Archive for December, 2005

Devil & the Deep Blue Sea

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

I’ve been missing playdate in the mornings because Arlene is on bedrest. I should be on bedrest with this cold even though I had the first night of real sleep Thursday night. Of course, with good sleep comes good dreams and those are hard to shake in the morning. I lay in bed in a kind of daze not wanting to enter the day and now I know that I was coming down with something other than a heartache.

The Snake’s Jesus is the Reason for the Season was greatly inspiring Thursday night and I believe one of his best. Still after he finished I could feel myself crashing hard so I snuck out and walked back down the dark streets to the truck alone.

BJ called Friday to catch up – which was good because frankly I was a little worried – he and I usually stay in touch and haven’t heard from him or Danielle. Knowing that Steve was just there I thought they had made up their minds about this whole thing and were going to remain silent. We had a sweet heartfelt talk about a couple of things he said were comforting and sometimes people do things that others don’t want them to and at the end of the day you are still Rachel – who I love. Sweet forgiveness.

Possibly the most bizarre call came Tuesday eve from my niece, Dana’s husband – Mark – said he was picking up vibes from me and I was like, uh, come again? He said Dana’s at the grocery story right now and I had to talk to you about this. He said you sat close to me as well, we were at a table for 8 that had 14 people around. He mentioned my blouse and the thing that got him most was when I squeezed his arm goodbye. Don’t want to be dismissive but assure you, you are reading this wrong. We hung up after three reiterations with me still shaking my head. The Snake said start wearing sports bras and turtlenecks and Nancy said definitely quit squeezing arms.

Another sweet missive from Allison Friday morning – she and Bugs are getting some things straightened out, which is good – her message was sweet and tender and though you wouldn’t know it to look at her – the ice queen she appears but she has a huge heart. She’ll come early to the Bahamas so girl time is taking shape.

Daily, Sandy checks in on me and boost me with some inspiring missive – her latest was a quote from Voltaire – expect the best possible things in the best possible world. I do indeed expect the best even though I think I entered some form of depression the other day when I lay back and couldn’t remember ever being happy or when I would be happy again. I shook it off, but here and there my brain leaks sweet memories that make me smile – right now it’s uncertain whether these same memories bridge to something greater or get filed away – either way, I myself am onto a better life.

Hanukkah party last night and smoke filled the apartment while the alarms went off like a house on fire – Rachel cooking – Ham running to the door to throw me over his shoulder and rescue me – the Snake up on the ladder – Ham and Teresa are terrific, love them to death. Studying frogs in Central America. After all the champagne, we went through the good wine like it was going to reproduce itself. And deep into the wine, the survivor stories began and once again Katrina’s pall hung over our group like a nightmare.

Patience

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Yesterday the Bean collapsed after a light round of ball playing on the bayou sending me into a funk of all funks. Then to K’s to demo the house but ripping out the insulation affected me so bad I had trouble staying in the house and kept having to go out for air. Then calls about the house from B and subs needing checks and brother B acting retarded and lo and behold as I sat by Blue trying to stop the burning fiberglass itch I spotted a msg from earlier indicating I had missed something and then later calls came in succession that neatly segmented into I might, I will, I’ll try, I can’t.

A vet appt later revealed nothing but that the Bean is fine and blood work would determine if something like a stroke had happened.

Today no stroke, no seizure, a fluke – blood work fine. So the Bean is on bedrest for 10 days. But when I woke this morning I did not know that and I woke in a funk – even after having had a lovely evening at dinner for my mom’s 70th birthday – then I drove over to the LaLa to do a walk through with the electrician and S, only to discover that S had brought a squeeze with him – do tell? – kind of like huh? Nice enough, kept saying she was jealous of my tub, but really what goes on?

Then to get poboys for the demo crew and another missed msg shows up from earlier in the day – and a call comes in to see how I am doing, how the Bean is doing – uh let’s try to think about that one – how should I be doing under the circumstances? But instead, the reply is fine, just fine I am.

A long run on the bayou set me straight – I love when my body runs on its own volition, it just knows how – and the weather is so outstanding right now – glorious and calling us outdoors on December 29th for goodness sakes. And others think we suffer here.

