25 December 2008

If A Tree Falls

My friend stopped blogging because he got tired of no response. I feel him.

Hardly anyone comments these days at SITC. During my "heyday," every post generated an average of two responses but they came straight to my email address, rarely appearing in the Comments section of the blog. Sometimes I wished folks would post to the blog so other people might be inspired (and released) to comment. Like being the first to get up and dance at a party, freeing the seat-dancers and wall-clingers to venture forth.

Back when blogging first burst onto the scene, a good friend urged me to throw my hat in. I don't remember exactly why now: maybe she liked my writing or maybe she wanted to keep up with my life (I was still 'on the road' at that point). Or maybe, knowing how I've struggled with a largely unexpressed passion for writing, she was encouraging me to follow my bliss.

Whatever her reasoning, I resisted because I have a thing about clutter. Of all kinds. (When the book came out about HSP (Highly Sensitive People) I attributed this trait to being an HSP. Since then it's been suggested there's no such thing and HSP was just the next trend in navel-gazing.) Blogging seemed like clutter to me. Like the world needs the noise of one more person sounding off about her pet peeves and sharing the minutiae of her little life. Like cyberspace needs another URL.

It's a crowded, cluttered world already. Sometimes the most generous contribution one can make is to sit down and shut up.

(Photo used courtesy of PhotoA.nl @ flickr. Used under the Creative Commons license.)

But I've been documenting my life in one form or another--diary, letters, journals--for most of my life. And given the human need/desire for visibility and contact and the Blog's obvious potential for meeting both, it was inevitable that I would succumb.

But blogs--and cell phones and computers and the internet and blackberries and etc--have only incompletely realized their potentials to make the world a smaller, cozier, more nurturing place--so far. You show up and write...for who? Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, former lovers and who knows who else. Like walking into a dark room and sensing someone is there. But maybe it's your overactive imagination; maybe there's nobody there. Or maybe there is someone there who doesn't respond when I call "Is somebody there?"

Recently the same friend who urged me to start blogging sent a link to "An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube" by Michael Wesch. (The whole clip is embedded below because I don't know how to create an excerpt. It's long but there's some worthwhile stuff in here if you have the time.) (One of my favorite pieces is the little guys at the 13:40 marker...)

"Collapse of context" is one of several provocative ideas offered in the clip. The context for human communication continues to change. Past generations spoke to each other face to face in real time, waited weeks to receive a letter from miles away or longer to read a published book by someone they'd never met. Fast forward to Now where we make videotapes for people we've never met who may or may not be watching.

"Collapse of context" is also "expansion of possibilities": online we can pretend to be anyone--any gender, age, nationality, class. We can be voyeurs without seeming rude or deviant.

We can also ignore each other or disappear more easily.Thinking about the new etiquette required in virtual social networks like FaceBook, I asked "How do you respond when someone you don't remember from high school requests admission to your network?" Several people I know pretty well say "Just ignore them" and I flinch.

When I googled "disappear" to find an image to insert here, I found this one in the context of a piece entitled "If Your Blog Disappeared, Who Would Miss It."
It's like I was saying the other day, about coincidences and mistakes.

Maybe no one would miss Sojourner in the 21st Century if it disappeared....when it disappears -- as, of course, it will some day. It wasn't so much my friend's blog that I missed when it disappeared; I missed him. A voice in The Village was gone and I wondered where he was.

I have the idea that at some point I'll dump the entirety of SITC onto a CD -- or whatever storage technology is current at that point in time -- to stick in the box with my journals and song sheets and other life litter that will perhaps never be accessed by another living soul. Or maybe.... Somewhere down the line, a descendant will wonder.

In the 21st century, trees can fall and be heard generations later.

24 December 2008

Another Flaw

When a friend's world is rocked after hearing or reading something that
Alice Walker or
Gandhi or
Deepak Chopra or
the featured guest on Oprah today
or Robert Bly
or whoever
said or wrote

after having no reaction when I said it

I want to be very happy for their epiphany.
And I usually am.
But I don't think much of them as a friend any more.

21 December 2008

Look Everywhere, At Everything

It's difficult if not impossible to "know"

the truth
another person
the right direction to take
what I want
what I've learned

A few weeks ago I was in the cast of a staged reading of Langston Hughes' "The Black Nativity." I was one among a cast of professional and semi-professional "theater people." I'm not an "actor" in the strict sense of the word; my untrained performance style is more understated or intuitive than formally trained players and I felt decidedly out of place. There were moments when my decision to participate in the production seemed a huge mistake.

