Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy 2006!

Watch Your Back...
Flash Your Tail...
Love's the only thing I've ever known.
One things for sure sweet baby... I always take the long way home.

The Straw That Broke Me Open

It's twelve hours to a new year here on the west coast of North America. In some parts of the world the time has already passed. I'm sitting at my desk trying to figure out what I want to say about this past year for a final Blues Routes program and there's really only one thing that colors absolutely everything... mentally, emotionally, financially, socially, geographically, and spiritually... Katrina.

I just found a video online for "Last Night of the World." The song is from an incredible album by Bruce Cockburn entitled "Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu," and I'd be hard pressed to come up with a better illustration for the way my life as gone this year than that very feeling of being tossed about and around the world on a wind and a whim.

In the song, Cockburn describes seeing "the flame of hope among the hopeless," and declares "that was the straw that broke me open." And THERE it is... The straw that broke ME open was the hurricane that blew through my life and took everything apart. So... four months later, here I am back where it all started 25 years ago when I finished seminary and moved into San Francisco seeking to change the world.

The song begins with the line "I'm sipping Flor de Cana and lime juice..." It took me a while to catch the line, but when I caught it, I cracked up. Flor de Cana is a fabulous rum made in Nicaragua that I first got a taste of (and a hankering for)in 1983 when I traveled there with the very first Witness for Peace team, on a mission to fight the Reagan Administration's incursions into the lives of the people there. Here we are, 23 years later and I've got a hankering for Flor de Cana, while the son of Reagan's V.P. is carrying on the best traditions of his elders. The more things change... the more they stay the same. I think I'll go out and find me some Flor de Cana to help me bring in the New Year.

If this were the last night of the world... what would I do that was different?

Unless it was champagne with YOU?

If I had the chance I'd ask the world to dance

It's 1:00 am on the last day of the year and I am sitting in front of the computer with Billy Idol (who is in fact MY age, I might point out) screaming in my ears and my wet clothes tossed all about my empty office (Damn I wish I had a camera with me).

After being gladfully indulged by a stray group of New Orleans musicians (and friends) holding court at Carol Doda's former haunt on Columbus, now a New Orleans refugee restaurant, I stepped out into the elements...

And got POUNDED by the rain!

But that's just fine with me. I just walked back from North Beach to SOMA in an absolutely torrential rain that feels like the exactly appropriate conclusion to this soggy, frustrating, confusing and lost year. I made not only the best of it... I made it a party! My very own get rid of 2005 personal party.

It began with circling (not once but twice) the giant Christmas tree in Union Square while singing the lyrics and performing the dance steps (to the best of my completely limited ability) of Singing in the Rain. I kept expecting a cop to come and stop me, but I was deliriously happy in my midnight solitude. When I closed my umbrella and splashed through the puddles in front of the taxicab I thought I might be pushing things, but nobody seemed to mind (or perhaps even notice)... so I skipped down Powell Street passed the cable car, across Market and down 4th. Once I tried to reopen my umbrella, but the elements were not having any of it.

Why worry...why fret? I just took three jumps into the puddle at Mission Street and spun my way home, drenched to the bone and singing at the top of my lungs.

So... for the last time in 2005...

When there's no one else in sight
In the crowded lonely night
Well there's nothin' to lose
and nothin' to prove...
I'll be dancin'with myself.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Big Kiss Off

I'll have more... probably A LOT more... to say about the year we are about to leave as midnight approaches tomorrow. Right now, it's growing dark outside as I look out of the windows in my new studio/office South of Market in San Francisco (my home away from home). I've been getting things finished up and prepared for a new year and frankly... it's time for a drink!

So, I'm just gonna leave you with a song and a thought to bring this mostly horrible year to a near close.

Good Riddance!!!!!

I am just ever so happy to KISS this one goodbye.

Monday, December 26, 2005

St. Stephen's Day Murders

Just a quick note here to say Merry Second Day of Christmas... We made it... I made it... we're heading for the light. I spent Christmas Eve with my daughter and her sweety and then she and I went to church for midnight mass at Grace Cathedral. Christmas morning was pretty much like any other day for me. I woke up, ate something and sat meditation before going down the street from my hotel to Glide Memorial for the big blow out Celebration for Christmas morning. It was great!!!

Then I spent the afternoon creating a new Blues Routes podcast, just for Christmas, which you can hear here (it's show #7). All I have to say about this is one is, my apologies to Cajun friends for the way I mangled the accent. I hope you can enjoy it anyway.

Finally... it's Boxing Day... or more specifically St. Stephen's Day! St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It's a day for visiting and feasting and perhaps (as Elvis Costello so wonderfully tells it) for poisoning all the relatives you are SO sick of. I think it's the perfect psychological yang to the yin of Christmas, all murder and horror to counter the way too much joy and prosperity of the day before.

FYI... the theory on why it's called Boxing Day can be found here... It is NOT because it's the day for putting up the boxes from the day before.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's About Time

Okay... Nothing new on this side this morning, but I just finished a new posting at Washington's Cousin, so go have a look.

And one more thing... Tomorrow's the Winter Solstice... days will start getting longer and the light will begin to return. Sunday is Christmas and 12 days later we start the march toward Mardi Gras.

Happy Merry Y'all!!!!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Single Greatest Invention...

I've been in California for less than a week and I have thought of the world's greatest contemporary idea at least a dozen times. Right now, with a goodly amount of work finished on my computer and NO WiFi to load it up to the web, I'm ready to head out in search of another place to lock in and get my work done.

The single thing standing in my way is my beer that is more than half full and which I neither want to guzzle, throw out or leave behind. What I need at this moment is… say it with me… A GO CUP!

