We were driving home from Memphis and as we crossed the Bonnet Carre Spillway water was rushing in white cap waves into the lake from the openings of the Morganza. There was a big sign that said you are not allowed to stop and watch the water for the next four miles, and there were cars pulled over doing just that, watching the water rushing in. The Mississippi has crested and receded, I think it is down an inch, but we remain hopelessly attracted to water’s power down here and watch it like a train wreck, unable to turn away.
Archive for May, 2011
I’ve made some executive decisions to give up some of the luxury items in my life – the blow-drys, the yoga studio, and of course the clothes, shoes, jewelry, and whatnots that I used to be so fond of acquiring. I moved my hair appointment out by another four weeks and have to just deal with the sight of grey hair in my hairline. What doesn’t go away are the big bills like the mortgage. Sigh, what’s a grown up to do?
A fellow blogger was recently reading about Abu Kasim’s Slippers, that look much like the Serbian shoes my mother in law brought me last time she visited. Everyone wanted a pair once they saw me wearing them with those cooler than wow curled up toes, but when T went to Croatia she found those shoes are pretty darn expensive and don’t make travel gifts. But back to the slippers, my friend writes:
“The key to your happiness is to own your slippers (google “Abu Kassim”, an Ethiopian story for the backstory on slippers), own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. *Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.*”
In recent days, I’ve been reminded by friends and colleagues of what got me to this point, and though the start of the 2011 hurricane season is tomorrow, summer’s heat is already rising to a wreckless pitch, and fantastical thoughts of a lottery reinvention beckon, I’m thoroughly convinced that the answers will come, in time, on their own.
Meanwhile, just to be sure, I’ve washed all my slippers and put them out to dry on the screen porch.
We just got back from a long and windy road that led to Memphis and then outside of the city to the prison that holds my brother captive. He said they are unreasonable there, and well, let me just tell you that is only the half of it. I showed up and got turned away because Tin had sandals on and my sundress was sleeveless. We flew like banshees to WalMart and did a James Brown turnaround and returned only to be turned away because I had chosen khaki colored capris and was not allowed to wear that color. We flew like banshees back to WalMart and returned in a white peasant skirt down to my ankles. Of course this was on a few hours sleep as we got up at the crack of dawn to drive the hour to get there before 7 am because my sister-in-law had told us at a delicious barbecue dinner the night we arrived that we had to get their super early or we might not get in.
The good news – I spent time with my brother who has been there for ten years and much to my surprise seemed bent but not broken himself. He still had his sense of humor, his intellectual curiosity, and aside from the bald spot growing in the front of his hairline, he looked remarkably fit and well (except a little pale). He said the place makes him pale despite the fact that he does spend times outdoors.
My brother could have gotten out earlier if he had pled guilty but he refused stubbornly to give into their desire for him to plea bargain. He teaches the Hispanic inmates ESL and goes about his shrunken life in there waiting to get out, filing appeal after appeal to get out, and it seems it is no use because he has pissed off the people who get to hold their petty power over him.
The prison population has swollen recently he said, it is supposed to hold 1400 inmates, but instead they have 2,000. Not all of them can have jobs like him so most are just loafing away the days. The make-up is a third white, a third black, and a third Hispanic. About 90% are in there for drugs and the rest like my brother have done some sort of white collar crime.
It was a challenging day, from the stress of not knowing if I could get in after making this trip to leaving my brother behind as I was escorted back out. The good was that seeing my brother in person reminded me of the special relationship I have always had with him and why. He’s smart and charming, despite his rigidity. And the best is he got to meet Tin for the first time – who was not interested at first, since there were other kids there to play with, but soon even he succumbed to my brother’s charms.
Saturday evening when we had arrived we had delicious barbecue with my sister-in-law who has managed with great care and grace to navigate the decade aftermath of the ordeal with my brother.Later we took a quick tour of the Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Hotel, and then stayed up in our room for a picnic on the floor of pizza for Tin and a chopped salad for me and Tatjana. Today we toured the Peabody Hotel arriving just in time for the march of the ducks and then Beale Street where Tin got to groove out with a blues guitarist before leaving to drive home again.
Time goes by so swiftly, wasn’t it ten years ago that Miracle Baby was having her bat mitzvah, and then next thing you know, my brother had to report to prison, all of that seems to have happened yesterday, in a dreamlike nightmare, and I am hard placed to comprehend the time that has passed, so fast. So soon.
Came across this video while Tin was watching When The Saints Go Marching In for the fifteenth million time. Awesome.
We broke our routine last night and went to Sylvain’s instead of Meaux Bar, our favorite haunt, and somewhere into our meal we were sorry we did. Sylvain is a new restaurant on Chartres in the Quarter that has a good atmosphere for having a cocktail before seeing a play at La Petit, but other than the shaved brussel sprout salad last night, I found the food lacking and suddenly it was filled with obnoxious 30 something year olds who thought they were something because they were there. Yikes! Give me the local scene at Meaux Bar any day.
We had gone to see I love you, You’re Perfect, Now Change at La Petit which was put on by Jefferson Performing Arts – yikes again. We left before the second act. Why is it in a city that has such a plethora of rich live music performances that a dramatic performance is so hard to come by? Or rather, a good one?
