Illuminated water?

Louis: You speak of illumination, and call me doctor. Doctor of illumination? Is that like the pot calling the kettle? For to consider the beverage history of New Orleans, I find myself thinking of Peychaud. The man who made those bitters was after all, an apothecary medical man. Don’t forget the roots of your profession, curing what hurts.  Differently though.  There is no way to escape the Gulf, even up here in New England.  When I look at the website of a local association, Save the Bay, and note that their posting of a link regarding the Gulf oil spill was a month ago – I think we are in for a long, long summer.  I am certain that it is because of the Gulf that I am thinking of stormy water, and hoping for change.  To that end, I am reminded of the a cappella ensemble  Sweet Honey in the Rock.   In a recording of their version of the song, “Wade in the water” sung live at Carnegie Hall, they begin by commenting:

And when there is a promise of a storm, if you want change in your life, walk in to it. If you get on the other side, you will be different. And if you want change in your life and you’re avoiding the trouble, you can forget it. So Harriet would say, “Wade on in the water, it’s gon’ really be troubled water.”

Michael: Peychauds is used in a Sazerac.  The older if not oldest of all cocktails in America.  Was served originally with brandy in an egg shaped glass.  The word for this particular glass in french escapes me, but it is often noted as the origin for the word cocktail.   The highs have already hit 94 here in the crescent city.  That does not bode well for hurricane season.  As the tensions and anger rise about the happenings in the gulf, so does the water temperature.  There will be a storm some time this season and we will be wading in oily water.  It will take people coming together to cure the ills of what has happened, but we all have to make our own plans.  Doctor heal thy self.  Ultimatlely we are left to our own accords this time of year.  Got all documents together. Check.  Hurricane supplies (batteries, radio, bottled water, etc.). Check.  Way out of town. Check.  Money saved for hurrication. Check.  I haven’t had a drink in over a week. Check.    Worried about south Louisiana. Check.  Worried about me.  Check.

Louis:  The Sazerac is a great drink — a little Herbsaint goes a long way.  These days, however, that national drink of Bermuda – the dark and stormy seems apt.  I know of it up here because of the sailing race from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda.  It starts soon, and as the organizer’s website notes, the Coast Guard vessel that usually starts the race will not be at the starting line this year.  Thanks to BP, business as usual is not.  As I write this, our President speaks on my cathode.  He speaks of BP and oil leaking, calling it the worst environmental disaster our country has ever faced.  He just used the word ‘epidemic.’  I notice that I am thinking of Jimmy Carter – wearing a sweater in front of a fireplace asking all Americans to turn thermostats down a few degrees.  Obama seems to have tried that strategy some months back with tire pressure.  Yet, Cater went further.  By placing solar panels on the white house, he made a symbolic plea for us as a country to heal ourselves, to selfishly take care.  For information on how the Reagan administration took those panels off the White House – click here. I think that you are correct regarding being selfish in a healthy manner – taking care.  How else can we be effective unless we begin with our own selves.  That old saying I think is spot on:   “All politics are local.”

Michael:  The president would do right by putting those solar panels back.  The best way to lead and manage is to lead by example.  I like the idea of hybrid government vehicles.  I would have no problem with my taxes going to converting.  Convert the entire executive branch.  Humboldt County is having an event June 26th, Hands across the Sand, to promote clean energy. Maybe this tragic event will kick start a slow progression to a more energy conscious America.

Louis:  Thanks for that Hands Across the Sand link.  The event is nation wide – 3 sites show up for Rhode Island.  Certainly conversion is important as well, oil is a limited and contested resource that doesn’t seem all that clean – sorta like eating food that will only get you sick in the long run.  This isn’t fiction.  As the real Davis wrote and sung prior to Katrina – umbrella won’t help when they hit you with a hurricane.  This oil mess demands hands across the sand – the act of active witnessing compelling as you say a progression.  It is, I hope a place to begin.