But it wasn't. It put me in the Lower Ninth Ward singing gospel holiday music under a full moon--"soul food" doesn't get much bolder than this.

I was introduced to Miss Sarah's House Amphitheater (the enchanting venue where we performed) and Keith Calhoun's work (an extraordinary photographer whose work I am apparently the last to discover). And it placed me at an after-party in the future home of the Tekrema Arts Center--an inspiring site.

(photo by Keith Calhoun)

Some say there are no coincidences and no mistakes. I prefer to think in terms of there being no throw-away events in a life; everything matters, everything teaches. Even the mistakes.

It was a mistake in 1976 to give that homeless guy the key to my room at the Halifax. He emptied both my refrigerator and penny jar which was a significant inconvenience (though I had to admit it was nice of him to leave the key at the front desk). But who's to say a greater misfortune might have befallen him or me or someone else if I hadn't given him the key?

It was a coincidence that a dorm-mate from my first year of college in Greencastle, IN wandered into the public library in Bloomington IN 21 years later on the afternoon I was filling in at the circulation desk for an absent coworker. Our conversation as I processed her book selections made a profound impression on me. My sense of myself as a freshman was as an inadequate, unattractive misfit. I dropped out after one miserable year.

"We all wondered what happened to you," she revealed almost a generation later. They had all seen me as "most likely to succeed" and anticipated being able to say "we knew her when" at some bright future celebration.

The vast contrast between what They thought and what I thought stunned me. I learned something that day that I have never forgotten: my perspective is not the only way of looking at things and in fact may be very different.

Coffee Barges

It's almost too much: the sight and scent and taste of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee, Joni Mitchell's Misses CD on the turntable, a gray-sky Sunday.... How in the world to compose a coherent sentence with these historically potent influences and no cigarettes?

I'm grateful for the overcast skies today. To match my mood. Maybe not such a good idea to have started the day watching the second half of Recount.

I'm grateful for coffee. And inflatable mattresses. Although there are days when it seems like a measure of my immaturity, many days the whole process of re-inflating is one of the purest pleasures of the day: the little battery-powered Coleman air pump which cost so little and still works like a charm every time all these years later...the "problem" of sag that is so easily solved by the flip of a switch...and the serene Infinity I enter while waiting for the mattress to refill--there's nowhere to go, nothing to do but hold that pump and wait.

On my birthday, the thought occurred to take the day off. The day was also my 4 weeks smoke-free anniversary but in the end I settled for just allowing myself the luxury of taking the Louisiana bus from Tchoupitoulas to the St. Charles streetcar instead of walking as I usually do. There's a Rite-Aid at the corner and I dashed in and bought a bag of strawberry Twizzlers before the streetcar arrived. Twizzlers have been my cigarette substitute for a few weeks....I think that's ending today.

It was a pretty easy day at school; the piano girls joined the full band in preparation for the upcoming winter concert on Thursday so I had no full teaching duties and provided mostly a chaperoning presence for the hour.

After class, instead of waiting for the streetcar I chose to walk along the track and try to think of a way to celebrate and reward myself. Something I could purchase or maybe somewhere to go for dinner or some live entertainment... I couldn't think of a thing and wondered, as I often do when I can't figure out how to be good to myself, Oh lord, have I slipped into depression again?

The streetcar was a long time coming which allowed me a good long walk in the balmy New Orleans dusk. By the time it caught up to me I was several blocks down St. Charles and full to tearfulness with gratitude for the flounce of my skirt against my knees and my good strong legs, and the magnanimous elegance of sundown in New Orleans, and the breathtaking paradox of the beautiful faces and relentless mischief of the kids I'd just left, and the crazy incongruity of landing in the best days of my life with a full-scale recession underway globally.

When I stand in the World, it seems an enormous, wonderful surprise that Obama is president of the U.S.

When I breathe from my soul and stand in the deep waters of Time, the synchronicity and harmony of his election--not to mention me finding my way to New Orleans and countless other specific aspects of Now--are apparent and awesome.

There's something maybe clever or informative or amusing yet to be revealed to me about Obama's high profile smoking cessation attempt at the same time as my low profile attempt. Meanwhile, the specters of my two big heroines--Joni and Sojourner--hover nearby, with smoking inextricably woven into their life stories.

