Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Return to New Orleans

Many of you know that the Red River Red wears many hats, among them that of used, rare and collectible bookseller. In that capacity I returned to New Orleans for the first time this past weekend for the annual New Orleans Bookfair, a celebration of iconoclastically independent book publishers and distributors, most devoted to experimental literature and/or politics of the decidedly leftist/anarchist persuasion. All in all, solid citizens and a credit to their families, communities and country.
The Bookfair is held annually at Barrister's Gallery in Central City, which bills itself as the first New Orleans gallery open after Katrina. The area either larely or completely escaped flooding, so the Bookfair went on two months to the day after Katrina hit. It was a more subdued affair than last year in terms of participants and profits, but spirits were high, and it was a more social occasion for me this time, at least.
One of the first folks I connected with was John Clark, philosophy and environmental studies prof at Loyola and green anarchist social ecologist taoist buddhist rabble-rouser. His home and workplace escaped major damage, although other family members weren't so lucky. He has been working closely with those leading the charge against the Bush Admnistration's attack on post-Katrina New Orleans, such as community activists Malik Rahim and Mama D, and actually testified, along with Rahim of the Common Ground Collective, in the peoples' tribunal judging George Bush for his crimes against humanity. That tribunal convened in New York less than two weeks ago, and John told me transcripts should be available from the website of the Democracy Now radio and television show.
John was also distributing copies of "A Letter from New Orleans," an essay which combines his first-hand observations and experiences with an analysis based on the work of revolutionary French geographer Elise'e Reclus, an longtime intellectual and political inspiration for John's work. I'll be reading some excerpts on my "Invisible Republic" radio show on Sunday, sometime from 2-4 p.m.
I had the great pleasure of meeting and conversing with New Orleans writers Sarah Inman and her husband Joe Longo. Sarah recently had her novel Finishing Skills published by Livingston Press. It's about a female professional boxer in New Orleans, which Sarah says she was for all of one fight. She and Joe are also both writing teachers currently plying that trade online while Delgado and UNO deal with various infrastructural difficulties. Joe is also a part-time poker player, so they may make their way to Shreveport while the casinos get themselves back into shape.
Two fellows from the Fiction Collective 2, based at Florida State University in Tallahassee, were stationed right next to me as well, so I had a good time talking with them, particularly as we began to notice the synchronicities binding us all together. Matt and Brook are also each married with one child, theirs being two boys, one older and one younger than my daughter Zora. Both have intimate Portland, Oregon connection, Portland being where my wife and I spent seven years, during which time Zora was born. Matt, who's in a Ph.D. progam at FSU, got his M.F.A. at McNeese, where he knew my old friend Kevin Meaux, a brilliant poet from the Cajun hinterland of Kaplan. Good guys, hope to see them again sometime.
Finally, I got a chance to meet Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans writer and activist who I'd been corresponding with for a while. Jordan is an organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 100 in New Orleans, and a member of the editorial collective for Left Turn magazine, one of the liveliest and most informative mags out right now. I don't think it's available on any newsstands in our area yet, but you can access it at leftturn.org, where you can find several of Jordan's outstanding post-Katrina writings. It was those writings, also published on counterpunch.org and commondreams.org, which led me to seek him out, and he contributed to an article I wrote for the Steelworkers Local 711T newsletter, also published here not long ago.
Oh, yeah, I managed to engage in some guerrilla capitalism too and sell some books, too. Henry Miller, Howard Zinn, Johnny Rotten, Wilbert Rideau, Emma Goldman, Orwell, Chomsky, Kerouac, Burroughs and the Huey Long bio, among others.
All in all, a fantastic return for New Orleans for one non-native son, easily able to return to his home in an undevastated city. Oh how we miss you, New Orleans, our respite from the South, from George Bush's America, our Mediterraneo, our African port, the source of our music. We will continue to fight for you. Peace, y'all.

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