Monday, December 27, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

It's interesting to see where your mind takes you when it is lulled back into familiar routine.  Today at my job I had the old song, 'Auld Lang Syne' stuck in my head.  At least, I had the melody and some of the words.  I decided to look it up, to learn a little about this 'Auld' song to see what it's origins were.  I was surprised to find that it dated back at least to the 1600's in Scotland.  A gentleman named Robert Burns found some of these old verses and translated them into the song we recognize today.  Of course Burns' version has been Americanized, almost brutally some would say.  I prefer Burn's version especially when provided with the definitions of certain questionable words and phrases.

The main idea that I gathered from this song, and why it is so popular on New Year's is the sentiment that we should honor and recognize old friends and the experiences that we have shared together.  We should be thankful for those times from long ago and honor them in the moment, and all year long and for a lifetime!  How easily we forget the connections we have created with each other, how thin become the ties that once bound us together in friendship.  There are many friends who are taken from us cruelly, there are some friends we have let pass us by and out of our lives.  I have friends like this.  Friends who have drifted, who have allowed a misunderstanding or unkind moment to fester into the distance of years.  Time spent apart with a complete communication breakdown.  Because of this particular misunderstanding to which I am referring, I do not like to speak of politics and I tread carefully around topics of religion.  We all have our differences and it is in our best interest to honor the opinions of our friends and not judge them or call them rednecks in a social networking forum for not supporting certain presidential candidates.  I still can't believe that I lost a longtime friend over political differences and pride.  For this friend I wrote a poem that is in my new book, I Wandered from New Orleans called 'Water Cools the Earth.'  She has never read it and I no longer believe that she ever will.  Still, it serves as a reminder to me to speak to someone when I would rather turn away.  To resolve a small difference before it becomes a massive, destructive sinkhole of despair.  This is why we are here on this earth, isn't it?  To build our relationships, to inevitably make mistakes and learn from them to strengthen our ties with each other and ourselves.  To swallow our pride and know that an apology isn't coming, take the high road.  Most of us always speak of New Year's Resolutions; quitting some bad habit, or starting a new, productive project.  This year, I am including in my own resolutions, to work on communication, to continue to listen and communicate real feelings and to ignore the ass holes that crop up like unwanted weeds in a beautiful garden.  Ok, that was harsh... Was it?  Hell, I don't know what to do about those ass holes.  I'll cross that Piranha pit when I come to it. 

In the meantime, I would like to leave everyone with Happy Wishes for the New Year!  May you enjoy it and spend it with your loved ones and good friends.   With this wish, I leave you with the 'auld' and new versions of  the Scottish song, 'Auld Lang Syne'   Sing it with fervor, with friends and a good ale!  Cheers and Happy New Year!



Auld Lang Syne - Robert Burns translation in 1788 from ancient Scottish verses.

 
Burns Original
Standard English Translation
Auld Lang Syne

Chorus.
And for auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,
1.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' auld lang syne.
2.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
3.
We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.
4.
We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.
5.
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.
Meaning of unusual words:
Auld lang syne = Former days and friends
jo = dear
stoup = tankard
gowans = daisies
braid = broad
Gude willie waught = friendly draught








Visit Tracy's website for more information on I Wandered from New Orleans: Poems from the South. 

Old Long Past

Chorus.
And for old long past, my joy (sweetheart),
For old long past,
We will take a cup of kindness yet,
For old long past,

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days of old long past.

And surely you will pay for your pint-vessel!
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet,
For old long past.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the wild daisies fine;
But we have wandered many a weary foot
Since old long past.

