Sunday, October 21, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 8) "Two Coonasses & A Jew"

"dear patti ann,

sometimes i feel like our anger is ancestral anger passed down to us to take care of and nurture.  i was happy to hear you say you're working on accepting your circumstances and moving on.  we all know how difficult it must be.  i know it's confusing to still feel anger.  even on my finest day, in the far reaches of my soul I feel a tinge of anger.  i read that it is wise to understand it may have been passed down through the generations and we are the ones who can heal old wounds for our entire lineage, forgive old enemies, shift conditioning and beliefs, release the pain that has held generations captive for centuries.  i remember the anger of the old farmer drowning the little kittens and mr. chinie cursing loudly on his tractor.  

you told me you were an old soul, I know you know.



Your whole life, you are taught through sports and school that the world is full of possibilities and that you could do anything.  When you get older and you actually believe anything is possible, people don't recognize you.  When you keep evolving and let past accomplishments go, they have a hard time envisioning who you are.  When you don't cuddle up next to your accomplishments and live happily ever after in the past, it can come off as strange.  I got real used to be in strange situations and adapting.  I was real good at making home wherever I was.  I think my imagination became my home and it traveled well.  It was my friend.  It fit into any suitcase and even got through post 911 security at the airport.  I miss those times when you can just walk on the plane before the world became insecure and suspicious.

Once a mind opens itself to new ideas it can't retain its original dimension.  Education for me was a key that unlocked the vault and put me mountains away from "Perique Culture" to view it from afar.  There was no going back, no unlearning.  Well there was some unlearning, like Columbus and that tall tale.  In the box of principles they declared Columbus day, Natives Day.  Columbus slaughtered the Natives and took what he wanted as he searched for gold.  "His story" back to its usual tricks.  It's why I can tell my tall tale from my own perspective and not bat an eye.  It's why I ride off into the unknown.  The greatest lesson I learned in elementary school was when the teacher passed a verbal message around the class and by the time it got to the end, the message was completely different.  Spoken word, even if written down can be marred and mangled and twisted and turned into new truth.  

Before Donovan Guidry moved to New York, I met another important person.  His name was Seth Gold.  I loved his temperment the moment we met.  He was from O.J.'s neighborhood in Los Angeles.  I was familiar with Brentwood after the first reality showed aired for months staring Judge Ito and O.J. Simpson.  

Seth was very well read and had boxes of books and he shared them with me one at a time.  He liked to play guitar, smoke Parliaments, read and hang in the cafes and so did I.  I sat many nights on my old barbers chair discussing books with him.  When I read "The Sun Also Rises", I was pissed at Hemingway because nothing happened.  Seth said he was just painting a picture of life and nothing had to happen.  Donovan was reading a book called "Two Coonasses and an Architect" so we joked of our trio being called "Two Coonasses and a Jew.  

We began to write songs together.  I had a knack for melodies and words and Seth could navigate the chords.  We were drawn to minor keys because it matched the mood of the novels we were reading.  Seth would help to bring a thread of literature throughout the album we were going to make.  Our conversations and book reviews brought stories and some imagination and metaphor.  

As my first year at Stella Adler came to a close, I was planning on focusing all my efforts on music in the summer of 1998.  Seth was leaving for the summer to study Italian in Pescara, Italy on the Adriatic Sea.  Before he left, he gave me a book called "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran and it would help me to shed my old skin just when I needed to.  I was desperate for some signs that I was on the right path.  

"Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.  
These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.
And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.
An thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom."

-The Prophet by Kahil Gibran

One must be brave to evolve.  I wasn't afraid of evolution.  Spiritually I was adrift at sea and had fallen out of love with Christianity and was no longer being fed in its temples.  I come from the spirituality that must be questioned and found on my own.  No one can teach you the great secret.  One can be directed to a path but one must take the steps.  Not the tried and true steps but the insecure ones.  The confidence gained through these journeys become building blocks to a new path of enlightenment.  I thought Jesus' words were lost in the church.  His simple message was paved over in gold.  My bullshit detector is truly sensitive and can't handle a man who puts himself up on the podium to lead people when it's not real.  Telling one to have Jesus in his heart is not enough.  It's not wisdom.  Spiritual wisdom is a quest, the long rows in the tobacco field.

Mr. Pitt Martin circa 1998

Learning that history can be shaped by a man, made me suspicious.  It reminded me of the elementary classroom message.  That summer, literature became a new kind of church.  God speaks in many ways and messages are everywhere.  Be open! I felt like I was becoming the "Sky King".  In those days, the idea of me completing a record was as far fetched as finding the Arc of the Covenant.  As far fetched as Patti walking and driving again but that didn't seem to stop either one of us.  I communicated the sound we wanted at the Trident mixing board with pictures of tobacco sheds and of kids beating tobacco agains't a log.  Inside I was raging, especially after receiving the letter from Grand Point in perfect script.  It was from him, the "Sky King" before he took his final flight into heaven.

"You can take this as a burden and decline to answer the call. This is how the wound keeps reproducing itself. Or you can see this as a gift and an honor, an opportunity to contribute to those you'll never see or know, those who may never know your name. And you can choose to do the work of healing yourself and them."

