Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I tried to cry Katrina into art that would do something
In a feeble John Prine-esque country-folk waltz
I packaged as a New Orleans Benefit CD (not the Red Cross, dammit).
I raised like $527, a lot for one who sucks at hustlin’.
I saw people cry when I played it on a casio
Lying on my belly on the floor of Adobe Books
(couldn’t get comfortable crosslegged after the accident)
Yet it was kinda sanctimonious
Lacking the spirit of New Orleans
I felt at the Mother-In-Law Lounge just before K-Doe died
And the Krewe du Vieux parade with Brett and Janine
Who were now trapped in an abandoned warehouse[1]
After the flood took their dog
Still, I self promoted my little song
More than I self-promoted my previous art
(much to the chagrin of my publishers)
because it didn’t seem like a mere self
I was promoting and perhaps it was
Sanctimonious enough for the old white folks on KPFA
Using Katrina as an excuse to dig out
Their old Randy Newman records
As they used Desert Storm as an excuse
To dust off their old Phil Ochs.
KPFA didn’t play it….

Was I hung up on trying to convince
The whites to feel some sympathy for black people
Or was I just trying to act like what whites called “my age?”
Like my Tom Waitsy cover of  The Coup’s “Ride The Fence”
Or strategically using Merle Haggard’s “Branded Man”
To convey the same message about the P.I.C
They couldn’t hear if Tupac rapped it
Even though at least as many racist whites
Listened to hip hop as that kind of northern country folk
So beloved in Nor-Cal during the height of the hyphy craze…
And soon The Legendary K-O’s “George Bush
Don’t Care About Black People”
Was getting play in commercial pop stations—
(I love the lineage of that song
sampling a Kanye song
that sampled Jamie Foxx singing
a Ray Charles song
that caused a controversy
for sampling “It Must Be Jesus”…)

KPFA didn’t play it, but KPOO did.
I went to KPOO to buy a shirt
And got talking to Terry Collins
About Katrina and told him about the CD
If they would be so kind to mention it.
I didn’t expect them to actually play the song
(I was as humble and/or embarrassed
as I was when one of K.Doe’s musicians
invited me to play trumpet on stage with them—
in retrospect I deeply regret it
so in awe of the black musicians
or perhaps feeling solidarity
with all the black musicians
who criticized James Brown
when he hired a white musician
or when the Panthers
hired a white lawyer to get Huey out of jail).

But my favorite Bay Area radio jock,
The legendary station manager J.J. On-The-Radio
Said, “we could interview you about the song now.”
There’s no recording of that. Thank God
And I went back in shame and think
Of what my friends Brett and Janine told me
About a debate brewing in Nawlins next February.
“Should we celebrate Mardi Gras
even amid all the destruction or cancel it?”
Cancelling it would be letting them win, of course,
And however noble in intent my song was,
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing
Or the transformative power of the second line[2]
Or even the funk of the legendary K.O
Sampling Jamie doing Ray—
You can’t be truly pro-New Orleans
In Eurocentric words only…
Maybe that’s when I got sick
Of trying to pass so when Yezal got shot
I made sure to go a nearby traffic triangle
With my trumpet and blast out
When The Saints Go Marchin In (screw my cliché)
As cars flip me the bird or even the bitch
(which almost makes up for my regret
for not jumping up on stage with K Doe)….

[1] I bet it’s now a luxury market rate condo
[2] I got to join in with one in front of The Make-Out Room, blocking off streets in the Mission to bring a little Mardi Gras back to the city that’s now less than 4% black.

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