Friday, December 31, 2010

New York, New York ~ The Voyage Home

Sitting in La Guardia now. Mental note to self. Driver’s license is not enough to self-check in at a Delta Kiosk. My flight is delayed, and won’t take off until about 1pm instead of noon. But that’s okay. It just shortens my layover in Atlanta, without making it so brief as to be worrisome. It’s funny, I’ve been out of the loop a little, traveling and playing tourist. Getting back to the airport and news on television always seems to be a shock. I remember getting into the Spokane airport after a week in Glacier and finding out that back in Houston, Ken Lay had died. Right now I’m hearing that George Steinbrenner is dead. Wow. And tonight is the MLB All Star game. Very sad.

But it looks like they’re working to cap the well in the Gulf, and there’s some hope that this new plan could get things contained quicker than waiting for the relief wells. Fingers crossed!

I’m a little confused, because there’s information for a delayed flight to Atlanta up on the screen, but it’s a different number than my flight. The delay keeps moving later and later, so I should probably check this out.

Well, it’s not quite 1:30pm, and my flight through Atlanta has been cancelled altogether. There’s a flight direct to New Orleans leaving at 8:40ish PM, though, and I’m now booked on that. Here’s hoping that the weather has cleared and that everything goes well. It gets me home pretty late (11 something pm?) but it gets me home tonight. Work tomorrow is going to be decidedly unfun.

Of course, La Guardia is a zoo, because my flight isn’t the only one that’s been cancelled. A lot of people have no option but to go home and try again tomorrow. So I’m not so bad off. The point at which I was connected to a representative, and couldn’t hear her and asked her to speak up, and got hung up on, and then called back and was told that the call volume was so heavy that no calls were being taken, THAT was a pretty low point. I’m feeling much better now.

But it really just means that I have a whole day to sit in the airport and organize my photos and proofread my journals and meditate upon a very fun trip. I saw everything I really wanted to see, while leaving enough unseen for another trip some day. And exciting as it all was, I have to agree with the sentiments of the friends I made on my flight over. New Orleans is MUCH more fun! Definitely glad to visit Manhattan and live in NOLA! Love you, my city! Coming home soon!

New York, New York ~ Day 4, July 12

The last days of a vacation like this always do seem to be like a test of will between me and my feet. My feet have hurt so much, but I’ve still walked as much as I’ve subwayed. There’s just too much to see to spend all my time underground. But I really appreciate the subway. I navigated it more today than any of the days before.

First, I took it down to Rector Street stop to see Trinity Church. I’ve been reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and I believe it appears in the fifth book, which I finished last night. I’ve always enjoyed it when my travels interweave themselves with literature. I read The Da Vinci Code on the way to Paris and Angels and Demons on the way to Rome. I hadn’t known that Memnoch the Devil was set partly in New York, but it’s an apt coincidence, and since the church was said to be at the foot of Wall Street, and I wanted to look around down there anyhow, Trinity made a nice focal point for that wandering. When I got there, it was additionally AWESOME to find out that it was the resting place of Alexander Hamilton. How cool is that? I did not know!

It was a beautiful, ornate Episcopal church, and it seemed fitting to offer a prayer there for the souls that passed and the families bereft through the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, which was where I was headed next.

There’s not a lot to see at the site of the towers themselves right now. It’s off behind fencing and banners because of the extensive ongoing construction, but it does make an impression to see nothing but cranes rising into the sky, so empty compared to the rest of the city. There’s a memorial and a preview for the planned rebuilding set up in nearby offices. The weeping of people around me in these rooms as much as the exhibits themselves were sobering and moving. There are things I will always remember, as those before me remember hearing about the death of John F. Kennedy. I will always remember the Challenger and the shuttle Columbia, and I will always remember watching the towers fall. I couldn’t stay for long. I didn’t want to cry. I cry enough as it is. But it was important to me to go, and I’m glad I went. I will come back when the permanent memorial is finished, and pay my tribute there.