Look after the well being of mind and body.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 7) "Two Bags And A Lot Of Nerve"

"hello patti ann,

nice to hear from you.  nice to hear your legs finally arrived.  i'm sure you'll be able to feel better now that you can progress everyday.  it's no fun not having the chance to move on in our daily lives.  you have some major challenges that you will come up agains't.  i think you've proven to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to.  just go back and look at the tapes from when you were on t.v.  it's amazing still to think that we could talk, after that long coma you were in.  i
definitely want you to hear my album.   i really meant what i said in the letter.  acceptance will set you free.  i was on the beach one night playing my little drum and it just hit me.  something told me you must hear it.  easier said than done, i know.  when you get my album, i would love it if you could hear it alone, from start to finish.  just keep your mind opened.  it is a story of me trying to make sense of indigenous cultures, life and death, and of grand point.  the last song was written for you and everyone when you were under that spell in the hospital.  i couldn't believe it happened to us again.  i was crying in my plate of blue runner red beans, thinking of you, mamere and papere, thinking of joey, pour bette.  i was thinking how sad it is that we all slip back into the normal daily life after someone passes on and we forget all the beautiful messages that death teaches us.  it teaches us how precious one minute is.  it showed me all the things i have inside to discover.  music has given my spirit a voice and has given me a purpose beyond myself.  anyway,  i'll get you a copy soon.  i'll send you one in a unique package, so be on the lookout for it.  just send me your mailing address.  hope you're well and fighting.  i'm fighting too.  life will always be an uphill climb, that was God's intention, a slow steady fulfillment.  there will be no happily ever after for anyone.  rich or poor.  take care.



I'm not going to lie, I ran from Grand Point.  I ran away.  There were long days as a child and they were strung together with no meaning and hot as hell.  Most days we let our imaginations run wild and built cabins in the woods and sometimes I thought if I walked far enough through the woods, California would be on the other side.  I had an imagination and liked building things.  Of course the adults would take note and say how good I was with my hands and that I was great candidate to work in the factories, totally ignoring my imagination.

They spoke in French when they spoke about us.  Always.  I wondered what they were saying about me when I'd come in for some cold tea but then I'd go back into my imagination.  At first it was imagining that I was Joe Montana and then a few years later "Ta Ta Jones".  Women couldn't vote until the 1920's and black folks couldn't play quarterback until the 1980's.  We humans are a funny herd of beings and we live on a moving ball and take space ships to the moon and plant flags and divide ourselves into classes and races.  Well Terrence "Ta Ta" Jones definitely took me to the moon on Fridays in 1983.  I planted my flag of swagger on Saturday's when we practiced our run through with no pads on.  Brent Poirrier was our coach, the oldest son in the Poirrier family.  "Wing left, Longview right" was my favorite pass play to the tight end Nuck Brignac.  Nuck was a natural talent and had size but had no use for games.  He'd sit on a lawn chair, away from everyone on the sidelines and his mom brought him Slushes.  Years later when I got into playing piano and classical music, Nuck told me I liked that crazy music with no words.  I look back fondly on those Saturday mornings in the fall.  Short practice, white shoe polish on our shoes and we'd pick up some sausage at Norm's.  Fall was in the air with the scent of burnt sugar cane.

We are all molded by our own experiences and environments.  It was a major experience for me to see Ta Ta play on Friday nights.  He was the first African American I'd ever seen play quarterback and he redefined the position right in front of our eyes.  He taught me what it meant to improvise and trust your instincts and push your outer limits.  It's a serious piece of info to receive as a kid, but it's an entirely different thing to train yourself to be yourself.

The first song I ever wrote was a song called "Art" and it was all about fighting to be yourself.  It lived on a cassette tape in my old four track recorder for about 3 years before it was born to a brand new beat that Donovan had made.  The first song we recorded in a professional studio was a song called "Perique".  "Preacher" Leblanc was the first sound on the record.  I had recorded him in the fields on one of my visits from New York.  He recites his social security number along with things in Latin from mass.  Older generations were tied to the land and to a reverence of the higher spirit.

But what about that beat.  There was the Choctaw beat under the tobacco shed when we'd beat the dust off of the tobacco stalks agains't the log.  I'd get so infected by the beat of the tobacco under the shed that it was sort of a revival.  Teddy Boy called me the Child of the Wolf in those moments.  Then there was the African beat in the stadium on Friday nights.  I was born into a unique set of circumstances right there on the Mississippi River just after desegregation.  It took me years to understand the complexities that took place in the centuries leading up to the 1980's.

It was pure joy when I put on my suit and picked Donovan Guidry up at the airport the day he moved to New York.  Living in the East Village was like making it to the moon for two Cajuns.  We celebrated that night at "Jules" in the village with some French film makers and dreamed our asses off.  Anything was possible now.  We treated this time in the late 90's like if we were delivering something.  If we didn't do it, no one ever will.  We never met other Cajun artist in New York the whole time we were there.  We were alone on the moon.  On Fridays there were no sounds of the high school marching bands, the city marched on.   It was a rare opportunity to be living right in the middle of the world.

We could hear the sound but needed some help getting it to come out of the speakers.  We knew things were about to change the day my brother Daniel sent us an old computer and we rigged it to record on.  It was like receiving the Arc of the Covenant.  Much resilience was needed night after night, crash after computer crash.  To help offset the cost of recording, I helped to build the now famed "Headgear Studio" in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  In fact, I was the first artist to record in that old warehouse.  Over the years, many great records would be made there and people like David Bowie were showing up.

Insecurity was a constant.  Every day I was in over my head, surrounded by smart and talented, accomplished people.  I didn't know what I was doing but I knew for sure that this was what I was supposed to be putting my energies into.  Of course I'd lose perspective but when I'd sit down to write Patti, my nerves would settle and I could see clearly what needed to be done.  Small steps, don't look down the row.  It's ok if you're from Grand Point.

