Sunday, March 04, 2007

a more complex sort of joy

Brooklyn's Fifth Avenue is a hodgepodge of architecture and commerce. Slapdash finishes, buildings that don't quite match their neighbors thanks to some financial woe at some time or another. One month's windfall greets a death in the family. Gentrification hasn't wiped out the character in my neighborhood. A bodega, a dry cleaner, an upscale Tex Mex joint, increasingly more middle eastern spots, 99 cent stores, used bookstores full of theory and literary fiction, wine bars, donut shops, seasonally open Italian ice shops, Bocce courts, yoga studios, muffin bakeries, hipster coffee, clothing boutiques, Brooklyn Industries.

This is home. These days, Brooklyn is where my heart is. I step out of the 7th avenue station and I fit in. I've got my tote bag full of six periodicals, countless books, my ipod, a change of clothes, a change of attitude. New Orleans is still so deeply a part of me, but I'm crossing a threshold---or am I just admitting it?---Brooklyn is the place I've lived the longest as an adult. This haphazard collection of folks and homes and businesses and trees, subways and patches of dirty snow is the place I hang my hat.

I've been thinking I'd go to NOLA for Jazz Fest, but the airfare's rising everyday and my hesitation is amounting to a large bill. Today I got off the subway and thought, "But who will get me from the airport?" It broke my heart just a bit to realize that for the first time, my mom and dad wouldn't be there in the terminal waiting for me in Louis Armstrong International Airport. I know there are lots of people who would come and fetch me, screaming my name and hugging me so hard my bones would ache. But it's all so different and I've been feeling the post-partum blues of losing my childhood home for good. I don't know if I'm ready to go back yet. I think I need more time to heal. I can't say how hard it is to say this.

There's words to put to paper and so many projects I want to accomplish. Lately, I've been catching myself thinking about the places I'd like to explore beyond the Mississippi delta. San Francisco is still just a dream to me. I want to visit Rachel and see her new home through her eyes. I was so proud of her when she left the East Coast for the West Coast... so it would mean a lot to get to know what her life is life out there. I want to explore and learn, take in new sights. The West Coast is this unexplored territory to me. I'm so confined to the land East of the Mississippi that I think I need to piece my way around the West.

By no means am I considering a move, but I've healed just enough to be ready for new spaces, new ideas. I'm not just coping anymore which is a wonderful feeling. Spring's around the corner, I'm cooking new meals for friends, thinking more about theater, clearing the cobwebs. Beginning to think about how to reconnect with old friends. Looking forward to making new ones. Nerb introduced me to a wonderful new band, The Weepies. I've been listening to their music on their website and enjoying the hope and sweetness in their music. Deb Talan's voice is reminiscent of Sam Phillips and Steve Tannen sounds like a young Paul Simon. The words curl up and take root in my heart, giving a little pulse of extra life to my day.

At heart, I have been living inside my flooded out house for the past two years and I'm ready to get out. I'm ready to write about NOLA, pre and post Katrina, but I'm also ready to let go just a little bit. It hurts me to say that, but what with everything that's been happening to me and my friends and family, we all need to put those feelings on the shelf for a while. We've all been trying to balance these New York lives and careers with one foot soggy in Lake Ponchartrain and the other hopping onto the Q train crossing Manhattan Bridge. It's been a tough high wire act. Nothing like what the brave people in NOLA and all over the Gulf Coast have been experiencing, but for a pack of natives who lost everything and then some, it's been one heartbreak after the next. No comparison's necessary. I raise a glass to all of us.

Last week, I finally gave up and got a new cell phone, a new cell plan. After having the same plan for almost four years, my first cell phone, it was so hard to break away. Silly, huh? And it hit me that it really shouldn't be this hard. It's just a phone. Not every little thing has to mean everything, imbued with meaning of connection. Another day, another bump in the road. I can do this. I've learned so much and I'm my parent's daughter, my friend's confidant, reckless companion or grounded voice of reason all at once. My boyfriend's girlfriend, my brother's sister, a child of the Sacred Heart, a former ballerina, a Mawrtyr, an extreme bicyclist, a baby born in Baptist hospital, a Katrina survivor, a product of publishing, a writer, a correspondent, an admirer, a passionate advocate, a girl lost in the crowd, the one who won't be left behind.

I'm all these things, but most of all, I want to be the one rolling the dice. It's time to carve out a new path. The next year and a half will pass by like the blink of an eye and I'll welcome my thirties. It's time to take more in stride. It's time to hold everything close to my heart with the other hand out the window catching the wind and taking note of the changes in temperature and temperament. It's time for something new. I'm looking for a more complex sort of joy.


Blogger R J Keefe said...

May your new phone bring you plenty of hints of that more complex sort of joy!

Wed Mar 07, 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

This is the best post on any blog I've read this year.

Wed Mar 07, 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Book Stud said...

Go you, sweetpea. You are the bravest person I kknow.

Wed Mar 07, 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

I hear ya on finally letting go of NOLA. I am not sure I will ever be able to... but, I know now that my life ahead is based in NC, specifically tbd. But, Alesha is headed to Duke so come this fall me and my 'New Orleans: Proud to Call it Home' bumper sticker will follow. It is tough not to think of NOLA as home... and home is more than where you hang your hat and rest your head, it is a state of mind. I know that I have not found my new home yet, but I'm looking and it sounds like you are too. Anyway, I'll be in NOLA for the 1st weekend of Jazz Fest and my brother's return to the states... hope you can make it.

Thu Mar 08, 01:49:00 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

oh stop it, you're making me blush :)

Can't wait to see you, darlin'. We are going to have SO MUCH fun.

Tue Mar 13, 01:51:00 AM  

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