After that I had just enough time to catch the subway back up to Times Square and meet some friends at a really great little Italian restaurant called Sofia’s, a block off of Broadway. The food was wonderful, the restaurant virtually empty, and it was great to catch up with Jeremy and Cindy. (They’re doing well and staying busy and return the hellos everyone sent through me.) After lunch, they joined me in my wanderings to FAO Schwarz, Max Brenner’s for chocolate, eaten on a park bench in Union Square, the Strand bookshop, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and finally Lombardi’s and Ferrara’s in Little Italy for pizza and cannoli, respectively. They walked me to the Bowery subway stop before heading back to their car after a very fun and busy day.

But it wasn’t over yet. My friend Jayna, from New Orleans, was singing at a bar in Brooklyn, at the foot of the Bridge, so I took the subway over to see her. I’d hoped to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, but my feet were just too sore. The 68 Jay Street bar is a wonderful little community place. The bar tenders knew everyone there, and everyone there knew each other. One patron’s dog wandered from person to person for attention, and the little toddler daughter of another climbed in and out of laps and arms all around.

And they all LOVED Jayna and her band. One bartender, who seemed like he might also be the owner, took a break during one song to dance with a lady there, another man began singing along and was cheered up to the microphone when Jayna invited him to join her. It was pretty much the ideal Monday happy hour. I could feel the hurry and go of the city draining from me in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, even before I started my slow way through a glass of sangria. I headed back to Manhattan early so I could get most of my packing out of the way, but it was really the perfect end to my trip, quiet and relaxing. Tomorrow is all about the journey home. Tonight, with my packing done, I will rest.

New York, New York ~ Day 3, July 11

Today I thought I’d jaunt across Central Park and finish the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then come back and do the Natural History Museum. Well, I set off across the park, munching on some rolls I’d bought for breakfast and sipping a tasty, low calorie, caffeinated beverage. I walked for about the time it should take to cross, and I saw buildings up above. I came up out of the park and found myself… on West Central Park Drive. Somehow I’d looped around and ended up about seven blocks south of where I’d started, sweatier and dustier, and ready to just forget the art museum all together. So I went to the Natural Science Museum. It’s on the west side.

And I actually saw ALL of the regular exhibits and two special exhibits!. I didn’t end up reading many plaques or looking at everything in detail, of course, but I did scan a lot, and I looked more intently at things that interested me. I was excited about the Lizards, Snakes Alive exhibit, because I hoped it would be interactive and informative, but it ended up being a zoo reptile house with some pretty poor habitats, so that was disappointing. I felt especially bad for the huge python who had nothing but a ten foot by ten foot concrete floor to curl up on, and seemed to be trying to sleep his way through the entire ordeal. I can’t blame him. I intend to write a disappointed letter. I’m not much of an activist for any cause, but we can and should do better.

Other halls were much more interesting, though the taxidermy animals are always a little sad to see. I enjoyed the halls of indigenous artifacts much more, especially the displays showing art, clothing, and tools of the Tlingit and Haida of Souteast Alaska. After my cruise there, I’ve felt a nostalgia for the huge trees of the temperate rainforest and the bold native iconography of eagles, ravens, bears, beavers, and whales. The halls of fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals and such were fascinating as well. I took photos of a lot of things from reading Jean M. Auel novels. I’ll have a much better frame of reference now for some things I was having trouble picturing from the textual descriptions. Still, it wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the art museum, to be honest.

In spite of my poor feet, I tried again to walk across the park and finish seeing the Met. I stuck to a cross street this time, and it worked. I spent the two and a half hours from arrival to museum closing finishing out my photos of things I saw yesterday and seeing a few more new things. I’m glad I managed it. Then, to get back to my hotel on the West Side… I took a cab. I definitely needed a break. I soaked my feet in hot water and sorted through my photos some. I was debating a quiet dinner close to home, but after a good hour’s rest I felt much better, and decided to go find Café Lalo, recommended by a friend.

After a first glance at the menu, I was disappointed. The food seemed lighter and healthier than the substantial portion of beef I’d be hoping for. That’s how I get when I’m tired. But then I found the rather mouth-watering cheese menu. I ended up with a dinner of toasted bread with herbs, three delicious cheeses, and a tiny cordial-sized serving of cranberry wine. It was the sort of place your expected to take your time, so I read and looked out the window and ate my cheese and drank my wine and had one of the most relaxing and delicious dinners that I’ve ever had this side of the Pond.