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till noon;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since old long past.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend!
And give me a hand of yours!
And we will take a right good-will drink,
For old long past.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

...if only in my dreams

It's that time of year again, the crazy Christmas shopping rush.  I live by a mall, so that's always evident to  me as soon as it begins.  The holidays don't just bring traffic and Salvation Army bell ringers, if you're like me, it's a time to reflect on family gatherings and the ones who won't be here to celebrate with you as they once did.  Like poetry, music and songs can be interpreted in a variety of ways.  For some reason this year, "I'll be home for Christmas" has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  Why this year?  Why in this way?  I don't really know, but for some reason when I first heard it this year, I could only think of family members that wouldn't be home for Christmas.  They would be here, 'only in my dreams,' you could say.
I think about my Auntie who inspired me to be a better person, I would say tolerant, but tolerance implies that there is something wrong and you're just not saying anything about how you really feel.  She taught me to be accepting of certain differences and a few simple words changed my outlook forever.  We had argued about a small portrait of the Virgin Mary that she wanted to give me, I told her I didn't want it, that it didn't  mean anything to me.  Finally she said, "It means something to me."  I took the portrait and have applied this simple wisdom to so many aspects of my life.  I think of Auntie at Christmas and I wish I could go sit next to her and talk to her again.  In much the same way the main character saved and cataloged family memorabilia in the movie "Everything is Illuminated," I write because I do not wish to forget.  Each piece I write memorializes some event, a feeling or just a significant moment.

'Please have snow and mistletoe..."  My father's family always had a big Christmas Eve party.  I can remember my Mammy always prepared a special meal for me because I wouldn't eat the typical food on the table.  I'm still as picky, as you get older people do not wish to accomodate your pickiness.  I usually leave Thanksgiving and Christmas 'feasts' hungry.  Regardless, those old gatherings stick with me this time of year, I don't need the ghost of Christmas past to guide me, I am already there.  Looking out over the rooftops of a porch in Mid-City, to the sky where they said Santa Claus was flying.  Those were magical times with magical people.  Never take for granted the impact a few simple words will have on a child through its lifetime.

For now, I'm remembering the ones who can't be here this year, my Auntie, Paw Paw, Mammy, Uncle T, Aunt Mildred, Nenny and Nez, Aunt Rae Ann, Aunt Cleo.  I wish you could all be home for Christmas in the way that I remember; for now, you will all remain only in my dreams.  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

I Wandered from New Orleans is available at my website, Amzaon.com, as a NOOKbook and on Smashwords.  Read the new review by Shannon Yarbrough at the LL Book Review

Thursday, December 16, 2010

At 40, you eat Tombstone cake

So I've finally made it to 40.  That seems like such an impossible age to be when I can recall taking the Peter Pan oath in 6th grade.  Time keeps slipping away.  So yesterday was spent in the French Quarter in New Orleans, one of my favorite places to be.  I got some of my books into another book store, but the main purpose of the visit was for fun, relaxing and reflecting.  We walked around down Frenchmen and then Decatur Street, past Jackson Square and the coach drivers.  Finally it was time for a beer.  You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a Newcastle and a Guinness.  I was terribly disappointed that Laffite's Blacksmith Shop didn't have these brews, so we steered a course for Decatur again and found Pravda.  Now I first discovered Pravda the year we marched with the Krewe Of Pirates during Mardi Gras.  The inside of the bar is quaint and dim, towards the back of the bar is a fabulous courtyard with a view of the distant rooftops.  This means little to Pirates on Mardi Gras day, but yesterday was already a slow day for the Quarter, so the Pravda courtyard was candlelit and deserted so I thoroughly enjoyed my Guinness while Clarice enjoyed her Newcastle.  Pravda is also the only bar I know of that has an actual working Absinthe drip fountain.  This is classic and though I didn't get one yesterday, I plan to get one on Mardi Gras.  I have always wanted to have an Absinthe made the old fashioned way, a shot of Absinthe over a sugar cube suspended over the glass with a traditional Absinthe spoon.  Then the spigot is turned ever so slightly on the Absinthe drip fountain to send small drops of ice cold water over the sugar cube, dissolving it into the glass below.  This was first done at The Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street sometime in the late 1700's.  Absinthe was outlawed even before probibition hit in the 20's because of the Wormwood.  The neat thing about the Absinthe is that it isn't just the alcohol that is getting you drunk.  It is infused with many different types of herbs, each with their own specific properties.  Wormwood was known to cause hallucinations and disorientation.  Poe was a fan of Absinthe as well as Van Gogh, in fact, Van Gogh cut off his ear while under the influence of Absinthe.  In the last year, Wormwood was again added back into the brand 'Absente,' though I assume that it is either a distilled version of the wormwood or there is far less of it added to the bottle by volume.

