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.