Friday, September 24, 2010

the French I took

Monarch caterpillar in our backyard. Maya's hand looks like mine in this picture.

Josh Alan Friedman, Black Cracker
John Coltrane,  The Classic Quartet: The Complete Impulse! Recordings

My wife, an amateur historian of rather piercing insight, remarked on how fired up I was yesterday about the Republic of West Florida on the day of its anniversary. Before then, I had a vague understanding of what went down even more vaguely when, but now I'm flummoxed that we don't embrace it more fervently. That shit is cool! At least put that one star on our flag, like on the pelican's chest, like Superman's logo or something.

I often joke that the Louisiana flag should instead feature a pelican shrugging its shoulders with those babies asking whatever French is for "Why didn't we just..." on a banner beneath their disintegrating nest.  It is noteworthy that I have long forgotten as much of the French I took as I have the Louisiana history.

But yeah, I got my Irish up as they say in Black Cracker. As I've said, its about the author's years as the one white kid in the last un-desegregated elementary school on Long Island in 1962. Friedman deals with race well, relying in Reality Then tempered with Perspective Now and renders all the characters with remarkable sympathy. Friedman also wrote the decadently thrilling Tales of Time Square, which I need to re-read, or rather read completely. It had me planted in a Barnes & Noble chair one afternoon until my legs hurt.

The racially charged language and incendiary title (Confession: I got very self-conscious the other day on the bus reading a book with "Black Cracker" emblazoned on the cover with an African-American man sitting across from me. The reason: I am an obvious racist that fears being pointed out, like most white people that wish they weren't. Some burden we white folks bear, self-consciousness about our unsavory aspects.) carried therein will probably get it banned if it gets noticed. Here's a Google map of other where books are banned, from here.

View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 in a larger map

Speaking of books, noticed, banned or otherwise, I stayed up late working on mine, metamorphosing the anecdotal into something hopefully meaningful or at least usable. The target is somewhere in the triangulation of anecdotal, meaningful and usable. Having John Coltrane wailing and swooning in the background has been all three, so I'm a let all 8 CD's of his classic quartet ride. One of the many reasons I love the subscription music thing: I don't need to have this package taking up shelf space, didn't need to sweat buying it for an outrageous sum or feeling guilty for having bought it for an outrageous sum and never having listened to it or pretending to feel guilty because I downloaded it. And still didn't listen to it and then a year later deleted it from m hard drive, a most calloused form of theft.

I do miss that delicious record store coveting, or the way a fancy exhaustive boxed set feels at a friend's house, but otherwise, music is really for the listening for me. I am listening to it now and theoretically somewhere a nickel of thanks is jingling in the Coltrane family coffers every time I do. I'm sure the process will be idealistically improved with time and then some business model will screw it all up and we will revert to wax cylinders and traveling bards and that will be cool too. It takes caterpillars to make butterflies to make caterpillars all the while music is still the flowers.

Sam Cooke, "Wonderful World"

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