Ah Mardi Gras, I shall have a drink from the Absinthe fountain for the first time.  I have a bottle and a half here at the house.  My method is to pour the shot over the sugar cube, cut the lights and set it on fire before dousing it with the ice water.  Moulin Rouge style.  Some disagree with this  method saying that it burns off some of the alcohol, which seems to make logical sense.  It still looks really cool when you do it, especially if the fire only burns the cube and does not drop into the glass.    So... back to the Guinness.
We left Pravda and had Beignets and Coffee at Cafe Du Monde as we always do then headed over to the home of two new friends that we met at the New Orleans Book Fair.  JT Blatty is a writer, photographer and artist.  She was one of the volunteers who helped clean up the oil soaked Pelicans that fell victim to BP's careless oil gusher.  She documented the process of the recovery with her photographs and focused  mainly on the release of the birds back into the wild.  It is truly beautiful work.  She also published a book called 'The Who Dat Nation' that documents the players and the fans through unique, storytelling photographs.  After spending many hours talking and sharing stories much farther into the night than we realized, we made our way back across the lake.

40 really isn't the end of the world.  It just means eating tombstone cake, black candles and jokes about canes and wheelchairs.  Maybe when I'm 80, for now, I'm content to remain in my Peter Panish fantasy, growing up only as much as I need to and remembering that youth is all a state of mind.

One of the best birthday presents I received was an amazing review of my book at the LL Book Review, you can read it here!  Shannon did a great job and I couldn't be more pleased with his perspective on the book.  I also added a page of links to my website so that New Orleans area locals can buy the book around town at local book stores and shops.  I also added a page with links to showcase some of my artistic friends and their amazing websites.  As always, you can find my book at http://www.tracyconway.com/ and also delve into some background information on the book with additional photos that did not appear inside.    Thanks for coming along!  See you next time.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Milk Studio, down home N'awlins artists

So we were on another book run through the French Quarter and Uptown today.  I left books at the Maple Street Book Shop, a fine book store, and at Milk Studio on Decatur Street.  Milk Studio has been around for over five years and counting, the owners are Mindy and Dave, two N'awlins locals with a flare for the creative.  If you've ever heard the Benny Grunch and the Bunch's song 'Ain't dere no more' and you feel a craving for old New Orleans places that are lost forever, you should head down to Milk Studio and stock up on icons from the past.  One of their hottest items are the ceramic coasters with pictures of memorable and lost, but not forgotten, businesses and products of the past and the present.  Barq's Root Beer, Godchaux's Department Store, K&B, McKenzie's Pastry Shoppes, Schwegmann's Grocery Store, the Bali Hai, Pontchartrain Beach, Shakey's Pizza, New Orleans Water Meter covers, the original New Orleans Saints logo... the list goes on and on and on.  You can find these logos on the ceramic coasters, and some of them on t shirts, not to mention the 'Save My Wetlands' underwear, ooh lala.  There are also candles of all sorts, framed photographs and artwork as well as, ahem, books by local authors. I'm sure I'm leaving some things out that will surprise you as you peruse their amazing shop space on 1309 Decatur Street in the Quarter. 

Mindy and Dave are a pair of characters.  Both New Orleans locals who found a way to keep so many places and products alive through their creative ventures.  All of the work is produced in the studio, Mindy is an accomplished graphic artist who has utilized her skills in true N'awlins fashion.  People from all over the world enjoy their products, but I think that they mean the most to those of us who remember the K&B purple or closing our eyes at the top hump of the Zephyr at Ponchartrain Beach. 