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who gets it right?

Michael: Just got done watching the latest episode of Treme on HBO.  Musically and visually, this one of the greatest  fictional shows about New Orleans I have seen.  Well maybe except the opening credits and set up scenes  for Jim Jarmusch’s New Orleans classic “Down by Law“.  Do the creators get it, yes.  Does it come across, no.  Let me preface this by saying I just watched the Mardi Gras episode. Mardi Gras Indians at night? People get up early to see Indians.  Getting yelled at for passing out on your own front porch?  You married the wrong person.  Leaving your girlfriend before she even wakes up?  All you need is a parade to “lose” someone in the crowd and go your merry way. Or so I’ve heard.  Who gets it right?  Does a TV show about post Katrina New Orleans make someone in New England homesick.  Does a picture of an oiled pelican make someone in New England sick?  Does it take a slick TV show or a slick state bird to make people understand suffering?  I think Pete Seeger sings a song about it: One Bottle Top.  The last verse is..”Don’t throw your trash in my backyard; my backyard’s full.  Or better yet check the link of Pete singing the folk classic “Garbage“.

Louis:  Well, for me, George Wein helps on this one by linking New Orleans and Rhode Island through music.  Last summer I saw Pete sing in Newport.  This summer, Preservation Hall’s band.  Just as it began to rain Pete started singing, “Oh when the saints go marching in.”  I was happy to count myself in that number.  It sounds as though the community aspect of Mardi Gras does not come though in this HBO series as the Mardi Gras Indians are so much about community. I don’t have HBO, so I don’t know.  However, with the hubbub we started watching the Wire via NetFlix.  I wanted to be impressed.  Needless to say, I stopped watching it.  It doesn’t seem significantly different when compared to network television.  You describe that one might use parading as an excuse to abandon and forget.  Neitzsche did write something about the orgy only serving to increase resentment.  Lent, coming soon to a theater in you! This is a refrain on, “wherever you go, there you are.”  Or, “you can run, but you cannot hide.”  Part of not hiding is a willingness to encounter feelings of a sickening sort.  This is part of sympathy and empathy.  Feelings in this regard are a call to action.  Regardless of where home is, speaking up matters.

Michael: This past Jazzfest I saw the great 70s funk band Chocolate Milk.  Their hit was “Action speak louder than words”.  I find it an appropriate song for our trying times.  Television and movies can inspire and inform, but only the person inspired can take action.  I have been doing my part to make my voice heard by signing petitions, donating money and food, and by continuing to eat Louisiana seafood.  A real sense of community is only felt in the community — not the way it is treated creatively.  We may not be able to effect change on a national level.  Voting doesn’t seem to make a difference.  We must do what we can in our personal choices.  My recent trip to the Florida panhandle brought home the fact that my childhood retreat is in peril.  I must take action to preserve my way of life no matter how small they may be.  Watching it happen and getting upset does not work.

Louis:  Watching it happen, and getting upset is a start.  This in itself is an activity.  Watching is active.  Feeling is active.  Active feelings can serve like compass points to help direct and move us – to as you say, make personal choices.  With a sense that watching is active and that feelings matter, being passive becomes a choice.  It is amazing, that often one equates watching with being passive – as if we were perpetually at the movies.  I mean to say, if I choose not to do anything in response to what I see and/or feel from this perspective, then I am responsible for that choice.  There is a tragic example in psychology showing how this active attitude is not always easily found called the by-stander effect:  that when one thinks that others might do something one tends to avoid a sense of personal responsibility.  One might consider, can I live with knowing that I have chosen that particular course – am I ashamed or happy.   Writing this, I am reminded of Ram Dass speaking on service.  There he sounds very much like this old saying, “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”.

Michael: I see your point Dr. Rothschild.  I have learned that life comes down to a series of choices.  I believe that if everyone lights one candle we can illuminate the world.

