Sunday, November 29, 2009



So I tried something different today. On my way home, I popped into a couple of my favorite galleries, and leaned in really close to the canvases to look at the paint. Especially the ones that look the way i want my painting to look. When I look at a work, I think I normally see a picture more than a painting. Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees, getting caught up in details, but sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes we're so focused on the big picture that we remain in absolute ignorance of the the elements that create it.

A painting is, after all, made of paint, not picture. So I tried to focus on the details. Examining brush strokes, or knife strokes. Feeling in my mind the body of the paint on the brush, how it pulls on the canvas. Seeing the brush or knife in my mind. The size. The shape. The angle it's held at. Imagining even the mixing of the paint, the subtle variation in shade, the pools of color across the palate.

I think I see my problem. I'm just so damn scared of putting paint on the canvas.

This probably makes all sorts of sense, since I'm still very inexperienced with my medium. I've been trying to put the picture on the canvas somehow without really placing the paint, because I just don't have any idea what the paint is going to do.

The picture is what I want to see when I'm finished, and what I want others to see when they look, but I get so nervous about how to build that picture. I can mix the right shade, and i can put it on a brush, wield that brush with meticulous care, and I can make the shape where it needs to be, but I end up with something very static. Flat. Too polished, too smooth, too stylized, almost cartoonish.

Or I go to the other extreme. I put paint on my brush, then push brush to canvas with no deliberation, and hope the brush creates what I want to see. I'm not using it as a tool, but as a crutch. This gives those parts of the painting more motion and texture, but they're crude, inelegant, unlovely, and not at all what I want, only what I stopped at because things were getting worse instead of better.

Really, the only way to find out what the paint will do when it hits canvas is to just start scooping it up and putting it there. Playing with it. Experimentation and observation, like any good little scientist. But also, just like getting 8 count lindy hop steps into my muscle memory alongside 6 count east coast swing, or feeling where in my voice an interval falls, or how my fingers run through a lick on the trumpet, I just have to DO it so I can feel it.

In imagining the painting of the pieces I looked at today, I think I have my mind around it a little more. Next I have to get my body around it. Get the picture out of my head and sculpt it into the paint.

Then let it out into the world.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Week in Review... or... Halloween, Part One

There have been so many things I wanted to share, and thought to myself, as they happened, I need to blog about that. But I keep forgetting them. Such is life.

I do remember that people have been saying awesome things about my dancing lately. I still feel like following is fundamentally against the grain of my personality, and I'm not very good at it. There's a lot to work on, but considering I've only been dancing seriously for about five months and many of my partners have been at it for years, I should probably go easier on myself.

This past Wednesday at Rock'n'Bowl, one of my frequent partners who has been out of town for a while struck up a dance with me, and immediately said, "Wow, you're moving a lot differently now!" Something good about style, confidence, attitude, things I really found myself settle into during the 5 days of dancing around ULHS. I danced a lot and found my step in many ways, and I felt this, but it's nice to know that it shows.

Later, chatting at the bar with Mr. Bud (who is one of the most cheerful, courteous, and complimentary partners a person could have), Mr. Bud said how much he always enjoys dancing with me, how nice it is to have someone he doesn't have to be afraid to try new steps with, how ATHLETIC a dancer I am (I've never been called athletic before in my LIFE!), and how he'd come off the floor after a dance with me, and a brand new dancer he talked to was *amazed* at all the cool moves we had. I know I watch the dancerly dancers I know and marvel at the moves, so it was both humbling and exhilarating to think that someone thinks that when they watch me. Wow. Just... wow.

Today I got my latest and so far most cherished compliment. I had just finished a dance at Nickel-a-Dance on Frenchmen Street when an older lady with a cane, sitting in the front row of seats by the dance floor waved me down. She said she'd been trying to get my attention three times already, and as I leaned forward to hear her better, she reached up and took my chin in her hand and said, "Sweetheart, I just had to tell you how much I enjoy watching you dance. You and that young man you were just dancing with. I used to teach dancing, and you have such a step, you keep up so well, you dance beautifully. All you need to do is smile just a little bit more, but you dance just beautifully."

I swear, I nearly cried. I love dancing so much, and I have a good time, but I've tried not to worry about whether or not I look any good doing it, because I know self-consciousness will just kill whatever poise I'm currently scrounging up. Apparently I don't need to worry. I guess if I look half as good as I feel, I'm doing just fine.

Hmm. So far this hasn't been much about Halloween. Let me correct this. I know it isn't actually until next Saturday, but, like any other excuse for a party, they start early here in New Orleans. I went to a birthday/Halloween/swing dance party on Friday night. Costumes were optional, but I love dressing up, so I wore my gypsy ensemble. Seemed like it would be fun to dance in. I also brought a change of clothes in case I was the only one there in costume.

Well, I was, but every time I started feeling awkward, someone would say how awesome my costume was, so I never did change out of it. It was a BLAST to dance in. In fact, a little too fun. Every time I spun, my skirt would keep going for two beats, and I would watch it with that easily-amused, childlike delight that I tell myself is endearing, but is probably mostly silly. Whatever. :-P

Even cooler than my twirly skirt, though, was how, about halfway through the evening, a bassist, a banjo player, and a trombonist walked into the party. I know that sounds like the start of a joke. What it *was* was the start of the dancing to LIVE MUSIC portion of the evening. Some of the best musicians I've heard play around the Quarter and Frenchmen Street, and they just show up at a party as guests, and decide to pull out their instruments and play out the dance.





The next day I went to my friend Adé's Mad Hatter Tea Party as the Queen of Hearts. That was too, too fun, and we've decided to wear our costumes again on Wednesday at Rock'n'Bowl, so Halloween just grew an extra day. I went home early-ish in the afternoon so that I could get my car parked and all before things got too nuts for the Krewe of Boo parade. Then I decided to slink up my costume and go tool around the Quarter and see the parade in style.