I'm very grateful to both of them for their special blend of New Orleans southern hospitality, for taking my books into their store to help with my sales and most importantly, for finding a way to make a living doing something meaningful and memorable to all us yats who just want a slice of McKenzie's Devil's Food Cake again.  The McKenzie's shirt doesn't taste nearly as good, but I'm proud to be able to wear it just the same!

Two more local shops where you can find the book:

Milk Studio - 1309 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Maple Street Book Shop - 7523 Maple Street, New Orleans

As always, you can find my book at http://www.tracyconway.com/, Amazon.com, as a NOOKbook at Barnes and Noble and at Smashwords.  Thanks and happy shopping!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another local, independent bookstore has the book!

I managed to cross state lines and get another book into an indie bookstore!  If you're in Mississippi go and check out Bay Books on Main street.  The owner is very accomodating and she has two very cool cats that take up residence inside.  Most importantly, you can get a copy of I Wandered from New Orleans right off the shelf!  In real live bookstores in New Orleans, Mississippi and Atlanta!  It's too bad that poetry is mostly disregarded by people as being too complicated and vague.  I'm not Shakespeare, I write in a straightforward manner that basically tells a story.  It's all true life experiences, I'm still amazed as I fill out forms and papers to have my book included in different sites on the internet that there is nowhere to select 'nonfiction poetry.'  You are forced to select fiction, then add nonfiction as a second category, which would probably confuse most people.  The latest was Barnes & Noble, which is more than a little crazy.  Here is the list, again, including Bay Books of places to get the book from a bookshelf:

Bay Books - 131 Main Street, Bay St. Louis, MS  228-463-2688
Garden District Book Shop - 2727 Prytania Street, New Orleans
Librairie Bookshop - 823 Chartres Street, New Orleans
Beckham's Bookshop - 228 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Faubourg Marigny Art, Books, Music - 600 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans
Louisiana Music Factory - 210 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Charis Books and More - 1189 Euclid Avenue, NE Atlanta, aka Little Five Points

That's my list so far, next time I can get to New Orleans I hope to add a few more stores.  In other news, in about 30 minutes I have been invited by my longtime Terror On Church Street friend, Greg Hall aka The Funky Werepig, to do a guest spot on his online radio show,  it's amazing how something like that could make your palms sweat.  In a Coyote Ugly kind of way, I always have that 7th grade fear of my recital of 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.'  The blackout reading, just like the time on stage when the band was playing and I forgot the lyrics.  It's something about being watched.  Call me crazy.  Even if it's only listening.  I shall persevere in the name of shameless self promotion.

So anyway.  If you're local and out and about, you know where to find the book!  If you're not local and you wish you were, you can always get a signed copy on my website at www.tracyconway.com.  Also available in eBook format at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and Smashwords!  Groove on!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An introduction to the Indigo Girls

Just listened to the Indigo Girls' new CD "Happy Holly Days" and I have to say it was pretty good.  This is coming from someone of course who isn't a big fan of Christmas music.  If the Indigo Girls put out a CD there is no way that I can pass it up.  The girls have been a huge inspiration ever since I first heard them in Peni Lotoza's car after we got out of work at Terror on Church Street back in '93.  'Blood and Fire' was the first song I had ever heard and though many had tried to introduce me to them previously, it was that night with Peni and Amy Ray that started the fire.  Peni has since passed from this world, to the sadness of many.  In the book there is a piece written for her called 'Comedy and Tragedy.'  She was a happy and jovial person with a terrific laugh and a kind heart.  We all miss her very much.