If I take a long stroll down some train or streetcar track, will the imminent insight come forth? Will I have a eureka moment and either resume smoking or never smoke again--but either way, reach an understanding that will settle the matter once and for all?

11 December 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like....Indiana

For those of you not living in the area, this is not a picture of me but this is how the world looked when I walked outside my house this morning and I responded as the child in the photo is responding.

What a wonderful, wacky start for my fourth week off cigarettes.

09 December 2008

Overheard in my emailbox...

Me: Did/do you like Lucky Charms cereal?

My Friend: i did, and i would still, although there was always a feeling of discontent with it because i knew i was in it for the colored sugary charms, but if it was all charms, it would be pointless nutritionally, but yummy. i have the same thing with a salad and blue cheese dressing.

Me: It was a weird cereal. Like you, I was in it for the charms but

did the non-charms have to be sooooooooo unappetizing? I mean, they weren't even as good as Cheerios.


the charms, while tasty, had a somewhat unnatural texture: not really marshmallow though they were advertised as such


the leprechaun or elf or whatever that creature was.....just a little bit creepy to me as a kid, like the feeling I had around my uncles when they got drunk at family picnics...

My Friend: you are right. the "noncharms" were sub-cheerio...and cheerios aren't even that good.

08 December 2008

In Memoriam

I changed my Gmail profile pic to the John-curled-naked-around-Yoko shot earlier today. Tonight I remembered what today is...

9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980

30 November 2008

One Man's Ceiling

What to make of New Orleans' recent designation as the most violent city in America?

"Based on what?" I wondered when the announcement was made. A little research revealed the stats and criteria and time frame and author of the study. All legit as best I can tell.

But the irony (or is it paradox) is breathtaking: the first and only place on the planet that's actually felt like home to me is the most violent city in the U.S.

I'm a woman living alone--and frequently walking alone, bicycling alone, eating out alone, etc... The most threatening situation I've witnessed was a swarming convergence on a chef by 6 police units down on Canal Street one night. Along with 7 or 8 other passengers, the chef and I were entering our 2nd hour of waiting for a replacement or a repair team for the Magazine St bus parked at the curb and the chef expressed his frustration loudly enough for the bus driver to hear. I guess the driver felt threatened and alerted NOPD.

I could understand if the announcement was that New Orleans is the most frustrating city in the U.S. The place is clearly wired for telephone service (look at the spaghetti tangle hanging over our little one-lane street) but just try to get someone in city government or the utility companies or the post office or the sanitation company or ..... to answer the phone. Or if you succeed in reaching someone (and when they finally answer the phone on the 14th ring, they sound surprised--as if a client was the last person they expected to find on the line), good luck getting any information or assistance or a callback.

Government and business have websites but most all of them are riddled with misspelled words, dead hyperlinks, and inaccurate information. Today I was trying to send the mayor an email. After composing my succinct but compelling missive, I was instructed to copy a string of characters at the foot of the page as a security measure.

What do you think? The security measure malfunctioned. Likewise for the webmaster link where tech problems were to be directed....

But I still love this place.

It doesn't make sense; usually I hate when things don't work due to human negligence. I hate lazy communication. I hate intentional misinformation. I hate when people just tell you anything to avoid saying "I don't know." I hate having my time devoured by someone talking long and saying nothing.

And all of those things go on here. In abundance. On a regular basis.

I've felt frustration more often than fear since coming to New Orleans. But my gasping and fist-clenching is diminishing. Sometimes I'm actually laughing through the frustration (usually possible if I've had a few drinks). More impressive, I'm developing some wiliness. I'm getting slick and learning how to slide through or devise a trick or a strategy.

Oh, I'm a novice for sure. I'm a rookie up against the charming, relentless Error Message that is life in New Orleans. But I like games.

And I love that people look me right in my face here.
And I love that people speak, even to "strangers."

And, in my book, those two features make New Orleans the least violent city I've lived in.

24 November 2008

Teaching Black Girls To Talk

I teach a piano class four afternoons a week at a KIPP school.

The girls were horrible Thursday. No one had done their homework, three of the five showed up without notebook, music or pencil, and they were talking as much and as loud as me for most of the hour. Finally I threw in the towel. "OK. You don't want to listen to me or work today so talk to me."

