? Shit. Where are we going to be in sixty days?” (246)

    “/One thing they didn’t take away was people’s animals. It was like every other person there had him a damned dog on a leash. One guy had a basket of kittens. Another had a hedgehog up under his shirt. I ain’t kidding you. A hedgehog. Couldn’t take an ink pen in there, but go ahead, sir, take your hedgehog./” (262)

  4. Hearing all of the NOLA vibe takes me back to circa early 2000’s when i met a native of the crescent city while visiting there who was kind enough to school me to the “Wards” of N.O. outside of the French Quarter. We didn’t know each other but spoke like i was a relative who left there when i was too young to know what it was all about. I think of how food like music can tell you about the people who make it but then again it could just be my love of cuisine…..(now i’m getting visions of po boys ahhh)…what i’m meaning to say is that the many tables of food i sampled in Nola rep the people (spicy, hot, warm, passionate, sweet, tart, bitter, comforting, refreshing, strong, can knock you on your ass……i could go on but i will lastly say that “in times of crisis when everything is washed away you can find a quality dish that has survived all of that.” It’s like you can taste the people in the cooking.


  5. and “taste the people”? are you advocating cannibalism? because human flesh is reputed to smell/taste like pork. just sayin’. but thanks for stopping by.

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