I got SOOOO many compliments on my costume! Most were of the simple, "I love your outfit!" sort, but I think I did steal one heart. There was a guy standing by himself waiting for the parade whom I had to walk past to get where I wanted to watch from, and he watched me for about fifty feet as I walked towards him, and as I passed and smiled, he said softly, "You *are* something!"

The parade was fun, though I think maybe the most fun part was walking down the route after it had ended where I had been watching, and seeing three Ursuline nuns laughing and clapping and reaching to catch beads. No, those weren't costumes. I see those same three nuns often on my walk to work, as they head to morning mass. Too fun!

I decided to walk up and down Bourbon Street just to see and be seen. I got high-fived by two frat boys, told that I "got it goin' on" by lady encouraging people to enter one of the gay bars, and caught countless stares and double takes. It was fun.

Outside of Fritzl's I stopped and looked in to see the trombone and banjo players from the night before, along with a different bassist and a washboard player, on the little stage at the back. I hesitated, then couldn't resist, and went on in. I sat down near the band and ordered my drink while they finished a song. Afterwards, the banjo player said he wanted to welcome all the beautiful people who had just come in, and especially this pretty lady in the costume. He looked at me again and asked, "Weren't you at the party last night?" And I said yes I was, and he asked me to stand up and show everyone my absolutely beautiful costume. Yeah, I tipped the band and bought a CD after that. :-) After a while the guy who hosted Friday's party and the girl whose birthday it was came in. They didn't recognize me at first, but when they did they asked me to join them, and the guy said I looked BEAUTIFUL.

All that attention, all that costume-wearing, and Halloween isn't even until next weekend! Then the weekend after that I dress up again for Ren Fest! I am LOVING life right about now.

So, yeah, I feel amazing tonight. Incredibly happy, incredibly liked. If I'm walking around for the next few days or weeks with a really self-satisfied grin and a little extra confidence in my step, and if my head is a bit of a tight squeeze getting through a few doors, don't blame me! Everyone is saying such nice things! I love this town, I love these people, and I LOVE Halloween!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dance, Dance, Yeah

I want to tell you all how mind-blowingly spectacular Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown this weekend has been for me, but I can't. I really just can't. But of course I'm going to try.

On Thursday, I danced on a paddleboat. On Friday I danced in front of the steps across from Jackson Square, then in a wax museum. On Saturday I danced in the rain at the French Market, then at the World War II museum. Today, Sunday, I danced all over Frenchmen Street.

I learned new moves. I met new people. I lost five pounds. I listened to phenomenal live music. I watched competition dancing that had me wide-eyed, jaw-dropped, clapping-along-until-my-hands-hurt, heart-poundingly enthralled. These people are magic.

I made new friends. :-)

I tried to work on some of my existing technical issues and, yes, discovered a few more. But thanks to one partner in particular, I started to loosen up and follow his steps in blues dancing better, and I'm MUCH better now at relaxing into a dip instead of doing the cat-about-to-be-bathed cling that I've been specializing in lately. Oh, and I found out that my hips CAN move like that, as long as I don't pay any attention to them. :-P

All in all, I can honestly say that I have NEVER IN MY LIFE had a more amazing, more fun weekend. I woke up every morning energized and ready to go, in spite of the late nights. I walked down the street to the next dance event with my heart singing and my feet keeping time to the song. I wish I could have done all the events today and this evening. Next year, because there WILL BE a next year, I'll schedule my vacation accordingly. This has been an experience of a lifetime for me, and over the next few days I expect I'll be thanking everyone who convinced me to come and who danced with me from the bottom of my heart for the gift it's been. If you EVER get the chance, even if you don't dance, go to one of these. Go search ULHS 2009 on YouTube and see some of what I saw.

Now. My legs and feet are screaming and I have to get some sleep tonight. I'm going to take some more Advil and go soak in a hot bath and dream of next year... when I'll actually know the Lindy Hop

Friday, September 25, 2009

If Chivalry Is Dead, You CanNOT Pin That on Me

This one has been percolating around in the back of my mind for a while, ever since a friend IMed me as follows:

well, men and feminists alike agree that the reason men act this way is because women let them. they are so busy trying to be like men (independent), that they, the ladies, actually killed the chivalry. i think it might be true

The more I think about it, the more I feel like I have to go with my gut reaction.

Bull shit.

First off, let me get a rant off my chest about the men who would rather open a door or a jar than their hearts. For whom reaching something of the top shelf validates their existence more than reaching out to another person. Who would rather lift heavy luggage than help help shoulder an emotional burden. Who would rather buy dinner and drinks for a girl than share anything meaningful or personal with her. And who, if they want to get laid, would much rather it be with someone they don't know or care for or respect, because God forbid they have to recognize her humanity, her personhood, as commensurate (or superior!) to their own. That would make it so much harder to squelch down the guilt of using her than ignoring her. Those of you men who do not fit this description (I'm truly fortunate to know quite a few) BLESS YOU. Of course, it's no wonder most of you aren't single. :-P End rant.

Another quick point. I'm not sure many people would recognize my qualifications to lady-hood beyond having two X chromosomes. I don't care for clothing that is conventionally reserved for women alone (i.e. dresses and skirts). I've always been fascinated with, and only rarely frightened by, reptiles, insects, and all manner of creepy crawlies. I drive fast and assertively. On the other hand, I like to bake, I can mend clothing on a simple scale, and I sing and draw and write/talk about my feelings. The most "typically feminine" things about me are probably my tenderness for all things small and weak, my love of beauty in nature, and my hypersensitive emotions. I do maintain that in spite of everything I am a lady in the truest sense in that I have a regard for the feelings of others and am led by this to act graciously, generously, courteously, and kindly on most occasions.

Back to what my friend says about chivalry, or the lack thereof. Let's do a close reading.

men act this way because women let them...