I went out after that night and bought all of the Indigo Girls' CD's, at that time, Rites of Passage was their newest album.  I remember the day that Swamp Ophelia was released and I first heard Amy wail on 'Touch Me Fall.'  Those two women have written some amazingly diverse songs in their career.  From acoustic folk, to rock n roll to Amy even writing a semi hip hop song on her solo album, Didn't it Feel Kinder.  Amy and Emily inspired me to want to  move to Atlanta back in '94 when I needed a change from Orlando life.  "There'll be cider up near Helen off the roadside and boiled peanuts in a bag to warm your fingers and the smoke from the chimney meets its maker in the sky.  With the song that winter wrote his melody lingers, and there's somethin' 'bout the Southland in the springtime, where the waters flow with confidence and reason." --Emily Saliers 

It was this desire for change, the desire to see Helen, GA and the need to see Little Five Points where their career first took off that sent me shuttling to Atlanta with hardly any money and no plans except to see what happens when we get there.  If the best laid plans go wrong, I now know how it works out when you have no plan.  Not that it was all for naught, I wouldn't change that experience for anything in this world.  I thoroughly enjoyed the women's writers groups at Charis Books and More in Little Five.  Three copies of my book will soon be sitting on the shelves at Charis and, to  me, that is one of the biggest accomplishments I have had so far.  Charis is important to me, most  of the poems about Atlanta were written right there in the square across the street from  Charis.  Though I walked in the footsteps of Amy Ray, through stories from strangers on the street, I was never fortunate enough to meet her and Emily until they came to Tipitina's in New Orleans.  That was an amazing day and I'll never forget it!  I was inspired to include excerpts from four songs that seemed to fit in with my book at the start of each chapter.  I was very lucky that their manager, Russell Carter was able to grant permission to use those lyrics.  It was another  milestone in the creation of the book.  I have always been inspired by the Indigo Girls and I know that I always will be.   Another poem from the book, 'Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon' is about the concert and our Line Crew that are always waiting in line hours before the show is scheduled to start.  There's nothing better than a soundcheck through the front doors of Tipitina's, except the actual concert from the front row with a group of friends!
If you don't know the Indigo Girls, look them up and at least download some songs from them.  Better yet, buy a CD to get acquainted with them.  If you are an Indigo Girls fan, kick off your shoes and do a little jig to 'Get Out the Map!'  How can you bear to keep your feet still when you hear those songs?

Looking for a copy of I Wandered from New Orleans?  It's available at my website, signed of course, it's also available in eBook format at Barnes and Noble (NOOKbook), Amazon (Kindle) and at Smashwords.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Books are on New Orleans Bookstore shelves! My take on Parasol's

Had a great day today!  I first sent off three books that are on their way to Charis Books and More in Little Five Points, Atlanta.  Then we drove down to New Orleans to hit some of the indie bookstores to see if I could get I Wandered from New Orleans onto some real bookstore shelves.  It was a great success!  Some books were bought outright, some were placed on consignment.  Brilliant day!  So, for  my NOLA peeps and pops who want to check it out firsthand and pick up a holiday copy or two, or three... Hey, the book might want to take home friends.  You never know.  Anyway.  Here is the list of New Orleans bookstores and shops, so far, where you can pick up a copy, locally!! 

Garden District Book Shop - 2727 Prytania Street, NOLA
Librairie Bookshop - 823 Chartres Street
Beckham's Bookshop - 228 Decatur Street
Faubourg Marigny Art, Books, Music - 600 Frenchmen Street
Louisiana Music Factory - 210 Decatur Street

So it was a fun, cold day spent walking the streets in trenchcoats going door to door.  I met some fantastic and very kind people.  Getting out of the house once in a while can restore your faith in humanity.  At the end of the day I was famished and we were on St. Charles Avenue so I got a shrimp po boy from Parasol's.  Now, I didn't know it when we stopped in, but Parasol's was bought out by new owners.  Apparantly the landlord offered the building to the leasing tenant and the tenant would not pay the asking price so the owner listed it on the market.  The buyers moved here from Tampa, FL and the wife is actually from New Orleans and was thrilled to be able to buy Parasol's.  There seems to be a conflict between the old leasee and the new owners, the old tenant is disgruntled (if you don't pay you can't play) and  moved his business down a few blocks. 