On second thought, I think that we may have a tie here… Go Cups AND Free WiFi… these are the two single most wonderful inventions of the last fifty years. Forget all the other things, because they don't matter without Go Cups and Free WiFi… believe me… I know. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've actually seen a man walk on the moon (so what actually came out of that besides a great video and Tang!?) and the end of many deadly diseases (we've also seen the creation of some even deadlier diseases, but, again, that's another story), but what can any of this possibly mean when held up against the incredible reality of freely taking your drink out the door and freely accessing the communication nexus of the modern world.

It's been a rough day for me in The City... Free Wifi spots that are supposed to be prevelant and helpful have been largely nonexistent or too weak to trust. The only solutions, like those in Newe Orleans, are the ones put in place by businesses looking to gain clientele. Frankly, I think this is a more trustworthy solution than the grand plans of both SF and NOLA to make WiFi a government supplied service. Nice try guys, but I have my doubts. In BOTH of my favorite cities, my best connections to the internet have been provided by the "market sector" and almost always come with either coffee or beer.

But then, MOST things of value come with either coffee or beer.


Of course... we might add potable drinking water to the list, especially water, like San Francisco's, that runs from a reservoir high in the Sierra Mountains. After the chlorine infused, always dubious post-Katrina water in New Orleans it's kind of nice to be in a town where you can get good tasting, relatively safe, clean H2O right out of the tap.

Of course, it meant damning and flooding one of the most beautiful places on earth to get that water. Things always seem to have two sides now, don't they?

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Light Is Coming

Sitting with coffee and still the best pan chocolate I've ever tasted at Della Fattoria in Petaluma, a place I wrote about in this blog two months ago.

I will be doing photo shoots of Santa Claus at Dempsey's on Sunday and Tuesday and I will be working with the folks at Outpost Studios to see if we can still work out the office arrangement we started back before I left for New Orleans in October.

Unlike the last time, when I really had no place else to go, I am happy to be in Northern California again and I am even happy to be in Petaluma for the time being (though that enjoyment has a lot to do with the fact that I will be leaving here for San Francisco in a few days and to return to New Orlleans in a few weeks).

It's good to be back and it's even better to be back under far less questionable circumstances. In five days we will see the Winter Solstice and can know for sure that the light is indeed returning.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On the Road Again

Well... this time tomorrow I'll be winging my way out of Nashville toward Oakland. I've never flown through Nashville before, and whenever I fly from NOLA to the West Coast in winter I always try to stay to the south, but flights out of New Orleans are limited these days, so, like with everything else, we make due with what's available. My lesson in total trust and complete patience continues, but frankly it's feeling pretty good.

I leave this place with a real sense of melancholy. I want to be back in San Francisco for Christmas because I want to be with my kid (she was in London last Christmas) but I am very much aware that in leaving, I really am leaving home. The up side of this is that I know I will be back, and soon.

And, unlike the last time I was in California, I know where I belong and, to a certain extent, what I need to do. There's still a very good chance that I may wind up being a tri-coastal person, perpetually bouncing between three coasts (west, east and gulf), but the anchor that I have needed... the grounding, the vision, and the base; that is clearly established. My home - at least for now - is in The Crescent City.

I leave with an uplifted heart and lot's of hope. Tonight I will go with my friend Mary to St. Louis Cathedral where some of my favorite musicians will be celebrating Christmas "Peace Stories." One of those songs will most certainly be the Anders Osborne tune (here sung by Jesse Moore) that has become a theme song for Katrina tossed New Orleans in general and for me in particular... "It's Gonna Be Okay." If you generally skip the songs I post here, make an exception this time... This is my nomination for Best Song of the YEAR.

That's the good news today... It really IS gonna be okay.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Charmaine's Good Song

I was reading Anne Lamott's Blue Shoethis morning while listening to random Christmas Music on iTunes.

Somewhere in the book (I think I read it this morning, but it might have been a few days ago) Anne writes, "expectations are premeditated resentments." That's a great line; too true for total comfort, but pleasingly close to comforting reality (which is a lot of what is special about Anne Lamott's writing). Despite this fact, I find myself holding grand expectations this morning as I sip coffee and think about the world. That's really what Advent is about anyway. Waiting… expectantly, despite the fact that we know from too much personal experience that shit happens. It is knowing, with no small portion of hope and faith, that however dim it is right now, the LIGHT is returning, and soon.

I have this tendency to put songs into my Christmas mix that don't generally fit into the Christmas song mixes of more grounded people… this morning, Johnny Cash's version of "Your Own Personal Jesus" played earlier. Right now Patti Scialfa's (Mrs. Boss) "Stumbling to Bethlehem" is on. Just before I started writing this, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" came on and I stopped reading to lend that one my full attention.

THAT decision is what brought this whole disjointed topic to mind. Louis singing about all the glorious things he sees is kind of an unofficial theme song of New Orleans and there are a lot of people who sing it. Some of the best renditions are more like impersonations of Satchmo, but around here, that's a good thing. One of the best Satchmo impersonators in the world is Charmaine Neville. I saw her do What a Wonderful World two years ago in Jackson Square at the conclusion of French Quarter Fest at a point in my life when everything (in the city, and in my life) was in much better order than it is now. Well, following this train of thought is like an old Springsteen song from Lucky Town (an incredibly wonderful and generally under valued album) where he sings, "I had a coat of fine leather and snake skin boots, but that coat always had a thread hangin' loose. I pulled it one night and to my surprise it led me right past your house and over the rise." Thinking of Charmaine in Jackson Square singing Satchmo reminded me of the fact that she is singing in town tonight, just three blocks from my house at Trinity Episcopal church. It's one of those typical, somewhat out of place musical experiences that happens at Christmas, a "sing it yourself Messiah." Charmaine will be a featured soloist tonight and will even be singing a special composition written by Trinity's organist and music director, Albinas Prizgintas.

