Thursday, January 18, 2007

Life and Death--Writers Writing Writing

Writers Writing Writing

Eudora Welty was a writer and photographer [the first bestseller Harvard U Press ever had]. I’ve never met her, which means I’ve never read her. A southern gal writer from an enclosed bringing up (protected young white girl in black Mississippi)—she was born during the lynching times down in Dixie—a Tom Lehrer song comes to mind: “I want to go back to Ala-bammy/ back to the arms of my dear ole mammy/her cookin’s lousy and her hands are clammy/ but what the hell, it’s home”—damn the getting down knotting up laughter my dear ole friend and I used get from listening to those early Tom Lehrer albums—“Be Prepared, the Boys Scout’s marching song….” A Boys Scout had to be prepared, according to Tom, to meet a Girl Scout out in the woods. “Plagerize! that’s why the Good Lord made your eyes!” So Eudora's growing up a pampered little white girl in lynch-'em-high Jackson, Mississippi, gave her a sensitivity, I assume, that eventually led her to write her New Yorker story on the murder of Medgar Evers (does anyone remember Charles Evers?), an event that happened right in the middle of her "backyard."

Eudora Welty was born and reared [old South vernacular] in Jackson, Mississippi, what we liberal Texas kids used to call “our 49th state”—REMEMBER WHEN THE USA HAD ONLY 48 STATES? Holy Christ! I do. My god in Neo-Con Hades! I do remember when this country only had 48 states; in fact, I still have a huge 48-star flag and a couple of years ago, I sold a 46-star flag (Utah was the forty-sixth state to enter the Union) on eBay for a lot of bucks, my friends! Think of it, one could make one’s living buying and selling antique flags. Jesus the opportunities…and I chose music and writing. I grew up after WWII under the ruling writers of the day, the southern writers, Faulkner, of course, he’s the master of the great Old South writers, followed by big, ole wonderful Tom Wolfe (the original not the phony in the white suit), Robert Penn Warren, poor old wretched Allen Tate, the great and overlooked Erskine Caldwell—God’s Little Acre, baby, a true Old South story of white trash splendor in the grass. I once was thrown in the Bogalusa, Louisiana, jail during the Civil Rights days of the sixties for demonstrating for black folks to be considered equal human beings with me in Bogalusa "Coonass," Louisiana (a coonass is a white trash white man)—why how dare they! and one of the jailers, a man of great learning, told me that Erskine Caldwell the great writer had been their guest a couple’a weeks before for demonstrating for the “cullards”—“I got nothing ah-g’in’ cullards as long as they mind their manners” the same jailer told me; he claimed he had a degree from one of them bayou colleges like Southwestern Louisiana and had known Huey Long in his heyday, though everybody a certain age at that time in Louisiana claimed they had known Huey Long. I actually worked for a judge in the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court who had been one of Huey’s henchmen; he had been appointed a judge under Huey’s governorship. This old cracker judge knew Brother Earl Long, too, the squirrel-brained brother of the great Huey and father of goofball Russell Long, the long-time sidewinding Louisiana senator. “Jew boy psychiatrist shot old Huey,” the old judge told me one time while we were eating Louisiana red hots (big fat sausages) and grits one morning at Mayor Vic Schiro’s special-invite breakfast, to which I and my cohort, Napoleon Brandy (not his real name), were permanent invites because the mayor thought we were the funniest sons’a bitches in the Crescent City and said he needed our humor to get him going on another tough-ass day as mayor of New Or-leeens, though every decent New Orleanian pronounced it “Nu R’luns” and only songwriters wrote it “New Or-leens” so it would rhyme with words like “seems” and “dreams” and “moonbeams.” Try writing a good song rhyming off of Nu R’luns—well there is “nuns,” and “guns,” and “buns,” and “runs,” and “duns,” and "puns." But that Nu R’luns I lived in and loved in and learned in and rejoiced in will NOW be a thing of the past, been here and gone like the guy who wrote the song—gone the women, the gin fizzes, the jazz, Clarence “The Frogman” Henry and Ernie K. Doe and Huey Piano Smith and Sugar Boy Crawford and Snooks Eaglin and Professor Longhair and Tuts Washington…and Louie, King Oliver, Buddy Bolden, Louis Moreau-Gottshalk, Lafcadio Hearne, Kate Chopin…and I am swooning over a Nu Or’luns that was washed away by Katrina and now sits in negligence to rot away while the big New York City developers are planning on turning the All-New All-White New New Orleans will be a perfect little Barbie-Doll New Or-leens, a new Disneyland-Vegas of the South, a replica of its old decadent self gone totally commercial. They'll probably restore the old New Orleans slave block--they'll be sellin' slaves again soon down there in the crescent moon bend in that old Mississippi River as it washes New Orleans's underbelly away sending it down the drain of oblivion--without blacks in New Orleans, it might as well become a funeral home--there'll be no life left there. Oh, there'll be old plantations again! Praise the Lard! and pass the ammunition! so we'll all be free!