They gave me two things I could use. First, T_____ said she can't learn when she's hot. The girl has a point. In the cinderblock cell where we meet, room temperature is either sweltering or frigid; there's no middle range. When the AC is on, arctic air blasts directly onto us from a 3 foot by 3 foot vent in the wall. When it's off, my blouse sticks to me.

R______ said "Miss Alex, I think we'd all do better if we had a morning class. Our mind is too tired by this time of day." Another very good point. Inspirational messages like "No Excuses" and "Find A Way" are emblazoned all over the walls of this school. Granted I haven't spent a lot of time with adolescents, but these kids seem to be making excuses all the time. Is that typical of the age group or are they just rebelling against the signs?

I stopped in the office to pick up my check on my way out. After making my way through balloons and crepe paper and tables burdened with chicken wings and cake--preparations for Parent's Night--the tension in the office was an abrupt change. The office ladies were tiptoeing around the edge of the room with averted eyes, leaving a wide circular berth around a white male teacher and a brown girl student.

I entered asking, in a normal volume, if I could borrow a computer to look up the bus schedule.
One of the secretaries gestured toward an empty desk and mouthed "Use that one..." What was going on? Well, Mr. (who is the principal as well as a teacher at this school) was schooling her in how to say "Excuse me. I didn't understand what you said." After each utterance he'd say something like "No, you sound angry" or "Now you sound like you're annoyed" or "That doesn't sound like you really want to understand."

This went on the full four or five minutes it took me to find what I needed and get out of there. It felt hard and abusive and pointless to me. I think I took it personally. And the episode fed whatever it is in my cellar-soul that growls at the sight of all the uniforms and standing in line that defines these new New Orleans schools.

These kids are being trained to fit in the dominant culture. I'm not slamming the dominant culture wholesale; don't misunderstand me.


Since not one adult found a way to inform me of the schedule changes on Monday and then Wednesday last week; and since neither the office staff, the teacher who hired me nor the payroll clerk can figure out how to set a payday and pay me on that day; and since I received neither email nor telephone message--at either of my phone numbers--today informing me that class had been canceled but instead learned about it after traveling through rain to get to school today....

It just seems like maybe drilling the adults and getting them to conform might be more useful than drilling a 12-year-old girl about the tone of her voice at the end of a long school day (they meet 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

That job I left in October was one of those places where voice tones are modulated to flat and positive and facial expressions are perennially pleasant. There's a slender band of affect permissible and anything to either side of that is problematic, dysfunctional or unprofessional. Suppress, suppress, suppress....

How and when did flat affect and fake smiles become the desired demeanor? Why is it unprofessional to look or sound amused or annoyed or embarrassed or hurt when one is amused or annoyed or embarrassed or hurt?

It would be a different (and possibly less distasteful) situation if the girls were being taught meditation techniques or boxing or offered tools and opportunity to encourage them to self monitor to achieve a balance that works for them--if not the dominant surrounding culture. They're being told "That way that you walk/talk/laugh/emote is not okay with us. You need to stop doing that and do it this way because we're happier and more comfortable when you do it this way."

I think the girls are bringing them something they don't know how to handle so they're outlawing it.

When I was coming up, adults would say things like "Do as I say. After you've traveled the road I traveled, you'll have the right to an opinion."

But what if I'm not interested in traveling your road? What if I was planning to sail to my destiny? Or fly?

Reflect and Review

The tone of my horoscope for the last week or so reminds me of my emotional state in the days leading up to this year's presidential election. "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!" the little voice in my head gasped. "Are we going to do this? Is it possible?!" Anticipation--of the breathless-excited-standing-on-tense-tippy-toes variety. Something's coming....like, dare we say it -- a new day?

As the first day of my current Quit (that's how smokers refer to the process of confronting and engaging their addiction) drew to a close, I checked the day's message for Sagittarius:

It's the first full day of the Sun's month-long visit to your sign. This is a period of renewal, so make time this weekend to review the year behind you and to envision what you want your next year to be. But this is not a one-time event. Repeat this ritual of intentional visualization until it becomes ingrained into your everyday thinking. In this manner you can impact your future by changing how you see it.

And this morning's reading

There are so many big things in transition now that it's hard to pick just one and talk about it. In these days prior to Thursday's Sagittarius New Moon, you need to look back into your past and deep into your soul for the truths that can guide your life into the future. Keep in mind that you don't have to tell anyone about your inner journey today; it's yours and yours alone.
[Maybe I'm screwing things up by letting you read this?]