I'm of the opinion that a man who is discourteous will be discourteous regardless of what any woman "lets" him do. It's not about allowing bad behavior, or rewarding politeness and punishing rudeness. It's about a fundamental consideration for others, and if a person has that, they will treat others with respect and deference. If they don't, I'm not quite sure how I, as a woman, have "let" things get that way. I think this assumes something fundamentally false about chivalry: that chivalry is a courtship behavior on the part of a man to obtain a reward from a woman, and that she can control this behavior on a Pavlovian level by granting that reward when he does it right, or withholding when he does it wrong. If that's all chivalry is, than it is certainly among the undead, still stumbling along causing what mischief it can now that it's lost its soul. Chivalry in its heyday (from the French chevalier, or knight on horseback) tenuously encompassed three duties:
  1. Duty to country and countrymen
  2. Duty to God
  3. Duty to women
Principle among "women" was the knight's own lady, but women meant all women, the young and lovely and highborn AND the old, poor peasant. So I protest the notion that chivalry is about who pays for dinner and who opens the door. True chivalry is being respectful of and considerate to all men, women, and children. I concede that back when safety depended on how much physical strength you possessed or could co-opt, and highborn ladies were ideally seriously lacking in physical strength, it made sense that chivalry would be more of a one-way street. It's true that things are different now. If women aren't pale, tremulous, collapsing little morning flowers wearing flimsy footwear, then men may not feel that courtesy obliges them to cast their cloaks over puddles. But I'd contend that a more equal playing field demands that women show the same courtesy they expect to receive, not that men show less courtesy.

they [women] are so busy trying to be like men (independent)...

Okay. I think it's obvious that my friend could be called more conventional, more old-fashioned, more traditional, or more feminine than me. She inherently defines independence as a masculine trait.

I protest. A thousand times, I protest. I'm a very independent person. I always have been, and my parents always encouraged me to think and take responsibility for myself. I don't think they were trying to make me manly. I don't think dependence is inherently feminine. I think certain social norms try to make it so, and I think other cultural customs combat this. If females in nature, including our fellow primates, have typically relied on protective male strength for survival, I think it's true that males often rely on females to an equal extent for something else, like food. Drones do very little in a honeybee colony. Lionesses are the hunters of the pride. Females in nature often bear more of the responsibility of tending the young, and if you don't think this is something males depend upon them for, then you're ignoring the post-coital portion of the biological imperative of sex as procreation. A male's drive to sire as many offspring as possible isn't going to do him much good on a genetic level if no one takes care of the young. All in all, independence isn't some new-fangled crazy notion women have gotten into their heads. Self-reliance and mutual inter-dependence are much more natural patterns than total dependence one way or the other. In being independent, in holding my own well-paying job, in cultivating my own skills and talents to maintain that job, in relying on my own abilities to navigate my world, I'm not trying to be a man. I'm trying to be a woman who can survive and, more, thrive in a world that does not just hand me a male to take care of the dirty work. And I'm trying to put myself in the best position possible to be relied upon as well as rely upon the people I need and who need me, male or female.

they, the ladies, actually killed the chivalry

A woman who scolds a man for opening the door for her is equally as rude as a man who lets the door shut in a woman's (or anyone's) face. A man who feels so affronted if a woman opens the door herself that he considers himself justified in no longer opening doors for women is as dependent as a woman who never opens her own door. Not everyone is considerate, not everyone is fair, not everyone is generous, candid, and kind. Personally, I think I prefer knowing the have-nots up front, and not being in the dark because a strict social code has forced a person to behave with a consideration they don't really feel. (I also think that nice guys need to take gallantry back instead of complaining that girls prefer smooth-talking jerks. Of course we like to be flattered. So do you. Give a little, get a little. But that's a related but distinct topic.)

I don't think at all that independent ladies killed chivalry. We've only exposed the fundamental flaw in the system it propped up. I think people are just lazy, and are eager to blame the results of their laziness on anyone but themselves. In a world where gender roles are becoming less well defined, it *is* more difficult to negotiate the expectations on both sides. I think a more equal playing field demands more of everyone's courtesy, not less, as the old assumptions don't hold and we are all required to act and speak out of true respect and consideration, not just mouth and motion our way through a preordained script. And I think that if chivalry is dead or dying, it's not because women killed it with their independence, or men killed it with inherent sleezery; it means neither men nor women have risen to that challenge.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to say that's all well and good, but chivalry really means it's always the man's job to take care of the woman, and it's a woman's place to always require or insist upon that care, then personally, I think it can't die fast enough so we can replace it with something better.

But that's just me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hail, Poetry

I've realized that I've started posting to Facebook a lot, and here not at all. I suppose there might be some overlap, but I do have a special place in my heart for Scribbledom, and so this makes me sad. Well. I have complete control over it. Here is a poem I've posted to Facebook recently. Enjoy!
Caddo Shade

Impossibly white
Like a ghost or a god,
An alabaster egret
Stands in somber niche,
Ancient, aloof, enigmatic,
Barring the gates
To a shadow world
With eye of unconcerned flint
And gleam of unworldly elegance
Between the cypress trunks
Like stony temple columns
Surrounded by worshippers
On their knees
Frozen in mystic rites
Beneath fluttering wraiths
Of trailing, faded moss,
Like tattered banners
Of long forgotten kings,
Barring the gates
To a world apart
From blue sky and blue stream,
Green moss beneath
Green leaves above
A world suspended,
Dark and still, a mystery
Between water and air
Haunted by one white spirit.

The way is shut.
I dare not pass
The silent sentry.
Even sun rays are muted,
Unable to penetrate
A secret inviolate.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Magic Circle

If you’re lucky like me, you have a couple or a group or even a couple of groups of the best friends you’ll ever meet. People you will always belong to, always share with, who will always be family, blood not withstanding. Amazing people who know you well and STILL both like and love you. I have this, and I am blessed.