I just heard Tony Snow compare Georgie Porgie W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln! Wow.

But what I found interesting about Eudora Welty--and it comes from my having read Paul Goodman all day yesterday [Gestalt Therapy see yesterday's post] was that she liked the arranging of words on a page by hand. One of her favorite word games came from her love of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable-- . There was a section in Brewer's called "Nouns of Assemblage," i.e., a murder of crows or a gaggle of geese, and Eudora used to love asking her guests to make up "nouns of assemblage" of which one she made up was "a stack of librarians." But I never read Eudora and the results of her "battles with the typewriter." In her honor, let me try some nouns of assemblage--like a "quota of quotidians" or perhaps a "caravan of Christians," or how about a "hullful of Helions."

Paws-ing to Howl a Tribute to a Fallen Family Member
I just got word (around noon today) that a nephew of mine, my crazy, wild-hearted, Gay, adventure-loving psycho-neurotic-forest-dweller (read R.D. Laing) nephew while on a camping trip in the Emma Wood State Park in Ventura north of L.A. where he lived took his precious life's companion, his trusty rifle, and ended it all—blew his brains out onto the real forest floor but also the imaginary forest floor on which he had resided for 47 years. He was a handsome bull of a man so full of plots of spoiled love, of father rejection, of movie-star looks but only able to play fatalistically ugly roles on the real stage, of the ability to be a brilliant photographer (he studied with Gary Wintergrad in NYC), of being a trained gourmet chef, having trained at 21 in NYC, and being a historian of some quality, having grown up in awe of his father, who became a famous historian, author, newspaperman, and television commentator. My nephew was named after a famous poet and was the bearer of a framed letter that used to hang over his bed from that poet telling him to wear the name proudly and wishing him the best in the rest of his life. I don't know if the name had anything to do with the tragedy my nephew chose to act out from all the scripts he was offered when he was young. The only thing he was successful at was being Gay--and even as a Gay he was a tragedian. My nephew was well-named; that poet was ruined by fatalistic loves and dreams same as my nephew.

So, hell, I suddenly am dealing with another of my brother’s kids buying the farm; just last year my outsider-painter nephew was killed by an L.A. hospital staff—ohhh, I shouldn’t say that; that’s slander and we know our doctors are GODS! So I take that back; my nephew last year just never came out from under the gas—stayed in a coma; then died during the coma. Gone just like that. Now gone another of my nephews just like that. BANG, you’re dead. Still kids playing with guns out in the wilderness reality forests of the world.

I have one nephew left, he's in California, too, the land of dreams for the men in my family, an artist, which means he’s poor as Job’s turkey and depends on women for his livelihood—so he can be an artist. Oh how artists need women. My nephew who just shot himself to death had no woman ever in his life--he died a tragic man among men in L.A. Read John Rechy's City of Night if you want to know what it's like being Gay in L.A.

A can of beer raised to full salute height to my nephew!

for The Daily Growler


Anonymous said...

I met EUDORA WELTY at the Biltmore in Atlanta in July '57. The bar was full of sweaty salesmen and me and my husband Buddy (died in '58) had already had two or three beers when she came in and walked clear to the end of the bar looking for a seat. Not one salesman offered his stool to her. Since she was a tall woman, she just looked of the head of a man and shouted, "whiskey." The bar tender jumped and everything was silent for a split-second. Buddy jumped up and offered her a seat in our booth but I told him she could fend for herself. She sat down, and Buddy and I never had a moment of peace after that, with Ms. Welty asking us about everything under the sun in Atlanta. Turned out she was there to attend a funeral. She never bought anyone a drink in THAT bar.

Marybeth said...

And a swell of penises (in the assemblage department).