 Former patrons have been flashing the finger as they go by, among other things, and patrons that don't feel so politically motivated are afraid their friends will see them eating or drinking at the 'new' Parasol's.  This is crazy.  The former tenant wouldn't pay the price, someone else did.  My shrimp po boy didn't taste any worse, in fact, it may have tasted a little bit better.  These folks are not lacking in Southern hospitality.  Parasol's is now cleaner, better maintained and it seems friendlier.  I liked it before, but I don't have a problem with it now.  It's not like it isn't owned by a  'former' local or run by a yankee.  No offense to my yankee friends... 

The point is... things change for all kinds of reasons.  If the corner bar and grill changes hands, it's still the corner bar and grill.  Parasol's will still celebrate St. Patty's Day in grand Irish fashion with dancing in the streets, beer, ale and good food.   Support the new owners if you're uptown and looking for something good to eat or drink.  Give them a chance and you might be pleasantly surprised.  I was. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Picking apples doesn't pay...

First an update on my website; at another author's request I have added a page to my website that gives details on some of the photos in the book, some photos that did not make it into the book and explanations about the meaning of the front and back covers.  Pictures and stories will be added over time as I gather them together, this is the link to that page.

And on to other musings... As much as I love New Orleans, sometimes, as always, I am ready to get in the car and start driving.  I threatened an acquaintence heading to Asheville, North Carolina that I would hide in the trunk of his car if he wouldn't let  me ride legitimately in the front seat.  I'm still here.  The longing for Asheville never goes away.  I miss the mountains and the smell of the misty green air, the sound of the rushing rivers over stone beds and the beautiful hardwoods that are losing their leaves to the mountain breeze.  Asheville!  Pack Square with the vagabonds, hippies, musicians and gypsies.  The little shops and vegetarian restauraunts (I'm not a vegetarian, but I love the people who are), the tiny flea markets crammed into old buildings, the tobacco shop that sells newspapers on the corner... Asheville.  There is no end to the love I have for that place. 

I also lived homeless in Asheville, but I was not alone that time and my van didn't break down on me.  I remember we were living in Pisgah National Forest in October, very cold.  We would take showers in the stream while there was still snow on the ground.  I know why hippies smell, it would have been better to deal with stench than bathe in that icy water.. but we did.  I was broke in Asheville too, I've spent most of my life barely getting by.  One day in Pack Square we were talking to this old guy who loved to drink, I don't remember his name, but he was one of those alcolholics you could spot a mile away because his nose was so red.  He told us there was BIG money to be made in Hendersonville picking apples.  Although this seemed too good to be true, it was better than the alternative.  Begging for change and trying to find a job without an address or a phone number.  We drove the old man out to Hendersonville bright and early the next day, prepared to  make some BIG money.  When we got there the farmer was wondering who the hell we all were.  An old drunk man, a pierced up pin cushion girl and a little short brown girl.  I'm sure we looked like a motley crew to that country farmer.  There were at least 15 to 20 big, big crates.  I mean, you could have put a Volkswagen bug and a half inside of one.  The farmer told us that we had to fill the bins. 

That day I learned that, when it comes to apples, there are peelers and juicers.  It's pretty obvious, peelers are the ones we get in the store to eat and juicers are worth less and go to the juicing factories.  We were picking juicers that day, so you could at least toss them into those bins and bruise them and it didn't matter.  I learned which ladders are used for apple picking and how fun it is to throw one into a tree with a big sack slung around your shoulder while bees are buzzing into your bag and around your head from five or six feet off the ground on a wiggly, bouncing, wooden ladder. 