Published in: on June 13, 2010 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  


Louis:  In reading over your last comment on hospitality and kindness — in addition to if in fact New Orleans is part of America – I find myself thinking on two threads.  Let’s see what we can do with them in regard to conceptions of home.  First off, I’ve always enjoyed the fact that the English Flag never flew over Louisiana.  Not that I have anything against the English – its simply that this very lack marks a site of difference.  I think that creates an opening.  What happens in such a space can of course vary.  I mean to say – its quite convenient to say that New Orleans is not part of America when the coast line turns black — was that our President I saw on the television this morning touching the ground? I assumed he was on the gulf coast saying, “This land is our land.”  New Orleans with all of its difference needs to be part of America, otherwise it can be thought of as a playground or dumping ground providing a place in which behavior that we don’t want to deal with at home can be displayed and left behind.  In that regard, I do think there is a link  between oil ruptures and poor behavior in the bar.  Here, the second point:  In a lovely little comic book – Zen for Beginners – there is some commentary on interacting with others.  A model is presented of finding one of three relationships – host and guest (guest is confused), guest and guest (both are confused), and lastly  host and host (both know).  Of the host and host position my comic book tells me that it is like “Two thieves meeting in the night.  They know each other immediately.”

Michael: I did not know the British flag never flew over the state?  Louisiana history was in the 8th grade.  I need a refresher course.  I do know some of the British are leaving their mark on the state these days.  Former governor and current federal prisoner, Edwin Edwards, was asked how he would have responded to the slow federal response to the levee breaks.  His reply: I would have closed the port.  He would have put a blockade on the river and let nothing in or out until the government stepped up to the plate.  New Orleans and the Gulf Coast do matter.  Do people realize we provide over a third of the seafood to this country?  Do people realize we are one of the largest ports in the WORLD?  Trust me when the first tropical storm or hurricane puts some oil into the Atlantic loop up the eastern seaboard, we will hear a national outcry.  The first storm surge into New Orleans could poison parts of this town for who knows how long.  It could cause a human exodus.  Are people gonna realize the oil spill and hurricane threat are real in a real American city?  They will when they are guests and restaurants are closed.  Maybe we should close the port for a few days like Fast Eddie said.  Maybe only an economic impact will wake the complacent from their daze.   It is time to get corporate America out of DC and that begins with extensive campaign finance reform.  Politicians can no longer be the puppets.  You and I should be pulling the strings not some company flying under a foreign flag.

Louis:  I hear ya.  The host is confused and the guest begins to panic.  Rocky Horror Picture Show?  But, that was a smaller love story, as you are focused on a love story greater than two newly-weds.  I think it was in the New York Review of Books where I read (shortly after Katrina) that New Orleans is the fifth largest port in the world.  I also read, one possible concern regarding the oil was that if it stuck to the bottom of ships — that port traffic could slow down resulting in a spike in dry goods.  Fast Eddie might just have his day after all.  I was joking with someone about this sort of frustration, and his reply was pretty simple, “When liberals begin to speak of flags and control, you know we are in real trouble.”  Do you think if oil does spread across the planet, that right wing evangelicals will blame bourbon street – that individual sloth did what corporate self interest is responsible for. Mrs. Palin could run on that!

Michael: I don’t know about Mrs. Palin.  I only hope that the state of Alaska is not paying her any benefits.  The host is tired of being shit on.  Sportsman’s paradise is turning into a graveyard.  All the oyster beds in Louisiana are supposedly closing in a week or so.  There is no panic.  Shrimp will be next.  There will be no national panic.  Mr President is dealing with Turkey and Israel.  There is no national panic.  The conversation will begin when the oil hits the fan.  I am taking a trip to the Florida Coast today because, call me a doomsayer but those pristine white beaches may be black come August.  June 1st, the beginning of hurricane season.  There are many people who care for this region all over the country.  My question is how do we organize.  How do we create a level playing field?  How do we disperse the antiquated system we are ruled by?  I say we use piss and vinegar.  It has to be better than wine and wafers.