After Sylvain’s we went to Meaux Bar for an after dinner cocktail and to confess our sin of going somewhere else. I learned that Meaux is a family name and not a riff on Ho-Mo, or Mo, for gay. What do I know? But it was so nice to be back in our haunt, amongst our peeps, having a delicious cocktail. On the way to the car, friends pulled up and wanted to have another cocktail with us so we headed down to Tonique, another yikes. Tonique was this sleepy, gorgeous French Quarter bar with a sullen bartender who was finally fired for running all the customers out, he told me once that my hair looked bad. But now unfortunately, all those 30 something year olds (and some 60 year old cruisers) have flocked to it and made it a Quarter Delachaise (it’s owned by the same people) – sadly. So we skipped that scene and went two doors down to the tranny bar where three young gorgeous boys got up and did a nice choreography of Michael Jackson’s Beat It.
You’d think that Bayou St. John would be lined with mansions but it is not, those are all on St. Charles Avenue uptown, instead the bayou is a mish mosh of all different types of architecture and sizes and degrees of disrepair. Here is a little dollhouse that I used to pass and dream of putting my mom in. Truly it is so tiny, the photos don’t do it justice. But they pulled the front wall off and you can see inside to the little bitty house to the steepest staircase you’ve ever seen.
All around me I see the signs of summer and it could be because it is Memorial Day, and Southern social morays dictate that you can wear white after this day as absurd as that sounds even to write it now. But more importantly, as the lazy days of summer begin, my brain has juggernauted into action mode. Perhaps it is in the lazy days of summer that you can best reinvent yourself.
A colleague who was recently laid off sent me this: “Experience is not what happens to a woman; it is what a woman does with what happens to her.” (Aldous Huxley – gender change mine).
I offer one more little touch of pithiness to this discussion:
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.” John Lubbock
Why is it that one can look at a lion or a planet or an owl or at someone’s finger as long as one pleases, but looking into the eyes of another person is, if prolonged past a second, a perilous affair? -Walker Percy, author (1916-1990)
From the rise of Western Civilization till now we have been on the ascend, but perhaps as a colleague of mine was musing the other day, we are living through the ebb of Western affluence and the rise of the East once again. And wasn’t it strange that we thought it was normal to be accumulating such great wealth and we are thinking that its decline is abnormal. I was telling a neighbor how living in San Francisco during the bubble of the dot.com years made me repulsed about excess and wealth in general. I felt revulsion that kids in their early twenties were finding an easy route to riches; I felt queasy about the abundance that surrounded the cornucopia of San Francisco boutiques and specialty food stores; I yearned for a simpler life.
I remember coming back to New Orleans which was almost like going to Havana because the abundance was minimized, the accumulation of wealth was more moderate, and all around decay and inertia seemed more at home than growth and forward movement. It’s anyone’s guess why that is more comforting than what I saw out west.
But things are changing, we are in a period of the economy where there is going to be a shake out and some industries that we know will not exist any longer, or will radically morph, and of course that means new ones will come up. I told my neighbor that I had hitched my ride to a fast moving train and had gratefully accepted the wealth that trickled down to my little world.
I said I felt like I was moving back into being the undergrowth instead of straddling the engine. She said that is the operative word, growth, the undergrowth is growing. So that is my thought of the day. We are all having to figure out how to live in this new world and what we will be, the times they are a changing, but change isn’t bad. And affluence isn’t good.
As I oft quote here: Louise Nevelson’s “I have made my world and it is a much better one than what was offered to me.” So here, we begin again.
I don’t incline myself to believe in the paranormal or to subscribe to parallel universe theories, but I do believe in mystery and wonder. There is no mistaking that my life has unfolded with a sense of a grander plan than even I had envisioned and if I walk back through and connect the dots they add up to this great narrative I can claim as my own. My own doing. But was it? I came home and spent the last years of my mother’s life with her, I met Tatjana, my mom died and Tin came into our life. There is no doubt in my mind that this boy should be in New Orleans – if you saw him moving to Louis Armstrong and studying the moves of Trombone Shorty, you’d know that he is where he belongs.
Yesterday, I went to see my massage therapist to work through a back problem that has plagued me due to getting older, sitting for long periods of time, and stress. She was digging into my muscles that run down my hips and it was painful, and I was trying to sing like Tin does in bed instead of screaming like I wanted to do, and while she dug, and while I sang, I saw a film clip of my mother lifting me up as a toddler in the air laughing and her laughing and I just watched it and felt this incredible joy coming over me.
I’ve learned from yoga that the hips carry the weight of our emotional territory and that by opening them we unlock so many things that are compressed inside of us. I saw that film clip as if it was a motion picture while she massaged into the density of tight muscle that surrounds my hips. I had that moment yesterday that still makes me smile. But isn’t it curious how mysterious we are, how that film clip is part of me and I am seeing it only now after my mom has passed. It was a reminder that she was my mom and I was a carefree toddler at one time in my life and felt all the security of having a loving parent. And I am that parent to Tin now and he feels secure with me when I’m holding him and he will carry that memory in his hips and in his muscles and even when he is an adult and the worries of the world have made him tight and sore, he will be able to unlock that memory and play back the moments when it was different.