29 June 2009

GPS Rumi

Artist: Jenny Gould (http://www.jennygould.com/Contemporary.htm)

The show is over. The apartment fell through. (I am apartment hunting...again). My duet partner is on vacation. Michael Jackson is dead.

New Orleans feels like a jungle to me now. It is very hot. Hot enough for even New Orleanians to comment upon. Staying cool is 24/7 mental preoccupation: always at least 7 frozen water bottles in the freezer. Whenever I return home -- very often drenched in sweat -- I get out of my clothes and hold a frozen bottle or ice pack between my knees. Near-instant air conditioning. Thanks to Karo for that tip.

I'm hot. And in a sort of limbo work-wise. The studio is closed to students for one week after today. The show just ended (I did not quit, but I am not sure the bridge has not been burned... (See "Burning Bridges" post.)) My initial plan was to investigate other musical theater options in the area after this show closed; instead, I am looking for a place to live. Hustling work will have to wait at least a week.

The landlord at the former "new place" turned out to be an emotionally fragile middle-aged attorney who felt threatened by my questions about the apartment:

  1. Where is the key to the mailbox?
  2. How do guests (and my students) either get through the entry gate or let me know they seek entry? Would it be okay to install a doorbell and/or give them the pass code?
  3. I know you don't require a lease, but could we put something in writing, to protect both of us?
Yeah, I know. I mean, I know now. Lots of people find my inquisitive nature off-putting or intimidating. Lots of people are emotionally fragile. I am, too, at times. I suppose I knew subconsciously that I ran the risk of creating a problem between us by asking questions. And I tried to convince myself that none of those things mattered enough to take the risk. Obviously they retained sufficient significance and I posed the questions. And the poor man exploded.

Today I am hunting through internet ads and making phone calls. What is it with landlords in New Orleans?! Duplicitous, paranoid, greedy, sloppy.... My sense is that "good" landlords are in the minority here. Or renting properties I can't afford.

And Michael Jackson's death. Observing the absence of emotional or intellectual resonance in my response to the event. It reminds me a lot of Christmas: being surrounded by people who care a great deal about something that holds little or no importance for me.

My piano duet partner is on vacation until next week. I'm a little surprised by how desperately I am hoping for her return, hoping she hasn't lost interest. Our weekly rehearsals were tremendously invigorating. After a month of focusing on the score for "Wanna Play," I am ready to return to "my" music. Oh, Amanda! Please don't leave me....

I'm forgetting my mantra: "I have everything I need", feeling needy because my life involves so many ending or pending situations right now. Where is solid ground?

Artist: Anita Desmoyers

I don't know.

Then, just a moment ago, I checked my email and found this Rumi gem in a post from Brian:

Sometimes you enter the heart.
Sometimes you are born from the soul
Sometimes you read a song of separation.
It is all the same glory.

You live in beautiful forms,
and you are the energy that breaks form.
All light, neither this nor that.

Human beings go places on foot.

Angels, with wings.

Even if they find nothing but rains and failure,

you are the bright core of that.


OK. Rumi as psychic GPS device. It works.

25 June 2009

Door #3

I found a new place to live.

Thinking toward the perimeter--if not exactly "outside" the box, I placed an ad on Craigslist:

$600 Let's Live Together

The ideal situation would be: unfurnished (I have a bed and a piano), washer/dryer on site, walking distance to public transportation, porch or other outdoor space available, 1-2 other house members, CS friendly, no cats. I am 50+ yo female, 420-friendly, musician (piano/guitar) and music teacher, neat&organized. I belong to Couch Surf Network and occasionally host people from around the world. I am looking for a house/apartment share to save money and expand my social circle. Other people describe me as sane, poised, intelligent, spontaneous, creative (on the positive side) and blunt/direct, serious, unconventional and intense (on the negative side). Not really picky about which part of town since I love New Orleans but I don't have a car so I need to live near public transportation. I live alone Uptown at present and I am VERY READY to move. Do you have a place to share? Do you want to find a place with me?
The first couple of responses weren't even worth considering since they involved either cats (didn't I say "no cats" in the ad?) or too many people or a houseful of college students.

The chosen arrangement is with two guys and a dog. The lease is month-to-month so if it doesn't work out --but I sure hope it does because moving is a strenuous bore --I'm not trapped legally.

I am counting the days until I can sleep in air-conditioned comfort.

19 June 2009

Burning Bridges

The show opened today and I mainly want to blog on that tonight.