Tonight it is another round of socializing, then tomorrow night it’s my night to entertain, then New Year’s eve party and bonfire, then pretty soon it’s back to work in earnest – but the best news I received all day was that Cox will have the internet at the Can up by end of next week and that Mom is only a few more steps away from getting in the Can – and so hopefully 2006 will begin ameliorating the struggle of Katrina.

Firecrackers exploding out my window as I write – the bright star that I seek out every night is right where it always is – and I am left to study a virtue I don’t possess naturally – patience.

Sledgehammer

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

As this year unwinds, today is the first day where there is a purpose to being here and I’m pulled outside of self-centered endeavors. The LaLa is still a struggle to figure out how to get finished – so many moving parts still yet to come together. Today it’s over to Kim’s to help one of the ones that truly lost everything, the house, the rabbit, and everything contained within – to gut what’s left – to give her a tabula rasa so she can rise again.

Although the past few days have been beautiful New Orleans December days, I couldn’t disguise my chilliness this morning towards N and towards her negative predictions about my life as she compared it to her life or B’s life and drew analogies that don’t quite fit as she forces her peg into the hole she has carved out for me. Why does everyone insist they have the answers in the back of the book when I am still operating from the student version, the one where there is a test at the end of each day to see if I guessed at least 50% correctly.

I smell a tendency to use shared experiences to relate to anything and everything despite evidence to the contrary. It’s what gives us wisdom and comfort – the knowing – been there done that – but I rail against knowing the unknowing. There is still so much to learn – what we are capable of believing or dreaming, what others are made of, how circumstances can shift resolve and how people can twist and morph into better versions of themselves with the right catalysts.

Yesterday afternoon spent with W and my family – watching my little girls with their little girls and seeing how factors have shaped them and the one that was flighty is less so and the one who was in charge is more so and the ones they have formed a partnership with are more or less reflections of them and the ones they have created are off doing their own thing regardless of the directions they are being given.

W said – I like it here because I can do what I want – goodness! I try to find things to say no to and don’t see any need because he wants to run and I run with him, he wants to see the trailer again and I don’t mind going to see it again even though it is off-gassing, and he wants to open his presents – no, not early – my only no? – and he wants me to stay with him on the couch to cuddle – where are the no’s?

And being summoned in the midnight hour – the awkwardness of the days finally dissolving, the ambivalence dissipating, and a general sense the New Year might bring a better life. And only now can I begin to allow myself to indulge in memories.

Laying here tonight, my body is spent after swinging a sledgehammer – but it felt so great knocking down those moldy walls. I couldn’t help but think about LaLa as I was bringing this house to the current state LaLa is in. The Snake showing us how to bring down the sheetrock, how to tear up the floor, how to pull up the rusty nails – watching and feeling layer by layer this house come apart, I longed layer by layer for LaLa to be built – to have done the demo myself, to be building it myself – I am so disconnected from the process I don’t know how I can claim the house when it is done.

N was in the window picking up glass and I sang to her – there once was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead, and when she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.

You singing about yourself girlfriend, she laughed and said melting my chilliness.

Later as we lay in the grass drinking beer and laughing – I looked around at the dusty crew and thought of all the things we might be doing but we were all doing this and are going to do it again. The house sat regurgitated on the curb and N threw beers in it from where we sat – we spoke about Katrina and who would run for mayor – and reflected on a city we all love and want to rise again.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

Playdate then to N’s to open presents and drink Baileys and tea and do a little twist and that was the most fun opening presents I’ve ever had! Then a chicken bath and a long long run and then home to bathe and scrub the watermark off of Arlene once and for all. Porch sitting with L then to see the girls and light the menorah armed with one of N’s delicious satsuma pies. Now N&B, L and J, W&B, dogs and all are sitting around a delicious crown roast with mirliton dressing, creamed spinach and lots of yummy desserts.

It’s all goody. We got through 2005 – almost.