We often recorded into the wee hours of the night and I'd walk about 11 blocks home to the south side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  One night I was walking triumphantly but tired and heard a light cough from the window above me.  I could see a shadow, a silhouette.  It was Joey, I swore it was. But he was a little boy.   He had hair that came down to his ear lobes.  He died in a fire due to the smoke and this shadow was coughing.  "Sky King" always said to remain open.  Things were going my way in the studio and I couldn't believe my good fortune, so maybe it could be Joey in that window.  He wouldn't answer me so I kept walking.  It gave me the chills.  I just assumed he returned to tell me he was proud of me, like the time we beat Riverside and I floated passes all over the field.  He was so happy for me that night.  He taught me well.

 No matter how late I stayed up, I always hopped out of bed around 8:00.  I could feel my dad looking at me and telling me to get up.  I could feel the pull of expectation of 10 generations before me.  There was no coach on a table inspiring me.  No teacher showing me how to take to the path.  We were blind but trusted our instincts and were dead serious about succeeding.  The computer allowed us to try many things without wasting tape.  We hated working with most studio engineers when we first started out.  We wanted to break the rules.  We actually didn't even know the rules and it allowed us to reimagine a way of working.  We had a drummer come in and play and then Donovan went to work pushing and pulling the beat until we had this heavy pocket of a rhythm.  I was in the vocal booth for the first time.  Everyone was looking at me through the glass and my heart was pounding.  We had that Cajun dub sound in the headphones and I opened my mouth.  "Take me humble man, cry me a river away....."

My melodies had their own rhythm and the songs that were coming out of me sounded foreign.  I didn't know what it was but it seemed connected to all my life experiences up until that point.  There was something about Reggae music and the delivery of the vocals that felt like home.  It had the same cadence as a gang of Cajuns in the kitchen.  But Cajuns from Grand Point were a unique mix.  We had some Native customs mixed with many African recipes and melodies from the river, along with the French.  Everybody in Brooklyn thought I was a foreigner and would ask repeatedly where I was from.  They'd eat my gumbo and would ask again.  Our music was a new mix and we were well on our way.

The arrival of the Acadians in Brooklyn can be dated back to 1997.  They arrived by plane with two bags and a lot of nerve.  I had arrived with the secret in my heart and was committed to the cause to find beauty, to live simply and resilient.  To find the wolf.  Sleep tight Patti Ann.

Take full responsibility for your actions.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 6) "Me And My Arrow, Me"

"hi patti ann,

just wanted to let you know that i played my first show in new york last night in manhattan. it was at budman studio high over the city in soho in a loft.  i played wearing an old paulina baseball hat, "high hat" like joey, in honor of sport and our little region on the river.  it felt great to be respected by the downtown art scene and  the andy warhol era folks. it  sounds like an oxymoron.  high art and grand point.  maybe not.    i spent three years making a record and had never played one live show.  i imagined you trying to walk with your new legs.  you make me brave.  you made a quiet grand point boy take to the stage and grab the mic.  the spirit of the land is roaring.  i'm so happy today, everyday is a battle and it's nice on the days when it all lines up and you can find some sort of peace.  i know that more challenges lie ahead, but  i will never falter to doubt and hard times, because in each of lifes little hardships lie our own unique blessings.  today i'll celebrate in your honor. i challenged myself because of you, because of joey, because of my friend charlie, because of life.  it is going to be special in new orleans someday when I can play there.  i can't wait to see a bus load of ya'll there to celebrate life even in these uncertain times.  you still carry the torch.



Me and my arrow me.  I say it like that because the Cajuns are my tribe.  Both east and west of the river.  All of them.  Say it over and over and I garantee you'll hear the melody.  Me and my arrow me. Me and my arrow me.   And the words just keep coming.  I don't question.   I step aside and let it through.  I feel like a sparrow but I am a wolf.  A child of the wolf he told me. 

It was always rumored that Teddy Boy had smoked the great chiefs peace pipe and he knew things we didn't know.  He had an omniscient look on his face with a slight grin.  I was often confused by him when I'd see him sitting on the bus laughing to himself.  He was always quiet and alone.  When I was a kid, I rode the bus with Teddy.  He was older and always sat in the back by himself grinning looking out the window.  One day he was laughing to himself and I asked him what he was laughing at and he said, "man prays but never listens".  I was too young to understand but I never forgot those words.  Those were the only words I ever heard him speak.  Well, that and when he told me I was the child of the wolf.

"Sky King" had said that I must remain open at all times.  He said that one never knows when messages are being sent.  They can be communicated through unsuspecting people, places, objects and events.  He said he received his name from a descendent of the great chief because in the 1930's he had found the wooden box of principles in Jr. Walsh's black smith shop.  At first he didn't understand what it was all about and then he found a name "Chenet" written on a book with the zip code for Belmont on it.   He found the oldest member of the Chenet family in Belmont and searched for clues.  The family had an Indian mound on their property out close to the "New Road" just beyond the tobacco processing facility.  He learned that the Chenet family weren't Cajuns and were secretly descendent of the Choctaws passing as white.  He left that day with a new name, Mapiya Ogima (Sky King). The secret was now in his possession.

I never wanted to be the bearer of secrets and to live with such a responsibility of translating it.  All I did was visit a little old lady who had lived on the other side of the woods from us my entire life.  It wasn't until I was in college that I finally had the nerve to visit.  All I knew of her was her big grey Cadillac coming down the lane, kicking up a little dust and a big wave and a smile.  Just one visit and I received all the info I needed as I was moving to New Orleans into my first apartment in the mid 90's.

