Monday, April 20, 2015

His own private railroad

Marigny cottage
Saturday was Record Store Day, and in the run-up to its upcoming release date, Louie is promoting his CD, Elevation 13: Louie Ludwig with the Moss Pickers,  at local record stores. Naomi and I were deciding what to do - it was open day at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, and I wanted to sight-see.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Click to "embiggen"
Wall on Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, LA.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Night on St. Claude

It's Friday night, and we're out on St.Claude in the Marigny, right across the neutral ground from the Hi Ho Lounge. The kid stops us as we're putting up posters on a plywood construction wall.  I'm taking photos of the posters already there, a series protesting violence to women, and the kid asks if those are ours.

He's tall and skinny, with dreadlocks arraying around his head like a black sun. He's wearing a blue shirt with a bright green marijuana leaf blazened over his heart.

"No," we say, "we're just putting these up," and my friend Louie begins to tell him about his music.

"I thought maybe you were photographers," says the kid. "I'm a photographer."

We get to talking and someone says, "There's a lot to shoot here in this town," and the kid says dismissively, "Naw, it's getting boring here. I'm going other places. I'm going out to LA," he says. "I want to find other things to take."

Naomi steps forward. "You ought to go to Birmingham, Alabama. I know it sounds weird, but there's this historic furnace there." I'm looking at her from outside myself and think this young black kid is going to turn away from this older white lady, grey hair on top of her head and glasses with beaded strings swagged from the temples to around her neck, but no. This is New Orleans, and you can be anybody. The kid gives her his rapt attention as she tells him about the shapes and colors and textures of the Sloss Furnace and how she took photos there until her memory card filled up.

And then he tells us about what he's doing, a project of 56 days' worth of photos, shot everyday in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, other places. "And then I'm picking the best and putting them up, 56 Dayz, it's called, dayz with a z."

And I know, watching them, that if it had been just me there, we would have said our polite and good-natured hellos and moved on. But it was Naomi, and she can reach out and totally engage another artist, leading him to open up and share his art, enthusiasm, and hopes with strangers.

Before we part and go on to the club, we've typed our email addresses into his phone.

TJ, or Ti Young 'un, he's called, and he's a young photographer. In 56 days he'll have something for the world to see.

My friend Naomi made these reproduction street tiles here on St. Claude Avenue.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Where I'm staying

Here's a look at the neighborhood where I'm staying this weekend.

Thanks to friends Naomi and Louie for their welcoming hospitality.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Decatur Street sights

Today on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I just received a list of classes for my first semester, and instructions how to sign up. Students are to choose their top five choices, and send their list back to the department director so he can determine how to fairly sign people up.  I think of those five choices, students end up in three classes.

One class, a workshop in my genre, non-fiction, is a given. But there are so many other choices! There are literature classes ranging from Chaucer to Milton to the Modern Novel. This is exciting!

But so hard to decide!

I'm mindful of mistakes I made as an undergraduate, not paying attention to the schedule I was setting for myself. So I'm thinking about that carefully.

I don't want to give myself too heavy a load at first. I have to take the workshop - but should I also take a workshop in another genre? Would that be too much writing? Or would a literature course, with readings and papers to write, be even more demanding?

The workshop takes place once a week in the evening.  There's a class on Nature Writing that sounds really interesting, but it takes place the same day, mid-morning. Since I don't know where I'm living yet, I am wondering whether this would be wise. Will I want to hang around campus all day between classes? Or travel back and forth twice?

On the other hand, maybe it would be nice to cluster all my classes on the same day, leaving the rest of the week free.

Another thing to consider is getting some fundamentals under my belt. I have zero knowledge of literary theory or pedagogy - and frankly, I don't much care about them. Should I just get those out of the way at the beginning? Or wait until I'm more accustomed to scholarly life?

So far, the classes on my wish list include:

1)  Literature class (Nature writing) that meets Tuesday/Thursday from 9:30 am - 10:45 am
2)  Writing workshop in my genre (mandatory), Tuesday 6:00 pm - 8:45 pm
3)  Class that analyzes craft in fiction, Wednesday, 6:00pm - 8:45 pm
4)  Literary Theory, Wednesday, 4:30 pm - 7:15 pm (obviously, if I take this I can't also take the craft class)
5)  Non-fiction literature, online

What do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Meet the new boss

Our division at work has been without a permanent boss for more than a year. Back in February of 2014, our then-boss was promoted, and a search was begun for her replacement.

During the search, an interim manager from outside was brought in. Though she was a nice lady, the interim boss had been given the message early on that she was not in the running for the permanent position. It's a testimony to her grace and professionalism that she led the division with a positive attitude until her term expired.

The search was not successful, so upper management began a new search. By that time, our interim manager got a permanent job somewhere else. We all wished her well when she left.

They appointed someone from within to serve as the next interim manager.

All this is background for the fact that early this month, our newly-hired permanent manager, B., came on duty. He's had a busy couple of weeks, with orientation and everything, and he has confessed that he's feeling a bit of information overload.

Today was my first one-on-one meeting with him. I gave him enough background to understand my duties, and also gave him a background on my experience here. I admitted that my career goal is retirement, though I didn't yet announce my plans.

He seems like a good guy - a little eager, energetic, a kind of a go-getter. He's already thinking of changes to the organization, questioning how we do things here. I think he'll probably need some adjustment to the glacial pace at which our particular bureaucracy operates.

I had an odd feeling, talking to him. In other circumstances, I might have been anxious about the potential changes he might make to my job; I might feel worried. But instead I just felt care slipping away from me.

Later this afternoon, I had talks with two senior colleagues of mine. They will be working more closely with the new boss, and will need to adjust to changes. Their moods seemed to mingle optimism and wariness in turn.

It was different for me, and I feel sorry it's not the right time to tell them. Six months from now, I won't be here. Whatever happens to our office is of no consequence to me.

It's a pretty liberating feeling.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Today was an intense spring cleaning day, as we hit the basement to pull out unwanted stuff.  We went through Our Son's room, getting rid of some stuff and packing stuff he wants to sift through into a box. I'd packed up some stuff to donate to Goodwill, and some books to donate to our local library, and we wrestled them into the car and dropped them off.

The living room, kitchen and master bedroom are fast becoming "uncluttered" and it feels really good!

We've dismantled an old basketball hoop that has been in our driveway for the last ten years. That was a helluva good accomplishment!

We put some stuff up on our street with a sign that says "Free Stuff!" and much of it has already disappeared. We also filled our brown waste bin, and tossed some things in a dumpster our neighbors have allowed us to use. Our recycling bin is full up; so is our yard waste container.

We're still not organized enough to hire our own dumpster and hire some guys to help us throw stuff away, but we're getting there.

The downside? We are exhausted. We're reclining on couches sipping white wine and occasionally sighing, "Oh, man!" I've popped two ibuprofen to ease the aches in my poor knees and back.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to sleep well tonight.