Monday, May 29, 2006

when stories are not one thing or the other

"this was her way of dealing with pain: to focus on something that mattered more"
--Kathleen Norris, "The Virgin of Bennington"

This weekend I reread a book that I last read during my first year out of college. This past weekend marked my 6th year out of college and just about three years out of graduate school. I've been weighing some options in my head regarding my future and it's amazing how situations like this make you feel 22 all over again, except with a cell phone and apartment of my own. The place where I last read this book is not a place where anyone else will ever live again. I never thought about what the family would be like who would someday move into my childhood home, but I definitely never thought I would be a part of the last family to ever live there.

Hearing about my parents burning my bug-infested, mold-crusted and largely unreadable journals today didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. My head was trying to wrap around the idea of communication and storytelling. My journals are a record of things that happened once upon a time ago. Some are filled with the injustice of algebra, some are filled with fear that a friend's suicide would trigger similar deaths. Some are full of stories of all the people who would never kiss me. Some are full of shock with the people I did kiss.

I try to tell myself that if there was anything worth remembering from those journals, the moments would be deeply ingrained on my brain. But I know this isn't true. Trying to reread pieces of my journals when I was home in April, I became reacquainted with the girl I used to be. I had forgotten the odd coincidences that made up my days in high school. Reading the journal, you would have thought it was fiction. How could such events all fall on the same day? But it's New Orleans, and incidents of drama were more frequent at the Academy of the Sacred Heart than possibly any other place in the city.

What I realized is that we may try to dismiss our childhood feelings as infantile and that our lack of experience positioned us to not fully understand the events that transpired around us or those of our own making.

But that's a defense mechanism. Our memories are genuine and the sentiments around them just as real as anything. The trick is to learn how to balance these expressions, these burdens and joys.

I'm trying to think a great deal about communication these days. Of not being misunderstood and of really trying to say what I mean instead of what comes to mind. I'm trying to not get angry at disappointment and instead find ways to rectify these issues rather than dwell on them.

That being said, I'm also remaining conscious of how such thoughtfulness puts one in a state of smug self-righteousness, something I hate in others and try to reject in myself. I'm lucky to have people around me who ask the questions I need to hear to keep my heart from hurting too much.

I've been told I have incredible mental health. I've also been told I'm too emotional. Whatever the story, I think I just grew up in a community that enforced a sensibility that repositioned myself whenever times were rough. There's always someone who has it worse than you. Even so, the story must be told correctly. I'll be the first to raise an objection to a story that strays from the truth. But truth and facts are different things. Sociology majors taught me this. I keep reading the papers even when it makes me cry because I need to know. I need as many facts in my corner to support the truth that I know. The one that wastes away on Athis Street and the ones that linger in words left unsaid.

Kathleen Norris' "The Virgin of Bennington" is not a scandalous tale of the deflowering of a women's college student. It's about how monumental shocks to the system fester unless we decide to take what we love and work around the hurt, until we break away from that naivete and emerge in a place where we can live with the pain simply because it isn't the only thing in our lives.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

thursday night musing

the quiet of morningside heights can be very appealing. walking along riverside church, making time for coffee at oren's at 112th street. tomorrow begins summer hours and it's still cool in New York City. i'm reading like crazy and just trying to take in these new possibilities. i also broke down and bought a moleskine notebook at kate's paperie on 57th street this past monday. i'm beginning to seriously write again and the ideas are all pushing their way to the front of the classroom. all the same, they're still competing with my need to read. i bought a paperback copy of 'the virgin of bennington' by kathleen norris tonight. i haven't read it since it came out -- either in late 2000 or early 2001. so much has changed in my life since i read the book last. i'm wondering how i'll respond to it upon a second reading after leaving new orleans, living in NH, Philly and now NYC. moreover, what will it be like to read about a world i'm a part of, more or less? i don't usually revisit books -- there isn't enough time for just anything -- but there's something i knew i was missing when i read it the first time. i'm curious to see if i find something in what before was a very familiar void.

the quiet of returning to a book with the experience i've gained over the past five years is worth all the air mattresses, living out of suitcase moments, packed subway rides, crying jags on various forms of transportation (not related to commuting, mind you), and the funny moment where i realized i might *just* get by on my wardrobe while working at a certain fashion mag, but --- my god --- did i not have the wrong shoes or what?

now i've been here a while and i can laugh at these kinds of things. maybe because i've bought into it a little bit, but maybe also because new york has a way of really forcing you to stand up for yourself. maybe not even new york, but you reach a point where you stop caring about how things will effect your future and you start doing what you love, working towards what you love. you end up with the haircut you want, instanteous friendships with coworkers who miraculously do not talk about sample sales, and that humming sense that you belong. that sense is something you have to drill for on days that challenge your desire to keep living here. it is a hard place; there's no denying it. yet i can't imagine a more exciting place to be a young person. maybe paris, london, buenos aires, berlin, or hong kong. i miss new orleans, but i just can't do what i love there. maybe one day, but even before katrina there were aspects of new orleans that made it a possibly even more difficult place to live than new york.

but i'm here. and so are a significant amount of the people i love. there's been so much wind this week that if you close your eyes, you can imagine yourself in cornwall, england. it's quite a stretch, but you can find yourself there. it's just that kind of town.