I was just beginning to play the guitar and discovering a singing voice.  I taped a cheap microphone to a garbage can and sang for the first time as the lazy street car roared by.  There was something about music and singing that just vibrated me the right way.  It was an irresistible path.  It had nothing to do with being on a stage and lights.  I felt that I could communicate the secret this way.

Around this time is when I first met Donovan Guidry in an acting class at the University of New Orleans.  We barely talked throughout the semester and maybe did a scene or two together but on the last day of class we talked for an hour and knew we had to hang out again.  The first time we hung out was at my place on Maple St. and we told stories of our upbringing and they sounded a lot alike.  "My grandmother used to speak French, the food was amazing and we gathered on Sundays." We both new that those days were long gone and things were changing for the Cajuns long after Edwin Edwards.

Most of the time I'd sing and play alone.  It was for my own enjoyment.  My dad had played a little and sang "Butterbean".  Every wedding we went to as a kid, my dad ended up on the mic because the crowd insisted he sing it.  But we weren't musicians, we were mostly mechanically minded people and entrepreneurs.  Aunt Marie made wedding cakes and Aunt Pa Pim catered weddings using ancient family recipes.  They were booked every weekend.  But no one heard me sing.  I didn't even know I could. I thought that it might sound good, but I just knew it felt good.  One day, Donovan Guidry decided to visit without me knowing and he stood in the doorway while I was singing alone in the back of the house.  He told me that if I found my own sound, I could have a career.

He had a very important key for me that would unlock a new door for a new path.  He was reading a book called "The Souls Code" by James Hillman and it was full of little nuggets of wisdom.  During this time I was being seduced by an easy life in New Orleans.  Our family business was growing and I had a want for nothing.  I drove an old Mercedes, ate out at nice restaurants and traveled with money in my pocket for the first time living in the big city.  My time in New Orleans after college was like the smell of a new car and it was amazing for about a year or two and then the smell was gone.

I was drunk with discontentment.  It was very confusing.  I was living as I had dreamed as a young boy.  I was living in a city of diverse people and engaging myself with the culture and the world.  It was all I ever dreamed of but I felt empty.  Something wasn't right.  In these times before my move to New York, Patti was a fit aerobics instructor and inspired me in different ways.  I stayed healthy and continued to take care of myself long after playing sports but my soul was aching and screaming and I was feeling the pressure from the day Joey died.  Though it was silenced at times, it never totally disappeared.

Donovan started telling me about the book he was reading and began talking about our "daimon".  I had never heard that word before.  He said that our daimon accompanies us in life as a "carrier of our destiny" and has a long, rich history.  This caught my attention and I instantly thought of "Sky King" and the things he had left behind for me.  It was all becoming a folk tale for me too and the pull of luxury was too sweet to turn from but then I read a paragraph in the book and knew I needed to make a change.

"One of the reasons people silence the daimon or voice of vocation” is due to the perceived risks of following it – one must sacrifice short-term comfort, status, and wealth, and engage in work where the outcome is uncertain. Yet to repress this inner calling is destructive, and often leads to the formation of what may be called a silent rage: the absence, the anger, and the paralysis on the couch are all symptoms of the soul in search of a lost call to something other and beyond. The individual who loses touch with their daimon becomes an empty shell of the person that could have been."-Hillman

On Sundays I liked to take long drives and listen to records and stop to read the liner notes to learn the details of the recordings.  I drove to my parents house and headed straight for the closet.  There was a closet in the house that no one really went into.  The $2 bill Gibson guitar was in that closet.  Papere had saved $2 bills to buy that for my dad in the late 50's.  I'd peek at it when I was a kid but would never touch it.  It was like a little shrine and something I did on my own.  When "Sky King" gave me the wooden box, I could think of no better place to store it.  

It was easy to think of Grand Point as this little country town with not much to offer me anymore.  I had my college degree and I was living in "The City" discovering Jazz and art and my world view was exploding.  What good could a little wooden box in the country do me?  I opened the box quietly and saw the principles...."man will lose perspective", "he will be blinded by his riches". It was jolting.  I felt silly at first but then I thought of Aunt Marie's screams in the night and the young boy flying in the air to his end.  I imagined meeting my younger self and if I could look him in the eye.  Was I living up to the vow?  There was a locket in the box.  I cracked it open...."You are the bows from which future generations are sent forth.  Poison the arrow with the secret and point the arrow."

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
The Creator To Native People At The Time Of Creation


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 5) "The Ancient Secret of Perique Culture"

"hi patti ann,

i was cross eyed even before i got your little joke.  the past couple of days have been hard.  i know i probably sound like i'm always on top of things, but in reality i have to fight in my mind to stay there.  it's just not easy here in the big city sometimes, although living here can be quite rewarding if you truly work hard.  just when i think i'm at the end of my trials, another problem presents itself and laughs at me.  life is unbelievable, i'm sure i don't have to explain that to you.  my experiences here have taught me to keep looking for the positive light in all things, and to remain focused on it.  if we look the other way, for sure there will be no way out of the darkness. i hope you're battling hard and accepting all your challenges as they present themselves.  you can be a leader in the community if you want to, leading by example.  remember the patti fest?  i've never in my life seen so many people so alive in one place at the same time.  inside of you lies a great gift.  the spirit of the land. please keep digging, for me and for everybody.  i promise i'm here for you.  i'm making the most out of my opportunities, working my hands to the bone and uncovering many new talents.  give grande pointe some love for me. i miss her. the secret is safe with me. fight.