I decided I was rested enough to see if Midsummer Night Swing was on at Lincoln Center, but apparently Sunday night is not a dancing night. Still, I got to see Lincoln Center at twilight. One of the halls has paintings on the Mezzanine level by Chagall, the same artist who did the new rotunda mural in the Opera Garnier. It was lovely, and I wished a little that I’d arranged to see a show, but, really, I could sit inside a concert hall for three hours and see one thing, or I could walk around a museum or the city streets and see hundreds of things. I think I spent my time wisely.

After Lincoln Center, I went to Times Square. For the first time I saw the New York I’d anticipated with just a little bit of fear. People, lights, ads, cars, sound everywhere, waves and waves of it all. I had to laugh, there were signs that said “Subway” and I couldn’t see why they needed a sandwich shop on every corner, until I realized they were actually entrances to… the subway! I went by Birdland see if I could have a drink there. But there was a show going on, and I couldn’t go in, though I could hear a little from the vestibule, and it was wonderful. At least I tried, and got a tiny listen.

But mostly today was the day of friendly New Yorkers. I didn’t really expect anyone to be rude, but I didn’t expect so many people to be friendly! One older man I passed on my way to Birdland saw my red hair and said, “You’re just like orphan Annie! Hah! You’re beautiful!” Two people spontaneously complimented my hat, one of them a docent in the art museum who also very patiently gave me directions twice when I got lost trying to exit the museum at closing and ended up back in her hall, and the other a young man at a snack cart near my hotel when I stopped to see if he had any bottled sodas. And in the subway outside Times Square, an older gentleman joked about cooking an egg on the sidewalk down in the stifling tunnels, which started a conversation about Houston where he’d worked once and New Orleans where I have a friend who once did cook an egg on a black car hood.

The subway tunnels were warm, for sure, but about like any of the outdoors back home. I was really fortunate to miss the triple digit heat from last week. The weather has been gorgeous, and I hope it keeps up tomorrow, because I’ll be out wandering in it all day. Better get some rest now!


Just realized I never finished posting New York trip journals, and now I have Big Bend journals on the way. Also Just realized I haven't been posting much at all.

New Year's resolution... be a better blogger.

To that end...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New York, New York ~ Day 2, July 10

I am completely exhausted. I am beyond exhausted. I am utterly spent.
Today I saw the Statue of Liberty (after a two hour wait in line to catch the ferry over), Ellis Island, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That last is what did me in.

For one thing, the two hour wait for the ferry threw off my schedule, so my meal time was squeezed away, and I ended up subsisting on a Milky Way bar and a 20 oz Diet Coke until after 5pm, when I finally grabbed a terrible hamburger at the museum (the cafeteria at the Louvre was SO much better). So much for all the wonderful food I’d planned on enjoying today! But I found a European bakery with a pizzeria in the back just down the street from my hotel on my way home, so now I’ve got a slice of pizza with pepperoni and sausage cooling over there, and some delightful looking tiny cookies next to it, just waiting for the moment when I’m no longer too exhausted to chew.

In addition to the physical exhaustion, my brain is… absolutely full. Part of me wants to go back and spend all day in the art museum tomorrow, because my camera battery died in the hall of musical instruments. Another part of me is still just so overwhelmed by the epic scope of the art on display. Grand halls designed as courtyards to display Italian marble architectural elements. An entire medieval choir screen, from floor to vaulted ceiling, surrounded by medieval art including carved boxwood rosary beads that seem to take the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin as a challenge. A vast room, with one sloping wall entirely of glass and fronted with a reflecting pool, containing, among other relics, several small rooms that were part of an Egyptian temple, which you could actually walk partway into. Suits of armor for four equestrian knights, mounted on four mannequin horses, also in plate mail, with every facet covered with intaglio, and that was just the centerpiece of a network of galleries devoted to armor and arms from at least a half a dozen cultures.

The three hours I spent there weren’t nearly enough, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t need three weeks. I was awed, overwhelmed, and finally almost browbeaten by the magnificence of it all, and I think the only way I could see it adequately and maintain my sanity would be to see one exhibit at a time, and only spend four hours at a time, for as long as it took at that rate. Imagine a Faberge egg the size of the Superdome, but with the level of intricacy and detail multiplied, not just enlarged, permeating the whole. Now imagine trying to see it all. I feel almost literally stupefied, and I may leave the remainder unseen on this trip and go only to the Natural History Museum tomorrow as planned, purely out of self defense.