When you’ve found friends like this, some people might question the wisdom of leaving them behind like I’ve done. These people aren’t really in my circle. My close friends know and understand, or at least accept and let me go my own ways. Sometimes that’s the best anyone can do with me, and it’s encouraging, humbling, and inexpressibly comforting to know that there are people willing to set me free and always take me back.

Being on my own has been easy enough so far because of the interwebs, and because I don’t mind eating at a restaurant or going to a movie or museum on my own. In fact, I often enjoy it as a treat to myself. That’s called being an introvert, I imagine. All the same, like many good things, quality alone time can become burdensome when it’s the only option, so I’m doing my best to make new friends. You can never have too many friends, or too many circles.

Meeting people isn’t so hard. Making good friends isn’t so easy. Joining a new circle… I’m finding that difficult indeed.

I’ve always wanted to add amazing new people I meet to my amazing circle of friends. Now I really need to find someone like that, who tries to push and expand and share their circles with new people. And I need to be someone that people want to share their circles with! I’m doing things like joining the band and taking dance lessons to meet people who have similar interests and regular times for coming together. I may not get collected into a circle that way, but at least it’s time I spend socializing with others and improving my chances.

When all is said and done, though, I’ve only been in New Orleans a little over two months. Circles as wonderful as the ones I have can take years to find/build/grow. I will try to walk softly. I will try to move forward steadily, but gently. I will try to find the balance between not forcing myself upon people and the sensitive pride that keeps me apart when people don’t openly invite me closer.

I will try not to feel daunted and discouraged by the task of weaving myself into circles already established. The most wonderful people I know love me and want me as a friend, so surely as I go through life I will only find more people who also want me. It isn’t really magic, after all, even though it can seem that way.

So above all, I will try to be active, yet patient. I’m just not very good at patience!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Otto's Trials, Otto's Triumphs

Poor Otto. He had a bad weekend, didn't he? For those of you following along at home...

When your coolant temperature sensor fails, it can sometimes forget to tell your radiator fan to turn on.

When your radiator fan doesn't turn on, the coolant generally overheats.

When your coolant overheats too much, it can crack your radiator and ruin the pump.

Believe me. I ought to know.

So, while they were fixing Otto up with a new radiator, etc., they pointed out that the timing belt was due for a change. Well, was going to have to happen sooner or later. Sure, why not now, while he's already in various stages of disassembly?

With the engine out for the timing belt change, they noticed a cracked engine mount. Ooooh, so THAT's what that rattling sound was when I was stopped at stop lights.

With the damage repaired, or the damage done, depending on the damage you speak of, Otto came home with a NEW strange rattle. So the next day he went back to the doctor, to find that an exhaust clamp had slipped loose, but was repaired easily enough, and for free. Unlike the other repairs!

So now my Otto is no longer an overheating rattletrap of a little white car. He runs smoothly and quietly, and is perfectly content!

Except for the intermittent hiss of the air conditioner compressor valves slowly going out.

But that's another story, for another time.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Always an Adventure

So after work today, I had two goals:
  1. Purchase clear sewing thread.
  2. See Harry Potter movie.

I decided to join these with another goal. Go see what's on the West Bank. Now, in Google searching for stores I've wanted to visit, I've often seen that there are locations both in Metairie and Gretna. Gretna is actually a bit closer, but, it's a funny thing, I've always gone to Metairie. See, to get to Gretna I have to cross the river. There's a bridge, yes. A HUGE bridge. For some reason, though, the river is just deeply ingrained in my mind as an insurmountable barrier. Which is ridiculous. So today, I set out to conquer the West Bank. Which, incidentally, is east of here. o_O

(N.B. I realized today that my office building is, in fact, east of the Mississippi, west of the Mississippi, north of the Mississippi, and south of the Mississippi.)

I also needed to pick three pictures up at the framers, but it was raining, so I figured I'd wait until tomorrow, after the couch is delivered.

I accomplished my two (or three) goals with reasonable ease, and even found a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, which I think Mom and Brooke had been asking about. Yes, they have one here. No, the chicken fried steak is not worth it.

Thread purchased and movie viewed, I turned to go back the way I came. Which worked fine until I saw the sign that said the bridge was tolled. Get that. No indication on the way over that there would be a toll coming back. It caught me a bit off guard. My thought process went something like...

"Toll, is that on the bridge *I* need."

"Looks like it. I have money, right?"

"Shit, do I have money?"

"Shit, what if they don't take money, and it's tag only?"

"Uh oh, last exit to not pay."

So I exited, found a gas station, bought a drink, and asked the attendant if the toll booths took money, and how late the ferries run. The ferries run until 9pm, apparently. This was told me at 9:15pm. Fortunately, the toll booths do, in fact, take cash. Disaster averted.

Or so I thought, especially after I paid my toll and reved up to cross the bridge and get back on my side of the river.

Everything seemed fine, until I took the exit for I-10 East and Slidell, and in glancing down at my dash, noticed...
  1. The check engine light
  2. The temperature gauge in the red zone

I'm on flippin' I-10. The closest exit is the one for home. I throw on the hazard lights, slow down to 40 mph, and start praying.

I prayed and prayed and prayed, and finally parallel parked as soon as I could, partially blocking a driveway, it's true, but I've been told no one ever uses that drive. I hope I've been told correctly. I'll sort it out tomorrow.

As I pull into my space, and, in fact, at any point off the highway when I had to slow down and stop, billows of smoke came from under my hood. This is not going to be good. I can feel it. I'm also pissed, because I know the problem has been there for a while, but the last time I took it to the mechanics and asked them to fix the rattling, they insisted there was nothing wrong. Great.

Well, it's parked now. I have the number for a mechanic, obtained from a friend here in the Quarter, who was finally available when I called (been trying to reach him for some other stuff for a while). Well, this was when it counted, and he was there, and let me come over and have my nervous breakdown with a friend. I'm thankful for that. I was feeling very alone.

So, tomorrow, after the couch is delivered, I'll be arranging for my car to be towed to a mechanic somewhere, and then I'll have to sort out how to get my pictures home from the framers. It's only 3 blocks. If the weather is dry, I'll just walk back and forth three times. That's about my morning walk anyhow.

