Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Boundary Issues

A psychologist in Australia is in trouble for playing dominant/submissive with a client. The esteemed doctor claims that the activities in question--wherein he suggested his client wear a dog collar and call him "master"--were, in fact, therapeutic interventions. I wonder what those progress notes looked like?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Conversation II

Friday night we took Sydney to The Big Top to hear Ingrid Lucia perform. Every other week the venue hosts a kids' night with all the necessary accoutrements: smoke-free live music, cool art on the walls to peruse while waiting in line for the bathroom, an arts and crafts table, juice boxes and booze for the kids and adults (respectively). This weekend was the first time we'd made it to the event, and Syd had a blast raising the roof and gawking at all the older kids making their big debuts on stage. A few minutes after we arrived I ran into the husband of a colleague, who'd brought his four-year old son to the show. As we watched our kids expend their not insignificant energies, he managed to articulate the thought that had begun to form in my own mind in the brief time we'd been there. "This is one of the great things about living in New Orleans," he said, as I watched Sydney bounce up and down on her pudgy legs. "Where else can kids get exposed to so many different kinds of music?"

And it's true; this is one of the reasons we live here. It was not the first time I've had this thought, or heard it spoken by another New Orleanian, but it has certainly been a long time. These days we talk a lot about the problems, the reasons why we shouldn't stay here--of which there are plenty. We talk about the crime, the people who are dying, the poverty, the racism, the lack of infrastructure, the governmental failures, our failures, the broken and bereft school system, the list goes on and on. We still talk about where we went and what we did during the evacuation, but we don't talk about why we're still here, what binds us to this place, America's bastard city. I honestly can't remember the last time I began a sentence with "One of the great things about New Orleans..."

We don't talk about the reasons why we stay, because most of us aren't really sure. Jazz and gumbo do not a happy life make, especially when you have no kitchen in which to prepare said gumbo and all of the musicians have to leave town because they, like everyone else, cannot take it anymore. We're talking about leaving because the reasons to stay seem unreliable, like a memory so distant you wonder if you dreamed it. It's damn hard to sing the praises of this place when you're stepping over the detritus of your neighbor's home, but that conversation, words spoken in passing that would not have struck me as out of the ordinary two years ago, made me acutely aware of the good stuff. Maybe its some sort of survivor's guilt, or just your garden variety cynicism, but everything in me--body, psyche, spirit--resists "looking on the bright side." It feels naive, in a way, but it is truly a sad day when optimism and naivete seem so dangerously synonymous.

But damn, this is a beautiful city. Isn't it? It's loud and dirty and poor, for the most part, but look: every time I'm in Audubon Park, jogging or pushing Syd in the stroller, and I come around the bend where the spires of the Loyola chapel come into view, framed by towering oaks, it just blows me away. Still, after nearly six years. That's something, isn't it? And though there are many who would not describe this as a good thing, I actually like it when store clerks call me "baby." It's nice, and it makes me feel good. Sure, cashiers and clerks in other cities tend to adhere more strictly to the tenets of something they refer to as "customer service," but they have never made me feel particularly rooted to the place.

And speaking of name-calling, every time Syd walks into her classroom, someone--a teacher, the director, another child, or usually some combination thereof--yells "Sydney Roux!," like Cheers with sippy cups. How can you leave a place like that?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

For Paul's Sake...

This is unbelievable. Leave the poor man alone, already.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A State in the Union

I didn't bother to watch W's address last night. Maybe that makes me a bad American, but in the past his speeches have only succeeded in rendering me completely apoplectic and I just couldn't handle the prospect last night. Instead, we watched back-to-back episodes of Law & Order: SVU. Not exactly uplifting, but for two hours I got to watch as people were held accountable for their heinous crimes, as people got busted for ruining other people's lives, got smacked down by the powers-that-be, while our Power-That-Is got applauded for his crimes, his insincerity, his pomposity, his amnesia.

