Monday, September 11, 2017

Peter J. Marina's "Down and Out in New Orleans"

Peter Marina is a New Orleans native and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

Here he tags the actor who should play him in an adaptation of his new book, Down and Out in New Orleans: Transgressive Living in the Informal Economy--and sketches a scenario of the imaginary film:
If the book were made into a movie, Aidan Turner would play my role as lead actor. People sometimes confuse me for him in public, and he plays transgressive characters that lead debacherous, downright mischievous lives. The main character of Down and Out in New Orleans had to become transgressive to conduct the research into similarly transgressive lives. For a director, Paul Thomas Anderson, excels with large ensemble casts and uses lots of wide angle shots which would really show off NOLA and make the city itself a character in the film.

Peter Marina lives down and out in New Orleans reproducing, as closely as possible, the conditions Orwell faced in Down and Out in Paris and London in late 1920s Paris. Marina’s film tells the story of post-Katrina New Orleans and its culture of creative degenerates, vagabonds, artists, hustlers, transients, grifters, intellectuals, musicians, druggies, skells, gutter punks, goths, occultists, and existentialists who exist beneath the radar in the city of New Orleans.

Marina does not merely study the city’s fringes. He lives on them. He doesn’t merely interview the city’s new bohemians. He lives among them, lives as one of them. He doesn’t settle for examining the city’s modern underbelly. He creeps and crawls through it – sometimes on his hands and knees, working menial jobs, scrounging for enough to eat, living among the urban tribes – indeed, becoming part of them – and hoping to survive.

He walks on glass as “Cuban Pete the Clown” pantomimes on the streets outside the Superdome before Saints games, busks poetry on Frenchmen Street, bartends on Bourbon Street, cleans Air B&B apartments in Faubourg Marigny, trips with occultists in Barataria swamps, breaks into New Orleans’ aboveground cemeteries for underground Satanic rituals, attends informal burlesque shows, helps perform a marriage ceremony for homeless travelers, sleeps in down-and-out homeless shelters and squats in the many abandoned buildings of hurricane Katrina, shares life with gutter punks and down-and-out urban dwellers, dances in the streets of second-line parades, shares New Orleans culture with the black Mardi Gras Indians, and even sells pot for a few extra dollars.

The movie centers on the cast of characters Marina encounters on his various adventures throughout New Orleans traversing social life with many of the city’s urban tribes and subcultures. He finds Tim the Gold Man searching for relief at the end of a beer while somehow achieving semi-celebrity status. Marina discovers a colorful cast of characters such as Cubs the Poet writing for tourists, Eric Odditorium swallowing swords, and Stumps the Clown swinging a bowling ball through hooks in his ears, all attempting to stake their claim in the world. Marina penetrates into the three dimensions of Shannon’s life as she moves from peacefully writing poetry of French orgasms to frantically whipping tourists on the streets to hopping freight trains in a quest to reach the summit of life’s experiences. He shares adventures with occultists as they enter swamps and hop cemeteries to engage in supernatural rituals that empower and make meaning to their world. Marina encounters the world of buskers as they perform on the streets of New Orleans as well as gutter punks and homeless politically motivated youths who squat in the city’s many abandoned houses.

Marina travels with brass-band musicians blowing their trumpets making money from tourists while also keeping the culture of the city defiantly alive. He marches with the Mardi Gras Indians in their second-lines as they sing about spy boys while chanting Iko unday Jockomo feeno and dances with brass bands screaming “Fuck the po-po” with their middle fingers raised, speaking truth to power about police brutality. Marina witnesses community resident Vance Vaucresson getting the okey dokey from urban planners and city elites – like Pres Kabacoff, or the Robert Moses of New Orleans – hell-bent on transforming the culture of New Orleans into a personal means of profit.

In this pursuit of discovery, Marina unlocks a world where urban residents show their human agency and engage in new forms of transgression to find creative cultural solutions to collectively experienced structural contradictions posed in our late stage of modernity.
Visit Peter Marina's website.

--Marshal Zeringue