The last time you heard about Charmaine in this weblog, I was in North Carolina and Charmaine was in Baton Rouge following the absolutely horrible experiences of her first few days in the Katrina flood. The day I heard her story was probably one of the lowest days of my life. The familiar threads of my existence had unraveled completely and I was lost in the mountains, covered in chigger bites, unable to make phone calls, and living on a full time diet of Anderson Cooper, Brian Williams and pictures of people dying in The Land of Dreams.

Well… here we are three months later. Life is in no way back to normal and the threads of my life have not found their way back to any kind of recognizable cloth. Things are likely to remain disjointed and confused for years. We need help to make New Orleans whole and that help (as I mentioned yesterday) is not particularly evident right now. But my city is coming, ever so slowly, back to life, and my life is feeling a little bit more whole every day. There's less trash on the street than there was a month ago and there are more homes with lights and water and gas and… people in them. Friends have come home, and more are on their way. People will actually be caroling in Washington Square this evening.

And Charmaine Neville is singing at Trinity Church tonight!

Joyous Advent y'all!

Despite everything that's gone wrong… It's Christmastime in New Orelans.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Back Into The Sunset

I got an email from a friend yesterday that made the comment, "I can't even imagine what you are up to but whatever it is I bet you have a smile on your face." It's a nice sentiment and not entirely wrong. I appreciate the thought (and the evident reputation of being a basically cheerful person)... BUT... While I tend to have a smile on my face much of the time, it comes from the effort of living with an openess and a hopefulness in the midst of what is a truly terrible situation.

Harry Shearer, in his fabulous Le Show, this week discusses the fact that news dealing with New Orleans as a hurricane disaster is really not true. The hurricane damage is here and there's plenty of it... But the fact is, the flooding that actually destroyed the city and the continuing ineffectual response to the disaster (now nearly 4 months ago) is NOT a hurricane story it's a GOVERNMENT story. It's a story about the failings of the Army Corp of Engineers and the completely inadequate level of preparedness on the part of FEMA as reconstituted by Bush.

It's also a story about people - poor, rich, middle class, employed and unemployed, exiled and trying to make it back home - who are being forgotten as the weeks and months roll on and little to nothing actually happens.

The streets are still covered in trash. The houses, from the lower 9th to the fancy lakeside houses out by the lake, are still broken, trashed and unlivable. Even in areas of town that are back to habitability, the power, gas and water are inconsistent at best.

On Thursday I head back to California for Christmas and (probably) most of January. As I leave this city, my heart stays here, and I hope that somehow I can communicate the needs of this broken crescent to the people I meet along the way.

New Orleans needs to be remembered. New Orleans needs your help.

The next disaster may be in YOUR city... and we need to all remember that we're theoretically in this together.


You can find links to ways to help New Orleans at the Mercury Public Media website.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Off The Deep End...

Okay... I've been wanting to do this for some time now and I've finally put my ass out on the line.

I've got a new blog, appropriately titled Butting Heads. It's long form only, so all of you folks with limited attention spans are probably going to want to avoid it.

For the rest of you, drop on by... it'll be good for a few laughs (or tears) at least.

Red Beans, Rice and Rotor Blades

Last night, like most Monday nights was Red Beans and Rice night at Tujagues Restaurant. A pint of Bass Ale for $5.00 accompanied by a brimming plate of creamy red beans, bright white rice, and a big baguette all for FREE. It's Monday in New Orleans, the traditional day of red beans cooking all day on stoves all over town while the wash was getting done. Red beans getting creamy, full of flavor and bursting with goodness. Monday Night Red Beans and Rice are probably the best example of New Orleans current need of comfort in any form available. It certainly works for me, but then, I have always had a thing for putting things in my mouth.

On the other side of all that comfort are the still ever present military installations. Yesterday morning I had to meet someone near the Convention Center downtown (yeah, THAT convention center downtown) and what I discovered when I got there was a formerly empty lot filled with military Humvees in their new desert beige camouflage, as well as the old green color (much more appropriate for our swamplike environment). It was a daunting site. Hundreds of machines sitting like giant bugs, waiting to descend on the city like mosquitos in July. Several times a day the helicopters still fly overhead as if searching for mysterious phantoms, or left over people. It's a strange feeling. What this city needs is some kind of take on normalcy, a logistical and governmental version of Red Beans and Rice. What we have instead is a more or less benign, yet mostly pointless and ineffective occupying force (all the National Guard folks are smiling and friendly while they stand around shouldering their M-16s). Despite the fact that I know they mean well, this occupation pisses me off. I mean, for the most part, I LIKE these folks and they, more or less, look like me, and they still bug me everytime they drive by, fly over or show up out of nowhere. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in a place like Iraq, occupied by a similar force of much greater strength and hostility in a land where they truly don't belong.

Come to think of it… They don't belong HERE!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Finding The Holy Grail

A lot has happened since I first wrote about finding Free WiFi at Molly's back in early August, but it's not like the issue has ever gone away from my mind.

Well... the first BIG improvement to New Orleans reality post-Katrina has just been announced and it's pretty damned amazing. New Orleans, and NOT San Francisco (sorry Gavin) is going to be the first city in the U.S. to offer CITY-WIDE FREE WI-FI.

Supposedly, it's already installed in the CBD and in the French Quarter, but I haven't yet had a chance to check it out.