Anyway, the first week of a Quit is not the best time for the kind of deep life review advocated. I am fuzzy, unfocused and disorganized... I woke up this morning to discover I'd left the freezer door open over night. I risked one social outing over the weekend and spent $100 on dinner for two. I was so ditzy all day yesterday -- misplacing things and staring into space -- that by 9 p.m. going to bed seemed the safest thing to do. So I did.

I feel like I need a map or an outline or questionnaire or something to guide a meaningful life review. Or maybe just having some time off and alone on Thanksgiving will be enough. Feels like me and America are about to step into an important time...a time for correcting some crookedness and learning from mistakes...and getting it right this time.

20 November 2008

Beginning Again

Day One. Again. Trying again to give up smoking. Quitting is always exciting -- Can I do it this time?; scary--how much is this going to hurt?

Because it does hurt. The addicts out there know what I'm talking about. Not so much the physical pain but the spiritual/psychological pain of saying goodbye to the truest, most loyal, ever-present, nonjudgmental Friend. With me through thick and thin, every step of the way, never breaking a promise, never too busy to come to my aid.

Who else do I know like that? No one.

But we have a new president coming in. A recently reformed smoker according to reports. That is an inspiration. And not just any new president: the first openly mixed-race president in American history. This is so big it will probably take me another week or two to find the words to blog about it. As the mother of a beautiful, charismatic mixed race man, I've been waiting a long time for a high profile mixed race American to be openly so.

And things are turning up, up, up for me: potential students continue to respond to my Craigslist ad and sprinkling of flyers stapled to utility poles around town and tacked to coffeehouse bulletin boards. I'm averaging a new inquiry every 72 hours and slowly building a studio of committed students.

And yesterday I started a new part-time job in a building they call the Energy Center (whoa! how's that for inspiration!) in the Central Business District (CBD). A high-paying part-time job and you can't find a lot of those in New Orleans these days.

So an impressive number of things are looking up in my life and I'm feeling pretty positive and strong. They say there's never a good time to quit (you can always find an excuse) but maybe I've stumbled into the ever-evasive "good time to quit." I wonder how Obama's doing. I can't imagine quitting on my way to becoming leader of the most powerful nation on earth. Can it be done?

But I've quit before so I know how it goes: all the feelings and fears and regrets that the smoke helped cover will begin to surface by Saturday (Day Three is always the hardest for me). And there's no shortcut or escape through or away from the process. It goes like it goes. The success of my quit rests on my ability to hang on.

So. OK. Here goes...

14 November 2008


A few years ago I taught a class entitled "Final Conversations on Race in America." I knew that we (Americans) were, and remain, a long way from our "final" conversation; but the conversations to date had been circular and ineffectual in terms of eradicating racism and bringing sanity, humor and celebration to the relationships of our multicultural village. My aim in the class was to introduce a level of honesty and candor in the conversation in hopes of effecting some real and lasting healthy transformation.

It was an experiment. I hadn't done sufficient research. The discussions in the class were not markedly different from those I'd witnessed and participated in in the decades preceding the class.

I wish I'd known about this book -- White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son -- as I designed the class. Given the students in my class were predominantly "white," Wise's book might have spoken to them in a way I failed to. His personal stories and commentary are shared with uncommon naturalness and humor. And, being a "white guy," he is privvy to what "white" people say to each other when Black people aren't around and can speak to that private field as I could not and cannot.

It's powerful and impressive how much light White Like Me is shedding on my experiences as an African American woman. Through his discussion of "white denial," for example, I am coming to understand why conversations about race with seemingly enlightened "white" people have been unexpectedly difficult. Denial operates at such deep, unconscious levels that it trumps the intelligence and creativity they show in other contexts.


Something didn't feel right at the job I just left.

Our offices were housed in an elementary school. I didn't work directly with students but the mission of the non-profit I served sought the remaking and rejuvenation of New Orleans schools. There's a huge project underway city-wide to remake and rejuvenate New Orleans schools. On the surface, an admirable mission.

There was something about most of the teachers being "white" and all of the cooks and maintenance crew being black....and 99% of the kids being black...and all the kids being dressed alike...all that lining up and standing quietly in lines...all those dark student faces and white teacher faces...and how, once inside the building, I didn't feel like I was in New Orleans. Admittedly, I have no formal training as an elementary educator. What do I know? I can only report how it felt to me. Like conformity was more valued than originality. Like the power resided in white hands. And for me, that's troubling.