So, yes. It's been an adventure.

Wish my Otto good luck. I'm really worried about him. :-(

Friday, July 03, 2009

Elegy for a Fading Love

Shower streaming down on me
Early morning elegy
For a love not meant to be

Hot water pouring down on me
Cleaving me and crumbling me
Bits of me dissolved
Down the drain
Lost in sobs and shudderings
Drawn from me
Explode from me
Feeling love’s grasp slackening

Kill it now! It’s weak.
Crush it under foot, be strong!
Be brave…
Be quick…
Burn its Hydra neck before
Another head leaps out
Mouthful of teeth to bite and hold…

Not strong, not brave, not quick
Waiting, watching frozen still
Feel it loosen, washed down
Worn down by tears
Clinging somewhere out of sight
Faded into grief and night

I could have loved forever…
Couldn’t I?

Can’t I?

Won’t I?
Will I ever?

Now to live again just out of reach
Just out of touch
Heart wakened from a dream
Just to find itself alone

Come back but cold and quivering
Drawing heat from shower steam

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Finally Caught a Brake...

... Tag.  A brake tag.  They're infuriatingly hard to get.  Elusive little beasts.

First, what is a brake tag?  I have two simple answers.

1) It's the rough equivalent of the Texas state inspection, only it's fairly curtailed.  They check lights, wipers, horn, and brakes, but not emissions or anything.

2) It's a scam.

Seriously.  If it was really about my safety, it would NOT be so hard to get one!

Brake tags can only be obtained:
  1. In your parish of residence
  2. Between the hours of 8am and 4pm
  3. Monday through Friday
  4. When the streets are dry
I've compiled most this list through some trial and... well... error.  So, there are eleven stations listed on the City of New Orleans website as providing brake tags. Four of them are reasonably close to the Quarter, though not exactly spitting distance.  I had things to do nearish the closest one, so I headed down there.  I pulled into the station at 4:06pm, and got several heads shaken at me, one arm waving me away, and another pointing towards a sign listing the hours.  So I'd have to leave work early.  Great.

So, this Tuesday I left work early, made it home before the downpour, changed, and hopped in the car.  I pulled into the station parking lot, completely deserted.  Then I saw the sign. I'd missed it the day before.  "If it's raining, we'll be closed."  Sigh.

Wednesday I was home sick.  By the afternoon I felt pretty much better, so I thought about trying again.  It had been raining off and on, but the sun kept peeking out, so I thought maybe it was done.  I decided to call first this time.  I looked up the numbers, and in passing noticed that one near me was open on Saturday mornings.  Didn't see that before.  Well, the place I called said that they were 1) out of brake tags and wouldn't have any more until the next day, and 2) it had been raining and the streets were still wet.  Can't do the inspections when the roads are wet.

Well, glad I called.

Now, I'm not much of a morning person.  Especially not on on Saturdays.  Plus I have a lot of stuff to get done this Saturday.  So leaving that for a last resort, I decided to take off early from work one last time and try to get this done.

So today I checked the weather forecast.  After a drizzly morning, it was expected to be clear until night.  I left work early for one last try before I resorted to the Saturday option.  I drove out to a different station this time.  I got there and it looked pretty deserted, but had a sign that it was still open during construction.  So I pulled in, parked, and went in and asked the attendant if they did brake tags.

Guess what.

They don't.  Funny, that's the station that listed Saturday hours.  So much for even trying on the weekend.

At this point it was 3:15pm.  I headed back to the closer station, the one I'd missed at twice.

Third time's a charm.

I pulled into a line with some other cars.  After a bit of a wait, my car was inspected, FINALLY, the tag placed on my windshield, and I pulled back out onto the road and headed for home.

Just then, it started raining.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Journey, the Saga, the Epic

Well, I'm in New Orleans.

I've been here a week.  I've been getting stuff in order.  Once it's all done, I'll take pictures and set up a tour.  It'll be fun. :-P

It started on Saturday.  Salvation Army said they couldn't come get the couch until about the time I would be out at brunch, so I told them they'd have to cancel, decided the couch would come to NOLA after all, and went out to run some errands.

Went to drop off the cable modem.  The Comcast location I normally go to was... closed.  So I called Comcast to find another location.  The moron on the line took ten minutes to tell me there were two locations I could go to in Houston.  The Best Buy or the Target.  Hmmm.  The Best Buy didn't know what to do, and one of their managers gave me directions to a Comcast location, but that ended up to be corporate headquarters.  Fortunately someone THERE told me where to go, and two hours later, I was able to shed that cable modem.

Got back in time for brunch with the family, which was lovely.  We were about to start packing when Salvation Army showed up.  For the couch.  Which did not come to New Orleans after all.

We spent the rest of that day packing.  I got up early on Sunday, which was just as well, because at 9am, the movers called and asked if they could move my time from 1pm to... earlier.  Couldn't get the truck until 10:30, so told them 11am.  When I walked outside at 10am to go get the U-Haul, the movers were already there.  Things went into high gear from there.

I woke up at 2:30am on Monday.  My whole life, just about, was in that truck.  I was lying in an empty apartment on an air matress.  I didn't sleep much after that, and at 5am I couldn't take it any more and had to check that no one had robbed my truck.  It was fine, and after another hour of dozing, just getting up and getting to it seemed like the thing to do.  So I did it.  Everyone was rounded up and loaded on time, and we were on the road before 8am.

And stuck in morning traffic on I-10.

Which of course cleared out past downtown.  The drive to New Orelans was smooth and uneventful.  I got in about 30 to 40 minutes ahead of the truck, unloaded my car, mopped the floor, all that.  The truck showed up and the spots I'd hoped to block were taken, but we managed to get it parked after a bit.  Of course, I had to direct Greg on how to get it away from the car he had rested it up against, but there wasn't any damage at all.  Thank God.