Obviously... it would be nice if the city could move as quickly on the "little" things, like getting all the CRAP off the streets, or fixing the levees, or getting people back in their homes, but maybe a leapfrog kind of thing like this is just hte kind of "action plan" that's needed to get the other stuff moving as well.

Let's hope so.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Down By the Riverside

As I've said before, admittedly with fingers crossed and a hopeful tongue in cheek much of the time, it's pretty much impossible to keep New Orleans down. There was no better way of proving this than last Saturday's big concert by the River. A free show with Kermit Ruffins, John Cleary, Topsy Chapman and John Boute'. There was of course "Uncle" Lionel Batiste of the Treme Brass Band cruising the front rows by the stage and dancing it up with all the lovely ladies.

Despite all the people and all the celebration (Putumayo Records made up a bunch of T-shirts that were sold with proceeds going tot he Musicians Clinic) it still feels a little bit like whistling (or perhaps more appropriately, playing trumpet) in the dark.

But a day of music down by the river is STILL a day of music down by the river and it beats running away from a hurricane any day!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Heading Toward the Light

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Because I have a thing for certain generally pointless rituals I chose to attend the main service at Christ Episcopal Cathedral not far from where I am presently living because I knew they would begin the service with what is known as The Great Litany. In the Anglican Church, this long, drawn out, and rather tedious ceremony is only read (complete with processions around the church and choral responses and bells ringing) on the first Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday of Lent. It's far too involved to deal with here, but all I really have to say about it is that the ritual feeds me for some reason that I really can't completely explain. This is particularly true in the present moment.

The other thing about last Sunday is the ritual of lighting the first candle (there are a total of four, five if you count the Christmas candle at the center) in the Advent Wreath. While this is symbolically rife with long standing ceremonial christian and non-christian elements, mostly it's a consideration of the dim light, far off in these dark months (at least in earth's northern hemisphere) as we approach the turning of winter. It's a symbolic gazing into the darkness to squint and see the dim little light far away, but coming closer. Each week for the next four weeks we will light an additional candle, gradually increasing the light until at Christmas (four days following the Winter Solstice when the sun stops moving away from us and begins to approach us again) we will light the fifth candle and celebrate the coming of the Presence of God in the world.

I've loved these rituals for years, much to the confusion and chagrin of many of my friends, but I don't think I have ever had a year where these things meant as much to me as they do right now. Walking around this still devastated city (three months to the day since the levees broke and the water rose to the tops of the houses that friends and acquaintances of mine used to live in) continues to feel like moving through a movie set, or a ghost town, or a bad dream. Each day there are people returning; each ride on the bus reveals more people trying to make a life. Every day another store, or office, or restaurant reopens, usually displaying some form of thin hope that they won't be closing again. We need the light to return, but it's still very far off and frighteningly dim. The coming of Advent signals to me that there actually is life out there, and it is returning steadily, even if ever so slowly.

Right now, this morning… that's almost enough to live on.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Well... It's not exactly my perfect plan, but then what is?

I'm BACK... 6:37 pm on Friday night with a Blue Moon wheat beer at my right hand as I sit at the end of the bar at Molly's with the web in front of my face!

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

I've got so much to lay on ya and so little time to lay it down. Needless to say, I've got three weeks of reportage to make up for... and damnit... it;s almost Advent.

Be Prepared.... Much to come!

Oh baby... the boy is BACK!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Three weeks and counting...

I talked to my computer guy this afternoon and the standard explanation remains the same... "Some of our order has come in and some of it hasn't."

It's beginning to feel a little like an excuse rather than an explanation and that wouldn't be all that unusual for New Orleans. At its speediest and most efficient, this town operates like a city in a third world country. On some of its BAD days (or Mardi Gras) things can become completely shut down and non-functional. SO... under the circumstances A.K. this is really not all that hard to believe.

What I am learning out of all of this is PATIENCE; not something I have previously been very good at, but necessity is a MOTHER.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What can BROWN do for you????

Apparently not much if you live in New Orleans these days!

The ubiquitous advertising question has taken on new meaning in the Crescent City A.K. It seems that the hard drive that I was supposed to receive by Friday last week is listed as HERE, but it is in fact NOT HERE. The UPS guy's answer...? "Well, we're running a bit behind right now."

So... there you have it! Your update du jour on life in The Big Easy. Nothing has EVER moved rapidly in New Orleans. These days just getting up to a reasonable pace is an obvious challenge.

But what the hell... I'm off to join Irvin Mayfield's second line parade to honor his father (and the other dead of the storm) and to remember that LIFE does indeed go on!

It's interesting... as frustrating as all of this is, I am finding myself to be the most settled, most content, most happy and most sane that I have ever been.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Frankly... I've lost count

My computer is still not in my possession and I don't even know at this point WHEN it will be in my possession, but I'm hoping that will happen sometime over the weekend. On the one hand I've moved to that place of resignation where I'm actually not minding being without the computer, there is a lot of work I'm getting done that I often don't get done because it's so easy to avoid it by doing something else online.

Busy week next week though... I'm gonna need to be wired.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing...

But I didn't finish the whole Margarita...

this is an audio post - click to play

Paradise Found

this is an audio post - click to play

Another Afternoon in the Dead Zone

It is NOT normal in this town and like I said in the previous post, it's Paradise Lost. One of these days things will come back to normal (and hopefully beyond it) but right now it's pretty much two steps forward and three steps back. I just came from the post office which WAS open until 4:30 but is now (unannounced) open only until 3:00. Needless to say, I was not the only person who was put out by this.

The thing is... it's still New Orleans and it's still home, but it's looking more and more like exile is going to be the way of the world for some considerable time to come.
this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

Greetings from the Asshole of America

Just for clarification... I am not referring to MYSELF.