Because amnesia, that old soap-opera fallback, is the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for such a glaring, shocking, inexcusable omission. Yes, we are an embarassment; we are yet another thorn in the backside of the administration. But how does the leader of the free world get away with such deliberate neglect? Does he really get to pretend like Katrina didn't happen?

He's worse than the Bears fan with the sandwich board. He may as well have stood up there at that podium and flipped us the bird.

And what do we do about this? Other than duck our heads and wait out the next 2 years in a near-constant state of quivering rage? Cade has suggested secession, on more than one occasion. I used to think he was kidding. We wouldn't be the first community in recent history to raise the issue. It doesn't seem likely, but stranger things have happened. If anyone has any other good ideas, let me know. Pretty please. We're (literally) dying down here.

Monday, January 22, 2007


The husband of one of my colleagues at Trinity attended the game yesterday. At some point he overheard an exchange during which a Bears fan (see photo, left) asked a Saints fan how he had made out during The Storm. The Saint replied that his home had taken in over ten feet of water, to which the Bear replied, "Too bad you didn't drown in it."

Pause here for long, horrified silence.

This was not the first, or only, story like this that I heard today. Chicago was not nice to us, in or off the field. They called us names; they hurled racial slurs; they beat us up; they told us they wished we had died in the worst natural disaster in our country's history. When did this become okay? Ten years ago, or maybe even five years ago, I might have been surprised, bowled over by such misplaced hatefulness. But not today. Today it seems yet another indignance, another reason to shake my head and vow never to let Sydney catch sight, even in passing, of anything broadcasted by the Fox News channel.

I'm sorry that we didn't win the game, but in some significant way we clearly did not lose. Let's just hope that the rest of the country doesn't hate New Orleans as intensely as the residents of Chicago clearly do.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Litany of the Saints

There is a widely-held if not always explicit belief being passed around town these days that the success or failure of New Orleans rides in some significant way upon the success or failure of our football team. Never before have the Saints come this close to the Super Bowl; never before have I witnessed, first-hand, the sort of manic desperation that results from an entire community of people so completely and unabashedly abdicating their collective mental health.

For example:

Today I attended a suicide prevention workshop at the JCC. This is difficult topic, frightening and taboo and very, very serious. Amongst the thirty or so professionals attending the workshop--therapists, mind you--fully half, perhaps more, wore some sort of Saints attire.

And speaking of suicide, Chris Rose wrote about the very subject in two separate pieces relating to our beloved football team, the first of which referred to suicidal ideation during the fourth quarter of a too-close game; the second article, which I read this morning, flippantly mentioned the S-word in reference to the brutal Chicago weather. Should we be worried about our much-esteemed local journalist? Apparently not. Apparently we should be laughing, or cheering, or both.

What worries me the most about this, even more than the fact that my LOTR-loving husband is currently lounging upstairs in his Deuce McAllister jersey, is the desperation with which people seem to be clinging to the outcome of this game. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for winning, I'd love to see our boys kick Da Bears arses, but there is no part of me that will be despondent or even remotely off-kilter on Monday if things don't go our way. But watching this city go black-and-gold bonkers over the last several weeks has made me stop and wonder about the reason. We love our team but seriously, that's only part of it.

I think we want our community back. Mardi Gras is great, we all hang together for that, but there is no struggle, no feeling of accomplishment. There are no losers in Mardi Gras--unless you count the frat boys who always manage to fall off the streetcar and get themselves arrested--and thus there are no winners and therefore there is no real reason to celebrate together after the hangover subsides. But football! We--or at least the athletes who represent us--get to take on the entire country, city by city, to slam their asses to the ground, rub their faces in the turf, spike the ball in their untouched faces. We get to prove ourselves. And we get to celebrate together, as a community, and to start to talk about what will happen next season. What will happen in the future.

So yeah, it feels like the future of the city is riding on the success or failure of our football team. Does that seem silly?