These days I work in a different middle school, this time directly with students as a piano tutor. I love the work. Here, too, the kids are all in uniform and there's a lot of lining up going on. To the positive, most of the faculty and staff appear to be people of color. But, again, the regimentation seems to be killing self-determination and originality. I think sometimes the only outlet available to students for critical thinking or originality or creative self-differentiation is acting out.


I'm observing. Saving my criticism and questioning for private conversations and around the blogosphere. I have a lot to learn. Best not to rush to judgment. Wise's analysis suggests white people have a lot to learn--or admit--as well. Do they know they have a lot to learn?

09 November 2008


I'm in the middle of making muffins so this will be brief.

I'm listening to WWOZ and Hazel (the Delta Rambler) is dedicating her show today to trees. In between the songs, she and her guest, Monique Pilie (of Hike for Katreena) are talking about the tree situation in New Orleans. Still pretty dire.

Since returning in March, I've been traveling on foot or bicycle a lot, which definitely puts me in closer proximity to trees. During the summer, when the Louisiana heat was making me humble, the shade of a few particular trees on the route between my work and my home saved my life. Besides my landlord's triflin' nature and not having a porch on my little house, I guess the absence of trees on our street is my biggest disappointment. Monique's nonprofit, born a few months after Katrina and the levee break, helps neighborhoods organize to (re)place trees. I called and left her a message inviting her down to my neck of the Irish Channel. Maybe we can get some trees going on.

Even the fastest growing tree probably won't benefit me much in the six months I have left in this place. I won't see the fruit of our labors. But down the road somebody's gonna think a thankful thought.

Oooooh. I miss my motor scooter. Bicycle travel is fine most of the time but the scooter allowed speed and ease of toting cargo that my bicycle can't match. Both modes are still slower than auto travel, though. Since coming to the South I had a car all of 12 months. My life pace quickened for those few months. Now I'm back to the other clock---the one in closer sync with "the long now" and the 10,000 year clock.

And it's mostly okay. Maybe this is what happens to everybody--you get older and you slow down. And slow is good. Elegant. Spacious. How can you "savor" anything quickly? How to even compare the pleasure of slow sex with a "quickie"? Drive-through with marinating? A glance with full eye contact?

And "slow" is a relative term. Bicycling down St. Charles at 5 in the evening--feels like I'm moving at snail's pace. But a three-hour picnic dinner on the flood wall along the Mississippi, watching the light fade and the boats go by feels like perfection. Like everything is finally moving at the right speed after too many awkward years looking for a pace that fit.

Oh....my muffins.

30 September 2008

Ten Minutes Til

I am reading the latest issue of The Oxford American

and you should be reading it to0 (follow the link to an order blank; what a steal!). This issue is devoted to New Orleans, 3 years after "the storm" and it's some of the best writing I've ever read. Plus it feels so good to be familiar with the names and places and images I find. I live here now.

My job, the "wonderful" opportunity that seemed too good to be true and enabled me to move back to New Orleans, is ending. It was too good to be true and and it enabled me to move back to New Orleans.

Starting last week (or earlier) I am orchestrating a transition from office worker to... I have a piano student and a performance gig in October and contact info for a cellist I want to work with. I'm joining Toastmasters and trying to get a workshop facilitation gig set up for Bay St. Louis. I'm working on a grant proposal.

It's time, again, to live a patchwork lifestyle. Most everyone says New Orleans lends itself to living in patchwork. I've sorta taken that impression myself from the lives of my little circle of friends here. Every other week is another economic crisis in the world outside Big Easy but beyond giving Fear more room at the Table, I don't know what I could/would do differently. If there's a way to be financially stable without trading in heart and mind, please count me in or show me how. In the meantime, I'm reverting to form, returning to the rhythm that sometimes robs me of sleep but still leaves me free in the ways I apparently need to be free.

"a boyfriend pillow"------>

I am in love. Find the Jazz Vipers online and give them a listen. Then come on down here and we'll go see them live at the Spotted Cat.

02 September 2008

My First Evac

I'm back in Gulfport. How strange....

Safe and sound. Ready to go home to New Orleans. More when I can.