The mayor of New Orleans would like you to believe (would like citizens of New Orleans far and wide to believe) that things are coming back to normal. For a week and half I have been trying to believe it myself.

The fact of the matter is that this town is not coming back anytime soon and anyone who tries to tell you that it is is either lying or wishing. Those are the only two choices. The basic infrastructure, whether we are talking about getting computers fixed, or getting basic services - my refrigerator is broken and has, after two months, still not been replaced, my friend's house (where I used to live) still doesn't have gas or power and the makeshift setup for power that was put in place last week so that her mom (an 83 year old veteran who is wheelchair bound and legally blind)could exist is about to be disconnected at any moment, piles and piles of garbage cover every single block of every single neighborhood and refrigerators sit with rotting food on the street (you can smell it for blocks) - or getting any answers from any government official.

This city is beyond chaos, it is living and breathing on hope and faith and lies.

If New Orelans is going to come back it's going to need more from somebody who actually gives a damn and less from the people who have the single agenda of putting a good spin on the surface.

Someone needs to give a damn or this place is doomed.

A Hard Drive Worth 1,000 Words

Computer broken... big time broken... NOT "Crashed" by the way.... Broken hard drive, mostly due to the nature of my travels from hell and back over the last two and half months.

Have a listen...
this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, November 04, 2005

Living In the Digital Divide

I'm sending this post from Kinkos because my computer is still dead and I have not been able to get things squared away. At this point I am hoping and praying that when I finally get the machine fixed it doesn't wind up killing off the 60 gigs worth of stuff on the hard drive (most of which is not backed up), including ALL of my music (old cds I digitized before leaving California as well as approximately 100 downloads from iTunes) and a significant number of irreplacable audio files for stories I was working on for Blues Routes, FoodFetish, and PRX. I am even afraid of losing the great interview I had just completed with poet Stan Bemis; the very files I was on my way to load up online when the crash occured.

Despite all of this, I am choosing to simply hold everything lightly. I am choosing to smile, to laugh, to meditate and to remember the simple fact that I am HERE.

What's the worst case scenario? I lose everything on my computer and have to start over... The digital equivalent of what I seem to have been heading toward since I started this journey three months ago. It's kind of ironic, for the very things I am now in danger of losing are the last things - the only things - I was really concerned about saving. It seems that I better keep a better handle on my thoughts right now.


By the way... During this current digital breakdown, if you need (or want) to contact me, it's best to use my cell phone (knock on wood)... 707-235-5434.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Place of One's Own

After a week in town, I have moved into a new (though still temporary) place. For the first time in three months I have actually unpacked and hung up my clothes (ALL of my clothes) and I am in a reasonably sane, relatively quiet, and almost completely uncluttered place to live. Like I said, it's still temporary (three weeks to be specific) but it's a step in the right direction.

As I was walking through town last night (the buses, such as they are, stop running at 5:30) I was struck by the almost total silence and lack of population. Twice in the last week I have rounded corners into areas where, in the past, I would have been a little dubious of walking, but there are no people to worry about (except for the fact that there are no people to worry about) and so the form of the dis-ease morphs into a strange aloneness, an odd sense that I would rather be afraid than have nothing to be afraid of.

After a week I am still unclear as to whether I can stay here over time, or whether, like so many others, I will have to temporarily abandon this place again in order to find temporary sustenance (and necessary income) elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A.F. Journalist - Vampyre Reporter

My vampyre reporter costume included fangs (of course) but they don't seem to have made it into this picture. You can see the "blood on my hands" however.

As for Molly's Parade, it was a huge success and a definite sign, as was the whole weekend (more on that later), of the return to life as something approaching normal in New Orleans. As expected there were lots of takes on Katrina from dozens of walking refrigerators (one even containing the head of Mike Brown), to the Mid-City Baywatch lifeguard team, endless FEMA workers, an oil guzzling sheik and even a FEMA check wrapped in red tape (pictures to come).

We've got a VERY long way to go, but beginning the journey with a party like that is definitely starting out on the right foot.

Monday, October 31, 2005


New Orleans is not the only place where people love Halloween...

Jennifer's watermelon costume is pretty damned spectacular!

Herbie Hancock
would love it.

Let's Rebuild New Orleans

Jim Monaghan, the proprietor of Molly's, is the host of this crazy event tonight.

He's got something to say... sort of.
this is an audio post - click to play

All Hallows Eve

Sitting at Molly's (again) loading up files to the server and waiting for the parade to start.

Laura the bartender is dressed as Joan of Arc... other bartender costmes include a muskateer and a nurse (with blood all over her). Outside there are about a dozen old refrigerators, endless FEMA employees and an entire team of (very sexy) lifeguards.

Running to stand still...

Besides being Halloween, today is also (or, considering the time difference, WAS also) the running of the Dublin Marathon. Back last March, when I originally started my plan to move to New Orleans, I had planned on training for, and making the trip to, this event in the city where my grandmother was born. Like the only marathon I have ever run, Big Sur, the Dublin Marathon asserts a pull on me like few other experiences. Like my experience of New Orleans, I find some part of my soul in that city and combining that soul connection with the physical body connection of distance running is particularly vibrant. It creates a linkage between the spiritual, psychological and corporeal parts of my being that nothing else touches. It is an experience that I have been thoroughly lacking in over the last two months. My participation in this year's marathon is another casualty of my chaotic and crisis strewn life of the last several months and so it's not really surprising that instead of being there, I'm here... But being HERE is the right thing for right now.