But some updates to topics and situations mentioned in the previous post are worth mentioning.

i - I am no longer the picture of perfect calm in the face of drama at the gig. And it's not ALL the adults in the group. The only bothersome antics have been acted out by the gal in charge. More on that situation later... (I don't know where that word came from -- "gal"....?)

ii - I am not biking to the theater. It is too damn hot for a woman of my age and condition to be biking 3 miles in the middle of a summer day in New Orleans. 101 degree heat index? Absolutely not.

iii - The ninth grade girl who thinks I am "awesome" is an incurable flirt...and I sure hope that works out for her. She has fallen in love at least 7 times in the last three weeks.


During the last week of rehearsals, it's not uncommon for things to get tense among people making a show together. It's adrenalin, it's creative juice. It's drama. I know this from experience.

Never in my experience of memory have I found a director or actor or crew member or anyone else associated with a show I'm doing as green-teeth irritating as the woman who founded and controls the current production.

Note: My optimism is such that I fully allow that she and I may come to share a productive, respectful, even gratifying relationship at some point in the future. So I am choosing my words with care in this blog entry; I mean, she might read this some day...

In that spirit, I will confine myself to "I" statements. Okay...

  1. I don't like to be told how to do something I already know how to do.
  2. I don't like to be interrupted when I speak.
  3. I don't like to be told how to do something by someone who doesn't know how to do it, e.g., play piano.
  4. I don't like to be condescended to.
  5. I am disappointed, embarrassed and frustrated by people who will not (cannot?) admit their mistakes.
  6. I'm pissed off by hypocrisy, e.g., when someone who never admits blame is ruthlessly punitive when someone else makes a mistake.
  7. I am envious and pouty when someone whose personality has been precisely described by items 1 through 6 above has power and opportunity that I wish I had.
So two days ago I decided "This is the last show I do with this woman." And then two minutes later thought Damn! I finally find myself right where I want to be, doing what I want to do and I've gotta leave again. I want to be playing music in New Orleans. I am playing music in New Orleans. I want to work with kids outside of the school system. I am working with kids outside of the school system. I want to get paid to do the work. etc. etc.

And it felt like Bridge Burning Time again. The word "again" is significant above: burning bridges is one of my habits.

Except this time I didn't knee-jerk strike the match.

When I tried to see my way to an alternative, my thoughts wound in circles, riding a roiling sea of emotion. So I went out with a friend for dinner and a Margarita, hoping my friend could help. Listening to her, my emotions settled. As well, I've talked with the other band members. most of them have worked with this poor woman for years. They see her craziness but it doesn't bother them any more. They've developed coping strategies. I'm beginning to think maybe I can develop a coping strategy.

We had three shows today.

I went out for coffee and a cigarette in the two-hour break between the first and second performances. A good idea: sitting on the steps of the big strange white building at Poydras and St. Charles, under a little bit of shade; hot but with a little bit of breeze and the sun behind a cloud now and then. Intermittently, reading Obama's book about his father and watching the passing people and vehicles.

I returned to the theater and had only one scratchy interaction with my perhaps-someday Friend. At the end of the second performance, when she came to the band with the (usual) (mostly) counter-productive changes, I attempted a calm response but was met with the (usual) interruption.

I smiled. Said, "Uh-huh," and, though we had a number of interactions before and after tonight's performance, I offered only nods, small smiles, a couple of "Uh-huhs" and "yeahs" and a "Sure!" for the rest of the day.

I don't want what she's bringing but neither do I want to burn this bridge into the New Orleans music/theater community.

I don't know if I have actually accomplished a full attitude adjustment or if the calm I feel at the moment is more directly a result of a) fewer encounters with her and b) keeping my mouth shut. Then again, perhaps that IS a strategy.

11 June 2009


No big news, no burning issues, no nagging questions. Just two little bits from the last couple of days.


My gig as rehearsal and show pianist for the Crescent City Lights Youth Theater chugs along. I'd forgotten how dramatic theater people can be... The experience of being in the company of drama queens (I am NOT talking about the kids but the adults who are "running the show") every night squelches any dramatic impulses that arise in me. I am the picture of calm.

I'm also riding my bike or walking the 2-1/2 miles to and from rehearsal as part of my eat-less/move-more weight loss project.


Yesterday, in the span of 3 hours two different people offered unsolicited feedback on my speech, appearance and personality. Both commentators described me as articulate, calm, smart, talented and special (those are the words they used). The first speaker, a middle-aged woman, said she views the combination of traits as "intimidating." "You just seem so powerful. Has anyone ever told you you should lighten up? I'm scared to say anything to you..." The other speaker, a ninth-grade girl, sees me as "awesome". "You remind me of my favorite teacher at school," she said.

I've often been accused of being aloof, of seeming not to care what people think of me. I don't contest the accusation -- but I don't see it as a character flaw. It's more like a survival technique. It makes me crazy (in a life-threatening way) trying to figure out what to do with feedback like that described above. For my own sanity, it's better to just hear it and understand it as people talking to me about themselves.