28 August 2008

Be the Change

or the Question
or the Discourse.

OK. I'll start here. If one parent is "white" and the other parent is "black", what is the rule or convention that labels her/him African American? Why is the "black" part stickier than the "white"?

I'm looking for thorough response here, i.e., give me the history.

*Image borrowed from this web page

23 August 2008

There's No Time

...to talk about everything that deserves talking about in my life these days. Best I can do at this point is a bullet-list of points of interest. I'm still looking for an away-from-the-office setup so I can return to SITC. Soon...I'm sure.

  • A holiday on St. George Island with my sisters. What a beautiful weekend. I wasn't expecting it and it feels really important...
  • It's already time to leave my new job. The mission is spot-on: the setting is a bad fit. I'm reading "The Four Hour Work Week" and networking with people working non-traditional jobs. I'm done with working in offices for other people. And I mean it this time.
  • I have osteopenia. I am following the Rx--15 minutes daily of direct sunlight, CitriCal Plus tablets three times a day, 3-5 servings of dairy--except for the "quit smoking" part.
  • I've had a couple of "dates". If I don't have some fun on one pretty soon, I'm swearing off "dating."
  • Just when I got my bike completely outfitted, summer hit New Orleans full blast. I lasted about two weeks pedaling around in 95 degree heat. I'm back on the bus for now until either the heat/humidity ease up or I get a scooter.
  • Couch Surfers!!!! Yay! Meeting folks from around the globe as they spend a few days in my house. What a sensible, humane, progressive project. If you haven't heard about it, check it out here
OK. Gotta go. This is a friend's computer and we're on our way to Whole Foods.

23 June 2008

Eye Candy

No time to write but want to post some pics my first Couch Surfer guest sent from her stay. God, we had fun!

13 June 2008

When We Last Met

To tie up a few loose ends: The refrigerator mentioned in "The House on Harmony" is working just fine. I'm not thrilled about my new residence; I can admit now that impatience to have my own place drove me to a snap decision that I regret now. But I think I can tough it out for the length of the one-year lease. Yesterday a friend reminded me, "You can always break your lease, Alex. You should be happy where you live and if you're not, you have the right to move."

I'll keep that in mind but it turns out the "poor white trash" guy is the property manager and a very nice man. He lives in the house behind mine. The problematic neighbors who lived in the other half of my house when I moved in have since moved out. And neighbors from two houses across the street have come over and introduced themselves and seem like they'll make good neighbors.


None of the pictures Carlton took Beauty weekend really showed the full splendor of my hairdo but here are a couple to give you a feel for the weekend. I had a great time in the shop -- a weekly broadcast from there would rival Oprah for entertainment value.

The hairdo only lasted about 10 days. I don't think I'll try that style again: you can't wash your hair while
it's in and I had to wear a little cap at night to keep it in shape. I need a more low-maintenance kind of do. But I have to admit I felt quite elegant and sexy for 10 days.

Ultimately, I washed it out and gave myself a real-short haircut. After it grows out a little I'll try another style.


I'm still smoking (check my right hand in the picture...) but I haven't given up on quitting.

29 May 2008

I'm Still Here

I want to be writing here but it's proving harder than anticipated to carve out time and get writer-ly in my work place.

I want to be writing because writing helps me think. I want to write here because I like having an audience and I want my friends to know what's going on around me and in me.

It's going to be a little while before I have computer and Internet access in the house on Harmony Street so I'll keep trying to show up.

Watch for a picture of my new hairdo, coming as soon as Carlton empties his digital camera and sends me the shots he took last weekend. I'm on a mission: I want to look pretty again and as an early step in that direction I visited Beauty on de Bayou and gave Jowald free reign last Friday. I'm pleased, folks are talking at work and I'm getting more play on the street.

Stay tuned....

20 May 2008

Pleasure in the Fight

Two or three people staged a grand argument in the street in front of my house last night. It was "funny" because it was almost 10 p.m. and I'd only just returned home and made a mad dash for the piano to get a taste of the Brahms Impromptu before turning in for the night.

Most of the time bird song or human whistling or singing rises up in the silence after the music. This was the first time angry yelling erupted in the wake.

After a few minutes, it was clear the woman at least was deriving some kind of good from the yelling (the other voice(s) were male); the tone of her voice grew rounder and mellower with each utterance. I couldn't see the speakers and I would be hard pressed to explain what I'm about to say but gradually the sound of the anger seemed tinged with pleasure. Near the end of the scene, the woman was actually laughing with such zesty satisfaction that I started smiling too.