This will make the first full week I have been in the Crescent City since the last week of August. I expect to - I must - get a lot of work done this week. Something that will be even more difficult than usual because the standard sluggish nature of doing business in the tropics has been increased exponentially by the devolution of the city's infrastructure A.K. Connected to that is the task of figuring out the new lay of the land; what CAN be done... and, even more importantly, WHEN.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Things you NEVER used to hear...

Two twenty-something guys, one helping the other with computer issues, in the back of the coffeeshop...

"My friend asked me to come and bring the chain saw."

With a big smile on his face, eyes wide with wonder, the other guy exclaims, "You HAVE a chainsaw!?"

"Mikey does."

"Would he let me use it?"

"He might come over and do it for you just because he LIKES using the chainsaw."

Gas Line

I've found a new place for coffee and WiFi in the Lower Garden District area. Rue de la Course is a local coffeehouse chain that, even in their smaller shops, features lots of tables with green shaded lawyer lamps for reading and a relatively pleasant, no hassle, atmosphere for hanging out. The one on Magazine near Washington is huge with easily thirty tables and a great (meaning fast and reliable) WiFi connection.

The problem is, it is one of the only coffeshops that is open in this part of town, and as such it is doing land office business. The line for coffee runs down the entire length of about a twenty foot counter and then extends an additional ten feet to the door, with many people regularly spilling out onto the sidewalk outside. The wait for coffee this morning was, conservatively, twenty minutes... Not only is it the only game in, this part of, town, the coffee is terrific and the almond croissants are the best I've ever tasted.


Yesterday I did exactly what I predicted and went out to spend my saved up energy capital from the night before. I finally made it back to bed at 1:30 in the morning (thank God for the gift of an extra hour for moving out of daily savings time) after walking home from the quarter after midnight.

It was a day filled with music (more on that later) and it closed, at 12:30 in the morning, on a little corner on Chartres Street, where I was given the gift of the blues from two guys sitting and playing Robert Johnson tunes on the corner.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Street Karma Part Deux

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Phone Call from the War Zone

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Comin' Back... New Orleans Style

Halloween in New Orleans, like most other excuses to party in New Orleans, is NOT a one day (let alone a one night) event. The celebrations really started last night with Kermit Ruffins at Fat Harry's and a big party at Snug Harbor. What's a bit odd, is that I didn't go to either one. I dropped off at a friend's house to "rest up" and wound up staying for the night. As I calculate it I got about 10 hours sleep for the first time since I can remember.

NOW... I'm ready to spend that banked energy!

In about an hour the first day of VooDoo Fest begins out at Audobon Park. B.K. this festival was scheduled to take place all weekend and friends and family from California were planning on coming to see Billy Idol, Nine Inch Nails, and loads of other groups (including loads of New Orleans groups )but A.K. the fest was moved to Memphis. Now... it's been split. The first day (today) is happening in New Orleans, primarily as a free concert for rescue workers and residents. The second day is remaining (as rescheduled) in Memphis. Another great thing is that my friend Tom Morgan is going to be broadcasting the fest LIVE on WWOZ as an incredible symbol of the rebirth of THAT great organization. You can listen live at the link above and get a taste of the party.

In addition, this afternoon is the New Orleans BookFair, which I really want to make it to - at least for a while. Then... the Cabildo museum is reopening today with free admission and a special celebration concert at 6:00 pm featuring Rebirth Brass Band (who else!?).

I haven't even started on the rest of the weekend...
MOM's Halloween Ball tonight at the new Howlin' Wolf - THEME: "Hell or High Water"
VooDooFest (the real thing) all day Monday
Molly's Halloween Parade on Monday evening featuring Queen Katrina.

There's of course much more than that... but I'll have to report on it AFTER it happens.

For all those out there who still think that katrina killed Mardi Gras, just consider THIS schedule and project three months out...
Like I said... We're comin' back...

New Orleans style.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Not much to say here, except that Fat Harry's appears to have WiFi.

Two words I have heard over and over and over in the last 48 hours... "Welcome Back!"

People on the street, in bars, restaurants, and sitting on the bus are perptually finding friends, smiling and cheering... People all over town are glad to be home.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Feet Are Gonna Tap

Thursday night at The Gold Mine Saloon. A short night for 17 poets (only about 5 poets actually), but a great night to be there. Most of the poems had a Katrina theme. Some worked to soothe the pained soul of fellow displaced travelers, some sought solace in humor and some simply poured out pain and confusion. The last poet of the evening had come in from Dallas where he is hunkered down for the time being. His name is Stan Beemis and he closed his crazy, chaotic Katrina poem by declaring, "As long as my feet are planted on this earth, MY FEET ARE GONNA TAP!"

Stan Beemis made my night.

After the poets I wandered down Bourbon in search of a cab (they're pretty scarce these days) to catch home. That experience I phoned in...
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Stealing WiFi

I'm sitting in one of my true guilty pleasures... the Storyville Tavern at Margaritaville.

A musician I am extremely fond of, Jesse Moore is playing here and there's one table in the corner of the bar where I can steal WiFi from across the street and experience the perfect internet moment (well... except for the drunk FEMA workers screaming "SALT... SALT... SALT!"

I'm stalling for time while I wait to go to The Gold Mine for poetry night, an event you've read about before on this blog and one of the last things I did B.K.

It's weird... but it's good... to be home.

Welcome to Zombie Town

Walking the half mile from the house to CC's coffee at Magazine and Jefferson where I can get coffee and WiFi (and power to recharge my computer) it doesn't feel like a ghost town at all. As soon as I step around the corner onto Napolean, I am confronted by a large collection of vehicles making its way across St. Charles. On all the corners there are stacks and stacks of garbage and debris. On almost every house, some window, somewhere, is broken. Refrigerators stand, or lie, along the sidewalk every few feet.