It’s amazing, though, how much repair work can be done by consuming the necessary calories. I didn’t really feel hungry, but after the first bite just now, I consumed that pizza pretty much involuntarily, and now I think I’ll go soak my poor feets and completely unwind. No matter what I do tomorrow, it will be another long, full day.


Note: Two photo albums are up at Got pics from my travels and wanderings around town, and from the Statue of Liberty.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New York, New York ~ Day 1, Friday, July 9

Ah. Yes. Even here it’s still Friday, though only barely. And soon I’ll sleep, whether the city does or no. I brought ear plugs!

A friend once called New York City the pinnacle of civilization. Maybe he’s right. All I can say for sure right now is that Manhattan Island is the most intensely urban area I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in Mexico City. Traffic saturation in the La Guardia airspace kept us on the ground an hour and a half in New Orleans. Think. A city so bustling that the fingers of its business extend invisibly throughout the country and perhaps the world, holding planes gently but firmly to the tarmacs in airports hundreds or thousands of miles away. Yet for all that, my luggage appeared on the conveyor only a few minutes after I got down to baggage claim, so they apparently run a tight enough ship. And I didn’t really mind the delay. After all, I’m on an adventure!

The adventure did start on the plane. I sat a seat away from a friendly woman who lives in Connecticut along with her friend who was across the aisle from her. She quickly drew me into their banter, and we chatted about what it was like to live in New Orleans. Pinnacle of civilization or not, they both agreed that New Orleans was a far superior city in terms of fun to be had. I can’t imagine they’re wrong, but then, I’m in love and biased. Because this is a cyber-age, chance meeting need not be an end as much as a beginning, and we exchanged names with the intention of becoming friends on Facebook. God bless Facebook.

A guy outside the airport offered to take me to my hotel for $49, but that seemed high, so I headed over to the bright yellow cab stand. It was the right decision. My cabbie was silent for the entire drive, but turned out to be incredibly nice when the hotel wasn’t where I expected it to be. He turned off the meter so we could go another block looking, while I called to verify the address. I’m glad that we found it within half a block. But for the half-block that I felt incredibly awkward and troublesome, he was incredibly kind.

I wish I’d asked him all the questions I was wondering. Like what, if anything, the beautiful old bridge beside the one we were on as we crossed over to the island was used for. Its stonework was heavy and ornate and it was a lovely structure, along completely different aesthetic principles than the ethereal trellis of the suspension bridge we were on. It seemed almost gothic, and certainly grand, in spite of the graffiti on its thick columns and its heavily-rusted girders.

It made me realize how much New Orleans complements or has shaped my sensibilities. In New Orleans, we would treasure this sort of bridge, and keep it maintained if we could, at least for foot traffic. Maybe they’ve done that here, though I doubt it. The lamps weren’t lit and the whole thing was in heavy shadow. But in my mind I could see horse carriages crossing a bridge like that, with lanterns swimming in murky, mysterious bay fog. And out the other window, buildings. Buildings. So many tall buildings. Until we reached the oasis of Central Park, that’s all there were… buildings. I caught myself wondering how people could live in so many buildings. But they do. We passed wrought iron railings around areas and flanking stoops while above climbed flat after flat, into the sky. Stoops that people sit on. People were sitting on a few, talking, just like in movies or on Sesame Street. I must sound like an absolute yokel. Maybe, for all my fairly adequate international travel experience and my 15 years resident in the nation’s fourth largest city, maybe I am.

And that’s the secret to why I didn’t chat with the cabbie, like I’m normally inclined to do. For a rare moment, I find myself utterly and thoroughly intimidated. It’s similar to the feeling I had at the doors of St. Peter’s in Rome, when I felt small enough to fit through the eye of a needle. But this is a crucible of a much different sort. Tomorrow I will leave this snug little hotel room I find myself in now, and I will step into whatever weekend traffic one finds on Broadway on the West Side. I expect it’s fairly epic. I will skitter like a small insect along the streets and down into the subway, probably brushing shoulders with hundreds of strangers and not making eye contact.

And for all the excitement I feel to be here, I’m afraid.

