Red Rock Review

Red Rock Review

I’m holding in my hot little hands the Spring 2015 issue (#35) of the Red Rock Review, a literary journal from the College of Southern Nevada. Red Rock Review is notable for publishing such luminaries as Marge Piercy and now yours truly. Check it out, page 71, “Dreams,” a short piece of what might be called fiction. Long-time readers of this blog may be intrigued to know this story/essay had its genesis back in 2006, during a two-week inner vacation which I wrote about in somewhat vague and mysterious terms. It took over eight years to bear fruit, a long gestation. This is my first time in print, I think, and certainly in a literary journal of this caliber. I’ve also got work coming out in a couple anthologies later this year. The question remains, how best to leverage this into something more? What next?

PS: You can get a copy of the Red Rock Review from their website. Copies of “Dreams” are available from the author for a song.

A Natural Extension

Corlita

I was honored to stand with over a dozen parents, teachers, and former board members, to speak in support of the Morris Jeff United Educators at the board meeting yesterday. Here’s what I said.

I’m speaking today to express my enthusiastic support for the formation, or perhaps I should say the re-formation, of a teachers’ union at Morris Jeff.

As you are all very much aware, Morris Jeff Community School as we currently know it was born, or perhaps I should say reborn, after the flooding of New Orleans, during the recovery process, as a grassroots effort toward the recovery and rebuilding of our city.

It was inspirational to bear witness to this process. Engaged citizens took on an awesome task, self-organizing for a better future, talking to one another, sharing information and taking action. This was a pattern I saw repeated again and again throughout my neighborhood, and in neighborhood after neighborhood across the city. But this effort was special, a sterling example of democracy in action. As a result, we have a fine school, and I’m proud to say that my my daughter is currently on her way to completing her third year here.

In my view, the process of teachers getting self-organized is a natural extension of the very process that gave birth to the school. A teachers’ union embodies the principles of grassroots democracy, organizing from the bottom-up, and I am fully in support of this in broad general concept, as I feel will yield many positive results for our children. I encourage the board to look favorably on recognition of the union and to enter into negotiations as appropriate.

Additional information:

Morris Jeff teacher’s union ask to enter a collective bargaining agreement with school board (Mid-City Messenger)

I’ll Have the Equinox with a Side of Eclipse Please

This year the vernal equinox coincides with a supermoon and a solar eclipse. We won’t be able to see the eclipse from our part of the globe, but it’s cool to think about nonetheless. Sister Moon is asserting herself at a time usually associated with Earth and Sun.

I’m sure you’ve already read my little column on spring in the subtropics, but have you seen my new column on fathers and daughters? It also touches on the question of when spring truly begins. I believe it is the most eagerly anticipated of all the seasonal turnings.

What else can I offer? I posted my new vernal equinox mandala here the other day. Oh, I know, how about this brand new mix?

Vernal Equinox from editor_b on 8tracks Radio.

OWNing LCMS

Cross

I wanted to know more about the historical context of the faith in which I was raised. So I got hold of A History of Lutheranism by Eric W. Gritsch. It offered a bit more detail than I needed, so that I ended up skimming large sections, but nonetheless I found it a fascinating volume, and I think my understanding has been enriched.

The book covers the birth of a reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church in the early 16th century, its growth and consolidation in the years that followed, and the eventual emergence of a distinct Lutheran identity. The book goes on to detail Lutheran orthodoxy in the 17th century, the subsequent swing toward Pietism throughout the 18th century, the diversification of the movement, and a summation of developments in the last hundred years.

Some of the lurid details of Pietism are especially riveting; I’m making a note to myself to learn more about the Moravian Brethren and the Seitenhöhlchen-Kult. This is some weird wild stuff.

While such subjects have a certain sensationalistic appeal, the opposite end of the spectrum is much more relevant to me personally. I was particularly struck by the “quest for pure doctrine,” a driving force in Lutheran orthodoxy which continues today. It’s stunning to realize how much human time and effort have been expended on theological disputes. While many of these quarrels seem like hair-splitting, I can recognize this fervid thirst for truth and correctness in my own self even now.

This connection runs through the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (aka LCMS) which was formed in 1847 right here in North America. This is the denomination in which I was raised, noted for its “aggressive Lutheran confessional and biblicist stance,” a doctrinal conservatism which I now understand goes back for centuries. How conservative? According to Gritsch, LCMS journals have contended that “there is no development of doctrine since the Reformation.”