There are a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of work, but it is all mostly demolition or construction. There are people on the sidewalks, but they walk around in a fog.

Les Bon Temps Roulez on Magazine, one of my favorite little clubs in town, sports a big blue flag above the door that reads, "Don't Give Up The Ship." Les Bon Temps is open for business and Eric Lindell, with whom I share the bi-coastal behavior of living in Northern California and New Orleans simultaneously (to quote Firesign Theater, "How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all?"), played there Tuesday and Soul Rebels will be there tomorrow night; a make believe normalcy that feels a little like "fake it 'til you make it."

As I approach CC's from down the block I can't really see if they are open, but as I get closer I see a few faces looking out the window and I know I will at least get coffee. I utter a prayer for WiFi (yes, I really did) and figure that there will be a few people inside but nothing like the crowds I found B.K. (before Katrina).

Boy am I wrong! The place is packed. Every table and every power plug, is filled with people tapping on their laptops, sipping onn coffee and holding cell phones to their ear, the new communal office. A hand drawn sign stands by the counter. It silently declares, "Welcome Home! We Missed Y'all." Next to the sign is a large stack of employment applications that telegraphs the fact that a rather large segment of Community Coffee's former employees have vanished into the air.

The woman behind the counter looks at me with hopeful eyes and asks, "how're you doin' today?" The question bears the weight of two months of chaos and the confusion of what lies both behind and before. I smile weakly and say that I'm doing okay. Then, I volunteer the information that this is my first full day back. "Well, welcome home," she says as she taps my order into the computer. I thank her, smile back through a foggy interpersonal distance that is almost solid enough to touch, but hard to get a handle on.

The guy across the table from me is a construction sales director and he never stops using his cell phone. He just told someone, "When you get here, believe me, you won't get bored." New Orleans has never been boring, but that's not the kind of excitement he's talking about.

People are friendly, helpful and patient with each other (mostly), but everyone (even the obviously wealthy white women who desperately, and unsucessfully, attempt to project an air of normalcy and sophistication) seems to be in shock.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Here Today Gone To Molly's

Well... I made it! THE HOUSE IS IN PRETTY GOOD SHAPE! In fact it's in REALLY good shape, so, as far as the way things have been going, my luck is holding out.

The downside is there there is NO power, internet, phone, etc. at the house and it isn't clear when there will be, so as the sun when down and darkness fell upon the castle I made my way back to the quarter and my old faithful WiFi connection at Molly's.

You can hear my entire trip from Murphy to NOLA by clicking on each of the audio links below. If you want it in chronological order you've got to start at the bottom and work your way back up... or just for the hell of it, you could skip around. Knock yourself out.

I'll check in tomorrow... right now, I need a beer (sorry mom).
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mo Betta Blues

Well... I was supposed to be home by tonight, but instead I am freezing my butt of in North Carolina.

The van's ready, the dog's ready, I'm ready, but the weather (again) was a bit uncooperative this morning when I woke up to freezing winds and frozen roads. Waiting until later in the day to leave meant that I needed to find a place to stay on route. The only problem with that idea is that a week and a half ago the Red Cross and FEMA got everyone left in shelters out and into motels. That means that there is literally NO motel space between Murphy North Carolina and New Orleans.

SO... new plan. The weather is a little more ammendable tonight, so I planning to get to bed early and rise before the crack o' dawn and make the dash in a day. I hope to get home by mid-afternoon on Wednesday. The last rumor says that there's no pwer at the house so I would very much like to get in, and if need be, get out to someplace (what place?) else.

In the meantime, I spent the morning finally finishing up a new Blues Routes show. You can hear the show here, or you can find it in iTunes by searching for "BluesRoutes".

So... Tomorrow - keeping my fingers crossed - after exactly two months away, I'm goin' back to New Orleans to see what we shall see.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Waitin' on a Jet Plane

I'm in San Francisco airport, under perfectly clear skies, waiting for a flight that has been delayed due to fog. It was pretty deep fog when I came in this morning (ironically 2 hours before I needed to be here) only to find the plane delayed an hour and fifteen minute. Not a big deal except for the fact that I then miss my flight to Atlanta which means I don't get in there until 1:00 am... But even that's not a big deal except for the fact that my poor mom and dad have to drag themselves over the river and through the woods inn the middle of the night to pick up their prodigal son.

I could have taken an earlier flight on this end but I would have had to head out to the airport at 3:00 in the morning. As it stands now we will be getting HOME at about 3:00 in the morning.

As my friend Alan always says about New Orleans... "Choices... choices."

One thing I've learned over the last three months is that there's really no point in second guessing things. It really is Que Serra Serra... or as I learned 20 years ago in Nicaragua, Vamos a ver.

It's been a difficult lesson to learn, but I think that MAYBE it's finally been thoroughly drummed into my head.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Last Daze in P-town

Talking about feeling like starting over! 24 hours from now I will be on the Airport Express bus halfway to the San Francisco airport. At noon I will catch a plane to Atlanta where I will meet my folks, drive back to North Carolina and head back in the van, with Roxanne the dog, to the Crescent City. What awaits me remains to be seen.

It's very interesting that, despite news reports (Anderson Cooper on CNN has been broadcasting all week from the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street, a place that I only know from a few Mardi Gras soirees I've been to there) but the information on those shows has been about as limited as the few bits and pieces of info I have gleaned from emails and phone calls with friends who have returned. Even places where things are approaching "normal" seem to be covered in a great cloud of unknowing.