But I don’t really have time for fear. I need to sleep soon, because tomorrow is going to be a big day. I only have three days here, and spending them eating take out Chinese in a rented room and looking down on Broadway on tiptoe, peering over the window unit air conditioner because I’m too terrified to go out on the streets isn’t anywhere in the schedule.
For heaven’s sake, Laura, you’ve wandered Rome on your own. You can do this.

Remember. It’s an adventure!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Price

I took my car in for service today, and since the service station was only a couple of blocks from the National World War II Museum and I've been meaning to go there... I went.

It seemed the fitting thing to do.

I'll have to go back, I only got through the exhibit up to the campaign to retake the Philippines, and I didn't listen to any of the two-minute personal accounts. Still, I found it incredibly moving.

In fact, I spent the entire time holding back tears.

I suppose I don't know too well the men who have touched my life personally who were in those battles. And now I never will. They've all passed on. But I saw them. In every photograph, I saw them. Most especially, I saw Popo, over and over.

My mother's father was a Czech dairy farmer in central Texas. He had two sisters who were nuns and a brother in the priesthood. His accent was sometimes so thick I had a hard time understanding him, but I remember early mornings, before sun-up, helping him in the dairy barn, and I remember riding shotgun or in the back of the pickup, checking the cows.

He died on the land he was born on, and I of course never really thought about it, but it certainly never seemed to me like he'd ever left it in his life. It was his home. Where he belonged. Then one day I saw a photo of him...

In front of the pyramids.

A friend gave me a rosary from Rome, blessed by the Pope, and mom told me that Momo had one, too, that Popo had brought back for her, when he'd been in Italy during the war.

And he came back. Thank God. Or I wouldn't be here.

But seeing the photographs of what those boys went through, seeing them glassy-eyed with exhaustion, or, almost more chilling, seeing them smiling and bright on their way to D-Day, seeing the articles they carried with them or wore, reading their stories... It brought home to me what my Popo lived through, the man who always seemed so simple. I never even thought about it, that he was in the war, until he went through a bad time, and Mom said he'd have flashbacks of the fighting. Of climbing cliffs while the enemy fought to knock him off. I remembered that again and again today, and choked on the pain I will never have to feel.

Because it's a different world now. We don't have the draft and we don't have rationing and we no longer send so many of our men off to war that we have to fill the factories with women. Men and women both can and do choose to be part of the most powerful military in our world, and the vast majority of us can leave the worry and the suffering to them and their families. I'm sure all of us know someone serving, but how real is it for so many of us? How invested are we individually in American military action overseas? How much do we sacrifice, day to day? No one asks us to cut back on our use of gasoline, drive slower to preserve the rubber in our tires, use margarine instead of butter, recycle our used cooking grease.

All that war stuff is the business of the military, and so many of us have the luxury of approving or disapproving without really being touched. With the exception of one September day almost a decade ago, war and its devastation happens... on the news far away. Not here. Not to us.

It's trite to say that freedom doesn't come free. But it's true. Some of us, like my friend Emily, have been paying a price for months, while her husband is in Korea. My friend Nuance and her family have paid an enormous price, but, thank God, not the highest one, with her brother's injury. And me? I... I pay so little. So little.

There's no moral to this story, only my own reflections. Take away from them what you will, or take nothing at all. But today, among the black and white photos and the scratchy recordings of radio broadcasts and the written remarks of those who served from the lowest to the highest ranks, I was sobered, chastened, humbled. I owe SO MUCH, and I may very well never be asked to pay anything back.

Other's have paid and continue to pay that price for me.

They have all of my gratitude and respect.

Monday, March 01, 2010


I've been pondering. No, it's never enough for me just to feel a feeling and leave it in peace. Sometimes I can do it for a while, but most of the time I have a... need? No... a THIRST to understand. What is it that I'm feeling, why do I feel it, what are its limits, if any? What are its depths, if I can even reach them? I dive into myself and begin to tease apart the water weeds, comb through the Lorelei's hair, insinuate fingertips into the oyster and root out the pearl. Then I can put it back and resurface and just be. The rest when the quest is complete.