We might have filled one bin in the 8 hours that we were there, the old hobo looking guy spilled beer all inside my Volkswagen, which was also  my house, and in the end we made $20 that we had to divide up among three people.  I've definately had better work days.  I never picked apples again, but I did get some interesting pictures that day (soon to be added to my website for your enjoyment) and I did write about it in my new book.  It's the very first poem, the self titled, I Wandered from New Orleans.  It's never fun being homeless, but it's less scary when you aren't all alone and your car doesn't break down.  Plus we lived in the National Forest, and even though it was bitter cold, it was a lot safer than parking on the streets in Atlanta and far more peaceful and beautiful. 
I do miss Asheville, and I miss Pack Square; I even miss Atlanta, but the last time I visited Atlanta I had enough  money to get a slice of Pizza and a drink from Fellini's, which was just spectacular.  That pizza is great even when you aren't starving to death!  I highly recommend it.

If you want to read about picking apples, Asheville, the mountains or even Atlanta, you can get a signed copy of I Wandered from New Orleans at my website or purchase the eBook and Kindle editions at Amazon.com.  If you're hungry for a slice of Fellini's Pizza, I am too!


 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Renaissance Festival Season

Renaissance Festival time is here for those of us in South Louisiana.  I made my first visit this past saturday and managed to film a sing along to The Bar Wenches Drinking Song from my book at The King's Head Tavern with a group of friends.  I have found inspiration at the Faire on many occasions.  I think the Bar Wenches song may have been the first.  That was written the year I worked for the pub owner and it was a very cold winter at the Tavern in a little hole with lots of ice and ale.  The 'song' was originally written as a jingle to bring in business because the Tavern is set out of the way of the flow of traffic.  We had a good time with the filming and it was a good day for it.

Other Renaissance Faire writings in the book include one called The Faire: En Memorium and Albright.  The Faire incorporates a few stories into one related idea.  Death is as much a part of life as living at times, especially for the living who are only left with memories and the need to keep them alive and honored.  My friend Gwendolyn, who is the owner of the King's Head Tavern, lost a good friend of hers that we had met and laughed with many times while working for her and spending time at the Faire.  When she passed away suddenly, Gwendolyn had three purple banners embroidered in memory of her.  One of them hung in the pub that first year as a constant reminder of Lady Angelique.  She may be gone but she is not forgotten.  This year marks the third since she has been gone.

Another couple we met through the Renaissance Festival, Judy and Patrick, also honor a fallen friend.  His name was Aaron Myers and he carried a large custom made tankard with a miniature anvil for a handle.  Since his passing, they have carried the tankard on every journey and to every show they attend to honor his memory and to keep a part of him at the Faire.  It is his tankard that is in the photo opposite the poem The Faire in the book

I got to know a character nicknamed Rooster the same year that I worked at The King's Head Tavern.  He is one of those 'Country Boy Can Survive' types.  His tent actually had a wood burning stove inside!  That was the warmest tent I have ever been inside and the classiest, like I said, it had been a cold winter that year.  Rooster always came to the Faire alone, but once I got to know him he told me about his wife and how before she passed away, they always attended Faires together all across the United States.  One day at the Tavern in the late evening, he walked away from us down the path and I had the distinct feeling that he wasn't walking alone.  In my mind I could see his wife walking along beside him as he made his way towards the setting sun.  A man of travel and adventure, a man of many stories and laughs, as he walked alone I could sense that there was a part of the man that was still  missing and longing for what was once so familier.  When I wrote the final verse, it was this scene that haunted my mind. "Another sun sets with golden hue, is it dust that clouds the air?  Or is it the whispering of ghosts who walk beside us at the Faire?"

