Thursday, December 26, 2013


It's raining here in New Orleans. The sound is steady and beautiful. I have both French doors in my apartment open to it.  I can feel the freshness of the rain waft into the room where I'm working and I can smell the freshness as well. The way you can breathe rain even indoors. When rain falls, I always feel a kind of absolution. It means I can start anew. It's a kind of recurring baptism. 

Yes, there are rains that are not pleasant. I think of cold windy rainy March days in New York City. Or when you're driving at night and the rain is so brutal you can't see even beyond your windshield and your heart is about to exit your body.

All in all, though, everything about rain is mysterious and poetical. It's not a coincidence that Ernest Hemingway begins his memoir about Paris, A Moveable Feast, in rainy weather. This is is a cold, sad-producing rain, but nevertheless an inspiring rain. He walks from his apartment to the Place St-Michel to a good cafe. He takes off his damp coat, sits down, and begins to write. He's writing a story that we will all read one day, and, as the writer, he knows this, because he is writing this as a man of sixty or so, looking back.  So we are conscious of this and feel, in a way, intimate with the writer.

Hemingway writes,

"A girl came in the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin....."

If rain accompanies strong sensual moments, then you live a poem, you are fully alive. In college, years ago, I was in love with a beautiful, melancholy girl. Her name was Sarah. She would stay with me in my apartment off campus over the weekend. I remember, even today, one afternoon, together, in bed. I remember it started to rain. I remember the sound of the rain slapping against the leaves on the ground, and the damp smell of it breathing into the window and cooling our bodies. My arm was draped around her bare shoulder. The cascade of her soft hair fell onto my naked arm. I often think about the soft sound of the rain against the windowsill and on the leaves on the ground. Of us in bed together as we talked dreamily to the tat-tat-tat of rain against the leaves.

If we think about the wonders of being alive, so many are simple, straightforward. Rain is one. Replenishing, cleansing, encouraging. Making us poets at least for an hour or so. The beauty of those drops coming from the sky. The mystery of it. There are things in this world that are dark. Rain is not one of them.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

John Waters: The Pope of Trash

A recent article in the New York Times about John Waters reminded me how much I dig this guy.

John Waters has always been himself. He doesn't give a good goddam what you think about what he does or says or what kind of movies he makes. He's not aggressive about it. He just is.

There are really two John Waters, at least as far as the movie-going public is concerned. The first is the John Waters of Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living. The second is the John Waters of Hairspray. Pink Flamingos may be, to borrow a phrase used to describe its main character, the great transvestite actor, Divine, the filthiest movie ever made. Once, years ago, a good friend of mine, on my spirited recommendation, took his girlfriend to see Pink Flamingos. The ticket seller leaned toward them and whispered emphatically, "Do not see this movie!" There is a now-notorious scene at the end where Divine proves she is the filthiest person alive by scooping up some freshly deposited dog shit and taking a big mouthful. Just before she shoves the doggy poo into her mouth, she looks to the camera and mouths, "I'm so hungry!"

Every movie John Waters made before Hairspray was rated X or R. Hairspray was rated PG. This to many Waters fans seemed a kind of betrayal. As Waters himself said, "After that, I thought I'd never work again." I love Hairspray. (No, not the Broadway musical or the movie musical.The original movie.) It's easy to think of Waters as pure camp, but I don't think of him that way at all. I think Hairspray, which, among other things, is about racial integration in 1962 Baltimore, is a truly great comic film. Divine plays Edna Turnblad, the housewife who just can't understand her daughter Tracy's obsession with the Corny Collins Dance Show (obviously patterned after American Bandstand). One of my favorite Edna Turnblad lines: "Now l've got nothin' but hampers of ironing to do...and my diet pill is wearing off." Every child should be required to see this movie.

Now, here's the best part. I went to see "A John Waters Christmas" here in New Orleans on Tuesday evening at the Civic Center. It was a live show with the pope of trash himself. It promised to be an incredible evening. I love bad taste. I mean, what's not to like? He was f-king hilarious. One example: he said, "If you go home with someone and they don't have any books, don't fuck them." He did seventy minutes without stopping, and never disappointed once. The place was packed. It was great to see how much New Orleans loves him. Merry Christmas, John Waters!
John Waters' 2006 Christmas card