22 October 2009


Steve G (see "To Be Known", 26 July 2009) is still in touch. I placed my FaceBook account in hibernation mode again recently and he's begun to send email again.

Yesterday he wrote
Miss You...
that's all I can say...
Memories of our love have been cropping up and I ... wish I had been more mature when we first met...
I asked "What do you remember?" and he responded with an astonishing number of specific, vivid memories. He remembers the red dress.

It was the most I'd ever spent on a piece of clothing: $100 for a floor length, wool blend, body-hugger with long sleeves. Tiny scallops along a very low, square neckline. I bought it to wear to a frat dance at DePauw University--the school I'd attended the previous year.

Steve was still enrolled but I'd dropped out at the end of Spring term and returned to Kentuckiana. I lived two hours away in my first apartment. I was driving my first car to my first real job--weekend news anchor for WINN radio.

The trip back to Depauw for a November dance party would be my first since leaving. Steve and I had not talked about what my leaving town meant. This was an important trip. I was ready to talk about the relationship. What were we doing?

For such a special occasion, I needed a special dress. I bought the red dress in one of the "better" shops downtown and it was truly a psychotropic experience finding it, trying it on, and seeing my reflection in the mirror. I loved that dress--so well made--and I loved how I felt in that dress. The fabric clung to every curve and angle of my body. I was worried about my nipples showing. Today, there would be no issue but in 1973 being obviously bra-less in public was still noteworthy. Glamour Magazine had recently offered a nipple concealment tip: Band Aids.

Back home with the dress, I tried it.

Heavens no!

Without question, the effect was a far more offensive spectacle than small natural bumps. So I abandoned the idea.

Today, 36 years later, Steve writes
please don't think I'm trying to cause you pain, but, black raspberries... God...
I think he's talking about nipples but I'm not sure. If so, what does it mean that we have separate nipple memories from that trip?

What does it mean that I remember very little about him, the first boy I ever loved? After a few hours of consideration, two ideas have surfaced.

1: The unforgettable male lover in my life came 16 years later. Memories of him displace those of any men before him and eclipse those of all men after him (so far).

2: I come up with scant specific memories older than a decade or so about anyone outside my family.

Maybe other memories of our relationship (what IS the word? 'relationship is waaaaaaay to mature a label for what we were doing and 'courtship' sounds ridiculous...) will surface for me if we keep our rekindled connection alive. Maybe the contact and interaction will ring a few bells and I'll remember things I've forgotten. What was it that Zora Neal Hurston just said in Their Eyes Were Watching God?...
Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
Another idea just dawned:

I'll have to re-read our correspondence (you see what I mean about my memory?) but so far it seems all of Steve's memories are from late in our time together. He doesn't have much from the time we were both in school and spending lots of time together. His memories start after the red dress weekend.

For me, after the red dress weekend, there was no future for us. Apparently I went through the motions for awhile but didn't pay close enough attention to make memories.

16 October 2009


This is a photo harvested from a Google search on "discretion." There's quite a bit I could say about this picture. But I won't. Still, I found it difficult to pull my eyes away from the image so I'm including it for those readers who might respond similarly.

Very often, I say too much. People who care about me have given this feedback for as long as I can remember. I am not discreet.

judicious in one's conduct or speech, esp. with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.
Especially the "maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature" part.

When my son was about 4 years old, we had lunch with my sisters in a restaurant in downtown Louisville. My son was always gregarious and being cute as a button, strangers were easily charmed into interacting with him. An elderly woman at the next table had already made eye contact with him and smiled and waved. "Mom, she looks just like ET!" he warbled loud enough for most everyone to hear.

I'm not so indiscreet as that. With focus, I can refrain from telling strangers they look like computer-generated film characters.

Human nature is very "delicate" socially. Sometimes, in some settings, it seems impossible to avoid bruising some or all of those present. Sometimes, in some settings, it feels like the only thing going on is everybody being careful of everyone else's delicacy and avoiding saying too much or asking too much or revealing too much or caring too much. Laughing too loud or looking too long. Standing too close or too far away. Staying too long or leaving too soon.

[I had a vague sense of direction when I started writing today. At this juncture, I re-read an email correspondence from earlier today between me and a new friend. Feeling certain that the words in my half of the correspondence would support an evolving thesis in the blog, I wanted to cut-and-paste relevant passages.

But after reading and re-reading several times, I see the whole situation differently. What in the world was going on with me this morning?! Whiny drama queen....

I can't reprint the passages here. I'm embarrassed.


if the current situation is typical or illustrative

my indiscretion, at least sometimes, is an attempt to be seen. Pathetic. Manipulative. Indirect and ineffective. But, all the same, it's a cry for attention.]


integrate that bit of awareness and go forward.

10 October 2009

Full Engagement

The purple flowers of a bush growing just outside my bedroom door open in sunlight and close at night. The leaves of the bush are a vibrant green. It thrills me when the big yellow butterfly stops by: the color combination is almost psychedelic.

Summer is winding down. The morning sunlight is less intense. Dead purple petals litter the ground around the bush. Today, the yellow butterfly was nowhere in sight. There was only a trio of small, rusty-mud colored butterflies, flitting about, choosing a bloom and parking on the lip of the flower. They lean headfirst toward the throat of the bloom and push their heads inside. For a long minute, they drink. I looked closely for signs of breathing and saw none. "What a way to die!" I thought, just before one of the three awakened from his stupor and floated lazily to another flower face.

Drinking deeply, total abandon, hardly breathing, focused....pleasure.

I'm re-reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. In the lush, trembling arrival of Spring, the central protagonist, Janie, has a conversion experience--the first strong stirrings of womanhood are excited in her adolescent mind and body. I hadn't felt that part of the book so strongly when I read it 10 or 15 years ago.