The movers showed up and started unloading.  We had to move a big orange safety barrel that was coving the utility access hole missing its cover and filled with water right in front of my gate.  I kept worrying about the dolly or the movers going into it.  Should have known I'd be the one instead. :-P  Was walking toward the gate and put my foot right into it.  As Brooke pointed out, I'm lucky I have these short little feet.  I went straight down with only a slight ankle wrench and some bruises and scrapes.  And a bit of sprained dignity.  But I was fine.

Finally the truck was unloaded and then... we got to work.  Unpacking, cleaning, arranging, boxes everywhere.  Then finally... stillness. Quiet.

And I slept that night in my own bed, in my new home.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Plugs for My Friends

So, I have some very brave and daring and entrepreneurial friends.  I wanted to give them a shout out, and might do so periodically, because they're just that awesome.

First off, there's my friend Joanna.  She's just started her own business creating custom photobooks, and her product is amazing.  I should know, I was one of her first customers, and she has taken my photos from my 2007 trip to Italy and made something really special.  If you ever find yourself in need of a special gift, or are lost amid your own swathes of digital photos, you just have to check out for more info on the options she can help you explore.  And if you want to see my favorite sample of her work, just check this out:

Second, my buddy Kevin and his lovely intended Nuance are the proud new owners of a bakery.  I stopped by today to acquire some cupcakes, which are DELICIOUS.  I peeked at some of the works in progress and was duly impressed.  They'll have their new site up soon.  In the meantime they're still flying under the previous colors at .

Anyhow, it's an exciting time and I'm very proud of my friends!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Digs!

I spent the weekend scrubbing my new place from top to bottom, taking measurements, creating floorplans, and filling the refridgerator with Gatorade.  I'm exhausted, but it was very productive, and I'm very excited!

I did have one scary moment while I was vacuuming.  I stuck the nozzle of the hose down into a nook beside one of the fireplaces, and pulled out... well, at a glance my stomach dropped because I was pretty sure it was a dead mouse.  If I could have reversed the vacuum and put it back, and had had someone else to come deal with it for me, I'd have done that.  But it was up to me, so after a few frozen moments, I pulled the nozzle nearer and saw... a rubber mouse cat toy.  Whew!

I need weather stripping, and the air conditioner doesn't really cool, so that needs fixing, but I love it love it love it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

Posted this on Facebook a while back, but decided to put it here as well. As an update, the keys are being sent to me soon, so it's time to start planning! EEP!


So. It's official. I've signed a lease on a rental in the French Quarter. No backing out of it now! I'm moving.

Yesterday was a LONG day! I started looking at places at 10am. I saw a strange little place on Conti that was pretty much one large room with a notch walled off to contain a bathroom. I'd liked it on the listings website, but wasn't so sure in person. Then I saw a two-bedroom walk-up on Dumaine that left me fairly unimpressed. Not terrible, just not what I was looking for.

The priciest property I saw was a nice two story, two bedroom with balconies that have a view of Royal Street. Would have been very convenient for viewing festivities, but kind of noisy, kind of pricey, no washer/dryer, and a spiral staircase. Now, I used to like the idea of a spiral staircase. They're pretty, they save space, etc. But they give me nightmares. Going up I did fine, but when it came time to descend, I got to the head of the stairs and just froze. It took most of the will power I could muster to go down, and I never wanted to walk up that flight again. Unreasonable, irrational, neurotic, etc. It was a very nice place. Still.

We weren't going to be able to see the one on Madison until the afternoon, but in the mean time, we went to see the one on St. Philip.

When I walked in, I stopped, and behind me the agent showing me the apartment and I both said, "Wow!"

Now, it's not perfect. It's a little farther from work than I was planning. The window in the bathroom precludes the shower curtain from being more than 5 feet off the ground right now, which may or may not lend itself to some creative problem solving. But it just seemed so... right. So me. I was sold. Went back to the realty office, filled out an application for a lease starting May 1 (YES! that was my biggest worry, that i'd have to pay double rent in April or come back later), and I don't think it was 11:30am yet.

Of course, then I found out I would need certified checks for the deposit and the first month's rent. I looked up the nearest Washington Mutual and found that it was... in... Baytown. Texas. Nice. Well, I'd known I would be better off opening a new Chase account anyway, since they have a location in the French Quarter. So I headed down to the branch on Royal and Bienville to take care of that.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. I opened the account, got lunch, got approved, got certified checks for the deposit and first month of rent, walked back to the realtor's and signed the lease. Done by 5:30pm. What a day. I had to keep reminding myself the rest of the evening that it was still Thursday. It seemed like three days. But they were good days. :-)

So, I was so delighted with the rental property itself that I forgot to take photos. But I went back today and got at least some exterior shots. So...

This is my block. I'm not in the green house, or the one with the white balcony, or the orange one, but the beige one right after that.
Yup, that one there, between the orange and the pink. I think it's divided roughly in half front and back. I have the back half, by the little courtyard.
Yeah, back there somewhere. Not really going to be much fun getting furniture through there, I imagine. There was another door that might present a better option, but it was locked. I'll probably find out more in May.

But anyway, there's my place! I'm so excited!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Through a Glass Darkly

Slowly she seeped into my awareness, until the sight of her filled my soul with wonder and the world, for a moment, stopped. The first thing I noticed was the color of her hair, like hayfields in the rain, then it's texture, fine, loose, wisps and waves slipping out of the pink bow perched on the back of her head. I've seen hair exactly like that in fading photographs. Then the size of her, the awkward slimness and smallness, head not reaching her father's waist as she stood by his side, shifting weight from one foot to the other. The longness of her still face, the high smooth forehead, the wide, solemn eyes, a spirit contained, quiet, thoughtful, in spite of the nervous, restless motion that set her hair swaying across her shoulders with the regular beat of a clock pendulum.

