Classes in Sweat Management, both for beginners and advanced, were offered by the New Orleans School for the Imagination (NOSI) as far back as the late nineties. At the time, these classes were thought to be some kind of joke and we had only a few students. Our enrollments tended to be Canadians who didn't (or pretended not to) get it. For them, getting used to summer in New Orleans was a serious project that needed to be conducted with the utmost professionalism.
In Beginner SM we taught them how to slow down their breath and how to produce circular slow effects by reciting the poetry of Ted Enslin. We coached them in social situations where the management of sweat was a high art conducted with kerchiefs, bandanas and an appropriate language taken from colloquial 19th century writers. We organized costume parties in rooms without air conditioning, and we served warm drinks that brought our pupils to near collapse, a state ideal for the chilling effects of the snow-bound verses of Siberia's greatest poet, Iskar Ardun, which we had assigned for memorization.
Our (mostly Canadian) beginning students were thus trained to survive for at least one month (July) in New Orleans. Some of them returned for our tough advanced course, but only half of these graduated. Advanced training in SM had for its goal the complete control of every drop of sweat so that it not only went where the sweater wanted it to, but it could be directed with precision to cause intense pleasure. The final exam consisted of a walk from the French Market, up Decatur, and over Canal all the way Uptown to Carrollton Avenue, wearing blue jeans and a hoodie. At the end of the walk, there was a required orgasm produced entirely with sweat droplets. The walk itself was rigorously divided into breath-training recitations of the poetry of the masters of NOSI, such as Dave Brinks, Megan Burns, Elizabeth Garcia, Bill Myers, Andy Young, James Nolan and Lee Grue. Every three blocks the candidate would switch to another memorized NOSI poet and walk in a prescribed fashion, training the breath on their varying-size lines. Many students dropped out because they couldn't memorize so much poetry, or so they claimed. Our analyses reveal that they quit because they were wussies.
If those early educational efforts were somewhat tentative, we've had no such luxury in the past five years. Our classes are mobbed. There is a long waiting list to get in of applicants from all over the country. The reality of global warming has finally sunk in, and the summer of 2006 clinched it. People as far away as Alaska are looking at sweat training as the only way to survive the future. We've expanded the program to accommodate upwards of 3,000 students and we've hired new staff, mostly soldiers fresh from the deserts of Iraq and Lebanon who fought in 120-degree heat carrying heavy gear. The poetry aspect of the training has gotten stronger, too, with the introduction in the curriculum of Dada and concrete poets whose verses appear, at first glance, impossible to memorize.
When you graduate from NOSI's Sweat Management program you are ready to take on the Sonora Desert in the same week as the Mississippi Delta. You will be a master of effluvia control (MEC is the degree earned) and will be licensed to teach the fainting masses of the temperate zones. Our new Sweat Bunker, a magnificent solar-powered building designed by Andrea Garland, will be completed by June 2007.
New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years Of Writing From the City is the latest book by Andrei Codrescu.