I'm also reading and re-reading as many Toni Morrison books as I can find at the library. I finished Sula last night and Love is at the bedside table. I want to re-read Beloved and Tar Baby, too. Morrison is a national treasure and, like the butterflies, she does lean in single mindedly with total focused abandon in her work. Drinks deeply and produces literature that satisfies deep thirst.

Sun calls the flowers. The flowers call the butterflies. Call and response.

It's said that creative activity is the way we humans cooperate and collaborate with God (however you conceive or define that word). We meet God halfway in a never-ending call-and-response cycle. The response part is crucial. I wait sometimes, too much of the time, for a Call. For an inspiration so potent that I will be compelled to respond. Fully, deeply, with abandon. Yet, the Call is all around me and within me all the time. God's part is done. The response part, my part, lags.

This, for me, is at the core of religion or strong faith or spiritual practice. The practice is about showing up, over and over again, stepping into partnership with God, dancing with the Life Force. Staying Awake.

This is a rather neglected aspect of my life for a few years now. Mostly I only talk about spirituality now, reminisce rather than practice. I live what I believe, as far as that can be done without taking action. It's a passive spirituality.

The topic of talented black male visionaries in the non-profit world has come up a few times lately. Among the provocative ideas the topic sparks, I wonder what drives them. Is it a response to a Call or something inside that won't let them rest? Or a combination? Or something else? Is their vision their religion?

artist: Erik Kaye

The momentary hallucination I mentioned in the last post included a sense of passionate, purpose-driven living. My house guest this week walks with one question these days-- "Is it sustainable?" This week we've applied the question far beyond the housing, ecology and political themes that generally inspire her work. What about purpose-driving living: Is it sustainable?

I don't have the last word on that from personal experience. I've read that such work/living, feeds the worker and so it IS sustainable.

This week, I will run an experiment. I will respond to every creative call. Will Response feed me? Is it sustainable?

09 October 2009

Taking the Reins....Anybody seen the reins?

The counselor at Job1 ("Business & Career Solutions") gave it to me straight: the strength of my resume and breadth of experience are liabilities in the New Orleans job market because it's a "word of mouth" town and people hire people who are (or seem to be) like themselves. I'm not from here, I talk "funny".

He suggested I start attending Franklin Baptist Church, a reportedly progressive-thinking congregation. Many of the members are successful and well-connected--to each other and beyond--in NO. He believes I will find and make the connections I need while simultaneously becoming more familiar and similar to folks here.

Then he opened a box of miscellany and pulled out a Calvin Coolidge quote for me to read:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

"Persist at what?" I asked.

My imagination seems to have packed up and left town permanently. I don't have an idea. Or, as it's usually phrased "I have no idea."

"God helps those who help themselves" I think. So, damn it, I ought to be doing something. But what?

How many stories have I told about leaving my house and winding up in an interesting situation somewhere on the streets of New Orleans? It's a proven likelihood. The catch is I don't usually leave my house unless I have an appointment, an errand to run -- some specific business in the world. Otherwise, I'm content to stay home. Home is where my heart is and when I love my home, I spend a lot of time there.

I'm out of ideas, completely uninspired about what I can do, from home, to stimulate my personal economy. It's astounding how blank my mental slate is. If I were a writer, I'd call it writer's block. But it's my life so it's a life block. Immobilized. Caught like a fly in resin.

Since I was raised in a Baptist Church, it's likely the culture of Franklin Avenue Baptist will not be strange to me. It will be strange to attend a church for other than spiritual reasons. I don't remember ever doing this before. When the counselor mentioned it (he says he's Catholic) an immediate resistance flared in me--part "I don't do church any more" and part "That would be wrong!"

I haven't counted the idea out of hand.

I notice that perhaps my inspiration is returning; I did, after all, come up with the idea to call a job counselor on my own! And, as is the way here, taking one step has rewarded me with 5 new directional arrows to choose among.

Yesterday a friend (who is a house guest this week) asked a very good question and I felt a little 'ping!' in my brain and, for a couple of minutes, felt myself in a different reality. A reality constructed by my own choices and efforts as always, but the result of having made a different set of choices and efforts in my life. I was the person I might be if I'd made different choices over the last 10 years ...

I was wearing different clothes and my teeth were beautiful. My body was buff and my attitude was positive. I had a car. I had friends in New Orleans, the kind of friends you kiss and hug when you see them. There was a scanner and a regular telephone in my house. I was a good cook and I had a long-time lover with a slow hand (slow eyes, slow tongue, slow breath).

I'm not unhappy. I am, again, as ever, very tired of money-based stress in my life.

Perhaps if I were unhappy or angry or ambitious, I'd be about some passionate strategy and tidily resolve my financial concerns. I'm none of those things. I'm stressed but out of crisis. Uninspired. Alert. Willing but seasoned. Watching to see where the story goes next.

03 October 2009

Pressured Speech

As it happened, the man next door and I made eye contact as I stood with coffee and cigarette on the balcony the morning before I left Boston. He had worked really hard the previous day removing the tree roots exposed at last after his years of raking the ground.

The reports I'd been given were wrong: he's only been raking his yard since last year. He's creating a memorial garden for his deceased mother. He wants to grow roses. Maybe the absence of grass or lawn is good for roses?

My understanding of the term is incomplete but I would describe his speech as "pressured", i.e., he says more than the conversation requires, as his mind free associates among the warehouse of data in his head, repeating certain phrases and rambling somewhat from topic to topic. I talk that way, too, sometimes. It leaves one feeling purged, like after a vomit, but, for me, accompanied by much less physical discomfort.