Seeing her during mass, standing in the front row of chairs with her family, her image expanded, unfocused, shifted in my mind, resolved and slipped again like a kaleidoscope into a hundred frozen moments from the pictures in our old family albums. That elfin little blond girl across the chapel was the image of me, twenty-five years ago.

I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I wanted to reach out and pull her to me, stoop down and gaze into those eyes and find myself again. Find the child I was, the dreams I had. Find the things that sometimes seem lost, though I've worked hard to keep so many things that make a child a child, but don't keep a woman from being a woman. Hope, wonder, trust. I know they're still here inside my heart, but not the way they were, and I wanted to hear her speak and drink them in her voice.

But for all I may have lost, and I'm not convinced I have, seeing her there thrilled me with a sense of excitement to think of all I've gained and grown to be since I was her. The things I've done, the things I've learned, the things I love about life and myself that I never dreamed as a child. Every beginning, and I'm standing at the edge of a beginning with my move to New Orleans... every beginning is a new childhood, a chance to turn back time and approach a new world as a new person. I feel myself as an extension of her, as a maturing tree stands straight in the same spot as the sapling it once was, only with more layers, thicker foliage, deeper roots. I haven't changed as much as you'd think. I'm only reaching out farther, all the time, and learning that I can bend and grow into that reach without breaking off and falling away.

Time resumed and she slipped away from me, still standing there rocking gently from one foot to the other, but she was herself and I was me again. I wished a little that I could approach her, take her hands and smile at her, give the vision back to her, though it's better that I can't. Who would want to project themselves onto the future of a child? Who could presume to so limit it? For her the possibilities for the years she'll traverse before she comes to where I am are still endless, and what a treasure that is.

But for me the treasure is the truth she gave to me, as my eyes traced and reveled in the uncanny resemblance, over and over again, with wonder.

I am still a child, and the possibilities are still endless

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story

I'm taking the class offered jointly through Rice Continuing Studies and the Houston Museum of Natural Science based on the exhibit The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Study. Personally, I feel I got much more out of this exhibit after just the brief lecture our class was given before we viewed it. To that end, I'm posting my impressions. Go see the exhibit. I found it incredibly moving and I can't wait for the other classes, to learn more about the people who gave rise to my faith.


There’s a dream-like quality to a museum after hours. A stillness deepened by hushed voices, shadows deepened by the few last lights left on. I think this class will take on a completely different dimension from being in the museum in the evenings. Knowledge seems to hang in the air as palpably as incense in a temple.

Today’s first class began with a lecture given by one of the co-curators of the exhibit, Matthias Henze, a professor of biblical studies at Rice. Dr. Henze spoke about the creation and development of the exhibit as a collaboration between himself and two archeologists in Israel. He discussed the history of scholarship focused on Judaism during the period the exhibit covers, and the story the exhibit tells in response to that scholarship.

Until mid-way through the 20th century (CE), scholars of Judaic history focused on the writings of Josephus, a Jewish rebel captured by the Romans during the 1st century CE who eventually returned with Titus to Rome, Latinized his name, and became a historian. He described the Jewish people as three schools of thought, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, and for many years his writings were taken as authoritative.

This changed midway through the 20th century, primarily due to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, expanded study of non-canonical texts, and archeological projects begun in the newly established state of Israel. This exhibit aims to show that Judaism of the Second Temple Period was much richer, more complex, and more diverse than Josephus' three-school paradigm, and that Christianity at its roots was one of many Jewish groups. Jesus himself and his followers were raised within Jewish society and tradition, and Paul in Romans 9-11 describes the foundling faith as a branch grafted onto an olive tree, and supported by the roots of Judaism.

Dr. Henze summarized the five time periods that divided the exhibit and suggested a particular display to take note of in each. The class then proceeded into the exhibit hall for a self-paced tour.

The first part of the exhibit comprises artifacts from the Helenistic period beginning in the 4th century BCE when Alexander the Great conquered pretty much everything. The Jewish people divided along the lines of acceptance or denial of the new Greek culture. Some took on Greek names, others adhered strictly to their own traditions. This reminded me of an idea I discussed a bit with a friend about what seems like a recent increase in neo-traditionalism in some Christian faiths. At any rate, those tensions culminated in the Maccabee revolt in the 2nd century, when the temple in Jerusalem was retaken and the Hasmonean dynasty established.

The first point of interest was actually the time line near the entrance, stretching from the 6th century BCE into the 1st century CE. Just standing at the timeline reading it brought forth things to give pause. After about three minutes of confusion, I realized that the timeline was oriented from right to left, the way Hebrew is read, instead of the left to right I was expecting. While I was realizing this, I overheard a Jewish couple as they discovered out loud that AD did not represent the years after the death of Jesus. They’d always thought that’s when the counting began, but here the death of Jesus was in 34 CE (AD).

Me being me, I piped up that AD, standing for anno domini, meant “the year of the Lord” and so measured time beginning with Jesus' life, and that I used to think it stood for “after death” and had been confused as well. When I began my unsolicited expounding, they turned to me with looks of rapt attention, and I remembered the cross hanging from a chain around my neck above my collar. For no real reason I began to feel like I must sound pendantic and patronizing, and I felt my face go hot. I’m sure I didn’t offend. I hope I didn’t. They seemed interested. It just made me feel so self-conscious of the things I take for granted. It’s not that I’ve never noticed them before, and worked to be more aware of them. It just hit closer to home for a few moments than it normally does.

I stared at the timeline for several minutes more, just collecting myself and letting my face cool before moving on to the next portion of the exhibit, covering the Roman period. Pompey conquered the Jewish lands in the 1st century BCE, and from 37-4 BCE, Herod the Great ruled as the king of the Jews, elected to this position by the Roman senate. The point of interest here was the model of Herod’s rebuilt Jerusalem. The docent and the accompanying text described the different sections along with Herod’s renovations to the existing temple (including the addition of a commercial arcade directly bordering the temple precincts). The docent spoke of Herod’s struggle to rule a Jewish people when he himself was Roman with only faint traces of Jewish ancestry, the controversy surrounding views of his personality and leadership, and his undeniably rich gift to the Holy Land in terms of architecture.