It took me 17 years to revisit these letters.  I knew they made grand gestures and that crazy things were happening in the world around me.  I knew the letters were defiant and had to be.  What do you say when your people are hurting and you've heard the secrets of the land and buildings are falling around you? You beat on the drum and sing the silence.

Once at an antiques fair in Round Top, Texas, a clairvoyant man selling rugs looked at me with an astonished look on his face.  He told me I was in my ninth life and that I can choose to come back if I wanted to.  This reminded me of "the dream".  Once as a child while breaking a fever, I had a haunting dream in pitch black darkness with a quiet like nothing on earth.  There was a sound of water sloshing around and complete darkness with a speck of light.  It scared the hell out of me and I didn't want to go to sleep for a long time.  Recently I had the thought that I could have been remembering being in the womb.  I am the Elephanthead after all and I just can't bring myself to rule this conclusion out.  I also can't rule out the nine lives.

What do we know anyway of the passages of time?  We have been taught by the same men over and over and over for their gain.  History (his story), Religion (another story) have been used to control the masses for thousands of years.  It's appalling when you take the time to look back on the actions of mankind.  And when I say look back, I mean 10's of thousands of years to get to this point.

When the Acadian settlers arrived in Louisiana, they were resilient and were used to living off of the land and minding their own business.  Before Louisiana, this culture had moved from France to what was called "New France" in Canada because of the natural resources on the land.  Unlike most cultures, especially the white man, they befriended the Natives and learned from them and exchanged ideas.

When I look back on Grand Point life in the old days, resilience keeps coming to mind.  The extreme heat,  and a summer harvest with very little profit.  Flour sacs became dresses and nothing was ever wasted.  From a young age, I always wondered where that resilience came from.  Death, hard work and sacrifice were a constant presence but there was always the joie de vivre. (Joy of Life)

When I sat with "Sky King" that day in Ms. Gladys' kitchen and he told me the long tales of the past, the dots started to connect.  There was a great secret that had been passed down from generation to generation but in the 1990's it was becoming a folk tale and no one was taking the old days seriously and the wise old predictions were coming true.

It turns out that Perique tobacco wasn't the only thing the Acadians learned from the Choctaws upon arriving in St. James Parish.  The natives had been here for many years and befriended the arriving Acadians and exchanged customs much like they did in New France.  There was nothing more resilient in the country than the native who lived for 10,000 years during the Ice Age along the Bering Land Bridge before finding a passage to the America's.  10,000 years during the Ice Age made the Louisiana heat a lot less extreme I'm sure.

On that day in the kitchen "Sky King" had my mind soaring and he began to fill in the blanks for me and the great silence of the Grand Point man began to make sense.  I say great silence, because men in "the back of the point" are notoriously quiet.  When I was a school boy I almost dreaded my dad picking me up from school because of his silence.  But "Sky King's" story unfolded.  He made me promise not tell anyone unless I wanted them to start thinking I was crazy.

He told me the Choctaw chief sat down with one of the early settlers named Pierre and shared some principles.  Principles that would help the new settlers develop their own private culture that could endure and avoid mans unavoidable traps.

"Man will be blinded by his riches.  His world view will become small and he will think that he is much bigger in the universe than he is.  He'll forget the thousands of years that proceeded him and remain ignorant to the thousands more approaching.  Man is a grain of sand.  Empires build up and then they fall.  For a thousand years.  And a thousand more.  Man will lose perspective.  We have come to live off the land and to nurture and remain close to the great spirit.  To save the spirit of the land. To dedicate our efforts to the greater good. Work is a blessing."

"To dedicate our efforts to the greater good" hit home with Pierre and the early settlers  who had settled on the Mississippi River.  These teachings were saved in a wooden box and would endure up until The Great Flood of 1927.  When the waters dispersed into the Blind River, there was a point that formed just off of the Mississippi River.  The point would soon be called "Grand Point" and settled by its new founders and the secret of "Perique Culture" would endure and soon thrive now that they could distance themselves from the big plantations and the changing customs of the time.  The tales of the natives were becoming true but it would be a hard thing to resist the desire for the riches that were happening right there on the river road and it was a horror show.

"Sky King" had said enough.  It was about as much as I could digest for a 20 year old.  He said there was more.  In that wooden box there was a message carved on a "cop cop". (wooden mallet used for hanging tobacco) "It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand".

I know the great silence.  I sing it.  The secret.  Patti Ann did too.  I was a howling wolf back in Brooklyn writing letters to her and she was a lion climbing to the mountain top.  She was conquering her long rows of tobacco.  Tonight I'm howling at the harvest moon.  It's hard living among the confused with not many to look up to.  I wish there were a chief.  Hail to thee.

 They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 4) "Ode To The Sky King"

"hello patti ann,

i had a nice day off today.  it is finally nice and sunny here, with a little cool breeze at night.  i set up my front patio with a table and chairs and we had beers and listened to music.  we are all finally able to relax and have some fun after 3 years of grueling work.  hope things are well with you.  i'm still thinking of you a lot.  i've been thinking of my friend charlie that died in november a lot.  i wish he were still here, he would like this time of the year with all the girls on the streets.  today was one of them days where you just appreciated life.  it's hard appreciating life sometimes though, it's so hard for all of us in our own ways.  it's hard to keep perspective. i'll do a better job keeping in touch, it's just when we're in the studio, it's long hours and my mind doesn't function the same.  i can't wait til you could see all the things we're going to do.  I believe we can make change. hopefully, everything is going well over there for you, hope to hear from you soon.  do you have a chance to read books? i'm not sure if you can turn pages, but if you can read on the computer or something it could be something nice.  so many worlds to discover by reading.  i've been able to escape many mental prisons by reading with an opened mind.  anyway, i'll talk to you soon.  