Louis:  Indeed the idea of democracy is that in which power is shared.  The level playing field is I think this idea of the “host/host” relationship.  Each being willing and able to engage any confusion with a desire to not be confused.  Yet I also want to addresses the reality that often the playing field is not level.  In the uneven situation using power responsibly truly matters.  As is heard in any Do-Jo, “Peace over power.”  Let us hope that we avoid national panic while not engaging in national denial.  Just what sort of piss and vinegar may afford change that alleviates denial and panic?  Well, that is most certainly not an easy one.

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is patience now just a first name?

Michael:  One does not meet many people named patience anymore.  I believe because the word is slowly losing its place in our daily lexicon.  I have observed from behind the bar an almost complete need for people to get what they want now.  They don’t realize that they are three people deep from the bar?  They will wave their money or their hands trying to get to a drink.  Don’t get me wrong,  I’m glad business is good, however it seems many people believe they are always next.  When it comes to mental health, I assume patients have to have patience with the process.  I can have short fuse behind the bar, but how do deal when your patience runs thin with a patient.

Louis:  I hope that I am getting you right.  Certainly when the bar is three deep, you are watching and interacting with folks who have gone out for the night.  Should I put, “The Night” in all caps?  I imagine that for most part, the act of waiting for a drink is not part of the fantasy of going out.  Further, I think — well — I know — we have a folk narrative about people who wait at a bar:  Loser.  If one can not get served immediately, then one is a failure.  The degree to which one needs to defend against such a thought may well be a function of personality.  I dunno — in that this is off the cuff writing not based on anthropological field work, but isn’t that a way of showing status — I don’t have to wait – therefore I am extraordinary — or at least good enough not to be a loser like that other person over there.   I read in the New Yorker that BP was able to get around environmental regulations prior to the current mess.  Isn’t this special status what we consider part of the definition of the VIP?  Can one be a VIP and acknowledge being ordinary too?  I think so – hope so.  In regard to psychotherapy, I was doing some other writing that involved reading about the fact that in follow up studies of psychotherapy, folks who have worked in long-term psychotherapy as opposed to those who do short-term psychotherapy  look better at follow-up.  So, a patient attitude is often helpful.  I’m with the slow food movement on this one, in that I like to joke – no fast food psychotherapy.  That ain’t no joke.

Michael: I guess in the folk narrative then the same person is a bit insecure if they place their self worth on how fast they are served in a bar or in other service situations.  My thoughts always swing to the idea that these folks just don’t know how to act in the above scenario.  I have spent the better part of my life in the service industry and have been in bars around this grand land of ours.   I guess when people come to New Orleans they bring their hometown experiences, and those do not rival the experience they get here.  They can stay out all night.  They walk in the street with a drink.  Could there be a euphoric shift in their psychology that changes their behavior?  Or are they just insecure?  Do people act differently when away from home?  I would say yes.  Any science behind that behavioral shift while on vacation, or is simply, as you stated, a fantasy world?  If New Orleans is a fantasy to the tourist, well then I guess I’m living the dream.   By the way, the best way to impress at a bar is to tip well.

Louis:  Well the Messiah syndrome is pretty well documented.  Folks go to Israel, and most are fine.  However, a few experience what is called Jerusalem Syndrome –thinking themselves to be the Messiah.  Might we say that there is something similar for the tourist in the Big Easy – New Orleans Syndrome — whereby one who is suddenly allowed to stay out all night and walk in the street with an open container begins to exhibit a decrease in patience and inhibition? The idea that a change in social context may lead to a variation in the manner one behaves is pretty well documented, and certainly New Orleans pulls for an idea that it is a place in which gratification is met.  So, in your travels to bars in diverse locales, do you think folks are less patient in New Orleans?  What of southern hospitality?

