Funny how you make yourself feel bad.  Some would say other people can make you feel bad, but that’s only if you let them.  Emotions really aren’t a mystery in how they’re stirred.  Add a little of this, take away a little of that—the ingredients are all there.  It’s just some people are better at remembering the recipe for what they want to make.  They know the time and the temperature to avoid things getting burnt.  And it all depends on who you allow in your kitchen what food you find on your table…  Maybe I shouldn’t even invite myself in until I’m ready to cook.  I have too many stale ingredients stirring, too many stale memories.  And the only way to get rid of something stale is to replace it with something fresh. 

That’s why I came to New Orleans.  For the music here, the food.  To replace all the nastiness, the rot of memories from the war.  These streets are fresh to me, even in their old French feel.  And I like the sounds I hear, coming from doorways and windows—they are ancient in their eternal adolescence, old by being young—slave songs from the fields that bring forth dance and laughter on cobblestones, liberal, light-hearted songs of freedom comedic and solemn in respect to this city’s self-rule.  I’ve already seen things here that are incorruptible in their denial of what’s deemed decadent.  I’ve seen marriages and funerals conducted in the same way, and I’ve walked in cemeteries where the smell of spring honeysuckle caresses the rain-worn rock of decaying tombs.  Everything is above ground here.  Nothing is buried.  And the voodoo Catholics mix and commingle with protestant tourists and godless artists—painters and musicians and writers—Jackson Square a colorful garden of everyone pedestrian coming alive in their open greetings to each other, in their willingness to say yes, yes to what in any other place would be a negative response, fear replaced with happy spontaneities, ignorance disappearing in galvanized curiosity, and all thoughts on morality beatified rather in aesthetics.  I need this—to wash away what I remember.

I wish to give no importance to my memories.  My memories from the war.  They are not forecasts of the future.  They are not incensed with any fore-knowledge.  They are dumb and deaf to what’s outside them, in the time that goes on without them.  And only when I enter into them do I give them any power of a reality.  What I knew yesterday in memory blind to what I experience today and totally un-related to what happened before.  This relation between what happened and what will happen in my control, in how I relate it to myself.  I make the recipe.  My food either one of happiness or despair.  My happiness an aware decision to downplay my intelligence of what I know.  My despair my pride in it.  For my relation to myself doesn’t come from a source within me.  Only when I think it does do I lose everything but my death…  Memories are evil—even the good ones.  Because they make you forget everything except them, including how they were formed.  And only their formation is beautiful.  Memories belong to the land of the dead, and I’m not dead yet.  I will not repent to them, even the ones that remind me of love.  Remembering past love closes the door on its future.  And maybe, just maybe, when I come to that door where death comes knocking, I will not be tempted to remember all that’s behind me.  I will not become a ghost chained to some deal I made…

No, New Orleans is a good town—a good town to be.  And even if I don’t feel it in me now, I will heal.  I just need a little good dirt in my wounds, and not the bad salt of looking back.  This is a town that doesn’t believe in memories.  It holds them by letting them go.  And the ghosts here are neither happy nor sad.  They just are in one moment to the next, neither following nor leading…  There’s life here in its acceptance of death.  And I like it.  I like the music.  There are memories in them, but they are played so you remember to forget.  And maybe it’s time I make a little music of my own…

–David Threnody, on coming to New Orleans—from his journals 1941 to 1948

 

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