Road maps!  Remember them before we had access to anything in the palms of our hands?  Information was like heavy cargo on the back of big trucks and took time to get delivered all the way to Grand Point.  I always loved the feeling of going on the book mobile to check out books.  I knew all those books were my little gateways out of town, out of our mental prisons.

Tobacco people are tough people.  You harvest in July in the humidity and heat and then you have to hang it in the shed and process it.  There was always one guy who could walk the beams and hang the stalks without becoming nauseous over the strong smell of Perique.  After a day in the field there wasn't much energy to spend reading or cultivating the arts.  It was the furthest thing from one's mind even though a few managed to pick a guitar beneath the tree.

I'm sure my ancestors were grateful to learn the art of Perique tobacco farming from the Choctaw Indians, but getting up every day, day after day with those long rows waiting for you in the hot field was what one had to look forward to.  It must have been a prison.  My dads generation wasn't having it though.  The automobile became their freedom.  Just like the Native Americans learned of the horse, the Coon Ass found his car.  A whole world opened up to them.

Before the natives knew the freedoms of the horse, they had no leisure time and spent days hunting for the nights dinner.  It was very hand to mouth.  The same went for us I'd imagine.  I remember farmers knocking off at 5 and going home to shower and putting on a new work uniform and heading to Dave's Store for a night cap before doing it all again the next day.

The "Sky King" had different ways to escape town.  I don't even know his real name.  That's how it is and was in old Grand Point.  One goes by a nickname their whole life and when they die their real name appears on the obituary and no one ever knows who it is.  I know for sure his last name was Martin.  I had always heard stories of him being a pilot.  I think he may have learned to fly in the military.

One day in my years after college I went to visit Ms. Gladys who was getting on in years.  "Sky King" was sitting at the kitchen table.  Just me, him and Ms. Gladys and he began to tell me stories of landing airplanes in peculiar places.  Like on a strip of land in the Atchafalaya!  He pulled out a map and made a hard sell to me about knowing where the Arc of the Covenant was in Mexico.  He had it all plotted out and was in cahoots with someone who had all the geographic knowledge.  This man had an imagination, but I was right there with him in believing anything was possible.  I had been away at school for four years in Mississippi and knew there was a whole world out there.  And besides I was watching my parents crop grow right before my eyes with opportunities coming to us that no one ever had before in the way back country town.  2.5 miles of winding road seemed like an eternity from the rest of the world in those days.

I was born a generation or two right behind these folks.  Factory's came to the river and people slowly left the field for better incomes and more stability.  Some people believe we choose our situation that we are born into  and we pick our families, mothers and fathers to help create the desired outcome of a life we want to achieve.  It's a nice thought but it's hard to believe I'd choose such a hard road with so much death around. But then "Sky King" told me of the ancient secret and then I knew I was in the right town.  In the right life.  I'll get to that later.

A friend of mine who recently experienced the sudden loss of her brother told me she couldn't believe I lived with that from an early age.  It was always around.  My mamere had pictures up of her two kids she lost and it was haunting.  When you live like it's your last days, one can evolve pretty quickly.  One book, one conversation with a pilot and next thing you know I'm the "Sky King" and instead of searching for the Arc of the Covenant I'm excavating life and trying to find meaning and to make sense of it all.  One thing is for certain.  If it weren't for death none of this would mean anything.  Patti reminded me of that.  Our mortality makes time precious. I'll be back again and again.  With secrets.

"Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely."-Buddha

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 3) "Behind The Wheel"

hi patti ann,

nice to get a good laugh at that message you sent.  things are great here, feeling a big sense of accomplishment finally.  the sun is shining, and cool.  i'm as tan as uncle winn in the middle of the cane field, well almost.  i got a few new hats too.  they're a lot like the ones the old men used to wear in grand point.  i think todd has one of papere's old hats.  my music is really coming out good.  i can't believe it's my creation.  this is what i wanted to feel since joey died.  i have peace now, because i haven't quit living, you know? evolving.  there's much for us to be thankful for.  hope you're battling and trying to move on.  we have a duty to live truthfully, and honestly with ourselves.  we must fight hard to squeeze out every bit of ourselves while we're blessed with life.  you are a living flower, if you can continue to dig deep and continue to blossom, there will be much life surrounding you.  i'm thinking of you today.  happy mothers day!  it's the greatest mother's day, lil maddy can kiss patti ann.



They call me an elephant head because I don't forget a thing.  I remember things in detail, like the warmth of Patti's legs when I learned to drive by sitting on her lap.  My first time behind the wheel of a car and it was in the Poirrier's prized Chevrolet Vega.  For some reason, it seems there must have been cigarette smoke because wherever Patti was there was Tina too.  Not that Tina smoked but she was born wild and loose and was free.  It's a hard place to get to as a human, that childlike state.  When I got to the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in NY, that's the first thing they tried to get us back to, was our inner child.  To act on instincts.  

Patti was much more reserved and observed more and let Tina have center stage.  These little road trips were insane for me.  At this time I could only take my bike up to the old school yard where we played baseball but here I was behind the wheel going all the way to the "New Road".  Well it wasn't quite a road yet.  It was a long stretch of dirt that would go from east to west along the River Road about a mile or so north of the river.  The back of Grand Point would be the back no longer.  And we were indeed in the back and Gramercy was the big city.  It was a special kind of freedom when we'd spend a night or two in Gramercy at my maternal Grandparents house.  Two quarters in my pocket headed to the bakery on Main St. felt really good.  It felt like a city. I always took note of the same feelings I'd have years later in NY when I'd take a break to walk down to the cafe.  