Friday, May 19, 2006

late spring cleaning

So i'm cleaning out the house. I have towers of books to purge from my room, finally said Adieu to some lingering clothes that I never wear and got rid of all the random papers and bags that I cling to for no apparent reason.

To this end, I drank a fair amount of pomegranate juice cut with water to keep me going, watched the "Will & Grace" series finale and listened to Freda Payne's "Band of Gold" on repeat. A lot has been done, but there's a lot more to do before I'll be done.

I've been going out too much lately. This project is keeping me home and that's probably a good thing. Nevertheless, I am going to see some Sundance films at BAM tonight and tomorrow night. Break up the cleaning with some indie cinema starring two of my favorite actresses -- Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. No, kidding, Maggie Gylenhaal and Tilda Swenton.

Update: I made $55 selling books to the used bookstores of Park Slope. Not only did I get rid of a granny cart chock full of books, but I made some money. At least it pays for everything I've bought at Target over the past three days and then some.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

another hour, another party

Yesterday I made an executive decision to read two books and do laundry. That was the plan. Well, that and somehow navigate myself back from Manhattan to Brooklyn in under two hours which is quite a feat considering the manner in which a certain transit system appears to go screwy on the weekends.

Otherwise, I've been at one party after the next. I'm about to leave the house for the third event of the day. (And no, part one of the season finale for Grey's Anatomy is not my party)

I read "Bright Lights, Big City" yesterday. How in the world did Jay McInerney go from that to "The Good Life?" And is there a movie adaptation of this book starring Michael J. Fox in his prime? Mid 1980s books make great subway reading. I want to read "Less Than Zero" next and then "The Rules of Attraction" which may or may not have been published in the 80s. I can't remember.

Oh and since it's May, I should probably reread "Truth and Beauty" by Ann Patchett, but right now I'm actually rereading "The Year of Magical Thinking." I needed some Joan Didion.

But books aside, it's time to hit the streets. The heels are off and the jeans are back on. It's time to step out into the Morningside Heights twilight and stroll down Riverside Drive. Tomorrow is another great week.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Baby love

Baby love at Jazz Fest. What more can you say?

I had a great time at a party for "A Public Space" tonight. A random classically trained Italian pianist hit on my friend and me, we managed to avoid him after hanging out with him underneath the highline. The publicists were more than kind (and remembered T by the roses he brought me - awww, i love these girls. they share my love of joan didion and bret easton ellis), there was an open bar and more importantly RED VELVET CAKE, and I got to bitch about my total love-hate relationship with the city of Philadelphia, with whom I still feel an element of responsibility and citizenship despite my bitchiness and its provincial nature. The party felt like the best aspects of Philadelphia: low budget, scrappy and intimate. But without the utter ludicrous bad art that infiltrates most aspects of the art of the city of brotherly love. Good literature, people who care about translation and produce -- aka: my kind of people.

But baby love. It's kinda how I feel right now. I typically hate and when I say "hate" I mean HATE the month of May, but it's doing alright. And I have ridiculous songs in my head and the subway isn't delaying quite as much as it could be. This might just be the best May on record. I would add that 2003 was pretty good, but I was finishing a thesis which immediately kicks 2003 out of contention. 2006, hands down, is the winner. baby powder smell and clean sheets.

Everything's going alright. I'm excited for the weekend, but I love my workweeks. Really, even though it means getting up in the morning. I think I have to wear my galoshes tomorrow. What a hardship. Iced coffee, galoshes, the coolest coworkers a girl could ever know and meeting Brigid Hughes? What a week! I'm as happy as a newborn babe. I have a weekend of parties to look forward to, mounds of reading and spontaneous dancing and singing. It's all here for me. I don't even have to try. Is this why I worked so hard for the first 26 years of my life?