Read The Faire; En Memorium and more Renaissance Faire themed writings in I Wandered from New Orleans: Poems from the South.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Falstaff and four leaf clovers

It's amazing how early relationships affect the rest of our lives.  When we're young it seems like time is forever and things seem to move much more slowly.  Two years feel like ten until you're almost forty, then one year feels like only a few months have gone by before you're busy making new year's resolutions you have every intention of keeping.  Back to relationships.  There are a few pieces in my book that deal with some of these life affecting relationships.  One poem called Falstaff is about some of the memories and emotions I have concerning my father's mother.  She chose to be called 'Mammy,' which didn't go over well with my own mother.  She didn't quite like it, but my Mammy said, "That's just the way it is," and it was.  Looking back, now that I'm older, I realize that 'Mammy' is not exclusively used by colored women, though it is stereotyped in such a manner.  My grandmother married a Conway, and try as I may, I can't trace back my father's family name which is a source of endless frustration for me, because it is also my name.  My Mammy's husband was quite old, he was born in 1887 or something close to that.  He passed away when my father was about five years old.  Mammy is a term of endearment for Irish mothers, and even though my Mammy was of French descent, I believe she may have taken this name in honor of my grandfather's heritage.  Much of my writing used to be spontaneous, on the spot, in the moment writing.  I find that it has evolved into recording memories, history and reliving those things which are not only beyond the present moment, but unattainable.  This is where the poem Falstaff originated for me.  Looking back on those days when I still believed in Santa Claus and Fairy Tales, when the days were spread thick with innocence and not yet tainted with the cynicism of adulthood.  When we were surrounded by family and could plunder into the clover patches next to Mammy's house on Palmyra Street in New Orleans and find not just one four leaf clover, but two or three; sometimes the rare five leaf clover!  Days of magic and believing, I have those moments still, but looking back on times when the imagination stretched towards the horizon past the vanishing point; it feels good to remember. 

I still look for the Falstaff weather ball when I am in New Orleans; there is a rumor that it will be repaired and work just as it used to when I was a kid.  I'm still waiting for that day eagerly.  The old brewery has been converted into condominiums now, which is fine with me because at least it will keep the old building from being torn down and it finally has life again!  I think all old buildings await to be rediscovered and reinterpreted into something useful.  I am not a fan of the wrecking ball.  You can read the poem Falstaff in my book, I Wandered from New Orleans, along with other New Orleans flavored poems. http://www.tracyconway.com/

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Snow, Ice and Stage Fright

This time of year I always think about two poems from two of my favorite authors.  Fall Leaves Fall by Emily Brontë and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.  I’m sure the leaves have already fallen in most places, in Louisiana the live oaks don’t drop their leaves and the rest of the trees are always slow in starting.  At least the sycamores and bald cypress are changing colors, so it won’t be too much longer.  I often long for the snow in Louisiana, although when it does fall it covers the ground by an inch or two, three or four if you are having a really great winter.  What’s really great is that, when it does happen, the entire place shuts down.  We deep southerners don’t know how to drive in snow and ice!   It gives us time to stay at  home and make pine needled snowmen, wishing that we had enough to go around so we could make one of those crazy snowman scenes like Calvin and Hobbes used to do.  My favorite was the car accident.

Living in the Appalachians didn’t change the fact that this southern girl couldn’t drive in snow and ice, the only difference there was that the town didn’t shut down and my boss expected me to drive in anyway.  Volkswagen Buses from the 70′s era are not good for this task.  Most times I drove with the window open because the windshield refused to thaw.  I can’t blame the windshield, there wasn’t any heat to thaw it, just colder wind hardening the ice in place.

Robert Frost was probably a lot colder riding his horse through the snow on the Winter Solstice. “Between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year.”  Funny thing about Robert Frost and this poem, I had to memorize it in 7th grade at my Catholic school in New Orleans.  I knew it inside out and front and back.  When I stood in front of the class, I didn’t know the author, the name of the poem or the first line, even though I had prompted the girl in front of me to help me if I blacked out.  I got a zero that day in english class.  I still have that poem memorized.  Public speaking has always been an issue, which is not a pleasant handicap when you need to do poetry readings or discussions.  My time working at the state park helped with that a great deal, but I will never be caught without at least a notecard when doing any planned speaking engagement.  Just in case.