In the late 90's,  I was going back and forth to Louisiana pretty regularly.  A new airline was starting called Jet Blue and you no longer needed a booking agent to book a flight.  I'd book a $69 flight one way armed with my portable recorder and my new found perspective and love for Grand Point.  It was absurd.  I was making a record.  Years before while reading many biographies, I convinced my dad that Marlon Brando was just a dude from a  country town and that I was going to the same acting school as him in NY.  My parents were always opened minded, especially with me because I was forever challenging the status quo.  I had a hard time with footsteps and following them.

Ms. Alice Winston came off as a mean old lady at The Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting.  Everyone was frightened of her but I kinda liked her and the way she'd teach the class over looking New York smoking a cigarette and never flicking the ashes.  They'd just drop to the floor.  She was from a golden era. She was getting on in years and we were constantly compared to Marlon Brando cause he was still Stella's prized student and Ms. Alice was around in those times when Stella started her school.  It was grueling for an introvert.  9-5 everyday of the week, up on stage having to perform or put yourself out there in some capacity.  Before long it became natural but I always had a chip on my shoulder about it because I had this Grand Point accent I couldn't get rid of and the European actors had these big open beautiful voices.  Those diction classes gave me a headache, trying to get my lazy Cajun tongue to move and annunciate.  

Much confidence came out of my year at the Conservatory though.  To have these teachers who have seen it all tell me I'm an artist was all I needed to run back to my apartment every night to write music.  These were the things going on for me when I first moved to NY, when Patti first lost her normal life and the letters began.  There was no road map for me.  Everything was instinct.  I had finally convinced my parents I was an actor and now I was sitting outside my East Village apartment telling my mom I'm a musician and I'm leaving the Conservatory.  It was a safe place at Stella.  It was part of New York University and there were many talented, smart folks around and the best thing about it was having a coach again or mentors to push you.  Leaving this behind was really scary cause I'd be on my own now.  Or at least that's what I thought.  

The wolf would begin to howl again and this time Patti would barely escape it's grasp and become my muse.  Trips to Louisiana became very important.  One to see Patti and two to gather information and stories.  Someone told me the old "Daves Store" had been moved behind the Stock Pile Bar and I went to see it before heading back to Brooklyn.  It sat vacant and I peeked in the window.  I could smell the smoke and Little Millers.  I saw Kerry scratching on the 8 ball while the place was packed with bare footed kids waiting their turn to climb the winners bracket.  I saw Mr. Yolande smash his big farm hand on the table and grab the foreigner Pat East by the neck.  (Foreigner=anyone north of the New Road)  I saw myself, Patti and Tina behind the bar grabbing a Pop and some "Grand Isle Candy" (Starburst) after our drive out to the New Road to see the huge airplane that had landed in an emergency so the "Sky King" could run home.  "Bye Mr. Milton"..... "Bye Mang".

"Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art" -Stella Adler

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Perique Culture....A letter to Reese Fuller

I just came across more "saved draft" letters in my Yahoo account.  I'm not sure if I ever sent this but I just found Reese Fuller on line and resent it.  Years ago when I was newly signed to Atlantic Records, I was on a plane reading an article in Louisiana Life by Reese on "Perique Culture" and I was excited and had much to say on the matter.  I had just made my first record and was luckily signed by Atlantic Records out of all the artist out there making music they picked little me from Grand Point and my first song was called "Perique".

hi reese,

i was so happy to see you send something my way.  last week in the interview, your name came up and i recognized it from the article in louisiana life magazine.  

one day i was just getting back to louisiana from new york for a quick visit and rest, when i saw t-boy on the cover of the magazine.  i was happy about the angle of the story how someone besides me was talking about "perique culture".  you weren't talking so much about tobacco, but people.

i'm a grande pointe boy who was raised in the back of grande pointe.  i fished in the pointe de cannes, down the red dirt road.  my dad, danny louque, was a little bare foot tobacco boy too.  his papere, clarence, had the good fortune of the factory job late in his life, and so did my mine.  my dad took it one step further out of the field and started his own machine shop right there in the back yard in the field on the rich soil and it grew like wild fire.  

up came from the ground for me was oppurtunity beyond my wildest imagination.  before i knew it, i had a nice car and was headed off to college.  needless to say my world just burst wide open.  

in your story you mentioned perique culture and wether it could be saved or what will happen to it.  man, i see it changing so fast and it scares me.  not that i'm not a progressive man, but because some simple beauty's are dying each day.  my dear friend, mr. pitt just died a little while ago.  he was a from a martin family who farmed perique.  it was he who i worked for as a boy.  when i moved home from new york for a break, i worked the fields with he and ms. bridgitte, what lessons i learned.  i saw a man connected to the earth and her cycles, living in complete harmony with her.  going from grande pointe to new york so many times has been a great study.  in new york i can take my work ethic and attack my weaknesses like a savage lion.  when i boarded the plane leaving new orleans i waved goodbye to my teary eyed mom with my chest out proud without a doubt that it was on and papere knew it too.  

i want to send you a package soon, maybe tomorrow.  i'm not gonna send you the typical press kit from the label, i'm sending it straight from my shed.  i came to new york and found my field, my crop.  perique culture is indeed alive.  alive in a new products.  grande mamere said, geaux dut geaux before she laid her eyes to rest and i haven't stopped yet.  