I found it interesting, of course, that the Herod who slew the innocents in the New Testament died four years before the birth of Christ. I think this is something I knew before. I’ve never had the benefit of a theological explanation, but to the literary critic in me, it seems like a clear retelling of Moses’ escape from the slaughter of Pharaoh, used in the context of the Gospel to emphasize the authority of Christ as a figure leading his followers out of oppression (it was hoped) and establishing with them a faith that in the time of the gospel writing would have been straying ever farther away from Judaism. Reason number 428, I suppose, why I can’t interpret the Bible literally.

The third section of the exhibit featured a number of ossuaries, relatively small boxes, about 1 ft by 3 ft, used to hold the bones of the dead after their remains have lain for a year in the customary rock tombs, sort of like the above-ground burial tradition in New Orleans.

What struck me most about the ossuaries was how, no matter how beautifully the stone boxes were carved, the names seemed to be scratched on, or even written on in ink, as an untidy after thought. The docent I questioned pointed out that one would buy these boxes from a master carver, the artist who created them, and the name would be put on later, but this didn’t really make sense to me, because after all, you have a year to be coming up with this box and all before you actually put the next person in it.

One ossuary had an elaborately carved rosette on one side, and an unfinished raised circle of stone on the other. The docent said that one theory of why it was left unfinished is that it was needed suddenly, and once the body was put in, the carver could no longer touch it for reasons of ritual purity. Again, this seeming haste doesn’t make much sense to me, considering that not only does one know for a year that one will be needing this thing, but one might also have already used it, since some ossuaries are inscribed with multiple names, and held the remains of several family members. It is interesting to note, though, that the unfinished one was inscribed in Hebrew while the only ossuary with artfully and carefully inscribed names had them in Greek. Another was inscribed with Aramaic, another instance of the cultural and linguistic diversity of the times.

The point of interest in this section, though, was not the most ornate ossuary. The most significant ossuary there hadn’t even been smoothed. Its sides still showed the scalloped marks the chisel that carved it out of a block of limestone. But faint scratches mark it as the ossuary of “Alexander, son of Simon the Cyrene,” the same Simon of Cyrene, father of Rufus and Alexander, that helped Jesus carry the cross.

Awe is not what a 52” LCD hi-def television inspires, no matter how many times my friend insists that his television is literally awesome. Awe is the icy grip that clenched my stomach and made my heart race standing before this plain stone box. The terror and humility of my own smallness before this depth of history and power of tradition, a force that can make something so rough and ordinary mean so much. Amazement that after so much has been destroyed by time or war, this box is still here to dovetail with a seemingly inconsequential detail from a text almost two thousand years old.

Still in awe, I walked into the Masada section of the exhibit, to be turned farther inward by the music of a flute, low and hauntingly sad, more of a moaning wail of breath than melody. Looking at a photograph of those startling hilltop ruins, the sigh of the flute became the sound of a desolate wind wailing around rock crags, the only voice in an empty waste.

The artifacts here aren’t the artifacts of commerce and luxury as in the other exhibits. They are the artifacts of life under siege. Jars for the storage of dry goods in storerooms that all too soon must have begun to look as bare as the unassailable and inescapable hilltop the fortress perched on. Built by Herod to house his family in safety during revolts in his own time, by the time the rebels of Masada fled there, the palace fortress was already a ruin. Long after the Romans put down the revolt elsewhere, Masada still stood in unconquered isolation, until the remaining Jewish rebels committed mass suicide rather than face their inevitable capture and enslavement.

The point of interest in this room is the Jeselsohn stone, a tablet of two columns of Hebrew are written in black ink, faded with time, the same format used for the Dead Sea Scrolls. The tablet appears to recall a visitation by an angel. One scholar, somewhat controversially, interprets the text as an angel’s account to a messianic figure of his impending death, to be followed in three days by his resurrection to eternal life. The stone is estimated to be contemporary with the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating back to before the birth of Christ.

The fifth and final section of the exhibit was in a room darker than any before it. I’m not sure if anything was intended by the journey from well lit rooms into this darkness, just as Jewish and Christian artifacts begin to appear side by side, other than protection for the most delicate pieces there: passages of gospel in Greek on papyrus, and the gem of the collection, fragments of the Dead Sea Scroll containing the book of Isaiah. I leaned over the display, my face close to the clear cover, taking in ever detail of the text, the discoloration of the fabric it’s written on, the fine, even grain of the material that makes it look like woven silk, and makes me wonder what methods of preservation were necessary to keep this brittle, fragile parchment safe on it’s travels. This scroll will leave next week, to be replaced by another. By law the scrolls cannot be outside of Israel for more than three months.

It was a gift to see it, Isaiah, beside early manuscripts in Greek of the gospel of Luke and a letter of Paul. To see newly emerging Christian imagery, the overlapping chi and rho, and even Christ with a sword defeating a basilisk, a drastic departure from the strict avoidance of graven images in the Judaic art, with its menorahs, shofars, wreaths, or purely geometric ornaments. The exhibit was a gift, and gave me so much to think about in the weeks ahead, as I learn more of the stories behind the objects.

I walked into the museum in a kind of dream. I left in a dream of a different sort.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I saw this image just now. And it evokes about the same feeling as this painting I saw in the Vatican Museum. Mostly a wrenching in my gut and a barely controlled urge to sob.

Faith has inspired so much beauty in this world, elevated the creative power of humankind to the sublime. And then, in the name of God (the same Power, just under a different name, it seems to me so many times, as the Power that hallows what we're destroying) look at the shitty things we do to each other.

Why is it? No. Who even cares. It should stop. Or we should at least stop deluding ourselves and telling ourselves it's what God wants.

I'm pretty damn sure it isn't.