I have nice images of the past two days – L on the floor at the record store going through albums trying to find the exact right ones. Arlene’s water mark almost coal black. N soaked from rain at the door. All of us this morning with our hats and blinking noses and reindeer ears walking and laughing on the bayou. The stubborn nutria dog paddling along the sides of the bayou. A red bangle that makes me smile. A present to N&B from Ray. And I’ve run out of green shirts so it’s time to end Christmas.

Love in the Ruins

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

Anti-Love Poem
Sometimes you don’t want to love the person you love
You turn your face away from that face
Whose eyes lips might make you give up anger
Forget insult steal sadness of now wanting
To love turn away then turn away at breakfast
In the evening don’t lift your eyes from the paper
To see that face in all its seriousness a
Sweetness of concentration he holds his book
In his hand the hard-knuckled winter wood-
Scarred fingers turn away that’s all you can
Do old as you are to save yourself from love
Grace Paley

Paley’s book “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” a title that ties together my last six months.

This morning woke in a strange bed, taking a while to figure out where I was – L returns with his mother today and I go back to my bed that I have spent so little time in having had to be a nomad within a few block radius – always passing by my real home – LaLa – and never feeling home anywhere.

The bayou this morning was glassy reflecting the pinkish dawn and scalloped edged clouds – frost on the footbridge. Only one yell for “Rachel” across the bayou and I was able to continue alone, deep in thought, till I passed a talking wreath that yelled out HO HO HO MERRY CHRISTMAS and I jumped out of my skin scaring Max, Felix and Arlene simultaneously.

Last night the holiday party at the smiling running couple’s house J and P – J kept saying after tipping back a little too much – “April” when asked if he would run for mayor or council or what – so we’ll see if soon our neighbor will be the one who helps us get the trash cleaned up in midcity.

The crowd was uber New Orleans – women dressed in their trashy make-up and uneven hemmed dresses and pointy pumps. Men looking but not saying much except for MS who was hilarious – New Orleans to a T – talking about his brother Pat, doing well with his friends who call him Patio so you know he’s fine – forgot he’s been with JJ as drummer for a long time now – standing by the fire with strangers and turning in tandem like rotisserie chickens – and the bands – Paula and the Pontiacs, then Johnny Jay and the Hit Men – “I’m paying they should be playing” – Jay played at Nanc and my graduation party so many years ago – Monster’s – how appropriate – also in a dark low ceiling venue and he seems unchanged but still wound up like a top and still so much fun to dance to.

The dancing and dancing and watching N dance out of the corner of my mind – so fluid – something to behold the way she moves – the tips of her fingers an extension of a rhythm her body finds and connects to the music – grace, art, femininity – I was mesmerized by her dancing. She has perfected its expression and it is N to a T.

Then B had to bring me inside and sit me down at L’s table with N in the truck – a pseudo tuck in because N and I both needed care after twisting the night away. I woke in L’s bed wondering if I could make these end of days last a little longer, be a little sweeter, find neutral or zoom, but not crash and burn with the enormity of all the days that have led up to now. I thought of W’s “unleash the good” and “here’s to rebuilding New Orleans fast” and again his little fingers curling unconsciously around mine and offering me a life line to joy. Thoughts of L’s voicemail last night – we have no control over what is going to happen, but things will be good and we have to trust that they will.

I also thought of the little sign getting off the exit amongst all the signs for such and such business is open that said – I love you Pam – and sitting in H’s chair yesterday and the 12-year-old girl looking at me – “what are you getting done?” Color, I said – “no don’t change your hair color I think it is perfect” – honey I’m only making it a little more perfect I told her. Then H said “roots only?” And I said no, go all the way, what the hell and he said, “Good, I like to hear that, I hate stopping at step one it turns me into a beast.” And I laughed and laughed. And then he entertained me with his recollections of a fling with a body builder who he said scared him to death – made him crawl through the window to enact her fantasy – he said “open the door” but she wouldn’t so window it was.

And N saying she waited for me after I stood in front of her door this morning whistling to get Renny to wake her up – saying she doesn’t remember B tucking me in but figured we had a good time. We passed a good time, yeah. And today I will fight melancholy – give it the good old college try – D and S in with their families, now to find solace amongst my girls who have always provided a bottomless pit of love to fall into.