i would love to sit and chat at some point.  maybe take you further  into perique culture.  i'm headed home for a break on april 27th til the 4th of may for jazzfest.  if you're in town you must get in touch, we're gonna have crawfish.  anyway, i'm thrilled to hear from you.  talk to you soon.

dustan louque 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 2) "Into The Wind"

hello patti ann,                                                                                                   September 11, 2001  Brooklyn, NY

can you believe how life is.  it just goes where it wants.  what nerve.  sorry it has taken so long to write again.  i've been in shock since this morning when i woke up and heard the tv on in my living room.  the first plane had pierced american soil and i was all snug in my bed sleeping heavily about three miles away.  it didn't seem real until i stuck my head out the window and saw the smoke and the people running across the bridge.  i ran into one woman who had just gotten across the bridge, she was in shock.  she didn't know where she was.  then it was real.  realer than i ever wanted it to be.  this wasn't what it felt like when i studied American history.  this was frightening.  i'm strong though.  i've been in my own sort of boot camp during the making of my record.  we all knew that life was about to change.  i knew we couldn't go on cruise control forever.  I hope you're well over there.  i'll probably be moving back to new orleans soon.  it's just not good here. there are guys with backpacks on the subways.  it doesn't feel right anymore.  it would be nice to see you more.  i am of no use to ya'll over here.  no use to the kids.  no use to louisiana.  i'm excited about the challenges that lay ahead.  glad that i have them.  thankful to be free to go head to head with em.  i'll be fighting til somebody takes me.  hope you'll be right there with me.  i'll talk soon.



  It's one thing to make a vow and another thing to live up to it.  When Joey died in the factory explosion, life became something completely different.  I had finally gotten around the fact that grandparents die but tragedy was something completely new, well maybe not completely.  For whatever reason God, the creator or whatever you need to call him/her wanted to expose me to death.  He wanted my face up in it.  Like the time me and my cousin Mudgun were sitting with Papere and we heard a loud screech and when we got out there time stood still and there was a kid suspended in mid air who had flown off the back of a motorcycle and was plunging to his death right before our eyes.  I wondered if I would have run fast fast and dove if I could have made a play to save him.  It was a recurring nightmare for years. Rest in peace little Brandon.

  It was easy living up to vows when playing sports.  It was a little more difficult being a little smaller than most but if you wear bigger shoulder pads and work harder and have that god damn mountain on your back because of these vows, then you play big.  It's easy because we grew up with balls in our hands and that's all we had to do in Grand Point and I was much younger than Joey who taught me to throw floating passes over the defender.  What a clown he was. So funny.  I don't think I can remember him ever being mad or angry or mean to anyone.  He taught me to wear my hat high on my head and throw pitches down the pipe.  Little leaguers had no chance, I was learning from the best. The Poirrier's were well known athletes along the river and taught me  and my brothers how to dress for games and wear our baseball stockings correctly.  We invented so many games. My favorite was garage ball.  The batter stood in the garage and the pitcher just 10 feet out of it and pitched against the wall where a big square strike zone was marked by tape.  In order to get hits, we had to hit line drives and home runs had to soar really low and just carry.  I loved making all of the older ones proud.  

It's easy in sports, because your coach gets up on a table and gives you the speech of a lifetime to get you to rise up way more than you ever could on your own and then your teammates are there to boost each other up.  When my playing days were coming to an end,  I left McNeese State after a year and realized I wasn't 6'4" and that my real work was just beginning.  

  In south Louisiana, football is king, it's what we do and how we express ourselves.  I was a bit lost without sports for awhile. I loved to practice and to feel improvement and see the results. I could be quiet and just let my play speak for itself.  Louque men are traditionally pretty quiet and I wasn't much different.  I began to have all these thoughts of trying to piece the dots together....all these things I saw but I started to let it go.  The task was too daunting. I had no idea what to do with all those things I had learned in sports and life or what to apply it to now.  I think many in the River Parishes can relate to this.

The "911 Letter" was one of the last letters I wrote to Patti Ann before I moved back to Louisiana from New York but many came before.  Years before, when I first moved to New York, Patti fell ill with meningitis and lost her arms and legs just like that.  Those beautiful legs were gone.  I was pissed.  I mean it was enough to take one kid from his mother but to almost take another and leave her so helpless!  It was hard when I went home to visit and I saw her for the first time.  

  When I went back to New York I began writing letters to her.  What do you tell someone who just lost so much?  I knew I needed to be there for her somehow but in the end she was there for me too.  Looking back, in a way, I became the coach standing on the table in tears trying to will his team with their backs to the wall to get on the field and play.  I was on the table for both of us.  I wanted to express all these things I was seeing but didn't know how and it would take so much strength to get through the insecurities of being a guy from Grand Point, Louisiana in New York making a record for the first time.  When I was getting weak and the years were passing since my vows, Patti became the person who wouldn't let me turn from them.  She held my hand as I told my Grand Point story and helped me to believe in it, to believe that we were artist too. Americans.

  Everyday moments became the moment right before the big game when your coach's speech is almost biblical and the walls are coming up around you and you must persevere.  I became like my old coach, "Coach Tim" for Patti.  I stood on the table and told her she could throw farther into the wind and that if she stood in the pocket just a little longer everything would open up.  

"Sisters, human life is the unforeseen, everything is transient and egoless.  Only the world of Enlightenment is tranquil and peaceful.  You must keep on with your training." -Buddha