If contemporary Lutheranism has any image in the popular mind at all, it’s probably of a gloomy blandness derived from Garrison Keillor’s stories of Lake Wobegon. I hasten to point out that those are Scandinavian Lutherans, probably Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Though I have Norwegian heritage and a deep affinity for Nordic culture, my sense of the LCMS is much more Germanic, and the corresponding emphasis is on precision rather than gloom.

This desire for precision manifests in the quest for pure doctrine. “By 1929,” Gritsch writes, “it had become clear that the Missouri Synod suspected all other Lutheran synods of false teaching.” The divide between ELCA and LCMS represents the biggest rift in American Lutheran tradition. ELCA is distinctly more liberal than LCMS. I gather Dr. Gritsch was ELCA, so I’m sure the LCMS is untroubled when he writes that “Lutheran unity, fifty years overdue, will come eventually because Missouri cannot forever escape the implications of its own confession.”

According to the LCMS perspective, it’s an open question whether ELCA is even a real Lutheran church. After all, the ELCA holds that the Bible may contain historical and scientific errors. They tolerate homosexuality, and they even ordain women! That would never fly in the LCMS of my youth.

That’s why it was so surprising for me to learn of a movement in the LCMS called Ordain Women Now (OWN). This is an effort to promote discussion within the LCMS about the ordination of women, and as the name suggests, they are actively advocating for the same. Female pastors — in the LCMS? My mind boggles.

In fact, OWN is just part of a broader movement for gender justice in a number of faith traditions, including Roman Catholicism and the Latter-Day Saints. There’s an interfaith coalition called Equal in Faith that’s gotten organized to call attention to these efforts. They are all working to transform their traditions into something more just and equitable.

I’m of a divided mind about all this. I’m absolutely in support of gender equity, which is a crucially important issue, but I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to stay in a tradition where they didn’t feel fully respected. Then again, I left the LCMS a long time ago; I have too many fundamental disagreements, and separation was the only option for me. I’m very happy to be a member of a local group in which gender equity is a bedrock assumption, but it’s a long way from LCMS to Lamplight Circle.

Anyhow, even though I may not fully comprehend it, I want to express my solidarity with this movement. Therefore I hope to participate in the 2015 Fast for Gender Equality, which is taking place on International Women’s Day. That’s this Sunday, 8 March, 2015. There are interfaith gatherings scheduled in at least twenty cities across three continents, and one’s right here in New Orleans. (Here’s a flyer for the local event.)

Good luck to those on the front lines of this struggle. From everything I know about patriarchy, you’ll need it. But your cause is just, and I’m pulling for you.

References

A History of Lutheranism by Eric W. Gritsch

Ordain Women Now (LCMS)

Ordain Women (LDS)

Women’s Ordination Conference (RC)

Equal in Faith (interfaith)

Authority Vested: A Story of Identity and Change in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod by Mary Todd

I Was Not Killed This Morning

Last night we had dinner with an old friend and his new wife. When the topic turned to cycling in New Orleans, she confessed she was fearful for her safety, and she enumerated an appallingly long list of friends and acquaintances who have been severely injured when their bicycles collided with automobiles.

This morning a number of friends contacted me, concerned that I was perhaps no longer among the living. I’m still here, but a man about my age was killed at Jeff Davis and Canal Street. He was riding a bike and was struck by a car, or so I read.

"A driver killed a cyclist here today."

I was not killed this morning, but it could have been me. Until the new year, I passed through this intersection at least twice a day. This is a dangerous intersection for bicyclists; there are not even stripes to designate where the Jeff Davis bike path crosses Canal Street.

No Stripes

This reminds me why I first got motivated to pursue the construction of a trail in the Lafitte Corridor ten years ago, and why the work of groups like FOLC and Bike Easy is so important. We need to do better by our cyclists and pedestrians.

For now, though, my heart goes out to the man who was killed this morning, and to his family.
Continue reading I Was Not Killed This Morning

Six Month Warning

Flood Line

People of New Orleans!

In six months we’ll mark the ten year anniversary of the flooding of our city. Already the media machinery is gearing up for all kinds of coverage, and ordinary citizens elsewhere in the country and around the world will be provoked to remember us for a brief moment. They may wonder how we’re doing.

So get ready for that. It seems to me there are two ways to play this. You may wish to:

1) Avoid it as much as possible. Tune it out. Weather the media storm. There was a lot of trauma around that time, and you may prefer not to have those memories stirred. There’s been a ton of books and movies about the subject, and as a rule I’ve avoided them all — except for those I’ve produced myself.

2) Be prepared to talk about it. Have your soundbite ready. I imagine a lot of people will be asking for an assessment of where things stand here in New Orleans. Have we made a full and complete recovery? Be ready to answer that question. Be ready to volunteer your own perspective. I’m certainly not going to tell you what to say, but I hope your answer reflects some of the complications and nuances of reality.

These may seem like mutually exclusive strategies but they’re not, really. You can tune out the media blitz while still answering questions from friends, relatives, visitors, casual acquaintances, and even the odd reporter. In the age of social media, such interactions are easier than ever.

Any other ideas? Forewarned is forearmed.

A vs B

I’ve just published my second album on Bandcamp. It’s called “A vs B” and it’s available free.

It has to be free, I think, because I didn’t generate any of the source material myself. I used audio from diverse sources to create something new. Most of these mashups are of the simplest sort, two tracks played simultaneously: A versus B. The bulk of these tracks were constructed in 2008, with the remainder coming in dribs and drabs over the next six years.

Enjoy?

These Past Years

Self Collage Prototype 1

It’s 2015, and we’re halfway through this decade. My 48th birthday has come and gone. Having been born in January, my years have always lined up with the calendar. I find myself reflecting on my last five years.

sammerz.ru promokod letoile

My body has begun to show signs of wear and tear. When I turned 43, my body still felt young, but shortly thereafter the long slow decline into decrepitude began. I would still qualify myself as fairly fit, and I’m grateful for my good health. But there’s no denying that I ain’t what I used to be. My thinning hair is proof enough.

It’s been a time of spiritual reawakening for me. I’ve written about this process extensively, yet I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s also been a time of artistic renewal. I’m finally writing some long-deferred projects, and I’ve actually got three pieces coming out in print this year. I’ve also been exhibiting photography: you can see my work on the wall of Skewer Gallery at Kebab.

My favorite so far is a collage I call “Native/Non-Native.”

Native/Non-Native

The years have started to run together. Ask me about any year from 1985 to 2010 and I could tell you exactly what was going on in my life. Ask me about one of these recent years and I have to think for a moment. My memory’s changing, yes, but also it’s matter of settling into some rhythms and patterns. It’s a good thing, I think, but it confounds calendrical differentiation.

Which is kind of funny, because in fact 2014 was perhaps the most well-defined and documented year of my entire life. I started keeping a journal on the first day of 1984. On the first day of 2014, I realized I’d never been as consistent in my journal-writing as I was that first year. I’ll be damned if I let that 17-year-old punk get the better of me. I vowed to do better in 2014, and I did — 364 journal entries. I missed only one day.

Over the year of 2014 I also reviewed what I’d written on each day in past years. It was a year of intensive introspection and retrospection. I know myself better. Or perhaps I should say “myselves,” as despite my ardent desire for continuity, I can no longer deny it: I’m not the same person I was. These collages represent my multiplicity of selves.

Self Collage Prototype 2

Which do you prefer: the one at the top or the one at the bottom? (The one in the middle has a different raison d’être entirely.) Which is the better self-portrait?

It’s been an amazing journey, this life, and especially these last five years, and if it ended tomorrow I would die happy, but I certainly don’t want to die tomorrow. I’ve got a lot left to do.

Dear Stefano Pessina

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
108 Wilmot Road
Deerfield, IL 60015

9 January 2015

For the attention of Stefano Pessina
Executive Vice Chairman Responsible for Strategy and Mergers and Acquisitions

Dear Stefano,

Let me be amongst the first to congratulate you on the recent coup. That Wasson guy was a fly in the gravy, but now that he’s out of the way, nothing will impede your progress. They say you’re just a temp while Walgreens looks for a new CEO, but I see you hanging around awhile. It’s a global empire now, and you’re sitting on top of the world. Make it last, that’s my advice.

I’ve always admired the ruthless efficiency of your Alliance Boots outfit. I guess that’s why you have your HQ in Switzerland. Lord knows your native Italy isn’t exactly famed for this sort of thing, at least not since that Mussolini guy made the trains run on time. The Swiss do have a flair for order, don’t they? And those tax rates — so reasonable! I know the Walgreens board got a little squeamish at the prospect of relocating to the Alps, but I’m sure under your leadership they’ll come to see the light! Obama can talk about “economic patriotism” but we all know he just wants to hold corporations captive and force them to pay higher taxes to advance his socialist agenda!! It’s getting so I don’t recognize my own country any more. Switzerland is the new America!!!

Enough with the pleasantries. Let me get down to brass tacks. The real reason I’m writing is this silly drive-through policy at Walgreens: no pedestrians or bicycles allowed. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Anti-American, even! A man of your sophisticated European sensibilities will see that in a moment.

No Bikes or Pedestrians Allowed

You see, Stefano, I’m not a jet-setter like you. I’m a humble man of the people, just riding my bike around the streets of New Orleans. And let me tell you, these are some mean streets. That’s why I’m so aggravated about the anti-bike policy. I’m out there risking my dome daily, only to roll up at Walgreens and be denied service? On grounds of safety? Sheer madness! Never mind the streets, what about the Walgreens parking lot? You should see how these crazed Americans drive! It’s like the Indy 500 out there.

If we really want to protect the safety of the customer, there is only one sane solution, and that’s to ban automobiles from the premises. I’m sure you see the wisdom of such a scheme, Stef. Cars are dangerous. Besides which, as we all know, my fellow countrymen tend toward the hefty side these days. Americans could use a little more exercise. You’d be doing us all a favor.

So how about it, pal: Any chance you could get this policy reversed?

Sincerely and respectfully,

Bart Everson

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

I am so proud to be named one of the Urban Conservancy‘s 2014 Urban Heroes.

What, me a hero? I am not much afflicted with the infamous vice of false modesty, but I have to admit this makes me blush just a little.

Yes, the Lafitte Greenway in now under construction, but after all, I am not the one pouring asphalt and concrete, erecting lampposts and so forth.

Fresh Concrete

Lights on the Greenway

The award comes for my work with FOLC, of course. FOLC has played a vital role in advocating for the greenway. I think it’s safe to say that this work would not be underway presently if it wasn’t for FOLC’s advocacy.

I’m a founding member of FOLC, and I served as president of the group for three years. It’s because of that intimate involvement that I know just how much of a team effort this has been.

So while I will indeed revel in this little slice o’ glory, I’m mindful of the following fact: all I did was help start something.

Wanna be startin’ somethin’?

That’s right, I’m referencing Michael Jackson. I can do that because a) we’re both from Indiana and b) what with this Urban Hero designation I’m almost as famous as him now.

Look: starting something is actually the easiest part. Anyone can start something. People start things all the time, things that don’t last, things that fail to launch. The difficult part is keeping it going — sustaining the effort past the first initial blush of enthusiasm. That’s where the hard work comes in. After the inspiration, perspiration.

That’s where the team effort comes in. This project was blessed with the attention and support of a diverse group of people who brought an array of strengths with them to the table. If it had just been me, the project would have gone nowhere. I’ve piled up a few projects like that over the years. But instead, this project bloomed because people wanted it, and they pursued it with patience, focus, passion, and an attention to detail I could certainly never have mustered on my own.

To those many people who contributed their precious time and effort over the last nine years, I am extremely grateful.

Now get your tickets and help me celebrate.

It’s About That Time

Equinoctial Ngram

It’s about that time. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about: the equinox. No, not that equinox — the other one.

I thought I had little or nothing to say about the subject. As is so often the case, once I got to writing, I discovered how wrong I was. The result is a column so monstrously large, it had to be split in two.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also put together a mix of autumnal equinox music.

Rising Tide 9

Rising Tide 9

It’s time once again for Rising Tide. This will be the ninth iteration of this “conference on the future of New Orleans” which was launched by a bunch of local bloggers and concerned citizens on the first anniversary of Katrina.

I think what I like most about this event is its grassroots nature. Even though it is hosted at Xavier University of Louisiana (thanks to the sponsorship of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching) the event itself is entirely organized by volunteers. All the work that goes into it is done for sheer passion. The consistent quality of the event itself is a testimony to the power of that approach.

Of course, that means there is no big advertising budget. The only way most people learn of the conference is through that modern equivalent to word-of-mouth: social media.

So please take a moment and register for the conference, and then use Facebook or Twitter or email to help spread the word.

What’s that? You remain unconvinced? It’s gonna take more persuasion to get you to part with ten bucks? Fine, check the conference schedule. Look at that keynote on school reform by Andre Perry. Surely you’re curious as to why the former CEO of the Capital One-UNO Charter Network is saying that charter schools “aren’t the proper tools to deal with the root problems of New Orleans education.”

If that’s not enough to get you in the door, check out any of the other panels. I’d like especially to draw your attention to the final one, “Religion in Post-Katrina New Orleans,” which I am helping to organize in cooperation with Jimmy Huck.

Religion in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Last but not least, there’s the added enticement of a delicious lunch. Please register now.