The Lion Sun

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

“Are you waiting for me or am I dreaming?” said aloud in a land far away – and now I think “Are you walking towards me, or am I dreaming?” My hair worn the way you like it least. Shaking. Still shaking. Shaken not stirred. The withdrawal is going swimmingly. No ping, all pain. Then watching the walk away and around and away again – upright, the lion seems to be regaining his gait.

L said it is in the way he moves. How he thought it odd my being with S when he first met him years ago because of the way S moves. L knew the monster moved in ways that were in harmony with me.

Ambien last night to try to break the fractured sleep pattern and woke at 3, 4, 5. So much for chemical help. This morning the blinding light on the bayou, the “lion sun” is inescapable. Showed N the addition footings in back of LaLa – she said “a year maybe” and I moaned.

L asked how are you doing – see everyone can’t help but ask even those that have more access to you – sad I am, L. He’s on his way to pick up J from El Dorado to bring her home through New Year’s. His thoughts are fraught with K and the holidays and when he might see her next because right now she is air, an actress he has fallen in love with, someone who isn’t flesh and blood. She winds tight then she goes MIA, a pattern she has not constructed consciously but one that nevertheless wrecks havoc with his thoughts.

S has fled to the bosom of his California soul – friends and family to embrace and soothe him. He won’t stay here in New Orleans, he will leave and maybe never return is what I think. Always his memories of New Orleans will be tainted by his wanton red headed wife. New Year’s would have been 14 years of marriage. I wrote our vows – “as long as we both shall love” – remember someone commented that it sounded ominous – perhaps.

The winter of our discontent.

Women exchanging gifts at the table in front of me, laughing and joking, and embracing the pink soft sweater one of them received. Now flannel PJ bottoms with funny icons on them. No chance for frivolity this year – all is laden with this and that.

Or maybe not, a blinking nose, a reindeer rack to hang a jean jacket on – rodent kisses – as I said, if what happened were all, if there were no more, it would form into the sweetest and most tender memories. And the tinkling of wind chimes I hope always remind me of that and not this.

The girls arrive tonight – D with her family will now stay at B’s and S and her family can’t wait to stay in the FEMA trailer with her family. I’ll spend the night at L’s anyway because of the dogs. But happy that I can move back to my own bed on Friday. The girls are excited W is coming to light the menorah – all who have come in contact with him recognize his light and are drawn to it. The little fingers curl around mine absent-mindedly. D, who said what can I say at lunch, writes back, I feel for you, I’m exhausted by what you are going through, and she fears my loss of W could be my undoing. She is praying for me she says.

“Focus on what i am trying to say 2 u” – “I am trying” – the ambivalence is what wrecks me.

Post culmination – mind and body have had no connection, then yesterday a twitch, a knock knock, who is there? whispered and hinted at life below my neck.

The couple at the next table are laughing hard, she’s reading him something from the paper and he’s looking at his computer. Both laughing uproariously. He turns his screen to her and they laugh harder. Git R Dun or some such nonsense.

The earth is flat

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Speaking with J this morning, a close colleague, he said, “Rachel, I’ve been thinking about you so much right now, my heart is with you.” And then he asked the ubiquitous question – “How are you?” – Empty I said to him, that’s how I feel and I don’t think I can answer that question any other way right now. So I went on to tell him that I also hurt for those I love who are going through so much hurt that I have caused, shared, or just know about and that it was a heavy weight to carry around. He said but are you taking care of Rachel? You are always taking care of everyone else, but I don’t hear you taking care of you? I said, I don’t know how.

Which made me think of the first missive – “well it’s finally all about you now isn’t it?” Really? Maybe that is how this may seem at first but surely you don’t think that now because this is NOT about me.

I looked up the definition of insanity and it said “a person who cannot distinguish between right and wrong” – qualified, certifiable, it was insanity. Now I feel as if the insanity might be dissipating. I started to write about the white elephant but maybe it is best that I wrote about me first. I’m the white elephant in the room and last night I realized with grand clarity that I have/had to get out of the room because nobody is going to say what they need to say or do what they need to do until I leave, sane or not. So exit, unwind, withdraw. And hope for the best even if it is not the best for me, just best for everyone involved.