Even though the camera at Fat Harry's shows people eating outside most of the day, there is very little traffic that passes in the background and I have so far seen no sign of the St. Charles Streetcar (my primary mode of transportation) passing by on the neutral ground. I have a definite need to hit town and find out things for myself. As of now, I am planning on staying for several weeks and then coming back to California, but those plans could change at any time.

A major sign of progress in my life right now is that plans change a couple times a week now, instead of a couple times a day. Stability and certainty (such as it is) is returning, ever so slowly, to my life.

The image I have of life for the next six months to a year is more like the years before I made the move to New Orleans (now three months ago). I plan to be in New Orleans as much as possible, but I also expect that to do all of the work I want and need to do I will have to be back in California pretty often. To that end, I met with the folks at Outpost Studios in San Francisco to set up a working relationship that allows me an office where I can work (as the contract reads)"safely, securely, and comfortably." Wow... What a concept! I wish the contract guaranteed stability and creativity, but that's probably too much to ask.

One thing that is very clear is that I will not be returning to Petaluma except to visit friends, have a beer at Dempsey's, meet with business clients, or have a coffee and a pastry at Della Fattoria. My five year stay in P-town (and my 16 year stay in Sonoma County) is over. When I am not in New Orleans, I will be based in San Francisco.

One way or another (or more likely BOTH ways AND the other), this city boy is going back to his city.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I'd like some Whine with that Cheese...

I got spanked (again) in the comments over the last post. And that's how it should be. I definitely have this penchant for becoming whiney and petulant when I'm feeling down and lonely. I hold highly unrealistic expectations of people who I need/want help from and I get stuck in a sort of low grade annoying little depression. At times like that I need someone to look me in the face, slap me across the cheek and yell "SNAP OUT OF IT!"

To answer the questions... I don't think ANYTHING will make it home when I get there... The Crescent City already IS my home. It was home before I left California in July. Like San Francisco was home the first time I walked down Haight Street with my parents on vacation, well before I left Arizona 28 years ago, New Orleans was home the very first time I heard Dr. John at 14.I've been headed for the Crescent City since that first taste of Gumbo, the first rattle of bones and the first time that deep, hot, humid air seeped into my pores like a ghost taking possesion of my body. In the days since I ran away I have been bereft in ways that I didn't even understand myself. I have been becalmed and aimless, wandering about like The Ancient Mariner.

It is indeed, hard to live, and like so many of the things in life the problem is not one thing or another, but more often, one thing AND another. Home is indeed a place, but it is also the journey itself. How that dichotomy is individually experienced has everything to do with how a person engages the process.

There's a song that Tom Petty did that talks about this experience. I've got a version I like better than his by Melissa Etheridge,and it speaks to this sense that even when things are spun out of control, it's important to remember who you are, where you belong and where the ground is.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Sea Has Spoken

My iTunes surprised me again this morning.

Several years ago, on his album, Life'll Kill Ya, Warren Zevon (whose life did kill him) put out an interesting little song about the crusades that has always been one of my favorites. It's primary point is that you take a journey - any journey - for the purpose of getting to know yourself better.

The last three weeks in Petaluma have been that kind of an experience for me. It isn't at all clear to me why I felt the need to spend all this time here, except for the fact that I found a comfortable motel run by people who seem to understand my predicament, at least a little bit.

What has been frustrating, exasperating and saddening to me is the extent to which friends (or people I at least thought of as friends) either don't get it, are, in some sense, tired of getting it, or just flat don't care to get it. Over the last few days I have experienced rude, unpleasant and hurtful behavior from people I trusted, respected and liked. I know that it's always a bad idea to take things personally, but it's difficult not to take such experiences personally and to react in kind. I regret the reactions. I do not regret the awareness that I have gained from the experience.

The entire process of the last three months (going back to the very beginning of this weblog) has been one of prying up and throwing away nearly twenty years of carefully (and not so carefully) constructed veneer. I did not lose much in the storm; I had already gotten rid of most of what I had. The small bit that was left I returned to when I returned to California. The last month in California has helped me detach from most of that.

This morning I find myself standing on a new precipice, starinng off into a completely uncertain future. There is a great freedom in this, but there is a psychic payment to be made when you make the choice to break out of a ragged rut that you have padded into a pleasant pathway by complacently traversing it day after day and year after year. The cost of freedom is paid with uncertainty, fear, and confusion, all things that I have experienced over this weird journey of the last three months. It is also the only way to seek out and to begin to find one's authentic self.

Last night I watched Benny & Joon for the first time in years. One of my favorite movies with one of my favorite songs. At the beginning of the film, Joon's "housekeeper" Mrs. Schmiel, explains her leaving by relaying an old Irish saying that, "When a ship runs aground... the sea has spoken." I think that the last 90 days of my life have been a process of listening, over and over again, to what the sea has been trying to tell me.

Now I'm headed home... I'm not there yet, and I likely won't be for a while (even after I physically arrive), because one thing I've learned out of all this is that... I always take the long way home. I think it's the only way to go.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Your time will come...

A musical interlude from an old album by Toni Childs. That's about all I've got for tonight. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, things are not what they seem, but I suppose they never were.

Anyway you cut it... it's a damn good song!


What would Fred do now? As we hit mid-October there's a new tropical depression brewing in the Cayman's, just south of Cuba.

They're saying on The Weather Channel that this tropical depression is likely to become Tropical Storm Wilma before the end of the day and the five day prediction cone from the hurricane center in Miami has it heading straight up into the Gulf of Mexico over the coming week.

I found all of this out just a few minutes ago as I sat down at my computer to find a flight back to New Orleans. Now it's waiting (and hoping and praying) mode again. Life is starting to feel like a Billy Joel song.