Did I mention Cade has a hat to match the jersey?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Conversation

If you live here, even if you're "from here," and particularly if you have children here, you've probably had The Conversation. Maybe you had it before The Storm; maybe you had it during the evacuation. Or maybe, like us, you started talking about it only recently, after Nagin rang the bell to commemorate 8/29, or after Bill Jefferson was re-elected, or maybe when the murders started to pile up and everything got pretty goddamn scary.

Never before have we even remotely entertained the idea of leaving New Orleans. Okay, after W was re-elected I spent some drunken hours spewing apocalyptic rants and dreaming of intelligent life overseas, but that was purely reactive. When Cade's company went kooky and I started saying things like "You could work anywhere" and "Why are we staying here?" I didn't really mean it; that was just the Sagittarius speaking. Even when two very large men broke into our house in the middle of the day, when I was at home, and the police did not show up for almost an hour, we did not consider abandoning our post. After spending nearly three months away from home after Katrina we came back with a beautiful baby and an even firmer resolve to stay, to rebuild, to renew, to re-everything. Even then we did not have The Conversation.

But these first 2 weeks of 2007 have been intense. People are dying, people are pissed off, our leaders seem dumbstruck. People are talking about leaving. And for the first time since I moved here, I'm talking about it, too. Where would we go? What would we do there? Where would we work? Would we make new friends? What about our family? Would we miss them? These questions seem far less pressing than the question that sits like a fluorescent pink elephant in the living room of every home in this city--namely, Who will be next?

I don't want to leave. I love this city, I have loved this city since the first morning I jogged down Audubon street, on a September morning in 2001, days before the towers fell in NYC. This is my home, my daughter's home; it has been my husband's family's home for many generations. But it is more than my love for this city that keeps me here. It is a moral dilemma. It is the recognition, as Cade so astutely pointed out, that the "inner cities" in this country are the way they are--dangerous and desperate and depressed--precisely because people give up on them, because people leave. We could give our daughter a cleaner life, a safer life, a suburban life, but we would have to admit something to ourselves in the process of doing so. We would have to admit that we gave up hope--not just in New Orleans, but in the future of this country. And though hope seems in short supply these days, I think I have just enough to stretch it out a little longer.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


It's cold here today. I'm shivering here in the back room at the counseling center where I spend my (semi) professional days, learning how to help people. Or something like that. There's a problem with the heating system in this old building and so here I sit, staring at unfinished charts, clutching my coffee in one hand and trying to figure out how and where to start.

I'm not just talking about this blog. These days I suffer from an acute case of paralysis. The March was a good thing, it gave me some small degree of hope that we can make things better, but I wonder what happens next. I wanted to attend The Housing Rally yesterday, but instead I took Sydney to the Children's Museum. This rather poignantly illustrates the crux of my dilemma: participate in The Struggle, or participate in my daughter's life? E.B. White wrote:

If the world were merely seductive, that would be one thing. If the world were merely challenging, I could

handle that. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the

world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

There are many who would say that I'm lucky to have this choice, that this is what privilege looks like--and they would be right. I am privileged. So now what?

At the march last week I happened to fall into stride alongside a group of African American teenagers. They held signs bearing pictures of Dinerral Shavers, the teacher and musician who was murdered in New Orleans last month. I assumed that these kids were his students or maybe family members. A fresh wave of sorrow and fear and outrage (we need to invent a new word to describe this emotion) nearly knocked me over and I started to cry. One of the kids, a tall guy with a beautifully expressive face, turned to me and laughed. He shook his head and said "Only for this one day."

As the kids walked on ahead I stared at my own sign--a picture of Helen Hill's son, Francis, who went to daycare with my daughter--and felt confused. It's great that, for one day at least, we could walk together and express our sorrow/fear/outrage (we have to find a good word for this!), but what happens the next day? And the day after that? One day is not enough. It feels good but feeling good isn't the point--at least not anymore.

Which brings me back to my original point. I want my daughter to have a happy life. I want her to enjoy the world. But I also want her to improve the world, to be socially conscious. It may be a privilege to have this choice but right now it feels like an insurmountable task.