The Times Picayune headlines says “Katrina weaker than thought” – oh really? Can anyone tally the toll of losses that Katrina wrought on this city – C joked last night that now Katrina has made everyone a “home-a-phobe” – ha ha, right? Hard to find the humor in it right now.

N and L and I walked with all dogs in tow around the bayou. A flock of nuns spilled out of Cabrini and rounded the corner. The nuns are back!!!

Walked outside the coffee shop just now and heard EmmyLou on the speakers and again longed to sing, or to be able to sing. Recent criticisms about the blog and writing in public, this is how I sing, those that don’t grasp this might not embrace the same world I do, might believe the earth is flat, might not understand the need to sing, to paint, to write. I think of Cindy Bullens whose 11 year old daughter battled cancer and died. A little redheaded girl with no future. And the songs and the album she produced from her suffering the loss of a beautiful child or any of us suffer from having an innocent eleven year old girl suffer. The songs are wretched and heart breaking and in some way freeing – Boxing with God – etc – I think of this mother trying to air her grief in public and work through it through her music and how difficult it must have been to sit on her back porch and sob, and write songs about her little girl, and the tragedy that befell her life. Maybe some people think that if you are the cause of your own problems that you are not allowed to grieve, or write about it, or air it, because you don’t deserve to or because others want to be more closed about it and keep it under wraps and keep it in the home and private and away from those who might be affected or altered by it.

This afternoon W came over and sanity rode in on winged chariot. A drive by the LaLa house to check on his lab and make sure his “stuff” was still there, a visit to N & B to say hi to them and Renny and Kitters where he remarked, “That tree is not real!” Then to the playground in city park where after swinging and climbing and running, we moved to the Greek Temple and he made me stand in the middle and exclaim boldly – Abra Cadabra – and then took me to the ends and made me kneel down on my knees with my hands in prayer and state, “God, Unleash the Good” and then a run across the bridge to battle the darkness and the shadow who followed us and find the buried treasure and then chased by the shadow back across the bridge with yellow steps because good was battling evil and good always wins. Back to the temple to call in the good – we stood by the edge and waved our hands inward to bring the good and peace and then walked a straight line through the temple with hands outstretched feeling the good that had come in.

Who needs therapy – good lord this child was the first wave of joy I have felt in a while and his goodness, and sweetness, were a good slap in the face to get on with life and let others get on with theirs. Unfortunately, in my extrication I give up W because seeing him inserts me where I don’t need to be and therein lies my greatest pennance for having been insane.

Leap of Faith

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Communication in this modern life is fraught with misinterpretation of tone and meaning – I need consumer electronic therapy to find neutral and not react – listen, ask questions, gather information then make assessment instead of walking off the planet first and having to be talked back down. But good that there is someone listening and not running away from the heavy.

Lunch with D – 64 and a stone fox – she just looked at me and said, well I don’t know what to say. Got to love that because everyone else seems to have so much to say. A missive from C with a character assassination(s), loving note from L sending love to all of us that tomorrow is a better day, and another note from another L saying hang on, it will be all right. This is when you call in all your loved ones chits and the response has been enormously positive that there is a huge safety net out there to catch you when you stumble, fall, soar.

L’s email asked how LaLa house got its name and my response, “Wade.” Natch.

Took L to get tree this morning and couldn’t find a stand because they are all sold out. He boldly said I’ll just build one then on arriving home had a crisis of conscious – “What Zsa Zsa build his own stand?” – I’ll make sure it is propped in a corner so the walls can catch it before it falls.

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. Today S and I meet to discuss business and the dissolution of business. Meanwhile ice cream for W on the chance I might see him soon melts in Big Blue as I run to a conf call from lunch.

There is not a menorah candle to be had in all of New Orleans. But plenty of red and green M&Ms.

This morning around the bayou, I snapped at L because he wasn’t listening to me. Made me think of W when he snaps and says you are not listening to me and then I tell him I am listening but am still confused by what he is trying to tell me. Or realize I have missed some key point that was something I just should have known. L took it well and apologized, said he was goading me anyway. My response, “You were?”