My idea of unconditional love has been a bit simplistic. Not that the feeling itself isn't radiantly elegant in it's simplicity, but the words I reduced it down to in my mind were, "loving without wanting anything back." Does that seem right? It used to, to me, but now it seems... subtly wrong. To miss truth by only a slight shift. Maybe it's more loving without needing anything back? Or maybe even closer, loving without needing anything else, anything different. Even God, it's not that He doesn't *want* to be loved back. It's that not loving Him back does nothing to change His love.

So if a person loves and you don't really feel like you deserve that (and really, who of us *does* deserve it? who of us will never hurt, never disappoint, never fail in some small or large way?) but if you don't feel like you're worth that love, maybe it's tempting to think that the person doesn't really love YOU. They must really love the person they *think* you are. They don't know you, really, who you truly are, and if they did, they surely wouldn't love you. Because obviously they want something different, want something back.

Of course they *want* something back. But the full knowledge that they will never get that something isn't necessarily the cure-all you think it will be, the magical silver bullet that will kill this unwanted feeling and make the world a safer place for them in spite of themselves.

If that love is unconditional, it is what it is. No matter how you hurt, disappoint, or fail them, that doesn't stop it. Even if they can't honestly say they want nothing in return, the lack of return won't change what they feel. And if you try to prove them wrong about you, about their feelings, you can hurt them well enough without proving or changing a damn thing.

I've never been the sort to try, and I'm arrogant enough to think I deserve the best of most things, though in all honesty, I'm humbled at how many of the best things have come my way. Humbled by the people who love me deeply, even when I turned away and flew out on my own. Even when I was sure I had failed, and could only hurt and disappoint. I've never been so low that I would dispense with the people who cherished me, though sometimes I would wish some feelings for me different, for the good of the people who felt what I couldn't return.

Still, something in me always knew better than to try to change that feeling through actions of my own. I could never hurt someone any more than necessary, and I think it's the respect I tried to show and the care I felt that allows me to still be blessed with the friendship of those people today.

These are things I'm only starting to think on seriously. Maybe it would have come to my mind sooner if I'd had a child, because I'm beginning to see and feel the depths more and more when I see my Dylan friend. Those depths are glowing, and I hope I reach the light some day, feel the very utmost of all I can feel for a little someone of my own. There are other depths that are darker. But if I keep going, and keep untangling, maybe I'll find the light there, too.

This has all gotten far from the point, and it's time for bed. And for once I haven't made any more sense in my ponderings than I had when I started. Thanks for bearing with me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Indulge! ~ The story of my first ever Mardi Gras.

The carnival crescendo has been building, it seems, since Thanksgiving. First came the lightly racing rise in pulse of the holiday season, travel, festival, wassail, and the splendid fireplace warmth of yuletide. The serene peace of the nativity and diamond stars in a blue velvet night was a breath of respite before the joyous chorus and cry, welcoming in the New Year with masquerade, champaign, and fireworks. With the air cleared, and all that out of the way, we began Carnival in earnest, excitement mounting with every play-off victory that led our New Orleans Saints to the...


With the Vikings in town, the streets teamed with Mardi Gras purple against our black and gold, purple that quickly disappeared in the minor explosion in the French Quarter, as fans erupted shouting from every bar when we won. The pause over the next two weeks was like the still surface of a giant river, belying the roaring currents beneath. We love our Saints, and would celebrate their glory, win or lose, when they came home from Miami, but when they went all out and won, we went all out, too, and PAR-TAYed. The Quarter was packed, and even my quiet street saw it's share of revelry in the early hours.

Now, with THAT so delightfully settled, New Orleans got down to the REAL business of partying.

Mardi Gras.

I have never seen anything like this. The air is electric with the wild-running energy of our passion for life. I wandered the streets this weekend past with a friend, and was almost overwhelmed by the force of it all. I wondered how any mere Tuesday could ever compare.

Then I stepped outside today.

I have to say, one can't enjoy Mardi Gras at it's best when one is not at one's own very best. And I'm not at my best. My head has been stopped up for days and the weekend has me exhausted still. But on a day dedicated to indulgence and license, even I have done my poor best. :-)

I first celebrated Mardi Gras by sleeping until noon. That was over twelve hours of sleep, which just goes to show that my reserves are pretty low. After getting up and readying myself to face the day, I went to pick up a prescription for my sinuses from the CVS across Canal Street and caught some beads thrown from a balcony on Burgundy.

This outing could have been much more of an adventure than it was, as some of the days parades could have cut me off from that CVS completely. I was able to cross Canal right after the end of Zulu past, and just as the beginning of Rex reached Canal and Baronne. I got my medicine and skittered back across Canal, ready to put my own personal Mardi Gras plan into action.

My favorite indulgence in the city is, of course, food. To me, Mardi Gras felt like a day to dedicate to rich and delicious tastes and treat myself to some really great food. Once I slipped back up the streets of the Quarter, I wandered slowly towards a restaurant that I knew could serve me both steak and sweet potato fries, approaching this goal slowly, savoring the anticipation, whetting the appetite, and photographing the bizarre, the absurd, the beautiful around me.

I enjoyed my steak and fries slowly while reading a good book, and decided my next stop should be the new cupcake shop I'd found a few weeks ago. I made my way there slowly through the milling crowds, and met a friend on a street corner, a masked pirate, who bowed as I curtsied, and greeted me with a kiss on both cheeks and a warm embrace. This little delight made up for the fact that the cupcake shop had run out of cupcakes and closed.

My reserves of energy were getting low, and I remembered the rock-slide brownies at the Community Coffee House on my street, and the praline crunch ice cream at Matassa's, so I decided to round off my day of indulgence with some sweet treats I could take home and enjoy while indulging in some movies or a season of X-Files on my couch.

Fortunately both of those shops were open, and my sweets await me downstairs. My very first ever Mardi Gras has been SO much fun, and I hope the next one will be even better. I will wear a costume. I will enjoy the parades. I might even have a drink. I will hopefully not be sick.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and I have a lot to reflect on seriously this Lent. There's a noon mass at the church downtown. Tomorrow I imagine the streets will be empty and quiet, compared to today. Tonight the bars close early. Everyone will go home, and life will slip back into a comparative stillness and calm.

But there are a few hours left, my friends, so eat, drink, and be merry!


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hard Lessons Pondered During Morning Shower and Walk to Work

Everyone… Feel free to laugh at my naïveté. I just learned that sometimes just because someone says they really do want to be friends doesn’t mean they have the same expectations of friendship that I do. I feel kind of stupid. When I put it like that, it seems like it should be fairly obvious. I’m normally pretty astute when it comes to people, and aware of and able to negotiate of this sort of disconnect.

Generally speaking, there is a lot I will personally do to maintain a friendship. Not all friendships are effortless. People can be hard to understand or engage with and still be good people, well worth cultivating. So it isn’t always easy to foster that sort of care and loyalty. Sometimes you have to go through some rough patches, but it seems like I’ve always managed when I wanted to. And I think it’s totally worth it to not lose a friend. My friends are good people, and I hate letting good people go out of my life.

But now I’ve come up against someone that doesn’t play by the same rules I do, and the cost is finally too much. If it were the sort of friendship I’ve come to expect, due to the many wonderful people I am blessed to call my friends, I would make the effort. But this isn’t friendship on those terms. I don’t really know what it is. All I know is that I’m no longer willing to pay the price to perpetuate it, now that I know what it isn’t.

Fortunately, I have many, many people that I care for, who care for me, and between us friends means the same thing. It means a lot. I am so blessed. But I wanted to be that kind of friend for someone, and I can’t any more. I know it’s not all my fault, but it does feel like a personal failing. I love my friends. But this has to stop. I’m only hurting myself, and I’m not benefiting anyone by that.

Still… I hate that this is so quantifiable. That the cost benefits analogy is even relevant.

And I really…

… really…

hate losing a friend.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Silver Lining

I carry a bright, rainbow paneled umbrella. When the sky is gray and gloomy, I do what I can to keep the day bright. One panel is red, and one is orange. One yellow, one green, one turquoise. Blue and indigo and violet. I bought it somewhere like Walgreens, I think, so it's not like it's all that rare. But I've never seen another like mine out on the streets, and I've always thought it was a shame.

Today on my way home, through the wind and the rain, I saw three.

We'd pass each other, see, and smile. We called compliments and laughed. Finally I stood at a crossing, waiting for the light to change when a guy crossed over to stand beside me, holding the very same umbrella. We laughed and he said, "You'll never believe it, just as I saw you, this song started playing..."