Paris is hovering on the horizon like a north star. I need to get in touch with Damien, La Coquette, Aymeric, and others in Paris. I am so anxious to be back in my other hometown and piece together long forgotten conditional verb constructions. I also need to get together with Kwanza before going back. I borrowed "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" from Helene and say what you want, Parisian radio loved this album when I lived there so that's my association (not jock girls like my brother thinks when he hears this album). I feel the Latin Quarter, red wine in Nutella jars, catching the last metro home, singing in Montparnasse with Kwanza, stumbling around the Marais with Suzanne, drenching myself in art and culture... all the while all too aware of being an American. And now it's all so much more. I am so grateful of all the chapters that make up my life and the way that music brings back memories. I should get some sleep, but I am just aching with happiness. I can't believe I'm going back! What will I do!? So many options, so little time. The past year as taught me to never live for the future. Nothing is worth it if you aren't vested and in love. And that isn't just what you think. I love my work, I love my varied hometowns (NOLA, Paris, NYC-Brooklyn), I love the people in my life, I love my family. I don't know what else I can do besides open my heart and mind. There's so much to learn. I am itching for the next turn in the road. Look at these kids. They don't know how good they have it. They are growing up in New Orleans. They are New Orleanians. They have no choice but to embrace life and every gritty, shiny thing that comes their way. I'm glad to be one of them. I miss and thank you, NOLA.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


exciting things are in the mix. if nothing else, they give me a sense of the future. and it looks pretty good.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Prospect Park Sunday

I took all these photos at Prospect Park this weekend. T and I read all afternoon (me: short stories set in India, he: Hegel) and enjoyed the greenery and lack of pavement. It was a crisp day. Cool in the shade, but perfect in the sun. We kept applying sunscreen, nevertheless. My mom called from Jazz Fest to let me hear Paul Simon and Irma Thomas' rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Allen Toussaint played piano. What a moment. So happy my parents could enjoy Jazz Fest this year. T and I went home and cooked baked catfish with fresh tomatoes, garlic, portobello mushroom and green onion. We also made some homemade home fries with yukon gold potatoes and a vidalia onion. Mmm. When do summer hours begin?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

For Rachel Brill

Here are some shots for Rachel of Ani DiFranco in concert at Jazz Fest. I was thinking of Rachel throughout the peformance. Ani opened with "Shy" and also sang "Little Plastic Castles" and "Shameless." Mostly she sang songs that were entirely new to me. She was really excited to be performing at Jazz Fest and kept professing her love for NOLA. She has a place here and entered her thirties in New Orleans (I saw her perform on the eve of her 30th birthday at the Saenger Theater w/ another Rachel! Rachel Swan, whom Rachel Brill also knows).

More Jazz Fest updates and NOLA updates to come. I'm back in Brooklyn and the fatigue has truly set in. I brought all my baggage with me back to Brooklyn tonight after logging in a 9 hour day at work (rough after being away for a week!) and this nice young man with a paperback copy of "The DaVinci Code" in his backpocket carried my rolling suitcase for me up from the subway platform and up another flight of stairs to Flatbush Avenue. I was almost tempted to ask him to carry it all the way up to my fourth floor apartment if he was feeling rather chivalric, but I figured that would give the wrong impression. I thanked him profusely and huffed and puffed my way up the staircase to my room. Now the suitcase has exploded and I don't have the energy to parse through the clothes. One galosh (singular for galoshes?) stands with brave stripes outside the suitcase... another is buried within it. If only the nice young man had carried the suitcase upstairs. I would have had the energy to unpack. Oh well.

Now to finish Kate Christensen's "In the Drink" and then to bed.

when the subway ride is about as long as your flight...

I'm back in New York and yes, I spent about as much time on the A train as I spent on the flight from NOLA. I was going to say that I miss being in a city that smells like flowers and good, good food, but not everywhere in New Orleans smells great. My house, for example. You can see the ground through the floorboards in my living room. That's what 2 weeks of 10 feet of sitting water will do to a house. Gross. I took more pictures of our near empty house, and I got to peel through some of my old journals. The ones for which the ink didn't entirely wash away. They're infested with bugs and crusted over with mold, but with a respirator mask and latex gloves, I did my best to pick away and separate the pages that are legible. My mom also saved my letters from my 8th grade boyfriend. I cried and cried reading them. They were so incredibly sweet and innocent. Best part of this story is that I spent almost all day Sunday with that particular ex and his older brother. I have to say that exs that are really more like childhood sweethearts are great people. We had such a good time together at the Jazz Fest.

I really need to get to sleep because I have work tomorrow. More on Jazz Fest, NOLA, reading one's old journals, eating oysters, drinking iced coffee and hanging out with my parents and close friends at a later time. I'm back in NYC for another 5 weeks before going to Paris. Let the countdown begin. Being in New Orleans reminded me how life is just too short. You can't let life, negativity, general obstacles, expectations, and the boredom of cynicism get you down.