Michael:  As a visitor to other clubs as a road manager, I was always the visitor.  It should be said that most of the people I come in contact with at work may have never been to New Orleans before no less my workplace.  At home they know their bar, how it works; they may even know the bartender by name.  I truly believe there is just less patience in this more connected, everything at our fingertips world we are evolving toward.  Couple that with the loss of inhibitions due to a couple of drinks and I get someone who really needs another drink. There is a New Orleans Syndrome.  People act out.   They act as if New Orleans is not in America and for that reason they do not have to follow their established rules of behavior.  As far as southern hospitality, you get what you put out there.  If a customer yells or snaps or worse whistles, I equate that to being treated as a pet.  You will not get hospitable reactions.  I try to be as nice as possible, but you would be suprised how rude and impolite people behave.  It always brings a smile to my face when I hear those two magic words that are atop the lists of southern hospitality…”May I..”  I don’t hear please much.  Maybe I’ve been doing this too long to be asking “so much” of people?  Everyone have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Giant Plumes of Oil

Louis: We began this conversation during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. How could it be that in post-super bowl recovery, trauma is part of the Gulf Coast again. Sadly, it does not appear that we were mistaken. Around the media it is hard to escape the finding that Giant Plumes of Oil have formed below the surface of Gulf of Mexico. What appears on the surface may equal the oft quoted statement: “only the tip of the iceberg”. What is this mess? Can it be real or pinch me please – “’tis only a bad dream,” wishes those traumatized by business as usual. Unfortunately, explosions happen as do dead batteries leaving back up systems useless.  What will happen as a result of such negligence is hard to judge. What is the responsibility of any person or entity that engages in work? Does having insurance give one a pass on being ethical or moral? As a psychologist, I’m curious what a bartender in the big easy might have to say about professional responsibility.

Michael: Responsibility is not the question right now.  It will take many years and many lawyers to mete that out.  Now is the time to be active in stopping the leak and being truthful in what is actually happening.  The only way we can curb any obliteration of our beautiful coast and the well spring of bounty it produces is to be transparent in the ebb and flow of what is headed our way.  My hope is that those responsible are not taking a tact that excludes all the great minds in this world.  The first thing I do when someone has had too much to drink is to cut them off from more drinks.  It is up to them how they deal with being cut off.  That is the way I feel right now.  The oil companies have had an open tab on our environment, it’s time to cut them off and have them drink some water.

Louis:  Will there be  transparent water left for them to drink?  O.K.  I know it has salt in it, but the metaphor seems all right.  If I am picking up what you are laying down, then post-ENRON and Walter Anderson there is a public press for transparent responsibility.  How much can the government act like a bartender?  And what sort of drunk is BP – ugly, violent, whinny?  What of that poor innocent shrimp that the drunk just threw up on? What will the drunk’s friends say in the morning?

Michael:  BP is the 20 year old that the ABC sends, gotta make sure they are telling the truth – to serve.  The oil that spills.  That is the only problem that needs fixing right now.  Serve the drinks.  Is BP the bartender? That’ s  more the question.  I served somebody a Jack and Red Bull tonight.   That is an abhorent drink, but I poured it, and they paid for it, and they drank it.  Wouldn’t ya know it?  They came back for another round.  I poured it, they paid for it, and they drank it.  They are paying for it right now, in personal ways: headache, dehydrathon, upset stomach.  Not much difference there.

Louis:  Buyer,  seller, and anyone in proximity beware.

Published in: on May 22, 2010 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hello world, continued

Just think of a 21st century version of Felix and Oscar.  Lifelong friends, we have taken divergent roads to get where we are now.   We aren’t roommates, but we share this space.  It is our hope to be both book smart and drink smart.  From our lips to to BPs pocketbook.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hello world!

Work and play – how do they collide in order to make a life worth living?  Coming soon – improvisation of a certain kind – what happens when you take a new orleans bar tender and mix him – shaken – not stirred – with a new england psychologist?

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment