Monday, July 31, 2006

The Hard Floor of Day...

This past weekend marked the one year anniversary of this blog (next weekend marks the one year anniversary of my move to New Orleans and my break up with ECKS).

There really isn't a lot more to say about that... you can read it for yourself... if you aren't sick of it already.

The thing is, as I've said many times before, this anniversary tells me it's time to start again; it's time to to learn something new, to explore the new doors that were blown open by the winds of Katrina, to head down some roads I've passed by in my journeys. There are a goodly number of people who think me just a bit unstable and relatively insane (and that's being kind) but this year has taught me (more completely than I really wanted to know) that the path reveals itself as it rises in front of you.

So... the carousel is about to take another twirl, and here we go again.

As for me... I've got this thing in my heart I must give it today....

Happy New Year.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blindsided Again...

Back in February I said to Jesse Moore that if I could hear "It's Gonna Be Okay" and not cry, then I would know that I was on the way to recovery. A couple of months later it happened and I thought that I was getting better.

Then… a relapse. I heard the song on another day and I wept like a baby (actually it was much deeper than a baby's weeping… baby's cry… a lot… but it really isn't weeping. At least not as I've seen, or as I've figured it. Weeping is reserved for big, old, weighty grown up pain). It was then that I realized I wasn't as "better" as I thought.

Yesterday was one of those kind of moments. Moving along, stumbling toward Bethlehem, not feeling great, but feeling alright, when BAM (as Emerial would say) I was hit right in the side of the face with a book… And I lost it… again.

I didn't really need to pick the book up off the shelf (frankly I find it distressing that it was ON the shelf at all, I would prefer it be one of those books that is immediately grabbed up by the first person passing by, but it didn't happen that way) and I certainly didn't need to open it up in order to see what was in it, but that's what I did anyway. Looking at those pictures (of everyone on their roofs, and Nagin with his washcloth on his head, and Bush standing there looking as clueless as ever, and Michael Brown and on, and on, and on…) it all came back; the whole last year of my life and I realized that I'm really not over it, and won't be for quite some time.

Sooner or later, it really IS gonna be okay… but, clearly, it's not okay yet.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

No Direction Home...

I am sending this post from the Petaluma Public Library (great WiFi and good air-conditioning), where I just passed by a book on the shelf of new books; a book about Katrina.

The book is called "The Storm That Changed America" and while it's a nice title and all, I really don't think that it has any relevance to anything, because as far as I can tell in my year of meandering (and even in my most recent trip to the heart of the south) I don't see much CHANGE in America.

One of the things I DO see is the daily sense that comes up in one of the later chapters in the book. It talks about the "Katrina Diaspora" and titles the chapter, "No Direction Home." THAT... out of everything in the book... is exactly how I feel. I am not where I want to be, not where I am supposed to be, and despite all of the best efforts of my life for the past year, NOT WHERE I NEED TO BE. What I learned a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, from a few other members of the disapora, is that I am certainly not alone in that reality. There are a lot of us, scattered all over the country, trying to get back to where we belong.

But the country... for the most part... has forgotten that we exist. The number of times I describe the CURRENT situation in New Orleans, to the collective blank stares of all those around me, has become almost boring in its repetetive predictability. This is OBVIOUSLY the same feeling almost anyone who has been in almost any disaster at almost anytime in history has shared... But that doesn't excuse it this time, in fact it calls us - as a national collective - to even greater account. This has happened enough! Damnit!

There's more I have to say about this... but you can find it here.

In the meantime... just... REMEMBER... It will very likely be YOU next time.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Never... Never...NEVER GIVE UP!

Nobody (except maybe his wife)REALLY expected him to win...

He's only the third American to win it...
He's going to have a hip operation in a month...
He tanked - horribly - on Wednesday...
But THEN...

He showed tremendous heart and took it all in.

He rode a BLAZING ride on the hardest day of the Tour...
And he kicked it on the last individual race to win back the lead...

And he was raised a Mennonite... not exactly the most AGGRESIVE tradition on the planet.

TODAY... Floyd Landis is my HERO!

It's not the Heat... no... wait... IT'S THE HEAT!


98 degrees in San Francisco... It was "only" 93 degrees in New Orleans for goodness sake! And I don't want to hear anything about it being "the humidity." It's NOT the humidity... it's the HEAT! In fact, it seems to me that wet heat actually feels better than super dry heat that makes you feel like your in a blast furnace. Of course, on top of all this, my car air conditionaer picked this week to die on me.

It did mean that I was forced to escape to the coast and seek the coolness of the ocean breezes and the 55 degree water. That's not something you can do in New Orleans (though you can always get a drink in a 55 degree bar). There still wasn't any real surf, but at least I got wet (and even a little bit of body surfing). I will never again complain about how cold the water is in Northern California. Yesterday it was a god send.

So what's it gonna be like today? Hey.. it's gonna be cool! Only 98 degrees in Petaluma... and 86 in San Francisco (actually it wound up at 92). It's still expected to be only 83 in New Orleans because thhey're having lovely thunderstorms today.

Ahhhhhhhhh.... isn't summer wonderful?

Friday, July 21, 2006

My Favorite Poem

Archaic Torso Of Apollo
by Rainer Maria Rilke

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

[Translated by Stephen Mitchell]

I wanna go HOME!

There's no way around it... this has been a shitty-ass week!

I have struggled (and I mean struggled!) with money all week, desperately trying to make up for a far lower return on work and investment during the week of my peace project in Atlanta, after STILL not receiving a large payment on a large project that should have come through but didn't, and while juggling overdue office rent and WAY overdue money to one of my best friends and best workers that even puts him in dire straits (and I DO NOT mean the band).

I have struggled with health and sleep all week as I became horribly ill on Wednesday and Thursday following the unfortunate wedding of bad fish and a lowered immune system, made doubly difficult by my new (and VERY temporary ) roomate's nocturnal meanderings and LOUD disturbances (there's a karmic thing going on here, I'm sure, but I'll be damned if I'm going to explore THAT any further).

I have struggled with relationship and meaning this week (I mean, I always struggle with such things, but it's been a doozy this week) as I continue to do battle with the good and bad angels (the daemons and demons) that were raised by my experiences in Atlanta last week and the fact that I have spent many hours this week relistening to much of that material (in order to complete that project) that moved, and disturbed, me in the first place.

Finally... more or less... I have struggled with the fact that I had intended to be in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail this week, a project I had worked on (the website and the audio tours) this past year and which I was introduced to last year just one week before The Thing hit... I should be in The Crescent City right now... drinking drinks, interviewing interesting people, gathering new connections and generally having a good, productive, and enjoyable time. And therein, really, lies the rub; I can't even begin to count the times in the last year when I have felt like I was in the wrong place at the right time (and vice versa). It all comes down to one thing...

I want to go HOME!

The thing is... that won't be happening for quite some time and after nearly a year of this peripatetic life I've been living I'm not only used to the wrong place right time feeling... it's only now beginning to fade as a source of self-imposed guilt regarding some sort of cosmic responsibility for bad things happening to good people.

I foresee a reality in which I will be in California for quite some time to come.

It's very clear that THIS is where I have to rebuild my life and that only AFTER having built it, grounded it, and established some kind of footing will I be able to return to New Orleans and offer help, encouragement, strength and joy... all the things that the city, and those I know and love there, bring to me. All of that is finally, after nearly a year, okay with me. I am glad to be back in proximity to my d-d-daughter, to my friends in Northern (and even Southern) California, to work I can get my hands on and plans I can get my brains around.

So the upside of this horrible week is that I am ready...really ready... to begin again. As many who know me know, I have a particular affection for finding the meaning in the recurring cycle... the circle of life, as it were. With the anniversary of my move to New Orleans hanging just on the horizon like an amazing pregnant moon (and the first anniversary of this weblog coming up in just one week), the turmoil (and the resolution) of this week was in fact relatively predictable.

I am, in fact, ready to start again... ready to work to make a difference and a change... ready to reclaim my life, my love, my heart and my soul. It may take three months, six months, even a year. Some of the plans and goals I decided on this morning will take 3, 5 and even 10 years to complete.

However, I know where I'm going...

Right now... I think I'll have another beer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Help From Remote Regions

E's commment on the last post was particularly helpful this morning. Misery evidently really does love company, but Hope loves it even more.

For additional company I turned to Krista Tippet's marvelous radio show, Speaking of Faith, which this week features Elie Weisel, a man who is even more impossibly chained to hope than I am.

You can find the show at (and the text of a lovely prayer that ends the show) here. The entire show is great, but the prayer (and the commentary on the prayer) at the end is worth listening for the whole hour anyway.

"Ahhh... the forsythia." - JB by Archibald MacLeish

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities... Some Mo

The theme for the last week in Atlanta was "Becoming the Beloved Community" and that community was built... not perfectly (by ANY means), not without some whining, and some anger, and a goodly amount of frustration. It also included some remarkable people (like C.T.) and Dr. J. Alfred Smith and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and so many more (which I could keep listing but I'd fall asleep and never get this post made). However, I really must mention the teacher of the mornings, Princeton professor, Dr. Peter Paris, a soft spoken, but highly authoritative, intelligent, compassionate, aware, centered and deeply loving person. I was truly startled to be in his presence.

In addition there were, of course, friends old and new; people who put their lives on the line every day. It had been a long time since I had been around people who make the choice to go to Federal Prison for their beliefs and people who sacrifice their personal time for work to help folks in Central and South America, or people - like Hector - who have to live each day with a residue of pain that is the legacy of hours, days, weeks and months of torture in U.S. supported interogation rooms twenty years ago.

All of them, folks whose feet I do not even deserve the priviledge to kiss... But they are my friends, they are interested in my point of view, we share a commmon call, a common task, a common hope, and a common dream.

So now I'm back on the supposedly liberal, open, aware and compassionate West Coast, in Petaluma... again, where everyone knows so much (regardless of whether they have actually pursued any kind of actual investigation or education on a matter), where everyone thinks they are mo' smart, mo' superior, mo' priviledged (well... yeah you right about one of 'em at least)than everyone else.

Gandhi made the point that you must BE the peace you want to see in the world... and after the year that I have had I really do want that to be the central point of my life. After the last week, I am convinced that it MUST be... but when people who are my friends (at least in theory) make derisive and dismissive comments about things they haven't even bothered to make the effort to pay attention to... well I really want to BE that peace... I swear to God I want to be that PEACE.... even here in Northern California. I really do wish to be "The Beloved Commmunity" in which people, even when they don't understand each other, are caring and thoughtful and open and awake... but I'm just not feelin' it very much right now... Damnit!

If I can't feel more peaceful with those I choose to have around me, then what hope is there for the world?


Back in California after a non-stop week that included enormous amounts of work and equal amounts of growth producing/question raising experiences mixed with some delightful moments with friends very old and very new.

AMAZING week, despite the heat and lack of sleep, but after 1 hour of sleep in 36 hours, a very short night the next night and an entire day/night of travel, I'm heading to bed (I ain't as young as I useta be)!

You can hear some of the amazing things that occurred this past week at the PeacePod Page and I will have much more to say about the whole experience once I've had a few hours sleep.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What Then Must We Do... Too

It's almost one in the morning and I am dog-ass tired. For the last several days I've been existing on 5 hours sleep, about one and half cups of coffee (about 1/3 of my normal intake), adrenalin, hope, old friends, spirit, and the strange sense that somewhere in all of this mess I am somehow finding my life again.

You can hear some podcast examples of what's going on at the PeacePod Page.

I have, in the last 14 hours (not to mention the last three days), been treated to tales of South American torture, U.S. prison injustices, Israeli and Palestinian struggles and frustrations, the difficult path of a trans-gendered person, the burden of the legacy (and continuing evil) of slavery and I even participated in a panel on the plight of New Orleans. You'd think that I would be overwhelmed, and I suppose that there is some way in which I really am. On the other hand... between the incredible music, creative drama, nearly perfect preaching, as well as the the prayers, the joy, and the general sense of life in those around me, it's pretty hard to get depressed.

There is hope in struggle.

There is, in fact, far MORE hope in the struggle for peace and justice and equity in the world than there is in simply letting things be. It may indeed be dark... but the way to the light... is up!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

An Evening with a Saint

I began the day at 4:00 am on the west coast and I am ending it at five minutes to midnight in a college dorm room just outside Atlanta. It's been a wild ride that started with packing in Petaluma, moving to pack some more in San Francisco, catching a flight to Phoenix and then to Atlanta (in the middle seat of the last row) to be met by my friends from Ohio and taken to the house of a man whom I honestly consider to be as close as we get to an honest to God saint.

I met C.T. Vivian at a conference in Atlanta almost 20 years ago, but then I never saw him again until last fall, after The Thing, when he came to New Orleans to begin a plan to help rebuild the city, by helping to rebuild the churches. We went through hours of hard working meetings followed by dinner at the Redfish Grill, one of the few places in town that was open at the time, where we ate and talked and laughed for hours before finally pouring ourselves into bed. That night I was treated to one of the best evenings of my life; a truly "perfect moment" in the presence of someone whom I can only hold (both because of his history and because of his present) as the deepest saint I have ever met. A down to earth, rubber meets the road, this is where it gets real kind of guy who also happens to have walked the roads, sat in the jails, preached in the churches and stood in the streets with Martin Luther King Jr. C.T. also possesses the brightest smile, most charming manner, best told stories and greatest laugh of anyone I have ever known. Just being in his presence is to experience first hand an overflowing joy born from a life of struggle and hope.

He also happens to live in a veritable museum of art, literature and history of his (and his wife's) personal creation; he takes great delight in showing folks around and telling the stories behind every piece.

C.T. is the perfect example of how steadfast belief, solid faith, and true optimism accompanied by clear and intentional effort and action leads not only to progress and change in the world, but to a better life all around. I do not personally know anyone who has seen as much struggle, and has put in as much time on the hard realities of every day (from the basic struggles for equality in Mississippi in the 60s, or the long boring day to day labor to secure more justice and hope for people in post-Katrina New Orleans, or in the daily battle he faces each day at home in Atlanta).

C.T, Vivian is another one of my true heros and I cannot think of anything better than to have been given the gift of his presence (and that of his wife), and to share that gift with a few friends new and newer, at the end of this long day's journey into night.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I Think You Made Your Point Now...

"You've even gone a bit too far to get the message home...".

I've been listening to these lyrics, from a song from Jesus Christ Superstar that showed up in the Broadway show (and subsequently in the movie) but not on the original recording, a lot over the last few weeks. As I wind down toward the one year anniversary of my move to New Orleans and my subsequent state of relational and residential displacement, I find myself returning to the zero point, altered, somewhat confused, substantially frustrated, but also personally expanded.

I am, for the next three months at least, residing once again in Petaluma (with regular excursions to my office/studio in San Francisco and occasional sojourns to The Crescent City and points beyond). Right at the moment I don't hold much hope for work and livlihood in New Orleans, and I find myself holding my breath each morning as I look at the daily report from the National Hurricane Center. It seems that the best option for me at this one year mark is to... literally... start over.

Or to use a Willy Ray Nagin phrase... to hit that "giant reset button."

I don't know what it means, but I'm hoping that the next few months of relatively settled and focused energy, energy I plan to devote directly to finding a new way to live and work in this new life that I've had tossed into my lap, will lead me back to a place where I really can start again. That's something I've needed to do for quite some time anyway.

Frankly... after the last year... I've had it... Could we start again please?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Birthday To Blues Routes

Thursday marked the one year anniversary of iTunes introduction of podcasts to the system. While it was a couple weeks earlier that Blues Routes first came "on the air" it seemed fitting to recognize the date of when we submitted the shows to the whole wide world via iTunes, so we picked this weekend to celebrate.

As part of that celebration we have opened up our Cafe Press store with the first of our cool schwag for Blues Routes. So drop on by and buy... buy... buy!

In addition, we will be featuring a special one hour Blues Routes podcast on Tuesday July 4, celebrating the shows and remembering some of the broader reality (can you say, "Katrina?") of the past year, so be sure to keep posted because it's gonna be a heck of a show.

Finally... as part of the celebration, I'm asking for friends and supporters to drop on by Mercury Public Media's membership page and join or renew your membership. For those who make a donation of $75.oo or more we will send you a Blues Routes T-shirt and a double CD set of the entire year's Blues Routes shows.

So Happy Fourth to all of you... and Happy Birthday to us!


P.S. Today happens to be my sister's birthday as well... so Happy Birthday to Betty Alice too!