"Ah, that explains a lot," I said to the middle-aged woman. "Wow....thanks," I said to the teenage girl.


01 June 2009


My ship has come in.

Or at least its arrival seems imminent.

My first few months in New Orleans my focus was less on the place than the community where I landed (the Common Ground Collective) and the stunning devastation of the landscape. I was falling in love with New Orleans but it was an indirect or filtered connection; like beautiful music playing in another room.

Since returning to NOLA last March, I've been keenly aware that my love is the love of a newcomer. An outsider. I'm not "from here." Lately, when someone asks, "Where are you from?" I answer "From here now." It's an honest, unpretentious response I think. I am here by choice. I have willingly surrendered to New Orleans.

But what do I know?

In the most recent NOLA Couch Surfing Digest, hosts shared the names of their favorite dive bars in town. There were some pretty long lists posted. I can't name three that aren't on Frenchman Street.

I don't get around much. And when I do, I return again and again to a handful of locales.

So my relationship with New Orleans is pure fantasy in some ways.

New Orleans is intimate. Glimpses of her naked heart are revealed everywhere: sunrise on the river, music on the streets, the colors of the houses, the lilt in natives' speech, the grandeur of trees along Carrollton or in Audubon Park, aromas wafting from backyards and restaurant back windows, the heat of summer... Even as a newcomer, I have New Orleans on and under my skin.

A week or so ago I landed a playing gig: pianist for the Crescent City Lights Youth Theater production of "Wanna Play?" A playing paying gig in New Orleans. I'm thrilled.

I opened my calendar tonight and noted how I'm spending my time: teaching piano, rehearsing for a show, playing a show, and rehearsing/playing four-hands piano music with a new partner. The bulk of my time now is music-related. I am a musician living in New Orleans, a role many have longed for and fantasized about. It feels a lot like arrival. Or arriving.

Or like New Orleans is letting me in.


When I'm broke, with no prospects in sight, Hopelessness hits. It struck most recently a couple of days before the theater gig presented. Two piano students had terminated their study with me. $250 gone from next month's resources.

I checked Craigslist for jobs in Indiana and Kentucky. I felt old and failed and unimaginative and scared.
Historically, "failed, unimaginative and scared" was one of my favorite Misery Cocktails. Sometime in the last year, I added "old" and, more recently, "fat" became the maraschino cherry in the mix.

When this frame of mind persists for a few days, my apartment begins to look "dirty, cramped and impoverished." I've learned from my European Couch Surf guests, however, that in their countries, my apartment--and especially the fact that I live in it alone--would be seen as luxurious, comfortable and welcoming. This insight is a gift that keeps giving--it interrupts me every time I complain about my house.

I know perspective and perception are neither fixed nor universal. It's crazy to try to attach to a particular feeling or outlook; but relative to my hopelessness, it's difficult to apply this awareness effectively. Getting a job is usually the cure. With money coming in, I no longer feel "failed", "unimaginative" or "scared." I feel "mature" instead of "old" and "ripe" rather than "fat".

Some of you know about my conflicted history with finding (and keeping) "a job". I'm beginning to see that new strategies and perspectives on how to find/keep a job are required here and now, in part due to my age/experience and in part in keeping with New Orleans culture. As with so many things here, working has a distinctively intimate, relational, and improvisational favor.

It's beginning to dawn on me that I can't go about this the way I did 10 years ago or in San Francisco, Denver or Louisville. None of the work I currently do was produced by sending out resumes. None required completing an application. And, in every case, an unabashedly personal interaction was the winning component. Conversation, eye contact, emotion, self-disclosure, risk were essential ingredients.

To live and survive in New Orleans, I must come out of my cave. Touch and be touched. Dance. Listen, Raise a glass. Tell a joke. I can't live in New Orleans as I lived in those other places. There is more spice, juice, danger and swing in New Orleans. To stay here takes faith. And energy. And a sense of humor. And patience. And willingness. And what might be defined as nuttiness in some parts of the U.S.

Do I have enough of all that to stay here? I think I do. Though my perspective occasionally takes on a decidedly negative tint, it's impossible to deny that my life is good right now, that I'm doing what I want to do and making it. The Earth is my home -- I have everything I need -- choosing Love over Fear succeeds.

For me, it's an ongoing process of peeling off layers of misconception....and artifice....and rigidity within myself. In the same way that the summer heat forces me to abandon closed-toe shoes and button collars, long sleeves and hiding my hair in head wraps, survival here demands I drop some psychological trappings I needed in cooler climates. My hair is permanently braided here -- and I go out in public that way! I would never have dreamed of going out this way in San Francisco.


The Adventurer seeks always a new road. I am Sojourner; traveling old roads with new eyes and a stronger heart matters more to my life.