Dreamt last night of nordic creatures.

The real victims

Monday, December 19th, 2005

Had dinner with mom and she said the housekeeper from the Arabi nursing home showed up the other day in Harvey having finally returned from Baton Rouge. She was describing her harrowing evacuation in which she lost everything and then was taken to the dome and then left there to get across the Crescent City Connection whereby she was turned away and then put on a bus and shipped to Pineville where she got off and the sheriff holding guns said get down in the grass, lay down in the grass, which was wet, and when everyone, shaken, didn’t respond quick enough the sheriff said, “Nigger, get down in the grass” and pointed his gun at her head. And here in our swirling fishbowl drama we thought we were all victims of something – but that is unadulterated myopia.

Mom went on to talk about S and asked how he was handling things. She said she wanted to tell him last time she saw him that he grows more handsome with age, and he does. I read her N’s mother’s email and she began to cry and I began to cry and then we were crying up a storm and she said, “What a wise wise woman!” But she said, “Rachel, I have looked into N’s eyes and I know he is a beautiful soul, but you must remember that you are a rare person and he would be lucky to have you.” Mother talk – got to love it. So then L read the email to his mother and she had the same response. I told N I would like to publish it on the blog but she said no. One day I’ll email J and see if she minds – it is so beautiful and wise, it should be put out there.

N told me that Sundays are rough for him because of his childhood and the uncertainty that came with where he would be for the week. We left for Charleston on Sunday and I told him I hope that would lift the gris gris off of the day. This Sunday was a manic day for me, lows like gulches, peaks like sierra, and finally a settling into neutral by evening. I asked how his Sunday was and he said watching W run through tree forest and setting up tree made him forget it was Sunday. Gris gris gone. Hooray.

N told me he is going to quit reading the blog again for a while – I told him it’s the casualty of being involved with a writer, you become material, or a muse – just think if I had been a painter his nudes would be gracing the living rooms of all friends and strangers.

S said today too that he wants to quit reading the blog because it made him jealous to read about my feelings for N – I told him I was sorry – P said to me one night at Pals when he was viisting from Texas that Eskimos have 200 words for snow why don’t we have 200 words for love – I wish I had 200 words for sorry right now.

Meanwhile N says he is uncovering emotions so deep it is like a nuclear waste site – keep them coming and don’t let anyone else’s agenda stuff them back in was my response. I still think of the word J used to describe him – “contained” – and it makes my skin crawl.

N is meeting with S to talk today – I hope they can reach some point of clarity or forgiveness or at least get to neutral.

W may finally go to NY for new year – hip hip hooray – he will fall in love with the city and want to back again and again. I hope he can come light the menorah one night but I will see how the days go before asking.

My friend S in California talked me off a ledge Sunday morning – and made me laugh as we formulated plans for a career change – she also talked about her dog Lois being her source of comfort when she left Dick and I told her I could not get thru the day without the Bean who provides me with the unconditional love I need right now. I told S if he wants the Bean to visit he should just ask – he needs unconditional love too.

K is coming to visit L soon. The new year is coming soon. Time passes.

Epiphanies

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Blessed day – the sun shining, the air temperate – a long run on the bayou – the general glad to be here feeling that I tapped into helped an epiphany light up. Reminded me of the zen dropping that has been on my desk for 25 years – “You are exactly where you are supposed to be no matter how things may seem to appear” – and my epiphany was that everything is real no matter the duration and you can attempt a life of no regrets but sometimes life throws curve balls and sometimes you are not a star catcher and you flinch with regret.

Everyone I speak to continues to retort – “You are strong” – I think I have pulled the wool over too many people’s eyes for a long time. They all believe I am strong enough to handle all of this that I have dished out and dished in. Truth is I am not strong enough for it and it has made my knees buckle and brought me down to the floor – where my strength lies is in picking myself back up and optimistically going forward. That’s what I think fools people.

My anger is abating – it was raging last night till this morning. My sadness has wafted in and out all day. My joy is returning.

Forgiveness is not an easy thing but it is the only way to the other side.