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


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