He reached over and held an ear bud to my ear so I could hear.

It was Somewhere over the Rainbow

Sunday, January 24, 2010


A man I know died last week. We hadn't even known he was sick. Then the day after we found out he was in hospital with terminal liver and kidney failure, we learned he was gone. We weren't close. I didn't know him very well. But we were friends and there were certainly things I admired about him.

There were also things I didn't admire as much. Now, I know I'm not very worldly, and might not be a good judge, but it did seem to me that he drank an awful lot. During one period of his life, he lost a LOT of weight, which was something he really needed to do for his health. When I asked him how he'd done it, he laughed and said he went on a gin diet. He didn't eat much, but he sure drank his gin. I don't honestly know how much of this was joking overstatement. But now that he's gone, it's instinctive for me to think this might have played a part in his final illness, or at least to think it didn't help.

It reminds me of Daddy, who had high blood pressure for years before he was killed by a heart attack, and how his doctor warned him again and again to stop smoking. It's easy enough to say that if he'd listened, he might still be here. And part of my grieving when I lost him was sheer fury that he *didn't* listen. That he didn't give up smoking for our sake, his girls, whom he always said he'd do anything for. That he didn't do everything in his power to preserve himself for us, if not for himself.

I've come a long way from the more intense grief, though I still miss him every day. And I'm not angry anymore. At the end of the day, it's easy, *too* easy, to say, "If only...." It's glib to think we have any answers. It's presumptuous to think we know better than another how they can best live their life.

To me, smoking was irrelevant to who my father was. But I'm not a smoker myself, so I'm no judge of how hard it is to quit. To him, smoking was something he did every day, as a matter of habit, as a matter of course. Maybe it was more. Maybe it was part of his self-image, a lifestyle choice made glamorous in his youth by people on television, on stage, on the big screen. Maybe if he could have seen the future with certainty, he would have quit. But without that foresight, it may have been a risk he was willing to take to live his life on his own terms. And I can't fault my father for his terms. My father lived life with a zest and joy and pleasure that few manage, and that was his greatest gift to me, the thing that makes him my hero, in spite of his flaws.

It seems to me the same could be said of my friend. Good food and good drink were part of his joie de vivre, and maybe if he could look ahead, he would have changed his habits if there was a chance it could have saved him even days or months. But we none of us know the future, and it's so easy to blame in hindsight what we can't change in the present.

I have other people I love, still living, that make choices that give me cause for concern. I am so proud of them when they make an effort to change. I worry when they don't. I want them in my life for always. I don't want to lose any part of them and their health and their joy. But when all is said and done, it's their life, not mine. If they don't want to alter it for their own health, I certainly don't expect that they'll alter it for my benefit, and if I start asking them to, I could easily be seen as intrusive, presumptuous, a nag, and lose what I have in their friendship already.

And now I've made choices of my own. A doctor wanted to put me on a medication to adjust my hormone balance. She said if I didn't address certain levels, I put myself at much higher risk for high blood pressure and heart problems in middle age and beyond. But the medication was something I would always have to take, and wouldn't cure the underlying cause, just force things into balance. And it made me sick as a dog, no matter what we tried. I currently have excellent blood pressure, so I made the decision that I would rather risk these issues in the future, since I feel the risk is reasonably small, than be guaranteed sick every day of my life in the present. It's the right decision for me, but it *is* a calculated risk, and I know it might catch up to me some day. Knowing what I now know, how can I blame someone else for doing as I've done?

I still feel helpless, though, when a friend tells me about actions that seem to me hurtful. I want there to be a change. I want them to take and be able to take the steps I don't or feel I can't. For their own sakes, and for mine, because if anything ever happened, I would miss them, and I don't want to hear that "If only" whispering in the back of my mind.

But we can't change people. We can only change ourselves, and sometimes not even that. We can suggest, but if we really love them, we have to, in the end, support them with our friendship even if we don't agree with their choices. It's their life, and their life is a gift they share with us, not an obligation.

We can only love them for who they are while we have them. And if we lose them, we can grieve, and grow past blaming, and love them still. That's all we can do.

I wish, of course, as always, that I could do more.