14 May 2008

The House on Harmony

I found a place to live. A little green house on Harmony Street. (I hadn't noticed the double meaning until I googled "green house" and most of the images were glass houses.)

In my private universe, this is an unquestionably beautiful thing -- having "green" and "harmony" associated with the place where I live and dream and make things. In my universe such omens portend unequivocal peace and joy.

But I know in "the real world" it's just silly to believe pretty coincidences mean anything.

And it is inside that knowing that doubt and fear and second-guessing arise. What should I be paying attention to instead of (or in addition to) the things that naturally catch my attention?

On the day the landlord and I met to look around the place, I noticed there was no refrigerator in the kitchen. "Uh oh. No refrigerator. That settles that--I can't rent a place that doesn't have a frig."

"Well, I don't usually provide a refrigerator for tenants but I have one in another unit you could use."

Problem solved in the little green house on Harmony street.

On the day I moved in, the landlord was in the kitchen--spray-painting the refrigerator. Was that one of those things that should have had meaning to me? How would an adept social anthropologist have interpreted the occurrence of a landlord with a spray can and a refrigerator? I saw it as more Crescent City quirkiness and thought "I love New Orleans!"

By the end of the day, there was no doubt about it: the refrigerator wasn't working. Except as a safe and nurturing space for fledgling newborn creatures. I left the landlord a voicemail.

A few hours later, my CD player, my piano and the lamps all went off at the same time. Even though the ceiling fans and the microwave still worked.

"Uh oh," I thought. "Is the real world colliding with my rose-colored outlook?" Should seeing the spray can have warned me the lights were going out?

When I returned from work the next day the landlord and a guy who looked like what we called "poor white trash" where I come from were sprawled across my kitchen floor working on the refrigerator. A rusty mini-frig was parked on two big cinder blocks against the opposite wall. Apparently something they called a "starter" was broken and the landlord would buy a new one the next day. "I feel kinda funny 'cause I don't usually provide refrigerators for my tenants," he added. "But I told you I would so I guess I have to."

"Uh huh," I said. I said nothing about the other problem, the power coming off and on.

The next day, I left work for a few hours to meet the gas&electric company at my apartment to switch the utilities into my name. The technician was a swarthy, uncommunicative little guy who barely responded to my questions about the intermittent electric power until he reached the other side of the house and opened the breaker box. "Here's why your power's going off and on," he practically shouted, holding a copper and glass thing under my nose.

Now he spoke in a clear audible voice, obviously warming to his work. I didn't understand much of what he said beyond "no connection" and "breaker" and "needs replacing." I left the landlord a voicemail.

He was audibly annoyed when he returned my call later that day. "What?!!" he yelled in the phone. "The electric was fine before you moved in. What's going on?!"

"I don't know, M____. I'm just telling you what the guy said."

"OK. OK. We'll take care of it but I've done all I can with the refrigerator." The line went abruptly silent between us.

"What are you saying?"

"I've done all I can do. I kept my word and put a refrigerator in. Not my fault if it doesn't work."

"Oh... " I said. "I'm really disappointed..."

"Well, I kept my word," he repeated.

"M____ ..." I was exasperated. "Don't talk crazy. You haven't kept your word. Installing a broken refrigerator is not 'keeping your word' and you know it."

"Don't you remember me saying that I don't provide refrigerators for my tenants?"

"Yes, I remember. And do you remember me saying I wouldn't rent a place that didn't have a refrigerator? Did you really think I'd be ok with a non-functioning refrigerator?"

"Yeah, yeah..... But do you remember me saying I don't provide refrigerators?....."

Never a good sign when the conversation turns circular on ya..... I let it go. The next day, I explored craigslist. I didn't want to do it, but I was willing to move again after less than a week in residence. And I found some groovy possibilities (including a house in the Marigny with two female artists looking for a third creative soul).

But by the time I got home last night, my landlord had come to Jesus and found a replacement refrigerator. He left a voicemail indicating he's okay with me paying my half of the cost of the refrigerator over time.

I don't intend to purchase 1/2 a refrigerator but I don't have to tell him that yet. I called and left him a "Thanks so much.... I'm happy" voice mail. A couple of days of harmony can't hurt.